Living in Hope


(After When The Heat Cools Off)

It had gone on for about a week when I finally decided to try and shake some sense into Ray.

I wouldn't have minded if he'd had his usual angry 'me against the world' reaction but since the Haydon business he'd just retreated into himself, like he'd given up, and he'd adopted a very defeatist attitude too. All that bright, street wise chirpiness of his had vanished. And he seemed to have lost interest in everything. I never even saw him tinkering with that beloved bike of his anymore. The truth was he just wasn't trying. He was on a self hate trip to beat all self hate trips.

And he'd hardly set foot outside of his flat during off duty hours since it had happened, almost as if he was scared to go out and meet people, so I went round there, tried to persuade him to make a double date with these two new barmaids I'd found at the Crown and Anchor. I was even prepared to let him have the best looking one too, and figured he could have shown willing after I'd gone to so much trouble.

But he didn't want to know, did he? Just sat there looking at me with a funny, pained, intense little expression in his eyes and said, 'sorry mate, I'm not in the mood. You go. I wouldn't be good company anyway.'

Lost his nerve you see. Understandable, considering how that calculating murdering bitch had used him and played with his emotions to try and get her father out of jail, but not something I could allow to continue. So I had another go, you know, trying to whet his appetite a bit.

'Tall, long blonde hair ...' I said, really giving it all I'd got, '... and the most incredible legs ...'

At least it raised a smile. 'Yeah, I've heard it all before,' he said ruefully, 'and then when I get there the turn out to be fifteen stone female wrestlers or something ..'

You see' No way to reach him. Retreated into his shell and didn't want to come out again. Ray's a fighter, for Christ's sake. He doesn't normally go under.

I felt so frustrated. It seemed there was nothing I could do to help and it was driving me crazy. I can't bear the thought of Ray being hurt or unhappy, and for all his supposed toughness, he can be hurt so easily. Specially by women. Most of them ed up by walking all over him. Time after time. Still a sucker for a pretty face and a few tears is Ray.

So I tried the harder approach. Pointed out if he didn't make the effort he wasn't ever gonna get out of his depression. Shouldn't have said that. It wasn't very clever. He doesn't like to be reminded of those moods of his because they can really get on top of him at times.

He got ratty then, told me to piss off and leave him alone. For a couple of seconds, I even felt like retaliating, then I took another look at him and it nearly broke my heart to see how unhappy he looked. There was no way I was leaving him when he looked like that, so I said, 'OK, I'll stay too then. Wouldn't enjoy it if you weren't there anyway,' trying to sound very casual about it, as if I wasn't at all worried about him.

He looked a bit wary though, reminded me he didn't need nurse-maiding, told me I shouldn't let Sally down.

'Oh, that's all right,' I said, 'I'll give her a ring. She'll understand.' Which she did. No trouble at all. Well, it's dead easy isn't it, when you lace the excuses with the right kind of charm' There'd be other night for Sally. Right now Ray was more important.

'9' out of 10,' he said cynically when I flopped next to him on the sofa again, 'you went a bit overboard with te sick friend routine.' He was trying to goad me of course, being in such a ratty mood, but there was no way I was gonna fall for it.

'Yeah, but it works every time,' I reminded him. You see Ray's trouble is he doesn't know how to treat women. He always lets 'em get the upper hand and deep down inside they don't want it that way.

He went all quiet and mood then, just sort of staring into space for a while, and I wasn't quite sure what to do. I was a bit nervous if you want the truth. I mean, with anyone else I'd have backed off like crazy from this level of involvement - it's just not my scene - but with Ray, well, I can't do that. He's too special. And we share so much it's like Ray's problems are my own anyway, so if he's hurting I'm hurting too. And I was feeling so bloody frustrated from wanting to take his pain way and knowing I couldn't.

It hadn't been easy being with Ray over the past couple of months in any case, trying to hide the pain and the jealousy every time he found a new girl. Well, why d'you think I always encourage him to stick to the barmaid type' Because they're the straightforward, one night stands, that's why. And if he's gonna have girls it's a hell of a lot easier to take it if he keeps to that. Pathetic I know. Me, straightforward, womanizing Bodie, suddenly finding himself in the throes of falling for his partner like this, but I can't help it.

But it's all right. I mean, I've been through worse, and I'll get over it. And I'll need to if I wanna carry on working with him. Apart from anything else I admire Ray. He's good partner and a good mate. The best. No double in my mind on that score, even though we've only been teamed for a few months, and didn't like each other at all in the beginning - you know, neither of us wanting the other to discover our weaknesses. But we've long since passed that stage. We're working as a proper team now and it's too good to waste.

