Early Morning Walk
She was enjoying her customary early morning walk in the park with the dogs, her mind wandering as it usually did, mainly thinking about Bodie and Doyle inventing weird and wonderful ideas for the long and involved hatstand she was currently writing, when her eyes first started to play tricks with her.
She'd just made the turn for home on her way back out of the park, having decided that the next chapter of her story would involve Doyle being captured and tortured by a group of terrorists, and being rescued by Bodie, when two track-suited joggers in the distance, entered her field of vision, coming towards her from the opposite direction.
One was wearing red, the other blue, one with a halo of curly, brown hair bouncing up and down as he ran, the other slightly taller, stockier man, having a darker, neater cap of sleek cropped hair.
They were running in step, side by side, with an uncanny and strangely familiar "togetherness" too.
They were too far away for her to make out their faces clearly, but they were getting closer with every second, and within a very short space of time she was no longer in any doubt.
"Mornin'," the darker of the two said, winking at her as they jogged past. The one with the curly hair seemed to be oblivious to her existence though, staring fixedly ahead, obviously concentrating hard on his running.
By that time she was rooted to the spot and her mouth had dropped open in astonishment. "Morning" she said weakly, as they flashed past, her greeting coming out as a hurried, throaty gasp.
She was so transfixed as she turned to follow their progress, watching the red and blue backs jogging away from her again, it was a few seconds before she realised Max and Jasper had decided to join in the fun and had gone careering after them, barking loudly, tails wagging. They were always the same when they saw anyone running, assuming there was a game in progress they might be able to join in with.
Max in particular was taking the whole thing very seriously as usual, and by the time she came to her senses, he had latched onto Doyle, running and barking enthusiastically by his side.
She ran to catch them up, calling for Max to come back.
But Doyle didn't seem to be too perturbed. He stopped, standing panting, hands on his hips, looked back at her, smiling, then bent down and started to stroke Max.
"S'allright," he said, "like dogs anyway, and this one's a beauty. What's he called?"
"Max," she said weakly, "sorry, it's because you were running. He thought you were playing with him."
"Course he did, didn't you Max?" Doyle said, tickling behind his ears, sending Max into immediate ecstasy as he stood there, tongue hanging out, lapping it all out.
By this time Jasper had found Bodie, waddling up to him uncertainly, and their relationship seemed to be doing OK too, though both were approaching it with a little more caution than Doyle and Max.
Bodie gave Jasper a light, fleeting stroke on the top of his head and Jasper seemed pleased enough about it because he immediately pressed up against Bodie's track-suited legs, panting heavily, leaning on him.
"And who's this, then?" Bodie asked, getting more into his stride, panting and stroking Jasper's back.
"Jasper," she said, "he's a bit quieter than Max, older. Sorry they interrupted your run."
"No problem," Bodie said, "he's a nice old fella, aren't you, Jasper?" with a tickle under his chin, which made Jasper growl in pleasure and look up at him adoringly. "Don't normally bother with dogs much," Bodie went on "I've got this reputation for preferring cats, started by somebody or other. Can't remember her name offhand, but she's wrong. I do like dogs."
"Aw, come on," Doyle said, down on his haunches by this time, playing with Max in earnest "unusually scared to death of em, mate, especially if they're big. Wouldn't believe he's ex-Paratroopers, would you love?" turning to her with a evil teasing grin.
"Oh, I would," she swallowed hard, "I would."
"Yeah, well he's the biggest coward goin'," Doyle said, "with dogs anyway. Ere, what're you doin' there Sunshine?'
Oh no, she thought despairingly, as Max started to nose with great interest between Doyle's legs, sniffing appreciatively . . .
"Friendly soul, isn't he?" Doyle said, laughing up at her, "does he always do this with strangers?" trying to push Max's nose out of the way - none too successfully.
"Sorry, he has a thing for feet too," she said hoarsely, flushing.
"Oh a foot fetish, eh?" Doyle said calmly enough, "you're quite a lad, aren't you, Max. Well, he's friendly enough for a first acquaintance, I'll say that for him . . . eh, gerroff . . . " chuckling, as Max nosed determinedly between his legs yet again.
"Max, come here," she ordered, wishing fervently that the earth would open and swallow her up, which it didn't of course. Max didn't take a blind bit of notice of her either.
"The randy little sod," Bodie said, grinning, walking over to them with Jasper in tow, who was trotting by his side, still staring up at him adoringly, "does this one do that too?"
"Sometimes," she admitted. "awfully sorry."
