Blind Spot

Shay Sheridan

Beta by Justacat


It’s probably nothing.

It was probably just Bodie being a prick, Doyle told himself, glaring at the buzzer for his partner’s flat. No answer. Again.

For perhaps the thousandth time since knowing the right bastard who was William Andrew Philip Bodie, Ray Doyle cursed him under his breath. For all he could depend on Bodie to watch his back on an op, or double-talk them out from under Cowley’s wrath should said op go arse over teacups, once off-duty Bodie could be slithery as quick-silver and as impossible to predict.

But there were exceptions to his unpredictability. Sometimes the plans were solid, and then Bodie was immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar. Today should have been a prime example: hadn’t they had plans to spend Wednesday night beating the trousers off Murphy, McCabe, Anson and Lattimer? It was an agreement of long standing, the most solid and sacred of their appointments; the third Wednesday of the month was devoted to Bodie’s uncanny skill at darts and Ray’s guile and get-the-opposition-drunk scheme, with the predictable outcome of them making at least twenty quid off each unknowing dupe. It happened like clockwork, every month. Ray had come to depend on the additional income.

So where was Bodie? He’d hung around the pub for an hour but Bodie never showed. In the end Ray had been forced to endure chants of "chicken!" and demands of forfeit from the others before making a less than heroic exit and speeding over to Bodie’s flat in a snit.

He cursed again and leaned harder on the bell. Twenty quid. Each. That made…he started calculating the math, but a grinding shift signaled a rising window sash. He looked up to find an angry-faced harridan with curlers in her hair peering down from above. "’Ere! Stop that infernal ringing, you hooligan!"

Ray controlled his facial muscles with some effort and stepped back. Hooligan, eh? He hadn’t been called that since he was a raggedy punk with a bad attitude. "Sorry, love. Lookin’ for me mate. Bodie, second floor rear—"

"—I know’m. He’s not here. Gone out. Now you get away, too, an’ leave decent people in peace!"

"Sorry." Well, if that didn’t tear it once and for all. Had a better offer, had he? Sure, they all broke appointments for dates that promised to end in the sack, who wouldn’t, but never without a call or a hint at least. And as far as he remembered, Bodie’d never willingly passed up winning an easy bet, and never, never let down a mate when it really counted.

Ray stepped away from the door with a long-suffering sigh and crossed the pavement to his car, sliding behind the wheel. Well, there had to be a first time, he supposed.

Trouble was, it wasn’t the first time, was it? Not lately, anyway. Lately Bodie’d been a bit distant – remote, even, and had been lobbing excuses at Ray for…what was it? Two weeks? Three? Now Ray thought of it, he hadn’t seen much of Bodie outside work for nearly a month. And since they usually lived in each other’s pockets even in their off-duty time, this was very odd, to say the least.

A month…three weeks… He hadn’t noted it before, but counting backwards now, it really had been quite a long time. When had this distance started? Last week there’d been the Callahan job, where they’d sat in a car for four days, twelve hours at a time, and Bodie—

"Yeah, so Mary Ann, the air hostess. I told you she's got 'em out to here, and she can bend her… You listening, Bodie?"

"What?"

"Oi, snap out of it, will ya? Don't like talkin' to meself."

"Uh-huh."

"Well, all right then. So anyway. There's this bird I was chattin' up in the canteen, remember, last Tuesday, what was her name? You remember her, don't you? Bodie!"

"Who?"

"What's her name, the new receptionist — the redhead."

"Don't know, Ray."

Was like that the entire time, Ray realised, now he examined it.

Before that, well, before that they’d been sent to Manchester together – no, wait, once they got there, Bodie'd lost no time getting away from him—

"Where you going?"

"Got a lead."

"Well, hold on a sec, I'll come with—"

"No! I mean, no, Ray, you don't need to go. Probably nothing, anyway. I'll see you back at HQ."

"In case you've forgotten, Bodie, we've only got one car—"

"I'll find a way back."

"Bo-day!"

But back in London, there'd been a succession of appointments off-hours that kept them from having so much as a casual drink together. Or so Bodie said.

