Slipping Under, Sliding Down


It's the pounding of his blood in his ears that wakes him up: his blood seems swollen, too big for the veins, and each heartbeat brings a specific kind of agony. This pain drags him upwards, kicking all the way, from the very deep, brainless sleep he'd fallen into, much to his annoyance.

Bodie feels the coolness of whatever he's lying on, and presses his face further into it, wanting it to swallow him up and give him relief from the burning fire in him, somewhere near his liver. But moving sets off a round of klaxons and hammers in his head, and he wonders vaguely how he'll ever move again, because it doesn't much feel like he can. He groans, and hears a cackle riddle the darkness somewhere behind him.

He rolls over, minimising the potential target, half way off the bed and into his holster before he can help himself. The cackle only thickens, and Bodie opens his eyes enough to see the glimmer of a grin in the shaft of moonlight that escapes through the gap in the curtains.

Doyle is standing barefoot and bent over, jeans in hand, looking at Bodie with that somewhat-cheeky, somewhat-cross look on his face that Bodie delights in creating whenever the opportunity arises. He's clearly enjoying his bed-mate's state of undress and anxiety, judging by the filthy grin on his face, and is massively amused by Bodie's pain, as ever. Twisted little git that he is.

Bodie groans again, relaxing and submitting to his too-early hangover. He stretches out across the bed once more, idle hands dropping to scratch his stomach in exaggerated laziness. He watches with only vague interest as Doyle slips through the room, gathering his discarded clothes, and trying to call his appearance into some semblance of order. His messy, shagged-out curls bounce about the place as he dips and dives, staggering a little under the weight of alcohol and fatigue, and Bodie feels a strange smile twist his mouth as if it were someone else's.

"Planning a midnight flit?"

"Don't I always?"

Bodie can't deny the quick dart, nor the sly look that follows it, and he grins broadly, suddenly feeling incredibly smug and proud of them both.

These past few months have worked out splendidly, unbelievably well for the pair of them: fun, hot, uncomplicated and completely, utterly low-maintenance. Doyle isn't even half as mardy a lover as Bodie expected him to be. Instead of moaning and whinging and neediness, he's as strong in spirit as he is in the field, and Bodie wonders how he could have expected anything less from the man he's allowed to watch his back. Doyle's unbreakable, same as him.

Every week or so, now, they crawl to each other... Not just for the hell of it, but not for any sort of need neither. Sex and friendship are now inextricably bound up together and that suits them both just fine, because that's how they want it. Nothing more and no longer anything less.

But the bed suddenly feels a little too cool on Bodie's skin, despite the fur throws and silken sheets. Twisting, he clambers back under he sheets and duvet, feeling Doyle's hot gaze rake across his back like fingernails. He turns, looking over his shoulder, and catches Doyle's glare. Doyle's glaring at him.


"See you in the morning, mate," Doyle dismisses him bluntly, clearly too knackered to be arsed with half-asleep Bodie nor his own wee-hours moods. Which, considering it's 4.30am and they've got to be at work in a couple of hours, is completely fair enough.

This is the thing, Bodie thinks as he stuffs his thumping face into the cold pillow once more: neither of them need anything more from each other. This is what makes Doyle better than any bird or boy. The best of the best.

Doyle tweaks his big toe painfully and without mercy as he sidles out the room, jacket slung over his shoulder. Bodie kicks out at him in retaliation, catching him in the arse, but Doyle doesn't even turn, too used by now to the goodbye.

And like that, he's gone. Bodie listens to the car's disgruntled sputtering disappearing into the distance without a trace. And when all is silent, he smiles to himself and rolls over to sleep all the deeper.

Work is a constant distraction, these days.

Of course, if a major terrorist crisis did occur, Bodie would be the first to snap to attention -- once a soldier, always on guard and all that. But for the moment, with his feet up on the desk drawer, a cup of tea and a magazine in his lap, and Doyle's arse bobbing about somewhere in front of him, Bodie might be forgiven for temporarily forgetting the exact logistics of the situation in Paris.

