First Night, Last Night


Having forgotten about this story entirely, I was surprised how much I liked it when I came to it afresh. Not least because it gives a passing nod to the heart of what I loved about the series - the urban landscapes, docklands, grim and grimy streets. I seldom saw the need to transpose B and D away from their cultural heartland to scenes of pastoral bliss. They seem perfectly at home in gritty and unbeautiful inner-city landscapes and that's where they shine most brightly, perfect little diamonds in the rough.

==========||||==========


"I dunno what the hell I'm doing here."

"Come for the free beer, Doyle, like always." Bodie's smile glittered, and the look he bent upon Doyle was one of great charm. But Bodie was not, Doyle noticed, in the sweetest of tempers; the lashing flippancy had an edge. Why, he didn't know, but in any case he didn't care. Didn't care about anything. He was cushioned from the here and now by a champagne cloud; and the world was a rose.

He dropped his head back against the settee and regarded his difficult partner through half-open eyes.

"Why did I come?" he continued to lament. "I could be layin' my head on a softer chest than yours by now."

"Don't be too keen. Play hard to get," Bodie suggested. "Best way to keep 'em on the simmer, y'know." His eyelid dropped in a leery wink.

"You are talking," Doyle said, eyes closed, "about the woman I love."

Bodie groaned. "We know, we know." He feigned a yawn, struck an attitude. "Raymond Doyle--in love. Again."

Doyle's eyes snapped open. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, nothing," Bodie said. "How long have you known her? Two months? And already she's got you dancing around with a ring. Oh, she must be laughing all the way. All the way to the alimony courts, most like."

He was halfway to his feet, saying, "If you're going to be like this, I'm going," when Bodie pushed him back down again, making an exasperated face.

"Don't be like that, Ray," he said, wounded. "Just joking."

Doyle eyed him, hard. "Yeah? Nasty sense of humour you got, matey. You wanna get that seen to."

"Beer? Scotch?" Bodie interposed elegantly, one eyebrow quirked.

Narrow-eyed, Doyle asked for a cup of tea. In a speaking silence Bodie traipsed into the kitchen and began clattering. Doyle sighed and shut his eyes. Instantly the party whirled around him again, faces, lights, the thump of music, Murph's hard fingers pinching him to the bone--

He opened them in a hurry. "Where's me bloody tea?" rescuing his body from its slumping position, his head swimming. Must have had more than he'd meant to drink. That was the trouble with booze, slipped down so easily at the time then whacked you in the nerves and brain all at once.

"Just coming, my flower," Bodie sang out, entering with two mugs. He handed Snoopy to Doyle and kept Woodstock, taking a noisy sip as he sat down. Impossibly long, black lashes flickered over a blaze of darkest blue as he remarked:

"Wonderful party tonight, Ray. Really good. Thanks."

"It was okay, wasn't it?" Doyle said, nettled by Bodie's tone. "I mean, that's how these things go, isn't it?" Certainly it had cost him an arm and a leg. The drinks bill would be coming in at the end of the month.

"Oh yeah," Bodie remarked gloomily. Another sip of tea. "Been to one CI5 party, you been to 'em all. Everyone drinks too much. Talks too much. Thinks too much."

It sounded like poetry. 'A Party'--drinks too much / talks too much / thinks too much--Doyle was trying to think of a witty last line to toss at Bodie when Bodie made his next comment:

"And how do you feel, Ray? No last minute doubts? Feet still ever so warm and raring to go?"

"Of course," Doyle said, amazed that Bodie should doubt. "She's beautiful, isn't she? Beautiful, intelligent, attractive." He addressed his fingertips with flying kisses.

"So?" Bodie shrugged, looking morosely down at his mug.

Doyle stared at him. "That's a start, isn't it?" he said, heavy with irony.

Bodie swallowed down a mouthful of tea. "All your birds are like that, Doyle. No need to marry 'em all though, is there?" He stared at Doyle unreadably. "There's something unnaturally desperate about you, Raymondo. Like you've got to pin one down. It's some kind of musical bumps or something, and you're scared you're going to be the last one to sit down."

"So you're saying," Doyle said slowly, "that I'm making a mistake."

Bodie muttered, frowning, "I'm saying I think you rush into these things without giving 'em a bit of time."

Doyle stared at him. He set his mug down with a delicate thump. He was so angry his hand was trembling. "But what would you know about it, after all?"

He stood up. Bodie watched him out of one eye. "Well, no need to get all in a fuss about it, Ray. Sit down. What the hell's it matter what I think? You know yourself best."

"Even you'll have to give in sometime, you know," Doyle let fly at him. "Can't be the eternal playboy forever. Even you."

