Legs braced against the pull of the water swirling busily around his ankles, toes clenched in shifting grains of sand, Doyle’s sigh of contentment drifted down the deserted beach. He took a luxurious swallow of lager, wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and tasted sea-salt. His eyes never left the black-suited figure who rode the surf as though born to it.
The kind of life Bodie had led, it came as no surprise to learn he’d never had the chance to try surfing until now. In a reminiscent mood one evening, enmeshed in golden memories of teenage conquests, Doyle had sold Bodie on the idea within ten minutes. Which was how they had arrived on this Cornish beach, only a few hundred yards from the sand dunes which held so many happy memories for Doyle.
His eyes crinkled against the strength of the sun, the air warm and gentle against his face, Doyle was suddenly suffused with a rare, transitory joy. And it hadn’t taken much to bring him to this state of grace - basking in the warmth of the spring sunshine, aching a little from the simple pleasure of physical exertion for the sheer joy of it rather than the usual grim necessity of being fit enough to stay alive. But that was only a part of it: the smallest part, he admitted readily. Mostly it was due to being with Bodie, watching that world-weary disdain dissolve as Bodie took his first, short-lived ride on the surf.
Bodie had been hooked then, captured by the exhilaration of joining, if only for scant moments, with a force more powerful than himself, knowing the heady illusion of mastery until you were shaken clear - the almost sexual charge a good ride could bring.
And all from walking on the water.
Pausing mid-stretch, Doyle gave a grimace as the forgotten childhood conceit returned to him; he’d been a pretentious little sod as a kid. When the Doyle family had gathered down here for their summer holidays they’d bought him a surf board to keep him out of the way while the rest of the family got on with the business of enjoying themselves. A skinny ten-year-old, he’d dreamt his impossible, innocent dreams of conquest, learning to swim or sink and slowly the innocence and then the dreams had been lost. Today he had regained some of that early magic.
Savouring another mouthful of lager, swishing it, foaming, around his teeth, he allowed the effervescence to trickle slowly down his throat as he lifted an approving thumb out to sea. Curving into the beach, Bodie smoothly adjusted his stance. Learning to read and anticipate the surf, he was doing even better at this than Doyle had expected.
This holiday had been planned for later in the summer, until he had got himself shot with a piece of over-confident carelessness and all their plans had changed.
As a hospital visitor Bodie was inclined to be unpredictable, exhausting and guaranteed to speed anyone’s recovery by the sheer force of his will. It had been Bodie who had made this early booking, after conferring with doctors and getting the all-clear and confirming his own leave.
Doyle had spent the remainder of his convalescence in a state of barely-restrained excitement, full of impatience to test his slowly healing body. Realising that Doyle’s enthusiasm was quite genuine, Bodie had unbent enough to admit that, yeah, it would be good to get away for a bit; then he had smiled. Doyle would have cooked him the meal on the strength of the admission alone.
It was good to see Bodie this relaxed. He had been taking life too seriously, his capacity for squeezing humour from the most unlikely situation worn thin. In repose there was a hint of sadness about him, a silent yearning that tugged at Doyle’s heartstrings, making him plan something really outrageous to divert both Bodie and himself from what might be wrong.
But he knew the time was fast approaching when they would have to admit that everything wasn’t fine, even as he resisted the urge to rub the still-inclined-to-be-itchy scar tissue peppered over his chest from the wounds left by the shot-gun pellets.
Sodding wetsuits, he thought, diverted, mildly aggrieved at being unable to reach the worst spots. Fumbling one-handed he unfastened the neck of his suit and wriggling athletically succeeded in unzipping the detachable sleeves. Peeling them off he tossed them up the beach before sliding down the large front zipper.
He gave a sigh of relief at the welcome rush of cool air, one hand slipping between the gaping folds of his suit to rub damp skin before guiltily withdrawing. He scratched from habit rather than actual need but had no wish for Bodie to catch him at it and start fussing all over again.
It was a pity they needed the suits at all while the weather was so hot; he’d never liked wearing them, but at this time of year the water was freezing. That was the only fault with the day though, conditions were perfect and, as a bonus, they had the beach to themselves. Just Bodie and him and a few seagulls.