With a growing sense of unease, Ray shifted into gear and peeled away from the kerb. "Don't like not trusting you, mate," he muttered.

But wait a bit; that was unfair. Bodie wasn’t deceitful. At least he'd never been so before.

"So who's this secret bird of yours, then, mate?"

"Don't know what you mean, Ray."

"Come on. Goin' off by yourself all the time. Gotta be a bird, right? She married? That why it's a big secret?"

"There's no girl."

"Yeah, sure, pull the other one."

"Gotta go."

But she didn’t seem to be making Bodie happy, whoever she was. He wasn’t like himself. Broody, even. And no one did broody better than Bodie – the man was a natural at it.

"What's wrong with your partner, Doyle?"

"Dunno, Murph. But you know Bodie. He's got an uncomplicated personality, doesn't he, he'll get over it."

"Heh. Yeah. And his family tree has only one branch, right?"

"Descended from rocks, he is. Don't worry. It'll pass, whoever she is. Always does."

"And then he'll tell us all about it."

"Nah, mate. I'm the only one he trusts."

Ray didn’t like the way that thought was going.

He gripped the wheel more tightly and threw his mind back further. Let’s see. Before Manchester was the Germans, the East—

Oh.

The East Germans. The bird. Bodie’s bird, that actress, Marikka…something or other. Ray smiled grimly. He’d managed to forget her name rather quickly, hadn’t he? That horrible mission—

Bodie descended from the tower, a murderous look on his face. Ray stood up, crossed from the girl's crumpled body, moved to his partner to offer his condolences, his understanding. But Bodie glared at him, as if he himself had fired the fatal bullet. Without a word he shoved the rifle into Ray's arms, winding him slightly with the force of the blow. And then he turned with almost military precision and strode away.

That glare struck through Ray like a bitter wind.

Perhaps that was it. Drowning his sorrows, was he, burying his pain in some willing woman — or hiding out in a sulk. Yeah. That was it. Bodie was probably just still in a bit of a snit about it, about his old girlfriend, or lover, or whatever she’d been to him, meeting a sorry end. Well, anyone’d be upset about that, was only human. Anyway, obviously she’d meant something to him.

If Ray was honest, though, in his own heart of hearts he was glad Marikka was gone, though he hadn’t necessarily wished her dead. Back over the Berlin Wall, that’s where he’d wished her. For Bodie’s sake. After all, just look what she’d done! She’d only been back a few days and she’d taken up all of Bodie’s time, made him do furtive things, sneak around; he'd twisted Bodie right back into…whatever it was he’d been to her back in the old days.

Ray’s mouth curled into an unpleasant grimace. Truth be told, he was mightily sick of odie’s old days and the old villains, old mates and old girlfriends who showed up on a far too regular basis for his own peace of mind. When they turned up they always, always threw him and Bodie into a topsy-turvy spin. Krivas, Marikka, even some bloke named Keller Bodie talked about sometimes when he was drunk – well, he’d begun to think the letter "K" was cursed where Bodie was concerned.

The whole thing had been a tragedy, and Ray didn’t mean how the girl had died.

What had Bodie been to her? Funny that he still didn’t know, that Bodie’d never explained it. No, there was just—

Bodie's face dark with fury, his jaw set. That glare — Ray shivered with the memory.

Well, Bodie’d get over it. He was like a rubber ball, really. He’d bounce back.



But the next day, Bodie wasn’t bouncing, or apologising, or even acknowledging he’d stood him up. Eight hours after his futile visit to Bodie's flat, he stood outside the front door again.

"Who is it?" Bodie's gruff morning-voice rasped through the speaker.

"Mornin' Bodie. Stopped by to give you a ride."

"No thanks. Taking my own car."

"Okay. We'll take yours – save having to find two spaces."

"No. I can't drive you home."

"Why not?"

"Just can't."

"Oh, another mystery date, then?" He kept his tone light. "She why you forgot about last night?"

"Just can’t, Ray."

"…Okay, then. See you there."

But Bodie had already rung off.

He arrived before his partner, helped himself to coffee and waited for Bodie to arrive. But when Bodie strolled into the rest room he barely gave Doyle a glance. Instead he settled into a chair with his coffee and opened a glossy magazine.

