Faces from the Past


Prologue 1977

William Andrew Philip Bodie and Raymond Doyle. He had their names; soon he would have their lives.

Simon Sinclair stood on the patio, sipping a glass of fine port. The night was warm, the skies above his estate full of stars, but neither the weather nor the beauty of the sky contented him. Only revenge would do that. Or rather the fulfillment of a promise he'd made -- When this is over, I'll have you hunted down and killed.

Though he sought profit on both sides of the law, Sinclair considered himself first and foremost a business man. And in business, deals sometimes fell through. He could forgive that, even though the deal in question had literally cost him millions in pure profit. He had taken a risk agreeing to hire that mercenary and his men, but Sinclair had known of a buyer willing to pay a handsome price for plutonium. The mercenaries had even managed to steal what he'd needed, but they had failed to deliver it to him. The news of the robbery and the swift capture had covered the front page yesterday; the stories themselves written with the usual restraint reporters were forced to use when Criminal Intelligence 5 was involved -- no pictures, no names. But the very mention of CI5 had given him a place to start. And that had quickly led him to the names of the two men he would indeed see hunted down and killed.

Yes, he could forgive the loss of ... How had that man Krivas put it? Ah, yes, his own private army. Actually, he felt little remorse on that point since they had failed miserably on the very first task he'd given them. The monetary loss was more troublesome, and disappointing his buyer had proven quite embarrassing, but that was simply business as usual for a high stakes player such as himself. The manner in which CI5 had tracked Krivas down was another matter entirely.

Two men had kidnaped his daughter and had threatened her with mutilation if he did not disclose what he knew of the mercenaries. An instant snatch the one he'd dealt with had called it, making his demands while his partner had sat outside Sinclair's home in his limo with his daughter. In the gripes of a terror he'd never known, he'd told the man everything -- for nothing was more important than Cynthia. That terror had swiftly turned to humiliation and rage when he'd discovered it had all been a bluff.

Ironically, Cynthia had quite enjoyed the experience. In fact she seemed quite smitten, to the outrageous degree only a fourteen-year-old girl could be, with her captor. Instead of a `nut, who enjoyed pain,' he had been `charming.' He'd even given her chocolate. Sinclair had suspected the truth then -- that her kidnappers had not been `in the same game' as Krivas, but had been working with the law.

The papers and the mention of CI5 had confirmed those suspicions. No pictures, no names, but he would never forget those faces. A few threats of his own and a sizable fee here and there had swiftly provided him with the names to go with the faces. Bodie had been the one in his home, the one who had humiliated him, used his love for his daughter against him. That one would die very slowly. He would insist on it. The one who had so charmed Cynthia, Doyle, he would merely see dead. Quick or slow, he would leave that to a hired assassin.

A soft cough pulled his attention away from thoughts of potential killers, and he turned towards the doorway where his butler stood waiting. "What is it?" Sinclair asked.

"A George Cowley wishes to speak with you, sir."

The Controller of CI5 himself. It was tempting to restore some of his lost pride by refusing to meet with the man, but curiosity prompted him to say, "I'll see him in the study."

His study opened onto the patio, so he was inside and seated behind his large, antique desk by the time his `guest' was shown in. Sinclair quite pointedly did not rise to greet him.

Cowley showed no recognition of the slight, but returned it by sitting down without waiting to be invited to do so. "Loathed as I am to admit it," Cowley said without exchanging the usual pleasantries, "you and I have a few things in common. For instance, we both utilize informers. Mine tell me that yours have been extremely busy in the last twenty-four hours."

"I have cause."

"Aye, perhaps you have, but then those who deal with snakes should expect to be bitten from time to time."

There was some truth in that. However, "My daughter has no knowledge of ... snakes. She did not deserve to be bitten."

"Nor did the sons and daughters of those killed by Krivas and his men, but I am not here to debate the wrong or the right of this situation with you."

"Then why are you here?"

"Enrico Krivas has not seen fit to implicate you, and while the other surviving mercenaries are cooperating, testimony about your involvement would be heresay and inadmissable in court."

Yes, his barrister had told him as much. He had nothing to fear.

"The best evidence we have against you is, of course, the fact that you knew Krivas' plans. However, given the manner in which my operatives acquired this information, it too would be inadmissable in court."

Again, nothing more than his barrister had informed him.

Cowley stood up. "There is, however, no law that states the Crown Prosecutor cannot try to have such evidence admitted. I believe the matter might receive some attention from the press."

And his reputation as a reputable businessman would be in ruins. He took great pride in that reputation and also utilized it heavily in his illicit dealings. If the press exposed him, his ability to do business on both sides of the law might be damaged beyond repair.

"Revenge is never cheap, Sinclair. I suggest that you ponder very carefully the price of yours," Cowley said, then left.

Sinclair stared at the door for a long time after Cowley had gone. He'd been offered a trade -- the lives of Bodie and Doyle for the silence of CI5. Revenge versus humiliation, exposure and financial ruin. A cold lump of rage still filled his stomach, but it took him only seconds to realize that the price of his revenge would be much too high. At least for now. So he would wait. His time would come.


They'd been lovers from almost the beginning. It had taken about five weeks for them to decide that they didn't detest each other, then almost to the second, they'd tumbled into bed. Oh, it was a casual sort of thing, just a bit of fun between a steady stream of even more casual girlfriends. No strings, no worries, only a physical expression of a lust-filled friendship once or twice every few months. Or at least that's what Doyle thought.

For Bodie, it was a hell of a lot more than that. Bodie had never been certain when in that first five weeks of their seven-year partnership he'd fallen head over heels in love with Doyle, but fallen he had -- hard and permanently. Knowing his feelings were not returned, he'd never let them show, even made Doyle do the seducing that first night, actually most times. But he'd come to measure the quality of a day by how much time he spent with the stroppy bastard.

Damn, he had it bad, Bodie thought, stealing a glance at the man asleep in the passenger seat of Bodie's silver Capri. Punishment for his sins, it was, getting all sloppy over a man who thought of him as simply a mate. A man who was looking for love anywhere but from him.

He sighed, having long ago resigned himself to playing whatever role in his partner's life that Doyle wanted him to play. He'd even smile happily and toast the bride and groom on the inevitable day that Ray found what he was looking for. He'd even mean it if that's what would make Doyle happy.

Pushing aside the despair that so often threaten to drown him, he turned into the CI5 car park. Be glad to get his mind onto a case, and George Cowley's summons had held that certain tension that promised this would be a nasty one. That suited Bodie just fine.

"Wakie, wakie, sunshine," he said, giving Ray's shoulder a shake. He'd had to pick Doyle up at his current bird's flat, and it had obviously been a very long night for both of them. His mood still dark, Bodie had time to wonder if this was the one who would take Doyle away from him for good before a pair of exotic green eyes opened.

At least that's what they would have looked like if they weren't hidden behind a pair of dark aviator glasses. Doyle groaned. "Don't tell me we're here already?"

Bodie chuckled, long ago resigned to how absurdly happy the very sound of Doyle's voice made him. "`Fraid so, my son," he answered, getting out of the car. "Time to earn our keep."

His defenses against Doyle still weak this early in the morning, Bodie headed for the building without waiting for his partner. Didn't want to end up behind Doyle with nothing to look at but that bleedin' gorgeous arse showcased by his usual scruffy, too small jeans. `Damn, if this turned out to be a stakeout operation ...,' he thought, then started as a hand gave his own arse a friendly pat. "Damnit, Ray," he hissed, whirling around on the staircase, "you trying to give me a heart attack?"

"Just admirin' the view, sunshine," Doyle said with his chipped-toothed smile as he stepped up onto the stair Bodie occupied. "Fancy a drink later?"

Ray's way of propositioning him these days. "Thought you had a bird this week," Bodie said, relieved that the inevitable hadn't happened yet.

Doyle shrugged, his boots making him stand a bit taller than Bodie, who was actually the taller of the two. "Not as beautiful as you are, is she."

Bodie managed a smile. "No one is, sunshine. Thought you'd have figured that out by now."

It was the usual meaningless nonsense, but Doyle surprised him this time, his arms going round him to pull Bodie's larger body against his slender frame. The flat of his palm pressing against Bodie's cloth covered anus, a silent preview of what he would want tonight, Doyle murmured, "Maybe I finally have."

Bodie's heart started pounding, and he silently cursed the treacherous organ. Doyle'd have to be deaf not to hear it. All he could do was hope that the ex-copper in his partner wasn't sharp enough to figure out the reason why. "Bloody tease," he muttered, trying to keep things light, and pulled out of Doyle's arms.

He fairly ran up the remaining steps, blushing at Doyle's dirty chuckle. Damn, what was Ray playing at this time?

Once through the door and beyond the security guard, Bodie began to feel a bit more steady. Inside these walls they were partners, not sometimes lovers, and Bodie knew how to be Doyle's partner. Good job that he did, since he was certain no one else would put up with the sarky little sod.

As usual the lift was out, so they headed up the stairs, Bodie feeling confident that his bum was safe inside these hallowed halls, but it seemed nothing was hallowed to Doyle today, for as they reached the landing between flights, the rotten bastard grabbed him. Before he could protest, Doyle pulled him into his arms, then kissed him -- long and hard.

Bodie's mind howled in outrage, urging him to demand what the bloody hell Doyle thought he was doing. They were standing in the middle of the building's main staircase, with Doyle's hand on Bodie's bum and his tongue doing wonderful things inside Bodie's mouth. Trouble with all that indignant outrage was that Doyle's hand was on his bum, and his tongue was... Oh, sod it, Bodie sighed inwardly and surrendered.

The kiss ended, but Doyle did not release him, and Bodie finally opened his eyes to find Doyle intently studying his face. "Ray?" he whispered.

Doyle smiled. "Just checking something," he said, gave Bodie a quick kiss on the tip of his nose, then went on up the stairs. He stopped at the top and looked down at Bodie, who hadn't managed to move yet. "You coming? Cow's waiting."

A deep breath, a hard swallow and Bodie managed to collect himself enough to go after his partner. What the hell was going on?

Confused, his lips tingling and probably swollen from the kiss, Bodie forgot to flirt with Cowley's secretary and followed Doyle into the Controller's office. He nearly collided with Doyle, who had stopped dead just inside the door.

"What the --?" Bodie demanded, his glance sweeping into the room to locate the source of his partner's sudden immobility.

Bodie's father sat behind his desk, his face more somber than usual, nothing lethal about that, but he wasn't alone. Soft orange-red hair worn at shoulder length told Bodie who she was even before she turned to face them. Ann Holly. Damn.

Eighteen months earlier

Damn her! The silence in the car didn't bode well. Nor did the whiskey fumes radiating from the sullen, curly-haired man sitting next to him. Bodie guided his motor through the streets of London towards Doyle's flat and tried to think of what to do.

Doyle was in a bad way, a foul temper increased rather than helped by an evening of pub hopping. Every time Bodie had opened his mouth, he'd known he'd risked a punch in the jaw or worse. Damn Ann Holly anyway.

Bodie had almost liked the newest woman in Doyle's life, at least until she'd dumped him a few hours ago. A misunderstanding over Doyle's job had caused her to send the poor sod packing. Hadn't even been interested in an explanation. The bitch. Why couldn't she see that no matter what Ray thought or felt, a CI5 operative didn't have the luxury of letting things pass on trust?

Ann's father was a drug smuggler. CI5, Cowley and anyone with any common sense should have realized she had to be checked out for a possible connection. But not Ann Holly. Oh, no, not her. That sort of distasteful reality was all beneath her. Posy tart. Right now Ray hurt too much to see it that way. At this moment, Ann was perfect, the woman he loved, the woman he could never have.

Bodie had started the afternoon trying to cheer Doyle up, but now that it was almost tomorrow, he was more concerned with protecting London from his partner. He felt exhausted and knew that Doyle should be feeling the effects of an all night stakeout, an early morning up and too much alcohol as well, but he guessed Ray's anger would keep sleep out of the question for hours to come.

Parking the car in front of Doyle's flat, Bodie flirted briefly with the notion of going home, leaving Doyle to some private brooding, but the force with which his partner slammed the Capri's door convinced him otherwise. Sighing, Bodie quickly locked the car, then scurried after Doyle, barely making it inside before the security gate swung shut.

Doyle might need his company, but he certainly didn't want it. `Well, we don't always get what we want, sunshine,' Bodie thought, following him into the flat.

Not trusting his fairly pickled partner to do it, Bodie reset the alarms and locks, while Doyle pulled a bottle of scotch out of the cabinet.

Younger than Doyle by three years, Bodie felt more like three decades older and would have cheerfully killed someone for the contents of that bottle. But no, with Doyle in this mood, one of them needed to stay sober, and that meant him.

The oppressive silence of the car held while Doyle drank down a good fourth of the bottle, then it ended abruptly when he slammed down his glass. "T' `ell with `er," he slurred, staggering towards the front door. "Did jest fine `fore she came `long."

"Whoa, mate," Bodie said, putting his larger, more muscular body between the door and Doyle. "Where do you think you're going?"

"Find myself some `prechative company," Doyle answered, his jade green eyes flashing with hurt and anger. "Want to fuck someone thru' the bleedin' floor."

"Not a chance, sunshine," Bodie responded firmly. "Cowley'd have my head if I let you go in this sorry state. End up in the local nick for sure."

"Outta the way, Bodie. `m goin'."

Bodie thought quickly. No way out of this mess except to step aside or fight. Neither choice would end well. He knew that much. In Doyle's state, a punch up would be a dirty one. Put both of them in hospital and in hot water with the Cow. He was bracing for that fight when another option occurred to him. "You just want some action, that it, mate?"

Doyle nodded, his glare indicating Bodie had less than a minute before his partner's patience snapped.

"You particular how you get it?"

"Just long as it's under fifty, warm `n comes across," Doyle spat the wisdom of William Bodie back in his face.

Bodie flinched at the harsh words, but he had no intention of allowing Doyle to escape -- drunken sod would probably get himself into a brawl and that would not only net him a night in the nick, it would get him thrown out of CI5. Only one thing for it, he decided, then looked Doyle straight in the eye and reminded him, "I'm under 50."

For a moment nothing happened, Bodie figuring that Doyle was trying to decide whether to settle for him or thump him. He still wasn't certain which Doyle had chosen when the smaller man pounced, knocking them both to the floor. Waiting for a punch or kick, he started when his clothing was ripped from his body.

In less than a minute, he was naked, and Doyle was pushing him over onto his stomach. Bodie heard the sound of a zipper being pulled open and tried to make himself relax. He managed not to scream at the first painful thrust into his body, but as Doyle's cock pushed deeper into his arse, the pain only got worse. Bodie groaned, a sound utterly devoid of any pleasure.

Doyle froze, hesitated for a few seconds, then carefully pulled out. "Bedroom, mate," he growled.

Shaken, his knees trembling, Bodie got to his feet, then moved into the bedroom. He collapsed, face down on the bed, then waited for the pain to resume. Instead, with an almost gentle touch considering how much he'd had to drink, Doyle began to spread something that felt like KY jelly around and in Bodie's arse.

"Thank you," Bodie sighed, his whole body sagging with relief.

Doyle answered with a grunt, then shoved his cock back into Bodie.

It still hurt, but nothing like the ripping pain of the first attempt, so Bodie was able to endure it with nothing more than a tightly clenched jaw. At that moment he would have happily killed Ann. He was supposed to be someone Doyle turned to for fun, a mate who was the only one who would do when intimacy with virtual strangers put them off. Instead, Doyle's anger had turned him into another mindless fuck. His only solace was that Doyle was far too drunk to remember any of this come morning.

He bit his lip against a powerful thrust then felt a warmth flooding his passage. Spent, Doyle fell against his back, but when Bodie tried to move out from underneath him, Doyle swatted him hard across his buttocks. "Not finished with you, am I," he murmured in Bodie's ear. "Gonna do you again, sunshine, then again after that."

It was going to be a very long night.

Bodie woke up to find dawn breaking and Doyle still lying on top of him. Carefully he shifted, but this time his partner didn't stir, allowing Bodie to escape first the confines of the slender body, then the bed. His own body felt cramped as he made his way to the bathroom, and he doubted he'd be able to sit down for awhile without flinching. Both conditions made him step into the hottest shower he could endure and stay there until the last drop of hot water had been used.

Feeling more human after that, he returned to the bedroom and watched Ray sleep as he tried to think of what to do. Surprisingly enough, the bed didn't look all that bad. Then again, Bodie had been the depository of last night's activities, not the sheets. With luck, the semen that had seeped out of him could be dismissed as the product of a particularly spectacular wet dream. Bodie had no doubts that his randy little partner was capable of such excess. Yes, if he cleared out before Doyle woke up, Bodie might be the only one who had to live with what they'd done last night. Of course, to pull it off, he'd have to clean up Doyle.

Though Doyle seemed dead to the world until at least sunset, a wet rag on the nether regions might wake the dead, but Bodie decided it was worth the risk.

The hot water had regenerated enough to warm a flannel, and with that in one hand and a dry towel in the other, Bodie slowly approached Doyle. His heart was thundering in his own ears as he turned him over. To his relief, the other man didn't even stir as Bodie washed off the small amount of dried blood clinging to his partner's groin.

