(A sequel to Consequences)

Cowley's voice lashed into him. "Doyle, you had him at point-blank range, at the motel. You froze."

Doyle could only stand, head hanging, while his boss's words pounded into him. "You just stood there," Cowley continued, his caustic voice cutting through the stagnant August air. "Did your generous conscience think that he would simply come into our arms out of the goodness of his heart? Jones is gone. He's the main cocaine supplier for all of London. We had him -- until you gave him free passage. Now we may never get him."

Cowley fixed icy blue eyes on Doyle. "I don't understand you, Doyle. How could have let him slip through like that? What's on your mind, that would take you from your responsibilities?" Doyle fidgeted his hands, staring at the dull, beige carpet under his feet. "Don't just float into your dream world, Doyle. Answer me!"

"I . . . " Doyle croaked. Blood rushed to his cheeks. His eyes bore into the carpet as words stuck in his throat. The picture flashed across his mind. Cowley, supervising the operation, had witnessed the entire debacle. Bodie was creeping up behind Jones's motel room when the dealer unexpectedly broke out of the door, running out into the street. Doyle, from the vantage point Cowley had assigned him, had a clear shot. Somehow, his mind had been drifting from his work, pondering the wasteland which was his personal life. "I . . . " he struggled in vain to give his supervisor the words he desired. He had no excuses to offer. The picture of Jones, slipping into the get-away car, was seared across his memory. His head shook from side to side, his long curls bobbing.

Cowley's words pushed relentlessly against him. "I don't know what's wrong with you, Doyle. You have been drifting in that dream world of yours for the last several months. I gave you a warning after the Drake affair. Fortunately Bodie was on top of things, as he tried to be this time." Doyle flinched involuntarily at the mention of his partner. He stiffened his body against a slow wave of trembling. A shirt-fold trailed against a bruise which nestled between his shoulder-blades. He swallowed hard. No! He commanded himself. Stop the sniveling. At least not in front of Cowley. He forced moist, green eyes to look directly at Cowley's face.

"I don't know what your personal problems are, Doyle. I don't care." Cowley said. "You are CI5, once one of the best. You will work as such, and you will work as part of your assigned team. I will have no more shirking. And no, you will not get that resignation you asked for last year. You are here to stay. Even if I have to assign you to records while you straighten out."

Cowley paused, breathing heavily. "You'll be suspended for one week," he enunciated. "Without pay. Then you'll take a two-week refresher course with Macklin; that will help decide what your future role within CI5 will be." He smiled thinly. "On your own time, during your week's rest holiday, you will report to Dr. Ross."

Doyle let his eyes sweep to the floor, his muscles releasing themselves in resignation. It was exactly what he expected. A bitter smile began to form on his face. Perhaps, if he muffed up the refresher course, perhaps if Dr. Ross's tests revealed a psychological profile unsuited for CI5 work . . .

"Don't think of mucking it up, Doyle," Cowley stated. "You won't get your release -- but I will put you in records. Think about that as you put in your full effort in your work-outs with Macklin." He sat back in his desk chair. "Dismissed. Remember all I've said."

"Yes, sir," Doyle muttered as he turned and filed through the door. He was docile and compliant, almost slavish. Methodically, through the past months, his partner had ground his spirit out of him.

Almost one year ago, he reflected. Even after all that had happened, his defiance had flared within. He had strode resolutely into this same office.

"Sir, I request another assignment." He thrust out his chin. "Out of this area. Solo."

"Request denied. You and Bodie are too good a team to split up."

What do you do, he asked himself, when your own partner . . . Rage burst anew across his consciousness. "In that case, sir, I'm handing in my resignation."

"Request denied."

"I'm not requesting!" his rage spat out. "I'm telling you!"

"The devil you are! You are in CI5, Doyle, until I retire you, evict you, or bury you. Is that clear?"

Doyle brought himself back to the present. A numbness encased his mind. That had ended the discussion of his resigning. Cowley had ordered him to work out his "differences" with his partner.

"Differences?" Ray asked himself bitterly. My partner, he . . . The word hid inside the dark caverns of his mind. A year later, he still had to force it out. He raped me.

He was out on the kerb, waiting for a taxi to take him to the flat he shared with his partner. No Capri for him, he was off-duty now, under suspension. His mind sped back to that night. Ann Holly had left him; he had drunk his brains out . . .

He wanted to recall the merciless hands wrapped around his neck, choking off his life -- recall the weight climbing over him, the pain of violation lancing deep inside. His mind betrayed him, an accomplice to his body. He writhed, under the grip, the silk touches which held him down. A tongue snaked into his mouth, pulsing with his own hardness. His own salt-spray burst upon his partner's cream-skinned, muscular body. Eagerly, his lips seized Bodie's glistening cock -- drowning in the flood-tide of sensation.

He shook his head. Rape? his mind queried. After the first assault, he had simply lay, spread wide open on the floor. His mind had resisted. His body had clamored for more.

