SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT
Set immediately after The Rack. Bodie realises he shouldn't have let Doyle go off on his own and decides to go around to see his partner. Doyle is desperate to forget the happenings of the case and the trial and begs Bodie to give him something else to think about. So Bodie does.
A first time story.
Written: October 2001. Word count: 10,192.
First appeared in Unprofessional Conduct #12 published by Gryphon Press in May 2003
"Oh, fuck it!" cursed Ray Doyle violently.
He dropped the vegetable knife onto the kitchen work surface, and stuck his forefinger into his mouth. He sucked on it for a few seconds before removing it and surveying the damage.
As cuts went it wasn't particularly deep or long, but nonetheless it hurt like hell, as small wounds often do. What bothered Doyle more than the actual injury was the fact that it had happened at all. Slicing mushrooms or anything - was something he did often, and he kept his knives very sharp. A cut with a sharp knife was bad enough; a cut with a blunt one was even worse.
Crossing to the sink to run his finger under the cold water he knew that his mind had been pre-occupied, and that this had made him less than careful. He had hoped that trying to cook something, even though he wasn't in the least bit hungry, would at least take his mind off his problems in the way the considerable amount of whisky he had already consumed had failed to do.
But cooking had also failed.
He could still remember.
He could still see the body of Paul Coogan slumped against the wall. Dead.
Dead from the blow that Doyle had delivered to him.
Dead because he, Doyle, had allowed himself to be goaded into hitting the man.
Doyle knew that he and Bodie had gone into see Paul Coogan with the intention of pushing the young man. Of maybe getting him to reveal something. Or even forcing him to hit out at one of them.
And Coogan had. Doyle had returned the blow and although, as Bodie had said, he knew that the punch was neither that great nor that hard, it had nonetheless been enough to throw Coogan up against the wall. Then the two CI5 operatives had watched him slide down it, clutching at his stomach.
Turning off the cold water he frowned at the cut and decided that he might as well put a plaster on it as it was still bleeding, and he didn't have the energy to wait for it to stop. Before leaving the kitchen, he glanced at the ingredients still lying on the work surface, and realised that he had, subconsciously, been in the process of making one of Bodie's favourite meals. "But Bodie isn't here," he said aloud, addressing his comment to the saucepans, or whatever else was listening. "Oh, great, Ray, next you'll be talking to the bloody walls," he muttered.
Feeling a sticky wetness on his hand, he glanced down and saw that the blood was still flowing freely. With another curse, he again stuck his finger in his mouth and, sucking it, walked out into the sitting room.
Before making his way to the bathroom, he stopped to pick up his glass of whisky that stood next to the half-empty bottle.
The bottle that was his only company.
He drained the contents of the glass. As he did so he felt the warmth of the liquid flow down his throat and once again wished for the semi-oblivion such a large, hastily consumed amount of liquor should have caused.
Should have, but hadn't. He seriously considered throwing the empty glass across the room, but decided against that for two reasons - one: he'd then have to find a second glass, and two: he'd probably do himself more damage clearing up the mess.
Returning from the bathroom, plaster in place, he refilled his glass and sank onto the sofa, swinging his feet up to lie full length, holding the glass resting on his stomach.
Without conscious thought, his mind returned to the Coogans.
No matter what the verdict said, whatever Bodie or Cowley said, Doyle had played his part in the death of the younger Coogan.
He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if he remained with CI5 then he would kill again. It was part of the job, part of the rules. He didn't like killing; in fact he knew that he tended to go off on a guilt trip every time he pulled the trigger and his target never walked away. However, he usually came to terms with these trips, and generally all it took was a few drinks, Bodie's company and Doyle could consign the guilt to the area of his mind that was rational and logical.
"You could have had both tonight," he muttered into his glass, before pushing it back onto the low coffee table.
It was true. He could have had both the drinks and Bodie's company, albeit along with George Cowley's, so why had he said that he wanted to be alone and have an early night?
Because this death was different.
No matter how much Bodie said it was self-defence - which it was. No matter how many times Doyle told himself that he had simply reacted, that he had neither meant nor wanted to kill Paul - which he hadn't. No matter how he tried to convince himself that it could easily have been John's punch that killed his brother. That Paul was already dead, or dying, when they brought the Coogans into custody - which could easily have been the case - it all made no difference. Paul was dead because he, Doyle, had lost his temper.
With a sigh, he swung his legs off the sofa and picked up his glass. He drained it in one swallow and re-filled it, idly cataloguing the contents of his drinks cupboard and remembering that he did have another bottle, should this one run out.
Again he wished that he had gone with Bodie and Cowley, not that he really wanted to talk to the Old Man, but he really wanted needed to be with Bodie. Somehow Bodie always made things right. And although Doyle doubted that a few drinks and his partner's company could straighten this guilt trip out as easily as the others, it would have helped.
At least it would have given him something else to think about.
Bodie was good like that; he seemed to know exactly what Doyle needed to hear at any particular time. Sometimes he would joke with Doyle, sometimes snap at him and argue with him. At other times Bodie would be silent, simply offering his solid presence. There were times when Bodie would simply ignore the whole reason for his partner's mood and talk about something, anything, else. Then there were times when Bodie was amazingly gentle, showing his caring and understanding, letting Doyle cry if he needed to - even on his shoulder or rail at the world, or just sit.
Yes, Bodie always seemed to know exactly what Doyle needed.
Doyle decided that maybe some music might help to distract him and he stood up and moved across to his stereo. Crouching in front of his record collection he began to pull out a variety of music: Mozart, Pink Floyd, Beethoven, Queen. All were rejected.
Nothing suited his mood, or rather too much of it did suit his mood, and it was something he was trying to dispel. "For God's sake, just pick a bleedin' record," he muttered.
He finally settled on Holst's The Planets, which at least swung from the gentle to the manic.
"First sign of madness," he said conversationally, as he put the record on the turntable and flipped the switch that would move the arm. "Yeh, well," he went on, "there's no one else to talk to."
He knew now that being alone was a mistake. In fact if he were being honest, he'd known it from the moment he'd finished showering and had hastily downed his first whisky.
