The Descent to Humanity



A pale sliver of moon rose high over the black forest, barely dappling the leaves with silver, too weak to venture to the earth. The darktime creatures began to emerge and quiet sounds filled the air--a question from the owl, sleepy rustlings from dens and nests, an almost silent whisper of something that slithered. Animals awakened, drawn by the call of the moon, to hunt, to feed, to die.

At night the forest came alive in a special, secret way.

He stood alone in the center of the Circle. All around, seated on pebbles, lounging against the soft moss, his peers laughed and gossiped, teasing each other, ignoring him as he did them. He faced the Council Of Seven, watched their expressions as they conferred together, his sharp pointed ears pricked forward to pick up any snatch of conversation.

Not that it mattered. His fate had been decided on the eve he had refused the advances of the Queen. It did not concern Brida that the King, her mate, was his closest friend, that it was not her being scorned, but rather the loyalty of a lifetime being upheld. She had promised him revenge and had kept her oath.

He watched as a single shaft of moonlight pierced the dense forest growth and touched the long, silken strands of her hair. Brida was beautiful. Beautiful and cold and spoiled. He wondered if Luath ever suspected his queen of infidelities. It was not something they discussed.

Brida lifted her head and smiled at him. Such a sad, sweet, calculated smile. Anything but stupid was the Queen. She had not accused him then, nor for a long time after. No, Brida waited, and when the time was right, the circumstances perfect, she struck.

He looked back at her with no expression in his wide green eyes. He was a Sylvan Elf. He would behave with honor.

The Council Of Seven seemingly reached their decision and rose, drawing the attention of the Circle. A hush fell, and Luath, King of the Fairies, stepped forward to speak the Elf's fate.

"Doyle, Sylvan Elf of the Brennan Circle, last son of the House Brid, thou stands accused of taking a child from your Queen. We have heard testimony that confirms this--Lon tells us he hath heard you entice the child away--"

Lon. A Gold Elf who was Brida's current lover.

"Marris," the King continued, "hath seen you leading the child along the path out of the forest--"

Marris. The Queen's confidante and hand maiden.

"And the child herself spake of promises and lies." Luath shook his head. "I do not understand why thou hast done this, Doyle. It is the Queen's right to have the child. She was stolen fairly from the humans, and thou knowest this. Again I ask thee to defend thyself. Thou hast spake that thou are not guilty and spake no more. Speak now, Doyle, for once the sentence is passed I canst do no more for thee."

And if I speak, Doyle thought, I destroy my friend who loves his Queen. If I clear myself I accuse Brida, show her for what she truly is.

It would break Luath as surely as he breathed, and that would shatter the Circle. A Fairie Circle needed a strong King. There were not very many of them left.

Doyle stood silent.

"So be it." Luath's wild brown eyes were filled with tears but his voice was firm. "Thou art hereby banished from the Circle forever more. Thou wilt be stripped of all thy rank and honours, and because thou hast demonstrated lack of worthiness to be a Sylvan Elf, thou wilt no longer be one." Luath glanced toward the sky. "Tonight Sister Moon begins to weave a new cloth--when it is done thou wilt be a Human. Go now, Doyle," Luath's voice broke, but he recovered quickly. "Speak to no one, take nothing, and do not return."

Reeling under the shock Doyle turned, then remained motionless as the Circle came forward. He tried not to see their faces, a beautiful people turned ugly, but instinctively his eyes sought one look, one touch of understanding or support. He remained wanting.

They were vocal, jeering as they tore his clothes away, laughing and arguing over possessions, pulling him unresistingly from side to side as the delicate silken cloth ripped under their fingers. Then they fell back, leaving him naked and bruised and alone. He felt the King's presence behind him and straightened. A hand, trembling but resolute, rested on his head.

"I have loved you," Luath said, so softly no one could overhear. "But I love my Circle more."

A shock ripped through Doyle and he screamed, then stiffened, arching as every cell in his body contracted and altered form. The pain was unbearable, unending, tearing him apart...his soul deserted him, running to the far reaches of the universe, and when it returned it was changed.

He slumped to his knees, gasping, and Luath lifted his hand.

"It is done," the King said.

The Circle drifted away.

He lay on the mossy floor of the glade for a long time, too dizzy to leave, too empty to care. There were things happening to his body--horrible, wrenching pains that drew him into a tight ball and racked him, then flung him straight, stiffening his limbs until all control was shattered. Distantly he heard moans and knew they came from himself, but he had no power to stop them, not granted even this last dignity--

Human. In all his wildest imaginings, he had never considered this terrible fate.

The pain went on and on--then as suddenly as it had begun it was over. The change continued, but evidently the worst was done. Doyle took a deep breath and struggled to sit up. He was surprised it was still night--that the moon, no longer a Sister, but only a slender curve of light, still rode high. Already his sight was dimming, his other senses following suit. The familiar night sounds were only echoes, the smells remote and somehow unpleasant, the touch of tears on his cheeks unnoticed.

He was cold for the first time in his life. He shivered, glad suddenly that it was summer, and began to rub his arms.

Behind him a cold voice spoke clearly. "It's not enough."

Brida. He turned and eyed her, unblinking. She had done her worst, sending him to a fate that made death far more enviable, she could not hurt him now.

Once again he was wrong.

"It's not enough," Brida repeated. "Not for what you did to me." She stepped closer, her filmy skirts flowing about her like tall grass in the breeze.

He would not stay on his knees to her. Taking a long deep breath, he stood and was amazed to find he was taller. Before they were of a height, now she came barely to his shoulder.

"I offered you everything," the Queen hissed. "Everything! And you--you refused me!"

"Not you," 'he croaked hoarsely. "Luath--"

"What does he matter?" She waved a hand scornfully. "You never understood. You--always standing apart from everyone, too good for us. What do you know of love, of wanting?" Brida's eyes narrowed. "I'm not finished with you yet--human."

He put a hand to his head and spoke wearily, "Oh stop it. You've had your revenge. Go away and leave me to get on with it."

"It's not me that's going," she laughed and the sound crackled down his spine. "Tis you. But I'll give you one last gift to see you on your way. A gift so you will know what it's like...."

She spread her fingers and tiny golden sparks of light fell around him, tingling where they touched. "There."

"What have you done?" Doyle looked around. "What spell have you cast?"

"A sort of love spell, human. Something to remember me by on your journey.... Something to bind you to your new race. It's very simple. The first human you see you will desire. Totally, passionately, to the exclusion of all others." Brida smiled at him and dropped her casual speech, becoming formal. "Thou wilt know then Doyle, what thou hast put me through. Thy passions will be centered, thy every thought bound to thy love. I hope it kills thee."

She spun away and vanished amidst the roots of the oak they stood beneath.

The meaning of her words whirled in his head, growing, strengthening in shrieks of hatred...'I hope it kills thee...I hope it kills thee... I hope it kills thee!'

Choking on a cry, Doyle turned and ran.

He awoke to the sound of an almost foreign voice in his ear and lay there, trying to place the language. It was as if he should know--as if it were only slightly garbled, just barely wrong.

Memory flowed back, the denouncement, the trial, the sentence and the curse. It was clear in his mind, each movement, every word sharp and painful. Of his headlong flight through the forest he remembered very little. He had only known he had to get away. He might not be a Sylvan Elf anymore, but his pride was his own. She couldn't take that away from him.

