Screw all the poets and their joys of solitude, there was nothing lonelier than listening to an unanswered phone ring and ring and ring when you were still almost a hundred miles away from home with no idea of when you'd be allowed to go back.
Bodie hung up and laid back on his single bed in the dingy rented room, trying not to think about all the reasons Doyle wouldn’t be answering at his flat. Realistically, most of them were job related and if that were the case, he hoped his partner was bored out of his mind on a stakeout and not going on a raid without backup. Bodie's backup, no one knew Ray the way he did and while the rest of the squad was good, the two of them together were the best. And if it wasn't the job, well, there was nothing he could do about it from the wilds of Bournemouth. Nothing he had any right to do anything about even if he were in London. Might as well get some sleep, he tried to convince himself, tomorrow would bring another day of chasing down leads and rumours of guns being smuggled in via the local airport.
Bodie jumped when the phone rang and then immediately cursed himself for the hope that surged through him.
"Yeah," he answered cautiously, aware that it could be anyone on the other end of the line.
"3.7," came Julie's bright voice. "You've been recalled. Stanton's turned up in a Tunisian jail and his crew's scattered, they never even left the country." Bodie took a calming breath, torn between joy at being released from the tedium and anger at having spent a week on his own chasing after shadows.
"Any new orders," he asked, once he'd gotten himself under control.
"Just to return to London and keep your R/T on. You're on standby for now until further notice," Julie answered with confidence. She'd been Cowley's logistical assistant for years now and was brilliant at her job of keeping the agents' locations and statuses sorted at all times.
Bodie resisted the urged to ask about Ray, thanked her, and hung up. It took him less than five minutes to pack, another two to leave a note and the key at the front desk, and then he was in the car feeling tired, hungry, and homesick.
The first two were not all that uncommon but the last was new. Bodie never got homesick, not when he was a boy in a bunk on a ship, not as a young man in a tent under African skies, and not as soldier in the barracks, not until he fell... but thinking about Ray just made it worse so he put his training to use and concentrated on nothing but the road. A quick stop at a transport café assuaged his hunger and driving with the windows down helped with the exhaustion—but the homesickness was an ache in his heart that no song on the radio could ease.
When he arrived, the flat was dark except for the small lamp on the side table by the front door. The yellow-gold light spilled into the hallway but didn't reach into the dark sitting room or the cold kitchen.
Bodie stopped for a minute before opening the bedroom door. Trying not to hope whilst calling himself all kinds of fool, he opened it slowly. Even though he'd told himself that he had no reason to expect Doyle to be in his bed, disappointment still shot through him at finding it empty.
He slumped against the door-frame, dropping his carryall at his feet. Bodie decided he'd move again in a minute or two, grab a shower and then try to sleep as long as possible. He was still standing there motionless when he heard a beloved voice softly call his name.
"Bodie? Hope that's you, mate, because I’m not up to fending off any intruders tonight." Doyle looked beautiful as he came down the hallway towards Bodie, curls mussed a bit and a sweet smile on his face, and Bodie broke into a grin of his own.
They met in the middle of the hall and Ray pulled a very willing Bodie into his arms. Bodie buried his face in Ray's shoulder and hugged back just as hard. Eventually they pulled away and Doyle leaned back against the wall, looking his partner over.
"I tried to call you a couple of times..." Bodie said, and then stopped because there wasn't anything he could say that wouldn't either sound like he was accusing Ray or give away just how much he had missed his partner.
Doyle filled in the silence. "Crashed out on your settee a few hours ago. Cowley had us on a stakeout at O'Shea's down at the docks."
Bodie's blood ran cold. "Christ, Ray," he said, looking Doyle over in turn and barely stopping himself from reaching to physically check him out. He knew Doyle could take care of himself but Bodie, who wasn't afraid of much, didn't like the idea of him being down there alone. Nothing short of a full-fledged army unit would make any sane man feel safe in that area. The docks were a magnet for troublemakers of all kinds and Doyle often had a knack for finding and then antagonizing those sorts of people. Which was all right when Bodie was standing beside him but it shouldn't ever happen without his partner.
Doyle leaned close again and ran a comforting hand down Bodie's arm. "It's okay, had Murph on the inside with me and a whole team ready to move in when Shannon showed. If he showed, I should say. Four nights and the bastard never arrived until we finally found out why. Somebody shot him in the head and dumped him in an alley two blocks over. Father's still furious that someone got to him before we did."