Luckily, the Ci5 room is well and truly deserted: word has it that Murphy is leading a crack team to do something fairly important somewhere in The Lakes. Any minor disgruntlement Bodie might have felt at being left out of the fun was swept away by the small twinge of pride he felt for his fellow operative on learning this.

And, as Doyle leans over to fix the ink-ribbon on his dodgy typewriter, Bodie is reminded that in-days certainly have their perks. He tilts his head for a better view he reckons he's earned, before looking away.

"Do mind not sticking that in my face? I'm trying to read, here."

Doyle puts a hand on the desk and twists to look at him over his shoulder, eye-brows raised. "You're complaining?"

Bodie fights the bubble of amusement welling up in his throat, nodding primly and keeping his eyes trained on the bouncing body-spread across his copy of 'Just Jugs'.

"Certainly am." Decisive flick of the page. "How's a bloke supposed to get any sort of work done with you waving that... thing around?" Look up pointedly, raised eyebrow. "I've got a job to do, here, you know."

"A job to do, he says!" Doyle's barking laughter makes the coffee-jars ring and he turns round fully, leaning back on the desk and thrusting his hips forward with a look of supreme amusement. "You want a job, you mean."

Bodie slowly looks up at Doyle's face, studiously ignoring any other part of him and training his features into the picture of perfect innocence. He can't quite keep the smile off his face. "Oh, very good. Filthy old sod..."

He shifts in his chair and turns back to his magazine with a mutter. "You could have had my eye out."

"Shouldn't be looking then, should you?" Doyle says gruffly, turning his attention back to the blotchy report and the inky-band.




The magazine flies out of Bodie's grasp as he stands to attention, and he notices Doyle rapidly stuffing his black, ink-stained hands into his jacket pocket as Cowley barrels into the room, shoving a file at Doyle who only just manages to catch it.

"That building site in Streatham, you're on it. Nice and simple, nothing too strenuous: you know the form. Go."

Bodie digs his elbow into Doyle's ribs as the other man touches his forelock just as Cowley turns away from them. The 'oof' noise as Doyle's breath rushes out of him makes Cowley wheel round with a stern eye, as if daring them to question him. Bodie steps smoothly forward and in front of Doyle, who's rubbing the side of his chest ruefully and probably giving the back of his head a noticeable death-glare. Ignoring him, Bodie gives Cowley a balmy smile and a nod.

"Job's as good as done, sir."

He looks round with an expectant smirk as The Cow shakes his head, and just manages to catch Doyle's smile before it disappears under a scowl. Satisfied, he holds the door open for his partner with a smug smile at the muttered curse he receives in return, and they get on with the day.

"All these red bricks remind me of home."

"What, Africa?"

"Oh, you're a sharp one today: must have had your spinach."

"Yeah, well... Alls I had was crumbling concrete. No matter what city I got carted off to, always same bog-standard concrete and sodding pebble-dash."

"You want me to apologise for Liverpool's housing policy, Sunshine?"

"Nah, mate... Just for being a fallen snob."

"Oh, and you're such a working class hero, eh?"


Bodie rolls his eyes and Doyle chuckles, and they pass the flask back and forth, and they complain about the liver sausages but eat them anyway and it's just them. No pasts, no histories, and no need for it, neither. This is them, and it's not changed and it never will.

Doyle switches the radio on and Bodie switches it off just to annoy him, and predictably gets a bollocking, and they play that game for a while, all the while keeping their eyes on the half-constructed houses for some sign of movement.

The day is peeling away into the evening dusk by the time anything happens. The thin rain patters against the windscreen, turning everything outside into a dripping watercolour. The wipers make a slow rhythmic whooshing noise and Bodie is half-asleep against the window, tired eyes sweeping the piles of brick-work and sodden planks of wood when the hair on the back of his neck bristles suddenly and Doyle shoots from the car.

Bodie launches himself out into the rain after him, but slides on the wet, wheelbarrow-tracked mud as soon as he rounds the corner of the tumbled-down wall and loses his balance. He crashes to one knee, losing precious seconds as Doyle flies ahead of him, dead-set on the blurred, dark shape he's chasing through the scaffolds. There's a bang, a crash and a cry and Bodie's heart is suddenly in his throat.

