Like a Thunderstorm
Written for "Discovered in the Brandy Butter," on the discoveredinalj livejournal community, to the prompt of "Selection Box"
"Be Christmas soon."
Bodie fiddled with the focus ring of the binoculars he was looking through. "Looks like Brownie's pulled a fast one, Doyle. You sure he's on the up and up about this?"
"Should be." Doyle looked at his watch. "'S only half past five, mate. Give him a chance."
Bodie said nothing and Doyle kept his eyes on the goings on outside the windscreen and resisted the urge to turn his head and study his partner. Where Bodie's pathological avoidance of all things Christmas came from, Doyle had only the vaguest idea. Bodie showed his discomfort by working his jaw every time Christmas was mentioned in a context other than getting drunk and overeating, and by affecting complete and utter boredom with the topic.
Doyle put his idly formed theory to the test.
"We're getting the time off this year. You could go back to Liverpool, chase a few nieces and nephews round the table, pull a cracker or two."
"Pull your cracker in a minute, Doyle. Now shut up, some of us are trying to work."
Doyle looked and there it was, the muscle jump to the jaw. He resisted another urge: to tut and clout the pillock, who was so pathetically predictable it was almost funny.
"You could come round and spend it with me, y'know."
When the sentence was out of his mouth he actually heard it. Shit. Aware that Bodie had turned from the binoculars to look at him, he kept his profile as tight as his partner's.
Two can play at that game, mate.
"Thought you were pelting up the M1 to Derby?"
It was true. On the rare occasions they got within sniffing distance of either Christmas Day or Boxing Day off, Doyle usually found himself succumbing to the sentimental lure of it and heading home for a dose of family. That he returned in a foul mood, all sentiment gone under an implosion of the inevitable tensions that had kept him away for long stretches in the first place, was conveniently noted and then forgotten until the next time.
Doyle was nothing if not brave. He turned his gaze to meet Bodie's.
"Wouldn't have to then, would I?"
"I told you, Doyle. I don't do Christmas." Bodie looked away and back through the binoculars as he spoke, doing utterly bored nicely.
Doyle shifted his weight and jammed a booted foot hard under the dashboard.
"Fine, have it your way," he snapped, missing cool and uninterested by a mile.
Bodie pressed the binoculars tighter into his eyes and ignored him, while Doyle fought the heat and anger flooding his face.
Stupid, stupid, just leave it the fuck alone. All of it.
A minute or two of heavy silence stretched by, then there was a squeak of leather as Bodie shifted in his seat.
"Look, Doyle, it's not . . . I can't . . ." Bodie was lowering the binoculars as well as his tone. That and the faltering sentence were more than Doyle could bear.
"Got it, you don't do sodding Christmas. I'm hearing you loud and clear, mate. I always hear you loud and clear, so relax, all right? I am not about to make the same mistake."
It was fierce. Too fierce. Something was resurfacing in the front seat with them, tinting Bodie's face with spots of high colour and moving his ribcage a little fast as each man caught the hard gaze of the other.
Doyle wanted more while he had this chance, while he was under Bodie's defences. He wanted a flinch if he could get it.
"Once bitten, twice shy, mate. No fucking problem."
"Doyle! For fuck's sake-"
On a merciful cue the radio crackled. Doyle snatched at it and listened while they were relocated to an obscure warehouse in the East End. Bodie was gunning the engine before the word 'Roger' was even out of Doyle's mouth. As Doyle fumbled for the A to Z which had slid off the dashboard in Bodie's haste to be away, he found himself grimly grateful to Brownie for cocking things up and saving them from something awful.
"Turn left at the next junction, straight at the lights, and that should get us there without having to break any of Her Majesty's laws."
"Doyle . . . "
Doyle took his eyes off the map.
"Turn left, Bodie. Just turn bloody left."
He had meant to sound tough, not defeated.
So much for Brownie saving them from something awful...
Doyle opened his mouth to share the joke . . . and found it full of water. He spat, tasted grit and had no choice but to lay his head back down. A puddle, he was lying in a puddle, why the fuck was he lying in a puddle?
A pair of shiny brown shoes thumped into his eyeline and a pair of hands were a split second behind.
Something white-hot tore him, neck to balls, and he yelled. He curled away, but the yell had stayed in his head so the hands were having none of it.
"Doyle! I need to see. C'mon. Stay still, mate, I've got you."
Dimly he heard Bodie on the R/T, then his head felt heavy again and he knew he was going back into his puddle. But something clothlike and warmer took its place and he found the ability to speak again.