Hot shame spread from his cheeks, sending tremors though him. His body still craved it. Once he had sworn to kill Bodie for what he had done. Bodie had simply played him like a skilled musician played a finely-tuned instrument. A game, Bodie called it. a ritual of reparation and sexual domination from his mercenary days in Angola. The Game, from which Bodie had emerged clearly victorious.

Doyle swallowed against the roiling in his stomach. Last night, after the debacle with the drug-dealer Jones -- he had merely wanted a peaceful night's sleep. He had tried to fend off his lover's advances. Bodie's African-trained fist had lashed out, sending him sprawling, face-down, on the bed. Feather-soft fingers then dipped underneath, playing on his nipples. No further discussion was required; his body bore the marks from earlier, equally futile attempts at resistance. Obediently, he had lifted himself, allowing Bodie to claim him more easily.

What am I? the anguished question lanced through him. He had been a CI5 agent, a capable, self-sufficient member of an elite squad. No more, he concluded grimly. He was unfit for duty, he'd be assigned to records before long. He shrugged his shoulders. And always -- Bodie's whore. At least during the week of his suspension, he would stay at his flat; he would be a good little house-wife, awaiting his partner's return from his onerous duties. He would be more ready than ever to service his lover's needs.

Dr. Kate Ross fingered through a file. "Raymond Doyle," the neatly-typed tab stated. Inside, she read the various personality assessments -- the profile he had presented when hired for CI5. Angry and passionate, yet possessing a steel control of his emotions when needed for his job. Served on the police force. Attended art school, likes Mozart and other classical musicians, she noted. Another characteristic -- Completely bisexual. Has had deep relationships in the past, both with men and women.

An image of the agent played across her mind. Jokingly seductive, the two of them had been able to mock each other over the "jargon" which filled her profession. Now his partner . . . Dr. Ross remembered the brooding, dark face of the agent she had thoroughly tested during the affair with King Billy, the Hell's Angels leader.

She swallowed, then turned her attention back to Doyle. The agent had been ordered by the Controller to report to her; he was in some sort of bad graces, suspended for a week. "Off in his own dream-world, not keeping his mind on his job," Cowley had said. "He mucked up badly on an operation last week." She sighed, biting back her irritation. Doyle was fifteen minutes late for his session. It was almost evening, and she wanted to finish her day's work on time. Tonight was her volunteer night at the Rape Crisis Center.

The door to the private suite clicked open. Doyle stepped in, dragging his feet along the carpet. His gaze glanced furtively at her, then fell heavily, staring at the floor. The agent stood passively, his shoulders slumped.

Astonishment swept through the psychiatrist. In the brief glance, she had seen pools of blank desolation in the green eyes. A year ago, they had glinted brightly with his reckless, laughingly courageous spirit.

The green eyes were searching her now -- deadened, weighted down by shallow, weary resignation. What could have possibly happened to cause this? her mind demanded. She knew what was required of the men and women who served CI5 -- the life-risking, mind-racking assignments which formed a part of their daily existence. Many agents cracked under the strain; some she could repair, others . . . She knew of Macklin, perfectly capable of running a training course, rendered completely incapable for active duty by past traumatic events.

"Please, Mr. Doyle" she invited kindly. "Sit down. Make yourself comfortable." She smiled. "We'll get you analyzed and out of here in no time at all." Doyle crouched down, drawing his rigid body as far as he could into the plush chair's interior. The Ray Doyle Dr. Ross had known earlier would have sprawled self-confidently on the chair, ready with a crackling reply to her questions. This Ray Doyle was staring at a far wall, stoically silent. What nightmares pursued him? What assignment had shell-shocked him so? There was nothing to do but begin the personality tests.

As Dr. Ross started the first assessment, she could hear a sand-paper edge of resentment in Doyle's voice. Obediently, he answered all questions, all the while erecting a massive stone wall around him.

Dr. Ross lay in her bed, alone. Between relationships, as it always had been since her college days. She had not been able to sustain an affair, her career had consumed her.

Also, there had been Ted. Bitter memories still followed her. A fellow student at the University, Ted had dated her a few times, building up her trust -- leading her up to a nightmarish evening. His lust had spent itself inside her resisting body.

Too ashamed to report the assault to the authorities, she had sought therapy for herself. Many years later, she had settled down into her own career of helping others. Her volunteer nights at Rape Crisis served as her acknowledgment of the enormity of the crime once committed against her; she could relate directly to the other victims who called on the Hot Line or reported to the Center's offices.

She tossed on her bed, sleepless. It had been an exhausting night at the Center, dealing with women whose assaults seemed to get more brutal each week. One woman's face in particular haunted her. Stringy, bottle-blond hair fell over thin, hunched shoulders. "I'll kill the bloody bastards!" her hoarse voice spat out. while gold-brown eyes stared out in hopeless terror from a tear-streaked face. Five men -- her boyfriend plus four card-playing buddies -- had each taken their turn. Slender thighs, streaked with welts and bruises, peeked out from under a torn, lace-trimmed skirt.

