I finally finished my Christmas story. Seems like it's taking longer to post it here (getting the format correct) than it took to write. I've given up on using a cut as it seems to destroy the format and turn each graph into a looong sentence. I give up, so here's the story:
If Christmas was a time for wishing then Bodie was certainly in the holiday spirit. If, however, the degree of joy, peace and goodwill one felt was the measure...
Grey clouds scudded across greyer skies, nothing in view but cold, wet misery. Bodie turned from the window and eyed the telephone again. He sighed, walked to the small table and stared hard at the instrument, willing it to ring, knowing that it would not.
Unbidden, his kendo master’s words came to him: “Where we are today is the result of the choices we have made. ‘Fate’ is simply a word that represents the path we have chosen.” A lecture given long ago, but its lessons remembered.
My choices, thought Bodie. Was the silence of the telephone really his choice? The words, orders really, that Doyle not call had been consciously chosen. His choice to say them, his choice to watch the quickly hidden disappointment on his partner’s face. It had been his choice to argue that it was too risky for him to accompany Doyle north. It had been his choice to put his and Doyle’s safety before what he wished for most. It had been his choice to stay behind in London – to be alone on this day when none, not even the worst of humanity, should be alone. Maybe the wrong choices, but he had had his reasons. But the forces that had created those reasons, he certainly hadn’t chosen those, at least not knowingly.
Before the part of him that usually made rational decisions could protest, he briskly walked into his bedroom and pulled his case from atop the wardrobe. Without due care for the attire he normally took such pains over, he stuffed the case with his warmest items. He then retrieved his shaving kit and nestled it in. He started to pull the zip then recalled something forgotten. A smile touched his face, the first that difficult day, and he knelt and reached under the bed. The gaily wrapped parcel was placed in the corner of the case along with another smile.
Not allowing any internal argument, he bundled into his dark, woollen coat, turned off the heat and left the flat to its quiet loneliness. A cold blast of air hurried him as he made his way to the Capri, his normally pale skin touched with a hint of pink by the time he reached the shelter of the car. He pulled the silver vehicle onto the wet road and flipped the standard radio on; Christmas music being marginally preferable to being totally alone with his own emerging thoughts.
Thoughts that were starting to batter at the walls of his resolve to do this. This what? An impulsive act, he knew, something he had believed he had long grown out of – although he knew Doyle would dispute that. He smiled as the song changed, ‘Fa La La La’ came uncomfortably close to what he was telling his better judgement. He was skilled at ignoring his better judgement when required. If nothing else, the army had taught him that. The only thing he need do now is convince himself that this was something required, not simply wanted, longed for.
No ice, he automatically noted, as he turned through an empty intersection. Christmas day was the best day of the year for using the roads. A day when most were snug at home with family and friends, the need to bustle from here to there exhausted in them after long weeks of holiday shopping. As usual, Bodie was alone in his actions, unable to join the rest of humanity in what was considered normal behaviour. Years ago he would have said he would have said they were dull sheep and he wouldn’t have what they wanted if it was delivered gift-wrapped. But now?
Now he wanted nothing more than to be like them. To be somewhere warm that was filled with all the good things in life. Because now he had good things in his own life, unlike all those years when mocking the happiness of others seemed easier than admitting how little happiness he had known. Yet here he was alone again, with an icy trickle of cold air seeming to crawl up his trouser leg. CI5 mechanics were the best at keeping an engine in good nick, but they never seemed to be able to find and repair all the bullet holes after a car had been shot up. He considered stopping and trying to stuff some paper in the hole, the reality of the long drive just now starting to penetrate. A long drive and to what? He glanced at his watch, the day would be nearly over by the time he arrived. A thought made its way through the barrier - all this risk, for what?
Risk. That made him remember that he had to call in before he got out of RT range. Or not. Either way it wouldn’t look good – Bodie so desperate for his partner’s company that he raced to Derby or Bodie with something to hide, something that Control shouldn’t know. Something that Cowley shouldn’t know. Bodie sighed.
The point of no return, crossing the Rubicon, burning your bridges. The clichés flew through his mind as quickly as the Capri entered the motorway. Perhaps they were all just words for changing fate. Bodie was comfortable with that, comfortable with the idea of leaving one life and starting another. God knows, he’d done it enough times in the past. Sometimes he wondered if he were even the same person as he had been all those years ago. Of course, people changed as they grew older and gained experience, but he suspected that his changes had been more profound, deeper than what was usual.
He signalled a lane change as he pulled past slower traffic. He certainly wasn’t the person he had been when he joined CI5. Cowley knew that. Even before Bodie had realized that he no longer took orders without question, Cowley’s ‘special assignments’ had stopped coming his way. ‘Special assignment’ being Cowley’s euphemism for whatever unlawful act he wanted doing that day. Cowley had never asked Doyle to perform one of these special assignments. Bodie knew this because Doyle didn’t understand why they needed to be so careful and Bodie couldn’t explain fully, not without telling his partner how he knew what could happen to an agent who stepped too far out of line. And how far could Doyle understand that he wasn’t now the same man who had done those things? How far could Doyle forgive those things?
