Rules of the Game
by Anne Carr
O'Neill bought another whiskey and leaned against the counter, looking in the mirror over the bar at the reflections of patrons milling about. It was late and the mood was good, a direct result of unwatered booze, he thought cynically.
In one corner someone had started one of those drinking songs with several thousand verses and a catchy chorus. O'Neill half laughed at the beer mugs swinging in time and suddenly passed, his already narrow eyes closing into mere slits. He swiveled and caught sight of the man again. Tall, dark, with short hair and wearing an immaculate suit, he didn't look much like the disheveled man as he had last seen him - but he carried himself with a certain air...
O'Neill moved until he had a clear view and was sure. Bodie. Out of the African jungle, relaxed and smiling, with a glass in his hand instead of an uzi, but Bodie nonetheless.
The song was wrapping up and the man next to Bodie leaned closer to say something in his ear. O'Neill saw his old mate grin at the curly haired stranger and raise his mug in a salute. There was a shared look, an intimacy between the two men, as they each wrapped an arm around the shoulders of the other and finished the chorus of the song in grand style.
"Well, well, well," O'Neill finished his drink in one gulp and headed toward the door. Outside was a dark Ford, anonymous amidst the flashier models in the pub's carpark. He unlocked it and slid behind the wheel, then sat patiently waiting, his eyes never leaving the pub door.
"My round, I think," Bodie reached for Doyle's empty glass and made a face when his partner held it out of reach.
"You, me lad," Doyle told him with mock severity, "have had enough already. And I have had too much."
As they had matched each other pint for pint since their arrival, Bodie took the back-handed compliment as meant and didn't insist.
"Pub's closin' anyway," Doyle stretched and waved a cheerful farewell to the room in general. "Come on, Sunshine. Cowley wants us in early and I need some sleep."
They wound through the crowd and Bodie held the door open for his partner. After the noisy stuffiness of the pub the night air seemed fresh even by the river and they moved slowly, enjoying the relative quiet. Doyle began to whistle the pub song's chorus, softly confusing the tune and not caring in the least. He looked around and changed the whistle into a call, "Here car! Where's the motor?"
Bodie laughed and pointed, "My son, you have had too much."
They paused on either side of the small Ford while Doyle searched for the keys. Bodie looked out over the river and suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He frowned slightly. "Ray..."
"No...nothing. Never mind." Bodie looked around then shook off the feeling. It wasn't as if they were on a case - in fact they were celebrating the successful completion of two months work.
"Hey!" Doyle leaned over and unlocked the door. "You coming?"
One more quick glance around. "Sure." It was his imagination, of course. No reason anyone would be watching him from the darkness. Nonetheless he kept one eye on the rear as they drove through the quiet streets.
Doyle continued to whistle, albeit somewhat tunelessly, only breaking off briefly to murmur, "He's good, I'll give him that."
"How long d'you reckon?"
"From the pub. This is your street. Do we stop?"
"Might as well. You're too pissed for a high speed chase, aren't you?"
Doyle snorted but pulled over in front of the brownstone apartment block. He watched in the rear view mirror as the dark car turned the corner, passed them and stopped under a street light.
The car door opened and a man stepped out. He leaned against the bonnet, his hands well in sight, waiting.
Bodie sucked in a deep breath. "Relax mate. I know this one."
"He looks mean," Doyle commented, but he took his hand away from his gun.
"He is. Or was. I haven't seen him in years." Bodie got out of the car and leaned down, keeping his voice low. "You go on. I'll see you tomorrow."
Bodie looked to where O'Neill stood. "Yeh. See ya."
He waited until Doyle's car disappeared round the corner before he approached O'Neill.
They shook hands silently, each sizing up the other, inspecting for the years' damage, then Bodie said, "Park it over there and come on up."
His flat was on the third floor and they took the lift. Bodie took care of the double locks and went straight through to the kitchen. "The usual?"
The older man nodded. When they had drained the first round and poured the second O'Neill looked around. "Nice."
Bodie relaxed on the sofa, spreading himself out so that O'Neill must take the chair, "It's all right." He decided to take the initiative, "I didn't expect to see you in England."
"Job," O'Neill replied. "There's a Gatherin." Having said this much he waved a hand, "I take it you didn't go home when you came back."
"What was it? Mother, father, couple of sisters? Nice family, very boring."
Bodie's silence indicated agreement.
"Somebody said you've joined up. Para's, SAS..."
"That's right." Bodie eyed him over his glass, "I'm well out of it."
"I know. Word gets back. CI5. George Cowley's lot."
"Cowley's all right."
"But nobody told me about your pretty boy," O'Neill smiled. "Doesn't he live here?"
"Doyle has his own flat," Bodie didn't bother to deny the implication. "And he's all right as well."
O'Neill let the silence stretch and remembered a more open, talkative kid with a hot temper and innocent blue eyes. In the jungle you grew up fast or died trying. "This job," he said finally, "We could use another man. A good man. Someone like you, Bodie."
"Relax. You made it real clear a long time ago. I can see you've set your... sights on the boy. I'm not here to dredge up old times."
Bodie allowed a small smile to cross his face, "Good. But I'm still working."
"They can't pay you what I can. Tell you what," O'Neill leaned forward, "Take a vacation, a holiday, leave of absence, and earn some decent bread for a change. It's a neat job, mate, no risk and plenty of reward."
Bodie shrugged then stood when O'Neill did.
"Think about it," the older man continued, "You know where we'll be. And if you like, bring the pretty one. He'll keep you from getting lonesome."
Bodie made a noncommittal reply and shut the door after O'Neill. He turned out the lights and stood in the darkness looking out the window until the mercenary had long since driven away. He didn't know which memory was worse - home, with it's middle class, middle everything family who had, hopefully, given him up for dead long ago, or the jungle. O'Neill had been good to him as the circumstances warranted and Bodie felt neither love nor hate toward the man. He turned and made his way to the bedroom, his face very bland.
George Cowley tapped his fingers lightly on the desktop, "And that's all he said?"
