NOT FOR ENGLAND
Set immediately after Mixed Doubles.
Doyle is furious with what Bodie did to the bullets. He also believes that Bodie seduced him simply to take his mind off the following day. Desperate to hold on to their partnership and friendship, Bodie suggests that they go away someone. And finally Doyle agrees. The sleepy Somerset town seems to work it's magic on both men, and they both begin to relax. Then Bodie spots an old adversary, and the partners are forced to take action. But ultimately they still have to deal with Doyle's anger over the Parsali affair. Can Bodie convince Doyle that what he did had not been simply to take Doyle's mind off what might happen?
An established relationship story.
Written: August 2001 and January 2004. Word count: 46,781.
Originally appeared in A Little B&D 2 published by in February 2004
AUTHOR'S NOTE: When I first saw (or I should say re-saw, as I first saw it in 1980) Mixed Doubles, one thing in particular screamed out at me from the scene at the end where Ray is crouched down by the lake, after having killed one of the would-be assassins. This story is about that revelation.
It is also, my explanation of several things post-Mixed Doubles, including the Louise reference.
For the purposes of this story, events happen in the order in which the episodes were first aired, not in the order in which they were filmed:
· Mixed Doubles
· Weekend In The Country
· It's Only A Beautiful Picture
· Foxhole On The Roof
· Operation Susie
· You'll Be All Right
· Lawson's Last Stand
· Discovered In A Graveyard
· Spy Probe
· Cry Wolf
· The Untouchables
· The Ojuka Situation
· A Man Called Quinn
· No Stone
It is the story that, apparently, has taken me several years to write as I started it in August 2001, put it away and finally came back to it in January 2004.
My heartfelt thanks go to Bast for all the hard work she did in helping me to finish this story.
Without conscious thought, Bodie backed away slightly. His hands were held up in the age-old gesture of surrender. He had seen Ray Doyle mad at people before - very mad. He had even, more than once, been on the receiving end of his partner's temper, and occasionally his right (or left) hook, but that did not prepare him for the sight in front of him.
"Ray. . . Doyle. . . hang on, mate. Calm down." Bodie tried to appease the human hurricane. This was not exactly how he had planned, or indeed hoped, the start of their holiday to be like. Of course, officially, they weren't actually on holiday, yet. They still had to report to Cowley on the following day, but the Old Man had promised Bodie and Doyle two weeks leave once the Parsali affair was over. And it was. Or at least Bodie had thought that to be the case.
Doyle moved closer, so close that he had to tilt his head slightly in order to see Bodie's face. "Calm down! Calm down! How dare you. How fucking dare you, Bodie? I trusted you. We're partners, bleeding partners. Does that mean anything to you? It means trust. It means honesty. It means no secrets, or at least it's meant to!" Doyle spat the words at Bodie before turning on his heel and presenting a quivering back to his partner.
"Ray. . ." Bodie again tried to speak. As he did he reached out to touch his partner's shoulder, but stopped the gesture before it was completed.
Doyle spun back round. "But, no. Mister 'I know best,' has to go it alone. I told you that I didn't want any track with dumdums, that I didn't join this mob to use them. I told you. You heard me. So what do you do? You go ahead and doctor the bloody bullets anyway. Think I wouldn't notice, did you?"
"Ray. . ." Again Bodie raised his hands.
"Think? Think? Oh, no, sunshine," their usual endearment was sneered. "You didn't think. You never do. You just acted. Acted as you thought best. You: Bodie the know-all; Bodie the ‘I-know-what's-best-for-you'; Bodie the inconsiderate-doesn't-give-a-damn-about-anyone-but-himself bastard!" Doyle's shoulders heaved and his fists were clenched so tightly his hands became the colour of parchment. His green eyes blazed in fury.
Bodie still found himself unable to answer his partner's tirade. Part of him was furious and part of him knew that every word his partner said was true. He had doctored the bullets and he hadn't told Doyle. He had done it to for the same reason he did everything else: to protect the man who was everything to him.
"So, why? Why, Bodie?"
"I wanted to be sure." Bodie knew his explanation was weak.
"Sure? Sure of what? Sure that they'd die? Oh, well, Bodie they died. What was the matter? Didn't you think I could hit them? No one, no one, Bodie, deserves to die like that." Doyle once again turned his back on his partner, as though he could no longer bear to look at him.
Bodie felt a momentary flash of fear. His mouth went dry and he had to swallow hard. This was a Ray Doyle he had never dreamt to see, at least not when it was directed at him.
"They had them. They'd have done the same to you." Bodie finally started to fight back. However, he was suddenly aware that he wasn't just fighting his partner in the here and now, he was fighting for their future, their friendship, even their partnership.
"Only if they'd hit me. Oh, fuck it, Bodie," Doyle dragged a hand through his curls. "You'll never admit you were wrong. But do you know what hurts? What really hurts?" Doyle paused, and when he turned around to face Bodie, he saw tears shinning in the revealing eyes. As if knowing what he was disclosing, Doyle bent his head so all that Bodie could see was a mass of auburn curls.
"What really hurt me was the fact that you didn't trust me. Didn't trust me enough to tell me. Partners don't have. . . partners shouldn't have," Doyle amended, "secrets from each other. We never have, so why start now?"
The break in Doyle's voice was evident. Bodie had heard it several times in their partnership, often when they argued, and usually when Doyle was concerned for his partner's safety. The one weakness, if indeed it could be called that, and Bodie didn't call it that, of Ray Doyle was that he did cry easily. Hell, he even sniffed at sad films, something Bodie had never, and would never, tell anyone. Suddenly all he wanted to do was to take his partner in his arms, hold him and take away the pain. The pain – the pain that he had unwittingly caused.
But before he could move to do that, Doyle spoke again. His voice was harsh, bitter and still had the heart-wrenching break in it that Bodie hated to hear. "And just what else did you lie to me about last night, eh, Bodie?" He brought his head up sharply and Bodie had to bite his lip to stop himself from exclaiming at the pure, naked pain so evident on his partner's mismatched face.
Shaking his head, slowly, Doyle continued. "To think I trusted you. I poured out my fears, my secrets, my feelings to you, and gave you my heart, Bodie. For what? I bet it was all fun for you, wasn't it? Me telling you how I'd knifed someone and was ashamed of it! God, knifing someone! It's nothing compared to what you've done. What did you do, have a giggle to yourself?"
"Ray, it wasn't like that. I. . ." Bodie again reached out and tried desperately to interrupt his partner's tirade, but he was clearly not prepared to listen.
He stood there: an avenging angel; his fists were clenching and unclenching as if of their own volition. "What was it like then, Bodie?" Doyle went on, without waiting for an answer.
Knowing his partner as he did, Bodie recognised that his partner probably did not even want an answer. So determined was he to have his say. "What about all the other lies you told me? For example the one where you told me you loved me?" Doyle almost spat the words as if they sickened him. "That you wanted me; had wanted me for ages? That you needed me. You? Need? Me? God, I'm a bigger bloody fool than I thought I was to believe that one. But no, you'd have said anything wouldn't you, Bodie? Anything to calm me down, to help me to relax – did a bloody good job of that one – anything, so that I'd let you have sex with me."
The harshness was still evident in Doyle's voice, but added to it was the sneer that Bodie had heard earlier when his partner had called him ‘sunshine'. It was this sneer, something that Doyle had never resorted to with Bodie before, which really hurt and bothered him. Really made him fear for their future.
"Ray. . ." again Bodie tried to stop the tirade. He took a small step forward. Doyle stood his ground, but Bodie sensed the distance grow; it was far more than a physical one.
"What a great joke, eh, Bodie, you and the little virgin? Still laughing about that are you?" Doyle's fury finally seemed to have peaked, and the last words were said with almost a hint of total exhaustion. He dragged a hand over his forehead and appeared surprised when he realised that it was damp.
Bodie could taste his partner's scent as adrenalin pulsated around the wiry body. "For Gods sake, Ray, do you really believe that I told you I loved you, that I made love to you – and it was making love, sunshine, no matter what you think it was, no matter how you try to degrade it, degrade me, degrade yourself – just to help you relax?" Bodie took a huge gulp of air and continued. "Do you really believe it was all a ploy because you were wound up so tight about today? Well, do you, Ray? Do you?"
Bodie was losing his temper himself. Every word Doyle had said about the evening they'd spent in each other's arms, spent loving one another, learning about one another in the only way that they didn't know each other, caring, sharing, trusting, was said in such a contemptuous way, that Bodie could hardly bear to hear them.
"I don't know, Bodie, and that's the honest truth. I thought I knew you. I thought you trusted me, cared about our partnership; cared about me." Doyle's voice was still harsh with unshed tears; the tears Bodie fervently wished his friend would shed. Tears always seemed to help his sometimes over emotional partner, and much as Bodie hated to see Doyle cry, at least he knew what to do about tears. Or rather at least he knew more what to do about them, than he knew what to do about his partner's current behaviour.
"I do. Ray, you have to believe me." Bodie was fighting now, fighting for everything, with everything he knew. He suddenly realised that his own fists were clenched and that his fingernails were biting into his skin; he could also feel cold perspiration as it soaked his body.
"Why? Tell me why I have to believe you? Why should I trust you after what you did to the bullets, when I'd told you how I felt? Give me one reason why I should believe you." Still the tears wouldn't come, but Doyle's voice was breaking more and more.
Bodie had no answer, at least not one that would satisfy his irate partner. So he simply said, "Because it's true. Yes, I lied about the bullets. Yes, I doctored them and yes. . . I'd do it again." He paused, glanced around his hall as if he had never seen it before. As he looked, he took in the single table, the blue and white wallpaper, which he had sworn to replace, but never got around to doing so, and the light swaying gently, as if Doyle's torrent had moved the air.
Bodie blinked several times, again bit his lip and lowered his voice, trying for a calm he could not feel. "I did it because I wanted to be sure that you – that we – survived today. I hoped you'd never have to know. I hoped Cowley was wrong and that no one would try to kill Parsali. I hoped. . . I hoped that in the end you'd be so pleased your premonition was wrong, that you wouldn't mind."
"You did it to protect me?" Doyle asked, his voice quieter and full of awe.
"Yes, Ray, yes. For much the same reason that I do most things." Bodie didn't know if it was the right thing to say, but with Doyle in this mood, he wasn't sure that anything he said would be right. "You're my partner. It's my job to protect your back."
"Yes, Bodie, I'm your partner," the word was dragged out in heavy letters. "And being your partner," once again there was the same stress on the word, "means that you trust me. I thought we'd got that one sorted out after King Billy." It wasn't a question.
Doyle sighed and again raked his curls; his shoulders drooped and he too glanced around frowning – at what, Bodie did not know. When he spoke again his rough voice was quieter, and yet no less deadly. "We make joint decisions over things like this. You should at least have talked it through with me, not gone off making your own decisions. Deciding what I wanted to do, what was right for me. I do have a mind you know." Doyle was getting angry again. It had been clearly too much to hope that his temporary calm would continue.
"And," he added viciously, obviously still not wanting to let go of his hurt or his anger. "Bodie, for the record, yes, I do think you'd be capable of having sex with me, making love to me, call it what you will, just to help me relax. You set out to seduce me last night, Bodie." The first and last words were stressed, as if by the constant use of Bodie's name, Doyle was reminding himself all the time who had hurt him.
Bodie watched his partner gnaw at his bottom lip with uneven teeth; there was another sigh and he continued to speak. "And you succeeded. But why you did it and whether it was love, I just don't know." Doyle now sounded almost overcome and the look on his face was nearly one of pain. He bent his head.
"Ray. . ." Bodie said, almost helplessly. He reached out, but once again stopped short of touching.
Doyle pressed on, pulling his head up to face his partner; he obviously wasn't that beaten. "You see, Bodie, I know that I wasn't the first man you've been with – that was pretty obvious – unlike me. Tell me, was that a laugh too?" his lip curled. "Ever had a virgin before, eh, mate? So, no, I don't think it would be too much of a problem for you. Sex for England, is that it, Bodie? A sexual tumble for Cowley. . ." Defeat now totally gone from his harsh voice, Doyle once again sounded vicious and hateful.
Bodie had finally had enough. He had stood there for more than an adequate amount of time and listened to his partner's words. The cold, hateful, hurtful words, that only Ray Doyle knew how to deliver.
His own fists opening and closing, Bodie took a step nearer to his partner, so that he was now totally overlooking the slightly shorter man. Doyle, amazingly, took a stop backwards. Bodie followed.
He spoke, slowly, firmly and coldly. "Shut up! Shut you fucking mouth, Doyle. Or I'll shut it for you!" For one glorious moment he meant it. "That's your bleeding problem; you never know when to shut it, do you? I've heard just about enough from you, Raymond Doyle." He spat the name. "I'll say it one more time and I don't give a damn if you believe me or not, you'll do whatever you want anyway - you always do." He paused. Doyle was watching him warily. "But I meant every word I said to you last night, God alone knows why."
He sighed, then spoke again. "I meant every touch, every caress. Yes, I wanted you. Yes, I've wanted you for a while. You're a bloody attractive man – too bloody attractive – you flaunt yourself like a high priced hooker sometimes." He saw the flush on his partner's pale face and for the moment felt victorious.
"You flirt with me, give me the come on, use those 'come to bed eyes' on me, Christ, I'd have to be made of stone not to want you. But it isn't all, and never was, just physical. If it had been, I'd have made a move on you long before now." Doyle's mouth had now dropped open.
Licking his lips to moisten them, his mouth far too dry for comfort, Bodie continued his impassioned speech. "I told you I loved you last night, Ray, and I meant it. I still mean it. Now, if you can't handle what happened last night, fine, but don't try and blame me."
He broke off and ran a hand over his face. Doyle had said nothing, but was staring, eyes wide, at his partner. Bodie took a deep breath went on. "There were two of us involved, Ray, and whilst I did make the first move, led you, helped you, I wasn't alone in that room. I didn't force myself on you, mate," it was his turn to make the word more like a curse than a pleasantry. "You can claim many things but not that." Bodie was furious now, wanting to hurt his partner as much as Doyle hurt him. At the back of his mind he was wondering how they'd ever find their way back from this.
"Never said you did," muttered Doyle.
"I never said you did force yourself on me. You didn't. Yes you seduced me, but I wanted it, I really wanted it, Bodie." His voice was suddenly so quiet that Bodie strained to hear it; yet at the same time it was all the more deadly for it.
"It was the best night I've ever had. You're a brilliant lover. You're gentle, considerate, and you seemed to care more about giving than receiving pleasure. I was scared of it, Bodie, scared of doing that. But you made it all so right, you took away my fears, not only of today, but of what we did." Bodie was astounded that his partner would be so open.
All Bodie wanted to do was to reach out and enfold Doyle in his arms, but he knew that it was the wrong thing to do. "So you don't regret it?" Bodie finally asked, not really sure if he wanted the answer.
Doyle began to pace. "No. Yes. No. I dunno, Bodie, and that's the honest truth." He sighed and stood, his hands limply by his side. "How can you regret something so. . . so perfect? How can you regret the single most wonderful moment of your life? The most satisfying physical experience you've ever had?" Bodie now had to strain to hear his partner as the jagged voice continued. "How can you regret being made love to by someone who puts your desires, your needs, and your comforts before his own?" Doyle shook his head as if he couldn't believe his own words.
"I've screwed countless women, made love to others, but I've never, ever been on the receiving end. I've never been made love to. How can you regret the thing that you've wanted - without knowing you've wanted it - for so long? How can you regret . . . love?"
The final word was a mere whisper. Doyle went on doggedly, "But how can you not regret something that you're not sure was real? If it hadn't been so perfect, Bodie, maybe it wouldn't be so hard now." His partner now sounded utterly defeated, and finally the tears fell, unheeded down his cheeks.
"I can't fight with you any more, Bodie, not tonight. I'm going home. I'll see you tomorrow at work. Remember we have to see the Old Man at 8:00 a.m." Doyle turned to the door.
"Ray, wait. . ." Bodie reached out a hand to try and stop his errant partner from leaving. He never made contact with the sinewy arm because he sensed Doyle withdraw into himself.
Doyle turned once more to his partner, and Bodie was shocked to see the pallor and the sheen of sweat on his brow and upper lip. The glazed unfocussed green eyes were so full of pain, it hurt Bodie to look at them.
"What?" The tone was empty, like the bottles at the end of a party. Bodie was glad when the dull gaze slid away from his own and stared down at the carpet.
"Why don't we go away for a few days?"
"What?" Doyle's head flew up so hard that Bodie swore he heard the tendons of his neck muscles twang. His partner was wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Disbelief shot out of every pore and sinew.
Bodie swallowed. He couldn't retract his words. "I said, ‘why don't we go away for a few days?'"
"Go away? Us? As in you and me?" Doyle's voice matched his eyes and face. He pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. "Did I hear you correctly?"
Bodie seriously considered a lie, but the now granite-like stare and taut body forced him to tell the truth. "Yeh. Yes, you did. I just thought. . ."
"You. Thought? Don't give me that again, Bodie. I've already told you, you never think – you just act. Just give me one good reason why I would want to go away with you." He spaced the words out, breathing deeply between each one. His voice had started to rise.
"It might do good. We've been working flat out, Ray. And this Parsali thing was really stressful." He broke off as one auburn eyebrow vanished underneath the curtain that was Doyle's fringe.
"Have you been listening to a bleeding word I've been saying?" Spittle hung impotently in the air between them, as Doyle took a long stride towards his partner.
Something in Bodie snapped. "Of course I've been fucking listening. So probably have half the bleeding block of flats!"
They stood opposite one another, stances equal, breath coming fast and loud. Sweat dripped down Bodie's back and he saw some form on his partner's top lip.
Finally, it was Doyle who broke the tableau. Spinning quickly on one heel, he let his arms fall by his side and his head drop onto his chest.
"Ray?" Again Bodie risked brushing the tense shoulder. He waited, letting the heavy silence press down on him.
Slowly Doyle brought his head back up and glanced over his shoulder, meeting Bodie's eyes and holding them with his own that swam. "At this precise moment, Bodie, I'm not certain I want to go anywhere with you ever again." The words were said more softly than any he had hitherto spoken, but they were all the more deadly for the lack of noise. Bodie felt them cut into him, twist around, ripping organs and turning blood to ice.
Doyle looked equally shocked by what he had just said and for a moment, confusion crossed the ashen face and over-full eyes. He shook his head and dragged a quivering hand through his curls; opened his mouth and then shut it again with a sharp click. He was swallowing hard and swaying gently. Once again Bodie reached out a tentative hand. Once again his partner rejected it, turning instead back to the door.
"Good night, Bodie," Doyle said simply.
The gentleness with which he shut the door, sounded like cannon fire in Bodie's head.
Bodie stood behind the closed door. He was hurt, angry, confused, bitter, astounded even, but as much with himself as with the man who had just left him.
For a few seconds he stood there trying to get a grip on his temper, trying to stop the tears of anger and self-pity that were forming at the back of his eyes. He hadn't cried over anyone in more years than he cared to remember. He hadn't shed them over Marikka nor over the girl Krivas had killed. The fact that he was close to shedding them now, over Doyle, showed just how far his partner had wormed his way into his affections.
Finally, without further thought, he wrenched the door back open and silently followed his partner down the stairs. He knew only too well what the signs he had seen moments before in his partner indicated. Doyle was about to be physically and violently sick.
Bodie had seen this reaction before; one occasion had been just after they had stopped Georgi from assassinating a member of the Greek Royal family. Once again they'd argued, once again Doyle's voice had broken, his eyes had filled and he'd fled from freeing the Priors. Bodie had, of course, followed him, seconds later and had found him (as he had done a few other times) being violently sick.
He had never spoken about it to his partner, not then, not later. Then, he had simply held Doyle's head, smoothing the curls back, murmuring gentle words to him and finally, when he'd finished throwing up, passed him a cool flannel.
Bodie knew that being alone whilst being sick scared Doyle. He knew that it had something to do with some incident in his partner's childhood, but he didn't know (nor had he ever asked) what that incident had been. All he did know was what to do when it happened: be with Ray, comfort him and hold him. He found that he didn't mind being with Ray at these times, which surprised him. In fact he rather liked the way that he was allowed to openly look after his oft times independent partner.
One day he kept telling himself he would get to the bottom of Doyle's phobia.
"Oh sunshine, sunshine, sunshine, why won't you tell me?" Bodie murmured as he made his way down the stairs.
His thoughts returned to his wayward partner (as they so often did). It was strange the events that seemed to cause Doyle to have such a violent and physical reaction. Bodie could almost have understood it if it had occurred during a life or death situation, or even when they found weeks old bodies. The partners had both seen physical reactions to these sorts of things: hardened men whose bowels or bladders emptied themselves of their own volition - not that Bodie believed that such reactions weakened the men. After all, he had his own dislike: post-mortems. And his partner got through those without batting either eye or curl.
If Doyle's vomiting had occurred after any of these sorts of things, Bodie could understand it. But no, it only seemed to occur when they argued - really argued, that is; which was a rare event.
Occasionally, in his less than charitable moments, Bodie thought that it was very shrewd of his partner to react this way. Why? Simple: Doyle knew that Bodie would fuss over him, look after him, because of Bodie's knowledge. Therefore, if his partner threw up, thus making Bodie look after him, then he had won. However, Bodie did not genuinely think this at all. Doyle was many things; but being such a cold, manipulating bastard was not in his nature.
Now Bodie knew without a shadow of a doubt, that Doyle was going to react to the violent argument and bitter words they had just shared. And this time Bodie knew that he couldn't go to his partner, couldn't give him the support and comfort he needed.
Instead he watched, from the shadows of the doorway, as his partner reached his car, leant on the bonnet and bent his head. In the sudden silence that surrounded the street, Bodie could hear the unmistakable sounds of Doyle's vomiting. He moved silently to the bottom of the steps leading to the flats, hardly daring to breathe, and let his eyes adjust to the streetlamp lit darkness. He wanted so desperately to go to Ray, to put his arm around him and to place a cool hand on his brow – but he knew he would not be welcome. So instead he stood silently, trying to offer what comfort he could across the great chasm, not just the physical one, which separated him from his best friend.
Doyle felt terrible. He was shaking so much he could barely stand, and his long time childhood fears all came flooding back. One day he must tell Bodie about how his father had left him tied to the bed by all four of his limbs, and how the young Raymond had cried so much he had made himself sick. Unable to move anything bar his head, he came very close to choking on his own vomit. In fact if it had not been for the arrival of his father, drawn there by his young son's cries, he would almost certainly be dead. Ever since that day Ray Doyle had been phobic about being alone whilst being sick.
But to tell Bodie all of this, even if there was a Bodie to tell any longer, would mean telling him more about his father and how he beat the young Raymond at least once a week from the age of five until he was fifteen. The final beating had left Ray lying in a pool of his own urine and vomit (yet another nail in the coffin of his paranoia) until found by his mother. He had ended up in ICU with a broken right cheekbone, broken ribs, broken right wrist, internal haemorrhaging, deep concussion, a damaged spleen, and a chipped front tooth. The intense thoughts of his father caused a powerful shiver throughout the lean body, and made more bile rise in his throat.
Under his breath, Doyle murmured, "Oh, Bodie, Bodie, Bodie," as he forced the thoughts of his father away.
Bodie had helped, over the years, to dispel his fears; the fears he never thought he would share, or even be able to share. Now he sensed Bodie was nearby, admittedly not as near as he really needed him to be, but maybe, just maybe, near enough. He always could sense his partner's presence, just as Bodie could sense his. It had grown from their years as partners and best friends.
Doyle knew that Bodie almost certainly wouldn't approach him, maybe even couldn't approach him after what he had said to him. He also knew that if he made one indication, no matter how small, that he wanted – needed – Bodie closer that he'd be by his side like a shot.
However, his perverse independence won out over his need, and he refused to make the gesture. Instead he stood, leaning heavily on the bonnet of his car, feeling the sweat pouring down his body and face, soaking his shirt and making his shiver. His nose was running and his eyes were gritty and blurred to the point of not being able to see. He knew his curls were a mess, as they were plastered to his forehead and snagged on the back of his jacket.
Once he had decided that he'd ceased being sick, at least for the moment, he slumped on the bonnet of the car. Taking several deep breaths, he closed his eyes against the pain in his head and searched for his handkerchief, sniffing constantly; he couldn't find it. That was something else Bodie always seemed to have when Doyle needed it: a spare, clean handkerchief. Instead of a handkerchief, he dragged the back of his hand first across his eyes and then across his nose. It was, he knew, the gesture of a child.
Finally he forced himself off of the bonnet and staggered, on legs like jelly, to the driver's door, unlocked it and started to climb in. He knew that he wasn't really in a fit state to drive, but knew also that if he sat there much longer then Bodie would overcome his reluctance to interfere, and come over to him; something the dichotomous Ray Doyle both wanted and yet knew he shouldn't have.
However, Bodie suddenly decided for his partner. Deeply concerned when he saw him move to the driver's door, he saw, from the light of the streetlamp, that Doyle was shaking violently. Finally he could stand by no longer and see the other man suffer.
He crossed to his partner and with barely a second's hesitation, reached out and put his arm around Doyle's shoulders. To his surprise, his partner leant into the embrace with a soft moan. Bodie said nothing; he simply continued to hold Ray tightly, whilst bringing his other hand up to stroke the damp curls. Ray was heavy and comforting against him, and Bodie wished that he could go on holding him forever. Finally, however, his partner pulled away out of his embrace and fumbled, once again without success, in his pockets for his handkerchief. Tentatively Bodie handed his own over.
"Thanks," Doyle muttered, shuffling back slightly as he took the handkerchief, he was clearly still trying to put distance between himself and Bodie. "Sorry," he added gruffly, and made a ducking, unsteady move indicating he was again about to climb into the car.
Bodie took half a step towards Ray holding his hands, palms out, in front of his body. As he spoke, he tried to keep his voice neutral, "Come on, sunshine, you're in no fit state to drive home, you know that. Come up to the flat with me."
"No thanks, Bodie, I'll be okay," Doyle's shaky voice belied his words.
"Doyle, you can't drive like this; you'll have an accident and how the hell do I explain that to the Cow? He won't take too kindly to me letting you drive like this." Bodie was exasperated, Doyle could be damned annoying at times and sometimes more than others - this was no exception.
"I'm not your bloody child, Bodie." Once again the name seemed a curse word. Ray rubbed his eyes and continued, his voice once again becoming weary. "Cowley doesn't expect you to look after me twenty-fours hours a day, seven days a week." His head was down, his chin almost on his chest, he would not meet Bodie's gaze.
Then he raised his head, his curls drooping like auburn chrysanthemums left in a vase for too long without water. "Look, if it'll ease your conscience, although God only knows why I should want to ease your bloody conscience, I'll get a taxi." It was a concession, but for Bodie it wasn't enough.
"You can be bloody stubborn at times, you know that, don't you?" He paused briefly, not really expecting a response.
When he spoke again it was with efficiency, but he also noticed a pleading edge resonate through the night air. "Come up with me, you can wash your face, brush your teeth, and have a drink."
