kiwisue (kiwisue) wrote,
kiwisue
kiwisue

ACTS OF CHOOSING - Part Three


Doyle was still there, down by the lake, when Bodie came to collect him. He’d holstered his gun, finally, long after the bodies had been cleared and the wrecked car towed away, but he couldn’t bring himself to go back to the house. It could have been as silent and empty as it was when they’d first arrived, but the last thing he wanted to do was stand in that conference room again, waiting.

The lake was peaceful in the late afternoon sun. There was a shimmer on the surface, waterbirds gliding through a muted flowering of light and mist. A short while ago the birds would have fled, rippling the water as they left, as the sound of gunfire disturbed their peace. Now they were back as though nothing had happened.

Yeah, peace. Funny concept. Rest in eternal...,and all that.

“C’mon,” Bodie said. “Cowley said we can go home. Job done, thank you for turning up on schedule.”

He rose, unwilling to leave. “Doesn’t expect our reports, then?”

“Tomorrow. Write them out and send them in. Guess that’s the first part of our leave gone.”

“Bloody Cowley.”

“Yeah.”

“What about our kit?”

“Callard’s men will bring it back. Unless you need something?”

“Nah.” Now it was just another lake, pretty on the surface, nothing but muck on the bottom. “Let’s get out of here.”

They headed straight back to London. Neither of them said much beyond what was necessary. They weren’t physically tired but they were weary in spirit, a mental exhaustion that made the simplest conversation an effort. Bodie was driving, so when he pulled up outside his flat and switched the engine off it seemed natural for Doyle to follow him inside.

“Shower?” Bodie offered him a clean towel. He took it.

“Thanks.”

“Grab one of my tracksuits if you like. Want a cup of tea?”

“Yeah, great.”

Bodie went into the kitchen. Doyle wandered over to the door and lounged against it, watching as Bodie rustled about, filling the kettle, collecting mugs from the cupboard.

“We’ll have to get some food in if we want to write those reports tonight.”

So Bodie expected him to stay. Well, that suited Doyle just fine. Sometimes he preferred to unwind alone – read a book, go for a walk, anything that shifted his focus away from the case – but not today. They had shared everything for over a week and the thought of walking away, of severing the connection, was unpleasant. It would have to happen sooner or later. Just… let it be later.

“I’ll do a shop after, while you’re having your shower,” he offered, as Bodie handed him a mug. “Could cook some spag bol too, if you like. Unless you want takeaway.”

Bodie’s face brightened at that. “If you feel like cooking, mate, have at it. Reckon I could manage the eating part alright.”

Doyle grinned back. “You can do the cooking part too, I know that. You just like to pretend it’s beneath you.”

“Takes too much time, that’s the problem. When I’m hungry I want something right away. ‘S different if someone else offers to do the work, of course.”

Doyle laughed, and the feel of it bubbled up and out, shaking loose the remains of the afternoon and freeing his soul.



Later, after showers and shopping, a pot of bolognaise sauce (taste tested, several times, by Bodie) simmering on the stovetop and a glass of red wine to hand, Doyle tried to collect his thoughts sufficiently to write his report. On the other side of the table Bodie was doing the same. Occasionally he, or perhaps Bodie, would make a comment or ask a question, or sigh and chew on his pen when the words refused to come.

“Hard to write about those two when we don’t even know their names,” Bodie mused during one interlude.

“Describe them once then give them a label. I’ve got the short one down as A, the man you shot is B, and we know the bloke in the car was Rio.”

“I mean,” Bodie continued, “we don’t know anything about them. Can guess – I suppose they did it for the money – but their history, how they ended up being picked out for the job. That’s what I’d like to know.”

Doyle stared at him. It wasn’t like Bodie to dwell on things at the end of the day. “What’s going on in that head of yours? They’re both dead now, that’s what you usually say counts.”

“Ah, just thinking about choices. Could have been me, if I’d made a few different ones.”

“Wouldn’t have liked that, seeing you walking down those stairs. Or being left wondering who you were and how you came to be there.”

“Or…, nah, just forget it. I’m here and so are you and that’s what matters. How’s dinner coming along?” As quickly as it had arrived, Bodie’s pensive mood had gone and he was looking at Doyle hopefully.

“Should be about done. More than this report anyway, but I need a break.” He put the paperwork aside. “’Ere, you can set the table while I’m cooking. And you can grate the parmesan too. I bought some fresh at Luigi’s.” And he’d had to drive over to sodding Chelsea to get it, but Bodie wouldn’t know that.

“Yes, mum.”

Doyle threw a mock punch at the top of Bodie’s head, easily dodged.

Later, waiting for a pot of water to boil, Doyle wondered about that brief display of moodiness. Why was Bodie, of all people, spending time thinking about dead men?

Bodie had taken a liking to the taller of the two killers, Doyle remembered that. The brawl at the pub, a brief handshake and moment of connection. Parting then, neither anticipating seeing the other again. And then, recognition followed by realisation and reaction, none of which Doyle had seen, having had his own hands full with the second man. The sequence was clear in his mind now, Bodie’s mood explicable. He’d be over it soon.

