Amid the Noise and Haste
Sequel is As Perennial As the Grass
Doyle had never in his life wished quite so hard for a camera.
It wasn't that Bodie was asleep in a garden chair at four o'clock in the afternoon, with his feet propped up and an Agatha Christie tented in his lap. It wasn't even the light snoring from the open mouth, or the oblivious head tilt. What had Doyle nearly spilling the shopping was the hand-knitted patchwork blanket, sweetly tucked in on all sides.
He wondered where he could get hold of a cat at short notice.
At that moment Bodie stirred, wheezing for breath slightly and Doyle gave up the idea of dropping something loud to see what would happen. These days there were limits it seemed, even to his sense of humour. Propelled by something else entirely, he eased the carrier bag onto the floor and stepped out from the kitchen to his small ground floor patio. An unaware daytime Bodie was a rare thing, and he took the opportunity for some quiet study of his own.
The face was pale, even by Bodie's alabaster standards, and the recent weight loss far too apparent in the sculpted cheekbones. Still, it was with a profound sense of gratitude that Doyle looked on. Everything before him was fixable. A fortnight earlier he had not been so sure.
Two weeks ago an undercover op had soured, leaving Bodie tied up on a disused factory floor with two broken ribs and a concussion. Neither injury was particularly serious, but cold water flooding out of a burst pipe had complicated matters considerably. By the time Doyle got to him nearly a full day later, chills and fever were busy taking him out of his head.
Doyle had known he wasn't dead the second he burst the door off its hinges and started his run towards him; no one dead could fidget that much. But his relief was short-lived once he'd reached his partner and unceremoniously hauled him off the icy floor. Only then did he realise just what the fidgeting was in the heavy, damp body on his lap. The contrast between the freezing clothes and the heat in Bodie's hands as he cut them free did nothing to slow Doyle's heartbeat.
"Shit, Bodie." An angry whisper into heat-dampened hair as another chill shivered through.
As if at the sound of his name, bright eyes suddenly opened. But there was no recognition in the stare that couldn't focus and they closed quickly.
Supporting as much of his partner as possible with his right arm, Doyle took the few seconds needed to bark priority ambulance orders into his R/T. He discarded it and his left hand went to Bodie's face, wincing again at the heat there. He struggled and got him a little more upright, alarmed at the sound of something wet and laboured finding its level in his lungs as he did so.
Fuck, fuck, fuck. His mind locked, coming up with nothing more original with which to tamp down the panic. He glanced behind him. How long? How long for the ambulance?
His legs already numbed to the skin the instant he had settled Bodie on them, his teeth now clicked with the cold of it. He had been sprawled there for half a minute; the water had been seeping its damage into Bodie for nearly a day. It took Doyle all of another five seconds to come to a decision. As quickly and as smoothly as he could, he unwrapped his partner from the sodden donkey-jacket he was in, pausing when Bodie hissed in a breath and opened his eyes.
Doyle took his chance and smiled right into them."Sorry, mate, know I'm breaking about ten rules of first aid here." The eyes closed again and Doyle finished quickly. He wrapped more of himself and his own jacket around his partner, pulling Bodie in, rubbing circles on the back of his wet shirt with his left hand, willing him to leach his own body heat out. "Bet you never thought I'd feel you up on a Thursday afternoon on a bit of damp concrete, eh?" His answer was a wet, muffled cough followed by a monumental shudder, and any softness in Raymond Doyle disappeared.
"Not now, Bodie. Dammit!" He shuffled him up again, ignoring the groan the movement elicited. His own teeth chattered as he pressed Bodie's head under his chin. "Don't you fucking dare!" Unaware, he started a rocking movement and his voice dropped to a whisper of steel. "Open your eyes and tell me to piss off and I will, mate, but I am not giving you up to fucking pneumonia from a factory floor, so get that into your thick skull right now." There was a sudden commotion behind him, the vague pulse of a blue light and he knew he had seconds before they would be surrounded and he would be pushed aside.
A shout and running footsteps, getting louder.
"Love you." Mouthed fiercely onto a burning temple as Doyle's hands went stiffly out in surrender and he was forced to give him up.
Doyle watched as Bodie stirred again, clearly beginning to wake up. The Agatha Christie wobbled perilously and he couldn't resist.
"Oi, Miss Marple."
Eyes still shut, a smile creased Bodie's features.