How far he had come, where he was now, he didn't know. As he ran he continued to change, and as he grew his sense of perspective altered. He was lost, alone, and in half a moon he would be completely mortal.

The strange voice was joined by another. Doyle opened his eyes, groaned as bright sunlight lanced across him, and rolled over. He was still in the forest, lying on a bed of crumpled rotting leaves, and somewhere close by he could hear running water.

The Voices rose in pitch and he looked around cautiously, finally putting sound to motion and discovering the speakers. The two bright eyed, malicious looking robins were perched above him, regarding him with studied insolence.

"I can't understand you," he muttered, a little shaken. As an Elf he had known the languages of all the forest creatures.

The plainer female considered then spoke slower. With an effort he caught the essence of her words.

"You're a mess."

He sat up, easier now his eyes had partially adjusted to the unaccustomed full sunlight. The robin, damn her, was right. His skin, usually night fair, was covered in throbbing purple bruises. Cuts had oozed red and dried in flaking brown streaks on his legs and arms, and his feet, torn on the sharp rocks, were still slowly bleeding. He glanced at the birds, but didn't speak.

The female's mate puffed up a little. "It's your own fault, you know. If you'd've spoken up--"

Doyle waved a hand and obediently the robins fell silent. Well, he had that magic left at least, through be doubted it would last long.

More immediate was the problem of survival. He faltered to his feet, instantly falling over again, crying out at the pain. No good. His legs wouldn't carry him in this condition. He needed healing herbs and most of all, water.

He scratched at a cut on his cheek and paused, startled anew at the feel of his own flesh. Instead of the smooth skin he'd always known he felt...prickles. Tiny hairs were growing all across his face and down his neck. It itched.

"Wonderful," he said aloud and the robins flew away. Doyle glared after them. "Does the whole forest know?"


Doyle gave up on them and examined his body more closely. There was hair growing everywhere. He closed his eyes and tried to summon strength but it was useless. He was too weak though the pain had subsided to a dull roar. Taking a long breath, he began to crawl toward the sound of the water.

It was bigger than a pond, smaller than a lake. Fed by melted snow streams from the mountains to the north, it was icey cold and unpolluted. Doyle drank thirstily then washed himself, pleased to find that the cold water seemed to slow the bleeding as it numbed the pain There were herbs growing by one of the tributaries. He crushed them together, soaked them in the water, then spread the pungent essence on his feet and the worst of the other cuts.

Wild berries grew in clusters nearby. He was able to walk to them after the herbal treatment. Then, the worst of his physical discomforts abated, he lay on his back in the shade of a friendly seeming oak and slept.

The morning of the second day he was walking easily. Still Elf enough to heal rapidly--or perhaps the continuing descent to humanity had something to do with it--he didn't care as long as it worked. He wasn't about to question any good fortune.

The animals' languages were completely foreign to him now and as he grew they began to avoid him, moving quietly out of his way. His ears were still pointed, but they no longer moved to command and sound, which had once been clear and loud, grew faint and vanished all together without his even being consciously aware of its passing.

He was tall as a grown man which was good for picking food, but harder too, as there was more of him to feed. It seemed like he was always hungry, always chilled without clothes.

He saw no one from his Circle and was bitterly amused. Friends of a had been like a brother.

For his brother he had sacrificed everything. The least the King could have done was see to it he didn't starve too soon.

He still retained his magic. Some of it. There was a residual, small pool of miracle that lay deep inside him. He carefully protected it, keeping it safe for an emergency. All the basic powers were gone what was left was the forceful life-magic, and Doyle refused to use it on mundane things like hungers.

He wandered on, following the water downstream because it was easiest and the healing herbs and food berries were abundant. He had no plans, except to avoid all humans and live. Whether the two ideas were compatible was a debatable question and he was arguing with himself when he heard the voice.

"What the bloody hell are you doing in my garden?"

He looked up and was drowning in sapphire eyes whose sparking anger only made them more beautiful. Doyle swallowed and tore his gaze from the human in the path to stare at the ground. He didn't answer. Couldn't find his voice even if he wanted to.

Brida's spell had worked.

"Well?" The man took a step nearer, impatience in every line of his leanly muscled body. Doyle fixed his gaze on the man's shoes and remained motionless. Helpless to fight the giddy waves of hunger, exhaustion, and a new pain that burned through him, he just stood, imagining he heard the Queen's mocking laughter in the rustle of leaves overhead.

"Oh for Chrissake," the man came closer. "What is this? Some prank? What are you? A hippie flower child?" The dark haired human took in his unwelcome visitor's bruised and naked body, shadowed with the changing patterns of light through green. "Yeh, nature's child. Well go elevate your consciousness somewhere else, mate. You're trespassing."

The man turned away and Doyle felt an almost physical wretch of pain. "No! Wait! Please...."

The man turned back and stood, hands on hips, legs planted firmly in the path, one eyebrow raised. "It speaks."

The voice was mocking and low. Doyle fought the insidious pleasure that wound through him with rising resentment.

"I have not injured" He said it carefully and met the man's eyes proudly. "I was not aware I was trespassing." He stumbled over the last word, one that was new to him though he clearly understood the meaning.

"Who beat the shit out of you?"

Doyle shrugged.

"Are you lost? Where's your clothes?"

Questions...always questions. His head hurt and the man's voice was fading in and out. After two days of cold, suddenly he was burning hot, the sweat clammy against his heated skin. There was a wonderful smell coming from beyond the man and it knotted his stomach into an audible growl. "Lost?" he mumbled, a little confused. Too much at once....

The man was watching closely. He caught the slight figure as it toppled and slung him negligently over one shoulder.

Two robins flew close, chattering wildly. The man growled "Shut up" at them and stalked back along the path to the small cottage hidden in the close knit trees.

Sounds infiltrated his sleep with comfortable ease. It was raining--the slow gentle wet rain he preferred. And there was a fire crackling cheerfully to one side.

He was warm, dry, and terribly hungry.

Doyle stirred and felt an unfamiliar scratchy softness fold around him. "Mmmmmm...."

"Waking up?"

His eyes flew open. The man was across the room on one knee before the fireplace, a long wicked looking black rod held easily between competent fingers. Like a lightning shock memory returned and Doyle sat up, his eyes wild and trapped, glowing their odd green from behind long tousled curls. "Where are we?"

"Original," the man approved. "You have been kippin' away in my only bed all day, mate."

Doyle nodded and looked around vaguely. It was enough that he was alone with...him. He forced himself to look with some interest at his surroundings. It was a one room stone dwelling, lit golden by faintly smoking lamps, and divided naturally into three areas.

That same delicious smell was coming from one of those areas and Doyle sniffed appreciatively.

For the first time the man smiled. Doyle blinked, a little overwhelmed by so much beauty. Even though he knew it was the Queen's spell, the feeling was there all the same and again he fought it.

"Hungry? You look half-starved. It'll be good," the man rose in a graceful gesture and set the black rod carefully aside, "to have someone treasure my culinary genius."

A minute later Doyle was handed a bowl and a metal thing and told, "Get yerself round that, mate. Compliments to the chef are accepted."

The Elf eyed the stew warily, then glanced at his host who had already recrossed the room to get his own dish.

There was a long, comfortable looking thing by the fire and the man settled on it and began to eat, spooning up the stew with apparent relish.

One touch told Doyle this concoction was too hot for finger food. He surreptitiously watched the man and awkwardly maneuvered the metal thing into position, narrowly avoiding a spill as the stew sizzled his tongue.

