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Pros Big Bang 2011 - The Riverboat Queen

Back to Part One
Part Two

The young man leaning against the wall of the pilothouse was staring. Bodie was staring right back. Doyle was starting to wonder who would blink first. 
Not that Bodie hadn’t blinked when they’d boarded the paddle steamer to find the androgynous apparition watching them as they walked up the gangplank.  He looked about twenty, but was probably older; his longish hair was blond but probably bleached; his blue eyes were heavily lined with eyeliner, the lashes so black they had to be mascaraed; he was wearing ridiculously tight jeans and an equally ridiculous bright orange shirt decorated with white flowers, the edges tied in a knot at waist level; and while Teri, who was standing next to him, was watching them both the young man’s attention was fixed solidly on Bodie, studying him with undisguised interest – from top to bottom.  Doyle could feel Bodie’s discomfort as those blue eyes measured and lingered, obviously liking what they saw. 
“I didn’t think you’d come back,” Teri said, and Doyle turned his attention back to her, leaving his partner to carry on the staring competition.  
“Took the sign down, didn’t you?”
“So I did.  And here you are, bag and baggage.”  She turned to the boy.  “Billy, this is Ray Doyle and Bodie.  Show them around the boat then take them down to their cabin, let them settle in.”
Billy smiled and straightened up.  “My pleasure,” he said, throwing a come hither look over his shoulder. “Follow me.”
Bodie rolled his eyes and Doyle grinned but they followed dutifully in his wake.
“We call this the clubroom,” he told them, stepping though the door of the forward cabin and waving his arm with a flourish making the bracelets on his wrists jangle. 
The room was large with a bar extending down one side, three large comfortable looking booths with accompanying tables on the other.  Across the centre of the room were several rows of not so comfortable looking straight backed chairs, all facing towards a stage set at the rear of the room. “We hold all our performances here.”
“I’m sure you do,” Bodie muttered. 
Unperturbed, Billy flashed a smile, battered his eyelashes and leaned towards Bodie. “I can always arrange a private showing, just for you, dearie.”
Bodie’s flush made Doyle grin.  It was fun watching his partner squirm but probably unfair. 
“Teri said the performances were Friday and Saturday,” he said by way of distraction.
Billy straightened, leaving Bodie in blessed peace for the moment.  “Yes, the place is full of drag queens twice a week. Archie and I are a double act, you’ll meet him later.” He posed prettily and turned a pirouette. “We’re known as the Pointless Sisters, no doubt you’ve heard of us?”
“Er, no,” Doyle told him.
Billy looked disappointed. “We’re very popular on the drag circuit you know.”
“We’re new around here.” Bodie had at last found his voice.
“Obviously.” Billy pouted for a moment then with a toss of his head made for a heavily curtained partition beside the stage.
“The sound and lighting systems are back here and the galley,” he said, reaching out to pull the curtain aside.  “We serve chicken in a basket to the patrons most evenings and you can help yourself to the leftovers – but you’ll have to beat Archie to it, the boy has hollow legs.  If you…” He got no further as a small dynamo exploded from the other side of the curtain and collided with him full force sending him staggering back into Doyle and Bodie.
“And this,” Billy continued, regaining his balance and glaring at the bundle of arms and legs sprawled at their feet, “is B.J, who doesn’t believe in walking sedately anywhere, never mind through a doorway.”
“Didn’t know you were fuckin’ there, did I?” the figure remained on the floor for a moment, obviously waiting for a hand up.  When none was forthcoming the figure, that Doyle now realised was a boy even younger looking than Billy, climbed to his feet and glared at the three of them.  He too was dressed in jeans but they were nowhere near as tight as Billy’s, and his t-shirt was loose and long. 
“Now, now, B.J, mind the language please,” Billy tutted. “This is our new barman, Ray Doyle and our new bouncer, Bodie.  Or maybe that’s our new barman, Bodie and new bouncer, Ray, I’m not sure.  They’re probably interchangeable.”
It was quick, the sudden look of fear that slid into the boy’s eyes concealed a second later by the flop of hair that fell across his forehead from under the baseball cap he wore as he ducked his head.  But Doyle had seen it and wondered. A quick glance at Bodie confirmed his partner had noticed too. 
