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Take the easy way (you know that you want to)

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The third time Ray shifts in the passenger seat, wincing, Bodie smirks and says, “Bike tear your hymen or something?”

“Claire’s still figuring out the strap-on,” Ray says. “You know how it is.” Just to keep Bodie on his toes.

Oh, all right, and to flirt a little. To get Bodie to picture it, and make that adorable scandalized face. And anyway last night was fantastic. Why should Bodie be the only one who ever gets to brag?

Bodie’s eyes widen, his mouth a delighted O. “You saying you let women, you know…” He clicks his tongue a couple times and jerks his thumb at the roof of the car.

Ray hides a smile. “I wouldn’t put it that way. Don’t know why anyone would put it that way, really.”

There’s a little pause. “You ever let a man do it? Feels different with the genuine article, I expect.”

The last guy he slept with was—

Grief blindsides him: Tommy McKay’s matter-of-fact hands. His flat voice and reckless little grin. “You’re—” Ray’s throat closes.

There’d always been a stillness in Tommy that Ray really dug, half predatory and half Zen. And then he was just—still, and Bodie was saying angrily, He didn’t have to do that, because admitting he felt bad about it was too fucking much to ask. “You’re disgusting, Bodie, you know that?”

“Disgusting?” Was that a flash of hurt on Bodie’s face? He’s hurt? He’s got cojones, all right. “For asking a simple question?”

Ray should just change the subject. A subject he brought up in the first place, because he’s an idiot, and he wanted to make Bodie wonder if he sleeps with men. Even if he didn’t expect him to come right out and ask.

Shit, he’d better warn Claire in case Bodie makes a comment to her. He didn’t think even Bodie could be that crass, but maybe there are no limits. “Yeah, sure, a simple question. How do you know if it’s simple or not? For all you know, I could have had a boyfriend who died or something. Sex is—it’s supposed to be making love, not a competitive sport, or experimental theater, or whatever you make of it! You never think about anybody but yourself.” Ray tries to clear his head. To be fair. “Look, you live your life how you want. But leave me out of it.”

There’s silence, or as much of it as there can be in a moving car on a busy road. He doesn’t want to look at Bodie. He’ll feel awful whether Bodie blithely assumed Ray’s hypothetical was strictly hypothetical, or guessed it wasn’t. Probably Bodie’s about to ask. The barometric pressure in the car drops as the question rolls in. Ray’s skin prickles. “Pull over. I need some air.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“I said pull over.”

“There’s nowhere to bloody pull over!”

Ray reaches for the handle of his door.

Bodie jabs at the hazard-light switch and slams on the brakes. Honking erupts behind them. “Ray—”

Ray walks around the block and crouches in an alley with his head in his hands for a couple of minutes, until he can stand to get back in the car. Probably that’s about as good as it gets, and the longer he waits, the more time he gives Bodie to get fed up with being chastened and decide to be defensive and resentful, instead. Assuming Bodie waited for him.

But the car is still double-parked, lights flashing. Ray gets in. He doesn’t look at Bodie.

“Come on, Doyle, not the silent treatment too. I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

“For being flip about your personal life,” Bodie says with unexpected promptitude and accuracy.

Ray feels himself relax. “Thanks. Sorry I blew up at you. What you said wasn’t any worse than a lot of things you’ve said before that I’ve laughed at. No reason you should have…”

Bodie’s lips twitch.

“What?” But Ray knows.

“...guessed it was a sore spot?” Bodie asks, with that mischievous little lilt Ray adores.

Ray puts his face back in his hands. But mostly to hide that he’s smiling.

Bodie gets the car moving again. Ray’s glad to let the subject drop. He figures Bodie is too.

But after a minute Bodie says, the words halting, “And listen. I guess… I’m sure you do think the idea’s disgusting, like you said, but if… I honestly wouldn’t care if you… Sorry, I don’t want to be flip again, and it doesn’t come naturally.”

Ray is still absorbing I’m sure you do think the idea’s disgusting and how maybe he misread that flash of hurt on Bodie’s face.

