Love's the Last to Know


Disclaimer: This story is not meant to infringe on the copyrights held by anyone having anything to do with THE PROFESSIONALS. No profit is being made and I promise to return the characters when I'm done with them.

Thanks to my editor Marcelle for all her support

Dedicated to Suzan - who told me that partners belong together

There's a distant sound to the outward bound
On a lonesome windy night
A restless sigh as it fades away
There's a sad resolve that it's all gone wrong
Yet before you turn to go
It comes to you
It's really true
It's love that's last to know

   --Bob Segar "Love's The Last To Know"

From start to finish, the day had been a waste, nothing accomplished, dull, boring, and useless. Now, William Bodie waited for the clock to strike five, so he could go home and put it all behind him. Stuffing the last bits of a Swiss roll into his mouth he washed it down with tepid tea, hoping the meagre rations would hold off true hunger until he found a proper meal. Another glance at the clock cheered him slightly, five more minutes and he was free.

Before the sweep second hand could make it around the clock face one more time, Betty, his boss's ever-diligent secretary, poked her head around the door frame and fixed him with her ice blue stare. Bodie groaned, even before she spoke.

"3.7, Mr Cowley wants to see you in the briefing room, now." She always called him 3.7, never Bodie. He knew it was to put a certain distance between them; she did it with everyone else on the A squad, including the women.

Today he was not in the mood for anything. All he wanted to do was go home. "About what? I'm off in five more minutes."

She smiled again, more coldly if possible. "You know you're never off duty."

There was no arguing with the truth. This job would suck the very life out of him if he'd let it. And unless he lost his r/t or went somewhere without a phone, he never seemed to get any time off. Of course, if he did manage to dodge the interference in his life, he ended up being chastised for his stolen time. Many were the times that he seriously wondered why he did this dangerous, thankless job.

Unfortunately, the answer was all too simple: it had to be done, and for whatever reason, he was good at it.

His stomach grumbled unhappily, and he stood, brushing the crumbs from his trousers. Stuffing his hands deep into his pockets, he sauntered out.

Utilitarian in the extreme, the windowless conference room was airless and dusty. The furniture looked like World War II surplus and was just as uncomfortable. Both Cowley and Murphy waited for him at the table, Cowley with ill-concealed impatience.

Settling himself into a less than comfortable plastic chair, Bodie looked expectantly at his boss. No use getting Cowley into a snit with a bad attitude. The old man wouldn't put up with it on the best of days, and by the look in the pale blue eyes, today was not the best of days.

After several minutes of silence, Doyle rushed in. "Sorry, sir, had a last minute hang-up in records."

Cowley scowled, and looked pointedly at his watch. A moment of silence followed before the Cow started to speak. "We have been given the assignment of protecting Robert Northcroft. This comes directly from the PM."

Robert Northcroft? The name sounded very familiar, but Bodie couldn't quite place it. From the look on Doyle's face, he couldn't come up with a face for the name, either.

"What's so special about him?" Doyle asked, not bothering to hide the whine in his voice. Bodie knew how much his partner hated minding jobs.

As a general rule, the person or persons whom they were required to protect didn't think they were in any "real" danger until it was too late. More times than he could count, one of their charges ignored his orders or precautions, placing themselves along with himself and Doyle in harm's way.

Cowley shot a nasty look at his partner and Doyle's eyes dropped. There were few people in the world who had the strength of character and sheer presence to make Ray back down, but George Cowley certainly was one of the few.

"I'm getting to that, if I may continue. Mr Northcroft is an American. He and his family are heavily involved with the World Food Organisation. The Northcroft family corporation runs the North American Chapter of the WFO. In three weeks, they are hosting a conference in Leeds. This is a major effort to get the governments of the world to help feed their own people and see that donations make it through to the starving."

"Seems like a real philanthropic guy. So why would anyone want to hurt him?" This time it was Murphy who interrupted.

Staring Murphy down took a lot less effort on Cowley's part than it did with Doyle. "It seems that one of the fascist terrorist groups has decided to make an example of killing the hypocritical capitalist. They don't think he's done enough for the world's starving, so he has to die, before he can do more." The sarcasm was not lost on anyone.

"So they're trying to kill him because he's rich and trying to give something back to the world?" Doyle said, crossing his arms over his chest, a disgusted look in his green eyes.

Cowley sighed. "Yes. There have been two attempts so far. One killed his driver. You and Bodie will take the first shift, following him to work and home. You'll drive him anywhere he wants to go and make sure he's not left alone anywhere other than in his office."

Doyle nodded grimily.

"Murphy, you will take over at ten and stay with Mr Northcroft until six in the morning. You will all be staying at the Northcroft estate."

"If he's a Yank, what's he doing with an estate?" Murphy asked.

"I believe it's rented. Are there any more questions?" Cowley took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

Bodie finally spoke. "Why both of us minding him together?" He'd been uncharacteristically quiet through most of the briefing, but when he had nothing to add, he'd learned the hard way to remain silent.

"You and Doyle will continue the investigation while you're in the corporate offices. Mr Northcroft has graciously agreed to provide you with space to work, and the equipment to do it with. You will be able to get quite a bit done, when he's in meetings and working."

Bodie nodded. He thought that made good sense, and he and Doyle wouldn't have to sit around on their bums waiting for the Yank to do something. It also meant he'd get to spend some time with Doyle, not an unwelcome occurrence at all, especially after the last few days.

"If there's nothing else?" Cowley glanced at each of them.

"All right, Bodie, Doyle, you'll report to Mr Northcroft's office at his London headquarters tomorrow morning at 8:00 am. Murphy, you'll go directly out to the estate at the same time. I want a complete security check done top to bottom. And then Bodie and Doyle can do it again when they bring Mr Northcroft back tomorrow evening.

Bodie nodded. He hated minding assignments as much as Doyle did, and a Yank would make it all the worse. This was going to be a bitch of an assignment, he could tell already.

As Bodie came through Cowley's outer office, he focussed on Doyle. As if he had to have a reminder, he was struck forcefully with how gorgeous the man was. This afternoon, Ray was dressed in those lovely moleskin trousers which lovingly hugged his slim hips and cupped his genitals in a way that made Bodie's head spin and his mouth water. The dress shirt Ray was wearing was open at the collar, tufts of auburn hair peeking out of the "V" it created. Bodie would have given all that he owned to be able to touch the silky hair just once. Every time he thought that another man was attractive, all he had to do was catch a glimpse of Doyle, and then he knew what dazzling really was.

Because he had to touch Doyle or die, he reached out, ruffling soft the curls.

"Hey, what was that for?" Doyle grumbled in a good-natured manner, dancing away.

"Gonna have to get a haircut soon, sunshine." Bodie always had an excuse ready if he were questioned about touching Ray. Usually there wasn't a need.

"Probably," Ray said, running a hand through the long strands. "Jenny's gonna have a fit. She likes the curls."

The pleasure of touching Doyle dimmed significantly by the mention of Jenny's name. Bodie held the outer office door for both Ray and Murphy.

Once they reached the corridor, Bodie put a hand on Doyle's arm to stop his progress. He wanted a word with his partner.

Murphy smiled, and waved as he headed in the opposite direction down the hall. "See you both later. I've got to go."

"Where are you going?" Doyle called after him.

"Got things to take care of if I'm gonna be on call for the duration, don't I?" Murphy groaned dramatically.

"Me too, come to that. I had best call Jenny," Doyle said, his full-mouth twitching down in a pout. "She's not going to like this."

"She should be used to it by now." If she planned to stay around for any length of time, she'd bloody well better get used to it. This was life in CI5.

Doyle shook his head. "Nah, they never get used to it. I'll talk to you later. I should call her and get some stuff together before we go to Northcroft's estate tomorrow. Meet me back here in say," Doyle looked at his watch, "forty-five minutes and I'll give you a ride home."

"Fine," Bodie said, his chest tight as he watched Doyle walk down the corridor. If Doyle were to marry then it wouldn't be long after that he'd watch his partner walk away for good.

Groaning, he shook his head, trying to clear the image. What was wrong with him today? He usually wasn't given to such melodrama. While Doyle might leave CI5 if he married, he would always be Bodie's best mate.

But friendship is all he was ever going to get from Ray. The sooner he realised and accepted that, the better off they would both be. And one of these days he might just take his own advice and believe it. One day, but obviously not today.

Bodie fidgeted with the r/t on the way home, debating whether or not he should ask Doyle to join him for a drink. On the one hand, he really wanted to spend some time with his partner, especially after being apart all day. On the other, he didn't want to be turned down. It hurt too much.

The last couple of times he'd asked he'd been rejected, once rather pointedly. It might be that Ray was involved with Jenny, or it might just be that Doyle had gone off him for a while -- although Bodie could not think of anything he'd done to cause that. Or it could just be Doyle's quirky nature which was probably closest to the truth. Whatever the reason, Bodie didn't like it.

When they pulled up in front of Bodie's flat, he made the effort anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"I'll pick you up here, tomorrow early," said Doyle, a smile of farewell on his lips.

"You want to have a drink with me tonight?"

"Can't. Jenny wants to see me one more time before I'm out of touch for three weeks. What a pain Cowley is." Doyle sighed theatrically, but his green eyes lit with anticipation of tonight's activities. "Another time?"

Bodie tried to still the tiny knife flick in his heart. He'd known that would likely be the answer. One of these days, he'd really have to stop asking. Swallowing his disappointment and hurt, Bodie shrugged carelessly. "Sure. See you at about 7:30."

"Right. See you later, mate." Doyle gunned the car and was gone.

Tired after a long day of running about and then the last minute briefing on Robert Northcroft, Bodie unlocked the door listlessly. Flipping on the lights, he took a deep breath, trying to shake the mood that had settled on him since Doyle's rejection of a drink.

His heart broke listening to Doyle worry about what Jenny would think of a haircut. As if it mattered in the long run. But it served to remind Bodie of what he would never have. Couple that with the fact he'd been sleeping poorly of late, and he was ripe for an evening of abject misery.

Wallowing in his own unhappiness didn't really appeal and he tried to shake off the bad mood. Going through the dim flat to the bathroom, he shed his dusty clothes, dumping them into the laundry hamper. Being neat was very important to him. There had been far too many times in his life when it wasn't possible, when filth and squalor were his constant companions. Now, he couldn't stand to live in a flat that wasn't well tended, clean and orderly.

Maybe it was not so bad a thing that he and Ray had never got together. Ray was sloppy, living in casual disorder and loving it. Bodie sighed. If Doyle decided to love him, he'd put up with the mess, not that there was a snowball's chance of that happening, but one could hope.

And that was the problem, of course, he hoped against all reason that someday, somehow Doyle would love him back. His heart stubbornly hung on to the hope and even after countless disappointments, the damned thing could not be convinced to give up.

Dejected, he padded back to the kitchen and poured himself a stiff scotch. Perhaps the alcohol would relax him enough to sleep, he drank it down quickly. As he rinsed out his glass and stacked it in the drainer, each sound echoed in the silence of the flat, needlessly reminding him of the loneliness of his life.

Still not ready for sleep, Bodie trudged slowly to the bathroom. A shower might help him ease the stress of the day. It couldn't hurt.

He turned on the taps as hot as he thought he could stand it. Stepping under the steaming spray, Bodie sighed as the tense muscles in his shoulders and back finally started to release the tightness gathered there. Picking up a flannel, soaping it briskly, he began to wash the dust from his tired body.

Clean again, he just stood under the water, letting the heat and pounding spray take the last of the day's tension from his fatigued body. His mind started to drift languidly as he enjoyed the sensual feel of the water moving over his skin. Once the control was gone, his brain had only one thought: Ray.