"And then what? Stay the night? That's it, is it, Bodie? Get me all feeling secure again. Good old Bodie to the rescue. Then you can get me into bed again and. . ." Doyle turned away shaking his head. His words, although harsh, had no anger or even bitterness behind them; instead they were weary and monotonous. He sagged against the car door, and looked as though he had the weight of the entire world on his shoulders; in the soft glow of the street-lamp he looked young, vulnerable and very tired.
Bodie sighed and curled his hands into his palms. "Whatever I say'll be wrong, won't it? So I might as well be honest." At the word Doyle looked back over his shoulder, eyes wide open, eyebrows raised, mouth slightly open. Then he blinked once at Bodie who felt the sweat begin to form at the nape of his neck; the sweet/sour scent of vomit rose up as a sudden flurry of air split the still of the night.
He licked his lips, met the cold green gaze and continued. "Yes, I'd like you to stay the night, and yes, I'd like to go to bed with you. But I'm not asking for that, Ray. I'm asking as your friend, as a concerned friend." He paused. Doyle said nothing, so he carried on. "You don't want to be alone, you know you shouldn't drive, so I'm offering you another option. I'll even sleep on the sofa, if it'll make you happier. Just stay, Ray. Please?" his voice rose at the end of the speech, making it a question, more than a plea. Bodie cursed himself. He was now aware that he was weary and tired of the game they seemed to be playing, and with nothing left with which to fight his partner anymore, he was out of arguments and out of strength. If Doyle insisted on going, he knew he could no longer stop him.
"I'll call a taxi for you," he said finally after several long, silent, moments had passed.
"I would like to wash my face," Doyle said softly, although the grudging tone was evident. "But I won't stay, not the night – just until I feel a bit better. If that's okay with you?"
He seemed unsure now of his welcome, and Bodie ached to think that less than twenty-four hours ago they were so at ease with each other. They knew that they were always welcome at the other's flat, no matter what time of day or night, no matter what their partner was doing. For Doyle to now sound so uncertain hurt Bodie all over again; was this the price Bodie now had to pay for trying to keep his partner safe?
"Come on then," he said, bluntly, too wired to say anything more.
Doyle moved away from the support of the car and almost staggered. Without comment Bodie wrapped his arm around the sagging, shaking shoulders and for the second time since they had been in the street, Doyle stunned him by leaning into the support offered. For a moment, a very brief moment, Bodie believed that everything was going to be okay after all.
Doyle stayed at Bodie's flat for about an hour - the longest hour of Bodie's life. Neither man spoke beyond the basic offer and acceptance of a drink. Eventually Doyle stood up, still pale and slightly shaky, but at least he was moving under his own steam. He crossed to the door and paused with his hand on the handle as though wanting to say something; whatever it was he obviously couldn't find the words.
Finally he murmured, "Thanks again, mate. I'll see you at base tomorrow." Before Bodie could respond, Doyle had opened the door and left for the second time that night.
He made his way slowly to the car. Once there he climbed in and turned the key in the ignition, depressed the clutch and urged the car into gear; then carefully indicating, he prepared to drive off.
As he eased his car out of the parking space, Bodie was right he still wasn't really in a fit state to drive, he knew that didn't need to look in the rear view mirror to know that the silver Capri was following him at a discrete distance.
As he followed the gold Capri, Bodie was angry with himself; he should not have let his partner drive himself home. He should have confiscated the car keys or called a taxi for him. He should have taken matters out of his exhausted friend's hands, no matter what Doyle's reaction would have been. "Damn you, Raymond Doyle, you are a stubborn little sod at times," he muttered, as he drove on automatic pilot, feet and hands working in perfect symmetry.
He knew that Doyle had needed him, and he had needed to be with his partner. No one knew that Bodie needed to take care of Doyle, to protect him, and to look after him. And not only that, he needed his partner. But how could anyone know, when Bodie had refused for years to admit it to himself? "And God alone knows that I've never let anyone else get close, not really close, not even Marikka or Connie." He frowned as he carried on his one-sided conversation.
In the past all he'd ever done was enjoy the sex, the interplay, the chase even, but that was all. Nowhere down the line had he allowed himself to need anyone, not that is until one scruffy ex-detective wormed his way into Bodie's life and affections; now if a day went by without him seeing his partner, as far as Bodie was concerned it was a bad day.
He relied on Doyle to watch his back on a daily basis, trusted him with his life and needed him in the line of duty. But that need had turned into a personal need as well. Something that Bodie had fought against for months, until he realised that it wasn't a weakness to need another person; in fact it could be a strength. "Yes, it can be," he spoke aloud to the empty car, realising as he did that he was attempting to convince himself. "Damn you, Doyle!"
He knew he was very protective – maybe even overprotective – of his physically slightly smaller partner; knew that he sometimes overreacted if Doyle's life was in any sort of danger. Knew that he had caused more than a few raised eyebrows when someone had tried to tease Doyle about his slight build, his curls, his sometimes almost doe-like countenance, or made a harsh comment about the man's vicious temper and hurtful wit. Bodie could tease his partner, could give as good as he got, could pass any amount of needling comments, but no one else could. At least not in Bodie's hearing.
As they drove through the London streets, Bodie began to wonder, not for the first time that evening, how they would ever sort this mess out. Maybe making love to Ray had been a mistake, not that Bodie wanted to admit to that. In his opinion making love to, with, Ray was the most wonderful thing he had ever done. He would pay almost any price for it, but he wondered if the price he might now have to pay, the price of their friendship and partnership, would be worth it.
Sighing, he realised that they had reached the block of flats where Ray lived. Pulling his car into a surprisingly empty parking space, he watched from a safe distance as his partner slowly manoeuvred the gold Capri into his parking space. He continued to watch as he climbed wearily out of the car, locked the door and made his way up the steps to the outside door, still swaying.
After sitting in the dark for a further ten minutes, during which time he vaguely considered going up to the flat, Bodie finally turned the engine on and drove the relatively short distance back to his own home.
Alone in his flat Doyle moved sluggishly from room to room, switching on the lights before moving to the bathroom. After brushing his teeth for several minutes, he turned on the shower, stripped and stood under the hot, pounding water until it began to run cold.
After he had re-dressed in clean, warm clothes, he went through to the sitting room where he poured himself a large brandy. Before sipping it, he inhaled its warm, rich, caramel taste. Brandy always helped to settle his stomach and he settled back into the depths of the sofa to enjoy it.
The one he had had at Bodie's had helped to take the edge of the unsettled nature of his stomach, and had helped him recover enough to drive home. Still he knew that had he been pulled over by the Police for unsafe driving, he would have had a hard time defending his decision to drive. His CI5 card would, no doubt, have prevailed, but even so Ray Doyle did not like breaking the rules in this way. He was a conscientious driver, even if he sometimes flouted the rules, but tonight he had not really had a care for the other people on the roads. He offered a silent prayer to the God he wasn't completely sure whether he believed in or not, that he had got home in one piece; and a second one that he had not involved any innocent bystanders in an accident.
He sat quietly on the sofa still feeling cold, in spite of the long hot shower, and shaky; he knew, without having to look, that he was pale. As he drank, his mind went back over the evening, over the harsh words he had thrown at Bodie and he moaned to himself. "Oh, Bodie, why do you let me hurt you? Don't you realise that by hurting you, I hurt myself?" He took another sip and held it in his mouth feeling the amber fire warm him, before slowly letting it trickle down his throat.
He closed his eyes; he had hurt Bodie – and what was worse, he'd set out to hurt Bodie. Because of Bodie's harsh exterior and seemingly unemotional personality, people thought that it was impossible to hurt him, but Doyle knew differently. He knew that most of Bodie's exterior was an act, and that beneath the harsh shell was a man who could hurt, if the person doing the hurting knew how to penetrate the barriers - and Doyle knew exactly how to do just that.
Sometimes he hurt Bodie unwittingly, even in spite of knowing him so well, and that made him feel guilty. Sometimes the demands of the job got so great and his guilt and horror so intense, that he had to lash out at someone, and that someone was inevitably Bodie - he always felt dreadful about it. And then there were the times he did it deliberately, wanting to test Bodie and see if he would walk away as just about everyone else in his relatively short life had so far done. Thus far Bodie had not walked; but this latest attack on Bodie had been vicious, awful, intense, and designed to hurt as only he could hurt.
Opening his eyes and gazing, unseeingly, at the ceiling, Doyle recalled his words in vivid detail. He remembered the bitterness, anger and hurt with which he'd thrown them at Bodie. Everything he had said had been calculated to cut deeply and wound the man he cared most about in the whole world. The only thing that he hadn't worked out beforehand, was when he had told Bodie that he wasn't certain he wanted to go anywhere with him again. Even for himself in a temper, that had been going too far – he shouldn't have said it. He should have apologised. Nevertheless, he couldn't, he was still too furious, or maybe the truth was he was too stubborn. He sighed and took another sip of the warming brandy.
A good part of him knew that Bodie had not made love to him just out of self-preservation or out of a sense of helping him to relax. Instead he knew that what he and Bodie had shared the previous evening had been special, wonderful and true.
Running a hand over his eyes, weary but too tired to sleep, he recalled how totally perfect it had been. "It was, Bodie, it really was." The words were whispered, so quietly that he wasn't certain he had spoken them at all. They had been awake nearly all the night just cuddling, petting, fondling, kissing, loving, and he had never felt so cherished, so loved, so totally whole. No one had ever moved him in the way Bodie had. A lot of what they had done had been remarkably chaste compared to some of the sessions that he, and he knew Bodie, had indulged in.
After he had climaxed for the second time, this time in Bodie's mouth after having received the most exquisite blowjob of his entire life, he had offered himself to Bodie utterly and totally. He had all but begged Bodie to take him, to fuck him, to screw him, to enter him, to make him his. Bodie had, to his amazement - and disappointment - refused. But it hadn't just been the sex, wonderful as it was; the sex was secondary to the way Bodie had made him feel.
Recalling the evening made Doyle shiver, at least he thought it was the recollection, it may have been the cold, and he moved a hand to his groin: he wasn't even half hard. He stroked himself half-heartedly for a moment or two, but gave up when it was clear nothing was going to happen. Did he even want anything to happen?
Giving it up as a bad job, Doyle wished he could take back his harsh words to Bodie, to somehow make everything right. He was still angry, still bitterly angry about the bullets, but he now understood why Bodie had done what he had done. The tragic thing was that he knew that, ultimately, Bodie would forgive him; he always did; but could he forgive himself?
He leant forward and poured another brandy, a smaller one this time, whilst he continued to carry out his usual post-mortem and force himself to admit that it was more than just the bullets, and Bodie, that he was angry about. It was also to do with the fact that he had been so certain that he would get his own way with Bodie over the bullets, just as he usually did. Doyle knew that in most things he could wrap Bodie around his little finger, and sometimes he deliberately took advantage of it. But it wasn't a one-way street: Bodie too knew just how to get around his partner, and did so shamelessly on many occasions.
He stop up and began to pace around the small green and cream room, breathing in the scent of a vase of roses that Clare had brought to the flat a few days ago. They were weary now, drooping and dropping their petals. He moved towards them, picked up the vase and carried it into the square kitchen; as he threw them away he wondered if it was somehow a symbolic gesture.
Returning to the sitting room, he stretched, clicking his neck and shoulders, and continued to muse. What also scared him, and thus made him angry, was the apparent depth of Bodie's love. The fact that Bodie was a man was immaterial; if love was there then it didn't matter what the sex of the other person was.
Doyle had been searching fruitlessly for love for so long. He had thought, had even tried to fool himself, that he had found it with Ann Holly. Although if he were honest, deep down he knew that what he felt for her and what she felt for him had little - if anything - to do with love. It was stupid really the relationships and messes he got himself into, and now here he was with love being offered to him by the person he was closest to in the whole world, and he was scared by the enormity of it. Doyle knew that his deeply hidden insecurity streak made him vicious, hurtful and cruel sometimes; but knowing it and controlling it were two different things.
But did Bodie really love him? Was it really love, rather than lust or a simple desire to calm Doyle down that had driven Bodie to seduce his partner? Try as he might, a small part of Doyle's mind kept returning to this thought: Bodie had made love to him simply out of expediency, out of the desire to comfort and to help. After all, wasn't he unlovable? Oh, yes, sex came easily, but he'd never been loved for himself; was Bodie offering him that?
"Well, are you, Bodie? After all you put up with my moods and my bitching, are you really offering to love me for me?" His tone was harsh and self-mocking.
Another sip of his brandy, a glance at his watch, another sigh; it seemed both forever and mere minutes since he'd left Bodie's flat for the second time. Doyle didn't really want to be alone – and yet he did. He was uncertain and needed Bodie to reassure him; but on the other hand he wasn't sure it was Bodie he wanted. His hand hovered over the telephone, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that if he rang his partner then Bodie would come straight over without pause, without question.
The phone call went unmade.
As the dawn chorus began, he rose, showered again, dressed in another set of clean clothes and drove to HQ.
It was 6:30 a.m. when he arrived, and by that time he had convinced himself that his original thoughts had been correct: Bodie had made love to him out of a weird sense of duty, not because he really cared for him. He knew that he and Bodie should talk, but he wasn't totally convinced that his partner would want to have anything to say to him. In the five years he had known Bodie, Doyle felt uncertain for the first time ever. Uncertain not only of Bodie and what he wanted, but also of what he wanted.
Bodie had also spent a sleepless night, but he at least had tried going to bed. He also knew that he and Doyle had to talk; if only his partner would give him the chance to explain without flying off the handle - again. He pulled into the car park and saw that the gold Capri was already there.
As he locked the car door behind him, he heard Murphy call out, "Where's your other half? Lover's tiff, eh, Bodie?"
Bodie whirled round on Murphy, and before the taller man could move, Bodie had him backed up against his own car.
"What did you say, Murphy?" he said, a dangerous tone in his voice.
Murphy held his hands up in surrender. "Come on, mate, it's a joke, I didn't mean anything. I'm just surprised to see you on your own. That's all, honest." He bit down on his lip and a wave of discomfort passed over his face; Bodie, however, did not release him.
Murphy hurried on, "You and Doyle have taken to coming to and leaving work together so often these days, Eddie keeps commenting it's a waste of time you both booking cars out of the pool."
Murphy was still pressed against his car, and Bodie was invading his personal space. Although head and shoulders shorter than Murphy, Bodie was under no illusions about who would beat whom in a show of strength, and from the look on Murphy's face the other agent knew it too, and clearly had no desire to have his sentiments confirmed.
"Look, Bodie, it was a stupid thing to say. I'm knackered, mate, I've been up all night. The Cow had me on stakeout and I've only just got in; plus I've pulled another straight shift. God only knows what Lynda'll say. I didn't mean anything by it, really, Bodie."
Bodie searched Murphy's face intently, trying to ascertain if his friend and colleague was being truthful; he decided that he was. "Okay," he said, somewhat grudgingly. "Forget it, Murph, I'm sorry, didn't get much sleep either."
The two men entered the building and walked in silence to the restroom. As Bodie entered he scanned the room and took in Jax, Charlie, Benny, Anson and – across the far side of the room, sunk down low in an armchair, looking like the proverbial death warmed up – Doyle.
Bodie took in Doyle's appearance in one glance. His partner's round face was pale, to the point of being beyond even ghostly and the words 'a whiter shade of pale' came unbidden to Bodie's mind. The green eyes were heavy, dark circled, cold and totally unreadable. Bodie could see he was, in spite of the warmth of the room and the way he was dressed, shivering. Doyle's clothing was another indication that all was not well: he was dressed from head to foot in staid, stark black, a colour that could look alluring and beautiful - in the right circumstances. But now just looked funereal.
Even from the other side of the room, Bodie could sense the tension oozing out of his friend. His entire body language, in spite of the apparent nonchalant stance, spoke of flight and Bodie knew that Doyle's adrenaline level was sky high: fight or flight. Bodie feared both.
He took in all of these details within seconds, and also realised that he had to go across to Doyle and greet him in normally, in the way they did on the rare occasions when they hadn't come to work together. The only problem was that his normal method of greeting was not that appropriate given the circumstances, but standing by the door staring was even less appropriate. Doyle was apparently unconcerned by the new arrivals, but Bodie knew that the wary man was watching his every move.
He took a deep breath, strode across the room and made fleeting contact with Doyle's curls, saying as he did. "'Morning, sunshine. You okay?"
To Bodie's surprise, Doyle's tension seemed to fleetingly vanish and he leant into Bodie's hand as though it was a lifeline. However, the relief was minimal because Bodie, before he could stop himself, commented on the number of coffee cups standing abandoned in front of Doyle.
"Bloody hell, mate, what time did you get here? Looks like you've gone through half the coffee cups in the place." The remark wasn't that unusual, it was typical Bodie and Doyle banter, or at least it should have been.
Instead Doyle's eyes narrowed and he jerked away from Bodie's touch growling, "Christ, can't I even have more than one cup of coffee now without you making a bleeding inquisition over it?"
Bodie should have stopped there. He knew it. He also knew that the room had become quieter than usual, and that their fellow agents were surreptitiously watching this exchange between four-five and three-seven; watching without appearing to watch. However, just as he was about to try and laugh it off, his eyes caught sight of something else by the coffee cups - a packet of cigarettes.
Without thinking, Bodie swept them up and demanded, "And what the hell are these? Since when did you start smoking? Anson's corrupting you now is he? And you needn't think you're smoking them in my car!" The hand not holding the packet was tightly clenched, a part of Bodie wondered if the other agents were enjoying the floorshow.
Doyle leapt to his feet, "Bloody hell, Bodie, you're not me bleeding mother, you know. What fucking business is it of yours whether I smoke or not?"
Viciously snatching the packet from Bodie's hand, he tore it open, pulled out a cigarette and put it in his mouth. Never once did his eyes leave Bodie's face. On the periphery of his attention Bodie could tell that the rest of the room was now totally silent, and the other agents were hardly even breathing.
For a long moment Doyle and Bodie starred at each other, like two wild animals weighing up the opposition.
Then Doyle, with a sigh that could have been one of sorrow, frustration, anger, disgust or sheer exhaustion, threw down the packet and the cigarette and strode to the door. Over his shoulder he snarled, "It's almost 8:00 a.m., we've got to see the Old Man." He slammed out of the room leaving Bodie no alternative but to follow him.
As the door shut behind Bodie, the room let out a collective deep breath and stood, open mouthed, staring at the door, as it whooshed shut.
"Bloody ‘ell," said Anson. No one spoke; they all still stared at the door. "What was that all about?"
Murphy said nothing for the moment, recalling instead Bodie's reaction to his teasing in the car park.
"Well," demanded Anson. "Isn't anyone going to say anything?"
"What is there to say?" Jax asked. "We've all seen those two argue before; their whole relationship's based on sniping, bitching and mucking around."
"Yeh, exactly, Jax – mucking around," said Anson. "This wasn't 'mucking around'. This was bloody serious."
"So what do you reckon?" Jax asked, his curiosity clearly getting the better of him.
"Dunno, lover's tiff? Or maybe Bodie finally got Goldilocks into bed and neither of ‘em can handle it?" Anson replied, picking up the cigarette Doyle had discarded and lighting it.
"Finally into bed?" Benny spoke up from across the room. "Come on, surely those two have been in and out of bed since the day they met; well certain the last year or two anyway. What do you think, Murph? You know 'em better than any of us. You've worked with them both haven't you?"
"Yes, I've worked with them, but I wouldn't say I knew them, either of them. They're too bloody exclusive," Murphy replied slowly, still thinking about the recent scene that Bodie and Doyle had played out.
"As for whether they've been bedding each other for years, I dunno. They're good friends, very good friends. More often than not they seem to be in their own private world; a world that doesn't invite outsiders," he glanced around the room, his fellow agents were all nodding. "Bodie's challenged the Cow over Doyle's safety on more than one occasion. Come to think of it," he said, pausing in the process of stirring his cup of coffee, "they both have. But I'm not sure that adds up to anything more than just good friends."
"But they're always together," argued Anson. "They take their holidays together, days off are spent together, and they double date virtually all the time," he took a long drag on the cigarette and let the smoke out, slowly as he continued. "Even at office parties, the birds they're with often seem to be more like an accessory than three-seven and four-five's dates. They seem to have more fun together. Come on, Murph, they must be sleeping together."
"They're partners, permanent partners," Murphy defended. If he were honest, he tended to believe Anson's first comment that the Bodie/Doyle partnership had gone to bed recently, and was now having difficulty handling it. But something made him not want to voice his suspicions.
He liked Doyle and Bodie. Well he liked Bodie; he tolerated Doyle because he was Bodie's partner. Doyle, unfortunately, wasn't all that easy to like. His wit was too sharp; he was too uneven tempered; too quick to find fault; too quick to use that intelligent wit viciously. Murphy didn't know how Bodie had put up working with Doyle day in day out for five years, but he had, and Murphy had to admit it was a first class partnership. More even, it was the best partnership CI5 had to offer. Bodie and Doyle were like one person when working - and playing. They did have a sort of telepathy and always did seem to know how the other would react and both to where they'd move, and when.
"None of us have a permanent partner, so we can't say what it's like," he concluded, picking up his coffee cup and sipping the oddly coloured liquid with great care.
"Maybe," said Anson, with an obvious degree of reluctance. "Whatever. But I say that something happened yesterday. What were they working on anyway?"
"Dunno," said Jax. "It was very hush-hush. I'm with you though, Anson; something happened. Maybe we're reading it all wrong, maybe it's over a bird they both want."
"No," said Charlie firmly, speaking for the first time. "Not that. I've seen ‘em compete over birds; and lovely as any of them have been, they haven't come between Doyle and Bodie. I've seen Doyle walk off with Bodie's bird right under three-seven's nose and Bodie hasn't batted an eyelid. I've seen Bodie steal Doyle's girl and Ray hasn't said a word. It's as though. . . as though. . ."
"As though the girl isn't as important as whatever they have?" Murphy said softly. All eyes were turned towards him, and the other agents sat in, what Murphy assumed was, silent contemplation.
"Yeh. You're right, Murph. Doyle was here at 6:30, incidentally," said Charlie. "Alone," he added significantly.
"How do you know?" asked Benny, his tone curious.
"Had to get in early meself and complete the bloody report for Cowley. I saw Doyle pull up and come in here. Thought he was here to work too, but he didn't leave this room until just now," Charlie replied. "Whatever's gone down between them, I hope to God they get it sorted out soon. They're too bloody good for the department to lose, and Cowley'll give 'em hell if they don't pull their act together."
"You think it could be that serious?" Anson paused in the midst of blowing a smoke ring. "So serious they could leave, or split?"
Murphy answered before Charlie had a chance to, "Yes," he said. "It's that serious. Charlie's right – and like it or not, we all know it – those two are the best there is. The best CI5 has and is ever likely to have." This time the agreement from the other men was slower to come, but it did come. To clarify things, Murphy went on, without any degree of real reluctance. "Together they outsmart, outgun, and outthink the rest of us. They're a damned fine team; they're the best," he added simply and sincerely.
He took another sip of his coffee, shuddered and placed the cup down, then glanced around the room. "And I for one don't give a damn if they're sleeping together, if they've been fucking each other through the floor since the day they met. I don't give a shit if they come in here hand in hand calling each other darling. . ."
Murphy broke off as a snicker of laughter sounded in the room. Laughter at the thought of four-five and three-seven, CI5's tougher-than-tough boys, calling each other ‘darling', obviously seemed hilarious. However, the laughter stopped as quickly as it started as Murphy stared long and hard at the other men. Finally his gaze clearly penetrated the minds of the other men.
"Well, do any of you?" he demanded, turning his gaze from one to the next to the next agent.
For a long moment there was silence, each man was clearly trying to come to terms with his own thoughts.
Finally Anson spoke, "Nah, I don't care either. It's their lives. Christ, the way we live 'ere, every day could be our last. So what if they choose to spend their time with each other. I don't care either – but Cowley might."
"Yeh, well. Those two have always bucked the rules anyway, always sailed close to the wind. Cowley'll let them get away with most things. Why not this? What about the rest of you?" Murphy asked, for some reason not prepared to let the matter rest.
Charlie, Benny and Jax shrugged and all in turn muttered that they didn't give a damn either if Bodie and Doyle choose to bed each other, but added that they also thought the Cow might.
"After all," Benny suddenly added, a bright smile crossing his face. "If those two are out of the race, they'll be all the more birds for the rest of us," he rubbed his hands, apparently contemplating the scenario and enjoying what he saw.
"Right, " said Murphy. "So, that's that. None of our business. We forget it; we don't say anything else to Ray or Bodie. We don't mention today, we don't mention our suspicion and we offer up a few prayers – or whatever – that they sort it out between them. Or CI5'll be minus two operatives. Coffee anyone?" he added waving his hand at the pot from which he'd recently poured his own cup.
He was determined that the subject was closed; at least as far as anyone other than Bodie or Doyle was concerned.
Doyle strode alone the corridors that separated the CI5 restroom from the Controller's current office, with Bodie desperately trying to keep up with him.
Bodie was somewhat dismayed, ashamed even, of his reaction in the restroom; what must their fellow agents have thought? Not that he really gave a damn what they thought; after all they'd seen Doyle and himself argue before, as both had a fierce competitive, as well as a fierce independent, streak. It was this latter quality that almost made Bodie laugh aloud at times because for two such independent men they were both incredibly dependent on each other.
So although he wasn't particularly bothered what the others had thought of the show, he was bothered by what Doyle thought of it. Bodie had overreacted, he knew that now; he'd treated his partner as his property, again nothing new. Why hadn't he left the greeting at the ‘morning, sunshine,' stage? Why force the issue and show the world that he regarded Doyle as his possession?
That thought brought him to a standstill and he brought his teeth together with a shape click. Did he regard Doyle as his possession? The instant, positive answer surprised him, and yet surely it shouldn't have done? Both men were used to being the centre of the other's world. It wasn't something they ever discussed or consciously considered. Nonetheless, it was true, and if Bodie hadn't blown it, should become truer still. In a moment of total clarity, Bodie knew that even if he and Doyle never went to bed together again, they would always remain the most important person to the other; without one another they would be mere shadows. Once again Bodie was forced to admit his dependency on Doyle. If his partner walked out of his life now, Bodie did not dare to contemplate the future. The level of power that Doyle had over him made Bodie shudder.
He needed to talk to him now; say something; anything; he would even apologise for his possessive display in the restroom. He had to hear Doyle's soft/harsh voice and see those green eyes look at him with something other than contempt. Quickening his pace he reached Ray and caught hold of his arm. "Ray..."
Before Bodie could continue, however, Doyle jerked his arm away and snarled, "Not now, Bodie! Later." Reaching Cowley's door he gave a perfunctory knock and entered, Bodie on his heels.
"Doyle. Bodie," Cowley acknowledged. He glanced at his two agents over the top of his glasses. Then he looked again. Putting down his pen, he removed his glasses completely and deliberately appraised the two younger men. Doyle's appearance, his pallor and his outfit, coupled with a tension that radiated from the pair, a tension he had not noticed since the day he partnered them, told him that something was wrong – seriously wrong.
He watched them closely for a few moments, and then nodded to two chairs in front of his desk. Both men sat down, somewhat stiffly and warily. Cowley continued to appraise them, and noticed that whilst Bodie met his eyes, Doyle's stare was somewhere over his right shoulder. He let them sit there, suffering before his very eyes.