"'S'hot," the man warned him a second later, "but filling."

Doyle barely heard him. He had discovered the trick of it and was devouring the stew, one quick spoonful after another.

"Slow down--you'll bust something. You got a name?"

Surprised, the Elf looked up. "Doyle."

"'M'Bodie," the man told him. "Now you goin' to explain your naked presence in my garden?"

Doyle remembered their conversation on the path and grasped at it. "I was lost."

"From your...tribe, or whatever you call it?"

"Circle. It's a Circle."

"Oh very meaningful. What happened?"

Doyle hesitated. He'd heard stories about humans and what happened to unwary fairie folk. And he had no magic to protect himself...nothing but that deep inner resource--"I was banished," he said and looked away.

"Not very politely either by the look of it. But you seem to be healing," Bodie finished his stew and set his dish aside. "You need a bath and a haircut and shave and some clothes. In the morning we'll get you down to the authorities."

"No!" Empty dish and spoon went flying as Doyle tumbled heedlessly out of the bed. He took a shaky step in Bodie's direction, then glanced at the door.

Bodie watched him for a moment and finally shrugged. "All right."

"No more humans," Doyle said.

"I said 'all right'," Bodie reminded lazily. "Look mate, I'm not all that pleased about the human race meself right now. Relax."

Doyle sat back on the bed, still trembling. Which had hit hardest? The thought of the teeming pools of humans or of leaving Bodie? He didn't know, it was all too confusing. All he understood was that Bodie had said he wouldn't send him away yet.

Doyle looked up, met the bland dark blue eyes and smiled.

Bodie stared at him for a long time then blinked and looked away, moving sharply to pick up his dish. "I've been heating water. All we've got is an old tin tub, but a bath's a bath, right?"

Doyle leaned back in the almost too hot water and sighed. He'd never had a heated bath before--humans, he decided, occasionally had it all over fairie folk. He stared unseeingly into the fireplace flames and totally relaxed, letting the warmth seep into muscle and bone, easing aches he didn't know he'd had.

He could hear Bodie behind him as the man moved about in the area he called a kitchen. Sounds of crockery jangled pleasantly with the sizzle of more water heating. Doyle ran an exploratory hand over his newly washed and cut hair. It was still fairly long--he hadn't been able to say goodbye to all of it yet and Bodie didn't seem to care one way or the other. The searching hand followed the curve of his now smooth face and one finger moved over his right ear. Smaller, though still determinably pointed, it tingled as he touched it and he smiled faintly when the tingle spread swiftly to his groin and throbbed. An Elf's most erotic zone--his ears. Well, that hadn't left him anyway, though he had the feeling that a little judicious self-exploration would unearth a few new pleasure producing areas.

He took the musky smelling bar Bodie had given him and rubbed himself with it experimentally. Nice--the lather fascinated him and by the time Bodie returned with a steaming bucket every inch of him had been thoroughly soaped.

"You look like someone poured too much detergent in the laundry," Bodie told him. "Foaming. Ready to have yourself rinsed?"

Doyle nodded, then gasped as hot water was unceremoniously dumped on his head. Sputtering, he pushed his hair back and, about to make a laughing protest, froze at the expression on Bodie's face.

The man reached out a hand and hesitantly ran one finger over the point of his ear. Immediately the tingle returned, enhanced an uncontrollable thousandfold because the toucher was Bodie. Doyle closed his eyes, forcing himself to concentrate on pushing the feeling away. It was unwanted, unneeded...but his traitorous body turned into the touch and he made a small pleasured sound.

The hand withdrew and Bodie straightened, his face once again blank of expression. "All done," he said lightly and took the empty bucket with him as he moved away. "There's a towel on the sofa. Coffee?"

With no clear idea what he was being offered Doyle agreed and reluctantly stood. Bodie, like all humans, had small, rounded ears--wasn't he going to ask for an explanation? Demand to know what sort of...freak he was harbouring?

Evidently not. They drank the faintly bitter black drink Bodie produced in silence, Doyle seated on the sofa wrapped in a voluminous towel, Bodie curled in a self-absorbed ball on the braided rug.

Doyle watched as the man he was so reluctantly drawn toward stared into the flames, and knew he'd been forgotten. Bodie, for all his self-sufficient devil-take-the-world demeanor, was a deeply troubled human. Doyle didn't know how he knew--but he did, and part of him longed to do something, anything, to take away some of the pain he saw etched into the lines on the man's for once unguarded face.

Desire and resentment warred and gradually resentment took the battle. Bodie was a human, all this...affection, this need, was merely a spell. As the Elf continued his descent to the man's level the spell would diminish. He was grateful he hadn't met Bodie until now when so much of the susceptible Elf had vanished. Now--now he could fight. Keep Bodie at a distance--never again let the man touch him, especially not the ears, and maybe he could walk away from here with a shred of self-respect.

Only he wished Bodie wouldn't look so sad and--lonely. And he wished he didn't remember the feel of those capable fingers on his ears.

Doyle snuggled deeper into the cushioned sofa. Another very nice human invention, sofas. Cushions and warmth and fire and rain....

He closed his slanted eyes and slept.

He was running, across the moss to the water, and beside him ran his brother, the King. They were laughing, slipping on the slick green carpet, unconcerned with problems, their hair braided with flowers. Doyle won the mock race, aware he'd been allowed to win, not caring in the least. With one foot in the stream he looked over his shoulder.

The Circle surrounded him and Luath was pointing. "Not fit to be an Elf...."

Pain and Brida laughing.

"You'll know what it feels like.... It's not enough...not enough...."

Doyle's eyes flew open to the sundrenched room and he lay frozen, willing the nightmare to fade.

It had been a dream, a dream, that was all...but so real...focus on reality.

He turned his head and found that he was once again in Bodie's bed, while his host was stretched out on the long sofa, a gentle snore echoing peacefully around the room.

Doyle slipped out of bed and padded silently to the door and out. Nature attended to, he returned and sat by the last glowing remains of the fire, his eyes fixed on the sleeping man.

Though evidently Bodie had begun his sleep wrapped in a blanket, the bright cover had been tossed aside during the night. Bodie was naked, tan lines apparent against pale, almost translucent skin. Dark hair curled on his forehead and black lashes curved on his cheeks like one of Brida's children. His chest, rising evenly as he breathed, was almost hairless, the only color the rosy brown nipples.

The Elf's gaze moved lower, fascinated. Bodie's waist was narrow and a fine line of black hair led his eyes farther, to the man's groin. Half hard with an erection, Bodie was like some proud jungle cat, young and confident, even in sleep.

And Bodie turned, dislodging the book that had been tangled in the blanket. Doyle leaned over and picked up the volume curiously.

He knew how to read, of course. They all did because a long time ago Luath had decided they should learn. Too many Circles had died due to a lack of knowledge of the all encroaching violent humans. So they learned and some of the Circle had kept up the skill, slipping in and out of human dwellings, using their magic to whisk whatever they wanted along with them. They came back with stories of how the silly humans would never suspect, blaming each other for the disappearance and eventual return of property.

After his initial learning Doyle had never been interested enough to continue reading. He traced the black lines of print in front of him and willed the skill to return. Humans set a lot of store on reading--besides he had much to learn if he was to fit into this strange world.

This one had an interesting title. CELTIC MYTHS AND LEGENDS. He raised an eyebrow and fought a smile as he turned the pages, each one quicker than the next as he reacquainted himself with the words.