"Why not?" Bodie shrugged this one off.

Doyle grimaced at him in disbelief. "Because one day you'll realise you've left it too bloody late, that's why."

"Nah," Bodie demurred softly. "I'll still be beatin' 'em off. Be plenty of widows around--divorcees coming up for their second crack at it." He drained his tea to the dregs, set the mug down on the table beside Doyle's, propped his arms behind his head and stared at his partner without expression. "You staying? Or going?"

After a moment Doyle sat down with a sigh. Bodie was just speaking his mind. Had a right to his opinion. "Just be a bit sweeter about it, will you? Night before I get meself engaged, my best mate and all. You could be passin' out the odd congratulation or two, nothin' too heavy, just 'all the best, Ray,' might be nice."

"Sorry. "

"For chrissake, Bodie, you're acting like you're jealous or something."

Bodie said nothing at all. Doyle eyed him, bold and a bit provocative. "Gone a bit quiet now, have you?"

"I was just wondering," Bodie said, with a long-lashed stare, "if you meant that seriously." His voice was remarkably untainted, of anger or surprise or anything at all.

Doyle turned a querying palm outward. "Wouldn't be so surprising, would it? Lovely girl like her. Naturally you'd be a shade on the green side."

He noticed, halfway through speaking, a smile cross Bodie's lips and then fade out again: and then Bodie said, easily, "Is that what you meant? Ah no, mate, you got it all wrong. I don't envy you your luscious leggy lovely. Got plenty of those in my own stable, thank you. You fancyin' a proper drink now?"

Doyle had a think about it. "Yeah...okay." Bodie pushed himself to his feet and sauntered off to the bar, whistling. Cheering up, Doyle thought, pray god. "Better stay the night," he decided. Shouldn't have driven back here, really, not with all that party sparkle under his belt.

"You do that, mate," Bodie agreed amiably, sitting down beside him and handing Doyle a chunky glass a quarter full of amber liquid. As he sipped from it he nodded towards the TV. "Want the box on?"

Doyle took a squint at his watch. "Nah--just in time for the closedown blessin'." It was, unbelievably, just after midnight. He clinked his glass against Bodie's extended one. "Cheers. Better turn in after this."

"Yep." Bodie smacked his lips reflectively, savouring the whisky taste after the tea. "Else Cowley'll know we've been bad boys. Dunno how he does it."

"It's his crystal ball," Doyle said.

"A crystal ball and a wooden leg? Christ, the man's been unlucky."

Doyle chuckled evilly, raking one hand through his curls, crossing his booted feet in front of him on Bodie's glass-topped coffee table. Beside him the black leather of Bodie's jacket creaked as he leaned forward to set his glass on the table. It was late and they were tired; they sat together in silence, each one lost in his own sphere of thought.

"Your last night on earth as a bachelor," Bodie broke the reverie at last. "How's it feel?"

Doyle jerked out of his semi-doze. "Not quite." He frowned at Bodie through half an eye. "I'm getting engaged tomorrow, not married you know."

"Small difference," Bodie shrugged, his eyes dwelling curiously on Doyle. "'S only a matter of time and degree, old son."

Doyle pulled irritably on his tie to loosen it. "Bodie, you keep on makin' it sound like I'm about to start servin' a sentence." His partner smelt of sweat and aftershave, luring a powerful tactile memory to the fore: Murph's idea of a joke, no doubt, pushing him into Bodie's arms not two hours ago, his fingers locked around Doyle's wrist and on Bodie's like steel: and as he yowled, his party hat slipping over one eye, Bodie's mouth had come to rest on his for a scant second, kissing him coolly and briefly before letting him go. Weird.

"Funny sense of humour, Murph's got," he said obscurely; but Bodie seemed to know what he meant because he chuckled.

"It's his Masonic upbringing, y'know."

Bodie seemed now as he had seemed at the time: unperturbed, and yet Doyle had found the incident curiously disturbing. Not because of anything Bodie had done: the kiss had been swift enough, pure enough, and yet somehow his own body had let him down, lighting up like a Roman candle. Ridiculous. Men kissed each other all the time in France. Not to mention on the football field. Didn't mean a thing.

So: Big Deal.

Indeed.

He tossed down the rest of his whisky, felt it start up some little inner glowings. Thumping his hand down on Bodie's knee he said, "You've been a good partner."

"Sound as if you're divorcing me in her favour," Bodie said, amused. "Is that how you see it?"

"Don't be daft," Doyle said, keen to reassure. Fool: he hadn't realised. Of course Bodie would be feeling a touch insecure, as if his partner's coming marriage would mean an end to things. "She won't come between us...I promise you."

