Betwixt and Between

 

"Come on, sunshine, just a few more and you're there."

"I'm not a ruddy kid."

After giving his partner a once over - skinned knees, hands and chin, grubby face, mucky hair - Doyle agreed. "Course you're not. Grown-up lad, you are."

Bodie halted on the next step, balancing on his good leg, and glared but with the pout thrown in for good measure, it was all Doyle could do not to laugh. For a CI5 agent, Bodie did a brilliant impression of a battered eight year old.

"I can manage on my own," Bodie said a second later, in a voice that contained such simple dignity that Doyle didn't believe it for a second.

He settled his hand more firmly under Bodie's uninjured arm. "Yep and I'm the Queen of Sheba."

Conversation dried up as they struggled up the final steps onto the landing, where Bodie leaned against the wall, breathing heavily and looking paler that his normal whiter shade.

"You're supposed to keep your weight off that for at least a couple of days," Doyle pointed out, "And since muggins here has pulled nursemaid duty you’re bloody well going to do it."

"S'only a sprain. Had worse."

"A bad sprain, according to the doc. And your shoulder," Doyle replied, looking at the greenish tint to Bodie's skin. Funny how the most innocuous of injuries could hurt worse than something much more severe. Personally Doyle'd take a break over a sprain any day. At least you got a cast to stabilise the damn thing. And dislocated shoulders always made him shudder.

They were still waiting for Bodie to get his breath back when Murph appeared from Bodie’s flat. "Chinese is on the table and I put the kettle on. Anything else you two need before I get going?"

"Nah. Thanks, mate. I owe you one."

Murph shrugged and jingled his car keys. "There's bread and milk in, but that's about it. I'll pick some stuff up and drop it round later. Can't have the invalid being deprived."

"Only deprivation I'm getting is missing out on Karen tonight." Bodie sighed wistfully. "Lovely girl is Karen. Great… personality."

"Yeah and personality's all you're up for, at least for a day or two." Nodding his thanks to Murph once again, Doyle offered his shoulder to Bodie as a makeshift crutch. "Right, last leg. Think you can make it?"

"For you? Anything. Even on me last leg."

"Hilarious."

Bodie's arm was a reassuring weight as they made their way along the corridor. And it was a living weight. It could so easily have been different.

The flat was warm and welcoming, smelling of sweet and sour chicken and Bodie. With a final effort, Doyle guided his partner to the sofa and lowered him onto the cushions. "Home sweet home."

Bodie was looking around, frowning critically as though searching for something out of place. Only his colour and his fingers digging into the cushions gave away his discomfort.

"Bath now or after you've eaten?"

"Now. I've got grit in places most people haven't got places."

"Serves you right for mucking about in the sand." As he spoke, Doyle hauled over a foot stool and helped Bodie lift his leg onto it. "Some of us were working hard while you skived off, you know."

"Never was any good at sandcastles," Bodie replied sadly. "Lousy foundations. Always fell down."

"That why you went into demolition?"

Bodie glanced up at him, a sly smile on his face. "Well you know what they say, 'Those that can, do, those that can't, blow things up'."

"Only that bunch of nutters you hung out with, mate."

Bodie's mock-aghast "Oi!" ringing in his ears, Doyle beat a quick retreat to the bathroom. Getting Bodie into the bath was going to be a hell of a task, but knowing his fastidious partner, only a proper soak would do. The hot water would probably help his leg as well.

Doyle started the taps running and hunted through the cupboard for something bubbly. It had been a nasty fall Bodie had taken when he lost his footing. He'd been lucky not end up with anything worse. Still, for a bloke as active as Bodie, resting was going to be hell. And on Cowley’s orders Doyle got to share it. Lucky him.

"Ray? Ray!"

Leaving the bath to fill, Doyle poked his head round the door. "What?"

Bodie was peering over the back of the sofa, his eyes wide and innocent. "Kettle's boiling."

"So?"

"I want a cuppa."

"Congratulations. You'll have to wait."

Bodie's face fell. "Okay." He paused, just long enough for Doyle to turn away and then added, "I suppose I can manage a bit longer."

Damn! Now he felt like a heel. Doyle ground his teeth and went back into the living room. "Pain bothering you, is it?"

"No. It's fine."

Talk about a ruddy martyr. "How about I get you glass of water?"

"Wouldn't want to bother you."

"Bodie…!" Doyle took a deep breath, counted to ten, and tried again. "It's no trouble. S'what I'm here for."

"Don't have to be."

Now the battered eight year old looked more like a temperamental teen. Doyle was starting to develop a new respect for Mrs Bodie if she'd had to put with this.

