by Miriam Heddy
"Happy New Year!" Doyle shoved the package at Bodie, who blinked. Wasn't New Year's anymore. Was the middle of January, and the weekend. A whole two days off, and not on standby, either.
"A pressie? For me? What did I do to deserve this?" It was about eight inches long, four inches wide, three inches tall, and light in his hands.
"'s not a bomb, is it?" Bodie shook it and Doyle snatched it back out of his hands.
"Don't shake it, you big berk!"
Bodie feigned shock. "My God! It is a bomb. Jesus, Doyle, if you were tired of me company, you could just as well 'ave talked to the Cow about a refit. No need for this, is there?"
Doyle sighed. "Not a bomb." And under his breath he muttered, "Though it might as well be for - " but he stopped before ending the thought and looked as if he was choking on it. Aloud, he added, "Open it already."
But Bodie was already working the papers, no longer playing careful as he might have with a bomb. Then there was just a white bakery box sealed with a bit of sellotape. Bodie removed that, raised the lid, and gasped, a smile creeping into his features, the first few seconds of that Cheshire grin that made Doyle want to catch him and pin him down before he disappeared entirely.
"Swiss roll!" Bodie said it like it was the Crown Jewels or something equally valuable, which, to him, it likely was. Then his gleeful smile faltered. "'s this a trick?"
"Trick? It's a swiss roll."
"Yeh. I can see that. But can I eat it or is it papier mache or something?" He picked apart the cellophane wrapper quickly, smashing one end of it a bit but getting it free enough for the chocolate scent to waft up. "Hmmm. Smells real enough. Good enough to eat." And he dipped a finger in and peeled a bit of chocolate frosting off the top. "Tastes real enough. 's not poisoned or something?"
Again, Doyle suffered a look that might have meant he had remembered he'd forgotten to turn off the stove. "If it's poisoned, you're already dead."
Bodie had already broken off a good portion from one end of the thing and was busy stuffing it into his mouth, losing bits of chocolate down the front of his grey leather jacket. Between mouthfuls, Bodie got out, "'If music be the food of love, play on.'"
Doyle shook his head. "The way to your heart is your stomach, eh?"
Bodie nodded, "Or thereabouts. Moves around some. So what kind of bribe is this then?"
"No bribe. 's what I told you. A New Year's pressie."
"No such thing. And I didn't get you any. So what is it, really?" By now, Bodie had finished ravishing the end and had got up to get a proper plate and knife to cut the thing.
Doyle's brow creased and he muttered, "It's my resolution, that."
"Nah. Bigger'n that."
"They make 'em bigger than this?" And Bodie's eyes got wide.
Doyle sighed and put up his hands to signal defeat. "If they do, it's for - " but again, he swallowed the rest of the sentence. He began again, taking a deep breath first. "It's my resolution to not muck about in other people's lives - "
"Impossible in our line, in't it?"
"Not like that. To not be everyone's moral authority. That's my resolution and I'm sticking to it."
"By buying me swiss roll?"
Doyle looked confused for a moment and then nodded. "The one leads to the other, yeh. I resolved to not go on about what you put into your mouth - "
"Eh, but you did. Jus' last week you - "
"Yeh. And the week before."
"Should've picked an easier resolution to keep. Like me." Doyle didn't pick up the bait, so Bodie continued. "Resolved to eat more swiss rolls. So thanks, mate. That's one down." He took another bite, chewing thoughtfully." But I still don't get it. You break your resolution and I get a swiss roll?"
"It's me punishment."
"Sounds more like my reward."
"And my penance, that. Watchin' you guzzle down that mass of refined sugar and flour and chemicals enough to preserve a bloody African elephant - "
"Ah, ah, ah! Sounds like you owe me another swiss roll."
"Half. Takes two complaints from me. Gave meself two."
"You're only human, after all. So, anything say you can't eat your penance and have it too?"
"A piece of. Want one?" Bodie made a move to cut a slice for Doyle.
"You think I'm eatin' that? I don't have a death wish, mate. That's your problem."
Bodie set the knife down. "Cuppa then?"
"Yeh. Could do with that."
Bodie got up and put on the kettle, getting out two cups and saucers and another small plate, just in case Doyle changed his mind. Not sure what else to do, he puttered around the kitchen for a bit until the tea was ready, and came back to the table to see that Doyle was still brooding, staring at the swiss roll as if it might come alive and bite him.
