(from the Angelfish Archives)

After Doyle's departure, the old man counted himself lucky that he had one other lone wolf of his staff. And Bodie and Murphy worked well enough together. It wasn't the inspired, near-legendary partnership that had kept the department in business for half a decade, but Murphy was too big and ugly to fall when Bodie shoved, and Bodie on half-power was better than most men laid out full throttle. So weeks turned into months, and months to... God, Murphy thought, unhitching his gun harness in the squad room and scratching where the webbing rubbed, it's been two years. He remembered because just the same pleasantly sickening odour of May blossom from the railway siding outside HQ had accompanied his first days of trying to switch off Bodie the machine and revive and rescue the man, and, 12 months later, his reluctant acceptance of failure.

It was hardly an anniversary to celebrate. But they were both still alive and on the payroll, and Murphy felt some sort of gesture was in order. He glanced across the squad room: Bodie's expression was not promising.

"Fancy a pint?"

Bodie paused in dark-browed perusal of a huge stack of files, but didn't look up. "Yeah, let's tie one on, Murph. I'm in a terrific mood and as you can see I've got fuck all to do."

"Screw you, then," Murphy advised, amiably enough, and turned his attention to the Evening Standard. Demonstrations at Greenham, predictions of a landslide victory for Maggie in the upcoming election. In a byline - record-breaking mountaineer dies on Skye. Daniel Thorn, who scaled Everest in...


This time the shadowed gaze fastened on him.

"Daniel Thorn, the climber. Isn't he...?"

Bodie got stiffly to his feet. Thorn in my side, his mind said to him, a weary refrain from two years ago. Daniel fucking crown-of-thorns. Funny how woman after woman had come and gone and then that handsome, good-natured bastard had stepped down off his mountain and Ray was gone too. No warning, no backward glance. Just... not there any more. Two years, almost to the day... "What about him?"

The western sky had burnished to copper-grey, making white lilacs on the pub's canalside terrace glow oddly against it. Murphy wondered if his companion had noticed the rain. It was scarcely enough to dampen his close-cropped hair, and the evening was warm, but he was in his shirt sleeves, both of which were neatly turned back to the elbow. No - his hands were lightly clasped on the wooden table top in such a way that his watch-face was clearly and constantly visible, and beyond that and the pub's back door, Murphy knew he had attention for nothing else. "Look, Bodie," he said uncomfortably, "there's every chance he wasn't home to get your message. Daniel's family lives in France. He might be there, or he might have gone to see Kath - "

"Murph, shut up."

"Yeah, alright. Still sure you want me to wait with you?"

"No," Bodie said bluntly. "But if he does turn up, the last thing he'll want is to be alone with me."

Murphy was tired. Shift after shift with a man who veered from merely taciturn to shouting irritation six times a day within the confines of a Ford Capri was beginning to take it out of him. And he had liked Ray, liked him a lot. "You're probably right. Yeah, you really fucked up there, mate." He was instantly sorry: Bodie did not so much as twitch, but the downcast eyes clouded with pain. "Oh, shit. Look, I - "

"Am I interrupting something?"

Bodie jerked upright and a deft quick hand caught his glass before it could go over. He was not on form; had entirely forgotten the canalside path and gateway. Mouth suddenly dry as dust, heart pounding, he stared up at Ray Doyle. He was wearing a shirt he remembered and a very beautiful long leather coat that he didn't. He was composed, smiling faintly, hands in his pockets. And Bodie, who knew all of his masks, saw that he was raw with grief. Absolutely flayed with it. In pieces. "Oh God, Ray - " But his throat had closed on the first syllable of it and he found himself fighting not to choke.

Murph stepped in. He grinned at Doyle and held a hand out to him, slapping Bodie lightly on the back with the other. "Hasn't lost his social graces, has he? Good to see you, Ray."

"You too," Doyle said distractedly, returning a brief hand-clasp and sitting down opposite Bodie. "What's the matter with him?"

"Probably swallowed a mosquito," Murphy said cheerfully. "Get you a drink?"

"Er... Yeah, thanks. Just a half."

"Ray, I'm sorry about Daniel."

They were alone on the terrace in the mild spring rain. Murph was taking his time with the drinks. Dampening leaves in the elders and willows shifted and murmured and took some of the edge off the silence that followed, but it was still dreadful, a drowning pool. Doyle was colourless, unable to look up at him. "Thanks," he managed eventually. "How... How have you been?"

"Christ, never mind me. You look terrible, you must've lost a stone - " He reached out a hand with no idea of its use or destination.

"Bodie, don't. Please." The rough familiar voice broke on it and Bodie jerked to a halt, the movement jarring painfully inside his spine and arms. Swallowing audibly, he sat back, collected himself as best he could, found an expression fit to present to Murphy, who was returning cautiously to their table with a tray. "Thanks, Murph. Er, where's yours?"

"Oh, I just wanted to clap eyes on this prodigal. You two catch up. I'll - "

"Don't go."

Perfect synch. Two pairs of eyes on him, lapis and jade, as near to panic as he had ever seen either. For a moment he stood frozen, palms flat on the table, then he let a half-smile twitch, a slight puzzled shrug. "Alright. Okay, if you're sure... Here, Ray, I grabbed you a toasted sandwich, you look like you could use to eat something."

Doyle took the plate on reflex. Then he put it carefully down, paling to transparency. He pushed to his feet. "Oh, Murph, thanks, but... not now."

Murphy watched his unsteady retreat up the steps back into the pub. After a moment he said, thoughtfully, "This is not turning out one of my more successful soirees. Want me to go after him?"

The question was not casual. Bodie examined his erstwhile partner's expression with interest. The lean face could take a vulpine cast at times, pale eyes adding to the effect. This was one of the times. Bodie thought he understood. Murphy was the only living creature, aside from his boss, who would tell him plainly what he thought of his behaviour. He had done so freely, immediately after his dust-up with Ray and at healthy intervals during the two years that followed. Now he wanted him to do better, to do right by the man who had fought at his side for so long. And Bodie wanted nothing more. But Doyle's eyes had met his with chilly indifference, and he was afraid it was too late. "No," he said, faintly, nevertheless. "I'll go."

By the time he got there, Doyle was straightening up from a sink, shakily pulling paper towels from the dispenser. He started when the door opened but dismissed Bodie's arrival without comment, splashing water into his face.

"Are you alright?"

"Yeah! Just can't keep anything down." He shuddered. "Murph and his bloody toasties!" Tentatively encouraged by the smile, alarmed at the colour of him, Bodie took a step or two closer, but the green eyes flashed. "Back off, Bodie!"

"Okay. Sorry. Have you seen a doctor?"

"Yes, it's nothing. Just a - a reaction, to..." He swallowed convulsively, pressed his knuckles to his mouth. "Oh, God. Go away." Clutching at a handful of the towels, he leaned over the sink once more and made a wrenching, soundless effort to be sick. Nothing came of it and an instant later another spasm hit, jarring his whole body. "Christ, I'm sorry! Will you just... piss off?" But he couldn't keep his head up and when Bodie ignored his outstretched hand to take gentle hold of him, he found he had no fight left. Bile scalded up his throat and he coughed violently, surrendering his brow to the cradling grip.

"Bloody hell, sunshine... You are rough, aren't you? Easy. Just let it go." With his free hand Bodie reached over him and ran some water into the sink to carry away what little he was managing to vomit. "That's the lad, get it up and you'll feel better."

Distantly Doyle wondered what Bodie and his own aching flesh were expecting to come of all this hard work. He hadn't eaten in three days. But the retching wouldn't stop, and half in panic he recoiled into Bodie's solid warmth. He'd forgotten how it felt, that touch, though he'd tried to conjure it in guilty desperation when Dan had been fucking him for an hour and he just couldn't come, just couldn't get there because he missed the bastard so much, missed and wanted his Bodie... A sob tore out of him and he finally threw up water.

Bodie sat him on the edge of the sink and helped him mop up, not surprised to find himself pushed away as soon as Doyle had the strength. "Alright, alright. Just pull yourself together and I'll see you home."

The terrace was darkening, only a last uneasy radiance from the west finding reflection in the canal. Murphy glanced up from an unprofitable reverie at the sound of his name, and saw Bodie helping a white-faced, shivering Doyle down the steps. Doyle had the look of enduring the touch because he would fall over otherwise, and Bodie... Bodie was unreadable. Murphy got to his feet and went to meet them. "You two alright? Doyle, you look like shit."

"Thanks," Doyle mouthed wryly, and stiffened away from Bodie, who shrugged and let him go.

"Yeah, we're okay," Bodie told him flatly. "I'm just going to run him home and - "

"No, I'm better. I'll just go."

Abruptly Bodie had had enough; Murphy saw him cross the line and got ready to step between them. "Alright, Doyle!" he yelled. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry for every fucking thing I ever did or didn't do to you and I'm crystal clear on what an arse I was, I've had two years to think about it! I'm just going to drive you home and drop you off and that's it, I'm out of your bloody life for good! Got it?"

A reverberating silence. When it had prolonged itself beyond endurance, Murphy said, dryly, "Let him drive you home, Ray."

Doyle flickered him a smile, though his attention was fixed unfathomably on his friend. "Looks like I better had, doesn't it?" he murmured. "Been good to see you, Murph."

