Last Time Around
(This story begins after the closing scene in The Ojuka Situation.)
"Leave off," Ray growled, turning his head away from his partner.
Bodie punched the car into fourth and sighed. Ray could hear his exhale from his scrunched position in the passenger's seat, and knew his partner well enough to know that he was fighting to stay calm. He sank further into the seat and crossed his arms.
"Fuck you." Bodie's irritatingly condescending chuckle only angered him further. "Let me out."
"Sure, mate." Bodie roared to the kerb and shoved the transmission into neutral.
Ray practically leapt from the vehicle, slamming the door with full force for maximum effect. "Bastard," he muttered, shoving his hands deep into his jacket, watching the back of Bodie's car until the tail lights disappeared around the corner. He kicked a stone with the toe of his shoe and sighed, wondering if how he'd get the rest of the way home now, but when he finally raised his head and glanced around, he was surprised to see his block of flats looming before him. With a derisive snort, he realised that Bodie wouldn't have left him just anywhere, not after the day he'd had. For some reason, Bodie's quiet concern and efficiency made him even more infuriated. Only Bodie could make Ray so damned angry in such a very short time.
Stepping from the kerb, Ray dejectedly walked across the street and up to his flat, muttering the entire time.
"Stupid sod. What's he playing? Does he think I'm fucking stupid? Doyle jammed the key into the lock and angrily twisted the thin metal. He replayed the afternoon in his mind. Not because he wanted to, but because it refused to turn off, to go away...
"Let's get those looked at," Bodie had said after Cowley marched away, leaving them alone. He'd nodded down at Ray's hands. "Don't want to ruin your chances for the Albert Hall."
Ray shrugged, wincing slightly. His wrists were chafed from the ropes and the skin scorched from his clumsy efforts to burn through the sisal. And now, his ribs were beginning to protest at the beating he'd taken. Still, he brushed aside his partner's concern with a jaunty, "Nah. I'll live."
Bodie had moved a step closer. "I'm glad of that."
Ray had canted his head at Bodie's relieved tone and smiled, teasingly asking, "Why's that?"
His mate had given him his usual maddeningly knowing smirk and answered, "We're mates. Besides, there are things that haven't been done."
Ray smiled, taking the bait easily because having Bodie close and teasing made everything okay. "Such as?"
"Haven't taken you to bed yet."
His mouth fell open. "You're joking."
But Bodie's face grew serious when he said, "Not at all. Meant every word."
Ray's further attempts at drawing out Bodie's admission that he was having one over on him had fallen on deaf ears. All Bodie would do was smile, his eyes twinkling, which only served to make Ray angrier by the second. He should have known better and should have ignored his partner, but for some reason, he couldn't leave Bodie's remark alone.
"In your dreams," Doyle snapped, wondering if Bodie had any idea what his simple statement had done to his insides.
"There as well," Bodie had retorted.
"Sure of yourself." Damn it all, he'd worked hard for a long while years ago to stamp all feelings he had for Bodie beyond mate and partner down into the very corner of his heart. Now the man was poking at things that should never be stirred to life.
"Wanker." He clamped his jaw so tightly that it ached. He'd almost forgotten about the smack to the face he'd taken earlier, and now the pain flared. He felt miserable. His ribs ached with each breath, and he would be black and blue tomorrow, he knew.
"You're adorable when you're angry."
Ray fell silent and fumed. Not only did he refuse to give his partner any more satisfaction concerning this conversation, he was afraid that he'd do or say something he might come to regret. And it wasn't necessarily something mean or nasty. It could very well be acquiescence to Bodie's simple statement. He refused to further consider the statement or the possible consequences.
The trip back to the city was tense on his part. Bodie seemed quite content, which also added to Ray's exasperation. The stop at the chemist's for antiseptic cream and gauze for his wrists was made mostly in silence with Bodie a quiet guardian, always standing next to him, their jackets brushing, as he made his purchases. He tried to put a bit of distance between them, but Bodie was having none of it. He hovered close by, ignoring Ray's glances of frustration and the elbow to his ribs.
