Bodie could hear a familiar voice talking softly, urging him to wake so he pushed for the surface and barely kept the sigh inside as the feel of strong fingers stroking his forearm registered. It was alright; everything was alright if Ray was here. God, he’d been so lost…he forced his eyes open and flinched at the stranger he found staring back. Just how long had he been unconscious…Christ, Ray looked old – bloody old. It was Ray, his Ray, though; there was no mistaking those green eyes. Ray was talking to him…talking about Willis? What was he rabbitting on about? MI6 had nothing to do with Neville Grant, did they? No, even Willis wasn’t stupid enough to deal with a serious addict…too unreliable. So what was his partner talking about? Bodie struggled to make sense of the words and as the fog began to dissipate from his mind, he found he could understand what was being said, even if it didn’t make much sense.
“Hey, sunshine. Good of you to finally join the party. Hate talking to me self, as you well know. How are you feeling? Doctor said the beating, along with the drugs, did a number on your system. Should have shot Willis when I had the chance all those years ago...Bodie, you with me, pet?”
“Won’t be seeing the light of day, let alone the throne room at the palace, no worries there.”
Bodie shut his eyes and took as deep a breath as he could through the pain lacing his ribs. “Cowley?”
“We buried him over a fortnight ago.” Ray winced in irritation as his voice went up an octave, but his worry over the sudden possibility that Bodie might have a brain injury had him on edge. “You do remember that don’t you?” Ray finished tentatively.
“The file…” Bodie whispered before closing his eyes. The comfort he’d felt at finding Ray by his bedside disappeared as the past came flooding back to him and it left him feeling empty. So he turned his head away from Doyle and let his body’s need for sleep drag him away.
Commander Doyle wasn’t merely angry, he was bloody furious. He stood in the hallway at St. Thomas’ Hospital glaring at the young doctor who’d forbidden him to enter Bodie’s room. “What the hell do you mean I can’t see him?”
“Please, Commander, keep your voice down. Mr Bodie has had about all the visitors he can handle. He needs rest in order to heal. Certainly you and the others have had more than sufficient time to question him.”
“Others? What others?” He felt a prickle of unease race up his spine. He and Davidson had gone over the incident twice with the patient.
“Special Branch, MI6, MI5 and the Home Secretary, himself, have talked to Mr Bodie about the incidents that led to his ending up in my hospital. He needs his rest, Commander. I’m sorry.”
“Bloody hell,” Doyle muttered as he turned on his heel and stalked down the hallway. He flung open the door to the stairway and after the door closed he began pacing the landing. He waited for several minutes before risking a look. Finding the hallway clear, he made his way back to the room he’d just been barred from entering.
“Had a bet with myself he couldn’t keep you out,” Bodie had no doubt who had joined him, despite the fact he had his eyes closed.
“You knew damn well it wouldn’t work. What the hell do you think you’re doing, letting him ban me from your room?” Ray’s knuckles were white he was gripping the metal bars on the bed so hard.
“I left your world behind a long time ago, Commander. Being forced to lay here while every branch of Her Majesty’s intelligence, law enforcement and military branches that officially exist – and a few that don’t - ask me the same bloody questions over and over again is something I can, and do, plan to live without into the foreseeable future.”
“But I…” the defence died in Ray’s throat. “I’m sorry. I had no idea anyone else would even know about this – well, aside from my mob - but the Home Secretary insisted.”
“Not your fault. Seems the Cow wasn’t the only one with a lengthy file on our Mr Willis. Now that they’ve put the pieces together, there are a lot of questions being asked about how the man was able to operate for as long as he did.”
“Still, I am sorry. How are you feeling and, more importantly, when are they going to cut you loose?”
“Doctor said maybe the end of the week. He wants me to go a few rounds with the lads down in physio for the shoulder before he decides for sure.” Bodie yawned.
“Okay, look I…I’d like to talk when you’re out and feeling better. There are some things I need to explain.”
“Look, Doyle, the past is simply that, the past. We’ve both moved on. Just let it rest.”
“No, we need to talk. I owe you that much.”
“You don’t owe me anything, and I’m done revisiting my past. No more.”
“Commander Doyle.” Both men started when the doctor entered the room. Ray grinned sheepishly as the doctor crossed the room to stand beside the bed, his hands on his hips. “I specifically told you, Commander Doyle, my patient was not to be bothered. What the hell are you doing in here?” The doctor glared at Ray before placing a firm hand on his bicep. “Don’t even bother to answer, you are leaving now and you will stay out! Try this again, and I’ll have security escort you from the building.”
Bodie sat on the small veranda tracking the progress of a sailboat as it tacked gracefully across his stretch of ocean before returning his attention to the book in his lap. After idly shuffling the pages for a few minutes, he slammed it shut and flung it onto the cushion beside him. “Wasn’t bad enough you let this happen once, but twice? Christ but you’re a moron…No wonder your mum named you after all those idiots. She must have known you’d grow up to be one.
“You knew the man was dangerous, but did that stop you. Hell no, that was half the allure, admit it. And the Cow – I really would have given you more credit, Bodie old son, for knowing when the old man was setting you up. God knows he did it often enough. But Doyle, Detective Constable Raymond bloody Doyle, you just can’t let him go can you? Sitting here like some teenage bird mooning over a man who pulled your heart out of your chest, stomped on it and scattered it to the four winds…knew you were a bit of a mess but a masochist, that’s a new low even for you,” he finished his tirade as he stroked the long haired moggy who’d taken the place of the book in his lap.
