“Just stop moaning, will you? You know damn well things could be a lot worse.” Doyle glared at Bodie where he stood gripping the edge of the sink, head down, shoulders tense.
Throwing his damp tea towel onto the table, Doyle abandoned the kitchen, retreating before he said anything more, particularly something he knew he’d regret later.
Finding his favourite spot in front of the big bay window, he took a deep breath and leaned forward to rest his forehead against the cool glass. To be truthful, when he’d invited Bodie to stop at his place, he’d never really imagined the lockdown would last this long. But it had seemed the natural thing to do, since he had a two-bedroomed flat and they already spent much of their time together.
But now the politicians and experts were saying it could go on for weeks more, perhaps as many as twelve.
Yep, they might conceivably kill each other before this was over!
He really should have listened to Bodie. He hadn’t seemed quite so keen and it had taken Doyle’s ever-persuasive tongue, and a bit of bribery, to convince him to move in, albeit temporarily.
“But what about the girls?” Bodie had blustered at the time. “We can’t bring them both back here.”
“Penny’s staying with her daughter, as well you know and your Jane is stuck up in Yorkshire for the duration. Essential travel only, remember? So, it’s either you stop with me or sod off home and spend it on your lonesome. At least here you might eat properly.”
And that’s when Bodie had surrendered. Doyle had seen a brief glimpse of panic before he’d nodded and snuck home to pack a case.
That had been seven long bloody weeks ago!
As it turned out that the ‘girls’ hadn’t been that keen on them after all. The phone calls had quickly reduced in frequency before they’d eventually stopped altogether.
“You talk about nothing else but that mate of yours,” Penny had accused him.
“S’not surprising, is it, when he’s all I see, apart from the milkman?” Admittedly, he should have held his tongue and not pointed out that her conversation wasn’t all that scintillating either.
He had no idea what had occurred between Bodie and Jane but her name hadn’t been mentioned in ages. So now it was just the two of them again. Us against the world, as it always was, as it always will be. His oldest friend and his one true constant.
He closed his eyes and sighed when he heard the fridge door slam shut. Then a chair scraped noisily across the kitchen floor as it was presumably kicked out of the way in frustration. And just for a moment, he seriously regretted his decision. It’s not as if they couldn’t have Face Timed every day for a catch up; to see how each other was managing, to make sure their prescriptions had been delivered safely or, even, whether they’d miraculously found a free Tesco Click and Collect slot?
Left to his own devices, Doyle would have dug out his paints and set up the easel, here where the morning light was just perfect. He could even have brought his Norton over from the lockup and finished rebuilding it in the spare bedroom.
Yeah, he’d have enjoyed doing those things but was honest enough to admit that he needed Bodie’s company more. They might not watch each other’s backs on the streets any longer but it was important to keep him close. He’d have missed him quite quickly, otherwise.
Unfortunately, neither of them had much experience of this communal living lark. They’d never shared a place with anyone for more than a week or two before; not since joining CI5. A holiday or stakeout was about it really. But those occasions were different; they had purpose. This, this felt more like family life. Making decisions about mundane trivialities together; what to watch on the box, what to eat, even feeling obliged to say when you were going for a piss. What the fuck was that all about?
Yeah, he conceded, it was proving a lot more challenging than he had imagined it would be. Perhaps Bodie had known better and that’s why he’d appeared reluctant.
However, the hardest part, Doyle quickly found, was he now had far too many opportunities to Bodie-watch. Every morning, he’d be there to see him crawl from his pit, all endearingly tussled. Or he’d find himself following behind as they ran and couldn’t help but notice how his sweat-soaked t-shirt clung to every curve of flesh and muscle. There was something very masculine in the way Bodie looked in work-mode, the sleeves of his tatty overalls rolled up exposing strong forearms and yet strangely sensual when he manoeuvred the vacuum cleaner smoothly around the flat. But Doyle’s favourite, by far, was watching him, all dopey and relaxed, sprawled on the settee of an evening, glass of whisky rising and falling where it rested on his belly.
He’d seen him in all these situations many times before but the accumulative effect now seemed to stir something deep in Doyle’s loins.