That sounded a mite more intense than he wanted it to; Bodie's mood was odd enough as it was, and he had meant to play things down, not charge them up.

"Sounds intriguing," Bodie drawled on cue. "No chance of a threesome, you mean?"

Doyle grasped for the allusion of this, caught it, chuckled anxiously.

"You ever done that, Ray?" Bodie added, one flying eyebrow arched, dark in the shadows and unsmiling.

Doyle shook his head over a swallow of whisky. "Never seen the point. Less for everyone, I'd have thought."

"It can be better than that."

Doyle eyed him coldly. "No way. No way at all. She's not that sort of girl."

Bodie chuckled, banged him on the shoulder. "That's okay, sunshine. I wasn't hinting. I'm not that sort of boy, either."

There was a little silence. Every time Doyle's eyelids fell the party started up in his head again. "Anson was drunk," he accused blearily.

"Yeah. Good job Cowley decided on an early night."

"Absolutely."

"Especially when Murph got out his Swedish cards."

"Not to mention that funny weed we found growin' among his mustard and cress and brought in to show us."

"Dried out a bit though, hadn't it?"

Doyle took another sip of his whisky, savouring the last warm drops of it now, the glass cradled on his chest. Okay. He was mellow. He was going to ask. "Bodie."

"Yeah." Bodie was slumped beside him, the same pose.

"What's it like then--how d'you go about it?"

"Go about what?"

"A threesome." Doyle nudged him in the ribs. "C'mon, you brought it up. You might as well tell me. Do you both--"

"Both what?" Bodie seemed vaguely amused, twirling his glass around in his hand.

"Do both of you go in at the same time? Or what?"

Bodie appeared to take this seriously, looking around into Doyle's eyes. "Depends on the lady. How--accommodating she is." Doyle blew out a long breath, feeling suddenly hot. And his condition was not helped when Bodie leaned over and whispered in his ear for a moment, words which made his skin prickle all over, "...and one up the back." He drew back, grinned at Doyle's face. "That can be the best, Doyle. A real buzz."

That Doyle could imagine. "I'll bet." He shifted in his seat, and shut his eyes.

"Too late for all that," Bodie said, looming in on him again. The expression on his face was quizzical, almost tender, his voice soft as he said: "Look at you, sunshine. A little bit of sexy talk and you're all up for it. Doesn't she give you enough?"

He didn't know why it had hit him so hard, the way unexpected things did sometimes: the tarty flash of a girl's white thigh, the crease in some young mother's jeans as she knelt to tend an infant; Bodie's casual words had had that same instant effect on him. He was even trembling a little, painful with desire; but it would pass.

Bodie had noticed, of course; Bodie's sharp blue gaze seemed to miss nothing about him. Sometimes the current of telepathy between them was an annoyance to him. While at others--

He closed his eyes. Like this morning. Dockland. The peculiar barren space of the area moved him, stirred him to a pitch of excitement as they ran down their quarry, adrenalin surging in with every thundering heartbeat: huge stilled cranes reared to the skyline over bleak warehouses; great masts of ships clustered untidily along the concrete edge; wide open spaces to be crossed between buildings, dangerous both for a hunter and for a killer. Good sightlines for a rifle, a machine-gun, whatever.

He had hurtled around a corner, skidding to a stop, his hand jerking at the big gun in a hurry, pulling out the spent cartridges and chucking them away, pressing in others, fast and sure. And as he had done so he had heard a noise behind him that had raised all the hairs on his neck with horror.

Such a little sound. Just something stiffing the air, close behind him.

He had turned as if in slow strobe-lit motion to see their prey standing there, a big man in biking leathers, the black eye of his gun wide open and looking into his. Ready. To blink--

And at that very moment Bodie, scudding around the corner, throwing the man against the wall with the whole weight of his body and yelling "Down!" with all the wild force of his lungs.

Doyle dropped like a stone as the man's gun went off, kickfiring viciously into the wall, Bodie and he thrown backwards by the force of it so close.

With his eyes closed, Doyle lay still and listened to the sound of Bodie thudding the man's head onto the concrete floor.

When he opened his eyes again to the blessed air and light there was Bodie sitting up, and picking bits of brickwork fastidiously off his clothes, his mouth a moue of distaste, and the man slumped bloodily by his side.

He had shut his eyes again and laughed.

He opened them now and said, "Saved my life this morning."

It seemed a very long time ago.

Bodie had been resting with his head back, face blank, eyes closed. "Did I? Oh yeah." As if Doyle owed him sixpence.

"Thanks."

"That's three times now, mate. Think I own your soul yet?"

"How did you know I was in trouble?"

"I always know when you're in trouble, Raymond."

"I mean it."

