You Dancing? You Asking?


For "YP" with thanks.

"I don't know what's the matter with you today, but I wish you'd take it out on someone else," Bodie whinged.

"What? Nothing's the matter with me," Doyle said icily and rustled his newspaper.

"Raymond, you are not known for your sunny temper and friendly disposition but even by your standards you are in a foul mood and I'm fed up with getting it in the neck."

"Sod off," Doyle said, threw down 'The Sun' and flounced out of the room. Oh-oh, Bodie raised his eyes to heaven, like that is it?

Doyle was back only a few minutes later, this time with a cup of tea and a stale Bath bun from the canteen. He consumed both with tightly reined violence then resumed his reading.

"No, thanks for the offer anyway," Bodie said to the air, "I'm not really peckish at the moment, I'll pass on elevenses." A Doyle glare was his only response. "Mind you, elevenses are usually eaten in the morning not in the middle of the bloody night. I hate graveyard," Bodie said conversationally.

"Not as much as I do," Doyle said bitterly.

Here it comes, Bodie thought, give him a few more minutes and that stone face will crack and he'll tell Uncle William all about it. "Oh?" he ventured, noncommittal.

"Clare," Doyle said lugubriously, screwed up the newspaper and bowled it, cricket style, at the waste paper basket. He missed. "Howzat?" he muttered under his breath.

"Not out," Bodie replied automatically, then went on, "So--Clare eh? Come on, spill the beans, what's up?"

"She's finished with me," Doyle said bitterly, "and all because I wouldn't take her to a Do at the Savoy. Posey tart. All ballgowns and penguin suits and photographers from the Tatler. Waste of bloody time-- and money. Two hundred sovs, I ask you! Two tickets--two hundred sovs." Doyle--Deep Pockets Short Arms--shook his head in disbelief.

"You can afford it, tight bastard. And 'goils' like a chance to get all dressed up. Must be some Do, at those prices."

"Yeah, even Margaret's going to be there."

"Margaret," now Bodie was impressed. "Thatcher?"

"Princess," Doyle replied glumly.

"Oh yeah, see what you mean." Bodie pondered this for a while--out of nowhere a vague memory resurfaced. "Hang about, you finished with that Deborah sort when she asked you to go with her to her Firm's summer ball at the Barbican. And that was a--" Bodie stopped, struck by sudden inspiration, then collapsed into whoops of laughter.

"Oh no, oh Raymond Doyle please no. You've not got a frock have you, you haven't got a dinner suit?" and Bodie sprawled back in his chair, waving one hand weakly in the air as quakes of mirth rocked through him. With streaming eyes and bright red face, Bodie howled: "You can't go to the ball because you haven't got a frock--Cinda-Ray-la," and Bodie was off again, roaring.

Doyle sat in glacial silence until Bodie subsided. "Finished our impression of a hen laying an egg have we?" he asked sweetly. "As a matter of interest you great fat ugly lump, I don't go to dances because I can't soddin' dance," he roared, getting through to Bodie at last.

Aftershocks continued to rock through Bodie, but he hiccuped to a stop, wiping his streaming eyes with the back of his hand. "Eh," he managed, "waddaya mean, you can't dance? I've seen you--you and that Cathy from Reports Typing were shaking it all about at the Christmas Eve piss up."

"That kind," Doyle said, all dignity and disdain, "any savage in the jungle can do. The kind that Deborah and Clare do is all Fred and Ginger."

"You know," Bodie confessed, "I always rather fancied Ginger Rogers. After all, she did everything Fred did and she did it backwards and in high heels."

"Ho ho," Doyle said, unamused. "Well, I can't."

"Come off it Ray, get yourself along to the Do and you'll pick it up in no time."

"Just 'pick it up' will I, with Princess Margaret in the front row of the stalls?"

"Give over, it's easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy," Bodie scorned.

"Don't tell me Fred--this is something else you can do better than anyone else, right?" There was a rather grim and bitter tone in Ray's voice as he said it and Bodie began to get a bit twitchy. Ray's tempers he could handle, but this he preferred to leave to the Bomb Squad.

"No," he said warily, "not Fred Astaire. But I can do it. Had to learn at school you know--foxtrot, waltz, all that. Oh, and the tango. I was rather good at the tango as a matter of fact."