Ray stared at him a good long minute, willing his anger back to a manageable level. Finally he leaned over to flick the magazine with a finger. "’Soldier of Fortune,’ eh? Out to kill someone, are you?"

Bodie took his time looking up, and what was in his eyes made Ray sit back sharply. Nothing. There was nothing in his eyes. Not warmth, not anger, not even acknowledgement of Ray’s existence, only a generalized bleakness that shook Ray to his core. "Maybe," Bodie said emotionlessly. His glance went back to the page.

Shit. Whatever it was, it was worse than he’d thought.

Two minutes later, they were in Cowley’s office. Five minutes after that, Ray was on his way to Coventry, to meet with a Detective Sergeant Levin and assist in inquiries about a series of bombings. Bodie was not with him. In Cowley’s office, Bodie had spun some story about having to check records in regard to similar cases in the area, and had volunteered to finish up the paperwork the Cow’d been harassing them about for weeks.

Bodie. Paperwork. Bodie willingly doing paperwork. Ray had goggled at him, made a joke. Bodie had not smiled. And Cowley had agreed that yes, one man could cover the interview.

And so Ray was sent to Coventry alone.



Eleven p.m.

There was a light on in Bodie’s window.

Ray slid out of his car and stretched his aching back. Damn Coventry – turned out to be not terrorists, but a teenager with an axe to grind. He locked the door, and crossed the pavement as he’d done this morning and the evening before, but this time he didn’t bother to ring. Instead he fished the spare key out of his pocket, the key Bodie’d given him months earlier when he was laid up just out of hospital.

"Only prudent, Ray," Bodie said, exchanging his key for one of Doyle’s. "Now you can water my plants when I’m away with Jeannie for the hols. And I don’t have to climb the fire escape with your dinner the next time some KGB bloke decides to shoot you in the leg and you can’t get out of bed to open the door for me."

It was a ridiculous argument, but he took the key, took the sarcasm, too, because it was the first time Bodie had been able to joke about the shooting. He had a tough time joking about it himself; he had a vague memory of tossing off a flip remark to Cowley when it happened, something about getting off lightly, unlike his boss. He didn’t quite remember – he’d passed out right after. But the truth was, through all the endless weeks of his recovery, right up until the day Macklin certified him fit, he’d been afraid he’d never be 100%, afraid of being shuttled out of the squad, offered a desk job or a training one, of losing his familiar routine. Of losing Bodie.

Even now thinking about the shooting made his leg ache a bit, not that he’d ever admit it to anyone, certainly not his partner. Besides, it probably was just psychosomatic... or whatever they called it, not real, just a pain laid on by your mind. Nah, he’d never mention it to Bodie. For weeks after the shooting Bodie had fussed about him more like a nanny than a partner. Oh, everything was couched in smart-arsed jokes, but underneath it all Ray had sensed real panic. The ridiculous conversation about the keys had been a relief, a sigh they were both fine again.

Besides, despite his flip remark, Bodie was right – they should have keys to each other’s flats. Only prudent, that was.

Right now, though, what it was was expedient. Maybe, Ray thought with a feral smile, as he opened the outer door, maybe the rude sod is having it off with some bird and I’ll bust in on them and break it up. That’ll show him. Or maybe he’s watching a match, and he’ll offer me a beer and the whole problem will be over. Yeah. That’d be nice.

Somehow, though, he didn’t expect either scenario.

When he reached the door to Bodie’s place, and pressed his ear against it, all he could make out was music playing so softly he couldn’t quite tell what it was. He leaned closer, both hands braced, his weight on the door.

When it opened suddenly under him he nearly toppled at Bodie’s feet.

"Well, now. What have we here?"

Ray righted himself, tugged on his jacket and forced a smile. "Hullo, Bodie," he said, mustering a cheeky tone. "What’s new?"

He was met with stony silence, and an equally stony expression. And when had that happened, Ray wondered — when had Bodie’s expressive face closed to him?

"What are you doing here?" Again that emotionless tone, damn the cold bastard.

"Can I come in?"

