Doyle eyed his early morning visitor without enthusiasm.
"Aren't you going to invite me in?" inquired Bodie in a plaintive tone, as he did his best to look appealing.
His shoulder propped against the door jamb, stubble rasped as Doyle rubbed his chin. "I never get the chance to invite you anywhere. You usually just barge in irrespective."
"There's no danger of you making a bloke feel too welcome, is there," remarked Bodie with resignation. Knowing his partner was more alert than he looked, he did not attempt to edge past him.
"Now you're here, you may as well come in." Pushing himself away from the door frame Doyle ambled down the hall, leaving his partner to deal with the security locks.
Breezing into the kitchen, Bodie looked infuriatingly awake as he headed unerringly for the kettle, before checking the contents of the fridge.
"Who got out of bed on the wrong side this morning?" His tone was designed to cause maximum aggravation.
Heavy-eyed, Doyle knotted the tie of his silk dressing-gown. His clenched fists punching deep in the pockets, he gave his partner's broad shoulders a moody look.
"At least I was in my own bed."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Bodie abandoned hope of finding anything edible.
"That you weren't home when I rang last night."
"I do go out occasionally," Bodie reminded him mildly. "Missing me, were you?"
Disconcerted, because it hadn't occurred to him to question his impulse to ring Bodie at one a.m., Doyle gave him an edgy look. He took refuge in irritation when he saw Bodie use the last of the milk for his tea.
"Help yourself, why don't you." Snatching up the mug, he drank from it before Bodie had a chance to add sugar. Burning his upper lip, he muttered an obscenity.
Grinning, Bodie shook his head. "You must be a real joy to wake up to in the morning."
Doyle kept his gaze on his tea. "You should know."
"Kipping on a stakeout doesn't count. What's up, Ray?" Bodie added in a different tone.
"Nothing," denied Doyle shortly.
Realising Doyle was about to walk out on him again, and having had enough of that in recent weeks, Bodie impulsively caught hold of the end of Doyle's belt and tugged; the loose knot of silk slid apart, baring Doyle to his gaze. Doyle was all brown flesh and drifting body hair whose narrowing line drew the eye inexorably to his slow to subside tumescence. He was radiating such a heady, mouth-watering warmth that Bodie was willing to swear he could taste him. Without conscious thought Bodie tucked an arm between grey silk and tanned flesh, his fingertips skimming a tightening nipple and silky hair.
The retaliation Bodie half-expected never materialised.
Doyle flinched at the first touch, then froze where he stood. From the tension on his face he was trying - and failing - to distance himself from the incident; his cock betrayed him.
Belatedly identifying the nature of their problem the world assumed a glorious simplicity for Bodie. Given the preference he had denied, even to himself, since returning to Britain and life in the army, then CI5, he couldn't believe how slow he had been to spot the sexual awareness which had been growing between he and Doyle. Feeling randy around Ray Doyle was nothing new, but the emotions which went with it came as a surprise. Not that he should feel them - or that they should exist for Doyle - but that it should have taken him so long to recognise how deep they went.
"Put that tea down, Ray," he requested.
"I think you've lost your mind," snapped Doyle, who had been unnerved by the lengthy silence. He set the mug down with a force which slopped tea everywhere.
Neither man noticed, the air suddenly charged.
"No," Bodie murmured. His gaze on that delectable mouth, he wondered how Doyle would taste, and whether he would get stubble-burn while he investigated. "Found it, more like. Didn't know why I came round to see you, till now. Shut up, Ray," he added mildly when Doyle opened his mouth.
Then Bodie kissed him for the first time, slowly, so that Doyle had plenty of advance warning.
"What happened?" mumbled Doyle, shoving ineffectually at the body blanketing his. "And if you're about to state the obvious, so help me - "
"I might have known you'd be the chatty sort afterwards," grumbled Bodie happily. Despite the discomfort of his position, most of which stemmed from Doyle's unyielding boniness in places where Bodie had become accustomed to more cushioning, he stayed where he was, savouring the moment.
"Gerroff," wheezed Doyle, grunting as he finally succeeded in rolling Bodie on to the floor. "I'm not claiming it came as a total surprise to find you bowled over by my charms, but I'm not impressed by your timing."
"' timing? All I did was kiss you." Raising his head the better to express his indignation, Bodie banged it on a cupboard and bit his tongue. "Fuck." A hand patted his bottom and remained there to stroke him gently.
"Feel free, if you reckon you're up to it."
"I wouldn't want to show you up," responded Bodie, wondering if Doyle meant it.
"That'd be a first. I meant it," Doyle added with unnerving percipience. He pushed himself up so he could prop his back against a cupboard door. His dispassionate tone and matter-of-fact manner were less than lover-like but the expression in his eyes gave both the lie.
