A Birdwatcher's Guide to Cornish Ghosts
Part 4 in the Birdwatcher's Guide to Cornish Ghosts series. See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 5.
Doyle opened his eyes slowly, yawned, and stretched. Judging by the light coming in through the curtains it was still fairly early in the morning. Sunday, if he remembered correctly. Not that he was sure. The only certainty was Bodie fast asleep beside him. The man liked to sleep on his front, sometimes with his head resting on his arms, sometimes not. This morning he was wearing a nightshirt but it wasn't always the case. There were times when their love-making was so intense, so overwhelmingly all consuming, that nightwear was not afterwards replaced and the two men slept naked, exhausted, limbs entwined like branches of a tree that had fused together while growing.
Bodie of course had no idea of the temptation he presented, lying as he did in that position. Under the bedclothes Doyle was sure the man's nightshirt was rucked up and his backside uncovered. It would be such a simple thing to slide over him, straddling his hips, to part those smooth skinned cheeks and ease himself into the heat and the tightness. A dry fuck, yes, but both men were so used to the act now that pain would be minimal.
The plan was a good one in Doyle's opinion. He wanted it. Badly. But not just yet. He snuggled into the bedclothes, sighed contentedly and regarded the beautiful head resting on the pillow. He'd never seen eyelashes that long, a mouth so inviting, a face that beautiful. It bore close inspection on a regular basis and Doyle was more than willing to give the task the full attention it deserved. Bodie had a smile that lit up his face. He used it all too rarely for Doyle's taste, but on the other hand it was a real treat when it happened and perhaps the melting of Doyle's innards that came as a result was not something to be encouraged too often. If his appearance was one of continual infatuation, as he was sure was a distinct possibility, then people would start to talk.
There was already enough speculation in the village after the disastrous Mousehole expedition. Doyle's bruised and cut face had invited all kinds of unwanted attention, which in itself would not have been so bad had Doyle himself been proud of his behaviour during their time away. He was not. Far from it.
He sighed inwardly. There was 'no fool like an old fool' Mrs. Trembath was fond of saying. Doyle privately thought a young fool could give an old one a run for his money any day of the week. His crimes had been countless. He'd insulted a member of a dangerous family in an arrogant and foolhardy manner; disappeared without trace, causing Bodie untold worry and inconvenience in finding him and, when he had been found, his attitude had been one of sanctimonious belligerence.
Doyle had no idea how Bodie had kept his temper, but kept it he had throughout the entire episode. Had their positions been reversed Doyle knew that he himself would have exploded with the full force of an earth quake. He emitted an exasperated breath at his own expense.
Doyle jumped. "Eh? What?"
Doyle sniggered. "That's a big word for this early in the morning, my sweet. Have you been reading books again? I told you that would lead to no good..."
A hand shot out and Doyle found himself grabbed by the scruff of his nightshirt and hauled towards Bodie. Their faces inches apart, the other man's expression was unreadable.
"Um..." Doyle cleared his throat. "I think this is where you declare undying love and devotion despite my tongue tending toward sarcasm and sundry opinions of an unusual and thought provoking nature."
"I think so. Yes. Definitely."
"I see." Bodie appeared to consider for a moment. "Personally I prefer punishment."
"I thought you might say that."
Bodie's smile was wolfish. "And the punishment should fit the crime."
Bodie leaned close. "If thine eye offendeth thee, pluck it out. Except it's not your eye offending me and rather than pluck it out I think I'll..." he trailed off and got to his knees.
Blink. "I beg your pardon? How is that..." It was time, Doyle suddenly decided, to keep his mouth shut.
Except that it proved a difficult task when confronted with a cock, reminiscent of the boom on a ship in its girth and hardness, nudging at his lips. Ah. That was what he meant...
This wasn't progressing the way Doyle had imagined their early morning romp would go, just a few moments earlier. Instead of enjoying the plundering of a succulent arse the owner of said arse was on his knees astride Doyle's chest, nightshirt hitched up, prick in hand, demanding immediate entrance to the mouth that had offended him. A frisson of fear raced around Doyle's nerve endings. He was never completely sure of what his lover was capable in these circumstances.
"Open." Bodie's voice was rough, his blue eyes hard as he leaned forward, bracing himself on the headboard, still forcing the soft skin of his cockhead against Doyle's mouth.
It was already leaking fluid. The stickiness anointed Doyle's lips and he felt an answering tightness in his balls. Oh God. He opened his mouth and swiped his tongue over Bodie's velvety flesh just once. An all enveloping, wet, cleansing act as simple as licking your lips but Bodie's response proved he found it other than innocent. He grunted loudly and thrust hard into Doyle's mouth. Once. Twice. Three times. And came as hard as Doyle could ever remember, hands entwined in brown curls as his come hit the back of Doyle's throat, emptying himself not only of seed but of words and mutterings incomprehensible to Doyle's ears.
He collapsed on top of Doyle – temporarily not of this world. Doyle wound his arms around the man and held on to him. He suddenly realised he was grinning. There was no way this man could ever hurt him. It was quite obvious that the reason Bodie sometimes needed rough sexual release was that it kept a lid on his temper – kept him on an even keel. Doyle wondered why the same could not be said for him. Different temperament he supposed.
Bodie stirred in his arms. A dark, tousled head lifted and stared down at him, smirking.
"Punishment satisfying enough for you?" Doyle asked quietly.
Bodie continued to smirk. Then, "You know, Raymond, there's something delightfully slutty about you at times. Makes me want to pound into you."
"Oh, so it's my fault is it?"
Shifting slightly, Bodie pressed his hips into Doyle's groin, his still wet, flaccid cock rubbing erotically over Doyle's erection. He ran his tongue from Doyle's chin, up across his mouth to the tip of his nose and back down again. Doyle moaned quietly. He was close – so close. If Bodie would just roll over he could...
