Shades of Green
The smell of baking pastry greeted Bodie as he opened the front door and hunger assaulted him. Six o'clock was a time usually haunted by the spectres of starvation in any case, and the Mars bar he had eaten on the way home had not even filled a corner. If anything, he was MORE hungry, and he remembered reading that if you consumed sugar it hit your pancreas, flooding your system with insulin, making you even more ravenous. That must be it, then, he thought, following his nose to the kitchen in search of something edible.
The kitchen was a Shambles a la Raymond--an orderly chaos as fascinating as it was daunting, and in the midst of it was Doyle, listening to the News on the radio, a cup of tea in one hand, reading glasses perched on his nose as he scanned a slip of paper cut from the side of a sultana bag a year ago and "lost" under the tea spoons in the cutlery drawer.
Ah, domesticity, Bodie thought with a twist of good humour and a flood of familiar affection. Doyle was wearing his new green, crushed-velvet jeans, and, apparently, nothing else. The kitchen was like a cross between a furnace and a sauna, with three out of four burners going as well as the oven and kettle, and Bodie was cooking along with the apples in a moment. No wonder Doyle was shirtless and barefoot. He had flour on his hair too, doubtlessly deposited there as he scratched his temple in concentration over some problem.
"Good God, this place looks like it's been nuked," Bodie said by way of greeting, chucking his jacket at a chair and taking a deep breath before stepping into the humid heat.
Ray looked up with a grin. "Cheeky. Did you get the stuff?"
"I got the stuff. Three dozen sausage rolls, two dozen meat pies, six dozen fruit tarts, six dozen--" He broke off to drop a large, wet kiss on Doyle's stewed apple-sweet mouth, drawing him into an embrace. "What I can't work out is why you're working your pretty little fingers to the bone with this lot. I mean, why not just order in ALL the nosh and have done with it?"
"Was bored," Doyle shrugged. "Idle hands, you know. Thought you'd be off work today too, but Cowley made a muck of THAT. Reckon he begrudges us time to ourselves, you know."
"Probably guessed what our idle little hands get up to when we are by ourselves," Bodie grinned.
Doyle put down his tea and looped both arms about Bodie's neck. "Maybe so. Besides, I enjoy mucking about cookin' things. Give me a kiss, then I've got to take the chicken pie out of the oven before it's done to a crisp."
Bodie obliged, swiping at the flour on the curls by Ray's ear. "You look like a leprechaun," he accused.
"Ta." One green eye winked at him. "Got a pot of gold hidden on top of the wardrobe. Want a cuppa?"
"Want something to EAT," Bodie corrected. "I'm starved." He lifted the corner of a tea towel from a cooler rack and smacked his lips at the apple turnovers underneath.
"Just don't eat the lot, will you," Doyle smiled, turning off the kettle and slopping boiling water into Bodie's cup before he yanked the pie out of the oven.
"You've made enough to feed the five thousand anyway," Bodie muffled through a bite of cream, fruit and pastry, guessing correctly that the cream was getting everywhere.
"And the way YOU eat, there probably isn't enough--even though we've got the stuff in from the caterers." Doyle looked at the time. "Murphy's handling the booze--Bailey's, Irish Mist, Guinness and what have you. And Susan should have got the decorations up by now. Murph gave her a key to get in as soon as she knocked off at three."
Bodie made a mournful face. "Two or three dozen sozzled coppers and security men and CI5 wallahs, singing 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling' at two in the morning till the neighbours bang on the walls." He sighed. "One of these days we'll just stay at home in bed, put the green sheets on, play the Golden Hour of Irish Ballads, sink a bottle of Irish Mist and lay each other witless. These parties are a pain in the rear end." He sucked the last of the cream from his fingers and reached for his cup of tea.
He almost did not hear the heavy sigh that passed Doyle's lips, because the BBC was broadcasting a verbal duel between Margaret Thatcher and some politician who seemed to fancy following in Anne Boleyn's footsteps. Half-turned away, Doyle was hiding a slightly hurt expression, and Bodie shook his head in exasperation. He put down the cup and followed his love to the sink, kissing the back of his neck, under the warm curls. "Hey, I'm just bitching about the crowd," he said. "It'll be fun. Always is. And I know how much you enjoy these bashes."