Bodie made no attempt to conceal his happiness, grinning from ear to ear. "I'll have to take you up of that offer later. It's nice to know why you've been so stroppy recently."
"I might say the same thing about you. Or maybe you haven't noticed the way people have taken to avoiding us over the last few weeks," added Doyle with a familiar acidity.
"I noticed. But I had more important things to think about. Like the way we seemed to be drifting apart. Couldn't work out what had happened to cause the rift. It never occurred to me the whole problem was that nothing had."
"I suppose that makes sense to you," remarked Doyle without heat. "D'you really think getting your leg over me will solve all our problems?"
Bodie used the fact Doyle was avoiding his gaze as his guide. "No, but it's a step in the right direction."
"Time will tell." Doyle stretched out his legs. Visibly relaxing, he toyed with the slow to dry trail of semen decorating his belly. "It's better than a blood pact this," he remarked, twirling a sticky whorl of hair around his forefinger, but his expression was pensive.
"It's more fun, that's for sure." Bodie began to wonder if Doyle was always this depressed after sex; it didn't bode well for their future. Realising the assumptions he was making, so far without much encouragement, he got to his feet and began to brush off the dirt he had acquired from the vinyl-tiled floor.
"Your housekeeping's a disgrace. I need a shower - and food. As you cheated me of breakfast, you can pay for brunch."
"You'll have to. I'm broke and my small change rolled under the fridge when you ripped my clothes off."
Doyle snorted, but his eyes were warm with amusement. "Chance would be a fine thing."
"Have you ever tried ripping Shetland wool? Though only you could wear wool in June."
"In case you hadn't noticed, there's hardly a heatwave on," said Bodie defensively.
"It must be rotten to be such a delicate flower," cooed Doyle in understanding, nimbly dodging the swipe aimed in his direction. "Slowing down," he taunted, drifting back into range.
"Just enjoying the view," said Bodie with truth, his eyes widening when he saw his announcement disconcert Doyle.
"Strewth, I'm filthy," muttered Doyle in a distracted tone as he brushed ineffectually at his buttocks and thighs. "I knew there was a reason why I'd never had it away on the kitchen floor before. You're right, my house-keeping ' a disgrace. Can't understand how it gets so bad. I'm hardly ever here." He knew he was babbling but could not stop himself: speech gave the illusion that he was in control. He flinched when the back of Bodie's fingers brushed his stomach as Bodie removed a piece of fluff caught in the hair beneath his navel and ceremoniously handed it to him.
"I'll stuff you."
"Promise?" asked Bodie unguardedly.
Staring into that familiar face, for a moment Doyle saw only a stranger until he blinked and it was Bodie again, if an untypically uncertain Bodie.
"I could do worse, I suppose," Doyle allowed. While it would be wiser to end it here, he couldn't do it.
Aware of a lack of enthusiasm, Bodie hovered. "You reckon?"
"Yes, I do," said Doyle with a conviction so total it had the sound of a vow. He gave one of his rare, bewitching smiles, any shadowing doubts forgotten in this moment of transitory joy.
Certain he had melted round the edges under the impact of that smile, Bodie returned it because Doyle was impossible to resist in this mood.
"Well, the law of averages says you have to be right sometime. I'll go and have that shower I was talking about," Bodie mumbled. He needed time to recover his equilibrium.
"Don't use all the hot water," commanded Doyle, with his customary hospitality. He thought everything would be all right when Bodie, without turning, offered a two-fingered salute as he strolled out of the room.
Standing alone in the centre of his kitchen, Doyle stared at the familiar surroundings as his doubts resurfaced with a vengeance. Even as a kid he had been sceptical about Father Christmas, just as he had always been the one who didn't clap for Tinkerbell, waiting to see whether she died or not. Nothing in his life since had encouraged him to believe in happy-ever-afters; not for other people, and certainly not for himself.
There's always a first time, he reminded himself, wishing he could believe it. Absently brushing some grit from his thigh, he headed after Bodie.
It was an odd day, in more ways than one.
Going out for brunch, they took their time in the restaurant. The close-packed tables provided the perfect excuse to keep their conversation general. It was a relief not to be private together. The rest of the day stretched out in front of them, threatening difficult moments neither man wanted to face and so they went to the cinema. Careful to avoid bodily contact, they sat in the first empty seats they found and controlled their expressions when they discovered what film they were going to be suffering. They fell asleep during the Bruce Lee support film and woke up only as the main feature came to its explosive climax. Still blinking as they emerged back on to the street, they discovered it was pouring with rain. The gutters awash, the pavements were deserted, everyone having taken shelter under the shop canopies.