The image changed -- a fine-featured, masculine face. Empty green eyes stared at her, holding a similar air of hopelessness.

Doyle? A sudden intuition flashed across her mind. Could he have been . . . ? Hastily, she retreated from the possibility. Highly unlikely, her rational side told her. Raymond Doyle was a full-trained CI5 agent, an ex-cop. Surely he could take care of himself, fend off any attempts upon him.

The intuition entered her mind again. Yes, men could be raped as well as women. Most men who had been raped failed to report it, feeling ashamed and unmanned. In all the years she had worked at Rape Crisis, she had counseled only two male victims.

A chill swept through her. Doyle had been captured more than once, while on assignment. Had one of his captors ever . . . ? Of course, Doyle would never report it, seeking to preserve the integrity of CI5's image as well as his own masculinity. Have I ever told George Cowley or any of the authorities of my own experience? She remembered the lengths she had gone through to keep it carefully concealed, during her pre-employment assessment.

The picture of Doyle floated again, across her mind. Thin, wiry shoulders hunched against the office chair. His mouth pursed in sullen anger, dutifully answering her questions -- while his eyes swam in dread. For some reason, a traumatic experience from his past was resurfacing within his consciousness.

She let out a heavy sigh as she moved her body to a more comfortable position on the mattress. She would be seeing Doyle again, the middle of next week. Somehow she would have to find a way, a technique to pierce his armor, to reach the vulnerability inside. Of course, this would all have to be off the records, out of the files. Police agency supervisors could be curiously unsupportive to their officers; she knew this from her work at the Center. If one of Ray Doyle's previous captors had sexually assaulted him, CI5's authorities would never find out -- she would make sure of it.

Ray Doyle lay on the bed, his body sprawled on top of the duvet. Velvet hands stroked his ribs, a wet tongue plundered his puckered nipples. Tremors rippled up his thrashing body while moans of pleasure and delight escaped his lips.

Reparations, Ray thought. The hand which caressed, the tongue which flickered over him belonged to his partner, the man who guarded his back. He owed Bodie for his blundering during the operation with Jones. He winced. His mistakes could have cost Bodie his life.

He wriggled down into the soft duvet, his lips curving into a smile that invited. He also owed is lover for giving him the velvet exquisiteness of this night. He arched his back, allowing firm hands to encircle his wrists. Hardened fingers clutched his forearms. Sapphire eyes gazed between midnight waves; a pale face loomed above him.

Lips ground down, pushing his head against a bed-pillow. A smothering tongue impaled his mouth. Hands, once more of velvet, caressed his groin, then brushed against his hardening cock. The rock-hard lips plunged further. A twinge of pain burst. Ray swallowed the salt-bitterness of his own blood.

Ray blinked as a tremor ran through him. He knew too well the dark stranger who hid behind the familiar visage of his partner -- an ex-mercenary, tormented by violent visions from his past.

Hands rolled him onto his stomach. The bed-pillow was thrust expertly under his hips. Numbness clutched at him, a silent desperation. He needed, he longed for his partner's love, not the vicious lusts of the stranger. He lay passively, hiding his face. Fingers grasped his ankles, opening his legs in the desired position. Only a quiver, rapidly spreading, betrayed his stillness.

Fingers flowed along his back. He bit back a wince as they reached the bruise which festered between his shoulders. Feather-light, the fingers caressed the sore place, almost in apology. They snaked down towards the cleft between his buttocks.

His hips undulated with a force all their own as a squish of lubricant was thrust into his arse, probing it; it opened like a flower.

Fingers dug into the tender skin of his thighs. He buried his face within the folds of the duvet as his lover's rigid cock plunged inside, encasing itself within his moist flesh. Pain ripped through him. His teeth chattered. His hands gripped the sides of the bed.

A velvet hand reached forward to stroke his curls. His lover was still inside him, grinding his hips. Matchless pleasure swept aside the agony as his lover's pumping thrusts grew in their intensity. The hands reached below, milking his own cock. The torrent of climax flooded deep within as his own exploded on the bed-cover.

Ray lay trembling against Bodie's side while Bodie fondled the tousles of his hair. The deep bass voice floated above him. "Sunshine, I know the Cow dished a lot out on you -- and to have to spend time with that bleedin' bitch, Ross? Whatever happens, don't ever worry yourself. I'm your partner. I'll take care of you. You'll always belong to me." Ray could only nod as he pressed his face into the encompassing smooth broadness of Bodie's chest.

Silk fingers suddenly became steel; they grasped his hair, crushing his face against a swelling cock. Numb obedience clung to him; he had not yet fulfilled his partner's needs. He opened his mouth, curling his moist tongue around the engorged shaft. Ray continued sucking as the night enveloped him.

Dr. Ross leaned back on their office chair. Four days had passed -- four days to ponder the techniques and skills of her profession. She had to reach Ray Doyle, and soon -- if not for her sake, then for the good of CI5. Doyle was useless as an agent in his present state of mind.