"Yes, Raymond, it's your fault," Bodie whispered. He nipped Doyle's neck with his teeth and squeezed one nipple between thumb and finger. Doyle whimpered. He put a hand on Bodie's buttocks and squeezed hard. Bodie's laugh was conspiratorial, low. "You like my arse, hmm? Makes you hard doesn't it?"
Yes. Doyle's thought processes were still lucid enough to agree. But it was too late to say where that hardness wanted to go. He tensed suddenly as his balls contracted and promptly spilled himself between them, gasping for air like a man drowning in an ocean of love.
The sound of metal on flagstones disturbed the peace of a Sunday morning breakfast.
"That dog is insane." Bodie muttered as he crammed bacon, dripping with egg yolk, into his mouth. Some of the yellow liquid didn't quite make it and dripped onto his chin; Bodie swiped at it impatiently with his napkin.
Doyle lounged back on his chair and prodded the remains of his own fried egg with his fork, pushing it around the plate in the fat it had been cooked in. His stomach rebelled. Just the smell of it made him feel ill. He looked up at Bodie as a dish of scraps propelled by Rascal went past his chair. "You're a fine one to speak."
Chewing enthusiastically Bodie smirked. "Well, some of us have an appreciation of the finer things in life." He looked down as dog and dish went past on the other side of the table. "Isn't that right, Rask?"
Doyle frowned. "Either he's mad or he appreciates the finer things in life – which is it?"
"No reason he can't be both is there?" Bodie was busy pushing the last bits of his meal onto his fork, grease and all.
"A mad glutton? 'Spose not," Doyle acknowledged grudgingly. "Eat, drink and be mental." He cackled then at his own joke.
Bodie raised one disdainful eyebrow and Doyle curbed his amusement, clearing his throat noisily. He subsided once again into silent moodiness.
Taking a long mouthful of tea Bodie regarded Doyle over the rim of the cup. "You're just in a bad mood because you didn't get my arse this morning."
Doyle looked up in surprise. "I am not!"
Blue eyes mocked him. Doyle couldn't decide whether he was more annoyed at the mockery or because Bodie had somehow guessed the truth.
A wet nose on his hand made Doyle jump. He regarded Rascal speculatively as Bodie rose to refill his cup. He reached quickly for the dog's dish and scraped two thirds of a sausage, the bacon fat and rind, and most of his egg into it. He put it back on the floor and turned to find Bodie watching him intently, cup in hand.
"It's a good job Mrs. Trembath is in chapel and not here to see you give good food to the dog," his lover said, taking a sip of hot tea.
Doyle shrugged, embarrassed at being caught out. He reverted back to their previous topic of conversation; it wasn't one he necessarily wanted to discuss but it was an improvement on a lecture from Bodie about starving miners' families. His mother had been fond of throwing the plight of mill-workers children at him, his father, who had spent time in India – starving Indians. "I don't always have to fuck you to enjoy what we do."
Bodie smiled gently and Doyle's insides, as always, did a little jig of delight. The man sat down once more and Doyle stared silently at him while he took control of his stomach. Perhaps if he'd eaten more of his breakfast... "What's your point?" Doyle said at last.
Bodie shrugged. "Nothing really. Doesn't matter."
"That's not always true. Some things are better not said or aren't important enough to make a fuss about."
Doyle deliberated on that for a moment. Bodie was right – of course he was. But he still wanted to know what it was that Bodie wasn't saying. "Which of those is this?"
Bodie scratched his head and expelled a long breath. "I suppose if I won't tell you you'll pick at this until I either thump you or push you off a cliff?"
It was Doyle's turn to smile. "Likely as not. And you wouldn't hurt me," he said after a moment's consideration.
Bodie stared at him. "No. And somehow or other you've got wind of that pertinent little fact, you bastard." The man's lips twitched imperceptibly.
Doyle guffawed loudly. "Swearing in the kitchen, Bodie! She'll know, y'know. That housekeeper of yours is telepathic about blaspheming in her domain."
Bodie grinned widely. "Yes, well," he conceded, "that's as maybe. Let's hope she hasn't got similar telepathic abilities about a few other things that go on in her kitchen."
Doyle stopped laughing as the image of the woman he had come to be very fond of catching them at it sprang to mind. It made him feel quite sick.
His lover was watching him intently. "If you need my arse, Ray, you should tell me. I understand need. You understand need or you wouldn't let me play rough sometimes."
"It's only a safety valve," Doyle shrugged. "You'd never really hurt me."
"No. But grant me the opportunity to supply your needs too. You have to give me the gift of pleasing you too, Ray."
"You do!" Doyle was indignant. "Christ, Bodie, don't you know what you mean to me?" How could the love of his life not be aware that Doyle thanked God on a daily basis for the wonder that was Bodie?
"Of course I know."
"Well then, give me what I ask. Be honest. Tell me you want to fuck me into the mattress, if that's what you need. If you want to wear women's knickers or tie me to the bedpost and come all over my face, then tell me!"
Doyle's jaw dropped open. "People in love..."
He was going to say, 'Don't abuse each other' but Bodie interrupted before he could say it. "If you can't do what you like with the one you love who can you do it with?" his lover asked. "Although if it's all the same to you I'd rather you didn't nick Mrs. Trembath's silk bloomers, with the elastic round the knees, off her washing line and put 'em on in front of me. No offence..."
Doyle sat back and laughed. Trust Bodie to come up with something that ridiculous.
Bodie was staring into the distance and didn't seem to notice. "On the other hand," he said speculatively, "I reckon you'd look good in a pair of silky French Knickers. Black ones... a bit of lace around the legs... your cock standing to attention, leaking onto the silk... wouldn't mind sucking you off through the material... wonder where we could get a pair..."