With his eyes closed, excitement starting to hum along his nerves, he allowed the fantasy to take shape. Then, it was Ray in the shower with him, Ray's long-fingered hands that moved slowly down his flanks.

Caught in the fantasy, Bodie groaned out loud as the image reached for him. Slender fingers caressed his chest, taking time to pinch his nipples, softly, just the way he liked best.

"Oh, so good," he murmured to his lover.

His breath caught as a strong hand cupped his balls. He thrust his hips forward in a silent plea for more, another hand took hold of his cock and just held it for a moment.

"Please." He didn't mind begging for his pleasure.

The fantasy hand began to move, caressing him in long, slow strokes, just what he wanted. Bodie leaned back against the tiles of the shower wall, his legs becoming weak as sensations poured through him. Moving in time with the hand touching him, his hips thrust back and forth with the sure, loving strokes.

Sensation built in him, and then peaked.

As the powerful climax ended, Bodie reached out to pull Doyle close, wanting to hold and cuddle his lover after such sweet loving.

The fragile illusion shattered, sending the sharp shards of the image into Bodie's already battered heart.

Wrapping his arms around himself, he took a shuddering breath. Turning towards the shower stall wall, he leant his head against the cold, wet tiles, biting back a sob that threatened to strangle him.

"Oh God."

It wasn't fair. He wanted more out of life than the illusion of a man who would never love him, at least not in the way he wanted to be loved -- deserved to be loved.

It's time, Bodie decided, pain lacing through his guts, turning him inside out. It was more than time to come to terms with the one overriding fact of his life: Ray Doyle would never be his.

Climbing into bed, Bodie tried to sleep, but the hopelessness of his love for Doyle dogged him all night. He tossed and turned, finally falling into a light doze at dawn, only to be awakened rudely by the shrill scream of the alarm, what seemed like moments later.

Doyle picked him up right on schedule. The bright sun and clear blue sky did nothing at all to cheer Bodie's bad mood. He settled into his seat, closed his eyes, and tried to clear his mind, readying himself for the day's operation.

Of course, his mind didn't cooperate, playing the events of last night's little extravaganza in the shower over and over to torture him. The last few moments of that scenario had driven home the utter hopelessness of his love for his partner. Ray would never be his, would never love him back and the sooner he realised that the sooner he could go on with his life. He might never find another love like Ray, but at least he might find someone, and perhaps some contentment in his life. It was better than being alone and unloved.

"Oi, Bodie!" Doyle thumped him on his shoulder, startling him out of his reverie. "We're here."

Bodie blinked up at the building, a massive structure of smoked glass and dark-grey steel, no style at all. "Where's here?"

"Weren't you paying any attention at yesterday's briefing? Northcroft Industries? Protecting the Yank, Robert Northcroft?" Doyle sounded somewhere between annoyed and exasperated with green eyes flashing.

Bodie sighed, opening the door of the Capri, he stepped out onto the curb. "Come on then, don't want to keep 'em waiting."

Doyle shook his head in disgust and got out, walking away from Bodie without a backward glance. But his partner stopped in front of the glass door, and held it open for Bodie to precede him.

They presented themselves and their credentials first the receptionist of Northcroft Industries and then to two more secretaries along the way before they were admitted to the illustrious presence of Robert Northcroft.

Not really sure what he expected the man to look like, soft and pudgy perhaps, or at least out of shape physically, what Bodie saw knocked him for six. Robert Northcroft was beautiful -- more than that, utterly gorgeous.

Elegant and sophisticated in a dark blue, well-cut suit, Northcroft stood taller than Bodie. Black hair, cut stylishly, and just touched with grey at the temples, framed an angular face. Eyes as dark and blue as his own smiled back at him as an intense attraction slammed into Bodie, nearly stopping him dead in his tracks.

It had been so long since he'd felt even remotely interested in anyone except Doyle, a thrill of pure pleasure nipped at his heart and the blood started to pulse into his cock. A slow smile touched Northcroft's wide mouth, and Bodie knew in that second that his attraction had been detected and, more importantly, returned.

"Mr Northcroft, I'm Ray Doyle, and this is my partner, Bodie. We've been sent by George Cowley to see to your protection." Ray's voice startled him back to reality with a jolt.

With reluctance that sent a frisson of excitement into Bodie's heart, Northcroft pulled his eyes away from him and held out his hand towards Ray. Turning back towards Bodie, he repeated the move, holding onto Bodie's hand just a second or two longer than was absolutely necessary. A spark of electric recognition passed between himself and Robert Northcroft, sending sparks down Bodie's spine.

"Thank you. I appreciate Mr Cowley's concern." Northcroft smiled slightly, his eyes still on Bodie. "For myself, I wouldn't care so much, but as you know there are greater concerns here."

"Yes, sir." Doyle nodded, his whole face closed, not quite unpleasant, but not friendly either.

"Is there something specific you will be doing? I have a lot to accomplish in the next few weeks and I'd like to know what is required of me." Mr Northcroft smiled right at Bodie.

Bodie shook himself, returning the smile as he tried not to fall into the warm depths of the dark blue eyes. Northcroft was looking at him in a way that made Bodie's skin prickle with excitement. It had been far too long since anyone had looked at him like that.

Ray Doyle certainly never had. But to be fair to Doyle, he didn't expect his partner to. And why would he? In all likelihood, Ray didn't even know didn't know the depth of his feelings. Oh, he was sure Doyle knew he was attracted. Over the years, he was fairly sure he'd slipped more than once, letting Doyle at least see the surface emotions, but hopefully not enough to let Ray to know his true feelings. He would rather his partner did not know how much he loved him.

Soon after he'd been teamed with Doyle, he'd ever so casually asked which way Doyle swung, admitting he was bisexual along the way. There had been no fireworks following the pronouncement, but Doyle had been adamant that he had no interests along those lines. He liked women, period. Not that Doyle had anything against what other people did in their free time, but his free time -- what little there was of it -- would be dedicated to other pursuits. Bodie never mentioned it again, knowing only too well when to leave well alone.

"Mr Northcroft,"Bodie said, clearing this throat and trying to focus in on the task at hand. "Doyle and I will be with you all day and most of the evening. Mr Murphy will relieve us about 10.00 p.m. We will remain on the premises of your estate as will Mr Murphy when he's off duty, until the culprit is caught."

Northcroft smiled at him again and Bodie found it hard to breathe. "I'm sure I'm going to be in good hands."

Doyle interposed himself between them. "I know the security here is good, but it would be easier to protect you at your estate." The slightest edge tinged Doyle's voice, announcing his annoyance loud and clear to Bodie. He wondered what Ray had found to be angry about now.

"I know," Northcroft said flatly, his tone almost a perfect mirror of Ray's. "But as I told Mr Cowley, I don't have the luxury of living behind closed gates, not with the conference only a few weeks away."

Bodie nodded, he knew all of this and so did Doyle. Why bring it up again? "We'll try and stay out of your way, but you're going to have to obey our orders when it comes to security. Your life and others' may be at stake."

A self-deprecating grin touched Northcroft's wide lips. "I'm very bad at taking orders from anyone, but I will try. I don't want anything to happen to you." He pause for a second and then widened his look to include Doyle as well. "Either of you."

"We appreciate that." Doyle's tone was strained and his mouth turned down in a small frown. "We'll shadow your moves from now on."

Northcroft nodded. "Okay. I won't leave the building without one or both of you in tow. But I really doubt that anyone can get in here."

"We'll see about that, won't we, sir?" An evil grin touched Ray's full lips, one that Bodie recognized only too well.

He could see Ray was going to do everything he could to find holes in Northcroft's security. All would be done under the guise of protecting his charge, and in all honesty that would be his first priority. Doyle was a consummate professional, but if he could find a weakness, Bodie knew he'd get no end of satisfaction by pointing it out.

Sighing, Bodie didn't say anything, knowing his breath would be wasted.

"We'll be back in a couple of hours," Doyle handed him a card. "That's got our r/t codes on it. We won't be far and we won't leave the building."

Northcroft nodded.

The security for Northcroft's operation was tight, but the check took longer than Bodie thought it would. Searching diligently, Doyle found little to complain about.

At noon, they drove Mr Northcroft to the Savoy for a business lunch, lurking in the background as the industrialist wined and dined his guests. From what Bodie understood, Northcroft was still trying to raise last-minute funding for his project. It seemed they always required more money to continue to feed the world.

After lunch it was back to the office. Northcroft kept long hours and that meant he and Doyle would too. It was after seven before they left for dinner and almost ten before they finally got back to the estate.

Murphy met them at the door and took over guarding Northcroft until the morning.

He and Doyle were shown to their rooms, which were on the same floor as Northcroft's bedroom. Bodie was impressed with the size and elegance of his room. A huge four-poster bed sat proudly in one corner, and in any other room, the bed would have dominated the entire space. But this room was so large that the cherry-wood bed fit in fine next to the rest of the luxurious surroundings.

Taking a moment to wash up, Bodie also changed into casual clothes before he returned to the small library on the first floor. The Lord of the manner, if you could call a Yank that, had asked him and Doyle to join him for a drink before going to bed. No surprise that Doyle had declined.

Although he would never completely be off duty during this op, he was off active duty for the moment. Having a drink with the beautiful Robert Northcroft would be a perfect end to the day, or perhaps not quite the end. Exchanging glances all day long with the industrialist had left Bodie simmering with barely concealed excitement. Christ, he couldn't remember the last time he felt this attracted to anyone -- he'd almost forgotten what that wonderful ache of anticipation felt like.

Butterflies roamed freely in Bodie's stomach as he came into the lushly decorated room. Anticipating his preference for drink, Northcroft handed him a scotch.

"How did you know I wanted scotch?" Bodie asked, taking a long sip, surprised to feel so nervous. He tried to focus on something other than Robert, but could find nothing else to hold his interest.

"I took a guess." Robert smiled at him. Nothing more.

Despite a day of speculative looks and gentle flirting, nothing really had been said, and Bodie wasn't sure what he should do. But feeling anything that wasn't wrapped up in Doyle overjoyed him, and he really wanted to explore the attraction in depth.

Northcroft cleared his throat and met Bodie's eyes.

Emboldened by the blatant invitation in the blue eyes, Bodie set his drink on the glass end table, reaching to take the crystal tumbler from Robert's slightly trembling fingers. Tilting his head back, his mouth met Robert's for the briefest of touches, then pulled back. Robert stepped froward, sliding his arms about Bodie and he was pulled against the bigger body. The soft mouth descended and Bodie was lost in the sensations of moist lips.

Robert tasted of the smoky scotch. After a moment, Bodie sighed against Robert's lips. It just felt so good to be held tightly in strong arms. He never realised how much he missed being held by a man until he was there again, enjoying the sensations.

His mouth clung to Robert's for a long count. Opening his lips, Robert's tongue slid against his, dancing along, mapping along the surface of his mouth. When it retreated, Bodie accepted the invitation offered and followed it back home.

Pulling back, he gasped for air. All oxygen had been drained from his lungs during the last kiss. Bodie was lightheaded.

"Sweet." Robert smiled, resting his forehead against Bodie's for a second before he stepped back, standing with his arms still on Bodie's shoulders. "What's your first name?"

Bodie groaned. He hated his first name and didn't want Robert to use it. Why was it lovers or almost-lovers in this case, always wanted to use his first name? "Why?"

"What do you mean, why?" Northcroft's tone was perfectly incredulous as if the question didn't make any sense, but his eyes shone with delight. "I refuse to call a lover by his last name in bed."

