Part Two - Wilder Justice
Anson loomed behind him and whispered in his ear, “I hear your partner’s gone seriously off the rails.”
“Yeah?” Doyle was pulling off his black balaclava, stuffing it in his locker, getting out his biking helmet, gloves. “Well, for what it’s worth, Rob, his scores were still up on 95% of the section.”
Anson wasn’t impressed. “Word is, they’re considering standing him down.”
“Well, if they do—” he turned and gave Anson a blazing smile— “play your cards right and it could be you an’ me, sunshine.”
Anson shuddered visibly. Word had it that Doyle was only one degree less off the wall than his psycho partner. Doyle was rumoured to be holding the partnership together—just. Cowley’s favourite team were flying wild, close to the wind, at present. But they were still flying.
Doyle didn’t watch Anson go; he was looking forward to getting home, stripping off his clothes, getting into a hot bath. Afterwards he had in mind a pizza out with his current girl, followed by a session at one of the all-night dance clubs—
He straightened without hurrying, turned around to see Bodie there. Doyle regarded him for a moment: Bodie was tense, preoccupied, wired-up, and whatever it all meant it sure as hell wasn’t helping his field performance.
“You wanna watch yourself, mate,” he commented, not unkindly. “Cowley and Macklin got their eye on you. Just a friendly word of advice.”
“Yeah, right. Doyle—I need you to do me a favour.” Bodie’s nostrils were flared, his eyes sparking, fairly fizzing with energy.
“What sort of favour?” They were walking out now, towards the carpark. Doyle turned towards his Norton, slipped on his gauntlets and straddled the broad leather seat, swinging his helmet by the strap as he waited for Bodie’s reply. Bodie patted the saddle behind him.
“I want you to ride in a race for me.”
“No questions, Doyle. For old times sake—okay?” Still on that high of suppressed excitement, agitation, Bodie gave him some scant details and took himself off, leaving Doyle pensive, restless.
Old times, eh.
Oh, Bodie. What went wrong with us?
“Shusai’s opinion is that Bodie is very sick.”
Kate Ross spread her hands. “Haven’t I been telling you that?”
Cowley gave her a sharp glance, and made his reply as wordily pedantic as he could. “Indeed you have. But I feel I must point out, Doctor, that although you originally attributed 3.7’s emotional problems to his inability to come to terms with his sexual relationship with 4.5, the termination of that relationship has not brought about any noticeable improvement.”
“In fact, it seems to have accelerated some sort of a crisis,” Kate Ross agreed with him calmly, noting that Cowley sounded almost aggrieved. Just as if he thought that psychiatrists actually planted the emotional problems instead of simply reporting on what they found.
“So this doesn’t surprise you?”
“Bodie has a lot of conflicts to resolve before he can make any sensible decisions about his life, and at the moment, that doesn’t appear to include 4.5. In fact, both of them are pursuing new affairs—heterosexual ones—”
“Ah yes,” Cowley agreed. “Miss Jennifer Black… Unremarkable, I thought.”
“I don’t imagine he has any long term plans for her.” A smokescreen. Like Doyle’s girl, and the one before, and the one before that. A little cipher of normality, safe and unthreatening.
“Women’s Lib would not approve of 3.7 and 4.5,” she said aloud, and Cowley darted a piercing glance at her.
“What’s your outlook on all this, Doctor?”
“I’m not in the business of haphazard prophecy, Major Cowley,” Kate Ross said severely.
Cowley sighed and resisted the temptation to criticise: for all he knew, he would have liked to say,
3.7 and 4.5 had been handling the matter in their own way without interference, however well meaning. Now what was he left with—? One good man, the best, a handsbreadth away from compulsory standby status; and one step away from the breakup of the best team he had ever had.
“Do you feel he harbours any resentment towards you?”
Doyle shifted in his chair. “I don’t know… Not on the face of it.” He damn well would if he knew Cowley’d dragged it out of me that I wouldn’t be including him in my projected assault team—
“And yet, in some ways, nothing seems to have changed—”
“Well, not for the better, no,” Doyle agreed ironically.
“—taking, for instance, the matter of the water pistol—”
Doyle groaned, hands flying up to rummage in his hair, tired of this one. “Look, we’ve gone over this before. He didn’t mean anything by it. It was a joke, for chrissake. I didn’t take it the wrong way or anything. Just Bodie’s odd sense of humour, thassall.”
The look she gave him was very direct. “You say you didn’t take it the wrong way. I’d say perhaps you did…if you accepted it as a simple joke.”
“Don’t tell me it had some complex hidden message. That’s the trouble with you lot, everything does. If I blew my nose you’d trace it back to something happened when I was five, wouldn’t you?”
“I can’t believe you’re so naive, 4.5, that you don’t see the symbolism,” she replied quite coldly.
“Look, you’ve spent a lot of time this year convincin’ me that Bodie really doesn’t like me all that much. Well, okay, I’m convinced. So when he shoots me with a water pistol, what he’d really like to do is shoot me for real, is that it? Well okay, I’ll buy that. If it keeps you happy.”
Kate Ross only shook her head. “You’re still missing the point, 4.5. And since quite frankly I don’t see any chance at all of matters improving before 3.7 resolves this current crisis of emotion—one way or the other—I see no virtue in continuing. All your reports confirm you as fit for duty. Mine will concur. This interview is terminated.”
She spoke these last words into her microphone, then snapped it off. Still he lingered, wandering over to the window, then back again to perch on her desk. Dark head down, she was writing furiously. He couldn’t decipher it.
Couldn’t decipher any of it. He only knew Bodie’s obsession with these bikers, with the red-headed girl, was bad news, indicative of some deeper blacker turmoil within.
“Are you worried about Bodie?” he asked her abruptly.
“Very seriously worried,” she replied. Well, that was reassuring.
And as he reached the door her last words rang out behind him:
“If you want my advice—”
“It would be?” he said without turning.
“Don’t let him out of your sight.”
Over a half of bitter in the pub Doyle frowned to himself, replaying the interview in his head over and over, worrying. “Don’t let him out of your sight.”
All very well for her to say. He didn’t see that much of Bodie any more. Doyle had his own life now which he pursued with energy, and Bodie wasn’t a part of it any longer. He saw that as much Bodie’s choice as his own.
Mind you, he missed it. Wasn’t a day went by when he didn’t look at Bodie and be taken by surprise; his body remembered, too well, even though his intellect said no. Remembered the days he could throw out any little spark and Bodie would catch fire from it.
The sex had been magic: but what else did they have?
Well, what else was there.
Doyle did not even know, any longer, just what he was looking for.
“D’you think he’d have killed me?”
Bodie was referring to Cowley, walking away from them at this moment, getting further away all the time.
“Yeh, I reckon he might have.” Doyle crouched over, recovering his breath.
Bodie exhaled, long and hard. “And since he didn’t—” Bodie turned to look at him, not really taking him in, very far away.
“Since he didn’t, I’m going to bloody well kill you!” Doyle exploded.
Bodie clearly didn’t understand this, looking at him as if he’d flipped, which was ironic, considering.
“Look, Bodie, I didn’t want to be any part of all this. It was your thing, your personal vendetta, your war, and I don’t pretend to understand any of it. But we’re—partners, so for godsake, I went with you some of the way. Nearly got myself killed for you in that stupid race—and just so you could score some sort of a point off a man with even less brain cells than you. And then I’m bloody stupid enough to throw in my lot with you, in your fight, when I see you’re way outnumbered, Well, just whose fuckin’ side did you think I was fighting on, eh Bodie? Eh?” He punched a vicious finger into Bodie’s chest, eyes positively sparking with fury. “I was risking a heck of a thumping, I knew that—eight big mindless thugs and only two of us. Of us. Hah. And then I hadn’t even reckoned on being swiped by the bloke I was wading in to help.”
Bodie had cottoned by now, was shaking his head. “Didn’t hit you—did I?”
“Of course you did, you dumb crud. Walloped me with a bloody great tree trunk when I was coming in to help.”
Bodie’s navyblue gaze was focused right on him, very direct, very serious. He rubbed the side of his nose as he said, “I swear it, Ray, I never meant to hit you. Just lost my head a bit, that’s all.” He tried to smile but it didn’t work as a smile, came across more as a cry for help.
Doyle grumbled, “Yeah, you’re not kidding. You need to get yourself together, you do, mate.” He glanced across at Cowley, deep in conference with Kate Ross. “An’ funnily enough I know just the person to help you.” Bodie looked that way and grimaced.
“I’m off,” Doyle said, leaning down, plucking his jacket off the ground. As he came back to the vertical he glanced at his partner and caught his expression. Bodie was pale, tightlipped, face set. “Ah—don’t look like that,” Doyle said, voice dropping, but the eyes which flicked up to meet his were still shadowed, haunted. Doyle moved in closer, the old, sick hunger in him, and he closed his fingers around Bodie’s muscular forearm. Bodie was trembling, deep and fast.
“Bodie.” Doyle enfolded him in a hard embrace, not caring if Cowley was watching. “Look, mate—if ever you need me—You know where I am.”
Bodie didn’t move at all, and didn’t move in his grasp; his nostrils flared a little, his lip curled as he looked down at Doyle. So Doyle let him go, slowly, and loped off through the woods to his car without looking back.
He thought about Bodie, that night, alone in his flat standing by the window, sipping at a beer, looking out into the night. Hell’s Angel. As an alter ego, it would have suited Bodie, whose alabaster skin and dark good looks were set off by black leather, huge gauntlets, a great bike throbbing between his straddling thighs. Anyone’s dream man, Bodie would be. So much power: and a soul touched by shadows. Magic. The black kind.
And not only that: Bodie intrigued him, yes, because he had that dark vein of otherness somewhere in him: but at the same time he was funny, amusing, silly in a way which appealed to Doyle. And in bed, he had seemed to answer Doyle’s every want, not always in a dramatic kind of way, just naturally, as if it came easily to him. Bodie and himself: the ideal partnership, in bed and out of it.
Doyle’s lips twisted in a savage little smile. Pity Bodie hadn’t seen it that way.
And yet, today, he had made the offer not out of desire but of simple pity. Bodie had looked so—alone.
But even tonight, Bodie didn’t come.
For the first time, Doyle knew he had lost Bodie, lost him for good.
Doyle felt numbed, slowed down too much for any but the most mechanical of tasks; his insides felt heavy and tense with some dread that dragged him down so that he was dangerously close to drowning. Having followed him home Bodie said, “Make us a cuppa, mate,” and obedient even to the falsely normal tone of Bodie’s voice he trailed into the kitchen, picked up the kettle, took it to the tap, filled it, returned it to the hob.
His eyes felt full and heavy: his vision kept blurring, he had to keep blinking to sweep the haze away. He took down one mug, and then another, and then simply stood there, disbelieving. She had left him. She really had. He had loved her so much, and he had told her that over and over. And still she had left him.
“You look all in, mate. I’ll do that.” Bodie’s voice came from behind him, rough with sympathy, and he took the mugs from Doyle and began to put together drinks with an efficiency Doyle could only detachedly admire. He kept breathing in, trying to ease the deep, sick feeling in his belly, but it stayed there like a lump of stone.
“Siddown,” Bodie said to him. “Drink this.” Some man on the radio was bemoaning in lugubrious tone—somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some… and that was exactly how he felt, just as if he had been kicked. Kicked hard in the guts by some flying punch, kicked and left for dead or dying from some unstoppable internal bleeding.
He sat, mind numb, body in dread, hands wrapped around the hot mug of coffee Bodie had set in front of him.
“You look done in, Ray,” Bodie said again. “I’d get an early night if I were you.”
Yes, well. Certainly there was no point in going out on the town to celebrate.
His eye caught sight of a mark on the table. Tomato sauce. Not ketchup—the real thing. They had had pasta last night—he had made it himself, whistling as he put it together in dashing chef’s style. In return Ann had offered to clear up. Looking round, however, he could see that not only could she not cook, cleaning didn’t seem to be her forte either: he jumped to his feet, fetched a cloth, and wiped the table to remove the errant sauce stain, and then began on the cooker, which had either been done very sketchily or not at all. But then, they had had better things to do last night.