So Bodie hadn't just dismissed his ears after all. Instead he had done the human thing--he'd looked it up. That made sense. Elves, Doyle read, were mythical creatures who had once been followers of the Celtic god Luatha. Following some defeat at the hands of one tribe or another--or possibly one god or another, the book wasn't too clear on this point--they had gone to the underworld and somehow turned into the Little People.

What utter rot! He was still grinning when he looked up and met Bodie's wide awake blue eyes.

He knows, Doyle thought, he knows. He closed the book carefully and handed it back, silent.

Bodie sat up, pulling the blanket with him, and yawned. He fixed Doyle with a hard stare. "Well, Doylemate, are you real or did things get so bad I simply lost my mind?"

"I'm real."

Bodie sighed. "I was afraid of that." He glanced at the book, then back to his guest.

Doyle shook his head, "That's not right."

"You're almost as tall as me and your ears are bloody well pointed."

"I told you--I was banished. When the moon is full I'll be as human as you."

A pained expression crossed Bodie's face and was gone, "Don't be mate. It's not bloody worth it."

"I've not got much choice," Doyle was philosophical.

"Is any of that book true?"

"Not much."

Bodie yawned again. "I suppose if I borrow a cottage in this area I ought to expect these things. You hungry?"

"One of the few things the book got right," Doyle relaxed a little at the man's casual attitude, "we're always hungry."

Bodie's skin-tight cords fit him loosely and the pullover's sleeves reached below his hands, but Doyle didn't mind. He pushed the sleeves up to his elbows and followed his provider out of the cottage, down the hill towards the sound of running water.

They each carried two buckets.

"Used up all I had on your bath," Bodie told him. "We'll have to stock up."

Leading the way, Bodie glanced back, "I never thought--does the light bother you?"

"No," Doyle was preoccupied in finding out how well he could move. All the physical pain was gone, only a few minor bruises showing where only two days ago he'd been a mess. "I'm Sylvan, not Grey."

"Eh? Mind the root there."

"Sylvan. It's a type of Elf." Doyle skirted the treacherous, half-hidden root of a giant tree. "Grey Elves can't abide sunlight."

Bodie went on, not answering. The stream was not far. Bodie filled his buckets and waited for Doyle.

"Over there to the south this goes into a little lake. There's a waterfall." Bodie was matter-of-fact. "I usually bath there. 'S easier."

The trip back up the hill was more difficult. Bodie eyed him critically at the top. "Can you make another round?"

"0f course."

But once back at the stream the man indicated they should relax. Doyle stretched out, carefully away from Bodie, and let his head fall back, soaking up the sun. "Bodie?"


"Why aren't you surprised?"

"I spent several years too many in Africa, mate. I saw things there I still don't believe. Besides, me ol' Gran believed. I was raised on stories about your lot."


"And nobody human has ears and eyes like yours."

Doyle's eyes were closed. He didn't see the hand that reached out to him, didn't hear the soft rustle as Bodie moved closer.

One finger touched the point of his ear and lingered. Caught by surprise, Doyle was defenseless. He sucked a deep breath and a shudder went full-length through his body.

"Does it hurt?" Bodie sounded surprised.

"No," Doyle turned his head to allow further access but the touch was gone and he almost groaned. Frustration...and relief hit him in equal waves. At that moment he didn't know who he hated most--Bodie, Brida, Luath...himself. Not looking at the man, he stood up and reached for his full buckets. "Think I'll go back."

"Suit yourself," Bodie was watching a pair of bright-eyed robins across the stream.

In his haste he forgot the root and took an ungainly fall, loosing half his buckets' load onto the already sodden ground.

"Bloody 'ell!" he repeated Bodie's phrase and liked the way it rolled off his tongue. One more thing to file away. He gathered his pails and lumbered the rest of the way to the cottage. There was a lot to learn, starting with remembering to keep his wits about him. Bodie must not be allowed to touch him again or he wouldn't answer for the consequences.


"I don't know why. Because."

"That's not an answer."

"Leave it out, Doyle. I told you. I don't fuckin' know."

Doyle looked up. "What's that?"

"What's what?"


Bodie shook his head. "Screwin', mate. Carnal knowledge. Christ, how do you make baby elves?"

"Spells," Doyle told him, puzzled. He understood what the word meant, but not why Bodie was blushing. "You're talking about making love."

"No, I'm talkin' about fuckin' and that's an entirely different thing," Bodie stood up and went into the kitchen. "What sort of spells?"

"Ones to make young Elves. Why is it different?"

Bodie's face was still turned away, but Doyle could see his neck was getting even redder. "No feeling."

Doyle stayed silent, still trying to understand. It always felt good to him.

Bodie came back with two glasses of amber liquid. "Whiskey. Try it."

Doyle tasted the liquor and coughed. "That's horrible!"

"Acquired taste," Bodie took a long sip. "Try it again. Slower."

Doyle hesitated, but Bodie was watching, almost daring him. He copied the man's movement, rolling the strong drink around his mouth before swallowing. Almost immediately a heavy warmth hit his stomach and began to spread throughout his body. He closed his eyes, leaning back against the sofa, the better to explore another new sensation.

Bodie laughed, a harsh sound that nonetheless vibrated down the Elf's spine.

"I thought your lot invented this stuff."

Doyle finished his glass and held it out. "Another misconception. More."

"You sure?"


Cynical amusement crossed Bodie's face as he went for the bottle.

A little later Doyle asked, "How long have I been here?"

"Six days."


Another silence. Doyle was on his third double and was feeling very relaxed. Looking through slitted eyes he watched Bodie poke at the fire, then settle in front of it, staring again into the flames. "Bodie?"

No answer.

Six days, this was their sixth night then. Idly Doyle plucked at the latest novel he'd been reading. There were book filled shelves by the bed, he'd spent most of his time devouring one volume after another, asking Bodie to explain whatever he didn't understand. The man had been very patient really, considering the circumstances. Mostly, Doyle thought, because it gave Bodie something to do, something else to think about, other than whatever it was that caused those pained facial lines to appear.

He wondered again what horrors Bodie saw in the flames and why he dwelt on them night after night. And again he wanted to take away the pain.

Was that how Brida had felt about him? Somehow he doubted it. Brida's interest was purely sexual--was that what Bodie meant by fuckin'? Sad, then.

His fingers itched to touch the short curling dark hair that gleamed in the firelight. Tonight no one had bothered to light the lamps. The flames cast flickering shadows around the room. Doyle finished his drink, liking the giddy sensations that had begun to overtake him. He was letting down his guard, but somehow it didn't matter. He felt the rising tension in his groin and welcomed it as he watched Bodie slowly breathing.

Making love with a male was every bit as good as with a female, he had discovered long ago. It never really mattered to him as long as the feeling was right. All the books however, had told him that with most humans it was different. Men and women lay together--same sex partnerships were not considered normal in this day and age.

Something else he didn't understand, but had to accept.

It gave his desire for the man an even more dangerous edge. An exciting edge.

He smiled and started to rise.

Bodie glanced around. "I'm going to bed."

Doyle settled back again. Bodie's tone was flat and didn't invite company. "It's my turn for the sofa."

Bodie merely nodded. He got up and walked to the bed, stripping as he went. Doyle watched, making no secret of it, but Bodie never turned, slipping naked between sheets and blankets. A few minutes later his breathing evened and Doyle knew he was asleep.

