Valentine's Day


"Did you see the bulletin board this morning?" Jax asked of Ray Doyle as the pair walked into the locker room to change for their workout.

"You mean the bit about the kittens? I don't know how Snowball could have -- I mean -- just where did she go to get herself knocked up?" Doyle leaned against his locker and looked thoughtfully at his companion.

"Maybe a Yard cat infiltrated," Jax replied, chuckling. "It drives the bastards crazy if we have something they don't, so when Snowball took up residence here in our building, they must have gone out and found their own cat. Then the scheming began."

Treating the subject with the utmost seriousness, Doyle added, "They probably sneaked in a tom with orders not to come back till Snow was preggers."

"Who's preggers?" Kate Ross, dressed in a hot pink sweatsuit, entered the locker room.

"You had to be behind it," Jax said accusingly, his eyes narrowing as he stared at CI5's resident psychiatrist. "It had to be your doing!"

Doyle grimaced. "Why would she hatch a plot to get Snowball preggers?"

Ross sighed heavily. "Who's pregnant and what are you two babbling about?"

"I don't know. What are we talking about?" Doyle demanded. He still took irrational pleasure in bringing whatever small amounts of chaos or confusion he could into the doctor's ordered world.

Aware of Doyle's game, refusing to be baited this early in the morning, Ross shook her head wearily and headed quickly for the gym.

"She's onto you, Doyle," Jax pointed out as he opened his locker.

Pleased with his fellow agent's assessment, Doyle turned and opened his locker. Unbuttoning his shirt, he asked, "What were you talking about just now? Ross is behind what?"

"Ah "Jax responded, pausing to look at Doyle. "You haven't seen the bulletin board then."

Doyle shook his head as he pulled his shirt tail free.

"There's a contest. Seems that the powers that be are suddenly worried about our lives outside of CI5."

"You mean we're supposed to have one?" Doyle's mocking tone belied the tension created by three recent divorces. There just wasn't any balance between the demands of CI5 and the demands of a spouse and children. "Bloody Cowley."

Jax nodded knowingly, easily following Doyle's thoughts. "That's the funniest part; he's the judge and jury for the contest."

"Cowley?" Doyle frowned. "Just what sort of a contest is this?" He unbuckled his belt.

"A Valentine's Day contest."

Incredulous, Doyle eyed Jax. "A Valentine's Day contest -- at CI5?"

Shrugging, Jax continued to undress. "Yeah. I almost choked on my coffee when I read the announcement. For Valentine's Day and night, all assignments will be shifted so that married agents can spend the time with their wives. By this Friday, anyone interested may submit a proposal of romantic intent -- an account of how they plan to woo the spouse. The winner will have his entire escapade paid for by CI5."

"George Cowley ,- our George Cowley okayed this?" questioned Doyle incredulously. He unzipped his leans and toed off his sneakers.

Jax nodded as he hung his clothes in the locker.

Doyle, who'd just pulled on his sweatpants, looked at Jax and smiled. "Bodie will never believe it."

"Speaking of Bodie, how is he?"

"On the mend," replied Doyle, his tone earnest. Bodie had been out with chicken pox for three days now; he'd caught it from the four year old daughter of the American ambassador.

"Good." Jax put on his tracksuit. "The place just isn't the same without him -- but mind you, don't tell him I said that."

"Never," promised Doyle as he slid into his sweat jacket. "Wonder if we qualify for this contest?" It was common knowledge that he and Bodie had been a couple for four years now.

"I don't know. I wondered about you two, and I wonder if Makira and I qualify. We've lived together for ten years, have two children and a dog -- just no marriage certificate."

"It's the same for Roman and for Kendall. And Susan is very serious about Kate Ross." Doyle paused as he pictured the two women in bed together.

"Down, boy," Jax commanded, smiling at Doyle. "It is quite an image though."

"Yeah," Doyle replied huskily, his thoughts on that'night in Majorca a year ago when he and Bodie had taken Susan and Kate Ross up on an offer to share a bed that hot summer night.

"What are you thinking about?" Jax demanded, unable to follow this time.

The question brought Doyle back to the present. Sighing wistfully, he closed his locker and looked at Jax.

"And you white people have the nerve to accuse us of thinking about sex all the time," Jax grumbled, leading the way to the gym.

Having given up long ago trying to hide that he was a soppy sentimentalist at heart, Doyle went to Ross' office after his workout. Seated at her desk behind a single, cream-colored rose in a Waterford vase, Ross looked up as Doyle entered.

"Aren't you in the wrong room?" Ross asked sarcastically. "The loo is next door."

"Are we hiding pain, anger, alienation or PMS behind that tart-tongued quip?" Doyle grinned and sat down in the room's only other chair. "Why do you want to work with us? We're nothing but degenerate, chauvinistic pigs."

"Well, at least you recognize yourself for what you are," retorted Ross as she studied Ray Doyle. She wondered how he kept his idealism intact day after grim day. For each agent, she had defined an issue, a point of view, she wanted to understand. With Cowley, it was whether he thought sacrificing his personal life to keep England the bonnie green land of his youth had been worth it; for Jax, it was why a black man would work with a government that had treated his people so poorly. Macklin was a puzzle because he stayed, even when he was hated, even when his government had stolen his life. The mystery with Susan was how she was so strong and unflinching in the face of male ridicule. And then there was Bodie -- she wanted to know what the SAS had done to so define his moral center and protect it from the ravages of war.

Aware, suddenly, that she'd let her attention lapse, Ross looked Doyle in the eye. He was watching her intently. "Checking for signs of senility? Grounds for dismissal?"

"No. I was just wondering if you remembered Majorca."

Slowly, Ross nodded.

"All of it?"

Ross dipped her head once. "So?"

Doyle shrugged.

"While conventional wisdom maintains that your pretty head can hold only one thought at a time, I know you're capable of two simultaneously. Why have you come here?"

"Actually," Doyle began, "I can think of three things at once and chew gum at the same time."

"Wow," Ross said matter of factly. "So, which of the three brought you here?"

Briefly sorry that the rules of their profession would never allow them to be friends, Doyle said thoughtfully, "Now, .let's see. It was, why it was -- no -- it was -- no -- oh, must be this one." He smiled at Ross.

"The truth is," Ross interjected before he could continue, "I shouldn't have let Majorca happen."

"Why? Because it was fun or because it was us?"

"Both," answered Ross candidly as she leaned back in her chair.

Surprised that she'd returned to this topic, Doyle took advantage of the openness. "Have we ever used it against you?"

Ross shook her head. "No. I have learned that you both are full of integrity underneath those disenchanted, macho images that you've constructed."

