HISTORY: This story previously appeared in Friends Will Be Friends #5 under the title 'For The Love Of A Good Man'.
Touch Me In The Morning
The silence in the room is the silence of the earliest hours of morning, broken only by the distant thrum of traffic on the flyover and the gentle soughing of breath between his lover's lips. Peaceful times. They are few and far between, these days, and each one is to be cherished, each moment savoured, for neither can be certain if such a time will ever come again.
Naked flesh fills his arms, warm and richly scented and he tightens his hold, amazed at the feelings of protectiveness this man alone can awaken in him. Not that Andrew Munroe is in need of protection - far from it in fact, as he knows from experience, having found himself on the receiving end of a particularly scathing dressing-down on more than one occasion. A man of high principles and dedication who does not suffer fools gladly is Andrew Munroe, but a man capable also of great sensitivity and understanding. Screw up on a case and expect to incur the full might of his wrath: but turn to him for help in a personal crisis and it will be given, freely, sympathetically and without prejudice.
Fingers entwine and he draws Munroe's hand to his lips, recalling with uncharacteristic shyness what those confident digits have done for him these past few hours. It never ceases to amaze him how passionate his Inspector can be, a complete contrast to the image of almost puritan morality which he strives so hard to maintain. Passionate and inventive - no wonder he has always declined Jack Meadows' invitation to an 'officers only' screening of the latest batch of blue movies to be seized: in the light of his own experience they must seem pale by comparison. And yet, no matter to what heights his wild imagination takes them, whatever they do seems as natural as breathing.
Movement against him captures his attention and he smiles as his own hand is pressed to a sleepy mouth for a kiss that signifies the return of awareness. Laughing softly he presses his own lips to Munroe's forehead. "Thought you were going to sleep all day."
"Wasn't asleep" is the murmured response "Just - drifting."
"Well drift back to the real world, sweetheart, we've got to get up soon." Bitterness barely contained, wanting this day never to begin.
A wriggle of protest, velvet skin doing strangely erotic things to his body as it brushes against him. "I know ... but I'm comfortable. You're so warm ..."
"Keep that up and you'll find out how warm I can get!"
The snigger is disgustingly crude from one usually so reserved. "I've got the energy if you have."
"Insatiable," he chides, but tilts back the older man's head and takes his mouth, spinning out the kiss until both are breathless. There is fire in the touch, though by rights they should both be exhausted, and he uses his larger build to roll Munroe onto his back, pinning him to the mattress. "Let's call in sick. Confined to bed for the rest of the day."
"And give the gossips ammunition? They already think I go too easy on you." Munroe's voice drifts into a silence that is ghost-filled and threatening, the ugliness of a future too possible to contemplate reflected in each other's eyes. This is not how it should be, snatched moments locked away from prying eyes, tarnishing their relationship with fear and guilt. Their peers in the private sector might find themselves reviled for such a relationship, might even become the victims of abuse, but for these men there can be no acceptance in any quarter, no matter how much lip-service is paid to the new regimes of so-called tolerance. And it hurts.
A gentle thumb rubs at the furrow that has grown between his brows. "Don't, Matt," Munroe's voice is filled with understanding. "We both know we can't change the way things are."
"Doesn't stop me thinking about it though," Boyden sighs, releasing him, the sweet post-coital mood broken by the intrusion of reality. "Look at tonight - frozen lasagne and a bottle of supermarket plonk. Just once I'd like us to be able to go out somewhere, do the things normal people do every night of the week."
"Are you suggesting what we do is abnormal?"
The disappointment in his tone does not go unnoticed and at once Boyden is contrite. "You know bloody well that's not what I meant. It's just ... I didn't mind at first, but now ...It's starting to matter, Andrew."
The breath catches audibly in Munroe's throat at the wealth of sincerity in the simple statement and the intense look which accompanies it, and he raises himself on one elbow and grazes his fingers through the thick black hair, soothing, reassuring. "It matters to me, too, Matthew. It has for a long time."
"Do you really mean that?"
"Would I be here if I didn't?" he breathes against Boyden's open mouth. "You should know by now I'm not interested in casual sex."
"Then what is it?" Not love. He wants Munroe to love him, needs it desperately. Knows it can never be. Men like Andrew Munroe do not fall in love with other men. They can grow to care deeply, they can rationalise the need for physical union with a man of like mind, but they cannot overstep the boundaries of convention.
"Empathy?" Munroe suggests. "The need to be with someone who understands - they way outsiders can't."
Matthew laughs, gently mocking "It might have escaped your notice but we do have women officers these days."