It’s not the first time Ray’s thought maybe Bodie… It’s not even the millionth, to be honest. But it could be wishful thinking, and it’s never seemed safe to ask.

And now he’s made it so Bodie might never, ever be willing to ask him again. Shit. “Go ahead and be flip,” he says. “I’ll brace myself.”

Bodie makes a choking sound. “You do that. Just so you know, I wouldn’t think any the less of you if you were leaving flowers on the graves of all six hundred members of the Light Brigade.”

“Uh, thanks. I think,” Ray says, weirdly touched.

Bodie darts a glance at him. “And their horses.”

Ray’s annoyed with himself for laughing.

Bodie grins, incorrigible. “I’d be a bit impressed, actually.”

“I don’t think bestiality’s really comparable.” But Ray knows he’s not saying it for any political reason. No, it’s for an extremely personal, self-interested one. And because if Bodie did take what he said to heart, then Ray doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Really hates the idea, in fact. “I didn’t mean I’m disgusted by the idea of men having sex, or someone thinking I might…you know. Nothing wrong with being gay or bisexual. I just meant the way you asked. And I’m sorry I said that about you—not taking sex seriously enough or being promiscuous or whatever self-righteous screed I read you. That’s a lousy Victorian attitude and I don’t believe in it. I was just”—jealous—“angry.”

There’s another long silence. Okay. Now the subject’s dropped.

“I don’t think I fall in love as easily as you do,” Bodie says quietly. “If I waited for it to mean something deep, I might be waiting a long time.” He laughs. “And you know me and delayed gratification.”

Something in his voice—something in that little laugh—makes Ray feel really, really sad. Is Bodie lonely?

But maybe it’s not anything in Bodie’s voice. Maybe it’s just something in Ray. Such as, how bad he wishes Bodie would fall in love with him.

He tries to decide if a follow-up question would make him a hypocrite. Yeah, he’d just be angling. And maybe that’s really why Bodie’s question made him so angry: he and Bodie aren’t supposed to ask each other to take risks they wouldn’t take themselves.

So either Ray says something himself and trusts Bodie to cover him, or he lets it go.

“Nothing about love is easy,” he says. His voice cracks. Why does his voice always do that to him? There’s “willing to be vulnerable,” and then there’s “basket case.”

Bodie sighs. “I’ll drink to that.”

Ray really likes Claire. He might even love her. Maybe he falls easy, like Bodie said, or maybe he calls it love sooner than someone else would for the same feeling. Maybe this feeling, like somebody’s perfect and he never wants anything bad to happen to them, isn’t love at all. Maybe it’s just Ray’s inability to put up normal walls like everybody else seems to manage, to keep other people’s pain over there, theirs, instead of resonating inside his own chest, a piercing whine like a wet finger on the rim of a glass.

Anyway the point is, Ray’s falling for Claire, and he hates that it doesn’t stop him trying to use her to make Bodie jealous. Not even after that dildo debacle a couple of weeks ago. If he’s on the phone with her and Bodie’s listening, or if she picks him up at HQ, or even if he’s just telling Bodie about their weekend—his focus is on Bodie, not her. He can feel himself hamming it up a bit.

Just a bit, but he hates it. He hates himself for it. As he sets his watch down at night, in front of the poem he’s got framed on his bureau, he finds his gaze catching on Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. And then when he meets Claire’s eyes in the mirror, where she’s sitting in his bed smiling at him, his smile back isn’t quite all there.

This isn’t the first relationship he’s felt going sour this way. By now it’s not even the fourth or fifth. He’d like to stop making the same mistake every time, telling himself he’s just got to try harder, and then moving way too fast, till all of a sudden they’ve lost control of the car and Ray or the girl has to lay on the brakes, hard.

If he stops seeing Claire over this, though… He loves her, and if he drops her, that’s as good as saying he can never be with anyone till he’s sorted out this thing with Bodie, and when he thinks that, he starts to feel like he can’t get enough air, like he’s being buried alive.

If he tells Bodie how he feels, there’s exactly one (1) good possible outcome: Bodie loves him too, and isn’t all torn up with shame about it, and also is miraculously willing to communicate openly about feelings, because you do need that in a relationship every now and again. And they never split up, and live happily ever after.

