On Being Blue
Written for "Discovered in the Brandy Butter," on the discoveredinalj livejournal community, to the prompt "mandarins and tangerines"
No response. Bodie glanced thoughtfully at his partner, immersed in some profound-looking philosophical discourse. Pretentious, Bodie called it. He'd sneaked the briefest of looks at a page or two, in the interval between snatching it out of Doyle's hand and the inevitable tussle that came as a direct consequence. Had even read out, in exaggerated declamatory tones, a tiny sequence:
Art, like light, needs distance, and anyone who attempts to render sexual experience directly must face the fact that the writhings which comprise it are ludicrous without their subjective content...
At which point he was cut off by a sharp elbow to the kidneys -- meant as nothing more than a mock-threat, nevertheless the impact was enough to have Bodie's eyes watering as he clutched his side, leaving Doyle to retrieve the hastily dropped book.
"Bloody hell, Doyle, you trying to kill me?"
"Serves you right. And don't tempt me."
Offering an unsympathetic wink, Doyle curled himself up once again in the only comfortable chair in the room and resumed reading, leaving Bodie to recover his breath and broodingly contemplate as many imaginative ways as possible of bringing about Doyle's agonising demise.
Twenty minutes on, having conducted a solemn internal dialogue on the relative merits of thumbscrews and Chinese water torture, he was bored again. And uncomfortably aware that the mental images of a chained and helpless Doyle were beginning to have unexpected and potentially embarrassing side effects. Casting around for a distraction, his eye was drawn to his oblivious partner.
"You got anything to eat?"
"Nothing you'd want." Doyle absently licked a finger, flicked over the page. Bodie took a calming breath.
"What've you got, then?"
A slight frown creased Doyle's forehead. "What?"
"If you've got something, I might want it. Oh come on, mate, I'm wasting away here."
His concentration finally broken, Doyle glared at Bodie with irritation. "Oh for Christ's sake...here."
He twisted round, reaching into his jacket pocket to extract something small and round, which he launched without warning towards Bodie's head. Instinctively Bodie's hand flashed up in defence, intercepting the missile within scant inches of his face, his lips curving upwards in a smug grin. Doyle returned the smile with a gleam of white teeth, acknowledging the swift reaction with approval.
Bodie looked down at his hand, the grin vanishing to be replaced by a wrinkle of the brow, a slight pout.
"What's this?" Disapproval radiated like a living presence. Doyle rolled his eyes theatrically.
"It's a tangerine." Slowly and clearly, as though speaking to a particularly dim child.
"Thought you said you had food."
"It's seasonal, isn't it?"
"So are mince pies. Proper food, they are."
"Well, if you don't want it, give it back."
"Huh." Unwilling to relinquish even this meagre offering, Bodie subsided into silence, grumpily picking away at the puckered orange skin until the soft insides were exposed. Carefully he separated the segments, laying them side by side on the battered Formica tabletop. Glanced towards his partner, now once again immersed in the pages of his book, thoughtfully chewing a fingernail as he mulled over whatever he was reading.
Bodie paused, his attention captured. Art, like light, needs distance...there was something in that. Undeniably, the sight of Doyle like this, head bowed in contemplation, soft dusty light from the uncleaned window catching shades of red and gold in the tousled hair and accenting the angularity of the bone structure, was aesthetically satisfying, adding an artistic quality to his partner's appearance that was less apparent as you got closer and saw the toughness, the scars, the inevitable backlash of too much exposure to too brutal a reality. At rest, from a distance, his mind far from the grimness of the job, Doyle was...
Bodie shied automatically away from the word beautiful, blinking and giving himself a vigorous mental shake, cheeks tinged uncharacteristically red as he thanked God that his partner's many skills didn't extend to mind reading. Cabin fever, that's what it was. Being cooped up on comms duty, today of all days, might be the altruistic thing to do, given that he hadn't any family he wanted to share the joys of the season with, but it was bad for his head. God, if he was resorting to fancying Doyle, things had to be grim.
He cleared his throat.
"You want any of this?"
Something of his thoughts must have carried into his tone, because Doyle glanced at him sharply, eyebrows raised.
"You all right, mate?"
"Yeah. Bored. You want some of this?"
Doyle looked over at the precisely arranged tangerine pieces. "Yeah, that'd be good. You really are bored, aren't you? You should get yourself a book. Improve your mind."