He had been in CI5 a little under six months when he had been called into Cowley’s office. Doyle wasn’t there, but that wasn’t unusual. At that time, he hadn’t considered Doyle a partner let alone a friend. They had worked together, more often than not really, but Cowley hadn’t officially teamed them and Bodie wasn’t sure he wanted Doyle as a partner. Although the man was good, as anyone in CI5 would be, his emotional outbursts tended to get up Bodie’s nose.
With nothing to warn him that this meeting with Cowley would be something he would live to regret, he was at ease and enjoying the scotch that Cowley had freely poured. And then the purpose of the meeting was explained. Special Assignments. Given Bodie’s background – mercs (kill for pay), SAS (kill for country), the CI5 controller obviously didn’t think Bodie would baulk at a bit of killing for one George Cowley. Efficiently and without undue questions, of course.
And so Bodie did. His first assignment had been to terminate a former MI6 agent who reports had shown had become mentally unstable as a result of ageing. A short drive, a quick jab with a hypodermic filled with god-knows-what and it was done. Not something he was happy doing, but he had seen the point of it. As he had seen the point of his second and third assignments. It was the fourth that made him wonder what he had signed on to.
The file was slim, obviously put together for a single purpose. Bodie examined the photo. He knew the man, or at least he had seen the man before. He glanced at the details. Politician, might have seen him on telly or a meeting he had minded. “Termination job?” he asked.
Cowley nodded, “Yes, termination and it must be done quickly. Tonight.”
“Robbery gone wrong? Something along those lines?” Bodie asked as he glanced through the file. A little patter of warning was sounding in him. This man wasn’t in the services nor had he been in the past. As a politician he had signed the Official Secrets Act, but surely that didn’t give CI5 the right to...
“This is a delicate matter, an accident would be better.” Cowley retrieved the folder, turned a few pages and pointed to a map. “He’ll have to fly to London for the vote tomorrow. He keeps his private aircraft here,” Cowley circled the small airfield. “It would be best if the plane took off, but never arrived.”
Bodie took this in, finishing his scotch whilst trying to think of words to express the horror growing within him. “Sir, a plane crash would mean the pilot, any crew, the target’s staff, maybe even family members, all dying as well.”
“Then that’s what will happen.”
Bodie tried again, “He has children...there may be children on board. I don’t want to kill children.”
Cowley looked at him coldly. “You’ve killed children before, haven’t you? Africa, Northern Ireland and do you really want to discuss what you got up to in the SAS? I have read your files.”
It was true. He had done it, but they were combatants, trying to kill him or at the very least would have tried if Father Christmas had brought them AKs instead of rocks and bottles of petrol. The people who would be on that air plane weren’t trying to hurt him. For one silent moment he wished that he had never heard of CI5, never entered into this pact with this particular devil.
Before he could speak, the devil interrupted his thoughts. “You’ll want to consider what refusing an assignment could mean.” Ice-blue eyes caught his.
He knew what it meant. It meant that if he refused too much, became ‘unreliable’, then Cowley might someday send someone with a slim folder and Bodie’s picture out to complete an assignment. Right.
“No need for threats, sir. I’d just rather not be given assignments involving civilians in future.” The word civilians understood in this case as being those who weren’t prime targets, those who weren’t normally considered fair game in the convoluted world of CI5.
“Found some morals, have you?” Cowley filled their glasses again. “I expect that some of Doyle’s nonsense has rubbed off on you.”
By this time, Bodie and Doyle had been partnered for well over a year and despite the fact that Doyle still got up his nose regularly, Bodie wanted to argue that most of what Doyle said wasn’t nonsense at all. Instead, he wisely kept his mouth shut except to sip more scotch.
The second drink seemed to mellow Cowley slightly, he gave Bodie an almost fond smile. “I wish I could have someone else on this assignment. It’s a dirty business involving civilians, but the job needs doing and I’ve need of someone with your skills. None in CI5 are as good with aircraft engines as you are.”
Bodie swallowed, “I understand, sir.”
Bodie had completed the assignment. It didn’t even require much stealth or effort. After all, why would a popular MP think he needed a guard on his private plane? Why would the pilot check to see if the seals in the valve covers had been torn to allow leakage? Afterwards he quietly discovered all he could about the man he had killed, trying to uncover the reasons why he had been sent to kill him. The answers he found sickened him. A good man had died not to protect Queen and country, but to protect the economic interests of a single corporation.
He was in hell and Cowley was the devil. He started planning to run then he discovered he couldn’t. Couldn’t because Doyle...Doyle was what? Someone you loved but didn’t know it yet, his memory supplied. But enough of him knew that he couldn’t run, couldn’t leave and never see Doyle again. And so, he stayed and did Cowley’s bidding whilst all the time he was falling deeper into love.