"No risk, good reward," Bodie confirmed.
"It fits, this Gathering of yours. We've been getting reports, none confirmed, but they wouldn't be with that lot, would they? But they've been observed here and there--outside of Aden or Africa or South America, working north. Here." Cowley poked viciously at an inoffensive file, "I don't want them here. Not on MY doorstep."
"A gathering," Bodie mused, "That means six, seven, no more than ten of the best."
"This O'Neill," Cowley opened the file. "He was your leader, wasn't he?"
"In the beginning."
"Aye. Well, take a look at these faces and tell me what you think."
Bodie picked up the photographs, "Swede," he recognized the top one immediately. "Yeh, he's worked for O'Neill before. Good man, can talk his way out of anything in seven languages. And this guy. Mike Carter - we called him Hulk. He's a mean one. Likes to live on the edge...no, I don't know these two, but...yeah, Caberri, the Italian. I thought he was dead, but..." Bodie tossed the pictures back on the desk.
"A force to be reckoned with, then?"
"I can't see them working here," Bodie hesitated, "O'Neill isn't like Krivas, but a force to be reckoned with? Yes."
Cowley sat back. "I agree. I think we'd better find out what they're up to. Ah, Doyle. I appreciate your efforts to join us."
"Sorry, Sir," Doyle slid into the chair next to his partner looking decidedly fragile. "I think I drank something that didn't like me."
"Probably herbal tea," Bodie said wisely.
"What'd I miss?"
Cowley filled him in briefly and finished, "You'll have to go in clean. They know you're CI5, Bodie, but there's no need to make them nervous."
Doyle pulled out his ID and laid it next to Bodie's, "I assume we can take the shooters?"
Bodie was startled, "You're not going in."
"Of course I'm going," Doyle looked at Cowley for confirmation.
"Why not?" Cowley demanded.
Bodie found that under the hard scrutiny of his boss he couldn't state the facts. "He wouldn't fit in," he said finally.
"Bullshit. Sorry, Sir."
Bodie remembered O'Neill's eyes and his 'pretty boy' references. "Doyle, mate, I just don't..."
But Doyle wasn't in the mood for it, "What's the matter, Bodie? ...Don't you think I can cut it with your jungle rats?"
Bodie stood abruptly and looked down at his partner. "All right. Come on."
"Give me a report as soon as you can," Cowley called after them and Bodie shut the door very very quietly.
They took Bodie's car and left London going south.
"How far is it?" Doyle had leaned back, not much better for the aspirin and coffee he'd begged from Cowley's secretary.
"Not far. It's a farmhouse. Isolated." Bodie had conquered his irritation at his partner, but still couldn't quite find the words to tell him exactly what he was getting into. "Ray, mate...listen."
"I will, just don't yell."
Distracted, Bodie looked at Doyle's wan face with some concern, "It's not like you to be hung over on THAT much."
"I didn't. I got hung over on the champagne at Cathy's after I left you."
"Girl next door."
"I see." Bodie left it and tried again, "About this Gathering..."
Sounding patently uninterested, Doyle said, "What about it? Look, we go in, have a cozy little reunion with all your mates. Then we find out about the job and leave. I'm reallylooking forward to it."
"Doyle, I'm trying to tell you...they live with rules. Certain rules..."
"Well, that's all right. I'm quite good at games. You can teach me."
"That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid!" Disgusted, Bodie let it drop. It could be his concern was for nothing. This was England, not the jungle, and the men could find a bit on any corner. He glanced at Doyle who unknowingly would be walking into what could be a very messy situation, and tried to picture him as the Gathering would see him. Bodie's 'pretty boy'. All that curly hair, those oddly slanted eyes and a certain grace of movement that came as much from body structure as constant exercise. Bodie shook his head and signalled for the turn off the motorway. This was not going to be easy.
The lane leading to the farm was long and gravelled, giving adequate warning of a car's advance. The house itself was old, yellow brick and rambling in the 'added-on' fashion. As they pulled up Bodie could see a muscular torso topped by a shock of red hair chopping wood to one side. He tapped the horn and waved when the man turned. "Swede," he identified, and Doyle sat up. He looked better after his kip and his green eyes were alert.
The door opened and the drive suddenly seemed filled with men. O'Neill led the crowd and clapped Bodie on the back with a heavy hand, "I told 'em CI5 couldn't keep you away if the stakes were high enough."
He turned and inspected Doyle. "Introduce us, Bodie."
Bodie took one look at their faces and knew he had problems. Doyle was too damned...good looking, and the Gathering was hungry for new blood. He signalled Ray to join him and laid a possessive arm around his partner's shoulder. "Ray mate, this is O'Neill, and Swede and Carter and Caberri..." he paused and O'Neill supplied the missing names.
"Ren and Kraus. They joined up after you left." O'Neill smiled, "I think I can safely say we're glad you here, Ray is it?"
"Doyle," Ray glanced at Bodie, not sure why he still had an arm around him, but willing to follow whatever lead he was given.
"Doyle's specialty is hand guns," Bodie said. He reached in the back for their duffel bags and much to Doyle's amazement firmly gripped his partner's hand. "You want to show us to our room?"
Doyle tried to pull his hand free and was rewarded with a stern stare and a bone crushing squeeze of fingers. He didn't see the significant look that passed between O'Neill and Carter.
"You've got the room next to Hulk," Swede said, "But the walls are thick."
"Much like Hulk's head," Caberri's accent was rich. "Come on in."
Bodie jerked roughly and Doyle followed him into the farmhouse.
It was late and Doyle was tired. He lay back on the hard single bed and watched as Bodie stripped down to his shorts, "What's with you Bodie?"
"What d'you mean?"
"You know damn well what I mean. How're we gonna find out what's really going on if every time someone wants to talk you cut 'em off?"
"You mean every time one of 'em wants to talk to you," Bodie emphasized.
"What's the difference?"
Bodie picked up his Browning and began to unload it, "You're really thick sometimes, Goldilocks."