"We're not lovers yet," Bodie didn't bother to keep the amusement from his voice. He knew he'd have to tell, but a little verbal sparring would add some spice and maybe just the right amount of discouragement.

A smile twitched at Robert's full lips, making Bodie want to stop talking and start kissing the man again. "Still, I want to know. It's not a secret is it?"

"No. It's not a secret." Bodie shook his head, still trying not to grin.

"Then tell me." There was a tiny hint of demand in Robert's tone, not enough to really anger Bodie, but enough to keep the game going.

He crossed his arms over his chest and smirked. "And if I won't?"

"I could try and make you. I am bigger than you are." Robert raised an eyebrow in challenge.

Smirking, Bodie couldn't resist. "That remains to be seen."

It took a second for the meaning to hit Robert, he obviously hadn't realised the double entendre. He roared, taking a long time to catch his breath. "Soon. I promise you. But I have at least five inches on you." He paused and Bodie opened his mouth to say something else cheeky, but Robert beat him to the punch. "I mean height."

Bodie laughed. Yes, Robert was definitely taller and in very good shape for a civvy, but there was no way in the world the older man could think to best him. From the look in the blue eyes, it was obvious Robert knew it too. "You might be taller, but I guarantee I'm better trained."

Northcroft looked him up and down very slowly, then smiled. "At what?" His voice was husky and low with arousal. "Tell me, please."

Where orders and threats might not have worked, an honest plea went straight through Bodie's heart. "William."

Robert laughed again. "What's wrong with that? From the build up, I really thought would be awful or embarrassing."

Bodie looked down, abashed. "There's nothing wrong with it. I never said there was, I just don't use it. Ever." He stressed the last word.

"Why not?"

"Because I hate the name William, and Bill, Billy, Will, Wills and heaven forbid Willy are all nearly as bad. Besides which, I got used to being addressed by my last name in Africa and then the army."

"What did you do in Africa?"

The honest curiosity in Robert's eyes almost made Bodie answer the question, but he bit it back. Too soon for that kind of story. "Another time." Would there ever be time for those kinds stories? Bodie shrugged off the question. Why worry about the future now? They hadn't even got into bed the first time yet.

Northcroft nodded, understanding without explanation. He caressed Bodie's cheek with the back of his hand. "Let's go upstairs."

Bodie couldn't agree more, following Robert up the carved wood staircase, his heart starting to pound as excitement slid through him.

Decorated in burgundy and green, the master suite was very possibly the biggest bedroom Bodie had ever seen. He tried to keep the awe out of his eyes and off his face, but he knew he failed miserably.

Northcroft just laughed. "It's okay to be impressed, God knows I am and I've been sleeping here for a week. Too bad places like this aren't for sale. I was thrilled to be able to rent it for the time I'm here. There's nothing like this in the US."

"You don't have big houses?"

"Not estates like this. We have big houses and in the East you might be able to find a facsimile of this kind of style. Even then, there's nothing more than a few hundred years old. And in the west, you'd be lucky to find anything more than a hundred or so years."

Robert came forward, putting a hand on Bodie's shoulder, a smile of invitation touching his full lips. "You know, we could talk about this later."

Bodie nodded, his excitement starting to boil again. He turned his face up towards Robert's and the soft lips claimed his in a deep kiss.

Sweet and slow, the sensations moved through Bodie. The tension built as they continued to exchange kisses and caresses through their clothes. Robert stepped back, moving his big hands to the front of Bodie's shirt.

"I want you naked," he said, starting to undo the buttons one by one, each movement seemed to be in slow motion.

"Yeah." Bodie mimicked Robert's movements until they were both shirtless. Running a hand down the furry, well-muscled chest, Bodie purred in pleasure. There was something so very sexy about a hairy chest.

At last, the waiting was over. He wanted Robert now, moving as quickly as he could, he shed the rest of his clothes, and Robert followed suit. Finally, he stood before Robert, seeing the pleasure in the blue eyes at his appearance, desire building fast. Breathing in deeply, he let the excitement slide over him, filling him with giddy anticipation.

Robert pulled the bed clothes to the end of the bed, lying down and holding his hand out. "Join me?"

"It will be my pleasure." Bodie smiled as he climbed into the huge bed. Robert met him in the middle, sliding strong arms about him, and gently pushing him onto his back.

Robert's mouth moved over his skin, kissing, licking and nuzzling him, leaving no part of his body untasted or untouched. Groaning as fingers and tongue danced over him, he was nearly out of his mind with pleasure by the time Robert rolled over, offering himself.

Taking a deep breath to still his pulsating desire, Bodie found the strength necessary to take his the time, and prepare Robert properly.

Sheathed deeply in the moist, hot channel, he paused to let his lover grow used to his bulk. Sweat beaded on his skin, his breath came in shallow pants as he struggled with the stillness required for Robert to accept him. When the tight muscle relaxed, and he knew he could move without bringing pain, Bodie started slowly, moving in and out, holding back as long as he could. Soon the pressure became overwhelming, and his speed increased steadily until he was slamming hard and fast into the writhing body.

Moaning, Robert pressed back into each thrust, his body gleaming with his efforts.

Flying high on the sensations, Bodie reached for the stars only to fall back down to earth with a fiery crash. The sky exploded and the world went white. Bodie cried out as he burned in the flames of bliss.

Lying next to Robert afterward, Bodie tenderly slid his fingers along the still-moist skin of the man sleeping across his chest, content as he hadn't been in a very long time. The sex had been everything he'd hoped it would be, and wonderful didn't even begin to describe how good it had been. Best of all, he hadn't called out Doyle's name as he'd been half afraid he might do, something he'd done before, more than once.

Robert's skill and tenderness worked wonders on him, and he hoped that a little more of this would help ease his way past his infatuation with Doyle. It wasn't that he hadn't had other lovers, he had, many of them, but he'd always had a hope -- no matter how slight -- that Doyle might turn his way. There was no longer any hope left in his heart regarding Doyle. He'd finally given up the dream.

Doyle would marry Jenny or not, but Bodie knew with a dreadful certainly there was nothing that could make his partner turn to him, nothing in the world. Damn, it hurt to say those words, even to himself, but say them and mean them he did. He had to.

As if he heard Bodie musing, Robert stirred, his face nuzzling into Bodie's chest. "Bodie? You okay?"

"I should get back to my room." Bodie didn't want to wear out his welcome. Maybe he'd get a repeat performance later on.

"Why? You can protect me much better from here."

Bodie laughed. "Spot on, naked and unarmed."

"Your gun is on the bedside table right where you put it. That's close enough." Waving a hand towards the side of the bed, Robert pulled him close and kissed him.

"I'm still naked."

A large, warm hand ran down his flank, along his thigh, then cupping his soft cock gently, which started to fill on contact. "So you are and it would be a shame to waste it." Robert shifted over him and they slid together slowly.

When Bodie finally got his breath back he pulled gently away from his lover. "I have to go, I won't get any sleep if I don't."

Robert nodded, kissing him again. "Okay." There was resignation and a bit of sadness in the soft tone.

With great reluctance, Bodie left the warm bed and the arms of his new lover. "Tomorrow," Bodie paused, considering how he wanted to put this, "It will be back to Mr Northcroft." He put on his pants and trousers, and looked around for his shirt.

Robert sighed, obviously understanding the necessity. "And tomorrow night?"

"Am I invited back?" Bodie buttoned his shirt, hoping Robert would ask, but he wasn't about to assume anything, understanding all too well the gulf that existed between himself and Robert, and not just socially either. Retrieving his gun from the bedside table, he holstered it, leaning down to kiss Robert good night.

"You know you are most definitely invited back." Robert reached up and caressed his face one last time. "Always."

"I'll be here, then." Bodie slipped out the door.

The next morning Doyle had nothing to say, either not knowing or not caring that Bodie had been missing from his room for most of the night. He should probably tell Doyle the truth, just in case there was any trouble, but he couldn't quite bring himself to do it. It might have been that the affair was still too new to assume he'd have anything more than a few nights, or that he feared Doyle's reaction given his apparent disdain for Robert Northcroft.

The issue became moot three days later when Doyle confronted him at breakfast before Robert came downstairs. Even exhausted after being fucked through the sheets for most of the night, Bodie was in too good a mood to deal with one of Doyle's temper tantrums.

Of course, Doyle didn't seem to care what kind of mood Bodie was in, starting straight in. "What time did you get back to your room last night?"

"Just what business do you think it is of yours?" Bodie matched his tone exactly to Doyle's, knowing it would annoy him and not caring. He didn't want to discuss his relationship with Robert with anyone, but especially not Ray Doyle and certainly not now.

"I can't believe you're bloody stupid enough to be sleeping with someone we're protecting. It's asinine." Doyle's feline face turned cold, his look frozen. He stood with his hands on his narrow hips, looking like he was spoiling for a fight.

Bodie's good mood bled away. "Damn it, Doyle, just leave it be." Bodie ground the words out coldly, looking at Doyle with displeasure, and tried to convey just how close Doyle was to the edge of his patience. "This is none of your concern."

Doyle never did know when to leave well alone. "Don't be an arse. You could lose your job over this."

Bodie was having none of it. "I don't think so. It's not like it hasn't been done before. Should I remind you of that?" A year or so ago, Doyle had done the very same thing with a woman they were minding. As always, Bodie had protected his partner's arse and, thankfully, nothing had come of threats against the woman.

Doyle shook his head.

"Nothing will happen unless you tell Cowley." That could cause a mess, but he really didn't think the old man would fire him over it. Maybe a month in Records, but not canned.

"And what if I do?" Doyle's scowl was so ugly that for a split second Bodie thought he might actually do it.

Shock ran through him. Could Doyle betray him? Hurt at the very thought, he lashed out. "Wouldn't surprise me a bit, you're not known for your loyalty, now are you?"

He hit pay dirt. Doyle flinched visibly, sucking in a deep breath, before turning around and stalking out of the room without another word.

Bodie immediately regretted the accusation. It wasn't near to true. There had never been a truer or more loyal friend than Ray Doyle. And Doyle knew he felt that way, too. He'd have to apologise when he saw his partner, later. And after a suitable amount of suffering on Bodie's part, Doyle would forgive him. It worked that way between them.

A second after Doyle stormed out, Robert came in and Bodie wondered if he'd heard anything.

"Are you okay?" Robert asked quietly, coming to stand next to him without touching him. They had agreed, no touching outside of the bedroom. But it was pretty plain that he'd heard at least some part of the conversation.

"Yeah, Doyle's just being a sarky pain in the arse." Bodie had no intention of talking to Robert about what happened. He liked and respected Robert, but what was between him and Doyle stayed there.

"I don't like the idea of you fighting over me."

"Won't hurt how he protects you, I promise you that." Bodie felt an uncontrollable desire to protect his partner, even from his lover.

"I'm not worried about Doyle's protection at the moment. I'm worried about how fighting with him will affect you." Robert sighed. "But maybe that's not allowed either."

Bodie shook his head. "Maybe not." But instead of going after Doyle, like he wanted to do and Doyle no doubt expected, he sat down at the table and ate his breakfast.

Doyle slammed into his room, livid, ready to break something. His eyes lit on one of the beautiful, cut-crystal vases that sat about the place. He ran a finger along one grove in the design and sighed. There was something so bloody satisfying in the sound of breaking glass when you were angry. But he left it standing, replacing the damned thing would likely cost him a month's salary. And despite the momentary satisfaction of hearing the glass break, he knew from past experience it wouldn't help anyway.

How could Bodie be so bloody stupid? How could he compromise a mission this badly? Bodie was a professional and knew better, so why was he in this situation?