When the boy looked up again the fear had been replaced by studied indifference. “Teri said someone was startin’. You can use the galley but make sure you clean up after,” he said, before turning abruptly and hurrying away through the clubroom. They watched until he had vanished from sight.
“You’ll have to forgive B.J, he’s young,” Billy sighed, “and he’s had a rough time of it lately.” Turning back towards the galley and without further explanation he carried on through the doorway, “This way, dears.”
“Teri’s quarters are through there,” he continued, waving airily at a closed door beyond the galley.  “Of course no one goes in unless invited.”
There was another hatchway opposite, leading out onto the open stern deck and Billy ushered them through then down another stairway to the lower deck.  It was dark and musty below deck, a single light illuminating the long narrow passageway that ended at the solid wall of the bulkhead. Several doors led off the passage. Billy opened the first one so they could see inside.  Mirrors, set above a long bench covered in bottles, pots, powder puffs and other object, glinted back at them. 
“The dressing room for les artistes,” Billy told them, closing the door again and moving along the passage to the next door.  “The bathroom. It’s a little small for hunky men like you,” he simpered, “but I’m sure you’ll cope.”  Billy wasn’t exaggerating.  The room contained a toilet, wash basin and curtained shower all crowded together in one compact package.  Doyle wondered if he’d be able to get the door closed once he actually got inside.
The next door was larger than the others. “This leads to the engine and boiler rooms.  Obviously not in use any more.  Sid potters around in them a bit but otherwise it’s kept locked.”
Billy pressed on past the next door two doors, pointing to each in turn.  “B.J’s cabin, my cabin - I’ve had to share with Archie since … well, since Teri told me to.”
“Which cabin is Sid’s?”  Doyle asked, risking Billy’s curiosity at his question.
But Billy didn’t seem perturbed.  “Oh, Sid doesn’t sleep on board.  He’s got digs somewhere on the docks, no one knows where.  Bit of a mystery man, our Sid.” They stopped in front of the last door before the bulkhead.  “And this, gentlemen, is your cabin.”  He opened the door with a flourish.
The cabin was bigger than the bathroom, but only just and Doyle caught Bodie’s shudder in the corner of his eye as they stepped inside.  There was a wardrobe, a small desk with a straight backed chair, a washbasin and a bunk – a very narrow bunk.  
“You’re joking!” Bodie muttered.  “And, pray tell, how are we both going to fit in that?”
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll manage,” Doyle tried being pragmatic.
“Not the way you spread yourself out,” Bodie grumbled.  “I’ll be lucky to fit my big toe in once you’ve settled.”
Aware that Billy was leaning against the door frame and watching them closely, a smirk on his face.  Doyle dropped his rucksack on top of the table, walked over to the bunk and sat on it.
“This is fine, Billy.  Thanks,” he said.
Billy kept his eyes on both of them as he straightened up.  “Glad you like it,” he said, before turning his attention back to Bodie. “It should be very … cosy for you. Do let me know if you need any help settling in, dearie.”  Then with a sly smile and a wink he was gone, the door closing gently behind him.
Doyle waited for the explosion.  It wasn’t long in coming.
“Bloody hell, Doyle!”
He was in front of Bodie in seconds, laying a finger across his lips and whispering, “Ssh, not so loud.”
“Why?” Bodie whispered back, looking quickly around the cabin, dislodging Doyle’s finger in the process. “Do you think it’s bugged.”
“Nah, wouldn’t have to bug it, mate.  You seen the how thick these walls are?  Nothing more than plywood.  One of us farted they’d hear it all the way down to the dressing room.”
Bodie grinned.  “We’d better not fart then.”  Then his face fell.  “Better not do anything else either.  Why do I have the feeling we’re more under surveillance than they are?”
“Maybe we are.”
“You think they’re on to us?”
Doyle shrugged and began to unpack his rucksack, alternately hanging clothes or stacking them on one of the shelves in the wardrobe.  “Dunno. Could be just natural caution.  Can’t help but feel there’s more to Teri than meets the eye though.”
Bodie looked at him as he began unpacking his own clothes.  “You’re right there, Sunshine.  Much more than meets the eye.”
Doyle shook his head, “Not what I meant.  And Billy was more than interested in us … or rather, you. ” He grinned.  “Think he fancies you.”
“Fancies me!  I thought he was going to eat me.”