Meanwhile the shit options stretch out on and on, into the wild blue yonder:

1. Bodie lets him down gently. I don’t blame you, mate, I’m irresistible. You’re just not my type. Even Bodie wouldn’t tell Ray he’s got an ugly mug or can’t dress himself or something while turning him down, right? But Ray will still remember all the times he’s said it before. Ugh.

2. Bodie freaks out and spends the next year parading a different woman in Ray’s face every week. Every day. Twice, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

3. Bodie says he loves Ray too, and then he freaks out after the first time they have sex and never speaks to him again.

…And gets married.

4. Bodie says he loves Ray too, but actually just wants in his pants, and then gets bored and wanders off after a couple of weeks.

5. Bodie says it’s a bit soon for the L-word but let’s see where it goes, and then six months later Ray’s hopelessly wrapped up in him and Bodie says, Sorry, sunshine, I don’t think love is in the cards. But you can always call me if you’re lonely on a weeknight.

Ray can almost feel his heart being put through the meat grinder.

6. Bodie loves him too, and they have a really beautiful couple of years, and then it all goes to shit the way things do sometimes. See above, re: meat grinder. And of course no one at work knows anything about it, so either they have to pretend everything’s fine or one of them has to quit CI-5.

Would Ray even want this job without Bodie, anymore?

7. Bodie loves him too, but he just won’t ever talk about anything real. And Ray tries and tries and tries, dissects his own chest with a scalpel to show Bodie how it’s done, but eventually he’s got to face it: he’ll never know more about Bodie’s inner life than he does right now. When he really needs Bodie and he reaches out, Ray will be grasping at air every time. And then he’ll have to walk away. See above, re: meat grinder.

What if he breaks Bodie’s heart? What if he has to feel his own pain and Bodie’s—pain Ray inflicted himself—and he can’t do anything about it except catch glimpses of Bodie self-destructing? Intermittent, vivid close-ups, like time-lapse photography of a flower dying.

Here Ray has to stop and recite firmly to himself, Do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

So yeah, Ray loves his odds.

But if he doesn’t want to be honest with Bodie, and he doesn’t want to just try harder with Claire, and he doesn’t want to split up with her, that seems to leave Be honest with Claire, which is awful and unfair to her.

Is it any more awful and unfair than lying, though?

At first, Claire takes it really well.

She knows Ray’s bisexual, so that part’s not a shock. The worst of it, at first, is when she asks if this guy he’s carrying a workplace torch for is the same guy he told about the strap-on. When he admits it, face flaming, she bites her lip. That peach lipstick is Ray’s favorite of hers. Is that why she’s wearing it? “Hmm,” she says, which makes Ray feel like he’s having an attack of malaria or something. But after that she listens quietly.

She nods along, wary but not unsympathetic, while Ray explains that he’s crazy about her, but he doesn’t know how to act natural about it in front of Bodie. That he feels terrible about that, but he can’t seem to stop. It just happens.

“Thanks for telling me,” she says when he’s done. “So far it all sounds pretty normal.” Her peach mouth curves. “A bit Dostoyevskian, maybe, but I like that about you. Anyway I haven’t stopped flirting with people either, just because I’m seeing you. If you asked me to, I’d probably be put off.”

Relief starts to wash away the fever and chills.

“I guess I just have one question.” She looks at him seriously. “Would you dump me if it turned out he was interested?”

It’s not exactly rhetorical—her eyes are too sharp for that—but he thinks if he says no, that’ll be the end of it. Well, maybe she’ll tease him a bit, but that’s Ray’s type, isn’t it? People with sharp eyes, who know right where to twist the knife.

Claire isn’t twisting the knife at the moment, though. Ray appreciates that. She’s got a sense of justice—which he’s more likely to compromise on than the teasing, alas, but with Claire it was one of the first things he spotted. Right after her being a stunner.

She’s extra beautiful tonight. Her hair’s off-kilter from when she took off her nurse’s uniform—and her bra, with a happy little groan—and put on that striped turtleneck that makes her look like a saucy girl sailor from an old recruitment poster or something.