"Bodie . . ."
"Lie quiet, yeah? Just this once, there's a good lad."
He could hear Bodie breathing, feel the exhalations on his neck. So he stopped moving even though something hard---Bodie's hand?---was pressing into his shoulder, pressing him down and making his vision blur and his stomach roll.
The warmer ground moved, rocking his head a little but not so that it hurt. He blinked his eyes back open and swallowed the nausea down. He was on Bodie's lap, he'd never been on Bodie's lap in his life.
". . . up?"
"Not right now, sunshine. Need you to lie still for me."
The hands pressed again and Doyle groaned and lay back. As he drifted off to the sounds of sirens, he grasped at something. Bodie wasn't getting up, wasn't leaving him lying on a folded up jacket while they waited.
Which meant that Bodie was sitting in a puddle.
Just for him.
Turned out that a bullet to the right shoulder and a broken right arm were going to get Doyle a whole lot more than Christmas Day and Boxing Day off. Bodie told Doyle he'd heard teeth grinding, but Cowley had had to defer reluctantly to the doctor, who ordered an immediate fortnight off the duty roster.
Grapes and dog-eared Playboys being the standard gifts among agents for hospital stays, Doyle got his delivered with considerable reluctance, and with more than a few cries of "You jammy sod!" once news of his lay-off status during the holiday season broke.
"Maybe I should get myself shot falling over a box," said Murphy, particularly envious since he was to be holed up in a caravan in Bethnal Green for the duration.
"Oi! Less of that. I did not fall over a box. I was diving for cover . . . I think."
Doyle was fuzzy on the details. A supposedly weak and weasly contact of Brownie's had come out of a warehouse he shouldn't have been anywhere near in the first place. And he'd come out hopped up on something nefarious and with all guns blazing. According to Bodie, he'd sprayed bullets indiscriminately and caught Doyle in the shoulder, twisting him onto his right radius as he fell.
"Not much to tell. He shot you, I got there and shot him. He's down the hall, by the way, if you want to send a grape or two."
Doyle had grimaced and stuck two fingers up at that. Bodie had grinned and munched his way through a plate of dropped-off mince pies Doyle had yet to eat one of, smarming a cup of tea off the night nurse as he went, and that had been it.
Almost. The next afternoon, Bodie had come by on his way between stakeouts and was spinning some impossible yarn about Anson and a debutante when Doyle had caught sight of faint bruising and swelling on his knuckles. When he'd called him on it, Bodie had looked at him in that intense way Bodie did sometimes, and simply said "Brownie," before smiling and gently disengaging his hand from Doyle's.
Then he had adjusted his sleeve, bounced a grape off Doyle's head and continued his tale of the debutante-who-was-anything-but before Doyle could collect up anything like the required energy to leap in with questions of his own.
Upon reflection, he found he didn't want to. Upon reflection, he found that the ridiculous swell to his chest that bruise and that look had given him were enough to push aside any feelings of pity for the plight of an incompetent informer.
And anyway, he was getting out today. He would find Brownie and sort him out all over again after the holidays.
He reached for the winch near his left hand and gingerly pulled himself up higher, feeling something crackle near his thigh as he did so. Mindful of the cast and sling encasing his right forearm, he reached down with his fingertips and extracted a wrapper for an empty packet of custard creams.
Doyle smiled. So bloody typical. Bodie was all around him even when he was nowhere in sight. Which was just the way it was and Doyle was not about to get maudlin about a damn thing. No need for it, was there? Not when he had Bodie back to normal with him.
Doyle settled and thought about his partner. Bodie was dropping by whenenever he could, batting his eyes at every nurse in sight, telling CI5 anecdotes that hurt his stitches he laughed so hard, and writing and drawing all manner of rudeness on his plaster.
So what if his shoulder ached? So what if he had no one to talk to? So what if he had 'I'll Be Home For Christmas' wafting in from the nurses' station, and little to look forward to but a bed bath from a skulking student nurse called Anthony?
Doyle sniffed wetly and scratched at the skin under his cast.
He was not getting maudlin. No fucking way.
Doyle walked slowly across his lounge and got himself sat on the settee without spilling a drop of tea. He smiled broadly in self-satisfaction and then realised he'd forgotten to switch the televison on and that his book was still in the kitchen.
The urge to kick the coffee table was strong. He looked at the clock and calmed himself with rational thought. It was twenty past two, his brother-in-law was picking him up at five, so all he had to do was get through the next two and a bit hours with no telly and nothing to read.
