When All Our Dreams Come True
Thank you, londonronnie, for the beta! Any remaining errors are mine alone.
It was Christmas Eve. Ray Doyle sat hunched against cold bricks, his legs stiff, his face lashed by the sharp wind that stabbed mercilessly at him through threadbare coat and tattered scarf. The bottle of cheap whisky clutched to his chest was empty, but he hugged it to him anyway, a pathetic drunk half asleep in a long-forgotten doorway.
Streetlights flickered on with a brief electric hum, and the dusk was flooded orange. There was shadow behind him, and he shrank back into it. Didn’t want anyone to see him like this.
A long-ago memory breached surface and with a sigh he let it sit for a moment, considering. Did he dare? Why not? He was drunk, what did he care? Let his face be gaunt, let his eyes speak sorrow. Long ago he’d had a Christmas. Just the once, properly, with a tree and a dinner and presents at home. Not his home, mind, never with his mum. But still, there’d been people all around him, people that he’d liked. He’d thought that one girl, just for a while, might be Her. She’d taken him home for Christmas and there’d been all the things that he hated about that day, only he hadn’t. He’d even worn the silly paper hat pulled out of the cracker, read out loud the snap motto and laughed at the appallingly unfunny words of wisdom. Her mum had forced extra Christmas pudding on him, and he’d eaten it and nearly swallowed the sixpence hidden in with the nuts and the currants. Well. He’d never had proper pudding before, made at home and stirred and stuffed with wishes. He’d been nineteen.
A rustling beside him, and his head whipped around before sinking once more into his shoulders. Just a carrier bag, bowling along in gusts and fits. He tried hitching up the ancient wool of the collar again, knowing it would do no good. Bloody Cowley. And then, as he sat cursing the man, his RT finally squawked to life in his pocket, and there was the word to go.
He was on his feet and across the alley in seconds, Magnum in hand. The door to the dingy back yard yielded to his shoulder far more easily than he’d expected, slammed hard into the high wall, and his momentum carried him through. Two men burst out the back entrance to the house. He was too close, too fast to fire at them. He caught one on the side of the head with the gun, sent him spinning to the ground, and turned to find the world narrowed down to the snub barrel of a revolver. There was nowhere to go, no time to raise his own weapon, although he tried in that extraordinarily heartbeat-slow moment. A shot, and he grasped at his stomach, but it was the other man falling, and he lifted surprised eyes to find Bodie in front of him.
There was the usual flurry of cleaning up, of counting bodies and examining guns and half-made bombs, of calming down the few Joe Publics who’d managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The last ambulance pulled off into the night, and Cowley bustled round, full of cheer, even clapped Jax on the back in passing, pleased that he’d managed to wrap up his op so early. In time for people to go home to their families, stuff stockings, have a few glasses of festive spirit. Bodie rubbed his hands together, blew on them, looking around for Doyle.
A small group had gathered by the front of the building, waiting for the final wave from Cowley to send them off, and Doyle was propped against the wall nearby, slightly on the outer. That wasn’t like him, and Bodie, who hadn’t seen his partner for three days except in passing, took a moment to stare hard. There was something…He looked tired, but didn’t they all. More shocked than he’d let on about the close call? Didn’t matter how many times that happened, a split second of your life was lost each time, a bit of your confidence nicked away. Jolly him out of it, that was the thing.
The group split up as Bodie approached, Benny and Ruth heading in one direction, McAdam and Simmons in another. He managed to cuff Benny, and to wink at Ruth, before stepping up to the remaining pair.
"Got something against overtime, Jax?"
"My new bird, for one." A smile stretched Jax’s face. "Bin invited to hers for Christmas, thought I was gonna miss it. Big dinner, all the trimmings. Stuffing, turkey…"
"I’d stuff the other bird myself, less embarrassing over the festive cheese and wine," Bodie interjected swiftly, expectedly, and was rewarded with a snort of laughter and a roll of eyes. He opened his mouth again to suggest a quick pint or two before they headed off, became aware of the heavy silence to his left, and something a little more pungent…
"Bloody ‘ell, Doyle. That’s taking it a bit far, innit?"
A grunt, eyes dark upon him, a gesture towards Jax. "Blame ‘im. I do."
"Yeah, well ‘e can sit beside you in the car then."
"Ah, no can do, gentlemen," Jax grinned, catching the eye of someone behind them. "Today I travel with George…" and he brushed past Bodie with the air of a man well pleased with life.
"Happy Christmas to you too, mate," Bodie called after him. "Sir," he added, as their boss glanced around, halfway into the warmth of the Granada.
