“I think you’ll like this place, John. The instructors are excellent and it’s ideal for networking.” A short laugh punctuated the conversation. “I’m surprised you’re not already a member.”
Bodie missed the reply as the two men turned down the corridor to the changing rooms but the speaker was familiar enough. Chief Inspector Colmore, one of the few decent coppers left in the Met according to Doyle. Not that they’d ever met the man. Decent he might be, but like most high-ranking police officers, he didn’t lower himself to mix with the type of plebe employed by George Cowley.
Bodie turned his attention back to the foils he was inspecting, putting one aside to have its grip re-wrapped. It wouldn’t do for the gentlemen’s delicate pinkies to be damaged by shoddy equipment, and luckily Bodie had the expertise to ensure that didn’t happen. Of course, that was only one of the reasons he was here. The other concerned Sir Stephen Eldridge, senior civil servant and man about town, who was rumoured to be using the club as cover for some seriously dodgy deals. So far nothing had surfaced.
“Cut your thumb off doing that.”
Bodie jumped, nearly proving his partner right. Not that he was going to admit it. He smirked as Doyle put foil and mask down on the desk and perched his bum next to them. “No danger of that, sunshine. Sharp as your sense of humour, these are.”
“Very funny.” Stripping off his outer jacket, Doyle gave a hefty sigh and blew sweaty curls off his face. “How’s it going?”
“Nothing, `less the Cow’s interested in who Eldridge is screwing. You?”
“Same. Reckon this is a waste of time. It’s all office gossip and old boy networks.”
Bodie nodded glumly. “Least you get decent digs. Staff accommodation here’s got more in common with the nick than…” His voice trailed off as Colmore wandered back into the equipment room. “Can I help you, sir?”
“I need a training foil for a guest member.” Colemore glanced at Doyle who was glaring studiously at the desk, did a slight double take, then turned back to Bodie, adding, “And safety equipment.”
As Bodie went about rustling up the request, Doyle made his exit, a subtle nod his only gesture of farewell. And that, Bodie thought, would be the last he’d see of his partner for the next couple of days. Trust Doyle to pull the fun end of the op, though Bodie supposed it was a good thing he was the one playing servant. Doyle was terrible at holding his tongue when pompous idiots gave orders and this place was crawling with them.
With Colmore happily sent on his way, Bodie picked up the equipment Doyle had left behind and began checking it over. The truth was, working apart on this op was blessing and torture rolled into one. Despite Bodie’s hopes, not seeing Ray had turned out to be just as bad as being with him every day. At least when they were together, Bodie had an easy way of getting his daily Doyle fix, even if it did come under the guise of playful gropes and hair ruffling. Working separate ends of the op meant Bodie had to make do with his imagination, which had started conjuring up all sorts of unlikely fantasies.
Clutching the warm, Doyle-scented, jacket to his face for just a moment, Bodie took a deep breath, stealing a momentary illusion of intimacy. Then, with that to sustain his wandering mind, he returned to checking the spare foils.
A burr sliced deep into his thumb as he smoothed it up the next blade. He cursed under his breath and stuck his thumb in mouth. Damn shoddy maintenance. Eddie didn’t deserve a holiday if this was his idea of keeping foils in good repair. Still it gave him an excuse to stop working for a moment and let the fantasy progress.
They’d be en piste. The training room would be empty - after hours then - the lights low. Doyle would look magnificent, whites clinging to his form, delineating lithe lines and strong muscles. They’d be halfway through a bout when Ray would lose his temper, thanks to a nifty bit of footwork taking him by surprise. He’d rip off his mask and glower ferociously, pressing the attack, forcing Bodie to retreat further and further until he’s pinned against the wall. Then, with the tip of his foil, Doyle would lift Bodie’s mask. For a long moment they’d stare at each other, the months and years of tension finally brought to its natural, inevitable, conclusion. Bodie, wanting to do or say something, would be unable to move, incapacitated by the need to have those ripe lips touch his own, the desire to feel that whip-lean body in his arms. Doyle would meet his gaze, all challenge and arrogance, and then lean forwards until his breath skated over Bodie’s ear and whisper…
“Have you got a larger size? This doesn’t fit.”
Caught off guard, Bodie glanced up, took one look at the man leaning over the desk, and nearly bit his thumb clean off. “Ray?” he gulped, realising his mistake even as the name escaped. It wasn’t Ray, but it could be his brother. Did Doyle have any brothers? He’d never said, but if he did, they must look just like this. The man’s hair was shorter, wavy rather than curly, the face subtly different - a little less careworn. Happier maybe, as if he didn’t spend his every waking moment wrestling with his conscience. And the cheekbone was undamaged of course. It lent an odd symmetry to familiar, much loved, features.
“Are you all right?” The Doyle twin gestured, indicating the thumb which, Bodie realised, was now dripping on the desk.
“Erm, yeah.” This was bloody ridiculous. Come on man, pull yourself together. “Just a cut. There’s a first aid kit round here somewhere.” He yanked out a couple of drawers, eventually finding the small green box and plonking it down on top of his notepad. The lid wouldn’t open. Whether it was his cut thumb or shaking hands, Bodie wasn’t sure.
“Let me.” Long-fingered hands took the box from him, opened it and pulled out its lone, monstrous, plaster. “Big enough do you think?” The humour in his words was as gentle as the man’s hands and Bodie couldn’t help responding.
“If I’d been run over by a steam roller.”
The laugh was familiar too. Deep and wicked and enough to send what blood remained in Bodie’s body rushing south.
“Maybe we can trim it a bit. I don’t suppose there’s any scissors in here.”
Bodie watched helplessly as the bloke dug around in the box, apparently without success.
“You could sue, you know,” came the running commentary. “They have a legal responsibility to provide a properly equipped first aid kit for employees.”
“What are you? A lawyer?”
A wide grin shot in Bodie’s direction. “Yes, actually. John Deed, barrister.”
“David Bentley.” Bodie, reaching out to take the offered hand, dripped more blood on the desk and swore, “Bloody hell. Better not, mate. You’ll end up looking like something from Hammer Horror.”
“I might at that. Hang on, this might help.” With a flourish Deed handed over an immaculate white handkerchief.
Bodie took it gratefully and wrapped it round his thumb.
“Lift it. That might slow the bleeding.”
Bodie felt a right prat, sat with his swaddled thumb held over his head. And if the twitching of Deed’s lips meant anything, he looked a right prat as well. So much for keeping a low profile. This story’d be all round the club in five minutes.
“Feel like I’m asking to go to the bog,” he muttered after a silent second.
Deed smiled and perched on the edge of the desk in exactly the same place Doyle had sat minutes before. Bodie knew this `cause his brain had drawn a white-line round the outline and - would you look at that - Deed’s fit the shape too. Exactly.
“That I can’t help you with,” Deed was saying. “You’ll have to hold it yourself.”
Bodie shot a quick glance at him, catching a glint in murky green eyes, a slight dilation of pupils. Was Deed flirting with him?
His gaze continued downwards, next stop hands lying on slim muscular thighs. On the left ring finger, a gold band. Not that Deed would be the first married man to make a pass Bodie’s way. He tended to attract them. He’d always assumed that he was good looking enough, but too butch to cause comment. Still, this was a barrister. If Bodie got it wrong he could be for the high jump.
“I erm…” Bodie stuttered. Deed simply raised an eyebrow and left him to try again. He did. “Would you, erm, fancy coming for quick pint after? To say thanks for lending a hand?”
“Just a quick drink?” Deed said. “I was rather hoping my impromptu detour into medicine would merit a little more than that.” A blush stole up Bodie’s cheeks. Deed smiled at him, almost sympathetically. “How about a meal? I know a discreet place not far from here where we can eat and talk without being overheard. Something of a bonus for a man in my position.”
There was so much contained in that bland statement. Bodie hoped he’d picked up on everything. Discreet and a man in Deed’s position - in other words, sex would be on the menu, but nothing more. Was that what he wanted for himself, Bodie wondered? He’d avoided men since taking up with CI5. The risk hadn’t seemed worth it. And then there was Doyle.
Oh, but the temptation. Deed was so much like Ray, except that he was attainable in a way Ray would never be. Too straight, too honest, too much in love with love itself ever to fall for his partner, was Raymond Doyle. Whereas Deed was sitting on Bodie’s desk, his expression frank and interested, his demeanour relaxed. If he was playing agent provocateur, then he was the best bloody actor Bodie had ever come across.
His mind made up, Bodie nodded. “Yeah, okay. I finish at nine. Where do you want to meet?”
“The Brewer’s Arms. Do you know it?”
Any doubts Bodie might have had, fled. If he’d been asked to select a pub himself, The Brewer’s would have been the one. Gay-friendly, but not part of the new scene, it was the kind of place professional men went to meet each other and only an old hand would know that.
Even though the box was strictly off-limits, Bodie dragged it out from the back of the wardrobe. Rosie’s new phone number had to be in it somewhere, `cause it certainly wasn’t anywhere else in the flat and he’d run out of other places to look. The piece of string attaching the key to the catch frayed under his shaking fingers as he fought to untie it. Stupid bloody thing. Ray should have replaced it years ago. Would have served him right if it’d dropped off and been lost.
Having finally wrestled the box open, he poked around looking for an address book or anything that might have the right information. Letters, possibly. Or old Christmas cards. Did Rosie even send a card anymore? He couldn’t remember. They’d not seen her for over ten years. Not since she remarried.
There was nothing. Frustrated, he upended the box and sifted through the contents that way. Document envelopes stamped with the name of Ray’s car insurance company, two or three manila files tied with more string, and a large brown envelope, brittle with age. The papers crammed inside it looked equally ancient; a state Bodie sympathised with right now. He should have taken the box through to the living room and emptied it on the desk. It wasn’t like anyone would see him. The house was empty. Echoingly so. But it didn’t feel right, prying into Ray’s private affairs on the desk where he used to work. It smacked of underhandedness and Bodie wasn’t ready to face that just yet.
Knowing the number he wanted couldn’t be inside, he still pulled the papers out of the envelope and, almost without thinking, flicked through them. Ray’s birth certificate was first. Born January, 1945, mother Eileen Doyle, father Joseph Raymond Doyle, of Derby. No surprises there. Bodie’d met them both. They’d been introduced not long after he and Ray had been partnered, just before Ray’s dad died. A nice couple. Working class through and through, but the best. They’d certainly done a fine job with their son.
Below that certificate was another, this one belonging to Ray’s parents. Married June, 1944? Dirty little buggers. Bodie smiled sadly as he put both documents away. He’d been closer than he thought all these years calling Ray a bastard.
The other papers in the envelope were letters, all with the same return address - The Sacred Heart Adoption Agency. Pulled suddenly back in time and curious, Bodie undid the knotted string and rifled through them. Eventually he opened the most dog-eared, working on the principle that it had probably been read the most and so might contain something worth reading.
After tugging the heavy paper out of the envelope, Bodie settled back against the bed.
‘Dear Mr and Mrs Doyle,’ it said. ‘I am happy to inform you that a place has been found for your son, Joseph. Although I am not at liberty to disclose the identity of the couple, please rest assured that they will care for him as though he was their own.’
The meaningless platitudes continued down the page to the signature at the bottom; Sister Clotilde, on behalf of the Sacred Heart Adoption Agency.
Bodie’s belly tightened. Doyle had a brother. He hadn’t been barking up the wrong tree at all, all those years ago, but why hadn’t Ray said anything? Perhaps because he hadn’t known any more than that Joseph had been adopted? Agencies back then could be hellishly close-mouthed, though with Doyle's level of access to records in CI5, Bodie thought he’d have at least checked up.
He skimmed the rest of the letters but there was nothing else about Joseph, other than to say he was settling well, so Bodie dug deeper into the pile on the floor. Near the bottom was an old manila file with the letters JD scrawled on the front in thick black pen. Joseph Doyle? He untied the piece of tatty string, nearly dropping everything when newspaper clippings cascaded out and fluttered to the floor.
A face stared out at him, a face that aged from picture to picture but stayed essentially the same and, to Bodie, painfully familiar. He reached out and picked one up. Dated 1984, it was a small feature on a top QC. Bodie traced the image with a single finger. So, Ray had known of Deed’s existence for over twenty years and kept it a secret. Why? More to the point, just how much had he known? And when?
Keeping the letter from the agency and the clipping carefully aside, Bodie put the rest of the papers away. It was time to go and get this straightened out, once and for all. And Rosie? Well, if she couldn’t be bothered to keep in touch, then neither could Bodie.
Who would have thought it was so difficult to see a Judge? Over a week it’d taken to track the bloke down.
The door behind the platform opened and Bodie glanced up hopefully. An attractive lady barrister entered the courtroom and stalked past the empty benches. Bodie smiled as she came close, curious as ever to see if his charm still worked. She returned the smile but didn’t stop. He sighed and stared after her. Lost it, old son. The infamous Bodie charm no longer brought them running. Getting past it.
“Mr Bodie?” The Judge’s clerk, Mrs Cooper, a woman who made a doctor’s receptionist look pliable and co-operative, appeared next to him.
“Yeah?” He stood, dragging his hands out of his pockets, and tugging self-consciously at his jacket.
“The Judge will see you now, Mr Bodie, if you would like to come with me.”
He followed her, the nervous tightening in his belly rising to his throat as she paused halfway down a corridor, opened a door and gestured him inside. Deed was standing by his desk. He looked older, as Bodie’d expected, and thicker set than Ray, the penalty of a deskbound job and lack of time to exercise no doubt. And now he had an old injury to his face, in exactly the same place as Ray's.
The Judge looked up, and Bodie could pinpoint the exact moment Deed recognised him - the face which had been cautiously welcoming hardened, the eyes turned flinty.
“Shall I fetch your tea now, Judge?” Mrs Cooper asked.
Deed hesitated for a second and then said, “Actually, Coop, would you stay?” Mrs Cooper gave him a quizzical look and took a seat by the window, at her own desk if the piles of paperwork were an indication. Once she was seated, the Judge returned his attention to Bodie.
“William Bodie. I’d say it was a pleasure to meet you, but since we’re already acquainted, albeit under a different name, it seems rather pointless.” The lack of a hand to shake was not lost on Bodie. “I was under the impression I had an appointment with someone from CI5, yet I seem to remember you mending foils at the Olympian Club.”