In the car, Bodie plucked the bag containing the medical supplies from Ray's hand and opened the cream and gauze immediately. Ray considered protesting, but he was afraid he'd sound like a bigger git than he had so far, so he remained silent under Bodie's ministrations. Bodie, for his part, hummed happily and smiled into Ray's eyes on several occasions as he applied himself to his self-appointed task. Ray knew that Bodie was showing his good humour just to annoy him.
The gentle touch of Bodie's fingers on his damaged skin was light and soothing. He stared at Bodie's bent head and carefully watched his mate. Bodie was engrossed in his duties, slowly spreading the antiseptic over the burns with tender sweeps of his fingers. Ray felt himself shiver at the touch. Bodie's head came up, and their gazes met. He scowled, but Bodie smiled, making Ray pull back his hand.
"Stop being dramatic," Bodie snapped, quickly reaching out for Ray's retreating hand.
Ray gave in with a sigh. His wrists did ache, so he didn't protest further, but placidly allowed Bodie to return to his doctoring. His partner wasn't happy until both wrists were liberally coated, and the gauze was wrapped around and neatly fastened. Only then did Bodie start the car and head toward his flat. Ray decided it was a good idea that Bodie didn't know about the abuse he'd taken to his body. Otherwise, he might have insisted on spreading cream on those injuries as well. The very idea made Ray shudder, and it wasn't all with distaste, he ruefully admitted to himself.
They drove in silence until Bodie finally said, "Going to have to court you, I see."
Bodie turned his head and cast a wicked grin. "You'll see."
"Bodie..." Ray said warningly, "I'm not one of your daft birds. Besides, I don't do blokes."
"You do now," his partner muttered, earning him a quick snap of Ray's fist on his upper arm.
"Ow!" He let out a cry when the pain flared in his wrist and side from the sudden movement.
"Don't ruin my hard work."
Bodie smirked and raised an eyebrow. "We'll get to that."
Again, Ray was too shocked at the turn of the conversation to hide his surprise. "What?"
Bodie laughed at his obvious discomfort. That was when he demanded to be let out, to which Bodie obliged...
And here he was, finally at home, more or less in one piece. He was tired and angry and hungry and plain... off-kilter. "Fucking Bodie," he groused, undressing as he walked through the flat. In the bathroom, he turned on the taps and adjusted the water to hot. He glanced down at his gauze-covered wrists and sighed. What was Bodie playing at? Not willing to spend more time examining his partner's motives, he got ready for a nice soak and a twelve-hour sleep.
The very next morning, the irritating sound of the door buzzer woke Ray abruptly. He rolled over and groaned when the pain in his body flared. The buzzer continued its screech so he sighed and gingerly rose.
"Yeah?" he snapped into the speaker.
"What do you want?" he demanded, not at all surprised at his partner's arrival.
"Brought you breakfast."
Ray sighed, leaning his forehead on the wall. "Push." He unlocked both bolts on the door and stood back a few feet, arms crossed, until Bodie entered.
"You look like shit," Bodie offered. "Here." He thrust a very large, extremely heavy potted plant festooned with bright yellow blooms into Ray's arms.
He shook his head. "What's this?"
"That's called a plant," Bodie said patiently as he walked across the room to the kitchen. He set down the shopping and began to rifle through them, spreading the contents on the counter. "Brought bacon, eggs, tomatoes... You hungry, angelfish?"
"Don't call me that." Ray smacked the plant down on the nearest flat surface.
"Why not?" his partner asked innocently.
"Why are you here?" Ray demanded.
"Told you last night." Bodie continued his breakfast preparations while Ray stood and watched him through heavy-lidded eyes.
"I know what you said, but you were joking." He paused but when Bodie didn't respond, he asked, "You were joking, right?"