"Bully for you," Doyle retorted, sarcastically.

"Didn't you learn at school?"

"Well, I had lessons," Ray said doubtfully.

"Right then duckie," and Bodie rubbed his hands together gleefully, "let's get you sorted out shall we." The scruffy waiting room furniture was swept aside, Bodie cast off his jacket and grabbed hold of Ray.

"Ere, gerroff you lunatic," Doyle spluttered but Bodie was implacable and with impersonal expertise, took hold of Ray's right hand with his left, placed his own right hand on Ray's waist and glared back at the angry green eyes glaring at him.

"Shut up Wallflower. You need to learn how to dance, so I'll teach you."

"You pillock, what do you think this is, let go," Ray stormed. Bodie ignored him loftily and proceeded to hustle a leaden footed Ray around the room.

There was quite a bit of shuffling and some accidental (and not so accidental) treading upon toes, but Bodie was determined and Ray, burning with embarrassment, at last began to co-operate. Bodie was keeping up a monotonous count of "one-two-three-four" interspersed with "back-back-side-together-and-turn-and-back" and although it was odd, being held so intimately by Bodie, it wasn't unpleasant. Quite the opposite.

"See, I told you it was easy," Bodie said, smiling his own particular drop-dead smile. Ray, rather pleased with himself, smiled back; a rare split second of complete stillness rested between them before the mood was shattered.

Anson opened the door: "Put that agent down Ray, you don't know where he's been. We're off girls, grab your hats and handbags," and disappeared again.

Bodie un-grabbed Ray, grabbed his jacket and was out the door behind Anson in double quick time, Ray on his heels.

Time to start earning their wages; it was messy and dark, a cold pre dawn raid and some very ugly customers indeed. At the end of it, Bodie had a split lip and raw knuckles, Ray was limping from a well aimed kick and no one asked anyone to dance.

"Ok?" Bodie asked kindly and Ray nodded and levered himself out of the car.

"Yeah, just need a good soak. Come on up, I'll get you some witch-hazel for that lip," and not bothering to look behind, Ray opened the door and climbed the stairs to his first floor flat. The pine panelled walls gave it a cozy feel and Ray shrugged off his jacket and sighed his appreciation of the central heating.

Bodie followed him, throwing his own jacket into a far corner and flaking out, head resting on one arm of the sofa, booted feet on the other. "Oh mother," he groaned, "what have they done to your child?"

Despite his aches and pains, Ray had to smile at the picture of abject misery his partner presented. He set the bathwater to running, added a hefty helping of Epsom salts and retrieved the witch-hazel and cotton wool from the cabinet. "Oi, Sleeping Beauty," he shouted.

Bodie woke up from his doze and staggered to the bathroom door, looking groggy.

"Here, cop 'old of this and get yourself swabbed down. You look like the fold after it tangled with the Assyrians," Ray ordered gruffly.

"You look like something a cat wouldn't even bother--oh God that stings--to drag in." Bodie managed to be crushing, pathetic and petulant all at once. Ray gave him a disdainful look and slammed the bathroom door in his face.

Bliss. The hot water was agonisingly welcome and with a few muffled 'oh-oh-ohs', Doyle submerged himself. Surfacing some time later he went to bed, after taking Bodie's boots off as that worthy lay sparked out on Ray's sofa, dead to the world. A cold red dawn was breaking as Ray climbed between the sheets--and the next thing he knew it was three o'clock in the afternoon and the sound of the door slamming behind Bodie woke him up.

"So," Bodie was nothing if not persistent, "it's three weeks to that Do, yeah?" Ray nodded, suspiciously. "So that means I've got three weeks to turn Sad Wallflower Doyle into Twinkle Toes Raymondo? Hmmm," a long appraising look at Ray sprawled comfortably in his own armchair, "well, it's a tough assignment, but I reckon we can crack this between us."

"Are you serious?" Ray laughed, only half jokingly. Truth to tell it did get a bit embarrassing not being able to dance and he was far too self-conscious to ask any of his lady friends. Bodie was a piss-taking git, true, but at least he would keep his trap shut about it.