He streaks after them through the deepening gloom, running up a slippery plank onto a heap of rough sand and hurling himself off it to come crashing onto the back of the bloke, who'd switched direction only a split-second before, knocking him flat to the ground. With relish, Bodie sits down heavily onto the man's back, deliberately shoving the head down and pressing the face into the sandy mud.

He reaches into his pocket for the R/T, breath hard from his lungs, but he already knows Doyle's not there.


Bodie doesn't know why he's stayed so long.

Cowley hasn't -- of course, he hasn't: he'd gone the minute it was clear one of his finest operatives wasn't in any danger. He'd asked Bodie if he wanted a lift back, perhaps a drink or two, but for some unknown reason, Bodie hadn't been able to bring himself to accept.

And so he's stayed, long after the doctor said all Mr Doyle needed was rest and 'observation', long after the hospital had been doused in darkness for the night, long after any necessity or needs of friendship dictate. Bodie doesn't know why he's stayed so long.

The nurses have given up asking him to leave -- it had become abundantly clear that he was planning on ignoring them all night -- and so he sits in the same burnt-orange plastic chair that he hasn't moved from in the past few hours, watching Doyle 'sleeping it off'.

Doyle looks, in a word, knackered: usually golden-skin pale and grey even without the hospital's nasty fluorescent lights, he seems to be drowning in scratchy hospital sheets. Other than that, though, he looks completely and utterly fine: no tubes, no wires, barely any bruises or blood. So why are they both still here?

Bodie's eyes ache and a sting suddenly flashes through them, reminding him that he should probably blink. He does and it hurts, but he doesn't care because Doyle's face still hasn't moved and the room is still buzzing in silence. And Bodie suddenly can't stand to be so close any more. He doesn't know why he's stayed so long, anyway.

Surging upwards, he pushes himself up and away from the bed, needing to get as far away as possible extremely fucking quickly. He knows it's an overreaction, and he knows he'd kill dead anyone who saw him in such a state, but he can't seem to help it. All this over nothing.

But as he reaches the door, hand pressed flat against the peeling blue paint, a too-small whimper escapes the bundle in the bed. And he's back by the bedside before he even knows it. Bodie watches, not daring to touch, as those familiar wonky green eyes slowly open. One blink, then another serves to momentarily part the clouds of confusion in Doyle's fuggy gaze. Another blink, and the flicker of lucidity is lost once more as the eyes drift upwards beneath the lashes, seemingly too heavy to pin down and focus.

"Oh, no you don't, son."

Bodie leans forward before he knows it and grabs the slack face between his two palms, a vague flicker of worry making his grip tight. Doyle's always been better with head wounds than him, always bounces back to consciousness while Bodie's the one that wallows in stupor. Always, so why not this time?

The rebellious thought that this time -- this one, stupid time -- it might be different grips Bodie's windpipe suddenly, and he nearly gags. His hands unconsciously tighten around Doyle's face, as if to keep him there in the hospital bed, right where Bodie can see him. Doyle moans, and struggles weakly against the pressure, eyes breaking open once more and hands falling upwards to try and brush the touch away.

Bodie loosens his fingers but still holds Doyle's face, his strange panic ebbing away from him just with the sight of those dazed green crescents. This is ridiculous. It was just a stupid set of bricks and Doyle's two left-feet. It was just a bloody concussion, for god's sake. No need to worry. He was fine; he was always fine.

He doesn't like all these feelings -- certainly not for something so girly as a concussion... Maybe if Doyle was dying it might be okay. Bodie's been at his bed-side enough to know that it's okay, then. But not for just a knock on the noggin: he'll leave again as soon as Doyle goes quiet. He doesn't know why he's stayed so long anyway.

As Doyle begins shifting in the bed and squinting about the place, blinking like some sort of newborn lamb, Bodie once and for all pushes everything he feels down and away from his mouth, which he makes smile for him. Not too much, though, because that would be silly because he shouldn't be this relieved.

He can see Doyle starting to drift away from him again, and he can't stand it, and he can't stand the fact it bothers him this much. He rubs at his mouth, feeling the stubble that two days of stakeout -- in one form or another -- has given him, and he goes to turn away from the bed.