And during the night, he was acutely aware of just how nearby he slept. If a single partition wall hadn’t separated them then he’d be almost close enough to reach out and touch. Unbearable torment, that’s what it was. Thank god he had his own bed. Somewhere private where he could hide, to romance his right hand, with fresh erotic images to feed his imagination.
No, no regrets; Ray couldn’t have those. It had definitely been the right decision; he needed the big lummox around. Two halves of a whole, that’s what they were. They’d make it work. They had to. This was the life he craved, after all.
Opening his eyes, he noticed that the street below was still eerily quiet. He watched as an elderly gentleman and his woebegone dog slowly meandered around the small park opposite, where the fresh leaves of the sycamores and oaks dappled the early morning sun and spoke of such promise. In contrast, a fluorescent yellow cyclist sped past, free to use the road as she pleased, unhindered by the usual commuter traffic. Perhaps she was a key worker, hurrying to save lives or feed the hungry nation.
The stupid thing about this self-isolation malarkey was that, despite now being well into their 70’s, Doyle knew that he and Bodie were both in better nick than most 50-year olds. Yeah ok, he might have a dodgy ticker but the meds kept that in check nicely and Bodie’s asthma might put him at greater risk of the virus but they were both still pretty damn fit.
He just felt so fucking useless, hiding behind closed doors, selfishly looking after themselves and only joining the local community, once a week, 8 o’clock, Thursday evening, when they opened their windows and stood there, like lemons, clapping in recognition of an anonymous group of heroes.
They should be able to do more, much more than that, surely?
It didn’t seem that long ago since they’d been the unsung heroes themselves, the best team in an elite squad, risking their lives for queen and country, clearing the streets of murderers, terrorists and the like.
Now, apparently, they’d been reclassified; ‘clinically vulnerable’ and, as such, strongly advised to stay at home.
“Ha!” he harrumphed aloud.
He jumped when Bodie’s chin unexpectedly plopped itself onto his shoulder and he felt, rather than heard, a deep sigh as it whooshed past his ear.
“I can’t stand it, Ray. I’m bored,” Bodie murmured, his warm breath peppering goose bumps across Doyle’s neck. “I need to get out and shoot something. I’m losing the will to live here.”
“Do you want to go for our run a bit earlier then? We don’t need to wait.” Doyle asked, not sure why he’d responded so quietly.
“Yeah let’s. I’ll get changed.” And the touch was gone, leaving Doyle feeling suddenly bereft.
They returned to the flat an hour later, red-faced and breathing hard, but feeling so much better after their daily allowance of freedom. They might be older but they could still maintain a steady-enough pace as they ran through the deserted streets, stride for stride, perfectly in sync.
“I’ll grab the first shower while you stick the kettle on,” Doyle helpfully suggested.
“You always grab the first shower. I don’t know why you bother announcing it every bloody time,” Bodie retorted as he pushed past on the way to the kitchen.
Doyle stuck his head back out of the bathroom door. “My flat, my shower. Ergo, I get first dibs.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Bodie replied, wobbling his head sarcastically.
Doyle was just cutting their sandwiches in half when Bodie joined him in the kitchen, glowing from his own shower, wearing a blue bath towel cinched at his waist.
“Have you nicked my shaver, Doyle?” he accused.
“Why would I use yours when I have a perfectly good one of me own?” Doyle tried not to ogle the bare expanse of flesh before him.
Bodie picked up his mug and slurped some tea, oblivious to the looks he was getting. “Well, it’s not where I left it.”
“Where’d you leave it, then?”
“I don’t know, do I? Wouldn’t have lost it if I knew where it was.” He spied the sandwiches on the worktop. “Mmmm, they look good enough to eat.”
“They’re not the only one,” Doyle replied cryptically.
Gathering his wits, Doyle turned the conversation back to the missing razor before he inadvertently said too much.
“Listen mate, there’s not enough room to swing a cat in this place. You… er… we,” he wisely amended, “have to try and keep some semblance of organisation going if we’re not going to keep losing stuff.”
“Well, I knew exactly where I kept things at my flat. I had my own order of things there. Here, I have to keep looking for a bit of space.” Bodie carried the two plates to the table and sat himself down in front of one.
