A Green-Eyed Yuletide
The long, purposeful strides of William Bodie carried him down the street in subtle pursuit of Toady Burgess. Toady had been christened with the name of Theodore which had quickly become Teddy which had become Toady when the rather mousy man had discovered that in lieu of making an honest living, the art of surviving as a grass was more to his liking. It certainly wasn't that he was brave because most of his information involved minor criminals. Still, he could be useful and sometimes for a few extra pounds he might spill information about the whereabouts of some of London's more nefarious criminals.
So it was that George Cowley had assigned 3.7 to follow Toady Burgess, hoping that he might lead them to the large bullfrog who had recently croaked a minor official at a not-so-friendly consulate. The consulate had immediately begun its protests to Her Majesty's Government, resulting in a summons for the Controller to meet with the Minister and the task of bringing the bullfrog to a court of justice.
That it was two days before Christmas did not affect Cowley's decision at all. The holidays meant little to the Scotsman, except for the occasional offering of a bottle of malt as a present from whichever agents had the most reason to try to soften up the Controller. Bodie and his partner always led the way to the office with their liquid pressie, knowing that in the coming months they would likely be offered a return on their investment in the way of a drink or the continuing tolerance of a recently-developed facet of their relationship.
It had been over a wee dram that the two partners had finally confessed that their close partnership had become more. In fact, they were now lovers although for the sake of propriety they would maintain separate flats.
Cowley had filled his glass and swallowed a large measure before commenting on their admission. At first, he had been inclined to forbid the relationship, but he knew that would most likely lose him the services of his best unit so he had just uttered an almost inaudible, "Humbug!" before reminding them to be discreet. Any hint of scandal and they would be out on their assets.
So it was that the younger half of the Bisto Kids was following Toady Burgess instead of doing what was really important--buying a Christmas present for his lover. Before the momentous night when the two had rumpled the sheets together for the first time, Bodie had usually contented himself with purchasing a bottle of good malt or wine or maybe an LP for his partner, but not this year. This year he wanted something that would reflect his feelings for his often stroppy love. He knew that Doyle had purchased a present for him weeks earlier. In fact, the green-eyed agent had been hinting, smiling and whistling with pleasure for weeks. Bodie wanted to kill him. He hated to be bested in anything, but this seemed to be his fate unless he could come up with the piece de resistance of pressies.
Toady's wandering had led 3.7 into a part of the great city that he rarely patronized. Filled with small galleries, antique shops, and high-priced bookshops, the area didn't appeal much to the CI5 man although he did stop to notice one window which had a particular volume of Keats that might prove interesting. The stop was needed since Toady had halted to look in the window of a gallery just three doors down.
As soon as Toady resumed his motion so did Bodie, but he didn't go far. The same telling sense that made him an excellent operative directed him to what Toady had been staring at moments before. In the window, perched on a simple easel, was a charcoal drawing. The drawing was of a beautiful male nude, his face in profile. Bodie stared at the drawing for a long moment, but the sounding of a horn broke his concentration as he realized that Toady was no longer in sight. Hastening his stride, he caught just a glimpse of Toady turning a corner.
Breaking into a run, he, too, turned the corner, only to find his quarry had disappeared. For the next ten minutes Bodie searched desperately for any sign of the man, but finally gave up, knowing that Cowley would not be pleased. Calling into headquarters, he relayed the message that he had lost contact with Burgess and asked for further instructions. 2.4's comment to return to base did not bode well for the blue-eyed man. 3.7 had heard that December in the Hebrides could be quite cold and it wasn't likely that Doyle would be sent along to keep him warm.
Retracing his steps to where he had left his Capri, Bodie stopped to look at the charcoal drawing again. The face in profile was not perfectly defined but there was something familiar about it. Perhaps it was the hint of green in the eye or the smudged effect under the eye that gave the impression of imperfection or even more likely it was the tangle of curls that crowned the whole effect. Deep inside, Bodie knew this drawn figure was his lover, Ray Doyle.
Drawn into the gallery by curiosity and a touch of anger, Bodie found himself talking to a man in his thirties with one of those goatees that had been so popular in the 60s. The man introduced himself as Antonio Carelli, and yes, he had created the drawing in question.
Bodie stood there for a second, not knowing quite what to say until Carelli asked, "Are you interested in buying the drawing? It's one of my earlier works. It was for a life study I did when I was in art school."
"Art school?" Bodie choked out.
"Yes, the model was a...friend of mine. We were quite close and I wished to have something to remember him by."