"Yes - and you for one should know how that can complicate things." His eyes smile at memories. "Contrary to what the world might think, this is easier - or don't you agree?"
The answer rises spontaneously to his lips - I could find it very easy to love you - but is stifled there by the knowledge that such declarations can never be made between them. Instead he replies glibly "I don't give a fuck what the world thinks. I've always been a great believer in 'if it feels good, do it'" and, before Munroe can respond to that, pulls him to lie on top of him.
They share another kiss, and Boyden skims knowing hands down his companion's back, past the thickening waist, moulding them to buttocks the firmness of which belies the sedentary image of the Inspector's rank. His fingers press into the cleft and control fractures on the desire to be inside this man once more, just one more time.
Perhaps the last time....
Munroe whimpers and straddles Boyden's hips, opening willingly to the intimate touch, Boyden's own spent semen easing entry.
"What time's your train?" Barely controlled, Matthew's voice strokes the shadows.
Regretfully: "Too soon for us to be doing this ..."
"Not if I drive you to King's Cross." Penetrating fingers graze Munroe's prostate, driving him beyond reason. "I can tell Stritch my car broke down ...."
"No." His mouth is hot and moist against Boyden's, full of promises both know will never be fulfilled. "I don't ... want to say 'goodbye' to you ...on a draughty BR platform, like something ...out of Brief Encounter." He eases back to take Matthew's erection in one hand, his own in the other. Open, aroused and wholly desirable. "This is how I want to remember us ..." and he begins to pump them both, slowly at first, a languid stroking that pulses through Matt's veins, re-igniting his blood. The tempo increases and they climb together, locked in perfect synchronicity to the moment when they erupt in a rainstorm of liquid fire that splatters belly and face and heaving chest ...
Sliding back to reality ...Matthew watches as his mate leans over him to lap clean the skin above his heart and leave a kiss there.
"That's how I want to remember us" Munroe repeats, breathless, and behind the facade of sated eyes and swollen lips, behind the dazzling smile of contentment, Matthew at last sees the truth. The irony of it is not lost on him for where, a week ago, he would have rejoiced in the discovery, now there is only bitter acceptance and silence.
"Will you remember?" he asks.
"Do you think I could ever forget?" Munroe counters, hurt. "I told you - it matters."
And Boyden believes, because with belief comes comfort to stave off the loneliness that lies in wait for him. "It won't be easy at work," he observes, knowing how painful it will be to have Munroe so close and not be able to make even the most innocent allusion to what has passed between them. "If anyone finds out we'll both end up directing traffic at opposite ends of the country."
"They won't find out. Anyway, we've managed so far."
"Only because we knew there could be a next time. Once your - Once she comes back there won't be any room for me."
Munroe moves away, pulling the sheet over them as if suddenly ashamed of their naked state. The mood is already changing between them, the overwhelming joy of moments ago giving way to the darkness of despair.
"You've made up your mind already, haven't you? You haven't stopped to consider she might not want to come back."
"She's crazy if she doesn't. Oh God, I hate this! You've turned my life upside-down and now I'm stuck here. What the hell am I supposed to do? I can't go back and there's no way forward ... "
"There could be," Munroe murmurs.
"That even if she does come back we don't have to stop seeing each other."
"Carry on as we are you mean?" Callous temptation reaches for Boyden but he brushes it aside without a moment's thought. "I can't ask you to cheat on your wife."
A dark eyebrow lifts in surprised amusement. "Isn't that what I've been doing these last three months?"
"That was different ... Look, Andrew, with my track record I know I'm the last one should be handing out advice about fidelity, especially to someone like you, and I know she left you without a word of explanation - but if she's ready to talk now it must mean she's at least willing to consider making a fresh start. And you can't do that if you're slipping away to someone else's bed a couple of nights a week."
Silence descends on them as Munroe contemplates the alternatives, seemingly for the first time. Until now it has been easy to go with the flow, allow his resentment against the wife who has deserted him and his emotional attachment to Boyden to dictate the passage of his life. Now he must make a choice and, with his lover beside him, he realises at last that doing what he wants to do and doing what he knows he should do are not necessarily the same.
Boyden allows him a moment more to reach a decision before prompting gently "You know I'm right." And slowly Munroe nods.
"I've made a mess of this, haven't I? I let everything get out of hand - but you're the one who gets hurt in the end. I didn't mean that to happen, Matt."
"You're not carrying all the blame. I'm over twenty-one, I could have said 'no' the first time."
The smallest of smiles lifts the corner of Munroe's mouth. "But you didn't."