It was Bodie’s turn to hesitate. It wasn’t that the Judge was being hostile so much as he was being wary and Bodie couldn’t fathom why. “I was undercover at the time, sir.”
“Ah, that would explain it. And tell me, were other events also part of your undercover role? Now perhaps retirement is creeping up, you’re hoping to exploit my position?”
What the hell was Deed on about? How could Bodie exploit his position, unless…
“Ow! Bloody hell, stop a minute!”
“What? I haven’t hurt you, have I?”
“No, just cramp.” Bodie eased his leg out straight and sighed happily when John started rubbing his calf to untwist the muscle. “Sorry about that. Talk about ruining the moment.”
“I thought I’d done you a mischief for a minute there.”
“Nah, I’ll live. Teach me to get athletic without a proper warm-up.”
“As long as you're alright.”
Poor bloke looked so sorry for himself, kneeling there with his soft cock drooping between his legs and his bottom lip trapped between worrying teeth that Bodie couldn’t help sniggering. John glared at him and, when Bodie didn’t stop, smacked his backside, hard.
“Ow! What was that for?” Bodie yelped, curling up to protect his more vulnerable bits.
“That, David, was for not respecting your elders.” David. It sounded so wrong, and yet that was the name Bodie had been using during the op, and he hadn’t seen the point in reintroducing himself when it came to an end. It wasn’t as though he saw John for anything other than sex. It would just raise awkward questions.
“Not that much older. What are you? Thirty six, thirty seven?”
“Thirty five, thank you very much.” John ran his hand through his hair, managing to rumple it even more. “It’s the grey, isn’t it? George says I should dye it.”
“George?” The question was intrusive, and they had agreed the first time they got together not to share personal information, but Deed’s resemblance to Ray tweaked Bodie’s curiosity. He was even more interested now he knew they were same age.
John sat back, crossing his legs in front of him. “That would be my wife,” he said seriously. “I’m sorry, I should have-”
“Not a problem,” Bodie interjected. “I knew you were married before I agreed to have a drink with you.”
“How…? Oh, the club. Yes, I suppose people do talk.”
“Nope, not the club, the ring.” Bodie pointed at the wedding ring on John’s finger.
John stared at it for a second before bursting out laughing. “Yes, well,” he managed between gasps for air, “it would be a bit of a give away.”
Propped on one elbow, Bodie watched appreciatively until the bundle of laughter next to him calmed. Just as beautiful as Ray, he thought, although there was less character in John’s face. Less life lived. Maybe in a few years it would be different, but right now John Deed actually looked younger than Doyle did. He screwed well enough though. The happy ache in Bodie’s arse, and the goofy smile he knew crossed his face, testified to that. They’d spent hours in the sack finding out what made each other tick.
Would it be the same with Ray? Better. Ray would be stronger, fitter, harder. More able to wrap himself around Bodie and take what he wanted. The mere idea caused his sated cock to give an optimistic twitch.
“Penny for them?” John was asking, all seriousness now.
Caught daydreaming, Bodie shrugged and prevaricated. “Just wondering what your wife’d think about this. Us.”
In one move, Deed was up and out of the bed, reaching for his underwear. “Don’t think to use this against me,” he was saying. “I’ll not be blackmailed.”
“Hang on.” Bodie’s voice rose and he followed him up off the bed, on the verge of losing his temper despite himself. From shock more than anything. Where the hell had this come from? “That’s not what I bloody said, so don’t come it.”
“No?” Deed glared at him, the effect somewhat ruined by his Y-fronts caught round his thighs. “Then why ask how my wife would feel? How she would or wouldn’t feel has absolutely nothing to do with you, Bentley.”
“Christ! If you’ll stop going off half-cocked and get back into bed, maybe we can sort this out without resorting to surnames and stupidity.”
Deed glared at him a moment longer and then relaxed. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I might be a little touchy.”
“Touchy?” Bodie laughed and climbed back on the bed. “More like touch paper, mate, as in light the blue and retreat to a safe distance. You fly off the handle quicker than Ray does.”
Shit. He hadn’t meant to say that. “My erm… partner.”
Deed smiled and sat down. “Now I know I over reacted. You’re in a relationship as well.”
It was as good a cover story as any and it was certainly what Bodie wished for. “Yeah. Seven years.”
“Seven! I’m impressed. George and I have only been together for four.”
Bodie laughed again. “At least I can claim the seven year itch, what’s your excuse?”
“Would you believe the pressure of work?”
“With that look on your face? Not in the slightest.”
“Ah. Then, a touch of honesty, although it does make me look the bastard.” After dragging the duvet over his legs, John continued, “George had a miscarriage last year and since then…”
“She hasn’t been interested?”
“Precisely.” John’s entire body sagged. He seemed suddenly so sad that Bodie couldn’t resist reaching out and pulling him into a hug.
“It’s not unusual for a bird to go off the boil,” he offered as reassurance once he had the dark head tucked under his chin. Deed didn’t smell like Ray, and the lingering tang of gun oil was missing, but sweat and musk covered most of the strangeness. “Bet you anything she picks up in a couple of months.”
“Perhaps,” was mumbled into his chest.
“And in the meantime, if you’re that worried about being caught with a bloke you probably ought to stick to women.” It was instinctive, this concern over security. In his years in CI5, Bodie had seen the damage a blackmail threat could wreak on otherwise honourable men and he’d hate to see Deed brought low. He liked him.
Deed lifted his head. “You might be right. I thought that sleeping with men would be less like adultery, but in reality it’s the same. It’s the intent that counts after all, isn’t it?”
Bodie shrugged. He wasn’t going to comment on the morality of the issue. Hell, he wasn’t in a position to comment on any of it. After all, here he was screwing a bloke just because he looked like someone else.
So that was it.
The nerves that had plagued Bodie since he’d first decided to formally introduce himself to Ray’s brother, vanished, replaced by amusement at the whole ridiculous situation. “Bloody hell, you think I’m here to blackmail you?” From the corner of his eye, Bodie glimpsed Mrs Cooper sit up straighter. Protective of her boss, that one. It was nice to see in this day and age.
Taking his cue from the tenor of the Judge’s voice, Bodie answered firmly, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Deed studied him for a second. Bodie kept his temper, knowing this man would be able to see through to his honesty. Finally Deed nodded. “Okay. Coop, I think we’d like that tea now, please.”
Mrs Cooper slipped from the room with only the briefest of backward glances, leaving the two of them alone.
“Take a seat?” Deed said, gesturing to a chair currently occupied by a small black dog. “Just push her off, she won’t mind.”
Tentatively, Bodie insinuated a hand between fur and seat. The dog glared at him, but didn’t object when she was eased to the floor.
“I’ll get Coop to take her out when she gets back. Tea all right with you?” Deed had settled on the couch and was looking much more relaxed.
“Yeah, tea’s fine. It’s a bit early for anything else and I’m trying to cut down.” Bodie patted his stomach. Not bad for an old’un, he thought.
“Aren’t we all, Mr Bodie. Or do you prefer some other name?”
Bodie shifted uncomfortably. “Just Bodie’s fine. It’s what everyone calls me.”
“Unless they’re calling you David.” A briefest of smiles took the bite from the words, though Bodie recognised them for what they were. The Judge was still not happy with him. “So why did you want to see me?”
“Actually it’s a private matter.” With the way things had gone so far, Bodie was having second thoughts about asking, but he had to. John deserved to know. “You were adopted, weren’t you?”
Deed’s eyes narrowed and after a second he looked away. “How did you know? Did you access my records?”
“No. I don’t have that sort of clearance any more. Look, this is going to sound crazy, but…” Sitting forward in his chair, Bodie opened his hands, non-threatening. “You remember me mentioning my partner Ray?”
“Vaguely.” Deed was shaking his head, as wary again as when he first recognised Bodie.
“Well, I wasn’t completely honest with you. I told you he was my partner, but he wasn't. Not like that. At least not at the time. And… the thing is, I slept with you because you looked so much like him.”
“I? Looked like your partner?”
“The spit of him. Peas in a pod, the pair of you.”
“Random genetics can cause-”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought, so I asked him if he had any brothers.”
“And?” Despite his words, there was a definitely hopeful air to Deed now.
“He said he didn’t.”
Deed deflated as if someone had stuck him with a pin. Then he leaned right back, and waved a languorous hand. “There you are then. A coincidence, nothing more.”
“Not that easy, I’m afraid. You see, about twenty years ago, his mum died…”
When Bodie got back with the Chinese, Ray was in the bathroom. And he’d locked the door, the silly bugger. Bodie left him for a decorous period, then got fed up with waiting to eat and thumped on the door. “Dinner is served.”
“You eat. ‘M not hungry.”
Since Ray, who could be as picky as teen when he was in a mood, had been the one demanding Chinese in the first place, it seemed pretty unlikely he’d merely changed his mind in the short time Bodie had been out. Something had happened.
Bodie knocked again. “You okay?”
“Go ‘way, Bodie, I’m fine.”
If that was fine, then Bodie was the Queen mum. “You’re not, sunshine. Let me in.” Not that he was worried Ray’d do anything stupid, but it had been a stressful few weeks what with Cowley announcing his retirement and now this.
“Just…” There was a gasping pause and a muffled noise that sounded distinctly like a curse. “Bugger off. I just need to… to think about things.”
There wasn’t much Bodie could do with that, except what he was told. “I’ll go plate-up and put the kettle on,” he said. “Food’ll be there when you feel like it.” With that, he retreated to the kitchen, put the takeaway in the oven to keep warm, set the kettle to boil and started tidying up.
There were boxes everywhere. Piles and piles of things that they’d spent the weekend shipping down from Ray’s mum’s house. According to Ray’s cousin Rosie, most of it was ornaments. She’d asked Ray to get rid of them, saying they would fetch a better price in London than Derby. She was probably right, but in the meantime the boxes were going to clutter up their flat and the mess was already starting to drive Bodie quietly up the wall. He’d learned to live with Ray’s untidiness, but this was bloody ridiculous.
It took over an hour to pile everything in one corner and there was still no sign of Ray. Unable to wait any longer, Bodie ate his own meal, made a pot of tea, poured two mugs and took one through.
“Cuppa outside,” he called through the still barred door. “I'm watching telly if you need me.” Ray probably wouldn’t. He hadn’t changed since they'd moved in together. He still preferred to shut himself away to brood and Bodie had learned to give him the space to do it.
Telly control in one hand, Bodie threw himself on the couch, yelping when he slammed his calf on the corner of a box protruding from underneath. He frowned at the offending item – that hadn't been there when he went to collect the food - and yanked it out. It was a lock box, the sort used to store documents against fire, flood, and any other nasties nature decided to throw at people. Bodie’d never seen it before, so it had to have belonged to Ray's mum. Come down with the rest of junk. Family papers presumably.
He poked at the catch. It was locked, but the key was dangling from it by a bit of string. Curious, he unlocked and opened the lid, wondering if he might find the answer to Ray’s suddenly odd mood inside.
“What the bloody hell are you doing?” Bodie found himself shoved back onto the couch as Ray grabbed the box and hauled it away from him. “That’s mine, you bastard! Private, okay? That’s why it was bloody locked!”
“Okay, fine. No need to throw a wobbly,” Bodie placated, but in truth he was shocked by the vehemence of the attack. During the two years they’d been together, Doyle had never gone for him. Not even when he’d deserved it. Right now, though, Ray looked ready to do that and then some. Wild-eyed, he was crouched over the box, his expression leaving Bodie in no doubt as to what he’d get if he didn’t back off.
“Your box. I get it.” Bodie held his hands up to forestall the explosion, but it never arrived. With a final glare in his direction, Ray picked the box up and stalked out of the room.
“And that was the last time the box was mentioned,” Bodie finished. “Bloody thing’s moved with us more than half a dozen times since then.”
“I still don’t see what that has to do with me,” Deed said, sipping his tea. Not a slurp in sight, Bodie thought. Maybe he and Ray weren’t related after all.
“I opened the box last week.”
“Ah.” The cup was placed carefully back in its saucer. “Did your partner give you permission to do this?”
“Ray’s…” Bodie blinked. “He’s not around. He had a heart attack ten days ago.”
“Heart…? I-I see.”
Bodie couldn’t. His eyes were starting to sting and any moment now he was going to make a fool of himself. Christ, he’d done so well holding everything together over the past few days and now the feelings had ambushed him. Fear clamped his throat, his own heart pounded, his hands shook so much he had to clench them into fists. Thankfully the Judge seemed to realise he needed a moment and remained silent until Bodie regained his equilibrium and could speak again.
“You see,” he said. “I had my suspicions when I met you. And then after his mum died, Ray decided we should get out of CI5. Our boss was retiring, and despite what he wanted there was no way Whitehall would let either of us take over. We didn’t fit in with the old school tie brigade.”
“Cowley didn’t agree, gave Ray one hell of a dressing down about responsibility, so rather than quit, we agreed to stay on in the background. Low profile stuff, training mostly, running ops, that sort of thing. `Bout the only area we were qualified for really. Well, that or private body guarding and both of us decided we’d had enough of being shot at.” Bodie sighed. “Now I see the connection.”
“Us keeping our heads down, the box, and Ray having a brother.”
Deed’s cup rattled and he covered it with his other hand to steady it. “Bodie, interesting as this is, could you please tell me exactly what was in the box?”
“Your adoption papers. You and Ray are twins.” There was no way in hell Bodie dared meet the Judge’s eye so he stared hard at his fists and ploughed on. “As far as I can tell, and I pulled in a few favours to get to the bottom of this, his mum and dad were living hand to mouth when you two arrived. They couldn’t afford to keep the both of you, so they put one twin up for adoption. Seems a bit off now, but back in those days it wasn’t that uncommon. Anyway, Ray found out. There’s newspaper clippings in the box. He’s been following your career for years. You got elevated to the bench the same year as George Cowley finally retired. I think Ray realised there was no way you could avoid finding out about him if you ended up moving in the same circles. God knows how no one noticed the resemblance anyway.”
Bodie ran a hand through his hair. “I mean, I suppose it would’ve looked a bit strange a Judge having a twin brother in charge of one of the security services. Not sure how that’d go down with certain parties.”
“It…it shouldn’t have been a problem.”
There was something in the tone of voice that insisted Bodie look up. He did, only to find Deed blinking back tears.