"Well, that leaves fun. It was so much fun that you'd like to do it again next week."

The hopeful note in Doyle's tone made Ross laugh. "You're incurable."

Proud of that, Doyle grinned broadly. "Does that mean I can put you and Susan down for Valentine's Day?"

With a sigh, Ross stood up and walked to the front of the desk. Sitting on the corner, she said, "What do you need -- lunch money?"

Detective enough to perceive the closing of a door, willing to store her lapse into candor for future use, Doyle asked, "The Valentine's Day contest -- is it just for married people or was that a Cowley decree, Bible thumper that he is?"

Stunned by the intimation that Doyle might enter the contest, Ross replied, "The wording was his, but I'm sure he wasn't trying to exclude --"

Doyle interrupted. "It's just that Jax and others were wondering. So, after hanging garlic about me neck, giving me a communion wafer and a wooden stake, they sent me in to find out." His gaze met hers.

Ever perceptive, Ross realized that Doyle would not be entering the contest. He would never reveal that much of himself to anyone except Bodie. "I've been worried about the workload; so has George. Contrary to popular opinion, he is concerned about his agents."

"More like he's concerned that he won't have anyone left to staff CI5," stated Doyle dourly.

Ross chose to ignore the remark. "With those recent divorces, I thought it might be helpful to use Vaientine's Day to remind us all of why we toil so diligently and pay such a high price so willingly."

"I happen to think it's a good idea. The place is buzzing with talk of it. It's just that who's eligible needs to be changed. If you exclude --"

Holding up her hand, Ross stopped Doyle. "It isn't meant to exclude anyone. I'll change it myself -- immediately." When Doyle nodded, she asked, "So you actually approve of the idea?"

"Yeah, you're entitled to one good idea a year."

"Out!" Ross nodded toward the door.

"That's two," Doyle pointed out caustically as he quickly headed for the door. "And think about next week. We're always available."

For two days Doyle had listened to the agents of CI5 discuss the Valentine's Day contest. In fact, he'd avidly eavesdropped on any conversation pertaining to romantic plans. But when Paige launched into yet another bit of braggadocio regarding how he could simply go home and "nail the wife" whenever he wanted to, Doyle left the squad room. He was leaning against the wall outside, considering that Paige's would be the next divorce when Kate Ross passed by on the way to her office.

"This your new assignment -- holding up the walls?"

Doyle sighed heavily in response.

"When will Bodie be back?" asked Ross.

Frowning, Doyle shrugged.

"You're counting the minutes, aren't you," Ross stated, wondering if she could coax a word from him. Doyle in a foul mood was either colorfully verbose or stubbornly speechless. She wasn't surprised when he merely nodded in response. Normally, she would have given up at this point and returned to the sanity of her office, but there was an odd glint in the green eyes that made her say, "I'd like to move my desk. Do you have a moment?"

Again Doyle shrugged.

Ross accepted that as a yes and headed for her office at the end of the hall. As she surreptitiously studied the man moving her desk into its new, temporary position, Ross could see the moroseness in Doyle's expression. While the agents rarely opened up to her, she felt remiss if she didn't, at the least, attempt to learn of their problems. "I don't suppose I have the proverbial snowball's chance in hell of knowing, what has-put you in such a gloomy mood." While Doyle automatically shook his head, Ross detected the faintest glimmer of a smile in his eyes. She tried once more. "Lunch then? It'd do my reputation good to be seen in the company of a pretty boy."

The implications and the insulting compliment piqued Doyle's interest. "Be your boy toy?"

Able to discern the possibility of a small victory, Ross turned to one of the oldest tools of her profession -- offer something of yourself in exchange for beginning a discussion. "Yes, in a way. I do get tired of the speculative glances, the whispered words and the contempt in the voices. Men either hate me for having the balls to ply my trade in their domain or they hate me because I ignore their advances. After a while the two merge, and I become the ball-breaking, frigid lesbo shrink of CI5. Labels are so ridiculous."

"Should I be obviously ready to toss you on the table and have you right there?" asked Doyle as he eyed the psychiatrist. He wished their jobs didn't cast them in such adversarial roles; he actually liked Kate Ross.

"Oh, yes. That'd be rich," Ross replied. "Shall we be off before George finds something for us to do?"

Nodding, Doyle headed for the door. With Ross a step behind, he stopped suddenly and turned, pulling her into his arms.

He kissed her. "Just practicing," he said when she backed away.

Very deliberately, Ross wiped away the kiss with her fingertips. "Go."

Cheered by her bluntness, Doyle led the way out of CI5. Once on the street walking toward the Red Lion, he took her hand.

"I get answers to my questions in exchange for this familiarity," Ross stated.

"I thought I was already doing you a favor."

"Your presence is the favor, Doyle. This," she added, holding up their joined hands, "is a bonus for you."

Chuckling, he conceded defeat. "What do you want to know?"

"Everything," Ross replied quickly.

"Well, I was born on January 21st," Doyle began, reciting a litany of facts about his life till they reached the pub. He stopped when they stepped inside and a number of heads turned to watch.

"It's showtime," whispered Ross, moving nearer to Doyle.

As she scanned the room for a table, Doyle released her hand and put his arm around her waist. Annoyed by the obvious prejudice, Doyle was disgusted by the approving nods he received as they passed through the crowded confines. "If this was supposed to cheer me up," he said as he pulled his chair close to hers, "it hasn't. I can't believe that these men think it's so important you're being fucked."

Touched by the genuine anger his tone held, Ross replied, "It puts me in my place, makes me less threatening, I suppose." She sighed. It wasn't easy being a woman in this particular little world. Nor was it easy being gay. "Answer one professional question and the meal can go on my expense account."

Always pleased to make Cowley pay, Doyle responded, "Ask your question."

Leaning toward Doyle in the way one would toward a lover, Ross asked, "Tell me why you were standing so morosely outside the squad room."

"Do you want me to play this out with you?"

Ross took a deep breath and nodded. "It's absurd and demeaning that it should make a difference. But if these men need to see me as less threatening in order even to talk to me, then yes, be my gigolo for the hour."

Immediately Doyle tenderly brushed back the dark, soft hair hiding Ross' ear. Nibbling it and her neck, he felt the heat of her blush with his lips.

"Answer my question," Ross whispered, too aware of the slight quiver in her voice.

Deciding there was no harm in candor, that in fact this gay woman might actually understand his problem, Doyle brought her hand to the tabletop and held it gently. "I was tired of listening to Paige talk about 'nailing the wife.' Clara deserves better." Doyle sighed. "In fact, I'm tired of them talking about this contest." Looking Ross in the eye, he continued, "I started listening to what was being said as they discussed their ideas. I know I don't dare enter this contest, but I did think about what I'd like to do for Bodie."


