Love in a Faithless Country


After the first time Doyle fucked Bodie, he knew it wouldn't be the last. Their half-drunk, spur-of-the-moment, frenetic coupling had been nothing more than a quick release of sexual tension. Yet he knew, despite Bodie's carefully controlled coolness over the following days and their rapid return to the pursuit of women, that it would happen again. The sex had been far too satisfying to ignore.

And so, a fortnight after that mad encounter, with no current girlfriend and having blown a recent prospect, he found himself dialing Bodie's number. He knew that Bodie's latest conquest, Gloria, had dumped him a few days earlier, and since they were both between birds...well, why not?

"'lo?" Bodie answered on the first ring, a hopeful note in his voice.

Waiting for a bird to call? Doyle decided it didn't matter. Either Bodie wanted it tonight or he didn't, and knowing Bodie, he certainly did. Bodie wasn't the most patient of men. He could go on waiting for the call, take the bird out on a date, spend time and money trying to get her into bed. And while Doyle knew his partner would be the last to admit it, there was always the possibility of failure. Why go to all the bother when there was a handy alternative?

"Evenin', sunshine," Doyle said. "You have anything on tonight?"

"Doesn't look like it."

"Same here." Doyle adopted a casual tone, edged with just a hint of anticipation. "Care for some company? Few drinks, watch a bit of telly, maybe get a bite."

There was a pause, then Bodie replied, "And maybe screw each other through the mattress?"

Nobody could accuse Bodie of being slow on the draw. "Well," Doyle said, "it had crossed my mind."

"Been crossing mine, too," Bodie replied matter-of-factly. "So yeah, you're welcome to come over." He paused again. "Any time." Then he rang off.

Doyle stared at the receiver, considering the implications. Any time as in any time tonight, or any time as in any time we're both at loose ends in the future and feel like getting it on with each other? He bit his lower lip. Maybe this wasn't such a bright idea after all. What if he got to enjoy it far too often?

Any time... C'mon, he told himself, relax. Let's not start worrying until there's a real problem.

With that vague reassurance in mind, Doyle headed off to Bodie's place.

"Drink?" Bodie poured out the scotch into two large glasses without waiting for a reply. Now that Doyle was actually here in his flat, his randiness was tinged by nervousness. A bit of drinking had gotten them going that first time--not truly sloshed, just tipsy enough to ease the inhibitions.

He handed a glass to Doyle, then ambled over to sink onto the sofa, bringing the bottle with him. He waited, watching Doyle's quick survey of the room, almost reading his mind. Where to sit? Safe in the armchair? Or on the sofa, a clear indication that sex was still definitely on offer?

Doyle sighed, looked resigned, and joined Bodie on the sofa. "Anything good on the box?"

"Don't know." Bodie didn't bother to pick up the remote. "Don't care, either." Maybe his usual devil-may-care bravado would see him through this.

"Bit anxious, aren't you?" Doyle sipped at his drink. "You really want to get it on tonight?"

"Yeah, I do." Bodie chugged his whiskey. "But a little encouragement helps, doesn't it? I mean, we weren't exactly sober last time."

"Don't think I could do it sober."

Bodie grinned. "That unappealing, am I?"

Doyle smiled, and seemed to relax a bit. "Nah. You're a handsome bastard. Or so you always tell me."

"That's 'cause it's true." Bodie refilled his own glass. "Come on, drink up."

Doyle tossed back the rest of his drink and Bodie poured him another. "You know, birds keep telling me I'm gorgeous, but I never really believe it."

Bodie laughed. "Christ, Ray, don't you ever look in a full-length mirror before you go out? They're not commenting on your face, mate."

The look of shocked realization Bodie got in response was priceless. Doyle glanced down at his jeans, and the tightly sheathed area in question. "Oh," he said.

"You seriously trying to tell me," Bodie replied, "that you never dress like that on purpose?"

Doyle shrugged. "Always wear whatever's most comfortable."

Bodie doubted that Doyle's adoption of skin-tight jeans and open-necked shirts was quite so unconscious. Maybe it was subconscious, but he definitely knew, on some level, the reaction it got. "Swear you're gonna bust right out of 'em some days."

"So you've been payin' attention, then," Doyle remarked casually.

Oh, yeah, Bodie thought. Be difficult not to. "Come on, Doyle. Anybody would notice. I'm surprised the Cow or Kate Ross hasn't had a quiet chat with you. After all, it might cause one of our gals, like say, Sally or Susan, to lose her concentration in the line of duty."

"And not one of the blokes?"

Bodie gave in. After all, that's what they were here for. Might as well stop teasing around the issue. "Yeah, okay. So I noticed, too. Doesn't mean anything."

"No?" Doyle raised a quizzical eyebrow. "Then why am I here tonight?"

"Because we want to have some fun," Bodie replied. "I want us to have fun, have a good time together, get a little tension out. That's all. It's just another form of relaxation." And that's all it's ever going to be, he mentally added. Because I sure as hell couldn't handle falling for you, not in a million years.

"There are other people you could go to for that," Doyle said softly.

Bodie stared at him. Well, yes, he supposed there were any number of birds he knew, from past experience, who wouldn't mind a last minute call for a quick hop in the sack. So why hadn't he rung any of them? Why let Doyle come over instead?

Nervousness returned, a clawing anxiety in the pit of his abdomen. It doesn't mean anything. He took a long drink. "That first time," he said slowly, trying to work it out aloud, "that was good. Intense. 'Cause it was you... I don't know, it was we were on fire together. We were so strong together. Scared the hell out of me at first. And then it didn't. Then everything felt good, really good. Wanted to try it again, see if it would be the same." He abruptly turned away, afraid he had let out too much.

After a lengthy silence, he felt Doyle's hand on his thigh, a gentle squeeze. "Hey, look at me." Bodie reluctantly did so. Doyle's eyes were bright with excitement. "Can we go to bed now?"

A sudden urge overwhelmed Bodie, to take Doyle in his arms and kiss him. He fought it down. This was sex, a pure, simple need. Never would he risk turning it into something more, because he knew that nothing truly good ever lasted.

"Okay." He stood. "Let's go have some fun."

Over the next few months they continued their casual encounters, when they were between birds, or after ops, or anytime they both felt like indulging in their new form of "relaxation." Sometimes they used booze to loosen up, but after the first few times, they found they didn't need to rely on it so much, and sometimes, they didn't need any loosening up at all.

The nights spent together were intense and enjoyable, and Doyle found he liked waking up with Bodie's arms wrapped around him, or with his head nestled on Bodie's shoulder. And he liked the feel of someone with so much power and beauty wanting him. He revelled in the heady desire.

But there was one thing he wanted more, and the discovery startled him. He wanted Bodie to love him.

Not once had they kissed. A few light touches here and there on his throat or chest during the build-up to passion, but never on the lips, never an invasion of his mouth, nothing to indicate true tenderness. They sucked, they rubbed, they thrust against and into each other, and all of it enflamed him, but there could be so much more if only Bodie would allow it, if only he would let down that one barrier to intimacy.

He wouldn't. Doyle had tried a few frontal assaults, going after Bodie's mouth himself, to be brusquely refused each time. And the comments had been acid.

"Knock it off, Doyle. Only queers kiss."

Well, if what they were doing wasn't queer, Doyle thought, he'd like to know what was. And it didn't matter to him what label anyone put on it. He just wanted more.

And that was more, apparently, than Bodie was willing to give him.

Christ, all he wanted when it started was to satisfy his curiosity. But that had quickly changed. Bodie had been his closest mate for years, closer to him than anyone in his life before. They worked well together, they played well together, they filled each other's needs so well he sometimes felt half-empty whenever Bodie wasn't around. Why shouldn't they love well together, too?

Maybe all it would take was time. Surely Bodie would see, sooner or later, that their first encounter hadn't come about strictly out of need. That was a major self-delusion, and if he had grown to recognize the truth, surely Bodie, who was attuned to him in so many ways, would recognize it for himself. They could practically read the other's mind, and that alone should tell Bodie that the feelings between them ran strong and deep.

The truth, he knew, would come to Bodie. He loved the half-mad, half-Irish bastard. And there simply could be no doubt in Doyle's mind that someday, his love would be returned.

Doyle's first hint of trouble came during their next assignment. They were at HQ, and Cowley had just handed them a huge stack of file folders to review. Every known fact about three Arab brothers who had recently turned up in London, men who were known to have unfriendly and violent views.

"You can have today to learn those files," Cowley had told them. "First thing tomorrow morning you'll relieve 5.2 and 9.1 on surveillance of these men."

After Cowley dismissed them, they headed towards the rest room. Another boring obbo job. Doyle stared at the stack of folders he was lugging. "Why do we always get the ops that require the most studying up? Records and files, records and files... I swear he saves these things especially for us."

"Lucky us." Bodie's tone was dour.

Doyle had a sudden inspiration. "Tell you what--the Cow never said where we had to do our reading up. Why don't we get some nosh and go to one of our flats?" He kept his voice carefully neutral, not daring to inject a note of hopefulness, unwilling to risk pushing Bodie away by pushing too hard. But oh, how he wanted Bodie in his bed tonight.

And every night.

He waited. Bodie took a long time replying.

"Nah," his partner said at last. "Let's look over the files here for a few hours. I've got plans for later."

"Oh." Doyle tried hard not to let the ache of disappointment show. "Date?"

"Yeah. Air hostess. Think she said her name was Cheryl."

"Is that right?" Doyle hadn't heard him mention any birds lately. "A looker, is she?"

"You know any air hostesses who aren't?"

Doyle didn't reply. Instead, he shoved the file at Bodie and pushed through the rest room door, striding straight to the worktop and the tea kettle. Getting the tea ready would give him something to do besides sulk. Bodie's "date" sounded made up, something he'd invented on the spot to avoid spending time alone with him. The idea both angered and saddened him far more than he would have thought possible.

Just why should Bodie want to steer clear? They were still having a good time together. Doyle certainly hadn't done anything to give Bodie reason to suddenly become gun shy.

A few minutes later he brought two steaming mugs to the table.

"Milk?" Bodie said, an eyebrow raised.

"Hm? Oh. Sorry." Doyle went back to the counter to fetch the milk. He was slipping. Bodie always took milk in his tea; Doyle always supplied it without thinking. A small omission, but it bothered him all the same.

"Ta." Bodie poured the milk into his mug. He had the folders open and papers spread out. He rubbed his hands together. "Let's start digging."

"Yeah," Doyle replied. "Diggin' in the dirt, you mean." He picked up a sheaf of papers, and with a vague sense of unease, he set to work.

Bodie poured another cup of coffee from the pot and cradled it in his palms. He stared out the grimy window at the apartment building opposite. Cowley had given them twelve-hour shifts, from six in the morning to six in the evening, and this was the fifth day of the obbo.

Bodie sighed. He hated this sort of thing. Watching and waiting. It wouldn't be so bad if he had some company, but Doyle had a habit of taking a kip whenever it wasn't his turn at the window, especially in the mornings. He was sleeping right now, sprawled in a ratty armchair, the bedsitter's sole comfortable spot. Bodie glanced over at his partner, at the stretched-out form nearly buried beneath a thin gray blanket. He heard soft snores, saw the blanket lightly rise and fall.

Yes, it would be nice to have someone to talk with. On the other hand, it would be better to have someone for company who wasn't a pain in the arse. And for the past few weeks, Doyle had been a definite pain.

Doyle had been practically living in Bodie's back pocket. He could barely visit the loo without Doyle padding behind. And he never stopped suggesting things for them to do together off-duty. Jogging, workouts, extra target practice, films, restaurants, pubs, darts, anything and everything. Bodie was surprised Doyle hadn't invited him round for his trips to the grocery or the laundry. Probably happen in time.

What the hell was up with Doyle? Well, Bodie didn't know for certain, but he could make an informed guess. Doyle was trying to make sure that whenever Bodie was at loose ends, he would be around. He wanted them to go to bed together. But it was more than that. Bodie didn't mind having sex with Doyle; they were damned good together. Lately, though, Doyle seemed to want it at every chance, and to want nothing and no one else. Where before they turned to each other once every few weeks, now it seemed as if Doyle wanted it every few days. But Bodie wasn't willing to play along. He deflected Doyle's none-too-subtle attempts more often than not, hoping he'd get the hint. All he had succeeded in doing was to make Doyle turn moodier than usual.

Why the hell couldn't Ray find a nice bit of crumpet to entertain himself with instead? He couldn't recall seeing Doyle with a bird in weeks. Highly unusual. He hadn't even mentioned any birds in weeks. What did it mean? For chrissake's, the idiot couldn't possibly want to make their sexual relationship exclusive, did he?

Bodie shuddered. Hell, it was possible. Doyle got on these romantic streaks from time to time; he'd seen it happen with a few birds over the years. He'd get secretive, stop talking to Bodie about the girl, just give him these little annoying smiles. And he'd have that silly bounce in his walk, and suddenly start dressing better, or do something truly extreme, like buy her flowers. Sickening.

He frowned at the figure on the cot. The day you buy me flowers, sunshine, I'd better be dead or in hospital.

A flicker of movement from outside instantly diverted his thoughts. The curtains of the Arabs' room were being opened. This morning's obbo might be marginally more interesting now.

A few moments later, Doyle stirred and stretched, mumbling something incompre-hensible.

"Seven twenty-three," Bodie replied, taking a guess at Doyle's words.

"Mmm." Doyle rubbed his eyes. "Is there coffee?"

"Yeah. We've got some scones, too."

Doyle slowly stood and stretched. "Our friends up yet?" he asked.

"Bright and early. Must be taking their vitamins."

Doyle poured himself a cup of coffee and grabbed a scone, then returned to the armchair. "Wish they'd get on doing whatever the hell they're doing. It's impolite, keeping us waiting like this."

"Yeah. Bloody terrorists. No sense of civic duty."

"Gonna go stir crazy, you know," Doyle said. "Haven't even had a life this week."

"You're not the only one." Bodie's evenings were as shot as his days during this op. He got home by seven, but after scrubbing off the grime from the bedsitter and eating dinner, he always felt too tired to do anything or go anywhere. He wound up staring at the telly for a couple of hours, then going to bed. Twelve-hour shifts wiped him out for the whole day.

"Haven't had any sex life, either," Doyle said.

Bodie frowned, suddenly wary. He didn't want to say anything too encouraging, but didn't want to piss Doyle off. Doyle's excessive attentiveness of late wasn't so bad that Bodie wanted to break off their sexual relationship completely. He simply needed to keep it casual, to try to tone down the intensity Doyle seemed to desire.

"Yeah," he replied. "Haven't even had the energy for a good wank at night."

"Oh, I've managed a few of those."

"Really." Bodie kept his voice neutral.

"Yeah." Doyle's tone changed to a sexy, deeper timbre. "All I had to was fantasize. About you, and those tight black briefs you fancy, and how it feels to take 'em off you, and--"



"I don't want to know."

"No?" Doyle sounded hurt.

Bodie sighed, and he relented slightly. "Not right now, okay?"

Doyle sank into silence, and Bodie kept his attention on the Arabs. The curtain kept shifting all morning; obviously they were on the lookout for someone. At noon a van pulled up in front of the building. A flurry of movement could be seen inside the flat. Bodie looked through his binoculars at the Arabs' window. "Oi. They're on the move."

Doyle instantly leapt from the chair and grabbed his jacket and gun. They dashed down to the street and into their car just as the Arabs emerged from the building to pile into the van.

"This could be it." Bodie rubbed his hands together. At last, some action.

Doyle drove, keeping a close but not obvious tail on the van as it wended its way through the London traffic. Bodie got on the radio, giving HQ their movements. The van headed across the river and into Battersea; it slowed and turned off along a road of older warehouses. Doyle had to keep well back; there was barely any covering traffic. Then the van halted, and Doyle turned down a nearby side street and stopped the car, out of sight.

They got out and carefully looked round the corner. The van stood in front of a warehouse loading dock, and the three brothers had gotten out to chat with a man of European descent.

"Something familiar about that bloke," Doyle said.

Bodie watched him for a while, then got a good clear view of his face. "Oh, yeah. It's Cahill." An arms smuggler, well known for his particular specialty--explosives.

"The gelignite king himself, eh?"