Dr. Ross shook her head in consternation. Cowley had "punished" the agent, placing him in Macklin's course after his week of suspension. The hang-dog look of Doyle's eyes floated in her memory. Punishment was not what he needed. But it was part of the police mentality of military discipline, and Doyle probably expected it.

The door clicked open. Doyle walked in, still clad in a sweatsuit from Macklin's work-out. The same desolate green eyes stared from a face pale with exhaustion. Even worse, a black-blue lump ran down his nose, obviously the result of a blow across the face.

Dr. Ross rose from her chair. "Your face -- what happened?" She started to cross over to the washroom adjoining her office. "Do you need a cold towel?"

Doyle sat down, immediately drawing his body taut, as he had done the last visit. He shook his head. "I . . . I ran into the training bars," he muttered his explanation. "While sparring with Macklin. I guess I got a little over-enthusiastic and didn't watch where I was going." His eyes sought the floor's depths, then glanced toward her. A crooked smile briefly broke across his face. "Stupid of me. But I'll be all right. Probably improves my looks."

"Are you sure?" Dr. Ross asked, then returned to her chair as Doyle nodded. She had observed the results of Macklin's training before. At least his humor is back this time. But "improves my looks?" Such self-deprecation.

"Well," she laughed gently. "Got to get back to business. You know the Cow." She noticed Doyle relax a bit, saw his eyes brighten at her congenial use of his boss's nickname. Maybe this time, he would open up some.

But as she continued the required tests, using her psychotherapeutic techniques, the wall Doyle built around him remained as solid as ever. He tensed up again in his seat.

She sighed inwardly as she remembered some of the rape survivors at the Rape Crisis Center. There were those whose emotions gushed forth -- rage, terror, despair. There were others who withdrew deeply within themselves. How did she get through to them . . . ? As a last resort, she would tell her own story.

She brushed a strand of dark hair off her forehead. Tell my story -- to him? She had talked about her own experience, but only in a setting designed strictly for rape victims. This was a CI5 office. With the CI5 agent who sat in front of her, she was acting only on a hunch. A rather daft one at that.

The green eyes gazed at her. Past her, into a corner, seeking an escape where none existed. They glittered with their dull, hopeless glare, deep within the pasty, bruised face.

In some essential way, the CI5 agent's bleak eyes mirrored those of the women at the Center. They mirrored her own eyes -- the eyes of a university student pressed tightly against a pillow after a once-unspeakable act had been committed against her. Waves of inner recognition coursed through her. There is a bond between us. You have only to acknowledge it.

She swallowed hard. "Raymond," her voice rasped. "You are in a profession requiring great risk-taking, placing yourself in danger as a matter of course." She leaned back on her chair, stilling the inner turmoil. What she was about to do was completely unprofessional, totally against her training. "I'll not probe the shadows of your life," she said evenly. "Instead, let me show you some from my own."

Then she told him all about Ted, the sordidness, the ugly details of her helplessness against him -- how dirty she felt, even now. A wetness began to form in the corner of an eye; hurriedly, she brushed it off.

Doyle's face perked up with animation. A light of concern replaced the blankness. He leaned forward in his chair. "Dr. Ross," he began hesitantly. "you . . . I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"Kate," Dr. Ross interjected. "We don't have to be formal." She suppressed a recurring tremor. She always felt exposed whenever she told of herself to another. Looking at Ray's alert face told her; perhaps the risk had been worth it. "It's far in the past," she assured him. "I went to a counselor who specialized in rape. I talked about it. I got some help for myself."

Kate fixed her eyes directly into Ray's. "Something is worrying you, I don't know what -- perhaps from one of your past assignments? Did any of your captors ever do anything to you. Please . . . Talk about it," she urged. "Get it out of your system. No matter how shameful it may seem. You're safe here." She gestured with an empty hand. "See? No note-taking. This is strictly between you and me; none of this will go into any file. None of it will ever exit from this room."

Ray glanced to the side, fidgeting with his hands. His face reddened, then paled, the bruise an ugly, festering brand. His eyes bore through the floor.

He took a deep breath and opened his mouth. A dry, wordless whisper began to crawl out. Eagerly, Kate awaited the revealing words.

A knock rattled the office door. "Can I come in," the brisk, Scottish accent barked. "Top priority. It's extremely urgent."

Damn the Cow! Kate cursed to herself. Just when Ray was about to . . . She balled her fist, then arose to open the door. Top priority matters took precedence over anything else. Maybe he would make it short. She doubted it, remembering past experiences.

Cowley stepped in. Kate glanced at Ray. He crouched stiffly in his chair, the mask pulled over his face again. The spell was broken, the damage done. The safe, sympathetic space of her private office had been invaded.

"Doyle, get ready," Cowley snapped. "You're back on active duty, as of now. Jones has been spotted hanging around a haberdashery warehouse. We have reason to believe that he stores his 'goods' there."

Woodenly, like a dangling puppet, Doyle arose from the protective plush chair. "Bodie's waiting for you outside," Cowley's crisp voice instructed. "Now's your chance to redeem yourself once and for all."