The address Doyle gave him was in a leafy corner of Chelsea so discreetly upmarket he hadn't known it existed, a three-storey terrace overlooking a cobbled mews and tree-lined square. Bodie whistled softly, pulling up outside the elegant redbrick house. "Nice place!"

Doyle didn't respond to the observation. He got stiffly out of the Capri before Bodie could come and help him and stood in the street for a moment as if he didn't recognize it, the evening breeze lifting his fringe and stirring the lines of his coat. Then he went to unlock the door. Bodie wondered if he was expected to make good on his threat of dropping him and running, but Doyle left the door open behind him and after a moment he shrugged and followed.

Polished wood floors, big French windows. A sense of space and light, though it was almost dark outside: the parquet and pale walls seemed to have a soft illumination of their own. Standing with his hands in his pockets in the middle of one high-ceilinged room, Bodie heard himself reply a vague affirmative to Doyle's offer of tea, then went back to contemplation of the space around him. Gradually he realized that it could be anything: lounge, studio, dining room; it was bare of the furniture that might define its purpose. A stepladder was open by the far wall, which displayed experimental brushstrokes in two shades of green. One swipe had curved itself round into a playful heart shape.

It wasn't something Ray would do... With a lurch of his own heart, Bodie looked around him. Tea chests and packing crates. A couple were open and in them Bodie saw familiar objects, clothes and books and pictures that had accompanied a whole matrix of existence prior to the advent of Daniel Thorn...

He had gone after Ray like a heat-seeking missile, easy, confident, no doubt in mind of his target. And Doyle at the time had been such easy prey, worn down, wanting permanence, crash-testing relationships with woman after woman and finding no survivors. Bodie had found him with Dan in the locker rooms at the gym after a survival refresher course the latter had been delivering to Cowley's team. It hadn't been a gentle awakening: Thorn had his partner pinned up against a wall and was kissing him, busy unfastening his jeans. Bodie couldn't remember exactly what he had said and done, but in nightmares still currents and tides of it washed over him, bringing him to shuddering horrified waking. Thorn, unfazed, had lit right back into him, in several European languages plus a backstreet Viennese argot particularly suited to invective. Ray had just sat with his head in his hands. And after Bodie had made his move, clumsy and stupid with rage, and been blocked by a tanned muscular arm as tough as the nylon cables Thorn made his living on, blinded by his cheerful maniac's grin, he had fallen back... and for some reason he hadn't been able to fathom out to this day, gone to the old man.

A photo frame was lying facedown on top of one crate. Sick with memories, hardly aware of what he was doing, Bodie picked it up and turned it over. The shot was black and white, a little blurred in a way he recognized, what you got when you set a camera on timer then went tearing back to get into the frame. The two men were in climbing gear, windswept and laughing and soaked. Thorn had his arm around Ray. Bodie had never seen Doyle look that happy, but then he had never seen anyone else who did, either. A light, a heat, seemed to be coming up through the glass, up from the celluloid...

"Leave that alone, Bodie."

Bodie would have preferred anger, would have preferred anything to the utter deadness of his voice. "I'm sorry," he said, and laid the photo carefully face down again. Doyle was in the doorway, gaunt among shadows, prosaically holding out for him a mug of tea. "None for you?"

"Couldn't keep it down."

"Not even that? Ray, you should - "

"Be quiet. No more shoulds or shouldn'ts from you."

"I'm sorry," Bodie said again, hopelessly. Taking the mug from him, he turned away and scanned the room in search of something, anything to say that would not make things worse. "Were you - Were you just moving in?"

"No. We've been here for two years. We're just redecorating. I - " His voice caught. "I mean we were. I'm... moving out."


"What, you think I can afford this place on a teacher's salary?"

"No, but didn't Daniel - "

"Christ, you're so tactless it's almost enjoyable." Bodie swung round. On review, he could see that it hadn't been the most discreet conversational gambit, but Doyle's smile looked halfway genuine. "Only you could walk in here and ask if my dead gay lover provided for me... before you've finished your first cup of tea."


"Will you stop that? It's freaking me out. You never apologised to me in five years."

"Well, then, I owe you a couple." He lowered his head, felt a rare blush starting. "Obviously."

Doyle considered this. He was 99 per cent beyond caring, but something small and dry and knotted inside him eased a little. If Bodie thought he had been wrong... "To answer your question, Dan never made a will. That might seem strange for someone in the sudden-death sector but he thought he was immortal. His assets revert to his family and...this place, too."

"But don't they... I heard from Kath that you'd stayed with his parents in France and all over the place. I thought they loved you."

"Bodie, you twat, they loved their son." The half-smile was still there, the tone almost affectionate. The old note of extreme patience with his thickness. Homesick for it, throat twisting with pain, Bodie folded his arms over his chest and listened. "They put up with me for Dan's sake. And one advantage of losing their queer son was losing their queer son-in-law, too."


"Don't what?"

"Don't use that word. It isn't..."

"Why not? You were pretty free with it yourself last time I saw you." Bodie flinched inwardly, looked at the ground. However much of that Doyle chose to dish out, all he could ever do now was take it. "Speaking of which, there's one question I've always wanted to ask - just what the hell did Cowley say to you that afternoon?"

Bodie cleared his throat. "He said... 'Don't come whingeing to me with tales out of school. I've known for three months anyway, laddie!'"

Doyle, who had thought he would never laugh again, broke into a brief shocking seizure of it: the impression had been perfect, the quote obviously verbatim, carried across two years with painful clarity. "He... He knew?"

"Oh, Ray, a bell probably went off in the old sod's office every time any of us ever got laid. Anyway, he wasn't impressed with me. Told me to get out and go tell you I was sorry. And I tried, but you - you were gone."

Doyle considered this. The laughter still ached in the pit of his lungs, merging with a greater ache that suffused his whole body. Some of it was bruises, wrenched muscles. Some of it was the alarm system of flesh not fed nor watered nor given rest in days. He didn't know how long he could stay on his feet - long enough, he hoped, for Bodie to finish whatever he had come here to try and accomplish and leave. The sight of him, on this early summer night, in his white shirtsleeves, solid and real -

The phone rang. Doyle hadn't touched it, nor the answering machine, since before he and Dan had left for Skye. He took a step towards it, but the click and the beep came straight away and he froze.

"Hi, beautiful. Yes, I sabotaged the message again. Thought you might call home. Look, are you coming back through Fulham? Can you pick us up a tin of the green emulsion? The willow. I've decided that's the one we want. Signed the wall for you with the sample. I'll be back by six, sweaty from the gym and horny as hell. Oh, if that's my bank manager - hello, George - " Doyle had finally broken paralysis, crossed the room in three strides, picked up and slammed down the receiver. That much done, he stayed there, head lowered, motionless. One hand on the windowsill, the other flattened to the phone as if keeping something in. Bodie went to him not knowing what he was going to say or do when he got there, but Doyle's voice stopped him short a yard away. "Do you know how he died?"

"No. Just that he fell. There was only a couple of lines in the - "

"We were climbing together in the Cuillins. He was belaying me up a cliff. There was a rock fall and he lost his hold, went to the end of the rope. And he... cut himself loose rather than pull me down too." Finally, rackingly, he began to weep.

Bodie reached out, put a hand into the hair at his nape, caught him as he fell. "God, sunshine. No." He pulled him in close. "You poor bastard. No wonder you're in such a state."

Doyle resisted for an instant then gave it up and clung to him. Deep, wrenching sobs tore up out of him, bringing with them words, cries, he had been force-swallowing since he had opened the door to their home and seen Dan's half-finished paintwork, seen their rumpled bed, Dan's book held open by a sugar-bowl on the table where they'd had breakfast before packing up the Landrover and heading out of the city. The comb with his fine blond hairs still in it. "I want him back!" Inrush of air, the scent of sunwarmed cotton, a shocked loving voice saying "I know. I know," close against his ear. "I want - Dan! Oh God, I want Dan!" Then a pounding in his head, a pressure like going through the Kings Cross tunnels on the 125 - yes, into the tunnel, the terror and relief of being hurled at last into the dark.

"Christ, Ray!" Bodie went down with him, onto his knees on the polished pine boards, and quickly, carefully, eased him flat, long enough to check his vitals and ensure that shock and grief had only sent him into a faint, not cardiac arrest or a stroke. Then he scooped him up and bore him quickly upstairs.

The ropes and harness had cut into him, leaving angry burns across his shoulders, down his stomach and hips. Bodie had done plenty of climbing in his time and knew the dreadful wrench of catching another human body at the end of a ropefall, the moment of denial to God and to gravity... Easing him out of his shirt, he saw the bruises all down his back where he had been slammed to the rockface, and carefully probed for broken ribs. "Fucking hell, what a mess." Leaving him on top of the cushioning duvet he strode into the next bedroom and snapped a blanket off the bed in there to cover him. None of his grazes or cuts looked as if they'd been treated; the shirt-cotton stuck to them as he pulled it back. Aware that the various injuries were not going to concern either of them much longer if Ray died of dehydration, he said, "Don't go away," and ran down to the kitchen. And he supposed some parts of the stereotype had to be accurate for the stereotype to exist: there were, in the fridge, several bottles of very expensive mineral water. A well-stocked pro-sports first-aid kit in the cupboard under the sink. Going back with his hands full - noticing distractedly the beauty of Persian carpet and banister - he heard a gasp, and a heartbeat later the sound which told him why Doyle had dared not shut his eyes in four days, why he had had to pass out sooner than sleep - the terrible scream of a tough adult male. Bodie shot into the bedroom, dumping box, bottle and glass on the foot of the bed. Doyle was bolt upright, blanket clutched to his chest in both hands, eyes fixed on nothing, though Bodie thought he knew what he was seeing - simple playback, not a nightmare. Enough. "Ray," he said firmly, kneeling beside him, taking hold of both bruised shoulders. "It's over."