He had seriously considered contacting HQ to ask where Cowley and Bodie were. He knew that, off-duty of not, Cowley at least would have reported in. "Yeh, but you didn't ring, did you?" he said, his tone grim and self-mocking, still talking to the air in general. "Because you didn't want Pat or Terry to start to think things."
He had felt that it was a foolish thing to do. He already knew that there had been some asides, some jokes, and some comments about just how close he and Bodie were. He knew there was the odd bit of speculation that their friendship went beyond the working partnership, and whilst it did not bother him in the least, he wasn't about to add fuel to the fire.
He didn't know if Bodie knew of the comments and, if he did, what he thought, and Doyle had no intention of doing anything that might upset, bother, annoy, or hurt Bodie. So he decided not to be a child and go running to mummy', but instead to stay alone in his own flat, and try to drink himself into a forgetting stupor. But the stupor was not forthcoming and the forgetting was impossible.
If only he could have something, anything, else to think about.
He pushed himself to his feet, and swayed slightly. Maybe the whisky was finally starting to have some effect after all.
He stayed where he was for a moment. Then he suddenly realised with a jolt, that he didn't know where his partner actually was - something utterly unheard of. On or off-duty or call; sick or on leave; visiting your mother, an informer, a brothel even, if you had a partner he (or she) was meant to know exactly where you were at all times. Rule Number One of Major George Cowley.
Doyle supposed that since Bodie was with the Controller, the necessity of Doyle knowing the whereabouts of his partner were negated for that evening. This knowledge - the fact that for the first time in their three-year partnership Doyle didn't know exactly where Bodie was - bothered him in a way that surprised him. Had he and Bodie really got so used to living in each other's pockets that a few hours isolation was almost traumatic?
Isolation was a strange word to use, Doyle decided, but an honest one. It wasn't as though he and Bodie spent every waking moment in each other's company, rather that usually knowing where the other man was provided Doyle with the kind of security he craved. To his surprise, this lack of knowledge made him feel almost bereft. "Bleedin' hell, Ray, you've behaving like a five year old. Bodie's not your mother, or your child. You can function without him for a few hours." But could he? Could he tonight?
"Wonder if he'll ring me when he leaves Father?" he mused aloud a moment later, both hoping that Bodie would ring, and hoping that he wouldn't.
The dichotomous thoughts were typical of him, and he knew that sometimes he was his own worst enemy. His outwardly independent streak, stormy temper and vicious mood swings hid Doyle's basic insecurity; a personality trait he didn't even like to admit to himself.
He started to prowl around the room, and as he did he weighed up the pros and cons of whether he wanted Bodie to ring or not.
The pros were simple: he needed Bodie, wanted to hear his voice, and wanted his partner to take his mind off the day, and he knew that talking to Bodie would help do that.
The cons were that if Bodie heard Doyle's voice, he'd almost certainly guess his mood. Doyle had spent many years trying to control what his eyes and voice gave away, but his partner knew him too well. If Bodie rang, then he would know exactly how Doyle was feeling, and Doyle still wasn't completely sure that he wanted that.
Pausing only long enough to knock the arm off the record, barely even registering the fact that the needle has scratched across the vinyl, he completed his sixth circle of the room.
Finally, he crossed to the phone and snatched it up, and this time he got as far as dialling half the numbers for HQ before, cursing, he slammed the receiver back down. Turning off the main lights, leaving only one table lamp, he once again drained and re-filled his glass, sipping this one more slowly. Then he sank back onto the sofa once again, raking his hand through his already tousled hair over and over again.
"Another drink, Bodie?" George Cowley asked.
Bodie started slightly, his mind had been wandering. He pulled himself together and looked across the table at Cowley.
"My round, I reckon, sir," he said, and rose to his feet. "Same again?" he asked, picking up the two whisky glasses.
"Aye, thank you."
Bodie crossed to the bar. As he put the empty glasses down on the counter and waited for the barman to serve them, he glanced at his watch. It was still relatively early, but he wished that the evening would come to an end. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy the Old Man's company - he did - and Cowley had been in a particularly good mood that night, buying all the beer and, in spite of what he had said, most of the whisky. It was just that Bodie knew that he would rather be with Doyle.
He never should have let Cowley distract him. He should have followed Doyle, no matter what their boss said. He had caught sight of his partner's eyes, the droop of the shoulders and the way he held his body; he knew exactly what Doyle was feeling.
He'll never get over it, just find a way to deal with it', the Old Man had said, and Bodie knew only too well that their boss was right. Doyle cared too much for his own bloody good!
Bodie had tried at various times over their sometimes turbulent partnership, to teach Doyle not to care so much, for his own sake. But Doyle was Doyle and, if Bodie were honest, he wouldn't really change his partner. However, he knew that Doyle would be off on a mammoth guilt trip, had known it from the moment he'd knelt down and felt the side of Paul Coogan's neck, looked up at Doyle and told his partner that Coogan was dead. Bodie had caught the look, hastily veiled, in Doyle's eyes, and he knew that they were in for a hard time.
"Same again, mate?" a voice broke into his thoughts.
He blinked and looked at the barman standing there. Bodie got the distinct impression, that this was not the first time he had been asked the question. "Yeh, please. Make it doubles," he added, partly to make up for his lack of attention. At that moment the phone behind the bar rang.
"Gladys," called the barman, "get that will yer?" He started to move towards the row of bottles hanging on the wall.
"I can't," called back an invisible voice, which Bodie assumed to be Gladys. "The beer's out, I'm going down the cellar to fix it."
"Shit," cursed the barman. "Can you 'ang on a minute?" he asked Bodie.
Bodie shrugged and nodded briefly.
With a brief grin of thanks, the barman crossed to the ringing phone, muttering, "I'm coming, I'm coming."
Bodie returned to his thoughts about Ray Doyle.
His partner was good at guilt trips and self-recrimination, both of which were luxuries that neither coppers nor CI5 men, especially the latter, could afford. Bodie sometimes wondered how his gentle partner got up and faced the world each day, knowing as he did that by the end of that day he could be responsible for the death of one or more people.