Aware of the approach of the waiter, Doyle lifted Ross' hand and kissed it.

"Is he available for parties?" Philip, the waiter, inquired of Ross.

Ross smiled. "I don't think he's your type, Philip, dear." "Well, you're right, of course. It's that big, butch thing he comes in with that makes my pulse race. Tell me," he leaned down to Doyle, "is it as wonderful as I dream it is when that fat cock of his is rammed in up to those bull balls of his?"

Not easily embarrassed, Doyle nonetheless felt a flush creep up his neck and over his face.

"It must be," Philip said wistfully. "Well, give him a lick for me and tell him if he ever needs anything, I'm here to serve. Now, what can I get you for lunch?"

Still disconcerted by the very personal nature of the waiter's conversation, Doyle ordered the special while Ross chose a salad.

Understanding the odd expression on Doyle's face, Ross said, "You're amazed that a stranger knows about you and Bodie and lusts after your partner the way you do."

"Are we that obvious?"

The fear in the wide-open, green eyes made Ross feel protective of the vulnerability she'd suddenly glimpsed. "No, not to most people, but Philip's been a fixture here for as long as we have. He also knows what to look for." Sensing his retreat in response to her explanation, Ross decided to say no more. It was apparent that Doyle had closed the door on the topic of Bodie.

They sat in silence till the meal arrived. Philip's chatter as he served them roused Doyle from his reverie. Smiling sweetly, Doyle shrugged by way of apology.

"That's all right, Doyle. I only expected you to look beautiful. Intelligent conversation is never required of a boy toy."

The gentle chiding made Doyle chuckle. "Can we talk off the record?"

More thrilled by those words than she wanted to be, Ross nodded, aware of the confusion in his tone. "Go ahead," she prompted as she began to eat.

"What the hell is romance? I've listened to the discussions in the squad room; all anyone can think about is using a romantic evening as a means to get laid. Is that all it is anymore?" Doyle took a sip of the pint he'd ordered. "Is that what women mean when they use the word romantic?"

Ross finished chewing before replying. "I don't think so. I believe women use the word to convey the gentleness, the tenderness, the thoughtfulness they want. A moonlit swim on Brighton Beach in the sweltering heat of a summer's night is romantic. It may lead to sex, but it's the surreal setting, the soft caress of moonbeams, the gentle lapping of ocean waves that evoke a mood. Gentle, loving, tender sex is implied."

"What are you doing for Susan?" Doyle asked quietly as he bit into his sandwich.

So appreciative of his acceptance, realizing that they were talking as peers now, Ross decided on candor. "We have a few days off actually. We leave in the morning for a rented cabin in the Lake District. My gift to her is to pamper her and take care of her for three days. Hers to me is that she'll allow me that privilege." She looked at Doyle to see if he understood why that was a special gift.

"I don't think Bodie would allow that," Doyle muttered as he reached for his beer.

"Would you?"

Shaking his head, Doyle smiled. "Actually, that's not true. I do let him take care of me somewhat." Doyle sought Ross' gaze and held it, trying to gauge whether he should say more.

"Ray, this has nothing to do with work."

Doyle shook his head again, about to retreat. "It has everything to do with it. If I tell you more, you'll have something to use against him, or me."

"One of the aspects of my training is compartmentalization. I deal in confidences all the time. Part of my oath as a doctor is to protect What I'm told. I'm sorry you see me as such an adversary. The information I collect on you helps me protect you when you might be too stressed to do that for yourself. I care about your emotional well-being." She continued when she saw that her words were being listened to. "But you and I also have a different bond, Ray. There are times when I'd like someone to confide in when I have problems with Susan. I can't ask my mother for advice, as she doesn't know and would not approve. My male colleagues would use it as proof of the unnaturalness of my relationship while they slide their hands under my skirt. My female colleagues are non-existent. My friends are few -- I have no time to make any. And besides, no one has the proper security clearance."

The plaintive note in her voice sliced through Doyle's wariness. He swallowed some beer and decided to take a chance on Kate Ross. "What, exactly, does pampering mean?"

Grateful that she'd managed to bring him back to the discussion, Ross knew she would have to share more of herself. "We've been to this part of the Lake District before. I make the arrangements and do the driving. When we get there, it's dark and we're both tired, but we light a fire and just sit in front of it for a while. I might massage her, or she me. We have a little wine and talk or not talk as the mood strikes us. We have a rule against lovemaking that night. When we do go to bed, we cuddle up and sleep. I usually make a special breakfast. We walk, talk, read, sleep those next two days. We, uh, we do that when it strikes us, not according to a schedule," Ross completed, aware of how much she was revealing about Susan without her permission.

"I don't think Bodie would go for that sort of plan," Doyle replied as thoughtfully as possible with his mouth full. "In fact, I can't think of one dammed thing to do that is just romantic. Everything becomes just a means to a fuck, which is fine, mind you, but --" He stopped and shrugged. "I don't know why I'm bothered by it."

"Perhaps it's because after four years of involvement, you feel you should know him better."

Doyle looked at Ross and sighed, his dejection evident. "Maybe it's just different with men."

"What would be romantic to you?" Ross asked, taking another bite of her lettuce.

With another shrug, Doyle sighed once more. "I don't know that either."

"Of course you do. You have to tell me. Bodie paid me to find out."

Laughing, Doyle drank more of his beer. "I don't doubt that."

"So... "

For a few moments, Doyle remained silent. "I like what you said about tenderness, thoughtfulness and mood."

"But --" Ross was puzzled by the trepidation she saw in the usually confident CI5 agent's demeanor. "You have until I finish my salad," she urged, taking another forkful of greenery.

Swallowing his fear of her opinion, Doyle said softly, "I'd like not to get laid, to long, to lust, to wonder if something so wonderful was real."

"The grass is always greener," intoned Ross as she studied Doyle.


"You're rarely turned down."

Aware of her point, Doyle sighed and took another swallow of beer. "I think it has more to do with the movies -- Now, Voyager, Casablanca, The Wind and the Lion,..." His voice trailed off.

"Do you think Bodie knows?"

Doyle nodded. "Yeah. Around our second anniversary, he started a yellow rose campaign. For the next three months I'd find --" He shrugged and looked at Ross, appalled by how freely he was speaking.

Reaching over, Ross took his hand. "Have I ever used Majorca against either of you?"

"No. So I suppose you won't use this either?" He purposely ended on a questioning note.