He’d learnt the hard way to accept happiness where he could find it, so it no longer seemed odd that his should come in such unexpected forms; he continued to watch Bodie’s incoming figure as it crouched over the water. Only yards from a triumphant return, Bodie’s concentration lapsed as he saw the half-naked figure posed with sybaritic pleasure in the shallows, watching him with disconcerting intensity. All grace lost Bodie vanished into the surf, bobbing up moments later with the rescued board.
“Too cocky by half, that’s your trouble,” Doyle yelled disparagingly as he splashed out to meet him. “Got a long way to go yet, my son.”
Water streaming from his face and hair, his teeth seeming very white as he grinned, Bodie propped an elbow on the shoulder already braced in anticipation and let Doyle bear the brunt of his weight.
“That’s what I love most about you, Ray. You’re so supportive.” His American accent was as atrocious as ever.
Water from Bodie’s raised arm was dripping between the open edges of his suit. Flinching, Doyle tolerated it, eyeing the sleek black bulk of Bodie with a trace of astonished disbelief. He hadn’t noticed before but the unrelieved severity of the black wetsuit really did something for Bodie, framing the strong neck, compact line of muscle and bone, highlighting the clear matte skin. Made him look...
Oblivious, Bodie gave him an exuberant one-armed hug. “This isn’t bad,” he announced with happy understatement, gesturing broadly at the expanse of ocean before them. “But I’m knackered.”
“Out of condition, that’s your trouble,” Doyle told him loftily, content to remain in the circle of Bodie’s arm. “Suppose you think I’m going to carry you back up the beach now?”
“I’d like to see you - Don’t even think about it,” Bodie warned with haste when he recognised the glint in Doyle’s eyes. “I’m not doing badly though, am I?” he prompted, giving Doyle an encouraging nudge with his elbow.
“You’re doing OK. Be even better when you stop falling off,” Doyle added with kind condescension, but he handed Bodie his can of lager without waiting to be asked.
“Too much praise’ll go to my head. Um. That’s thirsty work,” Bodie announced unnecessarily before he drained the can.
As his arm rose another deluge of water slid down Doyle’s exposed rib cage. Giving his partner a sour look Doyle wiped himself dry with ostentatious care.
“Not getting chilly, are we?” Bodie inquired, ever solicitous.
“Course not.” Very aware of Bodie’s proximity, Doyle shivered.
“Skinny little runt like you, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Bodie said, ruthlessly quashing his urge to enfold Doyle in his own warmth. He eyed the goose-bumped figure for a moment then, without warning, hooked Doyle’s legs out from under him, standing clear of the tidal wave caused by his precipitate landing.
“You lousy - ” Finding himself up to his neck in cold water, Doyle’s outrage was submerged by an incoming wave of some force.
Spitting out a mouthful of salt water he staggered unsteadily to his feet, the overlong curls plastered in his eyes dripping wetly. Shaking his head dog-like, he unzipped the suit almost to the large flat studs at the groin in order to shed some of the excess water seeping between once-warm skin and black rubber.
“You’re going to regret that,” he promised Bodie with gentle menace as he advanced on him.
His face alight with laughter Bodie continued his backward retreat to the shore. “C’mon, Ray, you wouldn’t hit an old mate, would you?”
Doyle shook his head, still advancing. “Course not,” he reassured in a voice soft as velvet.
His attention on the promise of retribution implicit in Doyle’s grin, disorientated by the pull of water swirling strongly around his ankles and the soft sand shifting beneath his feet, Bodie stepped back, caught the tender pad of his foot on a sharp-edged shell, yelled and stumbled. Doyle was on him a moment later.
“Skinny little runt, eh?” he said, astride his helpless partner.
Bodie gave a protesting grunt as Doyle’s rubber- clad backside thumped determinedly on his chest. “Gerroff,” he wheezed, trying to lift his head out of the foam that was all that remained of the surf this near to the shore.