Seething, Kate paced the room. An impulse swept over her -- perhaps something could be salvaged from this. She withdrew a card from her purse; it bore her name, the address and phone number of the Rape Crisis Center. Walking up next to Doyle, she gently slipped the card into his moist palm, wrapping his fingers around it. "Maybe you can refer someone here," she whispered. "You meet all sorts of people on your assignments. And if you ever need to talk to me about anything . . . " A puzzled frown creased Ray's face. He pocketed the card, then followed behind his boss.

Kate wiped her brow, a sharp headache creeping into her consciousness. Perhaps she had been completely daft in her assessment. She couldn't help hoping so. She shivered. Sexual assault was something she would never wish on anyone, even her worst enemy. But what if . . . the question kept haunting her. Wistfully, her eyes brushed the breadth of her empty office. Chances were, she would never find the answer.

Doyle yawned, stretching his arms along the back of the seat. Bodie shoved a playful elbow into his ribs. "Don't go to sleep on me, mate." he chided gently.

Doyle closed his mouth, rubbing his eyes. The "urgent priority" had turned into a long evening stake-out by the warehouse. He reminded himself that it could have been worse. At least I'm not sweating in Macklin's hell-hole, or fetching and carrying in the bloody records department. A breath of confidence infused him. He was once more doing his duty, an integral part of CI5.

Bodie had filled him in. The agent Anson, working undercover, had learned that Jones's "girlfriend" was his wife -- the former Saralee Townsend, daughter of Richard Townsend, the owner of a wholesale haberdashery distributorship.

Doyle's hand accidentally touched the still-throbbing bruise on his nose. An involuntary shudder ran down him as he recalled the session with Kate Ross. "Bleedin' bitch," his partner's derisive sneer echoed in his mind.

He gulped, his mind whirling. It really had been his fault, not Bodie's. Occasionally Bodie's dream were haunted by his past Angolan experiences. Last night, he had awakened to Bodie's cries. The cries crescendoing, Ray had gently shaken Bodie into wakefulness. He had witnessed the sheer terror overpowering his partner. Blue eyes filling with fury, Bodie's fist had smashed into him.

His stomach churned. It was the first time Bodie had marked him in the face like that. He had been forced to make up the story about running into Macklin's training bars. The people at the office, including Dr. Ross, had so easily believed his lie.

Bitter guilt washed over him. The responsibility's mine. I never should have awakened him last night, I should have left him his pride, his privacy. His fingers brushed his swollen nose. At least his mate would have his privacy on this issue.

Sharp pain lanced through his face. Something seethed inside of him. In Dr. Ross's office, he had been on the verge of spilling everything out . . .

He clamped his mouth shut. Who would believe such a daft story anyway? Dr. Ross thought that a horrible event during a previous assignment had brought on his malaise. Not my own partner. He looked over at Bodie, noticed his partner's watchful gaze -- completely professional, always on the job. Not in some dream world, mucking up as he had done. If his partner's reminders of his shortcomings were a bit harsh at times -- it was his own hard-headedness which brought them upon him.

His eyes searched the Capri's carpeted floor. Memories of caressing, velvet hands, his body's eager response, filtered through his mind. Bodie had carried him through the past months. So if his lover emerged the winner in his Angolan "Game?" Bodie had wrenching recollections of his African experiences. He had to help Bodie live through them.

The R/T crackled. "3.7," the Scottish voice spoke.

"Sir?" Bodie replied.

"Murphy and Jax are on their way to relieve you. Go home, get some rest and recreation. I'll call you in the morning for further instructions."

Bodie replaced the R/T. "Hear that, mate?" His face broke into a wide, eager smile.

Doyle shrugged, his confidence deflating. Cowley had given all his instructions to Bodie -- not acknowledging his partner's presence at all.

Bodie leaned back, sprawling along the couch. Doyle reached for his partner's empty glass, gratefully pouring another Guinness for him. He started to retreat toward his own armchair. It had been a nerve-wracking night -- but he was glad to be back on the job after his two weeks of exile.

A steel hold grasped Ray's curls. He stemmed a gasp of surprise as fingers arched his neck sharply back. He was pulled, stumbling, onto his partner's lap. A hard bulge pulsed against his buttocks, still encased in their skin-tight jeans.

A cold terror ripped through him. He nuzzled his cheek gently against Bodie's chest. His slender fingers worked busily, unbuttoning Bodie's shirt. Comforting, his tongue flickered upon the smooth white skin.

The hand jerked his head upward, grasping its clump of hair. Hot tingles flowed from his temples. The white face loomed above him, a supercilious sneer across it.

This isn't my partner, a fluttering little voice inside cried its denial. His partner was the loyal, protective man who had sat with him in the Capri during the long hours of the stake-out. He guarded Ray's back as Ray guarded his.

The eyes bore into Ray, harshly indigo. Ray reached out his hand, caressing the pale, whisker-shadowed cheek. His lover always liked that. He forced an inviting smile.