Claire’s perfect, and he never wants anything bad to happen to her. She’s ready to trust him. And when Ray looks at her and thinks about Bodie being interested, she fades out of her chair like someone’s done a Jedi mind trick on him: she’s there, but Ray’s eyes can’t focus. They slide right off her.

“Yeah.” His useless voice breaks again. “Fuck, I think I would. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Claire. I never meant to…”

Her peach lips part, and her eyes widen. She wasn’t really expecting it.

Neither was Ray. Why isn’t being crazy about her enough? Why can’t life ever be fair?

Her face blurs, and by the time he blinks the tears back a couple of seconds later, everything’s different. She still looks sorry for him, and unhappy, but she’s put up those walls everybody else is better at than he is. Now Ray’s on this side of the kitchen table with his pain, and she’s over there not feeling it. She’s only feeling her own. And even though Ray’s the one who hurt her, she pats his hand, kind and impersonal as Florence Nightingale.

“I accept your apology,” she says. “I know you didn’t mean to. I know you wouldn’t hurt anybody on purpose.” There’s a pause, and then she says what he was already thinking: “Well, except for work.”

Exactly his type.

Ray can feel the edges of panic. The kind where the pain itself is bearable, but you don’t know how much damage the knife is doing. There’s no way to tell until someone pulls it out. Except who’s going to do that? Ray is going to be alone forever, just him and this pain. No one who wants to share it.

Claire hands him a Kleenex. “You should tell him. How much worse can it be?”

“You don’t have to be nice to me.” Not anymore.

“No.” She shrugs wistfully. “I’ll miss being nice to you, though. Don’t worry, I’m still in shock. I’ll be angry in a couple of hours. I can smash a couple of dishes if it’ll make you feel better?”

“Yeah, maybe it would.”

She smiles at him, and drops her empty plate on the floor. It cracks into three pieces. Somehow they both laugh. “Take care of yourself, Ray, all right?”

The laughing together only made it worse. He wants to ask her to stay, but why would she? You can’t say to somebody, Who cares if I like him better, he doesn’t like me back anyway. “I do love you.”

She shrugs again, less wistfully. “Maybe. I’m getting a bit bored of men who love me and still leave me in the lurch.”

Ray always wanted to be someone the people he loves can count on, but he isn’t, not really. “Do you wish I hadn’t told you?”

She looks at him in astonishment. “Of course not. How would that be better?”

He’s glad about that, anyway. There are people who’ll say, Don’t tell me the truth, I don’t want to know. But Ray gravitates more towards the I shouldn’t peek but I can’t help myself sort.

He reckons Bodie’s somewhere in between. Would Bodie rather not know?

But wouldn’t Ray rather know the truth, himself?

He’s been telling himself it doesn’t matter, because he doesn’t want to start anything with Bodie anyway. But he just told Claire he does. So what’s he doing, other than being a coward and torturing himself with uncertainty? If Fate decides to teach him what it’s like having an unreliable boyfriend with a wandering eye, well, Ray earned that lesson fair and square.

“You’re right,” he says. “I think you’re right. I think I have to tell him.”

She stands abruptly. “Good luck. I hope it works out. Let me know how it goes.” Her own voice wavers, and Ray feels like dirt. “I’ll—talk to you soon, okay?”

“I’m sorry—”

She shakes her head. Cutting him off. She’s got no reason anymore to listen when he talks. “I want you to be happy,” she says brightly. “Good luck. I’ll…” She hesitates, and starts to bend down for the broken dish.

“Leave it, I’ll get it.”

She nods and walks out of the kitchen.

He follows her into the living room. She grabs up her handbag and the sack with her uniform in it, and takes her jacket off the peg. “I’ll pick up the rest of my things another time, if that’s all right?”

He nods. The door shuts behind her. He already misses her. Scumbag that he is, he still goes straight to the phone.

It rings four times. The answering machine picks up: I’m afraid Mr. Bodie is not at home to callers…

Ray’s already hanging up when he hears Bodie talking over his own Jeeves impression. He almost fumbles the phone in his hurry to get it back to his ear. “Bodie? It’s me.”

