Propping himself against the front door he had just closed, his holdall of unspeakably smelly clothes drooping from one hand, Doyle closed his eyes, soaking up the warmth and scents of home.
Bliss. It was over for another few months and he was back in civilization: central heating; shelter; hot water; and Bodie. No Towser; no Macklin; no sleeping on the muddy ground, sheltering from a Force Nine gale behind a broken stone wall; and best of all, no being beaten up; or being terrorised by four-horned sheep. A click made him open his eyes to find himself staring down the barrel of a Smith & Wesson.
"Welcome home," said Bodie wryly, slipping on the safety catch as he lowered his arm. Water slid from his naked body onto the carpet, shampoo trailing frivolously over one ear.
"Yeah. You bloody maniac," muttered Doyle, dropping his holdall to run a hand back through his hair.
"Wasn't expecting you for at least another couple of hours," explained Bodie apologetically.
"I got time off for good behaviour," offered Doyle, rubbing his armpit.
Taking in the full glory of his partner's appearance Bodie gave a spreading grin, even if he did want to scratch in sympathy. "You look terrible, mate."
"That doesn't amaze me. Macklin's a bastard, and I'm buggered. Don't even think of being humorous," Doyle added in warning, as he wearily pushed himself from the support of the door. "My sex drive's still somewhere back in the wilds of Wales." Sporting four days' worth of stubble, his hair clumped in noisome ringlets, and limping slightly, he headed down the hall.
As he drew closer, Bodie's nose wrinkled fastidiously. "Er, Ray?"
"Never smelt stale sweat before?" inquired Doyle acidly.
"It's not the sweat that's bothering me," said Bodie with conviction. "Did you step in anything disgusting when you got out of the car?"
"Oh, that. It's sheep," Doyle said lugubriously. "There are a lot of sheep in Wales and I met most of them. Fell into a lot of what they left behind them as well. I travelled back in my cleanest clothes."
"We'll incinerate that lot then," decided Bodie, gesturing to where Doyle's holdall sat.
"Feel free. I've forgotten what running water looks like - unless it's pouring from the sky. You have finished in the shower, haven't you," Doyle added, without pausing for breath. It was more of a warning than a question.
Knowing he would face bodily harm if he tried to hint that he would like to rinse the shampoo from his hair, or at least collect a bath-towel, Bodie stepped out of Doyle's single-minded advance, dodging the balled-up teeshirt he dragged off and tossed behind him.
"Be my guest," Bodie told the closing door.
He dried himself as best he could on a couple of tea towels and rinsed his hair under the tap in the kitchen, wryly reflecting on the joys of co-habitation with Doyle. Previous experience having taught him that Doyle would stay under the shower until the hot water ran out, Bodie pulled on a comfortable old tracksuit and started preparing a high protein meal. Remembering the bruises he had noticed, he found time to hunt out the embrocation.
One elbow propped on the table, his head precariously supported on his palm, Doyle was barely awake as he automatically chewed and swallowed. Since emerging from the bathroom his conversation had been restricted to a few sleepy grunts of assent.
Unperturbed by such untypical apathy, Bodie left him to it and concentrated on his own steak. He knew exactly how Doyle felt, having experienced that level of fatigue after some of Macklin's refresher courses himself. Give Ray some decent food and a night's sleep and he would be back on sparkling form.
"Here," said Bodie, pushing a glass over.
Doyle showed a faint sign of life when he savoured his first mouthful of scotch and gave a soft sigh of satisfaction. "You all right?" he asked after his second sip.
"Blooming. Bored, mind. Cowley's had me on obbo duty with Turner while you've been off enjoying yourself."
"Yeah?" Heavy-eyed, Doyle gave a faint smile. "Shows the Old Man has a sense of humour after all. Looks like I had the easy part. Turner still in one piece?" he added, without much interest.
"Regrettably. I reckon he's the missing link. How did your arm hold out?"
Doyle gave him a blank look. "Both of them are still attached to my body, despite Brian's best efforts. Why?"