"Better call Cowley." Bodie went to the car radio, not wanting to risk using his R/T where any loud static might be overheard. As Bodie was calling in, Doyle kept an eye on the loading dock.

"He's sending backup," Bodie reported when he returned to the building corner. "He said if it looks like an arms buy, then we go in."

"Good. Get this nonsense over with."

They watched as the four men talked, apparently having some sort of heated debate. Haggling over the price, probably, Bodie thought. Cahill was known for driving a hard bargain. After a good fifteen minutes of this, everyone nodded, and one of the Arabs produced a briefcase from the van. Money exchanged hands. Cahill and one of the Arabs vanished inside the loading area.

"Going to collect the goods," Doyle said. "Where's that bloody backup?"

Even as he spoke, a car pulled up alongside theirs, and Anson and Miller got out. Bodie gave them a run down, then sent them to the rear of the warehouse.

He and Doyle returned to their car, and Bodie got on the radio to Anson. "Rock'n'roll," he said. "On sixty."

Sixty seconds later, Doyle brought the car to life and pushed the pedal to the floor, screeching out of the side road towards the warehouse. He brought the car to a stop in front of the van, effectively blocking it; he and Bodie leapt out, guns drawn, catching the two Arabs by surprise.

"Don't move," Bodie barked.

They didn't.

A few seconds later, Anson and Miller appeared from inside the warehouse, herding the third brother and Cahill towards the loading dock. Simple, sweet, and tidy. Bodie let out a deep, satisfied sigh as the handcuffs went on their catches.

"Another day, another dollar," he said as they shoved their two Arabs into the back seat of the car.

"Cowley will give us the rest of the day off now," Doyle replied as he slid behind the wheel. "Has to. What do you say to a real breakfast? Never did get a proper one today."

"It's gone half-past ten," Bodie pointed out.

"So? Come back to my place, I'll cook you some eggs and sausage."

Bodie hesitated. Five days of obbo had taken its toll. He felt knackered. It was, he decided later, sheer lack of energy to refuse which made him say yes. Lack of energy, plus five days of CI5's idea of sustenance. A home-cooked meal. Who could say no?

Bodie wasn't so tired, though, that he didn't know what Doyle would want to do after breakfast. And after five days without, a few wanks notwithstanding, well...who could say no to a little fun?

"Yeah," he said as Doyle drove back towards HQ. "Why not?"

They wound up in bed mere minutes after clearing their breakfast plates. Doyle gave Bodie an expert blowjob, putting a lot of time and effort into the act, but Bodie felt too exhausted to respond in kind. All he could manage was a few quick strokes of Doyle's cock; fortunately, that was all it took.

Everything would have been fine if that had been the end of things. But no, Doyle had to go and draw him into an embrace, had to caress his back, use soft murmurs and soothing hands to lull him towards sleep. His mind tried to protest; he started to say something about the early hour, how it wasn't even noon yet. His body, however, cried out for rest. And Doyle was being so persuasive.

The kiss came just as he was nodding over the edge. Doyle's lips on his, brushing lightly at first, then pressing harder, striving to probe further. Bodie, unwilling to work up the effort to protest, didn't. He let Doyle in, let him have his kiss, let him take whatever he wanted.

Ray had enough sense, after a minute or so of exploration, to let him go, to settle down to sleep. Bodie opted to follow suit, and to not say a word about the kiss. Surely Doyle would realize it didn't mean anything, that he only gave in out of sheer inertia. Surely he wouldn't think...oh hell. Bodie didn't want to think about what was going through Doyle's convoluted mind. He just wanted to get some rest. He turned away from Doyle and closed his eyes.

A few hours later Bodie woke, and he managed to slip out of bed without waking Doyle. Pity he didn't succeed in sneaking away completely. He had dressed and was grabbing his jacket when Doyle stirred, fixing Bodie with a quizzical stare.

"Sorry," Bodie said. "Didn't mean to wake you."

"It's okay." Doyle shrugged. "You leavin' me, then?"

"Much as I like you, mate, five days of your company is enough. I'm taking a break."

"Oh." A fleeting look of disappointment crossed Doyle's face, but then he smiled softly. "All right, take your break. I'll live."

"Good." Bodie hesitated, wondering if he should mention the kiss, about how it didn't mean anything. No, he decided, don't get into it now. He's looking unpredictable. So he simply smiled back and said, "See you later." Then he quickly made his exit before he could have second thoughts.

He had them later, though. As soon as he got home, Bodie realized what a mistake he had made. He should never have left without making sure Doyle hadn't got the wrong idea. It was really cowardice; he hadn't wanted to deal with his notoriously temperamental partner's reaction. So he had ignored the situation instead, hoping it would go away of its own accord. Wishful thinking, no doubt. Once Doyle got hold of an idea, he didn't like to let go. And if he got the idea that allowing the kiss to happen meant Bodie wanted more out of the relationship, then life could get very complicated indeed.

He would have to make sure he fixed the damage before it got too much deeper. All he really needed to do was make it plain to Doyle, when he saw him again, that their relationship was the same as always--nothing more than occasional, fun sex. And that he fully intended to go on bedding every available bird in sight.

Might as well line up a date for tonight. The sooner he got going on his plans, the more stories he could regale Doyle with later.

Bodie found his little black book and picked up the phone.

Doyle went for a walk in the small neighborhood park across from his flat building. Early afternoon, early autumn, leaves were beginning to fall. He enjoyed having a place of respite from the world's chaos.

As he drew closer to the park's center, the noise of the city diminished. He found a bench beneath a willow and sat down, simply relaxing, breathing the crisp air, closing his eyes against a warming shaft of sunlight that reached down between the branches to bathe his face.

He was happy. Even though Bodie's abrupt departure had been disappointing, the feeling didn't last long. They would see each other later. The important thing had already happened; he and Bodie had finally kissed.

Doyle played the moment over in his mind. Bodie's lips on his, then his tongue pushing inside, strong, warm, loving. As he sat there on the bench, Doyle traced the tip of his tongue along his lips, savoring the memory of Bodie's touch. Well worth the wait. And Bodie had resisted for so long.

Silly, really, not to admit your feelings to your closest mate. But that was Bodie for you. He loved to hide behind his cool, unemotional facade, hated to admit that anyone could touch him deeply. No wonder he had acted wary lately. Bodie was afraid to admit to love. No wonder he had denied they had anything more than sex going for their relationship. To admit love would mean breaking down the facade, would mean letting at least one other person in on the secret--that the facade was a lie.

Bodie did care. Bodie did love him; he must. In the kiss Doyle had felt the proof, had known the truth behind Bodie's careful evasions. Now all he needed to do was drive the point home. Make it known that he loved Bodie in return, that there could be no one else.

For some time, perhaps the past few months or so, Doyle had recognized a lack in his life, a hole that needed filling. He was tired of hopping from one relationship to another, from one virtual stranger's bed to another's. He wanted something settled in his life, something to balance out the chaos of his work. He needed at least one part of his world to be secure, a part that he could always count on when the rest of his life went haywire. A solid, permanent relationship would provide just that.

The fact that he and Bodie started having sex around the same time that these wants and needs began to form couldn't possibly be a coincidence. It had to mean something. Somehow, he must have known that he needed a friend as well as a lover, and had found them both in Bodie. Of course they had come together; they belonged together. There were obstacles, but they would work things out. One way or another, he would have the permanence and stability he needed.

It had to be just him and Bodie, and no one else. He couldn't handle sharing him with birds anymore, hadn't liked it for some time. Now that he finally knew how Bodie felt about him, now that he knew Bodie loved him, he could make a stand. Just you and me, mate. That's the way it has to be.

Doyle felt the warmth abruptly leave his face; he opened his eyes. The shaft of sunlight had shifted, leaving him in the cool shade. He got up and walked briskly around the park to warm up again, then headed home. He would run a few errands, eat, relax, and give Bodie a bit more time to be alone. Come evening, though, he would go round to Bodie's flat and they would have a chat.

It was time to stop hiding.

"Dammit," Bodie muttered when he heard the door buzzer. She's early. He knew Doreen was eager, but honestly. He only just finished showering and was halfway through dressing. He quickly pulled on the rest of his clothes and went to the door. "Yeah?"

"It's me."

Doyle? Oh, christ. He opened the door. What the hell. Don't say it was work. "You again?" he said as Doyle walked past him into the lounge.

Doyle made a show of checking his watch. "You've had a seven-hour break, mate. Surely you miss me by now." He smiled and made a beeline for the drinks cabinet.

Oh, great. Bodie followed him into the lounge. He's gone round the bloody twist. Or he's sloshed. Not what I need with a bird on the way. He checked his own watch, realized he hadn't put it on yet. Nor had time to brush his teeth, comb his hair, put on shoes or jacket. He'd have to get rid of Doyle quick. "What's up? Forget what pubs are for, did you?"

Drink already in hand, Doyle merely kept smiling. Damned odd look he had about him. All bright and chipper and practically glowing. He had on that silk shirt of his, the one you could see his nipples through. Seemed a peculiar choice with blue jeans and brown leather jacket, yet it worked, if Doyle were trying to look sexy. Between the shirt and the ultra-tight jeans, everything was on view.

Don't think about it. Bodie reined in his desire. He did not want Doyle tonight. He wanted a bird, dammit. Christ. Doyle had definitely got the wrong end of the stick.

He sighed and began pacing, anxious about Doreen's impending arrival. "Look, mate, when I said I'd see you later, I meant later. As in back at HQ for our next op."

Doyle stopped smiling. "You're joking, right?"

"No, I am not joking." Exasperated, Bodie halted to face him. "Ray, enough is enough. We see each other all the bloody time."

"But--" Doyle shook his head, then suddenly the smile returned. "Bodie, it's okay. I know what's up now. You don't have to put on an act anymore."

"A what?" Jesus, maybe he really had lost his marbles.

"You know. Pretending you don't care, acting like you don't want to know. Well, I know the truth, so it's okay now." Doyle set his drink down and stepped close, inches away.

Bodie felt a surge of sheer panic. "The truth?"

"Yeah. That you've been too scared to say it. That you love me."

Oh, fuck. Bodie closed his eyes, teeth clenched, a knot of anger forming in his gut. What a mess--

"Hey?" Doyle's soft voice. "Bodie? When you kissed me--"

"Stop it." Bodie opened his eyes, saw the confusion on Doyle's face, turned away. "Christ, Doyle, you get some funny ideas."

"I know what I felt from you, Bodie!" Doyle jerked his arm, pulled him round. "Don't you go on denying it, mate."

"There's nothing to deny!" Bodie shook him off. "I was tired, Doyle. I didn't kiss you, I let you kiss me, and God, that was one hell of a mistake. Can't you get it through your thick skull that all we do is have sex now and then, for release, for fun, for nothing else? Why do you keep trying to turn this into something it isn't?"

Silence. Doyle stared at him as the minutes ticked by. Then he looked down at his feet. "I thought--" He broke off, turned away. Bodie could see him breathing hard, striving for control. It hurt to see him hurting, yet there was nothing he could do. He couldn't give Doyle what he wanted. And he couldn't allow Doyle to love him.

"Ray, leave it alone. We were having a good time together. Why can't we go on the same way?"


Now he was making less sense than before. "Why not?"

Doyle turned back to face him, his features carefully schooled. "Because I can't handle it, that's why. I want you, Bodie. I need you. I love you, dammit. And I can't share you."

So that's what this was all about. "You wanted it to be just you and me? No more birds?"

"Yeah, that was the idea."

"Then it was a crazy idea, Doyle."

"I can see that."

He looked so forlorn at that moment that Bodie nearly stepped forward to hug him. Don't. Mustn't care, mustn't believe him. Will only cause pain in the long run.

"Why don't you go on home, Ray." He kept his tone gentle. "We can talk about this when we get back to work."

"Not much to talk about," Doyle said flatly. "We're going to end it."

Bodie sighed, shaking his head. "I don't want to end it. Everything was fine until you went and got romantic on me. We're good in bed, Ray. Do you really want to give that up?"

"There's only one thing I want, Bodie." Doyle gave him a steady look. "I want love."

He truly did want to end it. Bodie couldn't understand Doyle. He had so many good things in reality, and he would throw it all away for the sake of an illusion. "Then you'll have to look somewhere else."

"I will if I have to," Doyle said. "But I don't want to. I think you're telling yourself a pack of lies, mate. You don't even know your own heart--"

The door buzzer sounded.

Bodie calmly went over and let Doreen in. "Doreen, this is Ray Doyle. Sorry you can't get to know each other better. Ray was just going."

Doyle stared at him for a long, hard moment. Then he turned and walked out without a word.

He had made a right fool of himself.

Doyle sat in his local, working on his third pint of the evening. Everything had happened so fast. One minute he was in love; the next he was being shown the door. He couldn't quite make sense of the swirl of emotions raging within.

They were so far apart, he and Bodie. Most of the time, they were so in tune with each other, so aware of the other's needs. True, Bodie kept his secrets, put up his walls. Yet Doyle had been allowed inside often enough, and far enough, that he thought he knew how to read his friend and partner. And had thought he knew how to read his lover. Wrong. Instead, Bodie had turned back into the shadows, slipping darkly away from him.

But was he really so wrong about Bodie's feelings? Doyle stopped chugging his lager and slowed to more thoughtful sipping, striving for calm. Perhaps he had read much more into that kiss than he should have. Perhaps he had let his need for Bodie's love overwhelm all sense. Yet there must have been some feeling on Bodie's part, some small degree of affection. For Bodie to act as if there were nothing between them but sex seemed such a blatant denial. It hurt to think Bodie would lie to him, would shove that denial in his face.

Calm, that was how he had to be. That was how Bodie survived--cool, collected. He wouldn't be hurting tonight. Maybe it truly was the best way to live, the only sane way to deal with their world. Doyle had wanted stability, security--well, maybe building walls around yourself worked better than reaching out. So stupid, thinking Bodie would change, believing he would give up his way of dealing with the chaos in exchange for Doyle's idealistic notions of romance.

No, there hadn't been anything there after all, no true affection. Bodie only made gestures of affection; he never offered the real core. Why should he? He got what he wanted. Friendship, sex, a little fun to ease away any tensions of the day. He didn't need anything more. Self-contained, that was Bodie. What a great feeling it must be, Doyle thought, to never yearn for love, to stand apart from the rest of the world and say, Hey, so many of you fools are willing to kill or die for this thing, and I don't even want it.

It was a bitter thought.

The bar maid came round to see if he wanted a fourth pint. Doyle turned it down, paid his tab, and walked out into the night. Instead of heading home, only a few streets away, he went the opposite direction, idly wandering through the neighborhood. He kicked at a stone for a while, lost interest. He looked up at the buildings, searched for lighted windows and open drapes, peeking into other people's lives. Through one window he spied a man perusing a bookshelf, through another, two women sitting at a kitchen table drinking a cuppa, chatting with very animated hand gestures. He walked on. Most people kept their curtains closed. But every once in a while, he glimpsed a view of a stranger's living room, dining room, even a bedroom now and then. Some rooms were brightly lit yet no one seemed to be in them; he scanned the walls for some clue to their inhabitants. House plants, paintings, furniture styles--they all told a story about the person who dwelled there. Bland and boring, or quirky and eccentric, or stuffy and old-fashioned. What, he wondered, would his rooms say to an outsider prowling the streets at night?

Books, a stereo, the telly, a drinks cabinet...a couple of dying house plants, a few odd knickknacks picked up here or there on the spur of the moment, a few framed art prints. Those were his, the rest of the flat came furnished courtesy of CI5. Did he care about any of it? If the place burned down tonight, would he mourn the loss of a single thing?

Doyle stopped abruptly, staring ahead at absolutely nothing.


No, there wasn't a single object he would miss. He didn't form attachments to things.

All he could envision, imagining he was gazing at his own flat right now, through the open curtains, his place awash in light, were empty rooms in an empty night.

The flimsy wall he had spent the last few hours trying to build tumbled down, and the pain he'd been holding back came flooding through. Doyle half-stumbled over to some nearby steps, sat down, buried his face in his hands, and cried.

A month passed; a month in which Doyle did his job quickly and efficiently, talking to Bodie only about work. Off-duty time was his to spend alone, and he did. He missed Bodie's company, yet couldn't bring himself to be around him more than necessary. The thought of what might have been still hurt too much.