Doyle blinked and came back. He didn't seem to notice the change of scene nor his state of undress, met Bodie's eyes and said almost calmly, "I didn't even realize what was happening. He fell, and it nearly pulled me down. I didn't have time to work out that I couldn't save him, he didn't give me that long." Bodie nodded, made no comment. Doyle was carrying on his story as if the interruption hadn't happened. No, it was more than that - as if the last two years hadn't happened. He was still and calm in Bodie's familiar grip, talking to his friend, because Bodie could reach him when he had passed beyond all other human comfort, pull him out of the ruins when his world crashed down. Knowing it couldn't last, heart breaking for all he had thrown away, Bodie listened. "I looked down and he was just smiling up at me. He looked so calm and happy, I thought he must have seen a way back to the rockface. Then he - he just cut the rope."

"He loved you, Ray." Doyle lifted his head a little, as if seeking confirmation, as if this view of things somehow hadn't occurred. Bodie smiled at him, put a gentle hand to the back of his neck. "He was a real pro, and he'd assess the situation in a fraction of a second. Then he did what he had to to keep you alive. That was the most important thing to him, sunshine. He'd hate to see you like this, killing yourself with grief over him."

Doyle swallowed audibly. "I - I know, but I can't... How can I... ?"

"I don't know," Bodie told him honestly. "Some practical things. Look after yourself a bit, let your friends look after you. Drink some water before I have to take you into A&E and make them put you on a drip."

"My friends were all Dan's." He felt himself blushing at the pitiful sound of it, but he was only stating fact. Ray's world - Derby to Stepney Green to W1 - had grown exponentially in his lover's hands; there had suddenly been trips to Europe, South America, India, and Dan thought no more of these than a weekend run into Kent. He had family and a circle of acquaintance in every port and base camp, and these had accepted Doyle with the same cheery, casual warmth they had shown to all his many predecessors - dropped him as completely when the link was severed. Although Thorn had been, according to his gifts, quite serious in his attachment to Doyle, he was also so generally affectionate and loving that the difference didn't show. "Sorry, that was pathetic."

"No." Bodie went silent. You've got me would have broken the spell, awaken Doyle to memory of just what kind of friend Bodie had been to him in the last days of their shared life, especially if followed up by: you always did, you always will. Was the veil of shock dissipating anyway? Doyle had blinked a couple of times and now was looking at him strangely. "Bodie, why - "

Here it came. Bracing, Bodie whispered, "Yeah?"

"Why'd you say those things? You - you broke my heart."

"I know!" It was so much kinder and yet so much worse than he had anticipated that Bodie found himself fighting tears, then suddenly losing the fight. "I know I did." His vision blurred, throat filling with hot salt. He wondered why he was back in a burned-out council house in Armagh then remembered that was the last time he had cried, and the coppery scent of his bitten-back snot and tears had carried across two decades; his unit had killed a child that afternoon, victim of crossfire but blood on his hands nonetheless, and left Bodie, not much more than a kid himself, to keep nightwatch on the abandoned street. "I know I broke your heart." Anguished sobbing seized him. He heard Doyle say, wonderingly, "Jesus!" and felt lean arms close around him. His next breath was drawn against the skin of his warm and naked shoulder. "Ray," he choked, "I know. I was trying to get you - to stop. I thought if I - said all the worst things I could think, it - it'd make you - quit, make you want to be different - "

"But I never did anything bad. I never was anything bad."

"I know!"

Something in this explosive avowal seemed to amuse Doyle; through the sea-roar of his own blood Bodie heard the crinkle of his smile. "It was you. You were always such a narrow-minded, reactionary git." It was delivered like an avowal of love, the tone and the words so at odds with each other that Bodie almost laughed through the painful twisting of his throat and chest. "Who hurt you, then? Somebody in Ireland? Keller?"

"Wh-what? How do you - "

Score twice, Doyle thought, with no satisfaction at all in his own insight. Only horror. "Ah, come on. You got roughed up by some Black faces in Angola and you were a right little racist till you met some nice ones. It doesn't take Freud. Still don't understand why you wouldn't let me get on with my life, though."

Bodie rested his brow, silenced. He was chilled, vaguely aware that the air drifting in from the beautiful French windows smelled of crushed grass and city night. Never did learn to lock up after himself, even after he got shot in his own flat. No, he doesn't react like me. Doesn't shut it out. Doesn't hate. And after two years as a civilian, why should he think twice about letting in the evening breeze? Oh, an ordinary life... "It wasn't that you were - gay," he said wearily, astonishing them both. "It was him. Daniel. I was right there in front of you, and you chose him. I know why you did but I still couldn't stand it. Ray, love, I am so, so, so bloody sorry."

Later - it was much later; the distraught man had taken almost an hour to calm - Doyle let him tend his wounds from the first-aid kit. Bodie was dry-eyed now but pale as death, a tremor in his hands as he washed and disinfected the grazing and burns and poured glass after glass of the mineral water for Doyle, who drank it obediently. Neither spoke. At length Doyle reached out, carefully ruffled the close-cropped hair, and got stiffly off the bed.

He had a shower in the lovely bathroom with its Moroccan tiles, touching this one which Dan had picked, this one he which had wanted himself, remembering the hot, dusty little shop, the exhilaration of exercising tastes he hadn't known he possessed, Daniel's smiling approval. He got dressed, careful not to put on anything his lover had bought him; folded the leather coat gently back into its tissue-lined box.

Bodie was standing by the open window in the bedroom, motionless, head down. Leaving him there, Doyle slipped quietly downstairs. He walked once through the kitchen, dining room, study. In the living room, he pulled off the heavy, plain silver band Dan had given him in Mexico and put it into the worked hardwood box which was all his limited finances had allowed by way of a return gift - still, the man had loved it; loved that Ray had hiked the five miles back from their camp to the village to get it - then took the photo that lay face-down on the desk and placed it tenderly on top of the ring. Everything else in the house he would part with, he knew, and the loss of the house itself could not hurt him now that Dan was gone, although in truth he had been shocked and sorry when Leila Thorn took him aside after the funeral and gone over the arrangements. She had been his particular ally, Dan's mother, at family gatherings, amidst the jet-set, high-gloss siblings and forbidding patriarchs. He's been with some dreadful cads, Ray. At least I know you'll never hurt him. He had assumed "at least" referred to the compensation good character made for lack of means and a Derby-backstreet pedigree. No, Leila. I never would have. What he would do with these relics in due course he did not know - was only certain that they couldn't come with him tonight. Carefully, new tears stinging the scratches on his face, he closed the box.

Bodie had not moved. When Ray closed a hand on his shoulder, he gave a bone-deep twitch, and Doyle saw the tiny aborted move his hand made for his gun. He knew the reflex was still there in himself: Dan had known better than to startle him, even after two years. "Don't shoot me, mate."


"You don't have to say that any more. Thank you, but stop."

Is it forgiven? Bodie couldn't say it. His mouth was too dry; he felt his sins too dreadful for such ready absolution, the disappearance of their weight disorienting. Ray was as generous as sunlight but...

"Are you alright?"

"I don't know."

"Okay to drive?"

"O-Of course." He swallowed, shook himself slightly. "Oh, yeah. Sorry. I'll go."

"What? No, you idiot." The breeze was cool now, making Doyle's skin prickle under the cotton of his t-shirt. "It's just - I can't stay here any more, and I wondered if you'd... drop me off at a hotel, or..." He shrugged, blushed a little. "You won't be surprised to hear the bloody car was Dan's, too."

"Come home with me, Ray."

The holdall he carried out of the house was identical, contents included, to the one Dan had borne into it for him two years ago, excited and proud at having chosen a place Ray would like. He had done pretty well, considering that at no stage of the proceedings had his new lover been consulted. Doyle hadn't minded. The house, the 4x4, the sudden vertiginous freedom from financial concerns, had all been just trimming. The point was being loved - more crucially, being allowed to love. Dan had no problems in that area; accepted it as his royal due, returned it with interest. Oh, he was intelligent - Doyle couldn't have tolerated a fool, not even one that nicely packaged - but he was about as complicated as a week on Bondi Beach, and Ray was so bruised from trying to understand Bodie's rainswept mountain slopes and sudden unattainable visions of sunlit Avalon that he had gone down without a fight. For Dan, to see was to want was to end up in bed with inside of three days; he'd never been denied anything and it didn't matter that he'd therefore never developed the muscles for coping with deprivation - what couldn't be bought could usually be smiled or loved into submission. And now he would never have to face the inevitables - ageing, disease, the wearying-out of even the finest love by time. They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old...