He sipped as slowly as he could and glanced around, wrinkling his nose at his surroundings. The heating was on, and he'd have to remember to switch it off before he left, but the place had a bare look and a musty, unlived-in smell that were doing their best to be phenomenally unfestive and depressing.
Not that he had much enthusiasm left for Christmas. The euphoria of all that time off had paled considerably since he'd got himself in and out of a taxi this morning, showered with a Tesco's carrier bag on his arm, and then taken a careful twenty-five minutes to put a tracksuit on and heat up some soup.
Still, no doubt he'd get fed royally later. His sister Mary, the oldest and the one he liked in small doses, was determined to mother hen him whether he wanted it or not. Upon hearing of his misadventures, she had brightly informed him that it was no bother, he would simply be incorporated into her Christmas this year. She was heavily pregnant with child number three and not remotely interested in being, as she put it, "wound up something rotten by that mad clan of ours". (Doyle remembered then why he liked her. She'd been the only one to take his side during the last ill-fated family gathering around a tree and a table).
So Christmas, it seemed, was settled. And at least it was going to be two days on the other side of London now, so if things went pear-shaped he could escape fairly easily, broken arm or not. He was distinctly wary of Phil--Mary's silent husband, who had a staring fascination for Doyle that made Doyle uncomfortable---and unsure exactly how many unknown relatives were also seeking refuge at his sister's this year. He had griped "spare at a wedding" to Bodie, who had told him to tuck in, bring back plenty of leftovers and not complain within earshot of anyone, especially Murph. Not unless he fancied a pair of matching casts.
Doyle drained his mug, and tried and failed not to think about his partner, who was somewhere south of Purley on a surveillance obbo. After Doyle's plans and release date had been secured, Bodie had offered himself back to CI5 for the holidays so fast it had been hard not to take it personally. And Doyle knew he shouldn't. He knew it was Bodie being Bodie about Christmas. Ever since they'd learned they would be off the roster for those two days this year, it seemed to Doyle that Bodie had been mildly fretful, vaguely self-conscious whenever anyone had asked what he was planning to do, and more than ready to get pissed off at the pressure to be Christmassy.
"A lot of fuss and tears over a bit of tinsel and overpriced rubbish from people you'd rather spit at the rest of the year--and if you're opening your mouth to give me one more 'bah humbug' remark, I shall come over there and sit on you."
Doyle had chanced it and whispered, "Scrooge." Bodie had promptly put his newspaper down, pinned Doyle's arm to the hospital bed and drawn something anatomically impossible on his plaster, thereby effectively changing the subject yet again.
Doyle had let him. He always let him. Who was Doyle to begrudge Bodie a few Christmas demons from his past? So Bodie had no family to speak of, or at any rate, no family he wished to speak of? Doyle had to admit that no family sounded fairly tempting as he gazed about his empty living room and tried to feel enthusiastic for where he was going soon. What he felt instead was an absurd need to be at work, to be in the car with his partner, moaning about Cowley, squabbling over the last bit of hot tea, and flipping coins for who got to go out and tell the carol singers to move on because they were blocking the view.
He sighed, annoyed at the melancholy turn his thoughts were threatening to take and then he jumped when the phone rang. It was horribly loud in the stillness. He got up awkwardly and walked out to the telephone table, snatching the receiver up as best he could and clearing his throat.
"That you home, then?"
Four words, and just like that the shadows lifted. He tried not to let it show too much.
"Amazing powers of deduction as ever, mate."
"Up yours, Doyle."
"Charming. I love you too."
A pause, an inhalation, and the rhythm hiccuped a little. But they were professionals and had been doing this dance with each other for a long, long time. Bodie recovered first.
"Should bloody well think so. I sat in a puddle for you."
"My hero. You should be--hang on . . ."
The phone clipped off his cast as his fingers couldn't quite hold it, and he juggled it into his left hand.
"What are you doing, Raymond?"
"Is everything all right there? You managing okay, sunshine?"
"Just a sec." Doyle squished the receiver between his ear and undamaged shoulder and walked the few steps to his armchair. Trust Bodie to manage soft concern over a telephone line and nothing but sledgehammer wit when perched on a hospital bed. He manouevred around carefully, but still hit the cushion at an awkward angle because he was unable to use his plastered arm for balance. He swore loudly and was unsurprised to hear Bodie chuckle in his ear.
"Shut it, you. You are not the one wearing a brick."