Bodie was watching him uneasily. “Look, Ray, don’t bother with that. I’ll have a bit of a cleanup for you if you like. You just go and get your head down.”
“Comes to something, dunnit,” he said, head down, still scrubbing. “When two bachelors make a better job of it than some bird.”
“Yeh, well, struck me she was far too much of a lady to get her hands dirty.”
Doyle absorbed that, heard the note in Bodie’s voice and something slipped into place for him:
“Look, I like Ann, okay.”
Bodie had been lying. He didn’t like Ann, not anything about her.
“Reckon you’ve put your finger right on it, Bodie. Yeah, that’s it. An’ if she’d have stayed with me, she’d have got her hands dirty all right, wouldn’t she?”
CI5, killing people, blood on his shirts that she’d have to wash out.
“—And she wouldn’t have liked that.” Head hanging down, cloth stilled, he stared at the cooker.
Bodie said, looking past him, “Can’t really blame her for that, Ray. How many of us find someone who sticks around for long? It’s not a job you can leave behind when you come in the door.”
“’S true,” Doyle agreed. He chucked the cloth into the sink. “And I obviously wasn’t worth giving it much of a try.”
Bodie said with an edge to his voice, “Not to her, no.” And when Doyle turned hard on his heel to catch his gaze Bodie faced him out, bleak and determined. “Well, someone had to say it. Truth is, Doyle, anyone could see little Miss Prissy Knickers wasn’t going to hang around longer than it took her to work out she wasn’t going to be able to change you into the sort of bloke she really wanted—9–5, white collar, 20K a year and a membership to the golf club. She wasn’t right for you, Ray. Writing was on the wall from the start.”
“Oh yeah,” Doyle said, and repeated it, anger, something, making him shiver violently again and again; “And what would you know about it? Did you bug my bedroom?”
Bodie met his eyes, unflinching. “I didn’t need to to see she was a bitch. Just a bitch, Ray. Like that other frigid cow you hooked yourself up to—one who made out you were too low to touch her tits.”
For a moment Doyle’s mind flashed back to that night in Scotland: Susanna might have been frigid, he and Bodie had paid her back for that, rolling riotously in the muck till dawn. And had she guessed—? No; but she had sensed—something, and he hadn’t cared, had flung that not-caring in her face: you may not want me, darlin’, but someone else, someone better, does.
Until Bodie had dumped him too, of course.
A long line of failed affairs: Susanna. Shelley. Sophie. Annabel. Claire. All the way down to the only ones who had really mattered to him: Bodie. And Ann.
He turned away from Bodie deliberately, saw himself in the mirror, watching himself without mercy: pale face, marked at one cheek by violence, too-wide eyes huge and overbright; unless you liked the frog resemblance, nothing special, not in any way.
“Yeah, should be used to it by now, shouldn’t I?
Quite right, Bodie. No-one hangs around with me for long, christ, you’d think I’d have learned that by now. Should learn to keep me ’ands to meself, shouldn’t I?”
He saw Bodie’s sudden movement behind him, and Bodie said sharply, without pity, “We all go through it, mate. Listening to you, you’d think no-one else knew what it was like.”
“Oh yeah?” Bodie, who only had to lift an eyebrow to bring the hordes running, any female you cared to name, Glad the tea lady, Mike the night porter, Cowley who loved him better than Scotland. Doyle looked at Bodie with a sort of envy, really looked at him, took in the classic beauty of his face and his eyes, the strength of his hands and his body— “Don’t pretend you know what it’s like, mate, because I’ll just throw up on you. It never ’appens to you.”
He had bid for Bodie, in the past. And lost.
“Of course it does,” Bodie said, cold, distant. His eyes swept darkly over Doyle. “You think you’re the only person who falls for someone who couldn’t give a toss for you when it comes down to it?” He waved a hand in the air. “Ah, come off it, Doyle. Rough justice, I’d say myself.”
For the life of him Doyle couldn’t see why Bodie was taking this line with him. It really was almost funny. Still, better anger than sympathy, any day. In another moment they’d be fighting, and that was just what he felt like. Yeah: slug it out with Bodie, nice end to the day. He’d get to sleep anyway; one good punch to the jaw from Bodie’s solid fist should do it.
“Thanks, Bodie. Ever thought of joinin’ the Samaritans? You’d be a natural. I’m telling you.” He went to the fridge. Wrenched it open. Knelt and looked inside. “Only trouble is, you’re supposed to be talking us away from the the overdose, not recommending a good all-night chemist.” Two cans of beer at the back. He reached in.
Bodie was right there behind him, voice unexpectedly low, almost gentle. Trying— “Look. I’m sorry Ann’s gone. I know you’re feeling terrible. I wish—”
“—what?” Doyle prompted. Carrying the cans he rose to his feet and turned to find himself pinioned in the circle of Bodie’s arms. And at the last moment Bodie did not move away. I wish—
Instant reaction. Doyle struck him off with a force and a violence which threw them apart like 10,000 volts.
“Ah, Bodie—don’t start all that again.”
It had cost him, after all, so many nights and days of struggle to come to terms with it, to realise that there was going to be no happy ending, that Bodie was never going to walk back in the door, hang his hat on the hook and come back to him. One little touch…was all it took to remind him. Bitterness. Hurt. And loss.
Strangely it was those very things he saw mirrored in Bodie’s eyes, before Bodie took a deep breath and struck at him—
“You little bastard. I wasn’t coming on to you. I was just—trying to be nice to you, for godsake.”
“Nice,” he sneered, rocking on his feet. “Well, don’t bother on my account. I’m not used to it. Shock might kill me.”
He paced around the kitchen, so restless, simmering, dangerously close to the sort of outburst he knew he’d regret and didn’t care, announcing to the room: “What a bloody perfect day. The girl I wanted to marry dumps me. And my ex-lover offers me a mercy fuck.”
He was flirting with danger now, actually courting Bodie’s fury, but Bodie had his own little spurt of violence well in hand now, answering him quietly, black eyes ranging over him, “Yeh, I know. Hell of a day for you. Have a drink, Ray. Get to bed.”
Bodie took the cans from him and set them down, reaching instead for the whisky bottle on the shelf. He poured them both a tumbler-full, and Doyle watched him, feeling suddenly desperately, threateningly tired. Trouble was, anger kept him going, flying out on a high taut line; but Bodie’s softness he knew he could not take, he was in danger of letting go, to fall. To throw himself into Bodie’s arms for the sheer…comfort of it. He sensed it was there, his but for the asking. It would be so easy.
And then he would lose every last shred of pride he had and weep out loud.
Not possible. Not allowed.
The drink helped a bit; he wandered, glass in hand, into his little lounge, sat on the settee where he and Ann had looked at photographs together. Before he had positively registered that some of the shivers which racked him were due to cold, Bodie was there throwing a sweater at him.
“You’re blue. Not a pretty sight. Put that on.” And Bodie sat down, safely on the other side of the room.
“I really loved her, you know,” he said, struggling into the sweater.
“Yeh, I know.”
“Why didn’t she love me? Wouldn’t have hurt her to try, would it?”
“These things happen.”
“What do I do now?” He laughed, bitter, empty.
Bodie got up and filled his glass without being asked. Doyle drank it down and realised after a moment that Bodie was talking to him, answering his question:
“Give it a bit of time, eh? You’ll find someone else. One day.”
“No point to it though, is there? I keep on tryin’. Can’t do any more. And it always ends up this way.”
The alcohol released all his tight control in a rush; when he shut his eyes this time it was to stem the flow of angry tears. He felt the settee dip beside him and Bodie’s arm go around him.
“Look, it might seem that way tonight. You’re getting maudlin, Ray, it’s the drink. Just because one tight little bitch dumped on you doesn’t mean you’re high and dry forever. Just means she wasn’t right for you. I keep telling you.” Bodie’s voice was very warm, very close.
He leaned against Bodie’s shoulder. Pressed his lips tightly together to stop the involuntary quiver of his mouth. “Look, I wanna tell you something. When I think about it—you want to know something, Bodie? No-one’s ever loved me. What do I do wrong?” Steeped in his own misery, a parade of people who had failed to love him stretching back as far as his mother and sisters, he took a while to realise that Bodie had left him. He opened his eyes to see Bodie standing in front of the window, back turned to Doyle, legs apart, hands stuffed in his pockets.
Bodie said without turning: “You’re a selfish bloody bastard at times, aren’t you?”
“What?” Doyle said. His eyes and his nose and his throat were blocked with tears. He dragged his sleeve over his eyes and sniffed.
“Look, I’ve got feelings too, you know. Though sometimes I wondered if you ever knew that…”
“What are you on about?” The change of pace had left him utterly confused.
“Obviously I wasn’t in her class. But didn’t I count?”
“Count what?” He felt dizzy now, befuddled.
Bodie twisted around then and looked at him, darkly enigmatic. “Didn’t I count at all? I loved you.”
Doyle’s heart began to pound unexpectedly, turning over sickly in his chest. He gazed at Bodie without saying anything. Bodie continued, looking at him, through him, into the past, “May not have been what you wanted. I know that. But you can’t have it all ways. Can’t sit here moaning no-one’s ever loved me and expect me to nod my head and sweetly agree. Because I haven’t forgotten…though maybe you have.”
A new shock: he felt number than ever. An arrowstrike right in his heart: he would not feel the pain of it till later.
“I never knew you—”
Bodie interrupted him harshly. “For chrissake, Doyle. Of course you knew.”
“I didn’t know.”
“Ah, come off it, Ray. Everyone knew. Cowley knew. Kate Ross knew. Wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a note on it in the Kremlin somewhere. The whole bloody world knew.”
“Well how the fuck was I supposed to know? You never said anything.”
Bodie was looking at him, eyebrow quirked, a little quizzical, as if not quite sure whether Doyle was having him on or not. “Look, Doyle, I didn’t need to stand singing under your window for you to get that I was hung up on you in a big way.”
“Look—I’m telling you—I never knew.”
Bodie tossed down the rest of his drink, harshly. “Well, now you do.”
Doyle looked at him, quite silent. Bodie met his eyes in a reckless, devil take it all sort of way. “Might as well spell it out for you, since your brain seems to have switched itself off. When I say, loved you, I’d have lain down and died for you. Come to that I still would.” He tipped up his glass again, found it empty, and looked into it, frowning as he said quietly, “Is that good enough for you? You didn’t win her, but you had me. Maybe you don’t reckon that counts for much, like I said. But there it is.”
Bodie’s voice was so quiet Doyle could hardly hear him. He couldn’t seem to think of anything to say. “I never guessed.”
Bodie cast him a look of irritation. “Don’t keep saying that.”
“Why did you ditch me then?” Doyle said thickly. He got to his feet and took the bottle from Bodie. Bodie didn’t let go of it. They stood there holding it between them.
“Get real, Doyle. Had to stop sometime. You were just leading me on, it was just a bit of fun to you.”
“I—” Doyle started, and shut his mouth on it, too fuddled to order his thoughts into coherent speech.
“So you’ll understand,” Bodie said smoothly, “not having managed to get over you entirely, I wasn’t too thrilled when you announced undying love for little Miss Prim, stars in your eyes, opening your big mouth and expecting me to give you a sympathetic ear. Knew I couldn’t have you, you didn’t want me, but that didn’t make it any easier for me watching her dangling you on a string.”
Yet he had said nothing. Been expected to align himself on Doyle’s side and fight George Cowley for the privilege of her hand. Even come round here tonight, because Doyle was miserable, because Doyle needed someone and had not had the grace to say so. And that must have been the bitterest thing of all: watching Doyle’s distress because he loved Ann Holly and could not bear that she had left him.
But Bodie had had the courage to do it.
Was that love—?
He was so desperately tired. Tired and sad and drunk. He rubbed his eyes with his hands, fiercely, alone in the middle of the floor.
“Go to bed, Ray. I’ll see if I can charm George into letting you have the day off tomorrow.” Bodie’s voice was getting fainter; he was leaving.
“And if you can’t?” he yawned, swaying, asleep on his feet.