"Thank you," Doyle stretched, not really taking offense. "Explain."
Bodie opened his mouth, thought better of it and said instead, "I said there were rules."
"Well, one of the rules is that you and I stick together and you don't go wandering about on your own." He stopped Ray's indignant protest with a look. "It's important, Ray. You're not one of them, whatever they say. We'll find out about the job when O'Neill is good and ready to tell us and not before."
"What's the matter, Bodie I'm not good enough for your friends?".
Bodie continued to clean his gun and didn't answer.
After a minute Doyle said quietly, "Sorry, mate."
Bodie looked up, "For once just trust me, Ray. This is not London. Right now it isn't even England. It's a bit of bloody Angola and you'd better not forget it, okay?"
That he was serious was obvious and Doyle nodded. "All right". He pulled the rough blanket over himself, "What's the plan, then?"
"Look, listen, and stay away from Carter," Bodie replied instantly.
"Why Carter?" Doyle began, then snapped to alertness as the door burst open and Carter and Caberri fell into the room.
They took in the scene, Bodie stripped to his shorts and Doyle, apparently nude, though all that was visible was his bare upper torso. They also took in the deadly shooters both men had instantly trained their way. Caberri raised his arms, palms spread and snickered, "Sorry, Bodie. Wrong room."
Carter just looked at Doyle, who continued to point his .357 steadily gut level.
"You pretty good with that thing?" Carter asked abruptly.
"How are you with a knife?"
"No," Bodie set his gun aside, mentally cursing Doyle. He forced himself to smile, "You're interrupting."
When they had gone Doyle relaxed, "I can't say I like your friends much."
"You never do," Bodie switched off the lights and lay back on his bed.
"Of course," Doyle went on, "If you liked 'em you'd still be one of 'em, wouldn't you?"
Bodie turned his lumpy pillow and didn't answer. Across the room Doyle laughed softly and turned over, already three quarters asleep.
Bodie stared into the darkness and listened as his partner's breathing became slow and regular. Very perceptive, that last remark, but Doyle was no idiot and Bodie acknowledged that Ray probably knew him better than anyone else. Doyle trusted him, too. Bodie had the feeling that this might be one reason why Doyle was so slow to catch on to the facts. Carter's eyes should have given the whole bloody show away and yet Doyle seemed to be oblivious to the undertones. Bodie was well aware that his partner looked at mercs as one of the lower forms of life - mainly because he hadn't been there. It was a special kind of relationship that built up in the jungles where you literally spent every minute for months on end with the same few men, all of you living on the knife edge between life and death. Civilized moralities got lost damn fast on jungle trails. Doyle was city, born and raised, and had never been closer to a jungle than a holiday in Blackpool. He just didn't know.
Bodie settled his Browning more securely between the lumps in his pillow and yawned. If tonight had been bad, tomorrow would be worse.
Doyle leaned over the kitchen counter and snarled, "All right, Bodie, that's IT!"
Bodie, who had respect for his partner's left hook, moved out of the way and cautioned, "Not so loud."
"I've had it!" Doyle lowered his voice which only made the words more menacing. "For Christ's sake! Two more days like the last two and I'm leaving you on your own. And all we've found out is that the job is in South America."
"O'Neill tells me the final details should be in by tomorrow." Bodie threw a peeled potato into the boiling pot and wiped his hands.
"Oh yeh? And when did he tell you that, eh? I must have been in the loo because that's the only bloody time you're not there, isn't it? I can take care of myself! What's the matter? Afraid I'll blow it?" Doyle's face was set and his eyes narrowed. If he noticed his partner's white knuckles gripping the counter he ignored them. "Or is it you? Are you afraid of the monkeys, Bodie? Is that it?"
"Don't push your luck, mate," Bodie was cold, "I didn't ask you along, I told you you wouldn't fit in. But you had to come, didn't you? Well you can take your..."
Startled at the sound of O'Neill's voice from behind him, Bodie caught Doyle's eyes and held them. He didn't move. "Yeh?"
"I'm afraid it's time we had a little talk, without your pretty boy here. Or what you told us was your pretty boy."
Bodie felt the icy barrel of O'Neill's .44 at his back. "Perhaps you haven't been quite up front with us and that's breaking the rules," O'Neill continued softly.
Doyle moved and was still when Bodie's eyes narrowed. The argument forgotten he watched as Bodie was propelled from the room and replaced by Caberri. The Italian smiled faintly and used his gun to motion Doyle out the opposite door. "We'll wait for the verdict," Caberri told him and something in his eyes made Doyle look away.
Doyle entered the empty room and sat down.
"Give me your gun," Caberri ordered. Wordlessly Doyle handed it over.
Caberri grinned insolently and made a great show of sliding Doyle's shooter into his shirt. There were several minutes of silence and then Doyle noticed the room filling up. Three members of the group filed in, all of them looking at Doyle with curiously avid expressions. 'Whatever it was, the verdict wasn't in our favor' Doyle thought instantly. 'Where's Bodie?' Almost in answer to his silent question Bodie was muscled in by O'Neill and Kraus. He was tied and Kraus's gun was pressed to his head.
Doyle stood up, wary and preparing for battle.
"Doyle," O'Neill's voice purred, "It's time to play the Game." He motioned to Carter, "Michael has won the toss."
Doyle looked a quick question at Bodie and was chilled to see real fear on his partner's face. Fear for him.
"Tell him what it is!" Bodie demanded, "That's the first rule!"
"Shut up, Bodie, unless you'd rather not watch," Kraus pushed the gun into Bodie's temple.
"He does have a point, Kraus," O'Neill smiled. "Doyle, you and Michael are going to fight and the loser is the prize of the winner. Michael really wants you, Boy, so give him a good fight."
He'd heard stories about this, hadn't quite believed the truth of them. He looked at Michael, stripping off his shirt and shoes, and back at O'Neill.
"If I don't fight?" he asked.
"Then we'll hold you down and all take a turn." O'Neill smiled wider. "I'd like that. If you fight it will just be Michael. Lucky Michael."