"Deadly," Bodie replied, crossing his eyes and looking, he fondly assumed, like Bela Lugosi. "Don't be so soft. Not your fault you can't dance. I'll teach you and you can sweep Clare off her feet before half of Burke's Peerage--and all out of the goodness of my heart." Bodie beamed coaxingly.

He does look awfully handsome when he smiles, Ray acknowledged to himself--bit too handsome for my peace of mind to be truthful. But he never had been able to resist Bodie when he was being appealing, so: "Well ok, but promise not to tell anyone, it's bloody shaming--not being able to dance at my age."

"Rubbish. Come on then," and Bodie cleared the coffee table and armchair out of the middle of the room and stood with arms outstretched, looking rather like a teapot, waiting for Ray. "Care to join me on the dancefloor?" he asked, suave.

"Need some music," Ray objected, still feeling very silly doing this. Expressionlessly, Bodie pointed at the radio. "Oh yeah, course. There," a bit of fiddling later, "Radio 2." The strains of something vaguely big-band-sounding filled the room.

"Good," Bodie approved, "quick step."

Ray's mortification didn't last long in the face of Bodie's matter of fact and foul-mouthed instructions. And Bodie was surprisingly patient with him too, going over and over the 'twiddly' steps until Ray felt confident before moving on to the next. It was a relief that he could step all over Bodie's toes without thinking he'd crippled him--one less thing to worry about while he tried to remember the steps, count, keep time and not fall over.

"No, just a minute," Bodie said, as they were both poised rather daringly just on the edge of what was meant to be an elegant turn. Ray froze obediently and kept his arms out and still as Bodie freed himself and stood back critically. "Hmmm, yes I see," and Bodie stood behind him, his own arms moving Ray's into the correct position and with casual power, pulled Ray's hips back into his own and manoeuvred them slightly. "Move like that see," Bodie moved his own hips again, demonstrating, "from the hip, here," a tap at the join of hip and torso. "That should make it easier to turn without feeling as if you're gonna go arse-over-tit."

Ray bit his lip at the intimacy of their stance--his buttocks nestled in Bodie's groin. In my dreams, he told himself sourly. He pulled himself together enough to manage a breathless "Yeah, you're right."

"See, told you it was easy," Bodie mocked kindly and set off again.

"It's farewell from our 'Glamorous Night' live at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool," the radio announced, "And now here is the ten o'clock news."

"Lesson's over for tonight," Bodie said, letting Ray go with unflattering speed.

Ray stretched his arms then switched off the radio in the middle of a depressing report from Northern Ireland (again). Bodie had got the furniture back in position and was looking around. It didn't take Gypsy Petulengro to figure out what he was after.

"Tea of coffee?" Ray asked innocently. Bodie gave him a look. "Or beer?" Bodie grinned. And why is it, Ray thought, that every single time he does that he just gets more and more handsome?

"Now the waltz," Bodie stated in Open University tones, "was at the height of its popularity during the last century," and he began to hum the "Blue Danube", rather flat but recognisable.

Ray was getting the hang of things by now and although he wasn't very confident, he certainly knew the basics. The waltz was the most difficult for him though, since it involved a lot of 'twiddly bits' and twirls which threw him totally off balance.

This was the second waltz lesson (and the sixth dance lesson in all) and not only was Bodie getting more handsome, but Ray's reaction to that fact got more bizarre. Simple chemistry, he reassured himself-- being held so close by someone so powerful, someone I'm so fond of, someone I--well, fancy--naturally I'm gonna start feeling...strange. Yet what worried him the most about feeling this way about Bodie was that he wasn't worried about feeling this way about Bodie.

Radio Two was serving them well again and Bodie showed Ray all the steps carefully and slowly and without being smug.

"You're a natural," Bodie praised, "heh, can you dip?" he asked devilishly and swept Ray off to the left and loomed over him. A wicked sparkle gleamed in his blue eyes and Ray, off balance in more ways than one, clutched at Bodie's shoulders, startled and certain he would fall. It was but an instant and at once Bodie's arm was like iron around him, holding him secure.

Ray managed a small laugh and hoped his confusion didn't show in his eyes as he lay draped in Bodie's embrace with no choice but to gaze up into the lovely face. "No I don't think I can dip," Ray said at last.

Bodie looked evil--"Ah, come wiz mee to zee Kaaaazzzbarrrr," he purred.