Doyle's eyes widened and the grin faded from his face as he realised that Bodie was completely serious. But even worse... that the idea was not just a little appealing - it was very appealing. Oh God.
Doyle turned the bracelet round and round in his hand. Why did he feel that the haunting here in the house was somehow connected with this pretty piece of jewellery? It was ridiculous. It belonged to Mary Davey. To all intents and purposes it had nothing whatsoever to do with the house Bodie called home. And yet...
He ran his fingers over the surface. The bracelet was not what you'd call ornate. Little hearts and a certain amount of pretty markings made a circle – but the piece was somehow beautiful beyond the obvious. He knew it was important but didn't know why he felt that way. It was almost as though the thing had somehow contrived to make its way home. A fancy Bodie would gain no small amount of amusement from so Doyle decided to keep that one to himself...
Doyle placed the thing on the bed and looked at it. Perhaps if he stared at it long enough it would tell him. He smiled at such a daft notion. Could this be the same bracelet that Mr. Trembath's great grandmother had lost all those years ago? Was it too much of a coincidence that two such similar bracelets existed in one family? He knew a bit about coincidences and it was true that it was quite possible. And yet...
If it was the same bracelet perhaps someone had given it away? It was easy to see why they might do that as it was clearly peculiar in its propensity to imitate burning. Or it could just be that someone in the Trembath family had been a touch light fingered... taken a fancy to it and popped it in their pocket. It happened.
Hearing Bodie's footsteps on the stairs Doyle took a clean handkerchief and, not knowing why exactly, quickly wrapped the bracelet in it and put it in his pocket.
The bedroom door opened and Bodie came into the room. "Good lunch," he said, rubbing his hands together.
Doyle smiled to himself. Food was one of the man's major preoccupations. He often remembered places he'd visited purely for the pub he'd eaten at and the meal he'd had. It amused Doyle no end. For him food was a necessity, you ate because it kept you alive: for Bodie it was the complete opposite. Doyle considered that Bodie loved to eat almost as much as he loved to be intimate with Doyle. It was lucky, he felt, that he was not the jealous type.
"Nothing like Mrs. Trembath's roast pork with all the trimmings," Bodie was saying. "No one can do crackling like her. No point in having it when you're out – always a disappointment. You listening to me, Doyle?"
Doyle looked up, smiling. "I always listen to you."
"I do!" Doyle countered indignantly.
"The remains of your injuries from a certain trip away would indicate otherwise, Raymond."
Doyle coloured. "All right – almost always." He considered the comment a cheap shot but thought it pertinent to remain silent. "What're we doing this afternoon?"
"Well," Bodie smirked. "Good Sunday lunch, housekeeper's gone home, and here we are in the bedroom. Let me see," he said, his face taking on an expression of mock thoughtfulness. "What could we possibly do... hmm... difficult one."
Doyle rose quickly from the bed. Bodie's intent was quite clear and it wasn't that it didn't appeal – it did... it always did as a matter of fact – but the afternoon was a nice one and Doyle had something else in mind. "How about a ride?" he suggested.
Bodie's eyes lit up. "Exactly what I had in mind... you must be psychotic, Raymond!"
"A cycle ride," Doyle interjected quickly.
The look of disappointment on Bodie's face was comical but with a great effort of will Doyle managed not to laugh. "Um," he ventured tentatively, "I was thinking about that book I found in the library."
"The one with the information about ship wrecks around the Cornish coast."
Bodie nodded. "You're thinking about that Chinese wreck?"
"Yes," Doyle admitted, waiting for the scathing remark that was sure to follow.
It didn't come. Bodie looked thoughtful, instead.
Taking his chance Doyle went on quickly, "The thing is... I know the link is tenuous but I've got this feeling, Bodie. Don't ask me why – I can't explain it. I want a look at that cove."
"We don't know which one it is," Bodie pointed out.
"It's between Sennen and Land's End I was told. Are there many possibilities?"
Bodie was silent for a while, considering. Then, "No. It's pretty rugged around there. There are several coves, but only one I can think of big enough to have actual sand – a proper beach. It's not big though and not that easy to get down into." He regarded Doyle for a long moment. "You don't like heights," he said then.
Doyle swallowed hard. "No. Have to brace myself, won't I? I'll cope."
Bodie looked doubtful. "Look," he began, "is it that important, Ray? I mean really?"
Doyle felt his resolve stiffen. There was no way he would back out now, even if he wanted to. A coward he was not. "I'll be fine," he reiterated.
Bodie looked wistfully towards the bed.
"Later," Doyle said softly, "I'll make it worth your while. Promise."
Bodie's eyes sparkled with what Doyle knew was anticipation. "I'll hold you to that, Raymond."
Doyle grinned wickedly.
"Come on then," Bodie said resignedly. "Let's find a bloody map."
It was steep. One might almost say precipitous, Doyle decided, staring at the path leading down into the cove. He was already regretting his hasty decision to do this. Bodie was looking at him, speculation clear on his face.
"We don't have to, y'know?" his lover said suddenly. "We can sit on the grass here, have a drink and some fruit cake – in your case I won't insist on the cake – admire the view, have a grope if no one's about, go home. No one any the wiser."
Except me, Doyle thought. And you. It would be sensible to walk away. He knew that. But he wanted to see, he really wanted to see, the spot where this Chinese ship had come ashore with its princess and its hoard of jewellery, even though there was doubtless nothing actually there to see.
Doyle took a very deep breath. "No. Come on."
He knew, without looking, that Bodie followed him with a great deal of reluctance.