“Then it’s business as usual, sunshine.”
Almost usual, anyway. No day off granted, Doyle looked at Bodie sideways once or twice and wondered if he had imagined it.
Well, it made a perverse kind of sense, he could just about see it, how Bodie’s longing had reversed itself and denied itself so that it would never show. Rejection hurt. Doyle could testify to that.
Too raw, too vulnerable. Too proud. Too many failures in the past, Marikka, Claire. Yes, you could see why Bodie hadn’t exactly laid it on the line.
Doyle hefted the pint up from the bar counter and drank deeply, thoughtfully. The barman dropped change into his hand and Doyle muttered a syllable of thanks.
But he had not.
Had Kate Ross tried to tell him? All but written it down for him? He didn’t think so. Highly unethical, that would be, and she was nothing if not relentlessly by-the-book. But she was, however, always telling him tartly that he was missing the point. Probably it had all been there for him, if his eyes had opened just a little wider.
“Penny for ’em.”
Doyle started. Murphy, big and blue-eyed, swung himself onto the stool next to him and grinned. Dark and handsome. Like Bodie. Only unlike.
“Buy you a pint, Ray?”
“Thanks.” Doyle rapidly lowered the level of beer in his glass, swallowing fast.
“You okay?” Murph asked, studiedly casual. Instantly Doyle’s senses flipped onto alert. Murphy was here to check up on him. Make sure he wasn’t drinking himself into oblivion.
“Oh yeah. Fine. Just another bird, wasn’t she, when all’s said and done? Plenty more on the tree.”
“Good lad,” Murphy said with satisfaction. “Thanks, Barney.” He handed over the money and lined up another pint next to Doyle’s near-empty one.
“Yeah,” Doyle said, “After all, they’re all the same, aren’t they, when the light’s out?” He drained the first pint and closed his hand around the one Murphy had bought him, acknowledging it with a “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” Murphy said. “That’s my boy. Go out and knock ’em dead.”
“What, the way I always do?” Doyle agreed caustically. It was on his mind to ask Murphy—
—but then again.
“Seen Bodie anywhere?” Murphy was asking, obviously psychic, head swivelling from side to side.
“We’re not joined at the hip, y’know.” Doyle heard his own voice snap out and catch Murph unawares. Well, so be it. The other man had done his duty: here Doyle was, on CI5 premises, ungassed, undrugged, undead. He fell into a silence, frowning as he stared at his glass.
“Well, better be off now,” Murphy said kindly, uneasily, sensing the shutters closing. He finished his beer quickly. “Don’t mind, do you? Promised Stuart a game of pool. Join us if you want.”
“Thanks,” Doyle said, not intending to.
And where was Bodie, then?
Still freezing him out, obviously.
Par for the course.
Doyle awoke from a shattering dream in which Bodie’s mouth, artificially reddened, surrounded his cock in a scarlet ‘O’.
Or maybe it was his own mouth around Bodie’s cock. Either way it had lit unholy fires in him; he finished the job with a few trembling strokes, his whole body tensed and hushed and thrilled as the easy come shot away from him into his own fist.
He lay with his heart thudding, hand flung up over his eyes. Wonderful. A bizarre erotic dream about Bodie wearing lipstick on the morning he was due his regular quarterly interrogation with Dr Kate Ross. Word had it she was psychic—well, she was in for a treat then, wasn’t she?
He yawned as he threw back the covers, every pulse in his body echoing still with a far-off sweet and sensual note. In the shower he washed the sweat and sex away.
Lipstick. He couldn’t ever remember adorning himself with lipstick prior to blowing Bodie, though it was possible: they had done some pretty weird things when the fancy took them. He did remember Bodie finding some stuff under his couch—rolled there from some bird’s handbag—and outlining Doyle’s nipples in a shocking shade of crimson. He couldn’t remember what, if anything, it had done for him, but Bodie had obviously found it a turn-on. And Bodie unleashed was always such a thrill to him, that little nagging sense that Bodie out of control was dangerous…
He shivered as he stepped, naked and dripping, out of the shower feeling defiantly reckless. Let Kate Ross sort it out. He was just in the mood for her today.
But as always, the cold reality of her presence imposed on him the usual sense of obligation: a duty to be honest, or the whole thing was a cheat and only himself to lose in the end. Maybe she hypnotised him or something. Whatever it was she did to him it obviously didn’t work on Bodie. Bodie who had dodged every which way to avoid any embarrassing disclosures. In any case, she smiled at him this morning, pleased with him, nodding.
“Field scores—exceptional. Fitness rating—in the superior range. And—” she paused, letting the paper drop pointedly to the desk— “partnership scores, the highest of the division.”
“Well, that’s something.” He could not repress a grin of pride.
“I’ll be making a formal note that the reteaming of yourself with 3.7 has been a success.”
“—that’s if,” she amended, “what I learn from you today doesn’t conflict with those statistical findings.”
“Right,” he agreed, more faintly.
“Statistics maketh not the man,” she sermonised gaily, drawing forth a scathing stare from Doyle: christ, but she was frisky today.
Her manner became at once more serious. Not unfriendly, just getting on with the job in hand. “Perhaps you can tell me why you think there’s been such an allround improvement? What’s changed in your life since I last saw you?”
What’s changed. A confusing jumble of thoughts popped up into his head. He tried to sort them into some semblance of order and meaning.
“Things have settled down…” he said in the end, vaguely: “The job’s—okay; doesn’t get any easier, but maybe you learn to deal with it better… ”
“Oh, 4.5. A man who reads Hegel? I’m sure you can do better than that.”
She certainly seemed to be in a rare old humour today; even verging on the playful! Unbelievable. He ventured a smile at her: just a small one, and was a little disappointed when her expression cooled unmistakably.
“Well, 4.5. I have no worries at present regarding your mental health in respect of your ability to perform your job.”
“That’s all right, then.” He made as if to go.
“So let’s move on.” And he sank back with a theatrical groan.
“For one minute I thought you were going to let me get away early. Would’ve been nice. Cowley doesn’t allow lunch and therapy.” His eyes fell on her small rosebud mouth, and lingered there. Lipstick a dark plum colour. Very different from the dream Bodie’s. An erotic flash tingled in his nerves as the shadow of the dream touched him; for a moment, he was fully taken by the fanciful vision of Kate Ross going down on him, neat hair tousled, icy skin a little flushed as she mouthed the tip of him—gulped down greedy spurts of come—
Well, are you psychic, Madam Ross?
Evidently her powers in that direction had been overrated, because she remained quite unmoved by any visionary erotica, her composure exact as it ever was as she waited for him to speak.
He had completely forgotten the question, anyway.
…For Kate Ross’ part, she was noticing that agent 4.5, name Raymond Doyle, was looking more relaxed today, more like the days of old before he had learned the rules, when he had tried to flirt with her: give her that smile of his which would set out guileless, then metamorphosise into pure or impure seduction: he couldn’t help it, she didn’t blame him, it was just his nature to try it on. That little, devastating smile which would crease his cheek, the droop of heavy lashes over those eyes—her mother would have called them bedroom eyes, and Kate Ross had long ago decided that nature had designed Ray Doyle as her surefire secret weapon in case the human race ever looked in danger of extinction. It really wasn’t his fault he was always out there spreading his sperm around: it was Nature’s. Nature had formed Ray Doyle deliberately to be irresistible. It was hard to put your finger on exactly what it was. But, for example: whatever he wore he looked good in it, whether smart, or scruffy as today, in well-washed navy sweatshirt and faded pale denims: he smelt delicious, looked enticing from whatever angle, even when he was tired, even when he was angry, even when he wasn’t trying. She would bet money that no-one could resist him for long. She would bet money that no-one could be in the same room with him for long and not have sex cross their mind. Whatever it was, Doyle had it. In spades.
“Sorry,” he was saying. “What did you ask?”
She had forgotten, too. She looked down at her notes.
“What’s changed, 4.5? What’s good in your life at the moment? Tell me about it.”
“I wouldn’t say anything’s good, particularly. But I suppose I’ve come to terms with things, that’s all.”
“Losing Ann. Losing Bodie…”
Now they were getting there. “Yes, you were engaged for a short while, weren’t you?”
No attempt at commiseration, he noticed, and thank god for that. “Only to Ann,” he said caustically. “Me an’ Bodie, somehow we never got round to it. Couldn’t decide on the ring, you see.”
She took no notice at all of the sarcasm. “Do you see the two things in the same light?” When he didn’t immediately reply she continued, quoting from her notes, “‘Losing Ann. Losing Bodie’. Let’s take Miss Holly for a start. What would you do, 4.5, if she came back tomorrow? Let’s say, she’d had time to think—? Realised she’d made a mistake—?”
He opened his eyes wide at the unconscious cruelty of it. “I’d be over the moon,” he said slowly, deliberately. You stupid cow.
“No second thoughts, then, on your part? The engagement would be on again—” she held up a hand— “Don’t say anything for a moment. Just think about it for a little while.”
Inwardly mutinous, Doyle shut his eyes, crossed his arms and sulked. But after a while of calm silence he grew bored of the inner view of his eyelids and summoned her up, after all.
There she was. Cool, pale, beautiful. Cool even in bed; it was half her fascination, engaging all of his most aggressively male instincts in the battle to one day break through that moonlight cool and bring forth all her inner warmth and passion—
And what a typical male fantasy that was. He could see it now: she would be a Susanna. How long would it be before they got back from the opera or some cultural book-binding event, and he would turn to her, in love, to be met with ‘don’t let’s spoil our beautiful evening, Ray’—
Well yes, she was essentially cold. And would not hesitate to be cruel: he knew that already.
Would he really want to spend a lifetime with her?
And the damning answer came: no.
Three years, perhaps, before he was looking elsewhere for the warmth and passion denied him at home: she would not look outside, not she, she’d be too taken up with their two pale cool children, George and Olivia, and her part-time career, and her evening classes in interior design. So then there would be an amicable divorce, conducted with the same impeccable civility and restraint threaded throughout her entire life: they would lose touch almost straight away, write one another off as one of those mistakes, she still up there on her higher plane of art and culture, himself slipped back again, down into the underworld of his life that was not hers, death, blood, sweat, lust, life.
He opened his eyes wide as it all flashed before him like a dream, and it could have been true. Feeling Kate Ross’ curious gaze on him did nothing for his temper: he felt disloyal, to Ann perhaps, but most of all to his own eager idealistic self which had begged Ann to marry him as if his one chance of happiness depended on it.
“What do you want me to say?” he snapped, and she deflected him calmly.
“I don’t want you to say anything. I just asked you to think about it.”
And then his temper broke as he slammed both hands down on the table in front of him. “All right. It would never have worked. So it’s turned out for the best. Then why do I still feel so bloody lousy about it?”
Kate Ross regarded him unsmilingly. “Only you can answer that, 4.5.”
He was ready for that one. “Five bloody years of training, and you can’t give me an answer?”
“—because it wouldn’t help you if I did.”
“Try me.” His eyes were bright with challenge.
“The only conclusions worth anything at all are the ones you draw for yourself. Of all the people I work with in here, I’d say you were the closest to understanding that, 4.5.”
“Doesn’t say much for the rest of ’em, then,” he jeered.
“But you know I’m right.”
He took a deep breath. “All right. Write off Ann. So now you’re going to tell me—no. Now you’re going to help me discover just how much better off I am without Bodie?”
“Well, that depends, doesn’t it? At the beginning of this conversation you seemed to equate the two circumstances: losing Ann. Losing Bodie. But are they in fact the same?”
Her calm manner, unchanged throughout his own fluctuating moods, was doing its job, bringing him down rapidly from the peak. He put his head in his hands, rested his eyes against his fingers for a brief moment.
“I can’t think any more. Tell me.”
She took pity on him: “What I’m suggesting, what I want you to think about, is the reasons for you throwing yourself so wholeheartedly into a relationship you can see now would never have worked.”
Why had he?
The answer came clear and cold: because he had been burned by Bodie, that was why. On the rebound. What a cliche. But like all the best cliches, it had the merit of authenticity.