“You all right?”
“In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure.” Putting the cup on the tray, Deed wiped at his face, then tugged a hanky from his pocket and blew his nose. “You’ve come in here and out of the blue told me I have a brother, a twin in fact, only to tell me he’s dead. How would you feel in the circumstances?”
“Dead? Ray’s not dead. Not yet anyway. He had a heart attack. Dozy bugger was jogging round the park and overdid it. Ended up in St Barts.”
“Not dead?” Something like relief spread over the Judge’s face.
“No. Not even slightly dead. He’s alive and kicking and making the nurses lives hell with wanting to get out of hospital. Gave me a nasty scare, mind. Was touch and go for the first couple of days. I always told him jogging was bad for you, and a bloke of his age? Well, it’s just daft.” Deed chuckled softly, and Bodie finally looked up at him and grinned. “Sorry for giving you a shock. I didn’t mean to.”
“It’s really, really, fine. I’m just lost for words. I, um… My parents didn’t tell me I was adopted, I only found out a couple of years ago.” He shrugged. “I thought about trying to trace my birth family, but it seemed pointless. It takes so much time and I didn’t really think… My parents were… But now you… I don’t know what to say.”
“How about that you’ll come to his sixtieth birthday bash next month. I’m rounding up a load of lads from the old days and, well, there’s not as many of them as there used to be, and having you there… He’d love it, John, I’m sure he would. He seems so proud of everything you’ve done.”
“He’ll find out you opened the box.”
Bodie grinned, sensing a crack in the armour. “Then it’ll be my arse on the line, won’t it? Just like the old days.”
“Don’t know why we’re bothering. People’ve got better things to do than hang around with some half-dead washed-up old has-been.”
Bodie glared at his partner. “If I wanted to live with Victor Meldrew, I bloody would, okay? Stop grouching and get dressed.” As usual, Ray was fighting with his tie. How many years had it been and still the bloke couldn’t tie it himself. “Want a hand with that?”
Ray threw his hands in the air and grunted in disgust. “Why’d you have to make it a black tie do, anyhow? Bit of grub and a few beers would have been enough.”
“Nope. It’s not every day you turn sixty, Raymond, and I plan on milking it for everything I can get.” As he spoke, Bodie tied the offending article into a neat bow and then planted a kiss on his lover’s cheek. “There you go. Perfect.”
Grinning despite himself, Ray poked Bodie in the chest. “Just you wait, mate. Repayment in kind is coming your way.”
“Never happen,” Bodie replied. “See, the difference between you and me is…” he paused dramatically and waited ‘til Ray’s eyebrows twitched. “You’ll be too old to remember by then.”
Ray growled and leapt. They might be older and greyer and thicker around the middle, but in the important ways, things hadn’t changed at all.
It took them half an hour to get organised again. Bodie re-tied Ray’s tie, Ray hijacked the comb and smoothed Bodie’s hair back into place, and they were ready.
The bash was being held in the upstairs room of The King’s Arms. By the time the guest of honour arrived, the place was already heaving and the moment they stepped through the door, Ray was whisked off to join in the fun. Bodie, finding himself alone for a moment, wandered over to the bar, ordered a drink and stood, gazing around in happy contentment at the swarm of familiar faces. Some old, some still frighteningly youthful. Had he and Ray ever been that young? Some mornings he found it hard to believe.
Bodie snapped to attention. “Sir. How are you?”
“Getting by, as we all are, I dare say.” Cowley was over eighty, but holding his own, yet to be afflicted by the frailties of extreme age. His golf obsession had a lot to do with that, or so Bodie had heard. “Where’s Doyle?”
“Ah…” Bodie squinted across the room. “Chatting up Susan, I think.” Just like he did every time they met. At one time Bodie would have been jealous.
“At least he’s showing some taste in his middle years,” Cowley said.
“Thank you, sir,” Bodie beamed, knowing full well that was not what was meant. Cowley didn’t disapprove of their relationship so much as he didn’t understand it. More than once the words ‘what a waste’ had entered into their discussions.
Cowley humphed and changed the subject. “I heard there was to be a surprise guest. What other poor soul did you bully into attending?”
“If I told you, sir, then it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?”
He found himself at the end of one of the old man’s more penetrating looks. They hadn’t lost their impact over the years. “Just so long as you remember it was a heart attack he had, laddie, not a stubbed toe, and sudden shocks are likely to cause a recurrence.”
Bodie stared at him. The heart attack hadn’t figured in his plans for a family reunion beyond lending it an air of urgency, but now the Cow had mentioned it… Christ! He glanced at the clock. Eight fifteen. He had to find Ray. Now. Before Deed arrived and Ray dropped dead on the spot.
He could just imagine how it would play out. A chorus of gasps and comments would rise near the door and Bodie would shove his way across the room, desperate to forestall disaster. But he’d be too late. As he reached the edge of the crowd, the sight would greet him. Ray and John facing each other across five feet of empty space. Two strangers with each other’s faces. Brothers. Twins. Separated for sixty years and now reunited.
He was an idiot. Setting this up in public and not giving Ray a moment’s warning. It didn’t matter that Ray knew of John’s existence, he certainly wasn’t expecting him to turn-up tonight.
Smiles and handshakes slowed Bodie’s progress across the room. He did his best to avoid them, but had to stop when Phelps from MI5 greeted him. Since the privatisation and amalgamation of training facilities made Phelps as much a client as CI5, Bodie couldn’t immediately give him the cold shoulder, however much he felt inclined to.
“Bodie, my man. Excellent do. You’ve quite excelled yourself.” The preamble didn’t last long. Phelps rapidly graduated into his customary litany of complaints about MI5’s financial contribution to the training centre. Bodie listened with half an ear, studying the back of Ray’s head through the crowd and fretting about how he’d react when Deed came in. Bodie’s panicked imagination kicked up another notch. He envisaged the blood draining from Ray’s face, leaving him as grey as he’d been that day in the hospital. He’d grope for support and Bodie would rush forward to grab him, only to feel Ray’s heart thumping, pounding dangerously fast as he stared at John, his face a mixture of sorrow and fear. Then he’d clutch his chest and…
“Need to get him a chair.”
Bodie blinked and found himself still face to face with Phelps. “Ah, um, I need to get more chairs.” He waved a hand in the general direction of the food. “We’re running out. Host’s job.” He didn’t wait to see if his excuse had been accepted. Putting Phelps behind him, literally and metaphorically, Bodie pushed his way through the crowd.
Even if he got Ray sat down, it still wouldn’t be enough. The hospital had said no exertion, and this was bound to qualify. Christ, how could he have been so stupid?
At last people melted away, leaving Bodie a clear view of the buffet table. Almost scared of what he might find, he sidled up to his partner who was still deep in conversation with Susan, about cars apparently.
Ray glanced at him. “Finally. Just about given you up for lost. Where’s me drink?”
Confronted by the normality of Ray’s grumpy greeting, Bodie could do no more than grin at him stupidly. Now his imagination could conjure a happier end for the scenario. It put Ray firmly in a chair, with Bodie beside him just in case. Only then could Deed approach, squat down next to the chair, and place a hand on Ray’s knee. In Bodie’s mind, Ray’s hand came to rest on top of John’s, gripping it hard. For the longest moment neither man would move or speak, then Ray reached out and touched Deed’s face. “John?”
The next second they’d be in each other’s arms, tears streaming down their cheeks, hands still tightly held. Around them, the crowd would let out a sigh of relief and conversation would start up again. People would come and shake Bodie’s hand and congratulate him on finding and reuniting the long lost brothers and ply him with drinks, and everything would be perfect.
“Oi! I asked if you’d got me a drink, you dozy bugger. Honestly a bloke could die of thirst around here.”
Drink? But that would mean leaving Ray alone again and Deed might appear and he hadn’t told him yet. Bodie looked hopefully at Susan who rolled her eyes and said, “If it’s a waitress you’re after, you’ll have to find someone else. My days of running after you two are well and truly over.”
Eight-thirty then nine and ten came and went with no sign of Deed arriving. Bodie remained on tenterhooks, still waiting for the right moment to tell Ray about his surprise guest. But somehow neither the circumstances, nor Bodie’s courage, coincided. Instead, the evening passed in a pleasant haze of old friendships renewed and new acquaintances made. Eventually midnight rolled round and people started to drift off home.
Bodie had taken to the bar and was busy drowning his disappointment when Cowley came to say his farewells. “No surprise after all? Never mind, laddie,” he said, patting Bodie on the shoulder. “You gave it your best try, that’s all anyone can ask.”
Somehow the words held little comfort. All Bodie could think was, thank god he hadn’t told Ray. Well, that and how much he was looking forward to demonstrating certain training techniques on His Lordship when he got his hands on him. The bastard.
Sundays were their day. Even close friends knew better than to call in on Sundays unless explicitly invited. It harked back to their days of active service when any weekend off was to be treasured and its time strictly doled out. After they took over the training centre from Macklin, their hours were more regular and in recent years they’d become virtual nine to fivers. Real civil servants, as Ray often said.
With his feet up on the couch in front of the fire and the afternoon match on quietly in the background, Bodie was trying to relax. It was winter outside, relegated, along with all thoughts of the new workweek, to a distant tempest. The smell of roasting chicken from the kitchen promised a decent meal later, but something worried at Bodie's mind. Ray.
Bodie glanced up from the supplement and considered his partner. Doyle had been pretending to read a book for the past hour, a fabrication Bodie had almost bought until he’d caught Ray staring at him thoughtfully. Sooner or later he’d decide to share whatever was on his mind, but in the meantime, Bodie was going to pretend everything was fine.
Finally, when the teams had gone in for half time, Ray broke the silence. “Susan’s taking early retirement.”
“Not surprised,” Bodie answered, folding his newspaper and putting it to one side.
“S’pose not.” Ray kept his book open but rested it flat on his lap. “She’s four years younger than me.”
“Feeling our age this morning, were we, sunshine?” He certainly looked it. Much better than he had directly after the heart attack, when the pallor of his skin had terrified the living daylights out of Bodie, but still drawn and tired. Last night’s party had taken more out of him that he was admitting. Still, the doctor said he should be back to normal in a couple more weeks. Despite the initial panic that had sent Bodie hunting for Rosie’s phone number, and to inadvertently find out about John, the attack hadn’t been a severe one. It had been the cold more than anything that had caused the problems, and the fact that it had taken over an hour to get Ray to the hospital.
“Just makes me think about us, is all. The job’s not the same as it was.” He gestured at the laptop and bulging briefcase Bodie had brought home on Friday. “Seem to spend all our time fighting red tape instead of getting agents trained. Makes we wonder why we bother. Why we ever bothered. Drop in the ocean in comparison…” He paused, jaw clenched and eyes closing.
“Want to pack it in? Do something else?” Was that the cause of Ray’s odd mood this weekend? He’d seemed pensive yesterday, but Bodie had put it down to the impending birthday bash.
Ray was shrugging. “Not as easy as that though, is it? Even with two pensions, money’d be tight. Doubt we’d able to keep this place.”
He meant their house and he was probably right. Bodie loved their little mews
conversion, but the Council Tax alone was fit to cripple them. Add that to mortgage
repayments, the gas bill, insurance…They’d not be on the breadline,
but they could kiss goodbye to some of the luxuries they enjoyed.
“So we move out of London.”
But Ray wasn’t having any of his optimism. “And go where? Have you seen the way property prices are going? We’d be lucky to get a one bedroom flat in Sunderland for the same price we paid for this.”
Unwilling to end up dragged into an argument when Ray was in one of these moods, Bodie picked up the paper again and noisily flicked it open. Sooner or later Ray would deal with whatever was bothering him and either bring it up properly or make a decision. And if they had to retire and move out of London, well it didn’t mean much to Bodie. As far as he was concerned, home was wherever Ray was. Much as he liked his comforts, nothing else mattered.
“S’pose we could go up north,” Ray continued glumly. “Or sell the cars. Bloody petrol costs a fortune and that old Merc of yours drinks the stuff.”
Ah. Suddenly it all made sense. The credit card bill must have arrived and since Bodie had stuck nearly everything on it when Ray'd been in hospital, it must be pretty hefty. “Sorry about that,” he muttered. “I’ll stick some extra in the joint account.”
Ray stared at him, his gaze, for once, unfathomable. Bodie stared back, waiting for him to say something else. The atmosphere felt strained, full of undercurrents. Then, without saying another word, Ray returned to his book and began reading again, leaving Bodie to wonder what the hell it had all been about.
Monday lunchtime found Bodie furiously pacing the width of number two court. Rather than mellow over the weekend, his irritation with Deed had blossomed. Now he was looking forward to this little confrontation and to whatever pathetic excuse Deed would come up with rather than admit to being a spineless coward.
Coop’s, “The Judge will see you now,” sent Bodie hurrying up the corridor, out-pacing the secretary easily. The closed office door hardly slowed him down. A couple of sharp raps and he barged in without waiting for an answer, anger on the tip of his tongue, ready to do battle.
“You insensitive bastard…” The words dried in his mouth. Deed wasn’t alone. Lying on the couch nursing the dog, was a pale young woman with two black eyes, her bandage-wrapped right ankle raised on a cushion. Deed hovered beside her in much the same way Bodie had imagined him hovering over Ray. And when he looked up, Bodie saw that Deed himself was boasting bruises across his face.
“What the hell happened?” Bodie blurted out, immediately veering from anger to concern.
“A disagreement with a delivery van,” Deed answered, pushing himself to his feet with a grimace. “I’d love to say we won but unfortunately the other chap carried the day with little more than a dented bumper.”
“No, just dad’s driving,” the girl on the couch said with a smile. She put the dog down and offered her hand. “You must be Bodie. We were on our way to see you when we crashed. I’m Charlie Deed.”
John’s daughter. She must have been born not long after he and John had their affair? Fling? Bodie had never been sure what to call it, but he remembered it fondly. He bent over the offered hand and, with twinkling eyes, said, “I’m sorry to have inconvenienced such a beautiful young lady. You must let me repay you.” Behind him, Deed pointedly cleared his throat. Bodie grinned at Charlie and got an equally wicked grin in reply.
“I hope Ray wasn’t too disappointed.”
Bodie released Charlie’s hand with a quick squeeze and stood up. “Since I never got round to telling him, he was none the wiser. Probably a good thing, considering.”
