Fic: Decrescendo (Pros/Apparitions crossover)
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1 February 2009 | 09:26
posted by: erushi in the_safehouse
Title: Decrescendo (Pros/Apparitions crossover)
Format: Short story (2,539 words).
Circuit Archive / Pros-Lib: Yes, please.
Warnings: As the warning is spoiler-ish in nature, I have placed it under the second lj-cut at the end of the fic. Click as you will, though I'd rather you didn't, really.
Summary: In which Doyle decides to join the RC priesthood, and the events both before and after.
Disclaimer: The lads aren't mine, alas.
In November he thought he saw Bodie’s shade at his ordination.
The man was standing beneath one of the many arched windows which lined the oratory, head bowed and fingers clasped in a perfect picture of prayer, skin at knuckles and joints pressed white and blue capillaries prominent beneath translucent eyelids. When he closed his eyes Doyle discovered that his ex-partner had stamped himself onto the backs of his eyelids, a figure painted red and blue and yellow and green as the early winter sun allowed itself to be filtered through stained lead glass.
He would not be found though, later, as Doyle sought him in the press of clergy cloth and murmured congratulations. For a moment Doyle fancied that the hollowness in his chest and at the back of his throat was disappointment, and he found that it tasted bitter, the rising of bile. Then he decided that it wasn’t so much of grief as of relief, and that was quite alright, really.
August slipped in quietly at the heels of a gradually departing July, its days warm and sunny though beginning to cool at the edges. One Thursday he found himself marvelling at how his life had settled into a pattern, the normalcy of it all: the lines of black print marching like the Lord’s Army across crisp white pages as tired eyes read them late into the night, the careful shapings of now-familiar hymns and prayers by lips both rounded and pursed, the rosary beads worn smooth and shiny under the tips of fervent fingers.
And then there were the good days. Doyle thought he looked forward to them.
Bodie was waiting for him at the foot of the their usual tree, jacket-clothed back pressed against the rough brown and grey and green of moss-coated bark and black lashes kissing cheekbones in post-lunch slumber. These black lashes twitched upwards as Doyle flung himself onto the slightly damp ground (it had rained in the morning, and the sun was no longer as good at drying things as it had been two months ago), books tumbling beside him in a careless heap.
(They would spend most of the afternoon like this, sprawled on grass and under trees, elbows and knees touching and thighs brushing, the prickly edges of grass digging through trousers of denim and moleskin and making themselves known to flesh. Conversation would drift desultorily from Doyle’s lessons for the day, theories about the book of Genesis, of Revelations, to the delegation from Rome which had arrived only on Wednesday, Met this bloke, Vincenzio, said I had the potential.
Potential, eh? What kind?
Dunno. Never did say, did he.)
At four o’clock black-painted wrought iron gates swung on well-oiled hinges as they left the grounds of the seminary; Bodie had claimed that he felt like taking in Mother Nature, the nearby park, and Doyle had been more than glad to oblige. For a while they were content to wander, left arm threaded through right and feet tripping over one another, over one another’s footsteps, over an invisible path neither of them could quite see.
At half past seven the sun began streaking the sky with shades of salmon, of amber, with a child’s paintbrush. Eventually they paused at an ornamental fountain, perching on its flared rim and dipping their fingers into the bubbling water as they studied a trio of nymphs cavorting in marble, shoulders, elbows, knees. The marble was cool to touch even through their trousers, the water cold. They remained there until eight and it became just a little too dark to see one another, hands dangling beneath a ripple-etched mirror of the evening August sky and chasing the remaining silvers of sunlight darting in the blue-grey depths, transcendental goldfish. Doyle watched in fascination as Bodie flapped his wrist and lunged after his fingers, limb fish-belly-pale as it swam through the water with a strange aquatic grace, distorted. Bodie’s fingers were warm even through the chilly slickness of water. When they finally braceleted his wrist Doyle was careful to slide his hand two inches up and the right side about, the pads of calloused palms brushing and fingers tangling into a tight knot.
There were laugh lines at the corners of Bodie’s eyes, deeper than he remembered, and the impression of a thousand past furrows between Bodie’s brows, and he thought that Bodie had grown old, that they’d both grown old, that the past year had aged them. For a moment they drifted, until Bodie began to chuckle, incongruous sounds of boyish delight, and Doyle smiled too.