“I took the next best thing, after Bodie, that came along. Just to prove—”
“It’s a very easy trap to fall into,” she soothed. “Quite typical. And some people, of course, never recover from that. It becomes a downward spiral, and it repeats itself over and over again, falling from one failed relationship to the next without any real thought as to whether it might work or not: as if it’s enough to be seen to be succeeding, for however brief a time; and, are you listening to me 4.5? We don’t want that for you. You can do better than that for yourself.”
He sighed. All the weight of the world on his soul.
“So, as in many things, it’s time to look backwards. To sort out what went wrong there, before you can move on to the future. So let’s go back, 4.5. To Bodie.” It was so rare for her to use their names that he looked up at her, his face blurred with chagrin. “After you and 3.7 put an end to your sexual relationship, there was a marked decline in your psychological profiles.”
“Oh, that’s a surprise,” he said sarcastically. “Bet you needed to look that one up.” His gaze canted upwards to the ranks of thickest tomes around the wall, detailing between them, no doubt, every smallest facet of human nature and its cause. Including the fact that a final, terminating row with your lover could send you into a temporary decline.
“Did you miss the physical side of your relationship?”
“Yeh,” he drawled, offensive. “Never been to bed with Bodie, have you? Ah, shame.” Bright, bold eyes sought out hers, attempted to engage her in provocation. But she simply looked at him calmly, dispassionately.
“But you made no effort to resume it.”
“Why was that?”
His hands gripped tight, tighter, on the corner of the desk, a small gesture she did not miss, weighing his obvious tension in her mind against the benefits of continuing. But it was time, really. All this had gone on long enough.
He said at last: “In some ways, it seemed the best thing…”
“Yes?” Looking at her, he got no clues as to her thoughts. He went on: “It was goin’ the wrong way— we didn’t see eye to eye about a lot of things—And I didn’t realise—”
“You didn’t realise what?”
“Look, I didn’t realise Bodie saw it as anything more than an easy lay nights he was too lazy to go out and pull some bird.”
“Is that how you saw it?” she probed, gently.
He gave her a smile, flirtatious again, even. “Yeah, sometimes.”
“And at other times?”
“—other times—” he shrugged. “I dunno… I had this feeling, stupid really, we’d be all right together. Just the two of us, you know? No-one else. But Bodie never seemed to want any more than what we had. I mean, he fancied me. Oh yeh, he wanted me all right. But somehow I never guessed it was any more than that for him.”
She was careful not to let anything show, not by so much as a flicker of one eyebrow. “And was it more than that?”
He flicked a glance up at her. “Well, you should know. Can’t see why he’d lie about it. According to Bodie everyone knew, including you.” He didn’t say it in an aggrieved sort of way: Doyle knew the rules. But it would have been only human of him to hold it against her.
So. When the breakthrough had come, it had been that easy. Somehow, some time when she was not looking at them, not checking them, had her attention on some other problem from the many Cowley threw her way, Bodie had made that leap in the dark. Told Doyle what had been obvious to Kate Ross for many months. And found, she hoped, some peace.
“4.5.” She recalled him from his thoughts. “We’ve made a lot of progress today: I think you’ll find it useful. Just one more thing—”
She was looking at him quite nicely for her, not sympathetic exactly, but warmer than usual. Doyle suddenly had the impression that she liked him rather more than he had ever realised. It was enough to make him grin at her, leaning back and stretching in his chair, raking a hand through his hair. “Haven’t I coughed up enough for you to get off on yet?”
“Just one more thing,” she repeated. She had never, by word or implication, come close to this before. But it was time. Get him past this, and then he could move on by himself.
“Why did you and 3.7 decide to split up?”
He only looked at her, no grin now. She continued: “You had—not a perfect relationship, but a workable one. More workable, as we’ve seen, than the one you had with the woman you asked to marry you. You had regular sex together and very often you preferred that, both of you, to sex with your girlfriends. What went wrong, 4.5?”
He took a deep breath, but did not reply straight away.
“Can you tell me about it?” she asked, definitely gentle now.
“It’s not easy…”
“Take your time.”
He was frowning now, staring down at his own hand resting on the desk in front of him, tapping his fingers restlessly. “Bodie—couldn’t handle it.”
“Mm?” she said to encourage him after a moment.
“Well, you know he couldn’t. You told me yourself he never could admit to you that he went to bed with me.” He stared up at her, those strange green eyes narrow, focused. “He had a kind of thing about queers—poofters, call ’em what you like. My guess is, he couldn’t stand to think of himself like that.”
“Are you saying, you were 3.7’s first male sexual partner—?”
A small, involuntary smile. “Oh no, very unlikely.” The smile went out. “But you see, Bodie—and people like him, I’ve met ’em before—they think it’s okay to—” Dr Ross smiled inwardly as she watched him scrolling down his vocabulary to find something suitable for her— “to grab a bit of sex with another bloke. Quick and easy, no strings, no words if you don’t want to bother with ’em. I expect Bodie was used to that. Army days, and all that. But—”
“But it wasn’t like that?”
“Sometimes it was,” he said directly. “And sometimes—”
She let the frowning reverie he had fallen into carry on for some time before she prompted him— “Sometimes?”
He roused himself, looked her unflinchingly in the eye. “I think Bodie was getting in too deep. And he couldn’t take it. Ah, you know him. You know how he has to be alone. He has to be independent. Just that bit further out than everybody else. He was backing off, and I didn’t want to let him. And then—” He looked at the window briefly, brought his gaze back to Kate Ross silently waiting, a little defiant, a little angry now. “We did a few—farout things. It worried Bodie. Disturbed him. He liked it—but then he didn’t like it, if you know what I mean.”
“Bondage?” she asked, perfectly cool. “The sexual politics of power?”
He was looking quite disconcerted. “Not really.”
And she had it, just like that. “Or gender, perhaps?” Instantaneous. His eyes shot into narrowed slits, and she knew she had it. One nail, well and truly hit on the head.
The little silence that followed gave Kate Ross time for thought: so, what was it then? I imagine—what do I imagine? Raymond Doyle, tarted up a bit, would probably be irresistible to a man of 3.7’s inclinations, and plenty more besides: he had that way, rare enough, of transmuting anything he wore into yet another elusive hint at his own ambiguous sexuality. And that was a thought in itself: possibly, probably, there had been some experimentation with female clothing, not an unusual fetish even in the quote, unquote ‘normal’, and Doyle was not that. A line constantly drawn over and over in 4.5’s psychosexual profile was of some gender ambiguity. Not that it worried 4.5 at all.
But it worried the hell out of Bodie. Oh yes, that must have been how it was. Bodie had liked the hint of thrilling perversity, Doyle dressing up for him, pretending to be a woman for him, or however it had been: he had liked it too much. Hated himself for it. Cut himself off from Doyle and kept away. It wasn’t okay to love Doyle at all, and it certainly wasn’t okay to love Doyle as some pseudo-woman.
All these things drew themselves in Kate Ross’ diamond-sharp mind like lightning flashing across the sky; and did not show in her face by so much as a flicker of her eye. She laid down her pen and allowed him a little smile. There he was, watching her, a little crease of worry between his eyes.
“I think we’ll stop there.”
Every taut nerve in Doyle slumped with relief, but he pulled himself up again quickly. “Unless there’s anything else you want to tell me. Or ask me,” she added.
The worry smoothed itself out, and the crease flashed instead to his cheek as a smile. “Plenty. But you wouldn’t answer the questions I want to ask, would you?”
She ignored this and told him instead: “You’re doing very well, 4.5. Really very well indeed.”
“Yeah?” he said ironically. He was already on his feet, alert, fit, taut with energy. “Well, if you say so it must be true, mustn’t it?”
Bodie was, if not exactly hanging around, not far away. He fell into step beside his partner on the white-pebbled drive between the ranks of cherry trees, still leafy green, as Doyle acknowledged him with a lift of the eyebrow.
“Get on okay?”
Doyle shrugged. “I dunno. How d’you tell?”
“Did you pass? is what I mean.”
“It’s not a test, Bodie, like you pass or fail.”
“Oh, I think it is, Doyle,” Bodie said, dark, enigmatic. “Whether you know it or not.”
“In that case, I passed. In fact, she was panting over me today. So much, I was lucky to escape with all my clothes. Fancy coming for a run? Down the Brompton?”
“We could go for a drink afterwards.”
Bodie did not immediately reply. “Well?” Doyle prompted.
“Look, don’t push it, Doyle. We’ll do the run— okay?”
Evidently Kate Ross had wound him up more than he’d realised, because that made him snap, just like that, taut and fragile as a web of glass.
“I just asked you to go for a fucking drink, not any fucking thing else.”
“And I said no, okay?” Bodie said coolly. “Don’t make a big deal out of it, Doyle.” And he lengthened his strides to pace on and away from Doyle, leaving him further behind with every step.
So that was how things were. Doyle lingered behind, a lump of stone inside him, a chill around him in the pretty springtime air.
Kate Ross had misled him. There was no way back.
It was very late when Bodie rang the bell of Doyle’s Tottenham Court Road apartment, certainly too late for any usual social call in any ordinary life, but then no such things applied to them. Doyle was barely awake, sliteyed, wearing a rumpled shirt and worn blue jeans, bare feet. He smelt of sweat and sleep and fading aftershave. Bodie followed him into the narrow hallway, turning to set the locks with automatic instinct, one which Doyle seemed to lack; he was forever forgetting to do it. He went through to the living room, pausing on the way outside Doyle’s bathroom, where Doyle was standing flatfooted at the toilet, the torrential downpour evidence of more than a pint or two consumed earlier in the evening.
When Doyle came into the living room he threw himself into a chair and spread the fingers of his right hand over his eyes. Not in a dramatic sort of way; a tired, had-enough sort of gesture.
“You been drinking?” Bodie asked.
“Not really. Fell asleep. Come to call me on duty?” He didn’t remove the hand from his eyes and his voice was blurry.
“Don’t think you’re fit for it, are you?” Bodie asked ironically. He slid himself to the back of his seat and picked up a magazine from Doyle’s coffee table. He opened it at random. Autocar.
Doyle took the hand away. Ice in his eyes flaring across the room. “You really suggestin’ I’m unfit for duty? That’s a serious allegation, you know. Wanna take it any further?” Definitely contentious. Looking for a fight.
“All right, all right,” Bodie returned mildly. “So I just broke into your beauty sleep, point taken.”
Doyle glared. “Yeh. And if you’ve not come round here solicitin’ my ninja skills, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me get back to it.” Fully awake now, he looked over at his partner who had made himself very much at home, feet up on a footstool, deep inside the pages of Autocar.
“Just exactly what are you doing here?” he asked, and all the warning signs were on.
Bodie did not answer the question directly. “Had my session with the delightful Doctor Ross.”
“Oh yeah. And you passed, of course.” Steeped in irony.
Bodie laid the Autocar down, looked across at Doyle, all hard flippancy himself. “What did you expect? One of these days she’ll give up trying to find anything wrong with me.”
“Must be nice to be perfect. Only, of course, you don’t tell her everything, do you? Very selective with the truth, I’ve heard.”
Around the mouth Bodie was suddenly white. “That’s professional indiscretion, Doyle. You wanna be careful if you don’t want to lay her open to a nice malpractice charge.”
Doyle tilted his head, and the slow contempt of the look he gave Bodie froze him into silence. Doyle was very soft as he said, “Oh, you needn’t worry. She doesn’t mention you much these days. Hardly at all. After all, you don’t exactly figure large in my life any more.”
Bodie said nothing.
“Enjoyed the run, though,” Doyle added as if in afterthought, into the ugly silence.
Nobody said anything more for a while. Doyle, very tired, very depressed, tipped his head back on the settee. In the absence of the taunt of his gaze, Bodie’s eye ran quickly over him, taking in the hollows of his throat above the opened shirt, the faded jeans soft with wear, the bare feet. Doyle’s eyes opened then and trapped Bodie’s watching him. Bodie looked away.
“Ah, don’t worry, Bodie, I’m not about to make a pass at you.” Doyle said, cynical with contempt. “I’ve got the message, okay? From you and everyone else.”
