by The Hag
"Bodie?" Slurred, painful. "Bodie? You awake?"
Not, Bodie decided. His mouth didn't feel up to coping with actual words.
"Bodie? What the hell were we drinkin'?"
Too much, whatever it was.
A tentative hand on his shoulder shook an earthquake through his head.
"Why we both naked, then?"
His brain went into agonising overdrive. "Glenmorangie, wasn't it?"
"Was it?" Aftershocks as Doyle slumped back down.
Eyes squinting open the barest minimum against daylight's unprovoked assault, Bodie eased off the bed, clutching at his head where the pounding was worst, and stumbled towards the bathroom.
Most pressing need relieved, Bodie swallowed aspirin and turned the shower on cold. He wasn't sure if it helped, but the icy deluge numbed the ache in his head and the turmoil in his mind. Reluctantly he turned the water off and reached for a towel, gulped more aspirin, found his toothbrush.
"You got a spare one of them?"
Doyle leaned against the doorframe, one hand raised to shade his eyes. He seemed oblivious of his nakedness.
Bodie retrieved a new toothbrush from his emergency overnight bird stash. "There you go, sunshine. Want some aspirin?"
"Use my towelling robe if you want. I'll make us some tea."
The aspirin or the cold water or something was starting to help. He felt a tingle of reaction to Doyle's nakedness as he brushed past him and drew in an uneasy breath.
Back in the bedroom he looked round warily, didn't see or smell anything that suggested sex had happened. If it had and he didn't remember it, then life, the universe and everything were in line to get thumped. Clothes in two separate piles by the bed--messy but not looking urgently discarded. He picked them up, set Doyle's on a chair and sorted his own away, then quickly dressed and headed for the kitchen.
"Morning, Bodie. Tea?"
"Christ, what are you doing here, Murph?"
"Flaked out on your sofa, mate." Murphy was drinking tea, eating toast. "Ray awake?" He poured tea for Bodie.
"Yeah. Ta." Bodie sat down and drank gratefully.
Murphy gazed at him with intense interest. "You get anywhere?"
"Didn't think you would. Pissed as newts, both of you. Terminal brewer's droop."
"Murph, what are you on about?" Fragments of memory started to surface and he cringed. "Ray's birthday," he started to reconstruct. "Took him to Ming's Palace because that bird stood him up at the last minute."
"Yeah. We told him we'd find him a new bird after dinner, but he said he only wanted that one, so we splurged on a couple of bottles of Glenmorangie and came back here."
"Two bottles? Why Glenmorangie?"
Murphy shrugged. "Ray said he'd never tried it before. So we got him one each. Bloody pricey."
"Think you'd get a better class of hangover." Bodie rubbed at his temples.
Murphy gave him more tea and refilled the kettle.
"So what... Murph, what...?"
"Oh, we got pretty plastered, and Ray started moaning on about that bird and not getting laid on his birthday, and finally you got fed up and..."
Bodie clenched his fists and rested his forehead on them. "Shit..."
"You said," Murphy went on with deep enjoyment, "`That's okay, sunshine, I'm gonna lay you like you never been laid!' and you pinned him back on the sofa and bloody near sucked his tonsils out."
"I never! Oh christ, Murph!"
Eventually Bodie looked up. Murphy was quietly making fresh tea.
"Well, he looked bloody surprised when you came up for air, I tell you."
"What did he...?"
"Nothing much. Gobsmacked, you could say. You started hauling him into the bedroom and he went along like a lamb. Course, he could have thought you had a bird in there waiting for him."
"After I'd--?" Bodie glared at him. "Suppose you stayed put and minded your own soddin' business?"
"Thought I'd better make sure nobody fell over on the way."
"Nosy git. So...?"
"You dumped him on the bed and pulled off one of his shoes, and he passed out."
"What'd I do?"
"Got his other shoe off, then just sat there holding it and looking at him, all soft, the way you do. Then you flaked out too. So I got the clothes off both of you in case you woke up and tucked you in and left you to sleep it off."
"In case we woke up?" Doyle's voice was as calm as sweating gelignite. He stood glowering from the doorway, swathed in the bathrobe, eyes bloodshot, face baggy, hair straggling and damp. Horrible sight, Bodie thought, how can he look so luscious with it?
"Morning, Ray," Murphy responded blandly. "Sugar in yours?"
"What? No." He prowled towards them, and Bodie trembled with a rush of lust and tenderness and anticipation of violent assault. But Doyle, deflected by the cup Murphy slid towards him, sat down quietly to drink. His mood seemed to have changed in a moment, and he stared down at the table. Going to dredge up something to be guilty of, Bodie thought with resignation.
"You can tell, then," he muttered eventually.
Bodie and Murphy looked at each other for inspiration; then Murphy stood up. "Can't spend a good day off sitting about here. See you whenever." He caught Bodie's shoulder, squeezing to alert him. Leaned down. "Give us a kiss, Bodie."