At first it wasn't too bad. Although rather too high for Doyle's liking, and the path rather narrow, he found if he didn't look down he was fine. He looked out to sea instead, bluer than blue on this late Spring afternoon, with a slight swell on. And gulls of course – always there were gulls wherever you went in Cornwall – their mournful cries part of the very fabric of the landscape almost. But slowly the way became steeper, and as they rounded a bend and the path deteriorated drastically Doyle suddenly found he had no choice but to watch his footing and thus see over the edge. Dear God, it was a long way down. He came to a halt, his legs suddenly weak, his heart pounding in his chest.
Bodie came up behind him and an arm was around his waist. "Take it slowly," the man said easing himself in front. "Follow me and keep to the inside as far as possible. Hold on to the back of my jacket if you need to."
Doyle was pathetically grateful. A strange feeling of being protected stole over him. He tried to analyse it and found himself stuck when it occurred to him that this was how husbands were supposed to feel about their wives and children – protective. Was that how Bodie felt about him? As though he were somehow responsible for him? The idea was shocking. They weren't married – could never be married – so what was going on in Bodie's head? Was this why he had acted as he did in Mousehole? Searching for Doyle, looking after him? Did Bodie feel towards him as he would towards a wife? How could that be when they were two men, not man and woman? It made no sense...
Eventually they made it to the bottom. It had been a close run thing. The path had disappeared at one stage and it had been necessary to climb down over large boulders several of which hung out over sheer drops. Doyle had been almost immobile with fear and would never have made it if it hadn't been for Bodie's calm reassurance.
Reaching the sand at last Doyle dropped to his knees, hung his head and closed his eyes, breathing deeply, relief washing over him. He tried not to think about the fact that they would have to go back the same way they'd come.
Bodie came and knelt beside him. "You all right?"
Doyle nodded. "I will be."
Bodie rubbed his back and Doyle was soothed by the action. Then the man's hand was in his hair, stroking his scalp gently. Doyle raised his head to look at his lover and saw with a jolt untold love and concern in Bodie's eyes. Unable to help himself he smiled. "I love you too," he said.
Blue eyes widened in clear surprise. The man coloured and paused before cupping Doyle's face with one hand and placing a gentle kiss on his mouth.
"You're a bloody idiot," Bodie said quietly. "Mad as a hatter and twice as potty. But I love you all the same, God help me."
They sat for a while in the afternoon sunshine. Doyle was grateful for the chance to recover his equilibrium and this was after all a delightful place. They were at one end of a small cove that formed a sort of horseshoe. Where they were, on the inside, was safe and protected but even a fool could see that the rocks that formed the two arms of the horseshoe were treacherous. Jagged and ugly and, judging by what was revealed as the tide washed to and fro over the rocks, there was as much danger from what lay beneath the water as there was from what was visible. Probably more. Definitely more, he decided.
"One of the most dangerous parts of coastline in the entire country," Bodie observed as if reading his mind.
Doyle nodded in agreement. "Not difficult to see why."
"No. Trust the ruddy Cornish to specialise in two of the most dangerous occupations known to man."
Doyle turned to him questioningly.
"Sea faring and mining," Bodie elucidated. "Killers of men in countless numbers."
Rising to his feet Doyle exhaled noisily. "And bloody lucky we are not to have to do either in order to live. Come on, we might as well have a look at this place – seeing how much trouble I went to, to help you down here."
Bodie's jaw dropped. "Oi... it was me had to get you..." the man stopped as it dawned on him that Doyle was joking. "Bastard," he said as he got to his feet.
Sensing danger Doyle started to move but was not quick enough. An arm pulled him back, hard against Bodie's hips. "You'll pay for that," Bodie muttered menacingly into his ear. He clamped his hand over Doyle's genitals and squeezed. Doyle gasped as the hardness of Bodie's cock made itself known against his arse. Christ.
"How about here?" Doyle countered, provocatively. "In the sand. Fuck me senseless. Bugger me into oblivion." He rubbed his backside hard against Bodie's groin. He'd do it. Stupid and dangerous though it might be, he knew that if Bodie wanted it he would risk all for the experience.
Hands pushed him away roughly. Shocked, Doyle realised they were shaking. He turned and looked into Bodie's eyes and saw raw need there and... fear.
Doyle took a step back. "Sorry," he said. "That was a stupid thing to say."
Bodie looked away nervously, shoving his hands into his pockets. Doyle was appalled at himself. "Look..." he began.
"No." Bodie was breathing deeply. "My fault. I should know by now what happens to both of us when we play these games. It's enough of a constant bloody battle not to fuck you senseless all the time, Ray, without me provoking you like that."
Doyle recognised the words for what they were: the truth. It was a constant battle. It seemed that where each other was concerned they were insatiable – could never quite get enough. Like a jug that could never be filled or a journey that never ended. Part of Doyle knew it was physical, that given the opportunity men were like that; sexual activity was as necessary as breathing and you indulged as often as you could.
Before he'd met Bodie Doyle's best friend had very definitely been his right hand. He'd become an expert at the glorious, long drawn out pleasuring of himself in the depths of the night or the quick release in a quiet place when he hoped no one was around, but was going to do it anyway, because he just couldn't wait. Not for anything...
He suspected that most men had restraint imposed upon them by their womenfolk. The faithful ones that was. Women were not always in the mood, too tired, whatever, so sexual activity had to be curtailed somewhat to suit the circumstances. But what when there was no restraint save that of time and place? What when the couple involved were two men when men were the ones always in need of sexual release? Doyle already knew the answer. They went at it like the proverbial clappers that's what. Two or three times a night was not unusual for he and Bodie – and still the need could steal over them during the day when the itch could not always be scratched. He'd become an expert at hiding embarrassing erections with appropriately placed arms or cushions – he'd even pulled Rascal onto his lap once but the resultant heavy weight landing suddenly on his nether regions had cooled his ardour somewhat quicker than anticipated.