"And if I win?" Doyle pulled off his shoes and socks.
O'Neill shrugged. "You won't."
"If I win?" Doyle repeated belligerently.
"Then he's yours. Give over your knives. This will be bare handed."
Doyle looked at Bodie who gave a short miserable nod. Rules. Doyle smiled to himself. They played by rules. That might just save him because by the rules, he should lose.
Bodie was sick. It was all he could do to keep from gagging on the bile that kept rising. He was going to have to watch Ray being beaten and violated and he was filled with a paralyzing fear and frustration.
Doyle handed Caberri his knife and pulled off his shirt. Bodie heard the murmur of lewd pleasure that went through the group and felt the hair on the back of his neck raise. Doyle watched Carter who licked his lips and moved toward him. Carter noticed Ray gathering himself and smiled, "Make it good, Boy, I've wanted you since the first day you showed."
Doyle said nothing, moving around to one side. Carter went on, taunting, "You've got a great ass. We all noticed, but I'm gonna get you. And I'm gonna keep you, too." With that he lunged. And Doyle wasn't there. Bodie had seen what Carter had reached for and risked a warning.
"Watch your hair, Ray!" The end of Kraus's gun slashed across his face and he rocked against the blow. It wasn't hard enough to knock him out and he saw Ray's face suddenly mutate into something ugly. Doyle's green eyes glazed and with a guttural snarl he launched himself at Carter. A rock hard knee crunched into Carter's groin and Doyle's fist shattered his larynx. Carter went down like a felled tree, choking and writhing. Ray followed him down and locked his arm around Carter's head and Bodie cried out, "No!"
Ray looked up, his eyes blind, his lips drawn back over his teeth. "He's mine!" Ray hissed, "By your rules, to do what I want!"
"Don't kill him, Ray!" When this stranger became Doyle again, Bodie knew Ray's conscience would never let him forgive himself, but Bodie couldn't let the others know.
Gradually Ray's face cleared. "He needs a doctor," Ray said simply. He stood up and watched O'Neill walk over. The mercenary boss pulled his gun and shot Carter. At Doyle's unspoken question he said, "You don't let a good horse suffer." He stuck out his hand to Doyle, "You're one of us now, right?"
Doyle looked at Bodie who nodded, then he looked at O'Neill, "No more games," he said flatly.
"No," O'Neill agreed and Doyle shook the proffered hand. "You trust Bodie's word," O'Neill commented, "I should have. I'd not be a man short."
"Yeh," Doyle moved toward Caberri and held out his hand. The Italian's liquid eyes still held malicious amusement, but it was edged with respect, now. Caberri gave Doyle back his knife and gun and Ray went over to cut Bodie loose. "You okay?" he asked quietly.
"Yeh, you?" Bodie was searching Doyle's face for signs of the mad stranger.
"Yeh," Doyle touched the bleeding welt along Bodie's cheekbone. "Sure? It looks like it hurts."
O'Neill watched them and laughed, "It appears, Bodie, that you didn't lie about anything. There's an aid box in the upstairs bath, take your pretty man," he emphasized the 'man', "and let him fix you up."
Doyle stiffened but he was obedient to the insistent pressure of Bodie's hand on his arm. They fetched the first aid box in the upstairs bath and went on to their room. Silently Doyle treated Bodie's contusions and just as silently Bodie watched him.
"You told them we were lovers," Doyle said abruptly.
Bodie shook his head. "No, I let them think it. I knew if there wasn't some kind of claim on you, there would be the Game. I hoped you'd pick up on the lead but you didn't and they figured I was just being selfish. Taking unfair advantage."
"You could have told me."
"Oh, sure. 'Look Cowley, leave Ray here or he's gonna get raped.' Just what do you think either of you would have said to that?" Bodie looked a little sheepish. "Besides you made me mad."
"What?" Doyle remembered, "Oh, in he car. I see. I really can be thick sometimes."
They were silent a few more minutes, Ray cleaning up the mess, Bodie watching him, a puzzled, uneasy look on his face.
"Why were you so sure I'd be attacked?" Doyle asked, not meeting Bodie's eyes.
Bodie snorted, "Why d'you think? To a man bent that way, you'd be beautiful. Some of the mercs, after awhile, find they enjoy the domination and sex of the Game better than any other way. You'd look like good, easy pickings. You don't look nearly tough enough." He caught a flash of green as Doyle sent him a strangely covert glance.
"They were wrong," Ray said.
"Yeh, they were."
"I shouldn't have killed him."
"You didn't. O'Neill did."
Doyle straightened and Bodie felt an unaccustomed stab of pity. Doyle's face was weary, pulled with guilt.
"He would have suffocated. All O'Neill did was make it quicker. I killed him."
"Okay, then, you had to. That was the only way you could have brought him down. It was him or you, Ray, and I don't mind telling you I'm bloody glad it was him."
"You thought I'd lose."
Bodie hesitated then nodded, "Yes, I did. You would have too, it you'd fought the way you normally do. Ray, what happened? That wasn't you fighting, that was someone else."
Ray's smile was bitter, "You're wrong, Bodie, that WAS me. That's what I really am. I've spent fifteen odd years trying to bury it but sometimes...sometimes it gets away. I would have killed him in the end. If you hadn't stopped me I'd have broken his neck in cold blood. I really wanted to."
"I would have too, under the circumstances. And you did stop."
"Yes, I did. I have to thank you for that. Maybe I'm not so bad as I was."
"You're not bad, Ray. God, you worry more about right and wrong than anybody I know. You're always feeling guilty about something." Bodie eyes his unresponsive partner, "Ray, what makes you that way?"