Nothing distracted him for long--not the ops, not the pubs, not workouts or dance clubs or movies. Common sense didn't accomplish much, either. No matter how many times he told himself to just get on with life, dammit, the mind listened but the heart held back.

He would go on, of course. Go through the motions, even find a bird to chat up from time to time. He could skate on the surface of life easily enough. He wouldn't fall down.

There would always be moments, though, in the dead of night, lying alone in his bed, when Doyle would feel the deep chill lodge within, the most penetrating fear. He knew what it was--the fear of dying without love, never having touched anyone strongly, an ending of utter regret. To be able to hold someone in the dark, someone he truly loved, that was all he asked. Sounded so very simple. And the knowledge that he might have lost the one chance at it scared him more than facing the barrel of any gun.

In the daytime, in the light, he was fine. In the company of others, he was fine. Or doing a damn good job of passing. When he was alone, Doyle could see himself and his life far too clearly, could see the unfilled spaces. Get the hell on with it... Well, he could always try. No harm in that. He knew he wouldn't succeed, knew he wouldn't find love or contentment without Bodie by his side. But he could always try. After all, what else was there to do?

Yes, he could pretend at love. He could find someone to hold him in the dark.

No one would ever make the dark completely disappear, that was all.

"This," Cowley said as he handed Doyle a photo, "is Brian Colin Matthews, ex-army, ex-Special Branch, and currently the world's most well-paid assassin."

Doyle studied the black and white picture of a fortyish man with cropped blond hair, narrow eyes, and jutting features. He passed the photo to Bodie. "Why?"

"Because he's willing to take on high-profile targets, and because he succeeds." Cowley handed him a file. "And because he leaves no traces. Interpol has been after him for two years; they haven't turned up a shred of evidence against Matthews. But they know he was responsible for Santini's death in Spain last year, as well as Durand's in France. Yet no one can touch the man. Not without proof."

"And why are we involved?" Doyle asked.

Cowley leaned on his desk, steepling his fingers. "Brian Matthews returned to London two days ago, after a six-year absence. I want to know why he's here."

Doyle handed the folder to Bodie. "Holiday?"

Bodie snorted. "Here? In November?"

Cowley ignored both comments. "Matthews is letting a mansion in Belgravia. We've arranged to use the one opposite for surveillance. Murphy and Stuart are out there now. You'll be relieving them first thing tomorrow, six sharp. You'll be on twelve-hour shifts, as usual. If Matthews is planning to hunt on my patch, I want to know about it, and who the target is. I want a tight watch on this man. I don't want him to walk across his garden without one of you knowing how many steps he takes. Is that clear?"

Doyle caught Bodie's eye. He didn't look happy. But then, neither of them had ever been keen on eyeball ops. "Yes, sir."

Bodie nodded glumly.

"Right, then." Cowley waved at the folder in Bodie's hands. "Everything we know about Matthews is in there. Don't just read it. Know it. Know Brian Matthews better than you know your own mothers."

Doyle, still looking towards Bodie, was surprised to see a flinch of pain on his partner's face. What was that? But he had no time to dwell on the question. Cowley was done with them.

"Go on, you two. Get to work."

"Yes, sir."

As usual, they took the file back to the rest room to study in comfort; as usual, they kept all talk to work-related matters. Another ordinary day.

And at the end of it, as usual, Doyle went home to emptiness.

At least it's not a bedsitter this time, Doyle thought. They had settled in on the second floor of the mansion across from Matthews', a large and comfortable music room with settee, armchairs, tables, and a long row of windows from which to watch their quarry. They had brought in a cot, food, electric kettle, reading matter, cards. All the home comforts.

They were on the fourth day of their twelve-hour obbos; Cowley had promised a day or two off soon. Brian Matthews failed to keep them entertained; he rarely went out in the daytime. He even had all his groceries delivered. The reports so far from the evening team was that Matthews liked the theatre, but that was as exciting as things got. Murphy had greeted them again this morning with similar news--Matthews had gone to see Underneath the Arches in the West End the evening before, and come right home after.

"Boring bloke," Murphy told them. "Never anything new. Hope you have better luck." Then he shuffled out.

"Yeah, well, if the luck of the Irish doesn't work," Bodie muttered, "I don't know what will." He settled in at the window.

Doyle flopped down in an armchair with coffee and a roll. He read for a while, drank more coffee, tried to get up an interest in the day. He moved to a table to play a few games of patience. He read some more, ate another roll. By eight he was bored out of his mind. He went to the next window down from Bodie and stared at Matthews' place for an hour. Then it was back to the armchair, where he picked up a Playboy, and flipped quickly through its worn pages. He set it down again, and gazed around the music room. On a table sat the pile of boredom-fighting books and magazines they had brought in, as well as the boxes and packages of snack foods. He'd had enough of both. There was the cot; he could always take a nap. But at nine in the morning, he wasn't exactly tired.

He sighed. Not much a bloke could do to entertain himself on a job like this. Probably read every one of those books and magazines twice over already. Doyle eyed the pack of cards. Could waste an hour or so on another few games of patience.

Or not.

After mulling over his limited choices for another ten minutes, Doyle finally noticed the rest of the room's furnishings, the ones it came with. He had looked at the piano sitting across the room dozens of times, but never really noticed it. A piano. Well, it was a music room.

Something faintly sentimental stirred inside him. He knew how to play one a little. His mum had taught him as a child, something he had never forgotten how to do, like riding a bicycle. He found himself getting up and going over to the instrument.

Inside the piano bench he found some sheet music. He put aside the more difficult pieces, set out a few simple ones, some classical tunes written down for beginners. He sat, rolled back the cover, and tentatively touched the keys.

The lullaby came out haltingly, until he got the feel for it again, until the connection between the notes on the page with the keys under his fingers slowly returned. By the end of the piece his playing felt smoother. Not perfect by any means, by pleasing enough, at least to his ears. When he finished, he looked over at Bodie.

He found the curious stare on his partner's face faintly irritating. Bodie looked at him as if he had turned into an alien being. "What's the matter, mate, never heard anyone play the piano before?"

"Didn't know you could play."

"Me mum taught me."

"Oh." Bodie abruptly turned back to the window.

Doyle watched him a while. In profile, Bodie appeared hard, distant, his mouth set in a firm line, eyes narrowed. He wondered if Bodie's parents had ever tried to teach him an instrument, or paid for lessons. Probably not. He had never heard more than a brief phrase now and then about Bodie's family, but somehow he knew there hadn't been much love there.

A flash of memory hit him, of that moment in Cowley's office when he had made the remark about knowing Matthews better than their own mothers, and the resulting flinch on Bodie's face. What had that been about, if anything? Would it be worth the bother to try drawing him out?

Or maybe the better question was, why should he even care anymore?

Doyle sighed and turned back to the sheet music, choosing a watered-down version of a sonatina. He barely managed his way through it, and was not at all happy with the results. He shuffled through the music for something more familiar, and found a piece he had played before, one his mum had been particularly fond of--a waltz. After an abortive effort to do it at the proper tempo, he gave in and slowed down, nearly to largo, but that worked. He enjoyed himself thoroughly, working through it again and again, picking up speed each time until he finally got through it once at nearly the right pace. Then he moved on to new pieces and new challenges.

His mum would be proud. She always liked to claim he had never learned anything from either her or from his father, had never listened to a word they said, not bothered to pay attention to any of their advice nor heeded their warnings. Well, he shocked them by turning out all right. The only thing his mum chided him about these days was his inability to "find a nice girl and settle down."

Fat chance of that. Doyle boldly finished off a rondo and then paused to see Bodie's reaction. There wasn't one; he hadn't moved from his previous position. Like a statue.

Why do I even care? Doyle sighed. Because he did, plain and simple. No matter what Bodie did, or how he felt, or how he said he felt, Doyle still cared about him deeply. No matter how much it hurt.

"Oi." He cleared his throat. "Do you know how to play?"

Bodie made a barely perceptible shake of his head.

"Oh. Pity. Didn't your mum ever teach you? Thought everybody's mum knew how to play the piano."

Bodie slowly turned to look at him, blankly, then turned away. "Not mine."

Give it up, a part of him spoke. But no, he had to make one more try. "What was she like, then?"

The flinch came and went again. "Leave it, Doyle. I'm working."

Doyle drew the keyboard cover closed, attempted to put the sheet music in the order he'd found it, and stored it away. Going to be like that, was it. Terrific. He wandered back to his armchair, picking up the top book on the pile on his way. Turned out to be P.G. Wodehouse. Good. What he needed right now was a healthy dose of unreality, the less connected to his present life, the better.

He sank into the armchair and buried his nose in the book.

The next day was Sunday, and they knew from the past Sunday that Matthews was a church-going man. St. Columba, in fact, a Scottish church round the corner from the mansion. Always made hitmen look respectable, Bodie thought, singing hymns with the common folk.

"Christ," he muttered as he adjusted his tie again. "Why did I volunteer to do church duty?" He once liked wearing suits, thought he cut a rather handsome figure in them. But no one else in CI5 ever bothered, except Cowley, and eventually he gravitated towards the more casual attire of his peers. Now he stood in the music room, decked out in dark gray with a white shirt and darker gray tie. Had been worth it, though. Doyle had not been able to resist teasing him about the outfit. And it felt good to be teased again after a solid month of virtual silence.

"You won't be distracted by the service," Doyle replied. "Being an atheist and all. Perfect casting."

"Yeah, yeah. Be bored silly, is more like it." He checked his watch. Any minute now. He had to go, on the off chance Matthews was meeting his contact via the church. He'd have to try getting damn close to wherever Matthews sat to make sure.

Even more worrying, he wondered if he'd have to sing any hymns. Or if he could just fake it.

"Has to beat sitting up here all day," Doyle said.

"True." Bodie gave him a piercing look. "'course, be more entertaining if the company was a bit more talkative."

Doyle, who sat at the table playing patience, glared back. "Maybe I don't have anything to say."

"Don't give me that, Doyle. You're pissed off at me. Have been ever since our little misunderstanding." A whole bloody month.

"I'm not pissed off. I'm fucking depressed, okay?"

Bodie was taken aback. Depressed? Still? Terrific. He really wished Doyle wouldn't take things to extremes. And he wished they could return to their old camaraderie, because without that, they didn't have a lot going for them. "Look, Ray," he said, "I'm sorry. I didn't ask you to go and fall in love with me, did I? I didn't mean to hurt you, either."

"Well, you did." Doyle's expression stayed stern, unforgiving.

"All I did was tell you the truth."

Doyle slowly shook his head. "Did you?"

"Yes, dammit." Bodie took a deep breath to control himself. He was not going to get angry over this. "I can't be what you want me to be. That's all there is to it, okay? Just leave it. Stop mulling over it, or you're going to drive us both crazy. You don't have to ruin the friendship as well, do you?"

"No." Doyle looked away, down at the cards. "No, I don't want to do that."

"Then don't." He wanted to say more, something, anything, but Matthews' front door opened. "Gotta go." He paused briefly. "You all right, Ray?"

Doyle never said a word.

"I got the seat directly behind him." Bodie had shed the suit jacket and tie, which Doyle thought was a pity. Despite his earlier teasing, he liked to see Bodie dressed up. Made his handsome looks all the more elegant. "And I sang a few boring hymns and listened to a very boring sermon. That's all. Nothing happened. Matthews just sat there. Didn't speak to anyone, didn't look at anyone. About as thrilling as watching paint dry."

Bodie stood by a side table, where they had set up the electric kettle. He had a cup of tea steeping. Doyle was at the window, watching Matthews' place. Matthews had returned ten minutes earlier. "And then?"

"He came back home."

"I saw that."

Bodie tossed out the tea bag, added some milk to the cup. "How long is the Old Man going to keep us on this? Could be weeks before he makes a move. Months, even."

Doyle relaxed against the window frame, glancing from the house to his partner. Bodie looked good, fit, and for once, thanks to the discarded tie, he'd left the top buttons of his shirt undone. Nice.

He mentally shook himself. Stop it. It's over. He allowed himself a small sigh of regret, then got on to business. "It's got to be the theatre. There's nothing in his file to indicate an interest in drama. So why all the West End shows?"

Bodie looked thoughtful. "He's scoping the buildings out. Has to be where the hit will take place."

"Murph said he went to a different theatre each night."

"Decoy," Bodie said. "Trying to throw us off the track of the right one."

"Could be." It was a definite puzzle. "Hang about." Doyle watched a car pull up in front of Matthews' home. "Something new on." A man in a dark suit emerged and walked briskly up to the door, where he was instantly let inside.

Bodie joined him at the window, standing close. Too close. "First visitor our friend has had. Interesting."

Doyle pulled away a little. He picked up the binoculars, wrote down the license plate number. Then he got out his R/T, relayed the information to HQ. Cowley arranged to send backup to tail the man.

"Hope they get here in time," Bodie said. "I don't fancy going out again." He moved away, returning to the side table. "You want a cuppa?"

Doyle nodded. "None of that herbal crap, though."

"Threw it out. Can't think what Stuart was doing, bringing that in here. Did you see what he stuffed in the fridge downstairs?"

"Was that his carton of yogurt?"

"Got it in one."


Bodie brought him his tea, stayed close to him.

"Ta." Doyle sipped at it, enjoying the warmth. The days were turning colder, with dustings of frost every morning. Be winter soon.


He glanced up. "Hm?"

"I miss you."

He nearly dropped the cup. "You wha-- Oh, Jesus. Don't do this to me." He wanted to walk away, but he couldn't. He had to keep an eye on the fucking window. All he could do was turn away from Bodie, away from that soft, pleading look in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Ray. It's just that--I don't like being without you. Why can't we go back to how it was before?"

Doyle simply shook his head, too upset to talk. Christ, Bodie picked the stupidest times to go into this. And why the hell couldn't he figure out that it was over?

"Can't you even look at me?"

"I'm working," Doyle echoed Bodie's earlier words. Cold words.

A silence drew out between them. Doyle felt Bodie move away, heard him fiddling near the tea pot, then walking across the room, heard the creak as he sat in the armchair. He kept his gaze firmly on Matthews' house, where absolutely nothing interesting was happening.

He finished off his tea, set the cup aside. He heard Bodie clearing his throat.

"You want another?"

"No, thanks."

Silence again. Then came the rustle of pages, probably a magazine. He wished he knew what the hell Bodie was doing, stirring him up like that. After all, it was Bodie who said they shouldn't let this ruin the friendship, and starting up the sex was the last way to keep that intact. Poor self-control, that's what Bodie's problem was.

"Ought to find yourself a steady bird," he said without turning round to look at Bodie. "Do you a world of good."


"Yeah. That's what I'm going to do." He hadn't consciously formed that idea until this moment. Yet once he had, he knew it made perfect sense. He wanted permanence, he wanted love. Bodie had said it himself: you'll have to look somewhere else. Life was too short to waste in moping about. Bodie couldn't give him want he needed; surely he could find someone who would. And he would still have Bodie as a friend. People often told him--no, accused him--of being an idealist. Well, okay, perhaps they were right. Perhaps it was time for him to stop striving for the impossible, and try, instead, to make reality work.

"Oh, that's rich," Bodie said. "So you're so besotted with me that you can turn right around to go look for some bird to fall in bloody love with? Nice to know it's that easy for you."

Doyle wanted to hit him. He focused on the window. "No, it's not that easy. But I know what I want. And you've made it clear that you're not in the running." Couldn't be clearer, really. Sex with Bodie without love, or try to find love with someone else. A simple choice.

"It won't work," Bodie said.

This time Doyle couldn't resist; he turned to give Bodie a hard look. "Why not?"

"Well, look what happened last time."

Doyle frowned. Last time? Before he fell for Bodie? That could only mean one thing. "With Ann?"

"Yeah. You just can't pick 'em, Doyle. I know you. You're never going to be attracted to the usual sort of bird we date, not for a long-term thing. You'll go searching for something different, something better'. You'll find some classy, well-read, prissy type who likes foreign films and art galleries. You'll fall for her in a big way, and then you know what'll happen? She'll try to change you. She won't be able to handle all that nasty violence you're involved with, the fact that you actually kill people, that you fuck around with people's rights' every day. She'll hate that. Yeah. Good luck with that little project, mate."