"So do I." Bodie opened his eyes and looked at him, the blue of his eyes very deep.

Something very peculiar began to happen then.

Doyle felt his heart begin to thump oddly and heavily in his chest: he was quite unable to drag his eyes away from Bodie's face. The world seemed to be spinning around him, a vortex of some different dimension; and he saw in a flash something so clear and so true he wondered how he could ever have missed it before. And just as it came into his mind Bodie spoke it aloud, his voice breaking in softly:

"Well now, that's what I mean, Ray," he said, watching Doyle all the while. "Your lady. She's pretty. You like her. She's okay to spend a night with, a weekend even. She's not part of you."

The way I am.

It hit Doyle right in the heart, swept away all his certainties. Desperate now, he cast about for thoughts of her, tried to summon the feelings he had when he was with her: but the truth was, and he knew it, that it was pale stuff, just a shadow, held up beside this; and that whatever he felt for her fell so far short of the electric bond he had with this man here that it made a mockery of what he had called, to her face, love.

He sat quietly, tensely, thinking about it.

It was not so much that what he had with her was slight, a more trivial thing than his relationship with Bodie, though even if that had been all there was to it he would have had no business marrying her. No, the truth was worse than that and by far: the truth was that what he had with Bodie was so far at the other end of the scale as to make any comparison unfair.

In which case, he certainly had no business marrying her.

And his first thought was Now what do I do? and on its heels fast and fleet came a worse one, What have I already done...?

"Well, I can't marry you," he said, with a sudden spurt of deep and violent anger. "Whaddayou suggest, Bodie, I should set up home with you instead?"

Bodie grinned at his partner's belligerent face, tapped his cheek with a finger. "Might not be such a bad idea."

"Oh, don't be so bloody stupid, Bodie!"

He was not a coward. He faced up to this new and damning knowledge with the courage to see it for what it was: the reason why. The reason why a lot of things: oh, it was all adding up now, fast as binary maths. He remembered, tense with hindsight, Bodie's mouth pressed to his, his instinct to a wild response, the way he had had to hold himself back.

"Don't worry about it, Ray," Bodie said beside him, quiet and still, not joking now, not at all. "We're not the only ones it gets to this way. Life and death and sex--it's all tied up together somewhere."

The world had blown up in his face, and here was Bodie quoting generalities.

"Oh, that's a great comfort," Doyle said bitterly, kicking out at the floor, the table. "Thanks for thinking of it." Kick. Kick. "I know, you're going to quote Alexander the fucking Great at me now. Well don't just fucking bother, okay?"

"It's all right, Ray," Bodie said, watching him from beneath a carbon tangle of lashes. "Forget it, if you want. Nothing's happened."

"That's not quite the sweet, fucking point though, is it?" Doyle said, violent with control. "The point is, how the fuck am I supposed to get engaged tomorrow, knowing--"

"Knowing what?" the voice of reason clashed with his, and Bodie's calm, faintly humorous eye slid up to his face. "Nothing done, nothing doing; no need to get in such a state about it. We had feelings we maybe shouldn't have had. But we never did anything about it."

Still not the point.

"Did you want to?" Doyle muttered fiercely, eyes wide open, fixed on Bodie's face. "Did you, Bodie?"

It took Bodie a long time to answer, circling one finger endlessly around the rim of his glass, eyes hazy as he looked out and back into the past. "Remember the Adams thing?"

"Yeah," Doyle said, though he could not think for a moment what Bodie meant; and then it came to him. For ten days and seven hundred miles they had poured their best, grittiest efforts into nosing out and hounding down the man Cowley had sent them to find.

MI5 had wanted him too.

No-one could prove it was their men who had ambushed Cowley's two best agents on their way back to HQ, but anyway the man got lost and remained lost, despite intensive trying. It was one of their worst failures. Still the memory stung.

Oh, they had resisted. Given a good account of themselves. But in the end, caught on an open road so many miles from home and help, two men can't hold off seven. Doyle had come off worst: bruised ribs and a streaming nosebleed. Blood, sweat and tears. He had indeed had tears in his eyes: not pain, but the wildest of angers.

Lounging here now with Bodie, moody and unhappy, he remembered all this; but could not think why Bodie should have called this particular memory into play.

"You stood there afterwards," Bodie said softly, "Like to kill something just in the way you hurled a look at it. You were bleeding, rivers of it everywhere, and you were cursing like a devil out of hell. You were in such a temper I hardly dared look at you in case it was me you decided to stamp on." He took a deep breath, sighed it out again, not looking at Doyle. "And I wanted you so badly--" He stopped: then said into the resounding silence, "I'd have died for you that minute, Ray, I swear I would."