Unmoved by the eloquence of Bodie’s plea Doyle gave a smile of unfeigned sweetness. “Make me,” he invited, his hands firm on broad shoulders as he leant over Bodie, blocking out the sun.
Motionless, the laughter faded from Bodie’s eyes as he studied the face above him, resisting the impulse to brush away the trace of sand adhering to a stubbled jaw, to smoothed back the wet hair framing the angled cheekbones and experienced mouth.
Not understanding the abstract sadness in the eyes watching him with such grave intensity Doyle leant closer. “Hey?” he chided softly.
Bodie’s answering smile faltered. “It’s getting cold,” he mumbled.
“Yeah,” Doyle agreed absently, his gaze intensifying as though he saw his partner for the first time and needed to absorb every tiny detail.
“Is my nose peeling or something?” Bodie resigned himself to the cold trickles of water in his ears.
“What?” Disorientated, Doyle refocused on his partner’s questioning face and made a fast recovery. “Course it isn’t.”
“Then stop staring, I’ll get a complex,” Bodie told him, acid to cover his heightened awareness.
His palms flat in the sand on either side of Bodie’s head, Doyle remained very still, trying to ignore the insidious melting in his gut that was making it so difficult to think at all. He was certain now that he knew what had been wrong with Bodie - and himself - his eyes luminous with the knowledge, a serene accepting core of contentment beginning to flower within him. He nearly told Bodie then, wanting to share the beautiful simplicity of the answer he had discovered after so long a search. A patience and restraint he had not known he possessed kept him silent.
This was too important, and he would be careful of Bodie as he had been with no other love. But then no love had ever been so important to him. Kneeling in the sand and foam, an absurd smile in his eyes, Doyle knew that, inevitably, no one could mean so many things to him as this one man.
His voice revealed none of that. “Thought so,” he announced gravely, peering at Bodie’s chest.
Bodie gave him a distinctly wary look, unable to reconcile the serenity in the eyes looking at him with such open affection and the flippant tone of voice.
“Thought what?” he asked with suspicion.
“You’ve got a freckle coming,” Doyle told him gleefully, touching a careful finger to the small mark.
“Probably the first sign of frostbite. Can I get up now?”
“Oh, am I too heavy for you?” asked Doyle with spurious solicitude.
Freeing Bodie, he extended a hand down to him. Wanting to banish the shadow in the back of those blue eyes he gave a crooked, challenging grin. “Come on, race you back to the car. Last one there’s the slowest.”
Bodie overtook him in three strides, reaching out a restraining hand. “Hang on, what about our boards and the rest of your suit?” he reminded, gesturing to the sand littered with their belongings.
“Oh. I forgot,” Doyle conceded sunnily, untroubled by such trivialities. “Are you sure it isn’t because you know I’ll beat you?”
Bodie just grinned.
Doyle’s nose was going pink, he noted, eyeing the pinched face and the almost imperceptible shivers running down the thin-hipped frame.
“Skinny little runt,” he repeated softly, hitching Doyle’s zip up a few inches in the interests of public decency and his own peace of mind.
His surf board tucked under a naked arm, the sleeves of his suit slung around his neck, Doyle shook his head. “Big enough for you, sunshine,” he said with decision before setting off at a run along the firm damp sand at the water’s edge.
That husky voice echoing in his ears, it was a moment before Bodie could move, his limbs leaden, heart twisting within him.
Doyle slowed, and turned, smiling.
Collecting his scattered wits Bodie loped across the beach to him. Listening to the steady pad and splash of their feet as they continued down the beach at an undemanding pace, he was suddenly content to let matters take their own course.
His head resting on their empty holdall, Bodie crossed his legs at the ankle and wiggled his toes, pleased with the progress he was making. The muscles in his thighs and calves offered a silent reminder of the new skills they were acquiring but he ached less today, and Ray, looking disgustingly healthy, had stayed in the water with him all morning.
It was warm in the sheltered hollow they had chosen to lunch in, the steep banks isolating them in the middle of the dunes. Grass tufting the curved tops rustled dryly, the fine sand making slithering scurries of sound as it was eddied along by the light breeze.