"I couldn't. I can't explain why, I just knew I wanted you. Maybe it was because you were the only one ever took an interest in me, made me get my act together." He lifts his hand to cup Andrew's face, thumb grazing moist lips. "Maybe I still don't do it for all the right reasons, but I'm getting there. Thanks to you."
"I only did what needed to be done. I always thought there was a good copper under all that image, and you proved me right." He leans forward and touches his mouth to Boyden's in a kiss that is almost fraternal. "I don't want this to end," he confesses. "I don't want to leave you - you know that, don't you."
Heart pounding, Matthew rubs his face against Munroe's shoulder, nuzzling a kiss against his neck. "Yeah ...But I also know if you don't go and talk to her you'll always regret it - that was the mistake I made. If she wants to come back then you owe it to yourself to try. If she doesn't ..." He allows the rest of the thought to hang between them, unspoken, as if to voice it aloud would be to tempt the Fates into denying them happiness out of sheer spite.
Pushing back the covers he rolls to his feet. "Give me a couple of minutes to shower, then I'll make us some breakfast. Can't let you go trudging off to the wilds of Lancashire on an empty stomach."
He leaves the room with a smile, but once the door is closed the pretence is over and he sags against the tiled wall, allowing the hot water to scour away the evidence of their passion as he struggles to come to terms with the impending loss. Three months - more than he had ever expected and not nearly enough for the feelings that have grown within him.....
The telephone call had come out of the blue, from one of his 'tame' pub landlords concerned that a senior officer from Sun Hill was encouraging a little too much attention in the public bar. He had arrived to find Inspector Andrew Munroe blind drunk, laid out on a row of chairs in the function room and not in the least happy to see him.
It came as the culmination of a month which Munroe was later to dub the worst of his life, starting with the unexplained disappearance of his wife. At first DCI Meadows had treated it as a possible kidnapping - no one doubted Munroe's word that theirs was a happy marriage - but when three weeks had passed without word of any kind, when no evidence had been found to support such a theory, the search was phased down until something new turned up. And something eventually had. A week after a very embarrassing confrontation in Meadows' office, during which Munroe had practically begged them to keep looking, he had received a very brief telephone call from his wife informing him that she was well and staying with her sister. He was to make no attempt to persuade her into coming home, she would, she said, do so when she was ready. Shocked and confused, unable to handle such a callous rejection, Munroe had uncharacteristically sought solace in the nearest pub, drowning his sorrows in neat scotch.
Which was where Boyden had entered the equation. Unaware of what had happened, Matthew had quickly realised that he could not take the man home to his daughters in such a condition, so instead he had taken him back to his own flat and bedded him down on the sofa. Several hours and a large quantity of black coffee later, Munroe had thanked him politely for his help, apologised for the inconvenience he had caused, and gone sullenly on his way without so much as a word of explanation.
And that should have been the end of it - would have been the end of it, had Munroe not suffered an overwhelming attack of guilt. Three days later a somewhat contrite Inspector had called him to his office and told him the whole story. His wife was ill, something gynaecological - not that the doctors would be specific - and was suffering from severe depression. She had been close to a nervous breakdown when she had decided on the spur of the moment one afternoon to visit her sister in Lancashire and her sister, thinking that Andrew was chiefly to blame for the apparent break-up of their marriage, had agreed to keep her whereabouts a secret until she was ready to talk to him. That he was half out of his mind with worry had been of no concern to either of them. That their daughters, believing their mother to have been kidnapped, rarely left the house for fear that they, too, would be taken and had developed a phobia about answering the telephone or the doorbell in case it was bad news, brought no more than a half-hearted apology from her. She had become totally absorbed in her own life and what she referred to as her need to rediscover herself. All Munroe could do was wait her out and hope that at the end of it all there would still be a place for him.
That had been - six months ago. During the weeks that followed the two men had continued to grow closer, Munroe's need to talk drawing on Boyden's firsthand experience of marital disaster and, in return, firing Matthew's long-buried need to be needed. Some days were better than others, days when the workload was heavy and there was little time to think. Then there were the days when crime took an impromptu holiday and they were left twiddling their thumbs and pondering the might-have-beens. Unexpectedly, it was a bad case that proved the catalyst to their relationship. A teenage boy went missing from home after an argument with his parents. For fifteen hours they searched, talking to his friends, his teachers, piecing together the little bits of information that eventually led them to his body. It was Munroe who took the news to his family, explaining to them how their son - such a good boy, so quiet and hard working - had been dealing drugs to support his own growing habit, had crossed his supplier and paid for it with his own life. The mother had screamed denial, had ranted and raved and called Munroe every derogatory name in the book while the boy's father had looked on in stunned silence, unable to believe that he had hardly known the boy at all.