Realising Doyle was operating on half a cylinder at best, Bodie gave a patient sigh. "You can't have forgotten already. Hospital. Stitches. Sick-leave. Giving the squad the best laugh they've had for months."
"If I had the energy, I'd thump you," Doyle informed him without heat. "I thought you promised to give the record a rest. Who would expect a sweet-looking little old lady to be carrying a flick-knife - never mind know how to use it? I wouldn't mind, but I only stopped to ask her directions," he added, his sense of grievance returning.
Bodie's chin quivered. "'But he looked such a rough young man,'" he quoted in a squeaky voice. "Sorry," he added in his usual tone. "Not funny, I know. You are all right now?"
"Apart from a near-terminal case of embarrassment, I'm fine. Towser found the story hilarious, and Macklin wasn't far behind him," Doyle added with gloom.
"You got your own back, of course."
Caught mid-yawn, Doyle spared him a look of reproof.
"Silly question," Bodie acknowledged.
"Believe it or not, you're looking at a finely-honed fighting machine."
Bodie's eyes rose. "Brian said that?"
"When does he ever do more than grunt? Heard him on the blower to Cowley after they condescended to take me back to what passed for civilization." Doyle pushed the plate containing his half-eaten meal away. "Sorry, mate. I can't finish this. It takes too much effort to chew. I'm off to bed. I might start making more sense after I've had some sleep. Night."
Brushing the top of Bodie's head with his hand, he aimed himself at the doorway and almost tripped over the trailing belt of his bathrobe. Sighing, Bodie got to his feet. Oblivious to the hands steering him in the right direction, or the body behind him whose support kept him upright, Doyle was deeply asleep the moment he slumped onto the mattress, sagging limply between Bodie's hands.
Resisting temptation as he peeled the bathrobe away, Bodie gently eased Doyle fully onto the bed before checking his injuries. To his relief, the angry-looking scar which ran from Doyle's biceps almost to his elbow was healing well. Bodie gave a satisfied nod when he noted that most of Doyle's bruises were at least forty-eight hours old. He could have told Cowley that Ray hadn't needed a refresher course. Even Cowley wouldn't have expected a pink-cheeked old dear to be carrying a flick-knife. She had been most apologetic when she had realised her mistake; the ginger cake she had made for Doyle was the best Bodie had eaten for years, although it was the last time he let himself be conned into playing poker with a shark like seventy-eight-year-old Miss Link.
Retrieving the embrocation, Bodie gave most of his attention to the long bruise down Doyle's right thigh - the leg he had been favouring. Doyle did not stir. Absently wiping his hands clean on a towel, Bodie eyed the soft breathing sprawl of his partner; brushing back a fat curl, he delivered a light kiss to the lax penis and reminded himself that necrophilia was considered socially unacceptable. Tempting though, too bloody tempting.
Woken by a faint moan and movement from the firm mattress, Bodie flicked on the bedside light. While his instinct for danger told him all was well, he felt mildly curious. It took him a moment to focus in the bright light. "Ray?"
A pillow hugged to one cheek, what could be seen of Doyle's face wore a distinctly fatuous expression as his buttocks undulated in an unmistakable rhythm.
A grin of admiration crossed Bodie's face at his partner's powers of recuperation; he pulled back the covers the better to enjoy the view. Only then did it occur to him that he was in danger of losing out.
"You randy little toad! Pack it in, will you. Ray!" A sharp slap to the sweetly-clenching buttocks achieved the desired result.
Doyle started awake, slumping instantly when instinct said he was safe. "Wassamatter?" He was already burrowing back into the pillow.
"Come on, mate."
Dozy as a hibernating dormouse Doyle rolled limply in Bodie's grasp as he was turned onto his back, his tumescence arrowing up his flat stomach. His eyes were still hazed with pleasure, his lush mouth an invitation as he blinked with engaging vacuity into the light.
Bodie leant into his partner's field of vision. "Are you awake yet?"