"Not hardly," Bodie responded. "Two eggs or three?" He held up his hands, flourishing an egg in each.
"Three," Ray finally said with a sigh. "Extra tomatoes."
Bodie grinned. "Coming right up. I'm starving. Put the kettle on, there's a good lad."
"Do you have some particular affinity for my bottom, mate?" Bodie asked with a snicker.
"Are we doing this again?"
"Never left off. Now sit down and eat your meal." Bodie set the plate down with a flourish, adding a sprig of something green that he'd retrieved from one of the sacks. At Ray's arched eyebrow, he said knowingly, "Parsley. What? You don't garnish much?"
Doyle picked up his fork. "I'm too tired to fight."
"So let's not." Bodie slipped into the seat not across from Ray but next to him. He slid his chair closer and grinned before turning to his food.
They ate in silence until Bodie swiped the last of his egg onto a piece of bread and cleaned his plate. It was only then that he slipped an arm across the back of Ray's chair and asked, "How's the ribs? Your face is swollen."
Ray's hand flew up, covering the spot on his face. "Fine," he lied.
"Did you think I wouldn't know?" Ray shrugged, wincing slightly. Bodie's arm moved to rest along his shoulders. "Meant what I said." Ray started to rise, but Bodie's arm across his shoulders tightened while his firm hand wrapped around his upper arm. "Cowley's given you twenty-four hours leave. Use them wisely, mate," Bodie said softly, leaning into him until his mouth was almost touching his ear. "Enjoyed sharing breakfast." Ray shivered at Bodie's warm breath touching his skin. "I'm on an obbo with Murphy, so you're on your own for a bit. Think about -- what I said. My offer."
Ray quickly turned his face, his nose almost brushing Bodie's. Before he could think of a quick retort, Bodie released him and rose, ruffling his hair. "Dinner. Friday night. Eight o'clock. Wear something -- easy to remove."
Ray felt himself actually blush, but before he could call his mate every nasty name in the book, Bodie was out the door.
Ray Doyle was irritated. Here he was, actually dressed and waiting for Bodie, at- He glanced at the wall clock for the tenth time in the last two minutes, seven forty-eight on a Friday night. He could be at the pub having a lager with a pretty bird. He could be playing darts with the lads. He could be cleaning his gun. He could be- The buzzer rang and he jumped up.
"Come on then."
Ray didn't give Bodie the satisfaction of opening the door after flipping the locks. He retreated to the sofa and arranged himself casually, crossing one leg over the knee of the other and stretching his arms out on the back of the cushions.
Bodie made his usual grand entrance, this time carrying-
"What the hell?" Ray barked when Bodie thrust the red roses into his lap.
"Told you that you needed courting."
"I'm not a bird! Besides, there's no courting to be done!" He rose and tossed the flowers onto the sofa. He moved to stand toe to toe with his mate.
Bodie smiled. "Nice shirt," he said softly, trailing a finger down the light green material. When his fingernail scraped over Ray's nipple, he couldn't stop the gasp that escaped his lips. He quickly closed his mouth and clenched his jaw. Bodie's eyes flared, the blue turning almost black. "Green suits you, Doyle. Makes your eyes snap." Bodie's tone was almost -- predatory. That was the only way Ray could describe it to himself. He stepped back -- and sank onto the sofa.
Bodie straightened his back. "You ready?"
"Haven't seen you all week. Been looking forward to this."
Doyle canted his head to glance up. "You have?"
"Yup." Bodie cocked his head, smiling. "Let's go."
"Ahhhh, but the guest doesn't ask the host where they're dining."
Ray's irritation suddenly flared. "I'm not some- This isn't a date!"
"But it is. The first of many." Bodie practically bowed as he waved an arm toward the door. "You need somebody who appreciates you."
"You are a first class nutter."
Throwing back his head, Bodie laughed. "So why not enjoy the evening then? No harm. Right? Just two mates, out on the town. Besides, I'm famished."