The sound of a car door closing brought him to his feet, provoking an unhappy hiss from his feline as Bodie unceremoniously dumped her from his lap before reaching for the gun hidden under the cushion of a neighbouring chair. Reminding himself that whoever had the audacity to show up uninvited and unwelcome was going to be in for a bit of a surprise, a shark like grin spread across his face as he moved across the garden toward the intruder. Once he heard the knock at the door, Bodie stepped around the corner of the house, gun in hand only to find himself staring at Ray Doyle. “Bloody hell, Doyle! Are you trying to get yourself killed?” he snarled as he tried to steady his gun hand. This couldn’t be happening.
“And good afternoon to you as well, sunshine,” Ray smiled as he turned to face his mate.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Bodie couldn’t stop himself from barking the question as he felt his heart speed up.
“Need to talk, and since you snuck out of hospital and pulled a Houdini, I figured Mohammad would have to come to the mountain…once I figured out where the bloody mountain had gone to, of course.” He held up a hand to stop Bodie’s tirade, “And to sweeten the deal I’ve come bearing gifts.” Ray pointed to the large hamper resting on the bonnet of his car. “All your favourites.”
“Christ, Doyle, did you really think you could sucker me in with a few sandwiches?”
Doyle took advantage of the opening. “No! Of course not, but I did think I might be able to tempt you enough with some of your favourites - along with the finest Swiss roll money can buy – to at least get me in the door.”
The two stood staring at each other. “Go on in, then,” Bodie gave in gracelessly as he stalked over to join Doyle at the entrance, “we might as well get this over with. You are bloody stubborn, and I know you’ll resort to stalking me, unless I give in, so let’s just get this over with.”
Ray took in the comfortable furnishings of Bodie’s seaside getaway and smiled to himself. There had been a time when neither of them thought they’d live to see 35 let alone 50 so they’d never talked about what they wanted later in life, but this place with its wall-to-wall book shelves and large picture windows overlooking the Atlantic, this place was Bodie.
They settled on the veranda and Bodie brought out trays and cutlery while Ray unpacked the hamper. They ate and drank in relative silence, finding old colleagues a safe enough subject to discuss when they did speak. Once they were done, and even Bodie’s appetite was satisfied, they shifted slightly in their chairs so they faced each other.
“Alright Doyle, out with it. Get it off your chest.”
“I’m sorry, Bodie. Sorry for cheating on you, sorry for leaving you, sorry for being such a first class arse…most of all I’m sorry I let my fear win…but when you were lost and we couldn’t…I tried everything I knew to find you.”
“Ray,” Bodie pleaded, not willing to be forced into reliving that painful ordeal. He had to grip the arms of his chair to keep from reaching out a hand to offer Ray, whose pain was clearly written across his face, comfort.
“I was so sure I’d lost you when they pulled Grant’s body out of the Thames. I…I gave up on you, Bodie, God forgive me, I gave up on us. And when we did find you bloody, unconscious and barely breathing, I…Hell, I wasn’t even sure it was real. It was like one of me nightmares come to life.
“Seems I’d figured out how I could go on without you, but I didn’t leave myself as much as a clue on how to go on with you.” Ray paused and took a long swig of his beer. “I was a total arse from start to finish and I thought by leaving you, by leaving CI5, that I’d never have to experience that empty feeling again.”
The silence stretched as Ray tried to regain control of his feelings. “What I hadn’t counted on,” he continued in a gentler tone, “was how hard it would be to live without you. Knowing you were just across town; that I could maybe step into a pub some night and find you at the bar flirting with the barmaid, or run into you at the off licence some Friday afternoon…this isn’t making any sense, I’m not making any sense,” he hissed as his hands pushed restlessly through his hair. “I guess what I’m trying to say is I love you; have since the third week we were partnered.”
“What is it you want from me, Doyle?” Bodie barked. “Did you think you could simply spill your guts out or whatever the hell it is you are doing here, and I’d swoon at your feet?”
Bodie’s face was set in that blank look that had always driven Ray crazy. “I thought we could…you would…”
“What, confess my undying love and devotion? Get a grip, Doyle, this isn’t some bloody Barbara Cartland romance, for Christ’s sake!” Bodie slammed his hand on the chair’s arm for emphasis.
“I’ve missed you, Bodie.”
The simple truth of that statement and the warmth flaring in Ray’s eyes made Bodie flinch. “And I missed you, too,” he growled. “I missed you while I was in hospital. I missed you while I was in Repton having the snot beaten out of me by the psychos in physio…and I missed you while I was lying in our bed, in our flat, alone.” He took a deep breath. “For a long time I kicked myself because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why you were punishing me – I survived, Ray, but you made me feel like you’d have been a hell of a lot happier if I hadn’t.” His voice began to waiver, making him even more uncomfortable. He had never wanted to talk about this but knew it was probably the only way to get his ex-lover to back off. “Don’t think I didn’t want to give up in that hellhole surrounded by the smell of me own blood. But I couldn’t…kept imagining you finding me dead, and I just couldn’t bear it so I held on. For a long time after I really wished I’d just given in.” Doyle’s shocked gasp caught his attention but Bodie was determined to finish what he’d started. “In hindsight, it would have been a lot less painful for both of us. But I held on…hell, I’m still holding on.