Watching the sudden distance in his eyes Bodie said with a real anger, “Well, poor old Ray. I shouldn’t worry about it, though. Might do you good to give it a rest for a while.” Lately Doyle had been burning his way, at great speed, through an excessive number of women even for Doyle.
“Well, while we’re on the subject,” Doyle said, smiling still, eyes struck in steel, “there’s something I want from you, been bugging me a lot lately.”
“I don’t owe you anything, Doyle.” Bodie was on his feet now, angry.
Doyle was up there with him in one bound. “Oh no? Well, perhaps you don’t, Bodie, I’m not going to argue with you. But—” he took a deep breath, lowered his eyes beneath his leashes, “—you love me, don’t you. So you say. So you’ll do it anyway.”
Bodie turned away from him abruptly, hands stuffing into his pockets. “You’re sick, Doyle.”
“Oh, I don’t think so. No more than anyone else. No more than you, anyway. Love.” Doyle spat out the innocent word. “Did I dream it? Did you say you loved me, for chrissake?” And when no answer came, “Did you, Bodie? Did you say that?”
Bodie turned to look him in the eye and his voice was low as he said:
“You know I did.”
He had pushed Bodie for that. Had needed to. Needed to back Bodie into a corner and make him get it out into the open. But now he had, he found that after all it did not help: just opened up a new area to joust in. Doyle laughed bitterly. “And he says I’m sick. Loved me, did you? Oh yeah. I remember. Loved me so much you told one of your bloody birds that queers should be horsewhipped for filthy practices.” Bodie had swung around, away from him: Doyle took one step nearer the broad hunched back. “Loved me so bloody much you denied for three years to Kate Ross that we’d ever gone to bed together. Three fucking years. Was it so horrible, Bodie? Eh? Was it? So disgusting you had to lie about it all the time?”
He shook his head into the resounding silence. “Loved me. Jesus.”
Bodie’s head was bowed: then he lifted it, chin up, to stare at the ceiling. He drew in a huge, shuddering breath before he said, “Ray, leave it. Please.”
“You loved me enough to fuck me. Oh yeah, I remember that. And it was so good for you, it meant such a lot to you, that afterwards you kicked me in the teeth and dumped me. Isn’t that right, Bodie?”
Bodie was very quiet, the timbre of his voice unrecognisable as he said, “You’re remembering it wrong. It didn’t happen like that.”
Doyle sniffed. Rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. Wandered around a bit. He gestured with his hand. “Well, all right. Let’s have your side of it. Amaze me, why not?”
Bodie looked at him very briefly, then turned away again. But not before the sadness, the bleakness of his expression hit Doyle like a stone in the face. “I came round to try and sort it out. Remember that? You were so angry. I didn’t really know why. I thought it was because I—”
Doyle could not speak, did not try, still recovering from the look on Bodie’s face. Bodie looked at him without seeing anything, and added quietly: “It doesn’t matter now, anyway.”
Bodie paced around restlessly, a hard, fit man, Paras-trained into a fighting, killing machine, body encased in black leather, heart encased in stone. Yet Doyle knew what he had seen in Bodie’s eyes. And what he had heard in Bodie’s voice. What could words do, beside things such as these?
He buried his face in his hands. “I’m sorry.”
Bodie stopped, looked at him, steady now. A wry smile tugged at his lips and was gone. “Sorry for what? It’s not your fault you didn’t feel the way I did. I never expected you to.”
Doyle swallowed. He felt sick. Bleeding with pain, both Bodie’s and his own. Bodie was looking at him now with worry narrowing his eyes, trying to work out what was going on in his head. “I was angry—” Doyle said, and stopped, and tried again. “I thought you hated me.”
“Just because I never poured my heart out to Kate Ross?” Bodie sounded amazed.
“You were always going on about queers. I thought you were ashamed of me.” No, that wasn’t it. “Ashamed of us. But especially me. I was the one with all the wild ideas.”
“I got used to it,” Bodie said, hard and fast.
Doyle wanted, needed, to touch Bodie. To get close to him, step in and rest his weary head against the solid warmth of Bodie’s shoulder. And all that would follow: he yearned for it with every beat of his heart.
Instead he turned away. Said without looking back:
And Bodie answered him, “I don’t know.”
“Well?” Cowley enquired irascibly, but Kate Ross shook her head.
“There’s no easy resolution to this, you know. I can’t believe you were expecting them to walk off into the sunset and start doing the shopping together.” She sounded tart.
Cowley made a face of distaste, his bright eyes sharp as knives in the sun.
They were sitting together in his office. Despite appearances his mood must be generally favourable; he had gone so far as to offer her a nip of whisky, which she had accepted, and poured himself a meticulously identical amount.
She took a sip before saying, “Their professional partnership seems to be on a very stable course, however. Which should please you. The immediate crisis is over for them. Which way their personal relationship goes from here, well—” she indicated with a gesture of her hand that it hung precariously, tilting this way and that.
“Have you ever discovered the reasons behind all this?”
She shook her head, then changed it to a nod. “Something sexual, obviously. Many dark hints about Bodie getting in too deep, and not being able to handle it—”
“—I don’t want to hear any more,” Cowley said with even more marked distaste, some anatomically correct vision obviously forming horribly in his mind. Ross shot him a faintly scornful look and continued,
“—some incompatibility of gender attitude. I didn’t want to press 4.5 too hard for details; he was getting fragile at that point.”
“And who can blame him?” Cowley said acidly. “It can’t be easy for them, having some woman doctor poking her nose constantly into the minutiae of their bedroom habits. ”
Dr Ross was nettled by this. “I wouldn’t have to probe their bedroom habits, as you call it, one whit so intensively if it wasn’t such a preoccupation of theirs,” she said, tarter than a spring gooseberry by now. “3.7 and 4.5 both have extremely high sexual profiles: Doyle in particular, and Bodie’s not far behind him. They both have what you might call dramatic personalities, they frequently see themselves five seconds away from an early death. Combinations don’t come much more explosive than that. But it doesn’t take all of your operatives the same way. With some of your people—more stable, well-balanced individuals—it’s hardly ever necessary to discuss their sex lives at all.”
That would annoy him. He was allowed to have a kick at the 3.7/4.5 team: no-one else was.
“Which of my people might that be?” Cowley demanded, prickling.
She was ready for him. “Anson. Murphy. Jax. Lucas. All individuals with a perfectly uncomplicated sexual attitude. Sex occupies exactly the right place in their lives, neither too much nor too little. I mention your sex life? to Murphy and he spends two minutes describing his latest girl, trips to the cinema, and how important it is to him to satisfy her in bed. Mention it to Ray Doyle and I know I’m in for half an hour of increasingly bizarre revelations about his thought-provoking sexual preferences.” She paused, to give her next phrase dramatic emphasis: “But even that’s preferable to Bodie: mention sex to Bodie, and that’s it, after a bit of macho posturing he’s gone, and it’s deep silences and heavy sighs for the rest of the session.” She took another gulp of whisky. “I don’t believe there’s another pairing in the A-squad capable of anything like the tangle your favourite
team have got themselves into.”
“Och, I don’t have favourites.”
She ignored this as pure tokenism. Everyone knew about Cowley and his Bisto Kids. “Well, at the moment they’re back on women again. Though what hope there is for them in that direction I really wouldn’t like to say—” She drained her empty glass, set it down, shaking her head. “—Two men who can take two pretty girls away for the weekend and then spend every moment they can in bed with each other: well.” She stood up, smoothing down her skirt.
“Is that what they get up to?” Cowley shook his head, more in awe than disapproval. “Well, thank you, Dr Ross. It all makes me glad, aye, very glad, that I’m not young again.”
A moment ago, there had been Bodie, easily and cosily making a cup of tea.
Now here they were, fighting for their lives with little on their side except what they could do for themselves..
Shattering glass. Shouts. Bullets whining around. All dropping to the floor. The girl on one side, Bodie and Doyle crawling to fit up their guns, grimfaced, conferring at a rapid pace:
“Tactical or strategic.”
“Have you got a strategy?”
Doyle grimaced over his gun, slotting in clips. “Might delay ’em a bit.”
Bodie, very on edge, snapping, “Can’t delay ’em without reinforcements!”
He didn’t need to say it. Obviously they were hopelessly outnumbered, from the sounds outside there could be ten, fifteen well-armed men. And what the bloody hell for? One poor whitefaced girl, crying in the corner, not because she was not brave; bravery was meaningless in a context such as this. Doyle crouched in a corner, turning it over and over in his mind, a sort of pattern almost there, almost—
“They want her dead. They want all of them dead, and quick. Maybe that’s the question: why the big hurry?”
Bodie did not care, did not even want to think about it. “If I’m going to die for a meaningless cause I want to go with a clear head—” Grim, brutal, he bashed in the window with the heel of his gun and began to let loose a fast steady stream of fire. The response was immediate, and terrifying: volleys of answering fire, echoing and ricocheting around.
“Save it,” Doyle told him, an ugly look on his face.
And Bodie exploded at him, “Look, we can’t get out of here, why drag it out?”
Adrenalin protected him from disabling dread, but he knew Bodie was right: their number was up. Well, plenty had gone before them. They were as brave as any whose names adorned the roll of honour. Didn’t take any special talent to die. He and Bodie would be okay. And, at least, together.
“We’ve ’ad it,” he said prosaically, sorting out ammo clips, pressing them in with fingers as fast and precise as ever. He hardly heard the girl’s reply, protesting, “No you haven’t,” but he replied to her automatically, harshly, “Keep still.”
“They only want me—”
Like a film he was watching something not happening to him: she rose, a pale despairing figure, she walked like Lady Macbeth past the window—
The response was immediate. And in a blaze of spontaneous, excited gunfire, she died.
“DIANA…!” His voice swooped and howled all around them, and the only thing he recognised in the chaos was Bodie’s arm, solid and tight around him, restraining him—
“You rotten—” Bodie’s grip was around his neck, keeping his firing arm down. He grabbed at Bodie’s arm, and hurled it viciously away from him. Fucking bastards.
Bodie said grimly, ironically, “Leave ’em, they’re withdrawing.” And as Doyle’s heart pounded and his arms shook with delayed shock his fingers were actually trembling: couldn’t get in much of a shot now if he tried.
“Look, they’re just acting under orders. They’ve probably got just as much idea of why she had to be killed as we ’ave.” Oh, typical Bodie, that: every sympathy for creatures who were paid to kill. Creatures like themselves.
And at the moment he felt sick with himself, sick with it all, because he was no better than they were, and Diana Molner lay dead and finished on the floor. Bodie was looking down at her too, without really seeing her, saying softly, “But at least she knew what she was fighting for. They were against her, and that’s all she had to know…”
Doyle slumped on trembling legs beside the girl’s body as Bodie went again to look out of the window, systematically checking. Her face was very peaceful, very lovely. He reached out with a thumb to remove the droplet of blood at the corner of her mouth. Bodie came back, knelt beside him, looked at him then down at the body.
“She’s beautiful,” Doyle said, barely audible. “Isn’t she?”
“Yeah, well, beauty’s no magical shield. Though it seems to be working pretty well in your case,” Bodie said shortly. “If those guys had been called off thirty seconds later, you and I’d be lying there too. End of the line, Sundance.”
Bodie’s voice was low, dispassionate, whereas Doyle knew himself to be dangerously emotional, the adrenalin backlash emptying his head of blood, leaving him dizzy. His body was still on alert, pulse racing and uneven: he looked at the pale, beautiful skin of the dead girl, blood draining away from it inwards already, his pity and grief at such an intensity that that his body was at feverpoint, running all his emotions at a pitch he recognised, with shock, as sexual desire. Yet he had felt nothing so extreme for her while she was alive: a little liking, a little concern maybe, pale things compared to this sudden essential need—a wish, perhaps, to breathe his own vibrant life back into her crumpled pose of death, but whichever charitable way you tried to look at it, you could not escape the truth of it, that he was turned on like nothing else, as fierce a feeling as he had ever had.
Okay, so he knew what it was. Battlefield Syndrome, they called it. Soldiers got erections as their mates around them thrashed in blood and died. But to want what he was wanting—
This bloody job was getting to him. Turning him weird.