What did Bodie see in that big, old man anyway? To be fair, Ray thought that Northcroft wasn't too bad looking, if you liked that type -- not that Doyle liked any type of man, not like that anyway. But how could Bodie do this to him, betray him this way?

Him? That stopped Ray's thoughts right in their tracks. What did he have to do with this? It wasn't like he was jealous or anything. At least, he didn't think he was.

The idea formed in Doyle's head, just a stray thought floating by, but once there, it wasn't going to leave him unless he worked it through. Was it possible he did want Bodie? Shaking his head, he tried to think. No. He just couldn't see it. It wasn't possible that he'd suddenly develop a quirk in his personality this big, at least not overnight.

By all rights, if his best mate found a lover who made him happy, then he should be happy for Bodie, shouldn't he? Fine, then why was he annoyed rather than pleased, especially since that someone looked like he could give his mate things Doyle would never be able to, not in a million years.

Doyle shook off the thought. It wasn't about what he could or couldn't give Bodie, at least not at the moment.

Then what was this about? Why the hell was he taking the situation so personally. Doyle admitted to himself that his anger had more to do with what was between him and Bodie than with Bodie compromising the mission, but how it all fit together, he didn't know. And he wasn't sure he'd like the answer, but he'd always prided himself on his self-knowledge, and this would be no different. He must have a bit of time to think the whole thing through.

The truth be told, he hadn't seriously considered his feelings for his partner since Bodie had not-so-subtly asked him which way he went down the bisexual street. Doyle had been both amused and appalled by the question from a man he'd have sworn was totally straight, but he'd answered honestly at the time. He was straight.

Over the years he'd seen the attraction in the dark blue eyes, but had done his best to ignore it. He hadn't wanted to deal with the knowledge that his best mate might possibly be in love with him. Later, that same look from Bodie had created a near insane desire settle down and get married. A male lover was not going to be a part of his life.

A small voice asked: what about Bodie? Could his partner, his best mate, be a part of his life like that? When all was said and done, didn't he love Bodie more than anyone he'd ever known, family included.

Yes. But... but not like that.

Shaking his head, Doyle knew he wasn't going to find an answer now. He should get moving downstairs and mind his charge.

And Bodie owed him an apology for that last comment. It had hurt. Doyle didn't believe for one second that Bodie really felt that way. No, it had been said just to wound and it had. Smiling, he decided he'd make Bodie grovel a little before forgiving him. But he would forgive Bodie, of that there was never a question.

With that happy thought, he went to find his partner.

"The biggest problem as I see it, is the coming and going to and from the office and the estate," Bodie said, coming into the office they shared. He carried two cups of tea.

Doyle nodded, taking the cuppa and smiling his thanks. He'd sussed that was the problem as well.

The office building and the estate were both well guarded and would be, if not impossible to penetrate, then most likely beyond the resources of the terrorists in question. The way to get to Northcroft was to hit him when they were driving back and forth. Even a bulletproof limo could be forced off the road. "Have we heard anything new from Cowley about what's happening?"

Bodie shook his head, sipping his tea. "No, but he thinks it's going to happen soon, if it happens at all."

Doyle nodded, grimly. "Probably."

Their office was minuscule, no more than ten feet by eight feet. And it reminded Doyle more of a closet than anything else and indeed it had been a storage room before he and Bodie arrived. But it was all the space available on Northcroft's floor. Crowded with a desk and a couple of telephones, a computer terminal, printer, fax and other office paraphernalia, they had still made good use of the space in the last two weeks of operation. Despite their best effort, it hadn't been enough. There was no new information on the terrorist group on the streets or anywhere else.

Ray knew Bodie was as frustrated as he was, maybe more so since Bodie had a personal stake in keeping Northcroft alive.

As he'd expected, Bodie had been quite contrite in his apology and Doyle had allowed him to think he'd been very hurt by it, for a while. But he'd forgiven Bodie as they both had known he would.

They had yet to resolve what Bodie was doing with Northcroft at night. It infuriated Doyle to even think about his partner with that Yank. But as Bodie had pointed out to him more than once in the last two weeks, he couldn't do a damned thing about it. He pushed the thought away, knowing it would take time for him to come to terms with the implications of Bodie's affair with Northcroft.

Later that night, as Bodie lay next to his lover, he contemplated the end of their relationship and it saddened him. He'd grown very fond of Robert over the short time they had been lovers.

"What's wrong?" Robert trailed his fingers down Bodie's back, in a light caress.

"What makes you think something is wrong?" Bodie asked, leaning into the gentle caress, sighing contentedly. Robert had a seemingly unlimited supply of affection and Bodie had been so starved for touch for so long that he couldn't help basking in the warmth of it.

Robert dropped a kiss on his shoulder and Bodie could feel the smile on his skin. "Maybe it was the sigh the size of Texas that gave me my first hint."

Laughing, Bodie raised up on an elbow to look at Robert. "Nothing's wrong."

One dark eyebrow lifted in question. "Then why the sigh?"

"Let it be." Bodie didn't want to think about goodbye yet. He knew it was inevitable, but for a while, he just wanted to pretend he was important to someone.

Sliding his arms around Bodie, Robert turned him so that he could look down into his face. "Tell me."

No way out without being rude, he'd have to tell the truth. "I was just thinking, this will all be over next week, and you'll be safe."

"And back in the US?" Robert stroked his face, his blue eyes sad.

Bodie nodded.

"Without you?"

Shifting away, Bodie nodded. "Yeah, without me."

"You could come with me."

Startled, Bodie met the blue eyes. There was more hope in their depth than Bodie would have believed possible. He hated to dash it, but there wasn't any way in hell he'd go to America with Robert. "And do what exactly? I'm not cut out to be anyone's mistress."

"Heaven forbid." Robert rolled his eyes and chuckled. "No. I had in mind something that would be a bit more of a challenge."

"Such as?" Bodie was afraid of what he might suggest.

"Such as, Northcroft industries just lost its head of security. My brother told me tonight the bastard who has been working for us for the last couple of years has been indited on industrial espionage charges."

Just what he'd expected. A perfect job. And what exactly were the requirements for this job? He'd rather not know. "I see."

"Do you?"

Bodie shook his head to clear the red haze that settled before his eyes. If he went to the States with Robert, it would be just the same as being his whore. He'd be at Northcroft's beck and call, living on whatever he was given. A pampered lapdog. Until his looks faded or he displeased his master, and then he'd be out on his arse. This was not his preferred way to make a living. He could not believe that Robert would actually think he'd be interested.

"Don't look like that Bodie."

"Like what, exactly?" Bodie's tone was hard. He didn't like what the idea that was forming in his mind. "I'd be working for you, wouldn't I?"

"After a fashion." Robert sounded confused, as if he didn't know what he was asking. "Does it matter?"

How could he not know? "Hell, yes. I'm no one's whore." A small voice added, Well, except Cowley's, of course, but that was for a greater good. This was for no one's good, but Robert's.

The blue eyes held bewilderment. "I'm confused. What exactly is the problem? You're more than qualified for the job. With your credentials we'd be foolish not to hire you. You'd be making at least three or four times what you're making now."

Furious and hurt, Bodie sat up. "And my job would depend on how good I performed in bed? If we had a fight, or I wanted to leave you for someone else, would I lose my job?"

Robert went white, then red. His big hands which had always been so gentle on Bodie's flesh, curled into fists. "If you apologise right now, I'll forgive you for even thinking such a thing about me." Robert enunciated each word clearly, his voice harsh with barely concealed fury.

Bodie stood, taking a deep breath, trying to order his thoughts and let the anger go. Looking down at his lover, seeing the indignation and hurt in Robert's eyes, he realised what a mistake he'd made. "I am sorry." And he meant it.

He'd reacted instinctively, without thinking the offer through. Even knowing Robert for the short time he had, he knew it was highly unlikely he would be treated like that. Actually, he doubted Robert would treat anyone in that manner. What had he been thinking of?

Maybe it was time to stop trying to triple-guess what people really meant and take the world as it was offered. Maybe it was time to stop living in a world that made that kind of thinking necessary. Maybe he should take Robert's offer, if it was still good, which might be in doubt now that he'd made a fool of himself.

Taking several breaths, Robert closed his eyes, seeming to draw calm from somewhere deep inside him. He nodded.

Standing there naked, Bodie started to shiver. He didn't want to leave or dress without resolving the issue, but he wasn't getting back into that bed until things were settled between them, one way or another.

Opening his eyes, Robert looked up at him. "I have never treated anyone the way you just accused me of trying to treat you. I don't know what I could have done to make you think that. I realise we haven't known each other very long, but I thought you knew me better."

"No. That was my fault. I just didn't expect such a generous offer and looked for a reason." Bodie started to reach out his hand to touch, but let it fall before it made contact. He still wasn't sure.

Robert shook his head. "You're a highly trained professional, I can't imagine with your background you'd have any trouble finding another job if you wanted one."

Nodding, Bodie sat back down on the bed. "Yeah, that's likely true. But I haven't really thought about leaving this job."

Putting his hand over Bodie's, Robert squeezed it. "Think about it. The job in Seattle is legitimate. And while I'm on the board of trustees for Northcroft Industries, you wouldn't be working for me, well not directly. You'd be working for my brother, David, he's the CEO."

Bodie groaned. "Great. If he finds out about us, he'll fire me."

Robert threw back his head and laughed, the tension between them easing.

"I take it he knows?" Robert nodded, still laughing. "Worse, then if we have a fight, he'll fire me to protect your honour." Bodie made his voice light, not wanting to risk any more ire from his lover.

"Bodie." Robert dragged the name out in exasperation. "I've just told you it won't be a problem. Don't you believe me?"

With a tremendous sigh, Bodie just watched Robert with a look of disbelief. "What about us?"

"What about us?" Robert's face was blank; it was obvious that he didn't have a clue about what Bodie was talking about.

He'd have to spell it out. There could be no misunderstandings or doubts for the future. "What does our relationship have do with the job?"

Robert shook his head. "Nothing."


"If you came back with me to the US, you can take the job or find another. I'd like you to come home with me either way."

"Do you usually pick up strays on your travels? What will your family say?" Bodie could not believe this. The man wanted him to pick up his life and move half a world away from everything he'd known, on a whim. What was worse, he was more than a little tempted by the offer. Being away from here, this job, this life, looked good from where he was standing.

Robert chuckled, leaning back against the carved wood headboard of the huge bed. "My family knows I'm gay. I'm forty-six, I've been this way my whole life. And as for being a stray, that hardly seems to fit you."

"Maybe not. But...." Nothing could be this easy. Bodie had learned long ago to wait for the other shoe to drop.

"Will you at least consider the offer?"

He nodded. He would think about it. "Yeah."

"You will?" The blue eyes widened in disbelief, as if he really hadn't expected Bodie to agree, or at least not so easily. But Bodie recognized a good thing when it came his way. He didn't get this far in life without considering all of his options.

"Don't look so surprised. I've enjoyed the couple of weeks we've spent together." But something else occurred to Bodie, and it terrified him. What if Robert were falling in love with him? His heart was not his own, and would not be for a long time to come. If he left Doyle, and he wasn't sure that he could, the time and distance might quell some of his feelings, but it would take a while. He didn't want to make any promises he couldn't keep.

"What now?" Robert asked, seeing the look on his face.

"Uh...." Bodie had no idea how to phrase a question that would seem impertinent at best. Looking at the wall and then the floor, he found no inspiration to give him any help. He took another big gamble. "You're not in love with me, are you?"

Robert shook his head, his eyes intense as they met Bodie's. "No. And to be truthful, I'm not likely to be, at least not in the foreseeable future."

The words were so adamant, Bodie couldn't help the next question. "Why not?"