And I don't even know why I feel like this about him. Believe me, I've thought about it long and hard over the past couple of months. He's just ... oh, Christ, he's just so appealing ... and fascinating. Such a paradox for a start. A mass of contradictions. I've never known anyone like him. One minute he can be soft and sensitive, and the next hard as nails. You can never really work him out so he's a challenge I suppose. Oh, I dunno maybe it's not that at all. Maybe it's because he's so bloody beautiful. He is, you know. If you saw him you'd know what I mean. So beautiful I ache inside with wanting him at times...

And he needs so much looking after too, for all he comes on with the tough, ex-cop act at every opportunity. He needs taking care of practically all the time, does Ray. Well, look what happened to him with the Haydon bitch'

I know I'm goon have to watch myself with him too. I hung around far too much during the Haydon case. Sitting around like a bloody gooseberry all the time, pretending I was just as involved and enthusiastic about it was he was. Anything so I could keep an eye on him .. and her ...

And I know I carry a lot of blame for the whole thing too. Apart from the act that I was bloody stupid enough to tell him he'd have to go and speak to Haydon if he was ever going to have any peace of mind, that first night she cornered him in the restaurant, I had a feeling about her, and I should have done something about it - spoken to Ray or the Cow about my suspicions. Too scared I'd come across as jealous and possessive, so I let him carry on. I let him get involved, and look at the result' He wouldn't have got himself into such a state if only I'd looked after him better at the time, and cottoned onto her sooner.

God, he's so naive, so easily taken in. It's as if he feels he has a duty to fall for every girl he meets, as if he doesn't think it's quite 'right' to go to bed with them if he doesn't. Why the hell can't he love 'em and leave 'em and keep things in their proper perspective'

Anyway, to go back to that particular night ...

He sat there for along time not saying anything, leaning back on the sofa with his eyes closed, all tense and strung up next to me, with me trying to ignore how close he was and how sweet it was to have him only inches away from me.

I didn't know what to do for the best, but I knew I had to do something, finally decided it might be a good idea to try and get him to talk about it. He'd never really talked to me about it, not deeply. Well, he wouldn't, would he' He never talk to me about his girlfriends,. He can keep himself very much to himself when he wants to can Ray. Always an air of mystery about him. Maybe that's part of the attraction.

So I said, 'for God's sake, Ray, what's the matter with you' Not still pining for the girl, are you'?

He sat up when I said that, twisted away from me. 'Christ, no,' he said, sounding very angry, 'don't you understand, Bodie' I've been taken for a bloody fool, and I don't like it. Not for the first time either. Have you any idea how that makes me feel'?

He was so upset he was nearly crying. So was I if you want the truth - inside anyway - but I can hide it better than him. I knew he wasn't telling me everything either. He'd fallen for her all right, but he couldn't admit to it because he was ashamed of being taken in by her.

The way he was feeling it seemed there was nothing for it but to try and be matter of fact about it though. No good trying to lie to him. What he'd said was true anyway.

'Yeah, OK,' I said, 'but I was taken in by her too, remember' I was right by your side every step of the way. I wanted it to be true just as much as you did.'

That was a lie of course. I'd wanted to get rid of her, like I've wanted to get rid of every girl Ray goes out with recently, but what else could I say'

He didn't seem too convinced either because he said, 'you're a liar, Bodie.' those probing green eyes of his holding mine, 'come on, you didn't even like her.'

That surprised me a bit. I hadn't realised I'd given so much away. 'Maybe not, ' I said, 'but I believed her. She got to me too.'

'Oh Christ, Bodie, I get so sick of myself sometimes,' he said suddenly, his voice all shaky and hoarse, sort of visibly crumpling in front of me, putting his hands up to cover his eyes.

'...You'd think I'd know better by now, wouldn't you'? He was saying, sounding so ... biter and angry about it, 'but I always get so fuckin' involved in everything ... don't seem to be able to hold back.'

Well of course he gets involved. He's too bloody moralistic. Give him a 'cause' and he's well away. He couldn't bear the though of maybe bein' instrumental in sending an innocent man to jail. Preyed on his mind so much he had to do somethin' about it, didn't he, him being the way he is' And she realised it too, of course, and played on that side of is nature ...

He'd turned away from me properly by this time to hide the fact that he'd started to cry and I couldn't stand to see him hurting so much, so I forgot about everything I should've been trying to hide from him and pulled him against my shoulder and held him very tightly, smoothing back those endearing, ragged curls of his, loving the silky feel of them against my hand.

