A Bit Of A Stew
Disclaimer: Sadly, WAP Bodie and Ray Doyle don't belong to me. I'm only playing with them and promise to give them back the way I've picked them up.
Thanks ILWB for her accurate and fast beta services. I know that my US rambling is testing her British nerves big time. If you still catch a typo or anything--mea culpa.
Let us begin then, shall we:
"I get by with a little help from my friends."
- John Lennon
"No, not yet, sunshine. If you add the taters too soon, they'll go all mushy."
"Then what goes in next?"
"A bit of rosemary and a bit of sage. Save the parsley for the taters."
"Oh, old son, come on! A bit? How much is a bit? Is that the same as a pinch?"
Ray considered for a moment as he stirred the pot. "Well, no. It's hard to describe 'cause it depends on what you're cooking. The bit of rosemary you need for rabbit isn't the same as the bit of rosemary you need for venison and that isn't the same as the bit of rosemary that you need for duck. Or for a stew." Ray Doyle gave his friend a smirking grin. He could not tell why, but cooking came easily to him, even if--on a daily basis--meat was out of the question for his liking and his preference. Usually, his body would tell him what it needed and what it did not. And meat was not part of his daily diet.
Bodie, on the other hand, was a virtuoso with a gun or his fists--as was Ray--but when it came to cooking, he'd fail. Badly, that is. Plus, what he'd usually eat--the sheer amount of animal protein--made Ray's head spin. All right, Bodie was taller and of superior weight. All harder and heavier muscles, which most likely needed more...umh...protein. Ray swallowed and tried to rein in his thoughts before he got...carried away. The delicate smell of the half-finished Irish stew brought him back to the present.
To where his companion grumbled in frustration. Bodie took a deep breath to calm his nerves and asked, "Raaaaayyyy, then how do you know how much to add?"
"Easy," Ray smiled that inscrutable smile of his, a smile that could undo Bodie within mere seconds, if need be. And Ray knew it could. Then he reached for a ladle. "You taste it." He dipped out a small portion and cautiously sipped. "Hmmm. a bit more rosemary, I'm guessing. Here, tell me what you think, mate, will ya."
Bodie hesitantly tasted the Irish stew and pursed his lips. "It tastes all right, but..."
"It's... flat." Bodie frowned. "There's not enough of something. And, I mean, if we *finally* after all these bloody years, manage to invite the Cow over for dinner, then I suppose we should be...on the safe side, shouldn't we?"
"That's right, mate. So what do you think we should add?" Ray looked all the innocent school boy, his lips treacherously curled, his brow furrowed, his stance in front of Bodies' herd at ease. Bodie decided that the daft sod finally--finally--finally--looked...relaxed, grounded, comfortable. And he released a literal breath he did not know he must have been holding the whole day. A thoroughly relaxed Ray, smiling the way he just did, had them on the safe side all right. Not too many hours ago, this days' op had left his partner in one of his emotionally disturbed moods *again*, clutching his misery to him like a woolen blanket. Bodie had tried, tried real hard to cheer him up, get through to him and take that burden off his shoulders. First, he thought he'd failed big time with his compassionate hugs and head-ruffles. With going through the op again and again to display that Ray had not made a mistake. The young boy, barely fifteen, had been O.D.-ed before they even got there. They had no chance from the beginning. Bodie knew all too well that emotional turmoil could make his Ray a dangerous Ray. At least that was out of the question now with his partner at ease and Bodie was really looking forward to the evening.
So he simply ruffled his friend's locks and grinned widely. He had to think about the stew. And that he did. Thoroughly:
"Hm, Ray, it's got plenty of onions, and I reckon adding more cider vinegar would make it too sour. I don't know..." He tasted the stew again and suddenly his eyes lit up. "What about a little more rosemary and we can cut up some of those scrumpy apples you always have!"
"That sounds like it'll work. Very good choice, indeed. Keep an eye on that while I go to the pantry, will ya." Ray smiled back. Bodie loved this smile so much. 'Almost like an angel with golden locks,' he freely and silently admitted to himself.
"This is wonderful," Cowley said after his first taste of the savoury stew. He benevolently nodded at his pair of top operatives who sat opposite him, their shoulders, he noticed, almost touching. "My compliments, Doyle."
"Actually, sir. You should be complimenting Bodie. He made it. Well, most of it, that is." Doyle smiled proudly at his erstwhile cooking student who was pretending to act affronted by Cowley's surprised expression.
"Bodie made this?"
"You needn't sound so surprised," Bodie complained, though he was obviously pleased that the stew was being enjoyed.
"Well, considering all I knew about the two words 'cooking' and 'Bodie' in no way blending together..."
Doyle interrupted what looked like the beginning of an almost fraternal argument. "Begging your pardon, sir. I think you lost our bet." His grin was genuine.
"Bet?!" Bodie, confused now, glared at Doyle and then at Cowley. "You bet on me?"
"Actually, I bet against you," Cowley admitted, not entirely too happy. The scotch he poured into his glass, Bodie's scotch, had a neat and golden quality to it.
"I didn't. Bet against you, that is," Ray said.
Bodie turned towards Ray who wore an almost chagrined expression. Not at all reticent, he offered an explanation: "Mr. Cowley is right, ya know, sunshine. This is excellent. I told him before, that if anyone could teach you how to cook, I could."
"So what was the bet?" Bodie asked, pretending to sulk. His lip displaying the well-known- Bodie-pout, for once he did not seem able to keep the usual, blank expression on his face.
"I had to teach you how to make some of our traditional dishes, just like this stew." Doyle hesitated and then continued, blushing. "Had I failed, which I am glad I didn't, he would have made me cook for the whole A- and B-squad do next month. Ya know, the annual thing. He'd make me serve all the lads."