He remembered like a whipcrack in his mind a far-off conversation about necrophilia. With a sudden, convulsive movement he buried his palms into his eyes as he crouched on the floor, thighs cramping with fatigue.
“Jesus, Bodie. ”
He felt Bodie look his way. “What?”
“It’s a good job you’re here. Otherwise I’d be tempted to give her a poke, now that’s fucking sick, isn’t it?”
“It’s shock, Ray, that’s all it is.” Bodie’s voice was unemotional, but his attention had been thoroughly caught for all that; he was watching his partner closely.
“Mortuary attendants do it all the time, you know. Always on the lookout for a goodlooking stiff. And that’s all we are at the moment, innit—? Mortuary attendants? We were fucking useless at protecting her. Couldn’t save her. All we’ve got to hand back is a body. Don’t you think she’d like one last fuck before they burn her up?”
“Stop it, Ray. You’re getting hysterical.”
“Well, you know me. Any excuse.”
“Let’s get out of here, go call Cowley. ”
Not paying him any attention Doyle picked up the girl’s hand and turned it over in his own, noting the well-shaped nails, unpolished. Although it felt cool already her body would retain its internal heat for some time. His guts churned sickly with horror, desire, despair.
“Get up.” Bodie, suddenly intense, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Get up, Ray.”
He shrugged off the hand angrily. “Leave me alone.”
But before he could stop it, Bodie had plucked him up to his feet and was manhandling him, struggling and swearing and fighting all the way into the next section of the carriage, out of sight of the poor, brave, pathetic body.
He wrenched his arm out of Bodie’s grip. “What the hell are you doing?”
Bodie’s teeth showed in a smile of no humour. “Unhealthy, Ray. Don’t let it get a hold on you.” And he stood there, blocking Doyle’s view and his way past.
Amazed and angered by Bodie’s arrogant behaviour to him, Doyle tossed up for one moment whether to fight or give way. After a moment he too smiled, relaxed all his resistance deliberately so that Bodie’s tight hold on his arm dug into soft skin, looked up into Bodie’s hard blue eyes.
“Okay. It’s up to you then, innit?”
Bodie’s eyes darkened as he surveyed Doyle, noted the malicious intent of his partner’s expression, the flinty green of his eyes as he gazed up into Bodie’s face, and his grip shifted on Doyle’s upper arms but did not cease.
“Serious, are you?”
“Just watch me.”
And as Bodie, trouble in his eyes, did not move, “Come on Bodie, time was we’d have been at it five minutes ago. Lost count of the times we did that. Best therapy of all, coming off, didn’t we always used to live by that?” He moved himself closer still, imposing his body on Bodie’s personal space, hustling him, eyes shining, lips parting, and the tables were turned now, Bodie the one deciding if to fight or if to run.
“Lie down,” he urged, softly. “Come on, Bodie, that’s all I’m asking you. Look, I’ll make it easy for you. You don’t have to touch me. Just be with me while I do it.” And at that very moment he was unzipping his jeans. “C’mon, don’t be shy,” he said, viewing Bodie’s averted gaze with some black amusement, “Nothing you ’aven’t seen before, is it?”
Unspeaking, Bodie lay down with him on the dirty carriage floor. Doyle kicked over, astride him. Jeans undone just far enough, he straddled Bodie’s belly, taking his own weight on his thighs, and cradled the familiar warm length of his cock in his hands, pulling himself slowly in the familiar hand over hand motion, head down and watching himself so that for a moment his attention was entirely absorbed by himself. And then although his hands did not cease his head snapped up, caught Bodie staring up at the ceiling, blankeyed, distant. “Watch me.” And Bodie, obedient, brought his eyes to dwell on the flushed cockhead appearing in and out of Doyle’s grip. Doyle crouched up a little, aiming it like a weapon for Bodie’s face. “See, it took me a long time, Bodie,” he whispered, losing his breath a little now, “but I worked it out now. What Kate Ross meant.”
“What did she mean?” Bodie asked distantly; he propped one elbow behind his head the better to watch the blurring movements of Doyle’s swift hands.
“You did this with that bloody water pistol. Remember?” And his look turned inward, now, onto some inner glory, chin tipped back, his face taut with rapture as he hit flashpoint. His hands stilled, fell forgotten away from himself as the white blizzard hurled itself away from his body to scatter like damp scuds of snow on Bodie’s chest, and then he collapsed on top of Bodie, face hidden in Bodie’s shoulder.
Bodie lay there, feeling Doyle’s weight press the wetness through Bodie’s shirt to his goosechilled skin. It had been a long time since he was so close to Doyle like this, close to the warm scent of his hair, of his skin, of his sex. And he felt, too, the tremors which racked Doyle from head to toe.
“It’s all right, Ray. It doesn’t matter.”
“Well, you won’t tell Kate Ross, anyway,” came Doyle’s voice, more robust than he had feared. Doyle pushed himself up then, looked down into Bodie’s face for maybe ten seconds, then rolled away and onto his back with a sigh.
“Christ, Bodie—what can I say? ‘Sorry?’ That was sick.”
“Nah,” Bodie demurred. “Hell of a day. Something’s got to give somewhere along the line.”
Fighting for their lives out on their own, abandoned by Cowley to the wolves who had closed in, and killed.
The girl who lay dead in the other carriage, broken glass and bulletfire and blood spattered all around her.
Doyle’s eyes opened. “Okay. But it was still sick.” It came to him, not for the first or only time, that without Bodie he could not last in this job. There were times when Bodie alone was his lifeline. It was a crucial thought.
Bodie perched up on one elbow. “Sick, I don’t mind.” His hands went to the zip of his cords; with a little flutter of excitement Doyle watched him pull it down. “But you couldn’t even get it right, could you Doyle?” And Doyle watched, eyes slitted in pleasure, as Bodie unbuttoned his shirt and pushed his clothing out of the way and knelt up over Doyle’s sprawled body, his erection so close to Doyle’s face he had to squint to keep it in focus.
“Didn’t even come close, did you?” Bodie whispered raggedly, eyes hazing as his own expert fingers roughly pulled on himself in haste, and at the end, the very last moment, he pressed his cock downwards, aimed it with his fingertips so that come flew out softly, hitting Doyle’s eye, his cheek, his throat.
Then he dropped his forehead, knelt on all fours over Doyle, panting rapidly, recovering his breath and his wits.
“That’s style, Bodie,” Doyle said from a long way away. He touched Bodie’s hair, a brief caress, and then it lingered. No more words were necessary.
They cleaned up at the sink, looking out at the empty tracks, the abandoned carriages.
“Cowley’ll be wondering where the hell we’ve got to.”
“Let him fucking wonder,” Doyle said viciously. “Cared so much he landed a fucking Susie on us, didn’t he?”
Bodie was pondering on that abrupt withdrawal. “Yeh, but I just wonder if he wasn’t the cavalry after all.”
Doyle eyed him with ill temper. “For that, you can tell him the good news.”
They left the body behind, no backwards look.
Doyle’s eyes snapped wide open when the door did. All he could see was the tiny black eye of a gun, aimed at him.
“Ah, put it away,” he said, waving it off.
And there was Bodie coming round the door, shoving his gun underneath his jacket. “Thought it must be you.”
“Been looking in that crystal ball again?”
“No-one else uses that scent.” Bodie crossed the room and came to sit down near him, looking across. Too soon to judge his mood. “What do you want, Doyle?”
Doyle crossed his ankles in front of him, stretched his arms high up and yawned. “Thought it was time I paid a midnight call on you, instead of the other way round.”
“It’s late, Doyle.”
“I know what time it is.” There was a silence. “The other day. When Williams had that gun on me.”
Bodie didn’t say anything.
“Did it cross your mind, just for a minute, to see what happened? See if he ’ad the guts to shoot?”
Bodie was shaking his head. “Come on.”
“Just for a second?”
Bodie moved convulsively. “Of course it bloody well didn’t. I was just getting the timing right.”
“Seemed like a long wait.”
“Well, it would, wouldn’t it? Anyway, what you grumbling about? Here you still are.”
Doyle grinned, then. “Yeah. But I still think you were getting off on making me wait.” He got up, crossed the room, making straight for his partner. Bodie’s halfshut eyes tracked his approach.
Doyle knelt in one quick movement beside Bodie’s chair, leaning his arm on the rest, looking up into Bodie’s face. “Just reminded me, the other day.”
“What did? Seeing Williams wetting himself at the thought of killing you?”
“After the Molner girl died.” His eyes moved over Bodie, flinging everything of warmth and of passion he could summon into the look he brought to bear on him. “You’re always there for me, aren’t you, Bodie?”
“Yeah?” Bodie said, voice somehow hollow, and Doyle nodded, eyes never leaving him.
“I need you in my life, Bodie. I can’t do it without you.”
Bodie did not reply. Tense. Reined in. Waiting.
Sink or swim, Bodie.
He said what he knew Bodie was waiting for, spoke the words aloud: “I want us to be together.”
Bodie’s breath came out in a rush as if he had been holding it; he moved his head, and the words came out almost hoarse: “I dunno, Doyle.”
“Truth is…without you, I’m finished in this job.”
He laid his cheek on Bodie’s knee. Just rested it there, feeling the thud and pulse of blood from his heart. “Did you never know what I wanted, Bodie?” he whispered, so softly they could pretend he had never said it if they had to: “Did you really think I was just in it for the kicks?”
Bodie said nothing.
“Let me stay, Bodie. I’ll do better for you this time.”
He had counted on Bodie’s not being able to deny him anything when it came to it: but he realised now, at this moment, in the doubting, brooding silence, that it was a closer-run thing than he had ever dreamed.
But Bodie let him stay.
“Look a’this,” Doyle said with his mouth full of chips. He pointed out to Bodie a huge pair of newspaper tits nestling around the mound of junk food they were sharing, wrapped in The Sun.
“Mm.” Nostrils flaring, Bodie admired them. “Tear it out, eh?”
“Nah, too greasy. Just feast your eyes, old son, and then say farewell.” Doyle wiped his hand down the front of his shirt and shoved the rest of the chips Bodie’s way. “You finish ’em.” He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes.
Stuffing, Bodie mumbled, “What you going to do, then?”
“Wait for you,” Doyle said cryptically. The bedroom had every comfort, a bathroom off, a TV perched on a shelf so they could watch it from the bed, which was kingsize and white. Bodie had struck lucky with his flat this time.
There was a scrumpling noise beside him as Bodie jettisoned, probably reluctantly, the rest of their supper. Doyle could hear his own stomach making gurgling sounds as it had a go at digesting the huge mound of carbohydrate he’d just shovelled down to it. Well, he needed it. Ten mile run, perfect end to a perfect day: Cowley had them in training for something big. Best not to think about it.
Live for today.
The bed bounced about a bit. He felt Bodie’s lips touch his, and twisted his face away with a grimace. “Don’t like the taste of fish?” Bodie’s voice said into his ear.
“Not these days,” Doyle said; and made a start, as Bodie undressed him, constructing an elegant and rude little fantasy in his head. “Bodie.” Off came his shirt; he obligingly half sat up to assist his partner. “Remember that massage parlour we raided the other day?”
Bodie snickered. “Did you see Anson’s face? When the bloke begged him to hold off just five more seconds?”
“And Anson said, sarcastic, like a joke, ‘shall I go out and come in again?’”
“And Cowley said—!” Incoherent with laughter they finished it together, “‘—I think that’s his line, don’t you?’”
Snorting, Bodie said, “And you always say the old man’s got no sense of humour.”
Doyle said, “Think he ever uses a massage parlour?”
Bodie grimaced. “I’d rather not know—!”
“You ever been to one?”
“As a customer?”
Doyle laid one hand, light, on Bodie’s where it was set to dip into the hollow between his belly and the waistband of his jeans. “Wonder what it’s like?”
“Tired old tarts thump your shoulderblades for ten seconds then they ask you if you require anything further,” Bodie’s voice swooped low. “Sir.”
Bodie’s breath touched his ear. “Then they get the gloves on and jack you off.”