Bodie was waiting by the door of the Capri. Belatedly Doyle realized he was holding it open for him - that he had stopped on the steps long enough to make his friend think he had changed his mind. Had he? Image after image of Daniel filled his tired brain. All seemed awash with golden light - even the last one. The catch of his wheat-blond hair; his smile at the instant the rope went slack. You lived and you died in the sun... A surge of affection and grief went through him - then he looked into the haunted, shadowed face watching him from the kerb, and his knees tried to give. His Bodie - veteran of wars he could never even talk about. Bodie, who had had to fight for everything, even if the sole opponent was his angry, stubborn self. He looked... tentative. Unsure of himself. Anxious going on scared. Pain struck deep into Doyle's chest, an interior shift of love so bloodstained and primitive he couldn't breathe, and he saw Bodie frown and run up the steps to meet him.

They were turning heads in the street. Clasping him hard, keeping him upright, Bodie made no effort to hide or disguise a kiss to one colourless, damp cheek, and said prosaically, "You've got to eat, you know."

"Yes. Yeah." He closed his eyes and sobbed. "That's all it is. Just - just hungry."

Stupidly - the old man would have shifted Bodie twice at least for security reasons - Doyle assumed the flat would be the same, and now stood disoriented in a strange kitchen in Highgate. There were supermarket boxes piled in its corners, scattered along the hall he'd just walked through, barely seeing. "Were you just moving in?" he heard himself ask, and Bodie turned round from switching on kettle and oven and gave their surroundings a glance as if they were new to him, too. "No. Been in this one for about four months." It was almost exactly the dialogue they had exchanged in Daniel's elegant living room, taking different parts, and they traded a rueful smile on realizing it. "Sit down, Ray. Going to cook something."

"God, I'm glad you warned me," Doyle said, subsiding onto a chair with a melodramatic clutch at his heart. "What happened? Did you marry Fanny Craddock?"

Bodie snorted. "Shut up. I was never that helpless."

"Well, to be honest, Bodie, you were."

"Yeah, alright." He pulled over a vegetable rack and began selecting potatoes and onions. "What was I supposed to do when my chef shipped out, eh? You were the last surviving Londoner who cooked food in their own home."

"The last one who cooked it and invited you around to hoover it up on a regular basis, is what you mean."

"Well, fair enough," Bodie smiled. "Seriously, if I made you some veggie soup, could you face it?"

"First I would die of astonishment... but after that, I think so." He sobered, looking around at the peeling walls, comfortless landlord-issue fixtures and fittings. Bodie had occupied places like this - like a soldier in transit - when Doyle had first known him. Of later years, though, you could walk into a flat and know it was his; he'd started buying the odd cautious picture and rug, even a sofa, although the non-portables were never fancy enough to go with him when the next move came. Neither were Doyle's. It was the lifestyle, and they'd found a compromise. "It might seem a stupid question, but why haven't you unpacked?"

Bodie put a mug of tea in front of him but didn't stay long enough to meet his eyes, heading back to the stove. "I've unpacked what I need." He shrugged, unhooked a pan and ran water into it. "What's the point moving in, Ray? You know how it is. They just shift you on again."

Why did you stop trying? Doyle wanted to ask. Thinking about it now, Bodie had seemed to follow his lead in this matter - making casual, teasing exploration of his books, artwork, decent bed-linen and towels, then appearing to accept that, mere civilian trappings as they were, they did make life more pleasant, and after a dignified interval, acquiring some of his own. But the man had sounded both angry and upset, and he didn't want to push it. "Yeah. It was a bitch, I remember." He sat watching him in silence for a moment, trying to read the set of his shoulders, to pick up the signals of a code in which he had once been uniquely conversant. His tension had dissipated slightly, though the leeks were getting sliced with undeserved menace. "It was nice," Doyle offered tentatively, "having a - a proper house, and all that."

The slicing stopped. After a second Bodie turned, wiping his hands on a tea towel, and there was nothing there but compassion, compassion and that half-hitched smile Doyle knew so well, painfully amused at life's bitterness. "Ah, poor Ray, you didn't get to have it very long, did you?" He came and sat down beside him at the table, reached gently for his face.

And that was their first exchange - a kiss whose context Doyle could never have envisaged, though he'd imagined plenty. Being pinned down in the corner of some rowdy pub, maybe, or after one of the close-call shootouts when they were always both in serious danger of forgetting themselves for a while. Alcohol or adrenaline, at any rate. Not calm, deliberate, tender as first summer light, in a formica kitchen while vegetables cooked on the stove. He could not even reach back for him - too lost in the feel of it, one hand clenched on the table's edge, the other blindly seeking the back of his chair for support. Bodie didn't seem to mind; was holding his face like a chalice, his mouth kind and competent and - oh, Christ, the most wildly arousing thing Doyle had ever felt... He woke up, all over his body, gasping as if dropped in cold water. This was what he had wanted, this flesh on his, this scent and taste! Bodie felt him come alive under his touch, electrically, returning the kiss, beautiful hands sweeping his hair, fastening at his nape to pull him in. That's alright, then, was his last coherent thought, because in retrospect it had been a hell of a risk, then fire shot through his body and he was somehow on his knees at Doyle's feet, still locked into the kiss. He felt rather than heard Ray make some sound between a moan and a wail and crash to the floor with him, chair banging over behind him. The hands had found the place where his shirt tucked into his corduroys - he hadn't been sure how to dress that night for getting his arse kicked, not at all - and were pulling and lifting and suddenly hot on the skin of his waist, ribs, nipples -

- and the doorbell was going; had been for some time -
- they would go away -

- and he couldn't let that gesture go unreturned for long; Doyle was wearing the ancient but becoming moss-green t-shirt whose v-neck seemed to invite a good downward rip. He closed both fists tight in the fabric and -

Of course the problem was that they wouldn't go away, not if he left his door or his phone unattended. After a very short period of grace, they - "they" being his security-conscious employers - would automatically assume the worst. The problem was that Murphy had a key.

"Bodie? Bodie!" A good, alarmed shout from the hallway. Over the past two years, Murph had shown himself a worthy colleague in many ways, and this was his way of doing his duty whilst still giving Bodie a cat's-chance-in-hell of a warning. Heads up, mate! Incoming! Put the lady down! But that was all he got, and Doyle was lurching to his feet with some very unladylike commentary, still somehow finding the reflexes to pull Bodie upright, too, and Murph was in the doorway.

"Jesus fucking wept, Murph - !"

"I - I'm sorry!" Having made so good and businesslike an entrance, Murphy now appeared to be trying to holster his gun, grab the doorframe for support, look straight at them as if nothing had happened and down at his feet as if something definitely had. "I was - a bit worried about you, after... and I phoned you a few times, and then I thought I'd nip up and... you didn't answer, but... I see you're both fine," he finished, so lamely that Doyle, who was still propping himself and his partner against the table's edge, made the first choked sound of what would soon be helpless laughter. He clapped a hand to his mouth. Now was not quite the time. He had been outed for just over two years - Bodie for ten seconds and counting. He had no idea how he would react; kept a steadying, reassuring grip on his arm, bracing against the prospect of being dropped like a hot brick... but although it was perhaps only the paralysis of shock, Bodie was making no signs of trying to rectify his dishevelment, not yet. And when he did move away, it was very gentle, and Doyle got a swift heartlifting smile and a squeeze to the wrist en route. He prowled across the kitchen to Murph, whose face was contriving to be a blank and a picture at the same time, took him firmly by the shoulders and turned him back the way he had come.

"Bodie, I really am sorry."

"Don't be," Bodie said mildly, steering him down the hall, one hand planted between his shoulder blades. "You're a good mate. You were doing your job. But... piss off now, eh?"

"Er... yeah. Right, of course." The door was still standing open, which saved Bodie the trouble of pushing him through it. Once in the relative safety of the corridor outside, some devil took hold of Murphy and he said, irresistibly, "Your supper looks nice, mate... "

To his relief, surprise and pleasure, Bodie gave him an unabashed dirty grin. "Doesn't it, now? See you at work, Murph - unless I've eaten too much and just can't move." Unhurriedly, he shut the door in his face.

Doyle had not moved a muscle. He was flushed, pupils dilated so wide there was only a flare of astonished green around their rims. Leaning in the doorway, weak at the knees, Bodie thought that he had never seen anything so beautiful in his entire life. Laughter rocked him, and after a second Doyle doubled up too.

They didn't attempt to pick up where they'd left off. Both knew that Doyle's last burst of energy had run him dry. The moment had gone, but neither mourned it; the sense of something infinitely greater biding its time in the wings too strong. They could be ordinary with each other, and badly needed to be, in the wake of long separation, conflict, this dazzling reunion. When at length he had stopped laughing, Doyle obeyed his friend's injunction to go lie on the sofa with a glass of wine while he finished cooking, and then they ate together, not saying much, not avoiding it. To Ray's lucidly-expressed astonishment the soup was good, the familiar sickness that stirred in him afterwards inevitable, and his heart sank - he wanted, needed to be strong again. After watching his pallor for a long moment, Bodie reached out and took hold of his hand. "It's alright. Come and lie down on the bed."

The bedroom was just that - a room with a bed in it, but Doyle required nothing more elaborate. Distractedly he recognized the duvet cover, and it felt like an old friend to his sick, tired body as he let Bodie guide him down, turning him carefully onto his front. "Bodie, I'm sorry... Think I'm gonna have to make a run for the bathroom in a minute..."