Finally he spoke; his tone hard. "Whose decision was it?"
"Sir?" Bodie, after a glance at Doyle, queried.
"Which one of you decided to use those blasted bullets?"
Before Bodie could speak, Doyle turned his gaze directly to Cowley and said, "It was a joint decision, sir, as always. We're partners. We'd neither one of us make that sort of decision alone." His glance then turned to Bodie, and Cowley watched their silent communication.
The Controller immediately guessed the truth: Bodie had doctored the bullets, without Doyle's approval, and it was this decision that had caused the rift between them. However, whatever their argument, no matter how much Doyle had disapproved, he would still stand by Bodie in his Controller's presence. Cowley had rarely seen such total trust and loyalty. He knew four-five was lying, but also knew that Doyle would never admit to his words being a lie.
Rather than challenge, he turned his gaze to Bodie. "Three-seven, do you agree with your partner?"
After a swift appraising glance at Doyle, Bodie nodded, "Yes, sir. It's as Ray said. We decided."
"It seemed like a good idea at the time, sir." Bodie repeated the words he had said to Cowley on the previous afternoon.
"I didn't like your answer then, Bodie, I don't like it now. You, especially you, four-five," he returned his attention to Doyle, "know the feelings on the use of dumdum bullets. You know my feelings on them; yet you went ahead and used them anyway. What is more, I know your feelings too, Doyle. I'm very surprised at you in particular." Cowley spoke angrily. These two may be his favourites, his best men, most trusted and relied upon agents; he even may approve, unofficially, of their oft times maverick behaviour, but this time they – Bodie - had gone too far.
"You told us to protect Parsali and the treaty, sir, at all costs. We thought it was better to be sure," Bodie spoke steadily.
"Och, don't try that one on me, Bodie. I could have your jobs for this, you realise that don't you."
"Yes, sir," Doyle replied, his eyes back on the place behind Cowley's head.
Cowley surveyed his two errant agents and decided that they had already put themselves through enough hell. And, if he read them correctly, they had not yet resolved their problems.
"Aye, well what's done is done," he finally said, still not looking away from the younger men. Then with a last glance at Doyle he added, "But this is the last time you two do anything like this. One more incident of rule breaking and you'll regret you ever joined this organisation. Do I make myself clear?" Replacing his glasses, he returned to his papers: the interview was at an end.
"Yes, sir!" The response was simultaneous, as was the jump to their feet.
"Right. Get out of here, both of you. I promised you two week's leave when it was all over," Cowley paused for a moment, watching the response of his men. They were still and upright; still Bodie met his gaze, still Doyle looked over his shoulder. He spoke again, his voice slightly gentler, "That two weeks begins immediately. Go."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Doyle moved swiftly to the door, followed immediately by Bodie.
As they reached the door, Cowley said, "Oh, and, Doyle, Bodie," they turned as one. "Use the time wisely." With a final swift appraisal, Cowley returned his eyes back to the paper he had been reading when they entered. The door shut as his strong-willed agents left his office.
For an instant he wondered how they would spend their time; he could only pray that it would be spent wisely, and their dilemma would be resolved. His greatest fear was them returning from leave and telling him that they could not work together. They were his best team and he would do almost anything - perhaps anything – to keep them together.
Once outside the office, Doyle again strode away at high speed, but this time Bodie was determined to catch up with, and stop, his partner. Around the corner from Cowley's office was a rarely used small corridor that led to the basement and old files.
Bodie caught Doyle's arm and forced him into the corridor, using all his greater strength to pin him to the wall. For a moment Doyle struggled, but then gave into inevitability: this time Bodie was going to use his full strength to gain the advantage.
Rather than physical strength, Doyle resorted to a hard tone. "What?" he snarled.
"Why'd'you do it, Ray?" Bodie's hand still gripped the thin upper arms, holding Doyle against the wall; the tension in the sinewy arms was obvious, and the muscles were as tight as coiled springs.
"You bloody well know what, mate. Lie to the Cow. Why did you tell him that using dumdums was a joint decision?"
Doyle was silent for a long moment as he openly appraised Bodie, but he still made no effort to move from the rigid grip.
"Why'd'you think?" he finally asked. Then before Bodie could answer, he went on, "Mind you, if you have to ask, then maybe it was a mistake."
"What?" Bodie was genuinely confused by Doyle's ability to make the simplest comment sound complicated.
"Come on, Bodie," once again, Doyle seemed to need to use his partner's name. "Don't play the fool, you aren't anywhere near as stupid as you try and make people think you are, plus the act hasn't worked with me for years." Doyle's tone was lighter now, teasing almost, lulling Bodie into relaxing slightly.
"I'm not playing the fool, mate, just that me mind isn't working at the same speed as your obvious brilliance," Bodie tried to match his partner's tone. "Just tell me, Professor, in English, what it is you're saying. I'm not up to word games today, Ray," he paused, licked his lips, and continued. "I didn't sleep last night." There it was, out in the open for Doyle to do with as he wanted.
Doyle said nothing for a long time, but his eyes opened wider and he stared more deeply into Bodie's eyes, but still Bodie could not read the closed gaze. Finally he gave an imperceptible shrug and said slowly, as if talking to a particularly dim child, "I lied to Cowley because we're partners, meant to be partners," he added, his tone again a mixture of many nuances.
He continued, his voice gruff, "Partners work together. We've always worked together, Bodie. You and me against the world. I've always backed you in public, no matter what I've thought, or even said to you in private, and you've done the same," He looked hard at Bodie and for moment Bodie would have sworn that his partner saw deep within his soul.
There was an almost wistful look in the hooded eyes, as Doyle went on. "Don't see this as being any different. Do you? But if you had to ask why I did it, then maybe I was wrong," he paused, swallowed, closed his eyes and closed his eyes for a second. "Or right, depending on how you look at it. Maybe we aren't partners anymore." The final words were spoken with such a degree of sadness and loss, and Doyle's eyes suddenly became bright with unshed tears, that George Cowley together with the whole of CI5 couldn't have prevented Bodie from changing his grip, and rather than hold his partner back against the wall, pulled him instead into a tight, fierce embrace.
Doyle made no move to pull away from this either. The slim body was compliant and relaxed against Bodie, and he dropped his head to Bodie's shoulder; but he also made no move to complete the embrace.
"Oh, God, love," the endearment Bodie had used the previous evening slipped out unwittingly, and Ray made a small noise in his throat. "Don't say that. Don't say we're not partners, Ray. We are and I always want us to be. You saying that is as bad as when you said that you didn't know if you wanted to go anywhere with me, ever again. That hurt, Ray, bloody hurt."
He gulped and held on even tighter, aware that he might bruise his partner. "It's just. . . it's just that you were so. . . so flipping angry and hurt and. . . Ray," again he used his partner's name, needing to keep saying it in order to convince himself, or maybe the other man, that he was real. His grip was slightly harder and he shook the lithe body, emphasising his next words. "We've, got to talk." Bodie put all his determination into the final words, unwilling now to offer Doyle any quarter.
"Your place or mine?" Doyle said, finally raising his head, his voice harsh and uneven. "Or," Bodie watched the swallowing movement through the black wool. "We could do as you suggested last night and go away." The still pale face became shuttered, making Bodie want to scream and demand entrance to the world into which is partner had slipped.
Bodie thought frantically. If they went to his place, it would mean that Doyle could walk out once again; it would also mean a reminder of the harsh words of last night. If they went to Doyle's, then his friend would have to throw him out – literally – and in spite of everything that had gone down between them, Bodie wasn't sure that Doyle would do that; he might walk out, but to actually order Bodie to leave. . .?
What if they did go away somewhere? To some place neutral, a place they had never been together, wouldn't that be better? That way there would be no memories, no ghosts, no pre-conceived notions. And if, as Bodie fervently hoped, all went swimmingly, well then they could have that holiday, the one that they both deserved.
He ignored the little man that was telling him that he was only considering this escape because he thought that Doyle might not be as furious if they weren't in the sanctuary of their own homes. Moreover, of course, if they travelled together – and surely even the perverse little bugger wouldn't suggest otherwise – then Doyle couldn't storm out. Yes, go away, that was the obvious choice. That was what he would suggest.
He opened his mouth. "Your call, sunshine," he said.
Doyle stared up at the man who held him. How could Bodie be so cool and kind after all the harsh words he had said to him the night before? But of course it'd be easy for Bodie to be kind if all my words were true after all. Suddenly Doyle knew without a shadow of a doubt that he did not want his own, bitter interpretation of Bodie's words and actions to be true. He wanted – needed – Bodie to have meant what he both said, and did: he wanted Bodie's love. Still, he was scared of that love - scared of wanting it, afraid of needing it so much.
Not much scared the sometimes seemingly crazy ex-detective. In fact he could count on the fingers of one hand, and then have some left over, those things that did: losing Bodie, and being alone whilst being sick, (and of course some of the occasions when they were called upon to risk life and limb for George bloody Cowley and England). So why did the thought of Bodie's love frighten him so much? He and Bodie were already closer than close; intimate beyond everything he had ever known before. Intimate without the sex. Can't even say that now, Doyle thought, just a tad ruefully.
The sex didn't bother him; hitherto straight he had responded to Bodie's seduction like a candlewick responding to a match. But he wasn't certain that it had added anything positive to their relationship; had it simply taken them beyond their capacity of inter-dependence? Had one glorious night of loving pushed the already blurred boundaries too far? He was too tired to analyse this with the respect it needed; Bodie was waiting, and he deserved an answer.
With a silent sigh, Doyle quickly considered the options: Bodie's place, his own or go away somewhere – which was the best choice? Quickly, he weighed up the pros and cons of the options, but it was tiring and he ached with weariness. The deep, dark tiredness that only appears after an extremely stressful op, or an emotional charged time – this time the two came together.
For a moment, it all seemed too much for him, and he considered crying off and asking for more time.
He looked up and opened his mouth, and then he saw Bodie's eyes and was stunned into temporary silence. Never before had he seen such naked honesty and openness in those sapphire blue orbs. Bodie usually shielded his emotions, pretending he didn't have any, something Ray knew to be untrue. Even so, Bodie did keep a leash on his feelings and seemed to be able to control his eyes in a way that Ray envied. Now he read vulnerability, Bodie vulnerable? And that suddenly added to his fears. As he continued to appraise the unblinking stare, he also read longing and. . . need? Again an emotion he never expected to see emulating from his partner. And finally, he read a hint of fear. Not the fear Bodie had confessed to the morning of the Parsali treaty signing, but a deeper, more meaningful, poignant fear. Was Bodie afraid of losing his partner? Could it be possible?
Of course it's possible, you selfish git. You think you've got a bleeding monopoly on that particular fear? Hasn't he shown you, in his own way, time and time and time again, just what you mean to him?
Still Bodie stared at his partner, almost certainly unaware of what he was revealing, or was he? Maybe, just maybe, he had finally decided that the only way to get through to Ray was to let all of his barriers down. Ray shivered and felt Bodie's arms tighten briefly. God I'm still in his arms, he thought fleeting. What if anyone comes by?
That, in itself, did not concern him; what did was that suddenly, within a few minutes, the number of things that scared him had doubled, and he wasn't certain that he liked that.
To add to it he somehow knew that the ultimate decision concerning their relationship was down to him. Bodie had made it quite clear what he wanted; the only question was: did he want it? Was he prepared to forgive – not forget, never forget – what Bodie had done? Did he want to? All these thoughts, and more started to chase each other around in Ray Doyle's mind, and he knew that nothing would be resolved standing here in the corridor at HQ. They needed to get away, go somewhere and talk. But the consequences of that action scared him. Damn it, another fear.
Suddenly a shard of light charged in through the nearby skylight, bathing both men in a golden glow, shimmering around them and bouncing off the walls and floor – and Ray knew what he wanted; what he needed; what they both needed.
With a final glance into the sapphire pools, he closed his own eyes, and said softly, "Let's go away somewhere. Then," he added, opening his eyes, "at least I can't run out on you this time." He pulled away from Bodie's grasp and strode purposefully towards the car park.
He heard Bodie's boots clattering on the uncarpeted floor behind him.
"Wait up, Ray," Bodie's hand was warm and quivering as it caught his hand. He paused and glanced back over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow and looking directly at his partner. "Are you sure about this?"
"No," Ray's inherent honesty sometimes caused him more problems than it solved; this time was one of those. He watched as the momentarily open eyes and countenance closed in on themselves, and Bodie's body became upright and tight. Even his scent tasted different, and the hand that gripped his became icy.
Ray sighed to himself. "No," he repeated, "I'm not, not entirely. But I think it's the best option." Bodie still looked dubious and was still retreating, emotionally as well as physically.
This time Ray closed his own hand over the one resting on his wrist and tugged. When Bodie didn't respond he planted his feet firmly on the uncarpeted floor and pulled harder. Bodie's centre of gravity must have been slightly off-kilter, because as he jerked his hand, Bodie tottered forward and ended up pressing him against the wall.
"Sorry," they muttered, in the kind of perfect synchronisation that had kept them alive for nearly five years and Bodie moved away. They grinned at one another, but Bodie's seemed to stretch his face and sit on it, rather than be part of it. Feeling his own muscles move, Ray imagined that his look mirrored his partner. Again he sighed; this was not how things were meant to be, not anymore. Not since the days when the ex-SAS man looked down on the ex-detective, cynical and aloof, just waiting for him to fall over. And the way the artist poured scorn on the ex-Merc and believed that they were all morons, who knew nothing about culture.
He closed his hand around Bodie's chilled wrist. "Come on, Bodie, going away was your idea and I happen to think it's the right one. We've just been through hell and back recently. We haven't had more than a day off in months. We're both running on empty, at least I know I am. Why do you think The Cow's giving us leave? He's seen us. He knows we're both knackered, that we've gone beyond endurance levels. A tired agent is one thing, a bone-weary one another."
He heard a noise behind them and moved slightly, away from Bodie's sturdy body. He didn't mind them being seen touching, they did it all the time, but he'd only just realised that he was plastered all over his partner – when had he moved in that closely again?
"Come on, mate, before someone grabs us and gets us to do something." He pushed open the doors and blinked as the bright sunlight hit his eyes. It felt good to have the sun on his face, even though he still didn't feel warm inside. The brightness seemed to burn his eyes, digging into them and searing the backs; shielding them he dug into his pockets and dragged out his sunglasses.
They reached their cars and stopped; Bodie at the silver Capri, Ray by her sister. He frowned down at the bonnet, momentarily wondering why they had both cars – then he remembered.
"So where do you want to go?" Bodie's voice drifted over the touching bonnets, flowing into Ray and bringing him back to the moment. His partner sounded eager to please; too eager. What had they done to one another? "Sea? Country? Another city? What?"
Doyle didn't know. He hadn't thought beyond the getting away. "Dunno really. Don't care if I'm honest. I just want to get out of the city and away from the dirt and noise. What about you?"
Bodie shrugged. "I'm easy, really. You say."
Now they were being polite to one another. "Bodie!" Doyle was exasperated and he knew he sounded that way. He pushed the sunglasses up over his head, getting them tangled in his curls and winced as he tried to free them. "Ouch. Stupid things."
"Come here." Bodie strode around the cars and his hands moved confidently to Doyle's hair, batting away Doyle's own hands and loosening the knots. "Here," he handed the rescued glasses back to his partner.
"Ta," Doyle slipped them back into his pocket. He was too exhausted to even handle them at the moment. He just wanted to lie down on a soft bed and go to sleep for at least ten hours and then spend another ten without having to think, plan or decide, or save anyone's life. After that, well he'd see then. He suddenly realised that Bodie was watching him. "What?" He drew his eyebrows together.
"Nothing. Just thinking how pale you look. Black really doesn't suit you, you know."
"That's not what you said the last time you got me into a monkey suit. Full of compliments then, you were. Might have known you were only saying it to convince me to wear it," Doyle continued muttering under his breath about partners who lie to you and then came to an abrupt halt, hoping that Bodie's hearing had suddenly deserted him.
"Yeh, well, you didn't look as though the cat had dragged you in and then threw you back out again then."
"Charmed, I'm sure." Bodie's lips twitched briefly, and a real smile crossed them, one that reached his eyes. Just for that second it was as though the last forty-eight hours hadn't happened. "Come on, Ray, where do you want to go?"
"Surprise me. I like surprises." Doyle bit his lip, tasting iron and pain as the words slipped from his lips. For a moment he couldn't bring himself to look up at his partner, fearing the blistering retort his words would have won him.
As the silence stretched out between them, twanging Doyle's already taut nerves, he realised that he couldn't stand with his eyes scouring the ground all day. Slowly he started to peek up through the over-long fringe. Bodie was standing, lips pursed, hands on his hips, watching his partner and slowly shaking his head. Doyle nibbled his lip and let the taste of blood slip down his throat.
"All right you stubborn little bugger, but don't you dare complain later." Doyle blinked and tilted his head back. Again Bodie had closed in on him, invading his personal space, until it would have been hard to slip a credit card between them. Something passed between them, setting his veins on fire and making his stomach churn and tighten. His mouth became dry and he became aware of his own tired, dull scent as he felt the black wool adhere to his back.
He forced himself to speak. "What about the cars?"
"Take ‘em both home. We'll go to yours first, pick up some kit and then leave yours there and drive over to mine to get my gear. Then we'll be on our way. I'll drive, I don't want to end up in a ditch. Besides, Mister-I-like-surprises, I know where we're going. Well, come on then, don't just stand there gawping. Father'll count today as our first."
Doyle obediently trotted towards the driver's door of the gold Capri, slid in and turned the key. It was only when he was backing out of the space and signalling to pull out of the car park that he realised just how convoluted Bodie's solution had sounded. Why hadn't they simply left one of the cars at here at Base? Did it mean that Bodie had no faith in the holiday resolving their problems? Did he have so little faith in his partner? Was he even interested in sorting things out, or was his plan just to get Doyle away and then fuck him?
"You can try fucking yourself before I let you near me!" he snapped and grimaced as the words echoed around the interior of the car, mocking him and making him feel like a fool. He could no more stay away from Bodie than he could prevent the sun from rising the next day. He tightened his lips, forced his mind away from Bodie and sex, and returned his thoughts to why they were in two separate cars.
Fine, well if that's the way Bodie wanted to play things, then that was the way it would be – he'd soon find that tired or not, Doyle was not about to be walked over. After all, wasn't he the injured party? Wasn't it Bodie who had screwed things up? Broken Doyle's trust and then set out to seduce him for the good of Parsali, England and George bloody Cowley? And to think that just a few minutes earlier he had been thinking about walking along the beach or through some woods or something with Bodie, at peace with one another; back to their
As he dragged the wheel to the right, swerving to avoid an old lady who had stepped off the curb and was looking bemused, he felt his stomach become tight and his heart heavy. Righting the car again, he wiped his palms on his trousers, dragged a hand over his eyes, annoyed with his so-predicable reaction and clamped down on his emotions. He'd show Bodie. He wasn't a doormat to be walked over, or a toy to be tossed aside as soon as he grew predictable. If Bodie wanted to play games, then Doyle would play them even better.
He drove the rest of the way to his flat on autopilot, refusing to allow the kind thoughts and guilt he had been tasting, into his mind and body.
Bodie followed the gold Capri closely, gripping the steering wheel as though it was a safety rope, cursing himself for his foolishness. What had possessed him to suggest the complicated car scenario? He had watched Doyle's face change as he spoke the words, saw the green eyes narrow and become dull and a flush appear on the high cheekbones.
One day, maybe, Doyle would learn to control his every feeling from being broadcast to whosoever was nearby. For one of the best, damn it the best, undercover agent in the squad, when it came to personal matters Doyle might as well take an advert out in The Times. What was even more surprising was that Bodie knew that his partner wasn't even aware half of the time of what his eyes, face and voice were saying. And this, Bodie was certain, was one of those occasions. Unfortunately, by now the daft sod would have realised what a mess Bodie had made of something that should have been so simple and the enigmatic, obstinate man would now be analysing it to death.
"God damn you, Ray, why do you have to take everything to heart?" Bodie thumped the steering wheel and reached forward. His hand hovered over the handset, but he pulled it back; although he and Doyle often, when apart, used their car radios to communicate, this was probably not a good time. He would just have to rely on charm, honesty and good luck when they got back to Doyle's place, he settled back and watched the silver car weave in and out of the traffic.
They finally arrived at Doyle's apartment block and it seemed that, temporarily at least, the Gods or fate were smiling on them, because there was an empty parking space right next to Doyle's own. Bodie inched the silver Capri into it and saw that his partner was doing the same with her gold sister. For a moment Bodie felt melancholy, suddenly the two cars seemed closer than he and Doyle did. He forced this black thought away, climbed out of the car, locked the door and moved to the pavement where Doyle joined him seconds later.
Bodie tried to catch his partner's eye, but he seemed unwilling to let him, instead he glanced fleetingly at Bodie's shoulder, half-nodded and swirled on his heel towards the outside door. The heat of the day was beating down on the dirty London streets sending wafts of rotting fruit, dirt and the general malaise of mankind. Doyle's flat was, in Bodie's opinion, too close to the river for his liking; he saw little romance in the water, just decay and filthy water. He sighed. Getting out of London, always assuming his stubborn partner hadn't changed his mind, was definitely the best idea he'd had in more than a week. Fresh air, sunshine, the smell of the sea and his best friend, that was all he needed – three of them he could have easily enough, why did the fourth, the most important, now seem as likely as Cowley getting his leg fixed?
They made their way in silence up the three flights of stairs; the lift was out of order again, Silence between them wasn't usually a problem and was something that normally felt good and soothing; but today wasn't usual. Bodie began to wonder if life for the two partners would ever be usual again.
Doyle's behaviour once they reached his flat became, in Bodie's opinion, unusual, disconcerting and disheartening. First off, he made a point of ushering Bodie into the flat before him, like he would any guest, telling him to go through to the sitting room and make himself comfortable. Bodie heard the sounds of the double locks being set and the key turned, and was happy on that score at least. Then Doyle entered the sitting room and asked Bodie if he could take his jacket.
Bodie blinked. Since when had the golly started asking that sort of question? Since yesterday, came the quick response. Bodie's spirits dropped even more. It also looked as though their holiday was off. After all, why else would Doyle be going through this façade? Surely, if they were still going to get away then he should be packing.
He opened his mouth to ask the question and became aware that his partner was speaking to him. "Would you like a drink, Bodie? Coffee? Whisky? Tea? Wine?" Doyle gestured back and forth between the kitchen and his drinks table, as he offered the various options. Bodie's spirits sunk even more; but before he could respond Ray prattled on, "You warm enough or shall I turn the heating up?" Heating was the last thing they needed on, but clearly Doyle was still chilled.
Bodie shook his head, aware as he did that he was being confusing. He recalled a favourite saying of one of his schoolmasters: ‘Bodie! You mustna answer an either/or question with an aye.' The young schoolboy had often wondered, but never dared ask, just why Mr. Cameron persisted in asking either/or questions. The thought of Mr. Cameron momentarily made Bodie think of George Cowley: both Scotsmen, both seemed able to make William Andrew Philip run round in circles. But nowhere near as successfully as one Raymond Doyle did
Again he was pulled out of his reverie by the lilting voice still droning on, offering Bodie more guest options. "You hungry? Stupid question, really. Of course you're hungry; you're always hungry. I'll just see what I've got in the kitchen and. . ."
"Doyle!" Bodie had finally had enough.
Doyle blinked owlishly at his partner, "What?" he tilted his head to one side as he looked at Bodie.
"Stop it," Bodie sank down onto one of the sofas.
"Stop what?" Doyle's tone was one of genuine innocence.
Oddly that bothered Bodie far more than if his partner had been faking his innocence. If he didn't know what Bodie meant, then things between them were worse than he had first thought. Pausing before he spoke in order to judge his words, his voice was weary, "Stop treating me like a guest."
"Huh?" the genuine innocence was still evident.
Bodie ran his hand through his hair, a gesture he'd learnt from his errant partner. "Listen to yourself, sunshine. ‘Can I take your jacket, Bodie? Do you want a drink, Bodie? Are you too hot, Bodie? Too cold, Bodie? Do you want something to eat, Bodie?'" he was careful not to mimic Doyle in the way he felt like doing.
"What next, mate? ‘Do you want the telly on, Bodie? Or some records on, Bodie? Shall I open the curtains more, Bodie. Open the window, Bodie? Close the window, Bodie. . .?'" Instead of mimicking, he tried to inject some humour into his voice. "And anyway, aren't we meant to be going away? Shouldn't you be throwing some of the things you call decent clothes into a case?"
He guessed he had succeeded when Doyle dragged his hand through his own hair, wincing as the long, slender fingers got themselves snagged in the curls. Sinking down onto the opposite sofa an opposite sofa, Bodie again sighed inwardly, he said ruefully, "Sorry, mate."
"Don't apologise, just stop," Bodie voice was quiet. He was relieved when Doyle smiled one of his crooked smiles and leant back against the cushions, closing his eyes and sighing jadedly. Bodie looked across at his once again fragile looking partner and confirmed his early thoughts, and words, that black really didn't do anything for Ray when he was tired.
It's a good job I told him earlier that black didn't suit hi, when he's under the weather, Bodie added ruefully. Might not get another chance. He felt a surge of his protectiveness come into play. Ray really did looked more than tired: totally and utterly exhausted and, as was the case when he was tired beyond measure: fragile and vulnerable. He looked so defenceless that it was on the tip of Bodie's tongue to suggest that they leave matters for now, separate and get some sleep. Leave their trip until the next day; leave the talking until then as well.
However, self-preservation won out; this was one time that, fragile and vulnerable looking or not, his partner was not going to get his own way. Not that he's deliberately trying to, Bodie mused. At least I don't think he is.
Bodie was just about to speak when the telephone rang, shattering the silence. Both men glanced at the intrusive instrument: Doyle in seeming confusion, easily giving the impression of a man who had never heard the telephone – his telephone – before.
Bodie gave it, what he hoped was an angry, withering look. He was frustrated; this was all they needed, an interruption. They were off-duty, on leave, and the Old Man had promised them a fortnight's holiday. He supposed it could be a personal call, and that bothered him more than the thought that Cowley had suddenly decided to renege on his holiday promise and tell four-five and three-seven that England couldn't survive for two weeks without them.
Suddenly Bodie wasn't certain whether he would be relieved or disappointed if the call was an order back to work. His exhaustion and nagging feeling that the longer things were left, the harder it would be for Doyle and himself to put them right waged war with the relief that at least going back on duty would delay his worse nightmare.
Even if it was a personal call it would still come through HQ, because in a rash move, that made Bodie decide that all the old clichés about the Scots might indeed be true, the Head of CI5 had decided that all CI5 operatives could now manage with only one phone line. Thus all calls had to go through Control. This didn't particularly bother Bodie, because he rarely got close enough to one of his birds to want to part with his private number, but he did occasionally wonder what the blokes at HQ thought when he and his partner exchanged middle-of-the-night calls.
The phone continued to ring and Doyle continued to stare at it.
"Oi, mate," chided Bodie gently. "It's your phone, aren't you going to answer it?" He was faintly amused when his partner jumped almost guiltily and grabbed the telephone.