A hand snakes out from the too-white blankets and snags the arm of his jacket jerkily. Feeling the pull, Bodie turns and looks at first the hand, fallen almost at once to the blankets, and then up at his partner. Doyle is watching him through heavy-lids, with the most bizarre, most unsettling look on his face: he looks almost... almost frightened.

Suddenly, Bodie find's Doyle's hand within his and wonders vaguely how that happened.

The words crash, thick and heavy, into existence before either of them can help it but, for just a moment, they seem like the most natural, easy words in the world.



And he does. He stays all night, eventually falling asleep with his hand wrapped around his partner's, even though it's only a concussion and neither of them should be frightened.

The flat is far, far too quiet when Bodie lets himself into it. He's usually got music blaring at all hours, Doyle: trying to blast the streets out of his head, the grime out of his hair and the dirt off his skin, as if with sheer volume alone.

The flat has been too silent all weekend. Bodie hasn't heard or seen hide nor hair of Doyle since dropping him off, spaced and sullen, here on Friday... There's nothing wrong with that, of course: it's not like they live in each other's pockets or beds or anything like that. But, just... the fact that there's been no contact at all annoys Bodie for some reason.

It had been there, niggling at the base of his neck and the back of his thoughts, all weekend. Doyle usually rings him up to yell at him about something or other during the course of a weekend: Bodie doesn't even need to be near him to get in trouble anymore, apparently. But this weekend he hasn't, and Bodie is sick of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Not only that, but Doyle has a head wound. One heavy enough to knock the thick-skulled thicket senseless for a few hours, and all. There's only so many times a brain can get knocked about in it's box before stuff starts falling out of it. Bodie is just making sure he's still got a partner come Monday, that's all. Doyle could have fucking phoned him, and then he wouldn't have had to bother.

It's this feeling of gritty anger and hard-done-by loyalty -- because Bodie is loyal, no matter what the ex-mercs and other agents say -- that propels him into the still, dim living room, making as much noise as possible on his way before barging into the room and glaring at the sofa.

Doyle is there. Stretched out lengthways across the battered bit of furniture. He doesn't even bother looking up when Bodie crashes in, and Bodie isn't sure why this causes his hackles to rise further.

Those heavy eyelids are lowered, eyes fixed on the book he holds at his chest, lashes covering the green. But there's no blood and there's no bandages and Doyle is out of the huge hospital bed only he's still not moving. Bodie swallows hard against a wave of nausea and shakes his head to clear it, quickly replacing it with the idea of frustration and the feeling of fury.

He doesn't care that there's a pile of books by the sofa, and Doyle's eyes look scrubbed red and watery. Why should he? Doyle could have fucking phoned him.

Sniffing deeply, Bodie goes to the sofa and sits at the end of it, deliberately crushing Doyle's feet behind him as he does so. Doyle scowls up, flattening the book on his chest to see him, face ugly mouth pursed in annoyance. Bodie leans forward and peers down at the title.

"'The Scarlet Pimpernel'?"

Doyle sniffs, and flicks the book back upright once more, hiding his face from Bodie. His voice is hoarse, clearly not used in a couple of days, and his words full of forced nonchalance. He crosses his legs at the ankles behind Bodie, kicking him hard as he does so. "Yeah. 'They seek him here, they seek him there' and all that."

Bodie knocks the book down again, feeling deliberately obnoxious and wanting Doyle to notice it for some reason. "Yeah, well, I'm not a Frenchie and I've been seeking you."

"Well, you've found me, haven't you?" Doyle snarls and sits up, flinging his legs over Bodie's head violently, forcing him to duck to avoid a battering as he sits upright.

"Oh, yeah," Bodie says sarcastically, watching as Doyle leans forward, resting his forearms on his knees, book pressed between his palms, bending the spine. "I'm a right little Miss Marple."

Doyle makes a show of flicking the pages hurriedly. "Didn't know she was in it."

"Har fucking har."

It should have been okay, there -- that should have been close enough for them to manage -- but somehow it wasn't, and Bodie can't think why Doyle won't let him play his part anymore. The more he thinks about it, the crosser he feels: as the conversation lurches on, muscles become tenser, words become tighter and jokes become more strained, till Bodie thinks they might shatter and kill them both.