Deed looked quizzically at him.
“His heart. Someone pointed out that producing his long lost brother without so much as a by-your-leave might come as a bit of shock.”
“Ah, then our misfortune turned out to be fortuitous indeed.”
“Not for you two.” The wind well and truly sucked from his sails, Bodie felt at rather a loose end. He’d come here with havoc in mind, only to find himself playing catch-up. “Fancy trying again?”
Deed glared balefully at the piles of paperwork on his desk. “Not until next week at the earliest, I’m afraid. Even with a couch-ridden researcher, it’s going to take days to work through that lot.”
“No way, Dad, you’re on your own,” Charlie chipped in. “Jo’s already given me heaps of CPS briefs to read through. Plus we wouldn’t want anyone knowing a junior was doing all your legwork, would we?”
“Never seems to bother you when it’s something you need help with,” Deed answered petulantly, mooching back over to his desk with hands in his pockets.
Bodie covered a chuckle. He’d forgotten how similar John and Ray could be at times.
“Judge?” Mrs Cooper appeared at the door. “Sir Ian would like to see you. As soon as possible.”
Deed sighed. “What does he want now?”
“He didn’t say, Judge, but he looked quite upset when I told him Mr Bodie from CI5 was with you.”
To Bodie’s surprise, Deed perked up at that news. A smile breaking over his face, he turned to Bodie. “I bet you do a good line in silent intimidation, don’t you?”
“Why?” Bodie asked, at the same moment at Charlie yelped, “Dad!” and Mrs Cooper gasped, “Judge!” disapprovingly.
That eloquent body expressed a second’s rebellion before Deed folded. “Oh all right. Tell him I’ll see him in a moment. Can we talk later, Bodie, to finalise the arrangements?”
“Don’t see why not.” Somewhat confused by Deed’s and the women’s reactions, Bodie got ready to take his leave. “I’m off this afternoon, so anytime later would be fine.”
The paperwork came in for another baleful scowl. “I’ll ring you. It might be safer than trying to set a time.” While they were talking, Charlie had struggled to her feet and stood wobbling on one leg. Deed looked up and frowned. “You’re supposed to be resting that.”
“And stay while Sir Ian is here? You’ve got to be kidding. Bodie, give me a lift back to town, will you?”
Her request was certainly out of blue, but Bodie was used to making split second decisions. “Yeah, if John’s okay with it.”
Deed waved them away. “Take her,” he said. “And see if you can’t drum some respect for her elders into her. God knows, I can’t.”
They’d just hit the bottom of the M23 and had, thankfully, progressed from the civil liberties implications of ID cards to the slightly less contentious subject of who was likely to win an Oscar, when Charlie’s mobile went.
Bodie, accustomed to switching off one-sided conversations, turned his mind to pondering how best to break the news about John to Ray. Despite the obvious problem with the party, there had been advantages. Primarily that a public reunion made it much less likely that Ray would knock his block off for approaching his brother. After all, Ray had known about John for twenty years and hadn’t bothered to contact him, so he must have had a reason.
Could it have been security? That was the only thing that had occurred to Bodie when he’d found the papers, but John hadn’t seen it as a problem and, from his record, he of all people was intimately aware of the private associations that could lay a judge open to criticism. Something else? The threat of retribution, perhaps? That might explain why Ray didn’t want to take a high profile position, but it didn’t touch the surface of why he hadn’t contacted his twin. As a High Court Judge, John probably had better security than either Bodie or Ray these days.
None of it made sense. Unless… Bodie shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Unless Ray somehow knew about him and John? Nah. He dismissed the idea. How could he know? The relationship hadn’t been a long one. They’d met maybe a dozen times over a three month period and hadn’t seen each other since, and that was nearly a year before Ray finally came to his senses…
“Ahhh.” Bodie leaned back on the pub bench and stretched luxuriously. An intrusive finger jabbed him in the belly where his tracksuit had ridden up. Bodie winced and glared but refused to stop appreciating the warm spring sunshine. Having spent the best part of the winter cooped up while Doyle recovered from being on the wrong end of May Li’s bullets, it felt good to get out of the flat. Maybe it would do something to improve Doyle’s mood as well. He’d been increasingly withdrawn over the past week or two, a situation Bodie put down to worry about his ability to get to full fitness. Christ knew, he wasn’t looking forward to Macklin’s tender mercies either.
“Need more than a mile down the river and back if you want to lose that lot,” Doyle said, as unrepentant as always.
Bodie finished his muscle-pinging stretch and subsided to take a sip from the first of what he hoped would be several pints. Now his partner was driving again, it made sense to use him as a non-drinking chauffeur. “Can’t all be skinny little bastards like you, sunshine,” he retorted, slapping his stomach. “Anyway, it’s all muscle this.”
Doyle snorted. “Three months ago maybe. Just when was the last time you had a decent run out?”
“Does that include down to the chippy?” Bodie asked after a second’s thought. “`Cause I did that last night.”
“No, you lazy crud. A proper jog. Three times round the graveyard or some distance roadwork.”
Bodie shrugged. He resented being called lazy. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to jog so much as he enjoyed taking his exercise in company. There was nothing more boring than pounding the pavements with nothing but your own thoughts for company. In Bodie’s experience they had a tendency to get carried away with themselves when he tried that.
“Macklin’s gonna make mincemeat out of you,” Doyle was saying as he took a sip from his Perrier. “Dunno why you do it. S’much easier to stay at peak condition than have to try and get it back.”
This being the first time Doyle had brought up his own healing body, even in a roundabout way, Bodie leapt on the chance to reassure his partner. “Won’t be that bad. Might take a couple of months mind, `specially as the doc said to take it easy.”
“At the hospital.”
“When were you at the hospital?”
“Not me, you twit, you!”
“I thought we were talking about you?” Doyle looked genuinely confused.
Bodie leaned his head in his hands. Sometimes, just sometimes, he could happily murder Ray. He took a deep breath and tried again. “We were talking about getting fit and it seemed like a good time to mention what’s been turning you into more of a bear with a sore head than usual.”
“Oh.” The confusion fled, replaced with unease. Then, apropos nothing, Doyle changed the subject. “Saw Eddie the other day. The bloke from the Olympian? The fencing club?”
Bodie frowned at him. “What’s that got to do with passing the physical?”
“Nothing,” Doyle answered with more than little exasperation. “You were the one who wanted to know what was bothering me.”
It was one of those conversations that should have been simple and yet managed to whip out of his hands like a car hitting a patch of ice. In an effort to recover, Bodie steered into the unexpected swerve. “Eddie was bothering you?”
“Not Eddie, something he said.” Without giving Bodie a chance to get a word in, Doyle kept talking. “Bodie, why didn’t you tell me you were queer?”
Bodie’s mental car hit a ditch and rolled.
“Course he didn’t let on who it was you were seeing - said it was more than his job was worth - but he reckoned you’d be pretty well set up by now.” Doyle’s eyes were fixed on his pint and his ears had gone red. “I didn’t know what to say to him. I stood there thinking, Bodie? Queer? Not possible. He has birds like most blokes have hot dinners. But I couldn’t front up and say I hadn’t a clue what he was on about. Would’ve look a bit daft wouldn’t it, him being ex-CI5 and knowing something about me partner that I didn’t. So I ended up standing there like an idiot, mouth flapping, even though the only thing bothering Eddie was Cowley. He said not to keep it quiet, by the way, `cause if the old man finds out from somewhere else, he’ll do his nut.”
It was still rolling, reality and surreality flipping past. The pub garden suffused with sunlight and cluttered with daffs replaced by Doyle quietly sitting there wondering why Bodie hadn’t told him that sometimes he enjoyed a game of hide the sausage with another bloke.
“I mean, it’s obvious really. All those girls. No normal bloke’d go through them like that. But, Christ, mate, couldn’t you have said something? Seven years is a bit of a long time to keep it quiet, ‘specially considering we double up on stake outs. Enough to make a bloke nervous, that is. We could’ve, I dunno, taken separate sleeping bags or something. It’s not like you can help it, if you’re queer.”
The momentum stopped, silence fell, and Bodie found himself sitting, rocking slightly, and wondering how he’d managed to crash so bloody badly. Denial, his good and faithful friend, deserted him. Doyle knew and there was no way of getting past that. Worse still, he felt sorry for him. Thought he was pathetic. There were many things Bodie could live with. Being feared was easy. Being envied could be fun. But being pitied hit him in a place he hated to acknowledge even existed. It made him feel vulnerable and when that happened, there was only one way to deal with it. You hit out and kept hitting until they stopped feeling sorry for you and started being scared.
But this was Ray. His partner. Too skinny and not yet healed from a bullet Bodie hadn’t been there to stop. The one person he couldn’t mash into the ground. Not even to get the pain to stop. And it had to stop. He had to get it to stop before it ripped him open and spilled his soft guts to world.
Left with no other choice, he ran.
Not caring that he was abandoning Doyle outside London without a lift, Bodie took off in the Capri and drove as if the hounds of hell were after him. The M4 proved to be exactly what he needed. Tailgating the car in front, he kept the accelerator floored and flashed his lights. The Capri leapt forwards as the Porsche pulled over and Bodie wove past it, ignoring the blaring horn and gesticulating driver. Every skill he had came into play as he cat and moused up the motorway, no doubt leaving a trail of traumatised drivers behind him, chains of yuppies calling the police. Sooner or later they’d have to stop him and then Bodie would get what he wanted. Some faces to break his fists on. Something to fight. Something to throw himself against until the pain in his heart stopped and he could walk back into Doyle’s life without killing him. Because not returning wasn’t a consideration, would never be a consideration. However blind, however maddening or even fucking pitying Ray was, he was still Ray, and Bodie could no more walk away from him than he could stop loving him.
The nausea hit suddenly. He swerved across the traffic and took a slip road, throwing the car around the corner and skidding to a halt in an empty lay-by, setting everything juddering as he slammed on the brakes. For a second he sat motionless, staring at the windscreen, his mind as blank as the glass. Wrenching pain split his head, took his breath and filled his throat with bile. The next moment he was on the verge, throwing his guts up and hugging himself, shaking uncontrollably. If someone stopped now, maybe he could claim insanity.
As it turned out, no one pulled over. Bodie sat there, leaning against the side of the car as the traffic whooshed by, staring at the sky until it got dark. When the stars were out, he picked himself up, got back in the driver’s seat and drove slowly back to London. He’d been staying at Doyle’s after the shooting, too worried about him to leave him alone for a minute even if he was in a new place, but he couldn’t face returning there tonight, so home it was, however unfamiliar it might be.
Ignoring the slightly musty smell, he locked the door, set the alarms and crawled tiredly into a damp bed.
“Bodie? Bodie!” Thunk. “Oi, wake up.” A smatter of stones hitting glass dragged Bodie from sleep. He staggered over to the window and glared down at the small figure jumping about two stories below. “Hi,” Doyle called up to him. “Let us in, mate. It’s bloody freezing out here.” Aided and abetted by the amount of alcohol that’d found its way down Ray’s throat, no doubt.
Bodie thumped the window frame hard and went to open the door. Much as he felt inclined to leave the bastard out there until he succumbed to double pneumonia, Cowley’d kill him if he let that happen. After all, Ray’d only been out of hospital a month. He shouldn’t even be drinking, let alone running around London at… Bodie glanced at the clock… three a.m. Christ!
If there’d been any doubts about Doyle’s sobriety, they were dispelled by his first exhalation when he entered the flat.
“Bloody hell,” Bodie gasped, backing off. “What’ve you been drinking? Neat meths?”
“Hmm?” Eyes unfocused and body swaying slightly, Doyle stared at him and smiled - a wide soppy drunken smile.
Bodie shook his head, looped his arm under his partner’s shoulders and guided him into the bedroom. “Reckon we’d better put you down before you fall down.”
“Already fallen,” Doyle mumbled as he landed on the bed. “Fallen, fallen, falling…” His voice tailed off. Hopefully into sleep, Bodie thought. That way he might get a few extra hours in himself.
In due deference to his sheets, he tugged off Doyle’s trainers, rolled him over, freed the blankets and then rolled him back. Doyle moaned slightly, grabbed the pillow and snuggled into it.
“You gonna be all right here, mate?” Bodie whispered. “Not gonna throw up and suffocate, are you?” There was no answer. Not even a twitch when Bodie brushed a stray curl back from that too thin face and placed a gentle kiss on Ray’s forehead. He was lost. Somehow this irritating, curiously beautiful man had sneaked into Bodie’s heart and set up home. And now it was too late. Sleeping with John had proved it wasn’t lust but love that chained him and, god help them both, in his heart of hearts, Bodie didn’t want to be free.
He woke to the smell of coffee and something obnoxiously cheerful on the radio. Groaning loudly, he dragged the blanket over his head and tried to go back to sleep. Wasn’t gonna happen. Someone was watching and despite knowing exactly who it was, his finely honed nerves weren’t about to let him rest. He groaned again and peered out from under the covers. As he’d suspected, there was Doyle, sitting in the chair next to the couch, red-eyed and pale and looking more that a bit sorry for himself. Served him right.
“Ta.” Bodie snaked a hand out, grabbed the steaming mug and pulled it back in with him. Doyle had an expression on his face that, in Bodie’s experience, presaged a ‘conversation’ and Bodie had no intention of getting into one of those. He’d had quite enough of Ray’s pity yesterday.
“No need to apologise. Coffee’s not that bad.”
A sigh came from Doyle’s direction. “Not for the coffee, you plank. Stop being obtuse.”
“I'm not obtuse, I'm a-cute.” Okay that was bad, even for this time of the morning. And for a brief moment he'd forgotten their last conversation. He winced. What time was it anyway? Keeping his eyes narrowed against the glare, he peered at the clock. “Bloody hell! It’s gone eleven.” Leaping up in a cloud of discarded blanket, Bodie dove for his trousers and started yanking them on. He was supposed to be in at ten. Cowley’d have his guts for garters.
“Relax,” Doyle said, “I called in and explained I’d had a bad night. The old man gave you the day off.”
“Oh.” Feet tangled in his cords, Bodie collapsed on the couch to let the adrenaline surge die down. God, he was getting too old for this if being late for work could raise his heart rate.
“Anyway, I thought I’d better apologise.”