Bodie says something he can’t understand, except for “Doyle.” There’s a beep. Ray jumps, even though he knew it was coming.

“You still there? Doyle?”

“Yeah, don’t hang up,” he says hastily. He sort of hates knowing his clogged voice is being recorded. “Have you got anybody over? Can I come over, I mean?”

There’s a pause.

“If you’ve got somebody over, I—I’d rather wait.”

The pause stretches. Ray presses the phone to his ear until it hurts, listening for a woman’s voice.

“Just me tonight.” Bodie sounds a bit stilted. Either he’s lying, or it’s true and he’s embarrassed to admit it. “You caught me putting cucumber slices on my eyelids. Everything all right?”

Ray makes a noncommittal sound.

“If you don’t feel up to driving, I can come to you.”

He almost says yes, just because it’d feel nice to have somebody go out of their way for him right now. But he’d like to be able to leave, if things take a turn. “No, I’ll be right there. Thanks.”

Bodie opens the door in his track suit. He’s tense—expecting a crisis, obviously—but his skin is glowing. Maybe he wasn’t kidding about the cucumber slices.

One look at Ray, and he says, “Shit, what happened to you?”

“Claire and I split up.”

Bodie swings the door wide open, looking sympathetic. Ray looks for signs that Bodie might also be pleased. He doesn’t find any he’d be willing to swear to in court. “You want a drink?”

Ray shakes his head. His feet stay where they are. Going inside feels like crossing the Rubicon. He’s not even sure what that is. “Do you know what the Rubicon is?”

“Sort of,” Bodie says. “Used to know more. Should I get dressed again? We can go out dancing, get your mind off it. I can tell you about Caesar’s Night of the Long Knives in the car.”

Ray can’t shake his head vehemently enough. “I don’t want to go dancing.”

Bodie stands there awkwardly for a few seconds. Then Ray can see him doing what Claire did: putting on a nurse face. Steeling himself to not get caught up in Ray’s pain. He steps into the corridor and maneuvers Ray inside. “I guess you want talk therapy, huh? Should have told me ahead of time, I’d have rustled up a false beard.”

Ray can feel the tears pricking again, at how fond Bodie’s hand feels at the small of his back.

Bodie deposits Ray on his couch. “All right, lie down. I’ll sit over here and steeple my fingers inscrutably. No? Suit yourself.”

He sits down next to Ray. Angled towards him, his left foot tucked under his right thigh. His bent left knee is only a couple of inches from Ray’s leg. Barring explosions and blood spatter and so on, Bodie likes to shower in the morning, so he smells like stale sweat and gun oil.

The odor of stress and violence, and Ray wishes it didn’t turn him on so much.

“So what happened?” Bodie asks, after Ray’s just sat there for a couple of minutes breathing in his sweat and wondering if there’s a faint note of cucumber or if he’s just suggestible. “And how does that makes you feel?”

Ray feels lower than ever. He’s been so secretly critical of Bodie, and Bodie’s being really nice. Obviously uncomfortable and at a bit of a loss, but he’s grinning and bearing it.

“I told her I was hung up on someone else,” Ray blurts out.

Bodie makes that adorable scandalized face. Ray wants to kiss the O of his mouth.

He almost just does it. It’d be a quick and dirty way to get an answer, anyway. He wouldn’t have to make his voice do anything. But if he’s touching Bodie when Bodie shuts him out, if he feels it happen… He can’t stand the idea. He can’t imagine going on with his life afterwards.

Bodie nudges him. “So, who is it?”

Ray can’t look at him. He looks at Bodie’s knee instead, at the short white stripes on his navy trousers.

“All right, we’ll come back to that. But don’t think I’ll forget. That’s a trait we Liverpool-Irishmen have in common with the elephant.”

Ray can’t make himself open his mouth. He sits and tries to place the quote, and eventually Bodie soldiers on.

“If you’re looking to be reassured you’re not a male chauvinist pig for climbing back on the dildo without a decent interval of mourning, I could have done that over the phone, and then you could have called the someone else.”