"And yourselves. Nine o clock, my office." Cowley let a second tick past. "Tuesday."
Bodie’s grin widened and he turned back to Doyle, tucking his hands in his pockets. Two days off. "The old man must be going soft."
"Nah. ‘e’s left us without a car." Doyle pushed himself upright, and the miasma of alcohol fumes, unwashed clothes – and presumably unwashed Doyle himself – swept over Bodie.
"He was probably taking pity on whoever had to get in it with you."
"The old man? ‘e’s pissed off with the buses more like, cos that’s what we’re gonna be on."
"Whaddaya mean "we"?" Bodie ribbed as they started the long trudge home, and was surprised to feel a gathering in of tension beside him. Damn, he’d hoped it might be easier than that, had been about to suggest that pint for later. What had he said? He glanced again at Doyle, saw the way his forehead was drawn down, the rest of his face closed, expressionless to anyone who didn’t know him, jaw clenched just too tight, hunched shoulders more tense than even this weather could justify. Too dark to see, but he could imagine every one of the lines that reached out wearily from the downturned eyes.
The flood of adrenalin at the end of an op could get you in a dozen different ways. Mostly it made Bodie grin, as if he were a kid again, waiting for the grownups to unwrap the next excitement, to weave a game and an adventure to while away the afternoon. When an op was over, when they were alive and away and free to be themselves again, the world was sharpened. He wanted everything then; he wanted to see and feel and taste and fuck what he had nearly lost. Life made new each time, before it settled down, before it dulled into everyday. Before the adventure and the adrenalin could start all over again.
Doyle wasn’t like that. He thought about the job, about how it could have gone, how it should have gone. What he should have done differently. He thought about his world stretched out in front of him, thick London smog closing in on all sides, no end in sight. Not something he’d ever said to Bodie, but Bodie could see it in the way that Doyle would go off on his own sometimes, the way he’d suddenly grab at something in the hope that it might make a difference. Birds mostly. Ann Holly. Death even, the time that still made Bodie’s own heart lurch at the memory.
Doyle wanted a reason for everything, had to have every little piece of the puzzle superglued in place. In Bodie’s experience life wasn’t like that. If you tried to hold it down too hard you were left with no room to move at all. Ray was pulling away now because of something he imagined Bodie had said, had meant. It wasn’t true. Words were just words, Ray knew that. Why did he have to think so hard about them?
They were on more trafficked roads now and with a long-drawn shush of airbrakes a bus paused behind them in the line of vehicles, dark red in the early evening, the interior softly aglow in its own light. The warmth of people, of passengers finally on their way home from work, from shopping, from the desperate last-minute demands of the night before Christmas. Bodie pushed Doyle ahead, and without pause sat in the seat beside him even though there were others empty, ignoring the sidelong look Doyle shot at him.
Doyle had nearly died today. Again.
If he’d been just that fraction slower, if the kid had been just a fraction faster, then Bodie would have lost him.
Three buses later, they finally fell back onto the street again, and this time Bodie was trying to steer him into an off licence. Doyle shrugged him off, waiting outside rather than put up with the looks from the shopkeeper, the quickly-wrinkled noses of the other customers. He didn’t want a drink anyway. He wanted to go home, climb into a shower so hot that it scalded the muck and the fug right off him, then collapse somewhere soft and never have to wake up again. Or at least not until the day after.
He glared through faux-frosted windows. Even the bloody offie was decked out like the North Pole, bottles and cans covered in some white frothy mess that was supposed to be snow, ringed around with tinsel and plastic holly. Which just brought him back to – well, he should have known that was waiting for disaster, shouldn’t he. Her dad, the Christmas man. Should have known that she wasn’t for him with a name like that. Not knowing he was doing it, Doyle kicked at the brickwork below the window, his face a scowl and a storm waiting to break. A young mother made sure to cross to the other side of the street, grasping the hands of her two children hard enough to elicit shrill shrieks of complaint.
He knew he shouldn’t have let himself think about Christmas. He hadn’t needed to, not just to play a tramp half-drunk in a backstreet. Bodie was right, he did wallow in it sometimes. God, he hated this time of year. A lot of commercial tat dressed up as people giving a shit about other people, when all anyone ever wanted was bigger and better presents. At least Bodie didn’t buy into it either. Despite apparently buying up half the booze in Britain right at this moment. Doyle absorbed himself in watching his partner juggling a ridiculous number of bottles and still swiping up a six-pack on the way to the counter, but he was alert enough to turn abruptly when he heard a light step behind him.