“Don’t worry.  He’d pretty soon spit you out once he found out how sour you are.”
“Very funny!  Anyway, I don’t fancy him. And I’m not used to be looked at like a piece of meat.”
“No, you’re more used to doing the looking.  Dunno why you’re so upset, you should think of it as a compliment.”
“That kind of compliment I can do without, thanks.”  Turning to the bunk he examined it critically then dropped his now empty rucksack on the floor and threw the small case he’d also been carrying onto the far too small bunk. 
“What about this?” he said as he opened it and threw the couple of shirts it contained onto the bunk before lifting the false bottom to reveal their own personal weaponry, Bodie’s Magnum and Doyle’s Walther. 
Doyle moved back to the wardrobe and opened it.  “Stick it on the bottom, throw the rucksacks on top.  Should be okay.”
“Unless someone does a thorough search of the cabin,” Bodie remarked. But he did as Doyle suggested.  The case was all but hidden by the hanging clothes and the two rucksacks.   As concealment it was less than desirable, but would have to do under the circumstances. 
“Well, ready to face gay abandon and Billy’s interest?” Doyle queried when all was in order in the cabin.
“No,” Bodie answered, heading for the door.  “But as you’ve got us into this fine mess, Stanley, I suppose it’s up to me to get us out.”
The figure stood motionless in the centre of the stage as the curtains open, microphone hanging loose in her hand, hair combed flat -  urchin style, spotlight picking up the glints in her halter necked, floor length gown.  As familiar music began to play softly from the speakers set to either side of the stage Teri lifted the microphone to her mouth
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, Wilkommen meine Damen und Herren, welcome to the cabaret.”
Then the music to Cabaret got louder and she began to sing, slowly at first then faster as the song speeded up.  Her voice was strong and slightly husky, with a light tone that hit the high notes well.  She swished and swayed in cunning imitation of a buoyant, sexy Lisa Minnelli, playing to the crowd, and they loved it.
”Quite something, isn’t she?”  It was Sid, standing beside Doyle behind the bar.  He’d arrived at the paddle steamer around the same time as the other drag acts - a flamboyant mix of queens in elaborate frocks and high heels and suave looking men in tight trousers, blazers, silky shirts and cravats - who had disappeared into the below deck dressing room in a haze of feathers and perfume.  He and Bodie, who had been busy helping Teri and B.J with the setting up of the club at the time, gazed with some amazement tinged with amusement at the procession. 
“She is,” agreed Doyle grabbing the opportunity to find out a little more about their employer. The clubroom was crowded, nearly every chair occupied and the booths along the side wall filled but the start of the entertainment had brought a brief pause at the bar.  “Have you known her long?”
“A while,” Sid told him, wiping at the bar counter. “I was skipper of the Riverboat Queen when she was running the Humber estuary out of Hull.  Only she wasn’t the Riverboat Queen then, was the Juno. Her boilers went bust in ’70 and they reckoned she was too expensive to fix so she was laid up, goin’ to be scrapped.  Only Teri bought her. Had her towed down here. I was out of a job by then, not much need for paddle steamer skippers any more, so she took me on.”
“What about Billy and Archie, she take them on then too.”
“Nah, they’ve only been around a year or so. Needed somewhere to live. You could say Teri is a collector of waifs and strays.  Doesn’t turn anyone away as needs help.”
“Is that the story with B.J as well?”
“B.J is Teri’s cousin,” Sid told him, as the subject of their discussion appeared through the doorway next to the stage, arms full of small wicker baskets that Doyle assumed contained snacks for the patrons. 
“He’s a bit young to be in a place like this isn’t he?” Doyle was more curious about B.J than anyone else. The boy had barely spoken during the set-up of the club, answering questions in monosyllables as he helped with chairs, sorted through tapes for the huge sound system behind the stage and checked the spotlight.
“Probably, but Teri’s took him in after some sort of family ruckus and he’s better off here than on the streets.”
Billy and Archie were next on stage and they were all glitter and glam, tight figure hugging mini dresses and elaborate wigs, as they mimed their way through their act.  They had met Archie earlier in the evening.  A small, wiry man with dark hair and skin who was the antithesis of Billy, until he donned his wig and make up.