It was a quiet night. The Elf went to the door, wandering out into the tiny glade that surrounded the cottage. The moon was high and silver, a little more than half full. Less than one week, Doyle thought, and the transformation will be complete.

He stood, swaying slightly in the light breeze, and tried to remember his life with the Circle. It was slipping away, little by little, as humanity crowded in. Even his ears were beginning to round out.

Bodie had asked if they hurt and he had answered 'No'. But there were many kinds of pain. He had lived among his Circle as a loner, only really close to the King to whom he'd given loyalty, respect, friendship--even love. Not the love he had for Bodie....

Odd, that. It should be decreasing as he became more human. And in a way it was. The physical aspect was still there certainly, but now there was something different growing inside him and he didn't know how to fight it. This was a human emotion and completely new.

There were many kinds of pain, and just as many kinds of love.

Somewhere off in the distance an animal cried out and was silenced in mid-scream. Inside the cottage another cry sounded, just as frightened and hopeless as the first.

Doyle whirled around and ran inside.

Bodie was sitting straight up in his bed, sweat drenched and pale, eyes wide and unseeing as he shook.

Doyle stopped his headlong flight at the bedside and stood feeling helpless. "Bodie?"

The man was still caught in the relentless grip of his dream. He stared at the wall and didn't answer.

"Bodie, it's a nightmare," Doyle said, and hesitantly reached out. "It's all right. You're all right."

But Bodie tore away from his touch and lashed at him viciously. "Don't!"

Seriously alarmed and well aware that Bodie wouldn't intentionally hurt him, Doyle came back, throwing himself over the flailing body that tried to push him away. "Bodie--it's me--Doyle! I'm not going to hurt you...relax...."

He continued talking, managing to avoid most of the uncoordinated blows as he fit himself, octopus-like, around the human.

As suddenly as it started, it stopped. Bodie collapsed back, taking Doyle with him, and sanity returned to the blue eyes.

They stared at each other for a long time.

"You're all right," Doyle finally said. "It was just a dream."

Bodie nodded and closed his eyes, but his grip on Doyle stayed firm.

"You should talk about it."


"The books say...."

"Fuck the bloody books!" Bodie released him and edged away. "Go back to sleep."

"I wasn't sleeping." Doyle didn't move. "Bodie, will you tell me something?"

"Will you leave me the hell alone?"

"Why are you here?"

"I've already told you. I've been seconded out of the Paras into the SAS and I'm on leave. Now go away."

Doyle smiled at the tensely muscled back presented to him and rubbed one hand up Bodie's spine. The man stiffened, but didn't stop him.

"I've been reading up on the Paras," Doyle said conversationally. He knew he was pushing and didn't care. Alcohol buzzed through his system, giving him reckless courage, though he didn't think it would have made a difference. The hurt independence in Bodie's face and voice had become more than he could bear.

Bodie's head bent slightly, giving his massaging fingers better access.

Doyle continued, his voice low and calm, "I don't pretend to understand yet, but I will. You do a lot of good things."

No answer--but he knew the man was listening. "What did you do before that?"

"I killed people."

Doyle never hesitated. "Why?"

"It seemed like a good idea at the time." Bodie suddenly rolled over and faced him. "What are you on about?"

They lay face-to-face, not quite touching, barely visible as the fire died. Doyle smiled a little. "Nothing. I'm curious is all."

Bodie ignored him. "I know what you want. 'S fine with me, I've no objection...."

Doyle found himself pinned to the bed on his back with Bodie's full weight on top of him. Both his hands were caught over his head in one of the man's while Bodie's other hand shifted between them to stroke across his groin in an ungentle gesture. "That's what you want, you little fairy."

"Elf," Doyle corrected automatically and did not try to escape. There was a violence inside Bodie--it would only feed the energy if he fought back now. "Sylvan Elf. But not much anymore."

"Yeh, I'd noticed," Bodie said and sank his teeth into Doyle's ear.

A moment later he picked himself up from the floor where Doyle had unceremoniously thrown him. "What the hell'd you do that for?"

Doyle was standing by the bed, one hand to his head. "I didn't want to get fucked," he said and went to the door. "Don't ever touch my ears again."

The door slammed behind him and Bodie shook his still ringing head. "Bloody Elf--how'd he do that?"


The shout echoed through the inner forest where the trees grew so tall and thick, sunlight never pierced through the heavy foliage. Doyle sat in the afternoon darkness at the base of a towering oak and ignored the cry.


The voice was closer. The Elf drew his knees up and rested his arms on them. His head pounded, he felt sick, and he wished the shouting would just stop.

Nonetheless, he was surprised when it did. He looked up and frowned.

Bodie had somehow managed to find him and stood glaring furiously at the rather pathetic picture he knew he presented. Sighing, Doyle leaned his head against the tree trunk. "Don't shout," he ordered in a whisper.

Quite abruptly the glare faded and Bodie smiled. "Hangover. You look terrible. Feel like you'd be better off dead, don't you?"

Doyle just groaned and closed his eyes.

"Never mind, mate, it happens to us all." Bodie slipped off his backpack and sat beside him. "What you need is Gran Bodie's sure cure for what ails thee."

He rummaged through the pack and drew forth several items. "Here."

Doyle took the proffered pills and eyed the thermos suspiciously. "What's in there?"

"Soda water. Have you been sick?"

"Most of the day. What do I do with these?"

"Swallow 'em. Go on. Yeh, now just lie back and relax."

He managed just barely to keep the tablets down then followed Bodie's advice, using the backpack as a pillow.

Bodie was looking around. "I've never been here before."

"'S Circle land."

"You mean...." Bodie made a face. "All your kith and kin. I don't see anything."

"There's nothing to see. We're well off from them." Doyle sounded sleepy.


Doyle was about asleep when Bodie said, "About last night...."

"What about it?"

"I'm not always rational when I dream."

The pills, whatever they were, seemed to be working. Doyle yawned. "I wish you'd tell me what it's about."

He didn't think Bodie would answer, was almost dozing when the man said, quietly, "There was a village in Africa. Not much of a place, mostly natives except for the missionary and his family."

"What 'appened?"

"I was a mercenary. Paid to fight. Part of my duties were weekly visits there to get supplies--medicine and things from the missionary. We were doing jungle battles against what he considered to be the godless Commie horde, so he'd order in for us and I'd collect it. Sometimes...I stayed for dinner. There was a wife and two kids. Nice kids, little girls. Jane and Kelly." Bodie half-laughed. "I still have their pictures."

Doyle waited.

"One night--I don't know why--the guerrilla forces attacked the village. It was wholesale slaughter--you could see the fire for miles before the damn rain put it out."

"Must have been terrible."

"It took us forever to get there. Of course it was way too late."

"Everybody dead?" Doyle left off wondering what a missionary was, hearing the horror in Bodie's voice.

"No. They left the women and children. Raped a few, cut off their hands and feet, then handed 'em to the dogs."

Doyle felt sick. This was humanity? "What did you do?"

"What do you think? There was nothing to do!"

'I killed people,' Bodie had said. Doyle asked, "The little girls?"

Bodie shook his head. Without thinking Doyle reached out a hand and grasped the man's, squeezing hard. "If it was me," he said truthfully, "I'd still be thanking you."

Slowly Bodie returned the pressure and Doyle felt him relax a bit.

"Is that when you left the mercenaries?"