The water finally boiled. He threw in a quantity of pasta, gave it a quick stir and went on a search for plates, and a board for the bread.

Bodie had two large helpings of spaghetti, half the bread loaf and didn’t mention the case once. He washed up while Doyle completed his report, then they watched the Nine O’clock News together. Tony Benn attacked the Government on petrol prices while Interpol continued the search for terrorists responsible for the Haig assassination attempt and a match between India and the MCC had ended in a draw.

“Could go to the first Test,” Bodie said. That was in Birmingham, the week before their leave ended. It seemed a long way off.

“Guess so. Ask me again on the weekend.” Doyle grabbed the newspaper and scanned the cinemas. “Hey, the new James Bond’s opened. Fancy seeing that?”

“Tomorrow? You’ll want to take Claire, I suppose.”

Oh, yeah. He felt vaguely guilty, Claire’s on and off again presence in his life nowhere near the forefront of his mind. “I’ll give her a call. But you should come with us. She doesn’t mind you, whatever she says.”

“All right,” Bodie sounded amused. “On my best behaviour, I promise.”

“She’ll think you’ve been replaced by a robot. Okay, tomorrow it is, National Health Service willing.”

Bodie tipped the last of the wine into Doyle’s glass. “Finish this up. You can kip here, no sense going back to your place tonight.”

Doyle readily agreed. His car was at headquarters, a pain to get there by cab and then drive home again. Bodie unearthed a pile of blankets from the hall cupboard, which he piled onto the sofa and, after a brief use of the bathroom and Bodie’s toothbrush, Doyle assembled them into a kind of nest and lodged himself within it.

He drifted off, and it seemed as though he slept for a long time, but not well. He floated in the shallows of night dreams, neither awake nor deeply asleep, pieces of yesterday and other days mingling, fragments in time without coherence or sense.

The morning sun through the windows wakened him early. Kicking off the blankets he got out of bed hastily - he had somewhere to go or something important to do, he was certain of it– then he relaxed when he realised where he was. Bodie’s bedroom door was still closed, so he made a cup of tea, taking the cap off the kettle first so its shrill whistle wouldn't disturb the sleeper.

Bodie’s current flat was a high-ceilinged Victorian job not far from Regents Park Zoo. “So the keepers can keep an eye on you,” as someone (female) had quipped when the latest round of housing assignments went up. It had tall sash windows that looked out on a narrow street and a dozen or so other houses, all of the same vintage. There were a few trees, some struggling to survive, others flourishing leafy green.

It was a weekday morning and already a few dressed for the office types were trudging purposefully in the direction of the nearest Underground. Joggers, later starters presumably, wove their way in between the more slowly moving figures. The sky was clear, promising a perfect day. Only, what to do with it?

He could go down Charing Cross Road and explore the bookshops, pick out two or three books, he’d probably get through them quite quickly now that he had time on his hands. Or maybe he’d suggest a drive into the country. They could hire a boat, row up the river and back, finish the day with a couple of pints in that pub on the water where they’d been sometime last summer. Then again there was his promise to call Claire, and if she was on days off she might want to meet early rather than later. Leave that for later in the week, then.

Noises from behind told him that the sleeper was up and about, going to the bathroom first, then into the kitchen. Then Bodie came over to the window and stood beside him,

“Great morning.” Bodie sounded cheerful.

“Yeah. Nice view from here.”

“It gets better. Seen the girl with the Irish Setter yet?”

“No.” He chuckled, having an idea of what was coming next.

“Lovely dog, very lively. She has a hard time keeping him in hand. So it’s more a case of him taking her for a jog, and she’s a curvy lass.” Bodie’s arms moved up and down in classical motion. “Very entertaining.”

They watched for a while longer, but no Irish Setters with particularly well-endowed owners appeared.

You did buy bacon and eggs yesterday? I hope I didn’t dream it.”

“They’re in the fridge, in all their cholesterol-filled glory.”

“Bless you, my son. Alright, I’ll cook breakfast.”

Bodie managed the frying pan while Doyle cooked the toast and cleaned away the eggshells and the bacon wrapping, laying cutlery and butter on the table just as Bodie shovelled the food onto their plates.

“I’ve got a couple of things need doing today,” he announced, halfway through the meal. “How about I drive you in to pick up your car, we can dump the reports and grab our gear at the same time. You sort tonight out with Claire and I’ll call you in a couple of hours.”

That sounded fair enough, even if Bodie had sounded a little too determined that the world would fit in with his plans, so Doyle agreed. It took very little time to drive to headquarters, and although he worried slightly that Cowley would spot them entering his office and recall them to duty the task was done without interference from that quarter.

Once back home he called Claire and they agreed to meet for a late lunch. Another quick call from Bodie sorted their evening plans. Claire was back on mornings from tomorrow, so they’d go to an early session.