The bad days always came without a whisper of a warning, indoors, in his room, while he studied, as he slept. They invariably led to the same things: Bodie’s grin slick against his spine, a hot mouth pressed on the insides of his thighs, a raspy tongue on the underside of his cock, clever fingers fitting into the grooves of hipbones and of shoulder blades as the fingers of a lover should, splaying him open, fuckfuckfuck Bodie we can’t oh God.
(In the morning Doyle would wake up to sticky smears on his stomach and between his thighs. He would brush his teeth whilst staring into the flecked mirror perched above the chipped porcelain sink. There would be breakfast with his fellow students in the refectory, toast and marmalade and eggs and tea, and there would be his morning classes. In the afternoon he would find Bodie waiting for him beneath their usual tree, and Bodie would smile as though glad to see him, as though it were their first meeting, as though he hadn’t spent a goodly portion of the previous night with his lips stretched around Doyle’s cock.)
One night he was inexplicably reminded of a telephone call, of the shattered fragments of a mug, and he began to shudder. Bodie, whose fingers were no longer tangled with his buttonholes, gathered him towards his chest and fitted his cheek in the joint between neck and shoulder. For a while Doyle snuggled, a lover’s prerogative, listening to the staccato of rapid breaths and the allegro ma non troppo beats of Bodie’s heart some inches beneath his ear, taking comfort from them. Then he realised that the breaths were his, that the realisation had made each rush of cold air down a hoarse throat and into overly heated lungs hurt, and he had to get up, stand up, for a drink of water from the jug on his dresser. The sudden coolness of night air on bare skin was refreshing.
It took him two tries to fill the glass: his hand had shaken the first time, a fit or a sudden tremor, and the water splashed on the worn wooden surface instead, dripping onto the uncarpeted flour in a series of silvered plinks which stabbed tiny needles behind his eyes and through his ears and into the base of his skull.
Bodie was still regarding him when he turned around, and so he made himself ask: “What do you want, Bodie?”
“Yes, yes.” He sighed. “But what do you want?”
“I want you to be happy.”
Bodie’s smile was guileless and entreating, the sort of smile which had shattered a thousand hearts in the man’s youth; Doyle felt something shatter in him too. He raised his hand, started to rake his curls, realised what he was doing, stopped, poured a third glass of water, drank.
“Get thee behind me, Bodie.”
It occurred to him a while later that Bodie might have had said more, only the room was empty now, and Doyle had turned away.
Things took a while to fall into place again, as they were wont, and he found himself glad of it.
The day of Bodie’s service it rained, dark and wet on a huddled group of black-clad mourners and on a sullen cluster of wreaths, lily petals waxy white curls. Like something out of a bloody novel, he thought, Bodie would have appreciated it, ha ha ha. Doyle did not attend.
In the weeks that followed he grew strangely superstitious. There were auguries in the sky, words to be read in the dregs of his tea. Days took on meanings, and months: Mondays hopeful and Fridays ominous and Wednesdays days in which anything could happen, anything, March bleeding into April into May. He found himself looking forward to crossing out the last date on each page, to flipping the fingerprint-smudged glossy pages of the calendar, certain that each new month cupped at its breast the promise of change, maybe.
(Remember the day you caught him marking out your birthday with a red felt-tip marker and a heart? How the two of you had laughed and laughed, his lips soft and his breath stinging on your chin and his hand down the front of your trousers, your fly mysteriously undone.)
He let his hair grow shaggy, certain of dire things were he to cut it; it would be November again, or maybe December, before the morning winter chill would steal his last memory of sleep-warm kisses pressed butterfly-soft to his nape. The walks were a daily habit now, feet grinding denial beneath them for mile upon mile of London street. Every morning he curled his fingers around the key he had taken to wearing about his neck for luck, the one Bodie had given him to his last flat, the one he had never returned. When he donned scarves they were always of cotton, never of wool, because wool stuck to things, like smells.
He made his decision to go to the seminary on the silver toss of a coin.
That afternoon his pen stuttered as it skimmed the regularly uneven surface of a dotted line, his fingers still unused to the lines and curls of his new name. The ‘J’ was barely tolerable, the ‘M’ a hair’s breadth away from being obliterated by two ink blots, splatters, and Doyle fancied that he was suffering from an out-of-body experience. He found it vaguely disconcerting.