"'m out of milk almost. You can have the last of it."
"Ta. Very generous."
"That I am. Generous and modest to a fault."
"Right about the fault, any road."
"Too true. If anything, I'm too modest for me own good."
That seemed to settle things and there was a comfortable quiet between them as Doyle slurped on his tea and Bodie finished up his second slice of swiss roll. Seeing Doyle wasn't having any, he reluctantly closed up the box. Wouldn't do for it to get stale. He sipped his own tea more delicately than did Doyle, watching Doyle's expression get darker and more broody. Finally, they both sighed at the same instant.
Bodie spoke first. "So, I 'ave a death wish, then?"
"Yeh." Doyle said, glumly.
Bodie tried again. "What makes you think that? I've always thought I had a healthy respect for life."
"Come off it. Mercs, paras, and now this?"
"CI5 isn't a death wish, or you'd have one too."
"Didn't say I didn't, did I?"
"Ah. So you're feeling your own mortality then." The last op had been a close one and they both still felt the tremors of the bomb-blast deep in their bones.
"Feeling yours. And it won't be the job that kills you."
"Nah. Be your eating yourself into the grave, one of those swiss rolls a stake through your heart sure as a bullet or a knife but slower. More painful."
"Makin' me out to be some sort of chocolate vampire, eh? I think that calls for another swiss roll. Should I keep count or will you keep up the tab?"
Doyle stared at his teacup and missed Bodie's smile. "I'm talking 'bout life and death and you're still thinkin' about your stomach."
"Somebody's got to think about it."
"Yeh, it's gettin' bigger by the day. Hard not to notice that."
"One and a half now. Watch your mouth before you owe me a bloody bakery." And this time, Bodie's humour seemed to have gone and the smile was tight.
Doyle looked up from his tea, not quite meeting Bodie's eyes, and looked down again. "Sorry. That was stupid. Stupid thing to say. You're fine."
"Better than fine, sunshine. And you can stop watchin' my figure if it bothers you so. Got plenty of others to watch it for me who get more pleasure from it."
Doyle snorted. "Worried about your health, not your - not anything else, mate. Just don't want to see you 'ave a heart attack."
"Not going to happen."
"At the rate you're going - "
"I'm going to take a bullet or a bomb or a knife before I'm thirty-five, at the rate I'm going."
Doyle pounded his fist on the table, rattling the cups and saucers and Bodie's composure in the process. "Not while I'm watching your back. You'll be a soft, old man one day, Bodie. Count on it."
"Really." Bodie leaned forward, interested in this sudden turn from gloom to anger.
"Yeh. Really. You'll be an old man with reading glasses and a dog and a house in the country one day. If you don't kill yourself with sweets and fried foods before."
He laughed at the image Doyle painted. "You're fooling yourself, Ray. You know this job is bloody hard on the life expectancy and even you can't stop a bullet with my name on it."
"I can and I will, dammit."
"Maybe you will. Because it's your job and you're good at it," Bodie conceded. "But it's not your job to protect me from me own pleasures, okay?" He added, still smarting a bit from Doyle's criticisms. The skinny sod. Not like he was any better in bed for it, from the looks of his one-shot love life. Couldn't keep a woman any better'n he could keep a resolution. But give 'im something to nag on about and he was worse than a dog with a bone. Gnawed you till you were half-raw with it and exposed to the marrow if you let him.
Doyle's hands had tightened back into fists again and Bodie watched as the tension moved up his arms to bring up the veins in his biceps. Skinny, but tough as nails.
"Sod off. Just fine. Kill yourself if it means that much to you. Have another slice of chocolate. Have the whole lot of it." Doyle pushed the box over to him, knocking into his tea and spilling some onto the saucer. "Have it if it means that much to you. Choke on it."
"I'm full. Had it up to here." Bodie motioned with his hand, not meaning the cake anymore.
Doyle got up from the table and walked to the door, pacing in front of it but not opening it. Bodie wondered if he was going to leave and found he didn't really want him to. Neither of them had birds lined up and they had the whole weekend off. Not that he couldn't get a bird. Probably would for tomorrow night. But he'd planned it out to spend the evening with Ray and a couple of pints and maybe a game of darts, with Doyle as the loser to buy all the rounds. And now Doyle was headed off in a snit over a piece of bloody swiss roll. Stupid stubborn sod.