He’d met Claire almost eight months ago when he’d been forced to spend a couple of nights in hospital. She was a nice girl, from some small town in New Zealand – he’d later worked out the name with the aid of a global gazetteer after her flat Kiwi vowels had left him without a clue. He’d used the opportunity to his advantage and asked her out.

Neither of them wanted anything permanent, but they had become friends, and occasional lovers. He supposed that Bodie thought the latter state was the significant one – reasonable, considering he’d mentioned her that night before the conference. It was more that he found her a comfortable person to be around. She was fun, both in bed and out of it, and refreshingly free of pretensions.

“I’m thinking of moving on,” she said later, over noodles and green tea. “I’ve been in London a year. It’s a fantastic place, but so expensive and the pay’s atrocious, worse than back home. I haven’t been able to save a penny, even living in.”

“Where to next?”

“I’ve applied for a job in Edinburgh. The Royal Infirmary.” She rolled her r’s with gusto. “Dad’s family comes from Scotland and there’s a third cousin once removed – or maybe it’s the other way around, I can’t remember – who’s happy for me to lodge with her. So, new city, new opportunities. Wish me luck, Ray. I really want this job.”

“Of course I do, but you won’t need it. Hey, do you want any more of that five spice chicken?”

“When you do get that job, we’ll go out and celebrate. Any place you like.”

“What if I want to go to the Dorchester?” Said mischievously.

“Even the Dorchester.” She wouldn’t suggest it, of course. At least he hoped not.

“Ah, Ray Doyle, you say the sweetest things.” She looked misty eyed for a moment, then recovered. Doyle felt a little emotional as well. He’d definitely miss her.



Later, they met Bodie outside the film theatre as arranged. Bodie was, unusually, by himself.

“Lost your little black book?”

Bodie shrugged, dismissing the remark. “I was busy, left it too late to call anyone.”

Bodie ushered them forward, he bought tickets for himself and Claire, and they entered the theatre. He ended up sitting between the two of them, Claire’s feminine presence on one side, Bodie’s solid masculine one on the other.

The skydiving sequence at the beginning was impressive and he whispered as much to Bodie as the credits rolled. But as the film progressed, the absurdity of several of the set-piece scenes began to annoy and his attention wavered. Bond just wasn’t what he used to be. Doyle had one arm around Claire and she snuggled close, seemingly enjoying herself. Bodie, on the other hand had started a slow slide down in his seat, a sure sign that he was becoming just as irritated and bored as Doyle was.

As the end credits finally ran, Bodie turned to him with a grimace and said “I need a drink. Since this was your idea…”

“Yeah, I know. I’m buying.”

Tearing the film to shreds over drinks turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the evening. Bodie, a dyed in the wool Connery fan was completely scathing. Even Claire, while admitting she was a Roger Moore fan, managed to find fault.

“That was just bizarre! All that jaunting around, confusing things. What was the point of the scene in Rio with the ponchos and the Magnificent Seven music, for goodness sake?”

“If Sean Connery came back he’d beat the pants off Moore. Real physical presence, that’s what he had."

"You think it's safe to visit Venice again? I like the idea…"



He took Claire back to the nurses home. It was late.

“Shall I come inside?”

‘I’d love that, but it’s after hours. No men allowed in rooms after ten-thirty. That includes brothers, fathers, and off-duty CI5 agents.”

“What about the fire escape? I’d be very, very quiet.” He caught her around the waist, drew her close and kissed her soundly.

“Mmmm. I like your thinking.” She wriggled a little in his embrace, pressing against him. “But Matron’s got ESP, I’m convinced of it. I’m qualified, so I’m supposed to be an example to all the scatty juniors, a saint in my own lifetime. And since I’m relying on her for a reference…”

“I see. But I’m deeply disappointed.” He slipped a hand underneath her blouse, stroked the smooth skin of her back. “Are they so very scatty, then, your junior nurses?”

“Homesick, mostly. Doesn’t matter whether they come from, Rhodesia, Hong Kong or Bognor Regis, they all miss their mums.”

It had been almost two weeks since the last time he’d had sex and he was already heated with the idea of it, a little aroused at the smell of her perfume and the feel of her body against his. But it was not to be. He touched his lips to hers again, gently this time.

“Better get in. Maybe we can get together later this week. I don’t have any plans.”

“That would be lovely. Friday? I’m still on mornings until Monday, and I’ll be doing all the overtime I can get, but I could manage an evening off.”

“Friday sounds great. My place, six o’clock? You can help me cook dinner.”

“It’s a deal. See you later, Ray.”

When he got home there was a note on the hall carpet, pushed through the letterbox. Mustn’t lose our edge. Not keen to visit Macklin again. Run tomorrow – ten o’clock? B.”

He mentally rearranged his plans to accommodate the run, and went to bed. Oddly, perhaps, the sexual heat of before had left him and he fell into sleep easily and quickly.