"That's right. You have my promise."

Because he realized he really wanted to continue, Doyle accepted her word. "For three months, I'd find yellow roses -- on my pillow, in my lunch bag, on my desk, in my locker. It was always a surprise, something I came to hope for when I unlocked the car door or opened my typewriter. Finally, one night -- one moonlit night -- I came home, grumpy as hell, to find a trail of yellow rose petals leading from the door to the bathroom. Bodie was there with a hot bath drawn. He put a finger to his lips to ask for silence and began to undress me. After a nice soak during which he massaged me .... " Glancing at Ross, he smiled. "Well, all but that part of me. When I was relaxed, he dried me off and led me along another trail of petals to the bedroom. Candles and moonbeams lit the way. There were yellow roses everywhere, and the turned back bed was full of velvety rose petals."

"Oh, my," Philip whispered, nearly swooning into Doyle's arms. "How sweetly romantic!" Leaning between Ross and Doyle, Philip added, "Lend him to me for my birthday."

Laughing to hide his embarrassment, Doyle said lamely, "Sorry. I revoked his lending privileges years ago."

"The good ones are always taken!" Philip exclaimed. "Anything more?" He looked at the drinks.

"I'd like another Diet Coke," Ross replied, eager to send the man away.

"I suppose he knows," Doyle concluded when he and Ross were alone. "Even now, the roses turn up unexpectedly." With a wistful sigh, he added, "Bodie knows what I like."

"But you haven't a clue -- surely, you must know something that he'd consider romantic."

Doyle shook his head. He ate half his sandwich before he spoke again. "I've tried a few costume fantasies - pick me up at the biker bar sort of things. He gets off on them, but --" Again, Doyle shrugged. "Gifts aren't special. I cook for him anyway.

I think he's too cynical for romance. He's seen too much."

"So have you, yet you can still be romantic," Ross pointed out.

"No, it's different with him. The underside of London doesn't compare with Angola or Londonderry."

Ross patted Doyle's hand. "What about --"

"Enjoying yourselves?" a voice asked from behind them.

As one, Ross and Doyle turned to face their boss. Knowing there was no subtle way out, Doyle gripped Ross' hand tighter and replied, "We were married this morning. This is our honeymoon lunch."

An exasperated yet fond sigh crossed Cowley's lips. "You obviously need an assignment, Doyle. My office in 15 minutes."

Once Cowley was out of earshot, Ross and Doyle burst out laughing. Finally, Doyle stood up. "I'd better go' There'll be hell to pay if I'm late."

"Yes, I understand." Smiling, Ross added, "Thank you." She wanted to ask if they could do this again, but his expression indicated that their adversarial roles were once more in place. Besides, she was astute enough to know a testing of her trust was to follow.

Aware of the question he knew to be poised on the tip of Ross' tongue, Doyle bent to cup her face. "It's been lovely, sweetheart." He kissed her on the lips, his tongue tasting her, demanding to deepen the kiss. When she refused, he straightened, winked at her and left.

Hoping she'd find out if he discovered the answers to his questions, she finished her lunch.

Jax won the contest. No one could top the simplicity of red roses in the morning, a quiet evening after work playing games with the children, a late night champagne toast and the beauty of trying to make a new baby on the rug by a warm fire. It was the new baby part that swayed Cowley, of that Doyle was certain.

In the squad room, Valentine's Day had been spent surprising Jax with all manner of helpful gifts such as cherry-flavored underwear, a leather whip, a copy of the Kama Sutra and even a penis enlarger. The change in mood, the laughter, the air of anticipation that filled the corridors of CI5 that day lifted even Doyle's gloomy spirits.

No closer to solving the mystery of what Bodie would consider romantic, Detective Doyle had listened closely as his partner offered suggestions and nodded approvingly when he thought an idea properly romantic. None of the ideas Bodie seemed to like were ones Doyle could picture breaking the ice around that cynical heart.

Frustrated, Doyle had made the only plans he could. Pleased that the nearly agency-wide Valentine's night and the next day off decree had included him and Bodie as well, Doyle waited anxiously for the others to leave so that he could put his own adventure into action. When, at last, everyone but the duty watch had cleared out, Doyle went in search of his partner. He found Bodie staring out of the small window in a third floor interrogation room. There was a pensiveness in the way Bodie held his normally taut body. "What's wrong?" Doyle asked softly as he stood directly behind Bodie.

Bodie continued to look out the window. "Nothing. I'm just standing here, hoping you'd stop by and ravish me."

The rich, earthy, lewd chuckle that followed went right to Doyle's cock. "Follow me, sunshine," Doyle replied, his voice as lascivious as he knew how to make it.

"Gladly," Bodie answered, pivoting smoothly. "It's your night, Mr. Romantic. Lead the way."

The suggestiveness in Bodie's tone belied the sadness clearly visible in the night-blue eyes.

"What's wrong?"

Bodie shook his head. He couldn't tell his lover that nothing he heard in a day filled with romantic scheming had struck him as romantic. He felt defective in this way and quite unsuited to Doyle, who found romance in every flower and fireplace, in candlelight and in being caught in the rain. But he had to offer Doyle some response, so Bodie said, "I don't want to disappoint you."

Puzzled by what he recognized as an evasion, even more surprised that Bodie would revert to a behavior from their early days of trial and error, Doyle frowned. "I don't understand." He looked his partner in the eye, silently demanding an explanation.

After a deep sigh that seemed to come from carrying a long- shouldered burden, Bodie finally conceded, "I don't have a romantic bone in my body, Ray."

Since they were alone, Doyle felt safe responding, "What about the yellow rose campaign?"

It'd been years since Bodie had been afraid to share his feelings with Doyle. Taking a deep breath to quiet the sudden attack of nerves, Bodie stood silently trying to decide what to say.

Doyle had not forgotten what this sort of reticence signified. He knew from past groping through emotional minefields that it meant Bodie was afraid of revealing himself. That the behavior had returned after four years suggested the level of seriousness Bodie attached to his next words. Upset, Doyle took refuge behind the brusqueness he had a reputation for. "Spit it out, Bodie. I'm a big boy."

Snorting because he knew what that posture hid, Bodie inhaled noisily and answered, "You found the yellow rose campaign romantic." When the green eyes looked away, Bodie tried to explain. "Don't misunderstand, Ray. Give me a chance to explain; you always have." Reaching over he turned Doyle's face. "May I explain?" When Doyle nodded, Bodie said, "I take a very real, but vicarious, pleasure in arranging romantic fantasies for you. Your Valentine's fantasy will be the best yet. And the rose campaign didn't leave me unscathed. I get half-hard everytime I smell a rose. I enjoy the fantasies themselves and certainly I enjoy the consequences, but do I, find them romantic?" Bodie shook his head. The expectant air that hung between them forced him to continue; he didn't want to hurt Doyle. "Not one of the plans I heard today moved me. I think I must be broken."