Gentle? Not a word most people would associate with the erratic Ray Doyle. Annoying, frustrating, vicious at times, sarcastic, as changeable as the weather over some things but inflexible over others, hard, easy to rile and slow to forgive, all these, and others, were words people used to describe Ray Doyle.
But he was also loyal, trustworthy, protective, caring, and sometimes endearingly vulnerable, prone to tears, and once he liked you really liked you you simply would not find a better friend in the whole world. Bodie knew that. Doyle would die for his partner tomorrow if it came to it, would give up his life without a second's hesitation if he thought it would save Bodie's.
Yet there was a price to pay for Doyle's kind of loyalty: possessiveness. He was a very possessive man, even more so than Bodie, and Bodie was his prize possession.
"Can I 'elp you, love?" a voice said. Bodie looked up to see the woman he assumed to be Gladys standing in front of him. She was well built, any age from about twenty-eight to forty-five, but was probably somewhere in-between. Dyed blonde hair and far too much make-up, especially around her violently red mouth.
"I'm just waiting for your barman to come back from the phone," Bodie replied.
"I've finished servin' now, and he's still natt'rin'. What'll it be?" She fluttered her eyelashes at Bodie in what he assumed was an attempt at a pick-up.
He found that he had no interest at all. "Couple of double scotches," he replied and offered a small half-smile. The kind of smile that meant nothing other than simple politeness. The smile that Doyle said always made him look distracted and cold.
Whilst Gladys wandered off to pour the drinks, Bodie again returned to musing about his partner. He knew that amongst their fellow agents, Doyle was less popular than he was himself, probably because most of them had found themselves on the receiving end, on at least one occasion, of that clever, vicious tongue. Even when Doyle didn't intend to cut or harm anyone, he often did simply by virtue of the fact that his wit was honed to perfection, and was sharper than most of his fellow agents.
Bodie knew himself to be aloof, harsh, and guilty of presenting a sardonic face to the world. Doesn't-give-a-damn-about-anyone-and-anything-Bodie, was how a number of people thought of him. Yet in spite of that, he knew that generally people preferred him to Doyle. That hurt him. In fact it surprised him how much it bothered him, and for a while he had thought it his duty as Doyle's friend to try and make other people understand the enigma with whom he was partnered.
In the end he decided that, much as he wanted to, he could not fight all of Doyle's battles for him. Daft that he even tried to. Yet there was something about the man that brought out Bodie's fierce protective streak; a streak he tried hard to curb, lest it annoy his partner. So far it hadn't seemed to. In fact, if anything, Doyle seemed to get great pleasure out of it.
From what little Bodie had gleaned about Doyle's life before CI5 - which was about as much as Doyle had gleaned about Bodie's life before they met - Doyle had not had it easy. No one had seemed to care much about him or put him first.
The one thing that Bodie did know about Doyle's childhood was that his parents, who had never married and never wanted their only child, had died in a car crash when Doyle was five. Thus, he was left parentless and unwanted in a world that was, at that time, over-populated not only with orphans, but orphans with sunny dispositions something one could never accuse Doyle of having. In and out of foster homes and orphanages all his life, he had finally joined the Met, after a brief flirtation with an art college, losing the only police colleague with whom he had seemed close to Haydon's bullet. Then a few years later Doyle had joined CI5 and been partnered with Bodie.
Bodie was convinced that he was the first person in the hitherto depressing life of one Raymond Doyle, who put him first. Whatever the reason, and in spite of Doyle's persona of independence, Doyle seemed to both thrive on and welcome Bodie's insistence of looking after him.
Murphy and Anson had both said to Bodie, on separate occasions, that they really could not see what Bodie saw in Doyle. They'd gone on to add that whilst they were prepared to accept Bodie's word that the slighter man had his good points, they hoped that Bodie wasn't expecting them to go looking for them. So Bodie had given up. Instead he had put all his energy into trying to delve further into the complex character of his wayward partner.
"Christ, where's she gone for it, bleedin' Scotland?" Bodie muttered, glancing across the room in the direction of his boss, who appeared to be sitting calmly waiting for him to return with the drinks.
Just as he was about to move to see if he could at least see the elusive Gladys, she wandered back in his direction, swinging her hips and carrying a glass in each hand. She put the glasses down on the counter and smiled at him, once again fluttering her over-mascaraed eyelashes at him.
He handed over a five pound note and waited, as patiently as he could, for her to come back with the change.
This time she was not as long.
"Anythin' else I can do for you, love?" she asked, making it quite clear just what she was offering.
"No, thanks," Bodie said quickly. Then he added, out of habit more than anything else, "Not tonight." He smiled his half-smile again, winked at her, and returned to Cowley.
Sitting down and pushing the glass towards his boss he said, "Sorry, sir. Reckon they had to go to Scotland to get it."
"Och, that's all right, Bodie," Cowley replied, picking up his drink. He nodded to Bodie and sipped the amber liquid.
Once again they fell into silence. It wasn't the companionable silence that he and Doyle shared, nor was it the embarrassing silence that he'd all too often shared with people he really did not want to be with. This was more of an attuned silence, a respectful silence. Bodie did respect George Cowley - a lot and regarded him as the best person he had ever worked for.
As he sat opposite the sandy haired Controller, Bodie's mind returned to his earlier thoughts about Doyle. He knew he should have gone after Doyle, and that as soon as he could decently escape from Cowley, he would go round to his partner's flat. Not to do so would be like stopping breathing and still continuing to live: impossible.
He straightened up and this time made a point of glancing at his watch and yawning.
"Tired, 3.7?" Cowley asked, glancing at him. Bodie could not read his boss, could neither gauge his mood nor his tone.
"It's getting a bit late, sir, and I thought Well I thought that I'd call in on Ray on my way home. You know, just to check he's okay and all that."
Bodie wondered why he had told the truth, and winced. Why hadn't he just said that he was tired, and gone off? He didn't need to tell the Old Man that he was going to see Doyle. He didn't want Cowley to think that Doyle needed babysitting.