"Because, five years ago I lost my lover of more than twenty-five years, someone who I had grown up with, someone who I had known all my life and who was the other half of me. I will be honest with you, I don't think I'll ever be able to love anyone like that again."

Christ-all-mighty! Not usually empathic, Bodie knew how he'd feel to lose Doyle to death, the pain cut through him. And he took a breath, trying to shake off the horror. "I'm sorry. It must have been awful."

"More than awful. I'm not sure how I survived it, but I did more or less. I don't want to make false promises to you about how I'll feel about you in the future. How do you feel about me?"

"Umm..." Bodie could feel the flush start to crawl across his face. Whenever possible, he avoided all talk of his feelings. Actions spoke louder than words. All that touchy feely crap made him very uncomfortable. Groaning inwardly, he should have expected that Robert, being American, would want to know chapter and verse of his feelings. He didn't think about these sorts of things, well, except where Doyle was concerned, but he'd never talk about it.

"God, you're so English." Robert laughed, amusement dancing across his face at some joke Bodie didn't understand.

Pouting, Bodie was completely confused by the comment. "Of course, I'm English."

Rolling his eyes, Robert continued to laugh. "And unless I miss my guess, you're not in love with me, and not likely to either?"

Shaking his head, Bodie still wasn't getting the joke. "No. But what does that have to do with being English?"


"I'm confused." Bodie knew he'd missed something, but he wasn't quite sure what. He didn't mind being the butt of a joke and he could laugh at himself as well as the next fellow, but he wanted to know what he was being laughed at for.

Robert shrugged, and leaning forward he kissed Bodie hard on the mouth but pulled away before he could respond. "You're so cute when you pout."

Bodie leaned forward to kiss Robert again, a much more pleasant way to spend time than trying to figure out what was going on in his lover's head. After a satisfying moment or two, he pulled back. "Puppies, small children and women are cute. Grown men are not cute. I'll thank you to remember that, too." Bodie tried to make his voice as aggrieved as possible which only served to make Robert laugh more. "Now explain."

Robert's eyes danced with glee. "Explain what?"

"The comment about being English and why you want me to come home with you if there's no chance for you to fall in love with me."

"Because, I'm don't like being alone and you seem an ideal candidate."

An ideal candidate? "For what exactly?"

Robert didn't answer the question, instead going on to something else, entirely. "I don't think you're going to fall in love with me."

Doyle. Robert knew about Doyle. How? Bodie had always tried to keep his feelings for his partner hidden. He opened his mouth to comment and then closed it as Robert held up his hand.

"Yes. I can see how you feel about Doyle. I also can see he doesn't feel the same way. He's straight, isn't he?"

Bodie nodded, surprised. He hadn't realised just how perceptive Robert was.

"I'd never stand in the way of true love, but if there's no hope, I can offer you a lot."

Why would a man who could have anyone, choose him? "Why me?"

A big smile lit Robert's face. "Aside from the fact you're gorgeous, intelligent and charming, you mean?"

A blush crawled up his neck at the extravagant comment, he nodded. "Yeah, aside from that."

"Do I have to have more of a reason?" He looked at Bodie. "I guess I do. All right. We might grow to love each other over time, but I want someone I can talk to, spend time with. I hate sleeping alone. I like sex, but I don't sleep around. It seems like an ideal arrangement for both of us."

Bodie considered it. There was a lot of merit to the idea. Since he'd been in love with Doyle, he'd been unable to connect with anyone on any level except sexual. Which was fine much of the time, but every so often he craved contact that wasn't anonymous. With Robert, he was very attracted, enjoyed his company tremendously, and genuinely liked the man. It wouldn't be a half bad way to spend time.

He'd miss England, but he really had no one here. He hadn't seen any of his family since he was fourteen. Doyle and CI5 had become the only family he had. Could he leave? Now, that was the big question, wasn't it? "It's a damned tempting offer. I'll think about it."

Robert smiled. "I'm glad you're going to at least consider it."

"Now tell me about the English comment."

Ducking his head, Robert groaned. "It's just that you English are so reticent about discussing your feelings. It's not as if you don't have them."

"We don't," Bodie told him, trying to keep the smile off his face, but his lips twitched uncontrollably. "It's you Americans who've taken emoting to new heights."

Laughing, Robert nodded his head. "Come here, let's emote together for a while."

Picking up his watch from the bedside table, he sighed. "I should to get back to my room soon."

"Not too soon, I hope."

"No. Not too soon." Lying back down in the warm bed, he was immediately pulled into Robert's arms, his neck nuzzled with soft lips. The warmth of Robert's body made him shudder.

"God, you're freezing."

Turning to kiss Robert, he wrapped himself around the big, warm body. "Can you think of a way to warm me up?"

"I suppose I can try." Robert's mouth descended, big hands started to rub his cold flesh and very soon, Bodie wasn't cold any more.

"It's two days to the beginning of the conference," Doyle said brightly, as they studied the layout of the hotel grand ballroom where the conference was going to take place, looking for possible places for breaches in security.

"As if I didn't know that. What's your problem?" Bodie snapped, annoyed by Doyle's tone. There was far too much glee in it for Bodie's taste.

"Once it's over, Northcroft will be going back to the States." A small smile of satisfaction graced Ray's lips.

Bodie shrugged. "So?"

"So, you and he have been going at it hot and heavy for weeks, I was wondering if you were going to be broken-hearted when he leaves." Doyle sounded like he'd be delighted if that were the case.

With a sigh, Bodie realised it was now or never. "I might go with him."

Ray's head snapped up. "What?"

Bodie almost laughed at the look of intense disbelief in the green eyes. "Robert offered me a job in Seattle."

Shaking his head, Doyle dismissed it. "No. You won't leave CI5."

The certainty in that smug tone annoyed Bodie tremendously. And he smiled, nastily. "You don't think so, sunshine? Think again."

Doyle met his eyes, tilting his head slightly in question. "Would you?" Now there was just a note of a question in his tone, as if his grounding were not quite as solid as it had been a second before.

Bodie nodded. "I'm seriously considering it."

There was no satisfaction in seeing the colour drain out Doyle's face. "Why? You don't love him." Doyle's tone said he knew this for a fact. Perhaps he did, but Bodie wasn't going to concede anything.

Taking a hard stance, he just looked at Ray. "And how would you know that?"

This time the green eyes flashed with the certainty, knowing the truth. "You don't."

Bodie sighed. His secret wasn't a secret from anyone, was it? He should have known Doyle would twig to it.

Steeling himself against the hurt he was going to cause, Bodie plunged onward, unable to do otherwise. "Maybe not, but I like him a lot. And it's a great job."

"Presupposing you keep your master happy and he doesn't boot your arse on to the streets."

Christ, Doyle could be nasty when he tried. Or when he was hurt or scared. And Doyle looked more scared than angry or hurt, right now. That in itself startled Bodie. But he knew it shouldn't have. He and Doyle had been best mates for a long time. And it was that friendship that Doyle now feared to lose; for Bodie it was so much more, but he could not tell his partner that.

"It's not like that. I won't be working for Robert directly, besides which with my credentials even if I did get canned, I'd still be able to find another job."

"So when this is over, you'll be gone?" Doyle's tone was small and uncertain, tearing at Bodie's heart.

"I'm thinking about it." He knew he could easily be talked out of leaving. Doyle only had to glance in his direction and he'd be lost. Friendship was all Doyle would ever be able to offer him and he wanted more from life than that.

"Have you told Cowley?"

Bodie shook his head. Nothing was settled yet, all he'd said was that he'd think about it. But leaving was a good idea. It would give him a life, something more than this job and his own right hand. "I haven't decided for sure yet."

"How can you leave everything like this?"

"What everything? All I have is the job. I have no family here." It hurt to say that, but he wanted Doyle to understand the ties that held him here were precarious at best. Five years of deep friendship were important, but he could not base the rest of his life on it. Someday, Doyle would marry and then where would he be?

"What about me?"

Bodie frowned, trust Doyle to cut to the chase without even knowing he was doing it. All he could do was tell the truth. "You don't keep me warm at night, sunshine."

Doyle paled again, meeting his eyes. "Would it matter if I did?"

Their eyes met and meshed for a moment, something passed between them, but Bodie didn't know what it was or whether or not to trust it. And as hope started to flare, he squelched it mercilessly. Doyle was joking. He had to be. Forcing a chuckle, he answered appropriately. "Not inclined that way, now are you?"

Doyle shook his head and headed out of their office without a backward glance.

Outside the executive lunch room, Doyle sat on the bare stone terrace, ignoring the cold, his r/t at his side. Struggling with what Bodie had told him this morning, he could not believe his partner would leave him, just could not accept it.

Still, he shouldn't be surprised. All the people he'd ever loved had left him. Starting with his father when he was ten, he'd spent a life-time saying goodbye to one person after another, everyone whom he'd ever loved. Bodie would be one more in a long list.

Except... except he had believed that Bodie would be different. Their very closeness, the way they understood each other, the way they could move in perfect tandem with each other had led him to believe that Bodie would be the one friend that would love him enough to stay with him. But he'd been wrong, again.

He took a deep breath, fighting down the pain. It didn't matter. He'd get on fine without Bodie in his life, but he was lying. Bodie mattered. Bodie mattered a hell of a lot. And the very thought of not having his partner in his life made his chest ache. He rubbed at it, trying to relieve the pressure. Ray tried drawing enough air into his lungs to strangle the sob that kept trying to escape.

What was wrong with him? Was there some fatal flaw in him that made everyone he'd ever loved want to leave him?

You don't keep me warm at night.

Closing his eyes tightly against the sting, he leant his head against the smoked glass wall. Could he change that part of himself? Did he want to? Could he keep Bodie warm at night. If he did, would Bodie stay with him?

It was time to consider the things he'd never considered before.

What were his true feelings for Bodie? Christ, he'd been so jealous. Every night for the past three weeks he'd lie in bed, seething with anger as he waited for Bodie's door to open and close, telling him that his partner had returned from his lover's bed. As much as he had wanted to deny the rage he felt at the thought of anyone, but especially Robert Northcroft, touching Bodie, he could not.

His feelings... damn, that was more difficult to pin down than he thought. Yes, he loved Bodie, loved him enough to protect his arse with his life. Did he love him enough to have that arse and give his own in return?

In theory at least, if he would die for Bodie, sleeping with him shouldn't be that big a deal. Realistically, it seemed monumental.

He tried to imagine making love with Bodie. The image came to him more easily than he would have believed, unfolding in glorious technicolour. Bodie naked, his white skin gleaming with sweat, reaching out for him, kissing him tenderly, touching him with gentle fingers.

Ray smiled. He'd bet anything Bodie would be delicious to kiss, those pouting lips seemed ripe for kissing. That big body would be hard, toned with years of exercise and the firm muscles would ripple under his fingers. Ray found the idea quite appealing.

The fantasy broke over him. In his mind's-eye he could see his hard cock sinking slowly between the pale cheeks of Bodie's arse, could almost feel the exquisite heat and tightness. Arousal flared deep within him, his breath caught, his cock came up hard, throbbing with desire. He wanted Bodie in that second more than he'd ever wanted anyone in his life. Reaching down, he adjusted himself in his tight jeans, for once wishing he'd worn looser trousers. His own touch inflamed him further.

Fucking Bodie would be ecstasy, he could hardly wait to try it. But what about Bodie fucking him? Forcing himself to imagine it, to see himself on his knees, with Bodie behind him, moving deeply inside him. He shuddered. By all rights, the image should repulse any straight man. Yet, he found it strangely erotic, not at all unappealing or demeaning as he thought it might be. His cock pulsed again and he took a deep breath, fighting for calm. And sure, there was a certain amount of curiosity, not to mention a healthy dose of genuine fear. Beyond a doubt, if he got that far, Bodie would take special care with him.