The room swam before him. Arrows of pain lanced through his scalp. His teeth bit involuntarily into his lip. His lover was shaking him back and forth, his hand still clamped in his hair.

The room stilled as the whirling in his head came to a sudden halt. Blue eyes glowed with a wild, jungle light as a crackling voice rippled into his consciousness. "Fight me, Ray. That's how I like it."

Ray could only gaze into the merciless eyes. He clenched his teeth. Tremors invaded his body in sweeping waves. His partner truly had fled to some far away place. The stranger faced him. A savage Angolan mercenary conqueror was playing his Game, coming forth to claim him as his plaything.

He was shoved against the living room wall. "Fight back, boy," the voice rasped. "Don't just stand there, staring at me." Hands clutched around his shoulders, laying fresh bruises on his forearms. "Resist me, Ray," the voice lowered to a whisper. "Struggle against me. Make it good for me."

Ray tried to raise himself. His quavering knees betrayed him. He sunk to the floor, his teeth chattering in blank terror. How could he fight back? He had tried to before. The result had always been the same. He reached out his arms in supplication.

The man before him gave a grunt of disgust, then cuffed him across the mouth. Ray cringed, covering his head with his arms. Another mark to explain, another lie to tell at the office?

The voice slammed into him. "I'll make you fight, you simpering sissy!" Fingers looped under his arms, wrapping themselves around his neck. Ray fought for breath, gagging against the iron grip. Black spots swam before his eyes.

Something exploded within, a memory seared forever in his consciousness. The first time . . . The same hands had choked him then, squeezing life and spirit from him. Rage bubbled and seethed, flowing outward. All else blanked from his mind. "I'll kill you," he croaked, "you bloody bastard! For this and all the other times as well."

His body twisted and writhed against the steel hold. His arms floundered, his legs scrabbled to gain a foothold. "That's right, boy," the voice pounded against him. "That's my partner. That's my Ray."

The crushing hands continued their inexorable progress around his neck. Ray felt his thrashings grow weaker and weaker as the air was thrust out of his lungs. The vision of the living room swirled, then collapsed in darkness . . .

He wriggled awake. He was lying face-down upon the carpeted floor. Hard fingers flung his jeans off with a final pull. His legs were shoved far apart.

NO! his conscious mind screamed. Not again . . . The heavy naked body clamped down on him, pinning him down, stilling his useless struggles.

The piston of agony rammed deep inside him, pumping its rivers of torment -- of utter horror, of his own shame . . . Keening, screeching wails reverberated throughout the room. Ray realized they were his own.

The engorged voice spoke with each thrust. "Fight me, Ray. Fight me." The voice crowed in his triumph. Hands reached underneath his chest, caressing his nipples. His body stiffened. "But beneath it all, you like this, don't you?" the voice persisted. "Don't you always come back for more? Didn't you the last time?"

The climax finally exploded, filling his insides. The battering ram released its hold, pulling out of his throbbing buttocks. Hot and cold shivers clutched around him.

He buried his face in the carpet. Soft, hiccuping sobs wrenched out of him. His body curled, he drew his legs together. He was filthy, his body used yet again. Blood and semen stained his thighs. "Don't you always come back for more?" the bitter question echoed in his consciousness.

Thin rivulets of his tears continued flowing down his face. A hand of velvet stroked his wet, tangled curls. A glass was pushed between swollen lips. He lapped the cool liquid. Muscular arms finally wrapped themselves around his quivering body, lifting him off the floor, carrying him to bed.

Ray lay on the bed, next to a peacefully sleeping Bodie. The demon stranger had left, replaced once more by his partner and lover. He pressed his face against the expanse of Bodie's shoulder while a protective arm wound itself around him.

A hideous shudder suddenly ran through him. Something danced through his consciousness. In brief moments, before sleep claimed him, a vision revealed itself -- a flickering flame which smoldered under the thick, smothering blanket of night.

Something scraped and clanged across his mind, through a thick, hazy fog. His hands clutched his head. The fog lifted as the clanging revealed itself to be the phone, ringing.

Ray lay sprawled, his legs tangled in the folds of the duvet. Bodie was sitting up, his fingers around the phone's mouthpiece.

"Yes, sir!" his reply crackled. He slammed the phone down. "Arise, my sunshine!" he crowed, pulling at Ray's ankles. "Get off your bum. Duty calls. We have exactly one hour to get back to the Townsend warehouse."

Ray rolled over his back. Pain washed over him, emanating from a throbbing ache in his buttocks. Hurriedly, he turned on his side. Visions of the past night's events spread themselves across his shivering mind. He clutched a sheet from the bed, covering his nakedness. He fled to the tenuous sanctuary of the loo.

His belly churned, then gurgled. He collapsed, bending over the toilet bowl. His sides heaved. The sparse contents of his empty stomach spewed out.