"But...but now you want to sell the drawing? I suppose you're no longer in touch, is that it?" Behind his back, Bodie crossed his fingers for luck. Fate was not that kind.
"On the contrary, now that I'm in London, we are able to get together from time to time. He's still as beautiful as ever, just a tad older, but that only makes him more...attractive."
Bodie's hands itched to strangle the man, but instead he asked, "How much did you say the drawing is?"
"100 pounds but since you seem to find him as fascinating as I do, perhaps you'd like to see the portrait of him that I did?"
"Por-portrait?" Bodie whispered.
"Yes. Of course, I'd never sell it, but I think it's the best thing I've ever done. Having it is the only reason I'm willing to part with the drawing."
The shooter in Bodie's holster begged to be allowed to perforate the man standing in front of him, but once again 3.7 quelled his antagonistic tendencies, enabling him to sweetly comment, "I'd love to see the painting."
As soon as they entered Carelli's office, Bodie could understand why the artist would not part with the large painting. It spoke of everything that Raymond Doyle had been when young and of the promise that he would fulfill in the future. Despite the fact that Doyle didn't have a stitch of clothes on, the focus was still immediately drawn to that incredible face and eyes. Bodie's heart felt as if it was in a vise, being squeezed of life and hope. For a long moment he could only stare before his raspy throat allowed him to say, "It's magnificent. You must know him quite well."
"I would like to think so," Carelli responded lightly. "That is part of his charm; he's an enigma as well as beautiful."
"I'm sure he is, but about the drawing. I'd like to purchase it, but I can't take it with me now. Could I pick it up tomorrow?"
"Of course, if you'll just leave a deposit. Since it is Christmas Eve tomorrow, we'll be closing at noon so you must be sure to pick it up before then."
"I'll be here." Bodie whipped out 50 pounds that he had brought with him in hope that he might find a present for Ray during lunchtime. Clutching the receipt in one shaking hand, he rushed out of the gallery, stopping only to watch Carelli remove the drawing from the window, replacing it with some vile thing in yellows and blues.
Breaking speed laws right and left, Bodie returned to headquarters where he would have to face the wrath of the Controller over his failure to follow Toady to the bullfrog. To his surprise, he found his partner with Murphy and Jax in the rest room. They were all laughing. "What's happenin'? Betty agree to tickle your fancy for Boxing Day?" Bodie knew that all of them had tried it on with Cowley's secretary at one time or another. He had even allowed Ray to think he had scored earlier on in their partnership.
"Something better!" Jax blurted out. "Look at the duty roster!"
Turning around, Bodie couldn't believe his eyes. 2.9, 3.7. 4.5 and 6.2 were all off for the 24th and 25th and on standby for the 26th. "How'd that happen? Has the Cow been gulpin' the malt early?"
"Don't know but I'm not questioning it. At 5:00 we're...I'm taking off for the two days. Let Cowley find me if he can!" Murphy exclaimed.
Doyle winked at his lover. He had already started planning how the two of them would spend Christmas.
Bodie just stood there. Doyle was wearing the emerald green shirt with three buttons undone and the extra tight jeans that Bodie loved, but at the moment all he could see was the man in the painting. The man who had obviously been Antonio Carelli's lover.
Shifting gears, Bodie asked, "Is Cowley in? Need to talk to him."
"Don't think so, mate. Heard he went to see the Minister," Ray replied. He didn't like it that Bodie wouldn't look him in the eye.
"Oh. Maybe I'll go ask Betty when he'll be back." Quickly, he turned and left with his partner right behind him.
"You all right, Bodie? Look kind of pale."
"I'm fine," the big man remarked tersely. "Listen, I don't think I'll be able to come over to your place t'night. There's something I need to do."
Doyle grinned broadly. "'S okay. I understand. Probably need to finish up your shoppin', don't you?" Ray knew his Bodie. He had figured out that his lover was still searching for a present for him.
"Yeh, something like that," 3.7 conceded.
Doyle was puzzled by the depressed sound of his mate's voice, but decided to say nothing. Bodie was a law unto himself. "Why don't you come over around noon and I'll fix us some brunch? Might even splurge for some smoked salmon."
Bodie only nodded. Now Doyle was worried. Sometimes he thought that his lover preferred smoked salmon to him.
3.7 just walked off without saying anything. All he could think about was the painting.
Were Carelli and Ray still seeing each other intimately? The artist had admitted they were still in contact. Suddenly, Bodie's head began to throb. All he wanted to do was pretend he'd never seen that drawing so that he could go home with Ray and let the other man love him senseless.
