Four Things Bodie Survived and One He Didn't


"Poor little mite. He hasn't said a word all day. Just look at him, standing over by the window. Proper little soldier he was at the church."

"Someone ought to take him in."

"Well, don't look at me. More'n my life's worth to suggest something like that to Frank. We're barely managing as it is, and he and Maureen were never close."

William's ears burn, and with a spike of passion he hates them, hates them for dressing him in a scratchy jumper his mother let him laugh at and never wear, hates them for not offering what he doesn't want, hates them for being here, for talking about him, for living without cancer, for drinking tea out of her mug...

"William! Where is that boy hidin' himself now? There you are. Don't stand there skulking in corners. Get yourself upstairs, take that fancy clobber off and and stay out the road. I dunno, no bloody use at all. None of you! No bloody use..."

But most of all he hates them all for leaving him alone with him.

The thirst is the worst. Which is fucking ironic seeing as how he's chest deep in shit brown water. But then that's the thing, isn't it? Shit brown water. He'd laugh if he could, but his lips cracked long ago and the blood that ran down his chin dried before he could lick it back.

Some of the shit is his, he knows that. Some of it is from the man tied up on his left--what was his name? John? No doubt false. Doesn't matter anyway, because John's head has gone under three times in the last few hours and Bodie has a feeling that next time it's not coming back up. He shouted the first time, risked everything to topple his shoulder against him. But that was then. Before the wire binding his hands cut deep, before the sun baked the shivers in, and before the rats smelt the blood and came hunting.

So he won't laugh. He'll keep his face tilted just so against the bamboo, his legs planted wide in the slime beneath, and his mind fixed on the certainty that he is too valuable a commodity for the squad and his employer not to initiate a sweep and rescue. As he faces away from the slow sound of John going under, he knows only that they had better pull him out of the river-pit before they raze this hellhole to the ground, and not after. He flexes his fingers, trying to feel that he's doing it. He wants them around the barrel of a flamethrower more than he's ever wanted anything.

Alone again, Bodie takes a moment to wonder if this instinct to stand against any and all is a blessing or a curse.

In his kitchen Bodie staggers slightly. About bloody time. He keeps his head still and his balance comes back. He eyes the remaining third of the bottle and puts his emptied glass back on the counter. Enough. It, and all the others, have served their purpose. A thud from the other room and he supposes he should investigate.

Dozy sod's dropped his glass on the carpet next to the sofa where he's sprawled, and there's an amber puddle spreading out. Bodie shakes his head at the sight. So, breaking point's the same for each of them, what a fucking surprise. Though not quite, maybe, seeing as how he's still upright and a knotted up Doyle has clearly passed out rather than fallen asleep. He watches him breathe, mouth open, limbs everywhere, and he tries to summon up that cleansing tide of anger and betrayal once more. It's not happening. He closes his eyes, brings Marikka to the fore, brings Doyle up behind her... and then opens his eyes again, sighing at the melodrama of what he's doing at 3am on a cold October morning.

He straightens Doyle out as best he can, throws a duvet over him and retreats to the bedroom. He never brought Marikka here so his pillows are safe from scents and unexpected keepsakes, although he still finds it necessary to lie on his back and will the alcohol to work. A sound reaches him through the open doors, and in the dark his lips forget everything and curve. Ray Doyle is snoring, spectacularly, like a fog horn.

That Doyle has hunted him out this evening isn't the surprise. That he has stayed with him through such a violent, melancholy urge to get drunk, is. And stay with him he has, matching him drink for desperate drink, ignoring glowers, scowls and venom that have always worked before. Bodie remembers bodily pushing him away at one point.

Another snore.

All to no avail it seems.

"Alright, mate?"

Bodie opens his mouth but Cowley's blistering approach takes everyone's attention and it's just as well, because he's fairly sure that no words would make their way out. By the time Cowley has finished tearing a strip off Doyle for letting Mad Billy get the drop on him, off Bodie for breaking cover to reach them, and off Murphy for swearing at all of them over the R/Ts, he is managing the look of bored belligerence he does so well, and is certain he can speak again if required to. Doyle has edged closer, shoulder brushing his own, and Bodie has to resist the urge to turn his head and look his fill.

When he ran across the wasteland of no man's land, hurling his R/T at Murph and yelling for cover, he knew two things. That the Old Man was going to kill him, and that it didn't matter because Doyle was dead. A howl and a gunshot were the trademarks of Mad Billy, too mad even for the IRA, and they shot Bodie forward, bursting him out of cover with a howl all his own.

So to have Doyle standing next to him, taking his rollicking with an air of good-natured sufferance, rubbing the back of his neck, which is all that's wrong apparently, when Bodie has broken any nature and number of barriers to get to him first, to know first...

Another shoulder nudge.

"Alright, mate?"

He can't speak after all, but he looks this time. Knows he looks too long from the way Doyle's smile slips, but still he can't stop.

He doubts he'll ever be alright again.

Everything aches. He needs, in no particular order, a hot bath, a cold lager, and something to eat. What he does not need is Ray Doyle glaring at him in his own flat and carrying on as if he, Bodie, has re-invented gunpowder.

"Look, Doyle, can we do this tomorrow, mate? I know you think I was showing off, but I wasn't. I pushed you down because I was there and I fucking could, okay? Was me that fell through the rotten ceiling and got banged up, so what the fuck you're-"

He never gets any further, as with the most bizarre noise of inarticulated fury he's ever heard, Doyle launches himself, and Bodie has a moment to stagger under the weight and surprise of it. He only realises he's not under attack when Doyle's mouth finds his, and what begins as a defensive response on his part, a desire to keep them both upright and then punch Doyle's lights out, becomes something else entirely when a tongue slips through and two hands come up to hold him. The pace of the kiss slows, inexorably, and Bodie lets it. He can't open his eyes yet, but he can bring his own hand up and thread it through the curls, tugging the pace down still more, all the while increasing the agonising severity of his reaction.

One, two, three light presses on his lips more, and Doyle is gone. With his pulse thundering in his ears, Bodie slowly opens his eyes. Doyle is a mere inch or two away, and pulling on a swollen bottom lip. The clock ticks, all he can hear is unsteady breathing and the universe as he knows it hangs by a thread. He is absolutely going to let Ray Doyle speak first.

"Bloody hell."

He sits down heavily, suddenly unable to stand a moment longer. He pulls a concerned Doyle down with him, and laughs into his curls. He has no idea what to say back, so he holds Ray's head against his neck and shoulder and feels a lifetime of warding things off take a momentary back seat. He lets Ray pull away a little, but keeps him in the circle of his hands. He smiles at the puzzlement he sees.

"As eloquent as ever, sunshine."

Ray comes forward again with a hug that might bruise. And as Bodie takes him in and back, he has time to think, to revel in the possibility that absolutely none of this feels momentary.

-- THE END --

July 2007

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