Mission accomplished, Bodie pulled the duvet over Ray, dressed, then left the apartment, careful to take the towels he'd used on both of them. He could do the laundry at his leisure and slip them back into Doyle's airing cupboard any time.

As he'd predicted, Bodie flinched a little when he sat down behind the wheel of his car, but he'd endured worse, so he didn't pay any further attention to his discomfort.

The sound of his door buzzer jarred Bodie awake and he glanced at the mantel clock with bleary eyes. Nine o'clock? He'd laid down for a nap, not for the night. Must have been more worn out than he'd thought.

He struggled to his feet, his body and brain unwilling to abandon the comforts of the settee to see who was at the door, but before he could even finish standing, he heard a key turn in the lock. That meant Cowley or Doyle, neither of whom he was all too keen on seeing at the moment. Well, nothing for it but to be polite and hope he could get rid of whichever it was fast.

He heard the front door close, the lock slide back into place, then nothing. That meant Doyle would pop around the corner at any moment -- his father's bad leg preventing him from walking with such stealth, while for Bodie and Doyle it was a habit.

Not really wanting to face his partner, Bodie escaped to the kitchen. He'd managed to get the kettle about half full before he felt a pair of eyes staring at him. "Fancy a cup of tea, mate?" he asked, without looking to confirm his guest's identity.

"Did I hurt you?" Doyle asked.

Bodie froze for a moment, a slip hidden by the fact that he was doing something that didn't require anything to move but the water. "What are you going on about?" he asked in his best I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about voice and turned off the tap.

"Did I hurt you when I raped you?"

The self-loathing in Doyle's voice tore at Bodie's heart and told him it was pointless to pretend nothing had happened. He turned to face his partner, who was the perfect picture of misery standing there in the doorway all hungover and full of guilt. "Can't rape a bloke who said yes, now can you, mate?"

Doyle shook his head, his manner one of rejection, not acceptance. "Did I hurt you?"

"No," Bodie lied.

Doyle's green eyes flashed, telling Bodie he didn't buy it for one second. "Let's have a look then."

Bodie's jaw dropped open. "Have you gone round the bend? I'm not dropping my drawers for you."

"Now, Bodie."

He could see that Doyle wasn't going to relent, that he was, in fact, ready to come to blows over the order. Bodie sighed, bared his arse, then leaned over the kitchen table.

Crazy, he thought. Utterly crazy. His bum still ached, his submissiveness was humiliating, but it was all he could do to not beg Doyle to fuck him again. Worse, the touch of his partner's hands on his bum, gently spreading him, made his cock harden, but at least he managed not to squirm during the examination.

"Doesn't look bad," Doyle announced. "Best to be safe though. You got any antisceptic cream about?"

Oh, that was it! He'd spent an entire night being fucked without so much as an erection to show for it, and now, when he was so hard he could scream, Doyle wanted to play nursie. "Damnit, Ray, you start smearing something there and it had better be foreplay!" Bodie snapped.

There was a long silence where he could have convinced himself that he was alone in the room except for the hands still gripping his buttocks. Finally Doyle said, "I don't want to hurt you."

"Hurt me last night, didn't you." The words were out before Bodie even consciously thought them, but suddenly he knew why he was aroused at such an odd moment -- Doyle was showing some sign that he cared for him, something Bodie desperately needed after last night. Doyle had hurt him, had done the one thing that Bodie had trusted him never to do.

A part of him felt that judgment was unfair -- after all, Doyle had been drunk, and, more importantly, Doyle had not touched him until Bodie had offered himself. But it had still hurt. And not just physically. It had hurt even more to have Doyle use him, to not care at all who he was fucking, as long as Bodie's body was "... still warm, under 50 and comes across."

"God, Bodie, I'm so sorry," Doyle said, gently pulling him up and around into his arms. "Never meant to do that to you, mate. Special to me, you are. Never meant to hurt you."

Special. Ray had said he was special. Far more than he'd ever hoped to hear, Bodie trembled at the words and buried his face against Doyle's neck. "You've always made me feel so good, Ray. Need you to --"

"Shhh, I will," he soothed him, then his hand caressed Bodie's backside, "but not that way. Not today. You still trust me, pet?"


"Then let me take you to bed and love you proper."


Doyle stared at the woman responsible for one of the best and worst times of his life and couldn't quite figure out how to react. He'd come to think of Ann Holly as his two-week wonder, having never been able to quite suss how he could have fallen so deeply in love with anyone in such a short time. Had almost killed him when she'd left him, but Bodie had helped him through it.

He shook himself. Now was not the time or place for such thoughts. "Hello, Ann," he said, aware of the growing silence. "I didn't expect to see you here."

Understatement of the ages, that was. She'd left England for a job in the States only days after her father had been arrested, but even if she'd stayed, CI5 Headquarters was the last place he would ever expect to find her -- she did not approve of organizations that sanctioned violence. Made that clear enough when they were dating -- nothing but a hired killer, he was, as far as she was concerned. Yet, she'd dated him, had said she loved him. But... You'll never change. It was one of the last things she'd said to him before she'd left him standing in the CI5 car park, left him to deal with his broken heart without so much as a backward glance.

She didn't look at him now either, her attention focused on some interesting piece of carpet. Cowley gave him the ironic news. "Miss Holly has need of our help."

Doyle gave serious consideration to laughing, but decided it wasn't quite worth the old man's reprimand. He swallowed down his humor and tried for what he hoped was an innocent sounding, "Oh?"

He must have been marginally successful for his remark only drew a mildly scathing glance from Cowley. Almost a look of affection -- for the Cow. From anyone else it would have scorched flesh.

"It seems," Cowley said, "that Simon Sinclair has decided he needs a source of information inside CI5."

Enter Ann Holly. Doyle could almost see the stage direction in his head. He glanced at Ann again and thought that she seemed miscast as a Mata Hari. Even when he'd loved her, he'd thought her merely pleasant looking. It had been her courage, not her looks, that had attracted him. To save Doyle, Bodie had killed a man in front of her. Yet she hadn't screamed, hadn't got hysterical -- no, it had made her furious. He smiled remembering it all.

His smile seemed to relax her, and she finally spoke up, "I've been back in London for a few months. A week ago, I started getting the phone calls." She paused a moment, her eyes flashing with anger. "At first I thought it was all some sick joke. But it was always a different voice saying the same thing -- that they could link me with my father's drug dealings and unless I cooperated, they'd go to the police. Then they'd hang up before telling me what they wanted me to do. I counted ten calls before I finally received my instructions."

She looked at him, and he reached out to take her hand, his earlier amusement forgotten. Her father was a convicted drug dealer, and Doyle, who had told her he loved her, had still investigated the possibility that she was involved. Now she had people lining up to testify to that fact. Had to be a bloody terrifying feeling. "Go on, love."

"I was having lunch when a man I'd never seen sat down at my table. He told me that the `witnesses' were only the beginning of the case against me, and if I wanted to stay out of prison, I had to re-establish my relationship with you."

The rest was obvious. As their original relationship had put him in the perfect position to check her out, so would a new one give her an opportunity to keep tabs on CI5. At least that would have been the reasoning. In reality, the only information she might have been able to obtain would be his recipe for Spaghetti á la Benny -- Doyle did not discuss CI5 business with civilians. But Sinclair couldn't know that.

Then again, "How do we know Sinclair is behind this?"

"Miss Holly gave a description of her `dining companion' to our sketch artist. From that we were able to identify him as Charles Denver," Cowley told him.

Sinclair's right hand man, and, conversely, a man who wouldn't dream of sneezing without his boss' permission. My God, we might really have a chance at bringing down Sinclair. The very thought made his pulse quicken. He looked at Cowley. "We have any idea what he's interested in?"

Cowley shook his head. "At least nothing that has an obvious connection to him."

"So what do we do?"

"Play along," came the expected answer. "Let Sinclair think his plan is working, then turn it to our advantage. I'll leave the details to you, but for Miss Holly's safety, I would suggest you move in with her after a quick courtship."

Doyle nodded. Not only would it convince Sinclair that the plan was working, but Doyle could also play bodyguard during the times Ann was not at work. Someone else would draw that assignment. "We'll work something out."

"Aye, I'm sure you will. Now, on your way."

"Yes sir," Doyle answered, then heard the office door open and close. Bodie slipping out the door, he realized, then his eyes widened. Bodie! He'd forgotten all about Bodie.

Sinclair had finished lunch when Charles entered the dining room, his expression grim. "Something wrong, Charles?"

"That bit--" his underling began, then remembered himself. "Miss Holly went straight to CI5."

Sinclair smiled, not at all disturbed by the news. He'd expected it -- Ann was quite a strong-willed woman. "We knew it was a possibility," he reminded the angry man, "and it doesn't really matter."

"Doesn't matter?" Charles echoed, his expression clearly one of pure amazement. "CI5 will be investigating you."

Sinclair shrugged. "They always do."

Charles nodded. "Yes, but this will get a lot of attention focused on you instead of the usual watch."

"Which is why we have temporarily suspended all other operations." An expensive, but necessary precaution; however, if things went well, he would more than recoup his current losses. "There will be nothing for them to find, and all the while they are investigating me, Doyle will be growing closer to Miss Holly. Knowing she is in danger from the likes of us will only deepen that bond."

"I see your point, but we only have thirteen days to make this work."

"It will be enough." Or at least it should be if old feelings still existed.

Through the years Sinclair had made a point of collecting all the information he could on CI5 in general, and Bodie and Doyle specifically. CI5's security was tight enough that he normally managed to gather little more than rumor, but even CI5 had it's off days. On those occasions, he'd learned that Bodie was Cowley's bastard son -- the result of some undercover MI5 operation that had gone wrong -- had from time to time known the addresses of the two operatives' flats, and he'd learned of Doyle's affair with Ann Holly.

Some of it had come from Ann's father. Charles Holly had after all been one of Sinclair's suppliers and the closest CI5 had ever come to actually gaining hard evidence against Sinclair himself. A bothersome detail that had forced Sinclair to arrange for Holly to have a fatal accident in the prison gym. But he'd passed on some information to his employer before that.

The rest of it had come from gossip overheard in the Red Lion Bar. The talk had been of marriage, then of Doyle's suspension and finally of a scene in the CI5 car park. None of it quite fit the usual tales of Doyle's numerous casual affairs. He'd filed all of this away in his mind, as he did all the rest, waiting for the day he might need it. The day he could take his revenge.

Waiting had been difficult, but now he had cause to congratulate himself for his patience. An invaluable source of heroin had shone interest in doing business with him. Only an `act of good faith' separated him from the completion of a deal that would virtually eliminate his need for other, less reliable suppliers. And this possible supplier had been very specific about precisely what act of good faith was required.

It seemed one of Cowley's operatives, a man named Murphy, had spent the last year seconded to MI5's Hong Kong division and had made quite the nuisance of himself. In thirteen days, Murphy was due to return home for a brief time, acting as a body guard for a Chinese judge who was scheduled to speak at an international arms conference in London.

His potential supplier literally wanted Murphy's head. Barbaric, but it made good business sense to go along with it. Not only would the head seal the arrangement, but it would protect the deal as well. Apparently this Murphy was seen as quite a threat. Sinclair did not find that surprising -- Cowley picked and trained his people very well.

Yes, it was sensible to eliminate the man, but it would not be a simple matter. In Hong Kong Murphy's death would be too easily traced back to the men who needed him eliminated. Here, the assassination could be made to look like part of an attempt on the judge. But though Murphy could not know he was a target, the conference itself would be held under the protection of CI5.

Even the best of assassins had failed when faced with that situation. But no security could defeat a trusted member turned killer. Once Ann had been kidnaped, Doyle would become such a man. Agent 4.5 would have no difficulty in approaching the target, and, when that meeting occurred, Doyle would kill Murphy for him -- the price for the life of the only woman Doyle had ever loved. CI5 might kill Doyle or he might spend the rest of his life in prison. In either case, Sinclair's desire for revenge would be satisfied.

He smiled. There remained only the detail of hiding his ties to the operation so that Cowley would look to his son's life and let suspicions of Sinclair's part in Doyle's destruction remain unacted upon. What he had needed was someone else with good cause to want Doyle dead. Not a difficult person to find given 4.5's success record.

Yes, soon his revenge would begin. In some ways he did not even mind that Bodie would emerge from the operation untouched. As it had Doyle's, time would eventually offer Sinclair the opportunity to take Bodie's life. For the present, he would content himself with letting the man witness his partner's end.

Bodie finished setting the locks and alarms, then went straight to the cabinet where he kept the scotch. It had been a long day -- mostly spent avoiding any situation where he could end up alone for even a second with his partner -- and in honour of it he quickly downed his first glass. He made short work of the second, then paused in what he fully intended to be an evening worthy of a first-class hangover, and took off his jacket, shoulder holster, shoes and socks. Comfy enough for his plans, he grabbed the bottle and his glass, then flopped down onto the settee.

He'd managed to get through a fourth generous drink when the inevitable door buzzer sounded. He glared at the intercom, willing it to tell his partner to go away. Or maybe it wasn't Doyle. Maybe it was Bodie's rotten boss of a father, who knew damned well that his son was in love with Doyle. Did that stop him from ordering Doyle into the arms of a woman Doyle had loved? No, of course not. Duty before his son's heart. That was his father. "Well, sod you, George Cowley," he muttered. "Sod you both." Didn't want to talk to either of them.

Only company he was interested in was the lovely bottle dispensing the smooth, amber warmth. It even fitted his sense of poetry -- Doyle had used scotch to ease the pain of Ann bloody Holly's departure; he would use it to ease the pain of her return. Yes, a perfect plan and one he intended to devote all his attention to, but that notion vanished with the sound of a key turning in the lock.

Cursing, Bodie snatched up his chosen companion for the evening and fled to the one room with a lock neither Doyle or Cowley had a key to. A moment later, he had the loo door secured against all intruders too dim to take the hint. Not caring to sit on the floor or on the toilet lid, he settled down in the tub, then drank straight from the bottle, having abandoned the glass in the front room.

Still a credit to his Met training, it took ex-Detective Constable Raymond Doyle, all of two seconds to find him, and the pounding on the door began. "Bodie, open this door!"

Bodie did not answer. As far as he was concerned the fact that his brain still functioned on this sober plane of reality was an inconvenience he was swiftly working to eliminate. This left no time for conversations with ex-lovers who should be off with their ex-soon-to-be-current-lovers. He sniffed at that thought, then took another long swallow. Go on, love, indeed.

"Bodie, I'm not leaving until we talk."

Tough. Don't want to talk. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He thought that he would've liked to have had the conversation Doyle had been leading up to this morning. He licked his lips lightly, remembering the kiss. Just this morning. Just a lifetime ago. He scowled wondering how Doyle could kiss him like that one moment, then utterly forget he existed in the next, but, of course, he knew how. In the morning, Bodie would even forgive him for it, would suffer his hangover and settle for being Doyle's partner and friend. Tonight... tonight he wanted to feel sorry for himself and mourn the loss of a love he'd never really had.

Doyle announced he had other plans by banging on the door again. "All right, I'll talk to you through the fucking door!"

`Oh, no, none of that,' Bodie decided, reached for the taps, then turned them both on full blast. The rush of water drowned out Doyle to a satisfying degree, but Bodie had forgotten that he was sitting in the tub. This pleased him since it proved he was rapidly moving towards the pickled state he aspired to, but it did leave him in a quandary.

Should he get out of the tub? It was really the only comfortable place to sit in here -- a very important consideration since he fully intended to spend the night with that lovely locked door between his persistent partner and himself. Should he close the drain and take a bath? Hot water would never last until morning, and, even if it did, he'd get all wrinkled. Maybe he should take his clothes off and leave things as they were. Be cold that way, but he'd had more than enough of sitting around in wet clothes during his military days.

His scowl deepened. He'd wanted to spend the evening drinking, not debating deep philosophical problems. He'd about decided to leave things as they were and deal with the issue later when the door burst open with a loud crash.

Doyle stalked into the room, his green eyes blazing and not looking at all repentant about kicking the door in. With an angry jerk, he shut off the taps, then turned the full force of his glare on Bodie.

Bodie flinched beneath it, then saw the anger fade abruptly and heard him chuckle.

"Quite a sight, you are, mate," Doyle said with a shake of his head. "Well, come on, let's get you sorted out."

"Go `way," Bodie muttered. "Go bother Ann."

Doyle knelt beside the tub, took Bodie's head in his hands, then said, "Prefer bothering you, pet." He kissed Bodie -- a long, deep touch that left Bodie light-headed enough that he didn't notice Doyle taking the bottle away from him until it was too late to stop him.

Stung by having his feelings used against him, he reached for his only source of comfort, demanding, "Give it back."

"No way, Bodie," Doyle answered, moving himself and the bottle well out of reach. "You've had more than enough."

"`s not fair," Bodie wailed, trying to struggle to his feet. He only managed to get to his knees. "Let you drink all you wanted!"

After depositing the bottle in the far corner, Doyle returned to the tub, then helped him the rest of the way up. "Know you did, but you've got no reason to get yourself in such a state. `m here, aren't I."