He clenched his teeth and stumbled into the shower, turning both taps full force. The steaming jet spray lashed into him. Ray glanced at the black-blue marks on his forearms and thighs. He soaped up a washcloth. Furiously, he rubbed his body until raw. red streaks appeared on his skin. Revulsion crawled over him. No matter how hard, how long he scrubbed, he could not wash the stench away.

He stepped out of the shower, toweling himself. He pulled the bed-sheet around him again. In his flight to the loo, he had left his bathrobe behind, in the bed-room.

The mirror captured his glance. He stared at the face glaring back at him. Angry purple smudges from the old wound still blotched his nose. A fresh wound swelled his lips. Dull, docile green eyes gazed at him.

An impatient knock sounded on the loo door. "Hurry up, mate," the deep voice shouted in, filled with concern. "The Cow will have our hides if we don't get back to the warehouse soon."

Ray swallowed hard. Something clicked into place in his mind, curtaining the past night's events. A change swept over the mirrored reflection. The mouth set in determination, the eyes masked over. He was Doyle, 4.5 of CI5. He had to leave last night behind, put it aside as though it had never happened. He had a job to do.

Doyle opened the loo door, gratefully accepting the cup of coffee his partner had thoughtfully prepared for him. His body worked automatically, pulling on shirt and jeans while his partner washed up. He strapped on his holster, briefly checking the pistol inside. A vague thought skirted his consciousness as his eyes trailed over the gun. Before it could form itself, he shoved the thought hurriedly away. He replaced his weapon.

So this warehouse of men's trinkets, thought Doyle, is a cover got Jones's drug distribution network. He sat with Bodie in the Capri, parked behind a leafy tree, outside one of the immense building's side doors.

Doyle shifted aching shoulders as he recounted to himself what was already known of the whole affair: Jones had married Townsend's daughter. A twinge of regret seeped through Doyle. From what he knew, Saralee had actually fallen in love with him and had known nothing of his illicit trade. Jones was merely using her; his only motive was control of Townsend's business.

"Look out, mate!" Bodie rasped. The two ducked in their seats. Doyle peeked his head up, peering out of the window. Two figures walked toward the warehouse's front door, completely unaware of the eyes which followed their movements.

"It's a man and his bird," Doyle exclaimed. Uneasiness swept over him. There was something about the way the girl walked -- as though she were being dragged along, resisting.

"Let's go," Bodie snapped. Drawing their pistols. the two crept out of the car. Slowly, carefully, Doyle followed his partner to the warehouse's side door. Bodie paused, then issued his instructions. "I'll go toward the front, you go around the back." Doyle nodded. The two slipped through inside.

Doyle was plunged into darkness as he entered the warehouse, turning to the rear. Watch out, he admonished himself as he stopped just short of tumbling down a stack of hatboxes. Shadowy shapes emerged as his eyes adjusted to the dim light.

Sharp little cries emanated from a far corner. Doyle perked his ears, striving to find their location. He winced at the sound of a slap. "Quiet, bitch!" reverberated through the building. Silence followed, broken only by the muted sounds of Doyle's own footsteps.

Thoughts raced across Doyle's mind as he crept around a teetering pile of boxes. What sort of live does she live with that bloke? Muffled sobbings burst behind him, he turned on his heels. The dull thud of another blow pounded against his consciousness.

Shivers traced throughout his body. His mind fought against another image which strived to take shape. Moist fingers wrapped around his pistol; he forced himself to loosen them, to maintain the proper grip. Hiccuping cries hung in the musty air, leading him in the direction of his quarry.

A shaft of sunlight streamed down from a high window. Doyle stopped abruptly, hiding himself behind a stack of boxes. His heart beat against his chest as his eyes peeked at an illuminated open space.

A woman crouched on her knees, wavy ash-blonde hair trailing on the dusty floor. A stout, bearded man stood leaning over her. Jones. Doyle's stomach gave a sickening jolt as he recognized the man who had eluded him over two weeks ago.

"So you've had enough, Saralee?" the gravely voice slammed into the cowering figure. "You want to leave me?" Pudgy fingers grasped a fine-boned chin, then caressed a smooth cheek. Ray winced. A purplish bruise extended down the side of her tear-stained face.

"You're in my dealings, as much as I am," Jones growled. Saralee shook her head frantically. "Oh yes you are," he insisted. He planted a lingering kiss; he snaked his tongue inside, claiming her as her body writhed in revulsion.

"Leave me. File for divorce," Jones's fervent whisper filled the stagnant air. "Go to America, to the moon." His mouth grasped hers again, then released. "You'll always come back for more -- you did the last time." He smiled, a wide toothy grin of triumph. "You'll always come back to me."

Ray's stomach twisted at the supercilious words. They rang with familiarity, in a shadowy reach of his memory. A roaring filled his head. He fought the shaking in his pistol hand, fought the reflex to vomit.

Saralee's eyes stared at the wall -- toward Ray, yet not noticing his presence. They were midnight-dark, shallow pools of shame and despair. Ray steadied his hand, aiming his pistol. I'll blow that bloody smirk off his face, he vowed. He glanced at Saralee -- she'd be free of the perverted bastard for good.