"Hey, that's really good. Can you do Charles Boyer?"

Bodie laughed, breaking the rather strange mood. "All you need is a carnation between your teeth," he chuckled and with no effort at all, levered Ray upright and set him back on his own two feet again.

It was strictly business after that and Ray was glad of it; this could quite easily get out of hand--and Ray had a vivid imagination when it came to Bodie's reaction to being fancied by another bloke.

Again, the ten o'clock news ended their lesson and Ray, wanting to act quite as normal, retrieved two large beers from the fridge while Bodie disguised the dancing academy as the living room once more.

"So, off to the Savoy on Friday night then?" Bodie asked, after a mammoth slurp.

"Yeah," Ray nodded, "got the tickets and Clare's even got her grandmother's necklace out of storage at Aspreys. A truly glittering spectacle," Ray swanked.

"Ooo-er, 'ark at 'im mother, all fur coat and no knickers," Bodie scorned, about as Cockney as Cowley. "Well, if you ask me, you're ready for the Big Fight now Champ," he continued, regarding his scruff bag partner with fond impartiality. "Knock 'em dead kiddo," and he raised his beer can in a toast.

"Why don't you come too Bodie?" Ray asked, struck. "At these prices there must be some tickets left. Yeah, you and Ann Marie and me and Clare. Whaddya say? It'll be a laugh."

Bodie shook his head. "No chance. They've got 'The African Queen' on BBC2, followed by 'The Big Sleep'. I'm spending Friday night with my best mates Hepburn, Bogie and Betty Bacall. Sorry Cinders, you're on your own."

Ray shrugged it off--but it would have been nice to show off his newly found skills before his teacher. And it would be a rare treat to watch Bodie, all togged out in dinner suited splendour, twirling around the Savoy ballroom. Ray, he admonished himself, that's just silly.

"Now on BBC2, the Humphrey Bogart Double Bill opens with 'The African Queen'," and Bodie lay back on the sofa, freshly bathed, warm and cosy in his bathrobe, chilled beer can in hand, giant economy size packet of prawn cocktail flavour crisps on the floor beside him and all right with his world. Heaven, he sighed.

Katherine had just buried Robert Morley when there was a long sustained ring at the doorbell. "Hells bells and buckets of blood!" Bodie swore and ignored it. Another even lengthier peel and reluctantly Bodie padded down the draughty hallway to peer through the spyhole. Ray Doyle. What the...?

"Ray, what's up--" as Ray stormed past into the living room. Bodie trailed behind and watched with concern as Ray snapped off the TV and switched on all the lights. Bodie stood blinking in the sudden glare and regarded his partner doubtfully.

"Before you ask, it was a lovely evening Bodie," Ray said, dangerously calm, "I collected Clare at seven and we made it to the Savoy in plenty of time to see the Royal party arrive. The food was wonderful and the champagne was vintage and worth every penny. Andy Ross and His Big Band were doing us proud. Skylark. Take the A Train. Tuxedo Junction. Tangerine. Well, I recognised that didn't I? So I asked Clare, all togged out in a designer dress, to dance. Yes she said, I didn't know you could dance she said, oh didn't you I said modestly. So there she stood and there I stood and the music played."

"And?" Bodie said, out of his depth and wondering when, if ever, Ray was going to get to the point. Whatever it was, Ray was in a fine old state about it. "And?"

"And? She put her arms up. And I put my arms up. And then she walked backwards. And then I walked backwards."

Bodie gaped at him openmouthed. "Oh no."

"Oh yes," Ray continued ruthlessly as dawning comprehension began to steal across Bodie's aghast features. "Oh yes. You taught me to dance all right, but you taught me the woman's steps you bastard!"

Bodie gulped and wondered if he could get to his gun before Ray got to him.

"I've never been more embarrassed in my life," Ray stormed, "there she was, getting further and further away and looking ever so slightly confused. Andy Ross and His Big Band got a big laugh out of it I can tell you. Even Her Royal Whoreness cracked a smile. You utter utter bastard," and Ray stood with hands on hips glaring one of his patented drop dead glares.

Bodie began to manoeuvre around to try and get as much furniture between himself and Ray as possible. "Now, look Ray, I'm sorry mate, I just--didn't think," he placated, circling warily now as Ray began to stalk.