So, Doyle knew part of the reason for this inability to be satisfied. But it wasn't the whole story, was it? The fact was that the two men were now deeply attached and the intimacy they shared was like a drug. They were addicted. Yes, it was physical but Doyle knew the answer to this was really in their heads. They both loved to distraction and the result was that the physical had become the embodiment of the mental. Their way of expressing feelings that never ceased to consume them utterly.
In truth it was frightening. Observing other relationships, over the years, he'd come to the conclusion that in many cases one half of the partnership loved more than the other. Sometimes to the extent where one partner felt no love at all, other times where the difference was negligible. It was rare indeed to find mutual adoration to the extent that he and Bodie had found it. Doyle knew it to be a wonderful thing but, their situation being what it was, it had the potential to be a problem of monstrous proportions.
He took a step towards Bodie who was staring out to sea, clearly distracted. Doyle touched his arm. "We're lucky, you know. Not many have what we have."
Doyle's reward was a beautiful Bodie smile. The breeze was ruffling the waves of his dark hair and Doyle knew that this week the man would look in the mirror and declare that he needed a haircut. His barber would then scalp Bodie and Doyle would have to wait several weeks for the waviness to return and with it the chance to run his hand through his lover's beautiful hair once more.
Remembering Bodie's words in the kitchen that morning he hesitated. Then, "I like your hair a bit longer like that."
Bodie's automatic reaction was to run his hand through it. "Needs cutting."
Doyle steeled himself. "Cutting? You let an eighty year old sadist loose on it with limited sight and even less hearing and call what you end up with a cut?"
"Edwin's been cutting hair for sixty years!"
"Yeah, and it shows! Does he know any style other than 'scalp'?"
Bodie regarded him steadily, clearly a little bemused.
"I like it longer," Doyle repeated. "You said I should say when I want something, so I am."
Bodie blinked. "Perhaps I'll uh... leave it a week or two then, shall I?"
"Or three or four."
A sideways smirk was all the answer he got as Bodie walked past him. Smugness personified. "Are we going to look at this place then?" the man asked. "We're down here now so we may as well..."
Astonished at the ease of his victory, it occurred to Doyle to wonder what else he could get if he were only to ask. He decided to cogitate further upon the matter. A lot further.
They strolled across the beach in companionable silence, their shoes leaving footprints in sand that Doyle suspected had not seen human footprints in many a year. Not if that path down to the cove was anything to go by. He looked up at it and shuddered.
Of course, it had to be remembered that the Cornish were a hard race. Not long ago Bodie had taken him to see a mine near Pendeen called Levant and Doyle had seen with his own eyes the steps leading down the cliff face that miners of a previous century had had to use to access the mine – the entrance being a hole in the cliff that the workers had somehow to swing down into off the steps. A proper mine entrance had eventually been installed but Doyle wondered how many men had been lost on those exposed, precipitous steps in foul weather. A slip of the foot and your death was certain, but not necessarily immediate; you might grasp at a rock as you fell and hang there for moments – enough time to know you were a dead man – before you lost your grip and fell, your body shattering on some huge boulder; alternatively you might land in the water and be dashed against the rocks, bleeding, dying, thinking of your loved ones; it could happen that...
The morbidity of Doyle's imaginings were rudely interrupted as he ran into Bodie's back.
Doyle walked round the man and peered at him. "You all right?"
Bodie nodded but his slight frown indicated that that was not quite the truth.
"What?" Doyle prompted.
Bodie shivered. It was a warm afternoon and Doyle didn't think the man was shivering because he was cold. He watched as Bodie shook his head as though trying to shake some nuisance off. "Nothing," he said.
"Sure?" Doyle asked beginning to move away now, eager to explore the other end of the cove.
Bodie's nod was imperceptible. "I just thought... did you hear voices just now?"
Doyle had not. "Gulls I expect. I sometimes think they sound like lost souls in torment but you know my imagination..."
Bodie smiled tightly and they walked on.
Stopping momentarily to watch the ebb and flow of the tide – Doyle always found it calming – he pushed his hands into his pockets and came up against something. He pulled it out and realised to his dismay that he was holding the bracelet wrapped in a handkerchief. Of course... he'd shoved it into his pocket in the bedroom. Something, he did not know what, told him this was bad. Very bad.
"What've you got there?" Bodie was approaching from behind.
Doyle had no chance to hide it. He turned to face his lover as the white material slipped to the sand and the bracelet was revealed.
Doyle had never seen the colour drain from anyone's face quite that quickly. Bodie did not exactly have the ruddiest of complexions anyway, despite his constant exposure to the elements here in Cornwall; he was pale skinned and that was a fact. But now the man was sheet white.
Doyle took a step towards him. "Bodie."
Bodie took a step back, his eyes fixed securely on the object in Doyle's hand. "Why have you brought that thing here?"
"I... I didn't... I mean... I didn't intend to. Not really." He quickly shoved the offending item back into his jacket pocket.
Bodie was breathing hard. He turned suddenly, looking around. "Can you hear voices, Doyle? There's someone down here, I can hear them." His hand shot out to grasp Doyle's arm.
Doyle put his hand over Bodie's. "Oi, it's all right. There's no one else here. Only idiots like us are daft enough to come down that path." He tried to smile reassuringly.
His lame attempt at humour fell on deaf ears. Bodie was now quite agitated, his head snapping from side to side, clearly looking for the source of voices Doyle could not hear.
Doyle was beginning to get alarmed. "I think we should go," he said.
He took hold of Bodie and made to lead him away. They had managed a few steps only before Bodie came to a halt and stood stock still. "What are they doing?"
"Who, Bodie? I can't see anyone..."
"Those men! Stop them!" Bodie shrugged Doyle's hand off and before Doyle had any idea what was happening Bodie was running full pelt across the sand.