Oddly enough, Cowley seemed to understand, "Aye, lad, maybe I shouldn't have stopped you earlier. Maybe your company is what he needs. You usually snap him out of these guilt trips of his, don't you?"
Bodie sat up straight at that. So Cowley had noticed. Part of Bodie wasn't surprised; the Old Man did not miss much, especially where his top team was concerned.
"Usually, sir, or at least I can help him," he said carefully. "Don't know so much whether I'll be able to this time, bit different. Damn, I wish it had been me who'd hit Paul bloody Coogan." Even as he said it Bodie cursed silently, wondering just how Cowley would react.
The older man continued to appraise Bodie.
Finally he picked up his glance, drained it and said, in a resigned, almost sad tone, "Aye, Bodie, if it had to happen, it would have been better if it had been you. Go to Doyle, do what you can and I'll see you both the day after tomorrow. 7.30: a.m. sharp."
"Go on, Bodie, before I change my mind. Goodnight, lad." Cowley rose and limped out of the bar, leaving a stunned Bodie staring after him.
After a brief stop at the Gents, Bodie climbed into his car and headed towards Doyle's home.
Twenty minutes later Bodie pulled up outside Doyle's flat. He noticed the lack of light and wondered momentarily whether his wayward partner had decided to go out for the evening after all. Maybe Doyle had decided that he was in need of some female company. A warm body, a warm bed, maybe he was simply trying to screw the recent happenings out of his mind.
However, Bodie did not really believe this. In the first instance, if Doyle had decided to go out, he should have according to CI5 rules contacted his partner. No matter how guilt-ridden, and thus not thinking clearly, Doyle may have been, Bodie knew that he had never failed to obey this rule; others yes, but not this one. If not for CI5, then for Bodie. Doyle knew that Bodie worried when he didn't know where he was. And even when I do know where he is, Bodie thought ruefully. He also knew, without a shadow of a doubt that it worked the other way round as well. He felt that he knew Doyle well enough to know that sex with an unknown, or barely known, woman was not the answer when Doyle felt the way he clearly did
Therefore, lack of lighting or not, Ray Doyle was at home. Licking his wounds, probably wallowing in the same self-pity that Bodie had tried to shake him out of a couple of days earlier. And, if Bodie knew his partner and he did know his partner well under the influence of a bottle of whisky.
He sighed and weighed up whether or not to use his own key, as he had done the other morning, or to knock on the door. In the end he settled for the latter, deciding that he did not really want to risk finding himself staring down a gun barrel, or flat on his back on the floor. To his surprise, the door was opened almost immediately, as if Doyle had been expecting him. There was a light switch by the door, and Bodie flicked it on immediately, not wanting to give his partner the chance to hide in the darkness any longer.
Doyle immediately switched it back off.
Bodie decided not to bother fighting this, his eyes were already beginning to adjust to the relative dimness, and so he turned his attention to his partner. The telling-off for answering the door without waiting to ascertain who was on the other side, died on Bodie's lips as his eyes took in his partner. Without footwear Doyle was more than a couple of inches shorter than Bodie, and the difference was accentuated even more by the way the slighter man held his body.
His shoulders were slumped and his whole persona screamed dejection and vulnerability. It was something that Bodie had seen before in his partner, something that Doyle tried hard, and usually succeeded, in hiding. One day, Bodie had told himself over and over again, he would get to the bottom of why, but now was not the time.
The copper curls seemed to sag and the light had gone from the expressive eyes. Both things could have simply been due to the subdued lighting. However, they spoke volumes to Bodie, telling him everything he needed to know about the state of mind of his errant partner.
As Doyle looked up at him, Bodie read the relief and pleasure his appearance had brought to Doyle. Again he experienced a fleeting feeling of guilt for allowing Cowley to stop him from following Doyle.
"'Lo, Bodie. So you came." It was clear that Doyle's simple words were not a question.
"Course I did, sunshine," responded Bodie, reaching out to ruffle his partner's hair. His throat suddenly became tight at the look of utter trust and relief that flooded Doyle's face. Damn the Old Man; I should have stuck to my instincts. Ray needed me, and I let him down. I'll make it up to you, sunshine. I promise. The silent vow was made, and Bodie knew that no matter what it cost him, he would indeed keep the promise. "So, do I get a drink?" he asked.
As Doyle leant into the caress, Bodie again silently cursed both Cowley and himself. Bodie was not yet completely sure whether compassion and gentleness were the best way to deal with Doyle, or whether teasing and joking, or even a degree of anger would work better. He decided to act on instinct - as was his wont, rather than try to analyse it, as was Doyle's - and play it by ear. Tweaking one of the curls, he said, in a mildly teasing tone, "That's if you've left me any?"
He caught sight of Doyle's eyes and felt the almost indiscernible tensing. That simple reaction was enough to make him realise that the soft approach was what his partner needed tonight. Without further thought he reached out and pulled the Doyle into a loose hug. He was not at all surprised when Doyle reacted with a sigh and put his own arms around him.
As Doyle let himself relax into Bodie's arms he felt the security he'd been missing all evening, start to creep back. This was what he needed, Bodie here with him. Calm, cool, loyal, steady Bodie, who would do his best to understand what Doyle was feeling.
He allowed himself to drink in the waves of reassurance emanating from his strong partner and then, before the situation could get too intense, he pulled away and said, "Course I have. Got a second bottle anyway."
He led the way to the sofa, pausing en route to switch on another couple of table lamps. The three lamps now gave the room a soft, gentle appearance: one that was neither too dim nor too bright.
They settled down, drinks in hand, side by side on one of the sofas.
Once he had sipped his drink, Bodie said, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I don't know, Bodie. I don't know what I want. I don't even know why I'm reacting like this. Christ, it's not as though I've never bleedin' well killed a man before."
"We don't know that you killed this one," responded Bodie firmly.
Doyle gave a grim half-smile. That was his Bodie, utterly and totally loyal to the end. Doyle knew only too well that even if he walked into 10 Downing Street and shot the Prime Minister dead in front of Bodie, Cowley, half of the other CI5 agents, and all the Mrs T.'s staff, that Bodie would be there at his trial, no matter what, claiming that maybe Doyle didn't do it, or at least had good reasons for doing so.