************************************


Next morning promised another bright and cheerful summery day. He had time to take his washing to the laundry and do a few chores after breakfast, and when Bodie arrived they decided to run from the flat to a local park and do a few turns there. There was a lane on their way down the hill that was closed to motor vehicles and they raced down it, running swiftly between high fences, footsteps echoing.

“So how are you and Claire getting on?” Bodie asked, after they’d reached the park itself, broad expanses of neatly trimmed grass between carefully constrained pockets of rose garden or duck pond, and one actual “wilderness”, with trees and shrubbery. The path they ran on wandered through most of these, then stretched out to frame the edges of the lawns, a little less than a mile around.

“Not bad. She’s applied for a job in Edinburgh.”

“Going for a long-distance romance, are you?”

‘Hardly. Postcards at Christmas, that sort of thing.”

“Ah. Not the love of your life then?”

“I don’t think so, no.” They’d reached the wild garden, where the path changed direction every few yards, and in places wound back on itself, where the trees were low overhead and the rock garden pushed out into the path, narrowing it in places. They had to slow down and watch their step, which was fine, because he was at the uncomfortable stage somewhere just before getting his second wind, before everything started to flow together, motion, heartbeat, muscles and lungs in harmony.

He didn’t hear what Bodie said at first and had to ask him to repeat himself.

“I said,” Bodie called back at him, “Maybe that means you and me have a chance.” And then he took off. They’d reached another straight stretch, and he powered down the path, forcing Doyle to sprint to keep up with him.

Somehow he managed it, although his mind was whirling and he wasn’t concentrating on what he was doing with his feet. This startlingly blatant statement of Bodie’s – there was no way he could have misheard or misinterpreted... Not the way he’d shouted it out. The meaning was pretty damned clear too.

He could ignore it, if challenged he could pretend Bodie was just having him on. Only something told him otherwise. Or he could go along with it, see where it led them – but he’d been down that road before, in his thoughts, and there were too many branching possibilities, too many endings of grief and destruction.

He pushed forward and grabbed at Bodie’s arm to slow him down, and they drew to a stop. “What do you mean by that, precisely?”

The look Bodie gave him was somewhere between amused and cheeky ten-year old kid who knows he’s about to get himself in trouble, but full of bravado none the less. Suddenly Doyle was very glad he was wearing his loosest pair of tracksuit pants. His heart was pounding, but not from the run, and he didn’t know what to say. He just stared at Bodie, waiting for an answer.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it. Only - there’s always been a girl, hasn’t there? Or bullets flying, and we’re just trying to stay alive. But now…,” he stretched a little, looked around, “we’re on time off, and you’re free, or near as. So, sometime in the next two weeks, I’m going to ask you to come to bed with me. And you will.”

“Sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

“Sure of you, more like. I’ve seen the way you look at me sometimes, the way you show yourself off around me. Oh, don’t worry. I’ll let you decide. You always like being the one in charge. Tell you what – you can be the one doing the asking. That’ll do me.” Bodie smiled complacently, and it took all of Doyle’s resolve not to reach for him there and then. Or throttle the insufferable, arrogant bastard, he wasn’t sure which.

“C’mon, once more round then we’ll call it a day.” Just like that, Bodie headed off again, leaving Doyle trailing in his wake.

Bloody Bodie, subtle as a grenade. He should tell him to get lost. Maybe. Fuck.

In the end he decided to finish the run. The subject appeared to be closed for the time being, although Bodie seemed less at ease than before, casting wary looks in Doyle’s direction, keeping talk light and inconsequential. He was a lot less certain about how Doyle would react than he’d appeared earlier, and Doyle found that apparent vulnerability, slight though it was, quite reassuring.

Bodie didn’t stick around afterwards, either. That left Doyle in a state of confusion, which he tried to combat by going to Foyle’s and pulling books from the shelves at random. He ended up with a large pile containing a fairly new Stephen King, a couple of motorcycle annuals from the second-hand section, a new and very expensive book on the bamboccianti, the little painters of the seventeenth century, a similarly pricey one on Japanese art and some postcards of the same – they’d do to write to Claire when she moved, he reasoned. Then it occurred to him that he’d been taking her departure for granted, that he was almost looking forward to it, and that he’d end up spending a lot more money than he’d intended if he wasn’t careful, so he put the art and the postcards back. He’d return for them another time, perhaps.

At home he couldn’t get settled, so he took “The Stand” down to his local and had a couple of pints while he read. It was a good book, thoroughly engrossing, and by the time he wandered back everything seemed normal again.

The phone rang. Bodie.

“It’s me. Look, about this morning. Just say the word and we can forget about it, if you want.”

“Decided you don’t fancy me now, is that it?” Fuck him, he thought perversely, he can’t do this to me.

“No.” A silence, then, “I don’t want to muck things up between us, that’s all.”

“That makes two of us.” Mollified a little, he added, “Look, let it alone for a bit, alright? We’ve been living in each other’s pockets too long, that’s all. Find your little black book, take someone out and screw them through the mattress afterwards. Then see how you really feel.”