"Oh, didn't you? You smarmy git, you did this deliberately, I know you."

"No no Ray, honestly why would I?" Bodie pleaded, opening his eyes very wide and giving his innocent look.

"Don't you give me the baby blue treatment you gob-shite," Ray seethed, unappeased. "Why would you? I'll tell you why, because you are a sadistic," a cushion sailed perilously close to Bodie's left ear, "stone-hearted," a better aimed packet of crisps followed, "piss- taker," and running out of missiles Ray launched himself this time.

"Now Ray," Bodie managed, before deciding that discretion was the better part of valour and turning tail. Too late though, as Ray gave a flying tackle and managed to collar Bodie round the middle--the impetus of the onslaught carried them both to the floor.

Bodie lay winded and slightly hysterical, warding off the barrage of only half mock serious blows aimed at his defenceless body by a flint eyed Furie named Ray Doyle. There was a bit of a tussle and Bodie at last managed to lever himself up, staggering to his knees and taking refuge behind the sofa. "Aw don't be like that Ray, honest I didn't mean it, it was a mistake honest," Bodie wailed and ducked again as Ray prepared for another Geronimo leap.

"Come back you bastard and fight like a man," Ray scorned and came closer, purposefully.

One by one, each item of furniture was tried and discarded as cover, Bodie retreating as Doyle advanced.

"Ray simmer down, you're getting all upset about nothing--" by now Bodie was backing away, one hand held out pleadingly, the other hand feeling behind him for the door.

"About nothing? Nothing?" Ray's voiced squeaked out the last word, so outraged was he. "Clare made a laughing stock in front of all her friends, me the culprit. You call that nothing? Me swanking about thinking I was Gene Kelly and it turns out I'm really Cyd Charrise. You call that nothing?"

"Ray, it was a genuine mistake," Bodie ventured again, a very faint tremor of laughter in his voice.

"Ha, a likely story," Ray scorned, creeping closer. "You mean to tell me it didn't even occur to you? You being the man and me being the woman? Er--following?" For some reason, Ray stopped abruptly and blushed slowly and painfully as Bodie regarded him, baffled.

"Yes, honestly mate, it didn't even cross my mind." Bodie was braced for any response but contrarily, Ray just turned away and stomped over to steal the rest of Bodie's beer.

"I'm really sorry," Bodie said it as sincerely as he could and told himself sternly not to laugh.

"Forget it," Ray said shortly.

"That Clare didn't finish with you did she?" Bodie hazarded, this the only thing he could think of that would put Ray into such an odd mood.

"No I finished with her," Ray stated with some venom.

"Go on, you never?"

"Yeah, she was slagging me off something rotten, well you can imagine...." Bodie couldn't actually but didn't say so. "Didn't know she knew words like that even. Well I told her straight, not me duckie, I'm no limp wrist," Ray was flushed and rather bright eyed as he said this, remembering the scene.

"You mean--" and Bodie saw the light, "She accused you of being a nancy? Well, of all the little madams. Posey tart." Bodie shook his head in disgust. "You're well rid of her mate, I'll tell you that much."

"Think so?"

"Know so. About as butch as John Wayne you are, don't fret yourself."

"Oh and of course, no one in a million years has ever suspected you have they? God it must be boring being you Bodie, you're so bloody perfect at everything. Don't you ever get tired of it? Super hero, super hunk, super macho, super dancer--" Ray choked in sheer frustration.

"Erm, sorry to contradict you and all that, but quite a few people have 'suspected' me as you so delicately put it. First time was down the Dock Road when I was thirteen and a half. If I say so myself, I was even prettier then than I am now." Part of Bodie was genuinely amused at the look of mingled horror and suspicion on Ray's face. "Heh heh, that's surprised you hasn't it? What, never crossed your mind before? Come on Ray, you're not that naive, surely?"

Ray shook his head, looking quite totally stunned. Part of Bodie, a small part, actually felt sorry for him.

"Look," Ray managed, "if all this is to make me feel better about Clare calling me names, then you can just shut up. I know some of those stories you tell, about Africa and--well--just shut up, that's all." Ray sounded almost hectic as he said this, and worryingly, refused to look anywhere but at the carpet.