"True, but then you're not the one drinking the piss Anson calls tea and living with McCabe's feet for three days."
Sounds of a scuffle intervened, then a "geroff!" as words and jeers got muffled while Bodie fended off either Anson or McCabe. Doyle's hand tightened on the receiver just as his throat constricted and he knew he had to get off the phone. Fast.
"Listen, call me when you get back, yeah? Just . . . I have to go, Bodie. I'll see you."
Doyle clicked the receiver back into place, let out a small woosh of air and wondered what the hell had just happened. Self-pity and pills were his first guess, since no one in their right mind would get emotional over tea and feet.
Bodie and Christmas were his second guess.
The train was moving too fast, he had to find the driver and tell him. If everybody could just stop shouting and pulling at him, he could get there. Though how he was supposed to when everyone was laughing and dragging him over to look at a rabbit in a hammock . . . where's your ticket, mate? So that's what the joke was, a talking rabbit . . . wait, tell me something then, why are you ringing? Where's your ticket and why are you ring-
Doyle blinked himself awake from nought to sixty like the good agent he was, and the lounge took shape again. It was the doorbell, of course, not a bloody rabbit on a train. He scrubbed his eyes and cursed his painkillers. Then he looked at the clock.
Christ, ten to six. How long had Phil been outside ringing the doorbell? In answer it rang again. Continually. Uh-oh. One pissed off brother-in-law coming up.
Grateful that he had least managed to fall asleep with the lights on, he got himself up and went out into the hall, wincing and trying to roll the stiffness out of his shoulder as he did so. The immobility caused by the cast and sling had helped heal the puckered skin of his wound quickly, but the sling buggered up his neck muscles something rotten.
"Sorry, Phil. Bloody painkillers, I dozed off and didn't hear the door go, have you been--bloody hell, you're not Phil."
A gaze raked him from head to foot. "Amazing powers of deduction as ever, sunshine. You all right? You look like a bloody dormouse. C'mon, let's get you back inside, it's chilly out here and these are bloody heavy."
With that Doyle stepped out of the way just in time for Bodie and two bulging carrier bags to dump themselves in his hall. Wondering if perhaps he should scrub his eyes again, he watched his partner pick the bags back up and stagger through to the kitchen. He paused a moment, then began to follow him. The inevitable gripe about the drive, the crowds and the roads was floating down the hallway at him, but he wasn't so much listening as homing in on the sound of it and wondering what in the name of Cowley was going on. When he got to the kitchen he leaned against the doorjamb on his unencumbered side and tried to keep the daftest smile off his face. It made no sense. It couldn't be happening and any minute he was going to fall off the settee and wake up again, but somehow Bodie was in his kitchen on Christmas Eve, pulling mince pies and bisto out of a carrier bag. And looking almost festive in a burnt-red shirt and black cords. He let the vision sink in a moment longer, then felt the need for explanations when none were forthcoming.
"Oi! You at the table."
Bodie straightened and turned, looking mildly annoyed to be interrupted, as if it were the most natural thing in the world for him to be standing in Doyle's kitchen holding a tin of custard in one hand and a can of Heineken in the other.
"Well, where's Phil for one thing?"
"Boot of the car."
"An' he's bound and gagged next to Cowley, is he?"
Bodie pulled a face. "More like next to Collins."
"Bo-die . . ."
"Doy-ul . . ."
Bodie grinned and began moving an unholy amount of bacon and sausages into the fridge. He spoke as he continued unpacking and loading up the fridge.
"Collins still owes me from the Walker debacle." He shrugged. "I called him on it, is all. He invented some Queen and country saving emergency and got himself out of Christmas with whatsername's parents, which he was dreading. As for Cowley, well, he was his usual warm, cheery self, and I think I might have pledged him more whisky than he'll ever need in a single lifetime. But even he realises that at this point a warm body is basically a warm body, especially if all you're doing with it is throwing it in a room with Anson and McCabe."
Doyle nodded sagely, sure that there was more to it than this patter, but too touched by this Bodie-shaped gift horse to even think of looking it in the mouth.
"And this?" Doyle gestured to where his partner's hand was currently resting on a ham. Bodie's grin expanded.
"This, Raymond, is a mercy package called Mary. No turkey, but we did get her Boxing Day ham. I'm thinking roast potatoes and thick, thick gravy."
"Mary? How did you--never mind." He stopped himself at the pained look on Bodie's face. When you worked for CI5 there wasn't really a phone number or an address that wasn't at your fingertips if you wanted it.