Doyle was still, remembering. Bodie had seemed strange, distracted. Not that he had thought anything of it at the time. They had both just taken a brutal assault by MI5's kidnap posse, seen their own brilliant work ripped out from under their feet, had Cowley still to face with the news: a small wonder he had not noticed anything about Bodie which could not be easily be explained away by circumstances.

"I thought you'd taken a hit," he said, after a pause. "You were so dead white, looked fit to be ill."

Bodie managed a twisted laugh. "Oh yeah, I felt sick all right. Sick wanting you. Thought I was going to throw up." He added, into the still and weighted pause, "Felt if I touched you--we'd probably both die..." and then he tried to laugh it off, shrugging, "Stupid, isn't it."

Doyle looked at him curiously. "What did you want to do?"

Bodie ran a shaking hand through his hair. "Oh Christ, Ray, I dunno. Just touch you. Cry on you. Wash all that blood away. Get inside you, I suppose. As far as I could get...

Doyle was shaky too; he drew in a ragged breath. Sheer, naked curiosity ran high in him: he said, "So what did you do?"

Bodie looked at him then, dark and dazed and blurred, dragging himself back to now. "What do you mean, what did I do?" You know what I damn well did. Nothing. Sat beside you and kept quiet while you wrenched the gears and shot your mouth off all the way back to Whitehall."

"Such self-control," Doyle said with nasty irony.

But Bodie answered him quite seriously, "See, that's the point, Doyle. We all have these choices come up from time to time. Feelings you know you shouldn't have. Who hasn't eyed up some nubile bint sometime and not given a toss if she's over the age of consent? We're only human, we can't help the way we feel. Most of the time we don't act on it. However much we want to."

True perhaps, but it didn't seem to help. Doyle still felt restless, utterly disoriented. Stirred up, left to drift in the air with no place yet to settle. It was far from over.

Suddenly Bodie said: "On the other hand."

"On the other hand, what?"

"On the other hand--maybe one night would cure us both."

Doyle stared at Bodie in disbelief. "What?"

Bodie smiled at him, reckless and tender, the smile of a man with nothing to lose. "Why not?"

"Oh, that's brilliant, Bodie. Truly brilliant. That'd solve everything, that would."

"Solve--?" Bodie stood up and stretched. Strong, warm leather creaked over the knotting swell of muscles. "Solve nothing at all, probably. But think of the fun, Ray. Think of the fun."

"Fun?" Doyle didn't think it would be fun. At the very least it could be brutish and nasty: at the worst, it might swallow him up and eat him alive.

Bodie shrugged off his jacket. Beneath it he wore a white poloneck which suited his dark good looks. His holster banded his broad chest; the gun hugged his armpit, cradling in the warm recess of his body. He began to undo the buckles, slip it over his head. "Going to have a shower," he said, and Doyle nodded. He watched Bodie leave the room, one hand coming up again and tugging irritably at his tie, working it looser still.

It would not be wise to go to Bodie's bedroom tonight.

He knew that much: profane, clandestine things waited for him there, better by far untold: a man might be put to death for knowing them. He stared ahead of him, his mind in a dizzy whirl.

He should have gone to her flat tonight. He had known that even when Bodie had invited him back here, with that half-jerk of his head: "Coming back to my place, Ray?" and a look in his eye, that hard, disturbing embrace so close behind them.

And yet, it was second nature to him to go along with Bodie, even to flirt a little with Bodie. He wasn't an innocent. He knew quite well what he wanted. He wanted Bodie's attention, and he wanted Bodie's eye to chase him, always, wherever he was.

And what did that make him?

It wasn't too late. He should turn around and go, now. They could put it down to the drink.

He jumped to his feet, inactivity suddenly unbearable to him. Even his blood felt irritable, coursing around inside. He dragged on restless feet through to Bodie's bedroom, large bed in the centre, black sheets, black and silver duvet.

He could hear Bodie, noisy in the ensuite shower. Cheerful snatches of song interplayed with the rush and splatter of water, the busy scrubbing noises. Doyle could picture Bodie standing there, the translucent spread of water coursing down his clear skin.

The shower slowed and stopped. Bodie stepped out of it, into the room. A dark blue towel was whisked like a vigorous piston around his neck, back, buttocks. He laughed out loud at Doyle, standing so silently there.

"Come on mate, cheer up. Cowley's aunt! Hope your lady appreciates the mean and moody style."

The hairs at the nape of Doyle's neck stood on end, he positively felt them do it as Bodie came closer to him, his frowning eye drawn to various points of his body: nipples, thighs, cock. Bodie seemed unselfconscious; he hustled himself nearer to Doyle and grabbed him. Just as he might on any ordinary day, fooling around.