Doyle shivered, thrilled, tense, as Bodie touched him, found him hard and wanting. “Got any rubber gloves anywhere?” Bodie murmured to him, exciting him beyond belief; he had hardly hoped—
“First Aid Kit.” He opened his eyes when he heard Bodie coming back into the room, pulling on a thin white pair of safety gloves. His heart gave a jolt and his cock leapt at the sight; Bodie, hands encased in rubber, his forearms bare above to the sleeves of his white T-shirt. It reminded Doyle of the way Bodie looked sometimes when they had a victim in the cells, and Cowley would threaten Sparks and his box of tricks, and Bodie would pull on the gloves slowly, and wait. Tough, silent, beautiful. Menace incarnate.
His cock wept silently, pulsing with urgent little expectations of its own. Something cool and sticky flooded over it, seeping down over his balls and into the crack of his arse. Probably the lotion he used himself sometimes for masturbating, especially when they watched each other. Now Bodie’s hands gave his desperate cock what it wanted, pulling on him, sweet and strong and slick, sensations so utterly delicious he wanted it to last. Forever, if possible. And when he felt himself dangerously close his hand shot out and gripped Bodie’s wrist to stop him.
“Hang on a bit.” When he got his breath back enough he eyed Bodie, decided yes, Bodie could take it, said: “Do they offer anything—kinky?”
“Look, sweetheart, they’d paint you blue and stick a chicken up your arse if you’ve got the cash up front,” Bodie said, with the beginnings of a grin.
Doyle waved at his jeans on the floor. “Wallet’s in there. Take what you want.”
“Okay. Consider it done. Chicken is it, then? Or what?”
“Very wasteful with that stuff, weren’t you? Went everywhere, it did.” Bodie’s eyes flicked over him. “Even inside,” Doyle said to him, soft. “Want to see?” And he rolled onto his stomach, presenting himself, exposing himself utterly.
Bodie’s hand landed there a moment later. Parted his buttocks quickly, not particularly gentle, like a doctor examining him in a perfunctory way. Then stroking him. The glovetipped finger felt unnaturally smooth and silky against him. Bodie always knew exactly what he wanted; after a while playing with him one of the fingers tickled round the rim and probed the opening.
Brilliant sensation. It flashed through him, melting his insides completely; so good he was almost shitting himself with the pure excitement and tension and bliss of it. He moaned, and thrust his hips upwards. “All the way in.”
Something cool, more lotion, fell on his back and buttocks and anus; and the finger pressed it inside him. “Okay?” Bodie whispered to him, and the glove slipped slowly in and out.
Doyle pressed back involuntarily. Asking for what he really wanted seemed indelicate. He surprised himself sometimes; he heard himself say:
“Wider, okay?” and Bodie slipped another finger past the knot of muscle, all the way inside, and scissored his anus gently open and shut. Impossibly, instantaneously, Doyle felt himself beginning to come; he fought it for a little while but it wouldn’t stay away; he half-turned to one side in a desperate haste, grabbed Bodie’s free hand and pressed it to his cock. And with Bodie’s rubberclad hand squeezing him in front, the fingers opening him behind as orgasm swept through him, harder, intenser, sweeter than ever before, and also a sensation deliciously shameful and at the same time the most liberating he had ever had, he erupted back and front, everywhere, and he didn’t care at all.
Bodie got a towel afterwards and soap and cleaned him up.
“God, that was incredible,” Doyle sighed.
“No need to call me that,” Bodie quipped modestly; and while Doyle cracked up he stared at him curiously. “Can’t imagine what you got out of that, Doyle.”
“I told you, it feels good. Don’t know what you’re missing, do you?” Bodie’s head came up at that, his eyes, Doyle would swear to it, the exact blue of a nightsky pricked out with stars. “And you don’t have to, mate,” he avowed. “Each to his own.” Someone, some earthy grizzled marine ten years older than Bodie had probably tried to get up a younger Bodie’s prim little arse, even succeeded, perhaps, succeeded certainly at humiliating and hurting him, thereby landing Bodie forever with an anal hangup which Doyle was grateful not to share.
But then again, he could be wrong, because Bodie immediately picked him up on it: “Look, I didn’t say I wasn’t curious.”
Doyle stretched, an immense satisfaction stealing through body and soul, and grinned at him. “Are you telling me you’re going to let me do that to you?”
“If anyone could make it worth my while, you could.”
“Not tonight, though—okay?”
Bodie flicked a derisive glance over the slumped sprawl of his exhausted cock. “Not up to it, Raymond?”
“Got other plans,” Doyle told him succinctly. Enough rest: time to get moving. With a growl of appreciation he rolled over to kiss Bodie, thrusting his tongue arrogantly into Bodie’s mouth, down his throat as far as he could get; licked his nipples into peaks, gasped his cock and jerked it in the way Bodie liked, paused to admire it—
“Ever measure this? You could make a fortune in porn movies, sunshine.”
“Yeah, probably, but I’d lose my day job.” Bodie had his eyes shut.
“Nah, we’d find a way round it. They wouldn’t need your face, after all.”
“Get on with it Doyle, will you?”
Doyle grinned, very white teeth, one chipped in front. “Getting impatient?”
“Oh no,” Bodie told him impassively. “But just pretend I’ve got a Luger on the back of your neck for the hell of it, will you?”
“Nice idea,” Doyle said, straightfaced. “But, just for tonight—I want something from you, mate. Special treat, you might call it.”
He knew that Bodie understood him at once. But he knew nonetheless that this was deep water: something they had not really touched on before. Except once. And Bodie, remembering that once, might be shadowed by the past. And indeed, Bodie said slowly, “I dunno, Doyle.”
He brought all his will to bear on Bodie, would not let Bodie’s eyes escape the demands of his own. “You want to. C’mon, Bodie, I know you fancy this.”
Bodie’s lip curled, an unwilling smile coaxed out of him. “Know me too well, then.”
“I can feel your eyes up my arse every time I climb a flight of stairs.” Doyle leaned back, all supple willingness, and smiled a very special smile.
Bodie was leaning over him, stroking him in an absorbed kind of way, kissing him every so often, small, soft kisses beside his mouth. His eyes when he raised his head to reply were dark with trouble and desire. “Sure you fancy it? It hurt you last time, didn’t it?”
“Yeah, it hurts I suppose,” Doyle met his eyes. “Not the same sort of pain as being hit in the face with a lead duster, mind you. It’s—special—” He kissed Bodie again, long, lingering, savouring every taste he could discover in Bodie’s mouth. Then he settled back on the pillow, and held out his arms for Bodie to come into them. “C’mere a minute, Bodie, just lie down with me for a bit. Listen. I’ll tell you what I want.”
“Let’s hear it then,” Bodie said when he had settled his head on Doyle’s chest, and Doyle’s fingers wandered in his hair, playing with it.
“Okay.” He took a deep breath, shut his eyes, summoned it up. When he spoke his voice was low, soft, hypnotic. “You get here, to my flat. You don’t know me all that well, we’re just mates, that’s all. You can’t see me at first, can’t hear anything, lights out, and so on. Then you find me. On the floor, asleep. Face down, no clothes. You come over. Look at me. And then you—”
“Then I what?” Bodie’s voice speaking right into his ear was intimately deep and sensual.
Doyle smiled without opening his eyes. “—You know you shouldn’t. But you want to. So you open me up back there, and you have a really good look. Maybe you even—touch. You know?”
“Can’t help but think you’d wake up at that point,” Bodie said critically. “Most people wouldn’t sleep through it.”
“Not asleep then,” Doyle rectified. “How about— unconscious?” The idea made him shiver. “Oh yeah.
That’s even better. Yeh. I’ve passed out cold. You know I’m not going to wake up.”
“Okay, passed out cold. Wouldn’t I be going through the First Aid routine by now?”
Doyle rolled his eyes. “Look, Bodie, this is a sexual fantasy. We’re not talking responsible citizen here. We’re talking man who’s always wanted to get a secret thrill looking up his mate’s arsehole.”
“Okay,” Bodie murmured, amused. “I get it. No resuscitation procedures. Go on.”
“Where did I get to?” He knew perfectly well.
“I was about to go where no man has gone before, I think.”
“’ey, don’t jump the gun. You don’t want to stop, because you know you’ll never get the chance again. You know I’d kick you in the teeth, make you eat my gun or something, if ever you tried to get your hand up my arse—”
“Like a sleeping tiger—” Bodie was getting into it now.
Doyle had his hand on Bodie’s cock, just a friendly touch. It was hardening beautifully, waking up and stretching itself and doing little pressups, getting ready for action. “—So then you think, god, he’s not going to wake up whatever I do—”
“—you do whatever takes your fancy.” Doyle opened his eyes, twisted around to look into Bodie’s face. “Hit me about a bit. Stick something else inside me. Whatever. You decide.” He stopped, to breathe, to snatch and savour a kiss. “—then— Whatever you do next, it’s got to lead to the point of you making up your mind to go the whole way. There I am, dead to the world. You’ve had a look, and a feel. But it’s not enough.”
“I start thinking ‘rape’, do I?”
Doyle kissed him again. “You’ve got it. Let’s get up for a bit, have a drink or two.”
Mahler 6 on the tapedeck. Moody, tragic, demanding. Perhaps not ideal. But he loved the passion of it. And once into it he could not switch it off before it came to the end, those three masterly hammerblows of fate. Wearing only his jeans, undone, he read the newspaper and sipped at a Scotch and let the music swell his mood.
Bodie, fully dressed, watched TV and drank slowly from his glass. His fine, well-muscled forearms, downed with dark hair, rested on his thighs. He was a very attractive man. Doyle felt conscious, all the time, with every heartbeat, of the brooding, powerful presence, the life and vigour of the man, reined in, ready to surge and overpower him. He was so deeply, intensely absorbed in their own little private world that when the doorbell rang, he jumped.
“Better answer it,” Bodie said. They were on a case which required off-duty hours; but it turned out to be Murphy and Stuart, out for a free drink.
“It’ll ’ave to be a quick one,” Doyle said, consulting his watch as he held the door. “Bodie and I got reports to do.” He was careful not to stand too close to Murphy as he passed; wearing only the jeans and nothing beneath he was conscious of his own body odour, not unpleasant, sweat and sex none the less. When Bodie joined him in the kitchen he handed Bodie a fresh bottle of Johnny Walker. “Look, they’re your mates. Get rid of ’em soon, eh?”
“I’ll do my best, Lord.”
Bodie was looking particularly beautiful tonight. Irresistible. Doyle put the bottle down, took him by the hips and leaned in for a kiss. Wearing no underwear his cock pressed itself to Bodie’s through soft denim. Bodie kissed him back, hands tangling in Doyle’s hair to tilt his head so that Bodie’s tongue could enter his mouth, the gentleness and the ardour of it taking Doyle by storm. He murmured some endearment, close to Bodie’s cheek. Hearing a noise behind him he drew his mouth away, lingering, unhurried, and turned to see Murphy there. Doyle picked up the bottle off the side and extended it towards him.
“This what you came for?”
As Murphy disappeared rather rapidly into the lounge, Bodie met Doyle’s gaze, half amused. “Cool, Doyle. Very cool.”
“Maybe now they’ll get the message and go.”
“I want to kiss you again,” Bodie said, standing in close, breathing in the warm, lustful smell of him.
Doyle leaned back against the breakfast bar. “Go on then. It’s not a sin.” He moved his body languidly against Bodie as Bodie kissed the side of his mouth, whispering to him,
“Oh, it is, Doyle. Believe me.”
Damned, then. But somehow he could not care: he would take his thrills here and now. There was no heaven, save what you could find on earth.
Murphy and Stuart did not seem to want to hang around for long. Doyle shut the door behind them, bolted it securely, and turned, his hands already going to his jeans. “Were you thinking about this all the time they were here?” he said, head bent as he pushed them down and kicked them off.
“All the time,” Bodie said, and his eyes were ablaze, no tenderness there now, only passion, and a hard, decisive energy: “All the time.”