Doyle couldn’t decide if he was more fascinated by the entertainment or the exoticness of the audience, a strange mix of gender-bending and crazy hair, of the young and the stylish and of Bowie clones and leather men, a culture at once familiar but also strange. Doyle took it all in his stride.  He hoped Bodie was doing the same.  Glances in that direction put his mind at some rest.  His partner was acting the bouncer to the hilt.  Checking memberships, questioning everyone who wanted entry or standing at the back of the room with his arms folded across his chest in typical Bodie fashion, looking the hard man.  But Doyle was never fooled by the face Bodie showed the world. Yes, he was a hard man, cold, almost, at times, with a deadly sense of humour that mocked himself as much as others. But Doyle knew what was under the surface - the softness , the vulnerability that made up the strange and sometimes complex mixture that was William Bodie.  No, his Bodie didn’t fool him one little bit.  As the evening progressed he found himself watching his partner more and more, taking in the lines of his body, the way his clothes clung to those lines in just the right places. It was strange, this new found freedom to watch and admire where everyone else was doing the same.
Business at the bar was brisk enough to keep both Doyle and Sid busy but not run off their feet and Doyle had time to keep an eye on every face, check every customer over trying for a clue that would tell him he had found what they were looking for, that someone was out of place, but it was an impossible task, how could you tell in this mix of hybrid humanity who was out of place? 
It was near closing time when Doyle glanced up from washing glasses to spot Bodie standing by the door of the clubroom, apparently involved in an altercation with what looked like a half dozen young skinheads, judging by the shaven heads, jeans and tattoos.
“Looks like your friend’s got a bit of trouble.” Sid nudged him, nodding towards the scene at the door.
“Nothing I’m sure he can’t handle,” Doyle responded.  But he came out from behind the bar anyway and dodged his way past chairs and standing patrons to come up beside Bodie’s shoulder.  Bodie acknowledge his presence with a sideways shift of his eyes but his full attention remained on the skinheads.
“I’ve told you to clear off, now turn around and go back where you came from.”
“You can’t do that, we got our rights, yer hafta let us in.”  It was their obvious ringleader who spoke, a tough with a clenched fist tattooed on his neck.
There was a chorus of “Yeah, you tell ‘em, Whitey"s but Bodie ignored them and kept his focus on Whitey.
“I don’t have to do anything,” Bodie spoke with careful enunciation. “This is a members only club, and you’re clearly not a member.  And you’re probably under-age.”
“Am not.” The tough was indignant as he dug into his jeans pocket and pulled out a wallet, which he opened and pushed close to Bodie’s face. “See!”
Bodie peered at the offered licence and shook his head.  “Exactly as I suspected,” he sighed. “Too young to play with the adults. It’s sad what they let out on the streets these days, isn’t it, Ray?”
“Yeah, that it is,” Ray agreed.                                                       
Whitey seemed to register Doyle’s presence for the first time and he looked from one to the other, sudden uncertainty in his face.
“You’re winding me up, you are.”
Bodie finally turned to Doyle, an expression of mock incredulity on his face.  “Now, would I do that, Ray?”
“’Course not, Bodie. 
He turned back to Whitey, all patience lost.  The look on his face made Whitey take a step back.
“I’m going to tell you once more.  Clear off before I take that licence off you and shove it up your arse. And take your little friends with you.”
Whitey backed up a few more steps, his followers falling away behind him.
“Didn’t wanna see a bunch of faggots anyway.” Whitey was trying for bravado now. 
“No, you wanted to make trouble and it’s not happening.  Push off.” Bodie took a step towards the skinheads, forcing them back another step.
“Fuckin’ faggots, all of you.  Don’t see if I get you one day, fag,” With this last piece of repetitive bravado Whitey and his cronies piled back down the gangplank, throwing two fingered gestures in their wake.
“Right little charmers,” Doyle pronounced as they vanished into the night.
“Yeah, and erudite with it.”
With the annoying disturbance of the skinhead invasion safely taken care of Doyle turned his attention back to matters at hand.
 “Picked up any information yet?”
“Not a dickey bird. I’d lay odds there’s not a diamond smuggler amongst this lot though. What about you, any joy with Sid?”
Doyle shrugged.  “Not much better. He’s been on board, literally, since Terry bought the paddle steamer. Billy and Archie have been working here for months.  And B.J is Teri’s cousin.   Speaking of which, I’d better get back to it.”