Eventually, stubbornly admitting defeat, they switch the telly on, they get the beers and takeaways in, and they spend the rest of the night ranting on about Cowley's latest pay-line and his decision to keep them off, unpaid, for the three days Doyle needs. Anything to keep the suddenly-crushing silence away. But they both know, even though they can't make themselves say it, that they're suddenly more furious with one another in that moment than they ever will be with their boss.

As Bodie leaves Doyle's flat, only a scant three hours after he arrived, he slams the door into the mocking silence.

Perhaps he's still feeling a bit off-colour? Head knocks don't half make you feel poorly: Bodie knows this better than most would at his age.

Still, being unconscious for a bit doesn't justify behaving like a prize-winning knob for days on end, does it? Doyle can't just go round being a bastard because he's got a bit of headache.

Scowling at his chips, Bodie mechanically brings one to his lips and stuffs it into his mouth, barely tasting the tang of vinegar or the sharpness of the salt. He thinks about the phone-call again; a hot and sick feeling flushes through him and he pushes the near-full bag chips away with a heavy sigh. Why did he try phoning the little shit? Made him feel like a right idiot.

Cold-hearted old toad had been snippy and precious on the phone, claiming he was a little bit busy, as it were, and would Bodie mind keeping his calls to office hours?

Gobshite. He'd only been ringing to see how he was feeling. He wasn't after a quick shag or anything.

Bodie wouldn't have minded feeling angry so much -- Doyle's always gotten on his tits in one way or another -- if he'd been able to keep it up. Being angry is easy, even if he doesn't know why exactly he is; but it's at times like this when the effort of keeping up the outrage feels a bit beyond him that he minds.

He really fucking minds, actually, if he's honest with himself... And, all alone in his quiet flat, eating chips in the middle of the night without anyone to talk to, he is.

An unusually slow day lands them at their desks the day they're due back on the streets. Traps them behind teetering towers of reports and suspect files and name-checks, their workplace littered with unreliable pens, cooling coffee mugs and tea-stained fix-sheets.

It is a criminally sunny day, too, and the bright light that filters in through the blinded windows taunted them. Most other operatives in A Division have been given the day off -- nothing expected earlier than the following week, when a minister from the Far East needs watching. What's worse is that Cowley has forbidden them to leave the room until he gives his express permission, barring toilet breaks ('if absolutely necessary, and even then only at my discretion...'), and this is something they take in quiet but fierce bad grace.

An explosive yawn wells up within Bodie's chest, and he opens his mouth wide to release it, arching his back over the chair in order to gain the fullest enjoyment from the thing. Stretching his arms out to the side, he feels the tight muscles pulling in protest at hours spent gripping a pen instead of a gun, and he groans with pleasure.

He glances over at his partner -- maybe wanting to see how he's faring; maybe wanting to catch the amused twinkle in his expression before it was quickly smoothed over; though probably just bored and looking for a diversion -- but the curly head remains stubbornly down, bent low over his frantic scribbling, though the thin shoulders hunch up automatically under Bodie's scrutiny.

He looks away quickly, then, a weird feeling of disappointment surging through him. He glares down at his report, breathing quick, picking the pen up once more and stabbing at the paper. Feeling unforgivably silly because, for just a split second, he'd forgotten he was supposed to be angry with Doyle.

"How's it going, then?"

"Well, let's sum this one up for you, eh, Bodie? I'm sat here with a wet bum, well past my bedtime, in the bleeding cold, staring at a house with no frigger in and eating a cold pasty."

"Oh, what kind?"

"Never mind what fucking kind!"

"Alright, keep your bloody kegs on. I was only joking."

"Well, you're not half as funny as you think you are, son."

"Apparently not."

The R/T crackles into livid silence and they don't speak again.

Bodie sits in the car across the quiet street and glares up at the window, brightly lit in the gloom of approaching night. He's been sitting here, quietly furious, for the past half-hour or so, a screw-like coil of bile turning tighter and tighter within the pit of his chest.