"I've saved you from a fate worse than death there, mate. House is crawling with kids and the mother-in-law has turned up last minute with all 'Phil's favourites'. Poor mare. I think Mary quite fancied escaping and coming with me." He pulled a rather battered looking selection box from the very bottom of the bag and waggled it, still grinning. "Hence this mercy package with your---well, our--name on it. And some carefully chosen additions from yours truly, of course."
"Oh, of course. Here, I hope you gave her something for all this mercy."
"Cowley did, we're calling it 'perishables' on the chit."
Doyle chuckled. "Like that ever works."
"Whatever. Look, I'm starving, 'The Great Escape' started . . ." he looked at his watch, ". . . ten minutes ago, I go back in me box tomorrow afternoon. So what say we get this ham in the oven and I'll drink beers for both of us?"
But you don't do Christmas, Bodie, you don't do fucking Christmas . . .
. . . was the loop in his head that he struggled to keep off his tongue. He had no clue as to why Bodie was suddenly in his kitchen offering him the Christmas he'd wanted all along, but he was determined not to bollocks things up again. And one sure way to do that would be to look too deeply into the flurry of calls, the hunting out of his sister, and the deal with the devil Bodie had no doubt made with Cowley, no matter his glibness. Because the one thing Doyle didn't want to do on this, the most sentimental of days, was see a sentiment that truly wasn't there.
"Are you going to do the blinking dormouse thing for much longer? What have they got you on, Doyle, horse shots? Or are you not happy to see Santa Bodie?"
It was said lightly enough, but Doyle knew Bodie well enough to sense uncertainty. He'd taken too long to answer.
"'Course I'm happy to see you. Got someone to do the washing up now, haven't I?" He cuffed Bodie's shoulder with his working hand and let his smile soften any sting.
"Well, good. I'll be in the lounge with the Cooler King if anyone wants me."
"Oi!" Doyle changed his cuff into a grab as Bodie made to move past him. "Where d'you think you're off to?" He raised his heavy right arm. "You want roast potaotes, then you're in here on spud peeling duties."
At the crestfallen look on Bodie's face, Doyle tutted and shook his head, enjoying himself. "Santa Bodie? More like Santa's little helper. Go get your pinny on and get over to that sink."
Bodie muttered another anatomically impossible command and scowled at Doyle on his way to the pots and pans. Doyle's grin just got wider. It was shaping up to be a decent Christmas after all.
Bodie peeling potatoes was a sight to behold. Doyle had more or less managed to get the ham underway one-handed, but seeing Bodie with his sleeves rolled up and a potato peeler in his hands was . . . odd. Their domestic encounters tended to take the form of foil peeled off takeaways and the click of a kettle on and off. What they were doing now was real dinner, together, from scratch, and with no birds around to cajole into doing the lion's share. And on Christmas Eve of all days.
And if it was odd to Doyle, it was clearly odder to Bodie. The intensity and uniqueness of the day, and of the scenario, seemed to have crept up on him. His take charge, gung-ho attitude had fallen into a kind of awkwardness and Doyle wasn't sure what to do about it. Conversation had all but ground to a halt, with Bodie reluctant to meet his eyes and going about the task with a grim determination that wasn't right at all. Doyle was looking on, searching for something to say other than scullery maid jokes, when the tip of Bodie's tongue came out in oblivious concentration. In a rush of something that was undoubtedly affection, Christmas spirit and insanity all tied up together, he walked up behind his partner and ever so gently lifted his chin to rest it on Bodie's left shoulder.
Doyle felt Bodie tense up and saw his hands momentarily still in the sink amongst the peelings. Then a deep inhalation lifted Doyle's chin and Bodie simply picked up another potato and began a slow, careful scraping as he breathed out. At which point Doyle very much wanted to close his eyes. Instead he squinted down into the sink and smiled. The man could assemble an Armalite blindfolded, but a potato peeler was clearly beyond him.
"If those get any smaller, mate, we'll be having them mashed, not roasted."
He tilted his head just a fraction towards Bodie as he said it, and Bodie paused again and tilted his own chin down and left, so near now that if Doyle reached out with his tongue, he would catch and taste Bodie on the jaw. Ignoring his thumping heart and where it was trying to take him, he concentrated on keeping the smile on his face, on willing Bodie to give in, to come on and give bloody in . . . and there it was, a softening and a muscle jump heralding the smallest of smiles.
"Let's just eat, eh?"