"No, you're not." Bodie eased out the pillow from under his head, went to turn off the overhead so that only the hall's light fell into the room, a somehow-comforting golden oblong. "Just lie flat." His skin had begun to crawl with nausea, chilling, horrible... but the mattress dipped at his side and then Bodie's hands were on the small of his back, warmly stroking, minding his bruises. "Breathe deep," he said, pushing upwards under Doyle's shirt, heels of his hands pressing firm but careful either side of his spine. All the way up, then his fingers spread wide and fanned out and down across his shoulder blades, making him moan. "That pain or pleasure?"

"Do it again and I'll tell you," Doyle managed. The need to vomit was subsiding, so quickly and thoroughly that tears of relief were stinging his eyes. The wonderful touch began once more, down on his sacrum, pushing up, stretching him, releasing the knots inside him that had been stopping nourishment dead before it could do him any good. "Ohh, it's pleasure. Where'd you learn to do that? Why weren't you doing it to me three times a week?"

Bodie snorted. "Can you imagine me offering? You'd have passed out."

"Yeah, well, so would've you if I'd asked, hardarse."

"Mm. Wasted a lot of time, didn't we."

Doyle was inclined to agree. He was feeling better, very much better, and the push of his hips against the mattress was starting to heat his blood. Any second now he would get his head up, turn over, show Bodie it had all been worth the seven-year wait...

Bodie leaned over him, smiling. He was sound asleep. Gently he pulled his shirt back down, covered him with the other half of the duvet. It occurred to him that this could be a helpful break in the performance. Spontaneity was one thing, but if he had a little preparation time, Ray surely deserved him clean, and... well, there was a 24-hour chemist down the road... He felt himself colour in the dark at the very thought, and wondered how he would fare under neon with a spotty teenage pharmacist's assistant. Well, it was tough. There were bigger monsters than that to be faced. Doyle had presumably wrestled a few to the ground. Running a hand over the lean, worn-out frame, he was ashamed of himself for his apprehension. "Sleep well, angelfish," he advised him softly, ruffling his hair. "Because when you wake up, you are going to have to share with me the benefits of your vast experience."

It wasn't an ordeal, the night-shift clerk too exhausted to cast a second glance at him, let alone his shopping. On the way back - absurdly pleased with himself, veering between shock at recent events and marrow-deep anticipation of future ones - he caught his reflection in a darkened shop window and was reassured but surprised to see his usual street-sure image in place: half expected the light to shine through, his bloodstream to flare scarlet where he could feel the pulse in his throat, loins, palms of his hands.

The all-night supermarket was dingy and grim but stocked the Kenyan coffee Doyle liked - thinking about it, fresh bread and milk wouldn't hurt, either. When had he last gone grocery shopping? Without Ray to nag him, he'd been living on squad-room biscuits and take-out chips... He could scarcely remember how it was done. Fruit, he supposed. The makings of a decent breakfast. The thought of bringing his house-guest coffee and toast on a tray made him smile and wonder if good room-service might earn him another kiss... He shook his head, sternly blocked the astonishing memory of Ray Doyle's mouth on his. 2am in a grocery store was not the place - for one thing, his coat was too short...

Doyle hadn't moved when he got back. Deciding it wasn't worth disturbing that sleep for the sake of undressing him, Bodie checked his pulse and temperature, then had a look at the worst of his cuts to make sure no infection was setting in. He pulled a spare duvet out of the wardrobe, laid the first one flat and spread the second over the bed. Doyle murmured something incoherent against the pillow: sitting on the bed beside him, Bodie stroked his hair until his breathing evened out and he dropped back. The thick, heavy curls were still slightly damp from the shower. And that was a good point... Bodie no longer thought he would be providing services to his friend more elaborate than those of human hot-water bottle and night-watch, but Ray deserved to wake up next to something that didn't smell of car interior...

Infinite sunlit space. He has never known such freedom. Up ahead of him on the rock-face, the handsome Special Ops pain-in-the-arse with whom he's been sharing uncomfortable quarters in a cabin halfway up Mont Blanc. There are a dozen other men - and one beleaguered woman - on the assessment week, but he seems to end up more often than not staring into William Bodie's challenging dark-blue eyes, across a judo mat, on teambuilding psych exercises neither of them can take seriously, up or down a length of nylon rope. The section controller, a sandy-haired Scot whom those recruits with a whole week's more experience than Doyle are already jadedly calling The Cow, has been to visit, looked them over and gone away again.

It is rumoured that the bloke you get teamed up with now is the one The Cow wants you to partner, supposing you survive your training. At the moment Doyle hopes the rumour to be ill-founded. He has mountain sickness, though he has managed to conceal it so far. Bodie does not. William Bodie does not appear to be remotely inconvenienced by any of the insane tasks and ordeals devised by their group leaders. He does, however, complain extravagantly about the smallest graze or blister, which Doyle resents, being obliged himself to keep his tough-guy mask in place after being sick for the fourteenth time behind whatever rock or bush is available.

Right now, though, he doesn't care. They are climbing in pairs through the granite heights of Les Drus, and they have left the others way behind - Bodie is very good at this, and Doyle, after making the mistakes that a beat-copper from Stepney Green would make, has discovered that he is not half bad himself. And he feels better this morning, acclimatizing at last. The majestic glacier-carved glen is laid out below him, nothing but his wits and the harness between him and a thousand-foot drop. Glancing up, he sees that he has almost done it; sees that pain-in-the-arse is finally impressed, gathering in the final few feet of rope. "Not bad," he says, putting down a muscular arm to pull Doyle up onto the ledge where he has been casually waiting.

"Thanks," Doyle says, with all the sarcasm he can muster. It isn't much; there doesn't seem to be a place for it up here in all this sundrenched beauty. He smiles for the first time in a week, broadly, irrepressible. "God, look at it!"

Bodie does not - he seems at that moment more inclined to look at Doyle. "Stunning," he says, then, quirking up one corner of his mobile, ironic mouth, "You've done alright, haven't you?"

Not paying him much attention, Doyle queries, "What? You mean down there?"

"Getting through all this with altitude sickness. Can't have been easy."

Oh. Doyle turns to look at him, lifting his chin, ready to square off against him yet again. But it isn't necessary: he's grinning, but it's not unkind. "Are you going to tell anyone?"

"Course not. Not gonna be chasing terrorists up mountains on foot without oxygen, are we? Besides, you've got over it. Come on, it's my turn to watch your pretty little arse disappearing up that rock."

Doyle shakes his head. "I wonder about you, you know."

It is a careless moment, the mandatory three points of contact reduced to two as Bodie swings back to face the cliff - a mistake born of supreme physical confidence. When the ledge crumbles under his foot, he is not properly anchored -

And then he is. Doyle has him by the armpit in a whipcord grip. He says only one word - "No!" - and in it Bodie hears echo of every refusal he has made in his life, feels the heat of his utter denial, to fate, deity, any and all comers: he will not let him fall. Bodie understands then that what the ex-copper lacks in brawn and experience he more than makes up for in reflexes, intelligence, sheer will. "Christ," he says, conversationally, looking down into the blazing forever, not yet dispensing with Doyle's grasp. "I wish I'd worn the brown trousers now."

In retrospect Doyle wondered if that had been what clinched the deal for him and Bodie: the old man had been back at base camp again when they got there, literally hours ahead of everyone else, Bodie's arm slung playfully around his shoulders. Certainly they had settled their trust issues, out on the sunswept mountain. Bodie, reliant to the point of arrogance on his own physical powers, had discovered the meaning of backup. For Ray, it was simply not being shopped, after witnessing every shade of betrayal on the seamy London streets where he tried to make a living, tried to make a difference, tried to stay clean. William Bodie had no reason to cover for him: had done so by default. I wonder about you... Doyle had continued to wonder, on and off, as the years went by. There had been the odd comment, the odd look, and though the man steadfastly bedded every eligible female that entered his sphere of influence...

Not so much dreaming as playback. It was all his mind could bear, in the upper layers of sleep - the recall of that morning when everything went right, when he began to understand how good his life could be. But in the deep part of the night, sinking to the death-dark waters below, he lost the guiding lights, fell hopelessly down and away...

Infinite sunlight space. He has never known such freedom. The Cuillins lift dragon-spine ridges below him. He anchors himself carefully, hands experienced and calm on straps, catches, webbing. It's a point of pride with him that he's never made a mistake on the rocks, a point of pride that Bodie trusts him.

Bodie...? Where is Dan?

But Dan has never existed. Dan was a dream within a dream, a flicker of gold across Doyle's gritty, demanding lifescape. No, it's Bodie down there, solid and fine, getting ready to join him near the peak. Bodie who makes a mistake.

He slams against the rockface, the crampons torn out and falling like meteors, catching the sun. He should have been ripped straight down but out of habit and love he has gone through the routines of failsafe, backup, backup to the failsafe; he always does. Catlike he scrabbles for a foothold - gets one, and a hand and a hand, one shoulder dislocating as his partner's weight hits the rope's far reach. He is still harnessed. He can save them both. Pain shrieking through him, he twists and yells down - finding a smile like a promise - "Hold still! Keep still; I've got you!"

And Bodie returns his smile - warm, ordinary, loving. His weight disappears off the rope.

Bodie had expected the nightmares - not that his own name would be screamed from the heart of them. Doyle shot bolt upright in the bed, tearing the quilt off them both. Barely awake, Bodie followed him, got him into something between an embrace and a rugby tackle before he could hit the floor. "It's alright! Alright! Come on, mate, wake up!"