Without replying Bodie turned and crossed into the lounge to sit on the sofa with his arms folded, eyes unreadable in the low light. Ray closed the door and took a few steps into the room. He glanced around – there was disarray everywhere, half-filled glasses, dirty dishes, an open bottle on the floor. The stereo played on in the background; now he was inside, Ray could hear the soft, throaty voice of the vocalist, and the words. The German words. Ray wondered idly what she was saying, fucking German singer.

"Why're you here?" Bodie repeated. "You lose something, Doyle?"

He held Bodie’s eyes, which for some reason was harder to do than it would have been a month, a week, even a day ago. "Lose something?" he said, aware of the bleakness in his voice. "I dunno, Bodie. Have I?"

"What’re you talking about?"

"Never mind." Ray moved to the bar, intent on helping himself to a drink, but changed his mind. He turned to face the man who’d been closer to him than anyone for the last three years. "What’s going on, Bodie?"

"Nothing. Not a damn thing. Except my partner is eavesdropping outside my door. Which reminds me, Doyle. If you’re going to sneak around and spy on me, might want to trade those boots for a pair of trainers. Could hear you clomping up the stairs."

"’M not spying on you, Bodie."

"No? You seem to be following me around lately. What would you call it, then?"

He let the remark pass. "Trying to figure out what the hell’s wrong with you, that’s what I’m doing." He took a step towards the couch. "Look, Bodie – mate — I don’t know what’s going on, but you haven’t been yourself lately—"

"—Who have I been then?" Bodie barked a sharp, mirthless laugh. "It’s not me who’s behaving like a lunatic."

"Yeah, yeah, sure, ha-ha. But I haven’t seen you for ages, Bodie."

"You saw me this morning."

"Not what I mean, and you know it. Where’ve you been lately? We never seem to do so much as hit the local together any more, and—"

"Christ, Ray! Will you listen to yourself? Acting like my fucking wife! I don’t owe you all my free time, you know."

"Some of it would be nice." The whole thing was blowing up in Ray’s face and he hadn't a clue why. "Think you owe me an explanation."

"What the fuck for?" Suddenly Bodie was up and in his space, his handsome face contorted into something really ugly. "I don’t owe you crap, Doyle! You’re the one comes round here spying – that for Cowley again, or can’t you live without me, sunshine? Can’t stand a fucking minute on your own? Christ, Doyle, anyone’d think you were queer for me, you keep on this way."

"Your mouth keeps going, Bodie, but I’m still not hearing anything," Ray said, stepping away from Bodie’s palpable anger, holding his own in check. "I told you I was sorry about checking out the girl, didn’t I? Look, mate, Cowley had to find out – she was with the East Germans."

"She wasn’t with anyone, Doyle. No one except me."

"Okay, fine. He was wrong. We were wrong, okay?" He shook his head. "Look, Bodie. Dunno what’s got into you lately, that’s all. You seem a bit off, depressed, even, and I—"

"Oh, great, now you’re a psychiatrist! Wow, Doyle, had no idea you had so many talents. Let's see, there was your career as an artist – oh, wait, you failed at that, didn’t you? Copper – huh, left that too. And now young Dr. Doyle thinks I’m depressed."

"Christ, you fight dirty, you know that, Bodie? Even fight your friends that way." His partner's trust, even affection, things he'd taken for granted, were turning to dust around him, and for what? He stared at the rigid form in front of him and raised a placating hand. "All right, forget depressed, unhappy, then—"

"Unhappy? Because I’m not spending every waking hour with you?" Bodie strode away towards the kitchen, then turned suddenly and fixed him with a searing stare. "Well, Raymond, that’s been convenient for you, hasn’t it? Got Bodie at your beck and call, haven’t you, whenever you need me."

"What the hell are you—"

"—You ever think, Doyle, you ever think maybe it’s because I spend too much bloody time with you that I might be unhappy? Maybe that’s it. Maybe you depress me."

"Bullshit. I’m not taking the rap for your unhappiness, Bodie." He shifted a little, took a steadying breath. "It’s all because of her, that German bird, isn’t it?"

"You don’t know what you’re talking about."