Said by Bodie, so quiet and so close that his breath puffed across Doyle's chin. The moment held as Bodie finally raised his eyes and found Doyle's. That much unblinking blue that close did something to Doyle's muscles, something that had nothing to do with healing wounds and slings. He swallowed hard and stepped back, almost clumsy now. The devil in him let his good hand press on Bodie's hip while he did. Ready to argue the need for balance if Bodie called him on it, he didn't have to. The fleeting smile on Bodie's face as he turned back to his task in the sink had Doyle humming 'Step Into Christmas' before he'd even got to the fridge door. By the time he'd opened it and got out something to drink, he was in full song and the recipient of an expertly thrown tea-towel.
From then on it was easy. Doyle went back to scullery maid jokes, and Bodie threw peelings about while regaling him with another impossible anecdote concerning McCabe and a guard dog called Billy.
"Honest to God, humped him right in front of the Minister's wife and her best china. The poor bugger was mortified."
"Shut up, Bodie and get the plates down."
"Fetch, fetch, fetch. I might as well be a bloody guard dog called Billy."
It was ham and mash---there was no rescuing Bodie's potatoes---and it was all on trays just in time to see Steve McQueen wrap himself up in barbed wire. And it was fucking wonderful. Not a scrap of tinsel, not a bauble in sight, no tree, no presents, all his cards forgotten at the hospital, and Doyle could not remember feeling this full of goodwill to all.
"Now that, Doyle, is a bike."
"Why d'you come here today?"
So of course, he just had to jump in with both feet.
They were both on the settee with their feet sprawled across Doyle's battered coffee table, trays done with and on the floor. Bodie had a can of Heinekin in his hand and Doyle turned his head on the back of the settee in time to catch the inevitable tightening of his partner's entire face.
He let ten painful seconds go by and was about to give up and change the subject when Bodie suddenly looked down at the can in his hands and started speaking.
"I ran away from home when I was thirteen. You know that."
Doyle knew it as fourteen but he wisely kept quiet.
"Anyway, melodramatic tyke that I was, I picked Christmas Day to do it. Ran all the way to my gran's in Birkenhead to teach them a lesson, make them sorry for all the crap they were pulling at home. Of course, I thought mum would be crying and wailing on the phone by lunchtime, saying sorry and promising never to lay a hand on me or the drink ever again."
He leant his head back and addressed the ceiling. "Ah, the naiveté of youth. Not to be, was it? Waited in a knot by the phone all day." He turned his face to Doyle and the ghost of a smile crossed it. "Wouldn't even eat me Christmas dinner, that's how bad I was."
Doyle couldn't smile back, he had an awful idea about what was coming.
"They didn't phone?"
"Oh, they phoned, sunshine. They phoned after chucking out time to tell Gran to keep me."
His reaction must've shown on his face because Bodie's laugh was short and mirthless. "Yeah, not one you'd see coming really, is it?" He crushed the can slowly under his fingers.
"I was better off, even if I couldn't see it. With me gone they were able to go off the rails all the quicker--her to booze, him to prison." He shrugged. "Gran took care of me all right until she died, and then by the next Christmas I was off for good."
That appeared to be it and another silence fell as Doyle digested what he'd been told and Bodie fiddled with the ring pull.
It was sad and it was shocking but it didn't really change anything so much as confirm lurking suspicions. What mattered, what really, really mattered, was that he'd been told it. One look at that tight, pale profile next to him and Doyle knew he was privileged in more ways than one.
But there was one thing Bodie hadn't explained.
"That's all very, very horrible, mate, but you didn't answer the question."
Bodie looked at him and his mouth tightened before he spoke. "It's you, isn't it?"
Doyle was sure it was something monumental, something from which he was supposed to extract all manner of meaning, but for the life of him he was not up to Bodie being cryptic. Not about this.
"Me what? What the fuck are you on about?"
Bodie very carefully and precisely put the ring pull on the coffee table. Then he brushed imaginary lint off his cords and put his right arm along the back of the settee. Doyle watched the fingers clench and unclench about a foot from his head and guessed he was about to get a very uncryptic answer indeed.
"What these pearls from my past are supposed to tell you, Doyle, is that I don't give a toss about Christmas. Never have, never will. But you, dozy sentimental sod that you are, you go loopy for it given half the chance. And you were getting all worked up about it and sounding like someone had nicked your puppy on the phone-"
Doyle opened his mouth in protest at that, but Bodie's hand went up in a let-me-bloody-finish gesture and Doyle closed it.
"So yes, I don't do fucking Christmas, Doyle, but I do do you!"