"Expect so. Hello," Doyle offered, before he yawned wide enough to display his tonsils. Giving a thorough stretch, his hand headed unerringly to his cock.
"You leave that alone," Bodie told him with decision, capturing the thin wrist.
"Spoilsport. You'll be giving me a lecture on solitary vice next."
His knuckles brushing the soft body hair between the small, rose-brown nipples, Bodie shook his head. "Though it might come to that. Since when do you dry-hump the mattress when I'm lying next to you?" he demanded, severity thinly masking indulgence because Doyle made such an appealing sight. He lay in an untidy yet still graceful sprawl, his cock mutely pleading for stimulation; his eyes huge and bright, his softened mouth was an invitation.
"Forgot I was home," murmured Doyle absently, giving a restless flex of his hips. "Or at least I suppose I did. Fancy helping an old mate out? I could use a hand - or anything else that takes your fancy."
"Anything," Bodie said simply. "Anything you want."
"Well, I wanted to jerk off, but as that's not allowed how about a bit of rock 'n' roll? Nothing heavy. Just you and me." As he spoke Doyle was gently pushing Bodie back against the mattress before he climbed on board, Bodie automatically accommodating his weight.
Doyle gave a sigh of pleasure when capable hands settled firmly over his rump, dragging him against the satiny lance of the cock which was already slick for him. "Oh that's lovely," he murmured, sliding against Bodie as the side of Bodie's thumb tormented the cleft of his buttocks.
"Yeah, it is," confirmed Bodie, wrapping his legs around Doyle to hold them even closer, soaking up the warmth and scent and taste of him.
Familiarity yet to breed contempt of the many ways they had found of loving one another, on this occasion they stuck to basics, feeling too lazy for anything athletic. Their caresses almost languid at first, they rubbed and rocked. Exchanging deepening kisses, as the gathering ache tightened their balls, they began to concentrate in earnest, finding a harder, faster rhythm.
Bodie's voice urging him on, Doyle buried his mouth in the hollow of the other man's throat as his movements gained urgency. He came in silent, concentrated pulses, breathing his lover's name only when he had stilled. His path eased by the slick lubrication of Doyle's semen, Bodie thrust strongly and came, his hands gripping Doyle's rump as he uttered the surprised little grunt which Doyle loved so much. It always sounded as if climax caught Bodie off-guard with the sharpness of its pleasure. Fiercely protective of his partner in this moment of defencelessness, Doyle's hands soothed him, mouth nuzzling salt-slick skin as the muscles locked around him relaxed.
Trying to catch his breath, Bodie spat a mouthful of curl out of his mouth and slid his thumbs under Doyle's armpits in an attempt to move the limp body. Giving a protesting grunt, Doyle remained an inert weight and a hazard to Bodie's ability to breathe.
"Gerroff!" Bodie finally wheezed. "You're squashing me."
"That's not what you said a few minutes ago," complained Doyle, labouriously righting himself until he straddled the supine man. While his rump settled solidly, his weight was borne on knees and calves, his sticky genitals moving with each inhalation Bodie took.
"Hearing things too," mourned Bodie. His flat-palmed hands sliding up and down the thighs banding him, his contentment was a deep and abiding thing these days, betrayed by a lessening of his need to hide behind the mask of a clown.
The change in Doyle was less obvious, except for the fact that his manner was less spiked, and that when he smiled the warmth reached his eyes. "Fickle, that's your trouble," Doyle told him, with the confidence of one certain the reverse was true.
He bent to kiss Bodie with a lingering attention to detail. Nuzzling the dark prickle of stubble, he nudged Bodie's nose with his own before making himself comfortable next to him. Hands folded on his chest, his ankles crossed and his face tranquil, Doyle formed an unwitting parody of a medieval effigy.
"Now I'm convinced I'm home. That was almost worth my rude awakening," he announced. "Pull up the bedclothes. It's getting chilly."
"What did your last slave die of?" grumbled Bodie, obliging only because Doyle was right.