"Sod this, enough's enough," Bodie was exasperated and grabbed Ray and before he could speak, kissed him, hard, full on the lips.

"Wha...." Ray croaked when he was finally released.

"The sky's not fallen it has it? The world's not stopped turning has it?" Bodie questioned, fiercely. "So stop being so bloody touchy." Bodie looked a little bit cheesed off now and Ray, buffeted by a million different emotions, was out of his depth.

"Got the picture now have we?" Bodie pursued. "Yes, I have sometimes-- do still sometimes--go with men. And it doesn't make me one scrap less of a man does it? Go on, does it?" and Ray shook his head numbly. "So just 'cos some Sloane Ranger gives you down the banks about being a shirtlifter, don't get all drama queen with me sunshine," Bodie finished triumphantly.

"You--and blokes," Ray said tonelessly.

"Yes, me and blokes. Shocked to the core are we? Horrified? Ooo Mr Cowley sir that rough soldier goes with other men and we was messing about dancing Mr Cowley sir and he was holding me in his arms, ooo, what should I do?" It was mocking and nasty, put like that, but Bodie was fed up too by now. "Huh!" and it was a sound of disgust and outraged dignity and scorn.

"I wouldn't do that," Ray said. His tone was not vehement, or defensive. If anything, he sounded--happy.

Bodie scrutinised him carefully. There was something else going on here as well, he judged at last. "Well no, sorry, that was out of line even for me. I know you wouldn't." Bodie smiled, considering he owed Ray something. The reaction was not what he'd expected.

"Oh don't do that," Ray snapped.

"Do what?" Bodie looked really shocked.

"That--that smile thing you do. It's not fair, just when I think I'm in control, you do that again and it all goes out the window and then I start wanting to rip your knickers off again."

"I think I've turned over two pages at once here--what the hell are you on about now?"

"You and that smile."

"Me smiling makes you want to rip my knickers off?" Bodie asked, seeking clarification.

"No pillock, you smiling at me makes me want to rip your knickers off," Ray corrected. "Now you're gonna laugh in my face aren't you, Super Hunk?"

"Oh pack that in, you're sexier than hell as well you know, so no false modesty crap please," Bodie replied briskly. "Why should I laugh in your face?"

Ray looked at him, caught by the question. Now he actually stopped to think about it, why would he? Bodie had just stated in words of one syllable that he sometimes had sex with men. So, he must find men attractive. But not me, Ray reminded himself. Not possibly me.

"Well all that time we were--you know, when we were messing about dancing and that, you've never so much as...."

"Didn't pounce on you and rip your knickers off you mean?"

For an absurd reason, Ray blushed. "Well, yes I suppose that is what I mean," he replied, painfully honest.

"Did you want me to?" Bodie asked, fascinated by this unexpected development.

"No, 'course no--no," Ray spluttered his indignation for a few seconds, then subsided wearily, "I suppose--yes, in a way, I did," he said quietly, heartily wishing himself anywhere in the world but here.

"Hmm," Bodie pondered this and got up, pacing in a preoccupied fashion. Ray looked at him miserably.

Suddenly Bodie seemed to reach some sort of decision because he went about switching off all the lamps until just one remained. Ray watched warily.

Bodie came back then and with exaggerated care, moved the coffee table off to one side, stood up straight and with remarkable self-possession, undid and removed his bathrobe.

Ray's eyes opened very wide at the sight--Bodie, tall and splendidly naked right there in front of him, half light half shadow. His face was neutral and calm, superlatively handsome and his body.... Ray let himself look, couldn't stop himself from looking, taking the chance to see, at last, what he'd been thinking about so furtively--so desperately--for weeks now.

Bodie was holding out his arms in a familiar and inviting gesture. "You dancing?" he drawled.

Ray gulped. "You asking?" he replied, remembering the formula.

"I'm asking." Bodie stated emphatically.

"Then I'm dancing." Ray stood up and moved forward, fitting his body close to Bodie, closer than ever before and touching the bare skin of Bodie's upper arm was probably the nicest thing that had ever happened to Ray in his entire life.