The conversation. There were times when Doyle was most like an alley cat - long-legged and elegant, if a bit tatty - a fighter with piss and spit and attitude. But a cat didn’t have Doyle’s determination. In that he was far more the terrier. Give him a bone and he’d gnaw and gnaw at it until he got somewhere, and if that meant chewing Bodie up at the same time, well it didn’t seem to bother him.
“No need,” Bodie replied, pushing his trousers back off and covering himself with the blanket. “You weren’t to know. I never said. Discussion over.”
“Yeah? That the way you see it? Happy to carry on as before, no harm done? Forgive and forget?”
Bodie shrugged, got up again and this time managed to get his cords all the way up his legs. Ray was right to ask. Forgive he could do. He’d done that before he’d come home last night. Forgetting was something else. Though it was more a case of Ray forgetting, and if he couldn’t, would it affect the way they worked together?
“Would it help if said I behaved like a prat?”
“That something new, is it?” Bodie said, trying to lighten the mood.
His attempt wasn’t appreciated. Doyle got up from the chair and went and stood, arms folded, staring out the window. After watching him for a couple of seconds, Bodie picked up his undershirt and pulled it over his head. Whatever Ray had to say wasn’t going to come any faster with him half-naked.
“Why are you getting dressed?”
Bodie blinked. Of all the things he’d expected to emerge from Doyle’s mouth right now, that would be on a par with ‘actually liver sausage sounds pretty good.’
“Because it’s morning and I wasn’t wearing anything?” he said tentatively.
“So it’s not got anything to do with what I said yesterday?”
Oh, for pity’s sake! “No, Raymond, I am not dressing to protect your delicate sensibilities.”
Doyle had the grace to blush and look away. “I didn’t mean it, you know.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“No. No, Bodie, you don’t.” Doyle sank back down into the chair and jammed his hands in his hair. “I had to hitch back yesterday,” he said.
“Sorry about that.”
Doyle dismissed it with a wave. “But it gave me some time to think. I’ve been so bloody angry, Bodie. Suddenly everything I thought I knew about you was turned on its head. All I could think about was you having it off with all these faceless blokes and… and the more I thought about it the angrier I got.”
There hadn’t been that many. Bodie was about to point that out when Doyle set off again.
“And that’s when it hit me, see. It wasn’t that I was disgusted. It couldn’t be, `cause the pictures in me head weren’t horrible. They weren’t horrible at all. They were amazing. You were amazing. I imagined you lying there naked and sweating with your face twisted up as you were sucked off and that’s when I realised. That I wanted to be the one to make you look like that.”
The image froze Bodie’s brain. Unfortunately his mouth took advantage of the situation and jumped in anyway. “I'm right here if you mean that.”
Luckily Doyle was so caught up in what he was saying that Bodie could have danced naked and he wouldn’t have noticed.
“You weren’t here when I got back, so I went home. Tried to sleep. Couldn’t. Got incredibly drunk and came back over. I think I was gonna proposition you or something, but then you were there at the door looking all rumpled and sleepy, and even after what I'd said, you took me in anyway and put me in your bed. And all I could think was that it was more than sex after all. I’d gone and fallen in love with you and not noticed. How does that happen?” He looked completely bemused, a sensation Bodie could relate to only too well. “How can you love someone and not realise?”
“Beats me, sunshine,” Bodie mumbled.
“So anyway there I was. Happy as Larry. Then I woke up this morning and remembered what Eddie said about you having a feller.” Ray cocked his head and glanced up at Bodie. “Have you got a feller?”
Bodie stood mute, not trusting himself to speak. The autopilot on his mouth was starting to come unhinged. Any moment now it was going to join forces with his brain and complete imbecility would kick in. If he was really lucky the worst of it might be that he bounced around the flat like Tigger singing about how Ray loved him. Loved him. Loved him. This had the potential to be extremely embarrassing.
“Or did Eddie get it wrong?”
And Ray insisting on an answer wasn’t helping. Legs starting to shake, Bodie sank back onto the couch, grabbed the cushions and hung on.
“Thing is, if he’s still around then me loving you’s a bit…” Ray hesitated. “I dunno. Pointless?”
The sun coming through the living room window was throwing Ray’s face into shadow. Except his eyes. His eyes gleamed.
“I s’pose what I’m saying is, if he’s not, then maybe I could be. Instead.”
Those long fingered hands stripped through curly hair, digging furrows. Bodie wanted them in his hair. Preferably while he was on his knees, finding out exactly how Ray tasted.
“So is he?”
Another question. Bodie stared blankly at the anxious face. He should answer but for the life of him he couldn’t remember what Ray had asked.
“What?” he managed by dint of gripping the cushions so hard his fingers went through the covers.
Doyle frowned at him. “You been listening to a word I’ve said?”
Oh. That was easy. “You love me.” A grin ambushed him as he spoke. Bodie just knew it was fatuous in the extreme, especially when Ray started laughing.
“Christ, I thought it was me on the pop last night. I’ve seen brighter looking milk bottles.”
“Only at your place, sunshine. Unlike some people, I put the empties on the doorstep before they develop an IQ.”
Now they were both grinning, the banter re-establishing normality at long last. Bodie still felt like jumping all around the place but he could deal with it. He hoped.
“Am I gonna have to knock someone’s head off then?” Ray asked again.
Now Bodie could remember the question. He shook his head. Now was not the time to talk about John and why he’d been sleeping with him. “No. He gave me the elbow months ago. Decided his bit of rough was a bit too rough, I reckon. Some people don’t know a good thing when they’ve got it.”
“You’re dead right there, mate.”
An odd silence followed as they both sat staring at each other, Bodie on the couch, Doyle on the chair. It was as if they were suddenly strangers, which, Bodie supposed, they were in a way. He might have harboured sweet dreams about Ray, but having them offered to him made it all very different. Suddenly nothing could be taken for granted.
“Change of plan. Can you drop me at Gray’s?” Charlie announced as she ended her phone call.
Bodie, yanked back into the present just before his memories got interesting, frowned at her. “Gray’s Inn? Thought you had to stick that foot up.”
“I can’t. Jo needs some papers photocopied and no one else is free.”
It had to be the genes. Any self-respecting person would have explained about their ankle and dodged the workload, but Charlie was a Doyle through and through. Dogged, determined, more than a bit self-obsessed, that family might play hard but, bloody hell, they didn’t half earn it with the hours they put in on work.
“That a mate of yours?”
Charlie shrugged. “Sort of. Jo’s my pupil-master but I’ve known her for years. She’s an ‘old friend’ of dad’s.”
An old friend of the type that merited audible quotation marks, apparently. Bodie glanced at his watch. Two thirty. “Yeah, okay, but I’m picking Ray up at four so I can’t hang around for long.”
“No need. Just drop me off, I’ll catch a taxi home.”
“With that ankle? You’re kidding. Your dad told me to take you home, so home is where I’m taking you.”
Finding somewhere to stop, let alone park, proved to be a challenge. They finally ended up along Jockey’s Fields several hundred yards from the entrance to Gray’s Inn. Having watched Charlie struggle out of the car wincing and grimacing, Bodie abandoned the idea of sitting tight and climbed out as well.
“You don’t have to do this,” Charlie said as he slammed the door.
“Probably not. But your Dad’ll have me strung up if anything happens to you.” Added to which, it went against the grain to stand back and let a young woman struggle alone. Modern standards might determine that he had to treat them as equals, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t be polite.
Charlie leaned against the top of the car and stared at him. “You seem to know Dad pretty well for someone he only met a couple of weeks ago.”
“That what he told you?” Bodie replied, offering his arm and taking his share of Charlie’s weight as they began walking. It would’ve been more sensible to keep quiet maybe, but that didn’t sit well with Bodie. “I s’pose he’s right, in a way. Though the first time we really met was years ago, before you were born.”
“You were undercover.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, but Bodie nodded anyway.
“Yeah. He wasn’t part of the op but we got to know each other pretty well.”
Silence accompanied them to the gates and it wasn’t until they were inside the grounds that Charlie said, “Was that before you and Dad’s brother became lovers?” There was something in her tone of voice.
“Were you and Dad lovers?”
Exactly what was the protocol for this, Bodie wondered? Whatever it was, no one had ever seen fit to inform him of it. Wishing he hadn’t started the conversation in the first place, he kept his own counsel.
Charlie apparently had her own rules about interpreting non-response. “I wish he’d said something.”
“Maybe he didn’t think it was the sort of thing you talk about with your daughter.” It certainly wasn’t something Bodie wanted to discuss with her.
“But Dad tells me everything.” She paused. “Or at least I thought he did after…”
Her words trailed off leaving an awkward atmosphere in their wake. Bodie bore it for a few more yards and then stopped by a park bench. “Sit down,” he said, following his own suggestion. Charlie hesitated for a second before taking a seat next to him. The wind, biting and chill even in these secluded gardens, cut through Bodie’s winter coat bringing him close to a shiver, though it might have been the sudden frostiness emanating from the woman beside him.
“It wasn’t serious,” he began, staring out over grass browned by frost. “And it didn’t go on for long. Was in love with Ray at the time. Not that he knew it.” He shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “S’pose we all do stupid things when we’re young.”
Next to him, Charlie heaved a huge sigh and relaxed against him. It was a strangely trusting gesture and Bodie couldn’t help but respond and put his arm around her. Whatever had caused the tension ebbed away slowly, leeched out by the silence and the comfort of human contact. They sat, ignoring the hurrying figures of silks and solicitors bustling past them, and watched the world go by, each content in their memories. For Bodie, it was no hardship. He’d always remember time spent in Deed’s company with fondness…
“Dave, slow down! You bloody madman!”
Bodie grinned at the man sitting next to him in the car and put his foot down even harder. John’s fingers dug into the dashboard, his knuckles actually turning white as the Capri crested the hill and left the ground entirely. They landed with a grinding thump from the suspension, the impact bouncing them deep into their seats. Bodie fought to control the fishtailing back end, threw her round and accelerated away again down the lane. Gravel sprayed from beneath the wheels and hedges passed in a blur of green-brown-green punctuated by trees and fenceposts.
The gateway was round the next corner. A blind bend. Relying on faith and the Irish luck that saved him from many a stray bullet, Bodie took it at fifty. The car shuddered. Bodie stood on the brakes, swung between the pillars and they were there.
“This is it?” John asked, peering out of the window at the small cottage with its ivy-covered walls and lopsided porch. “The reason for our precipitous flight from London is a farmhouse that should have been condemned years ago?”
Pulling up in front of the building Bodie spared a grin for his passenger, who returned it with interest. “Thought a few days relaxing might be fun,” he answered, yanking up the hand brake. “Dunno about you, but all that creeping around hotel rooms was giving me a rash.”
“If you’ve got one of those, you can take me straight back to town.”
Laughing, Bodie leapt out of the car and grabbed his overnight bag. He couldn't believe he’d been dreading this long weekend. The cottage belonged to an old mate of his and he’d planned to bring Doyle, but then Ray’d made plans to go away with his latest bird leaving Bodie staring straight down the barrel of a nasty dose of loneliness. Thankfully the case John was sitting for as Recorder had collapsed and he’d managed to take some time off, so now they had three days of peace and quiet, a pocket full of supplies, and, Bodie hoped, the inclination to behave badly.
“Nearest neighbours’re over a mile away,” he said, unlocking the front door and swinging it open. The place smelt a bit musty but nothing a quick airing wouldn’t fix. “There’s a trout stream, hacking stables, and loads of places to walk if you want.”
At the sound of that familiar tone, Bodie turned. John was staring at him with the wickedest, most lecherous gleam in his eyes. Enough to turn on a nun, that look was, and Bodie was not at all religious. “Depends,” he replied. “Got any better ideas?”
“You. Me. No neighbours. Oh, I think I can come up with something.” John had moved closer as he spoke and now he was less than a hand’s breadth away, the warmth from his body competing with the chill of the lathe and plaster wall against Bodie’s back.
Bodie swallowed, bracing his knees as his libido kicked up into overdrive. John might not be Ray but he could do predatory just as well. Combined with the innate presence both men shared, it hit Bodie exactly where he lived.
He licked his lips, gaze darting from John’s mouth to eyes and back again. “Yeah? Fancy sharing?”
John took the final step, pressing them together from shoulder to knee. “I think we should share everything, don’t you?” he purred, the hardness in his groin leaving Bodie in no doubt what he was offering.
“Christ, yeah.” With a lunge, Bodie fastened their mouths together, lips bruising at the ferocity of the embrace. John pushed him back, the pair of them wrestling to get at buttons and zips. The sound of fabric tearing made Bodie wince, but, the next second, fingers closed round his erection and squeezed. All thoughts of collateral damage fled his mind and he bucked up into the restraint with a groan.
“Oh, god, please.”
John moved his hand once, up and then down. “Not god, but if you’ve a mind to play games…” A thoughtful note underlay the lustful huskiness. Bodie blinked at him, as close as he could get to a rational conversation when cool air from the open front door was playing over his damp cock.
“Let’s try milord instead,” John said, his face a picture of desperate hunger. His free hand pushed Bodie’s shirt up baring his chest. “I’ve been hearing that all week from this pretty little silk. And every time she said it, I wanted to throw her over the bench and have my wicked way with her.”
Was it perverse getting turned on by that idea? Bodie hadn’t a clue but he got harder all the same. At a feral look from John, he reassembled enough brain cells to stutter, “Milord.”
“Again,” John growled, his fingers finding and pinching Bodie’s nipples while his other hand retained its tight grip.
Captured between them, Bodie squirmed helplessly. “Mi-milord.”
Bodie dropped his head back as John’s mouth fastened onto his chest. “Fuck.” The sensation was incredible. A tongue probed and worried at him, hard enough to skate the edges of pain. “Christ, John.”
Teeth nipped in retaliation and Bodie yelped. That had really hurt, nearly the equivalent of a bucket of cold water. He grabbed at John’s hair, his grip slipping on the cropped strands, and yanked his head away. Ready to lay into him, Bodie took one look at the lust-hazed face and changed his mind. “Know what I think you need, my lord?” he whispered. John stared at him, a vision of swollen wet lips and dilated eyes. Bodie leaned closer. “You need to be put over the bench and fucked very… very… hard.” It was a good thing Bodie had hold of his shoulder, since John’s knees sagged at the suggestion.