Stunned, Doyle couldn't think of any reply for a moment. Then he shook himself, as if shaking off the past, and Ann Holly. "I made one mistake, for chrissakes. You really hated her, didn't you?"

Bodie's stern features broke into a small, mocking smile. "Oh, yes."

"Funny. You never said so at the time."

"No." Bodie quirked an eyebrow. "I never did, did I?"

The door of Matthews' house opened. Doyle grabbed his jacket. No backup in sight. "I'll take him." He headed out the door, feeling alone, worried, and vaguely at odds with the world at large.

Either Matthews didn't know he was under surveillance, or he was so confident he didn't care if they knew what the job was or not.

"Luis Manuel Cardoso," Cowley told them that evening. "An Argentinian."

Doyle had followed the fellow back to his hotel; he had registered under a false name, but the hire car was let in his real name. Amateurs.

"He's a member of a number of political groups," Cowley added. "The one of most interest being the Libertatas Malvinas."

Doyle whistled. "The Falklands. Bloody hell."

"Some people just won't take surrender lying down," Bodie said.

"Indeed." Cowley paused to rub a hand across his forehead. "I'll notify the Branch, they can beef up security."

"He wouldn't seriously try for the P.M.?" Doyle was aghast.

"I'm sure he doesn't care," Cowley replied. "So long as the payment is high enough. And I checked with Mrs. Thatcher's office this afternoon. She has two theatre outings planned within the next three weeks. Both are high profile charity events."

"Christ. That's it, then." Doyle still couldn't believe any hitman, no matter the price, would dare aim so high. "We simply tell her to stay home--" He stopped, remembering who he was talking about. You didn't tell the Iron Lady anything of the sort. "Well, I mean, I suppose we could ask."

"I'm meeting with her in the morning," Cowley said. "I will ask, naturally. It won't do any good. But at least we have her schedule."

"Great." Bodie stifled a yawn. "Glad we're not on nights."

"Wrong," Cowley replied. "I'm putting you on nights. If this attempt does take place at the theatre, I want my best team there. Special Branch will be in charge, but you two will assist."

"But, sir, we've just done nearly a week on twelve-hour days."

"Aye, Bodie, and before that?"

"What?" Bodie looked perplexed.

"Before that," Doyle replied, "we were on the Stanton case for seven days straight. And before that, the drugs op, and before that, Simmons and Day. We've had two days off in the last twenty." He was surprised Cowley had even noticed. And even more surprised at his response.

"Take four days. Both of you. Get some rest, and be back Friday evening."

He didn't have to tell them twice.

Three disastrous dates in three days--Doyle reckoned he had set a new record. Sally, the checkout girl at his local grocery, turned out to be far too cheerful, with a high-pitched giggle that drove him near the point of violence. Susan, a new typist at HQ, was warm and willing, but dumb as a post. And then there came Bridget, an air hostess who was bright enough, except for thinking the sun still rose and set on her ex-boyfriend.

By the morning of his fourth day off duty, Doyle had temporarily given up. He wound up taking the tube into the West End, where he wandered about aimlessly, no particular goal in mind. He simply wanted a change of scene.

As he ambled along the streets, he tried to keep from brooding on his failures by focusing on his surroundings. He took pleasure in watching the way the strong sunlight illuminated the buildings and reflected off the windowpanes. He ignored the people, the traffic, and looked only at the beauty in the city itself. Centuries of soot and pollution hadn't dimmed, for him, the essential grandeur of London. He loved this place--always vibrant, yet always stately, a cluster of individual neighborhoods which came together in fascinating ways. Even as the thought struck, he turned onto the Embankment, where Cleopatra's Needle stood. He smiled. When he'd been taking his evening art classes, he and some of the other students would wander down here during breaks, and would hang around the Needle, smoking pot. A few of his mates claimed they'd been instantly transported to ancient Cairo, where they had communed with the gods and cavorted with slave girls. Nothing like that ever happened to him when he smoked the stuff.

Well, that had been years ago, almost like another life. He'd enjoyed the classes, enjoyed learning about art, still liked to sketch from time to time. As he walked along the Embankment, Doyle realized he hadn't been inside a gallery in ages. And he was heading, almost automatically, it seemed, in the direction of the Tate.

A bit of a walk, but what did it matter? He had nothing better to do.

An hour later he stood inside the gallery, admiring his favorite group of paintings, those of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Then he ambled through the other rooms, pausing briefly here and there, but nowhere near as interested, until he hit the Impressionists. However, it wasn't the Monets or Renoirs which attracted his attention.

She stood in front of a Pissarro landscape, still, contemplative, alone. Brunette, with long straight hair held back with a simple copper barrette. Average height, average weight, completely average features, wearing a very plain blue dress. In fact, she was so utterly ordinary that she stood out a mile from the birds he usually chatted up, not showy, not stacked, not eager.

And not, he thought, likely to become a one-night stand.

He really hadn't come in here looking for company. Yet there she was, and something in her stillness attracted him, in her calm observation of the painting, in her solitariness. He slowly walked over to stand beside her.

He kept perfectly quiet at first, eyes firmly on the painting. Nonetheless, he knew she was glancing at him, could feel her interest. After waiting an appropriate amount of time, not too eager yet not too nonchalant, he tilted his head this way and then that way at the Pissarro and said, "I've never cared much for the Impressionists, but I like this." Somehow, he felt a need to be perfectly honest with his opinions.

She gave him a full look, with a slight smile, one eyebrow quirked. "Don't you know that's not trendy? Everyone adores the Impressionists these days."

He smiled back. "I guess I'm not a trendy fellow."

"Who do you like, then?"

Her voice was low, dulcet, with a hint of humor. "My favorites are the PRB painters. Especially Ford Madox Brown and the early Millais."

"Oh, not Rosetti? Isn't he the most popular of that lot?"

"Yeah, well, I find him a bit too undisciplined." Doyle was enjoying this; he hadn't talked to anyone about art in so long.

"I rather like him," she said. "It's refreshing, though, to meet someone who doesn't follow the crowd."

Even though he'd just spent an hour with them, Doyle nodded in the direction of the PRB collection. "Want to go have a look?" It had to be one of the tamer chat-up lines he'd ever used.

She gave him a frankly appraising look, and apparently liked what she saw. "All right."

"I'm Ray," he said as they walked off. "Ray Doyle."

"Sarah Cooper," she replied.

Forty minutes later they were having coffee in the gallery cafe, and by the time their cups were empty, they had arranged dinner and a film for later.

Doyle left her at the tube entrance and headed home, happier than he'd been in weeks. He had a feeling this wouldn't turn into his fourth disaster. No, this one would be different. This time, things would work out all right.

And maybe, even more than all right.

"Ah, the delectable Sheila," Bodie said, depicting an outline of voluptuous curves with his hands. "What a time we had. A right little raver. She had the most amazing penchant for whipped cream. Never had a bird who liked being turned into dessert before."

Doyle ignored him, kept his nose buried in the files Cowley had had delivered. One on Luis Cardoso, one on the P.M.'s schedule, plus building plans for the two West End theatres she would be attending soon. Cowley had, as expected, failed to talk her out of going.

Bodie sat on the window seat, supposedly on watch, but apparently with other things on his mind than assassins. "And then you know what she did?" he went on, as if Doyle were actually listening. "She turned the tables on me. Grabbed the can right from my hand and sprayed cream on my cock. Can you imagine? And then she licked it off, ever so slowly. Got me going something fierce, that did."

"Um hm." Doyle did not look up from his work.

"Right. Can tell you're into the party spirit. So how did you spend your time off, then? Play tiddlywinks with yourself?"

"Nope." The last thing Doyle wanted to do was get into a conversation about Sarah. They had had a good time together, enjoyed each other's company, and that was that. Nothing special, no fireworks, not even an invitation to bed. Which wasn't what Doyle wanted, anyway. He wanted her to be someone he could call a friend first, long before he could call her his lover. But Bodie would never understand such a concept.

"And?" Bodie prompted, not letting the subject drop. "Who'd you go out with? Saw you chatting up Susie at HQ last week. Did she bite?"

"Yeah, we went out. She's a bit thick."

"Since when do birds need brains?"

Doyle looked up. "Would you like her number?"

"Nah." Bodie stifled a yawn. "Got more than enough on my plate. So who else did you shag?"

"Such a romantic way you have with words."

"Oh, were we talking about romance?"

"You weren't," Doyle replied. He left it at that, knowing full well his enigmatic response would annoy Bodie. He was right.

"Don't tell me you've fallen for some bird?" Bodie sounded shocked as well as annoyed.

"Maybe." No way was he going to admit to anything of the sort. "Maybe not. "I wouldn't tell you if I had, now, would I?"

"And why not?"

"Because you'd just crack crude jokes," Doyle said. "Or tell me what a fool I'm being." The things Bodie had told him earlier came flooding back, fueling his irritation. You just can't pick ''ll find some classy, prissy bird. He didn't feel like giving Bodie ammunition by telling him about Sarah. She wasn't anything like Ann, anyway. More down to earth, for one thing. Knew how to have a good, stimulating conversation, but also knew how to have a good time.

"Oh, come on, Doyle. You can tell me." Bodie stood, hands on hips, facing him. "What's the big secret? She ugly or something?"

"Leave off." Doyle refused to get angry over this. "It's none of your business. And shouldn't you be watching the window?"

"Screw the fucking window. I want to know who this bird is."

"Fuck off." Doyle picked up a file folder and held it in front of his face.

Well, Doyle thought, this was going to be a trying evening. He concentrated on the information in the file. Luis Cardoso definitely seemed to have an unhealthy interest in the Prime Minister. He had been hauled in by the Branch some three months earlier for tailing Mrs. Thatcher on two occasions. He'd gone home to Argentina for a month; while there he must have done a little fundraising, as his bank balance abruptly jumped upwards. High enough to afford Matthews, certainly. He set the file aside and looked over Mrs. Thatcher's schedule, then decided to risk talking to Bodie again. This was work, after all. "Oi. Have you read these files yet?"

"Glanced at 'em."

"What if he's using double-think on us? Going to the theatre every night, gets us all to believe that's where the hit will take place. We put our focus there, and meanwhile he's got another place lined up."

"He'd still need to scope out the spot," Bodie replied. "And he hasn't been anywhere else. Unless Mrs. Thatcher is planning a visit to St. Columba Church."

"No. I checked."

Bodie was quiet for a while, then said, "Maybe he's using triple-think."


"He gets us to think it's the theatre. Then we decide that's too obvious, and we focus somewhere else. Then he goes for the theatre hit after all."

"Oh, great," Doyle said. "Could go right round the twist, thinking in circles like that."

"I'm already round the twist," Bodie replied. "From looking out this bloody window."

"I shouldn't worry," Doyle said. "Cowley can't tie up so many of us on this op forever. Too many other fish to fry. Something's bound to happen soon."

"Damn right. I swear I've got every brick in that facade memorized. Gotta be bad when you find yourself counting the ones with pigeon shit splatters."

"Eleven," Doyle said. "As of six-thirty this evening."

"I got twelve."

"Busy pigeons."


A silence fell. Doyle set the folders aside and picked up a newspaper. He idly glanced over the articles, not really absorbing anything.


He glanced over at Bodie, who was gazing rather pensively at him. "Hm?"

"I'm sorry 'bout earlier. Didn't mean to get you riled. Have you really found a bird you like?"

Doyle hesitated, then relented. He realized he was being too hard on Bodie, judging his behavior before he'd even done anything. If he couldn't talk to his best mate about Sarah, then who could he talk to? He could try giving away a little at a time, at least. See how Bodie reacted. "I don't know yet. She's a nice girl. Different. Met her at the Tate."

"What's her name?"

"Sarah. She works for the BBC. Something to do with scripts. Editing, I think. We only went out once. But we've got another date lined up for Thursday."

"What's she look like?"

"Brunette, long hair, brown eyes. Pretty girl."

Bodie snorted. "A nice bird, huh? Not one of your little ravers? Bet she didn't come across on that first date."

Doyle bristled. He hadn't misjudged Bodie after all. "Yeah, I know that's what you care about most, but I wanted to find someone I could talk to. And I did. Maybe it'll lead to romance, I don't know yet. But it's not just sex. At least, I think I still know the difference. Being around you so long hasn't helped."

"Oh, so sorry to ruin your life with a dose of reality, mate."

"Stop playing the cynic, Bodie. Just 'cause you've never experienced a thing doesn't mean it can't exist."

He didn't get an immediate comeback, and thought he might have succeeded in silencing Bodie for once. The hope, however, was premature. Bodie was, apparently, simply gathering his resources for a renewed attack.

"Proof, Doyle," he said at length. "You should know better than to believe in something without proof."

Doyle suddenly didn't feel much like arguing anymore. Not a lot of point to it. Bodie had his view of love, considered it an illusion. How could you argue against that? Doyle could name the people he had loved or who loved him, but what would it mean to Bodie? "Haven't you ever loved anyone?"

"I'm talking about something that lasts, Doyle." His tone was caustic. "And that's what you want, that's what you've been talking about. A relationship that'll go the distance. You might succeed in getting the short-term version, and you might delude yourself that you've found the real thing--true love and all that crap. But you'd be wrong, mate. Only happens that way in the movies."

Doyle stared blankly at him. What in the world had happened to Bodie to make him so bitter? "You know, you might be right," he said gently. "Does that mean I can't try for it anyway? Just on the off chance you might be wrong."

"Funny," Bodie replied. "Never figured you as a glutton for punishment."

"I see. Pain goes with the territory, eh?" Doyle felt an ache deep within, as he thought of how he had tried for Bodie's love, and failed. "Well, I can't argue with you there. But maybe I think it's worth it."

"More fool you."

"Yeah." Some of Bodie's bitterness edged into Doyle's voice. "More fool me."

They returned to silence until Matthews headed out for the night, and then it was strictly work as they followed him to the Haymarket. And that was just fine with Doyle.

By the end of that same week, Doyle felt a good deal better about life in general and his new pursuit of love in particular, thanks to Sarah.

On Thursday they met for lunch. On Friday Sarah was busy. On Saturday they went to the National Gallery, then a walk through St. James's Park and an early dinner before he left for his night-time shift at the mansion. On Sunday Doyle felt himself rapidly falling, and they made love for the first time, and he almost forgot, during the midst of passion, that he loved someone else even more.


They lay together in his bed all afternoon. Doyle felt lazy, comfortable, and content, though true happiness eluded him. Perhaps it always would. But he couldn't spend the rest of his life in regret, mourning the loss of something he'd never really had. He loved Bodie, he always would. He had decided to live with the knowledge that his love would not be returned. And he was determined to move on, to make the best effort he could at finding someone else.

He didn't know yet if Sarah would be the one; they had only been together such a short time. They already had a good rapport, though. She was easy to talk with, easy to be around, liked to do a lot of the same things he did. She was bright, self-confident, funny, and a good sport. Her only major drawback, so far as he could see, was her lack of seriousness in the one area he wanted to be serious--relationships. Sarah had been very honest with him from the start; she wasn't looking for a permanent relationship right now. She wanted to date mostly for fun, wanted to see more than one man, was essentially playing the field. Since that was what he had done all his adult life, Doyle could hardly object. Nonetheless, he hoped, given time, their relationship might turn more serious.

His lazy afternoon was abruptly interrupted by the alarm clock. "Hell." He had forgotten he'd set it, forgotten that he had to be back on the job that evening.

Sarah yawned and snuggled against him. "Are you going to work?" she murmured.

"Yeah. Another twelve-hour shift. Sorry." He kissed her forehead, then lightly brushed her lips. "How 'bout lunch tomorrow?"

"Love too. When do you get a real, whole day and night off?"

"He's letting us have next weekend. Are you free?"

"Hm. Probably. No, wait... I'm going up to Oxford that Friday and Saturday. I'm doing some research for a script there, at the Bodleian. Made special arrangements to see some manuscripts. I can't really change my plans."

"'s okay." Doyle carefully hid his disappointment. "How 'bout Sunday?"

"All right." She moved away, stretching her arms. "How do you feel about shopping?"

Doyle frowned. "We're going to spend Sunday in the shops, are we?"