"Takes me back to when I was a kid." Doyle turned around, hands on Bodie's hips. "Big Irish ghetto. Hundreds of us, all related. Marriages, christenings, wakes, Christmas and New Year. And today." He shrugged. "It's just an old family tradition, I suppose. Doesn't mean much to you, but- - -"
"Oi." Bodie tipped Doyle's chin up to look him in the eye. "I like parties. I like seeing you enjoying yourself. You can't be complaining if I admit I'd prefer to be at home in bed enjoying a nice, quiet evening's loving, though." He chuckled. "By two in the am we'll be so far stoned we'll crash out behind the settee at Murphy's, and won't be fit to be kissed till Tuesday. Seems a waste, somehow. Specially since you've got your new pants on, and you know perfectly well what they do for your rear, and thus, for your poor old, long-suffering lover."
Doyle had to laugh. "Point. Got a green silk shirt too. Shopped for it this afternoon--shame you had to work today, you could've come."
"Oooooh, you can say that again," Bodie moaned.
"What? Oh." Ray dug him in the ribs with one finger. "Come SHOPPING with me, you clot. Look, Murphy's got two bedrooms at his flat. If we're careful we can sneak away for ten minutes--"
"Ten minutes?" Bodie sounded horrified.
"Well, maybe we can manage fifteen," Doyle smiled. "By midnight or so they'll be too soused to notice we've gone, and if we don't hit the hard stuff TOO hard we'll be capable. AND we won't be hung over tomorrow."
"Raymond, that's not a bad idea." Bodie kissed him thoroughly and let him go. "I'll hold you to that. Got to get changed now, if we're not going to be late. Finished cooking, have you, Fanny Craddock?" He swatted Doyle's rump as he said it and blinked. "You're not wearing any underwear, are you?"
"You must be clairvoyant," Doyle said innocently, then laughed. "Nah, I'm just bein' self-indulgent, mate. Besides, I haven't got any green. Green silk shirt, green socks, green velvets, even got some green shoes--"
"They're blue," Bodie argued.
"GreenISH, then," Doyle shrugged. "No green underwear. So..."
"Any bloody excuse," Bodie sighed. "Randy twerp. You're going to look like a parrot."
In fact, he looked like a leprechaun, wearing every bit of gold he had too; Bodie went as far as a green shirt, Susan had on a green dress, and green pantyhose, but Murphy had gone the whole hog too. He and Doyle came from a similar background and threw themselves wholeheartedly into this. Susan had done a wonderful job with the decorations: there were huge paper shamrocks all over the place, streamers tacked up between them, and she had three bandaids on her left thumb. Bodie gave a snort of laughter as he saw it and wondered how hard she had hit it.
The hi-fi was playing "Black Velvet Band," and a black beer was shoved into his hand as he and Doyle appeared. Porter. Very appropriate. If many of the folk here tonight drank much more they'd have to be carried home... Cowley would be DELIGHTED--it was a good thing that this only happened once a year.
Doyle was right behind him with one box of food, and he threw the keys to Murphy as he took his own glass of Porter. "Two more boxes down in the car as well," he said over the din. "Send Macklin and Towser--I'd LOVE to see them reduced to beasts of burden just once."
A shriek of "food!" went up as the box was set down, and the assorted partyers fell on it like vultures. Bodie dived in fast, rescuing enough of Ray's cooking to fill a corner or two before they got down to the caterer's bulk order. As usual, home-made food vanished first and fast, and he guffawed as he heard The Chef collect three light-hearted proposals of marriage--only one of which issued from a woman...
If the two blokes only knew!
But they didn't, and since they were denizens of the London Met, invited by Anson and Jax, it was just as well. Mellow and full, Bodie yanked Ray down onto the sofa, out of the way of the dancing as they put on a new LP, the Irish Party Hour, with the old favourites, The Batchelors...
The crowd was drinking steadily and getting sillier, but Doyle spun out his Bailey's, not wanting to lose the evening to a haze of alcohol and wake up in a heap behind the sofa in the morning, wishing he was dead. By ten though, even he had imbibed enough to be a huge, relaxed smile attached to a lax, green-clad body.