"Just so as I know," he grinned, "then I'll be prepared for it, won't I, Jasper?" squatting down too, to stroke Jasper in earnest.
Jasper, already deeply in love, took that as a sign to show his affection properly, and sat up on his back legs, placing a huge, muddy paw on each of Bodie's shoulders, nearly knocking him over, licking excitedly all over his face.
Bodie giggled, trying to escape the hot, wet licks, to no avail.
"Think you've got a friend for life there, mate," Doyle said, laughing at Jasper's onslaught.
He stood up, Max jumping and prancing around him. "What is it, eh" he said indulgently, "wanna play, do you. OK, let's see what we can find," bounding off the path and onto the grass with Max in his wake, and searching till he found a fair sized branch, throwing it for Max to retrieve.
Bodie was on his feet again too, wiping haphazardly at his wet, shining face with the bottom of his tracksuit top unselfconsciously showing a broad expanse of firm, smooth white stomach, and a small surprisingly neat little belly button as he lifted the top and mopped his face dry.
So that's what he looks like, she thought, nothing wrong with that at all, rather nice in fact. So I wonder why he never shows it, thrilled that she was possibly the first fan to ever see Bodie's normally well concealed chest and stomach.
"You come in the park every mornin'?" he asked, moving to her side.
"Yes, with the dogs," she said trying to calm her racing heart, seeing Doyle with Max bounding further and further away, really in the throes of their game now.
"Haven't seen you in here before though," she ventured.
"Nah, well we're just in this part of London for a few weeks," he said, "been transferred to this area for a while, and we both like to keep fit so an early mornin' job seemed the best idea."
It was very hard to carry on looking him straight in the eye with those deep blue, startlingly beautiful eyes melting you to a little puddle inside.
"Oh, you work together then?" pretending innocence, as they walked, Jasper still glued to Bodie's side, "what do you do?" knowing the answer already, but curious to know what Bodie would say.
"Oh, we're civil servants," he said without batting an eye, "dead borin', but it pays the rent doesn't it?"
"Yes, I suppose so," she said innocently.
"Always first thing in the mornin' when you come in the park, is it?" he asked.
God, he's actually chatting me up, she thought dazedly, heart pounding again, in a pretty restrained way for Bodie, but chatting her up nevertheless.
"Yes, always in the morning," she told him.
"Shame that," he went on, "you couldn't manage it in the evening any time could you, say about seven or eight o'clock?"
"I might," she said as casually as she could, hardly believing this was happening.
"With or without the dogs?" he asked, looking down at Jasper, and then with a meaningful blue stare in her direction.
Oh God, she thought, her insides quivering . . .
"Perhaps," she said straightaway, "how about tonight?"
Well, he had always been a fast worker, she remembered. "Tonight?"
"Yeah, tonight," he said, giving her a Bodie-like grin which turned puddle of her insides into a veritable waterfall, "I could meet you . . . " he looked around, considering, " . . . say by that bench over there, at, what? Seven o'clock? Say yes."
She took a deep breath. "OK."
"Without the dogs?" he said pleadingly, "much as I like this old fella in particular," bending down to fondle the adoring Jasper again, who was till glued to his left shin.
At that moment, Doyle and Max came flying back over the grass in their direction, both breathless. Doyle's face was flushed with the exercise, his green eyes shining.
"God, he's so full of beans," he said, "doesn't he ever quiet down?"
"Very rarely," she said.
"Great dog," Doyle said, He glanced down at his watch. "Right, come on sunshine," giving Bodie a casual dig on the arm, "we're late. Cow . . . , er our boss'll eat us alive if we're not at our desks in half an hour."
"Yeah, suppose you're right," Bodie sighed, "gotta go," he said apologetically. He bent down, stroked Jasper again, "see you, Jasper," and got another wet kiss for his trouble.
"Maybe see you again tomorrow morning," Doyle said over his shoulder as they jogged off again, while she kept a firm hold on the two dogs to stop them from going after them.
Bodie turned round, gave her a knowing grin, mouthed, "seven o'clock tonight . . ." before he jogged off by Doyle's side.
She looked down at the dogs. Max was looking very bright and alert, tail still wagging, having enjoyed his game with the strange energetic young man, but Jasper . . .
Poor old Jasper was staring after Bodie with a despairing expression on his face, making pathetic little whimpering sounds in the back of his throat.
"Don't worry, Jasper, we'll see him again . . . " she assured him as they turned in the opposite direction and made their way back home . . .
-- THE END --