"Won't be tomorrow," he sniffed, but didn't fight him when Doyle started stripping off his wet clothes.

"Oh, Bodie, you great clown," Doyle sighed, hugging him hard. "I'll always --"

Stop him! Though he didn't understand why he needed to do so, Bodie obeyed his inner voice and silenced Doyle with a kiss. Then did it again when Doyle tried to speak as soon as their lips parted. By the third kiss, Bodie had forgotten all about the reason why they were kissing and set about seducing his partner.

A nuzzling kiss at the base of his right ear, a stroking caress down his spine, then a deeper, wetter kiss, soon had Doyle hard and clutching Bodie's bared arse. A gentle thrust against that lovely hardness left the sexy little sod in no frame of mind to object when Bodie drew him out of the loo, then into the bedroom.

Once there, Doyle pushed him down onto the bed and began thrusting, his fully clothed body rubbing deliciously against Bodie's nakedness. He loved the sensation and normally it sent him off like a rocket, but he'd had too much scotch for that. He would be a long time coming tonight. And that suited him fine.

The soft gasps of his lover reminded him that Doyle had not downed the equivalent of six large drinks, and Bodie's hands moved quickly to the zipper of the jeans. He freed Doyle just in time, the precious seed spilling onto Bodie's belly the instant the cockhead emerged from behind the cloth.

Doyle slumped against him, and Bodie rubbed his golli's neck and shoulders, savouring the warm weight pressing down upon him. Made him feel safe and warm with the bed to his back and Ray draped over him. Nothing sweeter than that.

"Mmm," Doyle murmured as Bodie nuzzled the damp forehead, then he stirred. "Left you behind, pet. Let me --"

"No," Bodie answered, hugging him, then he rolled, putting Doyle beneath him. "Let me."

The last time. The thought rang over and over in his mind as he eased off Doyle's clothing. The last time they would make love, perhaps the beginning of the end of their partnership as well. Tomorrow Ann would take Doyle from him, but tonight, for one last night, Doyle was his, and Bodie set about making love to every inch of him.

Twice he had to pause in his slow, sensual goodby to let Doyle calm down. Randy, little sod, he thought with amused affection, then returned to nuzzling the back of Doyle's right knee. Already had it off once, but Ray was panting with his need to climax again.

A sob caught in Bodie's throat. Never to see this passion unleashed again, never to hear Doyle voice his pleasure, never to taste him, never again. He buried his face against Doyle's thigh and fought tears that the scotch had brought too close to the surface.

"Bodie, I love you," Doyle said, his hands caressing the back of Bodie's head. "I won't leav--"

Once again Bodie's inner voice commanded him to stop Doyle from saying what he ached to hear, and he shifted quickly, his mouth engulfing the head of Doyle's cock, a flick of his tongue banishing Doyle's words into inarticulate moans. Like a kid given his favourite stick of hard candy, Bodie went to work on the flesh filling his mouth, licking and sucking with a wanton abandon that had his lover writhing beneath him.

The delicious taste of Doyle filled his mouth in hot, salty spurts, and he drank greedily, determined not to miss a single drop, but his own body remained far from climax. He shifted upward, ready to give Doyle's chest his full attention. So different from the smooth, broad spance of his own, the furry torso had always delighted him.

Doyle groaned and pushed at him as his mouth closed on one of the delicious nipples, but, ignoring him, Bodie licked and kissed the sensitive flesh.

"Bodie... Please pet, let me see to you."

"Soon," he promised, nuzzling against soft hair on his way to the other nipple. "Soon."

In truth, he had no idea how much time passed as he played with fur and nipped at flesh. Minutes, hours, it didn't matter -- it could never last long enough to suit him. Yet his own traitorous flesh began to make demands, demands he could no longer ignore when he once again felt the hard press of Doyle's arousal against his thigh.

He shifted his weight again, rolling over onto his back and drawing Doyle with him. "Want you, angelfish," he whispered, parting his legs to show him what he needed.

Doyle kissed him breathless, then abandoned him. Before he could voice his loss, hands turned him onto his belly, then spread his buttocks for a more intimate kiss. He groaned, thrusting against the mattress as the tongue teased him. He held relatively still for as long as he could, but Doyle soon had him writhing. Fingers replaced the tongue, pushing in deeper, coating him with smooth warm gel. "Want to see you," Bodie gasped, trying to shift over. "Please..."

"Shhh, it's all right," Doyle soothed him, turning him onto his back, then helped him move his legs out of the way. Then... paradise.

Doyle entered him with one smooth thrust, not stopping until his balls rested against Bodie's buttocks. His immediate need satisfied by the bulk filling him, Bodie lost all sense of urgency. "Ray," he whispered.

Only a single word, but his lover seemed to understand, for Doyle leaned down to kiss him. Their mouths and tongues danced together while Doyle did nothing more than gently rock inside him -- enough to keep them both interested, but not enough to distract.

He wanted it to last forever, but, scotch or no scotch, he'd been aroused for a long time, and his blasted cock began to need release. While his mind protested, he found himself urging Doyle to stop kissing him, to thrust faster and harder. He gripped Doyle's shoulders with a force he dimly realized would bruise as the tightness grew in his groin.

Last time. Last time. Last time. His mind mourned each thrust even as the thought fell into the same rythmn as his body. And when he came, he voiced his pleasure and his pain in equal measure.

Despite a lack of it the night before, sleep eluded Doyle, but he felt more than content to lie in the bed, his slumbering lover cuddled close. `Oh, Bodie, the things I do to you,' he thought, kissing the dark head resting against his shoulder. Normally they slept side-by-side, their limbs entwined, but despite the discomfort Bodie's weight caused him, Doyle had drawn his exhausted lover down to lie cradled against his chest. Of course, normally, Bodie shouted "Ray!" when he came. Tonight he'd shouted, "No!"

The beautiful prat seemed convinced that they'd made love for the last time. Personally, Doyle couldn't imagine a more depressing thought. From the very first time they'd had it off, Doyle had found it impossible to conceive of a time when he wouldn't want Bodie in his arms. And that had alarmed him a great deal. Sex with a man was supposed to be a romp between birds, while thoughts of the future had always belonged to a mythical wife and 2.4 kids.

Trouble was, he'd never had mere sex with Bodie, nor had he ever managed to make love with anyone but Bodie. It had taken him years to realize that simple truth, and ironically it had been Ann Holly who had forced him to see it. For he had loved her. Very much. But not once when he was with her had he been able to imagine giving up Bodie for her. More often than not, he'd thrust into her smooth wetness and found himself wishing the tight heat of Bodie's arse gripped him instead.

And for that, he had punished Bodie. First, he had refused to talk to him about Ann, granting her existence in his life some odd reverence that discussion would cheapen. When his mystified and hurt partner had probed for the reasons behind that uncharacteristic silence, Doyle had led him to believe that he was seriously considering marrying Ann. Then, when he'd discovered Bodie had been vetting Ann's father...

He could still see himself in that room, shouting, protesting Ann's innocence to Cowley, then launching the verbal attack on Bodie. Less than a year earlier, it had been Doyle who had done the checking up, Doyle who had followed him, had even doubted him for a few shameful minutes when Bodie had got himself involved with Marrika. Bodie had forgiven him and had never even spoken a word of anger to him over the matter. Yet Doyle had forgotten all of it on that sunny afternoon when they'd told him of Charles Holly's suspected drug dealings.

Christ, he'd been such a bastard, accusing Bodie of bugging his bedroom while the poor sod had sat there and taken it. When Bodie had shouted back the next day, it was only to make Doyle see sense. Doyle had rewarded that show of caring with a punch, and again, Bodie had simply taken it.

Doyle gave his mate a gentle hug. As big a bastard as he'd been during the op, none of it had compared with what he'd done to Bodie after Holly was in custody and Ann had given Doyle the push. He still couldn't remember much about that night -- not even in the wild days of his youth had he ever drank so much. He could recall vague flashes of plundering the body that now slept against him, but the only thing he clearly remembered was Bodie crying out in pain.

He wanted to hate himself for that. If Bodie had demanded his balls on a plate, Doyle would have happily handed him the knife, but Bodie had wanted something far more difficult for him to do. Bodie had needed Doyle to forgive himself. A self-admitted master of guilt trips, Doyle had wanted to go on one so long and deep that he'd be in the midst of it until years after he'd started drawing his pension. Instead, for once in his miserable, selfish life, he'd done what Bodie had needed. He'd also realized that Bodie was in love with him.

Almost as hard as forgiving himself had been denying himself the declarations of love he'd wanted to make with Bodie, but if Ann had showed him that the love existed, she had also shown him that he wasn't good enough for his partner. Certain that Bodie was a clever enough lad to suss that for himself, Doyle had tried to give him the time to do so. And to keep Bodie from getting suspicious, he'd continued to date an occasional bird.

To an observer it would have seemed that Doyle had even shifted his attention away from one-night stands towards women who would be more interested in settling down. But that was an illusion. The truth of it was that the women he had dated in the last year and a half were even more unlikely to want permanence from him than his pre-Ann choice of dates. There had been Esther, who'd had to return to the Hong Kong police force at the end of a joint case; Anita, Debbie and Judy, the daughters of the rich who enjoyed doing some slumming with the likes of him, but who would never consider him proper husband material; then finally Gwen, a doctor with an almost crazier schedule than his own. He'd liked and enjoyed the company of each and every one of them, but none had ever been a threat to the man cradled in his arms. The only threat to Bodie was the man holding him.

Around four in the morning, Doyle noticed he was no longer the only one awake. "Was up all last night arguing with Gwen," he said. "Went on and on about each other's faults, but I finally realized she only really had one. Isn't you, is she. None of them were."

Doyle sighed as the body he held tensed. `I wanted this,' he reminded himself. Had wanted Bodie to realize he deserved more from life than a rat-tempered son of a bitch like Raymond Doyle. But Bodie hadn't sussed it and Doyle had decided to stop being noble and claim the gorgeous pillock. Unfortunately, Ann had shown up and complicated things. "I love you, Bodie."

"You love Ann."

"I did, once," Doyle admitted, unwilling to lie. "But not like I love you, pet. Never like I love you."

"But you loved her."

Damn. How could he...? "Yeah, I did, and I got blind drunk over losing her, then I put her out of my mind."

He felt a soft, warm sigh against his chest. "Know you did. Dealt very nicely with her walking out on you, but you never dealt with having her in your life, did you, sunshine?"

The truth of that kept him silent for a moment, then he said, "Wouldn't have given you up for her, pet."

"I ... I can't ... won't be your ... mistress. And I can't give you the things she can."

Respectability, children, the simple joy of holding hands in a public place. Every day for years Doyle had held each one up against what he had in this bed, and though it had taken him a long time to do it, he'd come to know they weren't even close to being as important as seeing Bodie smile. "Don't want those things. I want --"

Bodie's hand came up and covered his mouth. "No, Ray. Don't say it."

Doyle shifted his head enough to ask, "Why not? Did I wait too long?" Be typical of his luck if the very day he'd decided that he'd given Bodie long enough to come to his senses was the day Bodie had done so. "Is that it? You don't want to hear it anymore?"

"Nothing I want to hear more, sunshine, but..." Bodie sighed again, this time hard enough for Doyle to hear as well as feel it. "But, like I said, you've never dealt with having her in your life. And now you have to."

"You're afraid I won't love you anymore? That's bullshit, mate. I--"

"Might discover you love her, too. Still. I've got a place in a life that includes her, but it's not in this bed. Can live with that, Ray. I swear I can, but. ..."

Doyle waited a moment, then gave him a hug. "Go on, but what?"

"Know you, don't I, Ray? You make promises to me and you'll keep them even if you find out you'd rather have her. But I couldn't let you do that, so I'd have to thump you one to get you to break. ..."

His heart. His great loving heart. Doyle knew he was wrong, or was it that he just hoped Bodie was wrong? He sighed. If there was the slightest chance. ... And only a fool would deny that Ann's abrupt departure had left a few things unresolved. "All right, I won't make any promises."

The tension flooded so quickly from Bodie's body that he seemed to go all limp. It hurt to feel it and made Doyle think of the pickled, soggy partner he'd pulled from the tub. "Got a condition though -- a promise I want you to make me."

A little of the tension returned, making it feel like he had something less than a corpse in his arms. "What?"

"Love you, Bodie, and I'm sick to death of hurting you. I find out I need Ann in my life and I'll tell you. No more jumping to conclusions about how I feel, all right, pet?"

Bodie was silent for a moment, then asked, "You'll tell me straight off?"

"Yeah, I promise."

"Then I won't believe anything unless you tell it to me."

Doyle rewarded his trust with a kiss on the top of his head. "Good, then we can deal with one other mistaken impression from last night."


He rolled, putting his lover beneath him. "This notion of yours that last night was the last time, won't do, pet," he said, nuzzling Bodie's throat. "Your dad doesn't want us in until noon, and I'm not letting you out of this bed until then."

Bodie didn't answer, but in the faint light of the growing dawn, Doyle could see him smile, then lift his lips in silent demand for a kiss.

Doyle sat in the rest room, clutching a beaker of tea between his hands and muttering a prayer to the caffeine gods to get him through the rest of this day. After two all but sleepless nights and a morning spent taking full advantage of having a warm and willing Bodie in his arms, there was little more that he wanted to do than to crawl into bed and stay there until a week from Tuesday. Instead, he had to spend the evening in a night club.

Yesterday, he and Ann had agreed that would be the logical place for them to `meet.' He had taken her to Le Cave a couple of times while they had been dating, and it was still one of his favourite night spots. Yeah, logical, except he figured he'd be lucky to have the energy to walk through the door.

Bodie could get him through it. Could keep him awake and alert enough to do the play acting needed before he could whisk Ann off for the proverbial nightcap at his place. But he couldn't ask his poor Bodie to go with him tonight. Be sadistic, that would. On the other hand, he couldn't go alone. Or at least he never had before. In the past he'd either taken a bird with him or had gone with Bodie and picked up some feminine company. No law that said he couldn't go alone, but he was wary of changing established patterns on a night staged for Sinclair's benefit.

No, not a good idea to go alone, but he refused to make Bodie watch while he pretended to fall in love with someone else. So, who could he ask to go along? Other than an occasional after-op drink at the Red Lion Bar, neither he nor Bodie socialized with any of the other lads. Saw enough of them at work, didn't they. He could always ask Susan, Ruth or Sal, but that would make the evening even longer as he staged giving his `date' the push for Ann. Probably the best way to go, but he was too bloody tired to pull it off.

Before he could come to any decisions the door opened, and Bodie walked in. They'd spent a long afternoon pouring over the files, getting themselves up-to-date on Sinclair's activities since the last time they'd encountered him and hoping that something would give them a clue as to what he planned next. No joy on that front, and all the reading had been hard on the eyes. Hard enough that Doyle had needed to pack it in and dive into a cup or six of tea. "All finished, mate?" he asked his partner.

Bodie nodded, pouring himself a cuppa. "And still nothing." He took a sip, his eyes fixed on Doyle, then he announced, "You look terrible."

Doyle smiled slightly. "Nothing a month-long kip wouldn't cure."

"Not likely to get that, are you sunshine?" He shook his head. "You should have been sleeping, instead of having your wicked way with me this morning."

"You want a man to get some rest around you, you shouldn't be so bleeding adorable."

Bodie snorted. "Not my fault you lack will power, Raymond. I don't suppose you can call it an early night?"

"`fraid not. I've got to be at Le Cave at nine."

"Yeah, be the best place to stumble on her, wouldn't it. You want to grab something to eat before we go or would you rather try to sleep?"

"Bodie, you don't have to go."

The younger man gave him an affronted look. "Of course I do. I'm your partner," he said, then he studied Doyle for a long moment. "Unless you don't want me to go."

Doyle glared at him. "Remember your promise, Bodie. No assumptions."

A slight pinkness coloured Bodie's cheeks and his eyes dropped. "Sorry," he muttered. "`m trying."

"Know you are. Now, get your beautiful self over here and give me a kiss."

Bodie obeyed, dropping down to his knees beside Doyle's chair before he lifted his mouth for the kiss. It was brief, a soft touch of reassurance, and it made Bodie smile.

"Now, I never don't want you along, pet," Doyle told him, "but I don't think you should come this time. For one thing, it'll be hard on you. We both know that. Second, I'm not sure I can pull this off with you sitting there looking all gorgeous."

Bodie considered that. "But you can't go alone. You never go to Le Cave alone." He thought another moment. "What about taking Susan? No, that won't work. If you can't handle me, you can't handle a `ditch one bird for another' scene. Nothing else for it, but to get another one of the lads to go along with you. Look a tad odd, but I'll get the old man to take me to his club for a late dinner. That way if Sinclair knows your habits and checks out the change, he'll find out that I had another place to be, and you had to make do with sloppy seconds."

Doyle shook his head slightly, not even trying to hide the affection he felt for the man. "Beautiful and brains too," he said, caressing Bodie's cheek. "Lucky I have you to look after me."