They hardly moved, swaying slightly together, Ray cradled comfortably in Bodie's embrace. His own nakedness and Ray's fully clothed state was more exciting to Bodie than he would have believed possible, the rough feel of the cloth brushing against his skin as they touched, lightly at first, then getting closer and closer, the embrace becoming a hug, the hug a tight enfoldment, Ray clutching his arms around Bodie's neck, smooching up to rest his cheek against Bodie's, breathing hot and shallow into Bodie's ear.

"You look gorgeous in that dinner jacket Doyle," Bodie said softly, "really scrumptious."

Ray's face was buried in Bodie's shoulder by now but he emerged long enough to ask woozily, "Mmmmm?"

"Yeah, really gorgeous. But I bet you'd look even nicer in nothing at all," Bodie coaxed wantonly.

"You could be right," Ray said, his voice drowsy, closing his eyes in sheer contentment, "if you'll kiss me again, I'll think about it."

"God, you're cheap," Bodie said huskily but claimed his lips anyway, a sweet deep wet kiss luscious and satisfying.

"You kiss very well," Ray said, surprised at the intensity of a touch he usually found so mechanical, so meaningless.

"So I should hope," Bodie said smoothly and did it all over again. Ray was breathless and lightheaded when he was released, clinging to Bodie's shoulders to keep himself upright, his legs feeling decidedly wobbly. Bodie was really quite something when he opened up.

"You're good at everything aren't you?" Ray protested half heartedly.

"The right inspiration helps," Bodie pointed out placatingly. "And have you thought about it?"

"I've thought about nothing else for bloody weeks, you smug bastard," Ray confessed easily and began to remove his clothes, a little embarrassed by Bodie's intense gaze but at last he stood before his partner, naked and self conscious and wanting, quite badly, to be kissed again.

"C'mere you," Bodie ordered and not waiting, swept Ray into his arms, holding him tightly.

Pressed belly to belly, Ray could feel the heat of Bodie's genitals against his own, the rough touch of pubic hair and the firm muscles of Bodie's powerful legs. The hot skin so close was a delicious temptation and he stroked his hands up and down the smooth planes of Bodie's back, dipping his fingers into the valley of his spine, trailing down to the firm swell of buttocks. His hands curved, cupping the globes cherishingly.

"Mm you wicked boy, that's very naughty," Bodie sighed, gathering Ray even closer, one arm wrapped around his waist, the other firm about his shoulders.

"Kiss me again Bodie," Ray said longingly and Bodie obliged promptly, hot deep kisses, short sweet kisses, delicate, ferocious, brazen, shy-- every single sort of kiss he knew. Helpless and wanting more, Ray kissed back, highly aroused.

"Shall we sit out the next dance?" Bodie whispered and coaxed Ray back to lie upon the floor, coming at once to press full length on top of his partner. With a replete little gesture, Ray relaxed beneath him. Bodie smiled his appreciation and kissed Ray again, lightly, before turning his attention lower, stroking Ray's nipples firmly, then teasing the hardening nubs to full erection.

Ray caught his lower lip between his teeth, stabbed at the flash of instant arousal this simple touch provoked, feeling his cock leap. "God, how do you do that?" he gasped as the sweet torment went on, his nipples aching and hot beneath Bodie's hard, skillful fingers.

Bodie chuckled, delighted with Ray's response. "Just wait," he whispered, meaningfully. He stroked Ray's chest, slipping through the soft hair, lower each time, petting the other man, revelling in the feel of so much heat and muscle becoming pliant under his hands. The smooth texture of skin contrasted with the silky hair around the genitals, soft brown curls damp with body heat and arousal. Ray was firming under the attention, lazily, foreskin peeling back from the damp, ripe tip of his cock.

Ray gasped needfully, Bodie's skill sending him flying, reducing him to a bundle of nerve endings, acutely alive to the slightest touch, raising goosebumps on his flesh. "For pity's sake," he moaned, clutching convulsively at Bodie's shoulders as Bodie loomed over him, feeling the flex and tension of the muscles beneath Bodie's cream smooth skin.

"You're enjoying this," Bodie accused slyly and Ray could only nod his agreement. "Well," Bodie whispered hoarsely as he lowered his head to kiss a hard hot little nipple, "so am I actually," and his mouth opened, wet and warm and wonderful, taking the throbbing nipple inside, sucking it hungrily.