Doyle lay face down on the carpet in the hall, head turned to one side, cat-like senses alert—waiting—
When he heard the soft sounds of Bodie’s approach his heart kicked off the blocks for a fast sprint; he bit his lip in the most exquisite anticipation, conscious of the pounding in his chest, the rough feel of the mat against his cheek, most of all his naked bottom thrillingly exposed to the air.
Footsteps halted behind him.
The longest, sweetest silence he had ever known.
And just when he could not bear it any longer, something even sweeter: a touch on his skin. A palm, rubbing. And himself being split slowly, the cool air rushing in to bathe his heated inner skin. Now his heart seemed to have stopped entirely. He could see it all so clearly in his head, the man crouched behind him, wanting to see, needing to, eyes feasting hungrily on the forbidden.
And then the moment came when seeing was no longer enough.
Something, a fingertip, tickled around the edge of his anus, sending little rills of pleasure and excitement zinging through his nerve endings. When the tip slipped inside him he couldn’t help but press back against it.
A stinging slap on his rump sent sweet little aftershocks of pain along his skin. “Not allowed, Doyle,” Bodie’s low voice said to him. “You’re dead, remember?”
Perhaps the first word which had come into Bodie’s head: or, perhaps, hints at a very dark fantasy indeed? Interesting. Bodie’s two hands pulled his cheeks wide apart then, no more teasing, he was as wide and open as Bodie could stretch him. He could feel the burn of Bodie’s gaze against him and it struck a line of iron right down through his cock.
Anticipation. Fingers pinching his cheeks hard, still holding him wide open, Doyle was expecting the invasion of something cold and hard, he was tensed up for it: but instead something beautiful, soft and wet. Bodie’s tongue. At the same time his insides went, just like that, a gutsweetness stealing all through him and melting him throughout. It felt—so bloody wonderful—he couldn’t keep from letting out a little whimper of pleasure, but Bodie didn’t pick up on it this time, just settled there between his thighs and gave him the unholiest kiss of all.
Oh christ… so good, so sweet.
Bodie’s weight left him and Doyle shot his head up, lifting himself up on his palms like a man doing pressups. “Where the hell are you goin’?” His voice sounded hoarse, unused.
A tube of lubricant in Bodie’s fingers appeared in front of his nose. “Ah, get rid of it,” Doyle said roughly. “We don’t need it, okay?”
“Yeah we do.”
Strung out to the last degree, Doyle snatched it and hurled it across the room. “Look, I’m just in the mood to do it without, okay?” He wanted to feel Bodie’s cock inside him with nothing between them. And he wanted Bodie to have to fight a little bit to get it in there. His eyelids slammed shut again when the weight of Bodie’s hand slapped down on his cheeks for the second time, and Bodie wasn’t being gentle. If he could only see himself he suspected there would be a red, sore mark raised by the blow.
“Shut up and keep quiet,” Bodie’s violent whisper came.
He lay still and quiet as the dead and felt at last the head of Bodie’s cock nudge between his buttocks, rub up and down the crack a bit, long and hard, slipping sweetly in Bodie’s spit. That felt nothing but good, just the most beautiful, simple pleasure. If Bodie kept it up long enough, up and down and round and round like that, massaging his sensitive opening the way he was doing, he was going to come fast and that was that, already his cock was weeping its joy onto the rug below.
But then there was suddenly a change in the mood; he knew what was coming and screwed up his face, fingers clenching on the rough wool of the mat. And he winced as Bodie leaned in on him, cock straining for entry, no-one could help it, it felt impossibly large, hard, as if it would split him in two. Bodie stopped then, wound an arm beneath his chest and waited, giving him time he didn’t want; so he shoved himself upwards, hard and Bodie took the hint. One quick violent poke from Bodie’s cock and pain ripped through him; he kept still and bit his own forearm to distract himself, deadly afraid that Bodie would stop if he cried out. He heard Bodie draw in his breath: yeah, bet that felt good for you, sunshine.
“Come on, do it,” he hissed aloud. “Hard as you like.”
The shock of entry was over. He was widening, stretching all the time to accommodate Bodie inside him, it was getting easier with every stroke. Doyle picked up the rhythm of Bodie’s thrusts and withdrawals and moved with him, but urging on the pace until Bodie was going at it fast, his hard quick breathing falling on Doyle’s neck, one arm still beneath him, pulling him back against his belly; he could feel their bodies pressed so close together, Bodie going so deep inside him he kept touching the very heart of him, the pain a different note now, sweetening the pleasure. The tenderness and the violence of his own feelings astonished him, and he opened his eyes wide as orgasm ripped through the very centre of him, racing like starfire down tiny intricate passages to shoot out of him, and every thundering, trembling pulse of it squeezed Bodie tight, tighter, until the answering throbs of it hit him deep inside, soft, sweet, oh yeah…
Bodie was stroking his hair, rubbing his wet forehead in a gentle sort of way, just waiting for him to come around. Doyle locked eyes with him and nothing was spoken aloud. It had been rough, violent, nasty even. And yet that made the afterwards more tender, more close. For a while there was nothing secret between them, they understood everything.
While he was showering and washing his sweaty hair, Bodie popped his head around the door. “You staying the night?”
“Might as well. Half asleep—” yawn— “already.”
He yawned again as he came through the bedroom door, vigorously towelling his hair. “Don’t just drop it on the floor,” Bodie said critically, watching from the bed.
“Would I,” said Doyle, hanging it exactly and precisely over the back of a chair, fussing over it this way and that, until Bodie laughed at him, told him point taken, and get the hell into bed.
Bodie had obviously made the bed again with fresh crisp sheets and army corners. It felt wonderful. Doyle slid his weary stinging body in with a sensation of the purest bliss, and shuffled close to the warmth of Bodie. Felt Bodie’s arms go round him. Turned his face up so that Bodie could kiss him, which he did, for a very long time, in a way unmistakably loving. Then he reached over and switched off the light.
“You always used to go home,” Bodie’s voice was quiet in the darkness.
“You always used to want me to.”
“No. I wanted you to stay.”
Doyle smiled in the darkness, Bodie’s possessive arm across his belly. “Yeah, well, you must have wished on the right star this time. Now shut up. I’m tired.”
But sleep didn’t come to him straight away.
“Bodie? You awake?”
“Got any thoughts about us moving in together?”
By some change in the quality of silence he knew that Bodie had opened his eyes. “How?” Bodie asked eventually.
“We could take up an option on a double flat next time one comes up. I was looking at the board today, there’s one going in Kensington.”
“Very handy for the palace, m’lud.”
“Or—” he reached down for Bodie’s hand and squeezed it tightly— “We could get a mortgage. Get on the property ladder.”
“No-one’s going to be queuing up to give us a mortgage, Doyle,” Bodie said tightly, ironically. “Did you see the new insurance proposals the other day? Cowley ’ad ’em on his desk, I had a quick look. Want to know the average survival term for a CI5 agent?”
“So they repossess early,” Doyle shrugged. “Our money’s as good as anyone else’s, while it lasts. Dunno about you, but it’s coming in faster than I can spend it these days.”
“We’ll think about it,” was all Bodie said; but as Doyle turned over and curled on his side preparatory to sleep Bodie’s arm wound under his and over his chest to bring him in close and sleep came easily, bringing no nightmares, only dreams of the strangest kind.
3.7 was looking very handsome today, dark hair shining, shoes polished, dark suit and tie, which brought out the best of his looks, never inconsiderable. He was no friendlier, however: Bodie more than most resented this, had done from the very start, and made no secret of it. Hard work. Dodged every which way, by turns flippant, ironic, or uncommunicative; made her fight for every damned little thing.
In the end, though, she would get there. “—all your scores are well up, as usual—” “You’re surprised?” Bodie gave her an immodest grin. “I keep telling you I’m perfect. I was born that way. Big, brave and—beautiful—”
The funny thing being that of course he did not truly believe that. Had never really believed that. Was only just beginning now to trust the stroke of good fortune that had given him what he wanted.
“You’re still working solo?”
“Yeah, shouldn’t be for too much longer though. Doyle’s gone for the final checkup today, the full works. If they pass him he can be A-lined again starting tomorrow.” Bodie had a clipped, efficient way with him today. She had the feeling he wasn’t giving her his attention at all. Scanning for body language, her quick eye found him a little on edge, fidgety, his gaze constantly flicking to the window, but whatever the cause of his anxiety it wasn’t the simple fact of his being here for this interview; he was hardly listening to her, had no interest either in what she had to say nor in his own answers.
Which was, believe it or not, good news. Clearly he had nothing to hide from her today!
“How long is it since 4.5 was shot?”
“Eight weeks tomorrow,” Bodie answered her, and his eyes were fine, direct, clear.
They had survived.
“And you answered the emergency call, didn’t you? It was you who found him there. Have you found that hard to deal with?”
“No, absolute breeze,” he returned ironically.
“It hasn’t caused you nightmares, anything like that?”
He shook his head: no nightmares. Well, she could take a guess at why not: why should there be nightmares, when he could open his eyes any time he wanted, see the face next to his on the pillow, watch his chest rise and fall with life, feel the breathing soft on his own skin—
“I see from the change of circumstance forms that you’ve moved in with him.”
“Yeh.” No reaction.
Come on, Bodie. Give it to me. I need to hear it, just once.
“Why?” she asked bluntly.
“Just seemed easier that way. They let him out of hospital early on the understanding he had someone around to keep an eye on him. He’s got no family, so—” Bodie shrugged.
Ah, what a saint you are. No family, so you got the job of looking after him. Not that you wanted to, of course. Not that you’d have fought anyone to the death who tried to get between you and Ray Doyle. Oh no.
There was a little rattling sound on the window pane. It got all Bodie’s attention at once; he was prickling like a cat, stretched to the limits in the effort to see out.
One more try. Just one.
“You’re in his company almost all the time now, aren’t you, now that you—live together? How are you getting on? After all, it can be difficult living with anybody, even a close friend. Has it changed the way you feel about him at all?”
“Oh,” Bodie said, attention all outside now on the vision he could just about glimpse in the drive, “about Ray? Love him to death. I want to marry him and have his babies, okay?”
He spoke it with the lightest of ironies, just a catchphrase, after all, doing the rounds. He meant by it absolutely nothing.
Her heart pounded; she felt a little lightheaded. Slowly the taut silence was penetrating his attention; he turned his dark head to look at her, eyes narrowed in a black gleam as he tracked down the moment of change, ran his own voice again in his head—
She held her ground, despite an intuition that this must be exactly how this proven killer looked at the coup de grace. And today was her day. She won. At last, at long last, she watched his eyes unfreeze: the tiniest, most reluctant of smiles began to change the sculpted line of his lips and she asked him, smiling herself,
“Can I have that in writing?”
He inclined his head towards her, cool, defiant. “Yeah.” It was out. The sky was still there, and the sun set in it. And Ray Doyle was out there waiting for him, on a day when summer began.
“Have any damn thing you want. In triplicate. Can I go now?”
And that was it.
Another file closed.
He even reached out, boldly, and shook her hand. Then the door slammed on him and she could hear his footsteps for a little while, down the staircase and away. She had the maddest urge to leap on her chair, to fling open the window, to take up precious piles of paper and hurl them into the air.
Instead she stood by the window watching: and there he was outside, Ray Doyle, looking good, trudging about in the drive, kicking around a bit on the white pebbles, hands in his pockets, waiting for his partner between the pink glory of the flowering cherry trees.
And Bodie, now, suddenly bursting out of the door beneath—
The door to her own office opened— “Dr Ross— thought you might like to know, 4.5 has been passed for duty, starting tomorrow—”
“Quick,” she said. “Quick. Come and look at this,” and so it was that George Cowley was there with her to witness it, Ray Doyle whipping around at the hurried approach, face alight, fist leaving his side and punching up high and hard into the air in a gesture of triumph and joy and sheer physical release: And Bodie was there by now seizing Doyle and lifting him high into the air, laughing up at him as Doyle laughed down, in the most uninhibited exhibition of pure, boundless exhilaration she had ever seen.
Spoken or unspoken, it hissed through the air—
They were together. Whole. Alive.
The swallows were still flying in the sky. And the summer: about to begin.