Roles reversed, Bodie held John’s face tight and returned to kissing him, hard and passionate and as full of promises as he could muster. John responded, his palms flat on Bodie’s hips, neither pushing him away nor pulling him closer. He seemed mesmerised, suddenly passive. A nudge forward and Bodie got them moving in the right direction - towards the kitchen. They stumbled through the doorway and yes, the place hadn’t changed since the last time Bodie had visited. A huge well-scrubbed pine table graced the centre of the room, as solid as a pair of handcuffs and just as useful to someone contemplating mischief.
Bodie manoeuvred them close then used a twist and grip straight out of the self-defence manual to spread John face down across it. Rather than fight him, John lay there; his breath coming in short gasps as Bodie stripped down his slacks and underwear, baring him to view.
“Bloody lovely, this is,” Bodie said, running his hand over John’s bum. “Should wear jeans, arse like this. Show it off a bit.”
“Don’t talk to it. Fuck it,” John ground out, wriggling back against him.
“Don’t know as I should, attitude like that.” Despite his words, Bodie was digging in his pocket for the K-Y. Keeping one hand placed in the middle of John’s back, he fiddled the lid off the tube and squeezed a generous portion between tight rounded cheeks.
John yelped and tried to squirm away.
“Cold?” Bodie enquired without mercy and proceeded to put the stuff to good use. Once his fingers were buried deep, he let John up, helping him with an arm around his chest. John pushed back, fucking himself on Bodie’s hand, his arms braced on the table, his head hanging. Christ, but he looked sexy; his shirt pushed up revealing a rippling muscled back, sweat already pearling on his skin.
“Uh… Yeah.” A pause, then, “Yes, now.”
Bodie shoved his cords down to his knees, nudged John’s further apart and lined himself up. He was prepared to take it slow, be considerate, but he didn’t get the chance. As soon as his cock was positioned, John bucked backwards, forcing Bodie into him with one, knee-trembling thrust. Ricocheted straight onto the verge of coming, Bodie clung to John’s shoulders, forehead resting on his spine, and frantically recited the names of the England cricket team, up to and including the twelfth man. He’d got to Hendrick for a second time before the urge receded enough to risk moving and only then did he realise John had collapsed face-down on the table and was reaching out for him.
A spike of worry shot through Bodie’s mind. This was a first, and he had no idea if John had ever been fucked before. Grabbing John’s hand and clasping their fingers together, he asked, “You all right?” more than a little hoarse.
“Will be,” John replied and Bodie could hear the pain in his voice. He started to pull out, only for John to shake his head frantically. “Don’t you fucking dare. Not now.”
Bodie wasn’t convinced but he wasn’t in a position to argue when John nodded. All he could do was hang on and force himself not to move as John fought his own personal battle with his body. Finally, eventually, just when Bodie was certain it was never going to work, John began to relax. The cramps must be easing. Rubbing a gentle hand across John’s back, Bodie began a shallow thrusting, just enough to encourage the pleasure, to banish the shock of penetration. It worked. Slowly John started to move with him and his breathing changed from short tight gasps to deeper heaving sighs.
“Yeah. Let me up.”
Taking his weight on his hands, Bodie did as he was asked and groaned aloud when John followed him, easing him deeper inside. It was perfect. Or as close to perfect as Bodie thought he could ever hope to get. Gripped tight by pulsing muscle, all he could do was repay the favour. He found John’s cock returning to life and helped it along, easing the foreskin back and rubbing his thumb across the head.
John moaned and turned his face, searching for more. Their mouths found each other again and, though it was awkward, they kissed, tasting and delving and taking time they hadn’t seemed to have earlier. All the while, John became hotter and harder in Bodie’s hand until they were moving, thrusting and bracing and fucking and making it feel as good as it could possibly be. The table scraped on the tiled floor, but the sound was lost beneath the noise of flesh colliding and the thunder of pulses racing faster and faster. Heat and musk drowned Bodie’s senses, surrounding him and dragging him willingly closer to the precipice. Fastening his mouth to John’s throat, he hung on, feeling John shake in his arms and knowing it couldn’t be long.
The sudden clench of muscle was all the warning he needed. As wet heat spilled over his fingers, Bodie pushed John back down and took his own pleasure, fucking hard into that tight spasming hole, hardly noticing as John began to thrash and gasp at the over-stimulation. A dozen thrusts and he came, long and oh so fucking deep, and so bloody good that the sensations lingered from his toes to the ends of his hair.
Breathless, exhausted, and ready to call it a night, he sagged over John’s back, one trembling arm keeping the worst of his weight off his partner. Beneath him, John wriggled, turned his head and, after sharing a brief kiss, smiled. “That was fun.”
Bodie smirked back at him. “Glad to be of service… milord,” he said and rolled upright.
A twinkle accompanied the filthy chuckled response. “I’ve heard that so many times and nobody before has ever managed to make it sound like a proposition.”
“First time for everything, you kinky bastard.”
John stood up and stretched, wincing slightly. “There certainly is.” He reached out and caught Bodie by the hand. “It won’t be the last though.”
The last time? Bodie imagined giving up what John had just allowed him. He couldn’t. There was only one reason he’d ever end it, and that was Ray. And since Ray would never return what Bodie felt, John had better be ready to keep this going for a while yet.
Since Charlie was sure it wouldn’t take her long to pick up what she needed, Bodie spent the time pottering from notice board to portrait in the library foyer, and explaining his presence to what felt like every Tom, Dick and Hooray-Henrietta who wandered past. Being in his late fifties didn’t, apparently, stop legal types regarding him as distinctly dubious. Maybe his eyes really were too close together.
They were on their way back to the car, Charlie hobbling along and Bodie loaded down like a sherpa, when Bodie’s mobile rang. Cursing eloquently, he tried juggling his double armful of papers and gave up.
“Pocket,” he said to Charlie, indicating the right one.
She dug it out and checked the display. “It’s Ray.”
“Bugger. Hold it for us, but keep it buttoned, he doesn’t know about you, remember.”
Charlie rolled her eyes, but did as she was told, holding the phone to Bodie’s ear.
“You’re late.” Ray’s voice held a hint of irritation.
The clock across the courtyard said three forty-five. “Nope, you’re early. Finished with you already, have they?”
“If you can call it that. They want me back next week. For an appointment with a dietician, for Christ’s sake.”
Bodie couldn’t help laughing. All those years of Ray nagging him about his eating habits and the worst the doctor ever gave Bodie was a polite suggestion for him lose a couple of pounds.
“You can cut that out,” Ray grumped. “Where are you, anyway? Was expecting to find you skulking outside.”
“I don’t skulk.”
Ray wasn’t listening. “If hanging around looking gormless can be called skulking. Always surprised no one’s picked you up for being dodgy in a built up area.”
To anyone else, Ray’s comments might have sounded cruel. To Bodie they said everything about how Ray felt. Words like love and forever were rarely mentioned by either of them, but this affectionate teasing filled the gap.
Unfortunately they didn’t fill the gap in Bodie’s brain with an answer to Ray’s question. He could hardly tell the truth. The Inns of Court weren’t exactly a regular stop-off for either of them.
“So where are you?”
“Um…” Beside him, Charlie mouthed, ‘shopping?’ Bodie shook his head. He never went shopping voluntarily. “Got stuck in traffic,” he tried.
“This on the way to your mystery trip or on the way back?”
“The way back. Look Ray, I’m gonna have to go. The traffic’s moving and I’m not using the phone and driving at the same time. I’ll see you in about half an hour.”
It was more like an hour. By the time Bodie arrived outside St Barts, Ray was a huddled figure, well-wrapped and leaning against the wall by the front doors. When he saw the Merc pull up across the street, Ray hurried over, yanked open the door and hopped inside, rubbing his hands and blowing on them. “What the hell kept you? Fit for brass monkeys out there.”
Bodie pulled back into the flow of traffic. “Burst water main in Camden,” he answered blithely, having had the time to construct a proper excuse.
Unfortunately Ray wasn’t put off so easily. “Never did say where you were going.”
Ray huffed. “Where did you go?”
“When?” He knew this type of evasion wound Ray up, but with any luck he’d get so narked, he’d stop asking.
“This bloody morning! Remember? The reason you couldn’t come to the hospital with me?”
“Miss me?” Bodie shot a broad grin at his partner, daring Ray not to crack. It worked.
After a second’s glaring, Ray smiled. “Course I didn’t miss you. Woulda been too busy chatting up the nurses to worry about me anyhow.”
“Have to spread the riches around, sunshine. It’s only fair.”
When Ray did no more than snort, Bodie put the conversation behind him. It wasn’t until later, after dinner and when Bodie was sorting through files on his lap top ready for the next day, that Ray again brought up the question of where Bodie had been.
“According to the traffic report, Central London’s been clear today,” he said.
Bodie glanced up from his work. Ray was flicking through the news pages on the local BBC channel, presumably looking for evidence to back up Bodie’s story. That in itself was unusual. They’d survived this long, both as lovers and as working partners, by trusting each other implicitly. For Ray to check up meant he was suspicious. And the only way to put those suspicions to rest was to tell him the truth.
Studying the tense, restive, figure on the couch, Bodie tried to summon up the courage to do exactly that. How difficult could it be? Ray, I went to see your brother. He was supposed to come to the party on Saturday but had a bit of an accident and couldn’t make it. Yes, he’s fine, but his daughter sprained her ankle, so I ended up playing chauffeur for her today and that’s why I was late.
It sounded so easy in his head, but that was a clear run without the inevitable interjections and arguments. There was no way Ray would let it go so easily, not if he felt he had a good reason for not contacting Deed all these years.
Yet again, Bodie wondered why. Could he have known about him and John? He’d said he didn’t but then Ray wasn’t above lying either…
It was the morning after the night before and, despite the agonising atmosphere hovering over the kitchen table, there wasn’t a hangover in sight. The lockbox incident hadn’t lead to a row as such, but it had ended with Ray spending the night on the couch.
Under cover of making another cuppa, Bodie shot a surreptitious glance at his partner. Ray looked rough. Eyes bloodshot and packing more bags than a base camp. And the vicious way he was grinding marge into that toast made Bodie glad the sofa had been the recipient of the sleepless night and not him. The bed might have been lonely but at least it didn’t have sharp elbows and an inclination to kick when he snored.
Wondering how best to break the ice and not to end up on the end of Ray’s towering rage like he had yesterday, it took Bodie a couple of seconds to realise his RT was going off. Saved by the horrible screeching noise, he dived for it. Ray got there first, dragging the offending item out of Bodie’s jacket pocket and snapping, “Yes!” at the poor unsuspecting desk jockey at the other end.
“3.7?” a confused voice said.
“No, 4.5. What the bloody hell do you want, we’re off.”
“Enough of that, 4.5,” Cowley’s voice followed up, cutting in over base. “You’re off until I say otherwise, and right now I need you on the streets. There’s wind of a hit on the minister and I want to know where it’s blowing from. Now get out there and do what I pay you for.”
“Not e-bloody-nough,” Ray grumbled, switching off the RT and thumping it down next to his plate. “A week he said. Compassionate leave. Not a scrap of compassion in that dried up old goat.”
Bodie ignored the muttering, swilled down his scalding hot second cuppa and snatched up his RT and jacket, giving the latter a shake to check for keys. All set, he waited by the door for Ray, who seemed to be on autopilot, pottering around the flat looking for something.
“Need a hand?” he offered, the first words he’s attempted since Ray had damn near attacked him last night over that box.
Doyle glared at him. “If I needed a hand, I’d ask.”
So that was the way it was going to be, was it? Not wanting to cause a major row when they had to go on duty, Bodie beat a retreat downstairs. The car radio would be better company than his partner this morning.
“Did you even think? Somehow, I doubt it. A complete bloody shambles and the only lead we had dead, courtesy of your stupidity.”
Bodie stood to attention letting Cowley’s vitriol wash over him. Yes, it had been a screw-up of monumental proportions, but at least he and Doyle had come out of it in one piece. For one horrible moment back there, Bodie’d thought it was all over. Caught on the hop by a professional hitman, he’d ended up walking the edge of the warehouse roof, disarmed and staring down the wrong end of a Smith and Wesson. Never had there been a more welcome sight than Ray barrelling through the door and blasting the bloke off the building. Even if it did end up with their only lead splattered across a few yards of concrete several floors below.
Finally Cowley ran out of names to call them. All deserved, in Bodie’s opinion. If he hadn’t been wondering what the hell was going on with Ray, the hitman never would have got the drop on him and right now their partnership would be bathed in glory instead of mopping up brains.
“Reports. From both of you. First thing tomorrow. Inform 4.5,” Cowley rapped out as he stalked away.
Bodie glanced over his shoulder to where his partner was busy briefing the two agents called in to finish the job. Now the threat had been scaled down, it would be given to B squad to handle and in the meantime he and Ray would be kept on paperwork until they’d given evidence to the coroner. Standard procedure when a perp got killed.
Animated and in fine form if the grins on the other agents’ faces were anything to go by, Ray was showing no sign of the cold distance that had plagued his and Bodie’s interactions so far today. Maybe the adrenaline rush was just what he needed. It took a body that way on occasion.
“Finished?” Bodie asked when Ray joined him. He got his reply in the form of a short nod and a distinct lack of eye contact and sighed inwardly. Things, it seemed, were not back to normal.
The silence in the car on the way back to the flat was ripe with tension, Ray glaring out the window while Bodie tried to think of a way of heading off the inevitable blow-up.
As it turned out, a row wasn’t what Ray was after.
The flat door had hardly closed behind them before Bodie was fending off Ray’s determined assault with one hand.
“Alarms,” he warned between harsh demanding kisses, not wanting to risk an alert at HQ and the inevitable follow-up phone call. After being freed long enough to punch in the final number, he stopped fighting, allowing Ray to pin him to the door and devour him piece by piece.
Words had never been important between them - the vast majority of their sex was carried out to a soundtrack of grunts and groans and the hard slap of flesh - but this time Ray was talking, muttering, as, eschewing buttons, he tore his way through to bare skin. “Bloody idiot. Could kill you for doing that.”
Each and every bruise was found, uncovered, examined and then covered again by wet heat. “Don’t you dare fucking die on me. Not now. You’re mine, Bodie, understand?” Ray had Bodie’s face trapped in his hands, thumbs digging into the edges of his lips. Green eyes flared as he said again. “You’re mine!”