"The doorknob's in the middle." Bodie didn't know what made him say it, since he didn't want the berk to leave.
"Know where it is. Not leaving yet, am I?"
"Aren't you?" Bodie made it sound like an invitation.
"Want me to leave?"
"Looks like it, dunnit?" And still, he didn't, really.
Doyle turned from the door, then stepped back so his back was to it, barring Bodie from leaving if he'd wanted to. He wondered if Doyle knew what he was doing and if Bodie tried to step out for some milk if he would try to stop him or if he'd just step aside.
The tension seemed to drain out of Doyle all of a sudden and he was just Doyle again, leaning against the door as if it was holding him up, or maybe he was holding it up. "You just don't get it, do you?"
"Why I go on about the food."
"Oh, I get that, clear as day. Obsessing over fried foods and sweets, 'cause you can keep those from me," and he nodded at the bakery box on the table, "or you think you can. So's you don't have to think about the other. But it won't work, and you know it, and no stupid New Year's resolution's going to keep me alive till I take a pension."
Doyle laughed, a short barking sound that wasn't at all funny. "Is that it, then? My motivation wrapped and tied up neat as a pressie, bow an' all? Take a correspondence course on Freud while you were in Africa, did you?"
Bodie held fast and didn't respond to the taunt.
"Don't get it, do you? Got it all backwards but to you it's 'clear as day.' Well, it's a bit murkier'n that. Or maybe not." Doyle seemed to be talking to himself now, and Bodie felt almost wrong to be listening to him. But he did listen, even though Doyle's voice had lowered to an almost whisper. "I protect you from the baddies because of the job, sure. And you do the same for me. But as for the rest.... I watch the rest of your sodding life because...." And now he looked up and met Bodie's eyes and his seemed too large and too green and too open. "That's not the job."
"Know it's not."
"No. Don't believe you do."
Bodie looked away, down at the table where the box sat in the midst of torn wrappings. He had the urge to open the box back up again, suddenly wanting to see the swiss roll, feeling oddly like, if he did open it, the box might be empty. Instead, he spoke up, needing to do something with his mouth now that the teacup was empty and the sweets put away. "I do know it, Ray. But, can you really see me in a house in the country? With a dog?"
"Yeh. I can at that." Doyle looked tired and Bodie wanted to perk him up, bring back the smile to his face. So he tried for a little lightness, getting up to put on more tea.
"And you? Where'll you be when I'm in my slow decline?"
Doyle looked up from his tensely steepled hands and Bodie blinked at his steady gaze, feeling like Doyle was looking right through him.
"You'll be in the next room, of course."
"Yeh. With your bifocals off, indulging in that vanity of yours, and a cookbook held out to here," he demonstrated, miming a farsighted reader.
"Yeh. After all, I'll need someone to cook for me when I'm old and infirm."
"But 'm older than you. You should be cooking for me."
"Ah, but like you said, you're in much better health, aren't you?"
"Yeh. Am at that."
Bodie poured out the tea and watched Doyle slurp half-heartedly at his. They were out of milk now, and the tea was too bitter without.
Bodie sat up a little straighter in his chair. "Ray?"
"You really think I'm ...out of shape?"
Doyle offered a half-smile. "Nah. Passed the physical, right?"
Bodie nodded. It'd been killer the last time, but he'd passed it.
Doyle's dark mood seemed to break and he smiled a bit. "Y'know, maybe your amateur Freud routine was on the mark."
Bodie tried to look shocked but broke out in a grin. "'Course I was on the mark. You just think you're the only one with the keys to human nature, my son."
"An' you've got a skeleton key, eh?"
"Does the trick, dunnit?"
Doyle sighed and the smile widened into a real one, the kind that crinkled up to his wide-spaced eyes. "Trick's the right word, mate. And I still think you're sublimating."
"Oral fixation." Doyle intoned, knowingly, leaving off at just the faintest hint of a Germanic accent. "Always stuffin' your mouth with those swiss rolls."
"Doyle, sometimes a swiss roll is just a swiss roll, you know."
"And a death wish?"
Bodie set down his teacup harder than was necessary, making the saucer rattle almost to the point of chipping it. "We on that again? God, but you don't let up! Give it a rest."
"But - "
"Raymond Doyle, you are about to buy your third swiss roll of the day. What happened to not mucking about?"