“I’ve worked hard to make a good life for myself, and I’m not letting go of it simply because you’re feeling guilt or pity of whatever the fucking hell it is you’re feeling!” Bodie blushed as he heard his voice crack.
“Bullshit!” Bodie’s voice echoed across the veranda. “You don’t run out on the person you love,” he finished before thumping back against his chair.
“I’m not saying what I did was right because it wasn’t. But I do love you, always will. Doesn’t matter what you say, you can’t change that. I’d like a chance to see if I can regain your trust so we can at least try and be friends again.”
Bodie looked at the man he’d loved for so long as his head warred furiously with his heart. Abruptly he rose from his chair and went to the far end of the veranda. “I can’t.”
“You mean you won’t! Come on, Bodie, I never took you for a coward. While we were cleaning out Cowley’s house, you felt it, same as I did. Don’t deny it. You enjoyed being together, talking to someone who understood you, who was in sync, who’d been there and done that, same as you.”
“You’re right, I did.” Bodie turned his head slightly so he could look at Ray. “But I knew that it was only for a few days and that it wouldn’t last…couldn’t last,” he finished under his breath and turned back so he was staring out at the water.
“Bodie, don’t be so bloody stupid and punish both of us for my mistakes. It’s been ten years…are you able to look me in the eye and tell me you don’t want this, us, as much as I do?” Ray caught the telltale stiffening of Bodie’s upper body, and he knew his remarks had hit their intended target. “Well, come on. Turn around and tell me and I’ll go, never to darken your doorway again.” Ray added more than a hint of challenge to his voice knowing Bodie wouldn’t be able to ignore it.
“Get the hell out,” Bodie said in a low growl, his eyes resolutely focused on the water.
“Not good enough, mate. Look at me and convince me you mean it, and I’ll leave.” Ray stood within reach of the broad, stiff back. Taking a deep breath, he reached out and started drawing soft circles between the tight shoulder blades.
Bodie spun to face him, “Get out!”
“You haven’t answered my question,” Ray responded calmly, well aware that he was asking to have his head handed to him.
“You have a talent for walking out on people…I suggest you use it now, before I forget my manners.”
Ray studied his partner. He hated the pain and fear he heard underneath the words, especially as he knew he was the cause. “Sorry, Bodie, can’t do that.”
Bodie took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “What is it you want from me?” he half heartedly asked. “I’ve nothing left to give you.”
“You’re wrong, mate, dead wrong. Because all I want is you,” Ray finished.
“That clearly wasn’t enough for you last time around,” Bodie argued, forcing himself to ignore the warmth, concern and love he could read in Doyle’s eyes. “As I recall, you were the one who walked away. Why should I believe this time would be any different?” He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I hated you…hated you for a long time. Made a promise to myself the day you announced you were leaving the mob, and I have no intention of breaking it.”
“What was the promise?” Ray asked as he took a small step closer, forcing his partner back into the corner.
“That you’d never get another chance to hurt me. And it’s one promise I intend to keep.”
The voice was hard but the defeated slump of the shoulders gave Ray the courage he needed to crowd even closer. “Wrong again, Bodie,” he whispered as he enveloped the man in a hug. Ray kept the embrace loose as he nestled his face into the curve of a broad shoulder and inhaled the scent that was unique to Bodie. “I’ve learned my lesson, and I have no intention of going anywhere, love, not without you.” Ray barely managed to hold in a shout as Bodie’s muscular arms hesitantly settled on his hips. “Feel so good…” Ray whispered before placing a soft kiss just below one ear. He startled back at a sudden vibration by his hip.
Bodie shrugged in resignation and fumbled for his mobile. Ray grew concerned as Bodie’s shoulders went rigid, and he resorted to clipped, one word answers. The phone suddenly flew across the veranda, landing with a loud thump in the far corner. “Bodie mate?”
Ray had to stop himself from flinching under the angry glare aimed at him. “Home Secretary wants me,” Bodie barked. “Seems he’s got a little project that only I can do. Something having to do with background checks on a few select government officials. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this would you, sunshine?”
Ray took a step back. “Knew they were talking about it after what happened with Willis. Thought they’d dropped it. You’re not going to do it, are you? Digging into the lives of some of those blokes isn’t going to make you very popular.” Ray chewed on his lower lip in aggravation.
“Seems someone at the top suggested I’d be just the man for the job.” Bodie clenched his fists as he swore under his breath. “That’s why you’re really here, isn’t it: to make sure I take this job?”
“NO! How could you…” Ray stopped and took a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. “No, I’m here because I want you back, and I’ll do whatever you need me to in order to make that happen.”
The silence that fell deepened as the two men stared at each other. Ray forced himself to relax and to let his feelings show on his face. After what felt like hours, Bodie reached out a trembling hand and caressed the battered cheek. “You leave me again, and it’ll kill me.”
“Won’t,” Ray responded gently as he very carefully embraced his other half. “I’ve learned my lesson. Plan to spend the rest of me life making it up to you.”
“Ray, I…” Bodie rested his head on a bony shoulder as a shudder ran through him.
“S’okay, pet, we’ll take it slow.” Ray gently stroked the strong back with one hand. “Is the Home Secretary expecting you in his office in the morning?” He felt the nod and smiled. “Look, I’m due back at work in the morning as well. What do you say we close up here, drive back to London, and have dinner together? We’ll figure out how you’re going to say no to the Home Secretary. And tomorrow night, I’ll come over to your place and cook. Sound like a plan?”