Bodie, he imagined, would have had something to say about it, about all of it. But Bodie was dead, and Raymond Doyle was dead too, so Jacob Myers carefully handed the stack of forms to the smiling Sister behind the desk with a smile of his own.
The call came between the last bite of the morning’s toast and the first word of the morning’s paper.
Cowley’s voice sounded tinny through the plastic headset, his tone dry, practiced. Doyle, who had spent the previous night staring at the cracks of the ceiling above his bed and pretending he saw shapes in them, found himself quite calm, thank you. Bodie was dead. Suicide, by the looks of it. No note, but he would have wanted it that way. Invalid from legs down, what active man wouldn’t? He was always prone to sudden dark moods after all.
(Is, was, present tense, past.)
How did he die, sir?
Shot himself in his head, with his service revolver. Och, I’m sorry, lad.
Somewhere on the street below an engine backfired; in the relative quiet of the room it bore an eerie resemblance to a gun fired at close range. It made his bones rattle, his teeth ache, and Doyle tangled nerveless fingers into the twists and coils of the telephone wire as he marked time and the silence which stretched on both ends of the line to the rushed rhythm of inhales and exhales, one, two, three, four, five.
His service would be held next Tuesday. It would be better for all if you didn’t come.
I understand, sir. And thank you.
Afterwards the flat seemed too small, the bed too large and too cold. The clanging of the pipes in the walls were too loud, and the edges of the worn floorboards too real as they pressed into the soles of his feet, too painful, stifling. Two shots of whisky (or three, or four, he wasn’t keeping count, not really) were consumed before he began clearing the now-discarded breakfast things with a trained efficiency, toast crumbs and the congealed fat of bacon, a half-eaten egg.
One hour later he slipped out of his flat, for a walk, he told himself, just a walk. Hyde Park, perhaps, or St James’s. He would take in the fresh air, he would feed the birds, he would walk, he would not think about the mug a misplaced elbow had sent tumbling to the floorboards in a scatter of milky tea puddles and broken china eggshells, the mug which Bodie had given him last Christmas with a kiss to his lips and a palm cupping his arse, and he would not cry.
It was four o’clock on a Monday afternoon when Doyle came to Bodie’s flat.
Inside it was stuffy, the windows firmly shut and the cheap cotton curtains drawn, a dozen presents from various well-wishers lying unopened in a dusty heap, the click-whirr of a wheelchair. Bodie regarded him for all of twenty seconds before he told him that he shouldn’t be here.
“You shouldn’t be here,” was what he said, mouth twisted in something which might have been a smile but which looked closer to a grimace. For a moment Doyle found himself experiencing a slight vertigo, until he looked down, down, down. “Cowley will – ”
“The witness programme – ”
“Fuck that too.”
“It’s for your safety, Doyle. Only it’s no longer Doyle now, is it? It’s Myers, or have you forgotten? Would you prefer Jacob instead?”
“Damn it, Bodie, I – ”
“And what’re you going to offer me, eh? A sympathy shag?” Quieter now. “I can never return to CI5 now, Doyle. (Neither can you, come to think about it.) Can’t watch your back. Can’t be with you. Not like this, mate: never like this. Can’t live.”
There was silence for a while, the stillness of the room and of the street outside, and the squeaking of wheels on varnish-flaked floorboards which they hid their ears from and winced, winced.
“Sometimes I think I might like to end it all,” he said, and laughed, and Doyle imagined that the laugh had everything to do with madness and nothing to do with hilarity, and he shuddered. They remained as they were, for a bit, until he coaxed the other man into the living room, C’mon, sunshine, to sit, Let us sit, just sit, for a while, for a while.
Later that night he left the spongy sofa, for a bit, for a bit, wandering across the room and around it until he paused at the writing desk. The smell of gun-oil was stronger now, tickling the back of his nose and making his eyes water as he leaned over and reached under a cleaning rag scrawled with black smears like the line-work of a map gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Bodie did not wake when Doyle kissed him, on cheek and temple and on chin. He did not wake when Doyle wrapped his fingers around the gun, nor did he wake when Doyle fitted its muzzle between his lips. He did not wake when Doyle pulled the trigger.
Warning: Major character death. But I'm sure you guessed.