Whatever tension and fear held Doyle's tongue dissolved in the melancholy tone of Bodie's voice and the dejected slump of his shoulders. "I refuse to believe that. You've simply misplaced your idea of romance. Detective that I am, I intend to find it for you. It's my new mission. Ever since Ross dreamt up the contest, I've been trying to figure out what you'd think is romantic."


"Nothing so far," Doyle was forced to admit.

"Does that mean we have no plans for tonight?" It was Doyle's turn this year to make the plans for Valentine's Day itself. They'd celebrate again shortly thereafter -- whenever they next had time off.

Doyle shook his head. Since the door was closed and locked -- he'd taken that precaution -- he put his arms around Bodie's neck and pressed his body against the length of his partner. "Until I find the answer I want, I've decided to settle for lust."

Held securely, Bodie watched as the twinkle of amusement in the green eyes became the hunger of a predator. He loved Doyle in this dangerous mood. It always meant that an adventure entirely over the top was about to take place. Licking his lips slowly, deliberately, Bodie replied, "It'll do for me, sunshine." He reached down and cupped the bulge in the tight blue jeans. "It'll do for me."

Flame ignited by the fire he saw light the blue eyes, Doyle moved to the very edge of prudence and kissed his lover deeply. When Bodie tried to unbutton the jeans, Doyle drew back and stated, :"Not here. Follow me."

Knowing it was madness to leave the security of this room with them both on the way to orgasm, knowing it was all part of Doyle's plan, Bodie stepped back and bowed.

The fact that he couldn't get the key out of his jeans pocket at first, that he then couldn't get the key in the lock sent Doyle into a fit of the giggles, which Bodie caught. Sexual heat dispelled, they finally unlocked and opened the door.

Softly chuckling, Bodie obediently fell in behind his partner. As they walked, he watched the way the denim clung to and defined Doyle's butt. Bodie's cock began to swell again. By the time they were out in the Carpark, all he could think of was the tightness of Doyle's ass. Focused as he was on the thought of burying himself in Doyle, Bodie was surprised when Doyle stopped at the back door of the Bentley CI5 kept for special assignments. Understanding immediately something of what was planned, he willingly climbed into the luxuriously appointed automobile.

As Bodie moved into the far corner, Doyle entered the car, closing and locking the door behind him. Quickly he checked to be certain the other doors were still locked. After pulling the shade that sealed the rear compartment, he lit several candles and put them on the floor. The soft, flickering flames revealed the presence of a yellow rose standing nearby in a small vase. Motioning Bodie into the center of the back seat bench, Doyle quickly spread towels over the floor. Positioning himself directly in front of Bodie, Doyle stripped.

Pleased at the blue-eyed stare of pure lust, Doyle plucked the rose and knelt between Bodie's legs. "For the next 12 hours, I'm your sex slave. Take me any way, any how, any where; I'm open all night." He extended the flower toward Bodie.

Though it was Doyle who was naked in the chill of a February evening, it was Bodie who shivered as he took the yellow rose. For a moment he simply studied Doyle, enjoying the golden glow cast by the candles as they illuminated the well-muscled body and the auburn tint of curls and chest hair. Looking into the upturned eyes, Bodie held Doyle's gaze. "This is certainly better than a box of chocolates," Bodie finally managed, his eyes now fixed on Doyle's erection. "You're beautiful, Ray."

There was such a gentle, loving quality to the way Bodie spoke that Doyle felt that tangled web of emotions he identified as a romantic feeling well within him. Only tonight, he didn't want unrequited love. He trembled more from desire than the coldness of the air.

The slight motion prompted Bodie to begin. Leaning back, his legs sprawled, he suggested, "Why don't you get me ready, sunshine?"

Ready to play the role he'd cast himself in, Doyle moved closer and unzipped the black corduroy slacks his partner wore. "Bastard," he murmured when he discovered that Bodie wore no underwear. "And just who were you expecting to pillage and plunder you?"

"SAS taught me always to be ready and it is Valentine's Day," Bodie explained brightly as he lifted slightly so that constricting pants could be pulled away. When his cock was swallowed, Bodie gasped with pleasure.

Well aware of what made Bodie lose control, Doyle carefully avoided those spots. He teased and tortured till Bodie was breathing hard. His eyes were dilated and velvety blue. Throbbing cock held between his lips, Doyle slipped his hands up under the black wool polo covering Bodie's torso. Fingers on hard, nubby nipples, Doyle gently rubbed the sensitive skin.

Bodie whimpered.

Nearing the threshold where he would become seriously frustrated, Bodie tangled his fingers in Doyle's curls and pulled him away. Sitting up, Bodie edged forward and kissed his lover's lips. "Now I want you to kneel there in front of me and work yourself. I want your cum on my dick and lubing your hole."

Happy to oblige, Doyle licked his lips and backed against the wall separating the rear compartment from the front seat. His lips apart, he hunched back on his heels and started to masturbate himself. Eyes closed, one hand moving up and down his cock, the other hand rubbing his nipples, Doyle let himself drift into the rising tide of pleasure. Bodie's sharply inhaled breath signaled his appreciation of the show. Noises from the car park as the occasional person left or arrived propelled Doyle along, reminding him of how dangerous this was. As he felt the unstoppable surge of orgasm flow from his balls, Doyle opened his eyes and looked at his partner, his fat cock jutting upward, ready and waiting. Bodie's eyes were enormous as he watched the show. Pleased, Doyle closed his eyes and let himself be swept away.

Hands slick with captured cum, he moved back into the space between Bodie's legs. Reaching up, he poked his index finger between Bodie's lips, letting the finger slide in and out. When Bodie shuddered, Doyle applied the cum in his left hand to the seeping cock pulsing with the need to fill him. He touched his lips to the tip, his tongue darting into the slit; Bodie shivered again. With his right hand, Doyle laved his hole with the remaining cum. Turning, he bent forward so that his shoulders rested on the plush towels while his ass was high in the air, ready for Bodie.

"Damn, Doyle! You sure know how to bring out the beast in a man," Bodie murmured lustily. "But you'll have to move parallel to the seats, there isn't room this way."

Obediently, Doyle shifted. Bodie knelt on the floor behind his lover and lifted the narrow hips slightly. Leaning forward, he kissed the puckered opening, his tongue touching the ring of muscle. When Doyle quivered delicately, Bodie shifted and thrust his cock into Doyle.