The rain was heavier now and Bodie slowed accordingly. Not much traffic, even at the slower speed he should reach Derby in just under two hours. A plan was slowly falling into place in Bodie’s mind. He didn’t want to ruin Doyle’s Christmas; he didn’t want to ruin Doyle’s life for that matter. Today he would put aside all their problems and what need to be said and done. Decision made, he turned up the radio and sang along: ‘Hark the herald angels sing...’
He parked his Capri in back of Doyle’s. Before he had managed to pull his case free of the back-seat, the man was at his side.
“Bodie! What are you doing here, mate?” Doyle’s grin was worth the long drive and then some. The grin vanished “Work?”
“Nah,” Bodie ruffled his curls, “just missed you.”
Doyle shifted closer. “And I’ve missed you.”
Bodie thrust his case into Doyle’s arms. “Behave yourself. Your mum and god-knows-how-many kiddies are watching out the windows.” He gave a smile and wave in the general direction.
“Shouldn’t look so damn good if you don’t want me to push you up against the...”
The slam of a door ended that comment. Doyle’s mum’s voice rang out, “Raymond! Put on a jacket if you plan on standing out in the cold!”
Doyle rolled his eyes. “Not planning on standing around out here, mum. Besides, it’s not that cold.” The white puffs of breath that accompanied each word belied that statement.
Bodie grinned. “I’ll bring him in, Mrs. Doyle.” He gave a firm push to Doyle’s arse, allowing his palm to slide down to tickle the start of the more interesting bits.
“Shouldn’t wear such tight jeans if you don’t want me to...”
“I thought that was you, Bodie.” Mrs. Doyle had come down the front steps and enfolded Bodie in a hug. They had first met during those long weeks after Doyle had been shot in the heart. Days of sharing waiting rooms and bone-shredding fear had brought them together and afterwards, when it was clear that Doyle would live, they found that they didn’t want to let go of each other. Bodie was now included in invitations to Doyle-family doings and Bodie, in turn, dutifully made sure to remember Mrs. Doyle’s birthday as she did his. Last year, after much internal debate, he had even sent her a card for mothering Sunday. Although he hated how it started, he was pleased that they had a relationship near as made no difference to that he would have had with a real in-law. And he loved her both for herself and for giving him Doyle.
Bodie gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Couldn’t let the day pass without some of your baking, could I?”
She shook her head in mock annoyance, “And I thought it was me you wanted to see, should have known it was my kitchen!”
“Too late, mate,” Doyle evilly put in, “we scoffed the lot. Hard to find even crumbs this late.”
Bodie refused to be drawn, knowing full well that Mrs. Doyle cooked as if she expected to have feed half of Derby.
“Don’t hear a word of it, love. You get settled and I’ll make you up a plate.”
She had the lean grace of her son, but his curls must have come from the Doyle side of the family as her hair was as dark and straight as Bodie’s own mother’s had been. Bodie kissed her again and obediently followed Doyle up the stairs to the second floor.
“I trust you have no objection to sharing with me?” Doyle asked as he dumped the case on the double bed.
Bodie shut the door and grabbed his lover, kissing him with all the passion that had driven him to come to Derby.
Doyle returned the kiss in full and when they finally broke apart they were both breathing hard, flushed and aroused.
“Like your timing. How you going to go down stairs like that?” Doyle rubbed the problem in question.
“Ray!” Bodie ground out as his eyes closed.
“Ah, well. I don’t think this will take long. Never did have any staying power.” Falling to his knees, Doyle unzipped the grey cords and released Bodie’s erection. He was right, a few strokes combined with the persistent tongue movement Bodie loved so well and Bodie was coming in his mouth.
Bodie staggered a step and fell backwards across the bed, not seeming to notice that his case was jabbing him in the back. “That was marvellous.”
Doyle curled around him and kissed the dark feathers of hair that fell across an ear. “Glad you’re here. Wasn’t Christmas without you.”
“I’m sorry, Ray. I was wrong. I should have come up with you.” Doyle gave him a light kiss for that, then got off the bed. Bodie noticed the strained bulge in his jeans. “What shall we do about that?”
Doyle looked down and grimaced. “That is going to have to wait. Me mum’s waiting for you.”
Bodie bolted upright. “Should have told her it was work and that we couldn’t be disturbed for hours.”
“Save it for tonight. Can unwrap it as an extra pressie. Talking of which, where’s mine?”
“Hope you haven’t squashed it!” Doyle unzipped the case and drew out the gift.
“Probably broken in million bits, but it was worth it, wasn’t it?” Bodie said in a smug voice.
Doyle gave a snort, “for you maybe,” his fingers tore away the paper, “a video tape!”
Bodie feigned nonchalance. “Yeah, figured the player was a bit large for the case.”
His answer was a scorching kiss.