Doyle went over to his bed and sat down. "You laugh when I tell you how rough London can be, then give me some hair raisers about jungles. Listen, Bodie, I wasn't lying. I didn't even tell half the truth. I was nine the first time I used a knife on someone. I had to. He was sixteen and I was such a little runt. When you're little in my neighborhood you get mean or you die. Young. I don't remember how old I was when I hit the streets but it was early. I didn't like getting beaten all the time. Actually, it was probably Mum who sent me out. She liked to keep me out of the way when she was working. Thought her clientele were bad influences on me. Dad thought I slowed business. Johns don't want whores with babies on their skirts. So I kept out of their way. There was some question as to my paternity anyway so I suppose that rankled, too. I learned quickly that if I wanted to remain fairly unscathed I had to hit first and go for the throat. His voice trailed off and Bodie realized Doyle wasn't even with him anymore. The green eyes were cloudy, lost in memories. But what had turned the street brat into a good, honest cop? He ventured the question.
Doyle roused a little, then shrugged. "The cops never caught me. Somebody had to stop me or I'd end up the same kind of villain we're chasing now. Since no one stopped me I had to stop myself. I wasn't going to end up like my Dad."
The ugly anger flashed over Ray again.
"What happened to your Dad?" Bodie asked.
"Caught my Mum with a fella who wasn't a customer, didn't he? The guy was trying to get Mum and me to go with him. He kept insisting he could make things okay for us. Then Dad came in and he beat my mum to death. Right there in front of both of us." Ray's face was a mask of hatred. "Mum's lover did make it all right for me. My Dad started for him and the fella shot him. Saved me a term in the nick, he did, 'cause if he hadn't killed Dad I would have."
Bodie moved over and sat next to Ray. Doyle didn't seem to notice. Tentatively Bodie slipped his arm around his partner, "Ray?" Bodie shook him a little. He didn't like this man, this hate driven stranger, and he wanted his Doyle back. "Ray?"
Once more Doyle pushed back his demons and smiled weakly at Bodie. "Sorry. I try not to think about it, but it scared me that I could be like Dad. That's why I joined, to discipline the evil in me so I would never beat a woman to death in front of her child."
"I don't think you ever would. Not now." Bodie gave him a quick friendly hug. "If I ever make light of London streets again...well, I won't."
Ray sighed and relaxed. They sat together in companionable silence.
"Ray," Bodie began, his voice diffident, "there's something we have to talk about."
"You know you're part of the group now, but O'Neill's say so might not stop some of the guys from being interested in you. And the surprise is gone now, they could jump you sometime. I don't want that. I don't want you to have to be that way again."
"You figure we ought to go along with the fiction?"
"It'll keep them off your back. Now, I'm not saying you couldn't take them on but some of them aren't fussy. You could get a clout to the head and then what would you do?"
"And you figure if we acted like I belong to you, they'd keep hands off?"
Bodie opened his mouth, seemed to think better of it, then nodded.
Doyle noticed the hesitation, "What?"
"Well, it would be best if we made like it was a mutual thing. That's what made trouble in the first place."
"Why would they lay off then?"
"They just would."
Ray laughed sardonically, "Do you know, that's why I knew I could beat Carter? You lot play by rules."
"And you didn't plan to, yeh, I see."
Abruptly there was a knock at the door. Bodie and Doyle looked at each other and suddenly Doyle twisted and landed in Bodie's lap. Bodie was surprised but caught Ray who called out, "Yeh, what is it?"
Caberri came in and grinned lasciviously, "Sorry for disturbing you. Swede's knife slipped on the salami and we need a plaster." He picked up the first aid kit and left again with an offhand message that the night's meeting would be at twenty hundred hours. The door shut behind the Italian and Bodie looked down at Doyle still curled against his chest. Surprise was gone and in its place was a curiously blank expression.
"Well, like that, Dear?" Doyle raised an eyebrow at him. "Would that do it?"
"Yeh, that's fine," Bodie pushed Doyle aright, the bruskness of his motions belying his words. Doyle looked at him. "If that isn't right you'll have to clue me, I'm really not used to being a kept woman."
"That was fine," Bodie said, an odd savageness in his tone. "You don't have to act like a limp, either. We'd just be together. Actually if we just acted like...like we do when we're off duty, that would be okay."
Doyle stood up, an arrested expression in his eyes, "Do we act queer off duty?"
"No!" Bodie's denial was unnecessarily forceful. "O'Neill saw us after the Compton job, when we were drunk. They...they don't understand what it's like to be partners. I didn't until I'd left them."
"I'll be glad when we're sure about what O'Neill's planning. This has been an odd job," Doyle said musingly, still looking at Bodie. His partner refused to meet his glance, staring at his hands instead. "Bodie, did you play the Game?"
Bodie looked up, blue eyes wary, "Yeh. Everyone did."
"How do you feel about it?"
Bodie shrugged, "It was a shock, the first time, but I didn't mind later. Never got to where I liked it, but I didn't mind. I mostly won."
Doyle followed his detective's nose and stabbed in the dark, "Did O'Neill start you?"
Bodie's face mirrored his shock, "O'Neill told you?"
"No. It was just the way you two react to each other. Like you were close once but not now."
"Oh." Bodie looked back at his hands. "How do you feel about it all?"
"Which, the Game or us pretending?"
"I don't like the Game. Either way, win or lose, it's rape. Not for me. The other," Doyle shrugged, "Hell, that's never bothered me. I really like girls but I'm not going to run screaming from a fella either. Point is, however it is, it has to be a mutual thing."
The tension was thick enough to cut and Doyle realized it all came from Bodie. There was a trapped feeling in the air and Doyle couldn't pick out a reason for it. Unless the subject made Bodie uncomfortable. Ray wouldn't have thought it would but he'd been wrong about his partner before. Deliberately he went to the window and looked outside, turning his back on Bodie.
Immediately the bed creaked and he heard Bodie move toward the door. "This is really a quiet area," he commented. He heard Bodie pause.
"Yeh. I'm going down and see what's going on."
"Sure." Ray turned and caught what Bodie had been hiding. The hungry, needing, apprehensive look in the blue eyes and the hard bulge in the pants. Bodie wanted him and Ray was not surprised to find the notion pleased him. Sex was best when it was done with caring and there was no one at this point in his life that Ray cared more for than Bodie. "Of course," he added after they looked at each other for a frozen moment, "You go out with THAT in your pants and all my hard work'll be for nothing."