Doyle tried. On one level he knew that Bodie, alive, astonishingly warm and naked, had him held fast. But he had gone down too deep, surfaced too suddenly. "Not you!" he shouted, recoiling into his grip. "Not you! Not you!"

"No, not me," Bodie agreed, rocking him. "Not me, sweetheart, you don't lose me that easy. Now wake up. It's all over. You're home with me."

"Oh, God. Oh, God!"

The prayer was fractured but there was sanity in it, consciousness. Bodie rested his face gently in the sweat-damped curls. "That's it. Good lad." Gradually Doyle's breathing scaled down from end-of-marathon to merely ragged, and his bruising grasp of Bodie's shoulder and waist unclenched. "Not you," he said again, lifted his head and met the dark eyes fixed on his. The room was flooded with orange neon from the streetlamp outside. He shuddered deeply. "Oh... Bodie..."

Bodie had a peripheral second to reflect that he was glad he'd managed the shower. Time was up for both of them. Bodie didn't know exactly what he'd had in mind by way of preliminaries but it was academic anyway: going to happen now. Doyle's tongue was parting his lips with frightened urgency, his hands a hot caress up and down Bodie's spine. Opening up for him, moaning into his mouth, Bodie bore him back onto the mattress. Unceremoniously he jerked Doyle's zip down, hauled his jeans and briefs far enough onto his thighs, took firm hold of his rigid cock. Doyle broke the kiss to cry out; arched his hips up in welcome and relief. "There you are," Bodie said huskily. "There." For heartstopping moments he couldn't think what the hell to do - then, guided by an instinct deep as time, he slipped down the bed.

"Bodie - !" He was trying to sit up, eyes wild. "Bodie, Christ - !"

"Ssh. Let me do this. Let me..." He trailed it off, lowered his head. The tip of Doyle's shaft slipped into his open mouth and Ray collapsed gasping onto the pillows.

It didn't take long. Bodie was clumsy with need and inexperience but that didn't matter - for Doyle, crucially, burningly, he was who he was. He dug his heels into the mattress, shouted out as Bodie's tongue whipped across him, felt his climax start. "Come up here a minute! Come up here!"

Bodie obeyed, flushed and blank with confusion. "What did I... Have I hurt you? Don't you like - "

"Oh, I like." Gasping, smiling, he stroked his face. "Etiquette point. You don't have to... I mean, Dan wasn't keen on... "

Bodie blinked and caught on. "Oh, God. No, I want it." Were they talking about the same thing? It wasn't time to mince words. He clarified, "I want you to come in my mouth."

He just barely got back down there in time. Hearing it so plainly put had finished Doyle off. His cock pulsed deep in Bodie's throat where the man was holding him, sucking strongly, fingertips rubbing deliciously round his anus. He came with a ferocious, soul-wrenching convulsion, vision incandescing. Bodie heard his cry - and because it was that voice, that head tipping back onto the pillow, because it was Doyle's cock filling his mouth with the flashflood of blood-hot salt - he swallowed automatically, again and again - it was enough. It was too much. He shot hard against the mattress, groaning in ecstasy and choking. The moment before he would have succumbed - willingly enough - to suffocation, Doyle's erection subsided and he could breathe again.

Past speech, Doyle half-hauled him back up. He had to give this back to Bodie, had to pleasure him, share this release. He thrust down a hand between the muscled thighs, making his newly-sensitised companion yelp and flinch away. "Bodie? No - let me finish you, love..." Then he realized why his hand was wet, why Bodie was blushing to the hairline, and burst into laughter.

"I can't believe it was enough for you - just to feel me come."

20 minutes or so had elapsed. Both had slept, briefly, in sunny waters of aftermath, but returned to surface at the shift of deeper currents, of hungers a lifetime deep. "It's enough," Bodie informed him indistinctly, from his comfortable resting place on his shoulder, "to hear you say it."

"Oh?" Doyle traced a warm hand down the silky body pressed close to his own, and this time when it reached its target Bodie didn't flinch but pushed forward to meet it, gasping and smiling. "Oh, God. Good recovery time, mate..." Touching him, gripping his swelling cock, made Doyle realize that his own was not much worse: he was glad when Bodie moaned and shifted on top, trapping their erections together. "I thought you'd wrung me dry."

Bodie took his weight on his arms, mindful of Doyle's bruised ribs. He leaned to kiss one flushed cheek. "Oh, I think there's more where that came from."

"D-Did you like it?"

"Sunshine, you must have been able to tell."

"I meant..." He couldn't say it; took the end of his shirt-tail and wiped traces of semen from around Bodie's beautiful mouth by way of explanation. "That."

"Oh, that," Bodie echoed teasingly. "God, you and your points of etiquette... I thought I'd hurt you or something when you made me stop." He sobered, letting Ray see the truth in his eyes. "It was incredible. To feel you pouring into me... Oh, Christ, I can't tell you..."

Doyle's breathing quickened, joy and arousal sweeping through him. He lifted his hips to meet Bodie's downthurst, and again, and they found cautious rhythm, looking into one another's eyes, scarcely able to bear the intimacy. Spreading his thighs, Doyle let his knees raise up, knowing they were both damp enough that if Bodie chose to enter him, it would work, just about... But he wasn't ready. Bodie read the tiny flash of fear and said with a grin, "Easy, tiger. Not that way yet." Instinct told him to surrender the top position and he rolled down to his side, Doyle moaning and pressing against him fiercely. "There. Come on. Come on."

They thrust together, grappling tight, legs entwining. Doyle found he was shaking, marrow deep, the tremor threatening to tear him apart. Trying to soothe it, Bodie held him harder round the ribs than he meant and gasped an apology, but Doyle could take that kind of pain. Endorphins were flooding his system anyway, a rush like he'd never felt before. "Alright. It's alright." He felt his breath explode against Bodie's neck, heard his own sounds with disbelief. The rhythm soared to a pounding. "Fuck! Jesus! Jesus!" Doyle ground out, and a second later Bodie felt himself starting to come, volcanically this time, from the base of his spine. Their shattered cries rang out a fraction of a second apart, shaking the glass in the windows.

Neither moved away when it was over. The hip-to-hip press was too sweet, too deep a comfort. Bodie pushed languorously tighter, rubbing sticky wetness up onto their bellies, meeting Doyle's mouth as it sought his. "You know," he said, when at length he could, "we really should get you undressed."

In the amber light from outside, they knelt facing one another, both naked now. It was so late that the traffic-sounds from outside had all but ceased: that hour between three and four when the city holds its breath, poised on its axis between one day and the next. Sacred setting for a small ritual: these two men who knew one another so well had never done this, never studied the other's exposed skin in time outside of crisis - the bullet wounds, cuts, burns, bruises. They were conducting, very slow and gentle, a fingertip exploration, an inventory of damage, of scars. Knife wounds on Bodie, lung and shoulder. The torn-up flesh over Doyle's heart. Bodie released a shuddery breath as he brushed a touch over that one: it had nearly been the end. Drawing him forward, he looked down his back to the damage on the other side. Doctors' work, that, the line where they'd cut him open and held his ribs apart. Somehow more shocking than the bullet-scars, surgical precision forever engraved on the poignant human form. He traced the line with the tips of index and middle finger, then sat him back a little and did the same to the uneven cheekbone that gave his face its odd charm. "What happened here, then?"

Doyle had never been able to tell him. Stupid, since they had shared so much, but the memory of his utter powerless on that night could reach across two decades and strip him of every skill and saving grace he'd since acquired. He'd always made a joke, changed the subject... "It was my dad," he said now, easily enough, the blockage and fear somehow gone. "He just used to lash out with whatever was at hand, and I pissed him off one night when he still had a full bottle." He actually smiled. "He was so mad he'd broken his crappy scotch on my face that he gave me a kicking for good measure. Put me in hospital for a month that time."

"Oh, fuck." Bodie's voice was a tight-throated rasp, his eyes bleak with horror. Ray said, "Don't, love," as the tears spilled, then, "Did me a favour, didn't he? Knew I had to get out after that, before he killed me. And I did. Never looked back."

"Tell me he's still alive."

"No. Drank himself to death in '69. But we can go piss on his grave sometime if you like."

Carefully - mindful of each other's newly-strained muscles and the utter exhaustion that was fastening on them both - they eased back down into the bed. Bodie took Ray into the curve of his arm, easily, as if he did so every day. He dearly hoped that from now on he would. "I know we should shower," Doyle murmured, pushing into the juncture of his shoulder and neck, where the skin was satiny, the pulse strong and the darkness, when he closed his eyes, incredibly sweet to him, "but I don't want to wash you off me yet."

"Same goes," Bodie said smiling, a silvery thread of arousal finding its way even into this post-coital haze. Doyle's occasional earthiness had always bullseyed his erogenous zones. "There's plenty of time for washing."

"You on the dawn patrol tomorrow?"

"Today. No, thank Christ. Doing lunch till late with our Murph."

Doyle giggled. "Poor sod."

"I know. He didn't know whether to shit or go blind."

Bodie's last conscious thought - it was some achievement, this, a minor miracle, that after this day's trials, they had ended up by laughing themselves to sleep.