“Yeah. Thanks for the backup, Sunshine.”
Doyle grinned.  “Couldn’t let you have all the fun, could I?”
Bodie’s chuckle followed him as turned back to the bar and Sid, who greeted him with a thumbs up when he arrived.
“Nice work, about time those arseholes got sent off with a flea in their ears.”
“Had trouble with them before have you?”
“They’ve been hanging around for a few days, making a nuisance of themselves.  First time they tried coming on board though.”
The bar got busy then, people wanting to get in before last drinks were called so Doyle didn’t have a chance to question Sid any further about the skinheads. He looked for Bodie later, after the club closed and while they cleared the bar, stacked away the chairs and Sid had left, but couldn’t see him anywhere.  Lazy sod’s probably in bed already, he thought.  But Bodie wasn’t there when he made it to the small cabin, and the last he’d seen of him he was still standing guard by the clubroom door. Still, he was bound to turn up sooner or later, it wasn’t as if he could go very far after all.  With that conclusion Doyle slipped out of his clothes and slid into the bunk
Bodie watched as the last of the patrons disembarked and headed off through the gloom of the street lamps.  The skinheads who’d tried to enter the club earlier were now standing in a tight group on the embankment near the lane that led to Five Elms Road, smoking and delivering cat calls to anyone who passed their way.  The straggling patrons dodged past them in huddled collections, hurrying down the lane, seeking the comparative safety of the more brightly lit main road.  Bodie started down the gangplank intending to see the yobs off once and for all.
“Leave it. They’ve been hanging around the last few nights, the cowards won’t do anything but throw insults while they can be seen.”
The voice startled Bodie, which it shouldn’t have.  He should have been aware of Teri’s presence but she seemed to have the uncanny knack of creeping up on people.  He looked around at where she was standing by the clubroom entrance.  She’d changed out of her drag queen costume and was wearing jeans and a flowered tunic top.  She looked strangely young and vulnerable in the moonlight.
“Could be trouble. Might be worth calling the cops, get them moved on,” he advised.
Teri looked at him, surprise and scepticism crossing her features.  “You really are new around here, aren’t you? We call the police and the only people they’ll move on are my customers.  They might even throw a raid of the club in, just for the hell of it.”
Bodie felt like he’d been caught out and to cover his confusion he bent to the task of pulling in and securing the gangplank.
“Here, let me give you a hand with that.” Teri moved to the other side of the gangplank, grabbing hold of the rope and together they pulled in the heavy wooden plank, slid it into its storage position and secured it.  When they were finished Teri brushed her hands down her jeans to get rid of the dust and looked Bodie in the eye.
“C’mon, Just Bodie,” she said with a smile. “I’ll buy you a drink, you deserve it.  You and your boyfriend have done well this evening.”
She led the way to the aft deck and through the doorway to her private quarters. They were spacious but plain; a lounge suite and television set holding centre position, a small desk and chair against the far wall, a mini bar with two barstools standing in front of  the large square window and a curtained alcove that Bodie suspected was the bedroom.
Teri moved behind the bar and drew the curtains across the window then turned to the array of bottles on the bar top. “Scotch?”
“Yes, thanks,” Bodie told her as Teri poured a generous shot into two glasses and handed him one.
“Good work with those yobs,” she said.  “You just may have frightened them off permanently.”
“Been a problem, have they?”
“Some. No doubt there’ll be others to take their place.” Teri looked into the depths of her glass before speaking again. “Tell me, Bodie.  What’s a man like you doing in a place like this?” She was smiling at the reverse cliché but Bodie knew her question was serious and that she wouldn’t accept anything less than a reasonable explanation so he decided on some half-truths.
“Like Ray told you.  We were looking for work and saw the sign. Been drifting around since leaving the military, picking up jobs here and there.  It seemed like an opportunity for some steady work.”
Teri nodded.  “So, army men, then. What is it about men in a uniform that makes them so attractive?” She smiled when Bodie laughed then carried on. “How long have you and Ray been together?”
Bodie answered almost automatically, “Five years, three months,” then realised how that had sounded and added, “that is, we met up in the army five years and three months ago. Nice set-up you have here,” he continued, needing to move away from the current subject, namely him and Doyle.
Teri glanced around the room. “Yes, my father gave me all this”
“Generous father you’ve got.”