It only took a couple of minutes to re-boil the kettle and fill the pot and, while he was waiting for it to brew, he put the oven on low and loaded it up with cartons. No point in letting the food get cold.

He was just pouring the tea when Bodie piped up again. "Ray? Ray!"

"What!"

"Bath!"

Shit! Almost throwing Bodie's tea at him, Doyle sprinted through to the bathroom just in time to turn the taps off before the water overflowed. It was still too full to get a body in without turning into Niagara Falls, so he stuck his hand in to pull the plug. "Bloody hell!" The water was stone cold.

"Water heater on the blink again?" came the less than helpful comment from the living room. "Does that all the time. Be the pilot light. In the kitchen."

Not going to kill him. Not going to kill him. Doyle squatted by the bath and repeated the mantra until the urge for murder and mayhem passed. Then he calmly walked into the kitchen, determinedly ignoring the smirk on Bodie's face.

The pilot light had indeed gone out. Doyle relit it and returned to the bathroom to try again, this time with more success. When the tub was finally filled with hot steamy water, he went to give Bodie a hand up - only to find him, head bowed, snoring gently.

Doyle paused at the door. Normally he rationed the amount of time he spent looking at his partner - Bodie was bound to notice - but right now, alone and with Bodie sleeping the sleep of the righteously knackered, no one would know if he indulged himself. Just a little.

He grabbed his tea from the kitchen and sank down in the chair next to the sofa. Bodie shifted, turning slightly in his sleep and frowning as the pain from his injuries made itself known in his dreams.

It'd been a nasty incident. They'd been on the tail of that particular gang for over forty-eight hours before finally tracking them down to a building site near Hampstead. The place was a warren of pallets and half-constructed buildings and Doyle's throat tightened as he relived the moment the shot had rung out and Bodie had fallen. For a few heart-in-mouth seconds his world had crumbled round his ears, until Bodie had reappeared over the pile of rubble, a wild grin on his face, and, one-handed, took out the bloke who'd shot him. Then he'd known Bodie was fine. Or as fine as you could be with a badly sprained ankle and dislocated shoulder.

Right now it was the bruises that were most noticeable, thanks to the deftness of the casualty nurse's scissors on Bodie's cords. Blooming an ugly purple above the bandage around his ankle, they continued up the shin and culminated in a nasty graze on his knee. That'd need cleaning out properly. They'd done a quick job at the hospital but as usual they were too busy to take much time, and were more interested in resetting Bodie's shoulder and x-raying for breaks.

"Get you cleaned up in the bath, mate."

And wasn't that going to be fun. Bodie was going to need help getting in and out, which would put them in closer contact than Doyle had allowed himself for a long while. Could he do it? Trust himself so close to the body - the person - he desired so much it made his gut hurt? He had to. Needs must when the devil drives and all that. Only in this case the devil in question was Scottish and had been curt in the extreme when he'd found out Bodie was going to be on sick leave for a week.

"Keep a close eye on him, 4-5," the old man had said. "Make sure he doesn't do anything stupid. I want him back in a week, not a fortnight, and it'd be just like Bodie to find some trouble to get into."

Doyle smiled. Just like Bodie. Last time it'd been the Myer-Helmut group. Well, not this time. "Got a nursemaid, this time. No adventures `til you're ready for them."

Bodie grunted, shifted again and woke up with a start, blinking. "Ray?"

"Here. You have a nice nap?"

"Not bad." A stretch turned into an abortive wince. "That bath ready yet?"

"All yours for the taking, sunshine."

**

"Bubbles!"

Doyle shook his head at the expression of childish delight on Bodie's face. Big kid. How could he not love him? "Could've sworn the doc said there was no concussion. Sure you didn't get a knock on the head?"

Bodie just grinned at him from his seat on the loo and crossed his eyes.

"Twerp. Should've waited for the nice men in white coats to come. Would've saved myself a bit of work."

"Aww, darling, you mean you don't want to give me a bath?"

For the umpteenth time, he wished Bodie wouldn't camp it up like that. He didn't mean anything by it, but it drove a barb straight into Doyle's belly. Bodie was mucking around and he still managed to come so close to the truth it was disconcerting.

"Given a choice in the matter, I'd take you out and chuck you in the duck pond. Easier by half."

The pout was back. "You don't love me."

Temptation to deny the joking accusation rampaged through Doyle's mind; he smothered it with banter and covered it in clean warm towels from the airing cupboard. "Course I do. Just overawed is all. Not everyday I get my hands on tall dark and beautiful, not to mention half-crippled, brain damaged and completely nuts." He paused, took a deep breath and nodded at Bodie, "You need a hand or can you manage?"