Oh, Christ. This he didn’t need. A six-foot-something nutter, complete with skinhead and bovver boots, his ears pierced all around with silver. The man said nothing, but leered down at Doyle, one hand in his pocket pulling out… a blade? Knuckle-duster? Doyle tensed, ready to reach out, to lift his knee, to break that arm across it in a single fluid movement. A five pound note. Doyle felt his own hand grabbed, the money pressed into it, edges of the crumpled fiver sharp against his palm.
"’appy Christmas, mate," the skinhead muttered, gave his hand one last squeeze, and turned away into the night. Doyle looked down at the note, robbed of speech, robbed of thought and in a split second drained of rage. He was aware of Bodie coming out of the shop at last, stopping to stare at him as he stared at the money.
"Bit slow mate, I’ve just paid."
Doyle watched again as Bodie managed to whip the note out of his hand and tuck it into his own pocket, at the same time hanging a couple of carrier bags over Doyle’s still open palm. He should call the man back, he should give it to charity…With a snort he decided that maybe he should do just exactly what the bloke expected him to do with the cash – spend it on booze. And he stretched his legs to catch up with his partner, already a half dozen steps away.
Bodie’s mind was full of plans as he let them into Doyle’s flat. It wasn’t until he was setting the security locks behind them that Doyle thought to glare at him, to wonder why the hell Bodie was not on his way back to his own cosy home, but by then it was too late.
"Shower," Bodie said firmly, pushing a recalcitrant Doyle in that direction. "Or d’you mean to tell me you don’t smell to high heaven and back again?"
"Wha’ would you know about high heaven?"
"Bin there, haven’t I?"
Bodie shot him a knowing look, more pleased than he’d let on that Doyle was showing signs of life after all.
"Tell you what," he said, in the tones of the long-suffering, "If you like I’ll pop ‘round the Chinese and get us something to eat." A pointed pause. "While you shower."
There wasn’t even an answer, just a slam of the bathroom door, and the sudden sound of water bouncing hard on a plastic floor.
Right. Get some food in him, some booze, get him to relax a bit…
Two bags of chicken chow mein, beef and green peppers, prawn crackers and other assorted appetisers later, the shower was still going. Steam curled from under the door and fogged up the mirror in the sitting room. Bodie glanced at his watch. Nearly half an hour. Was Doyle dead in there? Had he slipped and fallen while Bodie was out trying to choose between pork and prawns? God, it’d be just like ‘im, survive a gun at point blank range and then…
In a second carrier bags were on the floor, Bodie’s hand on the door handle. He opened it slowly, peering through a thin crack at the shower curtain, not sure that he was ready for what he’d see…
Abruptly the water switched off, and the shower curtain screeched back along the metal rail. Bodie was not ready for what he saw. Slender limbs, skin that had somehow not yet completely lost its summer glow. Unselfconsciously alone, Doyle reached for the towel, held it to himself, and closed his eyes for a moment, before running one corner down his arms, then across his shoulders, then… lower…
Bodie lowered his own lashes for a moment. He shouldn’t be doing this, shouldn’t be watching. He opened his eyes.
The towel ran down across Doyle’s chest, propelled by a strong, steady hand across the dark hair, across dark, raised nipples, across a flat, hard stomach. Dipped between muscular thighs.
Bodie managed to pull the door shut, leaned his head against it for a moment, breathed silently. Should he go in? Closed his eyes, saw again… He needed to think, for just a minute. Would Doyle…
Blood and sand, Doyle had seen him…
"That you, mate?"
Bodie recovered enough to bang something ostentatiously with his foot, to pick up the bags of food and drop them heavily onto the table in front of the tv. "You’ve got one minute, and then it’s gone," he shouted back. "Soong outdid ‘imself this time."
By the time Doyle emerged from the shower wrapped decently in a towel, and for a second time from the bedroom, sheathed somewhat less decently in tight tattered jeans, t-shirt and baggy jumper, Bodie had everything laid out, half eaten, and repeats on the box. And if he was hunched slightly further than he need be, his shirt loose over his trousers, then it was to make room for extra spring rolls.
Doyle poured himself a glass of wine from a half-empty bottle, helped himself to what was left of the Chinese, and plumped down onto soft cushions. He felt better, clean at last, calmed by the rushing of the water and the warmth that cocooned him. Bodie was a solid presence at the other end of the couch. He didn’t even mind Dick Emery wittering on about mince pies in the background. He settled himself sideways to it anyway, concentrating on spearing sweetcorn and carrots, assuaging the emptiness of his stomach, taking the odd swig of wine.