“Oh, it was a very special going away present. When he finally realised that the son he had was actually more of the daughter he didn’t have, or want, then he wanted shot of me, forever.  That cost him.”
“That must have hurt.” 
Teri shrugged and downed another sip of scotch, then smiled. “It was no more than I expected by then.  My father was… is a bigot and a homophobic old bastard.  He’s also very rich.  He made my life a misery for the hell of it, to toughen me up, he said.  I hid my real self from him for most of my life, or maybe it was more that he just wasn’t looking.  But when finally he did notice, he didn’t like what he saw.  He couldn’t wait to see me off.”
“What gave the game away?” Bodie asked, impressed by Teri’s bland recounting of what must have been a difficult time for her.
“I’m not sure.  It could have been the sequins.  Or maybe that lamé dress and feather boa I wore to one of his board meetings, the one that was supposed to introduce me as the heir apparent to his shipping empire.”
Bodie laughed, he couldn’t help it and Teri joined him, “You should have seen his face.” She was smiling broadly now. “It was a picture. And the board members didn’t know whether to sympathise or cop a feel.” She shook her head at the memory.
“So he paid you off and sent you on your way.”
“Yes, with instructions never to blight his life again.  I took the money, it was part of my supposed inheritance anyway, and found the Queen.  I was my father’s greatest disappointment but we did have one thing in common, we both loved the sea and ships. I used to watch the paddle steamers coming into harbour at Hull and dreamed of one day piloting one.  I’ll never do that now, but at least I have the next best thing.”
“Some dreams are worth pursing,” Bodie said, whose own dreams had been of freedom, adventure and escape from authority. 
“Very true.  I’m proud of what I’ve got and I’ll do a lot to hang onto it.”
Bodie thought the words were more than just a statement of fact. A warning perhaps? Or to be taken whichever way Bodie wanted to take them
“So, Bodie.  What made you leave the army?”
“This and that,” Bodie was deliberately evasive. It wouldn’t hurt to let her do some guessing too. “Didn’t really suit me in the end. Too much discipline; too many people telling me what to do.”
“You don’t seem to be the type of person to take discipline lying down.”  Her wicked grin made Bodie flush.  Then he wondered why she had the ability to make him uncomfortable with such an obvious innuendo. “You’re not used to someone like me, are you, Bodie?”
Bodie looked at her and made a decision.  “No, I’m not. But I dare say I will get used to you, in time.”
This time she laughed outright, “Honesty.  I like that in a man.  I think you and I will get along just fine, Bodie.”  She drained the last of her scotch and put the glass down on the bar.  “But now, it’s late and it’s time to kick you out.  Your boyfriend will be wondering where you are.”
“Ray’s a big boy, he can tuck himself into bed,” Bodie told her. But he downed his own drink anyway and put his glass down beside Teri’s empty one. “I’ll check around before I go down though, make sure everything’s quiet.”
“Thanks,” Teri said as she walked with him to the door of the cabin. “Although I don’t expect it will be necessary, I’m sure those troublemakers got the message.”
Bodie didn’t quite have Teri’s confidence but kept the thought to himself as he let himself out, stopping in the doorway for a moment to look at Teri in the dim light of the passageway.  Her features were softened by the shadows and he realised just how beautiful she was.
“’Night, Teri,” he said. “Thanks for the drink.”
“You’re welcome, Just Bodie,” she answered and closed the door behind him.
He waited in the passage for a few minutes, watching the light under the door of the cabin until it went out. 


It was the early hours of the morning by the time Bodie had walked a quiet tour of the upper deck then stumbled into their shared cabin. A dim brightness coming from the small porthole emitted hardly enough light to see by and only managed to cast grim shadows into the corners of the room. He could just make out the mound in the bunk that was Doyle, already in bed and taking up all the available room in the narrow bunk. 
“Trust him,” Bodie muttered, starting to undress, cursing as he cracked his shin against the edge of the bunk while trying to take off a sock.  Finally he was naked, now all he had to do was somehow squeeze himself into the bunk beside his partner.  He studied the situation.  Doyle was lying half on his side but mostly on his back, one arm flung up on the pillow. The moonlight that streamed in through the porthole bathed his face in soft light, accentuating the planes and angles and making the hollow under the misshapen cheekbone seem deeper than it really was. The sheet was tucked at an angle across his body, leaving most of his chest exposed and revealing the dark tangle of hair at its centre.  Bodie felt an insane desire to run his fingers through it, but he resisted.