"Sodding New Year's resolutions are a stupid idea."
"Look, I have a solution."
Doyle looked sceptical. "You do?"
"Yeh. I give up on the death wish and you give up on the resolution."
"An' what's that in aid of?"
"You get to be a moral authority, and I live till I'm eighty."
"Ninety, then. Agreed?"
Doyle cocked his head to the side and then nodded, holding out his hand. "Agreed." and they shook on it.
"Hey, wait a second. What about the swiss rolls?"
"Oh. Well, what with no resolution, I guess I'll have to buy me own."
"I meant, what about your not eating them?"
"Not part of the agreement, was it?
"But - "
"But you get to complain about them. For the next seventy years. And that's really what you want, innit?"
"No. Yeh. I don't know what I want."
"That's why you have me, my son."
Two hours later, after companionably watching a game on the telly with no mention of food or death or anything that might set either of them off again, Bodie turned off the TV set and looked at Doyle. "Pub?"
"Yeh. You payin'?"
"You owe me three swiss rolls still. You can pay 'em off in trade."
Doyle nodded and got up to go. "Hold on a bit."
Doyle ducked into the other room and came back with a scarf on. The one Bodie bought him for Christmas.
"That all you brought?" Ray pointed to Bodie's bum freezer.
"You'll catch a chill walking."
"Walking? It's coming down out there!"
"Yeh. So? Could use the exercise."
"Doyle - "
"I could use the exercise. Take the tube if you're afraid you'll melt."
Bodie snorted and grabbed hold of Doyle's scarf, tugging on it. "Got another of these?"
Doyle nodded and walked off to get one, bringing back the striped one that Bodie thought was too ridiculous to wear on any day warmer than this one. Bloody freezing to walk, but if Ray was walking, he would tough it out an' have an Irish coffee before starting on the beer Ray owed him.
Ray was walking fast and Bodie kept up, watching underfoot for ice and catching throwing glances at their reflection in the shop windows. The scarf looked worse than he'd remembered, and he tightened it round his neck and tried not to think about the likely effect it would have on picking up a bird tonight. He'd just stuff it on his seat when he got there, and maybe, if Ray didn't notice, he'd leave it there for the next needy bloke who came unprepared. Ray would probably give in and take the tube home any road. No fun skidding across the icy sidewalks when you had a few in you.
Bodie checked the shop window again, looking past his profile in the darkened glass to the clothes on display. The stores were featuring styles he had no intention of picking up. Long fat ties, narrow ties. Easier not to wear a tie at all. Maybe Doyle had the right idea. Jackets and trainers and T-shirts.
"D'you ever tire of that?" It was the first thing Doyle'd said in a few blocks.
"Staring at yourself in the glass."
"Not staring. Checking out the fashions."
Ray snorted, disbelief all over his sarky expression. "Sure. See anything you like?"
He shook his head, looking at just the surface, at himself in the glass, not sure if he liked what he saw, scarf aside.
Suddenly, the street slipped out from beneath him.
Ray actually had the nerve to laugh before he offered a hand up. He hesitated before taking it.
"Not a word, Ray."
"'aven't said anything, have I?"
Luckily for Ray, he hadn't done more than laugh, or he'd've experienced the ice from flat on his back.
"Didn't break anything?"
"As if you cared, but no."
"Keep your eyes on the street and off your captivating handsome self from now on and maybe you'll stay upright."
Bodie was already recovering his balance and grinned nastily at Doyle. "Think I'm captivating, do you?"
"As the next bloke."
Bodie raised an eyebrow at that but let it go. Wasn't like he was asking Ray out for godsakes. Usually, Ray went along with camping it up, but he'd been in a mood all day. and Bodie shrugged it off quickly enough and was glad enough to be silent again for the rest of the trip, finding it took all his concentration not to end up on his knees again.
The pub was full, but Ray pushed his way in and grabbed a booth in the corner, sending Bodie up to get the drinks without handing any over. He ordered an Irish and two pints, finishing half the coffee before he reached the booth again. Ray was already making eyes at a lovely bird at the next table, and she looked just about ready to get out of her chair when Bodie slid into the booth beside Ray, angling a little closer than was necessary before shrugging out of his coat and scarf.
Ray made a sour face at him as flakes of snow fell on the table and on Ray's shirt. "Shake off somewhere else."
"It's snowing, Ray. In case you didn't notice. Any action?"