When Murphy, some time later, yelled for party stunts, Doyle was fair game and loving it. Just one drink ahead of Doyle, Bodie watched, as bemused as delighted, as his life's partner got up and performed. The "dance floor" was cleared by mutual consent and Murph yanked the rugs out of the way to expose the floorboards while Susan changed the record, picking up a specific track. "The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore." Bodie's jaw dropped. "Bloody 'ell, I 'ad no idea he could do that!" Then vaguely he remembered an admission Doyle had made a long time before. At the time, Bodie had taken it for a joke, but obviously Ray had been absolutely honest. How was it that, as a rule, the more honest you were the less likely you were to be believed? "You weren't a boy scout, were you?" "No, I took dancing lessons."
Should've known, with legs like that, Bodie thought wryly, watching Ray do the Gene Kelly routine--a surprisingly good rendition of it, too--from "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." Ray was as fit as a fiddle, lithe and athletic, and had all the co-ordination and timing George Cowley demanded of his field agents, so Kelly's antics came easily.
The applause blew the roof off. Doyle took a bow and flopped down on the sofa again. Bodie's voice was lost under the noise as Susan set off to do "My Wild Irish Rose," the gender adapted for a woman. She seemed to be singing it to Murphy, and both of them were slightly squiffy, which made one speculate--
"How come you can't tap dance when you're sober?" Bodie demanded.
"I can," Doyle grinned. "And I AM sober."
"But--you never do," Bodie protested indignantly.
"I'm not an exhibitionist," Doyle shrugged offhandedly.
"Liar," Bodie breathed into his ear. "Yes you bloody well are."
"What time is it?" Doyle asked.
"What--oh, about eleven. Why?"
Doyle blinked at him. "This lot's smashed, they're making the devil's own racket, we're NEARLY cold sober, and Murphy's got a spare bedroom that's just begging to be put to SOME good use." He batted his eyelashes. "Bodie?"
But Bodie said nothing, hauling him to his feet. On the way out of the chaotic living room, ever practical, he grabbed the box of Kleenex and commandeered half the contents. The hi-fi and din diminished as they shut Murphy's spare bedroom door and, in the dark, fell into a tight embrace.
"Wanna put the light on?" Doyle murmured.
"Nah--don't want anyone wondering who's left the light on and comin' in to turn it off." Paranoia made Bodie slip the bulb on for a second to make sure they WERE alone--it would be just their luck if another couple had had the same idea. Then he hooked a chair under the door knob and grabbed Doyle. "Let's have you, sweetheart. Can't take too long, or they'll be wondering what's become of us."
"Don't wait for me," Ray panted. "I'm as ready as I'll ever be--"
Bodie had the green crushed velvet half-way off and chuckled. "You ARE, aren't you? Sexy little sod." He kissed the uplifted mouth deeply, wishing he could SEE Doyle like this, his greenery cast aside to display the tender arousal of a man in love, his eyes literally luminous, mouth swollen with a fierce desire. No--maybe it was better that it was invisible, or the whole deed wouldn't have lasted ten minutes!
Murphy's spare bed creaked ominously, so they switched to the silent conspiracy of the floor, and Bodie rubbed his back over the tickling carpet as Doyle stretched out on him, rocking deliciously. Bodie moaned, a sound wisely muffled by Ray's mouth, and it did not take long. They were flying too high on each other and the evening to need much preamble.
As he came, Bodie chuckled low in his chest. "Wha--?" Doyle demanded, collapsing in a sticky tangle on him, and Bodie smothered him with a kiss.
"I was just wondering if Murphy'll ever guess what transpired on the floor in his spare room."
"Hope not," Doyle chuckled. "But it was soooo nice. Thanks, Bodie."
"You're thankin' me for a loving? Makes a change." Bodie dug for the tissues and performed a quick clean-up.
"No, for coming--"
"No need to thank me for that," Bodie said, wickedly innocent.
"Twit. For coming to the party." Ray had his clothes straight as he stooped to touch his lips to Bodie's temple. "Happy Saint Patrick's Day, love."
"Oh, is that what it is? I thought everyone'd suddenly got a parrot fixation." Bodie gave his hands to Doyle and was pulled to his feet. "Legs feel a bit like rubber. You?"
"Elastic," Doyle agreed, unhooking the chair from the door knob.
"Good thing you got your Gene Kelly act done with before," Bodie said sagely, "or you'd be in heaps of trouble." He patted the little velvet-bound rump as Ray opened the door and checked the passage. "All clear ahead?"
"Except for the icebergs," Doyle yawned. "Better get back to the merry throng before they send out the tracking dogs."