The words hung in the air for a full two seconds before Doyle went into convulsions, nearly breaking his knee, his slinged arm hit his leg so hard. He couldn't help it. And Bodie was a split second behind, more contained but still cracking up.
"'Do do you'?" said Doyle, hiccupping. "Ah, mate, that's a classic. Really."
"Shut up, you tart. You know what I mean." Bodie's head rested back on the settee, then turned to share the last of the laughter. And Doyle's heart simply and completely tripped in his chest at how much he fucking loved this man and the life he had with him. There was no point in using any other word for it.
Christ, he was so screwed.
"Yeah, it's all right, Wordsworth. I know what you mean and I thank you for it."
Their eyes held for a moment or two longer and Doyle knew that far too much was probably showing on his face. Try as he might he couldn't look away, though, not even when Bodie's smile began to slip. Sod it, his shoulder hurt, he'd had a lovely meal and a good laugh and it was about time Bodie got used to the true meaning of Christmas.
"Um . . . why don't you have a look and see what else is on telly? There must be some holiday smut on somewhere." He finally broke eye contact to bend his head forward and reach up with his left hand to try and undo the knot in his sling. His neck was aching and he wanted to take it off for a bit.
"Probably some rubbish with Bruce Forsyth. Turn around, I'll get that."
Doyle did as he was told, presenting his back to his partner. He tried not to shiver when Bodie's hands slid under his hair, fingertips brushing his skin as he expertly untied the sling.
"There you go, sunshine. All done."
It was suddenly very, very quiet. Doyle rolled his shoulder slowly and wondered when Bodie was going to remove his fingers.
"Doyle . . ." The fingers spread out to his right shoulder and began the lightest rubbing and kneading. Doyle bit back a groan. He had to stop this, had to. A rustling, a dip of the cushion and Bodie was closer. Right behind him. Jesus.
"Bodie, don't." Strangled and huskier than was good for either one of them. He tipped his head forward and closed his eyes. It was no good, Bodie would have to stop all by himself, Doyle could no more wrench free than he could control his cock, which had filled the instant Bodie had laid his hands on him.
"I was thinking . . . you--we--could try it again," whispered Bodie near his left ear. Bodie's right hand settled, scorching a palm print through the thin covering of his tracksuit and onto his right shoulder.
The sheer nerve of it snapped Doyle's eyes open and contracted his erection.
"C'mon, Bodie. I see it, don't fuckin' tell me it's not there, cos I fucking see it. An' I know what's in your file, just as you know what's in mine." A reckless hand on Bodie's knee, squeezing, moving to his thigh. Doyle, high and brave on life, booze, and the biggest drugs bust in five years, makes his move on Bodie on Ruth's battered sofa, amongst the noise and swirl of a riotous party. And Bodie, spectacularly cruel in his kindness, runs a single, solitary finger down the side of Doyle's face, and smiles in a way that Doyle will try desperately to remember later. He presses his cool hand onto Doyle's before lifting it away. He shakes his head just once.
"Yeah? And why would I do that? 'M not a masochist and the last thing I need from you is a mercy fuck, so you can take your whispers and your massages and stuff them!"
Doyle struggled, wanting to get up, suddenly furious at the turn of events. But a pair of strong arms had him wrapped up from behind and his cast and healing muscles were no match for a Bodie who wouldn't let go. His temper held, then stilled when he realised that Bodie was actually shushing him, quietly and gently in a way that should have been absurd, but which was making his eyes sting and all the fight go out of him.
"This is . . . long ago for me, Doyle. And not for us."
"I remember what you said, Bodie. I told you, I remember loud and clear. So don't play me like a fucking charity case. Or is this your idea of goodwill to all men?" It was Doyle's turn to whisper, low and menacing. He was aware of Bodie's mouth hovering close to his left ear and directed it there.
Amazingly Bodie laughed, and a gust of warm air blew the curls near his ear. "Bloke'd have to be insane to take you on as a charity case. And I'm not much for goodwill to others, now am I?"
Bodie's voice was silky and indulgent and it took the last of the struggle right out of Doyle, who was too aware of his partner all around him, stirring the hair on the nape of his neck with every word he spoke and holding him there on the settee in a way no one ever had.
Still, one thing he'd always been told he had buckets of, was pride.
"Then what, Bodie? Fucking tell me now or let go."