Bodie flinched and his lips moved but no sound came out. Ray walked back over to his bed and started putting his armament on the low table by the foot. "Come here, Bodie," he said softly.
"Lock the door and come here." There was the sheerist edge of command in his voice. He looked over and locked gazes with his partner. "I'm not going to entice you, Bodie, or flirt or play up to you. If you want to make love with me, come here."
Bodie blinked at Doyle's bluntness then reached for the doorknob and flicked the lock. He came back to the bed and hesitated next to his partner. Ray was pulling off his shirt and grinned at Bodie, "Bloody shocking, innit?"
"Surprising, I guess. I didn't mean to let you know. If you hadn't sat on me like that I could have kept fooling you."
"Never mind, Bodie. Take off your clothes."
They stripped down and stood silently looking each other over. They'd seen each other's bodies before but never in the context of lovers. They were at peak physical condition, but there any similarity ended. Bodie's body was squared, almost stocky but without fat. The skin was nearly hairless until the thatch at his groin and stretched smoothly over hard muscle. His was contained power. Ray's strength was more fluid, slimmer with innate, elegant grace. Bodie reached out and stroked the silky hair on Doyle's chest. "Did you hear them?" he asked huskily, "When you took off your shirt? You look so good."
Doyle smiled and began running his hands over Bodie's shoulders and arms. "I heard them, but their admiration wasn't what I'd call a turn on." He moved close and slipped his arms around his partner's waist. He tipped his head up the extra inch difference between their heights and offered his mouth, "Yours is though," he whispered.
Bodie gasped and crushed Ray against him, grinding their mouths together. Ray's lips parted and Bodie sent his tongue roving deep. Bodie's hard hands moved in rough caresses over Doyle's back and flanks and his partner wiggled in pleasure.
Ray knew his own sensual nature, knew he would respond to Bodie's touch, but the feeling that swamped over him with each hard caress weakened his control. He knew Bodie's nature, too. Knew that his partner would try to dominate this and that could be good feeling but ultimately bad for the partnership. Making it equal would be much better but he was having trouble staying on top. He pushed firmly on Bodie's shoulders and his partner reluctantly released him.
"You can't change your mind, Ray!" Bodie said with distress.
"I'm not. Lay down," Doyle gasped. Bodie slid into the bed and reached for Doyle who eluded him. "Now, Bodie," he whispered, regaining some of his control, "Let's take it easy. Slowly, Bodie." His long fingers trailed languorously over Bodie's chest which was already shiny with sweat. Bodie shivered but lay quiescent, waiting.
"When did this start?" Ray murmured, going over Bodie's arms and chest with feather light touches. His voice had a velvet quality that made each word a seduction and Bodie concentrated on an answer with difficulty.
"Never gave it a thought," he gasped, "until O'Neill noticed. Then I looked at you." His eyes roamed hotly over Ray, "Really looked at you."
Ray's hands found the rigid shaft and caressed it. Bodie's hips pushed up for more but the silky touch eluded him. Ray kissed him again taking the lead and rampaging through his mouth. He started to reach for Ray again and his hands were pinned back. Ray lifted his lips just enough to say, "Wait your turn!" Then Bodie, who had thought they had kissed before, was inundated by the sensuality of Doyle's mouth. The sensitive hands no longer teased, they demanded response and Bodie writhed, his body seething with a molten flame that he held only barely in check. He was moaning, crushing the blankets under him in white knuckled fists and the searing shock of Doyle's skin when his partner finally came into the bed wrenched a cry from him. Still he held on, knowing somehow that Ray could drive the memory of the Game away and give him something indescribably better.
When he thought he couldn't bear it the roving hands and mouth were no longer inciting him, but soothed him just a little. He turned desire tortured eyes on his partner's face and licked at dry lips, waiting.
Ray watched him for a minute and Bodie realised that Doyle was very near the edge, too. The hot glitter in the green eyes, now clouded with passion, the sweat streaking down the odd angled cheekbones and the almost imperceptible quiver of the held back body betrayed Ray's need to his lover. "It's your turn now, Bodie," he whispered, "Let me feel it."
Not grabbing Ray and taking him then and there was one of the hardest things Bodie had ever done. But his friend trusted him to make love, not devour with lust and he would not betray that. His need wouldn't allow restraint of the urgency in his caress, but his caring gentled him. His mouth moved down the heaving chest, his tongue experimenting with the soft hair. He investigated the navel and felt detached delight at Doyle's sensuous squirming. Then he moved down and in one smooth motion caught the slick rigid shaft in his hands and guided the head into his mouth. He swirled his tongue around the top, oblivious to the shaking fingers in his hair. Ray's hips rose and Bodie allowed the length to slide deeper into his mouth. He began sucking gently and heard Doyle pleading with him for more. Bodie rode his bucking friend until the moans became his name in a sharp, sobbing cry and his mouth filled with warm salty fluid. Urgent hands pulled him up the slick trembling body. Ray gave him no time to think. As he stretched out on Doyle's body he was pulled down to meet Ray's soft, scorching mouth and his own throbbing shaft was caught between hard muscled thighs.
He made himself wait, he had learned already that waiting made it better. He wrenched his mouth free and asked hoarsely, "Now, Ray?"
"God, yes," Ray laughed breathlessly.
Bodie buried his face in Doyle's neck and reached under his friend's body to seize firm buttocks and lost himself in the agonizing spiraling pleasure each thrust into Ray's thighs brought him. Ultimately the fire exploded out of him, and he whimpered into Ray's sweat slick neck.
Gradually Bodie came back to awareness of his surroundings - most specifically to the warm lithe body under him and the arms that held him close. With a sigh he slid off Doyle and snuggled against his partner's side.
"Oh that was good," Ray sighed.
"It was," Bodie agreed. "I'm sleepy," he added, whispering into sweat limp curls.
"Then go to sleep, Bodie," Doyle's voice warmed him with obvious caring. "We'll be together when you wake up."