"Yeh, but we don't know that I didn't. I know, I know," he replied, raking his hand through his hair, tangling his curls as he did so and cursing. He felt gentle fingers remove his and start to smooth the tangles out. "It could have been Big John, it's even likely it was Big John," Doyle admitted. "Or at least a combination of him and me, but Oh, Bodie, why can't I forget? Why can't I just put the picture of Paul lying there, slumped against the wall after I hit him, out of my mind? Why can't I think of something else?" He drained his glass and reached for the bottle, emptying the remains into his own glass and indicating that Bodie should help himself to the new bottle.
As Doyle reached out, Bodie noticed the plaster on his finger. "How did you do that?" he asked.
"Your finger?" replied Bodie, gesturing at the digit in question as he reached for the other bottle.
"Oh, that. Cut myself."
"Cutting up mushrooms."
Bodie frowned; that was another indication of Doyle's mood. Usually his ambidextrous and parallel-processing mate could cut up mushrooms, keep on eye on a saucepan or frying pan of whatever was going with the mushrooms, hold an in-depth conversation with Bodie, drink a glass of wine or water, and probably be doing something else as well, all without causing damage to anything. He decided that he really did have to take things easily and gently, and for once forewent the obvious question about food.
He poured himself a drink and started to speak. "Ray, sunshine," he began carefully, "I can't stop you thinking these things, and yes it's possible that you did That you were in some way responsible for Coogan's death."
"That's what I keep saying," muttered Doyle. "That's what the verdict said."
"The verdict said not proven'," Bodie replied, keeping his tone calm.
"Same bleedin' thing," said Doyle. "Probably only said that because Geraldine Mather screwed up over Parker."
Bodie ignored his partner's words and went on. He had to try and convince Doyle of his sincerity. Had to try and make him see that he hadn't killed Coogan. And he had to make his words count - he needed something special. He went on. "As I told you, Ray, your punch wasn't the kind to rupture doors or spleens. And I'm not just saying that for your sake," he clarified quickly.
He took a quick swallow of whisky to wet his throat, and hurried on before Doyle could interrupt again. "I mean it, Ray. It was a good punch, a stopping punch. But you know how to hit without causing too much damage. You know how to put a man down and yet still pull your punch. Paul Coogan was already injured when he was brought in. I'd stake my whole career on that. He'd been working out with his brother, wasn't, couldn't, going to show any signs of injury, and you hit him. You added to what'd already happened, Ray. You didn't cause it."
He stopped. It had been a long speech for him, but he wanted to be sure that Doyle was listening to him, comprehending him. As he continued to sip his drink, he cast a careful eye over the dejected form sitting beside him. Bodie didn't like to think just how much alcohol the green-eyed man had already consumed that night, but he had already decided that he wasn't, under any circumstances, going to go home and leave Ray alone.
His crazy partner didn't often get drunk, at least not completely. In fact only once had Bodie seen Doyle so smashed that he had been ill, but that one time had been enough to frighten him. An inebriated Doyle when he was happy and flirting was one thing; a dead-drunk Doyle when he was morose was something else.
If Bodie had not been with Doyle that night to support him whilst he threw up, Doyle might have died, choked to death on his own vomit. He knew that Doyle had been mortified by his lack of control, especially as he had even failed to get as far as the bathroom before the first bout of vomiting had overtaken him. They had been at Bodie's flat, and it had been down to him to clean up the floor, the sofa and Doyle. Not to mention spending the rest of the night, sitting on the bathroom floor holding his partner's head, wiping his forehead and mouth and murmuring soothing words to him. Doyle being ill didn't particularly bother Bodie, not insofar as having to deal with it, but Doyle being ill alone and possibly at risk to himself, did.
"You really believe that, don't you?" Doyle asked.
"Yeh. Yes, Ray, I do. And you should too," he pushed, wanting to make certain his partner understood. "And, sunshine, it was self-defence. He did attack you and you didn't intend to kill him." Even as he said the final words, Bodie realised they were a few too many. He inwardly grimaced and waited for the explosion. He didn't have long to wait.
"Intend," sneered Doyle bitterly, leaping to his feet, and pacing around the room. "Good word that. Takes away responsibility it does. So what you're saying is, that it's okay because I didn't intend to kill him. Well, that's all right then. I'll just forget the whole fucking mess then, and remember next time I kill some innocent person, that I'm absolved if I didn't intend it. Bloody great!"
Bodie forced himself to get a grip on his temper. Doyle was deliberately goading him, not to mention being intentionally obtuse and intent on self-blame, and Bodie had to stop it. He fleetingly considered reacting with anger, as he had done a few days before, but knew that his earlier instinct was right; tonight Doyle needed careful and gentle handling. He put his glass down, stood up and moved towards his partner, who backed away.
"Tell me, Bodie," Doyle said, his tone harsh. "How many people do you intend to kill? Do you wake up one day and decide, today I'm going to kill someone'? Or was that just whilst you were in the fucking mercs?"
Bodie said nothing. He simply let his body language become as unthreatening as possible, and waited for the storm to pass. He knew it would shortly because Doyle's heart wasn't in his insults, he could tell that from looking into the damp, green eyes and hearing the harsh voice.
Doyle went on, his voice still bitter, "Let me tell you something, Bodie. I never intend to kill anyone. I " he broke off." At least I Oh, fuck it!" he said, running his hand over his face.
Bodie moved toward the trembling, distraught man and guided him to the sofa. With a firm hand, he pushed Doyle down and sat beside him. When Doyle wouldn't raise his head, Bodie pulled on one shoulder with one hand, whilst tipping up the round face with the other. He spoke softly but decisively, as if talking to a three-year old. "Ray, that's not what I meant, and you know it. Look, I can't undo what's done. God help me, if I could, I would. If I could turn back the clock and have me hit Paul bloody Coogan, I'd do that too. Do you know why? Because I could handle it better. Not that I wouldn't be feeling bad, maybe even guilty, but at least I could be logical about it."
