"Have you ever thought," asked Murphy, "how many Irishmen- people of Irish descent-we have on the squad? I mean, there's you and me, Bodie, Tommy McKay, God rest 'im-there's a rumour that Uncle George had an Irish granny..."
"Vicious slur on the Irish, that," snorted Doyle, nose in pint.
Murphy sighed: Doyle was still in a bad mood, and their planned evening of celebration looked like becoming a wash-out.
"We could go and pull a couple of birds," suggested Murphy with little hope. Doyle glared at him over the rim of his glass. He didn't want a bird tonight; he wanted Bodie. But Bodie had gone off with Marianne, the nurse that had been taking care of him since he was brought in from the Cockpit. Today, the day the doctor finally pronounced him fit and let him out, Doyle had arranged to take Tommy to the match. He'd even conned Jax into coming along, too, because he knew the other agent would take the kid off later, leaving him free to be alone with his lunatic other half... His first night out, and he has to spend it with a woman, Doyle thought miserably.
Murph was nudging him. He looked up.
"What about a pub-crawl?" He grinned. "Come on, Ray-couple of Irish lads like us should be able to have some fun of a Saturday night..."
Doyle downed the rest of his drink and smiled at the younger man.
"Why not? This is supposed to be a celebration. We could-" He stopped abruptly, his eyes lighting on the figure that had just walked through the door.
Murphy twisted in his seat, following his colleague's gaze. The dark head turned towards them, and Bodie's face lit up with his usual manic grin before he disappeared behind a wall of booze-buying people. He emerged moments later totally unruffled, with a laden tray in hand, making straight for them.
"Murph," he greeted. He merely smiled at his partner. "Anson told me where you'd be, so I thought I'd come down and join you."
"I'd've thought you and that nurse would've been well away by now," Doyle remarked somewhat tartly.
Bodie had the grace to colour ever so slightly.
"I was being polite. We had a great afternoon, but she's on duty tonight-gets busy Saturday night..." He doled out the glasses and put the tray on the floor. Doyle sipped at his beer, eyeing his partner over the rim.
"Ray and I were about to go out and hit the bars," Murph said. "Fancy tagging along?"
Bodie grinned and nodded. It was the beginning of a busy evening.
They wound up at a waterfront tavern and adjourned to the only uncluttered corner they could find. It was Murph's turn to fetch the drinks, and, judging from the press round the bar, it would give them a much-needed chance to talk. Bodie leaned forward in the shadow of their alcove, his shoulder brushing Doyle's.
"I know you're mad at me, but I owed Marianne an apology. How'd the match go?"
"We slayed 'em," Doyle replied with a certain amount of satisfaction. He reached for his partner's hand.
Bodie pulled away sharply.
"Not here, Ray," he whispered urgently. "Someone might see..."
"I only wanted you to hold out your hand," Doyle snorted.
Tentatively, Bodie did so. His companion delved into his jacket pocket and produced a small package which he placed on his mate's palm. Carefully, he folded Bodie's fingers round it.
"What is it?"
"A present." Doyle regarded the pale face inches from his own. "Aren't you going to open it?"
Bodie eyed it with suspicion.
"It's not gonna go off, is it?"
"Open it and find out," Doyle coaxed.
Cautiously, Bodie stripped off the wrapping, revealing a small box. A brief glance at Doyle and he prised the lid off. A shy smile replaced the wary expression as he extracted the chain and held it up to examine the pendant. He turned the medallion over and met his partner's anxious gaze.
"Thanks, Ray, it's-"
"In case there's another time when I'm not around to look after you."
Bodie's eyes dropped under the intensity of that look, and he swallowed.
"You're my partner, Ray... Thought we'd always-be together..."
Murphy arrived at that moment and set down a beer-laden tray. He noticed the wreckage of the gift immediately, raising an inquisitive eyebrow.
"Good luck charm," Doyle explained as he confiscated a pint.
"He doesn't need one," Murphy remarked dryly. "We Irish make our own luck."
Bodie smiled into his beer.
"Some people," Doyle observed, "need a bit of extra..."
