Bodie slouched on the hard wooden bench with a handful of pebbles, tossing them one at a time into the pond. He listened for the little plunk as the stone hit target, watched ripples eddying in ever larger circles from the center, receding further and further until the backwash slapped the man-made shoreline.
Patiently, he waited for the shimmering surface to return to pristine stillness before tossing in the next one.
Not thinking, not feeling. Just watching. He didn't want to think. He was tired of thinking.
The soft summer breeze whispered through the grass, rustled the leaves of the oak tree behind him. He'd been in the park for several hours; earlier the tree had given shelter to birds twittering and chirping, but now all the birds had gone to sleep and crickets sang in their stead.
Bodie came here occasionally to absorb the peaceful atmosphere, when he needed to get away from a job where each day could be your last. Bodie never forgot that. Didn't really fit his image, though, did it?the tough, cool, no-nonsense image carefully built up over the years. But he liked trees, and tossing pebbles in ponds. It was one of his secrets.
Only Doyle knew about this place, although they never discussed it; in CI5 you didn't keep secrets like that from your partner, you had to be able to get in touch with one another at a moment's notice. You were always on call, even when you weren't.
Tonight he wanted the twilight tranquillity of the park. Unfortunately, so did others.
He cast a jaundiced eye at the two lovers across the pond. They had passed him by earlier without even seeing him, strolling hand in hand. The girl was pretty, a fresh sort of prettiness you didn't see so much in the city. Could do a lot better than the lanky, over-earnest blond young man she was with, in Bodie's considered opinion, he was far too young for the subtler pleasures.
Thinkin' of offerin' yourself as a replacement, said a mocking voice in his mind. He smiled. Not bloody likely. The game of chasing women had palled somewhere along the line. Not that he had lost faith in his charms, just the fun had gone out of it.
He wasn't sure when he first realized that, maybe when he found himself so attached to his last girlfriend he was letting his other prospects slide. Bodie had always been a man to hedge his bets: if one girlfriend was good, then two or three were better. Safer.
Her abrupt departure shocked him. Long accustomed to being the one to break things off, quite proficient at freeing himself to stalk new quarry, he couldn't remember being without a woman since he was sixteen.
Or maybe it was when he had woken up next to the sweet-faced new file clerk and discovered he had forgotten her name.
The two shadowy figures across the water merged into one. He lowered his eyes discreetly as the man slid the skirt up her leg, and tossed another pebble.
It was a good thing Doyle wasn't here. He'd probably go on about public lewdness or some such. Doyle had a puritan streak about breaking the law surprising in one so unconventional. Bodie supposed it was leftover police mentality. Once a copper.... He himself had no such qualms. A fact his partner rarely missed the opportunity to comment on. Scathingly.
Bodie had been the recipient of the sharp edge of Doyle's tongue so often it didn't bear thinking about. That was why he was here. To not think about his partner.
A venture that was increasingly doomed to failure.
He flung all the pebbles into the pond at once; the fun had gone out of that too. For try as he might, with all his years of successfully shoving out of his mind those facts he found uncomfortable, he could not forget the night he had spent making love to Doyle.
If you could call it that. More a night of crazed, delirious lust than love, fucking each other's brains out.
Six weeks ago, with Doyle at loose ends and Bodie not in the mood to procure dates for them, they had set out to visit one pub for every letter in the alphabet, getting thoroughly plastered in the process.
Somewhere around H, they packed it in, Doyle primly calling a cab to take them home. Regaling the cab driver with bawdy stories of their many escapades, all properly embroidered of course, and horrendous jokes, poor sod was probably glad to dump them at Doyle's flat. Only Doyle forgot to tell the driver that Bodie didn't live there, and so he was left standing on the kerb. Doyle shrugged and offered his couch.
He couldn't quite remember how it began, he would have sworn he was too drunk to even get it up, much less...
Wrong again, sunshine.
Even now his memory was a bit spotty. He just remembered the violent intensity of it.
Doyle had grinned rather sheepishly at him in the morning, bleary-eyed and hungover. Bodie grinned back, acknowledging the absurdity, and their eyes locked in a silent pact never to speak of the incident.
Life went on as before.
But Bodie kept thinking about it. And he didn't know why. He was not overcome with lust every time he saw Doyle -- was a good thing, that, he thought, chuckling to himself, might make concentrating on the job difficult. He had never so much as asked himself if Doyle was attractive. He was just Doyle, battered face charming at times, but not the stuff wet dreams were made of. No, it was only in remembering the feel of Doyle's sweat-slicked body welded to his that he --
Christ. Deliberately he listened to the crickets' music, willing his throbbing flesh to subside, blanking the graphic images of Doyle's muscular elegance displayed naked for him, Doyle crushed beneath him, steel thighs gripping his waist, Doyle's eyes intent on his as Bodie slid into him, inch by glorious inch.