He paused, but Doyle said nothing.
"Oh, sunshine," he went on quickly, as he felt Doyle begin to tense up. "Don't take on so. I know you're upset, I know you feel guilty, and I know it's easy for me to say you'll get over it. I know you won't, and so does Cowley. As you walked away earlier he said that you wouldn't, but that you'd find a way to deal with it. I guess it's true, you will find a way to deal with it. It might not seem true at the moment, but you will, sunshine, you will."
Again Bodie broke off, and then looking straight into the green depths that seemed ready to overflow he said, his tone even softer, "You have to, in the end. And I'll help you, in whatever way you want me to. Christ, Ray, shout at me again, hit me even, curse me, bitch at me. Cry, scream, whatever it takes, I'm here. I'm here for you, sunshine, and I'm not going anywhere. So don't think I am. You aren't going to push me away. Just try and get it into perspective, please. For you, and if not, then for me."
Once he'd finished his impassioned speech, Bodie stared long and hard into Doyle's wide eyes. Doyle's expression was one of incredulity, and Bodie knew that his partner was amazed by the speech, not only because of its length, but also because of its intensity. He also saw that Doyle was touched and moved by what he had said; but unfortunately, if anything, he was now closer to tears than before. Although maybe tears were just what his friend needed tonight.
Bodie sighed to himself. If he were honest, he felt more than a little embarrassed by his words. Normally given to short, sharp tones and sentences, not used to emotion and feeling, he'd nonetheless again expressed himself in great depth to Doyle. Still if it ultimately helped, then Bodie could live with it.
For a long moment Bodie held the green gaze, and then Bodie broke the stare and reached again for his own scotch.
Finally, Doyle said, "Thanks, sunshine. Thanks. I mean it. And I'll try. I will try. I just wish " He trailed off.
"You wish what?" Bodie kept his tone soothing and low.
"That I had something else to think about. Oh, Bodie, can't you give me something else to think about?" The final words were a plea from the heart. A total and desperate cry for help; any sort of help.
Bodie stared at Ray, so close, so desperate and found himself saying, "I can, sunshine. But I'm not sure you'll like it."
"Oh, I'll like it, Bodie. I'll like it. I'll like anything that gets Paul Coogan and that bastard of a brother of his out of my mind."
For a long moment Bodie continued to assess Ray. Finally he put down his glass, stretched out one hand and gripped Ray's arm, pulling the other man towards him. Then, capturing the mop of hair with the other, he guided Ray's head towards him and claimed the full, slightly parted lips with his own. The kiss was everything and nothing like Bodie had expected, dreamed and fantasised it would be. Ray's mouth opened beneath his as though he had been starved of affection and human attention for years. And yet the kiss was not simply one-sided; Ray kissed Bodie back. His mouth was soft yet firm, demanding yet compliant. He seemed to crave Bodie's mouth, and offered his own generously, taking and giving in equal quantities.
Bodie's own heart was pounding, as was his head. His groin was aching and rock hard, and his thoughts were tumbled. Ray wanted this? Straight, bird-chasing Ray Doyle wanted this; wanted him? Bodie couldn't believe it. But Ray was kissing him back. He was not just sitting there letting his lips be crushed by Bodie's. He was returning the kiss with interest and his fingers were stroking the nape of Bodie's neck, whilst his other hand tenderly held Bodie's head in place. In the past Bodie had exchanged meaningless and fake kisses, but there was no falsehood in Ray's kisses, none at all. Nor was there in the hard mass that Bodie suddenly found his hand pressed against. Ray was as turned on as he was himself, maybe even more so.
Ray was his for the taking.
Bodie pulled back with a start. With a whimper Ray followed Bodie's lips. Bodie was already aware that they were starting to feel bruised. He imagined that they must look like Ray's own, which were swollen from the abuse they had taken. Before Bodie could speak, think even, Ray had latched onto his mouth again, and this time had slowed and gentled the kiss. He now appeared content to lap at Bodie's lips, to flip his tongue tantalisingly around the cavern that was his partner's mouth, and Bodie was amused to feel that the talented tongue seemed to be carrying out an inventory of his teeth. Maybe Ray was comparing Bodie's perfectly regular ones to his own chipped one.
In his turn, Bodie allowed his own tongue to explore Ray's mouth, running it repeatedly over that chipped tooth, and then letting it find its way into the depths of the mouth he had craved for what seemed like forever. He held Ray gently in his arms, all urgency gone. His hands moving up and down the firm, slender back, caressing the deceptively strong shoulders, and finally finding purchase once again in the curls he loved so much.
Ray's own hands made sweeping movements up and down Bodie's back, then one wormed its way to Bodie's front and, after a few moments, he quickly had several buttons undone, and Bodie's tie loosened. For a man who wore a tie about once a year, Ray was remarkably adept at undoing one! Bodie bucked as the warm callused fingers made a tentative sweep over his left nipple, which hardened immediately. He felt a gush of pre-ejaculate wet his underpants, and moaned in the sheer pleasure and disbelief of it all. In spite of all the indications, in spite of the fact that Ray was in his arms, kissing him, being kissed by him, touching him and letting Bodie touch him, Bodie could not believe that it was true.
Ray was responding. Yet Ray was drunk. Ray was even initiating. And yet Ray wanted something else to think about. Anything, he had said. He would like anything that got Paul Coogan out of his mind. With a moan, Bodie pulled back and held Ray away from him by the simple expediency of gripping the wiry upper arms with his hands. "Ray," he panted.
"Bodie, oh, for God's sake, please don't stop." Ray sounded desperate as he struggled with Bodie, obviously trying to get close again to Bodie. He was equally out of breath, and looked at Bodie with out-of-focus, passion-filled eyes.
Again, Bodie's resolve was almost broken. Take him. His mind told him. Take what he's offering you and stop questioning it. He wants it.
But he couldn't.
He had wanted his wayward partner for his very own for too long now. Had lusted after him, desired him, loved him; and that love was the biggest problem of all.