The bedroom window was an elderly sash one with the rope long gone, but it lifted when Doyle eased it and stayed open, caught on its own crumbling paint. Doyle took a deep breath of sunny morning air and glanced to check that he hadn't disturbed his companion: no, Bodie was still stretched out on his front, a portrait of beautiful abandonment. Grinning, Doyle fastened the dressing gown he'd found in a heap on the floor, turned back to look at the day.

And he knew he would never forget this moment - just as it had on Les Drus that morning, time seemed to stop for him. He was no longer part of its matrix, rushing ever onward. He could float at will, feeling its fabric and weave in his hands, move back and forth within its stream. If he closed his eyes he was coming again in the depth of Bodie's throat, not memory but a reliving so intense that he gasped and subsided weak-kneed onto the window sill. He could reach ahead for the moment of returning Bodie the favour - he knew it would come, and soon - feel the heave of the man's hips between his hands, hear his climaxing shout... Quickly he bid himself back to surface. Pouncing on his sleeping friend like a randy tomcat hardly seemed polite, and he wanted to stay here just for this short while, alone with the sunlight and the dapple of leaves across his vision.

Birds were calling in the dusty plane trees, pigeons crooning on the stonework of the floors below. He hadn't registered the building's exterior at all on his way in last night, had barely seen the street. Since then he'd had very little interest in the world outside, but now he came to look, it was a nice enough corner of it - faded Regency facades and trees leading down to a green haze beyond that he thought might be the cemetery. Kids kicking a ball around. He'd missed such ordinariness. The Chelsea house, when Dan was not at home rattling bass riffs out of his electric guitar, bounding up and down the stairs singing opera in three or four different languages, had been elegantly silent. Letting his eyes close again, he let the time-currents take him back to pay memory's tribute their last lovemaking there, in the hall on the Persian runner amongst their packed-up climbing gear. Five minutes before they were due to leave for Scotland: Dan convinced he'd never make it all that way without a quickie. Ray had brought him off with his hand, lovingly businesslike, then knelt up over his body at his murmured request and done what he knew Dan loved but still himself found strange, erotic but humiliating and a bit frightening - masturbating while he watched, directing his come onto the warm tanned belly.

Heart beating fast, Doyle stared out into the sunlight. They had never talked about sex, just done it... as and when Daniel wanted. Why had this never struck Doyle? That his own mood, his own tastes, had never been consulted? Oh, it hadn't mattered - being loved by Dan was never an ordeal; he was a pro and over time had brought Ray to an equal level of expertise. Considerate, in his way, too - sometimes Doyle would get aroused but have trouble reaching orgasm, and he would wait, patiently working on his cock or his balls or the place deep inside Ray had learned was his prostate, until Doyle guiltily slipped the fantasy into place and was able to come. But still...

..and there was Bodie, struggling back up the bed at his lightest touch, eyes dark with anxiety. What is it? Did I hurt you? Don't you like...?

He returned his gaze to the scene outside. He could not define the plangent ache inside him; the sense of recognition... and then he could. It felt like the first day of summer.

And he was hungry. Giving Bodie another loving, carnal look, he got up and padded through to the kitchen. He didn't really hope to find a potential meal in there - though after last night, who knew? - but he felt very much inclined to treat his host to a nice awakening. He'd go down to the corner shop if necessary... Checking through cupboards at random, it struck him once more that this was a soldier's kitchen, shabby but scrupulously clean, and he suddenly remembered how picky Bodie was about life's most basic hygiene: perfectly relaxed about squad-room coffee mugs and hotel linen, he would nevertheless devote a couple of hours of his precious off-duty to keeping his own flat clean, while Doyle had a lie-in and guiltily let dishes fester in the sink. Angola, he would say, if questioned, and proceed to give Doyle - especially if the latter was innocently eating his breakfast - a detailed account of the lifecycle and MO of the bot-fly or some equally revolting parasite. Habit. Doyle would have liked to ask how the habit had persisted so long in exotic W2, but somehow there was no coming back from the Africa stories...

Yes, true to form, last night's supper dishes were gleaming in the drying-rack. Belatedly Doyle noticed a supermarket bag on the counter beside them, and having found no discernible foodstuffs in the cupboards, went to have a look. Ah, miracle - bread and milk. Kenyan coffee... which Bodie, who would drink anything hot and brown in a cup provided it was loaded with sugar, had apparently remembered and bought for him. Absently, smiling, he glanced into the other bag, a plain one - put his hands to his mouth and rocked with silent laughter.

Bodie would never, ever cease to amaze him. Condoms, which he supposed could have been for general consumption, and a big tube of KY, which made it all a bit more specific. He tried to imagine him going into the shop, all black leather and brooding eyes... Chuckling helplessly, he began to unpack the groceries. Let Bodie deal with his other purchases as and when so inclined. Then he came to a halt, prickling with something between arousal and fear. When would he feel inclined? And what would it be like? Bodie was a big lad, bigger than Dan in that department, not that he'd give him the satisfaction of telling him so. He'd pulled back last night and Doyle had been grateful, but he wasn't about to refuse him if he asked for it, ready or not. With Dan it hadn't been the best, though he always rode it out uncomplaining. Not Dan's fault, if he was narrow-hipped and proportionately tight inside, if he tensed up sometimes with the sense of invasion...

Shaking his head, feeling himself go scarlet, he turned his mind to practicalities. Toast. Coffee. Somewhere in this place there must be a cafetiere or percolator, if Bodie had bought ground. He was soon smiling again at the man's occasional flat-out stupidity - what was he supposed to do, filter the stuff through yesterday's underwear? - and finally dug out from beneath the sink an espresso pot, so dirty it could only have been left by the previous tenant. He washed it, set it up and put it on the oven hob; wandered through to the living room to see if Bodie's crappy record collection had improved any over the past two years.

It had, dramatically. Crouching by the shelves, Doyle ran a finger wonderingly over a few familiar spines. Stravinsky, Mahler, Dvorak. Less predictably still, REM, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd. In fact if he hadn't been sure he'd taken his own collection to Daniel's apartment, he could have sworn...

We'd listen to this stuff together. Or rather, you'd come to my flat and bitch about them if I had them on in the background, and I'd persist because I wasn't going to let you boss me about in my own bloody home, and you'd end up sitting through it. Oh, Bodie...

The siren-scent of good coffee, drifting through the flat for first time during his occupation of it, brought Bodie out of sleep at last. The dream - and it had been a nice one; he was undemandingly hard against the mattress - dissolved, slowly releasing him to daytime reality. Pushing up onto his elbows, remembering, he broke into soft, astonished laughter. Ray! My God!

Something else was moving on the air along with the fragrance. Music - a poignant, familiar up-and-down guitar riff. A voice, rough but dead on tune.

So... So you think you can tell
Heaven from hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail A smile from a veil...

"Morning, handsome."

Ray Doyle in his doorway, framed by sunlight, in a borrowed dressing gown, balancing a tray. Bodie sat up and smiled through a wash of happiness so intense it made him feel faint. "Same to you. I was gonna do that."

"So, when did you develop the excellent taste in music?" Doyle had only just freed up his mouth for conversation, having gone through his own toast and half of Bodie's with cautious enthusiasm. He was sitting on the bed near his companion's feet, legs tucked under him, and Bodie suspected he knew the view was tantalizing. "Well," he said, embarrassed but not painfully so, not now, "I bloody missed you, didn't I? And you'd brainwashed me into associating all that classical stuff and your hairy-arsed rockers with you, with being at your flat doing something ordinary, paperwork or..." He tailed off, because suddenly it was painful, to remember all the empty weekends, the nights, coming home off a long hard shift, driving past the road-ends of Doyle's vacated home. "The one you just played felt particularly appropriate."

"Hey," Doyle said softly, and came to kneel close to him. "It's alright." He put out a hand and traced the shadow of a bruise over Bodie's mouth, more than shadows on his upper arms where he had gripped him in orgasm. "I am here. I'm sorry." Bodie's head came up and he kissed him, gently at first then with passion, opening his jaws to invite the push of his tongue. Bodie was flushed and gasping when they broke apart, sorrow forgotten. "Would you like some more toast?"

"What? Er, no. That was great."

"Coffee?" He waited until Bodie shook his head, then pursued, on the same prosaic note, "Would you like me to suck you off?"

Bodie's mouth dropped open. Inwardly Doyle rejoiced to see that he could still be induced to make what he had labeled his fish face, the lovely look of a handsome and intelligent man in whom all rational thought has been temporarily suspended. "You see," he went on, "I can't help but notice you've had a good case of morning glory under that quilt since I came in here, and it's getting to me." Unfastening the dressing gown, he let Bodie see exactly how badly, then slithered lithely off the bed and knelt beside it. "Sit up. Put your legs either side of me."

Bodie obeyed him mechanically, face still blank with astonishment. His anatomy was quicker to catch up than his brain, and he swallowed dryly as his cock came fully erect, almost pressing his belly. "Sorry."

Doyle grinned. "What for? Beautiful sight." He ran the pad of his thumb down the underside, caressed the vein. "You haven't answered my question, by the way."

With an effort Bodie remembered what it was. Coffee, toast, no. Start the day with a blow job off Ray Doyle... "Oh, God. Please."

