Just Like Normal

Shay Sheridan


"I'm not a bloody invalid, you know," Doyle says crossly, just before yawning hugely and falling asleep on the couch. Bodie rolls his eyes as the gentle snoring starts, then gets up and covers his partner with the ratty afghan from the wing chair.



"Why would you think I'd be nervous coming back here?" Ray snaps, an indignant look on his face. "'S an apartment, Bodie, not a haunted house." He snorts derisively and starts flipping through a magazine with more attitude than interest. It's a brilliant performance, one almost anyone would believe. Bodie watches Doyle's eyes stray over and over again to the place on the rug where he nearly died.



"You ever gonna leave me alone?"

"Eh?"

"Bodie. You gonna leave me alone, or you planning to move in?"

Bodie shrugs.

"Oi. What's for dinner, then?"

"I brought Chinese."

"Oh, good. Bring enough soy sauce this time, have you?"



Bodie remembers when he liked Doyle's flat, was jealous of it. Until Mayli it was sun-drenched and spacious. Now it's claustrophobic.

The flat is dark when Bodie lets himself in with Ray's spare key. "Ray?" Silence fills the gloom. "Ray!" Nothing.

He can't stave off the wave of panic. Not again, not again not again not--

"Yeah." Doyle's voice is thin, tired.

Bodie goes into the bedroom. Doyle's sitting in the dark, on the side of the bed. "Ray?"

"I just--" Ray says, and stops. His hand rises in a gesture, flops to the bed, gesture incomplete. "Ah, Bodie."

Bodie knows if he sits down next to Ray he'll put his arm around him. And if he puts his arm around him-- So he stays in the doorway, waiting. After a while Ray lets out a deep breath. "I just want things to be normal again, Bodie. I want to feel normal."

"Nah," Bodie says, finally coming closer. "You were never normal to begin with, were you, sunshine?"

Ray looks up sharply. Bodie puts on his most innocent face. Ray chuckles softly, huskily, and a corner of the gloom lifts.



The match is on, but Bodie's not watching it. He's watching Ray not watch the match. Ray's sitting in the wingback chair, his weapon in his hand. He's endlessly manipulating it in and out of its holster, which is slung over one of the wings of the chair. There's a fine sheen of sweat on Ray's forehead, and a look of concentration that is almost physically painful to behold. Bodie watches out of the corner of his eye; there's a small but visible wince, a clenching of the jaw, every time Doyle pulls the gun out of the holster.

Bodie wants to say, "Doyle, give it a rest."

Bodie wants to say, "Ray, give it time."

Bodie wants to say, "Ray, don't go on like this, it'll come back, all of it," but of course he doesn't say it. He doesn't say any of that. And he doesn't take Ray in his arms, to hold him safe, or stroke his hair, or kiss the lips now pursed in concentration.

Bodie watches the match. But he really watches Ray.



"Crap," Doyle says, rummaging in his dresser.

Bodie sits on the bed, newspaper open, not reading a word. He's far too addicted to reading Ray to be distracted by reading mere news. "What?"

"No fucking pants."

"So? Go without." He smirks. "I am."

"Nah." Ray opens another drawer. "Oh, Christ! I forgot!" He sits down heavily on the edge of the bed, hits himself in the forehead, like a character from a melodrama.

"Forgot what?" Bodie asks, by now used to Doyle's dramatics. Ray looks good--thin, still a bit drawn, but almost like himself.

"Me laundry. Never picked it up." Ray looks at his partner. "What's it been, mate, two months?"

"Since what?" Bodie knows perfectly well since what.

"Berk. Since I was in hospital." Ray doesn't pale, doesn't clench his jaw. Doesn't seem perturbed by the memory at all.

Bodie sees the change, and his heart plummets. "Oh, yeah. What, you've left your laundry since then?" He snorts. He can act, too, as well as Doyle. He can pretend he doesn't care that Ray doesn't need him any more. "Bet it's not there. Prob'ly sold it. Or threw it out, more likely, the rags you wear."

Ray pulls a face. "She wouldn't."

"No?"

"No. Best go get it, though." Ray stands up, heads for the door. "You coming?"

"Yeah, all right," Bodie says casually.

They go out, and as Ray locks the door, Bodie thinks about the spare key. No need for it, soon.

"Hey." Ray grins as they descend the stairs. "This is just like old times, innit? Just like normal, eh, Bodie?"

"Yeah, Ray," Bodie says. "Just like normal."


redchance @ aol.com
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