Excited by the moment, by the risk of exposure and ruin, by the wantonness in Doyle, Bodie was already near the point of no return. Carefully, he moved in and out, Doyle's whispered moans as his prostate responded encouraging Bodie. The intensity of Bodie's orgasm, when it took them both, was stunning. Totally unable to control his muscles, he collapsed heavily onto Doyle who was equally caught up in the moment.

"You'd better find a fork lift because I don't think I can move. All me muscles are gone," Bodie whispered, his voice full of satiation.

For a few moments, Doyle remained completely still as Bodie's breath tickled his ear and sent little bursts of pleasure coursing throughout a body already on sensory overload. As he cooled off, he finally mustered the energy to move, especially when it became apparent that Bodie would not budge. Crawling out from beneath his partner, Doyle turned, letting Bodie curl up in the space between the seats. The candlelight revealed the hooded, blue-on-blue eyes of a man still lost in the pleasure of his climax. Deciding he should make this an experience Bodie would never forget, Doyle licked several fingers and gently slid them into his partner. Bodie trembled as Doyle stroked his prostate. As Bodie's sighs became one long moan, Doyle withdrew as he recognized the pain threshold. Kissing the uppermost cheek, he leaned back against the door, closed his eyes and let himself slide back into the lethargy that claimed him.

It was nearly a half hour before either man felt tempted to move though Doyle had managed to pull his shirt over his torso. Finally, sitting up, Bodie eyed his lover. He reached over and took Doyle's hand. "Thank you."

Doyle found that he could command his lips. "Thank you." He loved the fact that Bodie always thanked him after they made love. Those words evoked that warmth Doyle identified as romance. He sighed with satisfaction. "Where next, sir?"

"I know just the place," Bodie replied seductively.

Chuckling lewdly, Doyle began cleaning up. Once the incriminating evidence was removed, they set off on Bodie's official tour of erotic places to make love.

Stop number one was the loo at Bodie's favorite Spanish restaurant where they giggled their way through mutual - masturbation in one of the stalls. Afterwards, over a steaming paella Bodie asked, "You game for a little rougher fare?"

They had often discussed taking in the leather scene in London's gay underground, but had shied away for fear of being recognized by some other civil servant. "What do you have in mind?" Doyle met Bodie's gaze. The hard glint in the blue eyes suggested one of Bodie's darker fantasies.

Grateful that his partner could enjoy everything from tender lovemaking to light bondage, Bodie replied, "The Dungeon at Heaven."

Doyle leaned back in his chair and studied his lover. Hesitation came only from fear of the very public locale.

Understanding, Bodie added, "I've solved the recognition problem. The question is, are you 'up' for a true master-slave fuck fantasy?" He slipped his foot out of the leather loafer he wore and stretched his leg beneath the table till his toes were nestled against Doyle's balls.

The gentle pressure of Bodie's foot rocking against him prompted Doyle to slide lower in his seat. He squeezed his legs together to better hold Bodie in place. "I told you that I was open all night for whatever, wherever." Again, he met Bodie's gaze.

Bodie swallowed hard. He could feel his heart pounding as he pictured them in his fantasy. "Finish your dinner, sunshine. You'll need your strength for where we're going."

Quickly Doyle wolfed down the majority of his entree. "Ready?"

Amused, Bodie took a last bite. "Pay the bill while I get the car," he ordered, assuming his role as master.

With a dip of his head, Doyle acknowledged that the game had begun. "Don't be gone long, big boy," he said softly pressing against the foot still kneading in his crotch. When Bodie laughed, Doyle was uncertain of what had evoked the response. "What?"

Shaking his head, Bodie answered, "I'm just glad that I found you."

The romantic in Doyle was grateful for an "I love you," however it was offered. "Romance alert. Romance alert."

Bodie frowned. "What?"

His voice pitched low, Doyle explained. "You told me you didn't have a romantic bone in your body, but here we have evidence to the contrary."

"I don't understand."

"You've just told me that you're taking me to Heaven where you intend to fuck me, but before we get lost in the fantasy, you take the time to tell me that you love me. That's romantic."

"You find it romantic --"

Doyle held up a hand. "If our respective roles were reversed, which they will be one day," he paused to affirm that he expected to play the master to Bodie's slave. When Bodie bowed his head in acknowledgment, Doyle asked, "Wouldn't you find it romantic if I stopped in the middle of a rough and tumble fuck and whispered, 'I love you.'?"

Initially inclined to refute Doyle's assertion, Bodie forced himself to consider the point. The sparkle in the green eyes watching so intently made, Bodie know he'd lie in order not to disappoint his lover. But the words he spoke were not untrue, he realized. "You're right, Ray. I would think it wonderful that you cared enough to tell me at the height of lust that there was love too. There is that little melting thing inside."

Doyle grinned. "Me Mum used to call it 'turnin' to mush.' I like the image of melting better -- it's more manly." Smiling at the foppish expression that lit Bodie's features, Doyle continued, "I'll have to remember to --" He stopped himself from adding that he'd have to tell Ross. Bodie knew that Doyle had had lunch with the psychiatrist, but Doyle had neglected to mention their conversation about romance. The frown now on Bodie's face made Doyle realize he'd have to conclude his statement. "I'll have to remember to circle this day on the calendar -- you agreeing that there is one romantic bone in your body."

"Yeah," Bodie said lewdly, "and you know just which one it is too."

Laughing heartily, Doyle pressed against his lover's foot one final time before releasing it. "Go get the car, sir."

Clad in leather boots and a black leather belt, Bodie was fastening the leather collar around his lover's neck when the call from Cowley came in.

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" Doyle shouted as he started to unhook the leather straps that cris-crossed his chest and connected to the cockring snugly holding his genitals.

"Stop!" commanded Bodie in his most masterly voice. "We're off duty. We're doing him a favor and he knows it. It's just a crime scene review, not an emergency situation. He can wait till we get there." Bodie pulled Doyle into a tight embrace. "I intend to give you the fucking you deserve, boy."

While happy to agree, Doyle was still hesitant. "You'll explain it to him?"

"Who's the master here?"

Acknowledging the wicked smile and authoritative tone of voice, Doyle slid to his knees. "May I?" he begged, looking up hopefully.

Bodie guided Doyle's mouth to its rightful place around a firming cock.

Before sucking his lover in, Doyle asked, "Please, sir, tell me what you'd be doing to me if we were at The Dungeon."