"Doyle," his tone a mixture of professionalism, weariness and wariness. "Oh, right, fine. Yeh, put her through."
Bodie's heart sank.
Bodie's heart sank further and he moved to the edge of the sofa prepared to leave the room, something he never usually bothered about; where Ray was concerned, Bodie had forgotten what privacy was. He was stopped by a frantic and determined gesture from now frowning man, who waved him back onto the sofa with a downward chop of his hand. Bodie decided not to argue.
"Yes, I'm still here, Clare. Sorry," Doyle sat on the arm of the second sofa, his back half turned towards his partner.
Bodie contemplated the picture to the left of Ray's window. It was one of his partner's own, one of the few he would let anyone see. It was good and was Bodie's second favourite; his absolute favourite being the one he had in his own home, the one Ray had painted for him as a birthday pressie last year.
"How are you?" Although the tone was friendly and solicitous enough, Bodie could sense that neither his partner's heart, nor mind, was really on the conversation. Bodie's own heart started to perk up a bit.
"Last night, eh?. . .. . . That's good. . .. . . What?. . .. . . Yeh, couple of nights ago. . .. . . No, I told you, I can't. . .. . . Yeh, lots of paperwork."
Bodie settled back onto the cushions of the comfortable sofa; Clare was clearly grilling the golly about his own work. Sometimes the ‘we're just Civil Servants', line worked without question, it usually did, actually. Most birds raised an eyebrow or giggled, clearly having difficulty in viewing either Bodie or Doyle as pen pushers. Sometimes the two friends made up extravagant stories about what they did, stories that got taller and taller with each telling.
Ray was still listening, and Bodie could see that his partner's patience was close to being exhausted. He was twining the telephone cord around and around in his fingers, and his profile had the impatient look Bodie knew so well.
"When?. . .. . . No, sorry, I can't. . .. . . I said no. . .. . . Why? Because I can't, got something else to do. . .. . . What?. . .. . . No, it isn't some other girl. . .. . . What?. . .. . . Yeh, yeh, it is. . .. . . Yes!. . .. . . Christ, Clare, you don't bleeding own me," Ray had now stood up from his precarious seat on the arm of the sofa, and was pacing around the room as far as the telephone cord would stretch.
"Sorry," his tone clearly totally unrepentant. "All right!" he snapped, the fine leash he had on his temper had clearly finally shattered. "No, I'm not bleeding sorry. . .. . . No. No, I won't apologise. You're a grown woman, Clare, not a little girl, you've heard the word before. . .. . .. What?. . .. . . No, I won't apologise for that either. . .. . . Why?. . .. . . Because I'm not sorry. Look," again his voice softened, and as Bodie watched he clearly tried to get a grip on his temper.
"I never led you on, never made you any false promises, never let you think I was going to propose, did I?. . .. . . Did I?. . .. . . Right. . .. . .You've always known how important my job is, thought you'd understand that. . .. . . What?. . .. . .Yes, him too. . .. . . All right, yes. Bodie is more important to me than you, than my job, than anyone. Is that what you wanted to hear? That make you feel better. . .. . . Fine, if that's the way you want it. Goodbye!"
To Bodie's surprise the receiver was replaced not with the crash he had been expecting, but with a gentle, almost caressing motion.
For a brief second Ray stood with his back to Bodie, tension radiating from every pore. Then he turned around, dragged long fingers through his curls again and said bluntly, "I need to pee. And then I'm going to pack. Let's get out of here whilst we still can." With that he left the room heading, Bodie assumed, for the bathroom.
Left alone Bodie rose and poured two measures of scotch: one generous – for Ray – the other smaller; after all he planned to drive. Then taking his back to his seat, he sat back down, sipped the smooth liquid and contemplated the telephone call. It surprised him, not that the relationship between Ray and the nurse was over – at least that was what Bodie surmised – but how unlike his usual self, Ray had been; usually he was the soul of gentleness and courtesy. However, from the moment he had picked up the telephone to Clare, Ray Doyle had been neither gentle nor courteous.
Before he could ponder any further Ray re-appeared, still adjusting his clothing. So the little bugger had needed to pee after all? Bodie mused. He hadn't been too sure of the honesty of his partner's statement when he had left the room. But then his lights thoughts faded as he realised that even the whirlwind Ray was when he put his mind to it, couldn't possibly have packed that quickly. Changeable as his partner's mind was, Bodie was surprised that he had changed his mind so quickly. Nonetheless, as Ray's body no longer had the ‘keep out' sign hanging around it, he pushed his concerns away and instead turned his full attention to the slender figure. Smiling as the long fingers continued to try and pull up the zip, which seemed to be fighting back, Bodie suddenly felt very proprietorial and almost paternal.
"What?" Ray finally won the battle and secured the errant zipper.
"Nothing," his friend frowned at him. "Just that if you didn't wear ‘em so tight, you wouldn't have that problem. I don't," Bodie went on brightly.
Ray didn't deign a reply, simply raised his eyes heavenwards.
"Anyway," Bodie said, keeping his voice nonchalant, "I thought you'd gone to pack?"
"I had, but then I realised that I didn't know where we were going, thus I don't know what to pack. Is that for me?" His artist's hand flicked out and captured the larger of the two drinks. "Ta." He grabbed the drink before Bodie had a chance to reply and had emptied half of it, whilst Bodie's unfilled hand was still computing the absence of the glass. "You still planning on doing the driving then?" He perched on the arm of Bodie's sofa and began to swing his leg and whistle off-key. It all seemed so normal, just like any other day, except for two things: he still wasn't close enough to touch Bodie, and he wasn't allowing himself to make eye contact.
Nonetheless, Bodie felt his muscles relax and the cold perspiration that had been popping out over his body from time to time, fade away back into his skin. His throat no longer felt helplessly dry and his palms weren't damp.
"Yeh, well, as I said, I fancy getting there in one piece. And the drive here just convinced me of that, if I needed convincing, that is." He sipped his drink slowly, enjoying the warmth and silky feeling as the liquid touched the back of his throat.
Now Ray did turn his attention on his partner. The green eyes opened wide and an indignant look crossed the sometimes angelic features. He put one hand on his hip and glowered at Bodie, the look was somewhat spoilt though by the flash of amusement in the sparkling eyes. "Wasn't my fault. How was I to know that the old dear would leap off the pavement in front of me! Sometimes reckon that when they get to sixty, they should all be locked up." Humour twitched his lips and suddenly a full-power Ray Doyle smile hurtled in Bodie's direction.
"You, Raymond my son, have been spending too much time with me. A nice ex-copper like you, I thought you all helped little old ladies across the road."
"Detective, if you please. And I did that once," Doyle chugged down the rest of his drink and held out his glass towards Bodie, his meaning clear.
Shaking his head and muttering about last slave and die of, Bodie stood up, feeling his tendons shriek as he moved too quickly. He made his way passed his partner, to where the drinks were kept, choosing to ignore the fact that Ray could have stretched out his hand and picked the bottle up himself. At this moment, Bodie would do just about everything to keep the dichotomous bundle content.
"Did what?" Bodie poured another friendly measure into Ray's empty glass; his body mourned the fact that his own glass remained at its current level.
"Helped an old dear across the road. Only trouble was, she didn't want to go across and she spent the next twenty minutes making sure and I, and half of London, knew that fact. Cheers. You not joining me?" he fluttered his eyelashes and looked wickedly innocent. Bodie tried to ignore the flame of heat that flickered in his groin as Ray sprawled backwards across the arm of the sofa, his come-and-get-me stance like water to a dehydrated man. The alcohol seemed to be wrapping Ray in a warm glow, colour teased his cheeks and lips, his auburn curls bounced and shimmered in the light and the green eyes had become lazy. As pleased as Bodie was to see the change, he also wanted to get out of the flat before anything else occurred.
"Shall I pack for you?" The emeralds flashed in his direction and a slight frown appeared from under the auburn fringe. Bodie waited.
Whatever Ray was about to say was swallowed up by the sound of the telephone ringing again. Ray glared at it and then looked back at Bodie who could clearly read his partner's mind: he was considering not answering it.
As much as Bodie longed for him to do just that, he realised that neither of them had much joy at avoiding ringing telephones. Besides. . .
"Better answer it, sunshine," he said quietly, resignedly, cursing himself for the way his voice sounded. It must have surprised Ray too because his eyebrows disappeared into his curls. "Might be Control with something important," Bodie finished.
"We're damn well on leave," Ray responded, his tone annoyed and almost petulant. Nonetheless he crossed to the telephone, yanked it off of the hook and barked, "Doyle! What d'you want?"
Bodie winched on behalf of the poor sod at the other end of the telephone; Ray Doyle in a mood was not a Ray Doyle to be argued with. He watched as his partner again dragged his hand through his curls, again wincing as the fingers caught in the mop; for a moment Bodie longed to cross to him and smooth the wayward curls out himself. However, he did not move, he just continued to listen.
"Sorry, Bill. . .. . . Nah, know it's not your fault. . .. . . Yeh. . .. . . Yeh. . .. . . Yes, put her through. Thanks, mate."
Again Bodie's heart, which had begun to rise, now began to sink again. It was obviously Clare ringing back to apologise and tell Ray that she did not want to end their relationship after all. Well, I wouldn't let him go, if I were her, Bodie thought, and then in a moment of shattering clarity realised that Clare or not, he wasn't going to let his partner go without a fight. Not just as his partner, but also as his lover. Bodie wasn't above fighting for what he wanted and, if circumstances necessitated it, fighting dirty. He was determined that this was one fight he was going to go all out for. He continued to listen.
"'Lo, love. . .. . ." he heard Ray man say. "Hmmm?. . . No, no problem. . .. . . No, honest, I don't mind. . .. . . Well sort of. . .. . . Yeh, I'm sure. . .. . . Yes, Judy, really."
Bodie relaxed again, it wasn't Clare. Content now, he lifted his drink to his lips and silently drank a toast, before putting the glass on the coffee table and striding off in the direction of his partner's bedroom, where he began to swiftly and neatly pack a case.
He left the door between the two rooms open and giving part of his attention to opening drawers and cupboards and folding clothes – army regulation style – he listened to his partner's side of the conversation with half an ear, whilst still taking in the entire conversation with his ‘Ray filter'.
"When?. . .. . . Fine. . .. . . Yes, we said any time. . .. . . No, we don't mind, really. . .. . . But, Judy, love, are you ever going to tell your mum?. . .. . . I suppose so, but I bet you she wouldn't mind. . .. . . He probably knows more about it than any of us!. . .. . . Me? Dunno. . .. . . Might do. . .. . .. Yeh, really we'd love to. You know how Bodie loves your mum's cooking. . .. . . ‘S'not true, he doesn't. . .. . . Well, okay then, he does, but some people's he loves more than others, and your mum's one of the some. . .. . .. We've got to couple of weeks off now, but. . .. . . Fine. . .. . . It'd be better for us later. . .. . . Next month?. . .. . . Yes, usual of course. . .. . . Let us know the exact date. . .. . . We'll get back to you if there's any problems. . .. . . No, Ju, I told you, we don't mind. . .. . . Really... . .. Good food, good wine, horses for me, fishing for Bodie, great company, what more could two blokes want?. . .. . . Judith Shaw, I'm surprised at you!" Ray's voice rose suddenly and changed from the chatty to the amazed.
Bodie glanced up and moved to the doorway and peered at his partner. To his surprise, he saw a very faint blush appear on the mismatched cheeks and he wondered just what Judy had said to cause such a reaction in his worldly wide partner. Although, he mused even as he thought that, Ray wasn't actually as worldly wide as he appeared to be, there was just a touch of innocence and naivety about him that Bodie found amazingly touching.
Ray continued. "Thanks a lot, charmed I'm sure. . .. . . I think you're mixing me up with Bodie. . .. . . Nah, reckon he corrupted me."
To Bodie's surprise and joy, Ray turned towards him and winked outrageously; another point for the ‘winning' side. He left the door and returned to the bed and the packing.
Ray was winding up the conversation, "You too, Judy. Give our love to Liz and we'll see you both soon. . .. . . Yeh. . .. . . yeh. . .. . . I will. . .. . . Bye."
Bodie heard the phone click back into it's cradle just as he had folded the last shirt and dug out Ray's least disreputable tie, before throwing it back into the corner of the wardrobe and making a mental note to pack a couple of his own. He sensed, rather than heard, his partner's arrival in the doorway. When he glanced up, Ray was draped against the frame, right leg over his left, hips jutting forward, a soft look on his face.
Bodie forced his eyes away from the tightly packed groin and slid passed him on his way to the bathroom to throw Ray's toiletries into a bag.
"That was Judy," Ray said unnecessarily, following Bodie into the bathroom and taking up another posed posture, this time against the far wall. "Wants us to go down to her mum's house sometime in the next month or so, and play ‘cover-up' for her and Liz. Said we would, hope you don't mind? She'll get back to us anyway."
Before Bodie could respond, Ray had swivelled on his heel and vanished. Bodie heard the sound of fast dialling, told Bodie that it was a number his partner dialled often. He reasoned it would be one of two: his or HQ, and as he was there with Ray. . .
"Bill?. . .. . . Yeh, mate. . .. . . Just thought I'd better let you know that Bodie and me are going away for a few days. So if anyone else rings could you tell them that I'll ring ‘em back later, please? What?. . .. . . Christ, you're as bad as Bodie, you are. Has he been giving you lessons?. . .... What do you mean?. . .. . . There were only two of them, not a bloody harem. . ... Ha, bloody, ha. If you have to know, just to put the record straight you understand: the first one rang to break it off – obviously being a CI5 bloke's bird finally pissed her off - and the second one is an old friend. . .. . . No, not that sort of friend, a genuine, friend, friend. You know what they're like, Bill? . . .. . . And you too mate. Yeh, course we will. Just in case you've forgotten, we have worked for CI bloody 5 for nearly five years now, I think we know the rules. . .. . .. Up yours too mate." Bodie heard the belly chuckle and the ping that announced the end of the call.
When he arrived back in the bathroom, his partner was still grinning broadly and once again and Bodie began to get a positive feeling about the rest of the day and the ones that followed. It seemed that Ray was prepared to hear his partner out, and was prepared to talk about and hopefully resolve matters. Bodie also got this impression from what he had both said to Judy, and said to Bodie post-Judy.
Few people knew about Judy's relationship with Liz, and for reasons best known to herself Judy wasn't ready to tell her mother, and thus Ray would always rally round to help out the girl who was his old childhood friend. He and Ray had acted as Judy and Liz's ‘boyfriends' on several occasions over the last two years, ever since the affair between the two women began.
"You don't mind, do you?" Ray enquired, shunting Bodie out of the way and moving the stand in front of the loo, long fingers moving to his zipper.
"You only went a few minutes ago," Bodie said, reaching around his partner to grab the deodorant and shampoo that rested on the windowsill. "I hope this doesn't mean that I'm going to have to stop every half hour for you to have a pee. Want me to stop at Mothercare and buy you a potty. We don't want you wetting yourself now, do we? After all, how would we explain that to Cowley?"
"Ha, bloody, ha," Ray said, deftly tucking himself back into his pants, before once again fighting with the zipper. As he flushed the loo and moved to wash his hands, he glanced over his shoulder. "Me Mum always told me, ‘go before you go, Raymond,' I'm just being a good boy." This time the eyelash fluttering was so outrageous that it took all of Bodie's time not to reach out and pull his partner into an embrace, that or shake the teasing devil.
He did neither, instead he gathered up the last item – a toothbrush, pushed it into the toiletry bag and zipped it up. "Oh, have you finished?" the innocent tone made Bodie's hands and lips twitch and yet, still he kept a tight rein on his automatic responses.
Despite his apparent relaxed state, there was an edged brittleness about Ray, a mild aura that was acting like an electric fence, and Bodie, like all sensible cattle, didn't want to go near it. He wasn't even certain his partner was conscious of the barrier, but Bodie intended to be well outside London before beginning to try and breach it – and preferably much further away. Instead, he grabbed the bag with one hand, placed the other on Ray's back and pushed gently.
"Shoo," he said, ushering his partner out of the small room. "You happy to travel in that, or do you want to change?"
Ray looked down at himself, openly pondering the question. Then with a decisive snap of his head and moved towards the sitting room, where his impersonation of a hurricane checking lights, switches and central heating, made Bodie almost dizzy. "Nah," he called through the storm. "Can't be bothered. Even if it does make me look like what the cat dragged in and out again. Besides if we stay here much longer you never know who might call. And, we still have to go to your place, unless you want to share my clothes, that is."
"I don't think so, sunshine," Bodie scooped up Ray's case in his other hand, resigned as always to carrying the bulk of everything – after all Ray did have his jacket. "Some of us have pride and taste."
"That's not what you said when you borrowed my blue shirt, which, by the way, you owe me a replacement for. Well, come on then, what are we waiting for?" Whistling, and pausing to dangle his keys under Bodie's nose – on auto-pilot Bodie took them - Ray made his way out of the flat and started to trot down the stairs. Shaking his head and transferring both bags to one hand Bodie turned to the door and tripped over another case – it was Ray's camera equipment – which Bodie hadn't even seen his partner pick up, let alone put down. With an audible sigh and a muttered oath as Ray's, "Come on, slowcoach," drifted back up the stairs, Bodie double locked the flat, pocketed the bunch of keys, realigned the three bags and started to trudge down the stairs.
When he reached the car he had to smile ruefully, because tucked into the front passenger seat, feet up on the dashboard, head resting on the back of his seat, one arm on the fully open window, looking as though he hadn't got a care in the world, was Ray. As he stowed his partner's luggage in the boot, Bodie shook his head and wondered if he would ever completely understood his enigmatic partner.
"So do you?" Ray demanded, as he peered over the top of his sunglasses, as soon as Bodie had the driver's door half-open.
"Huh?" he climbed in, settled into his seat and dealt with the engine.
"Mind. About Judy. Going down." Ray's tone was patient and bemused, but still the brittle aura that Bodie had sensed fluttered around him.
Glancing in his wing mirror and pulling out of the parking space, Bodie spoke. "Course not. Is she ever going to tell her mother, though? I heard you asking." He risked a glance in his partner's direction.
"Says she can't, not while Daniel is still at school anyway. Told her the little bugger probably knows more about it than any of us," Ray added with a leer, rearranging his long limbs and shuffling around in the seat. It brought him marginally nearer to the gear stick and Bodie, and was closer to his usual position. Again, Bodie began to hope.
"He's only twelve, mate. Not everyone's like you were," Bodie teased gently, with one eye on the traffic and the other still on Ray.
"Twelve going on seventeen, if you ask me. Beats me every time at chess; you too. Reckon he knows more about most things than I knew at sixteen."
"Yeh, but most of your energies didn't go into the book learning education, did it, sunshine?"
"You can talk, sunshine." Ray gave Bodie an old fashioned smile and lightly punched his arm. Bodie obliged with the obligatory ‘ouch' and for a moment it was as though the last thirty-six hours had never happened.
For a moment. . .
The partners stared intently at each other, until an angry blast on a nearby horn drew Bodie's full attention back to the road.
They travelled in silence for a short while, and although it wasn't their usual relaxed silence, nor was it the biting kind that they had experienced earlier. A glance out of the corner of his eye told Bodie that Ray was beginning to doze, as the knee nearest to him, slipped down, grazing the gear stick and making Ray jump.
"What?" he came to sitting attention. "What was that?"
"Nothing," Bodie said fondly. He hid his smile as Ray glared at him from over the top of the glasses that had slipped down his nose.
They reached Bodie's block of flats, and after receiving much grumbling and muttering, Bodie dragged Ray up to the place on the second floor, which he currently called home. For reasons he refused to admit to, he didn't want to leave his partner alone to brood.
"Want me to help you?" Ray subsided into the nearest chair and was just propping his feet up on the coffee table as Bodie answered.
"Yeh, go and pack the stuff from the bathroom," Bodie counted to five, before Ray brought his feet to the ground with a clunk and looked up at Bodie, eyes wide in amazement. His mouth had also fallen open and it took all of Bodie's energy not to walk over and slip his finger inside.
"You mean you really want me to help you?" Ray sounded and looked as surprised as he might have appeared if Bodie had suddenly grown wings and flown around the room.
Bodie shook his head. "Nah. Like it done properly. You can," his timing was perfect. Ray had just settled back into the chair again; he glared up from under his fringe. "Check the gas and stuff for me."
With a loud, exaggerated sigh, Ray sailed to his feet and brushed passed Bodie on his way to the kitchen.
Within ten minutes, the ex-military man had everything in order, and his case and two bags were sitting by the front door. Five minutes later, Ray appeared from the kitchen, wiping his hands.
"Threw some chemical experiments out of your fridge. Thought I'd better in case one of ‘em mutated and blew the block up. You ready, then?"
"Are you sure you don't need to go to the loo again? It's been at least thirty minutes since the last time." Bodie asked sweetly, gathering his possessions together.
Ray smiled angelically. "Up yours, sunshine," and he darted like a gazelle passed Bodie and scampered across the corridor.
"Oi!" Bodie yelled after the departing figure. "What about a hand here?" The sound of clapping echoed around the building. Double locking his own front door, Bodie gathered together his bags and again trudged down another flight of stairs – his block of flats didn't even have a lift.
"Are we nearly there?" Ray asked brightly, ten minutes after they'd escaped the city boundaries.
Bodie cast a look sideways and shook his head. "You know, I pity your parents. Were you like this every time you went on holiday?"
The sudden intake of breath and the stiffening in the hitherto relaxed body beside him, made Bodie bite his lip and swear silently. The distancing barrier, that he had thought had begun to falter, was doubled. The silence, as they drove along, became chilly.
Finally, Ray broke it. "Didn't really have any holidays when I was a kid. So where are we going?" His tone screamed, ‘Don't push'. Bodie did as instructed.
"Do you really want to know?"
Ray appeared to consider it for a few minutes, then shook his head, sending apple scented curls flying. "Nah, not really. Bodie?" The intensity in his voice as he spoke his partner's name, made Bodie suddenly conscious that his friend had barely used the actual name since they had left HQ.
Risking another glance at the screwed up bundle next to him, Bodie raised an eyebrow.
"Do you mind if I shut my eyes? I'm knackered." Whether that was what Ray had planned to say, Bodie wasn't entirely certain, but he let it go. Part of him wanted his partner to stay awake; Ray wasn't the only one suffering from exhaustion, and frankly, Bodie could have done with the company. Ray's constant chatter, although potentially irritating to someone who didn't care for him as Bodie did, was never boring. However, a tired Raymond was also a ratty Raymond, and as things were still unresolved, Bodie decided on the more sensible, if not preferable answer.
"Course not, sunshine. Go ahead and sleep. Where we're going has a lot of fresh air and after London that can be pretty tiring."
"You sure?" Ray shuffled around in his seat, his knee brushing Bodie's leg as he rearranged himself. "I do remember what you told me, you know." Again Bodie risked a glance and this time looked straight into the open pools that were his partner's eyes. He held the green gaze.
"You know, I usually find it better to watch the road," Ray said lightly, breaking the stare and returning to organising his body. He tilted the seat back and let his head fall onto it. "Last chance," one green eye, then the other slid shut.
"I'll be fine," Bodie replied, realising that he actually was. Despite the lack of sleep and incredible, tingling tension, his body suddenly felt alert and alive – it must be the escape from the city.
"Right. Well wake me if you get too tired," Ray mumbled. Or at least that's what Bodie thought his partner said; as it was spoken around a double yawn, it could have been anything.
"Wakey, wakey," Bodie sat in the still, silent car and gently shook his partner's lax arm. One sleepy green half-eye peaked at him from under the curtain that shrouded most of the full face. It blinked and then slid shut again. Bodie shook his head, thought about going into the hotel and registering and then coming back to fetch his somnolent partner, but decided that knowing the perverse man his friend was, not to mention his in-built ‘change/danger' button, as soon as Bodie exited the car, Ray would be wide awake and ready for action.
"Ray." Nothing. He shook again; this time a bit harder. "Come on, sunshine." The other fuzzy eye popped open, glanced around and returned to base. Bodie sighed, heavily. "Four-five," he shot the two syllables out and got the desired and expected result.
"What?" Ray was upright, left hand reaching under his jacket, eyes wide and head swivelling from side to side. "What's up? Where's the danger? Where are we?" he demanded.
"You, finally. Nowhere. Dunster." Bodie answered the questions in the order in which they were asked.
He watched his partner compute the replies, as he watched the left hand stop hunting for the gun Ray was not wearing. The over-bright eyes blinked frantically as long fingers moved from jacket to curls, where they raked through the mess in a failed attempt to tidy it. "Where?" Ray's voice was still husky with sleep, and as he watched his partner return to normal, Bodie felt his throat tighten at the tender feelings Ray engendered in him.
"Dunster. It's in Somerset. The southwest," Bodie added, as the puzzled look failed to fade.
Ray narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, fingers still fighting the auburn riot. "I know where Somerset is, thank you very much. I did get me Geography ‘O' Level, I'll have you know."
"Oh, yeh, I keep forgetting. Where's Hastings?" Ray's response was anatomically impossible.
"So why here?" Ray asked, glancing around. "Looks a bit . . ." he trailed off.
"A bit what?"
"I dunno. Quiet?"
"I thought you wanted out of the city."
"I did. I do. I just wondered why here of all places. Not that I'm complaining," Ray's words tripped over one another. "What's that?" he pointed, wildly, and then blushed as Bodie just stared at him. "Okay, okay. Stupid question. It's clearly a castle, so I guess it must be Dunster Castle," his ‘aren't I a bright boy', filled the car and made Bodie smile. He moved his neck from side to side, feeling the tendons start to twang and pull – it had been a long drive.
"Dumb crud. You should have woken me. I could have spelled you." Ray reached out and started to rub the back of Bodie's neck; his long fingers digging into the twanging muscles and tendons and sending messages of pleasure and relief to Bodie.
He made a noise in the back of his throat and hastily covered it with a cough. "Wasn't worth it. I only really started to feel the strain when we got to Bridgwater; mind you the coast road today was a right bastard. Got stuck behind a tractor and two caravans that spent more time in the on-coming lane than their own. That's better, already."
"I'll give you a proper one later, if you like," Ray moved his hand back to his lap and glanced out of the window. "So how do you know this place?"
"Came here a few times as a kid with me Gran and I always liked it. There are a couple of beaches, Dunster and Minehead, not that far away, and the walks around here are stunning. There'll be plenty for you to photograph; might even give you some ideas for paintings."
Ray smiled fondly at Bodie, who again began to hope. The brittle air still hovered between them, but it had been softened a tad by some light hues. Suddenly his stomach rumbled; filling the car with a deep noise that seemed to shake the engine. Ray ginned again. "Come on, then, let's see if we can find you something to stop that noise," he winked and climbed lithely out of the car.
Bodie followed, somewhat slower. He hadn't been absolutely honest about how much, or rather how little, he ached, but even he hadn't realised quite how much the drive and the tension beforehand had caught him. He rolled his shoulders and neck, moving the latter from side and side and trying not to wince too obviously.
"Where are we going to stay then?" Once more Ray was peering over the tops of his sunglasses and turning around on the spot. The sunlight caught his curls and made the auburn glow seem more like sparkling copper as it formed a halo around the still too-pale face.