His eyes closed against the sun on his face Bodie gave a sleek stretch, arching upwards before his body went limp. He could hear a distant seagull and the rhythmic crash and slide of the outgoing tide. Nearer at hand came the unmistakable sound of Doyle eating an overripe tomato. By now Bodie lacked the energy to warn him to watch out for the pips while he was wearing a wetsuit. Exhibitionist, he thought with sleepy pleasure, visualising Doyle sitting cross-legged only a few feet away, his suit open to his dark shadowed groin as he soaked up the sun. Bodie fell asleep on the thought, still smiling faintly.
He was never sure what woke him, blinking sleepily across the tiny space to be captured in an intense green stare. Propped on his side Doyle lay watching him with an almost painful intensity that did not lessen as Bodie stirred.
Bodie’s sleepy query died, caught by the unblinking survey that left him locked in tense, skin-prickling awareness. Breaking the spell he stretched, looking everywhere but at Doyle.
“I wondered if we might drive into town this afternoon. I’d like to try and hire another board - this one’s great for beginners but it’s heavy and slow. I reckon I could handle the extra speed now. I want to try anyway and we haven’t got much time, only a day and a half left.” He knew he was gabbling, words tumbling awkwardly to fill the expectant silence.
“A day and a half isn’t long,” Doyle agreed. A small half-smile creased his cheek. “Never seems to be enough time, not even when I’m seeing you every day, all day. When I was off... I missed having you around all the time.” He reached out, his thumb flicking open with a casual, unthinking intimacy the close-fitting studs that fastened the collar of Bodie’s wetsuit.
“You’ll be getting all hot inside there. No need to stay wrapped up to the ears. Not here - with me. Black suits you,” he added.
Bodie hardly noticed the untypical inconsequence. Ray had been in a strange mood for the last couple of days: happy, but strange. And now he was so very close... All he had to do was move his fingers a casual fraction of an inch and they would find the warm sun-tinted skin framed by the gaping black and red of the suit that clung so persistently elsewhere.
Meeting no resistance as his fingers brushed the collar aside, baring the pale skin of Bodie’s throat, Doyle’s resolve to wait - made a scant three days ago - was forgotten.
“Oh, look at you,” he murmured helplessly, running a gentle finger down the suddenly tense muscle at the side of Bodie’s neck. “So bloody beautiful. And you don’t even know it.”
Incredulously Bodie stared at the man now kneeling astride him, one knee planted on either side of his hips, aware of the hand sliding the zip of his wetsuit down, parting it with shaking fingers.
The redundant question faded as Doyle’s mouth touched the salty hollow at the base of his throat and he felt the first warm, open-mouthed contact; lips, then tongue and teeth, carefully tasting him, learning his texture, the brush of hair and faint, abrasive scrape of a stubbled cheek grazing his collar bone.
Ray was kissing him.
He couldn’t be.
Yes, that was undoubtedly a kiss.
He could feel the moist pad of Doyle’s tongue, licking at him with an exquisite lack of haste. Then Ray was murmuring something, he couldn’t make out what, couldn’t hear for the thunder of his own pulse.
Bodie only realised he must have reached out when he found his thumbs nestled at the junction between rubber-clad thighs and groin. Stroking gently, they confirmed what he already knew. His mouth quirked in a delighted grin.
The expression in the bemused face that lifted obediently made Bodie pause.
“Hey,” he repeated, his voice very soft, very low. “This is me, remember?”
A jolt of awareness rocketed through him at the slow sweet smile he received. “I haven’t forgotten, sunshine. I don’t get taken like this with every surfer I meet, you know,” Doyle told him huskily. “Do you mind?” he asked, his mouth leaving Bodie’s.
His mouth was warm, tasting of the cider they had been drinking; sweet as wild honey.
“Should I?” Answer a question with a question, dictated the voice of prudence. Give nothing away.
Doyle cocked his head a little, as though considering it. “Dunno,” he said at last. Reaching out he traced the outline of Bodie’s face with his palm. The hint of possessiveness in the gesture took Bodie by surprise. “You’ll have to let me know as we go along.”