The smell of clean wet skin rose to Doyle's nostrils, and the heat of Bodie's nakedness pressed through Doyle's clothes right to his skin. Bodie's arm slipped around him and held him in a grip of iron; his other hand entwined itself in Doyle's applegreen tie and used it as a hook to draw him closer.

And Doyle could only stand there, rock steady, and stare into his eyes; every nerve in him seemed hypersensitive to the feeling of Bodie's cock, pressing up against his thigh. It was just there by accident, but still it was there. He shifted automatically. Bodie muttered something under his breath, then gave a half laugh, shaking his head. He looked down at Doyle, deeply and intensely, and murmured: "Christ, Ray. You're such a little tart, aren't you?" in admiration more than anything. He gathered the tie more firmly. Off-balance, Doyle flung his arm around Bodie's neck, his fingertips curving around his shoulder, his eyes traveling over Bodie's face in wonder.

Bodie smiled at him. "Well?" he invited, and for a second they were perfectly, completely still. "Tempted?"

"It's not my thing, Bodie," Doyle said.

Bodie grinned at him again. "Not even a little?" and in his mind's eye Doyle viewed a host of fleeting memories, every little thing from their past which gave Bodie the right to hold him this way, the lease of familiarity, the confidence that Doyle would entertain this, the fanciest of notions. He had flirted about at the end of the line, laughing, meaning to stay out of reach: now Bodie had hooked him out of the blue. One cruel jab and he would be threshing in Bodie's palm. And it was nobody's fault but his own.

He broke the hold, broke the mood, slipped back and away and out of Bodie's reach.

"I think it takes more than a little."

He walked away, out of the bedroom, a blue-jeaned swagger which had lost none of its flair. Bodie's eyes watched him all the way. Thoughtful. Not displeased.

The sudden sound of smooth music in the air warned him, so that he scarcely tensed when he felt the settee dip beside him, Bodie settling there. His head was lifted onto Bodie's lap, resting on silk; Bodie's midnight-blue dressing gown, at a guess, and nothing beneath. He didn't open his eyes.

Bodie's musing voice drifted above his head, "I never met anyone quite like you before, Ray."

"I could say the same about you," he answered, with distant irony.

Bodie's fingers sifted through his curls, lifting them away from his scalp, a touch quite detached for all the intimacy of it. Just as if Bodie took it for granted that to touch him would not annoy him, or excite him.

"And I never quite believed in esprit de corps."

"No. You wouldn't."

"I do now," Bodie said against his ear, and kissed him.

He had been expecting it for some time, was tensed up for it, and so it even came as something of a relief. he opened his mouth to the arrogance of Bodie's moist tongue, tasted dark secrets with a pleasure that arrowed straight down to his cock.

There: everything was all right.

This would straighten them out. He could give Bodie what he wanted and still have his girlfriend waiting. And along the way, not the least of it: solve his curious, desperate longing in himself.

Bodie gave a little low murmur and stayed still, breathing against his lips. Doyle slid both arms around his neck and settled himself into Bodie's embrace. Bodie's caressing hand swept down his chest, over his belly, and came to rest over his cock, which Doyle pressed up helplessly, wanting, needing Bodie to take it in his hand, closing his eyes as something sweet began inside; at that moment he felt responsibility flee from him, like a shadow in the path of the moon. Possessed himself of sophisticated sexual needs, he guessed that Bodie shared them, was also an initiate, he need worry about nothing at all. With a little sound of pleasure he raised himself up a little so that Bodie could undo his shirt, begin a long slow caressing of his chest, and the delicate area of his nipples. As Bodie's square fingertip stiffed them, dreams and longings chased around in his mind, and his cock throbbed sweetly with life and lust and power.

"Well?" Bodie murmured, his voice a little rough with passion, "How far are you going to let me go before you scream?" And his hand slipped inside Doyle's jeans; lying back as he was, flat in utter abandon, there was room to manoeuvre. He felt with utter delight one finger circling the rigid head of his cock, coaxing the slippery moisture it discovered there. He shivered in Bodie's arms.

"Takes a lot to get me screamin', mate--ah!" He shuddered again at the exquisite feeling of it. "But my money's on you," he finished in a whisper. After a moment he propped himself up on one elbow so that he could watch Bodie touch him; christ, the sight of his hard, colourful cock in Bodie's pale strong hand, enough to make him come then and there.

He took Bodie's hand and held it still in his own. "Careful." And Bodie wrapped him up in his arms and kissed him again, strongly and deeply and hard; he could no longer taste the difference between them.

A long while later, gasping for breath, he pulled himself away again, felt his lips sore and swollen and abused.