“All yours, sunshine,” Bodie murmured back, doing his best to reassure his partner out of this strange obsessive mood.
Ray studied his eyes, searching for something he obviously found. A smile, that in other circumstances Bodie would have called sad, curved that lush mouth - except how could Ray be sad when they’d both survived?
Violence turned into generosity. Ray backed him into the bedroom, where Bodie toppled onto the bed, Ray falling on top of him. Somewhere along the line, what remained of Bodie’s clothes vanished, along with the desire to do anything but give in to whatever Ray demanded.
Their loving went on for hours, Ray taking him every way he could. Much as they may have explored the possibilities of each other’s bodies before, that had always been spontaneous, done with laughter and lusty curiosity. This, this quest that Ray had embarked upon was more than that. Methodically and painstakingly, he reduced Bodie to a quivering, panting puddle of desire. Fingers worked magic, discovering places Bodie hadn’t known were sensitive to such touch. The soles of his feet, normally ticklish in the extreme, were massaged from one end to the other. The soft skin on the inside of his elbows marked with deep sucking bites. His navel plumbed. His mouth, already swollen from demanding kisses, filled, with tongue and then with cock as Ray knelt above him staring down, his eyes wide. He had one hand braced on the headboard, and the other stroked Bodie’s cheek, tracing the bulge he was creating. Bodie ran his fingertips up Ray’s flank, feeling muscles quiver at his touch. That power, constrained by nothing but love and consideration, never failed to arouse him. And being subject to it, at its mercy, was as freeing and exciting as any sky dive.
Ray was shaking as he pulled away, his hand quick to clamp round the base of his erection, sweat beading on his upper lip. “Too close,” he was saying. “Gonna come if you don’t stop.”
Rolling the taste of his partner across his tongue, Bodie couldn’t prevent a stab of disappointment at being denied. But it didn’t last for long. Ray slid down his body and plunged him back into ecstasy, drawing him higher and higher, until with a choked back cry, Bodie arched up into his mouth, spilling so hard it was almost painful. His heart was still thundering, his eyes still dark, when Ray pushed his legs further apart. Thigh muscles, tight from the stress of the day, were flexed and he was opened up, exposed to deeper inspection.
Affected more than he cared to admit, Bodie turned his head, unable to meet the intense expression on Ray’s face, unable to reveal any more of himself, only to find his chin captured by a gentle hand. “Stay with me, mate, eh?”
There was such need in Ray’s eyes, such desperation for Bodie to acknowledge who was touching him, that he had no choice but to acquiesce. Nodding, he lifted his legs further, biting back a moan as well-wetted fingers breached him. Spasms shook his body, but he rode them out, knowing the pleasure to come. His cock twitched in hopeful anticipation and he relaxed, inviting Ray to do as he would, trusting him to make it good.
And now here he was, face in the pillow while Ray rode him with strong purposeful thrusts, pushing him beyond simple arousal into a place where pure sensation governed every nerve. Ray was asking for, and giving, no quarter. Not that Bodie wanted it. Hot breath cut a swingeing path between his hunched shoulder blades, nails cut bruises into his hips, his arse burned in resonance of submission and yet still hungered for more. The sheet below him was already wet, his body shaken through a second climax, and still Ray wasn’t stopping. Bodie felt possessed. Owned. Every scrap of his flesh belonged to the man taking him, every inch of him branded, marked, and tempered.
Feeling the pressure build again, he found the strength from somewhere to rise onto his knees. Ray’s arm caught and held him, easing him back until he was straddling Ray’s thighs, his head supported on a strong shoulder.
“Last time, Bodie. Promise.”
There were no words left. No real awareness. He was emptied of everything but desire.
“Had to show you. Had to make sure you knew. All of you. All mine.”
A hand stroked his erection, working him firmly and precisely. Eyes closed, Bodie thrust up into the fist, the need to come a sharp ache in his balls. Teeth scraped at his neck, soft hair rubbed his back as their bodies slid against each other, sweat rendering the contact almost frictionless. It was enough. He whimpered as his cock jerked, spilling what little was left inside him. Ray’s arm tightened, clutching him close as, in turn, Ray finally allowed himself release.
Exhausted beyond comprehension, Bodie collapsed, asleep almost before his head hit the pillow. As Morpheus nipped at his heels, Ray’s voice drifted to him, softer than a feather on a snowy day. “John’s not having you back, sunshine. You belong to me.”
Funny how he could remember long-forgotten words as if they’d been spoken yesterday. Sitting at the dining table with his laptop whirring away in front of him, Bodie would have sworn that he’d never consciously heard the words Ray had whispered in his ear.
So he’d known. Not just about John, but about John. All these years Ray had known that his partner had had an affair with his brother and he’d not said a word. Bodie felt like punching Ray’s lights out for pure stupidity. Had he really thought Bodie so shallow that he’d chase after John again when he’d had all he wanted at home?
Hang about. This was Ray. In a flash of insight, Bodie knew what had happened. Ray hadn’t been able to face him that night because, while Bodie was out getting dinner, Ray had opened the lockbox. He’d seen the name of his brother, remembered what Eddie had said, put two and two together and come up with twenty-two. In Ray’s mind, he’d been Bodie’s second, poorer choice. What a prat. It was about time the record was put straight.
His mobile rang before he could try. Bodie fished it out from under a pile of papers. The number wasn’t one he recognised so he switched it to voice-mail. He was fed-up with cold sellers, bloody irritants.
“If you’re not going to talk to me, I might as well go to bed.”
Damn, he’d forgotten Doyle was speaking before he drifted off into memory. And now Ray was in a snit. It was amazing how eloquent that back could be.
“Hang on a mo, Ray, I wasn’t ignoring you. Just…” he spread his hands over the clutter in front of him. “I was working out the rosters and got side tracked.”
That seemed to do the trick. Apparently somewhat mollified, Ray came and plonked down on the chair next to him. “Who’ve you got covering Jamieson’s paternity leave?”
“Cabot. Seemed like the best option.”
“You don’t want him. He’ll screw everything up.” Ray nudged him out of the way and peered at the screen. “Here, try this.”
Bodie sat back and grinned at the short grey curls bent over the keyboard. For someone who’d been complaining about paperwork only a few days ago, Ray’s enthusiasm was remarkable.
“Bodie. You’re a difficult man to find.”
“Not that difficult, apparently,” Bodie replied. “Set your clerk onto me, did you?” The direct line for the manager of the Intelligence Services training centre wasn’t the sort of thing you picked up from any old phone book.
“Ah, you’ve caught me. It was Coop. There was no reply from your mobile so I thought I’d better try this.”
Bodie shoved the file he was working on to one side, pushed his chair back and put his feet up on the stool next to him. “Left the thing at home this morning. At least it wasn’t in my briefcase when I got to work, so it was either that or there’s a sticky fingered whatsit between here and home who can pick the locks on the case while I’ve got the damn thing in my hand.”
At the other end of the phone, Deed chuckled. “You’d be surprised. I wouldn’t put it past some of the characters who turn up in front of me.”
“Well, if you hear of one, send him in my direction, will you? We could do with a bit of innate talent.” The office door opened; Jamieson poked his head round the door, saw Bodie was on the phone, and gestured that he’d see him later. Bodie nodded and returned to his call. “Anyway, what can I do for you? Managed to find your desk yet?”
“Yes. That’s why I’m ringing. I left a message last night to say I was free this evening if you wanted to make plans.”
“Yeah. We need to talk. Look, I can’t go into detail right now, but you should have the heads-up. I’m pretty sure Ray knows about us.”
There was a slight, but significant, pause. “It was years ago.”
“And he’s known for years. Stupid bugger just didn’t bother to mention it. Where are we meeting?”
“The Olympian Club?”
Bodie had to choke back a curse. “Why there?”
“Because I’ve got a session booked at seven thirty and we can have a drink afterwards. We can go somewhere else if you’d prefer.”
Remembering the odd occasion Cowley had dragged him along to the bar at the Olympian, Bodie decided it was worth it. So long as Deed didn’t expect him to fix his foil this time. “No, that’s fine. So, what, eight?”
“Make it eight fifteen. With any luck I’ll have disposed of my sparring partner by then.”
At eight-fifteen on the dot, Bodie pulled into the Olympian carpark. Ray hadn’t been overjoyed to hear that Bodie was working late, but with all the time off he’d taken recently it wasn’t implausible. Even if saying it had made Bodie feel a heel. Not for much longer, he decided as he locked the Merc and trotted up the front steps of the club. Tonight, when he got home, he’d confront Ray about his brother and come clean with the entire mess. He had to. Living with this tangle of secrets was giving him high blood pressure.
Pushing open the doors, he was greeted by the familiar smells of wood polish and old building. The place hadn’t changed much since he was here last, though the pretty blonde behind the desk was a new installation.
“W. Bodie, guest of Mr Justice Deed,” he announced, leaning over the desk a little to catch a glimpse down the receptionist’s top as she typed his name into the computer.
She printed him out a guest badge, stuck it onto a pin back and handed it over with a smile. “His Lordship is still en piste, Mr Bodie. He left a message for you to meet him in the changing rooms. Do you think you can find them?”
“Not sure,” Bodie answered with a grin that he had to admit was on the lecherous side. “It’s been a few years. Care to show me?”
“Actually we have a map.” She pointed to a rack of leaflets to the right of the desk. “Take one. They also have details of the special facilities we have available for our older members.”
Ouch. Taking the slap down exactly as it was intended, Bodie meekly picked up a map and wandered through into the main foyer. Here the scent of wood polish was overlaid by the distinct odour of sweaty socks. Funny how sports clubs always smelt like that, even the posh ones. The main staircase climbed above him, all mahogany and marble, but he turned left, down the wide tiled corridor towards the gents changing rooms.
Years ago, when he’d been here undercover, there hadn’t been a ladies changing room. He remembered Cowley complaining about women being admitted as full members, saying it would bring to the tone of the place down. Turn it into a knocking shop, or worse. Funny stick, the old man. Full of puritanical ideals and convinced his secretary should wear a skirt. Probably a good thing he retired when he did. Bodie had got used to a quarter of new agents being female; Cowley wouldn’t have taken it nearly so well.
A pair of rather lovely young women carrying squash rackets over their shoulders, strolled past him in the opposite direction. Bodie turned to watch them, walking backwards for a few steps so he could appreciate the long length of tanned legs revealed by their shorts. Cowley didn’t know what he was talking about, he thought with a grin. Not letting the ladies in simply reduced the quality of the view.
“You’ll go blind.”
Bodie started guiltily and spun round. It was Deed, peering past him down the corridor at the women’s retreating backs. “But I’ll die a happy man,” Bodie assured him.
Tugging the towel from round his neck and giving his sweaty face a brisk rub, Deed grinned at him and headed back towards the changing rooms. “And what does Ray think of that?” he asked as he opened the door.
“He appreciates a decent pair of legs,” Bodie replied giving the changing rooms a quick once over as he entered. Old habits never really died.
Deed glanced back at him, his expression explicit enough that Bodie shrugged and continued, “Neither of us ever actually gave up women, you know. We just sort of stopped chasing them when we found other distractions.”
“I wish I was less easily distracted,” Deed commented.
“I thought you were seeing someone.” Bodie leaned against the wall next to the bench while John sat and unpacked shower things from a sports bag.
“How did you…? Ah, Charlie. Do I have any secrets left?”
“Not a one. She’s her father’s daughter through and through.”
Deed paused, his hands full of bottles, and glanced up at Bodie. “Us?”
Given his druthers, Bodie would have denied everything, but the obfuscation was starting to get complicated. “She asked. Boldfaced lying to her isn’t easy.” Especially not to a forthright young woman like Charlie Deed.
A rueful smile spread over Deed’s face. “I should have warned you. Charlie has the makings of an excellent barrister.” He sighed and stood up. “How did she take it?”
“Seemed to be all right. I pointed out it was a brief affair, not love’s young dream. She seemed most bothered that you hadn’t said anything.”
Deed nodded. “We had a falling out a couple of years ago and I ended up confessing to quite a few indiscretions. I dare say she thought it should have come out then.” While he was talking, he picked up a clean towel, stuck it under one arm and headed for the showers. Bodie trailed along.
But the view was better than he’d imagined. Stripped down, Deed still had a body to be appreciated. Bodie propped up the wall opposite the shower cubicle and began to enjoy himself as John stepped under the water, turned slowly and ran his hands through his hair, his head back, eyes closed.
“All things considered, you know,” Deed said after a moment, sputtering a bit as water got in his mouth. “I probably would have told her if there’d been any men other than you.”
Bodie gaped at him. Knocking him down with a feather would have been overkill. “Only me?” he managed when his rattled brain reasserted itself.
Blinking owlishly, eyelashes heavy with water, John peered at him for a second. “Did I give you the impression I made a habit of it?”
He hadn’t. But neither had Bodie thought John completely inexperienced with men. He certainly hadn’t shown it. A little clumsy perhaps, but then Bodie wasn’t always suavity personified the first time in bed with a bloke.
“And after you pointed out… well, suffice it to say I listened to what you said about sticking to women. Of course things are different today, but back then my career would have been ruined.” Suds fled down Deed’s body as he spoke and Bodie found himself bathing in pleasure at the sensual sight.
If he hadn’t been so involved, he might have heard the footsteps behind him. He would almost certainly have heard a sharp intake of breath. And he would definitely not have been taken by surprise when a fist slammed into his jaw, knocking him back against the tiles and dropping him cold to the floor.
Groaning at the sharp pain in his head, Bodie rolled over and clambered to his knees. Using the wall for support, he pressed a hand to his temple and checked it. No blood, just a lump the size of a golf ball. Bugger it all, he was getting too old for this. Whoever had clonked him one was going to pay. His days of wobbling like a weeble were well past.
Slowly the sound of raised voices filtered through to his bouncing brain. Wincing as movement made his head spin, he made his way slowly back through the shower area into the changing rooms. It was empty, but he could still hear shouting. The floor above maybe? He pottered over to the backstairs and peered up them towards the practice room. Two voices, definitely. Both men. Both angry. Deed, and… Bloody hell! Was that Ray?