His mouth slid to find the smooth tender skin of Bodie’s throat again, tongue flicking out to taste and touch. Unnoticed, his full weight descended along Bodie’s welcoming length, Bodie’s hands slipping inside his wetsuit to trace a skin ultra-sensitive to every touch.
Doyle’s mouth resumed its nuzzling path down the line of flesh revealed by his busy fingers as they slid, peeled and tugged Bodie free of his concealing wetsuit, their lower bodies still entwined.
Finally naked to the waist, unable to make Doyle concentrate for long enough to remove his suit, Bodie gave up, seeking as much of Doyle as was available. He arched up to meet the hard nubs of the tiny nipples, rubbing against him, opening to the mouth that would have coaxed until it learnt that no persuasion was needed.
Sensation piled upon sensation, their languid loving and slow exploration overtaken, peaking and suddenly it was all too much, the pulses of pleasure coming too fast. Hands locked in Doyle’s back Bodie thrust strongly up to meet the weight and heat and hardness of Ray Doyle, hearing Doyle’s incoherent whimpers of frustration as he discovered they were trapped in encasing wetsuits. That final contact remained denied to them for by then it was too late and they could only hold each other.
His breathing ragged, elbows digging in the sand above Bodie’s shoulders, shattered by their clumsy, fumbling, ecstatic loving, Doyle just stared at his mate for a long moment, the expression in his eyes incredulous. Then he gave a triumphant little grin.
“We could use some practice at that,” he said whimsically, feeling Bodie’s heartbeat slowing against his lower rib cage.
Fingers locked in the salty tangle of Doyle’s hair Bodie soundlessly drew him down, finding the full, bruised-looking mouth with a fierce hunger. He tasted of apples.
Hardly knowing what he was saying, Bodie told him so, tugging impatiently, sliding Doyle’s wetsuit from his shoulders, his hands tracing down the silk-smooth spine, sliding to cup the small buttocks that rose to meet his touch.
“You just taste... I dunno...of Bodie, I suppose.”
Doyle began to chuckle, his face buried in Bodie’s throat, the force of his gurgling amusement enough to slide him to lie in an abandoned sprawl of limbs at Bodie’s side, still encased to the lower flanks in an unpleasant tangle of damp, gritty rubber.
“All right, what is it?” asked Bodie, resigned, accustomed to Doyle’s odd bursts of lunacy, but he was smiling himself. Sitting up he pulled a face as he became aware of the slick discomfort within his wetsuit, gritty particles of sand threatening to make matters worse. Kneeling, he struggled to readjust himself, one withering look preventing Doyle from offering any assistance.
“Just...” Doyle’s expression was all seriousness for a moment. “I wanted to make our first time special for you. So where do I pick? Sand dunes, that’s where. And not only that - we’re trussed up in these bloody straitjackets and then I come faster than a kid out with his first girl. Didn’t even get the chance to touch you, taste you.”
Crouching beside Bodie, he stroked the sweat-slicked chest and belly. Dipping down, he lightly rubbed at the warm stickiness he found trapped there. Slipping his hand free Doyle gave a moistened finger a thoughtful lick.
“Have to go careful, sunshine,” he warned, his eyes heavy-lidded. “Got some sand down in there.”
And for all the pang of sheer lust provoked by the simplicity of what Ray had done Bodie dissolved into laughter, before hugging Doyle to him. “We’ll both have to go careful. Just be glad we managed it at all - there’s not much room for expansion in these suits. I’ll be glad to get this off, though, back at the cottage. It’s too public here.”
Despite his resolution not to touch, his knuckles rubbed gently across the flat plane of Doyle’s exposed belly, kneading it with a slow circular rhythm, watching Doyle’s slit-eyed pleasure, stopping abruptly when he realised the sensations were too much for both of them.
“Later,” he promised shakily, unsteady hands re-covering the tempting expanse of brown flesh. “This isn’t the place or time. We must’ve been mad to do this on the beach.” He shook his head. “Things I let you talk me into.”