"Okay, you win. Let's go to bed."

Bodie looked a little disheveled, his robe unfastened, his hair mussed up, but his eyes were dark with passion and his gaze burned into Doyle, branding him with the fire of Bodie's possessive desire. He shivered a little; Bodie took his hand, drew it upwards to his lips, pressed a kiss onto his palm in a gesture almost sweet, almost to break his heart--

"Ah, don't look like that, Ray."

"Like what?" he whispered; he had little breath to speak.

"Like you're scared of me."

"I'm not."

Bodie held his gaze, a long, dark look. "I would never hurt you, Ray. Don't you know that?"

He said it with a kind of wonder, as if there was so much more to know. Doyle lost his breath again, his heart beating heavily, with dread as much as anything. He was frightened all right, though not of Bodie; more at the depth of what he sensed in himself. But it was too late to stop now.

"Come on." He bent to strip off the tangle of jeans around his knees. Bodie took hold of him and pressed him urgently to the floor, wrenching at his clothes as if he could wait no longer.

So: Bodie wanted him that much. How much?

After a while, his cock like iron, he bent his head to Bodie's ear and whispered a question as his heart thudded and the blood rushed and sang into his ears.

"I dunno, Ray," Bodie answered him, his voice low, husky.

"Come on," he persisted, and his hand squeezed Bodie's buttock, hard, and squeezed it again. "Just muckin' about if we don't, innit? Might as well go the whole bloody way." And when that failed he brought all his will to bear on Bodie, crowding him into a corner, pressing in hard with all his strength of mind and the precious allure of his body: "Come on," he whispered, eyes shining in the dark, and writhed against Bodie, "Let me. Bodie, please."

Look at me, I'm desperate. And Bodie gave in, as Doyle never doubted that he would, found him some stuff, took him to the bedroom and kneeled on the bed, propped on his elbows. The laughter had stopped, and the kisses, and the sweet murmured things, and he saw that the joy had gone out of this for Bodie; and yet it didn't seem to matter, nothing mattered but the iron spike between his legs and the nature of his own needs. And so, trembling, he gazed at Bodie's white arse with a hunger that overwhelmed him; there seemed no perverse act in the whole of the world to Ray Doyle right now, he would have done anything, anything at all, and thought it the sweetest and most natural thing there could be.

Imagination, a false friend; the frenzy in his mind lost him the control of his body, and Bodie, tensed for entry, felt only the muffled clotted thump of Doyle's seed stealing forth like a traitor over Bodie's back, his advance over before it had begun.

Anything would have been better than this.

Doyle kept his head buried in the pillow, pressed into his arm, and ignored Bodie's persistent voice.

"Ray. Ray."

Bitter iron pride alone made him roll over and face Bodie's eyes.

"Flattered," Bodie said ironically, and then he swept Doyle up into broad arms again and lay down with him.

"Doesn't matter, Ray."

"Not to you, no doubt," Doyle muttered, dropping his head back, shutting his eyes. He felt tired, and cold, and vaguely dirty. As if they had done something nasty. And yet that was a joke; they hadn't even come close. Just two lads mucking about in the woodshed, that was all it had amounted to. Didn't mean a thing. Pointless.

Bodie was leaning over him, pulling up the duvet over them both. Wrenching himself away from Bodie's hands Doyle turned angrily onto his side, away from him. Sweat was drying coolly on his skin, the sheets were cold. It crossed his mind to leave. Go, as he should have done three hours before.

"This was a stupid thing to do," he snarled, shuddering with cold, vicious with the need to lash out.

In silence Bodie finished sorting out the covers, practical and efficient. "Did you hear me?" he let loose between chattering teeth. "We must've been mad..."

"Yes," Bodie said. "Yeah, very likely." His voice, bleak and sober, rescued Doyle from the lonely country he had banished himself to: he gave some thought to Bodie, wondered bitterly how far reality had failed to match up to Bodie's dreams.

"Sorry," he muttered grudgingly, "Not your fault. I knew it wasn't a good idea, but still I--"

"Too late now."

"I know. See, Bodie, I thought maybe...I thought it would be okay. I thought it would be an end to it."

"Well then," Bodie said thinly, ironically, from very far away in the bed, "you were half right, weren't you?"

In the morning we can pretend it never happened, Doyle thought, and at last, at long last, his troubled mind tumbled off a precipice into sleep.

But they never made it through the morning: the next time Doyle awoke and blinked at the clock it read 2:59 a.m.

He was warm now, Bodie was lying close to him.

The memory flickered instantly in his mind. He winced away from it, but it persisted, and in the end he faced up to it full-on.