Bodie was mesmerised by Doyle’s soft, gentle voice and the warmth emanating from every contact point between their two bodies. While a small voice in his head screamed at him to turn and run, Bodie tightened his hold, and let himself relax into the firm embrace of his lover. “Good plan,” he whispered.
They were seated in the back of Bodie’s local, and he was trying to keep his voice down, but his frustration with the stubborn bastard sitting beside him was making it difficult. “Oh, for God’s sake, Doyle, grow up. You don’t say no to these people. Even George bloody Cowley didn’t, and he had files on half of them! I happen to need my pay packet; got bills to pay. I’ve worked too hard to let them take it all away from me.”
“You’re over reacting, Bodie. It’s not like the request came from the fucking KGB.”
“Right. I walk in and use my best company manners to turn down HMG’s kind request that I dig up dirt on her top intelligence and law enforcement personnel and waltz right out again after a polite, ‘sorry to waste your time’. And then my phone service goes dead, turns out I haven’t paid my taxes for years and the next thing I know I’m at Her Majesty’s pleasure for crimes against humanity that occurred while I was employed by CI5. Grow up, Doyle.”
“You’re a private citizen and a businessman. If you don’t want to work for the government, they can’t make you. Just say no for Christ’s sake.” Ray took a long sip of his ale as he let his eyes sweep over his partner. Sitting with Bodie in a smoke filled pub, arguing about a job felt really good, even if Bodie was being unreasonable. Ray felt his smile broaden. Maybe that’s why it felt so good. It was just like old times, snarking at each other, drinking a lager, and Bodie stealing his chips. “What is it that’s really bothering you about this job?”
“I…I’m tired of all the cloak and dagger stuff. Don’t need the aggro…thought I’d left it behind when I left the mob…spent too many years, shed too much blood and lost too many friends to ever want to do it again. And this job is guaranteed to make me a target,” Bodie finished.
“They’ll protect you.”
Bodie pushed out a frustrated puff of air. “That’s the same thing we said to Diana and Marikka and Frances Cottingham, isn’t it?”
Ray didn’t have an answer to that so they sat in silence for several minutes, pretending to watch the antics of a group of Yanks trying to play darts. He jumped when Bodie gripped his forearm. “Sorry, Ray…not sure what’s gotten into me. Just…I’ll go in there tomorrow and turn the man down and give you the blow-by-blow over dinner. Your offer to cook’s still good, right?”
“As long as you provide the drinks…oh, you do have a stove, don’t you?” They both laughed as Bodie cuffed him gently. “Missed this, Bodie,” Ray offered up. “Missed you.”
Bodie lowered his head, eyes hidden behind long, dark lashes. “So did I.”
“I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
“I don’t want you to make it up to me. I just want you to be there.”
The urgency in Bodie’s words hit Ray hard. “We’ll make it work, Bodie. You’ll see,” he promised, grabbing hold of Bodie’s wrist.
Ray arrived at his partner’s flat at half five loaded down from visits to half a dozen shops. He was kept guessing on how the meeting went as Bodie met him at the door with his face carefully set. Ray let out a soft whistle at the modern kitchen and wasn’t able to hide his smile as his partner searched through the bags, letting out a shout of triumph when he unearthed a chocolate gateau from his favourite bakery.
“How’d it go today?” Ray asked when he couldn’t stand the suspense anymore.
“Seems they aren’t looking for someone to vet the current workforce, but they do want to set up a system for vetting new hires. The Home Secretary wouldn’t say as much but I gather they found something in Willis’ background once they went back to look that someone should have caught.”
“I take it that’s a good thing and that you’re going to do it?” Ray was trying to read between the lines of his mate’s tone to determine the outcome.
“Very good, in fact. A plump contract, steady work and the chance to build in some of the checks and balances the Cow always thought should be there.”
“You don’t seem very happy about it.”
“I am,” Bodie lifted his head and revealed a shy smile. “Truth is I have a date tonight, and I’m a bit nervous. Been a while since I’ve been on one; not exactly sure what to do…took me nearly an hour just to figure out what to wear. What do you think?”
Ray was pretty sure he fell in love all over again as Bodie flashed his little boy lost smile. “Well,” Ray started, but Bodie stepped in close, causing Ray to completely lose his train of thought.
“Are you going to answer my question?” Bodie asked, running his tongue ever so slowly over his lips, breaking into a smirk as he watched Ray’s eyes widen.
Ray felt Bodie’s breath brush his cheek, and he shuddered as he watched that marvellous tongue sweep across Bodie’s delectable lips. With a lusty grin, Ray managed to take a step back and then he began to circle Bodie, taking his time as he intently examined every inch of his mate’s body, letting his admiration show on his face. “Those trousers certainly highlight some of your, shall we say, finer assets.” Ray trailed a hand over the soft cashmere of Bodie’s jumper. “This colour suits you; shows off your beautiful eyes.” He paused and moved even closer, pressing the length of his body against Bodie’s. “I’d say your time selecting your clothing was well spent,” he whispered before leaning in for a kiss. “And the time I’ll spend getting you out of them will be worthwhile as well.”
The electricity as their lips met made them both jump, followed by nervous laughter. “Almost afraid to touch you,” Ray offered huskily as he moved in close again. “Guess I’m afraid I’m going to wake up and discover this is all a dream.”