“I did.” Ray’s voice comes out so rough he can barely understand himself, which is extra irritating because of course Bodie had to make a stupid dildo joke.

Bodie freezes. “Come again?”

“I did call the someone else.”

A pause. He hears Bodie take a long breath. “Before me? Don’t tell me she already turned you down? Shit, no wonder you’re—”

“No.” Ray will give himself psychosomatic laryngitis at this rate.

“…After me?” Bodie says carefully.


There’s deathly silence. “Me.”

This is it. His whole life might disappear in the next ninety seconds. “Yeah.”

“Hung up on.”

Ray nods, and then has to stop himself from continuing to just rock back and forth.

Bodie’s knee shifts about half an inch. Not really towards Ray or away. Just as if Bodie’s leg is falling asleep. “I’m sorry about Claire. She’s a nice girl. I know you really liked her.”

What the hell does that mean? “Thanks.”

“And I’m really sorry about your boyfriend who died, if this means there was one.”

His eyes sting. “Thanks.”

“That’s about as decent an interval as I can manage on my own initiative,” Bodie says. “If I’m not supposed to kiss you yet, now’d be the time to say so.”

Ray blinks. He doesn’t, obviously, tell Bodie not to kiss him. He does turn to look at him, but he doesn’t see anything, because Bodie kisses him.

He has a nagging sense that he should be feeling guilty about something. Or maybe that he should be feeling guilty for not feeling guilty?

All he feels is weightless, and Bodie’s lips. Faintly rough around the edges—Bodie’s hair doesn’t grow that fast. Ray’s own jaw would feel like sandpaper if he hadn’t shaved for dinner with Claire—oh. That’s why he should feel guilty. He’ll do it later. While Bodie’s telling him about the Rubicon, or something.

He almost asks Bodie to remind him, but Bodie’s got a sure hand on the back of his neck, giving him the masterful James Bond treatment. Should Ray be annoyed by that? Ah, once won’t kill him, and anyway he thinks Bodie might be trying to be nice, taking charge since Ray was a mess. And Jesus, Bodie feels good. So fucking good. So familiar. His arms, his chest—Ray could paint them blindfolded and now if he leans back they follow him, they’re half on top of him. Ray can let his hands wander when he’s been so careful never to. Nothing to make Bodie pull away, stop letting him, suddenly notice that Ray’s hands are on him all the time.

Bodie isn’t pulling away. He’s saying “Whatever you want, sunshine, you just go right ahead,” and dragging his hot mouth down Ray’s jaw.

That’s where the panic starts to creep in: at whatever you want. This was too easy. Nothing is this easy.

Maybe it’s easy because it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe this warm welcome is what everyone gets.

That’s not fair to Bodie, is it? Of course he likes some people better than others. And Ray knows Bodie likes him a lot. But—

If I waited for it to mean something deep, I might be waiting a long time.

Ray shouldn’t push it. Why can’t he ever just be happy with what he’s got, with what seems to satisfy everybody else? Delayed gratification is good for you.

“You said you don’t fall in love easily,” he says anyway. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to rush you, I know I always move too fast. But do you think maybe you might someday? With me?”

Bodie laughs. “Come on, Doyle, don’t be thicker than you can help. I’ve been gone on you for years.”

Ray is going to feel furious about that tomorrow. Years? Years they’ve wasted being chickenshit and messing around? “Oh.”

He almost laughs himself at how deflated and confused he sounds. He must look really awkward, halfway through pulling Bodie down on top of him. Propped up on one hand with the other fisted in the track jacket. One foot still on the floor. “Me too.”

Bodie smiles at him. “Think Cowley’s been laughing up his sleeve at us?”

“Probably.” Ray drops, and yanks Bodie down with him. “Joke’s on him, we’re going to be insufferably happy and drive him to drink.”

Ray didn’t think Bodie could look happier than he already did, honestly, but—shit. He softens around the edges at that, looking weirdly defenseless and hopeful. “You think so?”