It was all too much for Munroe, his own wounds still so fresh, and that night he had arrived at Boyden's front door seeking emotional comfort. It was comfort that Matthew had been more than willing to give, letting him talk, offering what words of support that he could - until the moment when the need for companionship had become physical, overriding common sense and instead of going home to an empty house, Munroe had stayed the night, sharing Boyden's bed - sleeping in Boyden's arms. Nothing more had happened that night, but the fact that the street wise Boyden was no stranger to male sexual partners had made things easier for both of them and, over the next three months, they had become lovers. Boyden could not recall a time when he had been happier, but it was a happiness that had been abruptly curtailed by the phone call two days ago from Munroe's wife, asking him to meet her to discuss their future.....
A future in which Matthew Boyden has no place.
Stepping from the shower he towels himself dry. Even here, in the inner sanctum of his own bathroom, Munroe has left his mark, in the toothbrush and shaving foam, comb and cologne that have crept onto the shelves with each successive stay. The bed, too, smells of him, and the pillows, his scent ingrained and Matthew knows that it will be months before the ghosts of their affair are finally laid to rest.
"Tea and toast okay?" he asks, passing Andrew in the hall.
"Fine. I put the kettle on ..."
"Thanks. You know where the clean towels are if you want a shower."
So clinical, no hint of the passion they have shared during the last few hours. Munroe is shutting himself off, building walls to keep the memories at bay. Standing at the kitchen counter, Boyden tries to do the same, telling himself that this has been no different to any of his other affairs, reminding himself that his life didn't come to an end when they finished. But this is not the same. He has always found it easy to make love to a woman without 'getting involved', even with his wife. His only emotional commitments have been to the daughter he seldom sees and to a handful of male colleagues, some of whom became lovers, most simply very close friends. And then there was Andrew Munroe ...
"Matthew?" Munroe stands framed in the doorway, dressed for the street, his overnight bag in his hand. "I think I'd better skip breakfast. Don't want to miss the train."
"Okay. Give me a minute to dress and I'll drive you --"
"I've already called a taxi. No sloppy station 'goodbyes', remember?" His throat works rapidly around the words and his eyes are just a little too bright to be convincing. Dropping his bag on the floor he crosses the room, stopping just short of where Boyden is standing. He smells of spice and lemon, his cropped hair still damp from the shower, his newly-shaved cheeks baby-smooth and Matthew wants to say all kinds of silly, romantic things to him. Wants to fall on his knees and beg him to stay. Instead he smiles sadly and straightens the collar of his lover's jacket.
"Will you have time to call and let me know what happens?"
"I'll make time. Matt --"
"It's okay." He touches Munroe's cheek, grazing his thumb across the thin lips. Leaning close, he kisses him gently - a lover's kiss, sweet and poignant. One last kiss before sending him on his way. "I wonder what Charlie Brownlow would say if he could see us now," he teases, and Munroe meets him with a mischievous grin.
"That's something I don't think I want to find out!" In the street below a car horn sounds in the early morning stillness. "That must be my taxi," the Munroe observes bleakly. His eyes turn back to Boyden's face and he shakes his head in despair. "I don't want to do this."
"I know. But you know where I'll be if you need me," he says, as he said six months ago, when Munroe first turned to him for help. He hands the Inspector his bag, walking with him to the door.
"Don't come down." He touches his lips to the corner of Matthew's mouth. "Take care."
"You too." He pulls open the door, stands watching as Munroe starts down the stairs. "Andrew," he calls, suddenly needing to make his lover understand how he feels. Needing the reassurance. The pale eyes lift to his face and he sees hope in their depths. "For what it's worth, I don't regret what happened. I wouldn't change a thing."
Munroe lifts an eyebrow. "What - nothing?" he asks and, reading between the lines, Boyden smiles. How could he possibly have thought he could keep the truth hidden?
"You'll miss your train," he cautions.
Munroe nods. "I'll see you at work on Monday."
"I'll be there."
He waits on the landing until Munroe has disappeared from view, until he hears the street door close sharply. Then, slowly, he returns to the flat to prepare for a day he does not want to face.
It's going to be a long weekend ...
The weekend is hell, Friday night drunken brawls giving way to Saturday football mayhem and the comparative boredom of Sunday morning. Duty keeps him in the Custody Suite, even though he would prefer to be out on the streets, doing something - anything - that will keep his mind off Andrew Munroe. But somehow he keeps his patience, does his job, determined no one will have cause to find fault with him. And all the while he is waiting for the telephone to ring, and every time it rings he hopes, only to have those hopes dashed time and time again.