Ray snorted. He looked around at the disarray in a flat usually neat enough for military inspection, and took in the stereo with a sweep of his hand. "You tellin’ me there's nothing wrong? Shut in by yourself listening to German crap depressing enough to make you want to off yourself. Those fucking Germans—" He stopped because Bodie’s already pale face had gone white, the kind of white that usually presaged extreme violence. "Ah, Bodie, I don’t mean anything by—"

"The hell you don’t," Bodie rasped out from between clenched teeth. "It fucking galls you, doesn’t it, Ray, every time you think I have something you don’t. Not used to that. Can’t bear it, can you?"

Ray's tenuous grip on his anger was beginning to fail. "And what’s that, Bodie, besides your tall, dark and beautiful looks, eh?" He found his hands clenching and unclenching in fury, a fury that made him venture into territories better left unvisited. "What exactly have you got, Bodie? You’ve got nothing. Nothing but one dead girlfriend – if that’s what she was, mate—"

"—What do you want from me, Ray? At least she felt something for me!"

"—Not that I’d know, would I?" Ray railed on, not really listening any more. "'S not like you actually told me anything about her. Come on, Bodie. I’m your partner, not that that means anything to you. For all I know she was just someone you fucked once back in the good old days. That it, Bodie?"

"Told you to shut it! I’m warning you, shut up!"

There was blood in the water, but his mouth wouldn’t shut; he couldn’t stop himself. "You’re the one she was using, so you can stop blaming me, Bodie — I didn’t shoot the bitch, did I?"

He stopped only because Bodie's dead white face loomed a mere half-foot away, his body coiled to attack, both hands balled into white-knuckled fists.

Ray braced for a blow.

Nothing happened.

Bodie, tight with rage, suddenly slumped against the back of the couch, dropping his head into his hands as if he hadn't the strength to hold it up any longer. "You’re a bloody fool, Ray."

"Why? Why're you mad at me, Bodie? I just wanted to protect you. I only did what Cowley required, didn't I? You'd do the same if he asked you to check out some bird of mine. You know you would, even if you didn’t want to."

"Don’t be an idiot, Ray." Bodie ran a hand over his haggard face. "You know that's not what this is about."

Ray stared at him. "What is it, then?"

The fight and the spark had vanished completely. Bodie shook his head slowly and sighed as he got to his feet. "That's the problem, Ray. You don't know."

"Bodie?" Ray took a step closer, reached out a hand.

But Bodie didn’t allow the touch. "Go home," he said, moving away from the lounge into the hallway. "I'm taking a shower. Go on. And while you’re at it, ask yourself why you’re so upset about me and Marikka."

He strode into the bedroom and slammed the door behind him, leaving Ray gaping like a fish out of water.



In the car, Ray drove blindly, his instincts carrying him homeward. He felt devastated and bewildered, incapable of figuring out what had just happened. What the hell was wrong? If it wasn't the German girl, what was it, then? And that last remark…

The road blurred in front of him; unable to see clearly, he wrenched the car over to the side of the road, ignoring the protesting honks of other drivers. He sat there, engine idling, and rested his throbbing head on the steering wheel. Why was he so distressed about Bodie and the girl? Bodie’d had dozens of girls, and he’d never felt so, so,

—jealous.

He was jealous of Bodie?

It fucking galls you, doesn’t it, Ray, every time you think I have something you don’t.

No...that didn't feel right. That wasn’t quite it, was it?

Jealous.

No. Truth was, during that ill-fated affair he hadn’t been jealous of Bodie, he’d been jealous of Marikka, of the history she had with Bodie, of the time spent with him, of his attention. Of Bodie’s affection for her.

Ray sat upright, his eyes wide, not wanting to examine the thought, but forcing himself to do so. In a weird way it'd been that way with Krivas, too—

He stared at Krivas, all sorts of warning bells clanging in his head.

Krivas grinned a feral smile and Bodie smiled back the same way. There was hatred there, but something else, something Ray wasn't part of, time spent together, a shared history—

Ray gritted his teeth. Damn Krivas. Damn Bodie, too!

Jealous.

…can’t you live without me, sunshine?.