With that assurance Bodie slept.
Bodie woke up at sundown, satiated and full of the relaxed weariness that came from good loving. He stirred and the arm around him tightened, the hot, hard body wrapped spoon fashion along his back and legs snuggled closer. He needed to stretch but was reluctant to disturb his sleeping lover. Then he became aware of soft caresses on his stomach and warm lips touching the back of his neck. He stretched out, popping several joints, and turned over to face Ray. Without a word he pulled Doyle against him and kissed the soft full mouth. Ray kissed back enthusiastically and it was only reluctantly Bodie broke them apart.
"Ray, I need to talk."
Doyle sighed regretfully and rolled to his back, staring at the ceiling. "All right. About what?"
"About us, of course. I...it's never been like this before. Not for me. It's nothing like the Game and that's all I ever knew."
Doyle looked at him, his gaze steady and solemn. "It's never been like this for me either."
"You've made love to a man before," Bodie said.
Doyle shook his head, "No Bodie, never love. I have tried about everything you could think of and I've enjoyed them. I knew I'd enjoy you once I got it through my thick skull what you wanted. I knew when you kissed me that I wanted it, too. These things I've had before, but I never loved any man before you."
Bodie shivered, awed suddenly by the emotion Ray offered him. "How can you love me?" he asked breathlessly, "How can you love at all with your life?"
Doyle looked surprised. "My childhood was hell Bodie, but not loveless. My Mum loved me. She couldn't do much for me but she did love me. There was a lady I called Aunt Clare, though we weren't related. I stayed in school for her. One of my teachers...There was always someone who cared for me, that I cared for." His face darkened, "That's what sets me off, too. When I have to watch the people I care for hurting."
"I wonder which is worse," Bodie asked pensively, "Yours or mine?" Doyle raised an eyebrow and he explained. "I had a comfortable childhood. Not too rough, not too easy, very very dull. My Mum fluttered. She was weak, ineffectual and occasionally affectionate. Dad cared for no one and he did love to rule. My sisters and I learned early to keep our feelings to ourselves. They weren't wanted. My father did quite right by us, but never for our sakes." He sighed, "I've never been back."
"Merchant Marines must have been a nasty shock," Doyle commented.
There was old horror a second in Bodie's eyes then he shrugged. "A martinet's the same whether you're related to him or signed under him. Look Ray, I...I don't want this to end, but love? I don't know if I can..."
"It doesn't matter," Ray interrupted. "It doesn't have to stop and you don't have to say anything. If you're gonna love me, then it will come by itself. If not, then I think our friendship will survive with the added bonus of certain things making us feel very good. I'm not offering a trap, mate." He pulled an unresisting Bodie back into his arms and chuckled, "It wouldn't work anyway, you're too bloody neat."
Bodie nuzzled the base of Ray's throat, "You're a slob, you mean," he answered. Fear was gone and he was warm clear through. A thought intruded and he checked his watch. "Oh lovely, we've got fifteen minutes till the meeting and you want to bet nosy Caberri won't be in here at five of to 'remind us'?"
Doyle laughed and released him. "I don't mind him," he commented as he got up and headed to the sink. "He's a malicious little wart, but he's honest about it.
"He would have taken a turn," Bodie warned.
Doyle turned clear green eyes on him and Bodie felt his breath catch at his partner's clean male beauty. "I said I didn't mind him. I didn't say I trusted him."
"Don't trust any of them," Bodie warned seriously.
"Not even you?"
"I'm not one of them anymore." He felt curiously lost and shaken by the truth.
"I know, but I wondered when you would. Welcome to CI5, mate."
Bodie was startled by a rush of good feeling that Doyle's words evoked and he caught himself returning Ray's grin. He barely pulled his pants on when Caberri, right on time, pounded on the door.
Doyle grinned, raised an eyebrow and walked bare-chested to the door, "Yes, Caberri, we remember," he said opening it up.
Caberri took in their disheveled condition, the single mussed bed and the locked door, and sighed regretfully. "Okay," was all he said.
"Our reputations are shit," Doyle said musingly. He didn't seem the least concerned.
It was morning, clear and nippy, and all the men were outside. O'Neill had insisted the night before that this day would bring the information he needed and they would know the job by lunchtime. Some of the men were target shooting and the rest watching. Bodie put together his rifle and walked over to the target area to leave a couple of lager bottles. He looked and saw Ray about fifty yards away watching Swede. On sudden impulse he shouted, "Ray!" and threw a bottle straight into the air. Doyle turned, his gun was out and the bottle disintegrated from his single shot before it had even reached the arc of flight. Bodie chuckled to himself. The rest of the men were quiet and he could swear he'd heard several sets of teeth drop. A deep swelling pride for his partner's skill filled him and he shouted, "A bit slow, mate!"
"Oh well, I'm a bit out of practice," Doyle grinned back. It had been a fantastic shot and nine times out of ten, he'd probably have missed. "Your turn." He bent, spun and threw a snack bottle back behind him. Bodie brought the rifle to bear, took quick aim and demolished it.
"Try these." He picked up three more bottles and scattered them into the air. Doyle never missed. Bodie got his three, too, and they were out of their allotment of bottles.
"Well, now what do we do?" Doyle asked when Bodie walked back.
"I dunno. We could watch."
They walked over to the other shooters who eyed them. O'Neill nodded at Doyle, "Bodie mentioned you were good with a handgun. Where did you learn?"
Doyle shrugged. "Oh, my Mum thought I ought to have some kind of skill."
"Are you as good with a rifle?"
"He's not as good as me," Bodie said smugly, "but he's close." He dropped his arm around Ray's shoulders and squeezed lightly. Ray grinned back and allowed himself to lean into the embrace. Most of the men went back to their business but Swede waited.
"I've been having some trouble with this magnum, Bodie, mind if I get some expert help?" he asked diffidently.
Bodie felt Ray's shoulders quiver and for a brief second he thought it was anger. Then he met Doyle's eyes and realised it was suppressed mirth. "Sure Swede." He pushed Ray forward and took up vantage on a low wall to watch.