A quick motion caught Ray's eyes. Jones whirled in place, drawing his own weapon. Bodie had crept in sight, from behind a pile of boxes. Jones had him at point-blank range; Bodie was somehow still unaware of him. Instinctively, Doyle's finger began to press the trigger.

A freeze-frame of time stilled in Ray's mind. He halted the motion of his trigger finger. Flashbacks reeled across his consciousness. A fist smashed into his face. A cream-white body rutted mercilessly into him, ignoring his despair. The roaring enveloped him, a flame reborn within.

Present-time rolled forward again. Jones poised the automatic, aimed straight at Bodie's temple. Just wait a second or two, the flame flickered in Ray's mind. Jones will finish the job for you. Then you can finish Jones off. Saralee will be free. And you'll be free as well. Bodie turned. The dread realization of his own tardiness, the consequence of it, fluttered across frozen blue eyes.

Ray fired his gun. Jones's body spun around, hands clutching his chest, where a stain spread outward. He was dead before he hit the floor. Bodie was breathing hard with surprise and relief, but was unhurt.

Ray gasped for air, steadying his hand, replacing the pistol in its holster. He had saved his partner's life. Some reflex inside him had acted, something trained by all his years in CI5. Perhaps it simply existed, it was an inborn part of him.

Whatever else, Ray knew his actions had liberated a woman from the life of sheer horror he knew she had lived. Saralee rushed over to him, grasping his hands in gratitude. Ray shook his head in mild embarrassment. He had just done his job, that was all.

An impulse entered Ray. He reached in his pocket and found the card Dr. Ross had once given him, the phone number of the Rape Crisis Center. Saralee would certainly need it to get her life in order. "Here," Ray murmured. "Call these people. They'll give you help, you can be sure." The moist, slender hand took the card, placing it into a huge pocket-book. Dark eyes smiled, glinting with a new hope.

Ray stared at Bodie. His hand brushed over the hard lump on his nose, trailed over his swollen lip. As for himself, he had paid the final reparation to his erstwhile lover and partner. For favors he knew he didn't owe, for sins he had never committed.

He tossed his head upward, a proud flush filling his cheeks. He would drive with his partner to the office, meet with Cowley, file the reports. These would be his final acts as a member of CI5.

Doyle stood next to Bodie in the office. Cowley peered from across the wide desk. "Good job, boys," he said evenly, paternalistically. "Doyle, I think you've finally redeemed yourself. You've proven yourself a member of CI5 again."

Ray reached into his jacket, unstrapping his holster, pulling out his I.D. card. "Sir, this is my resignation," he stated, laying gun and badge on the desk.

Bodie simply gazed in amazement. Cowley scrambled to his feet, his face white with anger. "I've told you before, Doyle," he barked. "Your request is denied. This is a security organization. You are a part of it until I decide otherwise. You cannot resign."

Ray spun on his heels. Waves of his own determination burned through him. Turning his head, he bore his eyes into the Controller. "Just try and stop me," a steel-edge lined his voice. Lifting his chin, he walked out of the office. What would Cowley do, have him arrested? Blow his brains out? He walked down the steps, out of the building.

A cool summer breeze greeted him. The late afternoon sky spread briskly clear. Footsteps pounded after him -- Bodie dashing after him, catching up. He threw his arms up, easily blocking Bodie's attempt to grasp him by the shoulders.

Bodie's eyes glittered. "So Ray's going to resign," he sneered. "You'll try running away." He pursed his lips. He trailed his hand lightly along Ray's cheek. "You tried that before, didn't you? But you know what you really want, deep inside."

Ray turned away. Furiously, he knocked Bodie's hand aside, revulsion sweeping through him. "Don't touch me," he warned steadily.

Bodie rocked back on his feet. A nervous laugh escaped him. "Leave me here. Go to bloody Australia or Antarctica for all I care. You'll be back." A feral light gleamed across his blue eyes.

The Game, Ray recognized. He could refuse to play it. This was London, not Angola. Bodie would have to face his nightmares himself; Ray spoke simply and calmly, looking directly into Bodie's eyes. "No. I will not be back for you. Not ever."

He stepped away, leaving Bodie behind in his wake. He would have to pick up things at the flat -- or perhaps he didn't have to, he could start over completely. He had a few savings to live on. He could find a new place, search the want-ads for a job. He wondered if Cowley would be in pursuit, trying to effect his return to the agency. Cowley can stuff it, he asserted.

A hollowness engulfed him, washing away his feeling of triumph. Memories continued to flare across his mind. He swallowed hard; he became shamefully aware of the dull pain which still throbbed within his buttocks. A daft question entered his thoughts -- could a man contact the Crisis Center? Could he call them? He shook his head. He could take care of himself, he always had before. He probably wouldn't need anything like that. Still . . .

Ray laughed gently to himself. He reveled in his aloneness. His lips pursed into an off-key whistle as he strode down the street.

-- THE END --

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