Doyle looked up then, pierced by a sudden, shocking doubt.
“Don’t be stupid,” said Bodie instantly. “Love you, don’t I?” And it was the most natural thing in the world to be saying that to the tousle-haired man kneeling opposite him. All that was necessary to seal their new life together.
He leant forward then, mouth curving in an incredulous grin. “Hey, I thought there was something a bit odd...” His fingers reached out, brushing over a flat pectoral muscle. “What happened here then? Is this the most you could grow or have you been shaving it to make yourself beautiful for me, Raymond?”
Still drifting on a vast wave of love from Bodie’s matter of fact declaration, Doyle peered down at the softly curling fuzz that was flourishing over his chest.
“Hospital had to shave me,” he said weakly, feeling self-conscious for the first time in years. “Why? D’you want me to keep it shaved?” He sounded prepared to consider the idea.
His jaw dropping, Bodie just stared at him, then gave a choke of amusement. He laughed so much that he had to sit down. “Honest to god, Ray...” Then, sober apart from the odd hiccup, he was unable to resist the temptation. “Why, would you do that for me?”
“No I bloody well wouldn’t. Sod it. Probably, if you wanted me to. What the hell am I saying?” Doyle demanded in disbelief.
“I think you’re saying you love me,” Bodie said contentedly. “No, don’t shave it, it’d take you too long to get ready in the mornings.” Giving a soft curl a gentle tweak, he looked at Doyle with open longing. “Let’s go back to the cottage. I could do with a shower and then I... Daren’t touch you. Keep expecting to look up and find hordes of tourists watching us.”
“Nah,” said Doyle in airy dismissal, collecting up their scattered belongings and shoving them into the holdall. “These dunes don’t get busy till after dark. Besides, it’s still a bit chilly then at this time of year.”
Ignoring the voice of experience, Bodie just pointed firmly back in the direction of their cottage.
“All right, all right. I hope you’re not always going to play hard to get,” Doyle added, pausing at the foot of the slope to give Bodie a hard emphatic kiss before starting his ascent. The hand on his rump hindered rather than assisted his progress.
“Can’t feel much with all that rubber in the way,” Bodie complained. Losing his balance he slid down into the next sandy hollow and yelped as he received an admonishing nip.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Doyle told him thoughtfully, scrabbling to escape retribution. They landed in a slither of arms and legs under the astonished feet of a middle-aged man accompanied by three exceedingly large dogs.
Muttering their excuses, with the uneasy suspicion that his colour was higher than usual, Doyle turned to his partner as they strolled sedately across the beach.
“And where were you when I needed you?”
“Right behind you, mate,” Bodie told him promptly. “No tourists, eh?”
He nodded at the three family groups in the process of establishing their home from home in the sand, complete with striped umbrellas, plastic chairs and a primus stove. There seemed to be an inordinate number of children, all of whom were yelling lustily.
Arriving back at their car they found the car park more than half full now. Pausing for a last look across the sprawling dunes to the beach, the sound of a distant radio drifting tinnily over to them, Doyle’s face was pensive.
“Maybe it’ll rain tomorrow,” he said, casting a hopeful look at the piercing blue of the sky.
“Why?” asked Bodie in simple puzzlement. He loaded his board onto Doyle while he fished for the car keys in the bottom of the holdall.
“We could stay in the cottage.”
“Don’t you want to come surfing tomorrow then?”
Boards fastened to the roof-rack and bags disposed of on the back seat of the car, Doyle slid in next to him. “Not particularly, but I suppose you won’t wear that again otherwise.”
“Course I will. Can wear it in the bath, can’t I?” Bodie pointed out reasonably. He drew a patient breath. “Have you got a rubber fetish or something?”
The winding coast road was virtually empty of traffic, the sun was shining and a warm breeze caught his hair through the open car window. Doyle leant his head back, closed his eyes and reaching out, settled his hand comfortably over Bodie’s thigh, letting it rest there.
“Or something,” he confirmed.
“Know what I’d like to do this evening?” Doyle added lazily.
“I sincerely hope so,” Bodie said, sparing him a glance.
