Bodie extended a fresh can sideways, without taking his eyes off the TV screen, where highlights of the Cup final were being shown. They'd missed the live action; Cowley had seen to that.
Doyle hesitated. "Dunno - better not. Drivin'." His voice held an unmistakable note of wistful regret.
Bodie dropped the condensation-wet can into his lap. "You can stay here."
"Oh, okay," said Doyle, managing to sound as if he had not been angling for that very suggestion. He snapped the ring-pull with a flourish, drank from the can. "Cheers."
"Pagan," Bodie said disdainfully, and ducked as Doyle made as if to throw the metal tab at him. They continued to watch the match, largely in silence. Bodie had one arm lying along the back of the settee behind Doyle's head; whenever Doyle shifted position the warm curls brushed Bodie's forearm. Bodie liked it. Most of his attention was concentrated on the football, a cherished stored-up reward they'd promised to themselves throughout the fraught afternoon. A very small, unconscious corner of his mind, however, was set to wondering how much closeness he could push Doyle for tonight. Bodie liked very much to be physically close to his partner; a quirk he had never concealed and knew to be largely unreciprocated. In the early months of their teaming, it had amused him to annoy his new partner by grabbing him, slipping an arm around him, patting his cheek, his arm, his rump at any suitable or not-so-suitable, moment; to be pushed off coolly, or with heat. As they had come closer, however, the tenor of it changed; he no longer did it to annoy, but simply for the warm, inchoate pleasure he got out of touching him. Bodie didn't consider there was anything sexual about it. Doyle was a close mate; and Bodie was the demonstrative type.
He edged his arm a little further along the settee, until his hand was almost touching Doyle's shoulder. Suddenly, the team they were mutually supporting for the occasion scored. Amid the noise and confusion on the screen, the players embracing with exuberant delight, the commentator babbling incoherently, Bodie and Doyle whooped and rolled around, pulling and punching at one another in a mindless tangle of vicariously aroused enthusiasm.
When they recovered and settled down, still breathing rather hard, Doyle leaned unabashedly on Bodie, and, at last encouraged, Bodie let his arm close around his friend's shoulder and they stayed that way, close and companionable. Now, Bodie was happy.
When the match ended, "Daft, isn't it," said Doyle with muzzy disgust, even though the team of their choice had emerged with a 2-1 victory.
Bodie rolled a delighted eye at him. "What's daft, we won, didn't we?"
"Jus' the whole thing's daft." He made an expressive gesture with his hand. "Gettin' all worked up about a - football match." He put all he felt of disdain, the feeling that he at least should restrict his enthusiasms for more worthwhile subjects.
Bodie retrieved the hand that was wavering dangerously near his nose and dropped it back on Doyle's lap. "Gotta have some hobbies." His hand Doyle's shoulder slipped down his arm - and stopped, arrested by the discovery of something hard and bulky in his way.
"And explorin' my armpit is one of yours?" Doyle tilted a glance up at him.
"You're still armed," said Bodie with disapproval. He hunted around under thick Aran wool, found the offending object and pulled. Doyle suffered all this with remarkable restraint, merely watching with half-closed eyes as Bodie retrieved the gun, checked it automatically, and laid it to one side.
"Feel undressed without that," he complained.
Bodie made a face. "Yeah, well, that just goes to show, mate, the effect this life's having on us." He settled back down against the warmth of Doyle. "We need to get away from it all, that's what we need."
Doyle grinned and stretched luxuriously. "Ah. Next weekend, mate. I'm getting away from it all."
"Next weekend? Why, what're you getting up to then? I thought we were going fishing," Bodie grumbled, resigned. "You'll stand me up once too often, you will, mate."
"Bloody hell," Doyle swore, with contrition. "Forgot all about that. Sorry."
"'s okay." Bodie turned the apology aside ungrudgingly. "What you doing instead then, Doyle? What's so tempting you'd turn down an action-packed weekend with your best mate, eh?"
"I never said you were my best mate," Doyle said quickly. "When did I say that?"
Bodie capitulated. "Okay - second-best?"
"Nah, you can be my best mate if you want," Doyle said in a friendly way. "If you don't mind the nits." He scratched his head in a thoughtful fashion.
"The nits, fine. It's the bloody nose-picking that gets me," said Bodie swiftly, and pounced promptly on the hand rubbing thoughtfully over the organ in question.