"We could always go back in there." Bodie jerked a thumb in the direction of the cinema.
"There's a pub across the road."
"Loser buys the first round?"
"You're on," said Doyle, taking off.
The race was a tie, both men soaked after those few seconds of exposure. Pushing open the saloon bar doors, the wall of heat gave them pause. The pub was packed, bodies shuffling shoulder to shoulder, the air redolent of wet clothing - not all of it as clean as it might have been - beer and cigarette smoke. The level of noise was ear-splitting.
"Lovely," murmured Bodie. Behind him the volume of rain increased; the cold wind which had set up made him shiver.
Years of practice edged them to the bar in under ten minutes, and without causing a fight on the way. Pints in hand, they found themselves being squeezed back by another flurry of sodden newcomers. Eventually they found a refuge of sorts in the corner between the pinball machine and a draughty window, left with enough space to raise their glasses if they were careful.
"The beer's terrible," Bodie warned with a grimace.
"So's the pub. We'll survive. It can't rain forever." Doyle gave his pint more attention than it deserved. "Where were you last night?"
Undeceived by the casual tone, Bodie was about to reply when Doyle lurched into him, slopping beer over them both. One hand on Doyle's waist, Bodie glared at the youths responsible, Doyle half-turning to follow the direction of his gaze. Bravado fading under that combined assault, the boys melted away within seconds, but the vacuum they left was soon filled. Remaining wedged against his partner Doyle made no attempt to win himself more space.
"I was out driving," announced Bodie, his mouth brushing damp curls; it was his only hope of being heard.
"Why?" mouthed Doyle, disconcerted to find he was almost nuzzling his partner's chin.
"Couldn't sleep," shrugged Bodie.
Remember the other man's demonstrated ability for sleeping any place at virtually any time - including the legendary occasion he had dozed off during one of Cowley's briefings - Doyle made no overt comment.
"It's as good a way as any of winding down," Bodie added.
"Sex is better. Next time to come to me." Doyle's casual tone was at variance with the intensity of his gaze. The hand resting on his waist tightened, then relaxed.
"I'd like that."
"So would I."
"Do we have to wait for those sort of times?" To a stranger Bodie might have sounded belligerent, although there was little danger of being overheard: there was a peculiar privacy in a crowd.
"Not on my account," said Doyle evenly. He elbowed away an encroaching body without apology or turning to discover its gender.
"Let's get out of here."
"Where are we going?" Doyle reached past Bodie to set the remnants of his pint on the too narrow window-ledge. The sound of breaking glass was barely audible as they edged out of their corner.
"Your place. It's closer. But stop at a chemist first. I need a toothbrush."
"Is that all?" Doyle asked as they inched through the eddying bodies, never quite losing physical contact.
"Yeah. I can borrow anything else I need from you - except KY."
Enjoying the double take of the middle-aged man Bodie was squeezing past, Doyle shook his head at the man. "Sorry. He's already taken."
"What?" asked Bodie.
"Never mind. I've got KY," Doyle added, his glare silencing a would-be humourist on his left.
Catching the exchange of eye contact, Bodie began to laugh, which further slowed their progress.
"The quicker we get out of here, the better," remarked Bodie some time later. I'm so squashed I swear I'm a couple of inches taller. Can you see the exit?"
"I can't see a bloody thing. I've been following you."
"No wonder we're going round in circles. Ah, there's a door."
"That's the ladies," Doyle told him patiently. "Just stand still until we get our bearings. Over there," he identified, easing forward again.
"So you've got a supply of KY, have you?"
"Lubricant's lubricant, whatever sex you are. Though it's been a while since I've used it on my own account."
"Me too. But it's probably like riding a bike," added Bodie.
Doyle gave him a quizzical look. "Not as far as I remember."
"You know what I meant."
"The worrying thing is that I do."
They emerged back on to the street with the velocity of corks expelled from a bottle of shaken champagne. Ignoring the rain driving into his face, Doyle stopped to take his bearings. "This way," he said with the certainty which had got Bodie into trouble more than once.
Dragged into a narrow alley where the smell of stale beer failed to mask the smell of urine, Bodie's eyebrows rose. "We are not," he said firmly, "having it away here."
"No," agreed Doyle, nudging him up against the wall. "But I am going to kiss you."
"If you must," sighed Bodie, drawing him close.
Doyle's firm mouth was wet with rain, his lips cool, but his tongue was warm, his hands sliding under jacket, then damp wool as they slid together, feeding from each other.
"Been wanting to do that all afternoon," Doyle murmured finally, his forehead against Bodie's, his mouth looking a little bruised. But it was the cold which made him shiver. Both of them were soaked, rain trickling inside their collars.