Obviously the sex would not be a problem -- well the first time might be a bit awkward, but they would get through it. What of the rest? Could he pledge his life to Bodie? He doubted Bodie would settle for anything less. Being gay was not how he planned to spend his life, but there again, if he had these kinds of feelings, and it looked like he did, then wasn't he gay, or at least bisexual already? He expected he could live with it.

A life with Bodie would make up for the problems. Once Bodie made a commitment, Ray knew he would never leave. Chuckling silently to himself, it didn't bear thinking about what Bodie might try to do, if he tried to leave, not that he ever would. That things might not work out was not worth thinking about. If he were going to change his whole life, it would work out. Period. The only problem now was how to get the information across to Bodie.

Opening his eyes, he looked across the roof at the grey sky above him. It was cold out here, and his arse was getting numb sitting on the hard stone, but he didn't really care. Finding a way to tell Bodie of his revelations was harder than making them. Talking to Bodie this morning, he'd tried to offer himself, but it hadn't come out right and Bodie had thought he was joking. At the time, he'd only been half serious, but now he knew he was serious.

Reaching out to Bodie on an intimate level terrified him. He'd never been the type to lay it on the line. Not to mention that he didn't know how to touch a man, had never wanted to until now, until this moment he'd never even considered the possibility that he might want to. If he didn't find a way to approach Bodie, he'd lose him forever. And Ray could not bear the thought of that.

Doyle shook his head, trying to clear it. What should he do? How did he approach his partner about this? What should he say? He doubted that Bodie would take well to him throwing himself at his feet, even knowing that Bodie wanted him.

Footsteps on the terrace had him on his feet with his gun drawn before he considered who would have access to the area.

Robert Northcroft stopped in his tracks, holding his hands out at his sides. "Don't shoot."

With two other people, it would have been a funny moment, but he did not care to be that friendly and he suspected Northcroft felt the same way.

"Don't sneak up on me like that," Doyle said more harshly that he had to, reholstering his weapon.

"What are you doing out here? It's cold."

Well, maybe Bodie didn't want him for his intelligence. "I know it's cold."

Northcroft just looked annoyed at his answer, but that was not uncommon. The man spent a lot of time scowling at him. "Why are you out here?"

Did he have to answer that? "I like the cold."

"Bodie told you about the offer."

"What offer?" Never give an inch, that was his motto.

Northcroft raised an eyebrow at him. "He didn't tell you about the job?"

Doyle had nothing to say to this man that wasn't business and he certainly wasn't going to discuss his partner. Folding his arms across his chest, he just stood there waiting for Northcroft to give up.

But Northcroft was made of sterner stuff and didn't take silence for an answer. "You can't keep him here, if he wants to go."

Yes I can, Ray thought, but he'd been pushed too far. He growled at Northcroft. "And how do you know what he wants, anyway?"

A cold smile touched Northcroft's wide mouth. "I think I can give him a hell of a lot more than you can. And I don't just mean a job."

Taking a deep breath, Doyle unclenched his fists, forcing calm through his raging temper. Now was not the time to thump the bastard. Maybe he'd get a chance later, but now he had to remember his job was to protect Northcroft, so he swallowed his anger. "You don't know what I can or won't give him. And if I offered...." Doyle let his voice trail off suggestively, letting Northcroft know that he knew who really had the upper hand. He knew if he could find the words for Bodie, that his partner would choose to be with him over Mr Moneybags. At least, he hoped so.

"If you really care about him, then do it. But I don't think you do. You just want him so no one else can have him. And that is just selfish."

Meeting the blue eyes so like his partner's, Doyle straightened, changing his stance to defensive. "I have no intention of discussing Bodie with you. Was there another reason you came out here?"

"Actually, yes. It's time to go to the hotel and your r/t is off.

Doyle looked down at it. It was indeed off. Christ, how could he have been so stupid? "How did you find me?"

Northcroft smiled. "One of the secretaries saw you go out here. Never saw you return, although she was sure that you weren't still out here."

"Let's go." He waved a hand forward, indicating that Northcroft should precede him through the glass doors.

Doyle drove the big limo towards the hotel for the second time in as many days. The conference would start tomorrow.

He could almost believe they would get by without an attempt of any kind. As much as Ray disliked Northcroft, he'd been grateful for the routineness of the assignment. Especially with Bodie so distracted with the subject.

Despite being on guard, the attack came as a surprise. It happened so fast Doyle never had a chance to think through his response, instead acting instinctively, letting his training take over.

One second he was driving the big black limo along the M1 towards the conference centre in Leeds and the next, a big, American-made ATV forced them off the road.

Without turning around, Doyle ordered Northcroft down on the floor, hoping the car's bullet-proof shielding and shatter-resistant glass would protect his charge. Rolling across the seat of the car and out, he took up a position next to Bodie with the car between them and the terrorists.

Three men raced from the vehicle and began hosing the limo with automatic weapons.

Without thinking about it, he and Bodie moved as one, taking aim at two of the three men and shooting. They fell where they stood. Unfortunately, it gave the third man a chance to start firing over the car rather than at it.

A burning pain ripped through his shoulder and he was knocked backwards, hitting the ground with a thump. Fuck! He gripped his shoulder, watching Bodie raise his weapon, dispatching the third man.

The ATV started to peel away, tyres screeching loudly on the blacktop. Bodie opened fire on it, hitting a tyre. The last of the terrorists emerged, firing his weapon. Bodie polished him off too, the man went down without a sound. Reaching for his r/t, Bodie called for backup and an ambulance.

Sitting up, Doyle looked at the wound. It was just a graze, not very deep for all that it hurt like hell.

"You all right, sunshine?" Bodie asked, handing him a handkerchief to bind his wound with, his eyes showing his concern, but he had work to do.


"Are you okay, Robert?" Bodie asked, opening the door of the limo, and peering in at their charge.

Stunned and pale, Northcroft sat up from the floor. He nodded to Bodie's question. "Thanks." He turned to look at Doyle, his face going more pale with surprise. "You've been shot?"

"Just a graze. It stings a bit." Doyle wouldn't give an inch, even with the concern he could see in the usually hostile eyes.

Northcroft nodded again, starting to look a little green around the edges.

"Take a couple of deep breaths and then put your head on your knees," Doyle ordered in a flat tone. He didn't want the man to get sick or pass out. Or at least, that's what he told himself.

Nodding, Northcroft did as he was told. "Thanks."

The local police and an ambulance arrived within a few minutes. Cowley and two teams of CI5 agents came right after that.

Looking down at the corpses, Cowley scowled. "Brian O'Sullivan, he's the ring leader."

"Are there many more?" Northcroft asked, up on his feet, but still looking like he might be sick at any second.

"A few, but I think the heart has been cut out with the end of Mr O'Sullivan here." Bodie nudged the corpse with the toe of his shoe.

"Thank God. I should get to the hotel. The first of the attendees will be arriving in a little while." Robert turned to look at the available vehicles. The bullet-ridden limo was out of the question.

Cowley nodded. "I'll escort you there myself and with one of my armed teams behind us." He nodded to Anson and Larimer.

Turning towards him, Doyle could see Cowley doing a quick damage assessment. "Do you require a hospital?"

He shook his head. It hurt, but it wasn't serious. "No, sir. Just some antiseptic will do."

"Bodie take him to the infirmary and then see that he gets home to bed. I'll expect both of you at

8:00 am day after tomorrow."

"Sir!" Bodie said, and Doyle could almost see him saluting. "We must have a car."

Nodding towards the second car behind his, Cowley said, "Take that one. Redcliffe can stay here with the limo and Brendan can come with me."

Everyone started to move away from the area and he saw Bodie catch Northcroft's eyes and smile. Bodie looked like he might want to say something to his lover, but there was no way for them to be alone. Like hot acid through silk, jealousy tore into Doyle. He took a deep breath to still it, and he turned away.

The doctor at the infirmary cleaned out the wound and bandaged it. As Doyle had thought, it was not serious.

Bodie was almost cold, helping him into the car and then his flat with a minimum of words and as little touching as possible. When his partner would have left, Doyle realised he would never get another chance.

"Bodie, don't go." He was appalled at the pleading tone his voice had taken. But there was nothing he could do to call him back.

"What?" Bodie's face was closed, almost hard, his blue eyes had never looked at Ray with such disdain before.

It frightened Doyle. Perhaps he'd waited too long. Taking a deep breath, he plunged on, hoping he could get the words out before he ran out of fortitude. "I don't want you to leave." The me was implied in the tone.

Bodie seemed to hear it, too. The blue eyes flashed with anger. "Doyle, don't do this to me."


"Don't keep me here, just because you can." Bodie was begging him not to hold him if he didn't love him.

He had to explain that he did love Bodie. Shaking his head, he tried to calm his racing heart. As much as he wanted to let Bodie know how he felt, he had no idea of how to make his partner see his feelings. "I wouldn't do that. I want you to stay."

Bodie's stance widened, his thighs moving farther apart, his arms folding over his chest. "I know you do, but I don't want to stay here. I want to go to the States with Robert."

Playing his only trump card, Doyle prayed that it would work. "You don't love him."

A thick black eyebrow rose in question and a smirk appeared on the beautiful face. "I'll ask you this again, how do you know that?"

Taking a deep breath, Doyle played his card. "I thought you loved me."

Bodie's laughter was a cruel, cutting into Doyle's heart. "Whatever made you think that, sunshine?"

Stunned, Doyle looked up at him, meeting the cold blue eyes. He knew Bodie loved him. He knew it, dammit! There were too many times over the years where he'd seen the truth in the looks Bodie had cast his way. "Because it's why you're leaving."

Faced with the truth, the fight drained out of Bodie, his broad shoulders slumping, the dark head dropping forward. "Fine. But it doesn't change the fact that you have nothing to offer me."

Say it, Doyle ordered himself but found no words. Now that the moment was upon him, he couldn't speak, something started to invade his throat, not letting him get the words out past it. Opening his mouth, he tried to tell Bodie that he loved him, that he'd do anything for him, that he'd die for him, but no sound would emerge.

Bodie turned on his heel, starting for the door.

"Wait," Doyle managed to croak out, past the pain and paralysis. "Please wait."

Stopping with his back still to Ray, Bodie's shoulders were tense, his spine stiff. His voice was a harsh whisper, Doyle had to strain to hear. "There's nothing left for us to say to each other. I'd like to have parted as friends. I even hoped you'd wish me well. But you're making that very hard."

"I'm sorry," Doyle whispered, still trying to find the necessary words to keep Bodie from leaving. Why couldn't he just say it? Because he just couldn't believe Bodie wanted to hear it. No one he'd ever loved, loved him back enough to stay with him. If he bared his feelings to Bodie and was rejected he'd die of it. This time it mattered too much. Bodie was the rest of his life and terror paralysed him.

"Can I go now?" The words were like ice on his spine.

"Back to Northcroft?" He didn't mean to sneer, but his fear wouldn't let him beg. His partner's already stiff body stiffened even more. He didn't have to see Bodie's face to know he was furious.

But he saw the nod. "As a matter of fact, yes."

A knife slid into Doyle's heart, slicing deep. A breath suspiciously like a sob caught in his chest. "Don't. Please don't."

Bodie turned back towards him. Ray dropped his eyes, not wanting Bodie to see his weakness. "I don't understand. Make me understand, Ray."

"I can't." He wanted to say the words, he had to say them, but he couldn't get them out of his throat. What the hell was wrong with him?