“Knew you’d liked mine and knew you’d be too cheap to buy one of your own.” He dodged the pillow aimed at his head. Before Doyle could try again, Bodie was up and out of the room. “Can’t keep your mum waiting!”
Bodie tidied up quickly and then trotted down to the kitchen. Mrs. Doyle didn’t show any surprise at the delay and he, once again, wondered just how much she suspected about he and her son’s relationship. Of course, she had seen the way he had been when they thought Doyle would die. Out of his head really. Even now he couldn’t remember half of what he had done or said. But he did know he had spent a good amount of time simply sitting next to Doyle’s hospital bed and staring at the still features. Not exactly normal behaviour for someone who was merely a work-mate.
He was sure Cowley suspected. At least suspected that Bodie’s feelings for Doyle had strayed far and away from what was proper. What had saved them so far, he believed, was that Doyle didn’t seem the type to return those feelings. To all outside appearances, Doyle was rampant heterosexual who tolerated his mate’s touches and inappropriate affection out of friendship or perhaps the desire to ensure the working relationship went smoothly. To bolster that image, they had both kept dating. And Bodie had tried to stop touching, it hadn’t worked. His hands inevitably by-passed his brain and found themselves tangled in Doyle’s hair, rubbing a bony shoulder, patting a jean-clad bum.
“Aren’t you hungry, love?” Mrs. Doyle looked concerned.
“Starving actually.” He picked up a fork and started in on the heaping plate. “Haven’t had a meal like this in donkeys’.” Which was true as far as it went. Doyle fed him well and was probably a more skilled overall cook than his mum, but unfortunately his partner chose to waste his culinary skills on items Bodie didn’t particularly appreciate. Banana flambé? Even the memory made him cringe.
Mrs. Doyle sat, keeping him company with a cuppa. “You boys should visit more often. Ray’s naught but skin and bone. I know he’s not properly fed down there.”
Bodie nodded agreement. Doyle was too thin again. “I do try to feed him up, but he insists that everything I eat is nothing more than slow poison that’s waiting to kill me and that he has no intention of joining me in the heart ward.”
“He’s always been a trial.”
“Talking of me behind me back, are you?” Doyle slipped down into the chair next to Bodie and helped himself to spoon of peas.
“Those are mine!” Bodie used his fork to deter another attack on his roast potatoes.
Doyle grinned, then slouched back into the chair. “Yeah, you have it all. I’ll just sit here and starve.”
“Honestly! How you could starve after what we’ve eaten today!” Nevertheless, Mrs. Doyle bustled to the cooker. Knowing her son’s tastes, she set a more lightly laden plate down in front of him.
“Thanks, mum,” Doyle said, picking up his own fork, “not odd I’d be a bit peckish now as I didn’t have seconds or thirds like the rest, did I?”
“Seconds?” Bodie perked up, having made large inroads into his own plate.
Doyle simply looked at his mother as they both laughed.
After Bodie had finished stuffing himself on a second plate and two mince pies, they joined the rest of the family who were engaged in either watching television or watching the kiddies play with their new toys. Having little to no interest in the under ten set, Bodie planted himself next to Doyle’s sister whilst Ray was pulled by a sticky hand to admire some piece of Christmas booty.
“Ray said you had to work.” Like her younger brother, Rose Doyle tended to cut to the chase during an interrogation.
“Did.” Bodie lied. “Things wrapped up more quickly than expected, so I reckoned I’d drive up.”
“I’m glad you came. Ray’s seemed a bit down.”
“This year has been tough.”
She knew better than to ask questions about the job. Anyway, she really didn’t need to. After Doyle’s shooting, the entire family had too good an idea of the type of work he did.
“You look alright.”
Bodie shrugged. “I don’t let things get to me the way he does. You know how he is.”
“Should have gone into the church.”
“Yeah,” Bodie agreed, “How’s life with the vampire?” The vampire in question being her husband Kevin whose profession consisted of drawing countless vials of blood from unwilling subjects.
“Wonderful.” She smiled with lips that were a duplicate of her brother’s. “Twelve years of marriage and it’s still the same.” A wail sounded from across the room. “Mind, life with the children isn’t always so rosy.”
“Who’s for charades?” Doyle’s uncle asked over the din of the argument. Rose got up to sort the children and Doyle slipped into her vacated place.
“Charades?” he asked, handing over a large scotch.
Knowing it was the price of the turkey and mince pies he had just enjoyed, Bodie steeled himself and agreed.
As he climbed the stairs to bed, Bodie decided that so long as they only happened once a year, he could survive charades and Monopoly. Of course, his acceptance might be due to the fact that he and Doyle had won the charades. Hard not to win when they were so used to reading each other’s slightest movements. And he had long ago learnt the key to Monopoly – lose as quickly as possible, moan a bit to throw the others off the track, then enjoy a nice drink as far away from the games table as possible. Doyle, bolshie though he was, had jumped whole-heartedly into the quest to impoverish the rest of his family. Odd, Bodie thought, how he found even that ruthlessness endearing.