Bodie tipped his head back to meet the kiss: he wasn't really in any state to enjoy it, but he made it look as good as possible, so now Doyle could tell too, if he was interested. His stunned gaze and open mouth suggested he was fascinated.
"Come and set your locks, Bodie. So long, Ray."
At the front door Murphy whispered: "Go get him," and was gone.
But Bodie had a terrible foreboding of Doyle getting ready to crash and burn. Have to get him out of it, not get sucked into one of those bloody melodramas he's so fond of.
Anguished green eyes were raised to meet Bodie's. "I never touched a man, Bodie. It was always the worst thing. Just the wanting was--" He sucked in a deep, ragged breath. "Only women. Always... But I wanted...and you knew... Thought I'd just dreamed that...last night... Dreamed like that before... Then Murph..."
Ray had dreamed about him? Bodie's heart speeded up. He fought the urge to start babbling. Ray was doing enough of that already. Tell him once, shut him up, and have done with it.
"Ray, sometimes I bloody ache with loving you," he said flatly.
"Don't have to, sunshine." Bodie started preparations for fresh toast.
"Touching's lovely, but it's strictly voluntary. Want some proper breakfast?"
Doyle blinked at him, bewildered, derailed. "Got any orange juice?"
Bodie kept moving, stove and sink and table, avoiding other than casual glances. Doyle drank tea and orange juice, picked at the food Bodie set before him, and brooded. Bodie took his plate away and devoured its contents, surprised by his own appetite, considering. Maybe a bit of melodrama was an effective hangover cure.
"You an' Murph...?"
"While ago. Not easy when you're bi and got to remember security all the time. Murph an' I just kept each other out of trouble for a bit."
"Said he took my clothes off." Doyle's face darkened. "I--"
"He won't be doing that again."
"It's like... Just a suspicion you might be bent, it's like a bloody wolf pack on you. All my life. Always had to--"
"Sorry for the wolves that tangle with you, sunshine. Always cope, don't you? Wicked tongue on you. Got 'em all cringing."
Wanted that wicked tongue in his mouth. Tempted to repeat last night's drunken assault in sober morning light. Well, maybe the invitation had been there, but the rules didn't allow that assumption. Full knowledge, full consent. With consent, he could kiss away all that bitter anxiety, invite Doyle to feast with panthers and have the wolves for afters.
He finished cleaning up, then said, carefully casual, "Gonna get some more kip. Got my extra keys if you want to go, have you?" Doyle nodded, looking lost, bereft. "Know where I am if you want me, Ray."
Up to you, my treasure. Not going to touch with an uninvited fingertip.
Bodie dragged himself away, stopped in the bathroom to unload some of the tea, then returned to the bedroom. He looked at the heap of Doyle's clothes on the chair and moved them out to the sofa where Doyle would see them if he wanted to leave. Then he stripped and collapsed onto the unmade bed.
Scent of Ray everywhere. More intoxicating than any single malt. He buried his face in the pillow Ray had used and lay inhaling and listening. He wanted to watch Ray every moment he could, be sure nothing threatened his peace--nothing but himself, who had shattered it. He recalled all too well the fragile terror of first knowing he might be prey to the wolves.
He suddenly grinned into the pillow. Didn't half intrigue the birds, though. He sometimes thought the hint of that challenge got him more action than any regular charm-and-chat-up. He drifted in happy reminiscence for a moment; then his skin tightened as he heard Doyle moving around the flat.
Tracked him through bathroom, kitchen, living room...
Asleep. I'm asleep. It's okay, sunshine, can't see you, can't hear you.
Can't even feel the mattress give as you lie down.
Don't even know you're only a couple of inches away, head so close I can feel your breath against my neck, your still-damp hair brushing against my skin.
Asleep, but I can just put one arm round you, pull you nearer.
Your arm round my neck, your hand in my hair, turning my face away from the pillow, brushing your lips tentatively against mine.
He opened his eyes. "Here if you want me, Ray."
"Not just havin' me on?" The green eyes were wide, unshielded. "You an' Murph not pullin' some soddin' joke?"
"I'm here. Won't do anything you don't want, but I want to make love with you, Ray. Still respect you tomorrow."
"You bloody well better. It won't make me..."
"Anything it makes you, it makes me, doesn't it?"
"Queer, then?" Doyle's voice shook slightly.
"Just words. Queer, bi, straight, so what? It's just you and me."
"Scares me to death, Bodie!"
"Love you back to life, then, sweetheart."
"Sweet--?" Doyle tensed, then a sudden amused acceptance curved his lips and softened his eyes. "Love?"
"Love." Bodie's smile left no doubt.
"Dumb crud." Doyle's arms twined around him. "Still fancy kissing me?"
Much later, crushed and crumpled and incredibly sated, Doyle murmured as he drifted down into sleep, "Get me Glenlivet next birthday?"
"Goes good with wolfburgers," Bodie replied, and buried his face in enchantingly Ray-smelling hair, and slept.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Discovered in a Letterbox 17, Spring 2001; and in A Third Priority A-3, IDP Press, 2001.
This version has been re-edited.