"I wouldn't ask, but it might be the only good day I have between now and Christmas." She smiled. "And no, we won't spend the whole day shopping." She leaned in to kiss him, then drew back, giving his thigh a playful slap. "Come on, time to get moving. Otherwise I'll beat you to the shower."

"Don't do that." Doyle rolled out of bed, pulling her up with him. "Let's just take one together instead."

Bodie tapped his fingers on the steering wheel in a steady rhythm. Obbos were boring, but stakeouts weren't a huge improvement.

Not that this was much of a stakeout. He and Doyle were simply waiting for the play at the Haymarket to end. Matthews was inside, and Margaret Thatcher wasn't, so the evening appeared to be merely another test run on his part. Or another attempt at deflecting their efforts.

"He's going to wait us out, that's what his plan is. Keep going to the bloody plays every night 'til we get tired and give up."

"And then he'll strike," Doyle said. "You could be right. Ought to leave it to the Branch. Not really our job, bodyguarding the P.M."

"Yeah, but budget renewal time's approaching. Always looks good, saving some minister's hide, so think how glowing CI5 will look if we wind this one up right. Oh, they'll all be terribly impressed at Whitehall. Doesn't matter if we spend most of our time hunting down bomb-happy thugs and gun-runners or risk our necks busting up some drug ring, all that tawdry, dirty muck. But help protect one helmet-haired battleaxe of a shopkeeper's daughter, and we'll all go down in history, mate."

Doyle raised a shocked eyebrow. "Is that any way to speak about our nation's leader?"

Bodie snorted. "Shouldn't let a woman run the bloody country."

"She's done all right."

"There's only one thing women can do right, Doyle. And she's well past it."

Doyle turned in his seat to give him a long, steady look. "You don't really like women, do you?"

Warning flags went up in Bodie's mind. Doyle was about to try drawing him out again. "'Course I like women. So long as they're horizontal."

"Crass, mate. Very crass."

"Yeah, well, it's a good thing my job doesn't require a lot of diplomacy then, isn't it?"

Doyle settled back in his seat. "You like some women."

"Name one."

"Kate Ross?"

Bodie laughed. "Now, there's a bird who would definitely look best horizontal."

"Elizabeth Walsh?"

"Who? Oh, her. Nah, that's different. She's like someone's gran. Doesn't count."

"Oh, I see. Does that mean my mum's all right, then?"

"Yeah," Bodie said, "your mum's great." He waited for the inevitable question about his own mother, knew he'd given Doyle the perfect opening.

"What about yours? Is she okay, too?"

There it was. Bodie was prepared, though. There was simply no way he was going to tell Doyle about his mother. "I'd say she's in a class all by herself," he replied, smiling. That completely ambiguous reply would drive Doyle nuts, especially as he had no intention of explaining further.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Doyle was staring at him again, with that pissed-off look he got whenever anyone refused to give him a quick and proper answer.

"Nothing," Bodie said dismissively, then fended off more questions by getting his own in first. "What about this new bird of yours, this Sarah? You reckon I'd like her all right?"

"You might. Doubt if it would be mutual."

"Ta very much. How do you know unless I meet her? Hm?"

Doyle looked cautious. "We can barely find time to meet each other."

Bodie's suspicions were roused now. He could only recall one time when Doyle had tried to steer him away from getting to know his current bird--Ann Holly. This was a sure sign, this reluctance to introduce him to Sarah, that Doyle was having serious thoughts about her. A bad sign. What if she turned out to be just like Ann? Doyle didn't deserve to go through that again. She would have to be checked out, whether Doyle knew about it or not.

He'd be furious if he found out, of course. But he'd eventually understand that this was for his own good, that it was necessary. Couldn't have his mate going around getting hooked on the wrong person.

"There's this weekend," Bodie reminded him. "Two whole days off. Can't squeeze me in for lunch or dinner?"

"Sarah's off to Oxford. Doing something at the Bodleian for the Beeb. Won't be back 'til Sunday. Sorry, but I want her to myself that day."

"Oh, all right. Have it your way. Gonna have to meet her someday, though, if you get serious." Bodie paused. "Have you talked to her about me at all?"

Doyle sighed. "No. What would I say? I've got this partner, and by the way, we used to fuck each other senseless?"

"You could say you've got a good mate you want her to meet, dammit." A twinge of pain shot through him. "Or isn't that true anymore? Ray?"

Even in the darkness of the car, he could see Doyle tremble.

"I don't know, Bodie. I really don't know what we are to each other anymore."

After a very long while, Bodie noticed that he was clenching his teeth. He consciously relaxed, returned to tapping his fingers against the wheel.

Oxford... it was only an hour away by train.

Bodie smiled.

She was the only dark-haired bird in the Bodleian that Saturday morning. What clinched it, though, was the notebook she wrote in, and the BBC logo imprinted on the cover.

He waited until she finished with the manuscript, one the director had gotten out just for her. He watched her cross to the glass cases in the center of the room, waited until her attention was drawn to one display in particular. Then he slowly made his way along, closer and closer, acting the interested scholar. When he reached her side, he stood patiently, saying nothing, while glancing instead at the item which had caught her attention. It seemed to be a lock of reddish-blond hair.

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "Am I blocking your view?" She shifted aside.

"It's all right." Bodie got a closer look, read the placard. "Percy Bysshe Shelley...odd how one lock of hair should seem so chilling."

She looked at him. "It's a connecting point. You see it, and you can imagine him brushing his hair, or see Mary running her fingers through it. Brings them alive in your mind."

The only image brought to Bodie's mind was of Sarah running her hands through Doyle's auburn curls. Somehow, the image struck him as wrong. Very wrong.

"Ironic," he replied, "considering how dead it is."


"Are you writing a paper on Shelley?" Bodie glanced at her notebook.

"Oh, no--it's research. For a documentary."

"I see." He looked back at the case. "I prefer Keats, actually."

"Do you? Is that why you spent most of the morning admiring the medieval manuscripts? Peculiar choice."

He'd been caught out. He risked a disarming smile, aimed to make it one of his more charming efforts. "My technique must be slipping."

She smiled back. "It's all right. I wouldn't still be talking to you if I didn't want to. What do you do?"

"Security. Thought I'd get away from London on my day off." He gave a slight bow. "William Andrews at your service. I'd love to buy you lunch."

"Sarah Cooper." She shut her notebook. "And I'd be happy to accept."

Their Sunday together couldn't have been more perfect.

The shopping expedition down Oxford Street was brief and productive, and Doyle found he actually enjoyed helping Sarah pick out gifts. They stopped for tea in a quiet cafe, then took a long romantic walk through Hyde Park. Back at his flat, Doyle fixed her a home-cooked dinner, followed by a little cozy sipping of port on the sofa. That soon led to even more romantic notions, and that soon led them to bed.

Their lovemaking was passionate yet tender, full of heat and desire alternating with long, drawn-out moments of gentle affection. It was just enough to take Doyle away from the world, and when he came back down, he knew that he had found something special. Not perfect, but near enough. He fervently hoped that Sarah felt the same way.

He held her in the dark, and whispered her name. She stretched alongside him, warm, comforting. He would talk to her in the morning, first thing, about making their relationship more serious. No more playing the field. He wanted her, and he wanted her to want him, to love him, and no one else. That was what he had been searching for, that was what he knew he had found.

The morning, however, proved far, far from perfect.

He waited until after breakfast, until the dishes were cleared away. He stood close behind her as she fixed a pot of coffee, put his hands lightly on her shoulders, turned her towards him, kissed her for a long time. When they broke apart, he brushed his fingers through her hair. "You're beautiful," he said.

"Mm. Go on."

"And you're funny, and smart, and warm, and wonderful to be with."


Here it came. He wanted this to work so badly. Doyle steeled himself. "And I think you're very special."

Her expressed instantly turned guarded. "How special?"

Doyle knew, even as she said it, that he had lost, that it was not to be, that another door was closing. He struggled to stay calm. "Special enough not to share," he said. He reached out to touch her.

She moved away. "Ray, don't do this. I told you when we met that I wasn't looking for anything serious."

He shook his head, disbelieving. "I think it's already pretty serious." For chrissake's, how could she say that when she had made love to him so tenderly?

"I'm sorry, I don't feel that way. You're fun to be with, Ray. But I'm not ready to commit. Not to you, not to anyone."

He couldn't look at her; he turned away, breathing hard. So many times he'd been on the other end of this same conversation with his girlfriends. They always seemed to think that two or three dates and a night in bed meant he was serious about them; they always started to talk about commitment. And he was the one who always wound up backpedaling. He never thought he'd be on the receiving end of rejection. Christ, she almost sounded like Bodie. Can't we just go on having fun?

An unpleasant thought struck him. He took a deep, calming breath and turned to face her again. "Are you still seeing other blokes, then?"

She bristled. "Occasionally. So?"

He felt the restraints on his temper loosening. "Have you slept with them?"

"No. But it's sounding more attractive by the second." She stormed past him into the lounge.

He followed, watching her gather up her coat and handbag. "Sarah, please. Don't walk away for good."

"It might be for the best, Ray." She paused at the door. "I'm sorry, but we seem to be looking for different things."

"No, wait." He felt desperate, needed to try saving this. "Forget I said anything. Please. We can still see each other--"

"Maybe." She opened the door. "I have to go to work now." There was nothing warm in her voice anymore, nothing pleasant at all. "I'll give you a ring, all right?" And with that, she was gone.

He stood there, aware that her words and actions were very like the ones he had used himself whenever he made abrupt departures from birds who got the wrong idea. There was no mistaking the meaning. He knew perfectly well what "I'll give you a ring" meant.

Just like that--one minute he had been kissing her, and the next she was saying goodbye. The hurt settled deep within him, a solid, stony weight on his heart.

What now... What was he supposed to do now? Go out and try again? How many times did he look for love? How many times was he supposed to fail, to go through this pain?

Not again any time soon, that was certain. He'd had enough. Bury himself in the job, that might be the only answer.

Except for one thing.


Every day he would have to face the one person he truly wanted, the major failure of his life. And now he wouldn't even have the attraction of Sarah to keep him from dwelling on the past.

Perhaps Bodie had been right all along. He didn't know the first thing about love, couldn't succeed in finding the right person. Or perhaps he was simply cursed somehow, doomed to be rejected at every turn no matter what he did, with no rhyme nor reason.

Maybe he should just take whatever he could get, with or without love...

Doyle stared at the closed door. He leaned forward, pressed his hands on the wood, rested his head on its smooth, cool surface. Then he found his hand bunching into a fist, watched it happen as if seeing himself from a great distance. His fist hit the door hard. And again. And again, and he kept slamming his fist against the unyielding wood until his entire being felt raw and opened like a wound.

Bodie went to Doyle's flat quite early, hoping to find him in, hoping they could get in a decent dinner before heading to work. At first he thought Doyle was out; repeated buzzing failed to get a response. Yet he waited, not sure why. After a few minutes, he tried again. This time Doyle opened the door and let him in.

He looked like hell. Uncombed hair, unshaved, wrinkled shirt, and a faint whiff of booze lingered around him. His eyes were barely open. "Why are you here?" he muttered.

Bodie simply shoved past him into the lounge, where he surveyed the clutter, the blaring box, the bottle of scotch on the table. He switched the telly off. "Drinking before work, Ray?"

"I'll be okay."

"Right." Bodie strode into the kitchen, started up a pot of coffee. "You eaten anything lately?"

Doyle lounged in the doorway. "Can't remember."

Bodie found some sandwich makings and put together a meal. He made Doyle sit down, made him drink his coffee and got the food down him. Only when Doyle had finished and looked marginally more human did he venture any questions.

"What happened, Ray? Something wrong?"

"No, I'm okay."

"You look like hell, mate."

"I don't want to talk about it, Bodie." He rose and walked off towards the bath.

Bodie listened to the water running, then the sound of Doyle's electric razor. So they still weren't able to communicate. How long was this going to last? When would they get back on friendly terms?

When Doyle emerged from the bath he was shaved, his hair was combed, and he wore a towelling robe. He looked more relaxed, and more like his normal self. "How much time do we have?"


"Before we have to leave for work. How long?"

Bodie checked his watch. "At least an hour."

"Good. That's more than enough."

Something in Doyle's eyes unsettled Bodie. A glinting, predatory look. "Enough time for what?"

For reply, Doyle grabbed him by the front of his jacket and pulled him close, his lips pressed against Bodie's, pressing, hungry.

What the fuck... Bodie pushed him away. "Have you gone mental?"

"No. I've gone randy. And don't tell me you don't want it; I know you. You always want it." He cupped a hand over Bodie's crotch and squeezed.

Bodie reacted to the pressure, to the intensity Doyle radiated. Well, of course he wanted it... but what the fuck had changed Doyle's mind? "Thought you'd gone off me for good."

Doyle shoved up against him, rubbing his entire body against Bodie's, hard heat driving into him, glittering eyes mere inches away. "Oh, I never went off you, mate. You and me wanted different things from it, that's all."

"Yeah, I do remember, Doyle." Bodie found it increasingly difficult to concentrate as Doyle began an attack on his clothes, nearly ripping his shirt off, giving his nipples a hard pinch. He grabbed Doyle's roaming hands, held him tightly by the wrists. "We're not starting this up again until I know what you want, Ray. If you're planning to start up that love and romance rubbish again, you can count me out."

"It's okay," Doyle replied. "I won't do that."

"Then what the hell do you want?"

The glint in Doyle's eyes faded, replaced by something Bodie had trouble putting a name to. Something infinitely sad. "What I want," Doyle said softly, "is not to be alone."

Bodie released his wrists. Ray must have broken up with Sarah; it was the only answer that made any sense. Good. She had been wrong for him. Bodie's brief encounter with her had told him all he needed to know--that she was too much like Ann, too high-class. She wouldn't have wanted Doyle the way he was, would have tried to change him. All for the best, if she were gone. He smiled. "All right, Ray." He tugged at the tie of Doyle's robe, pulling him close again. Yes, it would be good to have Doyle back again. "But watch the damned kissing, okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, only queers kiss, right?" The glint returned to Doyle's eyes. "I'll do whatever the fuck I want, Bodie. Screw you, blow you, fuck you through the goddamned mattress, kiss any damned part of you I bloody well want and make you like it. The only thing I won't do is tell you I love you. So take it or leave it."

Bodie didn't have to think about it very long; his cock was already deciding for him. "No problem. You gonna do all those things out here in the hallway or can we go to bed?"

Doyle turned and walked into the bedroom.

Bodie followed.

"Don't see why they couldn't let us sit inside," Bodie said. The only thing worse than sitting in a car for hours waiting for something to happen was sitting in the damn car in the middle of a freezing December night.

He stared at the Globe Theatre, where the P.M. was taking in a new performance of Richard III. As if it hadn't been done enough times already. Special Branch took all the cushy spots inside, naturally. Cowley's offer of "extra assistance" from CI5 hadn't gone down a treat; no doubt the Branch knew exactly what he was angling for--trying to squeeze in some extra points with Mrs. T. and the Home Office. Bad politics to refuse help outright; nonetheless, the Branch man in charge had made the extent of their welcome known by sticking them out here in the cold. Couldn't exactly run the engine to stay warm, either. Not when trying to remain inconspicuous.


A three-hour play, too. Great. Just into Act I, and no sign yet of Matthews. His house was under watch, of course, and if he did head this way, they would know it. Much too public a place for a hit anyway, a theatre. What was Matthews thinking? Wouldn't do it that way myself. Bodie spent a few pleasant minutes working out just how he would do it, were he a hitman after a prominent government official.

Car bombs were fairly effective. Probably wouldn't work for Mrs. T., though; she had a habit of switching cars enroute to keep her enemies guessing. Long-range rifle shot--almost always the best method for those who preferred not to get caught. You'd have to be a damn good shot, though. He was. And so was Matthews.

Then there was the up close, personal approach. Handgun at short range. Lose yourself in a huge crowd, some sort of public walkabout affair, wait for the target to get too casual. The ones most likely to die were the ones who waved their bodyguards off, who decided that "just this once" they weren't needed. There wasn't a lot a guard could do if his man opted to be less than cooperative. And that's when one nutter with a handgun could step right up to a world-famous diplomat and blow him away.