Bodie chuckled softly. “Yes, Doctor Doyle. Just tell me you’ll go for a run again. Saturday, okay?”

“Yeah, Saturday. I’m busy tomorrow.”

“Claire?”

“Yeah.”

Another silence.

“Bodie?”

“Mmm, what?”

“You falling asleep or something?”

“No. Alright, I’ll go. See you Saturday.”

Unfuckingbelievable.

He should get right away - it was stupid to hang around in London. Two days ago there had seemed to be an endless amount of time for decisions about this or that – now the future was compressed, he was trapped. Claire tomorrow, Bodie on Saturday. Sunday – he’d definitely leave on Sunday. Go to his mum’s, she’d be glad to see him. Because if he didn’t get away, there was a part of him that was saying, insistently, that he should do what Bodie wanted.

What Bodie wanted. Christ, it wasn’t just Bodie. Maybe they should go for it, after all. They were on leave, they could do what they liked and call a halt before anything got too heavy, before they had to go back to work.

Deep down, though, he knew it wasn’t true. They were a perfect team, but if their partnership extended in that direction, there would be no restraint and no ending, except for one of the dire ones that were his nightmares. He’d tell Bodie as much, face to face, on Saturday.

Settled, he cast around for things to do, remembered that he hadn’t cleaned his gun since the shoot-out, and pulled his kit out of the cupboard with a sense of relief.




Doyle had a slow start on Friday, spending the morning reading more of 'The Stand, then shopping at Sainsbury's after lunch. He bought steaks, bread, some coleslaw, and potatoes for baking then drove home under a dark sky, grey clouds massing overhead. Maybe it would pour, or maybe not. The cloud banks had been there earlier in the week, but it had stayed dry.

Claire arrived, bubbling with the news that she had the interview she’d wanted in Edinburgh on Monday and would be leaving on the Sunday night train, coming back Tuesday. She’d brought rice salad with her, home-made.

“Thought you couldn’t cook because you lived in.”

“There’s a hotplate in the common room, although it’s crap. I borrowed a rice steamer from one of the Chinese nurses. They can’t stand the cafeteria food. We have international dinner nights sometimes, all meals done in electric frying pans.”

“Sounds like a good time. I couldn’t wait to get out of the section house, myself.”

“Don’t blame you. All that testosterone in a confined space. Like living with your brothers.”

“Nothing wrong with that. How do you like your steak?”

“Bloody, please.”

Dinner was a success. Later they washed the dishes and drank more wine while watching a movie on television. When they went to bed together they made love, an easeful joining of two friends intent on giving each other pleasure. They fell asleep still wrapped around each other.

The alarm went off at five o'clock and he drove Claire to the hospital in time for her to shower and dress for duty, before returning to his flat. Back in bed he managed an extra couple of hours of sleep, waking with a heavy head around nine. When he checked the weather, he saw the clouds were back, heavier than ever. Still, it didn’t feel like rain just yet. Maybe it would hold off.

Tea and a couple of pieces of toast for breakfast cleared his head and he was waiting outside, leaning on the bonnet of the Capri, when Bodie arrived. He greeted Doyle with a smile and met his eyes steadily enough, but Doyle could feel the tension radiating off his hard muscled form, and said, more sharply than he’d really intended, “Run first, talk later.” That seemed to do the trick and after some perfunctory stretches they set off for the park, jogging companionably side by side.

Ten minutes down to the park and another twenty doing the rounds of the paths, with Bodie holding rigidly to Doyle’s admonition and saying nothing. He’d shot several wary glances Doyle’s way though, and he’d dropped back a little, so that Doyle preceded him through the narrow sections, only caching up on the straight. It was beginning to unnerve Doyle, distract him. On the third circuit he overreached slightly; his right foot caught on an edge of rock protruding into the path, a spear of pain shot through his instep and he came to an abrupt halt.

He sat down on the path and took his shoe off to check the damage. Bodie was right there, kneeling down beside him, concern showing on his face.

“You all right?”

“Yeah, I think so.” His foot was slightly tender, but he could move it easily enough. Probably just a mild strain.

He put his shoe on and stood up. Not too bad, the pain would probably work itself out if he didn’t keep pounding it. “Tell you what, I’m sick of running in circles. Let’s go onto the grass, do some proper exercises.”

They found a flat patch of lawn for it, and, at Doyle’s suggestion, started out with some martial arts moves. He was more flexible than Bodie, and slightly faster on the more complex manoeuvres, but Bodie had the edge in other ways. Doyle watched as he executed a series of kicks with powerful accuracy, the play of muscles under the soft covering of tracksuit bottoms arousing feelings of guilt-stricken enjoyment and eating away at his resolve.

“C’mon butch,” he challenged, hitting the ground face first. “Press-ups. Race you to forty.”