Bodie started to lean into the touch, but the door began to open behind them, and his mate got to his feet and moved a discrete distance away from him with such smooth swiftness that not even the dirtiest mind could have found something amiss by the time the door came fully open. Having reached the point where he wanted to take an announcement out in the Times, Doyle found this ... annoying. But it was also necessary until this mess with Ann was finished.

Necessary or not, Doyle couldn't quite keep the glare off his face, and Charlie grinned at him. "Long day with the files, 4.5?"

"Yeah," Doyle admitted with a heavy sigh, then he noticed Bodie's smile. Oh, no, not Mr Night-Clubs-Are-My-Life!

But neither the gods nor his partner picked up on his horror for Bodie dropped him in it. "Charlie, my son, how would you like to spend a delightful evening at Le Cave on expenses?"

Like a shark catching the scent of blood, Charlie perked up. "What's the catch?"

"No catch. The boy here has to stage a meet for the benefit of someone who might know he never goes night club hopping alone, but I can't go with him."

Given that Bodie never willingly let himself be separated from Doyle, Ray could sympathize with Charlie's suspicious look. "Why not?"

"He's got to pretend he's in love with the contact. Can't do that with the love of his life sitting next to him, can he?"

The truth, and Doyle had a sneaking suspicion that Charlie knew it, but before the other agent could say anything, Bodie played his trump. "And I have it on good authority that the lady in question will be accompanied by the lovely Julie."

Knowing Charlie rather fancied 6.7, Doyle sighed heavily. It was going to be a very long night.

Bodie sat back on his heels and watched the coals burn. It was late, far too late to be making use of a fireplace in the front room, but he knew it would be a long time before he could sleep. Silly really. Doyle wasn't likely to make any major personal discoveries tonight. If nothing else, the poor sod was too bloody tired for that. But Bodie was still afraid.

Despite all his promises, his assurances to both Doyle and himself that he could handle a partnership that didn't include intimacy, every time he tried to picture it, his stomach lurched. How could he work all day with Doyle, then watch him go home to the wife? He knew he couldn't, yet he also knew he wouldn't leave. Even if he could endure a life that didn't include Doyle, there was also George Cowley to consider.

Life had certainly been simpler before Cowley had entered his life. The man he thought his father dead, his mother abusive, Bodie had run away from home at fourteen and declared himself an orphan. From then on his credo had become `look after number one.' But shortly after his nineteenth birthday, George Cowley had tracked him down in Angola. It seemed Bodie's mother had been killed in a car accident. The car had burned and dental records had been used to identify her, which had tripped a long standing `all information received' request on the whereabouts of a certain female Irish terrorist. Only then had Cowley learned what alias she had used and that she had indeed given birth to his child. After that it had been surprisingly simple for him to locate the young mercenary.

For a time Bodie had tried to blame the man for all he'd suffered, but he had believed Cowley when he'd said he had never stopped looking for him, and anger had quickly turned to affection, then to love. `Look after number one' became a thing of the past. A stint in 3 Para, then the SAS had finally led to his joining CI5, and Bodie had no desire to leave either the organization or the man who ran it. Even if he did want to, he knew it would break his father's heart and he wasn't about to do that.

He sighed. No, he wouldn't, couldn't run, which meant, all his resolve aside, he would end up in Doyle's bed, end up a married man's lover. He stared at a future full of lies and waiting by the phone, praying Ann would have something to do that would let Doyle come to him. Oh, Christ, how could he let that happen?

A hand touched his shoulder, and he looked up at his father, then took the offered glass of scotch. "Thanks," he muttered, sipping at the amber liquid not even really tasting its smoothness.

"Bodie, Doyle loves you."

"I know, but he loves her, too."

"That was in the past. Finished."

Bodie gave him a gentle smile to soften his next words, "Like you finished with Annie Irvin?"

Cowley looked at him for a long moment, then nodded, conceding the point. "But that is different, lad," he said, settling down in his favourite chair.

Automatically, Bodie shifted over to sit at the foot of it, his side pressed against his father's leg. He thought again of how angry he should be with the man, how tired he was of always coming second to crown and country, but he'd long ago given his consent to that way of things when he'd agreed to join CI5. And tonight, he was tired, lonely and scared. Tonight he needed his father. "How is it different?"

He felt Cowley's hand brush his hair, a gentle intermittent caress that would continue for as long as they sat together like this. "It took seeing her again, and even then it took quite awhile for me understand, but it wasn't merely the woman I loved -- it was the times."

"The times?"

"Aye. I've devoted my life to serving my country, Bodie, and I have few regrets about that, but it also has made my years at university very precious."

Bodie nodded slightly, understanding. George Cowley wore the crushing weight of his responsibilities with astonishing ease, but the few years when he'd had no duty other than to himself must loom large in his memory. It would have been a time to relax, to recover from the horrors of war and to focus on his own needs as no other period of his life had ever allowed.

He thought of his father's love for classic theatre, the symphony and the opera. Yet in the last eight years, he knew of only two performances Cowley had been able to attend start to finish. "She went to the opera with you," he said, remembering one of the few things he'd been told about their relationship.

"Aye, as often as we could. I didn't find out until we met again five years ago that she did not care for it." He sounded ... amazed.

He felt a slight tremor, as if Cowley were shaking himself, then his father asked, "Do you understand what I'm saying, son? The Annie Irvin that I loved was a time and a place as much as a woman. I cannot help but love that memory for the rest of my days, but the woman alone is not someone who I would want in my life now."

"I understand." And he did, but it really didn't help. "It's been less than two years since Doyle loved Ann. Not much of a stretch to think he might love her again."

Cowley sighed. "Perhaps, but I think it only a small risk. He loves you very much."

Bodie made a small sound of agreement, but it brought him little comfort. "Far as I can tell, he sussed that yesterday morning. Doesn't give me much of an edge."

"I'm surprised at you. You've managed to win many a battle with less of an advantage. Why are you so determined to give in this time without a fight?"

Because no other fight had mattered so much, because he was so terrified of losing that he wanted to curl up and die rather than face the possibility, because. ... "I want Ray to be happy."

"A noble principle," Cowley said without a hint of mockery in his voice. "And you think Ann Holly will make him happy?"

Happy? Ann? He remembered how hard Doyle had tried to impress her -- the flowers he'd bought, the ties he had worn to get into fancy restaurants when his tastes ran to simpler fare -- how she'd hated the job that was such a large part of who Doyle was and how easily she had walked away from him. "No, I don't think she'll make him happy."

"Then fight for him, Bodie. If you will not do it for yourself, do it for Doyle."

For Doyle. And for himself. The fear still churned in the pit of his stomach, but the crushing despair of helplessness began to ease. "All right. I will."

Doyle fumbled with the keys to his front door and tried to think of a time he'd felt worse. Unfortunately, he could think of several -- usually times when he'd ended up on the wrong side of a gun or several fists. Wanting to feel utterly sorry for himself, he tried again, switching his criteria to times he'd been more exhausted. To his satisfaction, he couldn't think of any, and there had certainly never been an occasion when he'd been this tired and without Bodie to snuggle up against.

He got the door open, then gave Ann a small smile of triumph before stepping aside to let her enter. "Make yourself at home, love," he said, resetting the locks and alarms behind them -- a very annoying necessity when one wanted to collapse. Knowing he was doomed if he stopped moving, Doyle went straight for the bathroom, used the loo, washed up some, then brushed his teeth. No more for tonight. The settee called.

"Oh, Ray, I can't make you sleep on that," Ann protested when he returned to the front room, pillow and duvet in hand.

"It's no problem, Ann," he assured her. "`s quite comfortable." True enough. Since partners often slept over, the settees in CI5 flats were usually large enough and comfortable enough to serve as a last minute bed. Not that Doyle or Bodie had ever found themselves exiled to the other's front room, but it was quite cozy for an afternoon kip.

"Then I shan't have any trouble sleeping on it."

"Ann," he started to protest, but she shook her head with that determined `I am not going to surrender on this issue' look he knew so well.

"You're exhausted, Ray. Any fool can see that. You need a proper night's sleep in a proper bed. We can argue about chivalry tomorrow night."

He sighed, too tired to argue. "All right, for tonight."

She nodded her satisfaction -- loved winning an argument, Ann did -- then took the bedding from him.

Feeling like some sort of lout, Doyle mumbled his good nights, then stumbled off to his bedroom. He quickly stripped off his clothes and hopped into bed. Heaven. Ah, but he had one last thing to do before he let the pearly gates close behind him. He picked up his R/T from the bedside. "4.5 to 3.7."

There was a pause, then the phone rang. Frowning, he picked it up. "Doyle."

"Evening, angelfish," Bodie answered.

Angelfish. Why did that ridiculous pet name make him go all mushy inside? "Why didn't you just answer the R/T, pet?"

"Wanted to hear you call me `pet.' Couldn't do that over the R/T, could you."

With half of base listening in? Not bloody likely. "Should be calling you a few other things, you rat. Sending a poor, exhausted boy like meself off with a maniac like Charlie. Lucky I got out of there alive."

"Getting old, Raymond."

"Nah, Charlie's getting younger."

Bodie laughed. "Everything went okay, then?"

"Yeah. Lady's camped out in my front room."

A tsking sound came over the wire. "Putting a guest on the settee? Where are your manners?."

"Very embarrassed, but too tired to fight about it."

"Poor flower, did the little girl over-power you?"

"Yeah. She's got a stubborn streak almost as big as someone else I can name."

There was a pause, and Doyle cursed himself. He should have known better than to tease Bodie about Ann. "Stubborn, cool under pressure, intelligent, a fondness for gollies, engagingly modest," Bodie finally answered, "I'd say we had a lot in common."

Doyle blinked. He hadn't really thought about it before, but now that Bodie mentioned it, he could see several similarities. To cover his confusion, he made the expected answer, "Not nearly as good looking though, is she?"

"No one is," came the automatic answer. "Ray?"

"Yes, pet?"

"I love you."

"Love you, too."

"Sleep tight, sunshine," Bodie said, then hung up.

Doyle went to sleep with a smile on his face, and he dreamed of Bodie.

Twelve days later, Bodie decided he'd died and gone to Hell but had been too dumb to notice. Long sessions with a lot of useless files had given way to interviewing every grass CI5 used or had heard about. They'd even talked to Martell and Cusak, or as Doyle so charmingly put it, `your arms dealer friends.' Naturally, they hadn't heard anything -- gun running wasn't part of the Sinclair empire, then again, he could have decided to get into the business. Life couldn't possibly get more boring. And he hated being bored.

Bodie figured they'd been all over London, three times, before Doyle finally sighed and said, "Guess we'd better go talk to Brownie."

Christ. Whatever value Brownie might have had as a grass during Doyle's copper days had vanished when an old enemy of Doyle's had used the slimy toad as bait for a death trap. Since then, His Toadness had been far from friendly and never helpful. "Why not?" Bodie announced, trudging off towards where they'd left Doyle's motor. "Will make the day a total loss."

Doyle gave him an amused smile. "Well, we wouldn't want to do anything by halves, would we."

"Perish the thought," he muttered, settling himself in the passenger seat, content to let Doyle chauffer them about. Well, actually, it let him do the posing for once, and he'd worn his cream trousers to make the most of it.

Arranging his legs so the tight pull of cloth over groin was best emphasized, he smiled when he heard Doyle growl. "Something wrong, sunshine?" Bodie asked with his best innocent smile.

"Those trousers are indecent!" his partner muttered, pulling the gold Capri out into traffic.

Bodie managed to resist the temptation to roll his eyes. This from a man who wore size way-too-tight jeans and see-through shirts. "I thought you liked them," he sniffed, pouting -- gave his face something to do besides grin, didn't it.

Doyle snorted, then safely stopped at a red light, he gave Bodie's assets a long look. "Are you even wearing pants?"

Bodie beamed at him. "Forgot to do my laundry, didn't I. Had to make do with the trousers."

That earned him a long scowl, forcing Bodie to point out, "Light's changed, sunshine. On your way."

Muttering a few indistinct words under his breath, Doyle sent the Capri forward with a lurch.

"What's that, mate? Couldn't quite make it out."

"I said, after we finish with Brownie, we're sneaking back to your flat, so I can bend you over every stick of furniture in the place. Twice."

The suggestion had the usual effect on Bodie's anatomy, and he smirked as Doyle groaned. His partner certainly sounded like a man who had gone without for almost two weeks. Encouraging sign, that was. "Pay attention to your driving, Raymond," Bodie scolded him. "If we have an accident, you'll be filling out forms all afternoon instead of having a cuddle with me."

"A cuddle isn't what I had in mind," Doyle grumbled, but he was the model of a perfect driver for the rest of the trip.

A glutton for punishment, Doyle delayed his exit from the car long enough to be able to trail along behind Bodie and enjoy the view. Such a beautiful bum on the man and those bloody trousers showcased the backside as well as the front. Rotten sod. Drink a glass of water in front of a man dying of thirst, he would. Of course, all grumbling about frustration aside, he did know why Bodie had worn them. Nor had Doyle missed how Bodie had turned a reference to having sex into one about cuddling. His beautiful man was feeling insecure, which meant Doyle would see to it that he got that cuddle even if it meant there wasn't time for bending him over the back of the settee. He sighed slightly. The sacrifices one had to make for a mate.

This bloody case was driving them both round the twist. At first Doyle had been alarmed at how much he was enjoying Ann's company. All the intelligence, humour and courage that had attracted him in the first place were still very much a part of her. There was even a slight sexual spark. Enough of one that he might have acted on it if he hadn't fallen in love with Bodie, but he had and a number of pleasant evenings spent in her company hadn't tempted him to stray. He was certain that would never change. Now, if he could only convince Bodie.

The object of his concern stepped onto the ramp leading to Brownie's boat, then he froze. An instant later, Bodie dove to one side, drawing his gun as he moved.

Doyle pulled his own weapon and got into position to cover any attack from the boat without any conscious thought. "What's up, mate?" he asked when a few seconds passed without incident.

"The smell."

Smell? Doyle took a deep breath, then nearly gagged as the breeze blowing in over the water carried the scent to him. Laced with salt and a charming blend of pollutants, the stench of blood and decay spoke eloquently of an unpleasant situation on the boat. The decay suggested said situation was no longer threatening, but such assumptions did not lead to a long and healthy life.

"Whose turn is it?" Bodie asked.

"He's my grass," Doyle answered. Besides, it was his turn.

Bodie nodded.

Doyle moved forward, skirting along the edge of the boat until he reached the bow. Trusting Bodie to cover him at such a vulnerable moment, he holstered his gun, grabbed hold of the railing, then swung up and over onto the deck. His gun back in his hand before his feet hit, he slipped along the far side of the deck, making certain that no one hid behind the cabin.

A nod to his partner brought Bodie onto the boat, then Doyle went below deck. His every sense told him he and his partner were the only living things on board, but he still made certain, ignoring the mess on the floor as he made a sweep of all possible hiding places.

Satisfied no mad killers lurked in a closet, he reholstered his gun.


He looked up at Bodie, who had moved to the hatchway the moment Doyle had gone into the cabin. Both of them were years past getting sick over even the most spectacular display of carnage, but such sights were never pleasant and, though they hadn't liked him, they had known Brownie. The tightness of Bodie's jaw, a bit less colour in the pale skin revealed his partner's brief struggle for control.

Doyle swallowed hard against his own discomfort, switched his head into detective mode, then took a good look at the mess that had once been Brownie.

Though stripped naked, the man seemed clothed in blood, the long dark lines of cuts making an almost plaid-like pattern in his flesh. By the look and smell of him Doyle guessed he'd been dead at least two days, and he'd been a long time dying.

"Bled to death, but not from any one cut," Bodie echoed his own assessment. "Boat couldn't have been docked here when it happened."

Doyle nodded. Though bound, Brownie hadn't been gagged. Would have done a lot of screaming. "Must have happened when he was out to sea."

"Probably on one of his smuggling runs," Bodie agreed. "Question is was he killed by whoever he was smuggling something for or --"

"Killed by whoever he was smuggling," Doyle finished. "And does it have anything to do with Sinclair?"

"That likely, mate?"

Doyle shrugged and went back up and out into the relatively fresh air. "Hard to say. Brownie would smuggle anything for anyone for the right price, but he was small time." Too small time for the likes of Sinclair, but Doyle disliked coincidences. "We'd best get forensics out here. Maybe they'll turn up something."

"Hope personified, that's you, sunshine," Bodie said. "It's butchery, but it has a professional edge to it."

Doyle looked at the bloody corpse again and had to nod his agreement. It took a lot of skill with a knife to cut someone up like that without nicking something vital enough to end the fun and games. The kind of skill that came with years of experience.

Doyle pulled up in front of Bodie's flat and heard the younger man sigh.

It was late, the hoped for afternoon in each other's arms lost to hours spent canvasing the harbor for anyone who might have seen something. As they'd guessed, the harbour master's log indicated that Brownie had left port eight days ago, then returned the day before yesterday. No one could remember seeing him, only the boat arriving. The owner of the next slip had seen a tall man with dark curly hair and a beard leave the boat shortly after Brownie had docked, and they had the witness working with a sketch artist.