Silence reined after that. At least for one full minute.
Then, and only then, Bodie had had enough.
"Why do I feel...overlooked...hm? By-passed not only by my superior but also my friend? Remorse, anybody? I always thought a guilty conscience needs no accuser? Anything you could say for yourselves that..."
"For chrissake, Bodie, will ya listen for a second?" Ray's sad eyes stopped him in his tracks. 'Major guilt trip, here we come, ' Bodie thought and suddenly felt bad for his sorta useless outburst.
"Didn't mean it, did I, sunshine. Sorry. Actually, this is a good stew, isn't. Boss said so."
Ray took the scotch bottle and a generous amount of the golden liquid found its way into his own glass. But he did not drink it right away.
"Okay, it was all my fault," Ray said miserably.
'It usually is, sweetheart. You're to blame all right. All the violence in the world's your fault, Ray. The kids dying in a knifing next to Tottenham Court Road Station, even if you were miles away--must be your fault as well.' Bodie thought, but he wasn't gonna phrase it.
Ray must've read his mind. "Honestly, Bodie, it was my fault."
Cowley did not say a word. He tasted the scotch, a rarely-to-be-had single malt, kept the first sip longer in his mouth to savour its enticing, almost seductive aroma. He sat quietly, watching all that was unfolding with great anticipation.
"Don't be mad at me, Bodie, I only had to...umh...save...my reputation, that is. Remember when we had Jax and Murph over for Pizza last Thursday?"
Bodie nodded. Had been one of those *rare* occasions on which all four of them had a night off. Well, not entirely. They had been on call, with their R/Ts operational and, literally, ready to rock it. But everything had stayed quiet and calm. A relaxing evening at Doyle's new, spacious flat, which they spent playing Poker and eating Ray's fabulous home-made Pizza. Lovely, prepared with fresh veggies, juicy tomatoes, blood-red peppers, crispy broccoli, luscious peas, dainty sugar snaps, not to forget the fresh mushrooms, four kinds of cheese and this stunning Italian salami Ray got from one of their Italian informants...yeh, sure Bodie remembered that evening. Had been a good one, that. They had laughed a lot and had enjoyed themselves. And Ray's Pizza had been...unsurpassed...unexcelled.
Bodie's eyes widened in disbelief and silent understanding.
"Those bastards, those insolent, tacky bastards. Jax and Murph. It was them. They told HQ you were such a great cook, sunshine."
Cowley smiled. It was clearly evident, judging by Bodie's choice of words and his facial expression, that he only half-meant what he just said. Deep inside, Bodie was proud. Doyle always made him proud, Cowley knew that the Bisto kids he'd teamed so well were something pretty special. His operative's onset was quite entertaining, though. Cowley took another sip. Excellent malt, seasoned in one single barrel. Bodie was going to regret having opened this bottle.
Ray slouched his shoulders and hung his head. "Yeh, precisely. Murph and Jax boasted it. They've told Mr. Cowley that, hey, why not have Doyle cook the dinner for this year's squad do. He's talented, you know, such a good cook, you'll never hear the end of it and all...Mr. Cowley confronted me just days later. But at least, left me one chance to drag myself out of it. He wanted me to prove I could teach you to cook. And set the bet against you."
Unimpressed, Cowly had started to eat again. "Boys, your dinner. It's getting cold, you know. And those young taters, they shouldn't be left alone, should they. Go well with this superb liquor of yours, I'd say, Bodie. Cheers. Och, and do not worry, Ray, my dear boy. I've already hired a cook to serve us on the annual gathering, that is. Same as last year. Wasn't too bad, was it? I thought you lads liked it, the shepherd's pie he made?"
Bodie's left hand, which had been squeezing Ray's shoulder compassionately and possessively, suddenly squeezed even harder. Icy blue eyes stared blankly at Cowley. Right beside him, bewildered green eyes joined in.
"In that case, if you don't mind, sir, I'd like to...umh...reconsider," Ray threw in unexpectedly. Bodie closed his eyes for a very long moment. He gave the bony shoulder one more proprietorial squeeze and picked up his fork again. At least now, the much too hot stew had cooled some and could be eaten right away, without blowing on it. "Yeh, sir, Ray's right, I mean. Let him chew it over," he helped out, not mincing matters.
"Doyle, wait. You've won your bet, boy. I can't possibly hold you..." Cowley's further expostulations were drowned by laughter. Both Doyle and Bodie suddenly laughed so loud, the head of CI5 had to join in.
"Give it up, sir, we've sussed you out, seeing through you this time is easy," Bodie took the lead. "You expected Doyle to jump onto the train and offer to cook from the very minute you walked through the door. This was not about a bet lost or won. You knew he was going to make up his mind anyway. This is, if I mind say so, foul play at its finest." Bodie chuckled and his arm found its way around Ray's shoulder again. Bugger.
Ray did not say a word, but at least he smiled.
"Bodie, I must say, you are right, son. For what I've heard, our 4.5 is a spectacular cook. And, tasting this outstanding stew tonight, you two as a cooking team are simply fabulous. It's going to be a fantastic dinner at the annual gathering. I trust you with the task of coming up with the whole "menu for the venue" on your own. I am looking forward to it. And so are the others. 'Bodie and Doyle, together in the field and in the kitchen'. Cheers, mates. "
And with those words, he went back to finishing his plate, and another plate after.
Doyle had finally found his voice again: "'the menu for the venue. Bodie and Doyle, together in the field and in the kitchen'. Sounds like a plan." He sighed, but also grinned vigorously as he started eating again.
And while Bodie thought he was going to pass out, Ray pointed his fork into Cowley's direction, with his mouth full. "Sir. I think we should talk about a rise. Seriously."
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