"Raymond, the day I can't manage to get out of my own clothes is the day you can take me out and shoot me."

"Don't push your luck."

Bodie started struggling with his sling. Doyle managed to watch for nearly a minute before succumbing to the bitten lips and badly concealed winces. "Here," he said, pushing Bodie's hands away, "I won't tell if you don't."

Silence met the comment. He let it continue, finding it easier to concentrate on removing each item of clothing efficiently, proficiently, without a running commentary. That way he could pretend the skin he was revealing belonged to someone else. Anybody. Any body. Except… his fingers stalled over a narrow pink scar. Still not faded, after nearly three years.

"And good riddance to him," Bodie said out of nowhere.

Doyle reacted with a start, jerking his fingers away as if the skin suddenly burnt him. "Yeah," he said, "but it makes you wonder. Him, Alf-"

"Keller," Bodie put in.

"Yeah, him an'all. Seems a bit off, selling your mates out for money. People you trust, turning on you like that. Makes you wonder why you trust anyone at all."

"Always trusted you, sunshine."

The words fell, ripe and sweet, towards Doyle's mouth and for a second he leaned forward, closing the gap between them, aiming at the lush curve of Bodie's lips… before pulling up with a jerk, remembering this was real, this was Bodie perched on the loo, battered and bruised, and not some fantasy his idiotic brain had conjured up. Again. One of these days, he was really gonna get himself into trouble.

"Right," he said, springing to his feet, his hands flying to his hair to gouge furrows through the curls. "Reckon you can manage the rest. Give us a yell when you're done," and without a backward glance, he fled.

His hands shook as he washed up the mugs. Still shook as he checked dinner and added a drop of water to the rice. Shook again as he picked up Bodie’s discarded clothes, and caught a whiff of his familiar, wonderful scent.

Finally he gave up and collapsed on the bed, cradling his head in his hands. Too close, his mind screamed. He should never have agreed to do this. Murph would have done the honours if he'd asked. Would probably've been all too glad to. He'd seen the looks Murphy cast Bodie's way when he thought no one was watching. Oh yeah, Murph'd be in like Flynn. Maybe he should've let him? Seen what Bodie's reaction was? Commiserate when Murph came back to work with a broken nose, which was bound to be the result.

"Ray? Ray!"

Taking a deep, and hopefully fortifying breath, Doyle replied, "You done in there?"

"Couldn't give us a hand out could you, mate?"

No. Not unless you want throwing on the bathroom floor and screwing senseless. "Give us a mo." He could do this. Had to do this. If he didn't do this then Bodie would know and he'd be the one looking like a reject from the local boxing club. Rubbing sweaty palms on his thighs, he stood up and made his way back to the bathroom.

Bodie smiled at him, pale and wan and sheepish under the heaps of bubbles, and all too obviously in pain. "Can't pull meself out. Shoulder."

Feeling even more of a bastard for abandoning Bodie when he was needed, Doyle dismissed his own problems and offered a hand. "Come on then. Up and at 'em."

"Ta."

It wasn't exactly the Birth of Venus - less hair and more skin for starters - but the effect was just as glorious. Bubbles slicked down Bodie's flanks with all the discretion of a stripper's underwear, revealing more than it concealed. Doyle averted his eyes at strategic moments, not convinced he could hang on to his calm if he got a real eyeful. This was bloody ridiculous. He wasn’t a randy kid any more.

"Towel?"

He grabbed one, the long reach keeping his hands well away from Bodie's more interesting parts, and tossed it over. It covered just enough to make valour possible and he was able to offer an arm to keep Bodie balanced as he stepped out of the bath. Perched back on the loo seat, Bodie was breathing heavily and rubbing his shoulder.

"You take those painkillers?" Doyle asked, picking up another, smaller, towel so he could give Bodie's hair a brisk rub dry.

"Nah. Thought I'd take 'em after tea. Get something inside me first."

Like me…? Ignoring his inner lecher, Doyle said, "Idiot. Doctor gave them to you for a reason, you know."

"No gain without pain." With the heel of his hand pressed into his shoulder joint it was obvious exactly how much pain Bodie was in.

"Yeah, and fools seldom prosper." He handed the towel over. "You get yourself dried off while I find your clothes and then you're taking your pills, okay?"

Bodie sighed, but obediently took the towel and started drying himself. "Yes, mum."

**

"Christ, Doyle, what'd you do? Go through the rag bag?"

He had a point. They had to be the tattiest track suit bottoms Doyle had ever seen, but that was the whole point. "They're the baggiest things I could find."

"And what the hell's this?"

"A cardy." That had come from the rag bag, or at least the back of the wardrobe. It was huge and fluffy and warm, and about as stylish as Benny on a bad day. "It'll zip up so you won't have to stick your arm through the sleeve."