They still might have made it to a bed before sunset, but after questioning any potential witnesses, they'd gone on to talk to Brownie's usual business associates. Though less cooperative, a few threats and one outstanding performance of `Bodie, the mad merc' had loosened tongues enough for them to discover that Brownie had not been working for a regular client and that the pick-up had been somewhere near Dunkirk. Not very helpful, but it did keep the possibility of Sinclair's involvement in the stew.

It had all added up to a very long day, and now Doyle had less than a half hour before Julie would drop `the Mrs' off at his flat. Taking into account any possible traffic complications, Doyle figured he had all of five minutes to spare. Not long enough to even walk up to the flat and get the alarms and locks sorted out.

"See you tomorrow, sunshine," Bodie said, reaching for the door handle, but Doyle touched his arm, stopping him.

It was dark outside the car, the street lamp far enough away to keep the interior of the Capri indistinct to prying eyes. `Good enough,' Doyle decided and pulled Bodie to him for a long kiss. His cock leapt to all sorts of hopeful conclusions, but when their lips parted, Doyle did nothing more than hug his partner. "Wanted to make love to you, then spend an hour or two holding you," he whispered in the nearest ear. "Love you, Bodie. Only you."

"Love you, too, Ray," came the soft answer, making it all the harder for Doyle to let go of him, but let go he did. "Good night, angelfish."

"Night, pet." He watched Bodie walk across the street, then disappear into the building. His cock moaning its outrage at the loss, he started the car. Time to head home to Ann. Bloody job.

Bodie dressed in black the next morning. Black boots, trousers, poloneck and leather jacket -- though not as overtly sexual as the tight cream trousers, he had been told by many admirers that the effect was devastating. He hated playing these games with Doyle, hated dressing to get him all worked up, then not being able to do anything about it, but constantly reminding Ray of his masculine charms was the only way he knew to compete against all the leisure time Doyle had to spend with Ann. Soft, vulnerable Ann. Her life in danger, she must frequently look in need of reassurance.

His mind conjured up the image of Doyle holding Ann, comforting her as he'd comforted Bodie last night. He could see her looking up, her lips parting perhaps to say thank you, could see Doyle. ...

Stop it! Doyle had told him that he only loved him, and Bodie had promised to believe him. Did believe him. It was just. ... He sighed, not for the first time wishing that his lover found women unappealing. Might as well wish Cowley would double their salaries.

He drove the few blocks separating his flat from Doyle's, found a parking spot not too far away, then trotted up to the security door.

"Yes?" Ann's voice answered his buzz.

"Good morning, Mr Doyle's Rolls is here," he quipped -- no "humorous" remark meant he wasn't in friendly company and Doyle should get his arse out here and save him.

The lock released as Ann made an amused sound. Bodie went inside, making certain the outer door closed behind him, then took the stairs two at a time up to Doyle's third floor flat. Ann opened the door for him.

"Good morning, Bodie," she said, leaving the complicated locks and alarms for him to deal with. "Ray's just in the shower. Would you like some coffee?"

Just in the shower? Not like Doyle to be running late. "Sure," he answered, joining her in the kitchen. He watched her for a moment, his sense of unease growing. She looked ... very happy. "You seem in high spirits."

"Mmm," she smiled, pouring them both a cup of coffee. "It's funny, but I feel almost as if I should be grateful to Simon Sinclair."


"I never should have left Ray," she told him. "I knew that as soon as I'd calmed down, but pride kept me away. But all this blackmail rubbish has given us another chance."

Another chance. The phrase made Bodie's stomach lurch, and he left his coffee untouched. "You think you and Doyle might make a go of it this time?"

She gave him a beautiful smile. "After last night, I'm certain of it."

After last night. Bodie felt the blood drain from his face. It had backfired on him. His brilliant bloody strategy. He'd got Doyle going, then had sent him home to a warm, willing woman who loved him. Oh, Christ. He wanted to run, to put as much distance as possible between himself and a Doyle who was going to tell him that it would be the three of them from now on. But he didn't. Instead, he stood there watching an all but glowing Ann play the lady of the house, while he made the right responses to her small talk. Had years of undercover work to thank for that performance. If he could lie through his teeth with a gun to his head, what was a little pleasantry while his heart broke?

The kitchen door opened and the last person on Earth he wanted to see walked in. "Morning, mate," a less than cheery Doyle all but growled. "That coffee for me?"

Bodie handed it over. "I'll go get the car," he muttered, needing to escape. "Had to practically park at my place."

He got as far as out Doyle's front door, when an hand closed on his upper arm, stopping him. For a moment, he stood there, fighting the urge to wrench himself free and run, then he turned to face Doyle, knowing all the fear and hurt he felt must be on his face.

"Oh, Bodie," Doyle sighed, looking disappointed, then he pulled Bodie into a long, hard hug. "I love you. Only you. Thought I'd got you to believe in me."

Bodie sagged, relief making his knees tremble slightly. A one off. Last night must have been a one off, he thought, then reminded himself that he really didn't know what had happened last night. Done enough jumping to conclusions this morning, my son. "Love you so much," he whispered. "I'm sorry, I --"

Doyle silenced him with a kiss, one that swiftly went from a touch of love to one of pure passion. "Oh, damn," his partner groaned, when their lips parted. "If I don't get inside you soon, my bloody balls are gonna drop off from lack of use!"

"Then you didn't --" Bodie caught himself mid-sentence, but Doyle gave him a look that said he clearly understood what Bodie was afraid had happened.

Instead of launching into a long lecture about trust and how fucking little Bodie's promises seemed to be worth, the beautiful sod opted to pretend he didn't understand and said, "Nah. Was my night on the settee. Can't wank off when a guest could go bursting in on her way to the kitchen."

Wanting to make amends for his lack of faith, Bodie had a flash of inspiration. Cowley wouldn't like it, of course, but the old man could do the other thing, he decided, then said, "We've got two hours until we have to pull airport escort duty. Could spend it ravishing me instead of mucking about with some tatty, old files."

Doyle gave him a look of pure admiration. "Beauty and brains, too. No wonder I love you."

The kiss Doyle gave him to reward his cleverness was cut short by the security door buzzer, then a few moments later, Julie appeared on the stairwell. "Bit late, 6.7," Bodie said as they passed her on their way down.

She snorted, but Doyle muttered, "Maybe she had trouble with the sodding water heater, too."

Bodie practically danced a jig to the car.

An hour and two climaxes later, Bodie snuggled a wonderfully sticky Doyle to his chest and thought seriously about never getting out of bed again. His bum tingled, his lips felt swollen and he felt a terrible urge to start purring. For a moment, he dismissed that peaceful contentment as sexual repletion, but, no, it was more than that. Doyle loved him. Really loved him. For the first time, Bodie actually believed it. He didn't know what had happened last night. Perhaps caring concern that Ann had misinterpreted, or perhaps she'd figured out he was her rival and had done some fighting for Ray of her own. It didn't matter. He felt sorry for her -- knew how she felt, didn't he -- but he also knew that he had won. And suddenly he wanted to hear the words. "Ray?"


"Can tell me now."


"What you were going to tell me the other night."

Doyle kissed the nearest piece of Bodie's chest -- his right nipple as it happened, then rose up on his elbow. "You ready to believe in it then?"

Bodie nodded, looking up at his beautiful lover and wondering how he could possibly have got lucky enough for this man to love him.

"All right." His touch light, he caressed Bodie's face as he talked. "Want to settle down. No more dating around, no more anyone but the two of us. I love you, Bodie. Will you live with me? For the rest of our lives? Say yes."

His throat constricted with emotion, and he had to fight against it to get the word out, "Yes." He pulled Doyle to him and fought the urge to start bawling like ... the besotted prat he was. "Oh, Christ, yes."

Doyle nuzzled his neck. "You're an idiot, pet; I'm not good enough for you."

Bodie sniffed. "And here I always thought you were the brains of this team. Love you so much."

"`m glad," Doyle said, then sighed. "Want to stay in this bed for a week and celebrate, but we'd better hop it or the Cow will have our heads."

Bodie sighed and hauled himself out of bed. Bloody job.

Heathrow was the usual crush of noise and people. Always a treat trying to get someone out of here in one piece, Bodie thought darkly as they collected Edward Harbinger, ex-US Secretary of State and the only person the Americans ever seemed to send to these sodding conferences. Given the uncertainty of the Sinclair op, Bodie and Doyle had not been assigned to any conference security duties, but they knew Harbinger from an earlier visit, so they'd drawn the job of getting him to the conference in one piece. The fact that the man had brought along his wife this time suggested that trouble was not expected. Pity that. Still, one could always hope for some nutter with a cause and access to an automatic weapon or six.

Doyle lead the way out of the VIP area and down to the bullet-proof Rolls Royce waiting for them on the tarmac -- no moving through airport crowds for this lot. Charlie was behind the wheel of the Rolls, while he and Doyle led the way in Bodie's silver Capri. They didn't hit so much as a bump in the road during the 90 minute drive to the manor that served as the conference site.

They turned their charges over to Anson's tender care, stopped to exchange greetings with Murphy, who had arrived earlier in the morning, then headed back into London and all the excitement of their current assignment. Excitement. Bodie sighed. At this rate, he'd be asking Cowley to send them off for a refresher course with Macklin. At least that was never boring.

Ann sat at her desk, rereading a book proposal. For the tenth time. She finally gave up with a sigh, resigned to an eventual eleventh attempt. She simply could not concentrate on anything but what she had seen this morning.

From the moment they'd met in Cowley's office, she had felt a change in the way Ray acted towards her. At first it hadn't worried her -- it had been 18 months and God only knew what 18 months were like in his job. The shared laughter, the mutual caring, the stimulating conversation had still been there, so she'd thought it only a matter of time before the love he'd once had for her would return. Yet nearly two weeks had slipped by with nothing more than a kiss on the cheek passing between them.

Then there was Bodie. The sense of raw power about the man had always made her slightly uneasy around him, but this time around she was finding it a lot more difficult to pretend she got along with him. Something about him had worried her from the beginning. She'd thought it had been the rather casual manner in which he'd shot her father's old friend. Not that she could fault him for that -- Conroy had been about to shoot Ray in the back. Still, she'd never liked guns and that one seemed like he'd been born with one in his hand.

She sighed. Must have been blind not to have seen it 18 months ago, but this time she'd quickly come to realize that Bodie was in love with Ray. She'd never met a more masculine man than Ray, so she'd not thought Bodie's love much of a threat at first. But Ray had called him every night, had spoken of him almost constantly and only seemed to come completely to life when Bodie was near.

Good friends. Partners. She'd tried to put a hundred different words to what she saw each day, but only one truly fit -- lovers. So she'd pushed her preconceptions of Ray aside and put their relationship to a small test. A slight adjustment to the water heater had ensured a few moments alone with Bodie. Knowing he loved Ray, it had been easy enough to drop a few hints certain to upset him. Ray hadn't missed that, nor had he tarried a single moment when Bodie had tried to make his escape.

Feeling quite the voyeuristic fool, she'd watched them through the spy hole in Ray's front door, their words just distinct enough for her to make them out. So now she knew. The man she'd hoped to have in her own bed by now was in love with another man. So much for all her plans. Now what did she do?

A glance at the clock reminded her she still had obligations. Two minutes to noon and almost time to pass on some more `information' to Simon Sinclair. She pulled a slip of paper from her briefcase, then read over it one last time to make certain she'd included everything Cowley had told her to pass along. Frowning, she added some missing items, then folded the paper into a small square easily concealed in the palm of her right hand.

She got up, left her office, nodded to her `friend' Julie as she passed 6.7's desk, then headed to the coffee machine. A man hired the same day as the pretty CI5 agent was already pouring himself a cup. He smiled at her, and gallantly surrendered the cup, the paper passing to him when their hands touched briefly. She smiled, thanked him, then returned to her office, her duty to CI5 discharged for another day.

It was Billy who finally uncovered a tidbit for them. Once the long-dead Matheson and King's grass, Bodie and Doyle had kept him after he'd proved most useful in tracking down his old masters' killers.

Of course, after thirteen frustrating days of nothing and driving halfway across London for a meet, Doyle would have preferred to hear something along the lines of "Sinclair is plannin' on liftin' the crown jewels at 1:26 tomorrow night." Instead, Billy gave them the name and location of one Cindy Marsdan. Why they should want to talk with her was answered with a shrug and "Rumour is, she might have somethin' to do with Sinclair."

Not too bloody helpful, but the best lead they'd got on this fucking case -- and wasn't that the depressing thought. Still, something about the name sounded vaguely familiar.

The address turned out to be a small flat in a run down area on the east side. A boy who had the gaunt, nervous look that always said `heroin addict' to Doyle answered the door. "We'd like to speak to Cindy Marsdan," he said holding up his ID. "She in?"

What little colour the kid had drained away at the sight of the official looking identification -- although Doyle doubted he could focus enough to figure out what that identification said. "Yeah, she's in the back," he muttered, then shouted up the long, narrow staircase, "Cindy, company!"

"Be right there," a feminine voice answered -- youngish by the sound of it.

The kid looked back at Doyle for a moment, then tried to sort of slink past the two men. Bodie shifted his stance to block the way. "Think you'd better stick around, mate," Bodie told him. "Might want to ask you some questions, and my partner will get all ratty if we have to track you down later."

Doyle gave him an indignant look, then went inside and up the stairs. To call the room at the top of the stairs sparsely furnished would have been an understatement. A mattress in the far corner, a hot plate and lamp on a small table and an artist's easel with a stool in front of it completed the list of furnishings. In contrast, the walls were nearly covered with paintings. Enjoying an occasional afternoon off working on a canvas himself, Doyle could appreciate both the cost of the oil paints and the canvases. He could also admire the talent of the artist -- the owner of the easel given the similarity to the work-in-progress resting on it to the ones already hanging.

"Christ, why doesn't she shoot herself and be done with it?" Bodie muttered after giving the paintings a good look.

Doyle couldn't deny that they seemed to radiate depression and anger, but they fascinated him as well. Some were abstracts, little more than splashes of colour as if the artist had wanted to visualize a scream. Others were of scenes Doyle was all too familiar with -- addicts, pushers, the agony of someone in withdrawal, a body in the morgue and bags full of white powder that made a bloke think he was on the top of the universe when he was really lying in the gutter. They all told the story better than half a dozen documentaries he'd seen on the BBC.


The soft sound pulled his attention to a young woman who had emerged from a large storage closet. For a second, he couldn't place her, but the look of recognition in her own eyes, pushed the memory to the forefront -- Aren't you going to ravish me?

She sighed. "I always wondered if I'd ever meet the two of you again." Sad eyes that made her seem much older than nineteen studied them. "I suppose you're here about my father."

Marsdan. It had been the maiden name of Simon Sinclair's late wife, a simple entry in one of several dozen files they'd poured through, but it had stuck enough for him to remember it now. He swallowed hard, trying to reconcile his memories of a precocious girl with the painfully thin young woman. "Cynthia --"

"No," she said, her eyes flashing. "That's what he called me. I'm Cindy now."

Bodie spoke up, "Spotted a diner down the street when we got here. Think we could all use a cup of tea."

They'd needed information quickly and Sinclair's daughter had seemed the man's only vulnerable spot. Neither of them had enjoyed involving the girl, and they'd worked hard to keep her at ease. Friendly conversation, a shared chocolate bar and she'd seemed no worse the wear when they had taken their leave of her. They'd chalked it all up to one of those moments when the job had demanded something of them that pricked the conscience and turned their attention to getting Krivas.

Now, Doyle sat beside her again, this time in a tatty booth instead of a plush Rolls, and reminded himself over and over again that Krivas had been after plutonium -- would have made away with it too, if they hadn't stopped him courtesy of the information they'd prised from Sinclair. One girl's life versus perhaps millions who might have been killed in a terrorist nuclear blast. Seemed an easy choice, but listening to her, he had his doubts.

"I adored my father, you know," she was saying, her voice a soft whisper that lacked the child's confidence. "Thought he was the greatest man who ever lived, but. ..."

The time she had spent with the dashing, green-eyed stranger had made her curious. Why the little game and why had daddy looked so pale and angry when she returned to the house? And so she had started listening and watching. It had taken a year for all the pieces to come together into something she could understand. She sniffed. "Quite a jolt, discovering your father is a criminal mastermind. I'm afraid I didn't handle it very well."

The fine clothes, the excellent schools, the front row seats to spectacular premiers, all the things she'd once loved having and doing were suddenly tainted. "At first I tried telling myself that it didn't matter. Daddy does have a legitimate source of income as well, so I pretended that's where all the money he spent on me came from." She laughed at herself. "That little delusion got me to sixteen, but after that. ..."

She hadn't been able to endure it anymore. She'd run away from home a few times, but her father had always tracked her down and brought her back within a day. So she'd started rebelling, doing anything and everything she could to distance herself from him.

Cindy took a shuddering breath, not as if she wanted to cry, but as if she no longer could. "I won't go into the details, but I think you can guess where it ended."

The paintings. "You started using."

She nodded. "For almost a year. That I managed to keep from him, until I miscalculated one day and ODed. He locked me in a rehab centre `for my own good.' I suppose it was. When I came out, I was of age, and I've not seen him since."