"Right. Okay. Let's do it then." Ray told himself that it meant nothing else. He and his partner had shared many meals together. Hell, they'd shared a lot more than that, so why not tonight? With a shrug, he grabbed his linen jacket.
"Let me," Bodie said, extending a hand, clearly intent on helping him into his coat.
"Not on your life," Ray muttered, shrugging into his own jacket.
What the hell was he doing? Ray paced the floor of his flat, skirting the sofa before once again counting off the steps. Why was he actually looking forward to seeing Bodie tonight? He shook his head before burying his face in his hands. Couldn't Bodie see what this was doing to him? He was a goner, he knew. He'd kept his desires hidden for so long that it was a shock to him when they flared anew, and for all his determination, he couldn't ignore them any longer.
And Bodie... The bastard. He hadn't laid a single finger on him, not once. He was frustrated and horny and so damned ready to explode that he doubted he'd last another night. Bodie was attentive and -- courteous. He still teased Ray mercilessly, called him a dozen pet names, and bought him the usual pint or two at the pub. It was only on their assignations, as Ray called them, that Bodie let his gallantry shine through. Nobody but Ray would know from looking at them that they were anything other than two blokes out on the town, but he knew. After that night last week at the local pub, Ray definitely knew.
He'd never seen Bodie refuse a woman like that before. Especially one endowed with what had to be the finest buxom he'd seen this side of the channel. Even he was almost ready to dive in, almost... But Bodie had smiled when the bird had stopped by their table and practically pushed her breasts into his face. He bought the girl and her equally attractive friend a round of drinks before rising and politely excusing himself with a flourish that no woman could take as a brush-off. He glanced over at Ray and merely smiled and said one word, "Doyle." Then he'd turned and headed out of the establishment.
The tone of Bodie's voice brought a flush to Ray's body. He felt himself respond, and he had shakily risen to his feet, grateful that the length of his jacket covered his crotch. He prayed that nothing could be seen in his now even tighter jeans as he rose, had thanked the women, for what, he had no clue, and followed his partner from the pub.
So now he knew. Bodie was deadly serious. He wanted Ray and even though he hadn't voiced his intentions in words, he knew that Bodie clearly conveyed that he meant Ray and no one else. He was stunned.
He'd expected the usual from Bodie. A quick fuck and a nice farewell. After all, his partner had that down to a science. Bodie did not fall in love; not after that one bird he'd admitted to all those years ago, the one who died in far off lands. But who said Bodie was in love? He groaned. What the fuck was he going to do?
The buzzer interrupted his thoughts. He slammed his finger onto the button, not bothering to answer the phone. Let the bastard figure it out for himself. Ray smirked at his childish behaviour, enjoying the momentary flash of satisfaction, before he sighed at himself and unlatched the door. He opened it and stood waiting for his mate.
Bodie grinned as he approached, making Ray roll his eyes. He carried a bottle of wine, which he held aloft.
"Hallo, sunshine," Bodie said with a smirk. "Been waiting for me?"
Ray snorted. "You wish."
Bodie shrugged. "One can only hope. What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure? I think it is the hope of loving, or being loved."
"Oh, God," Ray sighed, rolling his eyes heavenward. "Now he's reciting poetry."
"I have more."
"In the cupboard."
Bodie smiled over his shoulder as he retrieved the wineglasses from the upper shelf. "I'll open it so it can breathe."
"We could go 'round the corner for a beer."
"I'd rather stay here."
"I will," Bodie said, their gazes meeting.
Ray's gaze slid away quickly. Before he realised his mistake, Bodie was beside him.
"What's wrong?" Bodie asked.
Ray noticed that Bodie kept his distance. He was close, but not touching. Ray stepped forward. Bodie glanced over his shoulder before leaning back against the counter and crossing his arms, creating a definite barrier between them.
"What could be wrong?" Ray snapped.
"Quite short tonight, aren't we?"