For a few minutes, Bodie remained silent, establishing his dominance. He was also enjoying the way Doyle worked him. The lush lips that kissed so well also gave the best blow jobs Bodie had ever had. "If we were at The Dungeon, you'd be on all fours and I'd have you on a tight leash. We'd go to the bar. While I enjoyed a pint, you'd have your face buried in my crotch, licking my balls, sucking my dick." Feeling the effects of Doyle's skills, Bodie backed up to the bed and stretched out on it.

Doyle followed, his mouth once more swallowing Bodie. Bodie resumed his monologue. "When I was ready, I'd take you to the hitching post. It's like a padded saw horse, only lower and angled so that a bottom boy's butt is positioned for easy access. Some men just drape themselves over it, willing to be fucked by any takers. No one would be allowed to have you but me.

"I'd take you there, tie your leash to the post and tell you to get ready. You'd crawl into position and spread your legs so that your lubed hole was visible and available."

Wanting to act the fantasy out, Doyle paused to retrieve a tube of KY. He greased himself and arranged the pillows to support his shoulders. As Bodie watched, Doyle buried his face in the downy softness and stuck his butt in the air, legs as far apart as possible.

Since they were pressed for time and since his own words had roused him, Bodie quickly knelt behind his lover. While he was playing the master and he fully intended to fuck Doyle, Bodie was also in love, so he leaned down and kissed the puckered opening. "With any number of men watching, working themselves as they imagine having you, I'd take you." Bodie paused as he carefully inched into his lover. "You'd moan and wiggle back, working me even deeper."

Doyle needed no encouragement to obey.

"I'd move in and out like this," Bodie remarked softly as he did so. "When I'm close, like I am now, I'd tell you to do yourself .... " His voice trailed off as a wave of pleasure surged through him. "Picture it, Ray. All these rock-hard dicks turned on by your gorgeous body, wanting to have your tight butt there in front of the leather world -- jaded men working themselves as I move in you, fucking you. Suddenly, you buck toward me, frenzied, wanting me deeper as you come, as you explode. My cock rubbing your prostate makes it all the sweeter as you cry out, begging me to fill you. The men watching come too, their juice covering your sweat-slicked body. I ride you, trying to hold out, but --" Bodie lost his voice as he felt himself overwhelmed by the fire of lust. He pumped harder as Doyle came. The clenching of anal muscles made Bodie lose all control.

It wasn't until Doyle whimpered that Bodie remembered that Cowley was waiting for them. Carefully cradling his limp lover, Bodie tenderly kissed the nape of his lover's neck.

"Ummm," Doyle whispered appreciatively. He squirmed, nestling his butt more deeply into Bodie.

A considerate lover, Bodie reached between Doyle's legs and gently caressed the soft skin of Doyle's balls till a dreamy sigh filled the quiet of the bedroom. Turning Doyle's face, Bodie kissed lush lips till they were both breathless. "I suppose we'd better get over to Kensington."

"What will you tell Cowley?" Completely enervated, Doyle didn't move.

"That he caught us mid-wonk and we had to finish up." Shifting Doyle, Bodie crawled out of bed and went into the bathroom to clean up.

Freshly washed and clad in black, Bodie re4turned to his lover. Kneeling beside the inert form, he lifted the curls which had fallen over Doyle's forehead. Lovingly, he kissed the soft skin. "Wakey, wakey, my little love slave."

"That was one hell of a fuck," Doyle said drowsily.

"That was nothing compared to the lovemaking I have planned for your Valentine's gift," replied Bodie as he chastely kissed Doyle's lips.

Not content with that, Doyle deepened the kiss.

Drawing back, Bodie asked, "You wouldn't have any trouble spending your life as a sex slave, would you?" The low, earthy laugh that was Doyle's response sent shivers of lust coursing through Bodie. "Get your wanton self to the loo and clean up. If we aren't in Kensington soon, even I won't be able to talk Cowley into a better mood."

Reluctantly, Doyle sat up. "Will you still take me to The Dungeon as your slave?"

"Whenever you're game for it."

"And will you go sometime as my slave?"

"Happily," Bodie answered. "Now get your beautiful butt out of bed before I have to turn you over me knee and spank you."

"Oh, sounds like fun," Doyle camped as he scrambled up.

The drive to Kensington, complete with the siren Doyle hated, gave Bodie a few minutes to reflect. The conversation in the restaurant had provided him with needed perspective on the question of what he felt was romantic.

Since the announcement of the contest, Bodie had been trying to determine just what, if anything, he thought of as romantic. For most on the squad, as it was for most men, romance was just a means to sex. Flowers, dinner by candlelight, moonlight strolls on the beach, diamonds -- they were just tokens exchanged for sex. The women he had quizzed on the subject seemed to find these things romantic because they set a mood of deep affection and love. There was a tenderness, a gentle, loving quality that was important too.

Doyle seemed to find romance in unrequited or deferred love. The movies he held as romantic all focused on love denied. The fantasies he most enjoyed featured the promise of love, suggested and deferred.

Bodie smiled as he pictured what he had planned next for Doyle. Yellow roses with no notes, hinting at the affection of an unknown suitor. A mystery to solve as to where this suitor waited. A moonlit night in a tropical greenhouse. A mossy knoll beneath a bank of orchids and a waterfall. A man who Wore a mask and nothing more. Taken by this mysterious stranger, abandoned after the tenderest of lovemaking. A yellow rose the next day.

For Bodie, this would be fun, nothing more. Doyle, on the other hand, would find it very romantic. He would talk about it for days as if Bodie had not been the spectre of the rose. And Bodie would leave a flower in Doyle's locker with a note that read, "I'll dream of your kisses -- till the full moon of summer when I send for you."

"Aren't we there yet?" Doyle asked, sitting up straighter.

"Yeah," Bodie replied, pushing aside the gossamer threads of his reverie. "I was just giving you a chance to sleep it off."

"The Cow will be pissed as hell," groused Doyle as he checked his clothing and weapon. "Come on. Remember, you have to do the talking."

"I always do," retorted Bodie as he climbed out of the car. "I always do."

Annoyed because they'd had to work throughout the Valentine's leave, irritated because he was no closer to discovering what Bodie considered romantic -- the one admission didn't constitute solving the mystery -- Doyle was in no mood for the tales of conquest that permeated the squad room like stale cigarette smoke. He and Bodie had shifted their search for the Kensington killer in countless mug books to the quiet of the conference room.

Tired also of scanning the books for the face of the man they'd seen in a photograph found framed by the bedside of the gay backbencher whose murder had ruined the sex slave fantasy, Doyle stood up and stretched. "Fancy a round or two?"