Doyle stopped hard in front of him. “Just remembered, you didn’t get a cracker!”
“You’re the only cracker I want.”
They entered their room and Bodie quirked an eyebrow, “Sweet all over. Care to have a taste?”
Doyle did, several times. “Been wanting to kiss you all night.”
“Good because I’ll be wanting more. Love to kiss you.” He broke away, “But first I think teeth cleaning and a quick wash?”
“That’s my Bodie. You’ll be having Saint Peter wait whilst you polish your halo just so before entering the pearly gates.”
“More likely I’ll be put in charge of sweeping up ash down below, don’t you think?”
“So long as we’re together I wouldn’t mind sweeping ash for eternity.”
They kissed again. Bodie ran his thumb along Doyle’s jaw, “You’d follow me even there?”
“Follow you anywhere, wouldn’t I?” Doyle’s eyes closed as he rested his head on Bodie’s shoulder.
Bodie turned his face into the mass of curls and wondered how he could possibly bear to hold such responsibility. Although part of Doyle’s assertion of trust was simple love-talk - the man had a mind of his own and was well capable of telling Bodie where to get off when needed, another part was a statement of fact. For a long time Bodie had realized that one result of their relationship was that on occasion Doyle ignored his own better judgement in order to go along with what ever Bodie had decided. Times like those made him feel both elated and terrified. Elated because it showed the depth of commitment Doyle felt for him. Terrified because if he were wrong...
“You shouldn’t love me so much. Trust me so much.”
“Can’t help it,” Doyle said with simple honesty.
Bodie’s hands slid down Doyle’s back, cupping him close. The man in his arms inspired a tenderness in him that for most of his life he had not known existed. Doyle’s lips found his again and he let himself fall into the warm well of of his partner’s love.
After the kiss, Doyle stood back and started unbuttoning his own shirt. Bodie watched as the long fingers moved ever lower. The shirt fell to the floor and Doyle turned his attention to Bodie’s shirt. “I don’t think your teeth will fall out if you miss one night of cleaning.”
“Reckon not,” Bodie agreed, shivering a bit as the cold air hit his skin.
Doyle gave the smirk that he always wore when he had won some small point. As Bodie’s shirt joined his on the floor, his hands moved to Bodie’s belt and zip. “And tomorrow you can tell me what else, besides me mum’s pies, brought you up here.”
“Told you already, I missed you.” Bodie’s hands started their own journey.
“Tomorrow, I’ll have the rest of it.”
Bodie ignored the ultimatum, having already made his decision to speak to Doyle about what he had decided. “Right, tomorrow. But tonight’s still Christmas and I’ve been a good little boy all year,” He tumbled them both to the bed, “And I expect something special from my favourite elf.”
A look of mock regret crossed Doyle’s face. “Elf? Thought it was me you wanted something from.”
Bodie dug through tangled curls. “You’re right! Not a pointed ear to be seen!” He gave the ear in question a quick kiss. “Shouldn’t look so much like an elf otherwise if you don’t want to confuse me.”
“Dumb crud.” Doyle pushed Bodie onto his back.
An unrepentant grin was his only answer. Doyle nipped at the up-turned nose as mock punishment before moving to the pouting mouth. For long minutes they kissed and touched, moving to a slow beat that pulsed between them.
Pulling his mouth away from ivory skin, Doyle caught Bodie’s shining eyes. “I want you.”
Bodie felt a surge of arousal mixed with the fear that this might be the last time Doyle said those words to him. Once Christmas was over, once he told Doyle the truth could Doyle love him? If not, could he live without the man? No. If Doyle rejected him then there would be nothing left.
A desperate need to have this last act of love to remember drove him to agree despite the fact the house was filled with family and the walls not all they could be. Although Doyle’s aunt, uncle and cousins had departed to their nearby homes, his sister and her family were sleeping over – in the room beside theirs.
“Yeah, want that, Ray.” Bodie groaned, pulling Doyle close so he could feel his lover’s hard cock push between his thighs.
“Let me get the stuff.” Doyle rolled off the bed and started rummaging in his case.
Bodie ignored such practicalities and shifted to his stomach waiting impatiently. Wet fingers touched him and he started his fight not to give in to increasing pleasure. “Oh, god, Ray...” he moaned.
“Shhh! You’ll wake the house!”
“It’s too good...please...” Bodie muffled his words in a pillow whilst Doyle shoved a towel under him.
“Yeah, just let me...” Doyle shifted into position, slowly pushing in.
Bodie’s eyes closed against the pleasure, “Love you, Ray...love you...love you...”
Doyle slowed his movements, he kissed the soft skin of his lover’s neck, “Love you, love that you drove up to be with me,” his fingers found Bodie, “was my Christmas wish that somehow you’d be here tonight. It’s magic.”