Bodie pushed away from the counter and moved forward. Ray's eyes widened, and he stepped back. Bodie gave a smirk and followed.
"What's wrong, angelfish?" Bodie asked quietly, matching Ray's retreat with his advance. "Tell me," he demanded. Ray was forced to stop his retreat when he hit the wall. his partner moved in for the kill, pressing the length of his body against Ray's. He slipped a thigh between Ray's legs and leaned forward, planting a hand on either side of his head. "Doyle?"
"Leave it out," Ray growled, planting his hands on Bodie's shoulders.
"Want you," Bodie said harshly, his face barely an inch away.
For a moment, Ray thought Bodie was going to kiss him. Finally, he thought as his eyes slid shut and he waited, holding his breath. After a long moment of stillness, his eyes opened. Bodie was intently watching him as he licked his lips.
Bodie moved a bit until his lips touched Ray's ear. "What do you want?"
"We can't... Cowley will find out."
"So? Let him."
"We'll be sacked."
"Sounds good to me."
The touch of Bodie's warm breath made Ray shiver, and he shifted to accommodate his tightening jeans. "Bodie..."
"Tell me what you want. Say it."
Ray's head fell back, and his eyes closed. He shuddered when Bodie's thigh pressed harder, pushing upward against his body. "Bodie!" He wiggled, rubbing himself against his partner's leg. He gasped when a hand pressed against his length and squeezed firmly.
Bodie's lips touched his ear. "All you have to do -- is ask."
Ray's head was spinning. He let out a small moan. Suddenly, the warmth, the press of his partner disappeared. He groggily opened his eyes and blinked slowly, once, twice. Ray glanced around. Bodie was gone. With a quiet groan, he slid down to the wall to the floor and held his head in his hands. "Bloody hell."
Ray flung the door open. "About time."
Bodie shrugged, casting a quick grin. "I'm not as quick as I used to be."
With a shiver, he latched onto his partner's sleeve and tugged. "Don't remind me."
"Sorry, mate." Bodie walked slowly, the cane aiding his way. "Hard to shift these days."
"I would have come and picked you up."
"Nah. Need to learn to do it on my own again." Bodie stopped, glancing around. "Doyle, you romantic devil. Are these for me?"
Ray rolled his eyes, grinning. "Yeah."
"I've never seen so many candles outside the shops before. Must have taken you a good bit to light them all."
"A good bit. Was worth it though."
Bodie smiled. "Are there more," he nodded toward the bedroom, "in there?"
"Lots," Ray said with a grin. "You want to sit down?"
"In a minute," Bodie said, moving closer. "Ta, by the way."
Ray shrugged, glancing down at his hands, remembering. He saw his hands as they were that day, six weeks ago, covered in his partner's blood. He'd held onto Bodie as the pool widened and with hot tears he hadn't known he'd shed until later, had begged Bodie to stay.
"Hadn't really talked about it, have we?" Bodie asked.
"No need. You know how I feel. And I know how you feel."
Nodding, Ray smiled. "'course. I know you." He knew, and he was willing to take Bodie on his terms. No commitment, no promises, no tomorrows.
Bodie's gaze was unreadable when he said, "There might be a thing or two that's still not charted territory, mate."
"I'd like that."
Bodie let out a snort. "So, sunshine..."
"So... I'm askin'," Ray said softly.
His partner nodded, his face serious, but his eyes shining. "And I'm answerin'."
"Want to see the rest of the candles?" Ray asked, waving a hand over his shoulder.
"Yes," Bodie answered, heading toward Ray's bedroom. "Oh, and Ray?"
"Just so there's no miscommunication, hear this, plain and clear. I love you, Doyle."
Ray's eyes widened, and he felt like an idiot when all he could say was, "What?"
Bodie laughed, poked him with his cane, and then he kissed him.
-- THE END --
NOTE: Thanks to Chris and Sheila for the beta. I'm trying to get my American out of my way, and they're working desperately on me.