"Look like bloody Worzel Gummidge."

**

Covered once more in a decent amount of clothing, and thus no longer presenting a menace to frustrated types everywhere, Bodie was ensconced on the sofa, a blanket over his lap and a petulant glower on his face. Even dinner hadn't been enough to make him smile again.

Doyle, having recovered some of the equilibrium he'd lost earlier, took a swig of his beer and relaxed. He'd done it. Survived the temptation that was bath-time Bodie and come through with flying colours. Or at least without making an utter fool of himself. He hoped.

The telly rang out the six o'clock news and he consciously filtered it out. Time enough tomorrow to catch up with current affairs. For now he was warm and full and content. About ready to drop off, grab forty winks, just for a mo…

"Washing up needs doing."

"Huh?" Doyle's feet thudded to the floor as he jerked awake.

Bodie was staring at him, dark and unfathomable from the sofa. "Washing up needs doing. If you leave it the sauce'll stain."

"Right. Yeah. Okay." Reassembling his brain cells from their somnolent lair, he staggered to his feet. "I'll stick 'em in to soak. That should put a stop to the revenge of Fu Manchu."

He was half way out the door, tray loaded with virulently orange-smeared plates, when Bodie spoke again. "Might as well wash 'em properly if you're soaking 'em. Oh and make sure none spilt in the oven while you're at it. Burns on something 'orrible if it's left."

Yes, sir. No, sir. Three bloody bags full, sir. The tray landed on the table with a bit more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary. Doyle winced.

"You take those tablets yet?" he called through as he rescued the cutlery off the floor.

"Haven't got a drink."

"What about your tea?"

"Got cold."

"Glass of water it is then."

Bodie glared at him when he held it out. "Wanted a cuppa."

"You can have one after. Take your tablets." Mrs Bodie deserved a ruddy Nobel Prize.

The pout was back. "Doesn't hurt that much."

"The doc gave them to you, so take the bloody things."

"Dunno where they are."

He wasn't going to kill him. If for no other reason than knowing his luck, the old man'd dock the costs of training another agent from his wages. "Jacket pocket?"

A quick shufty turned up a bottle of distalgesics. Doyle shook two out and held them out. "Get them down you before I stick them where the sun don't shine."

**

After popping the kettle on, putting the plates in to soak and checking the oven for vengeful red hordes, Doyle, wondering at the quiet from the other room, poked his head round the door. Bodie was asleep again. The lines of pain on his face smoothed away, one hand tucked under his cheek. Dumb crud. Should've taken the tablets as soon as he got home. Would have saved him a world of pain.

Doyle turned the radio on low and hummed along to Tommy Vance as he cleaned up. There was enough sauce spilt in the oven to warrant cleaning it, which meant digging out rubber gloves and something vicious from under the sink. But he did it anyway. It kept him busy. Stopped him from brooding. Stopped him from thinking about Bodie, fast asleep on the couch. Bruised, battered and grouchy. And just as beautiful as he always was.

The phone went. Stripping off one glove, Doyle snatched it up and jammed the handset against his ear as he tackled the other one.

"Yeah?"

"4-5? Message from Alpha. Ready to receive?"

"Yeah, go ahead."

"Message says, 'Briefing on Montgomery situation eight am tomorrow. Attendance for all agents mandatory. Message ends. Do you copy 4-5?"

"Yeah, I copy. Thanks, control. Have a good evening."

"I will, Ray. How's Bodie doing?" Another member of the Bodie fan club. There was hardly a girl at HQ he hadn't swept off their feet.

"Being his usual charming self. Actually he's drooling on the cushions, want me to take pictures?"

Her laugh was light. "He'd never forgive you if you did. Oh, I'd better go. The Minister's on the other line."

"Okay, love. Thanks for the message."

Doyle hung up, threw the gloves in the general direction of the sink and went to pour himself a drink. Eight o'clock? On a Saturday morning? And after the past week. Fuck.

"Help yourself, why don’t you."

"Thanks, I will." Glass in hand, Doyle pivoted on his heel so he could see the couch. Bodie was still stretched out, but now his eyes were open, eyeing the drink Doyle was holding. "And don’t start. You can't have this on top of painkillers."

"Knew here was a good reason for not taking 'em." Bodie yawned and sat up, lifting his arm, and immediately winced. "And they don’t do any ruddy good."

Doyle, his mouth on autopilot as he considered his early start, said, "Might as well have stuck 'em up your arse, then."

"You got some sort of kink I should know about, Raymond?"

"What?"

"That's twice this evening you've threatened my backside. I'm starting to get worried."