Bodie nodded in the direction of an ivy-covered imposing building on the corner. Ray whistled and turned back to Bodie. "Looks expensive, mate. Are you sure?"
"It's not that bad. Part of the Trust House Forte range, at least you know it'll be a quality place. Besides, what have you been spending your money on recently?"
Ray shrugged. "Not a lot really. Haven't had that much time. Besides, in that respect Clare was pretty low maintenance."
"Exactly and I reckon we deserve something good. We haven't exactly had a break for God knows how long."
"Eight months, two weeks and," Bodie watched as Ray flicked through his memory to provide the exact information; it always struck him as uncanny the way he was able to do this. "Four days. Well we did have half a day off two months ago, but I'm not counting that – spent most of it doing laundry, shopping and cleaning me guns."
"Okay. I'm game. Hang on," Ray caught Bodie's arm. "Did you pack me anything decent? This place doesn't look like a jeans and tee-shirt place. What about . . ." he trailed off and looked at Bodie. "Oh, yes, of course you did. You knew where we were coming. So that's why you offered to pack for me, and there was me thinking you were being kind. I dunno, I . . .. What?"
Bodie had leant back against the car, arms folded and, with his head on one side, was watching his partner. "Have you finished? Or would you like me to unpack here in the street, just to show you what I packed?"
Ray flashed a full-toothed grin and sauntered across the road, apparently heedless of on-coming traffic, towards the building that proclaimed itself to be: THE LUTTRELL ARMS.
"Listen to that," he said, turning to Bodie.
"What?" Bodie was more interested in looking for traffic. He remembered just how some people took the corner.
"Exactly. I can hear the silence. Well, not exactly silence, more like nature. Listen to the birds. Not that kind, you idiot, the feathered variety. Look up there." Bodie, having urged his transfixed partner to the side of the road, followed the direction into which Ray was pointing. "Reckon that's an eagle. Probably a rabbit or something it's watching. This is going to be great, Bodie. It really is." Bodie smiled and just hoped his errant partner spoke the truth.
"Come on then, sunshine, let's see if they're got a couple of rooms."
"A couple?" Ray's sharp echo made Bodie come to an abrupt halt. Sunglasses were removed and green eyes darted fire as they looked at Bodie.
"I just thought ..." he trailed off and met the steady gaze.
"Anyway," Ray said, as though he had been in the middle of saying something. "One'll be cheaper. Bound to be." The I-have-to-keep-up-my-reputation-of-being-tight-with-money look was only half-successful.
"Good afternoon, gentleman. Welcome to The Luttrell Arms. My name is Christopher Hilton, how may I help you?"
"We wondered if you had any rooms available?" Bodie moved to the desk behind which stood a tall, at least two inches taller than Bodie himself, walnut-brown haired slim man, dressed in a charcoal grey suit, white shirt and dark-claret tie. His deep brown eyes gave nothing away, nor did his demeanour as he glanced first at Bodie and then at Doyle, before returning his attention to the leather-bound register.
"I'm afraid the only room we have at the moment, sir, is a family room. It has a double and a large single."
Bodie glanced at Ray who was studying an enormous green plant that stood as in on sentry duty at the bottom of the flight of a sweeping staircase. Large as it was, it was, nonetheless, dwarfed by the hallway. Although Ray's back was to Bodie he turned as soon as Bodie looked at him. Bodie raised an eyebrow and Ray gave a minute nod, leaving Bodie in no doubt that he had heard every word of the exchange with Christopher.
"That'll be fine. Thanks. Do you need a credit card now?"
"We would prefer it, sir. Thank you," Christopher said, his cool fingers touching Bodie's as he handed over his Access card. "For how long will you be staying with us?"
"Er." Again Bodie glanced at Ray; this time the response was a slight shrug. He turned back to the desk. "We're not entirely certain, I'm afraid," the brown eyes regarded him politely, but insistently. He sought around in his mind for an answer, hopefully one he wouldn't regret. "At least five days, maybe a few more. Will that be okay?"
"That will be acceptable, sir. Thank you. Your card, sir." Bodie, after again brushing fingers, returned the card to his pocket. "Would you both sign in please?" He handed the pen to Bodie, turned the register around and waited. Bodie signed his name and put ‘London' in the address field, before handing the pen to Ray who scrawled his mark and scribbled ditto marks under London.
"Will that do?" he asked Christopher, pointing towards the single word. "Or do you need our full addresses?" he and Bodie exchanged faint smiles.
"No, that will be sufficient, gentlemen. Here is your key. You are in Room 27, which is on the second floor, directly above this desk. Breakfast is served between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m.; luncheon is between 12:00 noon and 2:30 p.m., and the restaurant opens in the evening from 7:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. The bar through there is, of course, open to residents of the hotel throughout the day, and tea, coffee, sandwiches, etc. are also available – either in your room or in one of the two bars."
At the word ‘tea' Bodie's mouth became wet and his stomach turned over and grumbled. Ray hid a grin and Christopher, his professional face never wavering, ignored the occurrence. "Any chance of afternoon tea now?" Bodie asked eagerly.
"Of course, sir. Would that be for both of you?" This time Ray nodded, "Would you like it served in your room or in the bar?"
"Our room, please," again Ray answered.
"Very good, gentlemen. And I hope that you enjoy your stay in the hotel and in Dunster. If there is anything with which you need assistance, please do not hesitate to ask. Your tea should be with you within ten minutes."
"Thank you," Bodie smiled. He held out the key to Ray. "Here, why don't you go and find the room and I'll bring the stuff in from the car?" As his fingertips brushed his partner's heat flushed his body and he swore that he felt an answering surge in the whipcord thin body.
"I'll give you a hand, if you like," Ray replied, pocketing the heavy brass key ring.
Bodie glanced around, saw that Christopher had vanished into the room behind the Reception desk and leant forward, brushing his nose under the heavy curls. "Why," he whispered, "change the habits of a lifetime." Leaving Ray standing mouth-open, eyes like dinner plates, he left the hotel whistling to himself.
"Bodie, you've just had a huge cream tea. You can't still be hungry!" Ray exclaimed, whilst at the same time his hand was in his trouser pocket hunting for change.
"Never said I was. An ice cream has nothing to do with being hungry. We're on holiday," Bodie replied brightly, moving at a speed belied by his previously sauntering pace, towards the shop that was selling, ‘Real Somerset Cream Ice Creams'.
"So?" Ray followed jingling money. He'd changed his black polo neck jumper and black heavy jacket, for a white shirt and light jacket and was pleased that he had done so.
"It's one of the things you do when you're a tourist," Bodie was studying, with great intensity, the various flavours.
"What is?" Ray moved closer and admitted that his own taste buds tingled as he looked at the pure looking tubs.
"Eating ice creams. I dunno what to have. What are you having?"
"Probably chocolate. Why?" Ray asked suspiciously as he pushed his sunglasses down his nose and looked up at Bodie through his fringe. He admitted to himself that his curls were getting a tad over-long – maybe he ought to see if he could find a barber's shop whilst down here.
"It'd be daft us both having the same," Bodie, also in an open-necked shirt, three buttons open, a miracle, replied, flashing a brilliantly white smile in his partner's direction.
Ray snorted and turned his attention back to the window, chuckling gently to himself. Bodie had been correct, getting away was the best thing they could have done. The air was so clean and pure down here; he could smell roses, wild garlic, pine, and half a dozen other sweet flowery scents that he couldn't identify. The sun's rays seemed to vanish into the road, mingling and becoming one with the blackness, rather than hovering over the tarmac and bouncing off oil and petrol spills as it did in London.
No one seemed in a rush, and although the cobbled streets were fairly full, to someone brought up in cities and large towns, it was like freedom and openness to Ray. Gulls, eagles, swallows and smaller birds flew around, swooping and crying to one another. Children giggled, parents smiled indulgently, no one seemed angry or loud; even the constant stream of cars, jostling for the few remaining parking spaces, appeared quiet and well mannered.
Dunster was a mass of small shops, mostly gift shops filled with things from Dunster, like door stoppers, letter racks, mugs, thimbles, pens and a lots more tacky tat that most tourists went home with each year, and disposed of again before it ever say the light of day. He and Bodie had already succumbed and the latter now carried a paper bag in which two mugs, one with the picture of the castle and the other with a picture of what Bodie had told him was the yarn market, the large roofed circular open building that stood opposite The Luttrell Arms, nestled. Ray's, despite his protests, even had his name emblazoned on it; not surprisingly, they couldn't find one with Bodie's name on, or at least not a name he was prepared to claim. They had also earmarked a couple of gifts for Cowley.
"Come on, then," he said, as if he hadn't been the one wandering off wool gathering. "What flavour do you want?"
"I still don't know, Ray. You choose." Ray raised an eyebrow and shook his head affectionately. For a thirty-four year old man, Bodie could be amazingly childlike at times. He pushed past his partner and stared down at the choices; it was hard, very hard, not that he was going to admit that to Bodie, he'd just have to make certain that they came here again.
"One chocolate, one rum and raisin, please miss." He could have sworn he heard Bodie smack his lips.
"Large or small?" the soft West Country burr was gentle in Ray's ears. He glanced at her, automatically appraising her. Mid twenties; petite, but curvy in all the desired places; blonde, natural, if he was any judge; cornflower blue eyes, with lashes nearly as long and thick as Bodie's . . . As he found himself comparing the girl to his partner, he frowned.
"Er, large, please," the words stumbled over one another and he felt a flush rise throughout his body.
"Anything else, sir?" the blonde fluttered her eyelashes, tossed back her golden mane, ran the tip of her tongue around her lips and wiggled her hips. The come-on was blatant and to Ray's surprise he found himself backing away and feeling oddly nauseous. Too much tea, he told himself, firmly, ignoring the fact that he was about to consume a larger than large ice cream.
"Er, no thank you," again the words struggled out, and he found himself gritting his teeth in order to keep his hand from shaking as he handed over some silver.
"Are you staying in Dunster?" The question was one that had already been asked by several of the shopkeepers and one that they had hitherto answered perfectly contently.
"Um," Ray felt more nervous than he did the time he'd lost his virginity behind the dancehall. "Yeh."
"That's nice. I live in the town, myself. Up there," she waved her hand in the direction of where the street vanished up a hill. "Round the back of those shops. Nice and quiet, we don't get too many tourists up there; most of them don't like to walk too far. But you look as though you're fit and healthy." Her long nails, as he handed him his change, slid across his palm, circling round in an obvious invitation. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and his brain refused to cooperate.
As he opened his mouth, hoping frantically that he wasn't about to impersonate a goldfish, he felt a steady, warming presence behind and slightly to the left of him. His body, of its own accord, sank back against the solid body. Just like on the street, irrelevant of problems and worse, Bodie was there offering his support and protection.
"Thought you were buying the whole shop, sunshine. Hello, miss, what's a nice girl like you doing chatting up a lout like him?" Bodie's voice was cheerful, but to Ray's attuned ears the heavily veiled sarcasm and coldness were evident.
"Oh," the blue eyes flickered from Ray to Bodie and back again. "Oh," she repeated and began to plait her skimpy white apron. "Oh!" she added as Bodie bent his head, took a large lick of the chocolate ice cream that Ray was holding in his left hand, and then whisked the rum and raisin one away. Out of the corner of his eye, Ray watched Bodie stick out his tongue and run it from cone to point of the softly furled beige ice cream.
"Bye, love," Bodie called, winking extravagantly and guiding Ray around and out of the shop. Then, still in earshot of the girl who was standing, mouth open, eyes unblinking he said, "Want a lick, sunshine?" and held his own cone out towards Ray, who had to turn a laugh into a coughing fit. Bodie obligingly thumped him on the back, after rescuing the dark chocolate peak and then calmly handed over a pristine white handkerchief for Ray to wipe his eyes on.
As they walked away from the shop, Ray felt the cornflowers burning into him. They walked along in silence, arms and hips occasionally brushing against one another and Ray thought frantically. What had happened in there? She was pretty, more than pretty, was clearly willing to come across and yet as he had looked at her and observed her flirting, rather than feel excited or pleased, he had felt turned-off and irritated. Maybe it was because she was so blatant; after all most blokes, no matter what they said, did prefer to be in charge of the chase.
"You all right?" Bodie's tone was nonchalant, but Ray could feel the tension that had suddenly wrapped itself around the broad body.
"Yeh, fine," he muttered, taking a final lick of his cone, before handing it over to Bodie and taking the rum and raisin one with his other hand. A white-haired, elderly couple were walking past as the smooth transaction took place and the woman smiled indulgently at the display, pale green eyes twinkling with fun and bemusement. Her companion, husband probably given the three rings on her lined left hand, frowned slightly, but then apparently picking up on his wife's reaction, offered a half-smile and touched his hat. Ray and Bodie nodded and smiled back.
They continued to walk, without talking, turning away from the castle and making their way up the hill that the ice cream girl had pointed to. On their left they passed a clock and watch shop, and Bodie hovered briefly, finishing his ice cream and munching down the cone, watching in apparent fascination as the hands and works clicked round. It wasn't as warm up here, the sun seemed blocked out by the high, overhanging buildings, but it was more peaceful.
Ray returned to his musings. They still needed to talk; holiday or not, he mustn't let himself be lulled into a false sense of security. Bodie had lied to him, let him down, behaved badly and had seduced him – for the good of England? Or because he really wanted to make love to and with his partner? That was one question that Ray still didn't know the answer to.
Suddenly, his arm was grabbed, causing him to drop the remains of his ice cream, and he was dragged sideways, into a poorly lit building that reeked of stale urine. "Bodie," he spluttered, trying to break away, but failing as his partner deliberately used the extra weight and height he rarely used against Ray, as he dragged him into a cubicle, one hand over Ray's mouth, the other like a tight metal band around his upper hand.
Self-preservation made Ray automatically lash out, kicking and wriggling, even biting down on the cool damp hand that covered his mouth. "What the fuck," he mumbled through the hand. His pulse had began to race, his hair felt as though it was sticking out from his head, his throat was like sandpaper, his body was wet as perspiration sprang from each pore, and his skin felt as though it was on fire.
His head was pulled against Bodie's shoulder as his partner wrapped two arms around him and pulled him close. Still he struggled. He had seen what happened in public conveniences during his time as a copper, but the fact that Bodie would be contemplating such a thing, stunned him. Surely he couldn't have misjudged his partner that much? Didn't he know Bodie better than he knew anyone, even himself?
Yes, but remember what happened two nights ago, and the about the dumdums, the little man in his brain hissed. Ray shook his head, still trying to kick and squirm out of the tight clasp
"Shut up, Ray. Stop fighting me." The words were a harsh whisper, and he felt spittle hit his ear. Something in Bodie's tone, some nuance that he remembered from before Parsali settled into Ray and, although he remained alert, he allowed his limbs to cease moving. Bodie, however, although loosening the death grip marginally, still did not let go.
"Are you going to behave?" Again his ear felt wet and warm, and to his despair and horror, his groin began to tighten. He nodded tersely, his head hitting Bodie's shoulder. Bodie seemed convinced, because he started to release Ray, who immediately reached for the door lock. His hand was captured again and the wrist snapped back, enough to stop Ray, but not enough to damage the wrist. "Don't open the door."
"Why?" Ray growled.
"Ssh." It was an order.
"Why?" Ray repeated, lowering his voice and placing his mouth next to Bodie's ear. He didn't know what was going on, but something told him to trust his partner, just as he would have done had this happened three days ago. "What's going on, Bodie?"
The stench of urine and God knows what else, he did not want to contemplate what, swirled around them, eating into his skin and working its way down his throat. Why did blokes pee smell so dreadful? "Why are we stuck in here?" He glanced down at the floor, noticing that his feet were starting to feel cold and saw that the dull red cracked tiles were covered in a layer of something wet. He groaned inwardly and picked one foot up and then the other, shaking it and twitching his nose, trying to ascertain just what it was he was standing in.
"Stand still," it was another warm hissed order. Ray obeyed. Bodie leant towards the door, his ear almost brushing the vomit-green wood. Ray shuddered, his fastidious nature telling him that he wasn't certain just what the dark brown smear inches from Bodie's face was.
"But I d. . ." the rest of his words were swallowed as a salty tasting (thankfully was all it tasted of) hand slapped back over his mouth and another moved unerring to his flies, where stubby fingers began to yank down the zipper. Batting them away, and mumbling through the constriction, Ray undid himself, tugged his by-now half-hard penis out and obeyed his partner, thanking God, or whoever, as he did that peeing in front of Bodie was something he had become used to. Bodie's hand slipped from his mouth, allowing him to once again taste the sour odour of the place, but remained on his shoulder. He was aware of Bodie moving back and forth, without actually moving, from the door to him.
"Finished?" the harsh whisper was back, telling Ray that Bodie must have been watching him for the last few seconds. He nodded. "Good. Come on, then." Bodie leant past him and wrenched the chain, as the waterfall powered down, hit the pan and bounced back up, Ray stepped back into Bodie, still fiddling with his zipper. "Quick," a warm hand closed around his wrist and tugged him through the now open door. "You haven't got time for that," Bodie snarled, as Ray automatically moved towards the filthy sinks.
Deciding that it was too much of an effort to argue or fight any more, Ray allowed himself to be pulled out of the rank smelling building into the sunlight, which caught his eyes, momentarily blinding him and telling him that in the struggle he'd lost his sunglasses. Aware that Bodie wasn't about to let him go back for them, and deciding that he didn't want to, even if allowed, Ray trotted off after his partner, who had, finally, let go of his wrist. Breathing in through his nose and mouth, Ray let his senses and lungs be refreshed with the clean air and beauty of the blend of joyous scents.
They came to a halt behind another tall building; Bodie tucked Ray behind him and peeked out. "Where's your gun?"
"Same place as yours; in the locked case back at the hotel." Habit, one engrained in them after their years with CI5, had made them both automatically pack their weapons, even though they were going on holiday.
"Damn it!" Bodie looked around frantically.
"Bodie, what's going on?" Ray felt weary. Everything had been going splendidly, well better at least, what on earth had happened?
"Didn't you see him?"
"Gregson." Bodie's mouth became a pale line and the sapphires became like flint as they looked at Ray.
"Gregson?" Ray's voice became high. "Are you sure?" He cursed himself as Bodie flashed him an irritated look.
"I may be tired, mate, but I'm not blind."
"Sorry," Ray answered, and patted Bodie's arm. "What was he doing?"
"Wandering along as though he hadn't got a care in the world. I don't think he saw us. I reckon I got us into the loo before he turned round, but I wouldn't swear on it. Someone followed us in, I couldn't tell if it was him or not. It was probably just some poor innocent bugger who couldn't wait any longer. Christ what a place. I feel dirty just having been in there. Sorry, by the way. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"You didn't." It wasn't quite a lie. "Surprised me more than anything."
"Sorry I had to make you pee, but you know I can't go to order. And I reckoned that whoever it was that had followed us in might reckon we were up to no good if there wasn't the sound of someone going to the loo. Come to think of it, I just hope that whoever it was didn't see the two of us." Bodie was still glancing around the corner.
"Never did know how you survived the army." Ray tried to peer around Bodie, but the broad body pushed him back.
"You've got a strange idea of the forces, you know, Ray. Going to the loo is not something that's scheduled. Come on, he's moving again."
The partners fell into their hunt and chase mode without hesitation or difficulty, moving from building to building, ducking back and appearing to admire the scenery whenever possible.
Their quarry seemed unaware of the fact that he was being followed, although he did pause more than once and glance around, but he never seemed concerned.
"Hang on, Bodie," Ray pulled his partner to a halt, before entering the open street that offered little if any cover. "What are we going to do?"
"Follow him. Capture him."
"How? Come on, mate, think. We're gunless, without R/Ts, in a town we don't know, well I don't know," Ray amended. "Chasing after one of the most wily crooks even Cowley has ever known. A man who carries knives and guns like most people carry wallets, a man who shoots first and asks questions later. A bloke without a conscience who'd be more than willing to gun down a dozen innocent people to get away. I ask again, what are we going to do?"
"We can't just ignore him."
"I wasn't saying we could. Get back, he's looking around. Okay. He seems to be staring at something, a menu, maybe? He's moving again. Well?"
"I'll follow him. You go back to the hotel and get the guns. Phone Cowley and tell him, get him to send down some of the Mob – he can commandeer a chopper. And I'll . . ."
"You'll what, Bodie?" Ray felt cold, despite the sun that was now beating down on them and the sweat that was covering his body. His hands were wet and his pulse was beating in his ears. Shooting sapphires locked onto him and held them. In the fierce gaze, Ray read so much that Bodie usually kept hidden. His mouth became dry – this wasn't how it was meant to be. "I'll go after him. You go back to the hotel."
"Not a hope, sunshine. One, over a distance you run faster than I do, you know you do and two, like it or not, Ray, I've more experience of this kind of tracking than you have."
"We'll both follow him."
Bodie shook his head firmly. "You said it yourself. We're without weapons and he'll have some. Ray, come on, we have to do this. Look he's almost out of sight, we're out of options. Now go." He started to push Ray, who dug his heels in.
"Wait. Where will I find you again? You could be anywhere – Bodie I don't know Dunster."
Bodie looked around the corner and then back at his partner. "Okay. I know this road. It only goes two ways: one, to the left goes over open land, a lovely walk, but coverless. The other way, to the right goes over some open farmland and then up into dense woodland to an old abandoned tower – The Conygar Tower - look you can just make it out." Risking a quick glance, Ray saw it. He nodded, grimly. "I reckon he'll make for that."
"Gut feeling, sunshine. He's got to be holed up somewhere, assuming this is where he's been hiding and what better place in many ways than a sleep English town, and that's an excellent place. He'd hear anyone coming before they were even half way up. It's open to the elements, but still provides some cover. It's got to be there. Now, listen, you can get to it from the hotel, going the other way. Get that Christopher to tell you. But make it quick, Ray. Now go." He pulled his hand out of Ray's, who hadn't even been aware that he was holding it and slid off round the corner, keeping close to the buildings and hugging the pavement in a way Ray envied.
"Damn you, Bodie," he muttered, spinning on his heel and racing back through the town, ignoring the surprised looks of the people as he weaved his way in and out, slithering this way and that as he avoided them. "You stupid, stupid, bastard. How can you think of risking your life now that I know I love you? If you get hurt I'll kill you meself."
He tore into the hotel and came to a skidding halt as he encountered the tall figure of Christopher. "Good afternoon, Mr. Doyle," the man put out a hand to steady Ray.
"What? Oh, good afternoon. Key," he patted his pockets and swore.
"Key. To my room. My partner has it," he managed between gulps of air, aware that his near-hyperventilation had more to do with his concern for Bodie's safety than the fact that he'd torn helter-skelter through cobbled streets in the middle of summer.
Christopher hesitated, a frown creasing the space between his eyes. Ray cursed. "Damn it," he dug in his pocket and wiped out his wallet. "Look," he waved his ID under the turned up nose. "I'm CI5," he paused, wondering if this out-of-the-way place had heard of them. As the cornflowers widened, he realised they, or at least this one person, had.
"Right, sir. Immediately, sir," and Christopher, pulled out a key and started for the stairs, Ray behind him.
"I need to get to the Cougar? Conger? Whatever it is, Tower. Quickly," he hurtled into the room and grabbed the case in which he and Bodie had locked their guns. "How do I get there? Quickest way?"
"Conygar Tower," Christopher's correction seemed automatic as, with eyes widening, he watched Ray pull out two guns and tuck one in his belt and the other into his pocket. Swiftly he advised Ray of the shortest route to the tower.
"Ta. Right now, call this number; Ray threw a piece of paper at the astonished man, "and ask for Major George Cowley. Tell the person who asks the phone that agent four-five has asked you to call." He grabbed some more ammunition, tucked an R/T into his inner pocket, and whirled out of the room again, Christopher trotting behind him. "When you get Major Cowley, tell him that you're calling for Bodie and Doyle and that Peter Gregson has been sighted in Dunster. Got the name?" Christopher nodded.
They had reached the bottom of the stairs, but Ray still hadn't finished, indicating that the tall man should follow him, he ran out of the hotel. "Okay, tell him that we believe Gregson's holed up in the thingy tower and tell him how to get there. Tell him if there's anywhere to land a chopper, farmer's field anything. And finally tell him that three-seven has gone after Gregson without a weapon, but that I'm on my way. Okay? Have you got all that?" Again Christopher nodded.
"Four-five. Three-seven. Major George Cowley. Philip Gregson. The Conygar Tower. Helicopter. You'll get to the tower before a helicopter can, no matter how quickly I can get your Major Cowley."
"That," Ray said, a grim smile on his face, "is what I'm counting on. Now go." He repeated Bodie's own words and set off at a lopping jog pace that would eat up the ground and not tire him out.
"Sir?" he stopped and span round. "Should I call the local Police?"
"Yes. No. Yes, but after you've called Major Cowley and tell ‘em to keep it quiet and discreet unless they want to end their careers on traffic duty." He whirled again and sped off.
As he covered the ground he muttered to himself. "You go back to the hotel, Ray. You get the guns, Ray. You call Cowley, Ray. I'll go after Gregson, Ray. You keep safe, Ray. You need to be protected, Ray. Anyone would think I was his bleeding kid, or some fragile flower that needs protecting."
"But you like it," said the little man in his head.
"Shut up," he growled and continued to moan. "I am a grown man, Bodie. I am a CI5 agent. I'm also, in case you're forgotten, precisely sixteen months and six days older than you. I should get to tell you what to do some of the time."
"He does it because he loves you."
"I told you to shut up."
"But it's true."
"Okay, so it's true. But that still doesn't give him the right to control my life and try to protect me from all harm."
"You do the same."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do."
"Do. . . okay, so I do, but I'm more subtle than he is. He lets the whole world know. I sometimes wonder whether the rest of the squad are laughing at me. At Bodie's little needs-to-be protected petal."
"Is that what the problem really is then?"
"Your reputation. Since when have you bothered what other people think of you?"
"I do care what they think!"
"No, I'm not. I care what Bodie and Mr. Cowley think."
"And do you believe that either of them think you're a wimp?"
"Of course they don't!" Ray was indignant.
"Do any of the criminals you catch think you're soft?"
Ray just barked a harsh laugh and grabbed his side.
"So why are you bothered then?"
"Why are you bothered what other people might or might not think about Bodie being openly protective?"
Silence. Punctuated only by Ray's somewhat uneven and harsh breathing. Maybe he should tell Cowley, that Macklin and Towser didn't do as good a job as they'd thought – surely he shouldn't be this winded after only running a short distance?
"Well?" the voice persisted, mocking Ray now.
He gritted his teeth and let the silence wrap itself around him.
"So there isn't a problem then, is there? So maybe you should stop giving Bodie such a hard time. Stop blaming him for what you do, albeit in a less obvious way. He did act in what he thought was your best interests, you know. And you do know that, don't you? Don't you?"
"Oh, shut up!" Ray growled. The pain of running, talking and imagining the worse was beginning to pull at his side, and the countryside around him was becoming a black, fuzzy blur. Discretion being something that CI5 taught along with shooting skills, taking over, he slowed even more, letting his heart rate reduce. He wasn't going to be any good to anyone if he couldn't stand up, let alone wield a gun.