Bodie flinched at the words and pulled away before pivoting and moving into the lounge. He made his way to the drinks cabinet where he tried to hide his shaking hands as he poured two generous glasses of whisky. “Bodie?” Ray followed him to the doorway and leaned against the frame, eyeing his mate thoughtfully. “What’s wrong?”
Bodie took a big gulp of his drink before responding. “While I was in hospital, I would dream you were with me but then I’d wake up…” He shuddered and took another drink. “Just…just got ambushed for a minute, that’s all.” Forcing a smile, Bodie held up the second glass as an offering.
“Ta,” Ray said as he accepted the whisky. “Guess that’s bound to happen to both of us. But we can work through it.” He hadn’t meant it as a question and grimaced as he realised how tentative he sounded.
“Might need you to be patient for a while,” Bodie responded as he stared into his glass.
“I can do patience,” Ray said with a slight smile, “as long as you can, too.”
The dark head jerked up. “I…yeah, I can.”
“Good, now I need some help in the kitchen, and you’re drafted,” Doyle said, throwing in a wicked wink. “That is, if you want to eat anytime tonight.”
“That all I am to you, slave labour?” Bodie muttered as he returned to the kitchen.
“Just wait until it’s time to do the washing up,” Ray promised as he swatted Bodie’s backside with the towel in his hand.
They talked of the ordinary throughout dinner: football, Bodie’s cricket playing, Ray’s work at the youth centre. It was comfortable, easy and they both relaxed. They were even able to talk about George Cowley and the role he had played in shaping both their lives.
Back in the lounge, with drinks in hand, they sat together on the sofa. Bodie turned on the telly and they watched the news without talking. When the programme was over, Bodie turned off the box and turned to his guest. “Ray?”
“Guess I’d better be going. Have a meeting with the Deputy Commissioner at 9. Could we…”
“I have to go to Scotland tomorrow, but I’ll call you when I get back, and I’ll cook.” He held up his hands as Ray started to laugh. “I can cook, you sod! Always could, just didn’t see any point to it since you were always so eager to show off your vast culinary skills.” Bodie huffed to hide a smile as Ray fell against him, laughing.
“Fine. That’ll give me time to plot out the quickest route to the nearest hospital.” As he brought his laughter under control, Ray leaned in and stole a kiss. He pulled back as he felt Bodie tense. “So you’ll call me when you get back, right?” Ray pulled away and waited.
“Sorry, Ray, just…don’t know why this is so hard.” Bodie reached out and wrapped his fingers around a thin wrist.
“I do. Your head isn’t convinced this is real yet, but I promise you it is. I know I have my work cut out for me, but that’s okay…I always did love a challenge.”
Bodie initiated a kiss of his own and pulled Ray into a loose embrace. “I’d better go before I forget my manners,” Ray said huskily. “You’ll call me tomorrow?”
“Yeah, once I land. And if you promise to be a good lad, I might even bring you a pressie…as I recall you like haggis, don’t you?” Bodie laughed as he lunged to the side to avoid Ray’s fist.
Bodie spent four days in Scotland and had the taxi drop him at Ray’s instead of his own flat when he returned. He’d missed his mate more than he was willing to admit and stepped eagerly into Doyle’s open arms as soon as the door closed behind him. He let his hands trace his lovers’s shoulders and back before coming to rest on Ray’s arse. Ray clearly enjoyed the attention, if the gently thrusting of his hips was any indication, Bodie thought with a grin.
They strolled down to Ray’s local where they drank, ate and talked. Bodie told him about the client he’d visited and some of the idiosyncrasies he’d been forced to deal with in order to get the plans approved to install an effective security system in a seven hundred year old castle that was now a B&B. Ray countered by discussing his end run around a local Inspector who had no interest in outside help despite the fact he couldn’t have found the man murdering livestock in his town if the culprit had posted flyers and done it in the town square.
“Still haven’t quite mastered those diplomatic skills the Cow tried to teach you, I take it?” Bodie asked, failing to match his facial expression to his solemn tone.
“Cowley didn’t keep either of us around because for our manners, as you well know,” Ray snapped and immediately laid a hand on Bodie’s forearm in apology.
“Kept me for me looks,” Bodie drawled through a smirk.
“Well, the old man always did have an eye for a fine arse,” Ray answered with a straight face, enjoying the scandalised look that shot across his mate’s face. “And you, my friend, have a very fine arse.” He smirked as he watched Bodie shift uncomfortably in his chair.
The next weekend Ray joined Bodie at his seaside hideaway. It was late Friday evening when they arrived, due to traffic and a last minute meeting Ray couldn’t miss. Ray wasn’t sure why Bodie was acting strangely as they entered the house, as the conversation had been both comfortable and lively on the drive up.
After watching Bodie aimlessly circle the lounge twice, Ray grabbed hold of his bicep on the third pass. “Bodie mate, what the hell is wrong?”
“I, ah…there’s something you need to know,” Bodie said, his gaze firmly fixed on the floor.
“Theresonlyonebed,” Bodie spit out so quickly the words ran together. When Doyle didn’t respond, he raised his head and took in the knowing smile on Doyle’s face. “What?” Bodie growled.