“After that... Maybe before as well, if we’re lucky,” said Doyle optimistically. “It depends if there’s a sunset.”
“Is this another of your little habits you should have warned me about?” queried Bodie, certain he was being set up. “I mean, you don’t start getting hairy hands about then, do you?”
Doyle shook his head reassuringly, glowing with health and love and goodwill to all men. “Any little habits I’ve got, you can discover for yourself. No, I just want to go for a walk with you, along the beach.”
“Off into the sunset you mean?” said Bodie with caustic disbelief.
“That’s right,” confirmed Doyle, unrepentant about his newly-fledged romantic inclinations.
“You’ll be wanting violins in the background next,” Bodie told him unsympathetically.
But it was Bodie who woke up Doyle, bundled him into jeans and a heavy sweater against the chill of the spring evening and dragged him from the warmth of the cottage down the steep track into the cove and tiny portion of beach that was all that remained at high tide.
His arm slung around Bodie’s shoulder, careless of who might be watching them, Doyle leant against the support Bodie offered and watched the sun sink into the sea, the lavender sky deepening through blue and purple until there was only midnight darkness and the odd phosphorescent gleam from the sea and a white curl of surf.
Eventually he stirred, shivering a little in the sharp cold air to find Bodie smiling at him, warming him anew.
Taking Bodie’s hand in his own he said softly, “C’mon, let’s go home.” And linking them palm to palm Doyle led the way back up to the cottage.
The phone call summoning them back to London came just after midnight. Even the news that their holiday had been cut short could do nothing to ruffle the serene certainty between them. Bodie’s token complaints faded the moment he realised that Doyle had just been placed back on active status, bypassing Macklin’s less than tender clutches. They were packed and under way within fifteen minutes.
Falling asleep in the front seat while Doyle drove them back with scant regard for speed limits on the mercifully empty motorway, Bodie did not even have a chance to worry about Doyle’s potential fitness for the forthcoming rout. They arrived at HQ only in time to hear the tail end of Cowley’s briefing to a packed squad room, every agent having been called in for the proposed dawn raid.
From the initial planning to the drive into dockland, surrounded by derelict warehouses and rusting cranes, Bodie and Doyle moved as one, smoothly anticipating each other with the easy familiarity that had grown between them over the years.
By 5.17 it was all over, police vans sweeping in, sirens blasting the pre-dawn silence. The tip-off had been a good one, the haul of terrorists impressive and potentially lethal. Acidly satisfied, Cowley walked among his agents as they congregated for cigarettes, banter and mutual congratulation on a job well done, relaxing from the moments of tense waiting and gut-wrenching fear. The interrogations and reports waiting for them back at HQ would keep everyone occupied well into the night.
Standing amidst the milling, joking throng of agents, slamming car doors and revving engines Bodie had his elbow propped on his partner’s shoulder as he inhaled the familiar smell of sweat, watching the sun rise over the Thames with a vague melancholy. He wished he and Ray could have had just a few days together to adjust to the new dimension to their partnership. Falling asleep lovers, they had woken abruptly to be tossed, with no warning, back into the harsh realities of their chosen life.
Glancing at the familiar enigmatic face Doyle habitually turned to the world, Bodie was beset by a sudden fear that it might have been no more than a dream; that Doyle’s passion and laughter, his tenderness and openly-expressed love were figments only of his own yearning need for them - that back in their normal world Doyle would have no need of him.
Doyle turned from the grey-and-apricot streaked sky to smile at him. “Yeah, I know,” he said softly, as though Bodie had voiced every doubt. “It’s OK. And it’ll get better, you’ll see.”
“Buy you a bacon sandwich for breakfast,” Bodie promised, the world being outside his means.
“Am I included in that offer?” interrupted Stuart, coming up to join them, his face lavender-tinged with the cold.
“Why not,” said Doyle easily, his hand unobtrusively cupping Bodie’s elbow. “But the dinner I’m cooking tonight is strictly for two.”
Stuart was still sleepily trying to understand the significance of that remark as he was given a lift back to headquarters.