A year ago, Bodie would have taken what was offered, one night of passion with Ray, without question. But now he couldn't. Now he had to know that Ray really wanted it. Was not just using it as a way to forget. Damn, his bloody analysing has rubbed off on you, Bodie told himself, angry at his own need to know; and it was a need.
Suddenly Ray broke away from Bodie's grip and staggered to his feet. "Bed," he said, fumbling to try to pull Bodie up. But instead Ray's drunken state kicked in, and he tripped and found himself in Bodie's lap. Always one to make the most of any situation, Ray wriggled around for a few seconds and then firmly planted his mouth back onto Bodie's. The wriggling had a distinct effect on Bodie and suddenly, without any further warning, and to his dismay, the he ejaculated with a guttural cry.
Ray was a bloke and he would clearly know, with or without the cry, what had just happened, sprawled up as he was on Bodie's lap. Plus Bodie knew that the wetness had to be seeping through his underpants and his trousers, and would soon start to dampen Ray's jeans. But Ray didn't move. Instead he continued the kiss, deepening it and yet making it less passionate, less demanding. He was clearly trying to make it plain to Bodie that his own satisfaction could now wait because he knew that something was bothering his partner, and he intended to find out just what it was.
Sated, yet unsatisfied and still uncertain, Bodie once again pushed his partner away. "Ray," he said again, "I have to know. Do you really want this, want me, or is it just something, anything, to take your mind off the Coogans?" His tone was flat, controlled and he was determined to give nothing away. He couldn't relinquish his need, his own insecurity to Ray, not even to Ray, until he had an answer.
"You dumb crud," Ray responded, affectionately and immediately. "I've wanted this, wanted you, for ages now, months. Years," he added philosophically. "Just never imagined you'd go for it. You're so so fucking masculine," he finished with a shrug. "Oh, you touch me, flirt with me even; play with me curls at every opportunity. But you touch a lot of people."
"Not the way I touch you," Bodie replied, still unsure that he'd heard Ray's words correctly. Ray wanted him? Had wanted him for years?
"That's true enough, sunshine. Can't imagine anyone else letting you get away with playing with their hair, the way I do." Ray was smiling and his finger began to explore the side of Bodie's cheek, wending its way up to the ear that was clearly visible, unlike his own which were hidden under the mass of hair.
"Wouldn't want to. Ahhh " A cry of sheer pleasure escaped from Bodie's lips as Ray's finger tips not only played around the outside of his ear, but found their way inside the shell. Ray continued to smile his white, uneven smile and brought the tip of his tongue out to lick his lips. Bodie, unbelievably, felt a twitch at his groin. He couldn't be recovering this quickly, surely? He had never recovered this fast in his life.
But still he had to ask, had to really be sure. Cursing himself, he said, "You want me? You really want me?" Bodie stared into the emerald depths, trying to make it clear to Ray that he wanted, needed the truth; trying to ensure that Ray did not try to make a joke of it. The depth of his need surprised him; he had never been like this before with any other lover. He had never asked such things, bothered about such things, or even thought about them. But now, now he had to know that Ray really did want him.
Their three-year partnership, and their almost-telepathy came into play as Ray leant forward again, and kissed Bodie's mouth. "Yes, Bodie, my love. I want you. I want you, I need you and," he paused, clearly assessing his partner. Then with a slight shrug said in a very quiet voice, "I love you."
"Love?" Bodie exclaimed.
"Yeh. Sorry, mate, but I love you. Have done for a while now. Tried to tell myself it was just as a friend, as a partner. Even though I knew I wanted you, in bed " He trailed off, and to Bodie's amazement and sheer delight, he watched a faint blush creep up over Ray's face. Then determinedly he went on, "I still tried to tell myself that it wasn't love, not romantic, sexual, committed love. But it was. Is. Can't help it. Can't help myself. Don't want to," he added. "I love you, Bodie. Sorry."
Bodie shook his head in disbelief and forced back the laughter. Ray suddenly looked so dejected, cuddled up on his lap, almost like a child. Eyes wide and misty, uneven teeth gnawing at his lower lip, he looked for the entire world like a fallen angel, an urchin who had done something wrong.
As Ray wriggled again, Bodie was suddenly vividly reminded of the last person who had sat on his lap, with almost exactly the same look on her face. It had been his three-year-old niece, Ellie, who had wet herself all over her Uncle William - his sister had forbidden him to be Uncle Bodie. It was no wonder that Bodie had been wary of little children ever since that day.
This time he was unable to control his laughter as he compared Ray Doyle to Ellie. He felt his partner tense, and saw the flash of pain and anger in the expressive green eyes, as Ray tried to pull himself off his partner's lap.
But Bodie was far too strong for him and simply held on to him. "Sorry, love. I'm not laughing at you," he hastened to reassure him. "I promise," he added. And he was relieved when Ray stopped fighting to get away. The anger left his eyes, but a wary, uncertain look replaced it.
"What then?" demanded Ray.
"Later," Bodie said, trying unsuccessfully to nibble Ray's neck.
"Now!" Ray said, pulling his neck away, but allowing Bodie to continue to hold him.
Bodie sighed; that was his Ray, tenacious as a terrier. Never give up, no matter what. "Just remembering the last time someone sat on me lap." Ray cocked a questioning eyebrow. "She peed herself." As Ray's eyes widened even more, Bodie added with a chuckle, "She was three years old. My niece, Ellie. My sister Margaret's youngest."
Ray's eyes grew impossibly bigger in obvious total astonishment; Bodie wasn't surprised at his partner's reaction. It wasn't often he, or Ray either come to think about it, talked about his past or his family. In fact he realised that Ray didn't even know that his partner had a family to talk about.
"When?" Ray asked, curiosity clearly getting the better of him.
Bodie shrugged, "Just after I got back from Africa, but before I joined the Army. Popped home for a few days. Met the niece I didn't even know I had. Guess I must have scared her or something. Poor little mite was so upset. Not as much as I was though. Had my best trousers on at the time." He was still aggrieved after all these years.