Doyle snatched his hand back, wide-eyed with indignation. "I do not," he said with extreme dignity, "pick my nose."
"Nah, you just like to check it's still there from time to time," agreed Bodie - and oofed with surprise as Doyle's vicious skinny fingers pinched him in a tender, and highly personal spot.
When he recovered, he eyed his unconcerned partner with wariness. "You really are a bad-tempered little sod, you know that, Doyle. A vindictive little so-and-so."
"My mum always used to say I 'ad a very sweet nature," said Doyle, unperturbed.
"Oh yeah? That was before you dropped out of the pram onto your bonce, was it?"
"Afterwards," Doyle gave him a shark's smile, "naturally. Before that, I used to strangle moggies with the cat net 'eld in me chubby little fists."
They stared owlishly into each other's faces, two inches apart. No joke, really. Doyle certainly had a nasty temper, stored up a grudge if he couldn't repay it instantly. Best kind of partner to have, supposed Bodie, who had never wanted a partner; had never dreamed there could be one he'd respect to the necessary degree to make a partnership work. Then Cowley had dumped him this one, a hot-tempered enigmatic creature with a lean hard body as disciplined as the head of curls were disordered, and a fast gun and fast wits to match.
"You never got round to telling me where you're going next weekend," he said, slanting Doyle a look of repressed despair. "I'll be okay, all alone with me can of beans and the telly, so don't you worry about me while you're raving it up, will you?"
"Oh, all right, I won't then," agreed Doyle. He stretched, sliding down further on the sofa, hands behind his head. "I introduced you to Diana, didn't I?"
"Very briefly. Blonde, 36" bust, kiss-me-quick mouth - "
Doyle licked his lips delicately, with reminiscence. "Or slow. Yeah, that's her. She's invited me to stay, nice country house, you know the kind of thing. Or at least, you'll have read about them," he amended, kindly.
"Yeah, dirty weekend by any other name, only instead of the back seat of a mini, it's a four-poster bed - I get it, all right. You fall on your bloody feet all right, don't you?" he said with a hint of gloom.
Doyle considered this. He reached for his can, found it empty, plucked Bodie's from his fingers and swigged from that instead. "Well," he began, "I don't know about on my feet, exactly - the English Upper Classes don't go in for that sort of kinky stuff, not that you'd know. It's more flagellation, sodomy, that sort of thing - "
"Sounds great," Bodie enthused, rubbing his hands. "And what are the men into?"
"You wouldn't want to know," Doyle assured him, and then looked pointedly at Bodie's thigh pressing against his. "Or maybe you would."
Bodie didn't rise to this. "Well, have a good time, sunbeam. Behave yourself. Remember," Bodie instructed patiently, "you start at the outside and work inwards - "
Doyle gave him a look of surprise. "Worked that out when I was 12, mate."
Bodie thumped the top of a brown head lazily. "The cutlery, Don Quixote, the cutlery."
"With you, Sancho. Hey - "
"Yeah, very good, they give that to the horses. That priceless bit of knowledge'll come in handy when she's showing you round the thoroughbreds," approved Bodie, who after 4 pints was fast approaching the lowest-form-of-wit stage. He took the can back from Doyle, discovered it was empty. He shook it mournfully, eyeing Doyle with speculation. Then he tweaked open the collar of Doyle's sweatshirt and held the can over it, upside down.
Doyle squawked as the cool drops trickled down the back of his neck, and twisted away. "Piss off, Bodie, or I won't invite you, after all."
"Invite me?" Bodie stared at him.
"Yeah, why not? Big 'ouse, don't suppose they'd notice even an extra clod-footed mercenary around the place. There's a river there, good fishing. That way we'd be killing two birds with one stone," said Doyle, unoriginally.
"That's hunting, Doyle, not fishing." Nevertheless, Bodie hopefully fished out a hanky and began to mop with assiduous care down the back of Doyle's shirt, in penance.
Doyle pulled away, irritated. "Look, d'you wanna come, or not?"
"Won't the fair Diana think it's a bit - odd?"
Doyle stared at him. "Why the 'ell should she? What's odd about it?"
Well, if Doyle didn't see anything odd about taking his mate along on a weekend with his girlfriend, Bodie didn't see why he should.
"Let's go to bed. You sharin' with me?"
"Not bloody likely, it's like dossin' down with a combine 'arvester."
-- THE END --