Something in Doyle's mind clicked into place. He began to shout. "No, Bodie! Noooo! Don't go near them!"
He was running now, running for his life... no... for Bodie's. Bodie had to be kept away from the scene that he could see and Doyle couldn't. A faster runner he gained on him quickly and jumped. He was on Bodie's back and Bodie was falling taking Doyle with him. They hit the sand, unhurt, and rolled over. Bodie immediately tried to get to his feet but Doyle had hold of him.
"No!" Doyle screamed again. "Keep away! It's not real, Bodie. It's not real!"
He rolled on top of the man and pinning him to the sand.
"I have to help!" Bodie was shouting. "They'll kill her. Get off me, Ray!"
Doyle might have been faster across the ground but Bodie was the stronger of the two. He heaved Doyle off him with what seemed like minimal effort and was on his knees about to rise when he stopped, staring into nothing. "Where did they come from?"
Doyle rolled over and got to his knees too. "What?"
"Can't you hear them barking?"
Alarm bells went off in Doyle's head. "We have to get out of here. How many dogs are there?"
"Two. Both Pekinese. Yappy things. They've got hold of a man's leg. Can't tell if he's a sailor or someone from the village. He's trying to kick them off but they're growling. Vicious little buggers."
"We have to go, Bodie."
"We should help her. She might die."
"She's already dead, Bodie. Long ago. This isn't real. And we can't let those dogs get near us."
Bodie turned to stare at Doyle, blinking, focussing, seeing him properly for the first time in quite a while Doyle suspected.
"If this isn't real how can they harm us?" Bodie asked.
To anyone else it would have been a sensible enough question but Doyle knew otherwise and shook his head. "I don't know, but I think they can. Don't let them bite you. We have to run but I can't see them so you'll have to guide us."
He hauled Bodie to his feet. Bodie grabbed his arm, shunted him sideways towards the base of the cliff, and the two men began to run.
They were mere yards from where the path began when Bodie suddenly jerked around. He kicked viciously at something with his foot. "Get up the path, Ray!"
Not without you.
Doyle reached for Bodie and began to pull.
"Ray!" Bodie was simultaneously fighting Doyle off and kicking out still at something unseen.
Suddenly, Bodie missed his footing and was falling to his knees. Doyle went with him, staggering sideways. Something fell out of his jacket pocket, hitting Bodie's hand as it fell and landing in his lap. The man screamed and keeled over. Realising it was the bracelet Doyle scrabbled for it, flicking the thing away from his lover and onto the sand.
Doyle's body began moving automatically then, without thought as though some unknown power were pulling strings. He had Bodie on his feet and moving towards the path. Pulling him, dragging him – anything to get him away from this hell-hole.
Bodie was only just conscious. "Leave me," he heard him mutter. "Please, Ray. Get out of here. You can't get us both to the top. Get help."
"In your dreams, Love of My Life, in your bloody dreams," Doyle ground out.
Doyle never really knew how he'd got them to the top of the cliff that June afternoon. For months afterwards he experienced nightmares about the episode, waking sweating and crying out in the middle of the night.
They say you should face your worse fears head on and that will often cure the phobia. Doyle knew it to be a lie. In his case at least. As they clung to a rock face over a one hundred foot drop, Bodie with his eyes shut tight, Doyle allowing his voice to give vent to his terror, whimpering quietly into Bodie's shoulder, Doyle knew his fear of heights would not be conquered in this manner.
He'd steered Bodie, hand over hand, foot behind foot, crawling on all fours most of the time, up a cliff path that was completely unforgiving. Several times they'd slipped backwards for many yards, twice coming to a halt, legs dangling over the drop, with nothing but a clump of thrift or a gorse bush between them and certain death.
Reaching the top at last, collapsing on top of Bodie, Doyle had actually cried. Great huge racking sobs of relief that they were not both dead, or even worse that Bodie had died and left him alive to bear the pain of losing the one he loved more than anything in the world.
Bodie had lain quietly beneath him, recovering, until eventually a hand slipped over his and squeezed. "It's all right – we made it," the man's voice rasped. "Christ knows how."
Doyle sniffed into Bodie's neck. "I hope he does, because I'm bloody sure I don't." He'd laughed then – a runny-nosed snort of relief – and had to wipe Bodie's neck off with his jacket sleeve. When the man said nothing at the indignity Doyle knew, if he hadn't known before, how much he was loved.
He raised himself on two arms and looked down at Bodie. "Were you bitten?"
Bodie smirked – he was clearly recovering fast. "No, but I'm open to suggestions."
"Did the dogs bite you?"
Bodie rolled his eyes. "You said yourself they weren't really there so what difference does it make?"
"A lot," Doyle told him. "The story goes..."
"Codswallop," Bodie interrupted.
"The story goes," Doyle repeated, pointedly ignoring him, "that if you're bitten by the ghost of one of the dogs, you die."
"Foaming at the mouth and screaming for your mother I suppose?" Bodie sniggered.
Doyle regarded him his face set hard. "Do you want to go back down there to test my theory?"
Bodie stopped smirking and shook his head.
"Were you bitten?" Doyle asked again.
"Then let's go home and we'll talk about what happened later."
Doyle got to his feet and went to get their bicycles.
"She was Chinese," Bodie called after him. "And she wasn't dead."
Despite the time of year and the heat of the day they lit the fire in the evening and the two men sat together in near darkness, staring into the flames. Rascal snoozed contentedly on Doyle's feet, making them hotter than he liked, but after what they'd been through he couldn't summon the will to push the dog off.
He did find the wherewithal to move nearer to Bodie though. The man lifted his arm and pulled him even closer and Doyle rested his head on the man's shoulder. You could saw wood on Bodie's shoulders, he was like one of those bison you saw in pictures of The Wild West. Solid as a rock. Doyle's rock. And today he'd nearly lost that. It scared him witless.