“Head start’s not fair,” Bodie grumbled, but he was down and pressing in next to no time, rapidly reaching and passing Doyle’s own count. When Doyle finished, a couple of beats behind, he rolled onto his back on the grass, breathing heavily. Sit-ups next, he thought. He’d wear them both out, and that would make it easier, surely, take away the aching, unwelcome desire that was building inside.

He had his eyes closed, and when he first felt a drop of moisture on his face, it surprised him. If bloody Bodie was leaning over him, getting sweat in his eyes, he’d…

“Ray… Ray! Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s going to piss down. Can you run?”

The sky had decided to empty itself on top of them after all. The first spattering of fat droplets increased quickly to a heavy shower. It was pointless trying to avoid the downpour, but they gave it their best, racing across the lawn and up the lane. Within a couple of hundred yards Doyle’s foot began to play up, and he was forced to slow, then stop. He leaned against the lane wall, water coursing down his face, soaking through his tracksuit to his skin. It was warm rain, summer rain, not at all uncomfortable – and when Bodie came back for him he leaned against him, wrapped one arm across his shoulders and hobbled the rest of the way home.

They paused in the entry while he felt in his pocket for the key, wet fabric dragging, getting in his way. Behind them the rain had stopped, as quickly as it had begun.

“Want some help?” Bodie’s voice was low, humorous.

“Nah, I’ve got it.” They were no longer touching, but Bodie was close, so close, he could feel the heat radiating off him. He turned towards him. Bodie’s face was damp, his expression impassive, but the heady emotion in the depths of his eyes kindled a like feeling in Doyle. A quick tug of fear hit him in the stomach.

Bodie smiled gently. “It’s still up to you.” He took the key from Doyle’s hand and opened the door. Doyle let himself be guided inside – then, as Bodie closed the door behind them, anger overtook the fear. Bodie knew, the bastard. All he was doing was playing the waiting game, until Doyle gave in, until he couldn’t say no any longer. A campaign of attrition rather than a direct assault. Well, he wasn’t going to take that. He’d…

He swivelled around to face his partner, shoved him against the door-frame, pressed him into it with a forearm across the chest. The key fell from Bodie’s hand onto the mat. Taking advantage of a momentary stillness, he slid his other hand down Bodie’s ribs towards his hip. He felt a responsive shiver, saw a wariness in blue eyes that hadn’t been there a moment ago.

He’d been on the defensive since this started – but Bodie’s reaction to his touch changed everything. Bravado aside, Bodie was as shit scared of this as he was. Maybe for the same reasons, maybe not – it didn’t matter.

“Sod talking,” he growled. He felt Bodie breathe, a single apprehensive intake of air – and moved closer, slipping his arms around Bodie's neck, cradling the back of his head lightly and claiming his lips with a kiss. An unwelcome thought flashed through his mind just before their mouths joined – he'd left himself open. If Bodie couldn't take this – if he was one of the butch ones who thought fucking was fine, but being kissed by a man wasn't – then he was about to find out, probably painfully.

Bodie's lips were cool, skin moist from the rain. He groaned softly against Doyle's mouth, his own opening slightly, mobile under Doyle's gentle assault. Relieved, Doyle increased the pressure, sketching the shape of Bodie's mouth with his tongue while he measured himself the length of the strong body, feeling Bodie's arousal against his hip, his own pressing increasingly hard against Bodie's thigh. Restraint fled; his senses heightened solely to this bewildering coalescence of desire.

He grabbed the top of Bodie's tracksuit bottoms, pulling them away and down, needing more contact, more closeness. Bodie thrust his pelvis forward as he was bared to the hip, encouraging Doyle to reach down and take the thick erection – hard, and filled with the heat of the man – in his hand. Bodie surged against him again and his cock leapt in Doyle's grasp.

Something was wrong. He was struggling with his own clothing when Bodie pushed him away. Not far, but far enough. His hands dropped to his sides.

“What’s the matter?” Frustration bubbled out of him. “Thought you wanted this?”

Bodie’s face was flushed, his eyes dark. Beautiful, sexy as hell. And annoyed.

“I wanted to take you to bed. Lie down with you, not…” and he paused, sentence unfinished but meaning clear.

“Oh.” As ever, when threatened his instinct had been to rush in and secure the target. It was uncertainty and fear, and lack of cover that had caused him to act like an overeager teenager. Clearly Bodie had different expectations – just as clearly, he’d better set about meeting some of them.

And when he looked into Bodie’s eyes again, and saw what was there, he knew he could do it.

“C’mon then,” he said, looking Bodie up and down, eyes communicating heartfelt appreciation of everything he saw. “Sounds good to me.”

He reached for Bodie; their hands met, linked and gripped strongly. They walked to the bedroom together, side by side.

The bedclothes were still rumpled from the previous night. The curtains were parted slightly, letting in a thin beam of daylight. Enough light to see by, he thought, then realised with a pang that it had only been a few hours since he and Claire had made love here, on his bed. It was as though Bodie could read his mind – he tensed, and his grip on Doyle’s hand tightened.