There was a Bodie-shaped hole his life right now, and just the idea of continuing on that way was unendurable.

Christ, Doyle, anyone’d think you were queer for me, you keep on this way.

Now there was a thought.

Ray took a deep breath and let it out slowly, forcing his hands to unclench from the wheel. Think about this logically. You're not queer.

He took in another lungful of air. All right, then. So what if Bodie's just as he says he is: tall, dark and beautiful. Sure you've noticed – hell, you noticed the first time you met. And it’s not as if you haven’t had a bit of experience along those lines – okay, nothing serious, and nothing really heavy, just some mutual groping and snogging, back in your wilder days. Sure, you notice some men sometimes, really good-looking ones, so okay, maybe you're not queer; maybe it's just possible you swing both ways.

But...Bodie?

Of course he loved him, but did he desire him? Was it possible his jealousy over the girl was a sign of that? Was that why the last four weeks had been so painful? Ray thought about it, and let himself feel his reaction.

What shocked him was that he wasn't shocked.

The panic dissipated, replaced by a great calm. Why shouldn’t he desire Bodie? He loved him as a friend, as a closer-than-friend for ages. Bodie was lovable, after all, as well as handsome, clever and canny, the best mate he'd ever had. And he cared for Ray – the way he'd hovered and worried over Ray's injury had been more than you'd expect from a mere friend, much more. And most of all, when he and Ray were in sync, whether on an op or off-duty, there was a connection between them, an almost electric charge when Bodie looked at him and knew exactly what he was feeling, just like he knew what was going through Bodie's head. Those moments, when the two of them clicked in tacit understanding, were precious to him.

But loving someone didn’t mean you had to have sexual feelings for them. And that was the question – could he, did he, want Bodie that way?

For the first time, Ray let himself imagine Bodie naked, as he’d often seen him in the locker room, but with his pale torso glimmering, muscles flexing, splayed out on Ray’s dark-sheeted bed bathed in moonlight and shadows, that odd eyebrow raised in lustful invitation—

"Bugger!"

With a start he heard what he’d said and started to laugh until tears poured down his face.

You're queer for Bodie, mate.

The near-hysterical laughter went on for some time, tapering off only when a sobering thought occurred to him. Maybe he'd figured out his own feelings, but there was still the enigma of Bodie's remoteness. If it wasn't about the girl, then what was it?

"Bodie, you clod, what do you want?" Ray lowered his head to the wheel once more and banged it once, twice, hoping for enlightenment.

To his surprise, enlightenment came. If he seriously counted backwards, it’d been longer than the debacle with the East Germans since he'd felt Bodie's closeness. Bodie’s odd behaviour hadn’t begun with his chance meeting with Marikka. There was that op, the one just before Marikka, Bodie and he on surveillance for a psychopath who’d been cutting up queers. There in that flat, after a failed rescue mission—

"Anything?" He handed Bodie the thermos with lukewarm coffee. "Any movement yet?"

"Nah." Bodie took a swallow and turned his eyes back to the binoculars.

Ray sprawled against the wall. "Shame about that last one. Martin. We shoulda been there, Bodie, just missed the bastard by an hour. Coulda saved the guy."

"Don't beat yourself up, Ray." Bodie took another mouthful of coffee and grimaced at the taste. "We couldn't have known they'd do that to him, could we?"

"I suppose not." Ray ran a hand through his hair. "His lover, that doctor fella. Feel bad for him. Wonder what he'll do now?"

"What everyone does who loses someone. He'll go on. Or he won't. No way to tell."

"Yeah. He was really broken up, that guy. They really loved each other, didn’t they?"

"Looked like it."

He looked up and found Bodie peering at him intently. "What?"

"You think you could ever feel that way about another bloke, Ray? I mean, loving him like those two loved each other?"

"What," he laughed, "like you and me, Bodie?"

"Yeah, sure," Bodie said. "Something like that."

Ray snickered. That Bodie, always joking! "Nah, mate. You’re not my type." He picked up the thermos and sniffed it, wrinkling his nose. "I'll go get some fresh coffee." And that had been the end of it.