Ray nodded toward the next table and Bodie whistled appreciatively. The bird's lips were shiny and pink like hard candies and he was pretty sure she'd smell like bubble-gum if you got close enough. Had to be all of about sixteen. "Bit young."
"Not going to pick her up, was I?"
"Course, could teach her a thing or two..." Bodie added speculatively, not really getting into the game yet, but interest piquing as he scanned the room for other, more appropriate action. There were a few halfway decent options, including one plump bird with a nice arse perching on a barstool. But there was a bloke's hand planted firmly on it, and he sighed, looking elsewhere.
"Hmm?" Bodie turned, trying to follow Ray's eyes. "Ah. Nice pair. Pick one?"
"You always pick red. Something I don't know about them?"
"Like 'em red. Pale and freckled all the way down to their cunts."
Bodie agreed, picturing her with her shirt off, just getting to her skirt when the other one caught his eye. "Brunette's not bad."
"Waist's too high."
"Legs up to here, though."
"Like a giraffe. Neck's too long."
"Picky, aren't you."
Doyle chuffed at that, spraying beer onto the table, "An' you're not?"
"Not at all. Love 'em all equally, I do. The whole ark of 'em. All the birds. Even the giraffes - "
"Horses and hippos?" Doyle laughed harder, setting his pint down on the table when it started to spill over.
"Lions and tigers and bears, even."
And they were both laughing, birds largely forgotten for the rest of the evening. They played a couple of games of darts, with Bodie winning as Ray got increasingly squiffy. Still, the games were close and, by the end, Ray ended up buying at least half the rounds and promising one swiss roll gratis.
The barmaid gave last call and Ray swigged the last of his whisky, the evening having turned to harder drinks once Ray he started buying. "Let's go."
"Don't want another?"
"You want one?"
"No." He looked round and realised that neither of them had scored a date. "Barmaid's nice enough."
Ray nodded. "Left hand."
Bodie checked it out on his way out. Ray was always better at spotting jewellery. He sighed, last hope for the evening trammelled unless they wanted to go to a club. And he found he just didn't have the energy for it. Still, he asked. "Club?"
Doyle sighed. "Tube. But you're buying."
"If I'm buying, we'll take an unlicensed." He walked out ahead of Ray and tried to flag one, but the street was empty. Shrugging, he turned towards the station, Ray following behind a few steps before catching up and stepping in beside him.
Bodie could tell he'd had one too many when he found himself getting a bit dewy, looking in the shop windows again and noticing how close Doyle was walking, how relaxed he was, bumping into him every once in awhile. How well Doyle fit at his side.
"Hell with it. Let's walk it," he said, passing by the tube station.
They walked another block and Bodie stopped paying attention to the ice and slush, not even feeling the cold anymore. His neck was firmly wrapped in that damned scarf again, Ray having caught him before he 'forgot' it.
Ray bumped into him again, and seemed to slip. Bodie reached out and slung an arm round him and Ray grabbed hold, wrapping his arm casually round Bodie's back, fingers digging into Bodie's waist a bit. Bodie glanced in the glass again and saw two mates deeply pickled and relaxed, letting Ray lean into him and compensating so they didn't both end up on ice.
Halfway to Ray's place, Bodie noticed Ray was humming. Ray only hummed when he was deep in his glass, and Bodie smiled happily, glad the day had started badly but ended well enough despite a bad start.
Easing Ray off him a bit, Bodie opened the door with his own key and swung them both inside, dropping off onto the sofa without taking off his damp wet things. Ray was still hanging on, so much damp dead weight, and Bodie pulled Ray him down onto the sofa beside him. Ray sighed and sagged against him, eyes closing.
"You too smashed to get out of your coat?"
Doyle sighed. "Hmm."
"Well, I'm wet and 'm not going to sleep on a wet sofa, so move over."
Ray didn't move, and Bodie awkwardly shrugged out of his coat and unwound the scarf, working Ray's coat off as well. It was hard to get the grey scarf off, the wet cashmere seeming to stick to Ray's beard and hair, but he pried Ray him off and threw the scarf down just before Ray collapsed again.
Bodie gave up, trying to get comfortable with Ray's soggy curls soaking into his shoulder. "You too drunk to talk?"
"Wha's there to talk 'bout?"
"Dunno. Been quiet since this afternoon."
"Talked at the pub. Played darts."