The drawback was in trying to escape in that same crowd. Almost never succeeded in getting away, those lone nutters. And Matthews simply wasn't that crazy.

So, that left the long-range shot as the most likely method. Which left out theatres. Would have to happen out in the open, while the P.M. was arriving or leaving, between a doorway and her car... So why all the trips to the West End? Didn't make any sense. There had to be another spot for the hit. But where?

Doyle had been sitting in utter silence beside him. He'd been quiet, practically subdued, since the renewal of their sexual relationship. Still didn't seem to want to talk about anything but work. Bodie wasn't sure what was up with him. He thought he had gotten what he wanted; Doyle was back in his bed, and he wasn't blathering on about love and romance anymore. But he wasn't the same Doyle as before. This Doyle seemed to have most of the life drained away.

Maybe after this damned op was over they could have a little chat. In the meantime, he would try sticking to work.

"How would you do it?" he asked.

"Do what?"

"Kill the P.M." Bodie replied. "If you were Matthews."

Doyle took all of fifteen seconds to consider before answering. "Long-range hit, rifle, while she's arriving or leaving somewhere. Somewhere fairly open and uncrowded. In the daytime."

"Not, for instance, while attending Richard III."

"Only if I were suicidal."

"That's what I thought." Bodie flicked his R/T on and got through to Stuart. "Any movement yet?"

"Grocery van dropped off some goodies an hour ago. Since then, not so much as a drifting curtain. Matthews is having a quiet evening at home."

"Great." Bodie signed off. "Wish I could say the same." He blew on his hands in a fruitless attempt to warm them.

"Has to be the church, then," Doyle said. "That's the only other place he's been regularly."

"In case you hadn't noticed, Maggie's not a member of the St. Columba congregation."

Doyle made a low grumbling sound of complaint.

"Yeah, yeah, okay. Mrs. Thatcher is not a member. Since when did you start being so respectful of authority figures?"

"I didn't. Doesn't mean you have to be rude, does it? She's doing a good job."

Well, politics wasn't that intriguing a topic, but at least they weren't talking about work. "Right," Bodie said. "She got two hundred and fifty good men and true butchered over some Argentinian rocks. Great piece of work, that."

Doyle gave him a long look. "Did you know any of them?"

"Not really. Couple of blokes whose names I recognized; didn't remember 'em all that well. Been ages since I talked to any of my old Army mates."

Doyle was silent for a while, then he said, "They're like us, though, aren't they? Get paid to put their lives on the line. Know what the score is going in."

"Yeah, only sometimes the stakes aren't worth it."

"Is that why you got out? Are Cowley's stakes high enough for you?"

"Most of the time. I don't really think about it, Doyle. Just collect the paycheck."

"That's what you always say."

Bodie was not in the mood for any heavy moral discussions. "Do you have to take everything so seriously?"

"No," Doyle said. "Only the serious stuff."

"Good. Then let's find something non-serious to talk about."

"Like what?"

"Birds," Bodie replied. "I managed to chat up that new clerk in records, name's Mary. She's got a friend who sounds like a right little raver. What do you say to a double-date?"

"No, thanks." Doyle's tone was completely flat.

"You got something else lined up?"


Better not think he's got me lined up for his bed every night. "You gone off birds, then? That's not healthy, mate."

"Shouldn't worry. You can have all my cast-offs."

"Ta very much." Definitely not the same old Doyle. After a while, Bodie said, "You know something? You're not much fun anymore."

"Sorry. Shall have to make that my New Year's resolution. Become the life of the party."

At least the Doyle sarcasm remained intact. "You do that." Bodie gave up on conversation and went back to staring at the theatre.

It was going to be a long, dreary night.

"I think we're on the wrong track, sir."

Cowley ran a hand through his thin hair. "In what way, Bodie?"

"Well, about the theatres--they're far too public. The hit has to come from long range, from up high, across open ground. It's the only tactic that makes any sense."

Cowley rose and crossed to the cabinet where he stored his scotch. "Up high. As in, say, from a church tower?" He brought the bottle and two glasses to his desk.

"Yes, sir." Trust the Old Man to already be there, always one step ahead. "I've been thinking about that."

"So have I." Cowley poured out the drinks, handed one over. It was late for office work, past eight. They had been given a night off for once. Bodie had come in to HQ to put forth his latest thoughts on the case; Doyle had shown no interest in coming along.

Bodie sipped at the smooth, fiery liquid. "You've had it checked out, then."

"Yes. Went over all the places the P.M. is scheduled to visit, all the spots she habitually goes, homes of relatives, friends, acquaintances. Nothing is within range of a rifle shot from that church tower."

A new thought occurred to Bodie. "He'd have to know her plans. And those aren't exactly public knowledge. Has anyone been checking for leaks?"

"Inside Ten Downing?" Cowley shook his head. "Or the Branch? No, I cannot believe that." He downed his glass and refilled it. "There's something we're overlooking."

"The roof of Matthews' mansion is three floors high. He could reach a few spots from up there."

"Aye, it's been checked as well. Nothing."

Bodie sighed. "What about Cardoso? Any word?" CI5 had, naturally, tried to round the man up right after his initial contact with Matthews, but he had gone completely to ground.

"No. Not even a whisper."

Frustrated, Bodie blurted out, "Hell, why don't we just bring Matthews in?" A long enough exposure to CI5's interrogation techniques ought to at least convince the man to leave Britain, if not confess outright.

But Cowley merely shook his head again. "We have nothing to charge him with, no evidence, no reason to detain him. That hasn't usually stopped us, but Matthews is a very wealthy man, with a very influential solicitor. How long do you think it would be before we'd be forced to release him?"

"Not long enough." Bodie finished off his drink and set the glass down.


"No. Thank you, sir." Bodie rose. There was nothing else he could contribute, no other ideas forming. "Goodnight, sir."

Once in the car park, it took him only a short time to decide where to go next. He needed to see Doyle, find out what was wrong, why he hadn't been himself.

No need to ring first; Doyle was unlikely to have a bird with him. No harm in simply dropping by. Bodie pulled the Capri out of the car park and headed over to Doyle's flat.

He was having a quiet evening, trying to avoid dwelling on his relationship with Bodie and what it meant, trying, for once, to enjoy a bit of solitude, unburdened. When the door buzzer went, Doyle almost didn't get up. But he had been too well trained. As a cop, as a CI5 agent, he never let a phone go unanswered or a door unopened. If he was wanted, no matter how he felt about it, then he would be there.

He went to the door and pushed the intercom button. "Yes?"

"It's me. May I come in for a few minutes?"

Bloody hell. Sarah.

Doyle hesitated. He really didn't want to see her. What could she say now that would make any difference? He had already settled for something less, had already come to terms with his failures. He didn't think he could handle having hope tossed in his face again, not when he knew the odds were against him.

The buzzer went off again. He opened the door and let her in.

"Can we talk?" she said.

"All right." He waved her into the lounge. "But not long. I'm tired."


"Yeah." He left it at that. He didn't invite her to sit, didn't offer a drink, merely stood there, staring at her. "Well?"

She shifted from one foot to the other. "Well, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I think I was a bit hasty. I--well, I wanted to see you again. I'm still not ready for anything too serious, but I'd like to keep seeing you, if you still want that."

Doyle didn't know what he wanted anymore, but one thing he didn't need right now was complications. He shook his head. "No, I don't think it's a good idea."

The buzzer sounded again. Fuck. Who the hell wanted a piece of him now? He strode to the intercom. "Yeah?"

"It's me."

Bodie. Of course. Who else? Probably wanted to get his leg over, as usual. Well, at the moment, he wasn't in the mood. Couldn't exactly leave him standing out there, though. Doyle let him in. "I've got company, mate."

"Yeah? Do I get to meet her?" Without waiting for an answer, Bodie walked on into the lounge.

Doyle, right on his heels, was about to make the introductions when Bodie came to a dead halt, nearly causing a collision.

"William! What are you doing here?"

Doyle glanced from Sarah to Bodie and back again. "You two know each other?"

Bodie didn't say a word; he seemed frozen in place. Sarah looked confused, then said, "Yes--we met up in Oxford. When I was doing that research. I didn't know that you two knew--" She stopped, looked from one man to the other. "Is everything all right?"

"Oxford," Doyle repeated, not quite believing it. Bodie had checked her out. Probably even chatted her up.

"I'd better go," Bodie said, turning around.

"Oh, no, you don't." Doyle blocked his way.

"I, um, can see that this is a bad time," Sarah said.

"Yeah." Doyle moved aside to let her pass, keeping his eyes firmly on Bodie, daring him to try leaving. He heard her open the door, heard her shut it as she left. Red heat flared inside him; he felt the explosion building and strove to contain it. "Isn't this interesting," he said calmly, flatly.

Bodie relaxed on the balls of his feet. "Look, Ray, all I did was check her out. Nothing more. Did it for your sake."

"Is that right."

"That's right. Only wanted to make sure she was okay."

"I see." The fire was raging; he couldn't hold it back much longer. "Like Ann? Did Cowley put you on to her?"

Bodie crossed his arms. "No, he didn't--"

"All your idea, then." This was making a bizarre kind of sense to him. "You chatted her up, didn't you?"

"No. We only had one lunch together."

"Right." He understood it now, the entire twisted path of Bodie's reasoning. "You knew I was serious about her. You wanted to break it up. You wanted to sabotage it." That was the same weekend he had tried to make the relationship more serious, the weekend they split up. She still wanted to date other blokes--well, of course. She had just met Mr. Sweep-Them-Off-Their-Feet. Bastard.

"I wasn't doing anything like that," Bodie replied. "Didn't want you being hurt by another bird like Ann."

"Tell me another one, Bodie."

"I'm not lying, dammit!" He dropped his arms to his sides. "I was checking her out, and that's all. Why the hell would I want to break you two apart?"

"Why? Oh, I'll tell you why." The anger erupted, blazing forth, unstoppable, a white-hot force blocking out all else. "Because you want me, Bodie. That's why." He jabbed a finger at Bodie's chest. "You just can't fucking admit it, can you? You wanted me, but I wouldn't let you have me, not on your terms. And you didn't like that, so you made sure that nobody else got me instead. Go on, admit it--you didn't do it for my sake, you bastard. You did it because you were jealous."

"Jealous?" Bodie grabbed Doyle's wrist, held it tight. "Are you mad? Why the hell should I be jealous? All I ever wanted from you was a fast fuck, and I can get that anywhere--"

In one swift, fury-driven move, Doyle snapped his hand free and punched Bodie in the gut. Bodie clutched his belly. Doyle instantly followed with a sharp punch to the jaw, sending Bodie staggering backwards into the coffee table. It collapsed under his weight and he wound up sprawled on the floor between the broken table and the sofa.

"You really love to tell lies, don't you?" Doyle hovered over him. "You even tell them to yourself."

Bodie sat there, rubbing his jaw. "Like I said, you're mad, Doyle. Got delusions of desirability. When are you going to get it through your thick skull that I don't love you?"

"That's what you say. If I'm nothing more than a throwaway fuck, then what the hell do you care if I get serious about a bird? Why would you even care if she was like Ann? Why would you need to approve of any of my girlfriends? We're not going to all be sharing a bed together." He felt high, on a roll, manic with the need to open Bodie's eyes. "So what the fuck do you care? Huh? Can't just be because you want to hop into my bed whenever you want to--like you said, you can get sex anywhere. So why, Bodie? Why screw up my chances with the first woman who comes along who I really like to be with? Is it because I'm spending more time with her than with you? Is it because I might care more about her than I do about you? Yeah, I think it is. I don't think you like the idea at all. You want me to yourself. You can't handle sharing me with someone else. But you can't see that for what it is, can you? You don't want to. What's so wrong about telling someone you need them, Bodie? What's so fucking wrong with it? You don't love me. Right. But you won't let me go; you won't let me live my own life without you." The fire was burning out, leaving a barren space within. "You can't let me truly leave, can you?" Drained, he came to a halt, a wave of exhaustion filling up the emptiness.

To his surprise, the glint of defiance in Bodie's eyes fled, and he saw a flicker of sadness there before Bodie turned his face away. "No."

He said it so softly Doyle almost thought he hadn't heard the word. "What?"

"No, I can't." Bodie staggered to his feet and moved towards the window, his back to Doyle. "What--" He broke off; his back heaved as he took in a deep breath. "What would I have left?"

Doyle closed his eyes. If that was the closest he was going to get to an admission of caring, then it was well and truly over. Better to simply cut the ties for good and be finished with this once and for all. Bodie didn't have any vocabulary for expressing love. The only thing he could offer seemed to be a kind of clinging desperation. It wasn't enough.

Doyle opened his eyes. "What would you have left?" he repeated dully. "Probably what I have right now. Nothing." He turned and walked away, pausing briefly.

"Lock up on your way out, will you," he said. Then he turned down the hallway, went into his bedroom, and closed the door.

Bodie fingered his jaw. Definitely a bruise there, not bad, but noticeable. He had a couple of other bruises from hitting the coffee table, in spots that wouldn't show. He was also rather tired, not having got much sleep. And since he was awake, he thought he might as well go on into HQ and do what needed to be done.

He had to ask Cowley to split the team. There was simply no way he and Doyle could go on working together, not after last night.

Bodie sighed as he gathered his jacket and keys. Seven years. They'd been partners for seven years. They'd always worked so well together; he couldn't imagine trying to work effectively with anyone else. Perhaps Cowley would let him go solo. That would be best.

As he drove through the streets Bodie realized this was the first time in a long, long time that he had not stopped to pick up Doyle, or vice versa. Driving in alone felt odd, slightly unreal. He was used to Doyle's teasing banter; he half expected to hear Doyle's usual comments on the quality of his driving skills. The silence inside the car was uncomfortable. Bodie flicked on the radio.

When he pulled into the CI5 car park, he was surprised to see Doyle's Escort already there. What did that mean? That Doyle hadn't been able to sleep either? Or perhaps he, too, wanted a word with Cowley. Would make this a lot easier if Doyle wanted to split the team, too. And it didn't seem likely that he'd want anything else.

He found Doyle in the restroom, alone, sitting at a table drinking tea. Doyle looked up at his entrance and stared blankly at him.

"I came in early," Bodie said, not bothering with any preliminaries, "because I wanted to ask Cowley to reteam us."

Doyle nodded. "Yeah. I reckon that's what needs to be done."

"Then let's go see if he's in."

Doyle set his tea down and slowly followed him out the door.

"Reteamed?" Cowley shut the folder he'd been flipping through. "Did I hear you correctly?"

Doyle nodded. "Yes, sir." He paused. "At least for a while."

Cowley looked at Bodie, who stood as far from Doyle as was possible in the office. "And you agree with this request?"

"Yes, sir."

There was a lull while Cowley studied them both; Doyle waited impatiently for his response. They couldn't go on working together, not the way things stood right now. He no longer wanted Bodie watching his back. Admitting that harsh truth pained him to the core. He and Bodie were no longer a team, not of any sort.

"Naturally, I would like an explanation," Cowley said. "Bodie, has that bruise along your jaw anything to do with this?"

"No, sir. Ran into a door."

"Surely you can do better than that, 3.7. What about you, Doyle? What have you to say?"

Here came the tough part. The Old Man wasn't going to be easily convinced to break up his best team. "Basically," Doyle said, "we're not getting along."

"You mean on the job?"

"No, I mean in our personal lives."

Cowley's expression was one of clear annoyance. "And since when has it been a requirement that teamed agents be good friends in their off hours? You don't bring your personal lives into this job. CI5 isn't paying you to be mates'."

"We realize that, sir," Bodie put in. "But this is serious enough to affect our work."

"How serious?"

"Well, we're not bickering over a lost darts match," Doyle said. "If that's what you're thinking." His patience was fraying at the edges. He wanted this conversation over, and he wanted it over now.

"But are you going to tell me what you are fighting about, 4.5?"

Doyle's eyes narrowed. "It's personal, sir. Therefore it has nothing to do with CI5."

Cowley slapped his hand on the desk top. "Don't play word games with me! You refuse to say what it is, and I'll refuse to even consider reteaming. And even if you do tell me, I am not about to split you two now, in the middle of this case."