"So I see." Bodie touched him briefly, fingertips fleetingly learning Doyle's contours, but when Doyle pressed into his palm, Bodie withdrew his hand.
"I'd rather take my time over you. Somewhere drier," Bodie added wryly.
"I wouldn't mind leaving this stink behind either," acknowledged Doyle, taking a steadying breath. "Besides, the moment we unzip and the cold hits us - " He snapped his fingers and grinned with the confidence of one who knew the state wouldn't be permanent.
"Home, then. Where did we leave the car?"
"Outside my flat," Doyle reminded him. "And we haven't got a prayer of getting a taxi in this weather."
"Could always get a bus." Bodie grinned, enjoying Doyle's look of disdain as they headed out of the alley and back into the full force of the wind.
"Not until we're old and grey. Besides, look at that queue."
"We'll walk then." Bodie began to whistle as they set off.
Suddenly, inexplicably certain as he had never been before, Doyle was aware of their almost brushing hands and the fact their feet were keeping time. He began to whistle in tuneless counterpart to Bodie, dodging round to the other side of his partner when a bus caused a tidal wave of filthy water to rise up from the gutter and splatter across the pavement and anyone in its path.
"What the - ! Oh, bloody hell," groaned Bodie. "You miserable little shit. You might've warned me."
"Thought you'd noticed, you being a trained observer," said Doyle piously. "Could hardly miss it. Are you very wet?"
"Not as wet as you're going to be if I ever get my hands on you," Bodie promised, settling into a soggy jog.
Doyle fell into place beside him. "When you were a kid did you believe in Father Christmas?" he asked, a few minutes later.
"Of course. Well, only for a while. Then I just pretended to. Worked just as well. Didn't you?"
"No, but I might come to it yet," said Doyle cryptically. Right now he was prepared to concede the existence of fairies.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Bodie, as they headed down the street leading to Doyle's flat, their feet sending up sprays of water with every step.
"Why? Why now, I mean? He died nearly a year ago." It had taken Bodie a moment to place the reference.
"Not him. Tinkerbell. The real one. You know, Peter Pan's sidekick."
Having had a number of surprises today, Bodie began to wonder if he knew his partner at all. "Once we're warm and dry, and after I've sucked your cock, you're going to explain that remark," he said, as Doyle fished for his front door key.
The key slid from Doyle's grasp and fell into a puddle.
Retrieving it, Bodie wiped it dry, unlocked the door, pushed Doyle inside and reset the lock. "Which bit of that programme didn't you fancy?" he inquired, unbuttoning his soggy leather jacket. From the way he stared at his busy hands the task seemed to require all his attention.
"I don't believe in happy endings," announced Doyle, heading for the bathroom, where he began to unpeel himself from his wet clothing.
"That's all right," said Bodie comfortably, standing on one leg to remove a damp sock, "I'll do that for both of us until you get the hang of it."
Wearing only his shirt by this time, Doyle paused. A number of expressions crossed his face; resignation remained the longest. "Figures," he sighed. "See how we go then."
"What does that mean?" Water splattering from the shower head, Bodie stepped beneath it only to withdraw with a yelp when he discovered it had yet to run hot.
"It means I'll do my best to make this work. Just make sure you do the same," added Doyle, with a belligerence which imperfectly concealed how edgy he still was.
"Yes, sir. Anything you say, sir." Bodie wrapped his arms around Doyle and walked them under the flow of now hot water.
"You're not taking this seriously," complained Doyle, moving his head to avoid getting a face full of water.
"I've just spent some of the most miserable weeks of my life. Of course I'm happy. And if you don't like it, you'll just have to lump it," Bodie told him, the warning softened by the fact he was nuzzling a wet ear.
"Oh. All right," said Doyle meekly, one arm encircling Bodie.
"Blimey, I should've taken charge years ago."
"Don't push your luck," Doyle advised him, moving Bodie's head out of the flow of water before he sank to his knees.
"If you need to ask what I've got in mind, you certainly need a refresher course," Doyle told him, nuzzling up Bodie's inner thigh until his nose nudged wet testicles. "Now, bearing in mind that I won't be able to speak with my mouth full, is there anything else you want to say?"
Lacing his fingers in sodden curls, Bodie's expression gentled. "Only that I love..." His declaration was lost in a gasp he gave when Doyle took him in for the first time. Bodie's eyes closed in sheer bliss. But he made a mental note to work on Doyle's phobia about happy endings.
-- THE END --
Completed 27th May, 1994
Originally published in Down Under Express 6, Batho & Kerr Ink, 1995