"Yeh. So we're good, then?"
"Hmm. Good. Fine. Shh."
"Sleep on the bed, sunshine. Sofa's mine."
"Not sleeping yet, am I?"
Bodie didn't argue. "So you're really not going to go on about my death wish anymore."
Doyle chuckled quietly, "Don't 'ave one, do you. Said so yourself."
"Yeh. I did. Glad you were listening."
"Listen to everything you say, mate."
"Yeh. In one ear...."
Ray lifted his head off Bodie's shoulder and sat up straighter, opening wide green eyes, seeming to find it a struggle, then lowering his wet head heavily onto the back of the sofa and closing them again. "Trying to get me going again?"
"Good. 'Cos there's nothin' to complain 'bout, is there? New year, new troubles."
Bodie didn't answer, and was startled when Ray shifted again and resettled in his old place against Bodie's shoulder. Bodie found himself holding still, afraid to move, feeling like he should say something, or they should make a move to go to bed. Ray should go to bed. Or turn on the TV or radio. Something. And he was getting a crick in his neck from it. But if he moved, Ray might move away again, might head up to bed, and it felt strangely good, comfortable, being leaned on like this.
He was drifting off himself when Ray shifted against him and Bodie woke with a start to find Ray no longer at his side, but directly on top of him, straddling his lap and facing him, so close that Bodie could see the dark area over Ray's cheek up close. He didn't get much of a chance to look at it and always wanted to. At first, paired up with Ray, he hadn't wanted to stare, in case Ray was sensitive about it. Later, most times he forgot it, getting used to Ray the way you do with a picture in your flat that you see every day but don't think about unless it's hanging askew. Now, he stared at the broken cheek, amazed that it looked as good as it did, the mismatched protrusion making Ray's whole face askew, even his eyes were slightly off because of it. Funny that so many birds thought he was so hot even before they had Ray straddling their lap, pushing his round arse against them.
Bloody hell! "Ray?" he said it too loud, his voice hoarse with alcohol and sleep, and Ray blinked at him, mouth crooked into a smile that showed some teeth.
"What the hell are you doing?" If Ray said 'sitting on you' he would throw him onto the coffee table.
"Sitting on you."
Bodie sighed and tipped his head back against the sofa, feeling too confused to carry through. "Why?"
"You uncomfortable? Am I too heavy?"
"You're - Ray?"
"Stop playing the virgin, Bodie. 'm not buying any."
"I - you drunk?"
"No. What's this in aid of, then?"
"Reso - what?"
"Old one didn't work so I thought of another."
Bodie was afraid to ask, but did anyway. "Which is?"
"Thought of it on the way to the pub. Reforming me old ways. No more soddin' about."
"No. No more whinging on. Not attractive."
Bodie would have agreed. It never was one of Ray's better qualities. He stayed silent, waiting for Ray to continue, hoping Ray would come round to where it was a joke, laugh like a drain, and get off his lap. It was getting hard to breathe, and not because Ray was heavy.
"No more worrying 'bout the world. To hell with it, right?"
Bodie, finding an answer was required, just nodded, still waiting for the punch-line.
"To hell with it," Ray said again, as if he was still convincing himself. "Going to take what I want and be done with it."
"Ah." Bodie said, because Ray's hand had quite suddenly landed just below his navel and was moving about as if struggling with his button and zip. Bodie was afraid to see, afraid to look down and break eye contact, and realised he'd never been so afraid of so many different things in his life.
"Wouldn't say captivating, meself," and now Ray seemed to be talking to himself, still moving his hand around, brushing it against Bodie and drawing a gasp from him as fingers pressed alongside his cock, tracing the edge of it through the cloth. "No. Not captivating. Would say...."
"What - would you - "
"Slightly above average, that."
And his cock was suddenly free of his trousers, pressing hard against his y-fronts uncomfortably, cool air almost painful across the head of it peeking out the top. Ray lifted his own hips and Bodie found himself rising off the sofa despite himself, as Ray pulled his slacks down farther, stretching his briefs over him and down as well. Then he was naked, bare arse backside brushing against the coarse fabric of the sofa cushions, Ray's denim-clad arse settling down again on his lap.
"Better, in't it?"
"Cat got your tongue?"