Don’t think about it. More importantly, don’t stop. Used sheets weren’t the end of the world – but he had the feeling that if this mood broke, if they paused and let what they were doing sink in, they would shatter into pieces that could never be rejoined.

Bodie whispered, “Take your clothes off. Let me see you.” A shiver ran down his spine, Bodie’s softly spoken words seducing him over again, turning him on fiercely.

“You too,” he replied, hand tracing a downward path on Bodie’s chest. “Want all of you. Get naked for me, Bodie.”

Action bespoke consent. They undressed in silence, watching each other. Bodie seemed almost solemn – he stripped quickly, eyes shining in the half light, never wavering from Doyle’s, until they were both naked. They moved with common purpose, Doyle on one side of the bed, Bodie on the other, came together again in the middle and touched, as though they had never done so before.

This time Bodie initiated the kiss, and Doyle answered. They pressed close together, thrust against each other, fighting for movement, for the friction of skin on sensitive flesh. It was too much, it was not enough. Doyle twisted them sideways, found Bodie’s cock and gave it several firm strokes. He felt Bodie's breathing quicken as the moment of orgasm approached; watched the way his mouth opened and drank in the deep groan as, having reached the apex, he fell over. Doyle buried his face in Bodie’s shoulder as he thrust against skin made slippery now by spilt semen, speeding his own rush to release.

It‘s done, he thought, drowsy and satiated as he drew the duvet over them both. Whatever the consequences, he’d made a choice he could live with. He wondered if Bodie felt the same.

Very much later (hours) he thought he had the answer. He had been made love to with finesse and a passion he’d rarely encountered before, Bodie’s sexual energy seeming effortlessly self-renewing. At some point late in the day he’d been lying back on the pillows, watching, while Bodie sucked him - mouth a perfect ‘O’ around the shaft of Doyle’s cock - he lifted his head a little and Doyle saw and felt the smile form, from the eyes creasing to the lips firming around him, and the loveliness of it shot through him and he came like fire.




In the morning there was an empty space beside him and the sound of Bodie’s voice outside, in the lounge.

“Thanks mate. I appreciate it, especially Sunday morning. Apologise to Sheila for me, okay?

Bodie finished the call and came back into the bedroom. He was already dressed.

“Hey,” he said, cheerfully. “How’re you feeling?”

“Good.” He suspected his smile in return was a little too bright. “Who was that?”

“Just a friend.” For a moment Bodie looked wary. “He’s got some information for me.”

“Ah.” Not a lot he could say to that. He started to feel uncomfortable, lying naked as he was in the bed where he and Bodie had spent the night.

“I’d like to stay, but I have some people to see. Might be away for a day or so.”

“What’s this about? Why d’you have to rush off now.” Damn, he sounded weak.

Bodie shook his head. “I’m not ready to talk about it, Ray, so don’t ask. Tell you later, okay?”

“Suppose so,” Doyle said. “It’s not like I own you or anything.” And that was petulant. Shut up, Doyle.

“Yeah, well... talk to you about that later and all. But I’ve gotta go.” Bodie stood up, took a step towards the door, then turned back. “See you.” He leaned down and brushed his lips against Doyle’s forehead. Then he was gone.

Doyle waited until Bodie had gone, then hurled his pillow across the room. This was reminiscent of far too many other mornings, Bodie rushing off on someone with barely any goodbye. At least on those other mornings he'd been rushing off with him.

He spent the rest of the day in a sulk, culminating in too much to drink too early in the evening, and a hangover that began before he went to bed.

Bleary-eyed and irritable the next morning, he prowled the flat for a couple of hours before it dawned on him that all he was doing was waiting for news from Bodie, and that the bastard wasn't about to call him anytime soon. He grabbed his jacket and car keys, and stormed off, not sure where he was going, just wanting to be somewhere, anywhere else.


************************************


Well up on the list of things not to do on leave was to contact anyone in CI5, especially not someone working on a case you recognised. But as he drove towards the river he realised with a sense of purpose that there was someone he very much needed to see.

The pool hall was south of the river, off Jamaica Road in Bermondsey. He parked his car, strolled across the road, pushed the door open and paused. Several of the players looked up from the tables, their dark faces curious and watchful. He was careful not to intrude, just looked around until he saw the man he sought, who raised three fingers in acknowledgement before turning back to his game. Doyle went back to his car to wait.

Three minutes later Marriott opened the passenger door of the Capri and swung himself inside.

"Thought you were on leave?" he offered by way of greeting.

"Wanted to know what’s happening with that murder case we were on.”

"Cowley gave it to us."

Doyle shrugged. "I know. Les, I don’t want to tread on your toes, but…"

"…but you didn’t like the way you and Bodie were sent off. Ref’s decision and all that, but I don’t blame you.”

“So tell me!”