Sighing at the difficulty of the job ahead of him Bodie, perched on the edge of the bunk and lifted the sheet.  Bending forward he whispered, “Ray, move over. Let me in.”  All he got in response was a snuffle and a snore.  Damn, this was going to be harder than he thought.  But sleeping on the floor was not an option.  He tried again, this time pushing on the slightly raised shoulder as he swung his legs up and onto the bunk.  “Come on Ray, move over.” Surprisingly, after a mutter and snort Doyle obliged, turning his body towards the wall.  Bodie went with him, his own body sliding in to fit perfectly along Doyle’s back, groin comfortable against rounded buttocks, chin resting in the mass of curls. Doyle sighed and snuffled again. All was quiet.  Content, Bodie snuggled in and pulled the sheet over both of them, letting his arm slide over his partner’s waist.  He immediately started to drift off into sleep and his hand slipped a little lower of its own volition, his fingers encountering springy curls then soft, flaccid flesh. The feeling was nice and he subconsciously began to stroke.
“Don’t start anything you can’t finish.”  The voice was drowsy but firm.
Bodie sighed and moved his hand back to Ray’s stomach.  “And why, exactly, can we neither start nor finish?”
Ray shuffled slightly in Bodie’s arms, the movement causing a friction Bodie didn’t want, not if he were being denied relief.  “One, because we’re actually on duty and we’ve agreed there would be no congress, which means hanky-panky to the ignorant, while we’re on the job.”
“Spoken like a true copper.  This job is a little different though, you have to admit that.”
“Which brings me to reason number two.  Sharpen your ears up, Sunshine.  Do you want to give Billy any more reason for those smirks and innuendo? Not to mention what he’d say to Cowley if we end up having to bring them in.”
Bodie groaned. The sounds coming from the next cabin were clear, if innocuous. Snorts, sniffles and low voices.  Billy and Archie appeared to be quietly arguing about the night’s performance.  The acoustics were remarkable.
“Dunno, mate. This lot just don’t seem to be your regular illegal diamond smuggler material,” he said, making sure to keep his voice low and his lips near his partner’s ear. 
Doyle wriggled again, managing somehow to turn himself around in the narrow bunk until they were lying face to face.
“Maybe not, or maybe Teri’s found another way of financing the club.  Must have cost her a bit to set this up in the first place.  Must take a bit to keep it running.”  He stopped and sniffed.  “You’ve been drinking!” he accused.
“I cannot tell a lie.  Some fine malt scotch, compliments of mine host and our current employer.”
“Oh, hobnobbing with the boss now, are we?” 
“Yes, invited in for a nightcap I was, special privileges.”
Doyle eyed him speculatively, “And?”
“It seems that not only are Sir Joshua and Teri estranged, he actually gave her a good price to get out of his life forever, enough for her to buy the Riverboat Queen anyway.”
“Ouch! That’s harsh. So, how come Teri is suddenly showering you with family secrets?”
“Well, you know me. Handsome, irresistible...”
“And engagingly modest,” Doyle finished for him.  “Yeah, you keep telling me that and one day I’ll actually believe it.”
Bodie gave his partner a short, sharp dig in the ribs, then moved his legs out of the way so that Doyle’s retaliatory kick completely missed his shin.
“She’s quite something though, paid the old man back in his own coin, really thumbed her nose at him.”
“That’s exactly what Sid said about her, that she’s quite something.  I think he’s in love with her.” Doyle looked Bodie in the eyes. “Hey, I’m not losing you to a sexy transvestite, am I?”
“’Course not.  Why should I go for a luscious brunette who looks great in a dress when I’ve got a snarly, hairy butch like you?” 
That earned him another kick that connected this time but Bodie repaid him with a quick kiss.
“Had the feeling she was sussing me out as much as I was trying the same thing on her.  I think she may have scored more points than me though.”
Doyle propped himself up, trying to peer into Bodie’s eyes. “She’s really getting to you, isn’t she? Think she’s suspicious?”