Silence. A Bodie gathering himself. Doyle held his breath and tried to fight the disappointment as it stretched out. He was not going to say a damn-
"It's just that you . . . are it for me, you sod. I can't not have this, Doyle." Doyle got squeezed on the 'this'. "You. I mean, in my life. I can't not have you with me. I can't have us jump into bed together and then not be able to bear each other. I just . . . fucking can't, that's all."
Doyle wanted to turn round, but he held on, knowing there was more.
"I know what I said and now you know why I said it, but I'm as screwed as you are, sunshine. Because I can't stop thinking about it, about us, about jumping off a cliff and taking you to bed. Ever since that fucking party. And then you get shot, and it's Christmas, and all I fucking know is that I'm kidding myself and I have to be here. God help me, I have never felt this way about anyone in my whole fucking life!"
It ended on a shout, which was typical. Only Bodie could make a declaration of love sound like an accusation. Doyle smiled, calm now where Bodie was not. The arms around him had loosened, and Doyle could feel Bodie's forehead pressing down hard just behind his left shoulder, could feel his ragged breathing heating up the tracksuit there.
"Then show me." He reached for Bodie's left hand and pushed it into his groin. He took a second to marvel at how fast Bodie's forehead and his own cock came up. He laughed, low and throaty, as sexy as he knew how to be. He pushed his hips up into Bodie's hand. "Show me how you fucking feel, Bodie. Stop yakking and show me how you . . . nnnh!"
Doyle got no further as Bodie's mouth latched on to a patch of skin at the base of his neck. He leant back against Bodie's chest to give him access and Bodie promptly kiss-bit him all the way up his neck. "Whatever you say, sunshine." Bodie breathed it, hot and wet into his ear, and Doyle was lost.
He groaned when Bodie's hand moved away, but he groaned again when Bodie simply changed grip and thrust his right hand under the elasticated waistband of the tracksuit, taking hold of his cock with seemingly expert fingers. Bodie's hand swirled over the straining tip, sliding easily, moving all that ready slickness straight down the shaft to his balls, and then back up. Down and back up, down and back up. Cursing and blessing the cast that kept him more or less stationary in this heavenly grip, he turned his head on Bodie's right shoulder, desperately seeking his mouth. He found skin at the back of Bodie's neck and made do, sucking and tasting for all he was worth. He heard and felt movement behind him. Then he felt Bodie, hard and hot at the base of his spine, and he knew Bodie had unzipped himself. Wanting to turn, powerless to move, he tried again for a kiss.
"Kiss me, Bodie. Kiss me an' I'll come . . . kiss me . . . an' I'll come, fuckin' kiss me." Said to the rhythm of Bodie's right hand, which had steadily increased its tempo. A jolt when Bodie heaved him upright a little more, then another of a different kind as Bodie's left hand went under his tracksuit and found his nipple. Doyle's mouth opened on a gasp and Bodie's tongue finally found his, kissing and bruising him to an instant convulsion. He was dimly aware of being bucked from behind as he heard his name, tasted it being said into his mouth, over and over and over . . .
By the time he opened his eyes, he was more or less flat on his back on the settee cushions, with a dishevelled Bodie kneeling on the floor beside him.
"Couldn't hold on to you like that any longer, sorry. Your cast is heavy and my back was killing me."
If it was a complaint, it didn't sound like one, and Doyle tilted his head back to get a better view.
Lips swollen, hair everywhere, and with his shirt untucked and cords askew, Bodie looked thoroughly and ridiculously pleased with himself.
Doyle reached out a lazy finger and laid it on the other man's lips. He watched Bodie's smile fade into something else, then swallowed when Bodie kissed the tip of his finger and brought his own hand up to hold Doyle's.
"Well, I'll say this for you, Bodie, you don't lie."
Bodie raised an eyebrow at him.
"You do do me at Christmas, mate. And how. Now get me off this settee before I stick to it."
Doyle had another careful shower while Bodie had his Cadbury's selection box, and then he had a doze while Bodie had a shower. They met again under the cool sheets in Doyle's bedroom, achingly aware of each other and the cliff they were jumping off. Doyle wanted to say something, to make Bodie believe, as he now did in his bones, that this cliff was a leap of faith they had already taken with each other. Then the sound of late-night carol singers drifted in and instead of speaking, Doyle laid his hand on Bodie's cock for the first time. He began to shift himself down the bed when he felt a hand in his hair.
"Happy Christmas, Ray."
Doyle smiled. From Bodie that amounted to an 'I love you', 'I trust you' and a 'get-the-fuck-on-with-it' all in one.
"Same to you, mate. Same to you."
-- THE END --