"Oh, Bodie," said Ray, affectionately ruffling Bodie's short hair. "If that's the worst that's ever happened to you " He broke off with a leer, then went on, "God, I remember "
This time Bodie silenced Ray with a kiss. When he pulled away, he said fondly, "I do not want to hear any tales about your time in the Met, Raymond, my son. I do not need the details of your less salubrious experiences, thank you. Anyway," he added with a grin, "with you giving me first hand experience, I don't need any stories."
Ray pulled the ear, hard, that he was still caressing and punched Bodie lightly with the other fist. "You watch what you're saying, sunshine, or you just might get a repeat of what your niece did."
As Bodie's mouth dropped open, Ray took the opportunity to pop the forefinger of his right hand inside. Instinctively, Bodie began to suck on it, all thoughts of Ellie forgotten, his whole focus now on the siren who had started to wriggle provocatively once again. He wanted to get the mood back to where it was earlier; he wanted to return to Ray's declaration of love; and the apology.
After sucking happily at the finger for several moments Bodie gently removed it and said softly, "Ray, what you said earlier about, about loving me."
"Yeh?" Cautious green eyes met his blue ones.
"You don't have to apologise. Christ, only you could would apologise for loving someone."
Ray shrugged, "Yeh, well. Didn't know what you'd think to that. Knew you wanted me. That was obvious. Unless " Now Ray broke off and again stared at Bodie, this time in horror. "Oh, fuck," he swore, once again trying to get off Bodie's lap.
Once again Bodie proved too strong for him.
Ray swallowed, "Bodie, you do want me, don't you? I mean, I know I asked you to give me something else to think about. But But " He was unable to continue.
Bodie pulled the tense figure towards him and held him tightly.
"You little idiot," he said fondly. "Course I want you. Wanted you since the day I met you, haven't I? That tight backside, those come-to-bed eyes, those beautiful curls. Christ, you're every man, and woman's, wet dream. And you're certainly mine," he added ruefully. "Didn't say anything for the same reason you didn't" Bodie went on. "You always gave off a look but don't touch' aura. All right, so you let me touch you, touched me back too, but I never really thought you'd go for it. Never thought you could ... Have you?" he suddenly asked, guessing the answer, but wanting to hear it.
Ray shook his head, hair flying. "Nah," he said. "'Had my chances, specially at art school. Nearly did once. Me and a friend got drunk one night, both of us were pretty desperate. We talked about it. Even let him touch me, through my trousers. But we ended up giggling too much to do anything; we were incapable. In the end he went to his room and I stayed where I was. I wanked off, and I guess he did too. End of story. You?"
"Everything?" Bodie repeated, raising an amused, querying eyebrow.
Ray blushed again. " Did you ? You know."
Bodie could hardly believe it. Ray Doyle, sensual, sexual Ray Doyle, was embarrassed. However, tonight was not the time for teasing or laughter, at least not over this. So instead he took pity on his partner. "You mean did I fuck anyone?"
"Yes." To Bodie's surprise Ray frowned slightly. Surely he couldn't be disturbed by Bodie's terminology? "Yes. And before you ask, yes, I was fucked too." He watched Ray carefully, determined to gauge his response. He went on, "But that's pretty much all it was. Just fucking."
"Not a lot," responded Bodie. "It's not easy to keep clean in the jungle, Ray, so most blokes don't want to deliver blow jobs."
"Oh, great. You won't put your mouth on another bloke's cock, but you'll let him put it up your arse! Christ, Bodie, that's just as bad. Could still catch something."
Bodie again almost laughed at his suddenly puritanical partner. Ray looked very prim and proper, as he was now sitting upright. "Believe me, sunshine," he said, when he was sure that he was able to speak without laughing, "catching something', as you so succinctly put it, isn't the first thing on your mind. But putting your mouth on someone who hasn't washed himself, or even changed his underclothes for several days, isn't a turn-on either."
"Have you ever?" Ray had partly relaxed again.
Bodie shrugged, wanting to be honest with his partner. "Few times. Had it done to me more. There was one particular bloke, fair bit older than me. Met him between one contract and another. I didn't come home, went to Italy instead. He was nice, kind, experienced. Took me in and taught me a few things. Spent me three-week leave with him. When I left him, I knew more about gay sex than I'd learnt in all my time in the merchant navy and in the mercs."
"The navy?" Ray squeaked.
Shit. "Yeh. I was big for my age: tall, broad. Looked older than I was. Lost my virginity during my first voyage. It wasn't rape, so don't look like that," Bodie said as he took in the angry look that flashed across Ray's face. "I knew what was going to happen, wanted it. Had fancied blokes for a couple of years. Hurt a bit, but I soon got used to it. I know how to make it good, love. Know how to make it hurt as little as possible."
"Never doubted that," Ray responded. "Bodie "
Again Bodie silenced him with a kiss. "Later, Ray. We can talk more later. I'll tell you all my sordid secrets then."
Ray giggled, "Doubt that, mate."
"Seriously," said Bodie, returning to the important subject. "I didn't say anything at first because I thought you wouldn't go for it. Then as time went on, I realised you were too important to risk losing you as a friend and partner, just for a night of sex. You meant too much to me by then."
"You wouldn't have lost me," Ray said softly.
"Didn't know that then, did I? Anyway, then I feared that you might say yes out of friendship or loyalty. And whilst I knew I could, would, make it good for you at the time, it was no longer enough for me."
"Is that why you kept holding back earlier? Why you pushed me away and asked me if I really wanted you?" Ray's tone was serious now.
Bodie nodded, "Yep. Love you too, Ray, you see. Fell in love with you, and finally admitted it to myself. I love you, Raymond Doyle. I want you, I need you and," he added with a grin, "I, for one, am not sorry."
The kiss that followed that declaration was gentle, sweet, deep and intense.
Promises were made and shared.
The future was told and offered. A future where, no matter what happened, the two men would ultimately always be together.
A few hours later, sated, rested, totally at peace with the world and with himself, Ray Doyle raised his head from where it rested on Bodie's broad, shoulder and said softly, "You certainly did give me something else to think about, my love."
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