Bodie opened his eyes. "It's Hercule Poirot, not Miss Marple." He noticed the blanket. "What the--?"
He caught his partner's chuckle as Doyle stepped forward.
"Mrs Henderson," they both chimed together.
Mrs Henderson was Doyle's widowed neighbour across the hall. She had taken a maternal interest in Bodie, which in his bored off-duty state he was exploiting to the full. Missing her grandchild who had been moved to Australia by a thoughtless son-in-law, she seemed to find an ailing ex-merc with a wicked tongue and a sweet tooth a suitable substitute.
Doyle shook his head. She was doing wonders but she was also a security risk Cowley would have his hide for. It was obvious that Bodie had fallen asleep when she was still in the flat, so the security locks had not been set behind her after she left. Not only that but the dozy sod had lain outside, just to make it easier in case any of the German gun-runners Bodie had managed to piss off while undercover wanted a bit of payback. One was still out there. Doubtless gone to ground, but part of the job was not taking that for granted. And Bodie bloody knew that.
Of all the--
"Stuff it, Doyle. I didn't intend to fall asleep, so save the bloody lecture. Go and be useful, put the kettle on."
Said evenly enough, but the cough punctuating the end of it assured Doyle that Bodie's lung capacity was dictating the tone, not his true feelings. He pondered the tightened jaw in front of him. His partner's attitude to things which slowed him down was, for Doyle, uniquely Bodie. He bore slings and the occasional bandage with the shrug of a shoulder. A bullet wound here, a dislocated collar bone there; they were simply the periodic consequences of a job and a lifestyle that involved him throwing his body in the way of things. But let a cold or flu have the nerve to lay him low and he took it as nothing less than a personal failure, growling and sulking every inch of his way to recovery. Over time Doyle had learned to keep his head down and leave him to it.
And this had been pneumonia, not a cold or flu. The sudden bouts of tiredness, the coughing, the wheezing, the powerful antibiotics which made him feel sick, were all bringing out an irritability and sense of injustice to the power of ten. Over the last few days it had, on occasion, been a case of light the blue touch paper and retire immediately. Prepared to do it just one more time to make his life easier, Doyle bit down a retort and made to step away.
But something about the blanket, the book and the man kept him where he was.
Neither spoke. Doyle saw a muscle jump again in Bodie's jaw and knew he was trying to neither cough nor yell. It made him smile - at least the sod was making an effort. Bodie saw the smile, misinterpreted it, and with a glower made to throw off the blanket. Doyle's hand was quicker.
"Leave it!" It was cold out, "it suits you," was what he said, too late, aware from the glare burning his way that he had indeed just returned to a lit firework.
"Jesus, Mary and fucking Joseph, Doyle!" Bodie brought his legs down off the stool with a bang and scraped his chair noisily back, clearly intending to rise to the occasion, "Piss off! Just piss off now! I swear, I can't take much more of--"
What Bodie couldn't take much more of would never be known because Doyle simply stepped between the parted legs at that point, took Bodie's face in his hands before he could get up and kissed him.
It cut Bodie's wires as instantly and completely as nothing else could have done.
"I ... the ... your neighbours." He managed when Doyle let him go, the decibels he had been building to reduced to nothing.
Doyle pulled back a fraction, enough so that Bodie could focus on him without going cross-eyed. He clicked his fingers in a pantomime of remembrance, widening his eyes as he did so.
"Oh yeah," he said softly. "Oops." With not even the smallest glance left or right, he leaned forward, took Bodie's stunned face in both hands and did it again. The lightest play lip to lip, a little less firm this time, and all done through a smile.
Although rarely outside of four walls and never in public, Bodie had been kissed many times by Ray Doyle and with far more passion and urgency than this. So it was not the kiss that stilled Bodie's world and held the anger and frustration in his throat. He knew it was the hands, the unexpected sweetness of those hands holding his face like that. The strongest, softest safety-net in the world. This was Ray Doyle after all, a man not given to such moments of easy tenderness. A thumb stroke on the side of each cheek and Bodie's eyes stung.
"The colonel, the candlestick and the dining-room."
Truly lost, the husky words spoken from a breath away did nothing to explain anything to a reeling Bodie.
"Eh?" he sputtered.
Doyle took his hands away and straightened a little more, enjoying himself.
"The book, mate. The colonel does it with a candlestick in the dining-room."