"Case?" Doyle lost it on that note. "What case? We haven't got a bloody case to work on! We've got nothing on Brian Matthews, we've wasted weeks of time and effort, the man isn't doing anything illegal. It's a bloody wild-goose chase. For all we know he turned Cardoso's offer down and is having nothing more than a long holiday, and he's going to the bloody theatre because he likes the damn plays. To hell with the op--if you want my opinion, Brian Bloody Matthews isn't about to shoot Margaret Bloody Thatcher in a million years!"

Out of breath, he stood there and waited for the inevitable axe to fall. But instead of yelling back, Cowley simply stared at him with a very thoughtful expression. The silence stretched out; the longer he waited, the more Doyle was convinced he was really going to get it, possibly even sacked right then and there. He didn't think, at that moment, that he would truly mind.

Cowley picked up a pencil, leaned back in his chair, and tapped the pencil slowly against the edge of the desk top. "Yes," he said softly. "You could be right."

Confused, Doyle glanced over at Bodie, who shrugged in return. "Sir?"

"We've been assuming that Mrs. Thatcher was the target from the very start. What if we're wrong?"

"That's what I meant," Doyle replied. "There's no hit--"

"No, no. There's a hit planned, all right. But we've been focusing solely on the where, the when, and the how, because we thought we knew the who. Matthews is a very smart fellow. Suppose he set it up from the very beginning, suppose he wanted us to think the P.M. was the target?" Cowley leaned forward, excited, gesturing with the pencil. "Try this. Matthews meets with Cardoso before ever coming to London. He tells Cardoso to tail the P.M., to be noticed doing it. Then after his arrival, he makes certain Cardoso is seen visiting him at the mansion. He lets us make the connection he wants us to make. All done to conceal the true target of the Libertatas Malvinas group. Even the theatre visits could be a simple decoy. He's throwing us off the trail every chance he gets."

Doyle felt a chill up his spine. "But if it's not her, then who?"

"Someone the Argentinians hate," Bodie said.

"And why is he taking so long?" Doyle added. "Unless it's someone as prominent as the P.M., someone as public."

Bodie raised an eyebrow. "Or more prominent than the P.M.?"

"Yes." Cowley looked, Doyle thought, distinctly pale. "Someone who symbolizes British power at the highest level of all."

The chill stayed with Doyle even as he fought to deny the idea. "Sir, no one in his right mind would dare."

"The right amount of money," Bodie said, "can buy any death." Yet he sounded doubtful, too, as he turned to Cowley and asked, "Are we really talking about an attempt on the Queen?"

"We cannot rule it out."

"Wouldn't be easy," Doyle said.

"No?" Cowley sighed. "Only a year and a half ago, the Queen was shot at during the trooping of the color--with blanks, yes, but shot at all the same. And this past July a young man entered Buckingham Palace and the Queen's bedroom unhindered. The royal family has traditionally been lacking in sufficient and properly trained protection."

"Still," Doyle said, "we're only guessing."

"True. Perhaps we ought to do a bit of checking on the royal plans for the near future." He got on the phone. "Get me Commander Trestrail at the Palace."

Doyle listened to the one-sided conversation that followed, willing that it not be true, that they were on the wrong track. A few minutes into the call, however, Cowley whispered, "Oh, my God." He stood to snatch the London map off the bulletin board behind him, and spread it out on the desk.

"Give it to me again, Michael. it. Sloane Square. It's in plain view of the church tower. Get on your radio. I'll send two of my men out." He crashed the receiver down. "Not the Queen. The Princess of Wales is visiting friends, now, right now." He pointed out the spot. "The Prince departed a good five minutes ago to collect his wife for an engagement. He could easily be there already. Move."

They moved.

Bodie had never felt an adrenalin rush quite like this one. They were mere minutes from Belgravia by car. Doyle drove wildly through the early morning traffic, horn blasting. Bodie stayed on the radio to HQ.

"No radio contact with the chauffeur," Cowley reported. "Charles must be there, inside."

"Matthews must be waiting for them both to come out," Bodie replied.

"Which could happen any second. We're trying to get through to the house itself; the line is busy."

"What about Stuart and Anson?" They were watching the Matthews mansion; they could be a few seconds closer.

Doyle sped round slower cars, swerving into the other lane. Nearly there.

"They're on the other side of town," Cowley said. "Matthews sent them on a chase after a ringer."

Thirty seconds later Bodie yelled into the radio, "We're here!" as Doyle slammed the car to a halt outside the church. As Bodie threw down the radio and leapt from the car, he heard Cowley's final shouted words. "Any second--" He knew what that meant. No time to scope out the situation, no time at all. Not so much as a pause for breath. He ran inside the church, Doyle right beside him. Matthews could have his rifle trained on the pavement between the house and the car, the spot where the royal couple would be, however briefly, exposed.

They found the tower entry. The staircase was narrow; Doyle bolted first up the winding steps. Bodie stayed right on his heels. No time to plan. All they could do was bust in, and hope.

Near the top he saw, over Doyle's shoulder, that the doorway to the tower was as narrow as the staircase, which meant no double entry. Doyle turned to flash a hand signal at him. I'm going to the right. Then he burst through the open doorway.

Bodie followed, moving to the left. All he saw was metal--a pair of massive bells filled the center of the square room. A narrow aisle stood between the bells and the walls, small windows set every few feet. Bodie took a deep breath and kept moving to the left, feeling, not seeing, Doyle moving to the right. Somewhere on the other side of those bells Matthews would be waiting; he must have heard them come in.

He heard movement; knew it wasn't Doyle. Then he heard the clatter of a dropped weapon, large by the sound of it. Matthews ditching the rifle in favor of a handgun? Would make sense at this close range, and Matthews wouldn't have come up here without at least two guns. Where the hell was he?

All these thoughts occupied no more than a second, and in another second, he heard the shots. Doyle and Matthews exchanging fire--and then Doyle cried out. Oh, God. Ray was hit.

Bodie instantly moved back towards the doorway to block Matthews' escape. He couldn't see them; he heard Matthews' voice, stern, commanding. "Drop it."

A gun fell to the floor; Doyle's. Then they emerged from around the bell, Ray in front, walking towards the doorway, blood seeping from a shoulder wound. Matthews walked behind him, close, but not close enough for Doyle to try a move. And Matthews had a handgun to the back of Doyle's head.

"You," Matthews said, "will drop your gun, and go down the stairs ahead of us, slowly. Or else I'll blow his brains out."

Bodie looked at Doyle. What he saw on Ray's face shocked him as nothing had in his life before.


Christ. Since when had Doyle ever been afraid so long as he was there with him? No, this was wrong. It was all horribly wrong.

Numb, Bodie carefully set the gun on the stone floor. He moved backwards through the doorway, began taking the steps slowly downwards, his eyes never leaving Doyle's as the two followed. How could this be... For god's sake, Ray didn't trust him anymore, didn't trust them, as a team, to handle this together. To survive together. The pain lanced through him as if he had been shot himself, the wound tearing through his body, his soul.

So this is what I've done.

Everything between them had been shattered, and he hadn't seen it so clearly as in this moment.

Bodie watched his partner's descent. Doyle was pale, his eyes shuttered. He gasped at each step, clung tenaciously to the railing. An act, or was he really in bad shape? Intuition told him Doyle's wound wasn't affecting him quite as strongly as he was making out.

They continued moving down and around the staircase. Bodie wondered when Doyle would stage his collapse. Probably at or near the bottom. Do it now, and there would be no room to maneuver. But where the stairs ended and the tower entrance opened out into the church--that's where Bodie knew he'd have a chance to do something, a space where he wouldn't be trapped.

Bodie glanced behind him at every turning, searching for the entry way. Surely they must be close. And surely Cowley had sent backup, who would be arriving any second. They could get out of this alive.

He looked back up at Doyle's face. The fear had vanished; he simply appeared weary now. It provided no consolation. What had been done couldn't be undone; that loss of faith would remain etched in his memory forever.

Another glance behind and he saw the entry way. Only a few more steps. The curving stairs straightened out. Bodie hesitated on the final step and Doyle chose that moment to collapse. But Bodie never had a chance to make a move; Matthews instantly shoved Doyle into him before Doyle was even halfway down, knocking them both to the ground. Then he pushed past them both, dashing into the church proper.

Bodie let him go. Doyle was the one who tried to get up; Bodie restrained him. "Thought you were ready to pass out."

"Was faking."

"Yeah, yeah. You're still hurt, Ray. Sit still." He tried to take a look at the shoulder wound. But one slight touch made Doyle cry out, a half-shout, half-scream so piercing that it nearly muffled the gunshot coming from the front of the church. Bodie froze at the report, wondering, waiting. And then he heard a familiar voice.

Cowley, calling their names.

With that, it was all over.

Doyle woke to bright light, the odor of antiseptic, and a rustle of newspaper. He looked over to see George Cowley in the chair by the hospital bed, carefully folding up the Times.

"Hello, sir. What time is it?"

"Just gone seven. How are you feeling?"

"Stiff." Doyle glanced round the ward, spotted one of the nurses. "Wouldn't mind sitting up."

Cowley called her over and she helped prop Doyle up on his pillows. "You've missed supper," she said. "All I have left is evening snacks--biscuits and oranges."

"Thanks. I'm not hungry right now."

"All right. If you change your mind, push the bell." She walked off.

"I left some grapes on your stand," Cowley said.

"Thank you." All he felt at the moment was thirsty; he found the pitcher and glass on his stand and helped himself. His shoulder didn't feel that bad. "When do they spring me?"

"Tomorrow evening. You were lucky, lad. Clean entry, didn't hit anything major. I've spoken with your doctor; he thinks you'll be off work for a fortnight."

"Nothing like a forced holiday."


There was a brief silence; then Doyle could no longer hold back the one question he'd wanted to ask from the start. "Sir? Is Bodie here?"

Cowley cleared his throat. "No, he isn't. He said--" He hesitated. "He did say he might come by later."

The way Cowley said it, Doyle knew that Bodie had no intention of coming to see him. The words hurt, no matter how far apart they had grown, no matter how much he hated the things Bodie had done and said. "I see."

"I'm sorry, lad."

"Not your fault." Doyle sighed. "Can we talk about something else? I never did hear what happened to Matthews."

"I thought I'd see to the arrival of the backup team personally," Cowley replied. "When we entered the church, Matthews was running down the center aisle towards us, his gun out. I shot him myself."

"Never could keep you behind a desk."

Cowley smiled. "No."

"Is he dead?"

"Not quite. In grave condition, not expected to survive."

"Pity. Wouldn't mind seeing him rot in prison. And what about their Royal Highnesses?"

"Perfectly fine."

A lot of questions came to mind; Doyle was glad to latch onto the case, to keep Cowley talking about anything and everything. So long as it kept him from mentioning Bodie. "How did he know they would be at that address this morning?"

"He had help," Cowley replied. "We rounded up two accomplices. One is the fellow who led Stuart and Anson all over town; they caught him, and he then led us to the second fellow. Matthews had it all worked out quite well. He had the one man watching the palace each day, posing as a journalist. Matthews knew the Princess had friends in Sloane Square; he had scoped out the house's front entrance from the church tower. He simply waited for her to pay them a visit, and hoped the Prince would come along as well. He wanted them both, though he would have settled for one. His man at the palace kept watch on the Princess's movements; then he contacted Matthews when she finally went off to Belgravia. The other man was the grocery delivery van driver. As soon as Matthews knew the hit was on, he set in motion his plan to shake our surveillance. Stuart and Anson saw Matthews appear on his porch, wearing a heavy overcoat, hat, and scarf. The delivery van arrived and the driver, wearing his usual white coat and hat, got out with the groceries. He and Matthews went inside. Thirty seconds later the driver came out, got in his van, and drove off. And a minute after that, Matthews appeared, got in his car, and drove away. Or rather, a man wearing a heavy overcoat, hat, and scarf drove away."

"They'd switched clothes," Doyle said. "So Stuart and Anson took off after the bloke they thought was Matthews, and wound up in outer Mongolia. And Matthews, in the delivery van, safely drove to St. Columba and headed up the tower."

"Stuart tells me this delivery business happened routinely."

"Yeah, he had groceries delivered pretty regularly. Don't think he ever pulled a switch any of the earlier times, though."

"Aye." Cowley shook his head. "My God, it came that close to working."

"Why couldn't Trestrail reach the Prince's motor on the police radio?" Every car in the royal fleet was equipped with them.

"When he tried, the Prince had already arrived at the house and gone inside. His protection officer had gone in with him. The chauffeur had opted to take a brief stroll to the corner and back, claiming, he said, that he felt faint and needed a bit of fresh air."

Doyle rolled his eyes. "Getting a quick smoke in, was he?"

"And getting a severe reprimand, I should imagine. Still, even had he been in the car, there wouldn't have been a radio call to warn anyone, had it not been for your very timely outburst in my office this morning."

Doyle smiled. He honestly hadn't thought of it that way before. Had he indirectly saved the day? "All I did was yell at you, sir. You're the one who figured out Matthews' plan, not me."

"Nonetheless, I believe we'll be seeing commendations down the line. I'm very proud. Of both of you." Cowley stood, tucking the newspaper under his arm. "I'd best be going. As for that matter which started this morning's affair, you and Bodie may have the fortnight of your recovery to reconsider the re-teaming request. I trust you will work things out. Goodnight, Doyle."

"Goodnight, sir." As he watched Cowley walk away, Doyle only wished that he could feel as optimistic about his and Bodie's future.

He had called the hospital four times throughout the day to make sure Doyle was doing all right. Yet Bodie couldn't bring himself to go round in person. He needed some time to think things through.

He spent the day at HQ, writing up reports. After a pub supper, he headed home, yet when he reached his street, Bodie suddenly didn't feel like going inside. A restlessness had taken hold. He kept moving, driving aimlessly about the city, unsure where he wanted to go or what he wanted to do. Not until he found himself turning down Doyle's street did Bodie realize his driving hadn't been so aimless after all.

Even though he knew Doyle wouldn't be released until tomorrow evening, Bodie parked outside the flat building, urged on by a compulsion he didn't quite understand. He had a key; they had been exchanging flat keys for years. After sitting in the car a good five minutes, simply staring at the building, Bodie finally got out and went inside.

Though he had been in Doyle's flat countless times, he had never noticed anything beyond the surface amenities. Bodie wandered about the living room, taking his time, not knowing what he was looking for or if he was looking for anything at all.

He glanced at the framed pictures on the walls--a few botanical prints, a few architectural drawings. He looked at the rest of Doyle's idea of decor--a few house plants, a set of toy wooden soldiers, a few holiday souvenirs. The stereo cabinet contained a collection of rock and classical albums. The bookshelves were full of literary classics that looked unread, and a small stack of crime novels which seemed well-worn. Still, all in all, there was very little of Doyle here.

Bodie didn't want to rummage through any drawers or cupboards; he stuck to looking around at things lying out in the open. It was in the bedroom that he found what he wanted--a photo album, sitting atop a chest of drawers. He took it to the bed and leafed through the pages.

There were the usual family photos. He recognized Doyle's mum; he had never met his dad but the bloke in the pictures with them bore a distinct resemblance to Ray in the eyes and nose. There were quite a few pages of older photos, of family outings, school pictures, holidays with relatives. Next came a jump in time, to a photo of a youthful Ray Doyle in his first policeman's uniform. Another picture showed a large group of policemen, Doyle in their midst. Then came three pages which recorded a trip to Wales in the company of a pretty young woman whom Bodie didn't know, probably from before Ray joined CI5. When he turned the next page, he found himself staring at his own face.

He remembered the outing. They had been in a particularly goofy mood that afternoon. They had gone for a drive, a spur-of-the-moment affair to simply get away from Town for a while. When they saw the amusement park, they turned to each other and smiled, an unvoiced "why not" in the look.

They spent a few happy hours there, playing silly games, trying out the rides, and leaving the cares of the world behind. They had to try anything that seemed remotely amusing, including the photo booth--five pictures for a pound, while you wait. They had gone inside the tiny booth together, mugged it up for the camera. Bodie let Doyle keep the resulting photos, and promptly forgot about them. Yet here they were, carefully placed in Doyle's album, something he had kept, something he wanted to remember.