“Okay. We were told to look out for anything related to your two murders. Yeah, that’s right - we got the report and someone shot a load of heroin into Pedder. We don’t have much to go on, though Cowley thinks it was Rodgers. Things have been icy between him and Parker lately and he’s stayed well away from any of Parker’s businesses. That’s delaying things at our end too. We’ve got enough on Rodgers with the blackmail case but Cowley wants to bring them both down at the same time and with their hands in each others’ hip pockets. So, we wait.”

“Not for too long, I hope. Good luck, mate. I’ll see you when I get back”

“Thanks. And if I were you I’d leave the country until then. We’re down to the bone. Wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a recall.”

“I’ll bear it in mind.” He glanced out the window. A couple of the pool players were outside, smoking and watching the car. “They mean trouble for you?"

"Not really. Although it'd be better if you had a visible excuse for being here."

"You buying or selling this time?"

"Selling." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a plastic bag of marijuana. "Ten pounds."

Doyle fished out his wallet and gave Marriott the money.

“I shall want that back, you know.”

Marriott grinned. “You know where to find me.”

Doyle took the bag of dope, the dropped it back in Marriott’s lap. “Not my scene.”

“Nor mine, unless I have to. Stuff hurts my throat.” He tucked the bag back in his pocket and opened the car door. “Nice doing business with you.”

After Marriott left, Doyle eased the Capri back onto the road. He headed south and east, determined to leave London behind him. He ended up in Whitstable, strolling by the harbour, eating fish and chips and watching the gulls circle overhead, their plaintive cries competing with the rumblings and putterings of the boats and the shouts of the men winching their catch ashore.

One of the boats further around the harbour had a sign out and curiosity drew him towards her. The’ Aurora’, as she was named, offered trips along the coast and to the intriguingly named “Sea Forts”. In a whimsical mood, he paid money to a lad with a canvas pouch strapped around his waist and stepped on board. After a longish wait a large family group also clambered down the steps and onto the deck, and that seemed to be enough for the lad and the boat’s skipper, because the gangplank was taken up, ropes were cast off and the ‘Aurora’ headed away.

He found a space on the rail and leaned there. A light wind cleared the air of diesel fumes and most of the chatter of the other passengers. Cloud-filtered, the sun was still warmish, the water placid and the seashore pretty and occasionally interesting.

It was the sea forts that got his attention. Rusty giants, they looked like props from some strange science fiction movie. The skipper cut the engine and let the little boat bob and drift, while he explained the purpose of the structures. Doyle was impressed. He wondered if Bodie knew about them. Of course he would, he must have passed them any number of times in his merchant navy days, but it would have been nice to have him here – then next time Bodie complained about an obbo duty he could pull out their shared experience of somewhere worse and shut him up.

The idea of Bodie’s presence excited him: his absence was like a knife in the gut. So much for seizing the moment and letting the future take care of itself. That was Bodie’s way. Doyle knew now that wasn’t for him. He was bound to Bodie, like the sea to the shore, no matter that it seemed he would have to accept the casual indifference of the ocean.



It was late afternoon by the time the ‘Aurora’ arrived back in the harbour. Doyle left her with a token wave to the skipper, and headed for his car, intending to find somewhere to stay for the night. He was surprised to find a policeman waiting there as well.

“Afternoon, sir. Is your name Doyle?”

“Yes, it is.” Curious.

“A message arrived at the station this afternoon. From Mr. George Cowley. You’ve been ordered back to London.”

And that was all the young copper knew, although he did say that the police been given the description of his car and told to keep a look out for it.


************************************

He called in as soon as he arrived home. As had seemed likely, Lewis and Marriott’s case had broken, and he’d been recalled to make up the numbers in an operation that was due to start in a couple of hours.

“What about Bodie?” he asked.

“He’s here,” was the reply. “You’re the last to report in. The briefing’s in thirty minutes, so get moving.”

He made it just in time, although he had to stand at the back. All the seats were taken. It looked as though Cowley had brought in the full strength for this one. He saw Bodie in the front row, sitting next to Murphy, thought about going over and saying hello but didn’t have time before Cowley came in and the room hushed.

After some preliminaries and background, Cowley revealed the plan.

“We will hit every location tied to either Rodgers or Parker. There will be one team for each, with police back-up.

“The aim is to secure evidence. Go in fast, lock the place down. Do not use lethal force if it can be avoided. Do not allow anyone taken on the premises to make a phone call.

“Anson, Murphy, you’ll pick up Parker....

“...Bodie, Doyle, you’ll take the King Street house. There’s a possibility that’s where Rodgers will be, he received a phone call from Parker there earlier today. Be mindful that if any girls are found on the premises, some of them are likely to be underaged,”

After the briefing, Doyle waited for Bodie, who was talking to Murphy and taking his time about it. Les Marriott greeted him, gave him his ten pounds back and joked about the call out before he left for his assignment. Finally, Bodie came up to him.

“Ready to go?” was all he said. Doyle couldn’t tell a thing from his expression. Presumably the holiday was over, they were back to business as usual. Only there was nothing ‘usual’ about this taciturn Bodie.

“Ready when you are,” Doyle agreed.

Part Four
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