To give Bodie his due, he recovered quickly.
"Does he now. Cheers for the ending, do you with a candlestick in the dining-room in a minute."
And with a wink Doyle was away, leaving behind a Bodie so disarmed he couldn't even cough.
As Bodie sat there in the weak sun of a May afternoon feeling his pulse return to normal and the scratch in his throat recede, he took a moment to consider the source of the off-key whistling and bag rustling he could hear coming from the kitchen.
Whatever his relationship with Ray Doyle had become, they were not the sort who pecked and kissed each other in the idle course of a day. Years of nods, nudges and winks had served them well and neither felt the lack just because they had moved into each other's bedsheets. Nevertheless, Bodie was also aware that his ire of seconds ago was in ashes, his chest felt better than it had in days, the sun was shining and he had the smuggest of smiles plastered across his face.
Crafty sod, that Doyle. Knew just which button to push.
Of the two it was Bodie who often found himself holding back, for the simple reason that it was Bodie who had always been the more demonstrative, and therefore Bodie who felt the need to double-think sometimes when Doyle smiled at him a certain way, or brushed into his personal space with a cup of coffee under his nose. It simply wouldn't do to kiss him breathless in front of Betty and Cowley's afternoon tea-tray, as he had been sorely tempted to do on more than one occasion. The last time in fact, being just before the gun-running fiasco. The specifics were lost to him, but he remembered the blaze as Doyle had taken them all by surprise, rearing up at Cowley over the less than water-tight certainties Bodie's cover was going to be based on.
Sitting there in Cowley's office, while Doyle ignored him and went at it hammer and tongs with their boss, Bodie had waited for the outrage to kick in. The sense that he, William Andrew Philip Bodie, did not need anyone - least of all Doyle - to talk about him as if he were fresh out of training and in need of protection from the big, bad world out there. But it never came. Instead he put his head down and fixed his gaze on Cowley's hardwood floor, while something warm and as welcome as sunlight stretched through him. He had only looked up after becoming aware that an overly long silence meant that both were finished and waiting for his contribution.
Still breathing heavily, Doyle's glare had softened the instant he caught sight of Bodie's upturned face, and Bodie knew he had to get himself under control before Cowley saw what was written there. It hadn't really helped matters when Doyle had turned directly towards him, leant back on the desk and taken his own steadying breath, eyes still ablaze and locked onto his.
And in that mundane moment there in Cowley's office, Bodie knew that he loved Ray Doyle with a singular passion he would have to endure all his life.
That night, if he remembered correctly, he had told him of this revelation. Doyle's response, if he remembered that correctly, too, had been some of the most amazing sex he'd ever had.
Bodie shuffled down a little more under Mrs Henderson's handiwork, too settled to make his way indoors just yet, despite the cooling of the day.
That he was loved in return by Ray Doyle was something Bodie had become more sure of in time. They were simply wired differently and he had had to learn to 'speak Doyle' as he once joked, to read the signs and relax. Still, coughed Bodie, suddenly irritated at the tightness returning, it wouldn't kill the bugger to actually say the words.
"What?" said Bodie, sharper than he meant to.
The object of his affections had stuck his head back out the kitchen door and was grinning at him.
Bodie tried to stay angry, but even he knew it was petulant nonsense that he was practising. Besides, Doyle's lunacy was infectious.
"Guess," said Doyle.
"Guess what? What the bloody hell are you... Oh," His lips curved. "Go on then, tell us, sunshine. Rhubarb? Crumble?"
Doyle crinkled his nose. "Apple-pie, home-made," he paused dramatically, "with custard, mate, with custard."
Mrs Henderson's talents did not just lie in patchwork. She had clucked and tutted over Bodie with an entire range of desserts, delighting in having an enthusiastic and captive audience. Even at his very worst, Bodie managed to eat and keep down the trifles she had made and left for him.
"Come on, move yourself. I've taken the whole lot through to the other room. We'll have it watching the telly." Doyle moved back into the kitchen, "and bring the sugar!"
Bodie kicked off the blanket and stretched as much as his healing ribs would let, feeling an unforeseen sense of well-being with the world.
A cup of tea, home-made apple-pie with custard, Doyle and a bit of telly.
Maybe his partner was right. Maybe some things just didn't need to be said.
"Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
And remember what peace there may be in silence."
-- THE END --