He let his body fall forward, placing his hands on his knees, whilst deliberately slowing his breathing and counting to ten. As the world became clearer, his nose began to twitch and he tasted the overly sweet, cloying smell of fertilizer. He glanced down at the ground and groaned; the field through which he'd been running had clearly been recently sprayed. Oh, well, at least it still smelt better than the Gents loo! Dragging a hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat that was dripping down over his eyes and another through his hair, he glanced around him, automatically cataloguing the land and where he was.
In the distance he saw the tip of the tower as it reached majestically up to the sky. He tried to calculate the distance and thus the length of time it would take him to get there and quickly gave up – it was one of the things that Bodie was undoubtedly better at than himself; as, he realised, his mouth becoming dry, glancing up at the tower, he was at heights.
Body back to running ability again, Ray, after quickly checking he hadn't lost ammo or guns, took off again. This time he glanced down at the ground for the first few steps, trying to dodge the muck that lay under his feet, glancing teasingly up at him. After nearly tripping over his own feet, in a futile attempt to avoid the slimy darkness, he mentally shrugged philosophically and looked up again instead.
He thought he saw something glinting in the direction of the hill leading up to the tower and quickly came to a dead stop and dropped to the ground, keeping still and crouching on his heels, watching warily. He waited for about thirty seconds, eyes scanning the trees and horizon, blinking against the beating sun. A gull landed in front of him and stared at him with its head on one side, before adding its own fertilizer to the field and flying off.
Ray moved too, back into his long legged jog.
He reached the shade at the bottom of the tree-covered area and glanced up. The trees were mainly pines, but some large oaks and a few beech trees were dotted around, all reaching up towards the skyline. They had only a splattering of branches near the lower parts of the trunks, and those were straggly and sick looking. It was clear that not much light or sun penetrated this area. Ray touched the ground and found it cool and damper than he expected and waited for his eyes to adjust to the difference in the light. He shivered briefly as the perspiration that covered him began to rapidly cool down and sit on his skin, rather than be absorbed back into it.
After several seconds of listening and hearing nothing, he set off around the perimeter of the mound, eyes darting around, attempting to discover any clues that might assist him. A cigarette butt caught his eye and he bent down to touch it – it was still marginally warm. He glanced at it, but it appeared to be your everyday run-of-the-mill butt, longer than most that were discarded, but nothing unique. Sighing, he let it fall back to the ground and again glanced up – he had to go up there, that much was clear. The only problem was, putting aside his slight unease of heights, was how to get up there quietly? Bodie himself had said that Gregson probably chose the place because it was easy to defend and easy to hear people.
Bodie, was he there? And more importantly, was he safe? He moved behind a large oak tree, sheltering in its bulk, braced his back against it, pulled out his Browning and released the safety catch. Then he closed his eyes and ears and reached out with the sense he had developed over the years that he and Bodie had been partnered.
It was the extra sense that kept them both alive; the seemingly telepathic ability that allowed them to work together faultlessly and oft times without words. As he reached inside himself, again slowing his breathing, he concentrated on his partner and their link. Suddenly a slight whiff of exotic, spicy oranges touched his nose; he drank it down like the finest wine, coming to an instant conclusion: Bodie had been here, in this very place, very recently. Ray's head came up, grazing against the rough bark and he stared around him, halting his breathing and opening his ears and eyes in ways most normal people never tried.
However, there was nothing; only the ethereal fleeting scent and the tingling sensation that assured him his partner was around and fairly close by.
Moving very slowly to minimise the risk of making a noise, speeding up only when a bird fluttered down into the trees or a squirrel bounced across in front of him, and zigzagging from right to left and back again, Ray began to make his way up the slope. Finally, he had to pop the safety back on and slip the gun back into his pocket, as the need to use hands as well as feet became overwhelming.
The noises became more muffled as he climbed on, rather as though he was wrapped in cotton wool and the damp loam and scents of the pines, stronger than either oak or beech, drifted into his nose. His hands were scratched and grubby, his hair tangled more than usual, and blood ran from one small cut. The knees of his trousers would never be the same again, and he sighed as he realised that yet another outfit was going to fall foul of a CI5 op. Not that it should have happened; he and Bodie were on holiday, for God's sake, they shouldn't have had to deal with criminals as well – more like a bloody Busman's holiday than the type he'd hoped for. Might as well have stayed in the city, he grumbled silently, reaching out his right hand to capture another sturdy looking branch.
He was still moving slowly, trying not to breathe loudly, pacing himself in an attempt to remain as quiet as possible. Suddenly in the distance he heard the unmistakable whir of chopper blades. He stopped dead – Cowley couldn't possibly have got anyone in the air already, unless they were already up there. Or unless it wasn't Cowley's helicopter.
His seventh sense, the one that along with his Bodie-sense kept him alive, clicked in. He was off-balance, right hand gripping a tree above him, legs splayed with little or no purchase on the slippery ground as he heard it. The faint, but distinctive sound of a gun being cocked – the same sound as he had heard just under thirty-six hours ago when he had been shaving and Cowley had pulled a gun on him.
Now, like then, he reacted. Without letting go of the branch, he whisked Bodie's Magnum from his belt, removing the safety and aiming in one smooth, panther like move and fired three rounds, just as a bullet zipped past his head hitting the tree against which he had been resting.
The quadruple shot shattered the air and cosy peace, sent birds screeching into the sky and squirrels quivering across the ground. The tang of cordite hung almost visible in the air, settling around him in the familiar pattern.
In another swift seamless move, he let go of the tree towards which he had been aiming to move, regained his balance and whipped out his own Browning and settled it in his right hand. Then moving carefully and steadily, eyes, ears, nose and seventh sense all in play, he began to half walk and half scramble in the direction of the single shot. Glancing around as he went, his gaze skimming over the ground and through branches and leaves, every pore, sinew, bone and organ on red alert. From the boom of the shot, he gauged the distance to where the shooter must have stood and came to a halt, caution now over-riding all other thoughts.
He needn't have worried. Inches away from his calculation, lay a body of a man with three bullets from a Magnum gun, causing bloody holes in his body. Gritting his teeth, he never had, and never would, become completely used to death, he stared down. The man – Gregson – was on his back, all four limbs stretched out in a parody of the old-fashioned, barbaric quartering, his head, blood congealed by his mouth, was pushed back hard, offering his naked throat up. The pig-like grey eyes were open and stared impotently up at Ray; the cruel mouth was open displaying the black and missing teeth, and in the centre of his forehead was a red hole.
They believed that Gregson worked alone, but an agent who lacked caution was likely to be a dead agent, so Ray took a moment and checked carefully around. Finding nothing, he then crouched down by the body. He pushed the Magnum back into his belt, idly noticing the position of the other two bullets: one just over the heart, the organ that Gregson was reputed not to have, the other in his shoulder – luck certainly seemed to be Ray's friend today.
Knowing that he didn't need to, Ray reached out and put his fingers under the dead man's chin, feeling for the carotid artery. As expected he felt nothing, expect scaly-like, tough skin that made him recoil his hand and wipe it on his grubby trousers. Then he reached out and closed the dull eyes, sighing as did so and urging the lump that had intruded into his throat away.
Gregson has been a bastard; an ex-Government official, hence the CI5 interest, master criminal who owned a stable of underage girls and boys and who took great pleasure in ‘servicing' them himself; only he didn't believe in using parts of his body to do so. He was no loss to the world; in fact, his death was a great gain. Nevertheless, somewhere, deep down, at sometime in his life the man had been a human being. He'd had a mother and father, possibly still did have – even Cowley's intricate checks hadn't revealed more than a sketchy background on the man before he had joined the Civil Service. He might have had brothers or sisters, a wife, although heaven help her, there was probably someone who would mourn him – or who would like to grieve for him. It might not be possible, even if they knew who the family were, CI5 weren't above hushing up certain deaths. It was that small possible somewhere, the precarious grip on reality that Ray believed all men and women to have, which never ceased to bother him when he was responsible for their deaths.
Ordering himself to stop being whimsical and weak, and trying to imagine what Bodie would be thinking/saying, Ray picked up Gregson's fallen gun and added it to his supply.
Now all he had to do was to find Bodie.
He glanced around, screwing up his eyes as a long-fingered ray of sunshine suddenly burst through the green gloom, weighing up the pros and cons of calling his partner's name. The gunfire surely removed any chance of subterfuge, if there was any other person around, so he wasn't likely to be drawing that much attention to himself by calling out.
He opened his mouth and then something cold and chilling hit him: gunfire. Bodie was trained, and not just by CI5, to be able to recognise the different sounds. If he was in earshot, and Ray swore he was, and alive, Ray's palms became so damp, he juggled his gun getting a more certain grip on it, he should have called out to his partner. Unless, he wasn't certain that the Magnum was Ray; maybe he hadn't seen Gregson's gun; maybe he thought that Ray might be dead.
The helicopter blades and the sound of the engine speeding along, came nearer and rose to a heady pitch; suddenly Ray was more convinced than ever that it wasn't the good guys. Throwing caution to the wind, he raised his voice above the noise and cried out. "Bodie! Bodie! Where are you?"
The chopper was landing, and the spinning blades that Ray could see as clearly as if they had appeared in front of him were slowing. The noise suddenly cut off and Ray called again. "Bodie. You daft bastard. Where are you?"
He heard muffled voices coming from below him and cut those out, searching instead with his Bodie-sense, reaching out to grasp his partner; knowing just as he knew to which side Bodie would move, that the man he'd die for, the man he loved above all other, but still wasn't certain he could ever trust again, was nearby.
He felt it; he might have heard it; he didn't know. A muffled noise, a grunt that wasn't, a cry that didn't exist, and with his Browning now in his left hand, he set off again, climbing further up the hill, letting the telepathy guide him.
He came out into a clearing and gasped as he came face to face with the perfect cylinder that rose above him disappearing into the sun as he squinted up at it. It was a constructed of brown-grey bricks and stood tall and firm, guarding the hillock and staring down on all that it surveyed.
Something kicked his ankle and he whirled gun in hand, catch back and pointed the Browning straight at his partner, who sprawled on the ground with his hands tied behind him, his ankles and mouth bound. Above the binding two brilliant sapphires sparkled and gazed at Ray with utter and complete love. Never before, not even in the few minutes at HQ earlier that morning, had Bodie been so open.
Ray gulped, ignored the prickling that filled his eyes, and the tickling at the back of his nose and sank to the ground, unsteady hands reaching out towards the bindings. "Bodie," he whispered and sniffed hard, before burrowing in Bodie's pocket for the knife his partner always carried.
He freed his partner, hands first, then feet and finally mouth – having no idea as to why he choose to do it that way. "Hello, sunshine. Wondered when you'd get here. Don't suppose you brought anything to eat, did you?" Bodie's voice, so normal, after one or two minor false starts, raced into his ears and settled in his body, making him feel whole. He reached out a still shaking hand and touched the distinguished face.
"Bodie?" his voice was full of wonder and his fingers began to caress the perfect nose and sometimes pouting lips, which were slightly bruised and swollen. He leant forward, his head automatically going to the right, his mouth opening.
From below him voices and noises floated up and suddenly above them all came the familiar Scottish brogue. Ray snapped back, his mouth remaining open. "What? How? It can't be." He struggled to his feet, helping Bodie up and letting his heavier partner rest most of his weight on him as he tried to see between the full and closely coupled leaves.
"Doyle. Bodie. What's been going on here?"
"Mr. Cowley?" Ray began to realise what Alice must have felt like.
"Aye. Who did you think it was, four-five?" The familiar figure limped up the final few steps of the slope and stared at his agents. He glanced at Ray, frowned and then moved on to Bodie. "Three-seven, report."
Bodie came to a sketchy attention, as he always did when Cowley used ‘that' tone; by his side, Ray sighed and refused to join in the game. "Yes, sir. Ray and me saw a man we believed to be Peter Gregson down in the town. We split up, not having our weapons with us, in order to be most effective. Ray went back to the hotel to get the guns and contact you, and I pursued the suspect, sir."
Cowley, stared at Bodie, then nodded slowly and turned his attention to Ray. "Doyle?"
"Er, yes, sir. Bodie reckoned that Gregson was holed up here. So after I'd retrieved the guns and left instructions for you to be called I headed here. I was making my way up to the top when I heard a gun being cocked. I fired. He's dead, sir."
"Aye, four-five, I discovered that. You did well."
"Thank you, sir. Sir?"
"How did you get here so quickly? I mean there was no way you could have travelled all that distance. Unless . . ." he trailed off.
"Unless I was already on my way. Which, for your information, I was."
Ray felt his eyes pop open. "But how did you know?"
Pale blue eyes appraised him and he watched Cowley shift his weight, favouring the damaged leg and moving to accommodate a different position. "A member of the public apparently saw a man coming and going in the direction of this tower. He told the local Police and they caught sight of the man, recognised him from the descriptions we had circulated to all local forces, and then did the sensible thing: called me. I was on my way here with Murphy, Anson, Jax, with half a dozen other agents in a second helicopter, when a call came from the Hotel Manager of The Luttrell Arms, Dunster – the area in which Gregson had been sighted – telling me that a Mister Bodie and a Mister Doyle were in pursuit of a Peter Gregson." Cowley sounded mild, the dangerous tone that Ray always feared. His skin began to prickle and his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as he waited.
He didn't have long. "Maybe you'd like to tell me, Doyle or Bodie," the blue eyes were turned on Bodie, who was still half at attention, part of his weight though still rested against Ray, "why you went out without your arms? Ah, Murphy, have you arranged for the body to be removed?"
"Yes, sir. We've secured the area, but from what I've seen, I'd swear that Gregson was working alone."
"As we've always suspected. Very good, Murphy. Wait down by that first tree line," he indicated to a place that would allow Murphy to remain in view, but out of earshot, unless Cowley chose otherwise. "I'll join you shortly."
"Sir," Murphy gave a nodded salute, flashed a full toothed smile and wink at Bodie and Ray and trotted off back down the hill, his long legs eating up the distance, Ray envied him. He tried to surreptitiously clear his throat and stopped as two sandy coloured eyebrows were raised. He stuck his hands behind his back and wiped them on his jacket, drying the palms and trying to stop the shaking.
"We are on holiday, sir." Bodie exchanged an enquiring look at Ray, who shrugged invisibly.
Cowley appeared to consider the reply. "What is CI5's second rule, Doyle?"
Ray opened his mouth and closed it again, his copper's brain frantically searching through all the paperwork. "That HQ will know where all agents are at all ti . . ." he trailed off and looked at Cowley, who raised an eyebrow, indicating that Ray should continue. "Times, even if they are on leave. Oh," he glanced at Bodie, who was now studying the ground.
"Yes, four-five, ‘oh'.
"Sorry, sir." Ray kept it succinct. He hadn't worked for Cowley for as long as he had without knowing that the man never wanted explanations at times like this.
"Sorry, sir," Bodie echoed beside him, edging even closer, until Ray had to move his legs to remain balanced.
Cowley watched them, his stare long and hard. He gave nothing away, just appraised them as if they were part of a lab experiment; the gaze was nothing new. Ray waited for the quiet explosion, the veiled sarcasm that Cowley so often employed, the triple-think that got them all out of more scrapes than Ray could remember. He waited; Bodie waited; around them the birds, tree, sun and air seemed to wait.
Finally, Cowley turned on his heel, swayed momentarily before regaining his balance. "Murphy," he called, his voice crisp and dry. As Murphy made his way back up, Cowley turned back to the partners. "Remember to call HQ when you leave Dunster."
"Yes, sir," their reply was simultaneous; a matched set – like so often.
Murphy reached the top and offered his arm to Cowley. So the Old Man was human, Ray thought watching his boss and his fellow agent make their way, somewhat unsteadily but not without grace, down to the first tree line. Once there, Cowley paused and turned back. "Well done, Doyle, Bodie," he nodded once, before turning back and motioning to Murphy.
Ray and Bodie watched until the two men were out of sight as well as out of hearing. Then Ray flopped down onto the ground and stared up at Bodie. "Bloody hell. I thought he'd have our guts for garters. It was a basic mistake. Maybe he is human after all."
Bodie smiled down, flexing his neck and hands and shaking his ankles. "Always told you he was, sunshine. Always told you he was. Now, are you going to stay up here all night, or can we go and get some grub, I'm starving."
He reached down and offered his hand, pulling Ray up as easily as if he'd been weightless. However, at the last second, he seemed to lose his balance somewhat and Ray found himself in Bodie's arms, his head resting on the broad chest, his nose drinking in the scent of clean sweat, spicy oranges, pine branches and dust.
He tilted back his head and stared up at Bodie, cataloguing the power and beauty in the ivory skin. Again his mouth became dry and his palms damp. Bodie's mouth looked succulent, like strawberries, ripe and lush, open and ready, willing to be plundered, taken, owned, devoured. He heard himself moan as he closed his eyes, reached up and pulled the sleek dark brown head down to claim the tantalising fruits with his own mouth.
They made their way back to their room after a more than acceptable meal, a bottle of wine and a couple of G&Ts before they settled down to eat. The mood was mellow, relaxed, normal – or at least as close to normal as it had been since they started the special training.
Bodie was carrying a bottle of Glenmorangie whisky and two glasses; Ray had the room key. Ray had been a little subdued, even his curls had behaved, since the incident with Gregson, and seemed distracted and thoughtful and Bodie hadn't wanted to press matters. He knew soon enough that Ray would force the issue; that they would have the talk, Bodie had been dreading, but knew had to happen. He just hoped that the talk wouldn't end with Ray packing his bags and setting of to hitch a lift back to London.
The kiss, which Ray had initiated on the hilltop, had been fierce, gentle, quiet and loud with an air of such utter desperation that Bodie feared he couldn't reach his partner. Ray had clung to Bodie, holding on with a grip that reminded Bodie of the rope that bound him during his time in the far-distant jail. He seemed to have perfected surviving without breath, because the kiss went on for such a long time that when he finally allowed Bodie to break for air, he had to hold Bodie up again as he fought the blackness that threatened his eyes.
After Bodie had steadied again, Ray had spun around on his heel and plunged down the slope. He was out of sight before Bodie had even begun the trek. They had passed Anson and Jax, clearing up and checking the area; although the CI5 men all believed that Gregson had been working alone, it was going to be a long night for the two agents who had drawn ‘clean up duty'. Ray had paused to mutter a greeting to his fellow agents, before striding off, leaving Bodie playing catch up.
As they dressed for dinner, neither man had mentioned anything other than football, the weather and the price of petrol, which, given that they didn't have to buy their own, was the final piece of evidence that Bodie needed to convince him that something was on the golly's mind.
It was more than just killing a man, which Bodie knew his oft times oddly gentle partner hated doing – no matter how dreadful the person – but did with a cool efficiency that rivalled even Bodie's. Only Bodie saw the aftermath of a killing; only he sat with his partner in silence or constant chatter, whichever suited Ray at the particular time. Only Bodie held his hand, his head and matched him drink for drink, knowing only too well that he was the one who would have to stay awake to make certain the little fool didn't choke during the night. Only Bodie provided the handkerchief that was always needed, sometimes an hour after the event; sometimes a week – but the tears, usually accompanied by a deep, hideous rage, always came.
Tonight, however, it was that and more. Ray hadn't even asked Bodie how he had come to be captured, a highly unusual occurrence, however, one for which Bodie was grateful. He wasn't overly convinced that Ray would be sanguine to hear that he was caught deliberately, with a view to allowing Ray easier and freer access. Gregson had believed Bodie's tale about him coming to Dunster with a stunning auburn haired, big green eyed bird, who had a body to die for and was the best kisser Bodie knew – only one word had been a lie. Gregson had believed that Doyle was still in London; after all, Bodie had explained, why else would he be without a gun? And Gregson swallowed it hook, line and sinker. All Bodie had to do was to stay alive until his very own cavalry turned up. Something he had achieved. He was safe; but far more importantly, Ray was safe. However, given the recent events, Bodie wasn't sure his partner would approve.
They reached their room, let themselves in and locked the door. Ray's, well Bodie's, tie was off and on a chair before Bodie had put the bottle and glasses down.
"Here, watch that, mate, that's one of my best," he said, because he was expected to.
"Shouldn't have lent it to me then, should you. Come on, Bodie, what are you waiting for? Where's me drink?"
With a flourish, Bodie removed the top and poured two triple whiskies into the glasses. The only ones of the evening, he hoped because he really didn't want a heavy drinking session tonight; what he had already had and what he knew this glass would add, made him mellow. But as it was often the case, he would be guided by his partner.
"Ta. Cheers, mate. We did well today. Even the Father thought so, even if we did screw up over ringing in. Stupid that, can't imagine why we forgot."
"No," Bodie said, his tone calm. "Neither can I. Cheers." He ignored the slightly suspicious look that came from under the auburn curly fringe.
They clinked glasses and then just looked at one another. The emerald gaze was heavy and dull around the edges, it was skittish and danced away from Bodie rather than hold the stare as it usually did.
"Bodie," Ray began, twirling the glass around in his hand.
Bodie turned on his heel, Ray style. "I'm going to the loo, back in a minute." He had left bedroom and Ray whose mouth had fallen open, and was in the en suite before his partner could speak.
Peeing and washing his hands with his usual high efficiency, Bodie chose not to return to their room and his partner right away. Instead he sat on the closed lid of the toilet and thought.
Several minutes passed before he went back to Ray. When he returned he did so silently, and was greeted by the sight of his highly charged partner pacing around the room like a caged animal. At the sight Bodie bit down hard on his bottom lip, almost drawing blood to prevent himself from moving across the room, sweeping Ray into his arms and holding, caressing, petting, kissing, and loving him.
Ray's hair was wilder than usual; the calm that his partner had seemed to impart into it earlier had vanished. Bodie felt sure that long, artist's fingers had spent the intervening several minutes being raked through the tousled locks, leaving chaos behind them. A chaos Bodie longed to calm; a chaos that was symbolic of their current relationship.
After a silent sigh, he made a noise and entered the room at a brisk pace. Ray swirled around on his heel and his emotional heavy, but still unreadable eyes met Bodie's own.
"Ray. . ."
"Bodie. . ."
They spoke simultaneously. Then both broke off, and gestured that the other should continue. Neither did.
Finally, Bodie broke the silence. "Ray, sunshine, look. . . I. . .," he took a deep breath and rushed on. "I'm sorry about the bullets," he paused; Ray's face was still. "And I'm sorry about . . ." he finished lamely.
Ray continued to stare at him, without moving, until anger clearly began to rise in him. "So that's it, is it, mate? An ‘I'm sorry, Ray,' and it's all over? Expected to forgive you now, am I? Say, ‘that's okay, Bodie, forget it'. Fuck it, Bodie, what you did. . ." He slammed his glass down on the mahogany dressing table and threw his hands up in the air.
"What I did," cut in Bodie quickly, yet calmly, determined not to re-run the row of the previous evening. Couldn't the terrier ever let anything go? "Was to doctor the bullets. To doctor the bullets," he went on quickly, "without telling you." There he had finally said the words. Ray offered no encouragement, but also no objection, thus Bodie continued, trying to keep calm.
"I knew you'd object and that we'd spend the whole bloody evening rowing about it. I didn't want that, Ray. We both knew how dangerous the whole thing was; Cowley'd made no bones about it." Even now, more than thirty-six hours since Cowley's words, the thought made Bodie shudder. In front of him, his partner closed his eyes for several seconds; Bodie waited until they were open again before continuing.
"We knew there might be an attempted kill, we knew that we'd stand between those involved and Parsali, maybe even between those involved and peace," he hated the minute shudder that was obvious as he spoke. "We knew, sunshine, only too well - maybe more so than ever before - that one, or both of us, might not be walking out of that house after the treaty signing." Unable to say anything more at that moment, Bodie paused and looked, really looked at his partner.
Ray was still now, totally still, a rare feat for the usually vibrant man. Even when he was sprawled in the passenger seat of their car, sitting in the pub, in one of Cowley's interminable briefings, or at the cinema, his partner was usually busy in some way. And if his body wasn't busy, then his mouth was. Now nothing moved save his eyes, and they merely regarded Bodie with such intensity that he shivered.
"Sit down, Ray," he gestured at the sofa, a nice addition to the room and one that, in Bodie's experience, always spoke of class. Without breaking his gaze, his partner complied. Bodie followed, sitting close enough – just – to touch, but not actually touching.
"Never told you this before, sunshine, never told anyone," he went on. "Always hated most those assignments that we have a lot of time to prepare for. Was the same in my time in the mercs," he glanced at Ray and saw the big eyes widen in surprise.
He didn't often talk about his time before CI5, Ray did a bit more but not much. It was as though neither of them seemed that much concerned with their lives before they met the other. But two nights ago both had offered his partner a glimpse of their pasts. For some reason it was important to Bodie that he continue the revelations.
He knew more about Ray's time in the Met, than Ray knew about his time in the mercenaries. Maybe it was because Bodie always got the impression that the Ray, whilst maybe not actually disproving, didn't have a lot of time for mercenaries; simply considered them hired killers. Maybe it was because the ex-detective tended to chatter on a lot more and, especially in the early days of their partnership, and never let Bodie forget that he was the expert on interrogation, and where he had learnt those skills. Or maybe it was even because Bodie was a little bit ashamed of his time spent killing for money. Yet if that was so, why did he equally not talk about his time in the Paras or the SAS?
He recalled the few times Ray had met or been involved with, even vicariously, Bodie's ex-colleagues/acquaintances: Krivas and his gang, Marty and Williams. None of the run-ins had been anything to be savoured, and Bodie wondered whether there would be any more. The first had tried to kill Bodie, Ray and Cowley; the second had saved Ray's life, whilst providing Bodie with a nefarious weapon at the same time, and the third. . . Williams.
Ray had never actually met Bodie's ex-SAS colleague, because he'd already been murdered and Bodie, who had not been thinking particularly rationally, had been out for revenge. Bodie occasionally reflected that he had been lucky to come out of the whole thing with his person, job, partnership, friendship and partner, intact.
The whole affair had pushed him and Ray apart, not just physically, but emotionally too. For once in their partnership, the terrier had stopped trying to ascertain what had been wrong with Bodie, and had seemed to stop caring. And for the first and only time in their time together, Bodie had physically attacked his partner, when not under the orders of an assignment.
Bodie still occasionally remembered turning, seeing Ray and hitting him - viciously, deliberately, in blind fury - in the stomach with a tree branch. He still recalled Ray's look of absolute incredulity and hurt as he sank to the ground, and still recalled seconds later his tenacious mate being back on his feet, helping Bodie put the bikers down.
Bodie had got drunk that night, drunker than he had even got over Marikka; so drunk that, for the first time in over ten years, he had been sick with it. He still recalled how gentle and understanding his friend had been as he'd helped Bodie to the bathroom, held his head and then cleaned both Bodie and the sitting room floor up. With the professionalism of a trained nurse and the gentleness of a best friend, Ray had got his mate to bed, tucked him in and sat up all night watching him - twice having to change the bed. Never once did he say anything, neither asking Bodie for details nor condemning him; but then he hadn't need to: Bodie had done that himself.