Each new reason why it could be, each new failed excuse, each cruel twist of the realisation he'd come to that afternoon as the facts had clunked, relentless and unforgiving, into place forces his teeth to clamp down on his tongue all the harder, pain blossoming in the forgotten corners of his mouth and reminding him of the fact.

This is his fault.

He sucks in another breath, letting out slowly, quivering smoke in the cold night. It fogs the side window before retreating away on the glass into nothing. Bodie wishes his anger, uncomfortably hot somewhere near the base of his throat, would do the same.

After nearly an hour of agony, he can't take it any more and within seconds he's hammering on Doyle's front door, ready the shatter it into splinters if it's not opened in the next five seconds. Unfortunately, it opens before Bodie can make good his threat, and there Doyle's standing with his arms folded across his chest, looking at Bodie as if he's something that's just crawled out the arse of a dead thing.

"What do you want, eh?" He demands hotly, temper apparently still just as frayed as Bodie's.

But, finally, Bodie couldn't care less; he barges through the doorway, deliberately smacking his shoulder into Doyle's thin chest as he does so, knocking the smaller man back against the hallway wall with an audible 'smack'.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Doyle bellows, pushing himself off the wall and straight at Bodie, shoving him forward. Bodie staggers and stops short to stop himself falling, feeling every pound of Doyle's dogged, misplaced punches at his back. They scuffle blindly with one another, equally matched and too belligerant to do themselves proud. Eventually, Bodie has his hands tightly wrapped around Doyle's wrists, and he holds them up above Doyle's head while the smaller man struggles in rage.

"I don't know what I'm doing!" Bodie yells into his face, and is loud enough to make Doyle recoil for a second, as if burned, his kicks subsiding instantly.

The flat grows quiet. They stand, noses almost touching but still somehow suddenly apart, chests heaving in time as they stare at one another, neither willing to be the first to back down in this ridiculous game of dare. Bodie can't bear the look of hatred he finds on Doyle's face these days, can't bear the fact that he knows he looks just the same: a mirror image. But, most of all, he can't bear the reason why.

He drops Doyle's hands roughly, but doesn't look or move away from him.

It's Doyle who looks away first, who deflates under Bodie's glare, all that defiant anger and righteous indignation dropping away from him. He all but crumples, passing a shaky hand over his face and going to turn away from Bodie. Bodie grabs his arm by the jacket, gently turning him back and forcing him to look at him.

Doyle no longer struggles, but somehow that's worse. His eyes, now so free of fury, are suddenly full of regret instead as he looks mournfully at Bodie. And when he speaks, his voice is hushed and miserable. "Why did you do it? Why did you stay?"

The words almost floor Bodie, who was nowhere near prepared for that. Obstinance, relentlessness, flippancy, cruelty, coarseness, fury... He was used to a lot of things from Doyle but never, ever resignation.

Too off-balance now to try for any other emotion, for once Bodie finds it is him and not his partner who stubbornly clings onto the threads of anger left dangling between them. It's the easy way out, and he knows it, but he can't come up with anything else in the face of Doyle's quiet sadness. "Because you fucking asked me to!"

Doyle responds in kind, exactly how Bodie had known he would. His eyes flash dangerously and he seems to almost shake with the sudden resurgence of spite through his frame. "Well, then, why did you bother?"

"Because I fucking love you, you prick!"

Doyle's eyes widen ridiculously as the strangled shout seems to almost bounce off the walls of the flat. Bodie can feel the back of his neck flush in hideous humiliation as he finally shares the thought that has been twisting and curling within him since he'd realised the truth of it that afternoon. Now, any pretence at anger is ridiculous, and he can't even bring himself to look at his friend.

"What?" Not quite a demand, not quite a scoff. "Why?!"

Bodie's answer as he looks up is bitter and almost, nearly true. "Believe me, I don't fucking know."

Doyle's chin automatically raises in defiance, then, and he takes an aggressive step toward Bodie, his fists curl into balls by his thighs. "Why, what's wrong with me?"

And it is then -- that very second as he stares, incredulous, into the raging green eyes glaring up at him through the unruly fringe, demanding an answer from him -- that Bodie finally realises it might be alright to love Doyle after all. And, finally, he laughs again.

-- THE END --

May 2007

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