"A couple of months later. When my contract was up." Bodie sounded as weary as he looked. "The dreams didn't start til I was safe home."

"It's time to let it go," Doyle told him. "You can't carry the guilt like that."

Bodie stiffened, pulling his hand away, "Leave it, Doyle. 'S not your problem."

If he had to fall in love, Doyle thought irritably, why did it have to be with a screwed up, impossible ex-mercenary? He got to his feet swaying as the painkillers continued to flood his virgin system, and, hands on hips, glared down at the man. "Why?" he demanded.

Bodie raised one eyebrow. "Why what?"

"Why won't you let anybody be close?"

"Tried that," Bodie pointed out laconically, "last night. You weren't interested."

"Not in being fucked. I meant...," the Elf waved a vague impatient hand. "Emotionally close."

Bodie shrugged, "What for? In a couple of days I'll be gone. You want a lesson on humanity, mate? Don't get involved. I never do."

Doyle snorted, "That's why you carry around pictures of two little girls, right?"

"Sod you." Bodie was on his feet in one move and going away.


He was ignored and in a second Bodie would be gone. Doyle ran four steps and tackled the man.

They fell unhurt onto the soft moss and twisted, each aiming for the upper hand, neither really wanting to hurt the other. Eventually Bodie's superior weight and training told and he lay heavily on Doyle, panting slightly, glaring into brilliant green eyes.

Doyle wriggled but found it only brought him closer to where he most wanted to be. Gasping a little at Bodie's weight and the unwanted rising feelings it evoked, he licked at dry lips and stared back at the ex-mercenary.

The moment seemed to stretch and the forest noise dimmed. Bodie whispered, "Bloody hell," and lowered his head.

The first touch of lips against Doyle's mouth warmed the Elf, and he relaxed a bit. Bodie's hands tangled in his hair and held his head still. Doyle opened his eyes, meeting the man's. "No...."

"Yes," Bodie insisted and this time the kiss was hard, demanding his response.

Doyle melted.

Bodie broke the kiss and buried his face in the Elf's neck, licking and nipping upwards until he latched onto one earlobe. He sucked on it gently and Doyle groaned as the jolt went through him.

"Bodie...Bodie please...." He pushed at the man's broad shoulders.

"Like that, do you?" Bodie's words were warm as his breath in the Elf's ear. He shifted a little and insinuated one large palm between their bodies, finding the bulge in Doyle's borrowed jeans. "Oh yeh, you like that. Feel it, Little Man?"

Doyle thrust against the working fingers that outlined his growing length, twisting closer, "Yes...."

Bodie chuckled low in his throat and manipulated the button and zip while he nuzzled at the Elf's neck. "Come on, mate...yeh, that's're a hot one, aren't you...." He leaned away, still looking amused, and began to run his hand up under Doyle's shirt. "Take it off."

Doyle lifted up obediently under encouraging, if hard, hands then sat back and watched as Bodie followed suit. "Bodie...."

The man emerged from under his shirt. "Anxious?"

"Wait--no, listen!" Doyle scuttled just out of reach. "One more lesson--teach me one more thing."

"Just one?" Bodie smiled. "You're far too good at learnin' for that, mate."

"Teach me," Doyle persisted, "the difference."

Bodie moved unexpectedly, capturing the Elf's feet, spreading his unresisting legs. "What difference?"

"Between fucking," Doyle hissed as those hands traveled slowly up to his thighs, "and making love."

Bodie's eyes were devilish bright. "I already did, Little Man."

"How?" Doyle watched, fascinated, as the dark hair lowered towards his straining groin.

Bodie's tongue touched the tip of Doyle's hard length and lapped the line of moisture there. "Well," he glanced up and smiled that amazingly sweet smile, "you're not flat on your belly with grass stains on your balls and me cock in your bloody arse, are you?"

Unable to speak, Doyle shook his head.

"That's as close as I get to makin' love, mate. Now shut up."

Bodie bent his head again and engulfed the burning cock in one move.

Oh gods, why had he waited, fought these incredible sensations rippling through him? Doyle fell back on the soft moss, moaning Bodie's name, his fingers knotting into the short dark waves of Bodie's hair.

Bodie massaged his thighs, parting them further as Doyle relaxed. One hand slipped between the Elf's legs, moist and hot as fingers touched the ring of muscle there. Bodie teased until, almost whimpering, Doyle lifted.

Bodie left sucking the hard cock with a reluctant final lick and moved between the Elf's legs, "Relax, mate."

Doyle cried out as one finger entered him slowly, pressing the sensitive muscle into acceptance. The finger was joined by another and he squeezed his eyes shut, biting his lip until it bled.

"Too much?" Bodie slowed the rhythm. "God, you're tight."

"Don't stop!"


The fingers were removed and his legs lifted, spread wide, and gently, gradually, Bodie became a part of him.

Doyle opened his eyes, blinking away the sweat as the pain eased into pleasure. Bodie was poised above him, pale in the shadowed light, every muscle held in taut control as he fought his own body's demands.

"Do me," Doyle whispered and when Bodie didn't seem to hear he repeated it, loud--ordering--and moved the final inch to bring them completely together.

Bodie ground down then, twisting, filling every bit of him, over and over as he thrust into the Elf.

Doyle felt the familiar, yet somehow different, better, gathering inside himself and reached for his own cock, but Bodie's hand was there first, gripping the velvet hardness. He moved it to his own rhythm, his head flung back, eyes tightly closed, body covered with a sweat sheen..

To Doyle he was beautiful.

The fire in him centered and burst and he came, the thick fluid splashing high on his chest. Bodie's movement became erratic, then he tensed, sucked a deep breath and Doyle felt the pulsing shaft deep within him release. Hot waves filled him and spread when the man moved again, as if Bodie were reluctant to stop, intent on giving his very essence to the Elf.

Without knowing why he did it Doyle rubbed a hand over his own chest, smearing the moisture there and lifted his fingers to Bodie's lips. The man kissed the tips lightly then sucked first one finger then the other into his mouth, running his tongue round the knuckles, making a small satisfied sound as he tasted Doyle's gift.

Bodie sighed and opened his eyes, then bent and kissed the Elf as he slipped from him. "That was good," he said and rolled aside to lay on his back, one hand flung over his eyes.

Feeling a little lost and chilled without Bodie's blanket heat to cover him, Doyle moved closer to the man. "Bodie?"

As if he understood without being told Bodie held out his near arm and gathered the Elf to him. Doyle draped himself comfortably around his human, settled his head on the hard cushion of Bodie's shoulder and fell into a satiated bundle of sleep.

When he awoke the shadows had shifted, the colors golden as somewhere far away from the forest the sun performed the day's finale. Doyle turned his head a little. In the almost darkness he could barely see Bodie, but the scent of their lovemaking lingered in a tantalizing mix with crushed moss and leaves. The feel of the human's hard body lay all along his and one possessive arm still curved around him.

Bodie was deeply asleep, his face relaxed into a childish smile that tore at Doyle because he knew when the man awoke the hard lines would return. But perhaps, just perhaps, he had taken away some of the pain and guilt, if only for awhile.

He wished he could take it away forever. Doyle carefully eased one arm free and ran a hand from Bodie's hip to his neck, liking the feel of the warm skin that seemed to rise to his touch. Inside himself he could feel the fading life magic pulsing deeply.