Later, when Ray came back, Bodie smirked at him, "Did he mind himself?"
Doyle chuckled, "He acted like I'd bite him. Do they ever get to the point where they address me directly? I feel like the Queen."
Bodie laughed outright, "Don't worry about it. I think we'll know what's going on after tonight and it'll all be over."
Bodie knew what he meant. He stood up. "Come for a walk and we'll talk about it."
To Doyle the small wood they entered was remarkably quiet, to Bodie it was as noisy as London in it's own way. They followed the path to the spring then picked a trail alongside it, Doyle leading the way, trusting Bodie not to get lost. He was deep in thought but turned and smiled when Bodie touched his shoulder.
"You're a million miles away," Bodie said.
"Not that far. I was wondering about Cowley. D'you reckon...?"
Bodie snorted. "He probably already knows."
A natural rock dam formed a large pool and they stopped beside it.
Bodie picked up a stone and skimmed it skillfully over the water. Doyle relaxed in the grass under a tree. "It's against government policy - and there's an anti-fraternization rule in there as well, isn't there?"
"Since when does the Cow follow the rules?"
Doyle made a face, "Yeh, mate. But..."
Bodie came to his side, cupped his partner's face in his hands and kissed him. Doyle's lips parted instantly as fire swept through his blood. When Bodie let him go, Ray was panting.
Bodie pulled completely away. "I don't care what bloody Cowley says," he told Doyle, "and you don't either."
He grinned at Doyle and suddenly turned around to lie with his head in his partner's lap. Doyle stretched his legs full length, "You'll care if we get kicked off the squad."
"We won't," Bodie rubbed his head against the growing bulge in Doyle's jeans.
"You sound sure."
"Aren't you?" Bodie reached an arm around and deftly unzipped the jeans with one hand while his other hand tangled in Doyle's hair, "C'mere," he commanded and Ray bent to meet his mouth. The first touch was soft, then Bodie pulled Ray close and ground upward. They almost battled to be closer, touching tongues, their hands searching for bare skin.
Then Bodie turned and released Doyle from his shorts to grip the warm hardness, bringing it to his mouth - not needing the encouragement Ray gave him. He vaguely felt strong hands stroking him, kneading his tensed muscles into heightened awareness as he used his hands and mouth on Doyle.
There was a smell of crushed grass and sex, the taste of spilled semen, and the sound of Ray groaning his name in a confused jumble. Doyle laughed breathlessly and pulled Bodie against him in a fierce embrace. "You're gonna have to learn to slow down," he told Bodie.
Bodie grinned back, "So...you're good at games...teach me."
Doyle slid his hands under Bodie's shirt and lifted it away in a slow caress then began a sensuous assault with his mouth. He knelt over his partner's bare chest, licking, biting gently, gradually working down, while his fingers disposed of cords and shorts long before they got in the way. He kissed around Bodie's naval then went lower - almost, but not quite touching the engorged rod. Bodie lifted, twisting and gasped, "God, Ray!"
But Doyle wasn't ready. The feel of smooth skin beneath him was such a pleasure to touch...he grasped Bodie's legs and parted them then ran his hands up the soft inner thighs and down again, taking his time and driving Bodie to distraction.
Bodie quivered in reaction to the erotic sensations. His weight was on his elbows, his head thrown back and the muscles in his neck corded as he strived for control. It was a losing battle - he had never been this turned on, never felt as much desire course through him as he did now. There was a tickling sensation at his groin that swirled upwards then down again. He tried to say something but found his breath gone and the tickling continued. It was agonizing and he wanted it to go on forever, but his body demanded release.
Reading his partner's body with ease Doyle lifted and slid against Bodie's heaving body as his hands held Bodie's head still for his kiss. He felt the groan against his mouth then Bodie tensed and was coming and the warm seed spread between them.
After a long moment Doyle rolled away and lay sprawled in the grass, too exhausted to move for several minutes. When he finally spoke his voice was low and unsteady, "I'm a mess."
Bodie smiled, chuckled, then began to laugh in earnest. It may have been a reaction, or just a feeling of intense pleasure, but he felt a ridiculous giddy feeling sweeping over him as Doyle joined in for no reason except to share.
Cowley listened to his men for the better part of an hour, then nodded, "Aye, well I'm pleased it doesn't concern us, then."
"Not even close," Doyle agreed. "They'll only be working in an advisory capacity, won't they? Telling the families what to say to the kidnappers, teaching negotiating, all that kind of thing. In South America there's a real market for that kind of expertise."
"No risk, high reward," Bodie added. "Just like O'Neill said."
Cowley eyed his men thoughtfully then poured another round of malt scotch. "They weren't...upset when you left?"
"Nah," Doyle tossed his drink back in one gulp. "Bodie told O'Neill it wasn't for him."
"Oh?" Cowley turned his piercing gaze on the dark haired agent.
"Yeh, well...you see...I said I needed the...uh...excitement of CI5...Sir."
"You know, action," Bodie felt himself redden and Doyle turned his head to hide his smile.
Bodie didn't think it was necessary to add that O'Neill had let them go only when Bodie had privately told the mercenary leader 'Doyle sunburns easily'.
Cowley tapped the desktop and Doyle glanced at his partner. Their eyes met and Bodie raised one eyebrow. Doyle sat back, satisfied.
"All right," Cowley said abruptly. "Satisfactory. You've got until Monday off - let Betty know where you'll be, Doyle - and Bodie, don't let him forget." He waited until they were at the door and almost through before adding, "If it affects the work you're both out on your ears."
Bodie shoved the hesitating Doyle through the door and closed it behind them. "Don't push your luck, mate."
"He's breaking every rule in the book."
"Thought you didn't play by the rules."
Doyle was brought up short, not so much by the words as he low tone. He smiled from ear to ear and began to hurry along the dark corridor.
Bodie caught up, "Where're we going?"
"Home," Doyle told him and practically threw Bodie through the outside door, "To break some more rules!"
-- THE END --