Painting had become her new addiction, pouring her pain onto the white canvas instead of using white power to push it away. But it was expensive, taking almost every cent she earned waiting tables at a local tavern. The kid Bodie had let loose before they came to the diner was the latest in a string of lost souls she'd taken in from time to time. Least she could do to fight back against all the pain her father had caused.

Her eyes met Doyle's. "I've thought a lot about you over the years. Wondered if I shouldn't hate you, but I don't. If not for you, I'd have ended up part of his sordid empire or married to someone like him, while I pretended I didn't know what was going on and buried my conscience in a Paris buying spree."

From the sound of it, Doyle suspected that was what her mother had done. "I'm sorry."

She nodded. "So am I. After five years of hating him and everything he stands for, I still love him." She met his eyes again. "I wouldn't help you if I could. I guess that makes me a rather pathetic hypocrite."

Doyle shook his head. "Just human."

Bodie didn't feel much like talking as he drove Doyle home. One of Cindy's paintings rested in the back seat of his motor, while Doyle was half a paycheck shorter of funds. Bodie had given her the name of an art dealer -- wife of someone who'd served in 3 Para with him. He'd saved the dozy sod's life, which should be good for a favour or two. And, though he didn't care for the content of her work, he could see that she had talent. He sighed. Small compensation for what life had thrown at her.

"Come on up, mate," Doyle said when they pulled up in front of his flat. "Ann's got a dinner meeting, and I don't fancy eating alone."

Not particularly thrilled with the notion of being alone with his own conscience -- contrary to popular belief, he did have one -- Bodie locked up the car and followed his partner inside.

They didn't talk much, and while dinner was warm and filling, Bodie couldn't remember what he'd eaten five seconds after he'd finished it. He sighed. "The hell of it is, Ray, if I had to do it all over again. ..."

Doyle nodded. "I know. Wasn't any other way, was there?"

Bodie shook his head. Not at the time. Not even in hindsight.

"Funny though," Doyle said as he started clearing up, "how different they are."

"How different who are?"

"Ann and Cyn-- Cindy."

True enough. While Cindy had been all but destroyed by learning the truth about her father, Ann had simply gone on with her life. "`course Ann was older when she found out."

"Yeah, and I guess we really don't know how she took it at first." He shrugged. "Some of those tears might even have been for him."

Tears? Oh, yes, Doyle had mentioned she'd cried when she gave him the push. Hard to imagine that. She didn't seem the type.

Bodie stopped up the sink, then started to fill it, flinching at the hot water that splashed his hand. Cursing, he turned on the cold tap. "Water heater's working a treat now, sunshine," he said, perversely grateful for a change of subject. "What was wrong with it?"

"Something came loose, water all leaked out. Had to clean it up, then let it refill." He shivered. "Sometimes being a gentleman is a right pain."

Of course Doyle would have taken the second shower, letting Ann use what little hot water there was. He shivered in sympathy, then smiled. Fate, it had been. If the water heater hadn't needed fixing, Doyle would have been ready to go when Bodie had come to collect him. Ann wouldn't have had time to talk to Bodie alone, and he and Doyle wouldn't have ended up back at his place whispering promises. If --

The water heater was good.

The memory came out of nowhere. Been years since he'd even given Shelly Hunter and her terrorist pals a thought, but he could hear her voice clear as a bell saying, "The water heater was good."

She'd been unresponsive to the Doyle charm, so Ray had sabotaged her water heater, giving him an opportunity to charge to her rescue. She'd been very responsive after that, and he knew Doyle'd had more than a twinge of regret when she turned out to be one of the villains on that op.

What had Doyle told him when he'd come up with the water heater bit? Sometimes you have to make your opportunities, my son.

He cleared his throat. "Something came loose?"

"Yeah. One of the connectors. Only needed to take a quick wrench to it. Clean up took longer."

Just needed to take a quick wrench to it. Perhaps Ann believed in making her own opportunities as well. Well, if she had, it'd backfired on her. And that was the end of it. Wasn't it?

The water heater was good.

Just needed to take a quick wrench to it.

That little delusion got me to sixteen, but after that. ...

Funny how different they are.

Some of those tears might even have been for him.

Over and over the voices whispered in his ear, nagging at him until he was almost grateful when Ann showed up, and he could make his escape. He'd just got into his car when another voice -- his own -- spoke up. Oh, come on now!

A four word reaction to the last in a long string of coincidences. A reaction he'd forgotten before he'd ever consciously registered having it.

She's not involved. Doyle had believed it, so Bodie had believed it, too. But. ... Information received had prompted Cowley to order them to follow Conroy. That bastard had led them to Ann's flat, had hidden on Ann's floor. Coincidence. Could have run anywhere, ended up dead on any floor. With that in mind, Bodie had scoffed when Cowley had demanded he check out the future Mrs Doyle. Disgusted at himself for telling his father about Doyle's thoughts of marriage and worried about Doyle's reaction, he had stalled, starting the vetting process with her only living relative -- her father. And. ...

Charles Holly had turned out to be a major drug smuggler. But Ann had said she hadn't seen him in years. But Conroy had served in the RAF with Holly. But Ann's late mother had got two flats in the same building as part of her divorce from Holly. Ann had inherited one and the other had been sold to Conroy's sister.

Conroy's sister had a flat in the same building as Ann. Right. That had been one thing too much for Bodie, had been what had him all but blurting it out -- Oh, come on now! An instant later, before his mind could consciously latch on to those doubts, Ann had created a scene in the outer hallway. It seemed she had come to speak to her almost-fiance and had overheard the interrogation of her father.

Doyle had gone racing out of the room after her. And Bodie had lost any concern but how much his partner was hurting. Ann had given Doyle the push, leaving Bodie to pick up the pieces, then had left for the States three days later.

Nothing pointed to her involvement. Her father had backed up her claims that they hadn't seen each other in years. And everyone had been embarrassed that suspicions had cost Doyle a serious relationship. So the entire matter of Ann Holly had been dropped. But. ...

The water heater was good... Some of those tears might even have been for him. Couldn't they have just.

Bodie started up the Capri and drove away from Doyle's flat. Not towards his own, but back to Headquarters. It was time he did a proper job of vetting one Ann Holly.

"I think you'd better take a look at this," Charles said, entering Sinclair's study.

"And `this' is?" Sinclair asked as he was handed a quarter-sheet of paper that had been folded numerous times.

"Miss Holly's report," Charles answered. "It's the usual reasonable fiction, but the last item is a problem."

Sinclair slipped on his glasses and read -- Simon, the plan won't work. Doyle is in love with his partner.

Bodie. A cold rage swept through Sinclair as he realized that once again the CI5 man had disrupted his carefully laid plans. And it had all been so perfect. He'd even allowed Cynthia's whereabouts to reach the notice of a few CI5 informers, wanting the two agents to find her and see what they had done to her, to know the depths of his hatred for them. To have it all fall apart now made him want to scream with rage, but he forced himself to stay clam, to think.

In three days the conference would end and Murphy would escort his charge back to Hong Kong. Once in the air the young man would consider himself safe, and it shouldn't be too difficult to arrange for one of the air hostesses he used to smuggle smaller amounts of drugs to be on the flight. Poison in the coffee would end Sinclair's obligation to eliminate Murphy. The head could be stolen from the Hong Kong morgue after it was all over. But it would not satisfy his need for revenge.

"There's something else," Charles said. "The alert flag has come up on Miss Holly's financial records. My guess is that CI5 is busy tonight."

His intellect told him there would be another day, but he'd come too close to lose the opportunity now. He knew Doyle couldn't be behind the check. Even if he suspected Ann, he would not tip her off by leaving her during his time to guard her. That meant Bodie was probably behind it. It would be best to assume a full vetting was under way. It wouldn't come up with anything -- he'd had his own people carefully examine every detail of her life before including her in his plan. And there was nothing that even approached the level of hard evidence. But there were a few things that raised a question or two.

He thought of what his own people had done, who they'd talked to, what they'd looked at, where they'd gone, and he smiled. "Tell our guest, he has a new target. One who might walk right into his hands."

Bodie sat back in his desk chair and stared at the files in front of him. On the surface they supported every word both Ann and Charles Holly had said about lack of contact. But the man had made Ann his beneficiary. The manor was hers now, along with the considerable wealth the government had been unable to seize. She'd kept it all. Very practical that, but Bodie thought of Cynthia and how practicality had little to do with accepting tainted money.

Then there were the financial records. He'd used quite a lot of CI5 power to obtain them so quickly and so late last night -- his father was certain to get an earful about that from the bank president. But. ... Twice during the ten years Ann claimed to have not seen her father, Holly had withdrawn a large sum of cash. Within a week of both withdrawals, Ann had registered a new car. Coincidence or a gift from daddy? Nothing to make the Crown Prosecutor smile, but Bodie was certain now that Ann had lied about the estrangement. And why do that if not to hide her involvement in case his drug dealings led to his ruin?

He stood up, then stretched hard. Be dawn soon, he noted with a glance at the clock and decided to take a quick shower to clear his head. The few agents on duty camped out in the rest room, Bodie had the locker room and showers to himself, and with the first rush of water came doubts about his theory.

Ann worried him, she threatened his peace of mind. Was he really on to something criminal or was he trying desperately to remove her permanently from Doyle's life? The jealous bitch queen from Hell. Bodie had no doubts that he was more than capable of filling that role, but he thought ... hoped he was enough of his father's son to rise above that when it came to the job.

His father's son. He was certain Ann had lied about contact with her father, but was he really so certain that distance from his criminal dealings was her motive? Certainly, criminal activity had had nothing to do with his own silence on the matter.

He'd been a few months short of his nineteenth birthday when Cowley had found him lying in an Angolan hospital bed trying to decide if he wanted to make the effort to live. It had been almost ten years to the day later when he'd finally stopped keeping his relationship with Cowley a secret. Nothing dire or mysterious about it -- he'd simply not wanted anyone to think he hadn't earned his position in 3 Para, the SAS, then finally in his father's own organization. Of course, he'd been long past that risk when he'd admitted it, the secret a habit rather than a need. And exactly how did one tell his partner that he'd been fucking the boss' son?

Yeah, habit and Doyle's potential reaction had kept him silent. Then he'd heard the rumours. Rumours that he was George Cowley's lover. Been time for the death of one secret, he'd decided and had announced the birth of George Cowley's bouncing twenty-eight year old son. Doyle hadn't spoken to him for two days, prompting Bodie to do the seducing for once. Little sod had always been easy to get going.

Bodie smiled at the memory and shut off the water. He dressed in a clean set of clothes from his locker -- not that anyone could tell one black poloneck from the next -- then returned to his desk. His glance fell on Charles Holly's will. She'd kept the manor. He didn't feel like he had enough to take to his father or his partner -- nothing more than a suspicion and the coincidence of two withdrawals and two car purchases, but. ... She'd kept the manor.

Back in the days when only a small handful had known Cowley was his father there had been one place where the proof could be found. He checked the time again. Not quite five. Early enough to drive out to the manor, take a look around, then get back to town in plenty of time to collect Doyle at eight. He picked up the keys to his motor and headed for the door.

One hour later, Bodie rousted the manor's caretaker out of a warm bed and convinced the old duffer to let him into the main house. When he had investigated Charles Holly, Bodie had spent quite a few hours crouched in the bushes outside the place, but he'd never been inside. Later, his attention on Doyle's broken heart, the Holly op follow-up had been left to others.

Impressive, he decided studying the entryway and the long ornate staircase leading to the second floor. To be thorough, he'd need to take a look at every room, but what he wanted would be on the second level. It was the third door he opened -- Ann's room.

He had a room in his father's house, a place Cowley had told him he could always consider home. And in it he'd left the things he didn't want to haul from flat to flat. His uniforms, his medals, a few mementoes he'd kept from his travels -- in short, a record of his life. Ann's was here.

Dolls and stuffed animals decorated the bed. Not a good sign, then again, he'd had to push aside such toys to have it off with more than one bird -- but Ann didn't seem the type. The photos on the dresser were more promising. He found a few of Ann with her father, some with her wearing her hair in the same around the shoulders cut she was wearing now. He might get lucky and find out that the cut was only a few years old. Other than that slim hope, the drive out here seemed to have been a bloody waste of time, then his glance fell on the closet. Idiot, he told himself.

He kept a few changes of clothes at Cowley's for the nights he stayed over, finding it easier than packing a bag. He opened the closet and smiled at the sight of two business suits among the casual clothes. Not the sort of thing a student wore, but perfect for a career woman. She had lied about her father -- he could prove that much to Doyle and Cowley. Between the three of them they might be able to prove a few other things.

A crash somewhere downstairs jerked his attention to his surroundings even as he drew his Browning. Given the way this case had been going it was probably a cat or something, but his gut told him otherwise. His mind flashed over his options -- out the door, then down the staircase or look for the inevitable servant's staircase. Either was too obvious for his tastes. That left a window. Once outside he could assess the situation, then call in the troops or get the cat some breakfast.

Deciding against the window in Ann's room, he slipped out into the hallway, down two doors and into another bedroom. The drop was nasty enough that no one would expect him to take it and there was cover only a few paces away. He started to open the window, ready to abandon this route if it betrayed him with the slightest sound, but it rose without so much as a squeak.

His time in 3 Para serving him well, he dropped from the sill, collapsing with the fall and rolling to blunt the impact. Not a pleasant landing, but his ankles survived well enough, and he moved quickly into the wooded area ringing the manor.

He circled round the front and found the door standing open. Fairly certain that a cat couldn't open doors, Bodie opted for calling in the troops. He reached for his R/T, but an agonized scream made him freeze. A moment later, a tall black man stepped out the door, holding the old caretaker in front of him. "You've got until the count of five to surrender, mate," the big man announced, "or I'll kill this old duffer. One."

Bodie cursed himself for a fool. Never should have come out here without telling Central where he was going, but it had seemed like a simple errand. A fact finding jaunt no more dangerous than popping out to the shops. So much for `seemed.'


The files were still on his desk. Doyle's copper nose might lead him here eventually.


Eventually being the key word. Odds were he'd be dead the second he stepped out into the open.


Oh, fucking hell. He couldn't let them snuff the old man. He was sure that was in the small print somewhere.


Of course nothing in the small print said he had to be a right prat about this. "All right!" Bodie called out, stood up to get a better angle for his shot, then fired.

The black man jerked backward, falling away from the frightened shield. If the old man'd had enough sense to run, they might have both got out of this, but he stood frozen in terror. A second goon grabbed the poor sod, while a third fired a round at Bodie from the second floor window. The bullet struck the ground a few inches away from where he had been standing -- he noted that as he dove behind another clump of bushes. Either the man was a lousy shot or they wanted him alive.

"Shall we try that again, Mr Bodie?" Second Floor asked.

The accent was South African, but he couldn't make out more than a partial shape. No fancy shot would take that one down, and he could hear someone running around the side of the manor. Three to one and a hostage thrown into the mix; Bodie knew when he was beat. With a sigh he stood up, tossed his gun away, then raised his hands in surrender.

The goon in the doorway kept his hold on the caretaker until his mate had secured Bodie's hands behind his back with a rope. The shape in the second floor window vanished, then a few moments later the caretaker and his captor were shoved aside. A tall man with dark curly hair and a beard came outside, then rather casually cut the old man's throat.

"No!" Bodie shouted, but before he could move, his head seemed to explode and darkness swallowed him whole.

Doyle opened his eyes with great reluctance, then groaned when he got a look at the clock. Almost six. He could have slept another half hour, but no, he had to go and wake up on his own. Then again, given the weird dreams he'd had all night, maybe it was better to be awake.

He got up from the settee -- he'd insisted on bedding down there every night after the first -- then padded out to the kitchen to make himself a cup of tea. No, coffee, he decided. Black and as hot as he could stand it. Dreams full of exploding water heaters and women laughing warranted at least that.

Blast Bodie anyway. Why did he have to bring up that sodding water heater? It had made him think of Shelley Hunter and his minor sabotage. All part of his plan to get himself into the good graces of a pretty air hostess, the innocent roommate of a terrorist who had turned out to be one herself. A set-up.

It's always a set-up, with me as the pigeon.

He remembered saying that to Bodie when they were on their way to arrest Jill Haydon. She had shown up on his doorstep claiming her father was in jail for a crime he had not committed -- the murders of Sid Parker, Doyle's first partner in the Met, and Fitch, a local gambler who'd talked too much as far as Bill Haydon had been concerned. She'd got him to believe it, had carefully led him to new evidence that made him doubt what he'd seen and heard the night the two men had been killed. In the end it turned out that she had fabricated the evidence, had become a murderer herself to do it.

Then there was pretty Kathie Mason. Or rather Kathie Preston. While Jill had merely flirted with him and exchanged a few kisses, Kathie had gone willingly to bed with him as part of an elaborate set-up to avenge the years her secret husband had spent in prison courtesy of Doyle and his ex-desk sergeant, Maurice Richards. They'd killed Maurice and had used Brownie to bait a trap to get Doyle, but thanks to Bodie and Cowley, he'd survived and the Prestons were keeping Jill and her father company in jail.