“I know,” Ray said with a smile. “Knew about the one bed before coming up here. I was hoping that it meant…”
Bodie thought that a blushing Doyle was a bloody sexy sight. Ray simply looked embarrassed, shuffling his feet and taking his own turn at staring at the floor. Bodie reached out a hand and pulled Ray close. “I want to, but…”
“It’s alright, sunshine. I want it, too. And I’m looking forward to cuddling with you tonight. Been looking forward to it all day, in fact.” His smile widened as Bodie initiated a full blown hug. “Why don’t you go wash up, and I’ll be in once you’re done? Go on now,” Ray finished after sharing a long kiss.
Twenty five minutes later Ray dried his face and taking a deep breath, entered the bedroom. He couldn’t hide his smile at the sight that greeted him. Bodie lay stiff as a board, duvet pulled up under his chin and his eyes were as big as saucers. Deciding Bodie was too tense to take teasing well, Ray kept his mouth shut as he made his way around the bed, slipped off his vest and snapped off the light before crawling in.
He stayed on his side of the bed until Bodie reached over and tentatively took hold of his hand. Ray squeezed lightly and when he felt the squeeze returned, rolled onto his side to find himself nose to nose with his bedmate. He took the initiative and burrowed as close to the larger body as he could get and held on, relaxing only when Bodie’s strong arms pulled him even closer.
Ray placed a few kisses on Bodie’s neck and shoulder, waiting to see what his partner would do. He knew this was a crucial moment and that he needed to let Bodie lead. Ray had just about convinced himself that all Bodie planned on doing was sleeping when questing fingers began to stroke, then pinch his left nipple. Ray sucked in a gasp as Bodie laughed softly. “You didn’t really think I’d forget your left tit was so sensitive did you?” Bodie purred as he loosened his hold on Ray just enough so he could get his mouth around the tit.
“You’re trying to kill me,” Ray groaned as gentle suction turned into a bite. His hips involuntary thrust against his bed mate’s and he let himself relax as he found an answering hardness there. “Bodie!” he yelped as two strong hands grabbed his hips and pulled them in tight. “Easy, Ray,” Bodie murmured as he rubbed against his partner. “I’ve got you,” he promised before moving in for another kiss.
The feel of the heavily muscled body against his own caused Ray to moan as his hands sought purchase on Bodie’s arse in an unconscious effort to bring them even closer. It was hard and fast and when the first shot of Bodie’s cum seared his stomach, Ray lost the rest of his control and came, screaming his lover’s name as he did so.
Ray was pretty sure every muscle in his body had turned to mush as he lay watching Bodie disappear into the loo. And he smirked as he replayed their coupling in his head. Bodie with his head back, chest arched as he came was a sight well worth remembering, and Ray planned on saving for later his information on exactly who came first. Closing his eyes with a sigh, he let his left hand rub at the drying cum on his chest. He jumped as a wet flannel brushed his hip.
Bodie lay awake long after Ray fell asleep half on top of him. He ran his fingers gently down the long back as he stared at the ceiling. It had been so easy, too easy he accused himself, falling back in love with the man in his arms. No, he wasn’t falling back in love with Ray, he couldn’t because he’d never stopped loving the sly bastard in the first place. Bodie tilted his head until he could press his lips against Ray’s soft hair and sighed. “What the hell am I doing?” he asked softly before closing his eyes as he wrapped his arms securely around his lover.
When Ray woke, the sun was already well up, and he was still plastered across Bodie, making him wonder if he’d moved at all during the night. Placing a chaste kiss on Bodie’s shoulder, he wiggled free and dashed to the loo. He laughed softly when he came back in with two cups of coffee to find Bodie gazing at him through sleep filled eyes.
“Brought your coffee, pet. Why so serious?”
“Did you sleep?” Bodie’s voice was still husky from lack of use, or perhaps Ray thought as he felt himself blush, from all the yelling that had occurred the night before.
“Like a baby,” Ray responded with a wide grin, “and you, sunshine?”
“Same.” Bodie smiled before taking a sip of his coffee. Ray settled next to him, close enough so their shoulders were touching. After tasting his own coffee, Ray stole a kiss and laughed as Bodie stole away his mug. They kissed, gently at first, then more aggressively, taking the time to relearn each other’s bodies. Doyle didn’t hold back his sighs and moans of pleasure as Bodie traced his chest first with his fingers and then with his mouth. When Ray was sure he’d burst if Bodie touched him again, he turned the tables and flipped Bodie onto his back. After spending some quality time on those luscious lips, Ray worked his way down Bodie’s throat, taking small nips on each side of the Adam’s apple, his smile growing as Bodie voiced his approval.
Ray made sure he licked the length of Bodie’s collar bone before repositioning himself further down the muscular body in order to ensure he had a full view of his mate’s spectacular chest. Ray let his eyes take their time as they feasted on the pale expanse of real estate and exhaled softly, signaling his contentment as he completed his survey. Bodie’s finger under his chin interrupted him, and Ray growled loudly, only to have the noise smothered by Bodie’s mouth. Ray indulged him in an exchange of passionate kisses for several minutes before pulling back and patting Bodie lightly on the cheek as he pushed himself down until he had regained his earlier position. He began running two fingers over Bodie’s velvety skin.