“Yeah OK. Know what you mean. I’ll empty a couple of shelves in the bathroom cabinet for you. Will that do?”
“Ta.” Bodie helped himself to the biggest doorstop and took a large bite. “Cheese, ham and pickle. You spoil me, Ray.”
“Yeah I do mate. It must be love, eh?”
Bodie glanced up at that, caught Doyle’s appraising look and suddenly felt very self-conscious. “Back in a mo.”
Doyle watched as he slowly put down his half-eaten sandwich and stood up, holding on tightly to the loosening towel.
“You do realise you don’t have to dress for dinner here, mate?” Doyle pointed out.
Bodie stopped when he reached the door and turned around.
“You’ve a good body, you know,” Doyle continued. “You shouldn’t hide it so much.”
Bodie’s forehead furrowed in thought but he said nothing, just stared back in astonishment.
Suddenly, sick and tired of hiding behind innuendo and half jokes, Doyle decided on the direct approach, hoping to catch out an unsettled Bodie. Life, after all, was far too short and they’d wasted enough of theirs. He pushed up from his slouch against the worktop and stepped a bit closer.
“In fact, I’ve always fancied you.”
“Doyle,” Bodie warned. “Stop mucking about.”
“Who’s mucking? It’s true!”
“I’m being honest here, Bodie,” Doyle calmly said, moving a little closer – close enough to smell his freshly showered body.
“Now look Ray, we’ve been partners for over 40 years, yeah? Yet not once, never have you EVER suggested… that we were… could be… anything but… mates!” Bodie’s little speech ended on a rather unbecoming squeak when the backs of Doyle’s fingers brushed his forearm, stirring the fine dark hairs.
“I’m suggesting it now. What do you think?”
Bodie looked at him incredulously before shoving him away. “You’re stark raving mad. I’m getting dressed.”
But Doyle grabbed his wrist and hung on. He risked getting thumped, he knew it, but it was damn well worth it.
“Bodie, listen mate. We’re good friends, aren’t we? I don’t know anyone better than I know you and I think you can probably say the same. We’ve kept each other alive, stood side by side, shared birds, laughed, even cried together. But I want to share everything else with you now. These seven weeks have been… special. To be honest, I’ve enjoyed having you here. Yeah, I know, don’t snort, it hasn’t always been easy but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re it for me.”
Bodie didn’t reply but neither did he try pulling away. Taking that as a measure of encouragement, Doyle stepped right up close and, still holding the wrist firmly, snaked his other arm around Bodie’s bare waist, pulling them together, chest to chest, groin to groin.
“Damn it, I bloody love you,” he declared, just before shoving his tongue down Bodie’s throat.
“I’m warning you, Ray,” Bodie threatened breathlessly when they eventually pulled apart. “Consider yourself a dead man if you’re yanking my chain.”
“Don’t be thick,” Doyle scolded, cruelly pinching a bit of exposed flesh.
“Ow, that hurt!”
“Let it be a lesson, you disbelieving sod. You know damn well I wouldn’t risk all we have just to do that to you.”
“Okay.” An unusual flush of embarrassment crept up Bodie’s cheeks before he glanced away to hide it. “Just for the record,” he mumbled indistinctly. “I feel the same.” Then turning back, he looked directly into Ray’s eyes for a moment or two. “Have done since, you know, since you were shot back in ‘82.” And to prove his own point, Bodie cupped Ray’s face between his palms and gently kissed him.
Doyle had always thought he understood his partner pretty well, when in actual fact, he’d known bugger all. How the hell had Bodie managed to hide his feelings all those years and, more importantly, how had he failed to recognise the deceptions?
“You bastard. Why didn’t you say something?”
“Fear, I suppose.”
“Yeah? But I am serious, you know. Deadly serious,” Doyle whispered against Bodie’s warm lips, as he tugged the towel loose.
After all the years of friendship, it had taken a pandemic to finally knock their heads together.
And Ray realised, with a snigger, that he might actually get to work on his precious bike after all. He’d have the space to do it, once the dozy pillock moved out of the spare bedroom and into his.