He wasn't going to blush. Wasn't. Bugger.

Turning his back rapidly to cover the flush of colour to his cheeks, Doyle shrugged. "Spent so much time looking at the bloody thing-" Shit! That hadn't come out the way he meant it. He cast a quick glance over his shoulder and froze. Bodie was staring at him, an odd expression on his face. He looked ridiculous - hair all over the place and eyes bleary - but so sodding beautiful it made Doyle's throat tighten. He wanted to go over there, smooth his fingers through that hair, wipe the tiredness and pain from his eyes. Yeah and end up down casualty, probably. Whichever way you cut it, Bodie just wasn't the type to happily respond to a come on from his partner.

But still Doyle looked. He couldn't tear his eyes away, and suddenly they were trapped. Separated by four feet of carpet and three years of desire.

"Ray…?" Bodie began, just as the front door went. He cleared his throat and looked away, his cheeks colouring slightly. "Be Murph, I expect. You gonna let him in?"

**

"Steak and kidney pie, sausages and half a dozen eggs. Should enough to keep his lordship happy for a while, anyway," Murphy finished with a grin.

Doyle stared at the heart attack waiting to happen on the table. "Veggies?" he asked hopefully.

Murphy's face fell. "Oh. I never thought. Bodie doesn't normally keep 'em in, does he?"

He didn't, but living off this lot when he was convalescing wasn't going to do him any good at all. Still, it wasn't Murph's fault and it'd been good of him to drop the stuff off. Rather than complain, Doyle just waved him through into the living room. "Go and keep His Nibs amused then while I stick this lot away. Been like a bear with a sore head, he has." Maybe some different company would help change Bodie's mood.

By the sounds of the raucous laughter coming from the other room a few minutes later, Murph's presence was helping. Doyle loaded up the fridge, finished the oven and made a fresh pot of tea, wondering when he'd ended up the domestic one of the partnership. On the other hand, at least he could pull it off. Bodie was pretty damn useless in the kitchen, or so he claimed. He could just imagine Bodie's reaction if he was the one dragooned into playing nursemaid. It'd be fish and chips every night and a damp flannel whether it was needed or not. Doyle grinned, picked the mugs and braved the lion's den.

They were watching a repeat of Benny Hill, which went a long way to explaining the laughter. Doyle put the drinks down next to them and took a seat himself, ostensibly watching the telly but taking the opportunity to steal glances at his partner and Murphy. They looked good together. Both classically handsome and sleek - even with Bodie dressed in that old cardy. Men's men, enjoying scantily clad girls, laughing at ribald jokes. Rugby club humour. Barracks humour. The sort of thing Doyle always felt a bit uncomfortable with, or had done before he met Bodie.

Maybe that was why Murph could cast longing looks at Bodie's arse and just grin when he was caught. Maybe that was why he could deal with the camping around and not bat an eyelid. They knew exactly who they were and what they were doing.

The programme climaxed with its customary farcical game of chase through the bushes and afterwards Murphy swilled down his tea and stood up. "Right," he said. "I'd better be off. Early start tomorrow."

"Montgomery," Doyle confirmed. "Eight in the briefing room."

"Yeah, that's the one. You invited as well?"

"Everyone is, mate." He caught a quick movement out of the corner of his eye. "Least those of us with more than half our limbs working."

A grunt from the sofa. Doyle sighed as he showed Murph out and locked up behind him. Bodie'd been sniffing around Alex Montgomery for the past six months, waiting for something on the case to give. The fact that it had broken now, while he was laid up and unable to contribute, would put the tin lid on a perfect day.

Bodie was trying to stand up when he got back to the living room. Doyle rushed forward to lend a hand, and was shrugged off. "Just going for a pee," he snapped. "Think I can manage to hold it meself."

Oh yes, the mood was back. In full force.

Doyle tried not to hover, retreating to the kitchen and keeping half an ear cocked in the direction of the bathroom, just in case he was needed after all. He was glad he had since a moment later came an almighty crash and Bodie bellowing his head off.

"What the bloody hell…?" He skidded through, barged the bathroom door open, and stopped. And pointedly, desperately, didn't laugh.

Bodie was sitting on the floor, surrounded by streamers of toilet roll and liberally doused in white powder. He must have been trying to balance and used the shelf as support. The shelf with the spare bog roll, medical kit and, apparently, talcum powder on it.

"You alright?"

"Do I look like I'm bloody alright?"

"Okay, keep your hair on." Doyle sniggered. "All of it. White bits included."

At Bodie's scowl, Doyle straightened his face and offered a hand. A moment later he was, sprawled on the floor, half in Bodie's lap, his nose mashed against a roll of Andrex, with Bodie's hand in his hair ruffling his curls as its owner crowed in triumph.