"Not doing as he was told quickly enough. You bastard, it's only twenty-to-six!" Doyle discovered, his expression that of a man who had been grossly betrayed.
"You'd been asleep for over ten hours. Besides, I couldn't resist you," Bodie added ruefully, aware of the ammunition he was handing the other man.
"Getting soft in your old age," Doyle chided, one hand stroking Bodie's upper thigh.
"That must be it," Bodie agreed, his eyes closing. They opened when he received a sharp poke in the ribs, Doyle's face filling his horizon.
"I don't remember coming to bed. Must have flaked out on you. Sorry. Feel great now though," Doyle added unnecessarily. "I was dreaming about you."
"Give me a break. With Macklin and Towser on my back? There are less painful ways to commit suicide. Besides, I was bloody lucky to get any sleep, never mind dream of anything but how I was going to kill 'em."
"Very slowly would get my vote. When did you dream about me then?" asked Bodie, looking pleased.
"Until you woke me up, of course. When d'you think?"
"No need to get ratty. I only asked."
"Only you could be that daft."
"Afterglow fading, is it?" asked a solicitous voice.
Try as he might, Doyle couldn't control his appreciative grin. "Cretin."
"So how was I?" Bodie added with interest.
"I'll never know. You woke me up just as it was getting to the interesting part."
"Not if the way you were giving the mattress some was anything to go by."
"I can't help having a healthy libido," said Doyle smugly. "My cock must have got ahead of the story."
"Nothing new there then. That hurt," Bodie added with reproach.
"I prefer to call myself an inventive thinker. So we weren't discovering any new techniques in this dream of yours?"
"Now he's saying I'm predictable," Doyle told the ceiling in a long-suffering tone.
"You'll do for me."
Doyle's head turned on the pillow. "That's not necessarily a comfort," he pointed out, before he punched up a pillow.
"You're not going back to sleep, then?" noted Bodie with resignation.
"No point. I feel wide awake. And that's how you're going to stay. It'll teach you to wake me up before I've finished the short strokes."
Bodie eyed him with tolerant resignation. "You'd think I would have had the sense to be grateful for some peace. Though the way you were moaning into your pillow... This dream of yours," he added, tugging until Doyle surrendered and allowed himself to be hauled over Bodie, "what were we doing?" Bodie's hands gently played a tune only he could hear on the rise of Doyle's rump.
"Hold on, your hands are cold." Removing the offenders, Doyle tucked them under his armpits.
"Who said romance was dead?" mused Bodie.
"Give up. Who did?"
"Who did what? Oh, I dunno. Stop changing the subject. Come on, dish the dirt. What were we doing in this dream of yours?"
"I'm not sure I want to tell you. Dreams are supposed to be private." Having decided Bodie's hands were warm enough, Doyle resettled them on his backside and recognised his tactical error only when it was too late, his eyes widening. "You wouldn't."
"You wouldn't bruise my best asset," said Doyle with a serene and nauseating confidence.
While Bodie was tempted to lie, honesty prevailed. "No, I wouldn't. But that won't save the rest of you if you don't cough up. What were we doing?"
"I hardly like to tell you after the build-up I've obviously given the dream. I'll tell you! I'll tell you! Don't tickle me!" begged Doyle cravenly. Relaxing when the threat was removed, he began to chuckle. "I wouldn't try that look on any villain. You just went cross-eyed."
"Living with you, it's a wonder I haven't developed a nervous tic," retorted Bodie with feeling. "Stop being more aggravating than usual and tell all."
"You're in a very masterful mood this morning. There's not much to tell."
"Then it won't take long, will it."
Gazing at him in mock-submission, Doyle gave a satisfied grin. "Patience is never going to be one of your virtues, is it. It wasn't much of a dream really because I could see both of us clear as a bell." His eyes narrowed reminiscently. "You were lying on the floor. Well, more propped against the wall, with me kneeling over you. We were gazing fatuously into each other's eyes - like we were about to kiss for the first time. Was strange though, because we looked like twins - except for your black eye, of course."