Somehow the ex-merc made it through the day. By the grace of God, Cowley did not return to headquarters so the unhappy agent did not have to defend his laxness concerning Toady. Driving home, he almost stopped by the gallery to pick up the drawing, but then remembered that he had to stop by the bank to secure the rest of the money. Fortunately, this was the evening his bank stayed open late so he was in and out in a few minutes. Not feeling hungry, he decided to make do with whatever he found in his refrigerator. In the end he settled for a large glass of malt and then went to bed.
Bodie was standing outside the Carelli Gallery when the artist walked up to open the door. Spotting his customer, he smiled warmly. "You are eager to purchase my drawing, aren't you? I have wrapped it securely and since it is Christmas and you obviously have such excellent taste, I have included the frame you saw."
Bodie just nodded as he handed over the rest of the required money. "Could...would it be possible for me to see your painting one more time?"
Carelli flushed with pride. "Of course. My Sunshine is very pleasing to the eye, is he not?"
"Sunshine?" Bodie's heart thumped in his throat.
"That is what I call the painting. Officially it is called 'Sunshine of Life', but that is too much to utter so I have shortened it slightly."
Numb, Bodie followed the other man into the office. The painting of Ray was just as beautiful as the day before. Tears began to well up in the blue eyes, but he blinked them away hurriedly. He would not give Carelli the satisfaction, even though there was no way the artist could know Bodie's identity. After staring at the portrait for a long moment, Bodie turned and walked out.
Knowing it was too early for the pubs to be open, Bodie chose to drive around for awhile. The effort to concentrate on traffic forced his mind away from what he would say to Ray.
The two of them had been open with each other about their previous experience with men. Ray had even mentioned that he had enjoyed a male lover at art school. At the time, Bodie had felt no jealousy since he had been certain of Ray's fidelity. Fidelity--Bodie had never been certain that he could adhere to such a thing with one partner and yet once the two of them had taken the momentous step of becoming lovers, it had become as natural as breathing--at least for him.
By 11:30 Bodie couldn't wait for one more minute. His insides felt as tumultuous as the Irish Sea. He had to see Doyle.
The look of pleasure on Ray's face when the door opened rocked Bodie to the core. Would he ever see that beautiful face so happy again?
"Bodie! You're early. Coffee's ready but I haven't put together all the goodies yet."
"Doesn't matter." Bodie entered the flat which he knew as well as his own. "Not really hungry right now."
Doyle's eyes flashed with worry. "You are sick. I knew you were too pale yesterday. Sit down and tell me where it hurts."
Bodie slumped down on the settee. "Hurts all over," he sighed reluctantly.
"Flu! You've got the flu. I'll run out to the chemist; maybe they'll have something that will help."
Doyle was already reaching for his jacket when Bodie rasped out, "No need to go out. I'm not sick."
"Then what's the matter? Never seen you like this."
"Haven't...haven't felt like this since you and I...well, you know." The midnight blue eyes seemed to fill his face.
Bewilderment filled Doyle's face. "Is it something I've done? Tell me. Hate it when you're angry with me."
Bodie walked over to the table where he had placed the wrapped drawing. "Open this."
"Thought we were gonna open our pressies first thing tomorrow?"
"'S not exactly a Christmas present."
Fumbling with the package, Doyle finally brought out his Swiss Army Knife to clip the string before he removed the paper.
Bodie watched his lover's face as he took in the nature of the drawing. First the green eyes grew huge and then they clenched shut. Without even opening them, Ray whispered, "Where did you get this?"
"From Antonio Carelli. It was displayed in a window at his gallery."
The eyes snapped open. "Tony? You met Tony?"
"Antonio Carelli said he was the artist," Bodie gritted out through his teeth.
"His real name is Tony Carlton. I met him at art school. He decided that Antonio Carelli had more of an...artistic sound to it," Ray hesitantly explained.
"And he was your lover." It was not a question.
Enormous jade eyes focused on the dark-haired man. "I told you that before...before...."
"But you didn't tell me his name or that he loved you!"
"I didn't think it mattered."
Bodie jumped to his feet. "Not matter? What kind of cold bastard, are you? One minute you're talkin' forever with me and the next I find out that there's this guy who has a full size painting of you in all your glory--and that the two of you still have something going on between you!"
The wiry man burst to his feet, thrusting himself into Bodie's space. "What the hell does that mean? Are you sayin' Tony showed you the painting he did of me? That was done years ago!"
"But you're still seein' him, aren't you, sunshine?" Bodie sneered.
The endearment hung between them before Ray backed off. "Never thought...first time you called me 'sunshine', I nearly fell over. Tony called me that sometimes. Guess that's the reason for the painting's name. He...he promised he'd never show it to anyone."