A shuddering gasp was his only response as Bodie spilled into his hand. Aroused beyond waiting, Doyle swiftly followed.
Although drifting into sleep, Bodie couldn’t help but wonder, “Ray, why’d you bring the lube when you thought I wasn’t going to be here?”
Doyle’s chuckled, “Solitary vice, mate. Three days is a long time.”
“And you call me priaprismic!” Too sated to manage the outraged tone he wanted.
“Good night, Bodie,” Doyle ordered.
Bodie snuggled a bit closer. “Night, love.”
The unpleasant sound of a child’s angry scream yanked Bodie from a sound sleep.
“What time is it?” Doyle’s less than awake voice issued from the pillow.
“Fuck! It’s only half six!” What was the point in having a day off when you were awake at the crack of dawn? Slash that, not even the crack of dawn as dawn had yet to appear in the unwelcoming dark winter sky.
A groan was all the response he got from his burrowing partner.
Bodie considered trying to go back to sleep when a knock sounded at the door. “You boys awake?”
“I don’t believe this,” Bodie said falling back into the bed.
Doyle unearthed himself from his pillow. “Mum! We’re trying to sleep!”
The door opened and she came into the doorway. “Raymond, don’t take that tone with me. You’re the one what promised the kiddies that Uncle Ray’d see them off this morning.”
Yeah, so he had. Words uttered in desperation in an attempt to bribe the little beasts into going to bed. Why his sister had insisted on three he’d never know.
“Alright, alright,” Doyle said resignedly, “I’ll be down in a minute.”
Bodie yawned and watched as Doyle stepped naked into the cold of the room. “Where are they going so bleedin’ early?”
“Home. Kevin has a noon shift at the hospital.”
“Great, the vampire has to work, so none of us gets to sleep.”
Doyle zipped his jeans. “On the bright side, I think I smell coffee.”
Bodie sniffed. “And bacon.”
After three cups of coffee, the trauma of awakening had receded enough for Bodie to remember that yesterday he had decided not to call in. Kevin wasn’t the only one who needed to be home.
Mrs. Doyle sat another plate of toast on the table. “If that won’t do you, you’ll have to make more of your own. I need to go over to Mavis’s and feed the cats.”
“Not gone to that son of hers, has she?” Doyle asked, memories of evil little Tommy Stokes making the possibility that anyone, even a mother, would want to visit him unlikely.
“Course she has, her Tommy’s done himself well: good job, big house – has two kiddies of his own now.”
“Surprised he’s not in prison,” Doyle said darkly.
“Probably says the same of you!” Mrs. Doyle shook her head in fond amusement, “As I remember, you were both wicked when it suited you.”
“Still is,” Bodie put in, ignoring the glare from his partner.
“I’m not surprised.” She gave her son a kiss on the cheek. “Try to stay out of trouble until I get back.”
“Yes, mum,” Doyle intoned dutifully.
As soon as the door shut, Bodie raised an eyebrow and said, “I want to know more about you and this Tommy Stokes.”
“Forget it, Bodie. Even if you’ve forgotten that we were going to have a little chat about what really brought you up here, I haven’t.”
The coffee must have worked on Doyle as well, Bodie thought glumly. “Yeah, okay,” he hesitated, trying to find words, “It’s not easy, you won’t like it.”
For once Doyle didn’t push, some instinct making him realize that this was serious.
Bodie spoke into the silence, “I want it to always be like this.”
Bodie shook his head, “That would be great, but no. What I mean is that I want us to be able to have a normal life, be together like regular people.”
“Regular people?” Doyle thought he was catching Bodie’s point, but wasn’t sure.
“Yeah, regular people...people who aren’t afraid to spent the whole night together or go off on holiday with each other or even spend Christmas together.” Bodie finally raised his eyes from his plate, his eyes pleading for Doyle to understand. “I just want to be with you when I want to be with you, which is about all the time really.”
Doyle’s heart gave a little leap of joy at the romance of the words. “You want us to live together?” The idea making him smile warmly at his partner.
“That’s part of it,” Bodie admitted, his hand catching Doyle’s.
Doyle hated to break the mood, but there was no point in wishing for things that they couldn’t have. “Sounds wonderful, but Cowley would have a few things to say about it.”
“Or more.” Bodie said cryptically.
The penny dropped. “You want us to leave CI5!”
Bodie’s skin, always so pale, seemed to lighten even more. “Yeah, I want us to get out.”
Doyle seemed to consider this. His hand leaving Bodie’s and instead finding his own curls, as if trying to massage the idea into his brain. “You been thinking about this a while?”
“Never thought to mention it to me before this?”
Bodie shrugged, “You like CI5. Figured I’d stick it out as long as I could.”
Green eyes bore into blue. “And now you can’t any longer?”
The blue eyes softened, begging for understanding. “Not if it means having to do things like tell you I can’t come up and be with you for Christmas.”
Doyle let out a breath, “Christ, Bodie! What am I supposed to say to all this?”