When he came to the first scar, just above Bodie’s right nipple, Ray pulled back and traced it. He was torn between anger that he had not been there to prevent it, and sorrow that he didn’t have a clue to its origins. Once upon a time, Ray had known the history of every twisted scar that graced his lover’s body. Sighing softly, he returned his full attention to Bodie. Ray rested his forehead lightly on Bodie’s chest, just above the scar before kissing it reverently. He explored the three other new scars the same way. As he did so, Ray revelled in the taste and smell that screamed Bodie to him. Fairly early on in their relationship, Ray had been convinced he could have found his lover in a crowded room using scent alone…and he would be able to do that again, he thought with a grin, now that they were back together. When he arrived at the six inch long scar just above Bodie’s left hip, Ray spent extra time on it, letting his fingers learn the difference in texture of the creamy soft skin in the small hollow by Bodie’s hip bone and the rough edges of the scar. Once he’d stored that information away, Ray let his tongue make the same journey.
Looking up, he couldn’t help but smile at the serene look Bodie was wearing. Ray kept his weight on his elbows after he repositioned himself so he could look down on Bodie’s face.
“You’re beautiful, Bodie,” he offered before placing a feathered kiss on both eyelids. “Bloody gorgeous.” Ray remained still until his lover opened his eyes. “I’d forgotten just how much I loved your body, and I plan to rectify that right now.” Ray reached down for a kiss and as he pulled back he froze, besotted by the look in Bodie’s eyes.
"Tell me how you got them,” Ray asked as one hand traced the nearest scar. “Please, pet. I really need to know.”
“Got two of them in Egypt. One of the bastards used a knife,” Bodie responded slowly, gauging Ray’s response. “I got one while I was still with the mob. Had a bit of a run in with four blokes who weren’t all that happy to see me.”
“And this one,” Ray ordered as he ran a finger across the thickest scar, the one just above Bodie’s left breast. He caught his breath at the shuttered look on his lover’s face. Realisation hit him, and Ray jerked upright. “I…Christ, Bodie, I’m…”
“It was a long time ago, Ray.”
“Neville Grant…if he wasn’t already dead.”
“The past is just that, Ray.” Bodie tensed as Ray ran a hand across the scar again.
“I’m a fucking idiot, love,” Ray offered as he stroked the now quivering chest. “You’d think I’d have learned after all these years when to keep me mouth shut.” He rested more of his weight on Bodie and continued his caresses, keeping his eyes fixed on the patterns his fingers were tracing in the soft skin.
“S’alright, sunshine,” Bodie said, breaking the silence that had fallen. “I…I put that behind me, and I really need to leave it there…we both need to,” he urged as he trapped Ray’s hands in his own and pulled them up so he could kiss them. “Can you do that, Ray? For me?”
The question took Ray by surprise, and he realised he’d waited too long to answer when Bodie let go of his hands. Ray gathered Bodie tight against him answering, “Yes, for us.”
Ray felt his body relax when Bodie smiled.
They walked along the shore after lunch and then Bodie drove them into town and took Doyle to a small art gallery. Ray was still talking about it after they’d ordered dinner at the pub, hands waving in the air as he sought to explain the technique used in the painting he’d decided was his favourite. Bodie leaned back against the booth, feeling content for the first time in a very long time as he watched his animated lover talk.
A shadow fell across the table, and Ray glanced up at the large man looming in front of them, arms crossed.
“William,” the stranger started, “haven’t seen you around in quite a while. Been working too hard, have you?”
Ray saw Bodie tense so he glared up at the stranger, ready to defend his mate if necessary.
“Edward,” Bodie acknowledged, leaning back and crossing his own arms.
“So are you up for a bit of holiday or just passing through?”
“Just the weekend.”
“You going to introduce me?”
“Doyle, Edward. He owns this sorry excuse of a pub.” Ray recognised the small smile Bodie wore. It was the one he used on people for whom he had no use. So Ray leaned back and mimicked Bodie’s stance in a show of solidarity.
Edward nodded at Doyle. “You a close friend of William’s?” he asked bitingly, clearly trying to rattle Ray by insinuating he and Bodie were more than ‘friends’. Before Doyle could respond, the waitress arrived with their dinner and informed Edward that a customer was waiting to speak with the owner. Edward turned on his heel and stalked off.
“So what’s the deal with him?” Ray asked after stealing a chip off Bodie’s plate.
“Edward? He owns several businesses in town, which is why he acts as though he owns this whole patch and everyone in it as well.”
“You sure he’s not related to Willis? Sounds just like him,” Ray chuckled as he sought to restore Bodie’s good mood, which had changed abruptly with the appearance of the pub owner. And his effort did not go unrewarded as Bodie offered up a smile before punching him lightly.
“Must be.” Bodie took a sip of his whisky and sighed. “And he’s ever so annoyed,” Bodie switched to the ‘posh’ accent he sometimes used, earning a full belly laugh from Ray, “that he has yet to elicit my entire life story.”
“Hell, Bodie, I’m not sure even you know your life story at this point after years of weaving fact and fiction together.” When all he got was a shrug in return, Ray pushed a bit more. “Come on, mate, let’s face it. You’ve invented so many stories to impress the birds; scare the youngsters; and throw the rest of us off track that I doubt you can remember the whole truth of what’s happened along the way.”
“I remember all the important parts,” Bodie responded gravely.
Ray wrapped a hand around Bodie’s wrist, “Never doubted that for a second, sunshine.”
As they were leaving, Edward stepped in front of the duo and asked about their plans for the rest of their stay. Ray managed to remain off to the side until Edward grabbed hold of Bodie’s wrist. “I’m expecting a call, pet, and I’d rather not keep the Commissioner waiting,” Ray stated calmly as he moved close enough to wrap an arm around Bodie’s waist. Tossing a glare at Edward, Ray escorted Bodie towards the exit.