Shaking his head he returned to the present. Gazing once more into the emerald pools that were still slightly hidden from him, he went on, "The planning was pretty much why I got out in the end, well that and the fact that I didn't actually enjoy killing. Or rather," he swallowed, wondering whether he should make the final revelation.
He mentally shrugged, "I realised that I could start to enjoy killing, and I never wanted that, Ray, never. Always told you I weren't like Tommy." He broke off and looked directly into the green gaze, trying to force his partner to hear his words and to understand them. Suddenly it was the most important thing in the world that Ray did so.
For a long moment silence pressed down on him, oppressing and choking him, then he saw the understanding in Ray's eyes making him want to enfold his partner in his arms and never let go. Instead he continued his explanation. "But most of all I hated the missions that were planned down to the last detail, the ones we knew about for days in advance. They're not my style; I've always preferred to take me chances without thought. React, that's me," he attempted a faint half-smile. "I get less scared that way. Not totally free from it though. I wasn't joking when I told you that I'm always scared, sunshine, I am." Every hint of the smile had gone and Bodie was sober and frank.
"Me too," Ray's voice broke in. "Fine pair we are. Two of Cowley's finest and we're always bloody scared. Wonder what he'd say?"
"A lot less than if he thought we weren't scared at all. If I ever get to that stage, Ray, that's the day I hand him my gun and walk away from CI5."
"And me?" Ray's voice was small, vulnerable, quiet and wistful.
"No, I couldn't walk away from you, sunshine; never could. Hope I never have to. Always reckoned that if it came to it, you'd walk with me." It was another revealing statement, telling Ray, without the actual words, what he meant to Bodie.
The curls bobbed up and down as Ray nodded. "Would have done, sunshine, wouldn't stay without you. Wouldn't feel safe." A faint smile touched his lips and the ghost of colour lit up his cheeks.
Before the situation could get too intense, Bodie went on. He wanted to clear this up once and for all. "So that's why I did it, without telling you," he paused, and swallowed hard before continuing. "I couldn't face an evening with us yelling at each other or worse still: not talking to each other. I didn't want us both to be so bloody wound up that we ended up not sleeping and. . ." he broke off with a quick rueful look at his partner, in point of fact, the two partners had ended up not sleeping much on the evening in question, but for an entirely different reason.
Bodie hurried on, "If I'd have told you, Ray, we'd have fought about it, argued, bitched, and we might not have been sitting here today, or only one of us might," he couldn't prevent the icy shiver that poured through him.
"But if you hadn't done it at all, they'd have been nothing for us to argue about," Ray retorted, logically, although the heat had diminished from his tone.
He started to rise, but Bodie reached out quickly and his hand encircled the slender wrist. Using the amount of force necessary to keep him from moving, Bodie held on until he felt Ray's compliance. "True, Professor," he said lightly, half smiling at Ray's grimace. "But I did do it. And as I said last night, I'd do it again."
"Even knowing how I felt about it?" Ray's voice sounded more weary than angry.
Bodie regarded his partner seriously. He knew what Ray wanted him to say, and he thought fleetingly of saying it. However, as he did, he realised that he would be guilty of doing just what Ray had accused him of doing: lying to him. Bodie had already broken, or at least tested, the trust they had and he knew that he couldn't do it again. For better or worse Ray would get the truth.
"Yes." It was such a small word; a simple word; a non-complicated word; yet it made Bodie feel that his entire future rested on that one, small, simple, non-complicated word. A word that had suddenly become the largest, most complex and complicated word Bodie had ever known. Forcing himself not to look away from the probing eyes, he expected to read disbelief, distrust, disgust almost. But to his surprise the pools became liquid and tender, and Bodie was sure that he read relief.
"Thank you," whispered Ray, his voice so soft it was barely audible.
Bodie knew that he looked confused because his partner went on. "For not lying to me, sunshine. For not lying to me when it would have been the easiest thing in the world to do, and for trusting in us enough to tell me the truth. I don't like what you did, Bodie - the doctoring and the not telling me - but I dislike what it's doing to us a hell of a lot more.
"But last night, you said. . ." Bodie had to be sure, he couldn't believe that Ray was giving him a reprieve, at least not without a huge fight.
"I said a lot of things last night, love," Bodie felt his heart jump in his chest, as the endearment was spoken so naturally. He felt his eyes begin to blur and hastily blinked several times. Ray continued to speak, his voice mellow. "Most of what I said was hurtful. Did a lot of thinking too, both at home last night and in the office this morning, oh, and whilst I was chasing after you and Gregson earlier." He paused, and Bodie read as clearly as if the words had become emblazoned on Ray's forehead, his partner pondering whether to ask the obvious question.
Bodie hardly dared to breathe; his sinews shouted out to Ray not to ask, the mask, he knew his face had become, projected the same. He watched a frown appear between the knowing eyes and then vanish again as his partner gave an invisible shrug and consigned the inevitable question to the future, or maybe even to the bin.
Ray went on talking, as if he had never ceased. "Knew that no matter what, we had to work it out. That's why, when we got back here a few minutes ago, I was going to insist that we talked, but then you bolted to the loo and I wasn't certain what you'd do when you came back. Thank you for talking to me." Ray reached across the gap that separated them and took Bodie's hand; the slender one felt cool and at peace, whereas Bodie knew his own was damp and agitated.
If only Ray had known how close he came to coming out of the bathroom and either dragging his partner into bed or running from the room. The look on Ray's face, made him delighted that he had taken the courage Ray always encouraged, and faced the lion.
Ray smiled his crooked smile and continued, his tone now serious. "We're good together, Bodie, bloody good. If we're going to lose what we've got, it had better be over something a damn sight more important than a few doctored bullets. And for what it's worth, sunshine, I don't want to lose what we've got. . . Any of it," he added quietly.
"Reckon we need to talk about something a bit more - no a lot more - important now, don't you? Reckon it's time we talked about what went down between us."
To Bodie's surprise and joy, Ray's full cheeks once again acquired a faint hint of red. Releasing, much to Bodie's chagrin, his partner's hand, he grabbed his drink; after swallowing a large mouthful Ray went on, his voice only slightly shaky.
"Reckon it's time we sorted that part of our lives, that part of our relationship out, don't you, sunshine?" Ray's voice had taken on a much lower timbre. It was husky and sensual and his eyes blazed with something that could have been passion or good humour or love even. "I don't reckon we can hide from it much longer. I know I can't. That kiss earlier. Bleeding stupid with Jax, Anson and the others around, Christ even Cowley and Murph, hadn't actually gone off. And it was so much more than just a kiss, wasn't it, Bodie? You recognised it as well as I did."
Bodie wasn't certain what to say, how to answer his friend. He knew what he wanted, knew only too well what he wanted, but in spite of Ray's now almost overt come hither look, Bodie wanted to be sure that he was reading his partner correctly.
He knew he had to say something. Ray was waiting for him to speak. "Yes," he finally said, aware as he did just how inadequate it sounded.
Ray obviously thought so too, because he smiled – both with his mouth and his eyes – and said, "Is that really all you can say, sunshine? What's up, do I scare you?"
"Yes," repeated Bodie softly, and honestly. He was amused by Ray's sharp jolt and the way his partner blinked owlishly at him. "At least, you don't scare me, well, not exactly, but . . ." he broke off, unable to articulate clearly.
It was evidently unnecessary as Ray said, still softly, "Me too, love. Me too."
Again Bodie ached to pull the body before him into his arms, but he knew they still needed to talk. Instead he shuffled slightly along the sofa so that he could reach out with one hand and started to try and calm Ray's curls, in the way he had done on numerous other occasions.
"What do you want, Ray?" he finally asked.
"What you said and did two nights ago to have been true. For it not to have been about Parsali and England, but about you and me."
"It was," Bodie kept his own voice low, and continued his caressing and gentling. Ray hadn't pulled away, but instead let Bodie continue his ministrations. Bodie mused that his scruffy partner never did pull away from this gesture, no matter where or when they were, if Bodie reached out in this way, Ray never stopped him.
Ray spoke again, "And for it to continue to be so."
Now Ray did pull away, with a grimace as Bodie's fingers caught in a particularly errant lock. Nonetheless Ray captured the smoothing fingers and held them, holding Bodie at arms length.
Bodie easily read the green eyes: the seriousness, the fear, the lust, the want, the need, and above all, the love. But, he suddenly realised, the last wasn't really any different a look from the one he'd seen in those emerald depths for at least the last eighteen months. All at once he knew, with a shattering clarity, that he and Ray had loved one another for a long, long time, even if neither of them had acquainted that love with sex.
"I mean it, Bodie. If I go to bed with you now, then that's it. It's final. No more games. No one else. Just you and me, forever." Ray voice was determined and his body was completely still.
"You're talking marriage," said Bodie, bemused but unfazed.
"Don't be so bleeding daft," Ray said cheerfully. "Two blokes can't marry, well not in the usual sense. Anyway, I reckon we've been married in every way but the sexual department for years." He paused, winked at Bodie and began to quote words Bodie knew only too well, but never believed he'd hear in relation to himself.
"‘For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Forsaking all others. Till death us do part.' You tell me one of them we haven't done. Can't, can you?" Ray said before Bodie had a chance to respond.
Not that he intended to negate it anyway; everything his lean partner said was true. They had been together though the good times and the bad - and those worse than bad.
They had stood side by side as they argued with Cowley about pay and expenses. And when they did get an unexpected pay rise, their expenses paid on time, or even a win on the horses, then they celebrated together. When one was sick the other took care of him, and vice versa; when they were both well they were an unbeatable, unbreakable double act.
As for the forsaking all others? Easy. Both had dumped, or been dumped by, more birds because of the other one, than Bodie could recall. When Ann had walked out on Ray, Bodie had ditched, without thought, Hazel – his tall, sexy, long-legged, beautiful, come-across-whenever-and-wherever bird - and had taken care of the electric golly. When Bodie hadn't liked Shelia, a bit of stuff Ray had picked up, his partner had turned his back on her without batting an eyelid.
And as for the ‘till death us do part' bit, well it was simple: Bodie had known for a long time that the only way he and Ray would be separated, permanently, would be by death. Even then Bodie had preferred the credo of the SAS: ‘till death us do join.' Ray may not have been in the SAS, but as far as the ex-SAS man was concerned the motto stood for Ray and him, as much as any SAS member.
They had been everything to each other for longer than Bodie could remember; in fact he could hardly recall what life before Raymond Doyle was like, and according to his partner's words, it appeared that he felt the same.
Leaving his hand in Ray's long fingered one, Bodie brought the other one up to again tangle in the curls he loved so much. "No one else, love. Just you and me, Ray, forever," he repeated, not in the least bit embarrassed. Pulling gently on the curls he brought his lover towards him. Ray's head was already tilting to the left, and Bodie tilted his own to the left also as their lips met in perfect synchrony.
The kiss was everything that Ray could have wished for, but nothing like he was expecting. It was a mixture of the innocence of a kiss between friends, mixed with the passion of the operas of Verdi. The uncertainty of a first kiss, combined with the surety of established lovers. As his tongue gently pushed Bodie's lips apart, his partner moaned gently and pushed himself even harder against Ray's body.
A wave of love, desire, passion and security surged through Ray, making his skin tingle in the way an extra-hot shower makes it feel and heightening all his senses until he was able to see, hear, smell, taste and feel Bodie in ways he had never before experienced. The increased awareness combined with such sweet anticipation it made his blood glow made him think, for a moment, which he was going to explode with happiness. Then he felt a sentiment, one like he had never known before, overwhelm him: a mood of all encompassing, utter and total love for one person. He loved with his heart and soul, with his whole being; in that single instant, he was both one with his partner and also a complete and free individual, in a way he had not known was possible. If it hadn't been for Bodie's strong arms holding him, he would have fallen. Ray had, he realised, finally, after years of searching, come home. It was a home that he never intended to leave.
His fear about being loved by Bodie had vanished moments earlier when they had confessed to one another that they had, to all intents and purposes, been married for years anyway. Ray also knew that they had to face Cowley and had to tell him the truth; it was only fair. Besides, as Ray had once said, the Old Man not only knew whose bed they got out of, but which side. It might mean their jobs, but somehow he did not think that would be the case.
But now was not the time to think about Cowley, nor anyone else for that matter. Now was the time to think about Bodie and himself. And not just think...
Bodie may have sensed his lover's slightly wandering mind, because he suddenly gripped Ray even tighter and deepened the kiss, pushing Ray back until he was sprawled out along the sofa with Bodie resting on top of him. One of Bodie's hands continued to hold Ray's head in place and the other evocatively caressed his back, the stubby fingertips delicate and enticing as they played a concerto on Ray's spine. Bodie tasted of whisky, his spicy orange after-shave and just a faint hint of mint; these scents mingled with the aroma of power, strength, love, affection and the over-riding perfume that made Bodie who he was.
As he continued to be ravished, Ray felt the power of Bodie's erection pushing against his own groin and the desire flooded through him again. Finally he broke the kiss and pulled away just enough to stare up into his partner's flushed face; he looked into the beautiful sapphire depths that he knew he would soon drown in and offered his full surrender.
Both men were still holding each other, and Ray was breathing harder than he had ever breathed after kissing someone. His body was damp and he could hear a ringing sound in his ears; for a moment he thought it was the telephone and tensed slightly, but then he realised that it was just passion. As he watched, Bodie ran his tongue over his own lips, moistening them and he felt another jolt and thrill of passion surge through his whole body, his soul, and his very essence.
"Oh, Bodie," was all he could groan, as he felt himself start to leak and knew that he did not want this to be a frantic tumble on the sofa. Their first time had been on the floor cuddled together in the two joined sleeping bags; he wanted this time to be in a soft bed.
He pushed, not without some difficultly, Bodie further away from him. "Come on, love," he demanded, wondering if his voice sounded as odd to Bodie as it did to himself. "Let's go to bed."
The ardour filled blue eyes clearly appraised Ray in such a sensual way, that for a brief second he feared that he would come in his underwear there and then. However, just as he always did in all other aspects of their life, Bodie obviously read his partner's need to move. With a groan, and a final very chaste kiss to Ray's throbbing lips, Bodie pushed himself to his feet and pulled his partner up with him.
Entwining his hand with Ray's, Bodie led the way to the double bed, pausing en route to turn off all the lights except the two either side of the bed. All this was achieved without breaking contact with each other. Once there they stood by the side of it and stopped to share another deep, lingering kiss before pulling away by silent, mutual assent in order to remove each other's jackets and shirts, plus Bodie's tie. The ease and artlessness with which they completed this task surprised Ray; it was as though they were lovers of some years standing, not merely one night, a night where Bodie had undressed both of them whilst cuddling on the floor.
Over the years they had undressed one another on numerous occasions. However, undressing your best mate when his hands had been damaged, or he's too drunk to be able to co-ordinate his arms and legs, or hurt in other ways, was one thing; undressing your best mate, now lover, when deep in the throes of intense passion was something else. Without conscious thought, Ray dropped Bodie's jacket, followed by his tie and shirt, carelessly on the floor and as he moved to once again take him into his arms, he found, to his surprise, that Bodie was shaking uncontrollably.
"Bodie, my love, what is it?" Ray asked, as desire shuddered to a halt and concern filled his body and mind. This was entirely unlike the self-assured man who had held him, loved him, comforted him, petted him, and seduced him less than forty-eight hours ago. It was utterly unlike any Bodie Ray had ever seen before, in or out of the bedroom. Rather than pull his lover closer to him, Ray held him firmly at arm's length, staring intently into the fuzzy blue eyes.
Bodie spoke somewhat gruffly and Ray was perplexed to hear that he seemed somewhat embarrassed. How could he be uncomfortable with the man who had been his partner for nearly five years? Then realisation touched Ray, maybe it was simply because it was his partner of almost five years standing with whom he was about to make love. "It's ridiculous, Ray, I feel like a Victorian bride on her wedding night." His attempt at levity sounded more like a high-pitched giggle and under Ray's hands the pale torso felt cool and damp. Again Bodie licked his lips; Ray smothered a groan as once again his powerful erection fought for freedom.
As he held Bodie, gently rocking him back and forth in a calming manner, stroking his hair and trying to reassure without words, he decided now was not the moment to tell Bodie that, strictly speaking, they were about to break the law. It wouldn't really faze his partner anyway, or at least it wouldn't under normal circumstance, but Ray knew his partner well enough to know that he might be worried on his ex-detective-partner's behalf.
It was a stupid law anyway and one that Ray knew got broken every other day, if not every day. They had locked the room and during Bodie's visit to the bathroom, Ray had placed a chair under the handle – something Bodie obviously hadn't noticed – and as they hadn't ordered room service for breakfast, baring fire, flood or bomb, no one was likely to disturb them. And if they did . . . Well after their success earlier, Ray didn't actually believe that any of the hotel staff would turn nasty, even if for some unbeknown reason they did discover that the partners had used only one bed – and not just for sleeping in. Ever since they had returned to the hotel, they had been treated like a pair of heroes rather than just two men doing the job they did five, six, sometimes seven days out of seven. Christopher, almost bouncing with professional decorum, had told his story to anyone who was prepared to listen, and even one of two who seemed inclined not to; he told them how he played his part in apprehending a violent and dangerous criminal.
When Bodie spoke again his voice was husky and low. "I've never felt this nervous with a lover before, not even two nights ago, not even then - our first time," he now sounded incredulous. "And part of my mind that time was on whether you'd punch me or not."
Suddenly their roles of two nights ago had reversed. Now it was Ray in control, he was leading and reassuring. A surge of compassion flared through him as he stared into the deep blue.
"Come here, love," he said gently. "It'll be all right, you'll see." As he spoke he pulled Bodie towards him and enfolded him in his arms, holding Bodie tightly, his embrace designed to restore confidence more than offer fervour. "Tell you what the matter is, shall I?" At Bodie's brief nod, he continued.
"You see, sunshine," he said gently, once again stoking the short dark brown hair softly, in the way Bodie stroked his own curls. "Two nights ago, you couldn't afford to be nervous, because I was. One of us had to take the lead, like we do on the street, right?" he paused, waiting for the tiny nod. Satisfied he continued. "You know how the Cow's always going on about ‘two fellers on a roof arguing who's in charge'. You ‘n' me never have done that, doubt if we ever will. One of us takes the lead and the other follows. Right?" Again he paused; he wanted to ensure that Bodie was with him during this explanation. Once again there was a slow nod.
"You see there are times on the job when I'm happy to let you do that, because it's your territory so to speak, or your expertise. Like climbing up ivy into first floor windows." Ray shuddered slightly, deliberately over-playing his marginal dislike of heights, Bodie needed shoring up and he was going to do that.
Reaching forward he popped a light kiss on the end of Bodie's chilly nose, before continuing his soothing explanation. "Or measuring out distances or firing a rifle. Sometimes you're in a better position to call the shots. And sometimes," again Ray paused and this time pushed Bodie away, fractionally. "Sometimes," he repeated, locking eyes with his partner, "I need you to take the lead, and I don't believe that need is anything to be ashamed of." He broke off long enough to smile in what he hoped was a reassuring way at his compliant looking partner.
Again he went on, his mouth was getting dry now with all the talking; at least his erection had stopped trying to tear through his zip. "Other times you let me lead, ‘cause you know that I know better; or because I'm in a better position. Maybe sometimes, mate, you even need to let me lead." Ray had never had any out and out proof of this, but he was nonetheless certain it was a fact, in the same way that he didn't need to see the sun rise, to know that it had done so.
"And you see, my love, it's going to be the same with our loving. Sometimes you'll lead, sometimes I will. We won't keep count, though, won't take turns. After all, we don't keep a ledger noting who paid for the last cup of coffee, do we?" His cheerful voice and carefully chosen words seemed to be getting through to Bodie, because the body in his grip seemed less taut and distant, he risked another kiss, this time adding a lick along the top of Bodie's upper lick. The almost smothered moan and slight twitch of the body and arms he held, made him chuckle to himself.
"Do we?" he repeated, realising that Bodie hadn't answered. The dark head moved from left to right. Pleased he swallowed again and spoke. "As I said we won't keep count of what we do or when or how. I'm hardly going to get a diary and write, ‘Bodie did me, or I did Bodie', bleeding daft that'd be. Don't care about what happens as long as it makes both of us happy," he winked and went on cheerfully. "Instead sometimes it'll be because one of us wants to lead, needs to lead, or because one of us wants the other to lead," he paused, frowned slightly and studied Bodie to make certain that he was still following.
"You still with me?" Bodie nodded, just the once. Ray swallowed; he was on the home stretch now. "Or, like on the job, it'll just happen. Sometimes, again like on the job, it'll be because one of us is the better placed one to lead. Two nights ago, you were the better-placed one to lead, so you led," his chatty tone now became more serious.
"You looked after me, Bodie, like you look after me every day of your life. You weren't going to let anything bad happen to me, least of all you. Now you've got me, and well. . . You know the cliché, ‘Be careful of what you wish for,' eh, sunshine? Well, you've got your wish, and I'm not surprised you're a bit unsure about what to do with it."
Now as Bodie pushed his partner away and held him at arm's length, Ray could clearly read the sparkling sapphire eyes and could see that they were both accepting and believing of what he had said, but they also revealed that Bodie felt just a tad foolish.
His tone teasing, yet loving, Bodie said, "Christ, mate, didn't realise that you even analysed stuff in the bedroom. It's not something your birds ever mentioned."
"Don't always. Only when it's important." Ray knew that he didn't need to say anything else. Instead he pulled Bodie towards him, claiming his mouth in a very possessive, proprietorial way. When he finally released it, he noticed that the occasional pouting, often sardonically pursed lips were now swollen and engorged with love. Ray knew something else that matched Bodie's lips. Bodie's body had now started to heat up and Ray caught the compelling scent of clean sweat, oranges, musk and the smell he would know if blindfolded: Bodie.
He wanted his partner, now, quickly. Instead, he pushed the thought temporarily away and continued, "And there's another thing, love. In a way, it is like our first time. After all," he added with a grin, "is only our second." Again he made his voice more serious and locked gazes with Bodie.
"Besides, it's a new level of commitment. It's special, my love. I've never been married and as much as I hate to admit it, I guess I've never been faithful to one person, or at least not for any length of time." For a moment he glanced down, studying the forest green carpet upon which they stood. He knew that he'd flushed slightly, even though he was aware that Bodie already knew his confession. "I never really thought I was going to be either. No really," he went on, when it was clear that Bodie was going to suggest Ann. "Not even her. ‘Specially not her," he added, softly.
At Bodie's incredulous look, Ray hurried on. "Bodie, I don't want to talk about ex-lovers now. It is neither the time nor the place," he smiled and squeezed his lover. "There'll be plenty of time for that on those long, lonely stakeouts, when we're trying hard to keep our hands off each other! Not," he added ruefully, "that you ever did keep your hands off me."
"Hark who's talking," Bodie retorted with a grin.
Ray fluttered his eyelashes and started to talk again, once more slightly serious. "One day I'll tell you all about Ann ‘n' me. It's not that pretty, mate, but I'll tell you, I want to tell you. Then you'll see why I never really reckoned on marrying her. After all," he added softly, when it became clear from Bodie's look that, passion or not, Bodie wanted to know more, "I'm not the one who brought up marriage, am I?"
Bodie's mouth dropped open and Ray took the opportunity to pop his finger inside where to his delight and desire, Bodie started to suck on it. Ray's erection clearly liked the sensation too, because he felt his underpants get even wetter.
Again forcing back his almost overwhelming desire to simply wrestle Bodie on to the bed and ravish him, he went on. "But I've seen what marriage is like. Saw my parent's." He shuddered slightly, unable to prevent the memories flashing into his head, before forcing them away and concentrating on the man in his arms.
"Saw me sister's too; neither of ‘em was pretty. In fact my parent's was enough to put you off marriage for life! Tell you about that someday too. And," he went on, breaking off for another quick kiss, "we've both seen the odd CI5 attempt at one." And they had, not many survived the rigours of the working hours, the constant fear of going home maimed for life, or of not going home at all.
He went on. "We may not have been there, love, but we know the pitfalls. We've always trod a fine line, Bodie. Sometimes I'm not sure that we knew where it was going, and tonight we've finally crossed that line, haven't we?" In spite of their previous conversation and discussion, Ray suddenly became aware that his voice was revealing just a hint of insecurity. The insecurity he'd spent his life fighting against.
Maybe it was the memory of his parent's brutal, acrimonious break-up: brutal being the key word. The final beating returned to his mind and he shuddered, Bodie's arms tightened around him. For a week he had hovered between life and death, later on, once he had regained consciousness, his mother told him she had been advised to call the Parish Priest in on two separate occasions; neither time she had. It wouldn't have mattered anyway because Ray had by then turned his back on the Catholic Church. The final time he had prayed to the God he had been taught to believe in - the God whom he was promised heard the young Raymond's prayers, the God who was meant to be loving, kind and gentle - that his father stopped beating him, was the day when the beating had been more severe than ever. His prayers were not answered and his father had not stopped, thus Raymond Doyle had never prayed again, not whilst he was under his father's roof. His father's treatment of him explained why he had not cried when his father had died some three years earlier. He knew at the time that Bodie had been surprised, knowing as he did about Ray's penchant for tears.
His mother was still alive and Ray occasionally visited her, but he found he had little to say to her. Little to say to the woman who had stood by and let her husband beat their only son. Little to say to the woman who had clearly never really loved her son. Ray tried to understand his mother and why she had behaved in the way she had, and somewhere down the line he realised that he had forgiven her, but he didn't love her. Not really, not in the way a child was meant to love their mother, or at least in the way he assumed children were meant to love their parents – but wasn't it a two way thing? The Doyle family apparently had not fulfilled their obligation as far as love went.
He visited his mother out of duty; he telephoned her out of the same family duty, and when she finally died, assuming that he managed to outlive her, he would bury her and probably shed tears for her. They never spoke of the past. The silence that had bound them for over thirty years, still bound them.
"Sunshine?" Bodie's concerned voice pulled Ray away from his past. "What's the matter? Second thoughts?" Ray heard the dread in Bodie's voice and hastened to reassure him.
"No, love; not at all. I'm just remembering," he held on to Bodie - his rock, his anchor in the treacherous sea.
"Happy memories?" Bodie's voice told Ray that he knew the memories were far from happy. Nevertheless, Ray didn't want to tell him the worse; not yet; not now. For now he wanted to be loved and to offer the same; but Bodie needed some sort of answer.
"Nah, not really, just remember our Sally." He saw the furrows on Bodie's forehead as he fought to recall who Sally was. "My sister," he said in order to clarify matters. Bodie nodded, but still looked quizzical. Sighing to himself, Ray decided on the Reader's Digest version. "Married a bloke who beat her," Bodie's arms tightened to bruising point and his eyes became dark with anger; the erection that had been pushing against Ray faded.
"Bastard." The word was uttered quietly and flatly, and was all the more deadly for it, making Ray glad that he had withheld the information about his father.
"Yeh. Anyway, Maurice Green and me, you remember Maurice, don't you? Bodie!" he squeaked as the tight grip became like iron, glancing down he saw the finger marks where Bodie had gripped. "Hey, don't, okay? Don't. You saved me. Just as I said you would."