Bodie started to nod, stopped, then opened his mouth. Ray moved in before he could say anything at all, and covered his mouth with his own, kissing him hard, strongly, Ray's beard-stubble rasping rough against his own face making a rasping sound. His head swam with too much whisky and stout and Ray. He wasn't drunk anymore, but he wasn't sure he would be able to stand without his legs buckling. Ray moaned into his mouth and he reached around, finally finding that his arms weren't pinned to the sofa, and he wrapped them around Ray, pulling him close, not sure what was happening but going with it, now. Ray wanted him - seemed to want him - if he didn't want him, he had a funny way of showing it, didn't he?
Ray broke the kiss and Bodie loosened his grip, letting Ray move again. Ray was studying him closely, looking at him as he did the mug shots at work, memorising him.
"What would you say?"
"Not captivating, you said. What would you - "
Bodie blushed, feeling it heat his face and wishing he hadn't asked. And Ray didn't answer, didn't say anything, but got up, swinging his legs onto the floor and standing, hips canted forward so that Bodie could clearly see the erection outlined against the tight denim. And then he was watching Ray's back as he headed up the stairs. Bodie stood up fast, then, ignoring the swirling blackness as blood rushed to his head, focusing on the pinpoint of blue light that was Ray's arse climbing the stairs, and he followed at a safe distance, a few steps down, stopping just outside Ray's bedroom, suddenly not sure that Ray had meant him to follow.
Ray sat on the bed, pulling his shirt off and throwing it to the floor. "Gonna stand there all night?"
Bodie walked over to the bed, glad he had stepped out of his trousers and pulled up his briefs but still feeling odd half-naked. He sat down and was glad he still had his shirt on.
"Take off your polo."
He hesitated and then pulled it off, feeling very naked now. He thought back to the afternoon's argument, not really an argument, and winced.
Ray didn't seem to notice his discomfort and lay back on the bed, unzipping his tight jeans. Bodie watched as Ray's flat stomach grew concave as he inhaled to make room for the jeans to slide off, watched with more fascination as Ray lifted his hips and slid the fabric down, no briefs beneath it, only skin and hair, and he didn't dare look away until he saw Ray's cock lying stiffly against his belly. Utterly beautiful, like the rest of him.
Ray sat up on the bed and his cock bobbed in the air, pinkish-purple and almost ridiculous, the way cocks were when you thought too much about them. But Bodie couldn't do much thinking beyond the fact that this was Ray and he still didn't know what the hell was happening between them.
At least a bird would've said something by now, something to make sure you knew her intentions so she could find out yours, something complimentary, like "You're so handsome, Bodie." Something like that.
He cleared his throat, stood up, and slid his briefs down, stepping out of them, then standing there. Waiting for something.
"Waiting for applause, mate?'
Sarky bastard. Couldn't give a bloke a break. Not even a little one. Could break you down, but damned if he would build you up again. Bodie smoothed over the shadows and smiled, "Waiting for a standing ovation."
"Do that at the end of performances, don't they?"
Bodie's smile turned sincere, as it always did when Ray turned on the charm. "Yeh, but it's customary to greet a virtuoso, a true master, with applause when he walks onstage. A big standing "O" is a sign of good taste."
"That good, are you?"
"So the reviews say."
"Never trust 'em, mate. Too many critics are taken in by a pretty smile."
"Not enough for you, though, is it Ray?" he asked, softly, raking Ray with his most calculatingly smouldering gaze, smile not at all pretty now.
"Oh, a smile's not to be scoffed at. But the body is the real test."
"Is it?" Bodie found himself tensing, wishing Ray would get on with it already. Sexy or not, erection or not, he was ready to walk back down the stairs and out the door.
"Yeh. Like 'em pale, you know. Down to their cock.."
"Thought you had a thing for redheads."
"Willing to make exceptions for the good of God and country, you know. Put the service back in civil ..."
"Big of you."
"Big of you. Nice, that." Ray, nodding to his cock. Bodie stood a little taller, glad Ray'd noticed.
"Not bad yourself."
"That it then?"
Bodie put hands on hips and shrugged, turning toward the stairs.
"Bodie - "
He continued walking, making it to the top of the stairs before Ray called out again.
"Would you just stop being a bloody diva about it and fuck me?"
He stopped and turned on his heel, his wilting cock regaining its enthusiasm at the image that presented.
Ray was still sitting on the bed, stretched out and leaning on his hands, arms behind him.