"You have to." That tone brooked no argument.

"Please." Doyle looked up at him then, straight into the midnight-blue eyes. With all the strength he had left he pleaded for mercy. "Please, don't leave me." His vision blurred, and he shook his head slightly to clear it, forcing back another sob. He would not cry.

Bodie crossed the room to stand in front of him, eyes never breaking contact with his. "Tell me why." Bodie's voice was soft, but no emotion touched his face.

"Because I love you dammit." The pain and fear turned to rage, without thinking he swung, clipping Bodie on the jaw. Bodie went down in a heap, obviously not expecting that reaction. Jumping to his feet, Bodie threw his greater strength against Ray, pinning him to the wall with his forearm across his throat.

"Don't you dare do this to me," Bodie growled, his eyes flashing with deadly intent, pure rage showing in every atom of Bodie's words and stance.

Doyle blinked. After all of that, this was really not the reaction he'd been expecting. Why the hell was Bodie acting like a madman? "Do what?"

"Don't you dare lie to me."

Anger poured over Doyle like scalding water, burning him. He pushed against Bodie, trying to dislodge him, but he didn't have the leverage required to move the larger and heavier man. "Since when have I ever lied to you, you bastard?" As soon as he got free, he was going to thump Bodie but good.

Bodie pushed a little harder, leaning into him, squeezing him against the wall. "As far as I know you haven't. But this? Yesterday you were straight."

"It's true. I swear." He looked straight into Bodie's eyes, willing him to believe it.

"Since when?"

Doyle would have shrugged, had he been able to move. As it was, with his oxygen supply in danger, he could only muster a half-hearted grin. "Well, I only realised it yesterday. But it's probably been true for a while."

"And what do you want to do about it?" Bodie asked, his tone still perfectly flat.

"Anything you want?" Doyle offered another slight grin.

"I don't know what to believe. If I give up Robert and this is a lie, I'll kill you." Bodie's voice turned cold, and Doyle had no trouble believing Bodie's threat.

Damn, what would it take for Bodie to believe him? Taking a deep breath, Doyle tried to infuse his voice with as much sincerity as he could. "It's not a lie. You want someone to keep you warm at night, I will. I swear it."

A doubting grimace appeared on Bodie's face. "And you'll let me fuck you?"

Damn, he would ask that now. A shiver of fear arrowed down Ray's spine, but he answered without hesitation. "Yes. But I get equal rights on that one."

Bodie's face shifted from outright disbelief to expectant pleasure in a split second. Hope flared hotly in the blue eyes and then in Ray's heart. He could see that Bodie finally believed him.

Smiling like a child at Christmas, Bodie's eyes shined with doubtful happiness. "Really?"

Doyle nodded, joy flooding him, his knees going weak. "Yeah. Straightaway if you want."

The arm was gone from his throat and Bodie rubbed his abused neck. First with gentle fingers and then nuzzling it with his mouth. Ray shivered, Bodie's touch bringing new joy to his senses.

Their eyes met as Bodie raised his head, and they moved together. Bodie's lips brushed his softly, and again. Fear and excitement warred in his heart, but the love won out, filling his heart to near bursting.

"I can't think of anything I want more in the entire world than to make love with you," Bodie murmured against his lips between kisses.

Ray found it surprisingly hard to admit to being a virgin, even knowing that Bodie had to know it. "I expect you know that I haven't, um, done..."

Running his knuckles down Ray's cheek, Bodie just smiled. "I know. We'll take it slowly at first, give you time to adjust to things."

"Good thinking." Doyle planted another kiss on his lips. This one lasted much longer than the few others they'd shared, giving him a chance to really react. Kissing Bodie turned out to be a singularly intoxicating experience, and one that Ray planned to indulge in often.

He opened his mouth wide when Bodie's tongue came calling, delight suffusing his entire being as the big hands started roaming.

Bodie pulled him closer, tightening his arms. Being held by someone bigger and stronger brought a moment's disquiet, but he expected that he'd get used to the feeling in time. And he and Bodie had the time.

Ray started on the buttons of Bodie's shirt, wanting his partner naked, now. They fought each other's clothes off, ending up on the rug near the electric fire, which was cold, but he and Bodie were so hot by this point, neither cared.

Turning Ray onto his back, Bodie rose over him, panting, and sweating, but the tenderness in the intense blue eyes and the gentleness of the hands touching him, reassured Ray once again: Bodie would never hurt him.

Bodie fastened his mouth to Ray's neck, sucking and biting.

"Bodie..." Ray pleaded, the tension of his arousal getting to be too much. "Please."

"Soon, sunshine, soon." Bodie slid a big, calloused hand down his chest, carding through his chest hair, pinching a nipple with just enough pressure to send a spike of pleasure through his entire body.

Ray groaned, thrusting his chest forward. Bodie's hands on his flesh thrilled him. He would not have believed a man's touch could be so arousing, but this was not just any man, now was it?

Bodie replaced his hand with his mouth, nipping gently. The sensations crashed over him, making him whimper, bringing him closer and closer to the edge of the abyss.

"If you're gonna do me, you better do it soon." Ray gasped out, praying Bodie had enough control left to do something, anything.

"Not gonna do you now -- later."

Blinking open his eyes, he looked at Bodie. Why didn't Bodie want to?

Stopping to look, Bodie kissed him. "I'm too close, want to savour you. We've got time." Moving down his torso, Bodie kissed the tip of his cock. Ray jerked as a thousand little sparks of pleasure radiated into his groin. Taking the head into his mouth, Bodie sucked expertly.

Ray groaned loudly. He couldn't control the desire to thrust into the warm, wet space, and he bucked up into Bodie's mouth, coming so hard he thought he might pass out.

When he came back to himself, Bodie was holding him tightly, his hard cock pressed against Ray's thigh. Feeling his lack of knowledge acutely, Ray wondered just what he should do to please his partner. As much as it went against his grain to do so, he'd have to ask. "What can I do for you?"

Bodie smiled tenderly. "Let's start with something easy." Bodie guided his hand to the thick cock, wrapping his fingers around the thick length, showing him how he liked to be stroked. "Pretend it's your own, works the same way."

Tentatively, Doyle moved his hand up and down, finding an easy rhythm that seemed to please his lover. Bodie came quickly, shouting out his name.

Drawing the bigger man into his arms, Ray just held him. "Was that okay?"

Not knowing what he was doing put him at a distinct disadvantage. He knew he'd not be able to live up to Bodie's fantasies, at least not yet. After some practice, well that would be another story. And he was more than willing to give the matter all the time it deserved. Nothing was too good for his mate... he did a mental correction, his lover. Testing the word, Ray found he liked the sound of it attached to Bodie.

"You're smiling." Bodie trailed a finger through his chest hair playfully.

Gasping, Bodie's fingers had tweaked a nipple, Doyle squirmed, not really trying to get away. "I was thinking how much better I'll be with some practice."

Bodie smiled tenderly at him. "You're pretty dammed good now."

"Give me time." And the practice would be such fun.

"How about ten minutes and we get you into bed, you should be resting."

Doyle had forgotten about his arm, and it picked that moment to start aching. Even with the throbbing ache, making love with Bodie had been well worth it.

Bodie stood and held a hand out for him. Taking it, he got to his feet and was pulled into his lover's embrace. Kissing the lovely pouting mouth one more time, Ray let go to lead the way into his bedroom so that Bodie and he could start again.

He crawled under the covers, holding up one end of the duvet for Bodie to join him. "Aren't you tired?" Bodie asked, getting in and pulling him into his arms.

"Not that tired." Snuggling up next to the very warm body, Doyle wanted to do some exploring of his own. "Got some research to do."

A black brow raised in amusement. "Research?"

"Yeah, medical science and all. Must find out how this body works. See if it is like mine or if it's different." He ran a hand possessively across Bodie's chest, his fingers lightly moving over the pale skin.

"Ah, well since it's for science and all." Bodie leaned up to press his mouth to Ray's, kissing him thoroughly.

Sliding his hand through the short dark hair, Doyle murmured appreciatively. Kissing Bodie was every bit as much of a pleasure as he'd thought it would be. More so. "Mmmm. Like the way you do that, mate."

"Then you won't be getting tired of it any time soon?" Could Bodie still doubt how he felt about him?

"Not too soon." Ray smiled at the perfect pout that settled onto Bodie's lovely mouth. "Not at all. Not ever."

"That's better." Again a sunny smile settled onto Bodie's face and Ray's heart leaped with the beauty of it.

The best way to prove it, Ray decided, was a physical demonstration of his feeling. To that end, he pushed Bodie onto his back, drawing the duvet away. For a moment, he just looked at the muscular pale body, seeing the hard lines and planes, so different from anybody he'd had in bed with him before, but beautiful all the same. "You are beautiful."

"Been telling you that, but you didn't look." Bodie smirked for a moment, but it fell into a warm smile very soon.

And it warmed Ray's heart to the core that it was for him. "I'm looking now, aren't I?"

Reaching out, Bodie tweaked one of his curls. "Yeah, but are you going to only look at me?"

He let his gaze move over Bodie, taking in the perfection of white skin and hard muscles. Yes, he could do this. He leaned down and kissed the centre of Bodie's chest. "Nice. Very nice."

Bodie reached for his other hand, lifting it to his mouth, pressing a lingering kiss to the palm. Ray shuddered as Bodie's tongue slipped out to lick his palm, and then nip the centre. "I want to touch you."

"Me first." His hand continued down the flat belly, not stopping until he reached the black coarse hair at the base of Bodie's groin. Pausing only a moment, he carded his fingers through it, wrapping a curl around his finger and testing the springiness. A moment more of playing, and then he considered the thick cock, now at full erection. Leaning down, he sniffed, fancying the deep, musky smell. Carefully, he slid his tongue out, licking tentatively at the hard cock. Salty, but not too bad.

Bodie drew in a sharp breath, his whole body jumping. "Bloody Christ!"

Maybe this wouldn't be as hard as he first thought since Bodie seemed to respond to his slightest touch. Increasing his boldness, he took the head of the now weeping cock into his mouth, starting to suck lightly. The pre-come tasted bitter, and slick, but it was not an unpleasant flavour.

Vibrating and starting to sweat, it was clear that Bodie was straining to keep still. Ray couldn't have that. He wouldn't break and Bodie should learn that straightaway. Lifting his head from his task, he smiled at Bodie. "It's okay to move. Got to learn sometime, don't I?"

Ray returned his mouth to Bodie's cock, delighting in the taste of his lover's flesh. Thrusting slowly into his mouth, Bodie didn't push too hard or too fast, and this first time, Doyle appreciated the concern. Later there would be time for wild or even rough, but just now he wanted gentleness. He and Bodie moved together, finding a comfortable rhythm, but before Bodie could come, he pulled away. Doyle looked up, wondering if he'd done something wrong.

Bodie smiled sweetly at him, sweat on his brow and a shudder running through his body. "I want this to last a little longer this time."

Ray relaxed against Bodie's warmth, grinning as gentle fingers pushed a damp curl from his forehead. Leaning down, Bodie kissed him again, slowly, moving from mouth to neck and then down again, kissing every inch of available skin.

Unable to stay still under the sensual bombardment, Ray twisted and writhed, moaning when Bodie's mouth closed over his right nipple.

Smiling, Bodie raising his head. "You are so responsive."

Doyle nodded, his body had always been sensitive to touch. Many of the women he'd known had loved to test his responses to them. Now it looked like Bodie was going to do the same thing. The marvellous mouth suckled him, sending sensations searing through his body, centring on his groin. Try as he might, he could not remain silent, and he called out his pleasure.