Bodie echoed the yawn. "I'll just toss the evidence down the loo. Hey, Ray?" As Doyle turned back he collected a kiss, full on the mouth. "Love you."
"Love you," Ray whispered, then was gone, back to the light and noise.
As Bodie rejoined the crowd he swallowed a groan...George Cowley sat in the chair by the hearth with an Irish whisky in one hand and a made-in-Raymond's-kitchen apricot pie in the other, laughing politely at some witticism made by Anson. So even the Scottish enjoyed themselves on March 17th. Bodie put on a smile and tried to lose himself in the crush by the hi-fi, which was playing "The Cottage On The Old Dungannon Road" album now. When the hell had Cowley arrived? Had he seen the two of them sneak away? Those snake eyes of his didn't miss a thing, Bodie was quite well aware. And if he HAD seen 3.7 haul 4.5 off the sofa and vanish for a quarter of an hour, what would he make of it? Bodie grabbed Doyle by the elbow as he approached within grabbing distance.
"Bloody 'ell." Doyle's cheeks flushed a little but his eyes were laughing. "No one's noticed, by the looks of 'em. Murphy's gone to sleep, Susan's nodding off. Anson's smashed. Jax looked glazed over."
"And we," Bodie grinned, "are sober. Why don't we go and show the old man that there's SOME responsible souls here?"
"Responsible?" Ray's voice leapt several octaves. "The rest of these bozos are only drinkin'. WE were..." He broke off and laughed.
"Yeah, we certainly were," Bodie agreed. "But they don't know that."
"And what does Cowley know?"
"I dunno," Bodie admitted. "But maybe we can find out without having to ask awkward questions."
Doyle frowned. "How?"
Bodie tapped his nose. "Irish intuition. You look him square in those cool, killer eyes of his and see what his face says while his lips are being polite."
"He might just sack us on the spot," Ray said dubiously. "Oh, hell. We've been living together for six months--he's not THAT thick, is he?"
"Raymond, nobody's THAT thick," Bodie said bleakly.
"So he knows."
"And we'll have just confirmed his suspicions." Doyle sighed. "Time to face the music?"
"Time," Bodie agreed despondently, "to face the music."
Cowley watched his two top field agents approach, battling their way through the crowd, and they peered at his immobile face, trying to gauge his expression. The trouble was, there wasn't one. He raised his glass to them as they came to a halt by the hearth.
"Evening, sir," Bodie ventured brightly. "Enjoying yourself?"
"As a matter of fact, I am," the Scot admitted. "You're sober."
"As a judge," Doyle agreed. "Or two judges, counting both of us."
"Odd, given your usual habits," Cowley observed.
"Got to be at work at nine in the morning," Bodie said earnestly. "Going to go home to bed by midnight like good lads, too." The fact that, if they got into bed that early they wouldn't get to sleep before two had nothing to do with it, he thought ruefully.
Cowley gave the pair of them a stern look, getting to his feet. For one terrible moment they were sure he was going to read them a lecture on the evils of insubordination, parties, Irish whisky and bisexuality, right there on the hearthrug, but the older man simply finished his drink, handed the empty glass to Doyle and marched to the door. Bodie had breathed a sigh of relief before he saw Cowley stop, half-way through the door, turn back and accord them both an exasperated shake of the head.
Neither did Doyle miss the expression. "Maybe we'll be sacked in the morning," he muttered.
"Well, love on the dole sounds okay," Bodie said brashly. "You get to sleep late every morning. I can always dig ditches and you could pose in the raw for life classes." He laughed at the horrified shudder that shook his lover. "No way, mate. When Cowley's really angry his eyes glitter and his mouth pulls tight and he looks ten years older... He needs us, I reckon. He needs you nearly as much as I need you."
"And half as much as I need YOU," Ray said, smiling a little sheepishly. He glanced around at the party; it was winding down fast as sundry agents, police officers and security men crashed out in batches. Doyle himself was yawning. "Been a nice bash, hasn't it? But we've had the best of it... I'm tired, I'm sober, and I wanna go home to bed."
"Now there's a novel idea," Bodie said, apparently intrigued. He dug for his carkeys. "The door's over yonder, my love. Tell you what, we won't slam it on the way out. Too many people 'round here trying to sleep."
-- THE END --