"Gerrof me, you mad bastard!" he yelled, kicking out, but Bodie was implacable and Doyle was handicapped by not wanting to injure him further. So all he could do was squirm and yell, and threaten Bodie with fulsome revenge once his shoulder and ankle were better and they could face each other in a fair fight. And all that time, Bodie leaning heavily across him, used one hand to rub talc everywhere he could. His hair, his neck, under his shirt, even down the top of his jeans. There was nothing he could do, until Bodie, grinning smugly, stopped of his own accord and let him roll away.

Lying on his back, Doyle glared up at him, as he chortled to himself, the rotten sod. He ran a hand through his hair and it came out white and sticky. He was going to have to wash it.

"D’you have any idea how long it takes this lot to dry? And you haven't got a dryer."

"Don't need one," Bodie gloated. "Perfect as I am."

"Yeah, yeah. Bodie the perfect bloody pest." He rolled to his feet, leaned down to give Bodie a hand and caught sight of both of them in the mirror.

"You look a right state," Bodie said, peering over his shoulder grinning from ear to ear. They looked like refugees from The Night of the Living Dead; smeared with white goo, both beaming stupidly. About summed up their lives really. Mucky, but fun.

"Not your usual handsome self, either," Doyle replied and patted Bodie's hand where it rested on his shoulder.

Funny, he didn't remember peeling an apple and it certainly wasn't midnight, but there was the one he wanted, over his left shoulder, just like mum always said they would be.

As he watched, Bodie's expression changed, his eyes hardening as he met Doyle's gaze in the mirror. "Think I'm good looking, do you?" he asked and there was an edge to his voice. A hard edge.

He'd guessed. It was written clear across his face. Shit!

For the longest second neither of them moved - Bodie unfathomable and Doyle hemmed in by endless possibilities. Finally it was Bodie who broke the deadlock. With a last ruffle of Doyle's curls and a strange half smile, he said, "Handsome is as handsome does, so they say. Now you'd better get this lot washed off, `fore you set solid." Then, leaving Doyle gawping at the mirror, he turned and carefully limped out of the bathroom.

Doyle remained exactly where he was, watching Bodie's progress and marvelling at the fact that he was still upright and uninjured. He definitely knew, of that Doyle had no doubt whatsoever, but he didn't seem to mind? Or at least he hadn't gone off the deep end. If anything, he'd seemed disappointed. As if somehow he'd been hoping for more.

Slowly, Doyle spun on his heel and stared at the door that Bodie had closed behind him. He had the strangest feeling he'd missed something important, but he hadn't the faintest idea what it might be.

**

Bodie was in the bedroom when Doyle emerged, cleaner but no wiser, from the bathroom. He looked a sight tidier himself, wearing his pyjama bottoms and dressing gown, though there was still a dusting of talc round the back of his neck. "Use the kitchen sink, did you?" Doyle asked as he rubbed his hair briskly with the towel. He'd resemble a powder puff in the morning but he couldn't go to sleep with wet hair and it was past eleven already.

Bodie glanced up at him and nodded. He was reading. Some ratty paperback Doyle had never heard of. He looked pale again. The painkillers were probably wearing off and horsing around wouldn't have helped.

"Want another cuppa before you turn in? More tablets?"

"Yeah, alright." This time Doyle didn't even merit a raised head.

Wishing he could take back the last hour or so, Doyle dropped his wet towel off in the bathroom and wandered through to the kitchen. He supposed he ought to sort out his sleeping arrangements at some point. Expecting Bodie to share the bed with him tonight, as usual, was too much to hope for.

While the kettle boiled, he dug out spare blankets and started making up a bed on the couch. It wasn't the most comfortable of things but it was a step up from the floor which was the only other option.

"What are you doing?" Bodie was leaning on the door frame watching him.

Doyle spared him a quick look before going back to unfolding and spreading blankets. "Would've thought that was pretty obvious."

"Don't fancy the bed then?"

That and the bloke in it, Doyle thought, but managed to keep his thoughts to himself. "Didn't think I'd be welcome," he said.

"Bed's there, Ray. No strings attached." And with that, Bodie was gone, his halting gait obvious to anyone listening.

Doyle sank onto the pile of blankets on the couch and stared after him. Again. For the second time in as many hours, Bodie had floored him with a simple, apparently off -the -cuff comment. And for the second time Doyle found himself at sea and starting to wonder, to hope, that maybe what he was feeling wasn't unrequited after all.

**

"Ray? Ray!"

"What!" Christ knew what time it was, but the film had finished so he must've been asleep for at least an hour. On top of the blankets and still fully dressed.