Bodie took off up the stairs at a run, his injury forgotten in his sudden concern. Why should Ray be here? And more to the point, why should he be arguing with John?
The stairwell opened directly onto the training room, guarded only by a low railing and as soon as his head cleared it, Bodie could see exactly what was happening.
It was a parody of all he’d imagined the brothers’ first encounter to be. They stood facing each other, separated by no more than five feet. Two strangers with each other’s faces. Twins. Separated for sixty years and now reunited. But the forces that had brought them together were far from those Bodie had hoped for. This was no heartfelt reunion worthy of Cilla Black. No Woman’s Weekly special. This was the proverbial unstoppable force colliding with an equally impressive immovable object.
Ray and John faced each other across the piste, lit from behind by a bank of blazing white lights that cut deep shadows into the pale wooden floor. Both men were breathing heavily and neither was properly equipped - no masks, no gloves, no padding - just the basic whites of the sport, and in his right hand each brother held a foil. Sweat dampened both the men’s faces, proving to Bodie that he was too late to prevent the weapons being used in anger. He paused, foot hovering over the next to top step, and frowned. Ray’s foil was shorter than normal by a couple of inches, its point snapped off leaving it sharp and lethal at the tip. And that, more than the atmosphere, sent a shudder of apprehension through him.
Instinct told him to intercede, stop the bloodshed before it had a chance to happen, but something in Ray’s stance stopped him moving. Coiled, like a cat ready to spring, his partner stood with his back partly turned to the stairs, his foil levelled at John. And what little of his face Bodie could see, was twisted with some emotion Bodie couldn’t fathom.
Inevitably his presence in the room penetrated Ray’s awareness. He glanced quickly over his shoulder and Bodie’s concern grew. Ray’s eyes burned through him, deep and dark in a pale face, clenched lips overly red. His heart, Bodie immediately thought. The stupid sod’s gone and given himself another heart attack. Except the pain was from nothing physical.
Thankfully, John was faring better. Although obviously disturbed, his eyes were still calm and rational, a state that had apparently forsaken Ray some time ago. They exchanged looks; Bodie’s reassuring, he hoped, John’s concerned but without panic. Perhaps there was a chance then. Between them, they could still talk Ray out of his rage, salvage something.
But how to begin? Whereas their shouting had attracted Bodie in the first place, now there was silence. A balanced, teetering silence that could come crashing down at any moment. All it would take was the wrong word, an ill-advised gesture, a single movement out of place, and this tightrope would fail them all.
And if it failed? For a split second Bodie knew the future. He saw Ray lunge forwards, saw the broken blade slide into John’s body - chest, neck, belly - it didn’t matter, the outcome was the same. What should have been wonderful destroyed, and all because he was too much of a coward to tell Ray the truth. Responsibility landed with devastating weight on Bodie’s shoulders. He took a tentative step forwards and opened his mouth to speak, only to have the chance stolen from him.
“Stay out of this, Bodie, I’m warning you.” Ray’s hand shook slightly where he’d thrust it, palm vertical, in Bodie’s direction, an explicit instruction not to move. But as he spoke, his eyes remained fixed on his brother.
Bodie took another step, finally reaching the top of the stairs. “Bit late for that, sunshine,” he said calmly. “Was a bit late for that when you put me down. Not very nice, was it?”
“You’ll survive.” The voice might have been cool, but Ray still glanced towards him for a split second and Bodie knew he’d seen the bruise on the side of his face. That was good. That meant Ray wasn’t beyond caring. About him at least. Whether or not he gave a flying fuck about his brother remained to be seen.
“I might survive a bump on the head, but I’m not so sure about this. What you up to, mate, eh? John do something?”
The tremor in the out thrust hand increased for a second and then Ray went totally still. Bodie continued towards him, one step at a time, every nerve, sinew and sense focused on his partner, waiting for the telltale tensing of muscle that presaged an attack.
“Bodie…” Ray, his tone rising slightly towards the end in warning.
Bodie, taking the hint, froze. Close enough now to see the sweat standing on Ray’s forehead, he tried another tack. “Come on, Ray. You don’t wanna do this. He’s your brother, for Christ’s sake. Your own flesh and blood.”
“That why you don’t want me to do it?” Ray asked.
“Can’t think of another reason.”
“Can’t you?” The tip of the foil moved minutely closer to John’s throat. Bodie saw John’s Adam’s apple fall and rise convulsively. “Tell me, Bodie, where were you yesterday?”
And so the truth will out. “Lewes. I went down there to see John -”
“I know you were in bloody Lewes,” Ray snapped. “I saw the credit card slip for the bloody petrol. I’ve known you were seeing him since the damn bill arrived. What I can’t figure out was why you felt the need to keep it a secret.”
That explained a lot. There was Bodie thinking he was being clever and all Ray had to do was look at where he’d bought petrol. Undercover never was Bodie’s strongest point and this proved it. “Yeah, sorry about that. He was supposed to be at your party on Saturday, only he had an accident.” Bodie would have said more, except John cut in over him.
“He’s telling the truth, Ray. Listen to him.”
“Did I ask you to fucking say anything?” Ray lunged forwards, jamming the foil into the hollow of John’s neck just above his collarbone.
Self-preservation had to run strong in the Doyle genes. At Ray’s explosive movement, John immediately fell backwards, landing hard against the floor. His face blanched, but not a word passed his lips. A thin trickle of blood escaped the tip of the foil and lost itself in the grey hair on his chest.
Bodie took a deep breath. This was getting out of hand. He had to do something but nothing he did seemed to be getting through. Maybe it was time to just spill everything.
“When you were in hospital, I looked in the box,” he said, weighing each statement carefully against Ray’s reaction before he added another. “I had to. The doctor said you might not make it and I should let your family know. The only person I could think of was Rosie.” Ray still wasn’t moving. John’s eyebrows rose just slightly and Bodie took it as a cue to continue.
“And I found you did have family. Closer than a cousin. That you’d known about for years. I couldn’t work out at first why you didn’t tell me. Didn’t seem logical, having a twin and not letting on. I thought maybe security. You know, keeping a low profile. But that didn’t make sense either. Why worry about security? It wasn’t like we were on active duty anymore. And then I twigged. It was because of John and me. You knew about us. Had done since before you and me got together, except you didn’t know then who it was. Course, ending up with your mum’s lockbox saw to that. It was her who started the collection, wasn’t it. Her who realised John Deed was Joseph Doyle.”
As he spoke, Bodie risked starting forward again. Ray was aware of it, the tremble in his arm increased, but he made no other move.
“I remember that night now. Remember what you said about John not having me. That what this is about? You think we’re starting up again?”
Ray shook his head - a harsh, violent movement full of denial, but the foil remained where it was, pressed to John’s throat.
“You really think that little of me?” It was a genuine question, one that stuck in Bodie’s throat as he said it. More than twenty years he’d loved Ray and this was all it was worth?
“Wouldn’t blame you if you did,” Ray said suddenly. “I mean, look at him.” Now the foil moved, a quick flick left to the heavy gold watch John wore on his wrist, and right towards the corner where an expensive sports bag lay spilling its designer guts over the floor. “He’s got everything else.”
The words stopped with a choked noise. All Bodie could see was Ray’s back, but the way John’s face softened told of some profound change. And with the clarity of hindsight Bodie could see the way jealousy had eaten away at his lover for years.
Despite Ray drawing attention to John’s obvious accoutrements, Bodie knew his lover better. This wasn’t about the money. It was about opportunity. Ray was bright; bright enough to have gone to university, to read law, to have become what John was today. But he hadn’t had that chance. Not for him Oxford’s hallowed halls and the leisure to explore his own intellect. Instead it had been mean East End Streets, police corruption, and day to day dance with death in CI5. Ray saw in his brother all he could have been, all he thought he should have been, and he hated himself for failing. No wonder he lashed out when he thought he was losing his lover to exactly those things.
Without another thought - for John or his own safety - Bodie shot across the short distance between them, grabbed Ray by the shoulders and spun him round. The foil fell from his hand and clattered to the floor. Ray stared at him, eyes blank and wet. Dull. As though something inside him had switched off.
Bodie’s heart broke. He couldn’t shout. Taking Ray’s face in his hands, he smiled gently. “Don’t put yourself down, sunshine.” he said. “He might have been putting the bad guys away, but you were the one catching `em. D’you honestly think he’s done any better than you? Thirty years you’ve given this country and every single one of them as important as any legal beagle driving a penis substitute. We were - no, we are a bloody good team, Ray. Best of the best. Don’t turn it into nothing. Not when you’ve achieved so bloody much.”
Ray blinked, a little colour returning to his cheeks. It was like watching a corpse return to life. A huge shudder ran through his body and Bodie pulled him close, burying his face in those much loved curls. Who cared if they were more grey than dark these days? Who cared if Ray had a weak heart, or if the house would have to be sold when they retired? Looking back on his life, Bodie knew he would do nothing differently. Not if it brought him here, to this place, with two decades of loving Ray under his belt and more to come.
Inhaling deeply, he nuzzled against Ray’s ear and whispered, “And you’re a hell of a lot better in the sack than he is, mate.”
An aborted snort rattled against his neck and he sniggered, then yelped when Ray poked him in the ribs. “Mean.”
“Not half as mean as I could be,” Ray replied, his voice muffled. He pushed gently to escape Bodie’s grip but Bodie resisted. He wasn’t ready to let go, not just yet. Not with John still in the room, watching them with a strange expression on his face.
When he saw Bodie looking, John smiled, gestured towards the stairs, and canted his hand in the universal sign for needing a drink. Bodie nodded and mouthed, “See you down there.”
As John vanished, Bodie breathed again. Crisis averted. Now all he had to do was bring the brothers back together in slightly less antagonistic circumstances. How, he hadn’t got the foggiest.
Ray heaved a huge sigh, sending goosebumps racing down Bodie’s back. “He gone?”
“Yep. You okay?”
“Dunno.” Ray’s arms snaked round him, turning Bodie’s hold into a mutual hug. “You’re really not seeing him?”
“Only to sort out your birthday surprise, sunshine. Honest to god.”
A pensive silence followed. A period of reflection, Bodie supposed, something he welcomed himself. All in all, it had been an adventurous couple of hours.
“Really hated him, you know, when I found out about him,” Ray said suddenly. “Hated mum and dad as well. I felt awful about that but I couldn’t stop.” Wanting to offer what comfort he could, Bodie rubbed Ray’s back, feeling tense muscles start to relax. “Then we took over the training centre and all these kids’d come through and we’d send `em out on the streets to get killed and I’d think, I bet John doesn’t do this. Bloody stupid, but…” He pushed Bodie away, firmly this time, and Bodie released him. They stood close, still touching. “You were the only good bit. The only thing I had and he didn’t. Then I saw the petrol receipts and you wouldn’t say where you’d been. And finding the voicemail…”
With a choked sound, Ray spun away and strode across the room to a stack of exercise mats. He sat down hard and jammed his hands in his hair. “Christ, Bodie, I’ve really screwed this up.”
Bodie plonked down next to him, rescuing one hand before it became impossibly tangled. There were two ways of handling this, and he knew Ray well enough not to pander to his moodiness and self-recrimination. “I thought it was fun. No one’s ever fought over me before.” Silence. Time to start jollying his broody partner out of it. He gave Ray a conspiratorial nudge and leered when he raised his head to glare. “That make me first prize?” Not a twitch. Bodie threw himself back onto the mats and spread his arms and legs. “I’m waiting. Gotta be ravished good and proper if I’m the prize.”
“Idiot.” Ray’s lips twitched into a smile. Bodie grinned beatifically up at him. Normality reasserted itself and his life slipped back onto the road.
John was waiting for them when they got downstairs. Showered and wearing one of his expensive looking suits - without a tie, Bodie noted - the only sign of previous events being a plaster on his throat. He stood when they entered the bar and waved them over.
Three glasses were waiting, along with a decanter. As they sat down, John commented, “Single malt. I thought something decent was in order,” before turning his attention to his brother. They stared at each other across the table and Bodie held his breath. So much depended on how John reacted to all of this, and Bodie really didn’t know him well enough to do more than hope. Strictly speaking, John would be perfectly within his rights to have Ray charged with assault.
“You’re looking better.” “I should apologise…” They spoke simultaneously, their identically pitched voices harmonising oddly.
Bodie ducked his head to cover a grin as both men fumbled for appropriate responses. Somehow they managed to do exactly the same thing again.
“There’s no need…” “I really am…” The conversation staggered to a halt again, the participants looking ready to give up entirely.
It proved too much for Bodie. He laughed out loud. “After you, Claude. No, after you, Cecil.” Finding himself on the receiving end of twin glares, his laughter increased. “Christ, two for the price of one. I should’ve left well alone.”
The glares turned into sheepish grins, then John, dead pan, said haughtily, “There speaks a man who doesn’t recognise a good thing when he sees it.”
“Never has,” Ray replied with mock resignation. “Been telling him that for years and he still keeps on insisting he’s the one who’s the catch.”
“Of course.” Bodie leaned back in his seat, content to be the centre of attention. “I can’t help it if I’m tall, dark and beautiful.”
“Not so much dark as well-seasoned these days, mate.”
Bodie’s hand strayed self-consciously to his hair. He’d considered dying it at one point but Ray’d had hysterics when he made the suggestion. Needless to say, he’d not brought it up again.
“Oi.” Ray nudged him. “You can stop panicking. You’re still beautiful.”
“Just so.” The tension snapped up again with John’s words. Ray stiffened, pulling his knee away when Bodie put a hand on it to calm him. John was not dissuaded. “You’re a lucky man, Ray. I hope you appreciate what the two of you have. And what you’ve achieved.”
It wasn’t surprising Deed was a good judge, Bodie thought. There wasn’t a cowardly bone in the man’s body. The forthright approach worked. Ray relaxed and slumped back in his chair.
“Yeah, I do. Even if I act like a prat at times.”
That was probably as close as Ray would get to a real apology since his previous, more formal, attempt had failed. John seemed to understand. He lifted his glass, tilted it in Ray’s direction and said, “Accepted. Now what would you say to dinner? There’s a very nice Indian just round the corner…”
Bodie closed his eyes and let the conversation wash over him. Despite everything, things had worked out perfectly. Job well done, my son, he thought. Now if he could just palm the dinner bill off on one of the brothers, his happiness would be complete.