There was a way to set Bodie free. But he would have to do it before long or it would be too late--his magic would be gone. A little sadly he traced the line of Bodie's lips and smiled when the man murmured his name and snuggled closer. He could take away Bodie's pain, but it was a tangible thing and would have to go somewhere--and like Bodie's pain, he too would have to leave.

But not today. Not now.

He leaned over and kissed the human awake, teasing him out of a pleasant sleep into a better reality, his hands touching Bodie everywhere.

Bodie blinked once and reached for him, "What now, Goldilocks?"

"Again," Doyle demanded intensely. "And again. Now."

Bodie chuckled and pulled him down.

Doyle gazed down at Bodie and smiled faintly. The big man had fallen into a deep sleep, dreamless by the relaxed look of him. The natural arch of dark brows, the long black lashes and pouting mouth made him seem much closer to a child when he slept like this.

The Elf slid out of bed, carefully crawling from the arms that seemed determined to hold him. He dressed slowly in the clothes that fit him best--though it was apparent he would never be Bodie's size--and wandered, aimless, about the small cottage.

As always the sleeves of Bodie's sweater were too long and, still used to the flimsy silken Elf-clothing, he pushed them restlessly above his elbows out of the way.

The moon was rising full over the forest. He could feel the pull of it deep within his center where his life magic still throbbed. Soon...soon now he would go out into the silver light and complete his descent.

Eventually he stood in front of the banked fire, seeing in his mind's eye for the last time the faces of those in his Circle. Some he had liked, some he had disliked, one he had loved, but mostly he had ignored them. So why now were there tears on his cheeks? They had cast him out--there was no room in the Circle for him anymore.

He could no longer feel anger, or even disgust, with Brida. She had brought him Bodie, and what had begun as spellbound desire for the ex-mercenary had become real human love.

No regrets. He was glad he had physically expressed his feeling for the man--and that Bodie seemed to have some feeling for him. It would have to be enough. There was no time for more.

Impatiently he brushed the two lonely tears away and heaped himself on the sofa. He had decisions to make before it was too late and his magic drained away, unused.

Idly he picked up one of the newspapers Bodie had brought with him from the village a couple of days before.

"Find out about today's lousy world," the human had said, tossing the bundle in his direction. And while Bodie had unpacked the basket of supplies Doyle had absorbed the contents of each paper, reading the same stories seen through the eyes of different writers.

When Bodie joined him he pointed to one account in the Times, "This one talks about the 'unprecedented actions of an unpredictable man' and The Observer called him an anarchist."

Bodie skimmed the story over his shoulder and tapped the accompanying picture. "That's George Cowley, mate."

There was an unusual tone in Bodie's voice.

"What's so special about him?"

Bodie opened his mouth, then closed it again, shrugging. "Someday I'd like to work for him," he said finally.

Respect. Doyle's mind supplied the word now as he looked at the picture of MI5's George Cowley. That tone in Bodie's voice...the man didn't look all that special--but then the pictures of the Royal family hadn't impressed him much either at first. He was used to incredible beauty in his Royalty. It had taken him awhile to see the character in the faces--to understand that the inside was far more important than outer appearances for humans, too.

No matter what he looked like in a blurry news photo, Bodie respected this Cowley person, and Doyle was sure it was a tribute his lover rarely bestowed. It made him a little jealous--he'd like to hear Bodie speak of him in a similar manner. With Bodie respect had to be earned.

Ruefully he put that paper aside, then picked it up again, going back to one of the second page stories that had engaged his interest from his first reading. It was about some trouble in South London, rival gangs (a term Bodie had rather impatiently explained) were causing the locals problems, and the police had been called inciting in numbers.

A house had caught fire during the ensuing battle, trapping a young woman and her baby inside--and in a rare moment of unity a policeman and two gang members did a quick job of rescuing. The gang members Doyle dismissed. The policeman intrigued him despite the fact Bodie had nothing good to say about them as a whole.

'A bunch of bloody crooked coppers on the take,' Bodie had judged harshly.

'They can't all be that way,' Doyle protested.

'You'd have to prove it,' Bodie told him, 'and there's no way for that. So take my word.'

But inwardly Doyle still protested. Maybe, he thought suddenly, maybe I can prove it; give Bodie back a little belief in the system....

But there were other things to do and he was wasting time. The moon was pulling harder, the change would soon be complete.

Doyle arose slowly and went back to the bed. Bodie was nude, flat on his stomach with one arm outflung and the other curled tight around a pillow by his side in the place where Doyle had been.

The Elf touched the dark head once more, feeling the short waves springy with health under his fingers. He closed his eyes, summoning some of the energy within him, and spoke softly.

"I command thee, William Andrew Philip Bodie, to forget the Sylvan Elf, Doyle. To never remember that he or his Circle exist, to only remember that thou hast enjoyed a peaceful holiday alone in this forest."

Doyle paused, then steeled himself and added, "I further command thee to lose thy guilt for the sins of this world which thou bears so deeply. Give them to me." He sucked a deep breath as a painful heavy weight seeped like black evil from the sleeping man into himself. But his reward was instantaneous. Bodie seemed to completely relax under his hand, and a faint smile appeared on the human's firelit face.

Doyle withdrew his fingers reluctantly. "Someday--when we're ready--I'll find you again. I have to prove myself first, find out about your world. It may take awhile, mate. Don't die."

He turned away then came back and one finger stroked down the man's back. "Pleasant dreams, mate. Sleep well."

Bodie snuggled deeper into the covers and sighed as the cabin door closed softly behind the Elf.

The first bullet took him in the chest, spreading pain and blood and milk and shattered glass. Doyle was thrown back and fell, still conscious, watching as the oriental girl advanced.

This was it then. He was going to die.

Her hand moved, he could hear the metallic click of the hammer, the sound of a silenced bullet, then the explosion of pain...but he should be dead....

He watched as she went out the windows. She would set off the alarms...Bodie would come....

He lay motionless, feeling the blood pump out of him efficiently. Bodie would come...he had to stay alive until Bodie came...concentrate, Ray...just a little longer...hurry, mate...too much...too much pain...too much death....

He opened his eyes and Bodie was there, bending over him with a terrible blank look on his face.

Don't help me, mate, just stay here, I don't want to die alone...but Bodie went away and he had to hang on a little longer. He closed his eyes and dreamed about a little cottage in the forest.

They put him on a stretcher and wheeled him down for a noisy ambulance ride through crowded streets. Bodie sat beside him and he tried to smile at his partner before he died. He would have liked to say a few things, too, but he had no strength and the pain was too bad. He'd left it too long it seemed. more look at you, mate...bloody 'ell, don't have that expression on your face when I die...I hurt enough....

Warm fingers grasped his under the blanket. He felt the energy being offered, the spirit of his partner who was refusing to let him die. Bodie, who would never know now how his partner really felt about him.

Doyle took another suck of oxygen and fractionally tightened his chilled fingers around the heat of his partner's. A little longer then, mate...because you want it....

At first when his being rose from his body he was a little confused. Surely that was him, Raymond Doyle, lying there with tubes going in and tubes going out and all sorts of wicked looking electrical stuff making noises all round him. There were people there too, who didn't seem to realize he was dead....

At least the pain was gone.

He hovered a little and noticed Bodie and Cowley watching from the theatre observation window.

"Look Bodie!" He laughed a bit. "I can fly!"

But Bodie was watching his body, talking somberly to the Old Man, and didn't notice.