“Really, William, a copper? Not quite your usual style.”
“And what would you know about his usual style?” Ray hissed.
Bodie turned to face Edward, careful to remain within his partner’s hold. “Ray is my partner, Edward. My long- time partner. And I was in law enforcement as well, so keep the copper comments to yourself.” The body language alone would have warned off anyone, but Ray recognised the face, it was Bodie at his most dangerous – quiet, calm and deadly. The pub owner luckily seemed to get the hint, and Ray quickly guided his mate out the door.
As they walked back to the gallery where they’d left the car, Ray took advantage of an alley and pulled Bodie in. Ray managed to get his lover up against the cold brick before Bodie could raise a protest. Smiling wolfishly, Ray kissed him.
“You trying to get us arrested, Commander,” Bodie asked, his voice husky as they broke for air. “Not sure what the Commissioner would think if he saw that report come across his desk.”
“Sod the Commissioner,” Ray responded as he moved in for another kiss.
“Come on, Romeo, let’s get you home before we get nicked and end up spending the night in a cell.”
“If you find the idea of shagging me silly in a cell a turn on, sunshine, it can certainly be arranged,” Ray offered, wagging his eyebrows wickedly. “I do have friends in high places, you know.”
They laughed all the way to the car, leaning on each other as they exchanged terribly bad jokes about prison sex. Ray brushed a hand across his eyes before turning his attention to Bodie. Bodie, his face in profile, had his eyes on the road. Ray couldn’t explain it, but just looking at his partner was giving him a warm feeling in his chest.
“Everything alright, Ray?” Bodie asked, concerned when he realised Ray was rubbing his chest.
Ray smiled brightly. “Everything’s fine, Bodie…great in fact. But I do have a question.” Ray decided to take advantage of Bodie’s misplaced concern. “What is the real story about you and Edward? That bloke didn’t have a problem grabbing hold of you. Nobody but me grabs you, Bodie, nobody!” Ray wasn’t quite sure who was more surprised with the snarl that accompanied his statement.
Bodie breathed out slowly. He knew laughing at Ray’s possessiveness would not go over well, and would, in fact only serve to add fuel to his golly’s anger. And, Bodie was willing to admit – at least to himself - that he liked the fact Ray was possessive. It made him feel loved and wanted.
“Bodie?” It was really more of a command than a question.
“Ray, I told you Edward thinks he owns everything and everyone in town,” he paused, needing a moment to decide exactly how to explain Edward’s antics. “He hit on me a couple of times when I first started coming here. I said no politely and when he continued asking, I forgot my manners.” He chanced a glance at Ray and winced, this was not going well. “Ray, if he didn’t serve the only half decent grub in a twenty-five mile radius, I wouldn’t set foot in the place. But he’s never grabbed hold of anything important, and he won’t.”
Bodie squirmed in his seat, not sure he wanted to know what Ray was thinking as the minutes ticked by. “You’re damn right he won’t,” was Doyle’s final comment on the issue.
Ray commenced stripping Bodie the minute they entered the cottage, and Bodie returned the favour. By the time they made it to the bedroom, there was nothing left to remove. Ray pulled Bodie in for a kiss, their naked bodies heating up as they rubbed up against each other. They barely landed on the bed before Ray took control and rolled Bodie underneath him. In order to stop any argument, Ray took his time conquering Bodie’s mouth, drowning in the taste, the texture and moist heat awaiting him there. One hand firmly grasped the nape of Bodie’s neck, while the other travelled across the broad chest. Ray had forgotten just how sensitive Bodie’s nipples were until his fingers pinched the already erect left tit, resulting in a moan that Ray swallowed. Thinking it might be fun to see what other reactions he could elicit from his normally unflappable mate Ray reluctantly ended their kiss and started his downward journey using his tongue to blaze a trail. He licked and bit and sucked his way down Bodie’s throat, feeling a surge of power as Bodie arched his neck in submission. Ray latched onto the right tit with his mouth while he teased its twin with his fingers. He was riding a high due to the sounds of need coming from Bodie.
Realising their game would end far too quickly if he didn’t change tactics, Ray moved down Bodie’s body until he could settle between thick thighs. He paused to take in the view before running a finger over Bodie’s throbbing crown, licking delightedly at the moist precum before swallowing the cock. Bodie screamed as he came and collapsed, boneless on the bed. Ray did not receive any assistance as he rolled his bedmate onto his stomach before helping a shaky Bodie up onto his hands and knees.
Ray fumbled for the lube in the bedside table and spread it on two fingers and then began to whisper endearments after running his tongue along the shell of Bodie’s ear. “Missed this, Bodie love. Your taste, your heat,” Ray sighed and licked his way down his lover’s spine. “Going to love you, Bodie. Make you mine, again. Not ever letting you go,” Ray finished as one finger circled than breached the small opening. He kept up a running commentary on all the things he planned to do to the pliant body beneath him, and Ray knew it was time to put his words into action when Bodie’s hoarse plea of “do it now, for fuck’s sake,” reached his ears. Ray kissed one rounded cheek before taking hold of his own heavy cock and easing it into his partner’s body. Bodie’s hole was deliciously tight, and Ray found himself fighting to maintain control. He lost any semblance of it when Bodie deliberately pushed back and clenched his arse, holding Ray’s cock hostage.
I Once Was Lost: Part IV