Yep, there it is, that rush of tenderness. Bodie’s perfect, and Ray never wants anything bad to happen to him, and it is love, he knew it was. He shifts until he’s got Bodie in the cradle of his bent legs, open to him and shielding him at once. “I hope so,” he tells him. “I want to make you happy.”

Bodie blanches. “I. Um.”

Ray shrivels up a bit inside. “Sorry, am I coming on too strong?”

Bodie shakes his head. “Promise you won’t take it personally if I’m still miserable sometimes? It won’t mean you’re screwing up. I’m just…” He swallows, and says lightly, “If I stop brooding Byronically, people will notice my weak profile.”

Fuck, Ray’s whole ribcage is vibrating the way glass does in cartoons when a diva hits the high note. About to shatter. “Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure what’s wrong with your profile. But yeah, I know. Sometimes you’re in the hole, and you just need someone to climb in there with you.”

Of course Bodie starts to smirk when he says hole. Ray wishes he were annoyed, but Bodie’s hand settles on his hip—firm and suggestive but not actually demanding anything, just making a show of it to see what Ray will let him get away with, which is Bodie all over, isn’t it?—and Ray’s vibrating with something else now. Or maybe it’s not something else, maybe it’s the same thing, but he’s thrumming and he can sense Bodie thrumming with him. He hooks his leg over Bodie’s, and Bodie looks absolutely thrilled about it.

“All of you,” Ray tells him. “I want all of you.”

Bodie smirks at that, too. He keeps their gazes locked as he sticks his hand down his elastic waistband to put his cock in a more comfortable position. “You’re buying a pig in a poke, but don’t let me dissuade you.”

Why the hell did Ray wear denim? He can adjust himself however he wants and his zipper’s still going to kill him. “Would it be presumptuous to take my jeans off?”

“Mr. Doyle! Just what sort of a girl do you think I am?” Bodie clutches at his collar with the same hand that was just in his trousers.

“A vamp and a tramp.” Ray tilts his head. “Yeah, I reckon that about covers it.”

“Shows what you know, I never come across till the third date.” Bodie goes for the button on Ray’s jeans, and pauses infinitesimally before he pops it, watching Ray’s reaction.

Maybe Ray should check in too. “We could wait if you wanted to,” he says. “I won’t accuse you of leading me on, or anything.”

Bodie’s mouth curves warmly. “An officer and a gentleman, my lucky day. I’m glad chivalry lives on, but all kidding aside, being used and abused by Raymond Doyle is my idea of a perfect evening.”

Ray gauges his sincerity. Then he flips them so he’s on top.

“Bossy,” Bodie murmurs, eyes hot on Ray’s face.

Ray is suddenly very, very aware of Bodie’s cock being very, very close to his own arse.

He can have it if he wants it. And he definitely wants it. “You ready for it to mean something deep?” He snickers at his own joke, grinding down a little.

Bodie grinds back, a filthy figure-eight roll of his hips. “Can you feel how ready I am?”

Ray flushes. Partly because it sounds a bit cheap and silly, like any second Ray will be covered in baby oil and fake-moaning for the camera. Partly because the temperature in the room just shot up several degrees.

He can feel how ready Bodie is. Not an ounce of resistance in his body. Willing and eager. Also, Ray is sitting on his cock, and it’s hard.

Ray tries to remember how to breathe. “Is that a pencil in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”

Bodie laughs and unzips Ray’s jeans. “You’ve gone numb, mate. These tight trousers are cutting off your circulation.”

“Have you got lubricant? I didn’t think of bringing any.”

“Yeah.” Bodie looks a bit nervous. “…What kind do you like?”

“Got a selection?”

Bodie winces at Ray’s tone. “Everybody’s got a favorite, right?”

“Look, I—I’m sorry, it’s none of my business what you’ve done up to now. I guess I’ve said some things, but I was just—I was jealous, okay? I was really fucking jealous.” It’s way too soon to ask for this. He can’t help himself. He can never help himself. “Listen, Bodie, you should know I’m not really built for open relationships.”

Bodie’s eyes search his face. He grins crookedly. “You’re really putting a damper on my swinging lifestyle, you know that?”