He remembered saying something else, this time to Cowley about Ann -- She's not involved, sir. I know her. With a shudder he realized that while he never would have made such claims about Shelley, he would have said exactly the same thing about Kathie, perhaps even of Jill. Of course, he would have said the same thing about a dozen or so other birds he'd dated, and none of them had turned out to be murderesses bent on revenging homicidal husband/fathers. So why was he suddenly thinking Ann was?

He wanted to dismiss it all as the after effects of weird dreams. Hadn't he encountered more than one water heater that had gone bad without any help? Too right he had. But. ... He kept thinking of Bodie's face when he'd walked into the kitchen yesterday morning. All full of hurt and fear. As if ... as if Ann had told him something that had made him think Doyle was about to give him the bad news. He shook his head. No, she wouldn't have done that. Was only Bodie's insecurity flaring up.

And yet. ... He sighed, defeated by his doubts. There was nothing for it then. When he and Bodie got to headquarters, he was going to have to take a look at the files, see if a proper job had been done vetting her, and if not, do it himself. Christ, what a way to make a living.

A hard slap across Bodie's face brought him around. The blinding wave of pain that followed almost made him pass out again. Having felt that kind of pain before he knew what it meant -- concussion. Man behind him had probably hit him over the head with the gun butt. That meant his first concern was whether or not he was bleeding inside his skull. He had no way of knowing how long he'd been out, but the other symptoms were absent -- he didn't feel nauseous nor did the room spin when he finally opened his eyes. Encouraging signs for his long-term health, but the sight that greeted him was not.

The curly headed, bearded man stood in front of him. Bodie thought it would be a good time to kick the murdering bastard, but found that his feet had been secured to the floor. A quick assessment of his situation did nothing to lighten his spirts.

He'd been stripped of all his clothes, then trussed up like some side of beef hanging from the ceiling, his weight all on his wrists -- a source of pain he couldn't quite feel given the one in his head. Made his body nice and accessible for any mischief someone might want to do, and it didn't take a genius to figure out his captor had been the one who'd cut up Brownie. His stomach twisted with fear, but he kept it out of his voice as he asked, "Who are you?"

"I'm an old friend of your partner's," the man answered. "Name's Parker."

Parker. The sadistic bastard John Avery had hired to kidnap President Ojuka a few months ago. Bodie and Doyle had thwarted the attempt, captured the ones behind it, but Parker had vanished much to Doyle's annoyance. Bodie had never laid eyes on him outside of a photo, and even knowing who he was it was difficult to see the clean shaven, strawberry blond beneath the new look. "Thought you would have had the sense to stay out of the country, mate."

"I go where the money is, and I'm getting paid quite a lot to entertain you," he said, pulling a heavy knife with a thick wooden handle from a sheath fastened to the waist band of his trousers.

File hadn't said anything about Parker being an expert with a knife. Have to have a word with Central about that oversight. "Must be a nice change from shooting defenseless women in the back."

"Got a mouth on you just like your partner," Parker observed, then hit Bodie in the stomach.

The ropes didn't allow Bodie to double over, but the thought was there. A few more blows struck him in the torso, then one across the jaw. He almost blacked out, but Fate refused to be kind, and he stayed conscious. Just.

He felt the scrape of sharp metal caressing his throat, but not the white hot pain of a cut. That pain never came. Down his neck, around one nipple, then over and around the other, the tip of the knife scratched along his body. Parker drew a Zed down his torso, circled his navel, then moved down the length of each leg, all without the slightest cut. Bodie hadn't moved through the entire process, but even his blood seemed to freeze when the metal moved to his groin.

He bit his lip to keep from crying out against the pain of even the scraping along the length of his penis, and the metal actually cut twice when it explored the underside. "Sinclair wants these," Parker said as he nudged Bodie's balls with the knife. "Think he's planning on keeping them in a jar on a shelf, but we'll save that treat for later.

"Best to leave you in one piece until after your partner's seen you." Parker stood up, then moved around behind Bodie. "But that doesn't mean we can't have some fun to pass the time."

No, no, no, not again! Bodie clenched his jaw to keep himself from screaming, horror at what he was certain Parker was about to do keeping him almost oblivious to the blade's scraping path down his back, across his buttocks, into the crevice. ... Then he did scream.

The ripping, hot agony piercing his anus made him think Parker had thrust the blade into him, but the blood that began to lubricate the violation oozed instead of gushed. The handle, then. At least the blade would have ended it quickly, but the handle kept thrusting into him. Over and over again. Ripping, humiliating, tearing. ... Bodie fought desperately to keep his thoughts focused on now, but it kept slipping away, merging with the past, wood turning to flesh to wood to flesh to. ...

At 7:30 Julie arrived to collect Ann. Doyle watched the woman he'd once considered marrying walk out the door and waited for his partner to come to collect him, so he could prove to himself how innocent she was.

At 8 he started to get annoyed. He might have married her. He really might have. Even after she'd left him, he might have gone after her the next day and made it up to her, made her understand. But he'd hurt Bodie the night before and all thoughts of Ann had vanished in the face of that. Now all he wanted was for the prat to get his arse over here so he could get to work and find out how real all of that had been.

At 8:15 the worry set in. It was a rule with them -- more than 15 minutes late and it was time to call.

At 8:16 he called Bodie's flat. No answer, so he contacted Central and was informed that 3.7 had checked out this morning after a night at HQ. A night at HQ? What was Bodie up to?

At 8:17 he headed out the door.

He had the white Escort checked out this week, so he spotted the small, dark, rectangular shape in the centre of the bonnet the moment he stepped out of the building. Though he couldn't actually make it out, he guessed it was Bodie's CI5 identification -- bait for a trap -- but he kept walking towards the car. All he could hope for was that whoever was watching had orders to take Doyle alive, because he'd need someone to take him to his partner before he could get the dumb crud out of whatever mess he'd got himself into.

Bodie was drowning. Old horrors rose up and crashed over him with the relentless pounding of a storm driven surf, and he wanted nothing more than to let those churning waters drag him down to someplace safe.

Safe. Ray made him feel safe. Ray could help him. Buried beneath the shock his consciousness stirred. Ray. Parker had said Ray was coming. The thought of his lover seeing him like this almost sent his mind into a lasting retreat, but he fought against it and latched onto one horror greater than all the rest -- Parker might use the knife on his Ray.

Like a lifeline, he used that threat to anchor himself, then slowly began to pull himself back up through the layers of protection his mind had blanketed itself with.

He blinked and heard himself mewing like some abused kitten. Though it disgusted him, he did nothing to stop the sound coming from his throat and assessed his situation. The thrusting had stopped, but the handle remained buried in his body. It hurt, and a slow trickle of blood flowed down his right leg, but it was nothing fatal. Parker sat in a chair across the cellar, watching him, his face a mask of pleasure.

Bastard. Rage welled up within him, but he forced it to cool. He had to stay calm, had to move away from the churning pit of emotion that wanted to drag him down. Not quite in shock, but close, so close. He had to think, had to find a way to escape before Ray arrived.

His groin. The sadistic bastard had Bodie's legs tied together making it difficult to abuse the underside of Bodie's groin. If he could get him interested. ... Bodie squirmed, moving his legs as much as possible to emphasize his most vulnerable spot. Nothing. He did it again, working at expelling the knife while he was at it, but the handle tapered in which kept it quite securely inside him.

The third squirm brought Parker to his feet. Tears streaming down his cheeks, the pathetic keening unabated, Bodie concentrated on looking the broken, helpless man. A simple task really, since he was only one very determined thought away from that state -- he had to get free if he wanted to save Ray.

Parker knelt in front of him and caressed Bodie's balls. "Perhaps we won't wait for your partner," he murmured, drawing a switchblade from his pocket.

It snapped open, and Bodie knew that one way or the other it would all be over in the next few moments. Even if his body could stand the shock of a gelding, his mind would totally shut down. Mentally he held his breath as the blade moved towards his flesh, then Parker frowned. That's right. Can't do a proper job of it with my legs so close together. Get them out of the way, you bastard.

Almost as if he'd willed it, the blade moved to the ropes securing Bodie's feet. The sharp metal cut threw the bonds with a quick motion, then Parker shifted. In that moment, Bodie moved.

His legs came up, gripping Parker's neck between them, then Bodie twisted and a most satisfying snap sounded through the room.

Doyle drove as instructed, his hand constantly shifting from the gear box to Bodie's ID in his pocket, as if it were some sort of talisman that would keep his lover alive for as long as Doyle had it. Two men were with him -- one in the front seat, the other in the back behind Doyle. They were good, but not great. He could have taken them a couple of times already. But he needed to know where Bodie was first. And this lot wasn't talking. For all he knew, they didn't even know. They'd only said they were taking him to the sweetest bolt hole either had ever seen.

He'd driven a half hour, when he recognized the route. He'd taken it to get to Charles Holly's estate. So much for his doubts about Ann. A sweet bolt hole.

The manor would qualify for that description. So did he take the chance Bodie was there, or at least someone Doyle could force to give him his partner's location, or did he wait and take his chances? The Holly estate could house a large number of goons in comfort. Not good odds for an inside escape. Best to surprise them from the outside.

His decision made, he pictured the rest of the route in his mind. That last sharp turn about two miles from Holly's place. He'd make his move there.

Bodie let the dead body fall free, then turned his attention to the rope securing his arms. It hung over one of the pipes lining the cellar ceiling, and each end had been tied about one of his wrists. No hope of any thrashing about catching a sharp edge on all that smoothness. A knife would have ended the problem nicely, but he might do himself a serious internal injury if he tried to shift around enough to get hold of the one inside him and the switchblade had fallen too far away to reach with his feet. Still. ... High ceiling. Looked to be a good five feet above his hands, but there was nothing else for it.

His feet no longer anchored to the floor, he could move his shoulders freely, letting him grasp the right rope with his left hand. He pulled himself up, grasped the left rope with the right hand, then pulled again. Inch by inch, he began to climb.

Doyle gradually let the car pick up speed for the mile or so, then took the turn without braking into it. The car lurched to one side, throwing off everyone's balance, but Doyle had been ready for it. He slammed the brakes, caught hold of Front Seat's gun hand and broke the wrist with a quick twist, while his other hand pulled free the Smith and Wesson he kept hidden under the passenger seat. Before Back Seat could react, Doyle had him covered.

A cold sweat cooling his already chilled body, Bodie hauled himself up enough to grab the pipe. Another pull and he got his left arm hooked around the cold metal. Using that hold to brace himself, he untied the ropes. With a sigh of relief, he dropped back down to the floor, prepared enough for the collapse of his legs to keep himself from falling flat on his back and driving the knife further into him.

He hovered on the edge of shock, trying to will his near useless body to move, but for the moment, he couldn't so much as twitch.

Doyle moved towards the manor, his senses straining for any sign of movement, but no one seemed to be here. Oh, God, had he guessed wrong? Was it all one big coincidence that his captors had sent him along the same roads leading here? If Ann weren't part of this, coincidence certainly would be the watch word for her life. All Doyle could do was pray it didn't cost Bodie his.

He opted to go in through a back window, moving through the halls with the quick careful watch for company that had kept him alive and on the job into his mid-thirties. But there was no one. Not on the first floor, not on the second. That left the cellar.

The door off the kitchen stood open -- no need to worry about squeaking hinges. Bodie had always said Doyle moved like a cat, and hoping his partner was right, he went carefully down the stairs, his body tensed against the slightest creak.

The lights were on, so as soon as he cleared the first floor landing, he could see into the large room, could see two motionless forms lying on the ground. He wanted to scream, but he kept silent, kept on guard until he'd made certain that this room was equally empty. "Bodie," he shouted, only it came out a hoarse whisper.

Blue eyes opened. "Ray."

Bruises and long, red scratches marred the alabaster skin, but Doyle could see no reason for his lover's state as he pulled Bodie into his arms.

"Ray, please, get it out," Bodie whispered, clutching at Doyle's torso. "Please."

"What? Jesus, Bodie, what's wrong?"

"Knife," came the whispered reply, the body he held twisting enough for him to see the sheathed blade protruding from Bodie's anus and the small pool of blood beneath him.

"Oh, Christ." Doyle eased the vile thing out of Bodie, biting his lips as his lover cried out at the pain, then flung the knife away.

Trembling, Doyle held Bodie close with one arm, while he pulled his R/T from his jacket with his free hand. "4.5 to Central. I need an ambulance."

Safe, he was safe in Doyle's arms. That was all that mattered to Bodie until other voices penetrated his foggy thoughts, and Doyle let him go. "No, Ray!" he cried out, reaching blindly for his anchor and he was there, holding him again, rocking him, soothing him.

"`s all right, pet," Doyle whispered in his ear, the face nuzzling him damp. "Help's here. I'll hold your hand while they take a look at you. All right?"

Panic swept through him . "No! Don't let them touch --"

"Shhh, they won't hurt you. Won't let them, will I," Doyle calmed him. "Love you so much. My beautiful Bodie. Love you."

He heard another voice mutter, "I told you."

"All right, I'll pay you later."

Charlie and Anson. Doyle wasn't alone. And suddenly Bodie remembered where and who he was -- not some kid in a rotten jungle, but 3.7, half of his father's best team. He took a deep shuddering breath, then actually managed to see Doyle.

His gorgeous sunshine looked all pale, his eyes bloodshot and his face streaked with tears. "You all right, angelfish?" he asked, reaching up to brush away the tears.

"As long as you are."

"Be fine. Promise."

"I shall hold you to that, pet."

Bodie managed the slightest of smiles and got through the medic's brief exam by keeping his attention revetted on his lover's face.

"Damage isn't too severe -- handle doesn't look long enough to have extended beyond the rectum," a voice he didn't recognize announced. Must be the medic, he decided, wondering if anyone would mind if he grabbed a quick kip. "Hospital will be able to tell you more once they've had a look at him."

Hospital? He couldn't go to fucking hospital! "No hospital," he snapped.

"It's all right, pet. I know you don't like `em, but I'll stay with you," Doyle promised.

Bodie loved him for that, but now wasn't the time for such things. "The job's not done, Ray. We haven't got Sinclair."

Doyle kissed his forehead. "Sinclair was never part of this, Bodie. Was all Ann's doing."

Yes, that would explain a lot, wouldn't it. They'd never found out what Sinclair was planning because Sinclair had never been planning anything. All some scheme of Ann's. Tired and hurt, Bodie was almost willing to believe it. Almost. "No, Parker said Sinclair wanted my balls in a jar." His hands tightened on Doyle's arms. "Don't you see, sunshine? We've still got a chance to get him. Can't blow it now. We can't!"

That stubborn look Bodie dreaded settled onto Doyle's face. "You're going to hospital. We'll talk about it after you're fixed up."

Bodie glowered at his lover. He never won when Doyle got that look, but damnit all, he was George Cowley's son and no one out stubborned the Cow. Time to prove the same was true of the Cow's calf.

Ann finished up her notes on the latest draft. All in all a disappointing effort by one of her favourite authors, but fixable. Taking a possibility and moulding it into a great book, it was the thing she enjoyed most about her job, and one of the reasons she could never give it up. One of the reasons she'd decided not to restart her father's drug smuggling operations. Between her inheritance and her job, she had everything she needed. Well, almost everything, but she'd have what was lacking by the end of the day.

She sat up and stretched. Almost lunchtime and a chance to stretch her legs. Ray should know about Bodie by now, and if all had gone according to Simon's plan her former lover was almost certainly on his way to kill someone called Murphy. She shuddered, thankful that Ray had fallen in love with someone other than her. She hadn't particularly relished the idea of spending any time in Parker's company. The man positively gave her the creeps. And he would have killed 6.7 to stage her abduction. Ann hadn't liked the thought of that -- she'd come to like Julie.

For that matter she'd liked Ray until he'd destroyed her father. Sometimes she wondered what her life would have been like if her father had been the paragon of virtue everyone had thought him to be; if she hadn't known every advantage in life she possessed came from a bunch of idiots pumping poison into their own veins. She'd never managed to feel any sympathy for that sort of stupidity, but she had no desire to feed it.

No, after today she would be rid of what remained of her father's small empire, and could get on with her own life. Rumour was she had a good shot at a rather lucrative position in the Paris office. That appealed to her.

A knock on the door interrupted visions of dinners along the Seine. `Duty calls,' she reminded herself, saying, "Come in."

Sinclair's little lackey walked into the office. "Thought you might like a cup of tea," he said, setting the beaker on her desk, along with a small piece of paper.

"Thank you," she muttered, vaguely noting his departure as she picked up the paper. She unfolded it, then read: Your estate at noon.

Charles answered the phone on the second ring. "Sinclair estate. ... What?"

The anger in the younger man's voice drawing Sinclair's attention, he listened to Charles' half of the conversation.

"You agreed -- No, we're not going to discuss this over the phone. All right. Twenty minutes." The phone slammed down.

"Something wrong?" Sinclair asked, not liking the notion of any problems today of all days.

"Parker has decided he wants double the agreed sum or he's going to `resign from his current position.'" He took a deep breath. "I'd better get over to the Holly estate or that nutter might let Bodie loose! What do you want me to tell him?"