Somehow that mouth was made to do this. It struck him as Doyle leaned close, flickering him one quick last diagnostic glance. The upper lip, full and exquisitely shaped; the precision-cut corners... made to open. The room was brilliantly lit. Bodie could see every detail, could see the fluid rising from the tip of his penis before he had even been touched, glimmering in the sunlight... Doyle moved quickly, caught it on his tongue, licked roughly up. "Jesus! Oh, Ray... Wait a minute!"

"What?" The green eyes flicked wide, bright with puzzled amusement. "I'm not sure you're going to last a minute, old son."

"Probably not." Bodie stroked his face, his hair. "But what we talked about last night, what - what Dan didn't like..." Christ, why couldn't he just say it? It had all been much easier in the dark. "Do you like it?"

Thankfully Doyle understood: he couldn't have elucidated. "Ah. Yes, I like it a lot."

Bodie propped himself on his arms, feeling lightheaded. Probably all the blood from his head that was getting diverted to his nether regions: he felt ready to explode on contact and couldn't understand why he wasn't letting Ray get on with things, why he had to know. Tentatively: "Why didn't Daniel?"

"Oh... You know, we never talked about it." He shrugged, absently caressed Bodie's thighs. "With Dan, you didn't ask. He was like a force of nature; you took him as he came." A pause, a sudden deep blush. "In a manner of speaking."

Bodie snorted with laughter. "You daft bastard," he said, with some affection: there were tears in Doyle's eyes as well as the flash of amusement. "You know, we don't have to - "

Doyle eased back off his cock after a few seconds' fervent attention. "Your neighbours aren't in, are they?"

"What?" But his throat was suddenly very sore, his voice scraping over the word.

"Noisy bugger," Doyle clarified, smiling. "Now I suggest you lie back, relax and let me do this properly." His hands came up, solar plexus, waist, guiding, and Bodie went down at the suggestive touch, glad to stretch out. "Make as much racket as you like. It turns me on to hear you."

Anything to oblige, Bodie thought. He put his hands up and back over his head and clasped his fists in the duvet, cries wrenching from him. His balls throbbed and although he was desperate he didn't want to come so soon, didn't want to lose the feel of the back of Doyle's throat, convulsing round his shaft. He'd taken him deep, so deep... He gasped as a finger and thumb encircled the very base of him, closing tight. The tidal wave of his climax hit the restraint and stopped just before its peak, a delicious anguish that made him writhe on the bed. Doyle's lips traveled up and down him, up and down, silk vice with the barest hint of teeth, forbidding him to come. He worked him with his tongue, let the grip go just enough that he started to soar back up to the pitch, hips bucking wildly, spurting one preliminary jet into his mouth.

A shudder passed through Doyle - Christ, it was going to happen to him, too, without being touched, first time in his life - and suddenly his technique fell apart and he was only glad to feel Bodie grab the hair at his nape and thrust him down. He could have resisted - the pressure on the back of his neck was exquisitely calculated, somehow even now - but didn't want to; opened his throat with an action that would have been sobbing or screaming, left to itself, let go the impeding hold he had on his pulsating shaft and bore down.

Bodie felt as if he was coming forever. His head was back, neck arched too tight for all but choked grunts now, an abrading series of them as he shoved his hips up again and again, shoulders lifting off the bed. His semen left him like molten lava, surge after surge, ecstasy and a relief so keen he began to sob. But then as the ringing in his ears subsided he realized that Ray was coughing violently, falling away from him, doubling up on his knees on the carpet. "Ray! Sunshine!" Panicking, he sat up, half-fell onto the floor beside him. "Ray!"

"'m alright - don't - " Another fit of choking seized him and Bodie pulled him into his arms, stroking his tangled curls.

"Oh God, what have I done to you?"

"Nothing - I just - " Doyle sucked a lungful of air and suddenly coughed back cloudy liquid: Bodie automatically grabbed the hem of the dressing gown and wiped his face. "Oh, I'm sorry. That's better." He lay against Bodie's chest, gasping. "Jesus, how - how romantic."

Bodie released a breath. "Doyle, for fuck's sake. Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah." He swallowed. "I just - lost myself."

"You lost me too. I wasn't holding you that hard - Christ, I wasn't, was I? I'd never hurt you!"

"I know." Doyle was getting breath back. "It wasn't you. I just - I felt myself starting to come, and I've never... I just lost it. Thought I could take you all the way down to..." He trailed off, shaking his head "The stupid thing is, I - I never got there...!"

"Oh!" And suddenly Bodie stopped worrying about his lifesigns and noticed his still-massive cock. "Oh, lover. I don't believe it. Come here."

Doyle curled up in his arms, moaning softly. Bodie reached round his body and closed a good right fist on his cock, just the same grip he would use on himself when he needed release right away, the same straightforward pumping. Doyle's arousal had gone past the point of pleasure, but that strong movement was salvation and he shot on the ninth stroke, turning his face to Bodie's shoulder with a broken howl.

Lifting him, gathering him carefully back onto the bed, Bodie said grimly, "Your Dan might have had a point, you know."

"No. He didn't. I just got carried away."

"We both did." He came to lie beside him, suddenly utterly drained. "Let me set the alarm. That's it, come here. I want to sleep with you right here." Doyle was kissing him again, only tender now, clumsy with fatigue, folding into his arms. "That can't happen again. I'll fuck your brains out, sweetheart, but no love-taps. Not on my shift."

"Alright." Something inside of Doyle was infinitely relieved, at the breakdown of his own acquired smoothness, infinitely comforted by Bodie's angry dismay. "I promise."

"Good lad." On his way out, starting to float in the sunny light, Bodie linked his fingers round his armful so the embrace would hold in his sleep. "However, I should probably just point out to you as well... you were fucking incredible."

The state of the bed, when the alarm went off at 10:30, set both of them ruefully laughing as soon as they woke and met one another's eyes. "Den of iniquity," Bodie commented, not letting go the hold round Doyle's waist: neither had moved a muscle in three hours and he was reluctant to do so now.

"Bloody bear's den is more like," Doyle said comfortably, and Bodie sniffed and declared, "Ah, I love the smell of semen in the morning!" and broke them both up hopelessly. It was reassuring to each of them: grand passion and angst were all well and good, but a complete inability to take themselves seriously for long had always been a saving grace of their relationship. "Oh, hell, I have to get cleaned up, though," Bodie managed at length. "Catching us in flagrante was one thing, but I don't think Murph could cope with these pheromones. Fancy a sharing a shower, Goldilocks?"

In retrospect, it hadn't been a great idea, not if Bodie's objective was to get ready and out to work any time soon. The hot had run out long since and they were still locked belly to belly, lost in the fascinations of water on skin, albeit tepid now; the mechanics of doing it standing up, of kissing without getting drowned. "Ray, we have to stop," Bodie groaned finally, but somehow that got translated into we have to get one another off one more time, and they went at it with passionate urgency, a brief ecstatic struggle, grinding hips, clasping slippery buttocks, juddering violent climax.

Afterwards, remembering what the days could be like, Doyle went guiltily to put more coffee on and help Bodie find some clean clothes. He hadn't meant to wear him out on a work morning... but, catching up with him in the kitchen, shoving a mug at him and handing him his gun harness, he couldn't think that Bodie looked the worse for wear. In fact, he seemed to have ditched ten years at some point during the night. He became aware that Bodie was examining him with some satisfaction, too, in between downing the coffee and snagging his car keys off the table.

They met in the outer doorway, Doyle handing him his jacket and smoothing down a spike of his dark hair, and the cliche hit them simultaneously: all Ray had to do was kiss his cheek, come out with, "Have a good day at the office, darling," and they would both be finished. "Don't you dare," Bodie warned.

"Wasn't going to," Doyle lied unconvincingly, face alight with suppressed laughter. "I know you don't know what time you'll be back, so don't guess. I'll wait."

Bodie smiled, remembering two armies of disgruntled women, missed dates, cold dinners. "Mm. I can see life with you is going to be a bit restful."

Life with you. Doyle let the turn of phrase go unremarked, let it remain accidental, but something heated inside of him. He leaned in the doorway; deliberately swept the flat of his palm over his chest. Helplessly Bodie took in the sexily hipshot stance, watched nipples come erect under thin cotton. "Restful in some ways, mate. In some ways."

He was halfway down the first flight of stairs when Doyle gave a whistle and grinned down at him from over the banister. "Hoi. I'm not gonna get heavy on you or anything, but can I unpack?"

"I'd be delighted."

"C'n I go shopping, too?"

"Knock yourself out."

"Although I see you already went to the chemist's."

Bodie stepped back so he could see him properly. His smile was still there, luminous, but there was suddenly a shadow of unease about him, almost fear. Bodie took the stairs two at a time and was beside him in a second. "Do we have a problem with this?" he asked, gently. "Should I have been more discreet?"

"No. You weren't discreet at all, so that doesn't work." He sobered, lost a bit of colour. "Truth is, mate, I will want you to ... do what you bought the lube for, I know I will, but at the moment I'm not sure I - "

"I know," Bodie interrupted softly. "Wasn't making any assumptions. Fact, it crossed my mind that you might like to have a go with me in that department."

He left him on that thought. Just before he turned away, though, he nodded in satisfied recognition and said, "Aha. Fish face."

"Alright?" was all Murphy said, when Bodie walked into the squad room 20 minutes later. "Yeah, fine," he responded, and they met one another's eyes and smiled, and left it at that. But as Bodie casually spun the Capri out onto the street, he said, "Do me a favour, Murph. