by Anne Carr
It was raining. Not the light, vaguely mystical mist the British Tourist Council liked to extoll, but really cold, pouring wet rain. The sky was black and moaning winds drove stinging droplets into every crevice while thunder rampaged across the lonely countryside.
Bodie huddled deeper into his anorak and shivered. He had found shelter on the rocky hillside hours earlier when the farmhouse was visible and the storm still over the horizon. Now he was drenched, freezing, and very unhappy. He shifted again but the wind found him immediately and worked a flood under the tightly pulled hood of the coat.
It was far too dark to see and he didn't dare risk a single torch flash to check the time. The mob he was after spooked very easily--a lone flashlight where there should be nothing could set them off. He and Doyle had come too far to take a chance now, but he dearly wanted to know the time. They were due to be relieved at midnight and ten miles away there was hot food, hot water and a warm bed, all with his name on them.
His R/T crackled, barely discernible in the storm's cacophony, and Ray's voice came through the static. "3.7?"
"Where the hell are you?" Bodie didn't sound any more polite than he felt. "All you had to do was go to the motor, get the bloody thermos, and bring it back."
"On my way." Doyle was disgustingly cheerful which only confirmed Bodie's suspicion that his partner had been getting warm in the car while he (Bodie) was probably catching pneumonia.
"Don't hurry on my account," he growled, but Doyle merely laughed before the R/T went silent.
"Damn bloody fucking rain." Bodie picked up the binoculars and trained them in the direction of the farmhouse. Immediately the rain sheeted the glass, making vision impossible. Not that there was anything to see. Their quarry were not stupid. They had apparently gone to bed early for no signs of activity, lights or anything else, had been evident for at least two hours.
Why was it the villains got the cushy bits while the good guys suffered? He would personally see to it that this particular mob would do a little suffering of their own before he was through, no matter what Cowley had to say. Nothing too awful...a week in a meat packing plant maybe, or just the nearest freezer.
And why was it all the big operations--the important ones--necessitated him slogging about in the mud, freezing his arse? Just once couldn't they trap the baddies in a sunny resort somewhere?
Feeling distinctly sorry for himself, Bodie shivered again and bravely fought back a sneeze.
There was no warning of the blow. The storm's fury effectively masked the sound of footsteps, the harsh breathing of the attacker. One moment Bodie was miserably alert, the next he was falling, unconscious, towards the mud. The storm also covered the sickening thump of his body as it hit the ground.
He sprawled, senseless, his face a white blur in the darkness, and above him the attacker smiled.
"Wake up! Come on! You can't sleep forever!"
Doyle groaned and flinched as a hand slapped hard on his cheek. "M'awake, m'awake!" he managed to croak and the hard, commanding voice laughed. It was not, Ray decided before opening his eyes, a sane laugh. He tried to roll over, off his aching back, but he found he was tied--no, handcuffed--to something behind him. His arms were pulled back over his head and had no real feeling. He moved his legs instead and found they too were immobile, tied spread-eagle to the hard surface beneath him.
He took a breath and opened his eyes.
"So glad you could join me," the voice said.
At first there was nothing but light--blinding bright light that caused his head to pound harder. A shadow crossed his vision, a silhouette only, blurred against the brilliant background. He squinted, the shadow moved and features came into focus.
He was a pale man with a sharp thin face--like a caricature of a ferret--with small squinty eyes that glowed with the fanatic's light.
"Who the hell are you?" He croaked it again but didn't feel up to trying it a second time.
"You don't remember me, do you?" Pleasant. Pleasantly insane.
Doyle licked his dry lips, "Oh yeh, sure. Cinderella's ball, wasn't it? You're one of the rats that got turned into a white horse, right?"
The man smiled and lovingly rubbed the snout of his .44 along Doyle's cheek. "Fancy yerself as Prince Charming, eh? And who's he, then? The fairy godmother?"
Doyle followed the stranger's nod and turned his head to the right. Bodie was facing him, curled in a heap where he had been thrown, so white and still a chill went through Ray. "If you've killed him," he looked back at the man, "you'd better kill me, too. You'll never run far enough...."
The man waved a silencing hand. "He's not dead. Just drugged, and he's got a nice lump, just like yours. No," he drooled a little and licked his lips, "I don't want you dead. You're no use at all dead. I want you alive and well."
"My name is Green." The man straightened and moved left. Behind where he had stood was an open door, the source of the light. A beautiful day; Doyle could see blue skies and smell the sea. The name meant nothing to him.
"You don't know me," Green went on. "But he does. Bodie--your partner." He sneered the words and Doyle wondered what Bodie could have done to inspire such mad hatred.
"I had a partner once. Until he killed him." Green set his .44 aside and reached into his pocket. "And after Henry died, and that Schumann bitch, they needed a fall guy."
The Schumann name rang a bell. "Marika? You mean Marika Schumann?"
Green ignored him. "So Mr William Bodie walks away scot free and me, I take the fall. I'm expendable Willis says. Too bad, Green. Somebody has to take the fall, Green, and you're it. Not even a pension. He gave the orders, I followed 'em, and for that I have nothing--not even a bloody partner!" He ended with a squawk and paused, his breathing harsh.
Doyle watched him and didn't speak.
"I came away with nothing. Ten years of service for nothing." He muttered under his breath for a while and Ray fought the surging nausea that rose and fell in him like the sea waves he could hear.
Green pulled his hand out of his pocket. "This is the key to your cuffs. When Bodie wakes up he'll set you free."
"What the hell...?"
"Free," Green smiled again. "That's a relative word, isn't it? You'll be free--right here on this lovely island. You're eleven miles out, you know, and no way off. This," he waved an all encompassing hand, "is the old lighthouse. It's still sound enough except for the lantern. They don't use oil now, y'see. No one ever comes this way. And the mainland locals think it's haunted so nothing you do will bring anyone here."
Doyle merely looked at him.
"There's food and water and everything else you'll need." The key clattered as it hit the countertop. "Have a nice holiday. Do watch out for the ghost." One more maniacal giggle and he was gone.
Doyle opened his mouth to shout after Green then closed it again. The last thing he wanted was to bring the madman back. He considered. No, the last thing he wanted was to see Cowley's face when he found out they'd apparently decamped from the stakeout without warning. The biggest case they'd had in a year--he pulled furiously at his bonds and shouted, "You goddamned lunatic! We'll get you for this!"
In the silence that followed he could hear the splutter of a speedboat's motor as it coughed and roared into life. The noise swelled, then faded. After that there were only the sounds of the sea (which bloody sea?) and the gulls shrieking.
He lay still, getting his frustrated anger under control, waiting for his head and stomach to come to terms with each other.
All right. If Green could be believed at all, they'd been left on an island somewhere off a coast, most likely England. There were no shadows he could see to guess the time but they'd been snatched about 10pm and he wasn't weak enough for it to have been longer than twelve hours ago. Christ! Twelve hours with today's transport--they could be almost anywhere.
He turned to look at his partner. Poor Bodie. Another reminder of Marika, of the events of the day that had left her dead, innocent pawn of two countries who had no time for things like feelings. Doyle had liked Marika--Bodie, he thought, had loved her. Rather like he'd loved that girl from his days with Krivas.
"At least," he spoke to the unresponsive figure, "my women just walk out. Yours die."
The hours passed very slowly. Doyle concentrated on doing isometrics, ignoring his bladder and stomach (one full, one empty), and calling out to his still sleeping partner. He began to fret at the utter stillness of the man next to him and spent long minutes staring at him, willing him to breathe.
Bodie was so white, his long dark lashes standing out like tangled smudges against his cheeks. There was a trace of dried blood at the corner of his mouth but nothing fresh appeared. Ray worried nonetheless.
It was late afternoon and he'd had the sun full in his face for an hour when Bodie began to show signs of awakening. At first just a slight change in respirations, he soon moved slightly and Doyle could see some colour seep back into his pale face. He called to his partner without success, then began to worry anew when the movements turned to shivers and the colour into a rosy flush. Bodie, he remembered, had been out in the storm far longer, was probably soaked through, and worn out from their hours on the job. He'd be ripe to catch pneumonia.
Familiar feelings of guilt assailed him--if he hadn't gone for the thermos, if he hadn't stayed in the motor drying off and getting warm, if they'd been together when Green attacked--if, if, if. He was a selfish bastard and Bodie was paying the price.
And what was more, he knew perfectly well Bodie wouldn't see it that way at all, wouldn't even think of blaming his partner.
Bodie sighed and rolled on his back.
"Bodie! For chrissake wake up!"
Bodie mumbled and Ray kept talking, rapidly getting hoarse but knowing it would help. At least he hoped so.
So soft he thought he'd imagined it. "Bodie? You awake?"
"No," his partner said distinctly and opened his eyes, groaning as the sun struck him full in the face. "What's goin' on?"
"Never mind that, I'll tell you later. Are you all right? Can you move?"
"Yeh." He was flexing experimentally. "I ache."
"Well ache over there and get the key to the cuffs would you? I gotta pee."
Bodie looked at him for the first time, squinting against the light. "How long've you been like that, mate?" He grunted as he stood and moved with a definite wobble, but in less than a minute Doyle was free and yelling as the first of the cramps set in.
Bodie began to massage the knotted muscles with hands that were fever warm, steel hard, and ruthlessly efficient. "Better?"
"Yeh--oh yeh, right there. Christ, that's good--I thought you'd never wake up."
"The way I feel I should go straight back to bed. If there is a bed anywhere. Where are we?"
Between grunts of pain Doyle explained and by the time he'd told all he knew the cramps were gone and Bodie was cursing fluently in several languages. Having had all day to vent himself in a similar fashion, Ray was interested in more important things. "Help me up," he ordered, "before I embarrass meself."
They stumbled unsteadily out the open door as the sun turned golden in preparation for a magnificent setting, and relieved themselves in the nearest appropriate place.
Doyle sighed with true alleviated pleasure and looked around. The lighthouse stood on the east side of the island, high on a promontory, surrounded by a dangerously boulder strewn terrain. In the distance, off the point, he could see the rocks the light had warned of as the sea foamed and spewed around them with the incoming tide.
They were overlooking the rest of the island. It was a small land mass, barely a mile in circumference, with sloping beaches on the other three sides, mounded sand dunes and a green covered hill almost directly in the centre. There were trees, especially on the south side and, closer to the lighthouse, a freshwater stream jangled and burbled between wild flower covered banks. All-in-all it looked beautiful in the mellow light--peaceful, quiet, and very, very isolated. Around them was nothing but water.
"I guess," he said quietly, "Green wasn't lying."
Bodie sneezed and wandered towards the stream. A light breeze had sprung up, ruffling his hair, delightfully cool against his heated skin. He felt woolly headed, unable to take it all in, and very thirsty.
"Where're you goin'?" Ray called out after him.
"For a drink."
About to stop him, Doyle hesitated. Green might be insane, but he was no practical fool with it. This kidnapping had been well planned. Surely he wouldn't have set it all up just so they could die the first night from bad water. On the other hand there could be bottled water inside the lighthouse.... "Bodie! Hang about!"
Bodie stopped and turned to face him, swaying slightly. "What's wrong now?"
"Let's check inside for water. Come on." Doyle coaxed, then said it again sharply, not liking the unfocussed look on his partner's face. Bodie rarely got sick, but when he did, he did the thing royally, and fevers tended to make him hallucinate. Ray remembered one very long night a couple of years ago when he'd sat at Bodie's bedside waiting for the temperature to break, listening to the garbled ramblings that emerged unchecked and incoherent. Bodie had fought and refought several African and Northern Ireland battles that night, had talked of terrible atrocities he'd seen but never done, and it was not an experience Doyle wanted to repeat. "Come on. It's getting dark and we still have to find our way around inside."
Doyle waited until Bodie passed him then followed as he went back into the lighthouse.
The ground floor, they discovered, was more a storage area than anything else. Cupboards lined the walls, filled with all the equipment they would need, including several oil lamps, fluid and even extra wicks. They left one burning in the middle of the floor between the iron rings Doyle's feet had been cuffed to, and took three more with them up the curving stone steps.
The first floor held a kitchen/living area. Doyle pushed his acquiescent partner onto a comfortable looking sofa and explored. "This guy Green thought of everything, didn't he? There's enough food here for six months."
Bodie leaned back and coughed. "What about drink?"
"Juice and some bottled water labelled "For Emergency Use Only"--so I guess we use the stream after all. And--bloody hell!"
Bodie opened one eye, "Eh?"
"There's two cases of pure malt here!"
Both eyes came fully open. "What'd Willis pay his lads in? Pure gold?"
"Yeh--or scotch," Doyle opened a bottle and poured them each a drink "Hungry?"
"Not really. Throat's sore."
"Whatever." His immediate thirst quenched, Bodie lost interest in the proceedings. He lay back and dozed, aware of the sounds of his partner banging kitchen-type things around, not feeling well enough to care.
He roused reluctantly and eyed Ray. "What's all this then?"
"Soup, vitamins, aspirin and penicillin. And juice. Take it all--I'm not up to playing nurse, mate."
"Ah, but you'd look cute in your little pinny, wouldn't you?"
Doyle's reply was pithy, a cover for his worry. Bodie looked awful--eyes red and watery, nose pink, skin hot and dry. Among the necessities Green had provided was an ample med kit. He ate his own meal hungrily and watched as Bodie got down the pills and juice and about half the soup before giving up.
"Sorry, mate," Bodie stood up. "Think I'll find a bed. We can discuss it all in the morning, okay?"
"It's me should be saying 'sorry'," Doyle told him. He grabbed a sandwich in one hand and a lamp in the other and followed Bodie out.
"This is my fault, you know...."
"Don't start that, 4.5," Bodie held up his light as the staircase narrowed. "Green's out to get me. Though how this is going to do it is beyond my mental processes at the moment."
"Look," Bodie sneezed and opened the door he had come to, "it's not your fault. So drop it." He felt his still damp pockets and pulled out a soggy handkerchief.
Ray shrugged and slid past him into what appeared to be a small bedroom. A three tiered bookcase was stuffed with a surprising mixture of paperbacks--something for everyone, he discovered. Mounted cupboards held clothes in his size, and across the room was a built-in bed that looked both comfortable and inviting. He tested the mattress, found it adequate and turned to say so to Bodie. But the doorway was empty and Bodie had disappeared.
He found him on the top floor of the lighthouse--the lamproom that had been converted into another bedroom, which, with the exception of being round and having more windows, was similar to the one below. The view, Doyle thought, must be fantastic from this height.
Bodie was already stripping. "I'm going to bed," he announced and slid between clean sheets. "Wake me when I'm well and not before."
Doyle woke him four hours later for more medicine, and was pleased to note he was no worse, then went to bed in his own room to sleep soundly until morning.
He was being chased and whatever was after him was big and black. It was without features except for an open, tooth-filled mouth that spit bullets, and a green tongue. They were in a tower and he had no choice but to keep going up, and up, no time to stop and call for help. If he could reach the top he knew he'd be safe because Doyle was there, but the monster was closing in on him and its wide mouth was smiling.... Ahead of him Ray was calling, reaching out, saying something about sanctuary and not to drink the water. He held out his arms only to have Doyle back away, telling him to follow....
Bodie opened his eyes and sneezed.
"Bless you, morning, Sunshine." Doyle looked up from his minute investigation of the contents of his partner's room and gazed at him thoughtfully. "How're you feeling?"
"Don't know yet," Bodie rubbed his eyes. "Christ, I thought it was a dream." He blinked then narrowed his eyes as the sun slanted across his bed. "What's the time?"
"No clocks, no watches," Doyle held out his wrist. "But suntime says about 10am. You should see this, Bodie. We've each got books and clothes--there's a battery operated record player downstairs, and even spare sheets and towels."
"Huh?" Doyle found a copy of a book he'd been wanting to read and opened it.
"I said (achoo), why? Why all the stuff? This isn't a kidnapping, it's a bloody holiday!" He unwound himself from the sheets and struggled to sit up.
Reluctantly Ray set the book aside and came to perch next to him on the bed. "Bless you, well, I've been thinking about that."
Doyle handed him a tissue. "Here. Try this--Green got kicked out because Willis needed a fall guy, right?"
"Yeh." Bodie blew his nose and promptly sneezed again.
"Bless you. Well, it seems to me he's tryin' to get you and me kicked out of CI5."
"Kidnapping will not get us kicked off the squad."
"Take a look around," Doyle waved a hand. "There's no proof we were kidnapped. In a week even the lump on your head'll be gone. It's gonna look like we dumped a big case to run off to wherever this is and...."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "...and?"
Doyle ignored him. "And paint the natives, study seagulls, live happily ever after--I don't know. But that's what it'll look like."
"So Sherlock, what do you plan to do about it?"
Doyle's face hardened. "I plan to get off this island, find Green, and pull 'im apart--one fingernail at a time." He turned to Bodie, "Right?"
Bodie read the determination in his partner's eyes, saw that it matched his own, and nodded shortly, "Right."
They looked at each other a minute longer then Doyle reached out to feel Bodie's forehead. "Fever's gone."
"Just a blood(achoo)y cold."
"Bless you, then get up, take your medicine and eat breakfast--we've got work to do."
Bodie watched him as he left the room, "Get up," he muttered in a high pitched sotto voce, "Take your medicine, eat your breakfast...like a bloody mother hen, he is." He grinned and blew his nose, then shouted after Ray. "And quit saying 'bless you'! It's hopeless!"
They spent the next three days exploring the island, finding wood for bonfires, setting out H E L P signs with dark rocks above the high tide marks on the beaches, and generally doing anything they could think of that might attract a rescue. At night they put lit lamps in Bodie's windows. But no ship appeared, no help arrived and they remained stranded. Doyle kept one eye out for any worsening of Bodie's illness, but the med kit supplies had proved adequate. The big man had a bad cold, talked through his nose and coughed a lot, but the fever was gone for good and his appetite was becoming mountainous. He also sneezed every other minute and was feeling very sorry for himself.
On the morning of the fourth day, with no more chores left to do, Doyle came into the living area dressed only in skimpy shorts, and announced his intention to sunbathe.
Bodie looked up from his self-imposed task of refilling the lamps, made a face and sneezed.
"You come too, it'll do you good."
One of the lamps was set aside. "You go on, I'll finish this first."
"Right. I'll be over in the South Bay." Ray grinned and sauntered out, whistling an upbeat tune.
Bodie sneezed again and blew his tender nose, envying his partner's health. He envied Doyle's easy acceptance of their present situation as well. Ray seemed willing to treat this time as a holiday, while he, Bodie, just wanted to get off the island, find Green, and kill him. Slowly.
Finished with the lamps Bodie looked around the room and could find nothing left undone. Warm light slanted in from the eastern windows outlining the furniture. It was dusted, the dishes were washed and Ray had brought fresh water up before traipsing off.
Nothing to do and all day to do it in.
He vainly tried to stop the next sneeze and went off to find his partner, thinking that if he had to be stuck here--inactive--at least Green had left him with a good companion.
The South Bay was, they had found, the most pleasant spot on the entire island. The beach was sandy, the surf mild and the bay curved into a natural shallow harbour, safe for swimming.
Bodie took the inland route and approached from the grassy knoll, his footsteps padded into silence by the thick foliage.
He expected to find Ray reading, but the warmth of the late morning sun had done its somnambulant work and he lay quiet, sprawled on his back, his naked body soaking up the heat, nothing moving except the breeze in his hair.
Bodie stopped and stared. He had never paid attention, never even thought much about his partner's body. If anyone had asked he could give a description because he'd certainly seen it enough. But height and weight and scars had nothing to do with the sweat sheened beauty that lay before him. Already Ray had acquired a faint tan and it added to the picture, a study of browns on white sand, a perfect blending of humanness and nature.
Bodie noticed for the first time how Ray's hair had grown to cover the bullet scars on his chest, how it curled and tapered to his waist then grew thicker again at his groin. It looked soft and wiry together and he wondered suddenly how it would feel.
"I've been on this island too bloody long already!" he muttered and flushed when he realized his partner's green eyes had opened and were watching him, unblinking.
Doyle stretched, a long, graceful movement, and rolled to his side, completely unselfconscious. "Hi."
Ray smiled sleepily, "S'nice here."
"Yeh." Bodie shifted and looked out over the water.
"Take off your clothes then."
"We don't all have your exhibitionist tendencies, you know."
"I figure," Doyle leaned up on his elbows and dug his toes into the sand, "if anyone sees me they'll arrest me and get us out of here."
"Clever." Bodie sneezed.
"Bless you--come on," Doyle wheedled and sat up. He reached out and grabbed his partner by the belt, pulling him closer. "Get-em-off."
Startled, Bodie watched as his partner efficiently undid belt and cords, tugged at the zipper, then pulled pants and underwear down together.
He tapped Bodie's leg, "Lift, Sunshine."
"I can undress myself," Bodie pushed Ray's hands aside.
"Oh yeh? That's not what Sophy said," Doyle grinned at the memory of his conversation with Bodie's latest bird. "She said you enjoy being disrobed."
Bodie stepped back and reluctantly finished taking off his clothes. "Sophy talks too much." He glanced down at his partner. "What're you staring at?"
"You. You're a lot more fair complected than I am."
Bodie shrugged. "So?"
"So--you'll burn. You'd better go get that lotion back at the lighthouse."
"I just got here!"
Doyle considered, "It's a cute bum, Bodie, but it'll be red as your nose if you don't...."
"All right!" Bodie reached for his clothes, only to be frustrated as Doyle pounced on them. "Give over!"
"What'd you need 'em for? Move your arse, Bodie, you're startin' to get pink already."
Bodie glared, but Ray looked so mischievously happy he couldn't stay angry. He turned and began to stride off down the beach, pausing only to wiggle his bottom suggestively when Doyle called for him to "'urry up, beautiful!"
Doyle sighed gustily and threw his book across the room.
"That's no way to treat Keats," Bodie reproved gently from the other end of the sofa.
"I don't know what you even see in poetry," his partner grumbled. "That stuff doesn't even rhyme."
"It's the symmetry of the lines--the way he paints a picture with words."
"Paints a picture!" Ray sprang up and began to pace around the room. "A picture you can see--it's all there for the eyes. That bloody thing," he jerked his finger towards the offending book, "is ridiculous."
Bodie considered him for a moment. "What exactly is bothering you?"
"I can't bloody tell if he's talkin' to the Urn, or the Urn is talkin' to him, or someone is talkin' to 'em both, or what, and I'm bored!"
Bodie wisely ignored the first bit and centred on the last two words. They'd been stuck on their island for almost two and a half weeks now. Every book had been read, every chore done, the delights of surf and sand explored, and utilized. Holidays, he had long since decided, were only good for people like he and Ray when there was something to go back to. They were not creatures of leisure, not by nature or habit. He could see the volcano that was Doyle ready to erupt for lack of outlet, could understand because he felt the same way himself. He laid his own book aside. "Come on, mate. Let's go for a midnight stroll on the beach."
Ray opened his mouth and closed it again, grinning ruefully. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. Come on. Grab a jacket--now I'm healthy I don't want you gettin' sick. You might give it back to me again."
"Your concern for my welfare is touching," Doyle told him sweetly but grabbed up the heavy sweater nonetheless.
The night sky was cloudless, the moon not quite full as it spread a bright silver light across the land. Doyle jammed his hands deep into the pockets of his sweater, glad Bodie had reminded him to wear it. He tended to forget, in the long hot summer days, just how cool it got at night.
They ambled along one of their own paths, skirting the dew wet grassy knoll, heading in easy stages towards the opposite end of the island. The surf boomed and gurgled around them, sounds they were so accustomed to by now they never noticed. Their feet had the assurity of long practice over familiar terrain. There was nothing dangerous here, neither man paid attention to his whereabouts, each was lost in his own thoughts.
When they reached the west side of the island their steps slowed. This beach was rocky, boulder strewn. Bodie bent and picked up a fair sized stone, feeling its water smoothed surface under his fingers before tossing it in a long arc towards the ocean. It landed just beyond the breaking surf and a second later the rock Doyle had thrown splashed beside it.
They smiled at each other then Doyle moved ahead to a slanting boulder, sat and wriggled a comfortable spot in the sand, the rock both a perfect backrest and windbreak combined.
Bodie joined him and they sat quietly, watching the moon's reflections on the water until the sphere slipped behind a cloud, plunging them into almost total darkness. Ray shivered a little and moved a fraction closer to his partner, instinctively drawing near to the man's warmth.
"Bodie," he said softly, "talk to me."
"You're the only person I've ever met who never bores me," Doyle continued. "Talk to me."
He could hear the smile in Bodie's voice, "What about?"
Since Ray had no idea what he wanted to hear, only that he needed something to pin his restless thoughts on, he shrugged, "You never told me--where did you grow up?"
There was such a long silence he thought Bodie wasn't going to answer, but he didn't push and eventually Bodie said, "We moved around a lot."
"Was your father in the Army or something?"
"No," Bodie leaned his head against the flat surface of the boulder. "No, he just couldn't keep a job."
If it had been lighter, if they had been anywhere else, Ray probably wouldn't have gone on, but under cover of darkness, cocooned as they were in their own private world, he asked, "Why not?"
Bodie, too, seemed to take courage from the night. "He used to get these, I don't know, attacks, I guess you'd call 'em. Of depression. We'd move to a new place, he'd get a job--he was a hell of a mechanic, could fix anything with wheels--and we'd do okay for a bit. I'd go to school, start to make a few friends..." his voice trailed off.
"And then he'd just not get up one morning. He'd lock himself away in the bedroom, wouldn't eat, wouldn't talk." Bodie sighed. "Wouldn't go to work. And before long he'd lose his job and we'd move on. Again."
Doyle tried to picture his partner as a child, always the new kid on the block, never staying anywhere long enough to have roots, and felt a wave of sympathy. Knowing Bodie would hate it, he merely said, "You told me you left when you were fourteen."
"Mum died," Bodie told him bluntly. "There wasn't anything to stay for."
"But your Dad...."
"Probably never noticed I was gone." Bodie stated it factually, which only made it worse.
Anything he said after that would only be a platitude so Doyle was silent, comparing his own upbringing to his partner's.
They had long ago grown close enough to follow the same line of thought and Ray wasn't surprised when Bodie asked, "What about you then?"
"Me? Oh, I'm the product of a broken home. Classic case."
"Oh yeh. When there was enough money I'd go to me Dad's for the summer, stay with 'im 'n 'is wife and their kids." Doyle remembered his plump, smiling stepmother, and blinked in the darkness. "I liked Polly. My Mum," he added as an afterthought, "was okay, too. We had a succession of 'uncles'."
Bodie made a sound and Doyle chuckled. "It wasn't bad. No really. They were nice guys for the most part. It wasn't their fault, was it? Wasn't anybody's fault. Just--when I got old enough to understand it, it was easier to be out on the street."
Bodie remembered another conversation he'd had with his partner, the night before the attack on Parsali. "The knife fights?"
"I was a short, skinny little runt. On the streets you...learn."
"So you wanted discipline."
Ray shifted against the boulder, felt the softer hardness of Bodie's shoulder and leaned against it. "Uncle Mike was a copper. He found out about a certain little misdemeanour and beat the hell outta me. Do you know," Ray smiled, "it was the first time anyone'd cared enough to really notice. Of course I was good at lying."
"Of course." Bodie's tone was wry. Doyle ignored him. "Anyway, he didn't hurt me or anything, and after that I got to looking at coppers a little differently."
The moon appeared as suddenly as it had vanished and once more they could see clearly. Ray stretched and stood up, holding out a hand to his partner. "We'd better get back while we can see."
Bodie gripped the long fingers and allowed himself to be pulled up. "Ray...."
Doyle paused and looked at him quizzically. "Yeh?"
"I never told anybody before. About growing up, I mean."
Doyle grinned, "All that movin' about--you never had a friend like me before, did you?"
"No," Bodie relaxed. "I never did."
He clambered over the boulder and began the walk back to the lighthouse. Ray watched him for a minute, seeing the solid presence outlined in moonlit silver. "I never had a friend like you either," he said softly, but the sound of the breaking waves covered his voice.
Bodie turned and waited for him and Doyle hurried to catch up. They made the journey back to the lighthouse in comfortable silence.
The next day it rained, and denied even his usual jog around the island (mostly because Doyle refused point blank to let him get wet again) Bodie prowled around the lighthouse feeling like a caged tiger. The sense of helplessness--dampened by Ray's presence--had become combined with boredom, and the beginnings of unreleased sexual tension.
And the worst of it was--he was centered on his partner. It was a simple enough fact and he faced it honestly--he wanted to go to bed with Ray. It was simple--and it scared the hell out of him.
After a morning spent in Doyle's company he avoided his partner after lunch and ended up standing in the open doorway of the lighthouse watching the rain turn the packed dirt path into a river of mud. Somewhere up the curving steps he could hear Ray moving about and it sounded as if he was shifting furniture, but Bodie made no move to help. He needed time alone, to think, decide what he was going to do.
At first he had thought it was just his libido--he was used to an active sex life, enjoyed it thoroughly. But he had long ago learned how to do without--in Africa, and on long undercover cases. Of course then he'd had other things to occupy his mind, other ways to expend a little energy.
Aware he was thinking in circles, Bodie concentrated on the when of it. That first day of nude sunbathing? Well yes, he'd noticed Ray's body as something other than just another man then. And all the following days the awareness had grown, nurtured, he suddenly realized, by Doyle himself.
Was he just imagining it? True, if there was a female around Ray usually managed a fleeting touch, a polite guiding press of fingers on her back if the woman preceded him, a tap on the arm--anything. But only women. Bodie thought back and could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times his partner had touched a man for no reason.
With one exception. Bodie himself.
At times Ray almost seemed to be flirting, especially since they'd been marooned. It was tone of voice, a certain look in his eyes, and mostly, the touching. And Bodie realized with surprise that he had gone along with it, even encouraged it, taking an odd sort of unconscious pride in the fact that Doyle singled him out.
Could Ray possibly want him, too? Bodie watched the freshwater stream top its banks and considered. Was his partner's snuggle against him last night while they sat by the boulder a real snuggle, or just a need for warmth? Was Doyle that comfortable around him--or--
Bodie shook his head and sighed. With Ray, who could tell? Doyle was a sensual animal, comfortable with his own body, never one to deny himself a physical comfort. Bodie knew one thing, however. He wasn't going to be the one to make the first move. He cared too much for Doyle, for the partnership, for the friendship, to blow it because of a few imagined signals.
The idea of an affair with the other man didn't particularly bother him. He'd seen too much of it, good and bad, in his life, though he'd never participated. Never wanted to, until now.
The word 'affair' was wrong. Bodie frowned. Affair denoted an end--one had an 'affair' for a couple of weeks or months. What he wanted with Ray was something...permanent.
But only if Doyle wanted it, too. Bodie sighed again, pushing aside his scattered thoughts, refusing to think about mornings waking up to Ray's smile, nights with those long artist's fingers on his body, his own mouth tasting Doyle's....
He jumped as the voice called him from the stairs and let his heart settle into a steady rhythm before answering. "I'm downstairs!"
"Come on up--I want to show you something!"
Facing Ray right now was the last thing Bodie wanted to do, but no graceful excuse presented itself. He took the familiar steps two at a time, wondering what his partner was up to this time.
"What's all this then?"
"We're gettin' out of shape," Doyle told him. "Losin' the edge."
"What's the use of having an edge here?"
"When we get back--and we will--why else would Green see to it we were s'well taken care of?--I want to be ready." Doyle surveyed their living room with a professional eye. All the furniture had been pushed aside or stacked haphazardly around the circular walls. In the centre, covering the large throw rug, blankets were spread one over the other, the edges tucked firmly under heavy objects to prevent slippage. "It's the next closest thing to a mat."
Bodie got the picture and was not at all sure he liked it. "We're going to fight--you and me."
"Nobody else handy." Ray grinned and hopped on one foot, pulling the shoe off the other. "We're evenly matched, we've done it often enough."
Back at home, Bodie thought, with other people around. Not like this. Not now. He watched as his partner divested himself of the second shoe. "I'm not sure this is a good idea."
Doyle paused in the act of pulling his sweater over his head. "Why not?"
"Suppose one of us gets hurt? There's no doctor about." Bodie was grasping at straws and he knew it.
"Give over, mate. Look, I promise I won't hurt you. Much." Ray's grin became evil as he threw his sweater in a heap on top of his shoes and sauntered closer. "You do have a thing about being undressed, don't you?"
He tugged at Bodie's shirt, pulling it free of his cords. "Do you like this, Bodie? Does it make you feel good?"
"Stop it." Bodie shoved his hands aside, trying to ignore his partner's teasing, and took off his own shirt and shoes. Every instinct told him this was wrong, that it would lead to trouble. Wrestling would bring him too intimately close to Ray's half-naked body. They always fought hard, neither giving an inch, each straining for dominance over the other. He glanced at his partner who had gone to the makeshift mat and was limbering up, running the routine exercises with an easy grace. Doyle did a side kick, and held his leg in the extended position, balancing like a ballet dancer as he caught Bodie's eyes and held them.
"Come and get me, mate," he challenged softly and Bodie took a deep breath and advanced.
They completed the warm up together then Doyle fell into a light stance and they circled, each just out of reach of the other. Then, eager to get it over, Bodie feinted left, Doyle countered and the fight was on.
They had practised often together and each knew every move of the other's; Bodie's superior weight was easily balanced by Doyle's faster movement and longer reach. Both had their own style, a different bag of dirty tricks, and both used everything to trip up the other. After the first five minutes, lying on his back where Ray had tossed him, Bodie knew that while they fought he would be all right. It was a simple matter of survival. If he didn't keep his mind on the battle Doyle would kill him.
A half hour later, Ray tripped on a loosened bit of blanket and ended up on the floor, with Bodie sitting on his stomach. He shook the sweat out of his eyes, and pushed at his partner's chest. "Get up, you oaf."
Doyle stuck out his tongue and pointedly refused.
Aware suddenly of a warm, panting body beneath him, Bodie tried again, a little desperately. "I'm tired. Say uncle."
Doyle wriggled, found his arms trapped to his sides by Bodie's firmly gripping knees and said, "No. Two outta three falls. Get off."
Bodie leaned forward, planning to grasp his partner's shoulders, hold him down until he capitulated, and instead found himself staring into a pair of jade eyes. It confused him and he hesitated, not sure if the smile that lurked in the green depths was for him or if Doyle was planning something. He felt his penis twitch and begin to grow, reacting to Ray's nearness, the slightly parted lips that invited him silently, and rolled aside to lay on his back. Breathing just a shade faster, he said, "I mean it, I'm tired. Call it a draw."
Doyle moved to lie beside him. "Bodie? You all right?"
"Yeh--I told you...."
"You're tired. Well maybe that cold took more out of you than we thought." There was real concern in Ray's voice.
Bodie opened his eyes reluctantly. "I'm okay."
Doyle frowned at him and reached to smooth his hair, "Sure you are. You always give up after a few minutes."
Bodie fought the urge to return the casual caress and sat up. He changed the subject, "I'm hungry."
"It's your turn to cook."
They stood up, Bodie pretending he didn't notice Doyle's helping hand, honestly not seeing the hurt, puzzled look that flashed over the pugnacious features for a brief instant.
The furniture was back in place, dinner finished, and the storm outside working itself into a frenzy. Ray stood at the living room window, staring out at the wet blackness, watching the reflection of his partner in the glass. Bodie was reading by lamplight--rereading actually--a book of poetry. To Doyle the metered phrases made no sense at all, but Bodie seemed to understand, even relish, the lines. As he had said earlier, 'I get as much out of this as you do from abstract art.'
That's us, Ray thought with a half smile, different but alike. Alike enough to understand each other, different enough to keep things interesting. Most of the time Doyle knew his partner's mind almost as well as his own--hell, sometimes he knew it even better. But in the last couple of days Bodie had been behaving a little oddly. Nothing Ray could put a finger on, but he felt it nonetheless.
It could be the enforced solitude, the fact that they couldn't leave, which turned a pleasant island into a prison. Bodie could be worrying about Cowley, about Green, about his latest bird--anything. His partner was not by nature one who shared his problems easily and Doyle knew better than to push.
Bodie shifted on the sofa, stretching his legs full length, sighing slightly as he turned a page. He liked that one, Doyle thought absently and noted that he could see Bodie's healthy tan even in the pale window reflection. Ray felt a rush of warm feeling for his partner well up inside him. Bodie was so absolutely gorgeous--and never more so than when he was tousled and relaxed--not thinking of how he looked.
When they were first partnered, Ray remembered, he had been a little jealous of those dark good looks, of Bodie's ability to pull a bird, the way women would turn and watch him go by. Now he was jealous of the women because they knew Bodie in a way he didn't--a way he wanted, had been wanting for a long long time.
Lightning ripped across the sky, illuminating the island for a brief second, followed closely by a loud clap of thunder. The wind howled around the lighthouse, seeping in through tiny cracks. Doyle shivered and remembered Green's words. "Bodie?"
"Hmmm?" Bodie didn't look up.
"Do you think this place really is haunted?"
"Oh yeh, sure, mate," Bodie grinned and turned a page. "Probably crawlin' with spectres. It's a good night for 'em."
Doyle moved closer, "Gosh thanks, mate."
Bodie reluctantly raised his eyes and met the wide green gaze of his partner's. He set the book aside. "Surely you don't believe in ghosts?"
"Let's just say I like to keep and open mind." Doyle sat heavily on the sofa. "I probably saw one too many 'Island of the Zombies' movies when I was a kid."
"I swear," Bodie told him solemnly, "I haven't seen Bela Lugosi here once. Have a drink."
"I've had three already."
"You tryin' to stay sober for a reason?" Bodie got up and poured them both healthy refills. "Look at it this way--if you start seeing things you'll have an excuse."
Doyle took a healthy swig of the scotch and savoured the taste as he watched his partner through half-closed eyes. "So you don't believe in things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, eh?"
"I didn't say that."
"Then you do believe?"
Bodie quit puttering and came to join his partner on the sofa. "I believe in...soul, for lack of a better word...and I believe souls can get lost. I don't believe they can hurt me."
"I've heard," Doyle said dreamily, "that people who die violently...."
"Don't you believe it, or I personally will come back and haunt you."
Bodie raised an eyebrow at the finality in Ray's voice. "When you die, I'll die too, so any haunting we do'll be together."
"You can't be sure of that." Bodie shook his head, not liking the way the conversation was going.
"Mathison and King, Bennie and Steve, Larson and Fleming," Doyle recited his macabre list.
Bodie countered, "Williams. Jax. Galloway. Green's partner."
Doyle looked at him and thought, he doesn't understand. I won't have to be there to die. Sometimes dying has a lot to do with not wanting to live. "I wouldn't mind haunting Cowley," he said aloud. "Give the old man the shock of his life."
"Nah, Cowley'd probably just yell at us for disturbing his sleep and tell us to go rattle our chains at somebody else."
Doyle smiled, appreciating the picture, and for a while they were companionably silent. Bodie picked up his book, leafed through it and handed it to Ray.
"Here Casper, read this."
The scotch was finally working its hazy magic. Doyle waved the volume away, "You read it to me."
"It's called Flannan Isle, by Wilfred Gibson."
"Does it rhyme?"
"Sort of. Listen....
"Though three men dwell on Flannan Isle
To keep the lamp alight,
As we steered under the lee, we caught
No glimmer through the night."
"This is going to make my skin crawl, isn't it?"
"Good," Doyle settled back and closed his eyes. "Read on...."
"Ay: though we hunted high and low,
And hunted everywhere,
Of the three men's fate we found no trace
Of any kind in any place,
But a door ajar, and an untouched meal,
And an over toppled chair.
"We seemed to stand for an endless while,
Though still no word was said,
Three men alive on Flannan Isle,
Who thought on three men dead." 
Bodie stopped reading. Outside lightning struck a tree and thunder crashed almost simultaneously after the flash. Ray jumped, spilled the last of his scotch on his jeans and swore.
Bodie laughed--but he too had been startled.
"That's a weird piece of poetry," Doyle set his glass aside. "What do you think happened to 'em?"
"Don't know. Maybe a flying saucer came down and whipped 'em all away...though I'm more inclined to think a bevy of local birds arrived and lured 'em off."
"Doesn't matter. Tonight," Doyle stood up, brushing ineffectually at his wet pants, "I sleep with the lamp lit."
"Then we'd better change rooms. We can't afford to waste the oil and the lamp stays lit up there all night." Bodie stretched and handed the reading lamp to his partner. "You can walk me to your door."
"Afraid of the dark, Bodie?"
"Afraid of the bloody steps. Lead the way, mate."
Outside the door to his room Doyle paused. "Bodie...."
Bodie yawned. "Hmmm?"
"Are you afraid to die?"
Bodie blinked. "What?"
"Are you afraid...."
"To die. I heard you."
"Dying is the only thing in life you do alone," Bodie answered obscurely. Then, "I'm not afraid of death. It's how I go gets me."
"Yeh," Doyle said. "Me too."
"In our job it's not good to think about it too much."
Doyle smiled, looking a little lost. "I know. 'Night, mate."
Doyle held up the lamp until Bodie was by his borrowed bed and stripping off his shirt, then turned and made his way up the next flight of stairs. He hoped there was something good to read in Bodie's room. Something innocuous, like Winnie the Pooh. He had a feeling he wouldn't be sleeping tonight. If Bodie's poem didn't keep him awake, memories of Bodie's low voice, the feel of him close by--but not close enough--would.
Doyle sat propped against the pillows on Bodie's lamp-room bed and glared at the covers. They were wet--and the steady plop of water coming from the cracked ceiling told him who the culprit was. Of all the nights for the roof to leak, it would be while he was in the bed.
It was getting chilly, too, what with all the drafts. It was obvious he couldn't stay here, and the lumpy couch in their living room gave him a backache just thinking about it. He had grown used to the bed in his own room...but Bodie was sleeping there. Doyle wasn't sure he could spend what was left of the night in the same bed with his partner. God knew what might happen.
But he'd slept in the same bed with Bodie lots of times, Doyle reasoned. Though usually there was a girl or two between them. And it hadn't bothered him...well, not much. The last time had been over six months ago with the twins from Dundee. Now that had been a night...in the dark the two women had looked and smelled and tasted just alike, and it wasn't until he murmured some inane comment to Kirsty that she blithely informed him that she was Crystal...yeh, a good night that...with the moonlight reflecting off his partner's back as Bodie made love to...whichever bird....
A single drop of water hit his nose and Ray cursed. He slipped out of the bed and tried to pull it away from the wall, but it was useless. The cot was firmly bolted into place and the water was coming in faster than ever.
Outside it continued to pour, though the light and sound effects seemed to have abated some. The wind moaned about the eaves and he shivered, rubbing at the gooseflesh on his arms.
"This is ridiculous!" He said it aloud and jumped at the sound of his own voice. "It's just a bloody storm...."
The wind rose and seemed to laugh at him while the lighthouse shuddered from the gale force. Doyle shivered again and glanced swiftly around. He was alone of course, and, feeling cold and silly and nervous and wet together he grabbed up a spare blanket from the shelf and wrapped it around himself. Stupid or not he was going down to his own room. Big, solid, warm Bodie was there. No ghost in its right mind would dare disturb him.
Bodie awoke suddenly and lay still, aware that something...someone was in the room with him. He slowly opened one eye, then the other, letting them adjust to the darkness. Yes, something light coloured, a blur, stood by the door. It waited, unmoving, at the portal, and Bodie's heart rate increased as adrenalin surged through him.
The light blur moved, coming closer, gliding soundlessly towards the bed. Bodie tensed, closed his eyes to slits and prepared for the attack.
There came a dull crack, the blur stumbled, and from its depths came the distinctly familiar sound of his partner's vivid curses.
Bodie relaxed and made a face then sat up and reached to help Doyle from the floor to the bed. "Having trouble, mate?"
"Tripped over your bloody shoes," Doyle growled and sat gingerly beside his partner, rubbing one foot. "What's you leave 'em there for anyway?"
"I don't know," Bodie was becoming aware of his partner foraging amongst the covers, "Can't imagine why I'd leave my shoes by my bed...."
"Right. Shove over."
Bodie allowed the unorthodox entry into the bed a little nervously. "Afraid of the lights upstairs?"
"No." Doyle arranged the covers to his satisfaction, heroically attempting to ignore the forced entwining of their naked limbs. "It's leaking."
"Oh." Bodie caught the scent of soft curls as Doyle moved and was robbed of coherent speech.
Ray shifted one of his partner's arms so he could lay inside its curve. "Move over, Bodie. There's no room and I'm cold."
He punctuated this with a firm planting of chilled feet against Bodie's leg and his partner hastily obliged. "Christ, mate! You're an iceberg!"
"'S'all right," Doyle snuggled closer, drawn by the intense heat radiating from the larger man, "You'll soon have me warm."
He relaxed against, and almost around, the hard body, revelling in the feel of smooth muscle rippling under his hands. The touch so enchanted him, that without thinking he stroked over Bodie's chest, down his belly...and found a surprise. He raised up on one elbow and tried to see his partner's face in the dark.
Bodie didn't move.
Aware that he should be saying something, making a joke, anything, Doyle instead let curiosity overtake him and deliberately touched the fully engorged cock that curved over Bodie's belly. He ran one finger along the length from tip to groin, pleased at the uncontrollable twitch of reaction.
Doyle was still investigating. "God you're big," he said admiringly, then added a damper. "'Most as big as me."
Bodie took a breath and managed to answer lightly, "You wish."
"I know," Doyle teased wickedly. He encircled the base of the hardened shaft with thumb and forefinger.
Bodie shifted, "Doyle...."
Wondering if he was crazy, if Bodie might any minute fling him out on his ear, but unable to stop, Doyle continued softly, "I can prove it...."
He let go of his precious find and reached for Bodie's hand, drawing the unresisting fingers to his own, half-hard shaft.
Bodie felt the slender length of his own accord. "No contest," he said, congratulating himself on the steadiness of his voice. But even as he spoke the cock continued to fill, encouraged by the slight touch.
Doyle returned his attention to his partner's shaft. "Didn't imagine you were this big though," he murmured. Bodie's fingers closed around him and he lifted a little. "Oh yeh...."
Bodie turned toward him and whispered, "D'you like that?"
"No," Doyle's tone was acid, "not a bit and don't stop...."
About to answer, Bodie became aware of a light touch of lips on his cheek, a gentle, encouraging nuzzle, and he turned into the feel, searching. His mouth barely met his partner's, hesitant, unsure of the response, unable to believe this was really happening.
Doyle made a sound low in his throat and threw himself into the kiss, pressing his lips harder against Bodie's. It wasn't enough...the hands on his cock and stroking his back urged him on....
He licked at Bodie's lips, sliding his tongue against teeth, then past as his partner opened to him, sucking.
Bodie felt the body alongside his suffuse with a sudden heat and half-smiled, soothing Doyle's runaway passions with gentle hands. "Ray...Ray...come on, sunshine...slow down...."
Doyle took a long breath and lifted away from his partner just a little. He blinked, unable to see Bodie in the darkness, wishing he could read his face. "Bodie? You're not planning on calling a halt, are you? Because I don't think I could...."
Bodie found Doyle's hand and guided it back to his cock. "No way, mate. But I want to enjoy it, not have it over before it's started."
Ray kissed him again then turned him on his back, his attention caught by the feel of his partner's skin. "Soft," he whispered, his breath warm at Bodie's neck. "Wanna taste you...hold still, Bodie...let me...."
He began to kiss and stroke his way down the muscled body, learning the contours he knew so well by day in a new, intensely exciting way. Half of him wanted to go quickly, take Bodie with him before he had a chance to back out--but his sensual side agreed with his partner...it would be better to go slow....
Bodie's nipples were hardening, sucked into peaks and lingered over until Bodie squirmed.
Doyle gave each a reluctant final lick and moved lower, pushing his lover's legs apart to lay between them. He delved across uneven rib lines, down the flat belly that spasmed as he touched it, to the heavy, straining length of sex awaiting him.
He paused, unsure if Bodie would allow the next step.
Bodie gripped his shoulders, wanting the touch of that expert mouth, needing it. "Ray...for chrissakes...."
Encouraged, Doyle stroked the taut sack, pleased at the large, heavy feel of his partner's response to his touch. He could smell the unmistakable musky/Bodie scent as he buried his nose in the wiry hair of his groin, kissing the base of the shaft.
Bodie gasped and tried to lift, but was held firmly in place by his partner's weight. Squeezing his eyes shut, he gave in to the feel, losing himself in the erotic sensation of being loved by Ray Doyle. A hot moistness encircled the head of his cock and lingered as Doyle's tongue swirled...Bodie bit his lip to keep from crying out. He heard Ray's pleased chuckle and tightened his grip in the damp curls on his partner's head. "Do it!" he hissed. "Do it now...."
He was being sucked deeper, working together with Doyle in an ever hardening, faster, perfect rhythm until the fire in him erupted and flowed.
Tense with backed passion, Doyle slid up his lover's body and kissed him. "How'd you taste?"
Bodie let out a long breath. "Weird," he admitted, his voice still shaky. He reached for Doyle and drew him into a trembling embrace. "Jesus...."
"Close, but not quite. Bodie...."
Doyle pressed against him, rubbing their sweat slick bodies together and Bodie could feel his partner's hard shaft nudging insistently into his belly.
"Your turn," he tried to turn Ray to his back, but Doyle only held him closer.
"No...can't wait...." Doyle rubbed against him once more and came, groaning his climax as the warm fluid spread between them.
Ray slumped back, gasping, held on the slender bed only by Bodie's enveloping arm. Bodie, drawn by a strange curiosity, slid one hand between them, then raised his fingers to his own lips and tasted the sticky moisture.
Belatedly becoming aware of his surroundings, Doyle snuggled back against his partner, "Well?"
"Salty," Bodie opined solemnly. "Delicious. Next time you're not cheating me outta me fair share."
There was a short silence then, once again adjusting the covers to his own satisfaction--a move that caused a minor earthquake in the bed--Ray rubbed his nose along Bodie's ear and whispered, "Promise me...."
Knowing his partner of old, Bodie was cautious, "Promise you what?"
"Promise me there will be a next time."
"Give me a few minutes...."
"We've got time, sunshine. We're not goin' anywhere. Remember?"
Bodie smiled into the darkness. "For that I may give Green a slightly quicker death."
"Hmmm." Doyle pulled the pillow closer to share it and draped one arm and leg over his lover. "Bodie...."
"You didn't mind? I mean, I've been wanting this, but...." Ray's voice faltered.
About to drift into a satiated sleep, Bodie came wide awake. "You've been...?"
The bed shook again as Bodie began to chuckle. Doyle lifted, amazed, as the chuckle turned into a deep, jolting belly laugh.
"What's so bloody funny?"
"Christ!" Bodie caught his breath and pulled his lover close again. "We are."
"Well that's fine, isn't it?" Ray was aggrieved. "Here I am, pourin' me heart out and you think it's fuckin' funny!"
"It is funny!" Bodie was still grinning. "Here we are, the Cow's best, supposed to know each other's every thought. And I'm wantin' you and you're wantin' me, and it takes a bloody, half-crazed, ex-agent, a leak and a skinny bed to do the trick!"
Seeing Bodie's point, but not particularly the humour, Doyle settled down and yawned. "Doesn't matter, s'long as it worked. Bodie...."
"I...." Doyle broke off.
"Nothing, mate. Go t'sleep. It'll keep."
Bodie sighed and relaxed. Almost instantly he was in a deep slumber. Beside him Doyle rested his head on the broad chest and listened to the slowing, reassuring heartbeat under his ear. It was a long time before the steady sound lulled him to sleep.
His physical discomforts woke him, overriding the sense of well-being, of lovely, comfortable exhaustion. His left leg was uncovered and getting cool, his right arm was asleep, and a perfectly positioned weight was rapidly making his bladder ache.
In the distance, barely on the edge of his consciousness, he could hear the heavy plop of slow rain on water. It was a wonderful sound for sleeping, and it increased his bladder pain to agony.
Doyle cautiously opened one eye and shoved at his octopus simulating partner. "Move it," he shoved again.
Bodie lifted his head from his partner's chest where he had been peacefully dreaming of that new dance act, William Bodie and Ginger Rogers, who were doing a samba to the rhythm of heartbeat and rain. Bodie blinked and Ray had a fast impression of brilliant blue eyes and tufted, devils-horn hair before Bodie mumbled, "If you step on my toe again I'll bite your boa...."
Then Bodie rolled away to the other side of the narrow bed and Doyle was free. He slid out and took a brief moment to pull the blanket back over his partner before straightening.
Five minutes later, nature attended to, Ray stood in the open doorway of the lighthouse, nude, stretching the various kinks out of his overcomplacent body. He was relaxed, his arms high over his head as he gripped the doorsill, one ankle negligently crooked over the other when Bodie spoke from behind him. "Is it morning?"
Doyle continued to stare out into the grey rain. There was a rising fog, "I suppose. What woke you?"
"The terrible sound of your ankles cracking. There ought to be a law...."
He had come up close behind Doyle, but not touching, waiting to see what Ray wanted, how he was taking it in the daylight, without the darkness to cocoon him. Later, when he was awake, there were some things Bodie needed to talk about, but right now....
Doyle glanced over his shoulder, once, then said, "We could use a shower."
"Yeh." Bodie waited.
"Get the soap," Doyle ordered and stepped outside, letting the rain soak him thoroughly.
"It's warm, the electrical storm's over," Doyle turned and got a mist blurred sight of Bodie's confused and sleepy face. He smiled and came back to wind his body in one slow, sensuous motion around his partner. He nuzzled Bodie's ear, "We've showered together lots of times...."
Bodie held him loosely, "But not in the rain."
"Don't be a prude, mate," Doyle bit his ear sharply and added, "You weren't last night."
Then he was gone, slipping easily out of Bodie's grasp and quickly disappearing into the warm mist.
Still only half awake, and completely bemused by the unexpected actions of his partner, Bodie obediently went for the soap.
He didn't have to search for Doyle. Unerring instinct led him to the top of the island's grassy knoll. The rain washed down the sides of the hill leaving Doyle's chosen spot clean, not muddy, the grass a springy cushion for their bare feet. Bodie climbed the near side, the noise hidden by the heavy rain, and stopped to watch his partner.
Doyle stood, his back to Bodie, legs apart, feet planted firmly in the slick grass. His hands were held high, letting the water slide down his arms in rivulets over muscle, and his head was flung back, his hair plastered to his neck in long curls.
Bodie smiled, liking especially the sight of Doyle's strongly muscled back that tapered into his tight, round ass and down. It was a picture, Bodie thought, that would remain with him always--city-bred Doyle looking like a pagan rain god--but all he said was, "Worshipping at the altar of Mud the Great?"
Doyle turned and went to meet him. "'S not muddy. Where's the soap?"
Bodie held it out silently.
"No," Ray smiled, a slow secret look. "You are fulfilling a fantasy. You do me," he paused, "and then I'll do you."
He made it sound like a promise.
Bodie blinked in the rain and took a long breath. "All right."
His touch was hesitant at first, as if the night before had never happened except in a dream. He rubbed the soap over his partner's shoulder, not looking at his hand, but watching with increasing wonder the look of erotic pleasure on Doyle's face.
He wanted to make it good for him and his touch strengthened, roving down long arms and then to the scarred and beautiful chest. Doyle's nipples were hard and Bodie lingered over them, pleased when Ray made a small sound and closed his eyes.
His belly was flat and Bodie lathered the soap in the dark hair there, then let the rain wash it away. Doyle moved closer and Bodie could feel the excited length of his partner's cock push against his own bare leg.
He moved the bar lower, the musky smell of soap and Doyle combined rising with the mist around them, and spread his fingers into the tangled groin hair.
Doyle groaned and whispered fiercely, "God Bodie, touch me...."
His cock was soft over hardness and Bodie let his fingers drift along the length, barely touching while his other hand used the soap on Doyle's tense ass.
Ray was breathing in short, gaspy pants, his lips parted, his eyes still closed. Bodie watched his face and moved his hand lower. He stroked the sac with one finger then used his whole large hand to grasp and hold.
Doyle pushed against him, almost whimpering, "Damn you, Bodie! Do it!"
His hands found Bodie's shoulders in a bruising grip and he pushed his partner to his knees on the soggy turf, not relaxing his fingers even when he felt his cock taken into Bodie's eager mouth.
Bodie wrapped his arms around his partner's ass, the soap forgotten as he dug his fingers into the taut cheeks. He spread them until his finger found the muscle rim, the slickness of lather and rain and Doyle making the slight entrance easy. He could feel his partner's response and sucked harder, faster on Ray's cock, moving his hand and mouth in an unlearned, perfect rhythm. Doyle cried out once, a sharp, bitten-off sound and came.
A million years later Ray felt the world stop spinning and made a conscious effort to relax his fingers from their death grip on Bodie's shoulders. It had been, Doyle realized, the best, most perfectly erotic climax he'd ever had. And, opening his eyes, he gazed at his lover's dark head, hair sleek and shiny in the rain, as Bodie gently stroked him.
He wanted it all. To possess Bodie, be possessed by him. To be with him always and protect him and be his friend and love him.... "Bodie...."
Bodie lifted his head and grinned, "Jesus mate, you don't half have a fantasy, do you?"
Doyle ignored the humour and pulled him to his feet. "Bodie...I want you..." he groped for the right words, but his mind wouldn't cope and it came out in the basest way he knew, "I want you to fuck me."
Bodie said simply, "No."
And from over the hill they heard the distinct putt putt of a motor.
George Cowley arrived at Twin Rose Manor by car at 8:00am on a cool, foggy Monday morning. He was met by Murphy and Allan Bean, both of whom looked tired and more than a bit frazzled.
Cowley returned their greetings with a grunt and eyed them sharply, "Giving you trouble, is he?"
Alan opened his mouth and closed it again as Murphy, more experienced in the ways of their Controller, answered smoothly, "Not that you'd notice, sir."
"He wants," Alan added, "to see Doyle."
"Aye, and Doyle is not much happier," Cowley nodded.
Murphy raised an eyebrow, "I didn't know you cared."
"Don't be a fool, man," Cowley went past, into the large entrance hall with the black and white tiled floor. "Is everything ready?"
"In here, sir," Alan opened a side door, accepting the Controller's overcoat as he entered. He shut the door behind Cowley and looked at Murphy. "What'd'you think?"
Murphy grinned. "No question. Bodie's bigger, but the Cow is meaner."
"Yeh," Alan agreed. "I'll make coffee."
Bodie was standing at military ease, staring out the window into a drooping, wild garden. He did not look around at the Controller's entrance.
Cowley paused, watching his man, remembering everything Doyle had told him the day before; wondering exactly how this half of the team would tell the tale. He had kept them apart from the first, wanting--needing--to debrief them separately. Then, and only then, would he be judge, jury and....
Bodie spun around as if startled away from a private world and Cowley wondered if it was the same place 4.5 seemed to go. But all he said was, "Sit down, Bodie."
They seated themselves on either side of a large table. Cowley turned on the tape recorder and leaned forward. "Debriefing of agent 3.7, William A.P. Bodie upon his return after an unauthorized absence."
He filled in the date and the hour, then fixed a gimlet eye on the agent. "Start at the beginning."
"Sir, where's Doyle?"
"You know the drill, Bodie. Just talk. The whole story. From the beginning."
Bodie stiffened, then nodded. After a short wait he began to speak.
They stopped once for coffee, which Bodie drank alone in the safe house's library while Cowley conferred with Murphy in another part of the house. At 1:00pm they took a second break. Bodie ate a lonely sandwich washed down with more of Alan Bean's brew. He didn't know where Cowley went and he was beginning not to care.
At 3:00pm Bodie, starting to get hoarse, said, "There was a thunderstorm the last night. Doyle and I switched rooms and I remember he said the roof leaked."
"Why did you switch rooms?"
"Because we did...no real reason. It was a joke, you know, to see if we'd sleep better in a different bed."
Cowley gave him an odd look but motioned for him to continue.
"It rained all night and I slept like a log. The next day there was a mist and it rained, but the electrical storm was over. We heard the boat--they had been blown off course in the wind and sheltered in the little bay I told you about."
Cowley nodded, checking his notes, "Dr and Mrs Fred Milroy, American, and three children on a...."
Bodie interrupted, "Ted."
"Ted Milroy." Bodie gazed steadily at Cowley. Yes, he knew the drill--god knew he'd seen enough of it, done it himself more than once. He didn't know what he had expected, but it hadn't been this...chill. As if he were a common criminal. Bodie was beginning to get angry. He'd never been a common anything.
"We told the Milroys we'd been shipwrecked and they offered us a ride back to civilization. We used their radio to patch through to you. The fog lifted at 1430 hours. We docked in Southampton that night at 2100 and you had your.... Murphy and Bean brought me here and McCabe and Benny took Doyle somewhere. I've been here for a week. That's it. Now, where the hell is Doyle?"
Cowley ignored his question. "Let's go over your capture again...."
Bodie ground his teeth audibly. He would not let the Cow get to him. He would not let the Cow get to him. He would not let the Cow get to him...he took another deep breath, cleared his throat and said, "I was watching the farmhouse. Doyle had gone back to the motor for coffee. It was raining...."
The debriefing went on.
It was, Doyle thought, going to be another long and restless night. Ten days. Ten nights without Bodie. They had never been apart this long...and christ, why now?
He rolled over and pummelled his pillow into reluctant submission. What the hell had Bodie meant? One cold word--no--
No time for explanations. No time to be alone. No nothing. They heard the boat, shouted into the fog, went back to lighthouse for clothes and met the Milroys. And their three noisy children who had not left them to themselves for a single instant. Damn little brats.
Though France was actually nearer, they found out, they had sailed to Southampton. Here they were met by fellow agents, separated and kept apart. They were not prisoners per se; if Doyle had wanted to he could have escaped Benny's bad jokes and McCabe's homemade dandelion wine. But Doyle didn't mind Benny and McCabe, and he understood why he had been separated from his partner for the debriefing period. Cowley was abiding by the R U L E S. It was the only way to bring them back into the fold.
He understood it--but he didn't have to like it.
The light from an almost full moon streamed through the trees and into his open window. Doyle rolled to his back and stared at the shifting patterns on the ceiling.
They needed time, he and Bodie, to come to terms with their new relationship, to deal with it and make decisions. Doyle had no doubts about himself--but what did Bodie feel? What had that cold refusal really meant?
Outside in the hallway he heard mumbled conversation as his two companions changed guard on the door. Then everything was quiet again. After so long in his room on the island, even country silence was too loud. Somewhere a dog barked, and the breeze sent tree branches scratching at the window. He missed the ever present hiss and splatter of waves on the rocks.
He missed Bodie.
"Come on sleepyhead! Rise and shine!"
Doyle rolled over and peered, bleary-eyed, at McCabe. "What?"
"You're going for a little ride," McCabe told him, "In less than an hour. Benjamin is fixing breakfast."
Doyle caught the towel thrown at him and sat up. "Where?"
"Give me a break, Raymate. No questions. Remember?"
"Sorry. Just one thing...."
McCabe paused. "Yeh?"
"You're not planning to...er...get rid of me or anything tasteless like that?"
"I tried to convince them," McCabe grinned, "but they just wouldn't listen, would they? You know the Cow better than that."
Doyle shrugged. "I know the Cow well enough to know he'd carve up his own brother if he thought he'd been betrayed."
There was enough underlying bitterness in Doyle's voice to sober his fellow agent. "Did you betray him, 4.5?"
"Of course not."
"I rest my case," McCabe disappeared down the hall.
Doyle reflected that, as a comfort McCabe was as useful as a block of ice, then got up to take a shower.
The drive took almost an hour over secondary roads. At the end of the trip was a long narrow drive covered with gravel. They turned a corner and a moderately sized, Georgian style manor house came into view.
"Welcome to Twin Rose, Doyle," Benny stopped the car and got out with a flourish.
Doyle stood, stretched, and looked around. "Not bad. What happens now?"
Alan Bean opened the front door, "Now you come in," he said and exchanged glances with McCabe. "Anything?"
McCabe shook his head, "No sign."
Doyle didn't think they were talking about him, but didn't dwell on it. If Bean was here, then chances were Bodie was, too. He went up the steps and through the door eagerly.
Murphy was standing by the library door and he ushered Doyle straight through, closing it after him. But not before Ray caught the barely whispered words, "Good luck, Doyle, hang in there."
Good ol' Murph.
The first person he saw was Bodie, who stood stiffly with his back to the room, staring out into an overrun garden. Doyle took a quick step towards him and was halted by a cool voice.
"Ah, 4.5. We've been waiting for you," Cowley said smoothly, and Doyle turned around, missing Bodie's quick spin and the hastily cleared expression on his face.
"Sir," Doyle acknowledged and looked back at his partner. "Bodie!" he couldn't, didn't try, to hide the relief in his voice.
They exchanged a long look, Doyle searching for something, anything, in the way of...reassurance? But Bodie's eyes were dark and fathoms deep, and Ray felt an alien cold begin to grow in the pit of his guts.
He could stand anything, he thought, but rejection from Bodie. It terrified him in a way nothing had ever done before and, being Doyle, he covered it up, hardened himself in icy protection.
Bodie's eyes passed from his partner to the Controller, but he didn't speak.
Cowley seemed to have ignored the whole exchange. "Sit down, both of you. We have one more...aye, here he is now."
Doyle was expecting anyone from that bastard Green to the minister Himself. He did not expect to see Willis in the doorway, and his eyes narrowed as he moved instinctively closer to Bodie. There were few men Bodie hated more than the one who had (even if inadvertently) engineered the death of Marika Schumann.
Cowley was being urbane, indicating chairs for them all. Doyle found himself seated too far from Bodie without knowing quite how the Cow had managed it. He sat back, wondering what the hell Cowley was up to now. There was not a long wait to find out.
Cowley seated himself behind the long table, the rest in a semicircle on the other side. It was a position of power and Willis, an expert on body language, reacted immediately to this nominal threat.
"George, I have cancelled several important appointments to be here at your request, but...."
"Request, Willis?" Cowley's voice was soft. "You were ordered, by the minister, who agrees with me entirely on this matter."
"What matter?" Willis waved a manicured hand. "If you mean this ridiculous story 3.7 and 4.5 have come up with...by God, George, surely you don't believe all that nonsense. National security alone would...."
Cowley interrupted, "Unlike you, I choose my men with particular care. They are unorthodox, they may be occasionally capricious. But they are never completely stupid. There is no question in my mind, or the minister's, that they are telling the truth. Your man Green is out there somewhere and...."
"Not my man Green. He was released from the department years ago."
Cowley moved impatiently. "No one is ever totally out of the service. You have made a serious blunder, Willis. It is not your first, but if I have anything to say about it, it will be your last. There is a mentally deranged agent wandering around out there. Thus far he has kidnapped, drugged and abandoned two men. What will he do next? And it's your fault, Willis. Do you understand me?"
"I say," Willis began and stopped when Doyle and Bodie rose as one to stand on either side of him. "Call off your dogs, Cowley. If this discussion is to continue along these lines, I want the minister here to hear your accusations."
Cowley waved a hand and his men returned, warily, to their seats. They did not entirely understand this conversation, but one thing was very clear; Cowley had accepted them, was backing them one hundred percent, and was making sure that Willis, and therefore everyone else, knew it. Doyle found his own smile reflected in Bodie's dark eyes and returned his attention to the Controller.
"When I do return to that topic," Cowley was saying, "the minister and quite likely several other...interested parties will be there. For now I want to know what you plan to do about Green."
Willis blinked. "I don't follow you."
"I should think it's clear enough. What do you intend doing about Green?" Cowley spoke precisely, emphasis on every word.
"Well naturally I have men out looking for him," Willis resorted to suave. Doyle saw Bodie's fingers slowly clench and knew his partner was picturing the man's neck encircled. He echoed the sentiment. Willis reminded him of some sort of eel.
"What men?" Cowley asked. "Give me names. What exactly are they doing? What leads do you have?"
Willis bristled, "What are you implying, Cowley?"
Cowley sat back and smiled innocently. "Implying? Why nothing. It is the minister's suggestion that our departments work together on this as he is sure you are as anxious as we are to remove Green from the streets with as little...mess...as possible. Implying? No, I am merely asking for information to facilitate the investigation. We wouldn't want to step on your toes."
Doyle's lips twitched appreciatively and he forgave Cowley for that endless debriefing. There was no one like George.
Willis, knowing he'd been bested, caught out in his incompetence, rose and tried for a dignified retreat. "I will send you any information which I think would be of use...."
"Green's last known address will be sufficient until then," Cowley answered. "Surely you remember such an important wee thing."
"16 Lytton Close, Healey," Willis ground out. Unable to return Cowley's bland stare he glared at Bodie. But Bodie merely smiled at him, a silent, insolent daring for him to say a word. Willis stalked to the door. "You haven't heard the last of this, Cowley."
"I hope not," the Controller didn't look up from the file on the table. "I believe you will be notified when the minister has time."
Willis hissed and flung open the door, shoving Alan Bean aside as he stormed through.
They all listened to the sound of Willis's car fading into the distance, then Cowley got up and went to a side cabinet. He drew forth two items and laid them on the table. "Your armament replacements. You will, of course, fill out the necessary paperwork in triplicate."
"Of course," Bodie murmured.
Cowley silenced him with a look, "Remember, Green is a sick man and Willis will want to get to him first to cover up his own trail. Take the others with you. Well, what are you waiting for? On your bikes!"
Doyle strode down the dim lit corridor and grabbed his partner's arm, swinging him around.
Bodie narrowed his eyes for an instant, then assumed the bland look Ray was beginning to know, and hate. "Yeh?"
Faced with that expression, Doyle hesitated. "Bodie, I...damnit, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. Cowley wants us, did Bean tell you?"
"In ten minutes in the Ops Room. And don't tell me 'nothing'. We've been stuck here at HQ for three days now and you won't talk to me, you won't do...you'll barely stay in the same room with me! Are you...?"
"3.7! 4.5!" Cowley's sharp tones brought their heads around. "Aren't you supposed to be in the...."
"Running all the way, sir," Bodie said lightly and, ignoring Doyle completely, went off down the hall.
Doyle watched him go, frowning. He didn't understand Bodie. It was as if all their years together had never been, as if he had not just lost a lover, but a friend as well. Their weeks on the island were becoming a dream, melting away like the tan on his body.
Yet, at times Doyle could swear Bodie's feelings, however they had been before their return to reality, hadn't changed. Like yesterday, when Doyle had caught the small, almost hurt look Bodie had as his partner went off to lunch with McCabe. What about the natural gravitations towards Ray that always abruptly stopped, as if Bodie had suddenly changed his mind? And most of all, the unconscious continuance of things shared--those precious few seconds when two minds thought as one. Doyle followed his partner to the Ops Room, his frown drawing his eyebrows together in one thick line.
He'd bloody well be damned before he chased after Bodie like some lovesick idiot. That cold feeling in the pit of his stomach grew and hardened. He tried--but Bodie was not cooperating. They needed to talk before it was too late....
So lost in thought he didn't hear quick footsteps behind him, Doyle jumped when a heavy arm draped around his shoulders.
"Guess what?" Murphy asked, his face wrinkled in a large grin.
"You won the pools."
"Better. Well, slightly better. We found him."
"Green, fer chrissakes! Who else? Where's your better half then?"
"Ah yes, The Meeting. Well, at least we'll have something positive to throw to the Old Man this time." He eyed Doyle shrewdly. "Must be hell cooped up like a couple of randy roosters. At least we're out on the streets."
Doyle shrugged. Yes, it was hell. It had taken them one day to learn Green was back in London and from that moment Cowley had decreed that Doyle and Bodie stay out of sight at HQ. Green might be loony-tune, but he was a trained agent who was completely unpredictable.
Doyle knew that if he and Bodie had been on anything resembling good terms the lack of action would have been nervewracking enough, but this was intolerable.
And he wasn't about to let Murphy know. So he merely opened the Ops Room door and motioned his fellow agent ahead.
Bodie sat at the long table with Benny on one side and Bean stretched out on the other. Doyle flopped into an empty seat opposite and kept his attention on the cup of rapidly cooling coffee that McCabe handed him.
Twenty minutes later Cowley took off his glasses and returned them to his pocket. "All right. Where are Willis's men now?"
McCabe grinned. "Last time I saw 'em they were patiently waiting by the Egyptian vases in the British Museum, sir. We lost them there."
"How long has Green had this flat?"
"Three weeks," Benny pulled a map from jeans that seemed far too tight for such things and spread it open on the table. "The flat is here," he pointed. "With an empty building here, and a nice little park at the rear. We can cover here, here, and here and have a clear view of the whole place."
Cowley agreed. "Any sign that Willis knows of Green's location?"
Murphy shook his head, "No, but that doesn't mean anything, does it? Those guys aren't dumb; if we can find him, they can."
"As long as they don't find him first," Cowley glared at them. "I want Green alive. I want to have a little chat with the man...."
Without thinking Doyle met Bodie's wry look with one of his own. But a second later the look was gone and Bodie was turning away--again.
"We can set up tonight," Bodie was saying to Cowley, "under cover of darkness, and be ready for him in the morning."
The Cow nodded. "Aye. And you needn't go on man, you and Doyle are going along. I know better than to try and keep you out. Just remember, I want Green alive and, Bodie, I want the bystanders alive as well."
Alan Bean sighed, "Couldn't he shoot just one little pigeon? Just to keep his hand in? He's been awfully touchy lately."
Cowley wisely ignored them and rose. "On your bikes then." He paused and sent Doyle, who had been uncharacteristically silent throughout the session, an almost puzzled look.
Ray didn't notice. He was staring unseeing into his empty cup.
"In position." Alan's deep voice was tinny over the RT. "We have a clear view of the street in front and to the west."
"I hear you, 2.9," Doyle raised his eyebrows at his partner and Bodie shook his head. "Keep awake. Out. Murph?"
"We've got the south covered. There's a light in his window. No movement. You sure you want to wait?"
"We know he's armed with at least one rifle. We don't want stray shots going through walls into the neighbours, right? And it's not likely he'll be carrying it with him on the street. He's got to come out sometime."
"Right." Murphy was brisk, accepting the reasoning. "6.2 out."
Doyle closed the channel and slipped the RT into his jacket pocket. It was dawn. From their easterly position he could see the rising sun cast pale colours on the windows of the block of flats they surrounded. He and Bodie were in the park across the narrow street, watching the back where a rickety fire escape led past Green's second floor window.
Doyle stretched a little and his arm brushed against his partner's. Very casually Bodie moved away. Too casually. Doyle bit his lip and tasted blood.
"I don't," he said quietly, "have a communicable disease that I am aware of."
"I know." His partner's voice was equally hushed. He could barely see Bodie in the muted light; all in black, dark hair and dark eyes, his face draw and pale as it had been for days now.
Doyle turned his eyes to the flats, the wall of ice in his guts keeping his voice very steady. "We have to talk. You can think up excuses like you've been doing, or you can avoid me from now 'till Kingdom Come, but eventually we'll have to talk."
Beside him he distinctly heard Bodie swallow. It sounded painful. Doyle's insides were cold; he didn't care.
Bodie said, "Now seems as good a time as any."
He didn't say 'Let's get it over with' but the words lay implicit and heavy in the morning air.
Doyle wanted to scream suddenly, 'What happened? What went wrong? What did I do?!' He wanted to shake Bodie until his neck snapped, beat him to a pulp, love him.... He felt the protective glacier slip and strove to shore it up. "All right. Just tell me something, Bodie. Did we or did we not...."
"We did," Bodie confirmed, not needing to hear the rest.
"And you can't tell me you didn't enjoy it. For chrissakes, you act as if I've suddenly become a leper or something. We've been tracking Green for days and the whole time you can barely look at me or talk to me or even get remotely close to me!"
Bodie looked at him, then away. "I can't."
"What d'you mean 'I can't?' You can't what? You can't hang by yer teeth to a rope? Be bloody specific!"
Bodie was watching the sun move higher through their sheltering bush cover. "Look, it happened and I'm not sorry it happened. I told you I'd been wanting it, but...why don't we just leave it at that? You want things.... Put it down to loneliness and overactive libidos if you like."
Doyle thought he heard a faint and completely uncharacteristic tone of pleading in Bodie's voice. It shook him. "I don't accept that."
"Well, you'll have to, mate. That's it."
Doyle felt the pain, through his wall of ice, through years of a carefully built up defense system, through to his innermost self. "Damn you, Bodie," he said and got up and walked away.
Murphy's voice crackled over the RT. "I've got movement" and a second later the back window on the second floor opened.
Halted in his instinctive pursuit of his partner, Bodie pulled out his own RT. "He's making it out on the fire escape."
There was a standard course of action to take and everything had been set up perfectly. No one had counted on Doyle, who was walking away and didn't know that Green would choose that instant to leave the building. Bodie watched, horrified, as Doyle emerged through the trees further down the street, clearly in view.
Bodie froze, willing Green not to turn his head. They had studied the man for days--there was no question that he was crazy, and cunning with it. It had taken Green five years to set up Bodie and Doyle and according to the CI5 shrink (whom Cowley had insisted on calling in) it was only the knowledge that he'd succeeded that kept him from coming up with some other massive, insane havoc. If he saw Doyle now he might very well decide to change the reality of Doyle's presence by trying to kill him....
"Don't look, you bloody bastard," Bodie whispered, but Green changed position to go down the stairs and saw.
His ferret face sharpened further and he wavered a fraction of a second. Then he reached under his jacket, pulled out a large revolver, and aimed it at Doyle's back.
The light was not good, Bodie knew Green couldn't be sure it was Ray. Not at that distance, not when Doyle was supposed to be tucked up on an island off the coast of France, not when Doyle was walking away.
Bodie drew his gun and aimed it carefully in a split second. One shot sounded. Green screamed, flying back as the bullet hit his shoulder, and crashed through the blood spattered window behind him.
Bodie saw Doyle running back and went ahead, reaching the bottom of the fire escape as Bean and McCabe came pounding around opposite sides of the building.
"Benny and Murphy took the front," Alan said quickly and they followed Bodie up the noisy metallic steps. Somewhere a child was crying and neighbours began to call out, wondering what had happened to disrupt their early morning peace.
Bodie looked through the remains of the shattered window and stopped hurrying. Green wasn't going anywhere. He lay dead on the threadbare carpet, shards of glass like crystal around him, an ever larger bloody splotch on his left chest, his crazed eyes staring sightless at the dingy ceiling. Bodie climbed through into the flat and took a quick pulse anyway.
"Call it in," he told Bean who was right behind him. There was a sound on the fire escape and Doyle's head poked through the window. Bodie looked at him once then turned his attention back to the body.
McCabe bent over Green's body. "Cowley will not be pleased, Bodie."
"I never shot him," Bodie said. "It came from behind me."
Doyle knocked the few remaining pieces of glass away from the window frame with the snout of his gun, then hauled a slightly groggy looking Willis into view. "Here's your killer," he shoved Willis forward. "He's a little messy--didn't want to give up the gun, y'see."
Bodie raised an eyebrow. "Oh dear," he said mildly. "Don't worry, Willis--I'm sure we can find some ice for that eye...." He didn't think it necessary to add that Willis had done him a favour. Cowley would be furious and Willis's career would be over. But Bodie knew that if Willis had fired one second later it would have been his own shot to the head that would have killed Green. In that split second when Green had a bead on Doyle's back, Bodie had learned something about himself.
Never, ever was he going to let anything or anybody hurt Doyle if there was any way he could stop it. And if that meant disobeying Cowley, or fucking up a job, then tough. It wasn't worth Doyle's life. Oh, he'd known that before...but not like this. He had always been willing to sacrifice himself. But now, now he was willing to sacrifice everything else as well. He watched as Doyle dealt efficiently with Willis, noted that his partner was studiously ignoring him, and sighed. He'd have to make Doyle understand. He'd have to try.
There was no answer to the doorbuzz at Doyle's flat. Bodie used his key. The place was darkened, the smell musty. Two months of dust shrouded the furniture. They had not gone back to their apartments at all after returning to England. Cowley's orders.
Bodie ignored it all and went straight through to the bedroom. "Doyle!"
Ray was awake, lying in sprawled tension on the double bed. He was bruised looking, pale and rumpled. Bodie stayed in the doorway, leaning against the frame.
Doyle shifted. "Well what?"
"You walked out this morning," Bodie reminded. "I thought we were supposed to have a talk."
"Oddly enough I thought everything necessary had been said."
Bodie, seemingly, changed the subject. "I was going to kill Green."
"He had a gun on you. Aimed right at your back."
"Does that even us up or put you one ahead?"
Bodie shrugged. "I quit counting years ago. Besides, Willis pulled the trigger."
"Well. Thanks then. I'd have told you sooner but you didn't seem interested back at Green's place."
"I didn't see you at HQ. I told Cowley you were going for coffee when Green saw you."
"He was not amused. We're supposed to report to Macklin tomorrow."
Bodie pushed away from the doorframe. "Don't walk out on me again, Doyle. Be hurt or mad or anything else--but don't walk away."
Ray shrugged. "Why not?"
"Because I don't think I could stand it if you did."
It was said so softly Doyle wasn't sure he'd heard right. "Is it a one way road, Bodie? You call all the shots? Is that it?"
"Don't be ridiculous."
"Was it some kind of game? Get Doyle going? Wind him up and make sure there's no net for the fall?" Doyle sat up. "All these years. It's a long time, partner. I thought we were friends. And more."
"We were. We are," Bodie insisted. "Do you think I'd be here otherwise? Christ, you are thick, Doyle!"
"I must be, Bodie, 'cause I don't understand you at all. I don't know what you want."
"Well, for one thing," Bodie took a step closer, "I don't want to be another of your little quests."
"One of my...what about you?"
"Oh I could never be one of my quests--I'm too tall for me and I cheat at solitaire."
Reluctantly Doyle smiled.
Bodie went on. "I was thinking...we did a lot of talking on that island. We said a lot about ourselves we never told anyone else, didn't we?"
"It occurred to me that, in all the time we've been partners I never told you about Joey."
"A kid I knew in Africa." Bodie looked over Doyle's head, seeing things Ray could only guess at. "Good looking kid. About twenty or so. Very nice tight little ass. One day the action got a little more tense and the win was a little bigger and afterwards there was a little more booze and a little more adrenalin. And when the men had finished with him Joey's nice little ass wasn't bleeding, it was haemorrhaging and nice little Joey died."
Doyle was silent. Bodie looked him in the eye. "Have you ever been buggered, mate?"
"I never said I didn't want to. I said I wouldn't."
"You said we were over," Doyle reminded.
"It seemed best. It still does." Bodie raised his hand to silence his partner. "Sometimes you can care too much, want something too much. And there are things...people...that are too bloody precious to lose."
"Christ...Bodie...." Doyle got up and went to stand close. "I'm not a twenty year old kid in an African jungle getting gang banged by a bunch of drunken mercenaries. You can't compare, mate. Being fucked, and being loved, it's bloody different."
"You said...and I was going to tell you anyway once I was awake enough to put it coherently, before you...."
"I said I wanted you to fuck me because I'm a stupid, inarticulate cretin who wanted, wants, you to be a part of me."
Now it was Bodie's turn to be quiet.
"Ah Bodie, damnit, I care about you! I tried not to, but you've been a habit too long, mate. But I can't read your mind in a situation like this. All I know is you went away from me. A week apart being debriefed and it was like we'd never been partners--lovers--at all. So I got scared. And hurt. And mad. You have to know I'd never have walked off like that if I'd thought Green would come out then...."
Bodie made a face. He knew that. It was the rest that was important. Well, he'd gone this far, he might as well tell him the rest. "I kept wanting you..." Bodie whispered, "so bad it was painful. Worse because I'd been to bed with you now. When you came to Twin Rose all I wanted to do was go off and screw you through the floor...."
"Yeh," Doyle encouraged. The ice was long gone and he didn't miss it--this heat was much better.
"Okay, okay. Go on."
"Then, stuck there in HQ, with everyone else out there working, I'd think I'd have it under some sort of control and you'd get close and..." he faltered to an embarrassed halt.
"Cowley's finest at their best again. And he says we're not completely stupid."
Bodie half-grinned. "Cowley is never wrong." He sobered quickly enough. "Just remembered something."
"The Cow sent a forensics team to the island."
"I figured he would. So?"
"So when I was turnin' in our report on Green today--by the way, did you see that set-up there? He had a whole arsenal, not to mention complete files on Willis and Cowley. Anyway, I found the island team's report on his desk."
Doyle sifted through this with the ease of long practice. "And?"
"Two types of semen in one bed, mate. Cowley, and whoever ran that report, know."
Doyle looked at him, "Cowley knew anyway."
"I told him during the debriefing. I thought he should know. That is--is there anything to know?"
Bodie met his eyes and Doyle could see for the first time what his partner's dark gaze had been hiding. The hurt, the hope, the fear...the love.
Doyle put his long arms around Bodie and pulled him close. "I think there is. Just as soon as we can get your bloody-minded stupid head on straight."
"Not too straight," Bodie murmured, "because someday I want to go back to that island and...."
"Okay," Doyle agreed. "After all, we never did get around to your fantasy."
Bodie reached out and Doyle came into his arms eagerly. "Are you willing to put up with me?"
Doyle shook his head. "No. I think you're crazy. But I know you and I know me and I'm sure I can convince you to see things my way. I always do."
Bodie frowned. "That's another thing...."
"Shut up," Doyle ordered and made sure he did for a long moment. "Now. Hear this. Stop thinking. Things will work out. We'll see to it. Okay?"
-- THE END --
 The three excerpts are from a long and very eerie poem by Wilfred W. Gibson, with only the beginning, middle and end stanzas included here.