But wait — in that moment, before Bodie turned away to resume his observation, perhaps for a split second hadn't there been something in his face…

…something like shutters closing off the light from a window?

He’d forgotten that. He’d forgotten all about it, how the room had gone quiet but for the noises from the street, how Bodie’d turned back to the window and put his eyes to the binoculars, his face deliberately neutral. When he returned with coffee and sandwiches, it had been back to work as usual. But never again back to normal between them.

For a moment Ray stared unseeingly at the oncoming headlights.

Bodie ruffling his hair playfully

Bodie patting his bum as he ascended the stairs

Bodie's arm draped around his shoulders

Bodie's face, ashen, as he knelt beside him, his hands trying to stem the blood gushing from Ray's thigh. "Cowley's called for help. Hang on, mate. Just…hang on."

He swung the car into a screeching U-turn and headed back the way he'd come.



This time no light shone from Bodie's window. Ray didn't care. He jammed the car haphazardly into an illegal space and ran up the stoop, making no effort to muffle his footsteps on the stairs to the second floor. He had no intention of sneaking up on his partner this time. Though he toyed with the idea of letting himself into the flat with his key, that might backfire if Bodie thought he was a prowler breaking in. Ray grimaced. Even if Bodie knew it was him, he might shoot him anyway.

God, what a bloody, stupid fool he was.

Ray took a deep breath and raised his hand to the door.

It took a good minute of pounding before the door swung open to reveal his partner, disheveled, glowering, clad only in a short robe. Ray stared at him, at the broad body, the familiar lines of him under the robe, the face he knew as well as the one in his own mirror. Idiots, the both of us.

"What—" Bodie started to say, but Ray pushed him backwards into the flat. "What the hell—"

"Shut up, Bodie," Ray growled, forcing his way inside, slamming the door with a kick.

"Told you to leave me alone. Don't want you here."

"Bullshit."

"Listen, Ray, I told you to get—"

Ray stepped closer, grabbed Bodie by the robe's lapels and stopped his words in the most expedient way possible, by pulling their lips together and kissing him soundly. There was a moment of utter stillness as Bodie froze, lips tight, body rigid. He didn't fight or try to pull away.

At last Ray released him and stood smiling like a ninny.

This time Bodie hit him.

The force of the blow sent Ray careening into the door with a painful thud, and from there to the floor, where he sat crumpled like a marionette with its strings cut.

Bodie's voice was thin and tight. "Don't know what you're playing at."

Ray passed a hand over his lip, wiping away a smear of blood. His head buzzed from the blow, but when he peered up at Bodie, hunched above him in a combative stance, he couldn't stop a smile from returning to his face. "Ah, Bodie. I'm a bloody fool, and so are you."

"What the fuck does that mean?"

"It means we deserve each other."

The furious expression grew uncertain. Hair mussed, robe askew, Bodie stood before him in all his glory, and Ray was filled with a wave of intense emotion, a tenderness so great it brought a lump to his throat. "I know, Bodie. I know."

Bodie's eyes flickered at him, pupils large, whites showing. It was as close to panic as Ray had ever seen him. "And what exactly do you think you know?"

Ray pulled himself upright and leaned against the door. "Come on, mate. No more lies. I feel the same way, you know. About you."

A spark of hope grew in the handsome face and was as quickly extinguished. Bodie shrugged and started to turn away. "Don’t know what you’re—"

His hand shot out to the broad shoulder and clenched there. "Bodie, you berk," he said affectionately, turning his partner to face him. "Didn't know for the longest time, did I?" He dared to lift his other hand to Bodie’s shadowed jaw, relieved when no move was made to push it away. "Had some sort of blind spot. Didn’t want it to be true, I suppose. But I do want you, Bodie. Maybe I always have. I was just so thick I couldn’t see it."

Bodie shook his head. "You don't know what you're saying, mate."

"Yeah, funnily enough, I do. I finally do."

"You think you do. I know you, Ray. You always want to try something new. You don't keep to any one thing for long."

"Oi. I've stuck to you, haven't I?"

"But—"

"But what?" Ray sputtered, exasperated. "Why won't you trust me?"

"Ray, you're straight!"