Bodie commiserated by replying, "Yeah, Cowley wanted all that bomb intel locked up in the mad bugger's head," when he really wanted to say, "I'm glad you're safe, I missed you, I was scared," all things that he wasn't sure Doyle was ready to hear. Although he wasn't too shocked to find himself ready to say them.
"The Cow isn't best pleased with Anson's grass either. Gerry swore up and down that Shannon was planning a meet there but neglected to mention that the gang had already turned on him. Inside job and everyone knew about it but us. Be glad you weren't around for that bollocking."
"Almost rather that than the boredom of Bournemouth without you. Watching planes take off and land and hauling luggage around is not exactly the excitement I signed up for when I joined this mob," Bodie complained. He didn't mind the work, even if going undercover meant doing manual labour, but it was frustrating when the work returned no results and thoroughly infuriating when he and his partner were separated and both ops turned out to be busts. It had only been a week but Bodie still resented the time spent apart.
"Missed you, too, mate. Never have to worry when you're watching my back." Bodie knew there had to be more to it than just the job; otherwise, why would Doyle be waiting in his flat? When nothing else was forthcoming he asked, "What were you doing on the couch? Could have slept in my bed, I wouldn't have minded."
"Thought about it, even tried it the other night but it's too empty without you. At least on the couch I can't really roll over and expect to find you there," Doyle said. "Took a chance that you weren't going to be bringing any company home with you tonight."
"I sleep better when I'm in your arms, or you're in mine," Bodie confessed.
"Missed you something fierce, mate," Doyle said in reply, "glad you tried to call. Would have loved to have heard your voice, even if it was just to say goodnight. Can't tell you how many times I turned around while you were gone to tell you something and you weren't there. Or expected to hear you laugh or tell me what you wanted for dinner."
"Not that we get much choice when we're hanging about waiting for something to happen," Bodie reminded him. “Missed your cooking, even that veggie lasagne you pass off as an Italian meal."
"And yet you still seem to eat your share of it. Speaking of which, are you hungry? Then again, when are you not?" Doyle said, pushing himself off the wall as if to head for the kitchen.
"Starving," Bodie replied, before leaning in to kiss Ray, the kind of kiss that spoke of longing and love and homecoming and which was more than returned in kind. He revelled in the feel of Doyle's body against his own and the sweetness of the kisses which held an edge of passion and a promise of what was to come.
"Prat," Doyle said, when the kiss ended, but seeing as he quickly stole another, Bodie wasn't too upset by the insult. "Wasn't sure when you'd be home but I got stuff in for Christmas just in case. Figured we could at least have dinner whenever you got back."
"Christmas?" Bodie knew there was wonder in his voice but he was too gobsmacked to care if Ray decided to take the mickey. Christmas wasn't for ages yet, was it?
"Today's Christmas Eve, you know. Trust you to forget," Ray said, and there was laughter in his voice but no edge to it. "Well, Christmas Eve for a few more minutes at least." They both looked over at the cheap grandfather clock at the end of the hallway which had come with the flat. It was 11:47pm.
And Bodie actually had forgotten, neither of them had had any chance to set up a tree or do anything else to celebrate the holiday. He'd intended to get Ray a gift before he'd been ordered to go down south but then they'd both been sent on separate ops. Mostly he'd forgotten because he'd made himself forget, because he didn't know if six months of fucking when the urge hit them meant that they'd be celebrating Christmas together. Even if the urge hit more often than not these days and they were spending more and more nights in each other's bed.
"I didn't have time to get your present, Ray," he apologized but his partner shushed him.
“That's all right, I know what I want," Doyle told him, with a look of desire that made Bodie weak all over again.
"And what's that, then?" Bodie asked, trying for the second time that night to tamp down his hopes lest Ray not be on the same wavelength. He knew what he wanted—and it was more than just having the best partner he'd ever known with him on the job during the day. More than spending time with the best friend he ever had. More than having the best lover he'd ever been with only on odd nights here and there. Bodie wanted everything, all the time. And that had to be the biggest Christmas wish ever made.
"Want to stay here and kiss you until Christmas, then take you to bed and wake up with you on Christmas morning. And all the mornings after that, if that's all right with you," Doyle told him, looking into his eyes with an expression that shone with all the love Bodie had ever hoped for.
"It's all I ever wanted, Ray," Bodie said, taking him into his arms again. They kissed long past midnight but neither of them noticed the Christmas bells chiming in the distance.