"Tablets?"

Shit. He'd forgotten. "Yeah, hang on a mo." The bottle was on the table. Doyle swiped it up, and took it through. Bodie was in bed, the blankets pooled around his waist, his dressing gown gone. Not quite perfection with the sling supporting his right arm, but close enough in Doyle's eyes to make his heart pick up and his mouth dry. "Here," he said and held the bottle out.

Bodie looked up at him, wide-eyed. "Drink?"

"Water?"

"Cup of tea would be nice. Or cocoa. Really help me sleep, that would. There's a tin in the cupboard over the kettle."

"Course there is." Doyle tossed the tablets on the bed and strode out. The more distance he put between himself and Bodie right now, the happier he'd be. It was too confusing. He was tired. And he had an early start tomorrow.

**

"Ray? Ray!"

Doyle dragged his eyes open and blinked at the ceiling. ""Sod off and go to sleep!"

"Can't get comfortable."

"Turn over then."

"Give us a hand, sunshine."

Bloody hell. Forget a Nobel Prize, Mrs Bodie deserved sainthood. Throwing back the covers, he shivered into his shirt - the closest thing to a dressing gown he had with him - and staggered through to the bedroom.

Bodie'd managed to tie himself in one hell of a knot. Doyle grabbed the blankets and gave them a tug, ignoring Bodie's yelp as they pulled on his ankle. He wasn't in the mood to be kind and caring right now. Eight o'clock was looming and the way he was feeling he'd be lucky to stay awake through the briefing.

"The cocoa didn't work," Bodie announced sadly once he was free.

"Want another?"

"Nah. I'll be up half the night needing to pee."

"Don't wake me if you are. Got an early start." With a final flourish, Doyle got the bedding straight. "Anything else?"

"S'ppose not."

They were back to petulant child, but Doyle refused to fall for it. "See you in the morning, then."

He was halfway out of the door when Bodie said, "Keep us company?"

"For Christ's sake, Bodie!" But the pout was back in force. Doyle took a deep breath and let it out slowly. If Bodie wanted him there, then - well, he wasn't going to argue.

"Right, shift over then. Least you can do is share the bed."

With a huge grin, Bodie shifted. Doyle crawled in next to him, his eyes closing as soon as his head hit the pillow.

**

"Ray?" It wasn’t a shout, but this rendition of his name was accompanied by a poke between his shoulder blades.

"What?"

"Can't sleep."

"Tough."

Silence. He was on the verge of dropping off again when the bed began to shake. Slowly, rhythmically, distinctively. Doyle opened his eyes. The room was pitch black. Still the early hours of the morning.

"Bodie?"

The bed stopped moving. "Yeah?"

"You doing what I think you're doing?"

"Depends what you think I'm doing."

"What I think you’re doing, mate, is having a wank."

"Then you’d be right."

Was there an answer to that? If there was, Doyle's brain was too dazed to find it. Of all the scenarios his brain had conjured up, this had to be the most surreal. He decided to keep his own counsel. Bodie, on the other hand, seemed determined to share.

"Helps me sleep. Except…"

He wasn't going to fall for it. He wasn't. He… Ah, bollocks. "Except?"

"It's me shoulder. Can't really do it with me left hand. Doesn't work right."

No, he wasn’t really suggesting what Doyle thought he was suggesting – was he? No. It had to be a dream. Nowhere in all his experience of Bodie was there anything to suggest that this would ever happen. Except… It was.

"Bodie?" The shaking stopped again.

"Yeah?" Was it his imagination or did that voice sound a little strained?

"Before, when Murph arrived, what were you about to say?"

Silence, then, "Can't remember."

That was that then. For a split second Doyle's hopes had risen, only to be dashed on the rocks of Bodie's recalcitrance.

Little grunts started along with the shaking. Doyle buried his head in the pillow and tried not to listen. Tried not to think. Tried not to imagine. He failed. Completely, utterly, totally. Surrounded by Bodie's scent, hearing his voice, knowing knowing what he was doing just inches away. His mind filled in the blanks. He could see it. Bodie's hand where Doyle wanted his to be. He could almost feel the hot steel of him against his palm. Feel the slide of soft skin, the pulse of blood and desire. And Christ, he wanted it.

Bodie shifted in the bed and the light flicked on.

"Ray? Mate?" No. Couldn't be happening. Doyle burrowed deeper. "Please, sunshine? I know you want to. And I shouldn't have wound you up earlier. Was out of line, doing that, but… Ray? God, Ray, I need a hand here."

That clinched it. It had to be a dream. Bodie was not lying in bed next to him asking for a handjob. He couldn't be. Things like that happened in Doyle’s dreams, not in real life.