God, he felt so wonderful in my arms. I'd wanted it so much - that firm, strong, hot little body of his pressing so close to me, wanting me to hold him, his arms going round my waist, pulling me closer.

I'd never held him before, so I hadn't realised quite how skinny he was. So skinny I could feel his ribs and the boniness of his back. I loved the contrasts - feeling the difference between us in shape and contour ... the thick curliness of his hair, the wiriness of his arms, the tight, hard leanness of the thigh resting against mine. So different from me. Not an ounce of unwanted fat anywhere either. All clean, hard smooth leanness.

He took my breath away. Not just because he was so good to hold either. I'd known he would be. Well, he's so beautiful how could he be anything else'

No, it was the way he was holding onto me in return that got to me most of all. The fact that he wanted this from me.

He was making it so hard for me to control though. He had me pressed right back on the sofa, with his head under my chin so my face kept rubbing against those curls of his, and his hands kept sweeping over my back and shoulders, and then he'd wriggle a bit closer and sweep his hands up and down my back all over again ...

So bloody innocent too. He had absolutely no idea what he was doing to me.

And I was surprised at how much he clung to me because he'd never given the impression he was the kind of person who needed a lot of affection. Always seemed so confident and self assured. It was wonderful to find out that underneath that tough, cocky little exterior he did need me.

I suppose holding him like that made me a bit soppy. Well, I remember after a while I started coming out with all kinds of crazy things, telling him even if everyone else let him down I never would, that he could always depend on me, trust that I'd never disappoint him. You know, soppy things ... the kind of thing I wouldn't normally want to say to anyone.

And I remember he told me he trusted me too, and that meant a lot, considering what he'd just been through. If it'd been me I probably wouldn't have felt like trusting ever again. And he kept saying he was sorry - over and over - even while he was still clinging to me. And I kept saying he wasn't to bother .. what were friends for anyway'

On reflection I think I might even have given the game away. Well, from the way I behaved I don't suppose he could have been in much doubt that he meant a hell of a lot to me. But how else could I have behaved' The whole point of it was to reassure him and make him feel wanted, wasn't it'

I dunno how long we lay there like that. Quite a while I think. I wasn't counting the minutes. I only know I never wanted it to end. I remember I kept debating whether I dared risk doing anything else ... only little things you understand, like maybe kissing the top of his head, or rubbing my cheek against his ... but I backed off every time I though of it, didn't have the nerve I suppose when it came right down to it. Well he had enough on his mind anyway, without me. I would just have created another problem for him and that was the last thing he needed.

Anyway, he pulled away eventually, leaving me feeling all lost and empty inside, but I'd expected that and was ready for it.

He seemed fine too. I think having a cry did him good. He even pulled himself together and said we should go out after all. So we did. Not to meet the girls or anything. Just a quick pint down at his local. He wanted me to go back to his place again for a nightcap, but I avoided it. Made some sort of excuse. Probably said I needed an early night or something, and left him to go back by himself.

I didn't know if he still needed me to be with him or not, but there was no way I could have coped. Couldn't take anymore, not that particular night. Not without ending up making a declaration of undying love anyway.

But he was OK I think. And he needed to be on his own for a while after all the upset so he could think things through.

I've never forgotten that night. It's the most wonderful thing I've ever known, holding Ray for those few, precious minutes. I've lived off it ever since.

That was a good few weeks ago though, and he seems pretty much back to normal now. He's even started talking an interest in girls again - which is good, for him if not for me. But like I've said, I can live with it. I'm learning to cope.

Strange thing is though, well, his attitude towards me seems to be changing a bit. Oh, don't get me wrong. He's still the same tough, ex-cop partner I always had, and we still joke around and have a go at each other, maybe more so now than we did before, which proves we're real mates I suppose. Well, only really good mates feel happy enough with each other to behave like that , don't they'

But when we're alone sometimes now, you know, the quiet times, maybe at the end of a hard day when we're both still unwinding, he's sometimes so ... sweet with me ... sort of considerate and very gentle. I'm seeing a whole new side to his nature that I never even believed existed. It's like it's our own special little secret too because he never does it when we're with other people - always waits till we're alone. He's so different then.

Her case'll be coming up soon anyway and he'll have to give evidence, which is worrying. It'll bring it all back to him ... but maybe he'll need me more then. Maybe need me so much he might even start thinking of me as more than a friend.

-- THE END --

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