He studied each picture. In one they were both sticking their tongues out, eyes wide, just plain idiot expressions. In another they pretended to have fallen asleep, and in another they were doing mug shot looks. His favorite was the one where Doyle pretended to be strangling him; he had a mad, over-the-top grin that made Bodie chuckle. In the final photo they had tried to put their hands over each other's faces. All of it was supremely childish. And all of it was full of the joy of friendship.

Seeing the pictures didn't hurt. What hurt was knowing that there might never be any more like these for Doyle to add to his memories. Bodie shut the album and put it back where he'd found it.

He stared at Doyle's neatly-made bed. All I ever wanted from you was a fast fuck. Spoken in anger, and, he now realized, spoken in fear. The fear that Doyle was right. That he had been jealous.

He needed Ray in his life; what he hadn't known until now was that he needed him most as a friend. And he had lost that, had destroyed that, by refusing to call the affection he felt for Ray "love."

Sex hadn't changed his feelings. He had cared a great deal about Doyle long before they ever shared a bed. What had changed, perhaps, was Doyle's awareness of his affection. He had called Bodie on it, and Bodie had responded the only way he knew how: keep love at bay, and you keep pain at bay. That was the one truth he had learned early in life, and it refused to die easily.

He couldn't change what he believed. And he believed that love was an illusion. What he could change was the damage he had caused; he could try to get Ray's friendship back. That was the main thing. Anything beyond that, he dared not think of.

Bodie knew what he had to do. Apologize. He would ask Doyle to forgive him. As he left the flat, Bodie heaved a great sigh. If Doyle wasn't willing to do so, he didn't know where he would go from there.

Trouble was, if Ray did forgive him, Bodie didn't know where he would go from there, either.

Doyle had already resigned himself to calling a taxi to get home when Bodie turned up in the hospital ward doorway.

"Evening," Bodie said. "Thought you might need a ride. Rain's pouring down pretty hard out there."

"Thanks," Doyle replied. "Didn't know you needed weather for an excuse."

Bodie ignored the comment. "How are you feeling?"

"A little stiff and sore. Nice of you to come visit." He waited for Bodie's next excuse. Instead, he got a surprise.

"I'm sorry."

Doyle stared at him, not quite certain he'd heard the words. Bodie? Apologizing? "Yeah?"

"Yes. I didn't come to see you because I wanted some time alone, to think things over. We need to talk, Ray, and we don't need to do it here."

Well, that was true enough. "Fine. Let's go home, then."

They picked up a Chinese meal on the way, and when they got to Doyle's flat, they ate their food without talking.

"What do you want for afters?" Bodie asked as he tossed away the containers.

"Coffee. You can have a drink if you like; I'm not allowed yet."

"Coffee's fine with me." Bodie set about making it.

Doyle took his cup into the living room and stretched out on the sofa. He didn't know what to expect from a Bodie who was not only in a quiet, amenable mood, but apparently in an apologetic mood as well. Nor did he know where they were to go from here, whether as friends, partners, or even lovers. All he knew was that he was weary to the bone, and tired of playing games, either Bodie's or his own. He was very, very tired.

Bodie sat in the armchair opposite and sipped his coffee. Doyle watched him. They had been through so much together. Did it really have to end? Surely there was something worth saving, something of the friendship left. He honestly didn't know. He had asked-- no--demanded something more from Bodie, had asked for too much. That had been his greatest mistake--wanting love too strongly, wanting Bodie's love more than anything else, unwilling to give Bodie a choice in the matter. In that sense, he had started the whole mess. He was hardly the only one at fault, though.

Doyle cradled the coffee mug in his palms, letting the warmth soothe him. There were so many things they needed to say, and he didn't know where to begin. So he said nothing.

Bodie set his coffee aside and cleared his throat. "I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry."

Twice in one day. This was getting downright scary. Doyle smiled. "What are you apologizing for this time?"


"Oh." Another surprise. He hadn't thought Bodie would admit to being in the wrong, to admit he'd had less than altruistic motives. "Are you saying you didn't chat her up for my own good, then?"

"That's what I told myself," Bodie said. "That she was another Ann, that you would be hurt by her. Maybe I wasn't telling myself the truth. I don't really know, Ray. I do know that I didn't like the idea of you falling in love with her."

Doyle sighed. "Turns out she wasn't falling in love with me in return. Seems to be my lot in life."

"I'm sorry."

"Stop saying that." Doyle had had enough of an apologetic Bodie. "You're not sorry. You were glad she went away."

Bodie didn't answer that, for which Doyle felt relieved. He didn't want to fight. He was too damned tired to fight.



"I don't want you to go away."

So there it was, a plea to stay together. But as what? He still loved the bastard. After all the pain, after all the lies, after having his very trust in the man shattered, he still could not imagine a life without Bodie by his side.

Yet he couldn't demand that Bodie feel the same way, that he admit to love. That had only led to disaster. But he did need the trust back, he needed to know that Bodie would be honest with him from now on. He needed some answers.

"I'd like to know one thing," he replied. "Why do you hate the idea of loving someone so damned much?"

He expected evasions, expected Bodie to retreat, draw into himself as he always did, safe in the dark. He didn't really think Bodie would tell him. But he did.

"All I can say," Bodie answered, his voice soft and measured, "is what I know. People say they love you, and then they leave you. I loved my parents. I loved my mum more than life itself. When I was ten years old my dad caught her with his older brother, with my uncle Andrew. He kicked her out. Then he told her she could take us with her, my brother Jack and me. She said she didn't want us. Didn't have the time or the money to handle two kids on her own, she said. But as soon as the divorce came through, she and my uncle ran off together and got married. He had a good job and lots of money, more than we ever did. But she never took us in, never even came to see us. It was as if we didn't exist anymore." He paused, let out a sigh. "You had to go and fall in love with me; I didn't ask you to. You probably thought it would be different this time. Not like the other times you've fallen in love, and I know you have. No, this time you really meant it. But did you? I've had people tell me they loved me before, Ray. I don't see a single one of them in my life today. You say it's love, and you get what you want today, and what's to keep everything from changing tomorrow? Why should anything ever last? Every day, people change, things change. Love changes. Even good friends change. I don't hate the idea at all. I just can't bring myself to believe in it."

Stunned, Doyle was at a loss at how to reply. The story of the abandonment was tragic, but nowhere near as tragic as the lesson Bodie had learned from it. How could anyone undo the damage done? Bodie had seared the lesson into his heart. And he used it to keep himself safe from further harm.

"So now you know," Bodie said into the silence.

"You've given up," Doyle replied. He'd always thought of Bodie as a fighter, but not now, not with this. "You might be hurt again, so you never bother trying. My God, Bodie--what if you're wrong? What if you don't get hurt again? Don't you see that the way things are now, you'll never know?"

"What might have been," Bodie said flatly. "Go on, tell me it's worth the risk."

"It is, dammit!" Christ, Bodie sounded so cynical. "For God's sake, we all hurt. We all cry. I hurt. You can't live like that, Bodie, you can't keep shutting people out. You can't be that alone."

Bodie looked down at his hands. "I've got you."

Doyle squeezed his eyes shut. Christ. He wasn't going to sit here and be held hostage to emotional blackmail. "No," he said, knowing how much it would hurt. He looked at Bodie, who looked back at him with fear in his eyes. "I offered you everything I had, and you turned away. What makes you think I'd give you another chance? Even at just friendship?" Each word tore through him, cold and sharp, yet he had to say them. "You can't count on me, Bodie. I love you; I always will. But I won't promise not to ever leave you. That's the risk we both have to take. All I can promise is to stay with you now, as a friend, as a partner, and if you want, as a lover. It might work out. It might not. As you say, things change. No, you don't have me, not by a long chalk. If I give you another chance, there's only one thing I have on offer--uncertainty. If you want me to erase the past or guarantee the future, you can look somewhere else, 'cause that's not my job, mate."

Bodie shook his head, as if in disbelief. "You sounded almost as cynical as me just then."

"Did I?" He supposed he had. Maybe it was the only way of getting through.

"Yeah. Liked it better when you were being idealistic."

"Must be the company I keep."

They didn't speak for a while. The silence stretched out awkwardly; Doyle drank his cooling coffee and waited.

Bodie eventually broke the silence. "So what you're saying," he said, "is that you love me."


"And you want me to take the risk of loving you back."


"With no promises."

"That's right."

Bodie rose and crossed to the window. "Still pouring out there."

"Getting late, too." His shoulder had started to ache; he'd need to take his medication soon.

"You know the classic line," Bodie said, "about how it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all--I always thought that was a bad joke. And a lie." He turned away from the window, gave Doyle a long, steady look. "It would kill me, I think. To really love you, and to have you leave me someday."

Doyle neither needed nor wanted that sort of pressure. "Well, that's not my problem, mate. If it kills you, then it kills you. If it ever happens."

"Christ, Ray. I'm only telling you how it is with me, not making threats. When did you get so cold?"

When you stepped on my heart once too often. "You tell me," Doyle replied.

Bodie glanced down at his feet. "Think I'll go for a walk." He grabbed his jacket.

"In the rain?"

"I like the rain."

And then he was gone.

Cold. Wet. Dark. And bloody miserable.

Bodie sat on a stone bench in the park across from Doyle's building. Raindrops spattered his face, his hair, his hands. Water dribbled down his jacket, soaked into his trousers. He didn't care. He wasn't miserable over the weather.

Seven years. Partners, friends, lovers. Had there ever been anyone in his life quite like Ray Doyle? No. The man was special. Perhaps far too special. It would matter too much to lose him.

So why couldn't he say the one thing that would keep him?

Bodie looked across the street, up at Doyle's lighted window, the interior blocked from view by curtains. Seven years, and what did he have to hold onto? Some good memories, some bad. Was that all? Did he walk away now, or did he put himself back into the firing line?

If you care for someone, you are never safe. Dangerous, every step of the way. He didn't shirk from danger; no, in fact, he liked to get the first punch in.

Bodie frowned. Perhaps that had been what he had done wrong. He didn't want to be hurt, so he had hurt Ray first. He hadn't wanted to give Ray the chance to abandon him, so he had done the abandoning himself when he told Doyle there was no love between them. He had made sure he got in the first punch.

What he had forgotten to do was to find out if there really was a fight.

Rein yourself in tight, that was what he abided by. Don't let the enemy come in close, strike out whenever they get too near. That's the only way to stay untouched. Once they crossed a certain line, even his friends became foes.

How can I survive, except on my own? Bodie turned his face upwards. He closed his eyes, letting the rain whip down, chill and piercing. How can I remain as I am... The rain sliced through him, the blackness enveloped him. How can I survive on my own.

An image flashed in his mind, a scene of him and Ray mugging it up for the camera at the amusement center photo booth. Didn't even get any copies for myself.

He wished he had.

He gasped at the sharp tug of pain inside, at the tears that came. Of all the stupid things to get upset about--

He couldn't hold the tears back, they flowed down his cheeks, mingling with the rain.

Of all the stupid things.

Bodie took deep, gulping breaths, trying to steady himself. Did it all come down to the little things, the small moments? Was that what truly mattered? One lazy, childish afternoon with a friend--no. With someone who truly mattered.

He still didn't think he could say the words Doyle wanted to hear. Not yet. But he could come close, as close as he dared.

And if that one big thing known as love wouldn't hold them together, then perhaps all the little things could.

After taking his tablets, and after brewing and drinking another cup of coffee, Doyle wondered if he should just go to bed. He desperately needed some sleep. And he desperately wanted Bodie to come back.

Doyle went to the living room window. He couldn't help pulling aside the curtains, couldn't help gazing out, up and down the street, and across the street to the small park. Even at this distance, he recognized the figure sitting on the bench, the same one he'd sat on himself not that long ago. Simply sitting there, in the dark, in the pouring rain. Crazy bastard.

Five minutes later he strolled into the park. He walked up to the bench. "What the hell are you doin'?"

Bodie looked up. Water shimmered off his leather jacket, his hair was completely plastered, glistening streams of rain ran down his face. If Bodie were capable of crying, then this was the perfect time and place. No one would be able to tell.

"I'm getting wet," Bodie replied.

"Yeah, I can see that. And it's damned stupid. You're coming back inside before I get thoroughly soaked as well." He grabbed Bodie by the arm and hauled him up, shoved him forward. "Get moving."

When he got Bodie back to the flat, Doyle pointed him towards the bath. "Go on, get dried off. Have a bath if you want one. Idiot." What Bodie did after that was his own business; Doyle was falling asleep on his feet. Enough was enough. He went down to his bedroom, stripped, and crawled under the covers.

He had no idea how long he slept. When he woke, it was still dark, and Bodie lay in bed beside him, an arm wrapped warmly around his chest.

"Are you awake?" Doyle asked.

"More or less."

Doyle turned a little into the embrace. "So what were you thinking about out there? When you were getting soaked?"

"Hm? Oh. Amusement parks," Bodie said. "And photo booths."

"You what? Oh, yeah, I remember that. Had fun that day, didn't we?"

"Mmm. Had a grand time. Wanted to feel that way again. Just you and me, having a good time together."

Odd, Doyle thought, that he had picked out that one little adventure. "What made you think of it?"

"Your photo album. You kept the pictures."

Still puzzled, Doyle said, "Yeah, but when did you ever see my album?"

"Since yesterday," Bodie replied calmly. "Came here while you were in hospital."

Doyle had a vague feeling that he ought to feel outraged, and yet he failed utterly to do so. "You broke into my flat?"

"Hey, you gave me a key, remember?"

"Technicalities, mate. Why?"

There was a pause. "Because I wanted to be with you. Only I wasn't ready to see you yet. So I came here instead."

Somehow, this convoluted reasoning made sense to Doyle. Bodie had wanted to find him again, had come here looking for something that would be a reminder of their friendship. He had found the photos, had been touched by them. After all the things he had said and done, Bodie turned out to have a sentimental streak a mile wide.

He might have known.

Maybe he hadn't asked for too much of Bodie. Maybe he had simply asked too soon. The affection was there, the love was there. Hidden, hard to dig out, and perhaps impossible to get Bodie to believe in. But Doyle knew it was there, and maybe that would have be enough.

"So what do you want to do now?" he asked.

"Stay friends," Bodie replied.

"All right."

"And stay partners."

"All right." Doyle waited.

After a long moment, Bodie said, "Stay lovers."

Doyle took a deep breath. "Just you and me?"

He felt Bodie tighten his hold. "Yeah. Just you and me."

Relief flowed through Doyle. Nothing about this was going to be easy, he knew that. But at least they had another chance. "All right," he said softly. "Let's take it slower this time, though, hm? Think I rushed you a bit before."

"Well, I have noticed," Bodie said, "that when you decide you want something, you don't let a whole lot stand in your way."

"Trouble was, I wanted you."

"Yeah," Bodie replied, "and the only thing in your way was me."

"Interesting problem," Doyle murmured. "Glad we're figuring it out. Maybe if we keep hammering away at each other like this, we'll get there in the end."

"Hope so." Bodie yawned, then rested his head on Doyle's shoulder. "We've got some time off. What do you want to do?"

Doyle kissed the top of his head. "Don't care. Long as I'm doing it with you."

He closed his eyes, ready for sleep. Then Bodie shifted, and Doyle was startled when Bodie's lips suddenly brushed against his own. Bodie pressed harder, and Doyle opened to him, and the kiss deepened, and he felt a warmth he had not felt for a long time.

It was over far too soon. Doyle opened his eyes. "That's the first time you've done that." He had initiated every kiss before, never Bodie.

"Well, you know what they say." Bodie's voice held a touch of nervousness. "First time's difficult, the rest is plain sailing."

Doyle smiled. "Doubt it'll be as smooth as all that, mate. Not for us." No, nothing would be simple for them. They would have to work at this. He sighed. "Afraid we won't find out tonight."

"Your shoulder hurting, then?"


"That's all right," Bodie murmured. "Didn't kiss you to get you going. Did it to show you how I feel." He yawned, and settled down again on Doyle's shoulder.

Doyle waited, but there were no further admissions. He was getting used to Bodie's indirect declarations, though. Somehow he knew that sometime, somewhere, Bodie would say the words he wanted to hear.

As he sank down into sleep, Doyle knew that it would be a day worth waiting for.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Close Quarters, Deathless Pros Press, 1996
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