“No, I don’t. That’s why I’m asking.”

“I didn’t hear a question.”

“Oh. Sorry. Would you stop seeing other people while we’re together?”

Bodie looks him up and down.

Ray squirms internally. “What?”

“This is a big mental adjustment, you know. This morning my future was an uncharted sexual cornucopia, and now you’re telling me that after tonight I’ll never have another new sex partner again.” Bodie shuts his eyes. “Goodbye to first dates. Adiós, cruising and one-night stands. Clitoris, we hardly knew ye.” He opens one eye to peek at Ray. “Tits—” He cracks up. “All right, all right, don’t give me that look. I just needed a moment.” Bodie walks his fingers up Ray’s hip and hooks them in his waistband. “Okay. I’m back with the program. So what kind of lubricant do you like? You can toss out the rest of it. Except the Crisco, that’s the one I like.” He waggles his tongue at Ray. “And it’s edible.”

Ray’s heart pounds. Holy shit. “That’s definitely a selling point. Uh. Thanks.” He can’t think. Does he need to think about anything before…

It’s edible.

“We’re not moving too fast, are we?” It can’t be this easy. “Your tongue just cut off the circulation to my brain, and I don’t want to screw this up.”

The fingers crawl along his waistband, and then Bodie’s squeezing his arse. “I guess we could move slower, but given how long I’ve been fantasizing about doing this, personally I’d describe our pace as glacial.” His other hand comes up. “Mmm.” He shuts his eyes again. His fingertips press in. “Do you work out on purpose to make your arse this good, or is it just a fantastic side effect?”

“No, I, um. Yeah, I work out for that,” he admits. If he blushes any hotter, Bodie will have to administer first aid. Ray’s dick doesn’t see the problem with that.

“And now you’ll be doing all that work just for me.” Bodie slaps him lightly on the arse. “And my tongue.”

Ray resists the temptation to point out that other people will still be able to see him. “Now there’s a thought to add titillation to a boring exercise routine.”

“Can I make requests?” Bodie’s eyes glint at him. “For example, suppose I want more muscle definition in a specific area?”

“You can ask for whatever you want. Whether you get it or not…”

“Give us a kiss?”

Ray does.

Then Bodie sticks his tongue in Ray’s mouth, and all at once Crisco and fingers and taking his jeans off and moving to the bedroom seem like an awful lot of time and fuss between him and what he wants, when there’s actually nothing but soft polyester trousers and a bit of elastic between him and what he wants. Still kissing Bodie, he puts his hand down the aforesaid trousers. Easy as anything. “Always knew I liked these.”

Bodie hisses in a breath. “Even my stamina’s got limits,” he says, “dunno if this is in your enlightened self-interest,” but he doesn’t pull away. He gives Ray whatever he wants, he likes having Ray’s hands all over him. He likes it a lot. When he comes, he says Ray!, loud and urgent and breathless. When Ray’s in trouble and he hears Bodie shout his name like that, he knows he just has to hang on and everything will be okay again soon.

Ray wants to find out what Bodie looks like when he’s just come, but he can’t seem to stop kissing him. Next time, maybe. Bodie’s chest is heaving like he’s been running full out. His hands stroke up and down Ray’s sides. Everything’s okay.

Ray wasn’t just imagining it all this time, that the way Bodie touches him feels like love. Bodie loves him. It can’t possibly be this easy all the time, he knows that. Nothing is. But they’re a crack team, they’ll figure it out.

“Should I take your pulse to see when you’ll be ready to do it again?” he jokes.

Bodie looks like he has no idea what Ray’s talking about. “Don’t think that’s how the refractory period works,” he says pityingly.

Ray chokes back a laugh. “How’s that for a coincidence, neither do I.” He knew that story about the horny doctor in East Africa was a fake. Should’ve trusted his instincts.

“I’m not as young as I was,” Bodie tells him. “Give me half an hour. But don’t worry, starlight, I’m sure my tongue and I can find some way to keep you interested in the meantime.”

Ray doesn’t say I’ll give you forever. It’d sound soppy.

Bodie knows, anyway.