"How did I get that?"
Refocusing, Doyle shrugged. "I don't know. Don't think it was important."
"Not important?" echoed Bodie in outrage. "Your better half is mortally injured and all you can say is - "
"I'll show you injury if you don't give it a rest," Doyle informed him, sliding further under the covers.
"You and whose army?" inquired Bodie fondly, his expression changing when a hand slid from view to capture what he treasured most. "Maybe not. Though that's no hold for a gentleman."
"Perfect for me then. Besides, this way I know I've got your full attention. Anyway, I like cradling your balls."
"Well just don't forget what you're holding," Bodie requested.
"No fear of that," Doyle assured him, delivering a final pat.
"Right, so you and me were gazing into each other's eyes, one of mine was black, and you didn't care how I got it. Bet you gave it to me," added Bodie darkly.
"It's tempting at times. I didn't say the dream me wasn't worried, just that I wasn't."
"Typical," Bodie sniffed.
"Anyway, I had my hand round your - "
"I thought I woke you up before the good bit?"
" - jacket. Don't interrupt. I must have been drawing you closer ready to knock your socks off with a kiss."
"Hang on. You said we looked like twins. That means there must have been two of me." A smug smile crossed Bodie's face.
Doyle sighed. "I wonder about you sometimes. Why would I want to dream about you kissing yourself when you could be kissing me? We were ourselves, it was our clothes that were the same: leather jackets, teeshirts, boots. But there were a couple of giveaways to the fact it was a dream."
"Like what?" asked Bodie, expecting the punchline because by now he was certain Doyle was setting him up for one of his appalling jokes, whose only redeeming factor was the fact they made Doyle laugh inordinately.
"Like the fact I was hesitating about kissing you. I ask you, is it likely - especially in view of the come on you were giving me."
"I was not!" denied Bodie hotly, revolted by the thought of such sentimental behaviour.
Doyle gave him an indulgent pat, knowing Bodie's fond delusions. "How would you know? It was my dream. Shameless, you were. It was lovely," he added with a trace of wistfulness. "Dead romantic. Not like us at all. None of this squabbling about who forgot to collect the clean sheets from the laundrette or - "
Meeting the beginnings of doubt in the blue eyes, Doyle shook his head in instant reassurance. "Pillock," he said, regretting his impulse to tease. "I've got used to you squeezing the toothpaste in the middle now. Anyway, we had our bout of romance on our first night."
Bodie looked blank. "We did?"
"Course. You asked me if I wanted to go on top first. Left it a bit late, mind."
"You lying little git. We were so nervous we came before we managed to get our clothes off. You still have that problem sometimes."
"Once!" said Doyle hotly.
"That's once more that me," pointed out Bodie smugly.
He received a look of dark promise. "We'll see about that. Watch your back when the Old Man's about."
"You wouldn't want to start anything you can't have the fun of finishing." Bodie had the sound of a man trying to convince himself.
Doyle just stared at him, as impassive and unforgiving as a cat.
"What if I said I was very, very sorry," offered Bodie, remembering his partner's talent for evening old scores.
"I'd say you were chicken. I'll get my revenge - but not when Cowley's around," Doyle conceded.
"Then I'll look forward to it. Our first night is going back a bit," mused Bodie. "Though I suppose you couldn't call us romantic."
Recognising what that sly side-on glance was asking him, Doyle gave Bodie's thigh a comforting pat. "Depends what you call romantic. You ever try calling me bunnykins or buying me flowers and you're dead meat. But you have your moments. Like yesterday evening," he continued seriously, fingering the hair just above Bodie's ear. "Everything you did for me - and without making a song and dance about it, or taking umbrage because I was too knackered to make any effort. You must have given me a massage after I flaked out, because not only do I smell of embrocation, but my thigh isn't aching any more. That may not sound much to some but it's the kind of romance that suits me."
"You've done the same for me," said Bodie, with a defensiveness which made Doyle grin.
"Anyone would think I'd accused you of some gross perversion," he said affectionately. "There again, you don't go in for that sort of thing."