"Not me," Bodie answered as he leaned back in the chair. After rubbing his eyes, he studied his partner. "Why does a nice woman like Clara stay married to a son of a bitch like Paige?"

Doyle shook his head. "His endless prattle was disgusting. Clara would be mortified if she knew. You really like her, don't you?"

"Any woman who bakes me chocolate chip cookies on a regular basis has my undying love and loyalty. If he calls her a cunt one more time, I'm going to cut off his dick."

The quiet tone told Doyle that his partner was serious. Bodie hated hypocrites and he'd never liked Paige. "Cowley would have your hide."

"If he knew what Paige was saying about Clara -- no."

The depth of Bodie's anger, visible in the icy blue eyes, surprised Doyle. "What's going on?"

"I hate men who hurt women. I've seen so much of it; not that women are always innocent, especially politically, but to be beaten because you didn't have dinner on the table at the stroke of six .... " Bodie shook his head. "We signed on to protect the innocents, those who can't fight dirty, or who can't fight at all." Sighing deeply, Bodie stopped. "I know I'm being soppy, but -- "

Doyle shook his head. "No, you're not. You know, I share the sentiment or I wouldn't be here."

"If Paige talks about Clara this way, what else is he doing to her?" queried Bodie.

"She seems like a strong, opinionated woman. She'd leave if he were beating her."

"Come on, Doyle! You were a cop."

Sighing, for he remembered all too well the number of strong women he'd seen seriously injured or killed by obsessed, violent husbands, Doyle said, "A word to Towser and Macklin."

"Yeah," Bodie agreed. "And if they don't take care of Paige, then --"

"I'll help you," Doyle interjected.

With a tip of his head, Bodie acknowledged his partner's commitment. "Maybe this is why I don't see any romance in the world."

Shaking his head, Doyle stood up. "No. I refuse to believe that, Bodie. You have whimsy. If you have that, you have to have romance hidden in your heart." He looked at his partner for a long moment. "How close are we to dinner?"

"I'd like to get through these books before we go."

"In that case, I'd better fetch coffee. Who has biscuits I can steal?"

"There's a tin in Anson's locker. He's on stakeout so his alarm system is probably on."

Doyle nodded in understanding and headed off.

As he pictured his partner deftly bypassing Anson's security system, Bodie smiled. Half-formed ideas and emotions coalesced into insight; Bodie realized suddenly what romance was to him. He was trying to decide how to explain when Doyle reappeared, laden with coffee and digestives. "That was fast."

"There was a plateful by the coffee pot. We'll save Anson's for tomorrow." When Bodie's smile became a Cheshire cat grin, Doyle frowned. "What did I miss?"

"Pass over the cookies and I'll tell you."

"Did you find the perp?"

"No," Bodie answered. "It's better -- much better."

Curiosity aroused, Doyle put down his treasures and locked the door. While he knew Bodie would never try anything here at Headquarters -- the Bentley in the car park was another matter entirely -- Doyle didn't want anyone to walk in on them. He sat down in the chair he'd placed by the side of the table where Bodie was working. "What is it?"

"I have your Valentine's gift." As the green eyes widened, Bodie continued. "Oh, not the elaborate fantasy you know I have planned. That'll have to wait till we have time off."

Accepting this as a promise, Doyle inquired, "What, then? A diamond that tells me you'd marry me all over again?"

Amused by the campy quality in Doyle's voice, Bodie replied, "I've finally figured out what it is that I find romantic."

Doyle sobered immediately.

Bodie's smile broadened as he looked at Doyle, waiting with such eagerness. "This is really important to you, isn't it?"

"It embarrasses me that after four years together, I still don't know."

"How could you know if I didn't?" When Doyle shrugged, Bodie went on. "If we define romance as that which makes you melt inside, then romance for me is you making sure there's a sweet in my lunch; it's you keeping my socks together, ironing my shirts. Romance is you winking at me when Cowley launches into a tirade. It's you caring enough to make sure I eat decent meals, or baking a cake you hate because you know it's my favorite. Romance is you cleaning my pistol when I'm too tired, letting me use the siren for emergencies or keeping track of when I should take my vitamins. Romance, Ray, is all the little, loving things you do for me." From the tears welling in the garden-green eyes, Bodie understood how much his declaration had meant to his lover.

Since the door was locked, Bodie stood and pulled the still speechless Doyle into his arms. "I love you, Raymond Doyle, for all those little things that tell me how much you love me, for being my boy toy when I want one, my lover when I need one; my mother when I hurt; my best friend when I want to share; my conscience when I want to be bad, my confessor when I've done that bad; my sunshine when I'm blue and the voice of sanity when I'm afraid."

For some time, Bodie simply held Doyle.

"We have a complete meltdown here," Doyle finally whispered. "I'd swoon if I knew how." He leaned back in the circle of strong arms and looked deeply into twinkling blue eyes. "Thank you. Except for the wedding band, this is the most wonderful gift you've ever given me." As Doyle claimed a kiss, someone pounded on the door.

"The Cow wants us all in the main conference room -- now. Something big's going down."

"He has the most impeccable timing of anyone I've ever met," Bodie said ruefully as he pulled on his jacket.

"We're probably paying for having it on while he was waiting a few days ago."

Grabbing most of the cookies -- Bodie did leave one for his lover -- and his coffee, Bodie nodded agreement.

Doyle picked up his coffee and the lone digestive before going to the door.

"'Once more unto the breach,'" intoned Bodie. He blew Doyle a kiss and opened the door.

As the troops assembled, Doyle saw Kate Ross take a seat near the front. Though she'd returned earlier, this was the first he'd seen of her. Fresh from one of the most romantic moments of his life, he caught her eye and smiled. When she looked inquiringly in his direction, he flashed her a brief, thumbs-up sign. The half-smile on her lips as she turned to answer a question told Doyle that a lunch invitation would be forthcoming.

While he usually listened to the chatter as everyone gathered, Doyle found himself replaying Bodie's words over and over. It was odd that the little considerations Doyle enjoyed giving Bodie would touch such a deeply buried chord. Still marvelling at this, Doyle only half-concentrated as the briefing began. His full attention wasn't drawn until he felt a gentle tug on the digestive still clutched in his left hand. Doyle glanced at Bodie and smiled.

There was a down side to the new-found knowledge, however. Aware now of where Bodie saw romance, how could Doyle ever refuse to share his socks, his steak or his chocolate? Sighing, he decided it was a lovely trap to be caught in. Dutifully handing Bodie the digestive, Doyle focused on the assignments his boss was doling out.

-- THE END --

Originally published in the circuit zine Open All Night, Noel Silva

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