Alley Cat


(after Look After Annie)

"Come out for a drink tonight, sir?" Bodie offered on his way out of Cowley's office. And after a pause, "If I foot the bill?"

Cowley regarded the man for a moment, considering. "If you paid," he observed, "I'd no doubt be drinking something cheap and nasty."

"Nothing but the finest scotch, sir," Bodie promised. "Even on the pittance you call my salary..."

"The Red Lion then?" Cowley bent over his files, refusing to acknowledge the last comment.

"Thought the Fox and Hounds, sir. That's close by your place, isn't it? Meet you there in half an hour."

"All right, Bodie." As the door shut, Cowley lifted his head to frown at the empty office, but he pushed aside his contemplations until he'd put the final touches on the Ministerial of the moment and was driving through the dark and dirty London night.

Bodie had acted oddly when Annie Irvine had slammed back into Cowley's life, and had been acting even stranger still since she'd hurtled right out of it again. First it was Bodie's touchingly clumsy attempts at playing cupid, followed by his unusually solicitous treatment of his hospitalised and presumably heartbroken boss, the whole then capped. off by the brooding gaze that he began to settle on Cowley every time that work was not a priority. If it took a scotch or two to shake the cause of all this out of either Bodie or Doyle, Cowley was willing and no harm done if the scotch at Bodie's expense was the only success of the evening.

Cowley parked close by the pub, and made his way inside to find Bodie already seated in a corner booth with two double scotches before him. "Evening, sir," he said, pushing one of the drinks towards Cowley. "Messy weather."

"Aye." Cowley took the scotch and sipped at it with some relief. "Where's Doyle?" he asked after a moment.

"Didn't invite him." Bodie's glance away admitted how unusual the situation was. Cowley was the one who made any social invitations, and Doyle was always included.

"I see." But for a while, Cowley chose to discuss the case that they had all worked back late that night to wrap up. It wasn't until Bodie was mellow enough to forget himself and start brooding again that Cowley asked, "What's all this about"?"

Bodie did not have a ready answer. "Curious, sir," he finally said.

"About Miss Irvine, I take it."

"Miss Irvine...and anyone else that you'd care to chat to me about."

Watching the man opposite him, Cowley maintained a neutral expression from force of habit. Bodie could appear both enigmatic and thoroughly simple all at once, which Cowley supposed was an attractive quality -- the mystery and what sometimes seemed to be naivety intertwined in what should have been contradiction. "What business is it of yours?" he asked mildly.

"None, sir, unless you make it my business."

"Very true," Cowley said. "But I know you know all about Miss Irvine, and there's no one else to tell you about."

"No one, sir?" Bodie asked, side-stepping the issue of the gossip about Annie Irvine and a younger Cowley that he and Doyle had heard from Charlie.

Cowley read the fleeting expression of disbelief, and chuckled. "If I told you how many years it's been since I last had the pleasure, you'd think I was lying."

"Years, sir?"

"You wouldn't have the discipline."

Bodie laughed. "Yeah -- if I go without for longer than a week (which isn't terribly often) I end up jumping Ray." He steadily returned Cowley's stare. "You know all about that, sir..."

"Bodie, are you trying to force me to do something about your relationship with Doyle? Which, as you are fully aware, breaks not only the law but also a few internal regulations."

'No, sir," The younger man shrugged. "One confession between friends deserves another, doesn't it?"

"Except that I knew all about that, as you pointed out."

Bodie grinned at him. "Another drink, sir?"

"I'll pay for one round at least." Cowley let the younger man go to the bar on his behalf, while he sat wondering if the need to confess was what had been bothering Bodie. It seemed a less likely motive than simple curiosity about Cowley himself which in turn was no doubt only to be expected given Bodie and Doyle's recent involvement with Annie Irvine.

But when Bodie returned, it seemed that a full confession was indeed what the man had in mind. "It was always my theory that, if all concerned that, if all concerned are willing, then when it comes to sex it doesn't much matter what you do or who you do it with," Bodie said conversationally, as if they were still discussing the day's case. "All in the name of fun, sir, and no one's business but your own."

"I wouldn't have thought that Doyle shared that theory.," Cowley commented.

"Ray's all right about it. More than all right: -- he likes me and he lets me know it. Though I don't think he's ever quite forgiven me for the time I ended one of our double dates with a foursome back at his place. His girl dumped him the next day," Bodie laughed. "Said she couldn't face either of us again."

"Doesn't sound like she was willing then, Bodie."

"She enjoyed herself at the time -- I reckon she just got embarrassed at what she did, not at us. Birds can be funny like that sometimes." Bodie returned Cowley's wry glance with an innocent lift of his eyebrows. "Now, what I used to like is back when it was all men. -- merchant navy, mercs, army, what have you... The furtive grabs in the dark when they got desperate, that was exciting -- then afterwards pretending that it never happened was hilarious. Miss that.. How about you, sir?"

Cowley was startled. "I knew that sort thing went on..." he said, "during the war, on occasion."

"Never been a part of it, sir?" Bodie nodded knowingly. "You always had God or Annie Irvine though, didn't you? I never had either -- free as an alley cat."

"I don't know why it should surprise to hear you talk like [that?], Bodie. I've always known how amoral you are."

"Yeah -- depraved and dissolute. But never lonely, sir - don't you get lonely?"

Cowley decided that the conversation, had gone far enough "No," he said firmly. But, later that night, he was startled by a stealthy figure. beside him as he unlocked his front door. Instincts made him draw his gun, though he simultaneously recognised the man silhouetted by a street lamp. "What are you doing here?" he demanded impatiently.

"Sshhh." Bodie admonished him. And the CI5 agent who was reputed to be Cowley's favourite pushed the door open, followed him closely in, and wouldn't let him reach far the light switch. Cowley found himself backed up to the wall in his hallway, a firm warm body pressed against him awakening desires he'd become so skilful at resisting.

It might have been the vulnerability that Annie had created with her determination to think the worst of him, or it might have been the backfire of the self-denial he'd planned even when he'd been arranging that misguided outing to the opera for the two of them. It might even have been that Bodie's amoral talk had reached some part of him that could empathise, despite God and Annie Irvine. Then again, it might simply have been all the years of the ever present hunger, energy that could be channelled and used though never truly forgotten. Cowley was quickly beyond analysing his acquiescence.

Bodie's hands ran over him, tracing beautiful patterns as if his body was still young and attractive. The man's face rubbed against Cowley's throat and jaw, skin caressing skin in an undemanding kiss. Then his hands eased down to capture Cowley's genitals through the cloth of his trousers. And Bodie deftly smoothly triggered the release of Cowley's hunger.

The strength of the arms that gathered him close was a comfort as Cowley shook through the orgasm and its piquant aftermath, sensations that he'd barely remembered existed. "All right, sir?" Bodie murmured in the darkness.

Cowley drily replied, "All right, Bodie." But before he'd regained presence of mind to say anything more, to push the man away with his sarcasm if not physically as well, Bodie had turned and slipped out through the door. "Damn you," Cowley said quietly, though his anger remained vague and out of reach. He fumbled for the light switch, and pondered deducting his dry cleaning bill from Bodie's pay. "Damn you," he repeated as he made his way to the kitchen. But as Cowley filled the tea kettle at the tap, he found that he was smiling. "Amoral as an alley cat, that one," he observed with a complacency that surprised him. "Amoral as an alley cat."

-- THE END --

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