“That note says she at least knew that Jamieson was up to something.  And the chances are she knows where the girl is, has her stashed somewhere. By now she probably knows all about the diamonds.  I don’t just think she’s suspicious, I know she is. Oh, and you’re ex-military, not ex-police, if the subject ever comes up.”
“Coming down in the world, am I?”
Bodie dug him in the ribs again but Doyle didn’t even bother trying to retaliate.
“Something else is bothering you.  C’mon, what is it?”
“Those skinheads this evening.  They’re building up to something, they were still out there at closing, harassing the customers.  Teri won’t call the police though, said it would just get them into more trouble.  What gives?”
“She’s right. Homosexuality’s legal but only in very restricted circumstances.”  Doyle wriggled again until he had both hands free, then ticked off each point on his fingers as he was making it. “Both parties have to be over twenty one, not in the armed forces, and get themselves into a self-contained hotel room, house or apartment with nobody else present in the building.  So, gays can be arrested for 'importuning for an immoral purpose' anywhere considered to be a public venue. The police are just as likely to raid the club, hoping to catch the punters at it, which would be illegal and can look good on an arrest record.  Chasing after the skinheads is unproductive, unless they actually break the law, which they haven’t.”
Bodie thought about that for a while. “So public homophobia is legal but public homosexuality isn’t.”
 “Yeah, something like that,” Doyle whispered against Bodie’s neck. “Us here, being in bed together like this is technically illegal.”
“Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb then,” Bodie said, adjusting his hold on Doyle’s waist and rolling, pulling the slim body underneath him until they were chest to chest, stomach to stomach, their cocks hardening against each other.
“Bodie! What the …?”
“Shh! Remember our listeners.” Bodie nudged his nose into the lush curls at Doyle’s neck, then sucked gently on the exposed skin, feeling Doyle shudder underneath him.
“I’m not the one forgetting!” Doyle whispered hoarsely. “They’ll hear us!”
“Then I’ll just have to think of a way to keep us quiet, won’t I,” he retaliated, covering Doyle’s mouth with his own, stifling the sounds his partner was making.  Doyle opened to him almost instantly, his lips warm and soft as they always were.  Bodie loved kissing Doyle, feeling the pliancy of his lips, the way his tongue would slide against his own and the way he sometimes tasted of coffee or toast and jam but always the rich essence of Doyle.
He pushed deeper into the kiss, taking everything Doyle could give him and giving back everything he had.  When he’d finished with Doyle’s mouth he lifted his head slightly and attacked his neck again, cutting off his lover’s moans by the simple method of placing his hand over his mouth.  Doyle’s tongue came out immediately, licking at his palm as his hands slid down Bodie’s back and found his arse, squeezing and rubbing, probing, forcing Bodie to push his mouth harder against Doyle’s neck to stop his own moans from escaping into the now silent air.
They moved together, as one within their own universe, cocks slipping and sliding against each other and breathed their cries into each other’s mouths until finally they exploded, as always, together.
Panting, sated and trying to control his harsh breathing Bodie collapsed for a moment on his partner before rolling onto his side to take his weight off Doyle, and landed with a resounding crash on the floor.
He lay there for a moment, stunned, unable to understand what had happened. 
There were sounds of shuffling from the next cabin then a shouted “Quiet in there! People are trying to sleep!”
A curly head appeared over the edge of the bunk “Bodie! What the bleedin’ hell are you doing down there?” came the loud whisper.
“What do you think I’m doing, playing tiddlywinks? Fell out of the friggin’ bunk didn’t I?   Banged me bleedin’ head too.”
The light shining through the porthole was just strong enough to illuminate Doyle’s face and he could see the sod was grinning, confirmed by a stifled giggle.  Then a hand appeared and he grabbed it as Doyle hauled him up and onto the bunk again.
“Pillock,” Doyle said affectionately as Bodie rolled in on top of him again. So Bodie gave him a hard kiss, then shuffled over slightly but kept his arm wrapped around his mate.  If he was going on the floor again, Doyle was coming with him.
Doyle settled with his head on Bodie’s chest, his hair tickling Bodie’s nose.  It wasn’t long before the snuffles and snores came.  Bodie lay awake for a while, thinking and enjoying the warmth of his lover’s body against his own.  Then he let the sound of Doyle’s soft snores and the water lapping at the side of the boat lull him into sleep.

On to Part Three

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