And found it, after all, unthreatening. Instead, comforted by sleep and warmth and haze, it seemed not to matter at all. He looked back amazed at his own defensive fury; for a woman might have mocked him, or pitied him, but he was not with a woman, and any man should know just how it was, how you had to fight against the tide, how easy it was to throw yourself in. He had been so--

He had wanted Bodie, so much.

Bodie should be flattered, as he said.

Bodie was awake now, his eyes glinting in the dark, some electricity alive between them and drawing them together. With an inarticulate murmur he moved closer to Doyle, kissed his shoulder, his cheek, parted Doyle's lips with his mouth. Doyle let his eyes fall closed as his tongue played with Bodie's, a terrible excitement beginning once again to churn inside him, a ticking clock set off and counting down now to some inevitable explosion. Bodie's mouth broke away to kiss his nipples, his chest, his belly, and he began to moan softly. And when he felt Bodie's tongue lapping delicately at his cock he experienced a sweet, peculiar thrilling unlike any he had known. It was really going to happen. The end of the world, inside Bodie's mouth.

Bodie was speaking to him, low and intense. "Don't come, Ray. Tell me first." But when it came to it he could not speak, Bodie's swirling tongue, sweet suckling made too brilliant a magic for him and he tensed, waiting without breathing for the catastrophe of orgasm.

Immediately Bodie pulled away, left him cold and lost and frightened by his own temper; he wanted to hit Bodie, force him back to it. He calmed himself with an effort, willing himself to, taking great, deep breaths.

Bodie grinned at him cheekily, amused by his state. "Don't worry, Ray: think I'd leave you in the lurch? I'll finish you that way if that's what you want. Thought you might want to try the other again, that's all."

And Bodie was right: that was what he wanted, more than anything, to fuck Bodie through the floor. Because in a way he wanted to punish Bodie, who had proposed this he had said, for fun: he wanted to teach Bodie that you couldn't play these sort of games for fun, for a laugh, that you played them for real. This time Bodie lay upwards and faced him; propped on his palms Doyle looked down, very deliberately, into the dark of his eyes as he bore down, closing them only at the slick tight shock of entry, opening them again when he was in all the way.

The pleasure of it was devastating, a magnificent beast in the dark.

For a while he wrestled with it alone, and then he sensed Bodie there with him, getting the feel of it, beginning to move. Touched by what Bodie had taken on to give him pleasure, Doyle looked down into his face all the while, seeing his strong partner shaded, for once, by a certain vulnerability: it moved him intensely. Bodie had withheld nothing from him: this was as much sex, the true thing, as it could ever be with any woman, he was as close to the man now as he would ever get, moving deep inside him with slow sweet rhythm. He cradled Bodie's face gently in his hands, stroked back the feathery blueblack hair from his temples, moaning as he sank deep, deeper inside him, and pulled out, and pressed home again. The whisper and slide of skin on silken skin continued, picked up speed; and this seemed like the last step, the ultimate in a lifetime of trust. The sweet simple truth of it hurt him even as it thrilled him; he gripped Bodie closely to him, fiercely, tenderly. Beneath his belly Bodie's iron cock grew rigid, and Bodie whispered something, some lost endearment, his eyes filmed with ecstasy, his fingers digging tight, tighter into Doyle's shoulders, spilling forth the milky dreams he had been hiding deep inside.

That was the last thing--

Doyle thrust home swift as an arrow and exploded in the violent glory of orgasm, his mouth lying open against Bodie's trailing moisture, and a picture flashed into his mind at the last moment of another face.

He could not even remember her name.

They said nothing afterwards; though Bodie held his hand very hard, gripped it, beneath the covers.

Doyle shut his eyes.

Oh christ.

What have we done.

Tomorrow, he was due to pledge himself forever and for all time to a girl whose name he had lost when he lost himself in Bodie.

And yet, she had seemed real to him. Until this.

He had been living in two dimensions. And if he had taught Bodie nothing at all then he himself had learned: and there was no way back.

Beside him, sensing trouble, Bodie murmured some fierce comfort, but it could not help.

He was alone on this one.

He thrust back the covers, sliding his hand away from Bodie's with one last quick pressure. He got out of bed and went to stand near the window, looking out, seeing nothing.

"Ray?" Bodie said from the bed, a soft, dark question.

"Yeah."

"You okay?"

He didn't answer that.

"Wish we hadn't done it?"

"No," he said, not to reward the sad bleak courage of Bodie's question, but because it was true: you might as well wish for the sun and the moon to be unmade.

"What do you want to do?"

Well, indeed. There was the question. What now?

The stars in his eyes were sharp as glass: they hurt him.

First night.

Last night.

Either way it was the end of something.

-- END --