The smug expression returned. "My mind doesn't need improving, thank you. Steel trap, this." He flipped a piece of tangerine over to Doyle, who caught it deftly.
"Thanks. Well, unfortunately us lesser mortals have to put a bit more effort in than someone of your natural brilliance."
Bodie affected a haughty demeanour, along with a frankly shambolic upper class accent. "Oh, quite so, old boy. Quite so."
Snorting, Doyle returned to his book, twisting the segment of tangerine absently between thumb and forefinger. Bodie worked his way methodically through the remaining pieces, taking little bites of each, ostentatiously chewing for longer than necessary, literally making a meal of it. The last morsel consumed, he turned doleful eyes on Doyle, checking to ensure that his performance had been observed. What he saw froze him into breathless, stunned immobility.
Doyle, still absorbed in his reading, was holding the segment close to his mouth, lips brushing lightly against it, gently playing it back and forth. As Bodie, entranced, followed its smooth progress along the full lower lip, Doyle suddenly pressed it further in, biting down firmly, tongue darting out to catch the golden droplets of juice that threatened to spill over onto the exposed page below. Pushing the other half in to join the first, he stroked his finger over the corner of his mouth to trap the last errant drop, sucking the tip to clean away the tart stickiness.
It was one of the most sweetly erotic and powerfully arousing sights Bodie had ever witnessed. Heart racing, he dragged his gaze away, slumping down with a stifled groan until his forehead connected, satisfyingly painfully, with the table in front of him. He closed his eyes. This was a nightmare. God, if Doyle ever found out, his life wouldn't be worth living.
Although, come to think of it...As Bodie's frazzled brain began to clear, it occurred to him that, throughout the entire unsettling sequence, several minutes worth, Doyle hadn't actually turned a single page of the book he had seemingly been devouring with such gusto. Slowly, he lifted his head, knowing he'd been had, unsurprised to encounter an openly grinning Doyle, head slightly tilted, watching him with a combination of amusement and speculation.
"You little bastard." There was no sting in the words. Despite himself, Bodie couldn't help admiring how adeptly Doyle had played him.
The grin widened. "Took you long enough."
There was a pause. Bodie looked away, shielding himself as he frantically cast his mind back, trying to work out how much he had given away, analysing Doyle's motives -- was this a prank, or something more? Doyle was perfectly capable of setting the whole thing up just to amuse himself on a dull day.
Doyle must have sensed the shift in mood, because he uncurled himself from the chair, coming to sit across the table from Bodie, leaning towards him earnestly.
"Bodie, listen mate. Please."
Bodie took a deep breath, forced himself to meet his partner's eyes. Had to force himself to maintain the contact, because the solemnity, the utter naked honesty he encountered there rocked him beyond imagining. Again, the phrase from the book rolled through his mind. Art, like light, requires distance. Just minutes ago he was agreeing wholeheartedly with the sentiment. And now, with Doyle so close that it felt like he could crawl inside his soul, Bodie realised that distance did no justice to the man in front of him. The nearer you got, the better the view.
He heard the unintentional edginess in his own voice, saw a hint of uncertainty creep in to cloud the raw beauty of the green eyes.
"Look, Bodie, you've got to understand. I..."
With shattering timing, the comms crackled into life for the first time that day.
"Alpha One to Control."
For the second time, Bodie let his head thud onto the table, as Doyle went to answer the radio.
"Good afternoon, Alpha One." Doyle's tone was admirably enthusiastic.
"Ah, 4.5. Anything to report?"
"Not really, sir. Quiet as the grave here. All the bad guys must be visiting their mums."
"Aye, you're probably right. You and 3.7 can stand down. I'll expect you in tomorrow at 10am. Happy Christmas."
"And the compliments of the season to you too, Mr Cowley. Control out."
A stillness descended on the room as the transmission ended, the two men gazing at each other with an air of frustration, the mood broken but neither willing to let the matter go. Characteristically, it was Doyle's voice that penetrated the silence.
"So. Free at last. What're you going to do then?"
"I dunno. Head back to mine, I suppose." He paused, took the plunge. "You coming?"
Doyle's smile was laced with a wickedness that sent a shiver through Bodie.
"Who knows, sunshine. Who knows." He prowled toward his partner, leaning in close, his words the ghost of a breath against Bodie's ear. "I guarantee you will be, though."
-- THE END --
NOTE:The featured quote is from 'On Being Blue' by William H Gass (1976)