Bodie looked mildly offended. "You're making me feel inadequate."
"Yeah? Now that would be a novelty," said Doyle with conviction.
"What would you call perverted?" added Bodie thoughtfully.
"Nothing that either of us is likely to come up with, that's for sure. Unless you didn't like... No, you'd've said, wouldn't you?"
"Course I would," said Bodie with scorn. "Though we'll give that position you came up with the other month a miss. Explaining to Cowley how I got groin strain wasn't a highlight of my life."
Doyle gave a reminiscent chuckle, burying the sound against Bodie's shoulder as he got the giggles.
"All right, there's no need to go on. I got out of it, didn't I?" said Bodie with dignity.
"Just. Though I still don't know what he thought you were doing instead."
"There is always that. Luckily he didn't ask. What was the other giveaway in that dream of yours? Fighting you off, was I?"
Doyle gave a hoot of derision. "Chance would be a fine thing. No, the only really unlikely part was the fact you were wearing jeans."
Bodie blinked. "What? Jeans as in denim?"
"Are there any other kind worth mentioning?"
Bodie sat up. "Let me get this straight. You and I were dressed in the same outfits, and I was wearing jeans."
"There's more chance of proving the Pope's Jewish," said Bodie, after a moment's reflection. "You've finally cracked. It had to happen one day."
"What's wrong with jeans?"
"Apart from the fact they're common, scruffy, overpriced and uncomfortable? A man's got to have some standards."
"Thanks a bundle," said Doyle acidly.
"I don't know why you're worried. You could make sacking look sexy. That's not the point. I don't wear jeans - ever. It's a matter of principle," Bodie added in a lofty tone.
"And this from the man who probably spells it A - L."
"At least I can spell separate," returned Bodie. "Half thought the Old Man was going to keep you late to write it out a hundred times. Did the jeans suit me?" he added, curious despite himself.
Doyle frowned. "D'you know, I can't remember. Was too busy looking into your eyes."
"Blimey, now I know you were dreaming," joked Bodie, tracing his partner's familiar profile with his forefinger.
"It's been known," Doyle said wryly, before he pulled a face and nipped the digit which had made the mistake of lingering at his mouth.
"Would you like me to wear jeans?" asked Bodie unexpectedly.
"They wouldn't suit you," Doyle said with decision.
Bodie stiffened. "Oh?" It would be easy enough to prove Ray wrong, and he needn't wear them more than once, he decided, just before he glimpsed the fleeting look of satisfaction on Doyle's face.
"You manipulative, lying bastard. I'll get you for this," Bodie promised, pinning his other half to the mattress.
Untroubled, Doyle made no attempt to defend himself, wrapping his legs around Bodie, one foot teasing up his thigh. "You could probably do it before the alarm goes off if you put your mind to it. A nice hard fuck to start the day off right. We'll need something to keep us going because I presume I'm on obbo duty with you."
"Afraid so. Still, you're preferable to Turner," said Bodie, rolling over to retrieve the KY.
Doyle took advantage to nip a taut buttock; tasting soap and salt and Bodie, his mouth began to roam with impunity.
"Changed your mind about getting fucked?" Bodie asked lazily, staying where he was.
"Mmn. Dunno. Spoilt for choice."
"Well could you make up your mind, only I'd like to know what I'm going to be looking forward to."
"Decisions, decisions. Think I'd rather watch your face while you do me," Doyle decided. "Can ring the changes tonight. Wanna snog like they do in the movies before we get down to the more energetic stuff?" he invited, his theatrical leer fading as he stared at his partner, flippancy falling away.
"You mean no clashing teeth, stubble burns, saliva trails or bumping noses?" asked Bodie, sliding his arms around him, his palms flat against the flexing shoulder blades.
"That wasn't what I had in mind, no."
Doyle's breath mingling with his own, Bodie considered the offer. "I'd rather have your usual style," he announced.
His mouth opened faster than he had intended when Doyle pinched him.