Bodie's response was a deep growl and Ray found his mouth being plundered again as tongue did battle with tongue. He allowed himself to sink deeper into the port and relax in a way he'd never allowed himself to do so before. Musk rose from deep within Bodie's trousers, mingling with Ray's own scent. This was better, the past was just that; leave it there.
He was, however, foiled. "Go on," Bodie stopped the kiss, took a deep breath of air and looked at Ray; the blue irises could barely been seen, hidden as they were by the engorged pupils.
Ray frowned; this was not the time. However realising that Bodie had learnt determination from the expert – himself - he hurried on. "Maurice and me got called out to a domestic, and you know how coppers hate domestics!" It wasn't a question; all too often both parties ended up turning on the police. "Anyway, I went in first, heard a woman screaming and followed the row. There she was black eye, broken arm and still waving a carving knife. I recognised Sally and something in me snapped; it didn't matter that we'd not spoken in roughly five years, she was my sister. So. . ."
Before he could continue, Bodie stepped in. "So you went for your brother-in-law and Sally, in her turn, turned on you."
Ray blinked, then took a step back and eyed Bodie from head to toe, and back again. "Nope," he said casually, "You don't look like Maurice," he took a sniff, "don't smell like him either. He was a forty-a-day man then," he added as Bodie looked askanced. "Nor do you sound like him, so maybe you're clairvoyant?"
"Just know you, sunshine. I'm right then, am I?"
"Spot on. Later Sally got divorced and then remarried a Greek and went to live on one of the islands." They kissed again. "Good job Cowley retracted the non-fraternisation rule, isn't it?"
Bodie shrugged, "Wouldn't have mattered if he hadn't done so."
Ray felt his throat tighten and his eyes burn, he blinked hard. "Really?" he cursed his quivering voice.
"Really. You come first for me; rules or no rules. I've already told you: I'm yours for always, my love. Now and forever. There isn't going to be anyone else for me. Not now, not ever. I want you and only you. I love you, Ray. You're the centre of my world. You are my world. I love you," Bodie repeated and again he claimed Ray's swollen lips.
They were the words Bodie had whispered the night the partners had spent snuggled in each other's arms awaiting their fate with Parsali. The words Ray had not been entirely certain he had heard – or believed. Even when Bodie had told him, during their previous argument, that they had been true, Ray knew that words said in the heat of the battle are often not accurate. But this was different. This was real.
Now that the words were finally said, Ray moaned deeply in his throat, and finding Bodie's mouth pulled him once again into a long, lingering, passionate kiss. It was met with equality, just like everything else in their lives, and Bodie's kiss promised much and offered the world.
Ray pulled away enough to murmur, "Love you too, Bodie. So much. You're my centre too, sunshine. Always have been, always will be."
As lips again found lips, Ray decided that he'd had enough of standing and started to guide his lover backwards on to the bed, his own overheated body following. For several long moments they simply reclined on the soft/firm bed, kissing, petting, caressing and fondling. Their lips and hands moving everywhere, discovering and rediscovering flesh they had known as friends, and then all too briefly as lovers.
Ray nuzzled Bodie's ears, flicking his tongue in and out of them, nibbling around the lobe, loving the groans that elicited from his lover. He then got a thrill himself as Bodie dropped his own head and latched on to his throat. Bodie sucked deeply at the flesh, and Ray knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was being branded; he didn't care. In fact he was so excited by the erotic feel of the sucking– no woman had done that to him before, not enough to mark anyway – that again he nearly came. He felt more pre-ejaculate soak into his already wet underpants. Again he tried to force back the climax. He wanted, he needed, more.
Moving himself, Ray let his left hand begin to travel lower down Bodie's body until it reached the zipper on Bodie's trousers. Bodie moaned and thrust up towards Ray's hand,
"Please, Ray, please. Now. . ."
"Hush, my love, hush. All in good time." Now that Bodie's lips were away from his throat, Ray felt his control begin to return. He pressed his open hand down over Bodie's bulging erection, ensuring that the pressure was hard enough for Bodie to feel it, but not hard enough to hurt.
"Oh, Christ, Bodie, you're so big already, you're so hard. You must be so close, try and calm down." His words were as much for his own benefit as for his partner's.
Ray moved his hand more gently over Bodie's erection, intent now on soothing, cooling and bringing relief, without the climax. It was too soon for that, he wanted to see, feel, taste even, Bodie's release.
Once Bodie seemed more under control, Ray reached again for the zipper on his lover's trousers and carefully slid it down. As the material was released the scent of aroused male sprang out into the room and drifted around, creating a haze of sensual pleasure. Ray slid his fingers inside the gap and touched Bodie through his underpants; his lover shuddered at his touch.
"Hell, love, you're soaking wet already, feel." Ray was delighted that his mate was in the same state as he was. He removed his fingers and rubbed them over Bodie's chest, causing the mid-brown nipples to become instantly erect and making Bodie groan with pleasure and clear need. Then the groan became a moan that touched Ray, reaching inside him and gripping him.
"Hush," he repeated, once again dropping his head to claim Bodie's mouth with his own. Then he pulled himself upright and moved until he was straddling Bodie's lower body and stared down at the blue-eyed man as if seeing him for the first time.
"You're beautiful, have I ever told you that? So beautiful, you're like a statue of ivory, an almost unblemished statue." As he spoke the words, Ray's fingers moved over Bodie's chest, swirling around the erect nipples, at the touch they seemed to rear up.
"I love your chest, it's so smooth, so silky, so unlike mine. You really are tall, dark and beautiful, Bodie, and you are all mine. All mine. Now, it's no good, I've got to see the rest of you."
Ray manoeuvred himself backwards just enough, so that he could reach the band of Bodie's trousers. Then with a swift, sure movement he began to push them down, making sure that the underpants followed, within seconds they were pooled around Bodie's ankles; more of the aroused, heady perfume was released and Ray stuck the tip of his tongue out, tasting the air around him.
He was not that surprised when, glancing down, he watched his partner begin to heel his boots off. One after the other they fell to the floor with a loud thud, and Ray moved further down the bed just long enough to push trousers, underpants and socks off in one fluid movement. Then taking a fleeting look back up the bed, Ray stopped, mesmerized by the sight of his highly aroused partner. He gazed firstly at Bodie's passion filled face, and then continued his journey of sight down the beautiful, muscular, white body; the body he wanted to mark, but that could wait. Finally stopping at a vision he'd never seen before, the sight of a totally erect Bodie. The erection was engorged and red and dripping, curling up out of the thick, almost black mop of hair that surrounded it. The droplets of pre-ejaculate glistened in the thatch, looking like early-morning dew.
He had of course seen Bodie naked regularly; he had seen him semi-erect after showers or work-outs; even seen him totally erect when they shared birds or at least bird's bedrooms, but you can hardly stare at your male partner's erection at times like that; he had even handled Bodie's penis on several occasions. But none of these previous images or feels had prepared him for the sight of the erection aimed straight at him: the erection that he had caused. Even at the height of their passion during the night before last, he had not seen Bodie, because the two men had been engulfed in the joined together sleeping bags. So now he drank his fill.
At last Ray reached out a tentative finger and traced the long, throbbing vein from the base to the tip of the organ, he was delighted when Bodie groaned and bucked his hips upwards.
"Oh, Ray, love, more, please, please." Bodie seemed unaware of what he was saying.
Ray paused and started to twirl the pubic hair around in his fingers. Then using the forefinger of his other hand, he scooped up a drop of the clear liquid and brought it to his mouth, letting the tip of his tongue flick out, tasting it, learning more about the man he worshiped. As he savoured the tangy, salty, exotic taste, he felt the wetness in his own underpants. From the moans and thrashing that Bodie was making, he could tell that Bodie was loving his partner's ministrations, but he could also tell that Bodie was holding back, if only slightly.
This did not suit Ray's plans at all. He wanted Bodie like putty, he wanted his partner to let go in a way he never had with any other lover. He wanted Bodie to react in the way he himself had two nights ago. For a few minutes he continued to lightly tease the leaking erection.
"Ray, Ray, Ray." The repeated liturgy of his name appeared the only thing his lover could vocalise.
Finally Ray could stand it no longer, and moved by something he couldn't explain, he did something that he had never done in his life, never even considered doing. With a moan, he lowered his head and licked at the throbbing, engorged organ with the tip of his tongue. The taste was overwhelming: bitter, salty, but gorgeous; this close the scent of musky, mysterious male, fresh sweat, fresh pre-ejaculate, was even headier. In one swift movement, Ray opened his mouth, and took the whole of Bodie's erection inside his mouth.
He felt Bodie buck, and say something that sounded like, "No, Ray," but he decided that Bodie didn't really mean it, and thus continued his ministrations. It wasn't easy, and for a moment as Bodie's penis caught on his gag, Ray thought he was going to choke, or worse still throw up. Determined to do neither, he wrapped one hand around the part of the engorged organ that wasn't in his mouth, just as Bodie had done to him the night before, and tried to control the thrusts.
As he did thus, he was aware that Bodie had stopped thrusting. Despite his call of ‘No', it was obvious that did not want Ray to be forced to release him. Trying to recall the number of blowjobs he had received himself, especially the one Bodie had delivered, Ray forced himself to try and relax and attempt to obtain some kind of rhythm. As he struggled with movement and pace, he was more than aware that he was barely adequate; yet he was determined to do this for his lover. In fact he was almost too determined.
Bodie captured his free hand and then spoke, his tone hoarse and guttural. "Ray, sunshine, love, don't try so hard. It's okay. Don't force it. Try and relax. Remember what you like."
Ray tried, or rather tried to stop trying so desperately. He slowed down and forced himself to relax and allow himself to enjoy what he was doing. As he did so his rhythm improved slightly and became more coherent and regular.
Bodie spoke again, his voice still harsh and full of passion. "Oh, but, Ray, you're good. It's good. It's so wonderful being with you. That's it, love, up and down, up and down. Just a bit slower. Hold me, harder, Ray, just a bit harder, I won't break. Christ, Ray, I'm close. Pull away now, love. Ray. . .Ray. . ."
Whatever Ray was doing, no matter how inadequate it seemed to him, was obviously having an affect on Bodie, because he ceased his words, except for crying out Ray's name over and over again, and tightened his grip on his lover's hand. At the same time he was trying, with his other hand, to pull the curly head away, clearly warning Ray of the impending orgasm.
But Ray was having none of it; he knew that he could be a determined little sod when he wanted to be, or at least that's what Bodie was forever telling him! Thus instead of obeying the tugging hands, he closed his lips, letting them slide back from his teeth just enough to make it clear to Bodie that if he persisted in trying to force Ray off of him, then his teeth were likely to scrape Bodie's highly sensitised skin. He didn't want to hurt Bodie, and knew firsthand what it was like to have teeth scrape a penis just at the point of ejaculation – the sensation was often enough to stop the ejaculation.
In case the warning wasn't being computed, he tightened his clasp on the hand Bodie held, and gentle shook his head, trying to release the death grip Bodie had on it. He winched as he felt the thick, yet aristocratic fingers get caught in the mess of curls. For a fleeting moment the pain was intense, almost too intense, and he felt his eyes fill with water. Forcing the pain away from his mind, Ray released the hand that had a controlling grip on the big penis, and instead started to caress the silky sacs between Bodie's legs.
It was a move that finally pushed Bodie over the edge and he cried out, making one more futile attempt to pull Ray's head away. He failed and instead shot his seed down Ray's willing, waiting and eager throat. Again and again he pulsated, filling Ray's mouth, reaching the point where Ray knew he would have to swallow or drown.
When Bodie had nothing else to give him, and Ray had swallowed, in great enjoyment, several times, he gently moved up the bed and pulled his shaking partner into his arms, running one hand through Bodie's short, damp hair. Bodie was clearly thoroughly sated.
Ray was utterly overwhelmed with the tenderness he felt for his partner at that moment; Bodie was completely and utterly vulnerable, a sight Ray had never seen before. He had seen his lover bed and fuck women, even have many orgasms, but none of them had affected his partner in the way this one clearly had.
Bodie's passion fuzzed eyes opened and closed several times, seemingly under their own volition. Then he spoke, "Best ever, Ray," his voice was lazy and soft.
"Don't lie to me, Bodie," Ray said, wearily. "Told you that. I was barely adequate. We both know that."
Bodie surprised him by pushing him away just far enough and looking up at him, eyes now perfectly clear. "I'm not lying, love," he said slowly, as if talking to a particularly dense four-year old. "Was the best, really. Oh, not your technique – got a bit to learn there," he leered at Ray. "Reckon I can teach you – but because it was you."
Ray unaccountably felt his throat constrict and the tears begin to burn at the back of his eyes; the words meant so much to him They said everything that Bodie couldn't necessarily bring himself to say openly. He sniffed slightly and then he was suddenly aware of a concentrated, yet spreading wetness between his own legs.
"Well, that hasn't happened for a good many years." Ray said, his tone slightly rueful and chagrined.
"Huh?" Bodie managed, apparently his lucidity had once again vanished. Ray took his partner's damp and still quivering hand and guided it down to the waistband of his trousers and pushed the fingers inside.
"Ray?" Bodie's eyes widened and he looked in wonder at his friend and lover. "How?" Then he blushed at his own comment.
Rather than laugh at his lover's comment, Ray spoke softly, but intensely. "It's just what you do to me, sunshine. Tasting you, feeling you, smelling you. Knowing that I alone can move you beyond thought, beyond words. And. . ." He broke off and pushed himself up onto his elbows either side of Bodie's body, "Knowing that it's now all mine. You're finally mine and no one else's. I don't have to watch you walk off any more with some bimbo. I don't have to worry any more that you'll find someone you love more than you love me, someone who'll give you more, someone who'll satisfy you more."
As his words swirled around the room, blending with the perfumes that drifted up from the bed, Ray swallowed hard. He and Bodie had never really been open in their feelings, tending to hide behind jokes to let the other really know how they feel. And he didn't believe that just because they'd crossed the final barrier that they would suddenly change, but now he decided to cherish the moment for what it was. He wanted Bodie to know, not just guess, what he felt for him; it more than just want, in Ray's mind, it was imperative that Bodie knew.
"Always knew you were insecure, sunshine," Bodie murmured gently, reaching up to touch Ray's face.
Rather than deny it, Ray shrugged, "Guilty as charged, m'lud."
Bodie grinned and pulled him closer to him, claiming his lover's mouth in a long gentle kiss.
As they remembered that remaining alive means obtaining oxygen and the most successful way of getting it was by breathing, Bodie sucked in air, turned his love-blazed eyes on his lover, holding him in a way that Ray felt drawn inside his partner, and spoke. "For what it's worth, Ray, there never was anyone I loved more than you. Never was anyone who gave me more than you did, even before all this." Maybe Ray's openness had rubbed off on Bodie, because he spoke the words without any degree of hesitation or awkwardness.
Finally, Ray pulled away with some reluctance. "Got to get these trousers off," he muttered, wriggling around to try and free himself.
Bodie settle back, his hands behind his head, and watched with evident enjoyment as Ray finally extracted himself from the confines of his skin-tight trousers, his soaking underwear having no choice but to follow the removal of the trousers.
"Now we can move on to round two," said Bodie and pulled his lover's, now totally naked, body against his own. "How quick can you get it up again, sunshine?" he asked.
"God, but you're crude sometimes, Bodie," Ray responded, with a laugh. "I'll have you know that I'm renowned for me prowess. Just hope you can keep up, love," he said with a leer and a yawn. "Mind you, wouldn't mind a few minutes kip, just to re-charge the batteries, you understand."
"Guess you older men do need more sleep than us youngsters," quipped Bodie.
Ray rewarded his partner with a sharp nip on the right earlobe, but deciding that he hadn't got the energy left to fight, he snuggled down into Bodie's strong arms and fell into a light doze. As he slipped into sleep he knew with utter clarity that he was safe, secure, loved, protected and possessed, and that all of the emotions were returned by himself, tenfold.
Ray awoke from his light doze to find Bodie propped up on one elbow staring down at him. The look Bodie was giving him made him feel simultaneously warm, loved, secure, and suspicious. It was a look that combined love, softness, bemusement, pseudo-puzzlement, devilment and. . . pure Bodie. Put it this way if he hadn't have been lying stark naked in bed, with Bodie beside him - a place that Ray knew that, despite his short nap, that Bodie hadn't left in well over two hours – he would be glancing down at his flies to see if it was undone. That or looking around to see what prank his sometimes childlike partner had pulled - or was going to pull - this time.
"What?" Ray said gently, tugging on Bodie's arm as he did, so that he could steal a kiss from the sensual mouth he was already utterly and completely addicted to. A sniff told him that the bed and room was still scented with their lovemaking; it was also habit forming.
"Just thinking," replied Bodie, when Ray finally released his mouth.
"Careful mate, dangerous that," quipped Ray, nip kissing the full bottom lip.
"You, my son," said Bodie carefully and menacingly, although the latter sentiment he couldn't carry off because of the twinkle in his eyes, "are taking a great risk here. Very vulnerable a naked man is; very vulnerable indeed."
As if to confirm his words he reached under the sheet that barely covered the partners and slapped Ray lightly on the backside. He obliging yelped, and for a few minutes they indulged in a mock fight, the kind they had often indulged in over the years, but with an added twist this time: this time they were naked. This time, as like most times when they were playing around, and Ray could not really be bothered to put up too much of a fight, Bodie's greater strength won out, and he soon had his lover pinned beneath him.
Ray gazed up into the sapphire jewels that stared back at him and fell in love all over again. Soppy, idiot, he told himself and then grinned, because he didn't give a damn if he was being soppy or not, why shouldn't he be? Where was it written down that two men had to be tough and harsh together? Where did it say that they couldn't be soppy and loving if they wanted to?
Anyway, even if it did, Ray had spent his whole life breaking rules that he didn't like, ‘the bad ones, not the good ones'. Ray grinned to himself as he thought of Cowley. Oddly enough even the thought of their dour Scottish Controller couldn't dampen Ray's spirits. He didn't know what Father would make of his top team's change of relationship, but Ray had an uncanny feeling that a) the Old Man wouldn't mind and b) he wouldn't be surprised!
Claming yet another kiss he finally asked, "Go on, then, sunshine, tell us, what are you thinking about?"
Bodie's face broke into a beam and he said, brightly, "What to call you."
"Huh?" Ray was somewhat confused. "What's wrong with ‘Ray' or ‘Doyle' or ‘four-five or ‘sunshine' or God help us, ‘Goldilocks', or any of the other hundred and one names you seem to delight in calling me?" He licked the end of Bodie's nose, something else that he seemed to fast becoming compelled to do. It was as if Bodie had a drug, one that Ray was certain he would need to take every day of his life in order to remain alive. He returned for a second lick, then a third and finally a fourth, before he continued his theme. "Not to mention the more personal ones like ‘love', ‘pet', ‘sweetheart', ‘darling'?" he added evilly, ducking slightly in anticipation of the swipe that never came.
Instead Bodie just grinned at him, beatifically. Again Ray was filled with suspicion. "Nah," he said, dropping a kiss on Ray's curls, "need something else. Something that I can. . . Got it," he snapped his fingers and sat up so abruptly that Ray was rather violently jostled. "Louise. Yeh, that's it, look like a Louise, you do."
He sat staring proudly down at Ray, looking like a child who had just performed their first solo violin performance with no more than a handful of errors. Ray froze and stared up, unblinkingly, into the bright blue eyes. All of a sudden he was deeply troubled.
Knowing that your partner had slept with men before was one thing, and it was something that didn't bother Ray in the slightest, in fact he was rather glad that one of them had experience in that sort of loving. After all schools in his day didn't teach homosexual technique. Didn't teach heterosexual technique, neither, come to think of it, he mused, learnt it behind the bike-sheds. . . well, dance hall, he corrected.
Swiftly consigning his past to where it belonged: the past, he returned to his thoughts. Yes, he had told himself that knowing that Bodie had had sex with men in the past didn't bother him, but he suddenly realised that he had never stopped to think just what format that sex took.
Try as he might, he just could not see Bodie in drag, or indeed with a partner in drag, playing the sorts of games Bodie's last words had implied. Ray's mouth felt suddenly dry. He loved Bodie, utterly, totally, unconditionally, forever and ever, amen, But. . . Could he. . .? Did he want to. . .? Did Bodie really want to. . .? Need to even? Was it important to him? The last few thoughts froze Ray even more. Bodie's welfare had always been paramount to him, in spite of what some of their colleagues seemed to think. If, and it was a big if, if Bodie did find it important to call his partner by a female name. If he wanted to, needed to, then. . .
Ray swallowed hard. It wasn't what he had envisaged. But then if he was honest, forty-eight hours ago, he hadn't envisaged sex with Bodie at all. But if Bodie really wanted and need it than, well then he, Ray, would go along with it. Not necessarily willingly, although he made a silent vow that Bodie would never find out about his unwillingness, but he would play the game; it was, after all, like the game Bodie excelled at, only cricket. He opened his mouth to speak, knowing that he had to be careful exactly what he said.
Things, in spite of the last two hours or more, were still a little tentative between them, and Ray knew that they would be for a little while. Although he also knew, instinctively, that it wasn't just the incident with the dumdums and their subsequent row that was making things a tad cautious, but their newfound relationship.
He supposed that any couple, no matter how close they had hitherto been, felt a bit strange, different, odd even, when they moved their relationship into a new section of the pitch. What had once been a level playing field with all the rules clearly defined between him and Bodie, had now shifted. The tentativeness didn't bother Ray, because he knew that it would soon pass; nonetheless, at the moment he did not want to say anything else to upset the mood.
He cleared his throat and was about to speak, when suddenly out of the blue Bodie spoke instead. "No, you daft, little sod," his tone was exasperated, chiding, amused, surprisingly gentle and rueful. Reaching out to ruffle Ray's curls he went on, "What do you think I am? Really, sunshine, I'm surprised at you. Never knew what a kinky, dirty mind you really had." The twinkle in his eyes and the look of mock innocence, was somewhat reassuring. "No, I want something that I can use in reference to you, over the R/T, or when we're in company. You know," he went on warming to his theme as he snuggled back down next to Ray and took his lover into his arms.
"Like a code. This way I can set up an assignation. . . I know big words too, mate," he went on fondly, again ruffling the curls.
It's a good job I don't mind him playing with me hair. Always have done in the past when anyone else did it, Ray mused. And yet it's never bothered me when he's done it, never once over all the years. Maybe it's been love all along, or at least my sub-conscious knowing where it was heading.
Ray held up his hands, palms upright in front of his chest, offering his full surrender. Again he was rewarded with a kiss and a tweak of his left nipple, which instantly hardened, and to his self-satisfaction he felt an answering twitch in his groin.
Bodie went on. "As I was saying, I can set up an assignation with Louise, and it won't matter who hears. People'll think I'm talking about some bird. Only you and me will know I'm talking about you."
He smiled such a pleased contented smile, that Ray didn't have the heart to tell his partner that it sounded far too bloody convoluted to him. Plus he was so relieved that his original thought had been way off track anyway, that he was prepared to grant Bodie anything at that moment.
So rather than laugh at his lover's off-the-wall suggestion, he smiled instead and said, "Yeh, love, sounds good to me." Then he added with a leer, "So what do I get to call you, then? What do you reckon you look like?" At Bodie's incredulous look, Ray almost collapsed into a fit of giggles. It was very clear that Bodie hadn't thought of that particular twist. Rather than laugh, he set about teasing his lover mercilessly.
Rolling over so that he was on his side and facing Bodie he said, "How about Julie then? Or Sue?. . . Oh, no, better not, people'll think I'm after our Susie, and I don't think Murph would take too kindly to that one, and he's a lot bigger than me! Not that he's done anything about it, but he does fancy her, clear as day that is."
Before Bodie could get interested in the lanky agent's love life, Ray went back to his own game. He burbled on happily, "Ann. . .A," he added quickly, but didn't miss the flash of hurt in Bodie's eyes. Damn, he cursed himself for his thoughtlessness. Although Ann Holly had been his girl friend, Ray suspected that Bodie took it harder than he did when she walked out on him. Not because Bodie had been hurt, at least not first-hand, - and he knew that Bodie, although he'd deny it until his dying day, had, in all honesty, been pleased to see Ann go - but because Ray had been hurt. And when Ray got hurt, Bodie got hurt too and angry with the ones doing the hurting.
Determined though not to let the light moment pass Ray rushed on, "Kate? How do you fancy that one, sunshine? People'll think I'm setting up a secret assignation," he deliberately used Bodie's own word, "with good old Doctor Ross. Always reckoned she had a thing for me, I did." Bodie didn't deign to respond to that one, but it was enough to re-lighten the mood.
So again Ray went on dredging up girls' names. "Georgina?" he said waggling his eyebrows. This earned him a hard swat on his bare backside, hard enough to make him yelp – genuinely this time. Reaching swiftly around behind him, Ray captured the big hand before it had a chance to escape, and holding it with his own hand he moved it up and down across the throbbing cheek, forcing Bodie, not that he needed much force, Ray reckoned, to gentle what he had just damaged.
Determined not to give in until he'd come up with something suitable - although deciding to be a little more circumspect with his choice of names, Bodie's swat had genuinely hurt him, although he knew that Bodie would be mortified if he knew, well Ray hadn't got as much padding as his bigger, heavier partner – Ray doggedly persevered. He was delighted to find that even when he removed his own hand, Bodie's gentle caresses continued.
"Ruth? Paula? Linda? Sandra? Jane? Trac. . ." he broke off at the look of utter disgust and exasperation that was showing on his lover's face. "What?" he asked, wriggling back into the caress, which rather than cease, had now moved on to the uninjured buttock.
"Ray. Sweetheart. Love. Petal. Light of my life. Honey. Pet. Darling. Cherub. Treasure," Bodie camped sickeningly.
Ray grimaced, "Love will do. Like that, nice ring to it," he said, deciding that they'd done enough talking for the time being. The sensual rubbing was now definitely having an effect on his groin, and this time he wriggled towards Bodie pushing his erection against the ivory white thigh.
To his chagrin, Bodie didn't seem to get the message. Instead he went on. "This is me we're talking about, Ray. Me. Tall, dark and beautiful, Bodie. You can't just give me any name and expect me to be happy with it. I need something that's unusual, different, sensual, sexy, gorgeous, extraord. . ."
"Shut up, Bodie!" Ray was finally tiring of his lover's diatribe.
"Make me," Bodie eyes were brightening and becoming decidedly wicked.
So Ray did. In the most effective way he could think of: he kissed him.
Coming up for air several moments later, Ray found himself again held securely and tightly in the strong, safe arms of his partner.
As he reclined there, entangled with his lover, he knew that their futures were totally entwined; but then they always had been. Right from day one; from the day that Major George Cowley had given them to each other.
Then, as now, they belonged to each other. The entire world could come and go; cities could crumble; governments would fall; countries may unify or divide; and CI5 would be involved in many of those occurrences. But none of them mattered – not really. The only thing of consequence was that Bodie had Ray, and that Ray had Bodie, and for the entire world Ray was not going to give up his most treasured possession. Come what may, if necessary, it would be Bodie and himself against the world forever. They were the centres of each other's worlds and that is how they would remain. Nothing would separate them, not even death.
As Ray moved in for another kiss, he murmured, "What about Martina?"
Feedback is always appreciated
Go to The Professionals Fiction Page
Go to Home Page