One word, four letters, sounds like - sounds like something I've heard so many times before that I stopped listening. Love - the many-splendoured thing - the term hackneyed through over-use. What the HELL has love got to do with getting laid? I've never said it - refused to use the word on principle and I never understood what the big deal was, until...
When he's hurting, and I find an ache in my heart - empathic reaction, I told myself. But I never asked WHY. When he's in trouble - I find I fly to defend him, siding with him automatically. I never ask who started the fight... When he's blue, I'm there for him to lean on, keeping the world at bay, so that he has a chance to heal...
No, I never understood what it was until the night we shared, and opened up our past lives, half-afraid like Pandora. He was hurting and it mattered to me. There was more than trust between us; I cared for him.
"In case we don't get out alive, and I never get the chance to say it again, thanks for the last few years, mate." His words echoed softly in the dark. "It's been... special."
I felt my face flush, and knew that he had admitted to the same emotions that were racing through me. If he wouldn't say the words, I would have to for both of us. "I should be thanking you," I replied. "I... love you, you know."
There was a moment that lasted forever, then I heard him shifting ever so slightly. When he spoke, his voice came from right beside my ear. "I know. Think I've always known. 'S what makes us a good team, more than partners, closer than friends." I felt his fingers push my fringe. "Bloody funny time to discover it," he chuckled.
I couldn't've agreed more. The morning was a scant few hours away with another interminable period of waiting after.
"We may not get out of this alive, you know."
"And I don't think that either of us is going to sleep much anyhow..."
"So. What d'you suggest we do about it?"
I knew. Of COURSE I knew what we'd do. What we should've done a long time ago when we both knew that we'd stick to this trade together. He was already unzipping his sleeping bag, and I found I'd done the same. Deftly, he clipped them together and struggled inside, wriggling against me.
"It'll get hot with both of us in here."
I peeled off my shirt and squirmed out of my trousers. He laughed softly and did the same, excavating all the discarded clothing and dumping it quietly by his side. He lay there, propped on one elbow, staring down at me. I could almost see his expression.
I held out my arms and he slid into them, fitting himself so close, like we were designed for it, for this one perfect moment. I pressed my lips to his forehead.
He looked up, snorting with amusement, and covered my mouth with his in response.
"When we get out of here," I promised, "we'll take off somewhere together. Up to the mountains maybe."
"Take a tent," he agreed. "Just the two of us." He paused. "If we get out of this alive."
The same thought was haunting me. "Get some sleep," I advised. "We'll need it. Got to be on top form tomorrow."
He pillowed his head on my chest, and snuggled up, pressing his cheek against my breast-bone. Felt good, holding my mate there, giving credence to the illusion that I was protecting him. I was actually falling asleep when he spoke again.
"I got a bad feeling about this one, mate," he murmured. "Can't help it."
I hugged him closer, and felt a shiver start somewhere deep in my heart. "Yeah, well... only another thirteen hours to go. Try an' get some sleep, Joe."
One word, four letters, sounds like - um, sounds like... sunshine in the morning, softly dripping honey-coloured light across an angel face. It's the colour of life, suspended in one instant, and I can understand the concept of Heaven in that moment. The sight of paradise - you, gilded by dawn's first effort. No wonder the poets rave; you could inspire a thousand verses, for no ordinary words could ever do you justice. A sonnet attempting to capture your beauty, the abandoned majesty of you. In a moment it will be gone and I'll have but a memory that time will eventually dull.
Living ballad - your chest rising, falling as you sleep, holy innocent, wholly guilty, at peace now. One minute out of time when you stop long enough for me to see you as you are. If I reach out, I can almost touch.
Doyle was bringing his weapon to bear even as Bodie's hand settled on his shoulder. He breathed a sigh of relief and glared at his partner. "Jesus, Bodie. Don't do things like that. I could've killed you!"
Bodie regarded him levelly. "I'm sorry, sunshine. I didn't mean to wind you up. I just..." He couldn't say it. Sounded stupid, even in the privacy of his own mind. Out loud, it would be a thousand times worse.
Doyle's hand covered his where it rested on one tawny bicep. "It's okay," he said softly. "I know. I understand."
Do you? Bodie almost asked it aloud, checking himself at the last moment.
Doyle lifted his partner's hand, twisting it, twining their fingers. He rubbed his cheek against the callused palm, kissing it gently before pushing it up into his curls.
Bodie freed his fingers, and buried them in the unruly thatch, drawing Doyle to where he could reach him with his lips. One eyebrow, a silvering temple, a stubble-roughened jaw, and finally the ready, expectant mouth. Bodie charted his way down the familiar face, enjoying the new sensations and unique taste of a freshly-waken partner.
Doyle poked his tongue into his mouth, running along perfect teeth savouring his Bodie-breakfast. "Taste good," he murmured when he broke contact to breath. "Bodie, if we don't make it today... if something happens to one of us..."
Bodie shut him up with another kiss. "We'll make it, sunshine."
"But if we don't I have to tell you..."
"I know," Bodie smiled. "I know, Ray. Think I've always known. That's what makes us Cowley's best team - better than friends, closer than brothers."
Doyle laughed. "Bloody hell! What a time to find out! I mean, we might not even make it to the end of the day."
"Ray," Bodie cupped his partner's chin firmly. "We're going to be all right. We're the best at what we do." He met Doyle's troubled eyes. "When this is over, we're going to put in for some leave. We'll go away for a few days. Up to the mountains. Anywhere you like."
"Just the two of us."
"Just the two of us," promised Bodie. "We've got an hour or so to kill. What d'you suggest we do with it?"
Doyle grinned and reached for the zip on his sleeping bag. "Let's get together. I'm sure we'll come up with SOMETHING."
In the attic above them, Joe whimpered in his sleep and was soothed by his wakeful partner. Coney checked his watch. Only six hours to go.
-- THE END --
With thanks to Della Van Hise for the inspiration.
Dedicated to Scully for all the times I never held you, or told you how I feel.