"Not so much, as it happens," Ray said happily to Bodie's open-mouthed gape. "Anything you'd like to tell me?"

"You're taking a lot for granted."

"Am I, Bodie?" He waited, and when Bodie made neither protest nor objection, he wagged a finger at him. "Thought not. So. That it, or is there anything else you'd like to clear up?"

"Yeah," Bodie said, staring intently into Ray's eyes. "When you say you 'want' me, what exactly do you mean?"

Ray grinned at him toothily. "You dumb clod. C'mere."

The kiss this time was rougher and more passionate. Ray thrust his body tightly against Bodie's, relishing the warmth in his arms, the great heart thudding a rapid tattoo against his own. Lost in the feel and taste of Bodie's mouth, he prayed silently -- did I get it right, after all?

Slowly, gradually, Bodie’s arms came up to enfold him.

Ray fell into the kiss like a man seeking rescue. There was nothing quite like Bodie's mouth – the lingering taste of whiskey and toothpaste, the feel of those wonderful lips and clever tongue against his own. Ray moaned with delight.

There were sparkles behind his eyes; belatedly he realized he'd stopped breathing. He pushed back and found Bodie panting as well. Bodie opened his dark eyes half-mast and peered at him as if he were a strange and precious object. "Ray."

"Yeah, mate, I know." He felt like laughing.

Long fingers threaded through Ray’s hair, lingered on his neck, stroked down his chest, eliciting shivers. His own hands roamed freely down the expanse of skin before him. Bodie's fingers traced over his stomach and suddenly he was in a rush, as blood flowed south, escalating his urgency. He found himself trembling, his usually deft fingers awkward and useless as they struggled with the knot of Bodie's robe. He cursed under his breath.

"Easy, Ray." The throaty whisper blew across his ear, increasing the intensity of his trembling. "Let me, or we'll be here all night."

"All night?" he said, frustration coloring his voice. "Don't think I can wait that long, mate."

A familiar rich laugh echoed against him as Bodie pried his hands away from the knot. "Now you know how I've felt."

His hands stilled. "Has it been a long time?"

"Only since I met you, sunshine."

"Huh. Think you could have given me a clue."

Bodie cuffed him lightly on the side of the head. "Don't think I could have been more obvious, all the groping I've done. It's you who's thick."

"Yeah," Ray admitted. "That's true." His hands returned to the problem of the knot.

"Ray," Bodie groaned. "You're killing me here. Do you know what you're doing?"

"Got a general idea. Now will you shut up, Bodie, and let me do it?"

"Easy," laughed Bodie, holding him tight. "Take it easy, Ray."

And in the end, that's exactly what it was — easy, and as natural for them as if they'd been doing it for years. Ray pushed until Bodie's back met resistance against the front door, and set about divesting him once and for all of the Gordian-knotted robe. Bodie's faster fingers opened Ray's trousers and shoved them down, hampered though they were by Ray's frenzied wriggling. After that it was merely a matter of leverage and friction.

Easy.

Pressed against Bodie's solid form, skin to skin, Ray's vision clouded with sparks that rapidly evolved into a colorful fireworks display. Their movements grew frenetic as they rubbed and thrust against each other; beneath him Bodie muttered nonsense words, his restless hands clutching at Ray's hair, clawing down his back and clenching, finally, on his buttocks. Ray was swept away on a heated flood of sensation. With a wordless cry he thrust a last time. Bodie grunted and a warm rush spurted between them; the sensation wrung his own climax from him.

They lay there against the door, twitching with aftershocks, totally spent and utterly exhausted, hearing nothing but each other's labored pants.

"You randy little demon," Bodie murmured, eventually. "Couldn't wait for a bed. Nasty. Been saving all that for me, have you?"

He pulled back to see that remarkable eyebrow cocked at him arrogantly. It wasn't quite enough to fool him, though. So much tenderness suffused Bodie's face that Ray's heart swelled with joy.

"Yeah, mate," he said, trying for cool, but failing as emotion roughened his voice. "All for you, just for you, Bodie. Sorry I didn't see it sooner."

"You idiot," Bodie said smugly, pulling Ray closer. "Blind as a bat, you are."


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