Ray arched his back instinctively and he cradled Bodie's head between his hands, feeling the silk-rough texture of Bodie's hair. It was torture, it was paradise. And if Bodie didn't touch his cock, now, he would explode.

Taking a deep gulp of breath he spoke, coaxing; husky and pleading and wanton: "Touch me Bodie please, touch my cock, I want you to so bad." He reached out for Bodie's large, capable hand and dragged it down to where he most wanted it to be, joining their two hands around his need, thrilling to the intimate touch, better than anything else he'd ever known.

"You feel nice," Bodie whispered, holding Ray firmly and beginning a slow, long slide along Ray's length, loving the helpless, sprawling reaction of Ray, incoherent now with arousal. "So nice to touch, so very nice..." and Bodie moved over, to kneel on the floor by Ray's side, his whole upper body still draped over Ray and with greedy haste bent his head towards Ray's cock.

For a moment, Ray froze, not believing that Bodie would actually do this for him, that Bodie wanted him that much but all doubts were swept away at the first lazy lick across his cockhead, the warm wet breath upon his genitals as Bodie breathed, heavy, panting breaths that betrayed his own excitement. Over and over Bodie licked, like a cat stroking its fur, then a wide wet swallow.

Ray was held in darkness, heat and darkness and the suction was wonderful, just there on the vein, then tight round the head, just the way he liked it the best, just there--oh Bodie, just there, Ray didn't know if he'd spoken the words out loud, holding Bodie's head, cradling it between his hands, loving this touch, and loving Bodie for doing this for him, such a simple, profound act, and so wonderful, so wonderful....

Climax took him by surprise, forceful and fierce, a tight explosion that tensed his stomach muscles, jerking his shoulders upwards with the force of the contractions, the pulses deep inside fading out of him sweetly, ripple after ripple. His cry was soft, almost hurt by the intense release, his flesh trembling in the aftermath, limp and sweaty and satiated. His bones felt like hot syrup under his skin, the joy of orgasm seeping into his very blood.

When Ray started to take notice again, he found Bodie, now wrapped in his robe, sitting on the floor, back against the sofa.

Ray sat up and cuppped his hand to Bodie's cheek, wanting to touch him, to thank him, to say...a million things.

"I've wanted you to do that for a long time," Ray said at last, surprising himself with the truth of the statement.

"I must be bloody dense then, cos I'd have made a play for you ages ago, given the slightest encouragement," Bodie stated with all his old easy slyness well in place.

"Would you?"

"Oh, if you knew...." Bodie sighed and pressed his head into Ray's hand.

Ray smiled at the gesture, finding it silly and yet oddly in keeping with the--lighthearted--mood that lay between them. I should have known, he thought simply, that being with Bodie, in any way, would be fun. Oh, lovely, heartcatching...yes all that. But above all fun. And Bodie was quite right, the sky hadn't fallen in and the world was still turning and surprise, surprise, Ray Doyle was in love and he wasn't worried about it at all.

"Bit cold," Bodie stated at last and levered himself up. He looked down at Ray and smiled in sheer delight. "Cor, if you could see yourself lying there all debauched and tousled," and he leaned down and planted a firm, warm kiss on Ray's lips.

"I'm chilly myself to be honest," Ray managed then with a sly glance, "Should I get dressed then?"

"Take your time," Bodie stated, making it an order and levered his partner up. "Bed for you--and me," he added wickedly.

"Thought you wanted to watch 'The Big Sleep'?" Ray dared to tease, not even noticing how comfortable he felt, or how skillfully Bodie had guided them towards the bedroom.

"Another time," Bodie dismissed airily, "can always watch it another time."

Ray slipped under the covers, aware of that faint, elusive and delicious Bodie scent rising from the bedlinen. Bodie stood, seemingly frozen.

"What's up?" Ray asked, frowning.

"Nothing at all," Bodie assured him, "just rather chuffed to get you here, at last."

Ray didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so instead he opened his arms and said, very seriously: "You dancing?"

-- THE END --

Acknowledgements: "Steptoe & Son" for the 'joke' and "The Liver Birds" for the title. 'down the banks' is a proverbial Liverpool expression that means to tell someone off, in no uncertain manner!

August 1994
Originally published in No Holds Barred 10, Kathleen Resch, October 1995

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