A sinking feeling caught Bodie. “Say either yes or no. It’s that simple.”
“No, it’s not. There’s other alternatives,” his mind scrambled for one, “such as us spending more time together without leaving the job. If Cowley figures it out, then we can resign.”
All hope of being able to convince Doyle to leave CI5 without telling him the worst fled. He had to tell him even if it meant losing him. Bodie stood, unable to face Doyle as he spoke the damning words, “There are no other alternatives. Cowley finds out about us and chances are one or both of us will end up dead.”
Bodie couldn’t be serious! Cowley was a regular bastard, no question, but he wasn’t a bigot and he’d never hurt either one of them. But Bodie obviously believed otherwise. He chose his words carefully, “You really believe that?”
“I know it, mate.” It was said with a finality that froze Doyle’s blood.
Not sure he really wanted the answer, Doyle asked, “You want to explain that?”
Bodie sighed, then turned back toward the table. “No, I really don’t. I suppose it’s too much to ask to have you take my word for it?”
“Far too much.”
“Yeah. Guess I’d feel the same if it was the other way ‘round.” Bodie sank back into his chair, looking at the wall rather than at his partner. “Reckon you’ll hate me once I tell you, but I hope after a bit of time you’ll remember that I’m not the same as I was when we were first teamed. Hope you remember that I love you.” He reached out and traced his finger along Doyle’s jaw.
Bodie was obviously torn up with this. Doyle wanted to reach out and soothe him, allowing him his secrets, but he also wanted to know what the fuck was going on. “Tell me, it can’t be that bad compared to what I already know about you.”
“Worse.” Bodie’s eyes were back on the wall, desperate not to see the hate in Doyle’s eyes once he knew the truth. Ignoring the shaking in his own voice, he tried to get it out, “Cowley has a special squad to handle ‘unreliable’ agents, security risks and the like. All the services have something like it. The way it works generally is that CI5 takes care of say, MI5’s problems and they take care of CI5’s. That way there’s no personal involvement between the problem and the agent that gets the assignment.”
No need to mention the civilians that were the sometime targets of these squads. The entire truth wouldn’t make Doyle any happier or more forgiving. He gave his frowning partner a moment to absorb what he had just said, then he confessed the worst, “I was a member of Cowley’s squad.”
Doyle, quick on the uptake, “By ‘handle’ you mean murder, don’t you?”
Murder. Such an ugly word and one that Bodie hadn’t ever used, not even to himself. “I guess you would call it murder. Cowley calls it termination.”
“Termination for the greater good, no doubt.” Doyle was out of his chair now. Angry words loud in the quiet of the room.
“For Cowley’s good anyway.” He had no defence, he had been wrong and now he would pay the price in Doyle’s love.
“And you killed homosexual agents even being what you are?”
Bodie was horrified, “No! never!” he rose and started toward Doyle than stopped, “the people I killed were targets because of other reasons, maybe good reasons,” he swallowed, “and I can’t tell you any more about them. Even telling you this much puts you at risk.”
“Good reasons! How can I believe that?” Arctic wind had nothing on the chill of the words.
Then Bodie remembered that Doyle had been accidentally involved in one of Cowley’s special assignments. Couldn’t hurt to talk about what Doyle already knew, “Barry Martin.”
“What?” Doyle’s eyes went from furious to startled in an instant.
“You were there, remember?”
“You didn’t kill Martin.”
“No, not that. Think back to when Cowley was in hospital. We were in his room and he said...”
“We needed to clean our own doorstep,” Doyle filled in.
“Yeah, that’s right, but what you didn’t pick up was that the old man was giving me the order to terminate Martin.”
They both had exceptional memories, Doyle struggled to recall the exact words Cowley had used. “I asked him how he was and he asked me where you were.”
“Right, he knew it wouldn’t be any good telling you to terminate Martin. When I told him I was there and he ordered me to go after Martin. I knew what he meant.”
Memories slowly came back. “Yeah, he only wanted to talk to you, didn’t seem to even care I was there. And then...and then you told him you’d do it.”
“Wanted to make sure he knew I understood the order underneath the order,” Bodie explained.
“Before the other departments take over...that’s what he said!” A sort of sense was appearing out of the memories now that he knew what to look for.
“Didn’t want to hand this over to them as usual, did he? Didn’t want to have to tell them he’d been a fool to trust Martin.”
The memory of Martin’s betrayal was sharp even after all the passing years. “Right, so I agree Martin had it coming, even if I couldn’t do it, but...”
“’Nother one you were there for was Manton. Saw Cowley deal with that himself.”
“You telling me everyone this special squad of yours killed was a traitor?” Doyle asked.
“It’s not my special squad, I’m not even a member any more – haven’t been for years. And I’m not telling you anything more. You were there for Martin and Manton, I’m not going to put you at risk by telling you anything about anyone else. Christ, Cowley would pull the trigger on me himself if he knew I’d even told you the squad existed.”