Rolling him over, Bodie continued the tactile assault on his back, licking and biting down his spine. Tiny shocks of pleasure slid outward through his body every time Bodie's mouth closed over another section of his flesh.

He couldn't help stiffening a little as Bodie finally made it down to his arse. The big calloused hands kneaded his buttocks for a long time, not quite a caress and not quite a grope.

"Oi, Bodie. Are you going to get on with it? Been playing with my arse for a while now."

"Feels good. It's nice to be able to touch."

Doyle shook his head. "You've been touching me up for years."

"Never had permission before, did I? I want to enjoy it." But with a single last pat, Bodie went on to other things.

His partner gently parted his arse cheeks. Doyle shuddered when the cool air touched his sweaty interior flesh. Closing his eyes against the intimacy of what Bodie was going to do, he jumped when Bodie held him wide open and a moist tongue touched him where none had before. The intensity of the pleasure made him gasp. He'd never felt anything like it. "Christ! Bodie!"

"Like that do you, sunshine?" Amusement laced his tone, like he knew something Ray didn't.

Bodie returned to his explorations, licking and sucking. Sensations of exquisite pleasure tore through his body every time that talented tongue pressed against his flesh. Doyle couldn't believe that Bodie was doing this to him, but the ecstasy continued to ripple along each and every nerve in his body, sending him into an oblivion of pure pleasure.

All too soon, Bodie raised his head.

Groaning in disappointment, Ray wanted Bodie to continue.

"There's more, sunshine," Bodie said, stroking a finger slowly down the crevice between the cheeks, "I won't hurt you."

Ray believed him, but could not help the flash of fear that caught him as the blunt finger touched him intimately. He knew what was coming now. After a moment, the pleasure was significantly greater than his fear. Tilting his hips slightly, he moved with the rhythm of Bodie's finger moving over the wet opening of his body.

"We must have more lubricant." Bodie stopped what he'd been doing, waiting for an answer.

Doyle bit back a whimper of protest. This was twice Bodie had stopped when he was really enjoying what was going on. "Bedside table."

Bodie worked the silky cream into him slowly, taking his time, using a lot of the hand cream. Ray nearly exploded in pleasure when Bodie's fingers started to move deeply him. He moved back against them, flying with the sensations.

As the thick fingers were removed from him, and the pleasure dimmed, Ray tensed again. This was it. Bodie would fuck him now. While his body was more than ready, crying for it in fact, his mind was not as sure. He trusted Bodie, letting his lover to guide him to his knees, and praying it would be all right.

The first introduction of the thick cock into his arse hurt, but he'd known it would. After a very short time, the pain transformed itself into a greater ecstasy than Bodie's fingers had produced.

Bodie took care with him, moving very slowly at first. Sweat dripped off his lover, rolling along his skin before falling to the bed. He could feel the strain Bodie was enduring to keep this slow and easy for him. After a few moments, it was no longer necessary.

"Please, faster, harder." Ray pushed back against the cock imbedded in him, trying to drive it deeper.

The sensations multiplied exponentially every time Bodie passed over the spot inside. Higher and higher, Bodie forced him to the very edge of the world, where the air was so thin he could barely breathe. Reaching around him, his lover started to stroke his cock in time with his thrusts, and it was too much.

Ray crashed off the top, falling down through fluffy white clouds to explode on contact with the earth. He screamed as the rapture tore him into small pieces.

At some undetermined point later, it could have been years for all Doyle knew, he became aware that Bodie was holding him tightly and chuckling softly. "You're a noisy bugger, aren't you?"

Embarrassed now, Ray tried to pull away. Most people didn't complain about him showing his pleasure. As a matter of fact, most women he'd been with were turned on by it.

"No, sunshine, I was kidding." Bodie held him, kissing his face, repentantly. "I'm sorry."

Ray grunted, deciding he'd forgive him. "I can't help my reactions."

"Don't want you to anyway. Let me know I was pleasing you."

Looking into the beloved face, he saw the love and contentment. "You won't leave me then?"

A sheen appeared in the blue eyes, and Bodie blinked several times. "No. I won't leave you. Ever."

"All right, then." His eyes slid closed. Christ, he was knackered.

"Wait a second. You're going to sleep?" Bodie's tone was incredulous.

Why not? He was tired. It had been a damned long day and he'd been shot on top of that. Not to mention the emotional upset. "Yeah, seems to me everything is settled."

"Is it?"

"Isn't it?" Damn, he hoped so because he was all talked out. This emotional stuff was exhausting.

Bodie thought about it for a second and then reached out to tenderly run his hand down Ray's face. "Yeah, I reckon it is."

Closing his eyes and sighing deeply, contentment filled him. "See that it stays that way."

The sun had yet to top the horizon when Bodie kissed the sleeping Doyle and slid out of bed. Looking down at his lover, Bodie couldn't resist a final feather-light caress of Ray's narrow hip. His lover grumbled, but didn't wake.

Last night and early this morning had been more beautiful than Bodie imagined making love could be. Before he could spend the day basking in the love they now shared, he knew he had one more task to complete.

A quick shower removed the traces of last night's activities from his flesh. Bodie borrowed a pair of Doyle's pants, taking them from the top of what he hoped was the clean laundry pile. Letting himself out of the flat, he made sure the door was locked tight after him.

He had to see Robert before the conference started, he owed his lover, ex-lover, he amended, a personal explanation.

After not coming by the hotel last night, he was sure that Robert knew and was hurt. No way to avoid that, but with a bit of luck, the hurt wouldn't be too deep. Although there had been some amount of real affection between them, there hadn't been time for more to develop. And he wasn't going to speculate about what might have grown between them, since it would not happen now.

Security at the hotel in Leeds was tight, just as he expected it to be, but flashing his credentials got him in without a problem. No one questioned his being there at half six in the morning.

Knocking quietly on the door to Robert's suite, Bodie didn't think he would be waking him. The industrialist kept long hours and usually could be found awake and working at this hour of the morning.

Robert answered the door, freshly showered and immaculately dressed in a well-cut light grey suit that set off his eyes and dark hair perfectly. He silently ushered Bodie in. The blue eyes were curiously blank, no emotion on his face. Bodie had no idea what he might be thinking.

The stiffness in the way Robert moved told Bodie that he knew what was coming.

"Do you want some breakfast?" Robert had excellent manners. Bodie wouldn't have blamed him if he'd been rude or refused to talk to him.

Bodie shook his head, finding himself at a loss for words. Usually, dropping a lover came fairly easily to him. He'd done it many, many times before, usually with only the tiniest of pang of regret for the other person's hurt feelings. Why was this so different?

Perhaps it was because he'd genuinely liked and respected Robert, more so than his usual lovers, which he realised with a bit of consternation, didn't say much for his choice of bedmates in the past. Of course, it was moot now, there would be no dropping Doyle.

A small smile touched his lips at the thought of what Doyle might do to him if he tried. It did not bear thinking about since he likely wouldn't survive it.

"Shall I make it easy for you?" Robert's low voice broke into his thoughts.

"I don't deserve it," Bodie said, dropping his eyes, hiding his guilt at hurting Robert. Once Ray had turned his way, he hadn't given Robert another thought.

Robert laughed mirthlessly. "No, probably not. But I do understand. You never made me any promises."

"I implied them."

Sighing deeply, Robert shook his head. "Bodie, it was fun. Yes, I would have liked for it to have gone on longer, but I can't say I'm heart-broken. Just a little..." Robert trailed off, shrugging his shoulders. For once he couldn't seem to put his feelings into words.

"Hurt?" Bodie knew how he'd feel in a similar situation.

"Yeah. But I don't begrudge you Doyle or the happiness you're going to find with him." A small smile touched Robert's full mouth. "Although I have to say, I doubt living with that man will be easy."

Bodie chuckled, meeting Robert's and seeing resignation, but no condemnation. "Too true, mate. He's a sarky bastard."

"But you love him anyway."

"Yeah," Bodie nodded, a tiny thrill running through him at admitting his love. "How did you know Ray'd changed his mind?"

"I found him yesterday out on the terrace, it was obvious that he'd been thinking about you."

Something about the way Robert said it piqued Bodie's curiosity. "Why would you think that?"

Robert smiled and blushed a bit. "Those tight jeans he wears leave little to the imagination. Even though it was freezing and he was sitting on the cold concrete, he had a very impressive hard-on."

A coil of jealousy shot through Bodie that anyone had dared to look at Ray like that, but it was tempered by sincere amusement at the picture Robert drew. "How did you know it was me he was thinking of?"

"Who else could it be?" Robert stepped close to him, sliding a hand along his cheek. "Would it be all right to kiss a married man goodbye?"

Bodie nodded, leaning in to brush his lips against Robert's. Regret and sadness defined the kiss. No question existed in his mind that he cared about Robert, but he loved Doyle. And Ray was his life.

Pulling back, he brought Robert's hand to his mouth, kissing it softly. "I'm sorry."

"Me too," Robert smiled. "You better go."

"Yeah" Turning around, Bodie headed out of the suite.

The early morning sun was up and shining brightly as Bodie slipped back into Doyle's flat, hoping he could get back into bed before Ray woke. No such luck. His lover lounged on the sofa, wearing only a pair of jeans, obviously waiting for him.

"Just where the hell have you been?" Doyle demanded as soon as he'd stepped through the door. Standing up, Doyle's hands went to his narrow hips, and his green eyes flashed with deadly intent.

Bodie sighed. He knew he was in for it. Doyle was not going to like where he'd been and there was nothing he could do about. He'd had to say goodbye. "I've been to see Robert."

"You went from me to him?" The outrage in the tone almost made Bodie laugh out loud. Doyle could be so damned annoying at times, he wondered why he loved the man so much. A hundred reasons came quickly to mind and Bodie knew there was no hope of ever denying it.

Taking a deep breath, he didn't even bother trying for a reasonable tone. "It's not like that, and you bloody well know it."

"I don't know anything, except that I woke up alone this morning. Our first morning together." Doyle's eyes bored into him, angry and hurt.

"I'm sorry, I hoped to be back before you got up," he said, trying to placate his lover. Bodie stepped up to him with the intent to take him into his arms, but Ray stepped back, shaking his head.

"Why did you have to go at all?"

"Because I owed him that much."


"Because I liked and respected him too much to let him hear it from someone else." Bodie crossed his hands over his chest, and stared at Doyle, daring him to say something else.

"He meant that much to you?" The note of insecurity in Ray's quite tone bothered Bodie.

What brought this on? All he could do was reassure Doyle and hope it would be enough. "Not like you do, you sarky bastard. No one means as much to me as you do." He pulled Ray into his arms, kissing him tenderly.

Melting against him, Doyle filled his arms, all hard muscles and soft hair. Bodie's heart nearly broke with the sweetness of the moment. "I love you," Bodie whispered into the curls.

"Was wondering if you were ever going to say it." Ray's mouth was pressed against his shoulder so it came out muffled, but Bodie knew he'd been waiting to hear it. Would have gone on waiting for it without asking, too.

Why was admitting his love out loud so hard to do? He'd said it in his dreams for years. "It's not like you didn't know."

"It's nice to hear."

"Don't get used to it."

Doyle pulled back a little to at him, his green eyes dancing in amusement. "I expect to hear it, now and then."

Smiling softly, he would have to learn to tell Ray he loved him more often. It would be hard, but if it made Ray happy, he'd give it a try. Although the only time Ray had said the words, it had hurt like hell. "I don't expect to get thumped the next time you say it, either."

Ray laughed and nodded. "Fair enough."

-- THE END --

Originally published in Motet Opus 3 in B and D, Keynote Press, 1999

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home