"You saved my life today," Bodie said, breaking the silence.
"We're even then," Doyle said, thinking about a fugou in the middle of a moor. "Unless you count rescuing me out of that foul alley, in which case I'll have to do it all over again. Save your life I mean not get myself beaten to a bloody pulp."
"Keeping count are you?"
Doyle turned snaking his arms around Bodie's waist and pushing his head into the crook of his neck. He took in a lungful of his lover's scent – soap, shaving crème, male muskiness, a slight whiff of fish from their supper. "Do it a hundred times if I had to," he muttered.
"I know you would." Bodie's voice was quiet, contemplative. "Bloody fool."
Doyle grinned. "What else would you expect from a maniac like me?" He popped open a button on Bodie's shirt and slipped his hand inside. His finger found a nipple and he removed his hand briefly to wet the digit thoroughly with his tongue, returning once again to tease the nub into arousal.
Eyes closed, Bodie inhaled deeply. Doyle knew how much he liked having his nipples played with and smiled contentedly.
"And you can take that smirk off your face," Bodie said accusingly.
"Why? It quite likes it there," Doyle replied instead of asking how Bodie knew he was smiling when his eyes were closed.
Bodie sucked in a gasp as Doyle squeezed his nipple hard. "Bastard," Bodie muttered.
"I'll have you know my parents were legally wed," Doyle replied indignantly before latching on to his lover's earlobe with grimly determined teeth. "'Course..." he said, breaking off, "I always did have suspicions about my mother and the man who delivered the vegetables. Never seen a bloke more thrilled with the length of his carrot..."
Bodie's shoulders shook with suppressed laughter.
Doyle poked the tip of his tongue into his lover's ear and began a thorough exploration of contours, undulations and passages.
"Oh, fuck." Bodie's lifted his hips in a movement that illustrated his words quite adequately, while one hand roamed freely over Doyle's buttocks, wandering where it liked, squeezing where it pleased.
Doyle laughed. "Later. Tell me what you saw on the beach." He removed his hand from the pert little nipple and his tongue from the man's ear thinking the less distraction he provided the more he would get out of Bodie.
Bodie was having none of it. He took a deep breath. "If you don't put those fingers back you'll get sod all out of me and no mistake."
Doyle did as he was told, pinching hard once more, eliciting a low groan from the other man and more bucking of hips. He fought hard not to cup the growing bulge in Bodie's trousers but his mind persisted in imagining the stiffening cock hidden by the woollen material. Bodie's manhood was plump like one of those ripe plum tomatoes you saw in greengrocer's shops. When erect it was magnificent, thick and luscious, and right now Doyle wanted it very much indeed. He cleared his throat and tried to think about tripe and onions.
"So, what did you see?" he asked, realising his voice was little short of husky.
Bodie opened one eye and regarded him wordlessly for a long moment.
"Well?" Doyle asked.
Bodie snorted. "You want to be fucked."
It was hard to deny. Inside his own trousers he was rock hard. Painfully so. His voice had betrayed him and he was certain his eyes, even in this light, were doing the same.
"Admit it," Bodie persisted.
"All right," Doyle reluctantly agreed. "But we couldn't talk while Mrs. Trembath was here cooking supper as we agreed not to tell her about this latest escapade. Now we can talk and..."
"And you'd much prefer to wag your chin rather than have my cock where you want it?"
Put like that it suddenly seemed ludicrous. Bodie was sitting up and moving slowly towards him. The glint in his eye was surely only a reflection of the firelight but Doyle fancied he'd seen pictures of big cats, about to pounce, with that very same look in their eyes.
He was the prey here.
"There isn't a lot to tell," Bodie was saying into Doyle's chest. "There was this Chinese girl lying on the beach. Three men standing over her. Dressed old fashioned like. An older one and two younger lads. Malicious looking buggers. They started to knock her about a bit. She was screaming..."
Doyle shifted under Bodie's weight and a wet, sucking sound signalled the slipping of Bodie's cock from the cocoon of his arse. He suddenly felt bereft. "Bugger," he muttered. "Trying to keep it inside a bit longer."
Bodie laughed softly. "Pervert."
The moist cock was now nestling in the valley between Doyle's thighs and he decided that for second best that would definitely do. He ran his hand through dark hair that now would not be divested of its waves – for a few weeks at least – and sighed contentedly.
"Thought you wanted to hear about this?" Bodie said accusingly.
"I do. I do..."
"But... how the hell do you expect me to think straight after the seeing to you just gave me?" Doyle was incredulous.
Bodie chuckled. "A good'un, were it?" he said in a thick northern accent.
"Don't get too cocky!" Doyle replied. He punched Bodie playfully on the arm. "Get it? Get it? Cocky..."
Bodie raised his head to look up at Doyle. He moved then, pulling himself to where he could be eye to eye with his lover, placing his elbow on the edge of the settee and resting his head in his hand. He regarded Doyle seriously. "You nearly died because of me."
Doyle folded his arms behind his head and met Bodie's eyes. "But I didn't."
"I don't want you to do that again. Ever."
"Can't promise. Sorry." Doyle smiled cheerfully, knowing full well what Bodie wanted from him but knowing too that such a promise would never be forthcoming. Not while there was breath left in his body.
Something in Doyle snapped. "No! You listen. Without you, Bodie, there's nothing. No beginning, no end. No life. Nothing. All right? We go on together or we don't go on at all. Understand? You better had because that's the way it is for me. I'd rather die trying to keep you with me than survive without you."
He watched as Bodie digested what he'd just been told. Saw the man swallow hard and moistness appear in very dark eyes. Bodie nodded then. "Me..." the words caught in his throat and he coughed trying to clear it. "Me too," he managed to say eventually.