Bodie stood in the doorway, doing his best to appear imposing, knowing the effect it had on women when he did that. "Want me, do you?"
"What d'you want, blood?"
"A few kind words wouldn't exactly hurt."
Ray sighed. "Don't want it to go to your head. 's big enough already."
Bodie didn't move any closer, but brought one hand down to grasp his own cock, pulling hard from root to head, pointedly.
Ray made a sound, a quiet curse, and bit his lower lip.
Bodie wanted to keep it up, but he was too close as it was, and he released his cock and wiped the beads of pre-come onto his belly, wetting the black hair there, smoothing it downward until his hand rested just above his cock again.
"You're fucking beautiful, Bodie." Ray whispered it, and the words sounded strained, coming out rough from somewhere deep inside him.
Bodie nodded, satisfied for now, and moved to kneel on the bed, feeling strangely ungainly next to the casual grace of Ray Doyle, stretched out now like some feline, waiting to be stroked, but ready with its claws.
He reached out and touched Ray's chest, running his hand down over furry belly, and then bypassing the tempting cock to settle above Ray's his thigh, on the soft bit of bare skin at his hip. He let his fingers move there, taunting Ray, waiting, needing more.
"Down, Bodie," Ray said, pulling him until he practically covered Ray, and he didn't resist because it was what he wanted, had fantasised about, feeling Ray moving under him, naked and hot and eager. Ray bucked up against him, pressing his cock into Bodie's belly, and Bodie started to move down, wanting to feel Ray's sex against his own, but Ray stopped him with a moan. "Don't. Feels so good, Bodie. Soft and hard like. Perfect balance."
"You. Bodie, fuck, don't play with me. Ohhh. Play with me. Yeh. There. Damn. Perfect. You're - " and Ray's words became moans again, soft orders and demands and pleas for more, there, there, and then Ray was on his front, and Bodie was pressing his cock into the cleft between Ray's cheeks, the dark line of hair there coarse against the head of his cock, and he forced his eyes open to watch, to reach out to the table, looking for something to ease the way. There was hand lotion next to the a box of tissues and the an empty teacup and he pumped the lotion onto his hand generously.
One hand on Ray's hip, he eased up enough to slide the lotion onto his cock, gasping at its cool slickness, sliding more of it into Ray, feeling him relaxed and open - had he done this before? - too involved to ask, to care about anything but getting inside him.
"Fuck. Get on with it." Ray's voice was harsh, sounding angry, but Bodie knew it was just the pain of waiting, waiting for pleasure. And it served the bastard right the way he'd made Bodie wait, unsteady, not knowing, not allowing him to be sure. Served him -
He pulled back and then used his hand to position himself before thrusting hard, harder than he should have, probably, but Ray only said, "Yes. Ah..." and Bodie continued, building up a rhythm, bringing one hand up to wrap in Ray's curls - soft, they were round his fingers - letting his body rest on Ray and not worrying about crushing him. Ray was a man and could take him, was taking him, was bringing him off rather more quickly than he would have liked, but still -
"Bodie!" The name, cried out as Ray arched back up against him and yelled out, was enough to drive him harder, one, two, three thrusts and he was emptying out into Ray's arse, then falling against him with relief. So good.
Like that for a few seconds, the two of them together so close they were almost one. Then Ray was working his arms under him, propping himself up and levering Bodie to the side, then rolling over and kissing Bodie on the mouth again, short kisses that danced over his face, touching his eyelids, his nose, his cheeks, his brow, coming again to his mouth but evading him again before he could kiss Ray back.
Finally, the kisses stopped and Bodie opened his eyes, seeing that Ray was smiling slyly, face damp with sweat and bluish in the dark room. "Was good, that."
"It's all settled then, innit?"
Bodie looked at Ray and wondered what he was on about. Settled? "Dunno, mate. Still owe me three swiss rolls."
Ray bit his lower lip and Bodie held his breath for a second before Ray reached up to touch his face and smiled at him, the pliant happy smile of the well-fucked. "A'm I not good enough on me own?"
"An exchange, then?"
Doyle nodded, stretching again under him, showing off.
Such an ego the man had. Sex instead of swiss rolls and he'd shut up, would he? "I'll think about it. Do you come in chocolate?"
"Ah, Bodie love. Ask me another time and we'll see about that," Ray answered, still smiling, like he thought he'd won the argument after all.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Living Pros, Bovinity Press, 1999