All through Saturday and on through Sunday he waits for the call, goes home to check the answerphone -- in vain. No call comes and by Sunday night he is pacing the floor, misery and anger vying for dominance as he resigns himself to the fact that Munroe has settled things with his wife. As far as his relationship with the Inspector is concerned, the past is past and all he can look forward to is the continuation of their friendship, though that will never compare to what they have shared in the last three months.
And then the telephone rings.
Heart thumping, he lifts the receiver to his ear. "Boyden."
"It's me." Munroe's voice is heavy with fatigue, tight with emotions at which Boyden can only guess. "I'm sorry it's so late."
"Where are you?"
"King's Cross. I just got off the train."
"You sound tired." He leans against the wall as relief drains his strength. Andrew is home, he can deal with the rest as it happens.
"It was a long journey." The silence at the other end of the line becomes protracted and for a moment Matthew wonders if the connection has been broken. Then the words that he has both hoped and feared to hear finally reach him.
"I'm alone, Matt. She's not coming back."
"You're leaving her?"
Even at this distance Munroe's sigh of resignation can be clearly heard. "She's leaving me. She - wants a life of her own. One that doesn't include me."
"I'm sorry," Matthew says, and he means it, knowing from experience what Munroe must be feeling at this moment.
"Yeah. I know you didn't want this."
Unexpectedly, soft laughter drifts down the line. "Actually, now I've had the chance to talk to her I'm not so sure this isn't for the best. At least now we know where we stand."
His meaning is clear: by 'we' Munroe is not referring to his wife and suddenly Boyden's heart begins to race. Suddenly Munroe has placed the future squarely in his hands. "Stay there and I'll come and pick you up" he suggests. "I can be there in a few minutes."
"It's late --," Munroe protests. "and you're on duty at six."
"And you'll never get a taxi at this time of night." Finally he can allow the barriers to fall, knowing he no longer needs to hide his true feelings behind a wall of indifference. They still have a long way to go and the sensitivity of their position requires that discretion be maintained, but at least there is hope now. " Anyway," he says "I'll sleep better with you beside me."
The sharp intake of breath leaves nothing to his imagination and he waits, patiently now, while Munroe makes the decision that will shape the days to come. "Alright," Munroe says at last. "I'll wait for you in the station buffet."
Boyden's heart soars. "I'll be there as soon as I can," he promises. "Just don't poison yourself on BR coffee or get picked up for loitering with intent."
"I'll try not to," Munroe laughs.
Already reaching for his jacket, a last thought breezes into Matthew's mind and he smiles at his reflection in the mirror. "Andrew -" he says softly.
"It's good to have you home ...."
He can almost hear Munroe smile. "It's good to be home, Matt."
"Do you mean that?"
"You know I do." A long silence, warm and comfortable and more eloquent than mere words could ever be. Then: "Don't they say home is where the heart is?"
//Christ, don't let me get it wrong this time// Boyden prays, harder than he has ever prayed before. This time he has to get it right, because something tells him he will not get another chance like this in a million years. "Hold that thought," he says aloud. "I'll be there soon as I can."
Laughter, rich and inviting, reaches out to him. "I'll be waiting."
Matthew can picture him standing there, leaning against the wall of the phone booth, maybe smiling indulgently at Boyden's eagerness, exhausted and dishevelled - and utterly desirable. He starts to replace the receiver, but his hand falters as his heart tells him there is something more that has to be said, something that cannot wait even the few minutes it will take him to drive to the station. Lifting it to his ear again, he calls softly, daringly, because he has never before presumed so much familiarity with this man, "Andy --?"
Voice low and intimate, speaking for him alone "Yes?"
"I - love you."
A tiny, almost-cry, not quite surprise. "I know."
//Of course you do// "You don't mind me saying it?"
"Matt..." Gentle laughter admonishing his doubt. "You can say it again when you get here." He closes his eyes, imagining the moment. "I will, I promise."
Like teenagers, neither wants to be the first to break the connection. Can it really be this good? Is it possible to turn back the years and find the happiness he has always longed for?
"I'd better go," he says, making no attempt to do so.
"I'll be waiting," Munroe promises. Then - "Matt... I --"
Abruptly the line goes dead. Boyden spits an obscenity at the infernal device as he slams the receiver down and sweeps up his keys, knowing what Munroe had been about to say - knowing he will have to wait until he reaches the station. It will be the longest ten minutes of his life. Damn public call boxes! Damn them to hell and back!
And a few miles away, across the still-sleeping city, Andrew Munroe smiles.