"Very good, Doyle," a voice approved cheerfully. "Got some wings at last, eh?"

Doyle turned. "What are you doing here?"

Luath seemed to relax against the air. "I'm not here really. I'm back at the Circle."

"I'm busy," Doyle motioned to the figures below. "Can't you see? I'm dying."

"Not yet." Luath straightened and Doyle noticed that the few passing years seemed to have aged the King more than all the previous centuries. "And that's just a body anyway. You're still here."


"I want you to come back," Luath said flatly.

"You banished me, remember?"

"I was wrong."

Doyle just looked at him.

"I know now what happened." The King drifted closer and Doyle could see the pain in the fairie's eyes. "Brida has betrayed me over and over...I came back early...found her...eventually she told me about you."

"I didn't steal her child."

"I know that now. I knew it then, but you wouldn't talk. Now at least I know why." Luath touched Doyle's curls, ran a hand through them. "So short now. Remember the day we braided your hair with flowers?"

"It was silly," Doyle reminded. "We were moon-drunk."

"Come back," Luath said. "We'll do it again."

"Where's Brida?"

"Still there." Luath stopped smiling. "I almost broke the Circle, Doyle--it's what you feared, wasn't it? That I'd fall apart. I came close, but now we just ignore each other a lot and the important things go on."

"What's more important than caring?" Doyle wondered aloud.

"Like these humans care? Look at what they did to you! It's not the first time either. Your cheek...all these scars. You've lived among their filth, seen what they do to each other. Let them go and come back with me. Give them this body and you'll have a new one--a Sylvan Elf, Doyle. Remember?"

There seemed to be something wrong with his earthly body. The doctors moved urgently and the machines made more ineffectual noise.

"Did you know," Doyle asked conversationally, "What I did with my life magic?"

"No--I left you as much as I could."

"I know." Doyle glanced at Bodie's taut watching figure and half-smiled. "I did a couple of personal things. But mostly I made myself a past."

"A good one?"

"Good enough for what I needed to do."

Luath gestured to the body's fibrillating heart. "It would appear they were unimpressed."

"I've found out some things." Doyle noticed a bright light beginning to appear in the corner of the room. It was beautiful and he watched it as he talked. "Humans aren't all bad, you know."

"Don't be ridiculous, Doyle. They're hopeless."

"No. Oh, there's lots of bad--but there's good, too. They--we--have such spirit. We're alive, Luath, we have feeling."

"You're not alive now, Doyle. Come on or it will be too late," Luath had seen the light, too. "Please, Doyle. Forgive me and come back."

"There's nothing to forgive," Doyle said, but his tone was far away. He had turned from the light and was watching Bodie. "Luath...use your magic. Put me back down there. Give me a chance to decide."

"I'm not a God," Luath held Doyle's arm. "I'm not that strong."

"You can put me back. Leave the rest to me--and him." Doyle nodded towards his partner. "You can grant me a little time to make my choice."

"You're sure?" Luath shuddered. "So much pain...."

"More for him than me right now," Doyle whispered. "Hurry...."

"Very well." Luath shut his sable eyes and Doyle felt the tingle spring from the King's hand to his being. The bright light in the corner faded and he seemed to get be sleepy...he looked once more at the fairie King, once more at Bodie, and rejoined his being to his injured body.

Luath rested an unseen hand on the anesthetised, riddled body of his friend. "When you give, you give it all, don't you? Well, I hope that human up there is better to you than I was. Heal," he said, and drifted away.

The hospital room was darkened, Doyle a slender, still figure surrounded by machinery and tubes. He was ominously pale, looking almost dead even now; his life held by science, a smatter of magic and a slim thread of willpower.

Cowley watched his man, his steely eyes then turning to look at each piece of equipment in turn. The eerie green flash of monitor readings were clearly visible in the dim light. They showed the faltering vital signs of the still unconscious agent, mapping out the patterns of life and death in cold, impersonal designs. Cowley moved and joined the doctor at the foot of the bed.

Dr.____ was tired, but patient. He knew George Cowley, knew the cool eyes held a plethora of feelings. Cowley cared for his men, and this one was one-half his best team. He answered the question in Cowley's eyes.

"His system's basically dormant...idling. It's doing just enough to keep him alive. But the brain activity--the brain is the first organ truly to die. It sounds a romantic notion I know, but to me--the system idling and the brain activity so intense--it's as though he's trying to come to a decision."

Cowley nodded. "Whether to live or die. He's done more, seen more, to make him want to throw it all in than almost anybody his age."

"Then let's hope he's got more reasons to make him want to go on," the doctor was calm.

"If you're right...."

"If I'm right."

Doyle stirred restlessly and opened his eyes. It was still night, but already the pain was returning, the sound of all those bloody lines and tubes; the rustlings of the nurse, bringing him back from his drug induced oblivion.

Where was Bodie?

The nurse, a pretty, dark haired girl who looked at home in hospital, noticed the instrument readings' change and came to fiddle with one of the tubes. "How're you feeling, Mr. Doyle?"

The respirator that had helped him breathe had gone first, but his throat was still sore. "Where's Bodie?"

"Is that your partner? I don't know--he's been in and out for days getting under our feet. We notified your Mr. Cowley when you first regained consciousness a couple of hours ago." She straightened his neat covers and opened and closed various plastic lines. "Can I get you anything? Do you need something more for the pain?"

Doyle nodded, even that small movement causing him to break out in a cold sweat.

"It's amazing, you know," the nurse fit a needle into one of the tubes going in. "As soon as you first come to you began to get better so quickly. Already you're starting to heal."

Doyle started to answer then paused as a figure appeared on the other side of the glazed partition. Bodie. He felt the morphine drip into his system and cursed it, knowing it would soon deaden his weakened, unaccustomed body.

Bodie came round and stood beside the bed looking at him with haggard eyes. "Hi, sunshine."

"Bodie...d'you get her?"

"She's dead. No--I didn't do it. MacKenzie did. She died in the ambulance on the way here." Bodie pulled up a chair and sat down wearily. "You look lousy."

At least, Doyle thought, you seem better. That terrible blank look is gone. He felt the drug taking effect, dulling the pain and his mind together. "Bodie, lissen...."

"You rest, mate."

"Listen!" Doyle winced and bit his lip, never a believer in hiding his physical problems. "I decided...'m gonna live."

Bodie blinked a little. "Well, good. I don't fancy breakin' in a new partner."

"When I get out..." Doyle fought the drug, "...we're gonna talk. I gotta tell you something. 'S'mportant."


The nurse plucked at Bodie's still blood stained sleeve, mouthing that it was time he left. Doyle managed a credible scowl in her direction. "You be here, understand, Bodie?"

Bodie nodded.

Satisfied, Doyle closed his eyes and dozed.

Bodie looked round. The nurse had busied herself in the corner.

"Don't do that to me ever again, mate," Bodie told his unresponsive partner softly. He watched for a long minute and realized that somehow he had clasped Ray's hand in a tight grip. He removed his fingers and awkwardly patted the cool, limp hand. "You get well fast, Goldilocks--I've got a few things to say to you, too."

The nurse still wasn't looking. Bodie smoothed back an errant curl on Doyle's forehead. "Sleep well."

When he had gone Doyle snuggled deeper into his pillow, the hand that still held his partner's warmth rising to curl under his cheek. Smiling a little, as if he had just heard something very pleasant, the human relaxed into a deep, healing sleep.

-- THE END --
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