Murphy's eyes flicked from one to the other: it was time to call it a night. It wasn't long before he excused himself to visit the gent's as a prelude to going home. When he emerged from the toilets, he glanced across the lounge to see his colleagues still seated in the corner, their heads together. To his eyes, they looked like a pair of lovers...
"D'you think he knows?"
It was approaching midnight, and Bodie was lying naked beneath the duvet. One arm was crooked under his head to augment the pillow. Beside him, Doyle abandoned the attempt to sleep and wriggled round to face his partner.
"Ray, I said-"
"I heard you the first time." He sighed. "Murph's smart enough to guess-he's also the soul of discretion. He wouldn't give us away." He yawned suddenly. "Go to sleep, mate..." He shuffled closer to Bodie's hot, damp body, and a strong arm slid round him. His hand glided over the smooth chest. "Oi, where'd you put your chain?"
"Jacket pocket," Bodie confessed. "All right," to forestall anymore discussion, "I'll put it on."
He rolled clear and slipped from under the covers. He retrieved the box and brought it back to the bed. Doyle sat up sleepily and took it from him. He opened it, pouring the silver necklace into his sticky palm, juggling it from hand to hand for a minute or so while Bodie burrowed back into the warmth.
Bodie struggled up obediently and let his mate slip the chain round throat. Soft lips brushed against the catch and trailed from his nape to his shoulder... Smiling drowsily, he twisted round and, dragging Doyle against him, returned the kiss...
They settled against the pillows and switched off the light. The last thing Bodie remembered was the gentle fingers of his lover playing with the pendant and a sleepy voice...
"Now you belong to me..."
Bodie was changing in the looker room early on Monday morning when Murphy breezed in. Bodie hesitated for a fraction of a second, half expecting some sort of-condemnation. When none was forthcoming, he pulled his poloneck on, hiding the medallion from plain sight, knowing that the other agent had seen it. Sooner or later words would be spoken: he had long been of the opinion that attack was the beat form of defence.
"Murph-" He stopped, totally lost for words.
The younger man looked up, pausing in the unravelling of his laces, and smiled.
"If it's about Saturday night," he said helpfully, "forget it. What you and Ray get up to off duty is your own business. As long as you don't foul up on the job-"
Bodie stared at him.
"You don't owe me an explanation." He met the other man's somewhat abashed gaze. "And I won't ask for one. If you want to talk, I'll listen: if not..."
Bodie swallowed and finally managed to speak.
"That's-thanks, Murph, I appreciate it." A thought nagged at him. "Was-was it that obvious?"
Murphy finished undoing his shoes.
"If it had been," he replied, "I'd've left you two earlier..."
The reference to time caused both men to cheek their watches.
"Speaking of which, I'd better go." Murphy punched him lightly on the arm as he darted off.
Bodie sank onto one of the benches, weak at the knees with relief. Doyle found him three minutes later, still contemplating his trainers...
The bar at the Red Lion was half-full of civil servants and other office staff when they dropped in that evening. Bodie bought the drinks and made it back to their table unscathed. Doyle and Murphy were discussing the benefits of being Irish.
"Did you know," Doyle asked his other half conversationally, "about the rumour that Cowley once had an Irish granny?"
Bodie shook his head, grinned impishly.
"Did you know that the Irish only have nine pairs of genes between them," he countered, raising his glass.
"Which, technically, means that we're all related," added Murphy as he filched a pint. "Distantly."
Doyle's eyebrows shot up, and he caught his partner's eye.
"All that inbreeding-you know what that means, don't you, sunshine?"
Bodie wasn't ignorant of the implications.
"Yeah," he said softly, glancing at Murphy briefly. "That makes us cousins."
Murphy smiled at both of them and lifted his pint.
"It's not every day you come across long-lost relatives-here's to family!" He took a sip, watching the others over the rim of his glass.
"Good friends," Bodie toasted him.
They turned their eyes to Doyle expectantly. He picked up his beer, acknowledging his fellow agent, his gaze locking with his lover's as he spoke.
"To Cowley's Irish kinsmen!"
-- THE END --
with thanks to Tina