“You don’t tell me much about you, do you, not really?” Doyle’s words full of pain.
“Ah, sunshine, do you not think that I want to tell you it all...want someone to share it with?” Bodie’s voice cracked, “it hurts, Ray...hurts that I’ve done so much I’m ashamed of. Hurts that I’ve had to lie to you. Hurts every time I’ve had to get out of bed and leave you because I knew if I stayed it might mean a request to MI5 to terminate a security problem. ‘Cause that’s what we are, a huge fuckin’ security risk in the eyes of services. Jesus, Ray, I’m so bloody scared all the time!”
Bodie was rocked back against the wall as Doyle slammed into his arms. He put his arms around the shaking man, rubbing the wiry back. “I’m sorry, Ray. So bloody sorry.”
“I know,” came the muffled reply, “not your fault anyway. I knew what I was getting into when I joined, read the fine print, heard the rumours about how once you got in you could never really leave. Guess I knew at the time what that could mean. And you’re right, I did see what happened to Manton. Shocked me seeing Cowley do him that way, in cold blood...scared me a bit too.”
Bodie smoothed the curls away from Doyle’s face, trying to read the green eyes. “I know you can’t forgive what I’ve done, no one can, not even me. I’ll have to live with that. But I want you to know I’ve changed, I wouldn’t do those things now. I’ve been off that squad for years now. I’m not like Cowley.”
Doyle attempted a smile that failed, but his words were light, “Idiot. Think I don’t know that? You wouldn’t hurt a fly unless it pulled a gun on you first.”
More than a little amazed at his partner’s acceptance, Bodie allowed himself to be kissed, not feeling inclined to point out that he hadn’t become quite that peace-loving. “Thought you might leave me when I told you,” he confessed.
“Don’t have much faith, do you?” Doyle asked quietly.
Bodie’s guilty silence was the only reply.
“Never mind, love. You will from now on, won’t you?” Doyle glanced at the clock. “Come on upstairs, don’t think I can face mum right now.”
Thankful for the day that brought his lover into his life, Bodie trailed quietly along behind.
Once the door was shut, Doyle’s face became thoughtful. “We need a plan to get out with our skins.”
“Yeah. Here’s something else you won’t like, Ray: Control doesn’t know where I am. Came up without calling in, so I need to get back this morning.”
“Wish I was driving back with you. We need to talk about this.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking about it for months. I have some ideas.”
“Like what?” Doyle sat on the edge of the bed. “Leave the country?”
“Nothing surer than to put them on our tails.” Bodie joined him. “Was thinking more of you coming back from Derby and resigning. Tell Cowley you’re tired of killing and have decided you want to be closer to your family. Cowley would believe that, he thinks you’re soft.”
At this point not caring what Cowley thought about anything, Doyle ignored the slur. “So I leave CI5, move up to Derby and leave you behind in London? Not likely, mate.”
“Only for a little while,” he took Doyle’s hand, willing him to see sense, “we can’t leave together, would look bad, wouldn’t it?”
Doyle quirked his head in mute acceptance.
“I’ll stay in CI5 and make meself a pain to work with. Shouldn’t be difficult, everyone knows I don’t like to work without you. In a few months Cowley will be glad to see the back of me.”
“And what will I be doing whilst you endear yourself to old George?”
“You will be up here finding us a business to buy. We both have a fair amount of money set aside and all the sundry skills for plenty of professions.”
“What kind of business did you have in mind?” The idea was starting to excite Doyle.
Bodie smiled, “Doesn’t really matter so long as we can stand the work, it can support us and, most importantly, it has living premises on the property. No one can object to two mates sharing a place to live in that situation, can they?”
“Clever,” Doyle said with true admiration.
“Fancy yourself as a florist?” Bodie grinned.
“A mechanics shop might be better.”
They rolled on the bed fingers prodding in teasing play. Bodie felt the heavy dread that had blanketed him finally drift away. It would be alright, they would make this work, they had to. “It will work, Ray.”
“I know, but I’ll miss you.”
Their kiss was broken by the slam of a door. “Mum’s back.”
“That’s okay, I need to leave anyhow.” Regretfully, Bodie got off the bed and started gathering his things. Doyle helped and a few minutes later they were downstairs.
“Are you leaving so soon?” Mrs. Doyle eyed the case in Bodie’s hand.
“Wish I could stay, but duty calls and all that.” He kissed her cheek. “But I’ll be back next year and I’ll stay right through Boxing Day, so make some extra pies!”
“You’ll have as many as you’d like, love. You’re always welcome here.” She gave him brief hug before turning to her son, “And you put on a jacket before going outdoors.”
Doyle raised his eyebrows in exasperation. “Yes, mum. Swear I was no bigger than our Rose’s youngest.”
Bodie simply laughed, seeing Christmas stretching out in a future filled with joy and laughter instead of worry and fear. It was good to have a family again.