"So, he does have Bodie?"

Charles shuddered. "Oh, yes. It wasn't Parker on the phone -- had one of his hired hands call, while he entertained 3.7. I could hear the poor bastard screaming."

Screaming. Bodie screaming. Oh, that was a sound Sinclair ached to hear. "I could use a change of scenery, Charles. I think I'll come along."

"6.7 to 4.5."


"I convinced Sinclair's man of the joys of helping us out, and Holly went down the back staircase."

"Roger, 6.7. You can call it a day."

"Good luck, 4.5. How's 3.7?

Doyle scowled at the dark head resting on his shoulder. "Should be in hospital, that's how he is. 4.5 out."

"Don't start. Know there's no other way," Bodie murmured.

"Maybe not, but I'd rather have you in one piece than the lot of them behind bars," Doyle told him, giving the top of his head a kiss.

Bodie didn't answer, his breathing indicating he'd either fallen asleep or passed out. Damn, damn and bloody damn. The prat had a concussion, and he'd been raped. Again. Though Bodie had never told him, Cowley had -- just when Doyle had been about to seduce Bodie for the first time.

The Cow had called him into his office, poured him a pure malt scotch, then told him there where a few things he needed to know if he was going to become Bodie's lover. Good job he hadn't known in that moment that he was talking to Bodie's father at the time or he would have died on the spot. As it was, he'd not been surprised that Cowley had figured out what was about to happen between operatives 4.5 and 3.7 -- well, they'd either been at each other's throats or flirting like crazy for over a month. Still, he'd bristled, told the old man it wasn't any of his business as long as they did their job.

To his surprise, Cowley had agreed. But he'd said that he liked Doyle, thought he might even be good for Bodie -- he needed someone in his bed he could trust -- but not if he approached Bodie like some cheap pick-up in a bar. Curiosity had got the best of Doyle's outrage and he'd asked why. That's when Cowley had dropped the bombshell. From the beginning Doyle had known Bodie had been a mercenary in Angola, what he hadn't known was that he'd been gang raped there. Raped so badly that he'd almost died. Taken a lot of time and therapy to get Bodie to decide he wanted to live after that. And how could Cowley had been so certain of that? Doyle had demanded, wanting to find someway to make it all untrue -- even in those early days horrified that anyone would dare mistreat his Bodie in such a fashion. Cowley had looked him in the eye and told him he had paid the therapist, that being the least a father could do for his son.

Doyle gave Bodie another glare and another kiss. Stupid pillock had taken two whole years after that to break the news about daddy dearest and never had said a word about what Krivas and a group of thugs had done to him. Even though he'd known of Bodie's parentage all along, he had resented his partner's silence about the matter and had made Bodie earn his forgiveness on the first point -- and that was one night that would always live fondly in his thoughts -- but had understood the second secret. Seen a lot of what rape could do to someone during his copper days. So he'd thanked Cowley and had set about treating his son to the sweetest first time he could. Bodie had seemed to appreciate the effort, and Doyle had always been able to cuddle away the nightmares his lover refused to explain.

He sighed, wishing he'd fallen for some nice bank clerk, instead of the stubborn bastard nestled up against him. Or at least that the berk's father could be counted on to order his son to hospital. As it was, if Doyle bothered to call him away from the conference, all he'd get for his trouble was a lecture on `3.7 knows his job, and so should you.' Both a couple of prats, and he was a bigger one for marrying into the family.

His R/T beeped again. "3.4 to 4.5."

"4.5. Go ahead, Suzie."

"A Rolls just pulled away from the Sinclair estate. Charles and the Big Man himself headed your way."

Damn, Bodie had been right. Sinclair hadn't been able to resist the notion of seeing Bodie brutalized. This really might work. He risked staying with Bodie another ten minutes, but all too soon he had to shake him awake.


"Got to get into position, pet," he told his dozy lover.

Fear filled blue eyes -- Doyle hadn't let go of him since he'd found him in the cellar. "Ray?" he whispered, tightening his hold on Doyle's torso.

Doyle grimaced at how little strength was in that grip. "You change your mind? Say the word, and I'll put an end to this op."

"You'll be close?"

"Within spitting distance."

"That's all right then," Bodie murmured. "Off with you."

Doyle kissed him, then headed up the stairs. He hated it, but he did it.

The minutes between Doyle's departure and Ann's arrival seemed days long, but Bodie forced himself to stay calm, to not summon Ray. Not a kid in Angola anymore, and he'd survived that. Could survive anything after that, couldn't he? But he'd spent a lot of time in his father's arms and on a shrink's chaise lounge getting over Angola, and it all felt like the peace he'd found was trying to unravel.

Ray. Twice he almost called out to him, but he held himself together and waited alone with Parker's body. He'd only allowed himself the luxury of pulling on his trousers -- not for crown, country or CI5 was he taking on anyone starkers. But he hadn't let the medic treat him properly -- even packing the injury to his backside might give away the game -- and seeping blood left cold wet cloth clinging to him. Felt so sodding cold. ...

He heard a door open and a woman's high heels clicked across tile floors. He lost track of her progress when she reached the carpeted areas, but the kitchen floor announced her imminent arrival quite nicely.

As she came down the staircase, Bodie began to crawl towards it -- the portrait of the valiant hero making his painful escape. Fortunately, Ann preferred books to the cinema, and she fell for it.

"Oh, my God," he heard her gasp, then she was rushing down the rest of the stairs.

He looked up at her, and she stopped a short of reaching him, taking in the cellar with eyes wide open. And well she should -- Charlie had put quite an effort into setting the stage. Parker's head lay at an unnatural angel, even a rank armature could tell he was dead, while Bodie's blood and the ropes that had held him had been left to paint a pretty picture for his guests. Though given the pallor of her face, she didn't appreciate the trouble gone to on her behalf.

"Ann?" he drew her attention back to him. "Is Ray with you? Please, Ray. ..."

She shook herself, then moved to him. "No, but I'll call him for you," she said, helping him sit up.

He tried to fall over until she got him propped up against the wall. "Tired. ..." he told her, then frowned. "But can't rest ... we've got to get out. Parker wasn't alone."

"No, you shouldn't move," she told him. "I'll get some help."

She stood up, then froze at the sound of the front door opening

Footsteps again -- no cat-footed gollies among this lot -- then a voice called out, "Parker!"

"Down here," Ann called back, and Bodie stared up at her. She gave him a slight smile. "I'm sorry about this, Bodie. If there were another way. ..."

She shrugged, then turned to greet the men coming down the stairs. "Your mercenary is dead, Simon," she told him. "And the cheese in your trap almost slipped away."

"Was right," Bodie gasped. "You are helping him."

"Not really," she answered. "But one doesn't say no to Simon Sinclair. Especially not the daughters of old business partners."

Sinclair spared her a glance. "Employees," he corrected, then turned his full attention to Bodie.

That's right, you bastard, look at me. All scratched up, bleeding, half in shock -- can stand there and watch me die. Should make you happy, so gloat, damn you, gloat. Bodie summoned up energy he hadn't thought he had and gave Sinclair his best defiant glare.

"I've waited years for this," Sinclair murmured. "Years." He sighed, a sound of satisfaction. "You saw my daughter."

Not a question, but Bodie nodded anyway.

"You destroyed her."

"No ... she's ashamed ... of you, but too strong ... to destroy."

Sinclair slapped him for that bravado, his face twisted with rage. Must be a nasty raw nerve.

"Mr. Sinclair, we should leave," Charles cut in, trying to calm the man. "We can send someone to deal with him."

"No," Sinclair snapped. "I want it done now. I want to see it." He smiled. "Give me your gun, Charles."

"But --"


Charles looked unhappy, but he drew his gun, and Bodie realized he'd let himself in for more than the expected ranting and raving for a few carefully placed bugs.

To his surprise, Ann protested, "You can't! Not here, not now!" That earned her a slap, one hard enough to knock her to the floor.

Sinclair took the gun, put a bullet up the spout, then pointed the weapon at Bodie.

"Sinclair!" Doyle shouted, and Bodie half-lunge, half-fell to one side as two guns fired.

The bullet narrowly missed his arm, striking where his chest had been a moment before, while Sinclair crumpled to the ground as lifeless as Parker.

"At last!" Ann hissed in triumph, her eyes positively shining.

Leaving Charlie and Anson to deal with the problem of a stunned Charles Denver and two dead bodies, Doyle knelt beside Bodie. "You all right, pet?"

"Yes," his voice a pathetic thing that branded him a liar. "Ray, she wanted him dead."

"Noticed that," Doyle said, gathering him into the warm haven of his arms, then he spared Ann a glance. "Care to explain?"

"Why not?" she answered. "Wanting someone dead is hardly a crime." She admitted she'd lied about not having any contact with her father -- neither that nor the fact that she'd been aware of where the money came from were crimes. But she'd not been some naive half-wit. "No one would dare harm an ... employee of Simon Sinclair's unless he had ordered it."

"More sodding revenge," Bodie sighed. Sick of the whole thing.

She nodded. "I knew Ray would never kill a colleague in cold blood, but he'd kill to avenge a dead love."

"Might have done," Doyle muttered.

Thank Christ it hadn't come to that. "Mugs game," Bodie sighed.


"Revenge ... doesn't make hurt go away ... adds to the misery."


He blinked. "Angelfish? Don't feel very go--"

Doyle nodded at Betty, then pushed the inner office door open. "You wanted to see me, sir?" he asked in his best `respectful, but I was supposed to be off duty ten minutes ago' tone.

Cowley glanced up at him. "You know were the scotch is."

Damn. Though he always appreciated a taste of Cowley's brand, he seldom liked the conversations that began with the offer. With that in mind he was generous when he poured.

He handed Cowley a glass, sat down in the indicated chair, then took a fortifying sip of his own drink. He sighed with satisfaction. "Let's have it then."

"The Crown Prosecutor has informed me that no charges will be filed against Miss Holly."

Not exactly unexpected news, but bloody annoying. There really wasn't enough hard evidence against her for anything more serious than a few nuisance charges, and even he agreed the courts had better things to do. Been nice to have seen a few heavy fines assessed though. "Charlie tells me she bought a Porche last week." No doubt to celebrate.

"It is her money," Cowley reminded him, but he could see the old man was equally disgusted.

"Yeah, and she's shallow enough to enjoy it." And to think he'd loved her once. Bodie was right -- he did have appalling taste in women. Immoral bitch. Could have got Bodie killed and didn't give a damn about it.

"Quite a contrast to Miss Marsdan."

Doyle nodded. Cindy had also inherited all of her father's blood money, but she'd kept only enough to make her name change legal -- irony that he could appreciate -- the rest she'd turned over to the government, with the proviso that it be used for drug rehabilitation programs and the manor converted into a rehab centre. "Odd how it worked out. The daughter who kept the money is the one I'd like to see in the poor house, and the one who gave it away is the one I'd rather see in the Porche." But the keeping and giving away was one of the reasons he felt that way. Made his head hurt to dwell on it.

"Bodie tells me his art dealer friend is enthusiastic about Miss Marsdan's work."

Doyle nodded. "Paintings are too dark to have wide appeal, but she thinks Cindy will be able to make a decent living off of `em."

"Good news amidst the bad, then."

"Speaking of good news, I hear Murph is the blue-eyed boy of MI5." Dumb sod had been thrilled to learn there had been a contract out on him -- said it proved he was onto something and had almost danced onto the plane taking him back to Hong Kong. And he'd been right. "Reports say it was one of the biggest drug hauls in history. Shut down a major supplier."

"Aye. He's requested permanent transfer to MI5 Hong Kong," Cowley said with a scowl.

Not surprising. Murph had gone on a lot about how much he liked the place. "Success gone to his head, has it." Not to mention the fact that he'd got involved with the lovely Esther. Gone on about her, too. Since Doyle had given him her phone number, he expected an invitation to the wedding. Not that the Cow would let him go, of course.

"The job suits him." Cowley admitted. Must have been painful -- as the old man always said, replacements were very expensive.

Ann had got her revenge and her father's money; Cindy had got her freedom and a start on a promising new life; Murph had got the bust of the century and a permanent assignment that would allow him to propose to the woman he loved. "Guess it's all's well that ends well all around," he said, surprised at the bitterness lacing his words.

There was a brief silence, then Cowley asked, "How is Bodie doing?"

Doyle sighed. "`bout as you'd expect. Seems okay most of the time -- healing nicely as the doctor's said -- but..."

"He's having nightmares again."

"Yeah," he sighed. "Tosses and turns if I'm with him, but if I so much as leave him long enough to go to the bog. ..."

"I've heard the screams, too, laddie," Cowley reminded him. "At least this time he's functioning when he's awake. Even Ross agrees he can go back on light duty by the end of the week."

"Be glad of that. Bored Bodies aren't happy Bodies. And he is getting better, sir," Doyle tried to reassure him. "It's only been two weeks since it happened. Bit more time and he'll be good as new." Good as new being a relative term. The nightmares Krivas had inspired had never gone totally away, and Bodie seemed to relive that more nights than want Parker had done to him.

"Does it bother you, Doyle? How much he needs you?"

He shook his head. "Nice I can be there for him -- like he's been there for me." Through so many hurts, emotional and physical.

"You'll do, Doyle. You'll do."

Hands were holding him down. Oh, God, he couldn't move. Please, no. It hurts. Stop. No. No more, please. ... Hurts. Hands --

"Shhh, Bodie, it's all right, pet," Doyle's voice broke through the nightmare, the gentle caress of his hands banishing the hands that had hurt him.

Bodie swallowed hard. "Sorry," he muttered as Doyle helped him sit up on the settee. "Was reading and drifted off. Should have known better than to lie down."

"My fault," Doyle said, giving him a kiss on the forehead. "Home late tonight, and I know you need an afternoon kip."

Embarrassed and unconvinced, Bodie couldn't look at him. "Shouldn't need a bloody babysitter."

Doyle's hand cupped his chin, tilting his head back so their eyes met. "That how you saw yourself when you stayed with me while I was getting over being shot? A babysitter?"

"No! You were hurt, and I wanted to ... be ... with you." Never liking to be manipulated, he glowered at Doyle. "Be after Ross' job next."

"Nah, not enough challenge," his unrepentant lover answered, then kissed him on the tip of his nose. "Now, how long did you sleep?"

Bodie glanced at the clock and guessed, "About 20 minutes."

"Not good enough," his partner announced, shifting around to sit on the settee, then he pulled Bodie down so his head rested in Doyle's lap. "Had a restless night, and I want you to get your head down for at least another hour before dinner."

"Feel like a bloody six-year-old," Bodie grumbled, but he snuggled closer to Doyle all the same.

"Body needs sleep to heal, pet."

"Hmph." Wouldn't need to sleep during the day if he could sleep through the night. It irritated Bodie to no end that he couldn't get over this -- been through it all before, hadn't he? Should have been like a snake bite -- first time was the hardest, the rest was ... survivable. And maybe it was like that, but he was too busy having nightmares to notice.

But some things were different. Instead of cringing away from the slightest touch, he craved Doyle's. Scared him at first to need someone this much, but he'd quickly learned to relax and let his lover pamper him. Had even come to enjoy that part.

Doyle began caressing him with one hand, while he picked up the Lovejoy mystery Bodie had been reading before he'd dropped off. "Don't lose my place."

"Shan't," the golli promised. "Now, sleep my beautiful man."

He tried. He really tried, but. ... "Ray?"


"`m still a bit keyed up. Talk to me?"

"Got some good news today -- allocations has found us a new place. We can start shifting things next week."

Bodie smiled, looking forward to a move for the first time. Be their place. Not his flat or Doyle's, but theirs. And for all the world to see. Or at least for all of CI5 to see. Be the closest thing to a wedding announcement they would ever make. "Be all healed by next week," he said. "Can celebrate moving in properly."

"If you like."

The neutralness of that response bothered Bodie. He knew all the experts would say he shouldn't want that sort of intimacy for a very long time, but he wanted nothing more than for his body to heal so he could feel his love inside him again, feel him banishing the violation of cold, hard wood with his warm, living flesh. But he hadn't stopped to think that Doyle might have a different opinion on the matter. "Ray, don't you want me like that anymore?"

"Course I do, pet," Doyle reassured him. "Love your bum, you know that. But I won't have you offering it before you're ready -- lot's of other ways to make love."

"Can try some tonight, and I'll be ready next week for the other."

"Hmm, shall have to convince me of that."

"Will." And they would both enjoy it. He'd see to that. He yawned.

"You ready to sleep now?"

"`spect I'd drop off if you read to me."

"Born con man, that's what you are," Doyle grumbled, but Bodie could hear the affection in his voice. "Shall I start where you left off?"

Bodie yawned again. "Doesn't matter. Can start at the beginning."

"All right. Close your eyes."

Doyle started reading, his rich warm voice filling the room and warming Bodie with his presence as much as the body he nestled against. Felt so safe, so comfortable, so loved. He resisted the pull of sleep for a moment longer, "Angelfish?"


"This is nice."

"It's the best, pet. It's the best." And Bodie slept.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Motet on a Theme of B & D, Keynote Press, 1996. This story has been re-edited.

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