He just did not know what to do. It had been an accident, spontaneous, unique. Lightning might strike twice, but Bodie knew that having seen the danger, Doyle would be careful to avoid such accidents in the future. They both would. How did you contrive an accident?
Bodie had never been shy about going after what he wanted. So long as he knew what he wanted.
He wasn't prepared to pursue Doyle and seduce him in cold blood. Would make it seem too much like a love affair, and that, oh, that Bodie was not equipped to cope with. Doyle was a man, sexy, sweet, and as passionate a lover as he could wish for, but still a man.
There was a rustling in the trees that didn't come from the wind. Bodie didn't turn to look; he was familiar enough with life's cruel and certain irony to know that it could only be Doyle.
Dry twigs crackled and Doyle's face appeared in the pond, as blurry as his memory of that night.
"Been lookin' everywhere for you," the image said.
"Well, now you've found me."
Doyle sat beside him, a safely polite distance away, Bodie noted with wry bitterness.
"Nice place you've got here," Doyle said, "Peaceful."
"Or is the line 'Do you come here often?' I forget."
Bodie scooped up a few missed pebbles. Anything to conceal his suddenly shaky hands. He threw one into the pond, with quite a bit more force than was necessary. It split the water with a loud plop, skipped along several feet before sinking.
As he raised his arm to throw the other pebble, Doyle caught him. "Don't," he said, "Don't shut me out."
"I wasn't aware you were tryin' to get in," Bodie said coolly.
"We have to talk."
"There's nothing to say."
"You're sorry then, about what happened?"
Bodie turned to look at him at last. In the twilight Doyle seemed unreal, the oak's leaves making lacy shadows on his face. The breeze stirred his hair, and the leaves above: the shadows wavered. "No," Bodie said, "No, I'm not sorry. But you are, aren't you?"
Doyle lowered his eyes, was silent.
"You needn't worry, it won't happen again."
He thought he heard Doyle sigh, decided it was just the wind when a torn paper plate landed at his feet like a gift from the gods.
"Yeah, I was sorry, for awhile," Doyle said, "Scared me, didn't it, wondering if I'd turned queer or something, and I couldn't see myself that way. Or you either. Still can't."
There's a surprise, Bodie thought and flipped the plate away with his toe.
"Wanted to forget the whole thing. But the more I thought about it the more I..."
The smell of sweat floated up to Bodie's nostrils as Doyle made one his extravagant gestures. He looked down, noticed his hand gripping the smooth stone in a tight fist. "Go on," he said, savagely cursing the pounding of his heart.
"So I started countin' the number of women I've laid." His eyes widened. "I've lost track of 'em, Bodie, can't even put names to a lot of the faces floating around in my mind. Some of 'em aren't even faces, just body parts."
The crickets chirruped alone in the quiet night air, accompanied only by the sounds of their breathing.
Doyle scooted closer until his narrow jean-clad thigh pressed against Bodie's.
When he spoke again his voice was muffled. "Oh, God, I'm getting turned on just thinkin' about you fuckin' me."
Bodie glanced at him, surprised, then traced the contours of his groin with an interested eye, but Doyle was hunched over too far for him see much, face buried in his hands. He stared across the pond, blind to the writhings of the couple opposite. "So am I."
There was a whisper of startled movement next to him. He held his breath as thin fingers brushed his knee. He let his thighs part, and the fingers crept upwards like a cat stalking a bird, jumping back when they encountered his erection as though they'd received an electric shock.
A nearby ground lamp switched on, soothing the harsh angles of Doyle's face with reflected light, made his eyes gleam as with some inward fire.
Doyle touched him again, delicately, eyes intent on Bodie's.
"I want to kiss you," Bodie said deep in his throat, "First you mouth, then your nipples, then your --"
He broke off as Doyle's elbow jabbed his ribs. The couple from across the way passed close by, but they were far too absorbed in one another to notice anyone else.
Doyle shifted restlessly, covered Bodie's clenched hand with his own. "This is crazy," he said after a long time.
"Yeah," Bodie agreed.
"It won't last."
He kissed Doyle, then, Doyle's mouth soft as the summer breeze capering in his hair. "But at least you'll remember me."
He would have kissed him again, could have gone on kissing him, but Doyle pushed him away. "Better not," he said, demure, "Two men, s'illegal in a public place, you know."
Bodie nodded gravely. He uncurled his cramped fingers at last and tossed the last pebble into the water, watching the waves ripple into the night.
-- THE END --
Completed: 1987 Revised: 1/1990
Originally published in British Takeaway 4, Kate Nuernberg