He lifted his head off the pillow and stared into desperate midnight blue eyes.

"Please?"

And what defence was there against that? Every wall Doyle possessed collapsed under the weight of that word and that look. His hand was moving before he could discipline it to stillness, creeping under the covers until it found Bodie's thigh. He flattened his palm against the muscle, feeling it twitch, feeling the power he knew as well as his own and trusted more than himself.

It was good, but he wanted more. Wanted to hear Bodie gasp, wanted him to lose that cool control. And yeah, wanted revenge for whatever plan was in Bodie’s twisted head.

He slid his hand higher. His fingertips encountered softness, and Bodie did gasp. Gasped and thrust slightly, encouragingly. Yes. Doyle shifted across the bed, pressing against Bodie's good side, luxuriating in the warm solidity of him. Bodie stared up at him, his eyes already hazy. Another expression for the scrap book. It could become a life's work, collecting them. Treasuring them. Finding out what caused them.

Right now the cause was in Doyle's hand, throbbing in time with Bodie's heart as if he was holding Bodie's life in his palm. But then he'd done that a thousand times before. This was no different. Just the final step. Or maybe a sideways one.

Doyle pushed himself up, bracing over Bodie so he could press him down, so he could see between them and watch his hand working slickly over Bodie's cock. Christ, it was almost too much. He bit his lip and closed his eyes, but all that did was heighten everything he was feeling. Bodie's breath, the heave of his chest, the way his fingers impressed against Doyle’s own arm, demanding more and harder.

They couldn't do much, Bodie was too hurt, but they could do this. And do it well. Like everything between them, instinct governed. As he leaned down, Bodie lunged up, and they met, mouths already open. No gentle kiss this, but good. Wet and hot and intense. Relentless passion. Doyle tightened his hand, found the rhythm that made Bodie's hips jerk harder and his belly twitch. The hard thigh trapped between his own slid across his cock and he humped against it, channelling the jolt of lust back into the kiss until they made a perfect circuit, hands to mouths to cocks and back again, and all was slick and hot and movement.

Time was suspended. Hours may have passed, or seconds. Bodie possessed him. Surrounded him. Lost in sensation, Doyle could only hold on and ride the riptide. And when he came, it was almost an afterthought, so focused was he on Bodie and his body, on his climax, so engrossed in smell and touch, so immersed in the taste of sweat on his tongue and the sound of Bodie panting his name. With a final cry and heave of his hips, Bodie joined him, spilling over Doyle's hand, his body jerking to a panting breathless standstill and then they were both drained and exhausted.

After a decent second, Doyle flopped sideways and wiped his hand on the covers. His head was spinning from the intensity. And from the knowledge that they'd finally done it. Crossed the last barrier between them.

Bodie's hand nudged against his and slipped them together, twining their fingers, and Doyle rolled over and offered a tired but happy smile.

"Reckon you might sleep now?" he asked.

"Should do," Bodie replied with a smile of his own. He certainly looked relaxed enough. “Better than painkillers any day of the week.”

"So you feel like telling me what the hell you’re up to?"

Bodie’s fingers tightened around his. "It's pretty simple really."

Doyle propped himself up on his elbow and gave Bodie his full attention. This he had to hear.

"The thing is, I've had my suspicions for a while but I was waiting for you to make the first move. Trying to be good and noble, as you know I am." Guileless eyes sparkled from a flushed face.

"Yeah, Sir ruddy Galahad. So why now?"

"After what you said earlier, in the bathroom, I thought tonight you'd finally take the plunge. But you didn't. And the thing is," Bodie grinned, "I got fed up waiting. Thought I'd hurry it along, get you into bed with me. And you bloody well went to sleep! Talk about a let down. There was me, all revved up and you were snoring your head off. I tell you, Ray, you'd test the patience of a ruddy saint."

Doyle shook his head. "You mean all that dancing about was you waiting for me?"

"Yep."

"And there was me, waiting for you. Christ, what a pair."

Bodie nodded, then yawned, his eyes drifting to half-mast. "Can we talk in the morning? `M knackered."

"Oh, now he's knackered. Kept me up half the night wanting drinks and tablets and bloody sex and now he's too tired to talk."

"Come on, Ray, don't be rotten. Gotta get my beauty sleep else I won't heal up."

"Go on then. Abandon me, why don't you."

He might as well not have bothered. Bodie was flat out, mouth slightly open, breath deep. There was something distinctly peaceful about watching Bodie sleep. Especially after the day they'd had.

Doyle yawned and snuggled into the pillow. Yeah, definitely peaceful.

He could get used to this…

 

 

The End

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