"Wanted to show it off, didn't he? Can't blame him. It's...magnificent and you're beautiful."
"Bodie?" Doyle reached out to gently touch his lover's face. The blue-eyed man flinched, starting to jerk away. "Bodie-love, he's not my lover anymore. That ended years ago. He looked me up when he moved south. Sometimes we have drinks together. Sometimes he even brings his lover, James, with him."
"James was at the art school too. He's a couple of years younger than Tony or me. I...well, the truth is Tony was very shy when I met him. He had a great deal of talent, but didn't seem to recognize that. He also didn't acknowledge that he was gay. One night I stopped by his flat and found him destroying some of his canvases. He'd been drinking and well, I was worried about him. I ended up staying all night.
"We were lovers for only a few months, but by the time I'd realized that I really wasn't meant to be an artist, Tony had come out of his shell. He did the portrait of me just before I told him I was joining the Met. We parted as friends. Earlier this year he moved to the Smoke and set up his gallery. James came with him to handle the business end. They seem to be doing quite well." The slender man shivered at the disbelieving look in his lover's eyes.
"Please, Bodie, you have to believe me. Since you and I met, I hadn't been with any man until I realized how much I love you. You trust me to watch your back; can't you trust me one more time?"
Bodie's heart hammered loudly. Just the scent so natural to his lover made him want nothing more than to throw Doyle on the bed and fuck him senseless, but he had so much to lose if Ray was lying.
"Dammit Ray, I want to believe you. I love you more than anyone I've ever met. It's just...why did Carelli hang on to that painting all this time? He could sell it for a fortune, and then he talked about you as if you meant the world to him."
Ray moved closer. He could the need to believe radiating from the stubborn man.
"Tony had never been with a man until he met me. I think he felt that I had unlocked a part of his life that he'd never been able to admit. Even though we were no longer intimate, he believed he owed me for saving his sanity. The painting was meant to reflect that. He promised me that he would never sell it or even show it to anyone. I never imagined you'd ever see it."
The vise around Bodie's heart loosened as he pulled Ray into his arms. "God, I'm sorry. I just...when I saw that painting and he said that you were still in contact, I automatically thought the worst. I guess I'm still having difficulty believing that you'd choose me over some bird."
"You dumb crud. There's nobody for me but you. Would I have gone to The Cow with you if I hadn't been serious? Suicide by Cowley is not my idea of fun!"
Bodie chuckled. "You've got a point, love. He could have tossed us out, but I realized a long time ago that I need you more than CI5."
"I need you too and I want you right now."
"Before we have the smoked salmon?" A wistful look flickered in the blue eyes.
"Thought you said you weren't hungry?"
"That was before. Didn't feel like eating once I saw the drawing."
"Then give me five minutes and I'll make you a snack to tide you over for more important things." Doyle waggled his eyebrows at the bigger man.
"You're on." Bodie took a seat on the settee where he picked up the charcoal drawing. Staring at it, he was still astonished at the beauty of the simple lines.
"What are you going to do with it?" Ray asked as he entered the room with coffee and some small sandwiches on a tray.
"Gonna hang it up on my bedroom wall. That way when we can't spend the night together, I can still have you to look at."
"Sounds like a good idea. Wonder if I could ask Tony to make one for me?" Doyle took a sip of the hot coffee while Bodie started to devour one of the small smoked salmon sandwiches.
The salmon burst forth from Bodie's mouth with a splat. Mouth still half-full, 3.7 gulped the rest down. "You want a drawing of yourself?"
"No, you moron. I thought I'd ask if he'd do one of you--for me!"
Bodie's voice wobbled as he demanded, "W-wearing clothes, r-right?"
Sweetly, Ray reached out to wipe a crumb of bread from the enticing lips. "No, love, he does erotically beautiful nudes as you well know. Just as I'm giving myself to you, I want you to give yourself to me."
Bodie forgot all about his hunger as he once again pulled the slender man into his arms. "You make the appointment and I'll pose for him, sunshine, but remember it's for your eyes only."
"I wouldn't let anyone else see it although I think I should go along to protect your virtue." Ray added wryly.
"Well, who knows what he might do once he sees tall, dark and beautiful you?" Doyle pointed out.
"No need to worry, love, you're the only pressie I need under my Christmas tree."
"Good, then what do you say we head into the bedroom so we can start filling our stockings--and anything else that takes our fancy?"
As befitting Cowley's finest, their fancy was memorable indeed.
-- THE END --