Finally sated, he slid his plate onto the table, refilled his glass, and stretched, spine cracking apart, arms twisting, wine miraculously unspilled. He let his legs fall to the cushions, bare inches away from where Bodie’s lay at an angle to his, fancied he could feel the warmth of them even so. If he slid down just a little bit… which would be much more comfortable… He inveigled his feet onto Bodie’s lap, was rewarded when his partner jumped sky high and gaped at him.
"And what are you doing?"
"Getting comfortable. On my own sofa. In front of my own telly. Any objections?"
"No-no, wouldn’t dream of it. Quite settled are we?"
"Yes, thank you."
"Oh, jolly good. Do let me know if you want them rubbing, or scented with rose petals or anything…"
Doyle settled for digging his heels into hard thigh, and then subsided. He waited for his feet to be thrown ungently to the ground and was surprised to find his wait seemed to be in vain. Bodie’s eyes were solidly on the tv, his face empty. How tired was he, Doyle suddenly wondered. He’d seemed lively enough when the op finished, but he’d been quiet on the way home, barely said a word between bus and flat. Not like Bodie at all.
And why was his partner hanging around anyway? Had Bodie been hurt, and he hadn’t even noticed? He let his mind drift over the way Bodie had been moving, long legs, long sure strides. The sweep of that solid back. Leg pressed against his on the bus. No. He’d promised himself he wasn’t going to think about him like that, not any more. Too late for that, it had gone on too long. Just like everything else, nothing would ever happen, nothing would come of it. The sound of carol singers wafted suddenly up from outside, and his lips twisted. He would not get what he wanted, it would be just like any other Christmas.
Bodie felt Doyle’s mood turn black again, felt the air suck in to itself, the edges shrivel and curl.
"What?" he shouted suddenly, pushing Doyle away from him, straightening his back, half turning. He’d missed his chance, nothing was going to happen tonight, but he was fed up with Ray Doyle and his bloody thoughts. "What the fuck is wrong now?"
Feet thrown belatedly and now unexpectedly to the floor, Doyle grabbed the back of the couch for balance and drew himself up. There was something wrong, he’d known there was. "What?" he managed, "Nothing’s wrong now. I thought we were watching telly."
"I’ve been watching telly, you’ve been staring off into fucking neverland, looking like Father Christmas left you a lump of coal!"
Bad choice of words.
"What would you know?" Doyle spat out, eyes shining acid, "Stuffing your face, drinking yourself stupid. You don’t even believe in all that crap."
"All what crap? What miserable, self-pitying rubbish have you been thinking up now, you moody bastard?"
"Wasn’t "thinking up" anything, Christmas just is a bunch of miserable…"
"I knew it! I fucking knew it!"
Thrown, in what he always thought of as their post-op argument, Doyle paused. "Knew what?"
"Why the fuck do you do it?" Bodie demanded, his voice hard around them. "You know what it does, why the fuck go in so hard? It was surveillance, that’s all it was."
Silence suddenly. Caught, recognised yet again – how did Bodie do that? And Doyle didn’t know, didn’t have an answer. Something in him went deep, that was all that he was aware of, all that he could say. It was the one thing that Bodie didn’t understand, Bodie who was all surface and sunshine and hail-fellow-well-met. And he wanted that sunshine for himself, wanted to feel more than… than dappled and he had no idea how to ask for it.
"Look," Bodie was saying, "You’ve gotta keep the distance in this job, otherwise it’ll drive you mad. Swallow you whole. You know that. That’s your trouble, mate." Softer, almost with him now. "You let yourself get too close to the edge. Too involved."
"Oh, and I suppose King Billy was different?"
"Do as I say…"
"Don’t do as I do…Yeah, I know." But it brought him closer to the surface again, made him think. Maybe Bodie did know. "So how do you do it, oh wise one? How do you keep cool?"
A hard breath. "I don’t do undercover if I can help it, for a start."
And touché, but it didn’t help, because along with the killing it was what Doyle could do, what he was good at. And the better he was the more bastards could be put away, the more the roses would grow and the lavender would scent the air. So he had to keep doing it. Try not to lose himself in the grey blur of being other people.
"I keep something to hold onto."
"Oh yeah?" Doyle’s despair was tangible, thick between them in the room, "And what’s that then?"
So softly said that he wasn’t sure he’d heard it. He raised his head to see other eyes lowered, lashes dark on pale, pale cheeks. So pale, his Bodie.
Bodie met his gaze defiantly, and they stared across the world at each other. And nothing moved, save the space between them shifted somehow, became wider and brighter.
Somewhere far away bells chimed midnight, and it was, finally, Christmas. *
-- THE END --