Doyle regarded him levelly. "A worse hell than surviving your death I can't possibly imagine, Bodie. Don't make me promise to help that come about."
The two men were suddenly in each other's arms. Doyle felt wetness against his bare skin but didn't comment upon it. Big men like his lover hated to be thought of as emotional, tears were for women, but tears there were all the same. Doyle held him tighter than he had on the cliffs above the cove that afternoon.
They were in the kitchen, Rascal was settled for the night and Bodie was tidying up before they went to bed. Anywhere else and the doors would have been locked too but around here people didn't do such a thing. It had taken Doyle a while to get used to sleeping in an unlocked house and he still wasn't completely easy about it. It made him feel somewhat vulnerable despite the reassuring presence of Bodie beside him at night.
Doyle watched as the man rinsed their cups and Bodie's late night snack plate before putting them away in the cupboard. He was nothing if not methodical. And tidy. Doyle's instinct was to live in a pigsty – Bodie's was not. It caused the odd disagreement but nothing they could not cope with. It seemed to irritate Mrs. Trembath more than Bodie. Bodie was philosophical about it, it seemed, and was often to be seen picking up after Doyle. Doyle suspected it was less to do with Bodie's own innate tidiness than to save his lover from the wrath of their very particular housekeeper.
"Ready?" Bodie brought Doyle out of his reverie.
"Mmm, if you are." Doyle grabbed his jacket, slung carelessly over a chair as soon as they had arrived back, and threw it over one shoulder. He felt something in one of the pockets knock against the top of his thigh and looked questioningly at Bodie.
"What's wrong?" Bodie was frowning at him.
Tentatively Doyle reached into the pocket and withdrew ... the silver bracelet.
Bodie backed away.
Doyle stared at the thing, incredulous. "I left this on the beach."
"You couldn't have." Bodie had come to a halt on the other side of the room, backed up against the stove.
"I did. It fell out of my pocket and onto you. When you screamed I flicked it off and onto the sand. I didn't pick it up again, Bodie."
"Why did you take it in the first place?"
Doyle had no real answer to that. "I'd been looking at it in the bedroom before we went out. Shoved it into my pocket when I heard you coming and forgot it was there. Is it possible..." Doyle trailed off wondering if what he was about to suggest would sound ridiculous.
"What?" Bodie prompted.
"This is going to sound weird."
A look of wry amusement crossed Bodie's face. "No change there then."
"Oi! I resent that." Doyle said but nevertheless laughed good naturedly. He'd be the last to claim normality as a personality trait for himself.
Bodie yawned. "Are you going to tell me or are we going to stand here all night discussing your peculiarities or lack of?"
Doyle took a deep breath. "I was just wondering whether the presence of the bracelet on that beach somehow made what you saw and experienced worse."
Rather unexpectedly as far as Doyle was concerned, Bodie didn't scoff loudly. He looked thoughtful instead and Doyle regarded him steadily. "It just seemed that the situation got far worse after I took that out of my pocket," he reiterated.
Bodie shook his head then. "I was hearing voices. You took that thing out and I could still only hear voices, but they were louder and suddenly I could see those men and the girl. But the two aren't necessarily connected, Ray."
"You were scared when you saw I had it though."
"I can't answer that," Bodie admitted. "Perhaps it was instinct, I hate the thing anyway and I was hearing things that shouldn't have been there." He shrugged. "I don't know."
Doyle turned the bracelet over in his hands. "Neither do I and I also don't know how this got back into my pocket. Did you see anything?"
Bodie shook his head. "I had two Pekinese dogs snapping at my heels. Thank God for thick woollen trousers that's all I can say... one had hold of the hem of one leg but neither of them managed to sink their teeth in. Not," he said firmly, "that I really believe all this rigmarole about people dying from bites and all."
"Odd though, don't you think?" Doyle mused.
"Well, nothing about this whole thing is normal, is it?" Bodie pointed out. "I mean... bodies being carted through my house, bracelets that seem to burn but don't, people on the beach who shouldn't be there, foreign dogs running amok. Your average year in the life of a birdwatcher and writer of books on said subject it most definitely is not, Raymond."
He had a point.
"But you found me and that makes up for it all, eh?" Doyle grinned toothily.
Bodie's lipped twitched. "You don't think it might be said by some less biased than us that your presence in all this has made things worse rather than better?"
Doyle blinked. He had another point there...
"Yes. Well. Some might say that," Doyle conceded. "Possibly..."
There was a deathly hush.
Doyle realised Bodie was watching him intently, his expression unfathomable. He placed the silver bracelet on the kitchen table. "I'll leave that down here then." He was feeling unaccountably awkward and found he didn't want to meet his lover's gaze. Doubts suddenly – where had they come from?
"Might be better," Bodie said quietly. Giving the table a wide berth he held his hand out and, as Doyle walked towards him, took him by the arm. "Come on, Light of My Life, let's go to bed. You can prove how sorry you are for ruining my life. I'm sure I'll think of a way..."
"Thinking's over-rated," Doyle countered, his doubts evaporating as quickly as they had arrived.
"Too bloody right," Bodie agreed, patting Doyle on the bum. "I'm more of a feelings person, me. Lot to be said for a good feel." He squeezed Doyle's arse cheeks, lingeringly.
Doyle laughed, broke away and took the stairs two at a time, divesting himself of his trousers as he reached the top. By the time he was in the bedroom he was down to his underwear and when Bodie arrived at last, Doyle was sprawled across the bed naked.
"Well," Bodie said, observing him dispassionately. "I suppose having your life ruined does have its compensations. Have you learnt to play Yankee Doodle on the harmonica yet?"
-- THE END --
Originally published in Secret Agent Men 6, Requiem Publications, October 2005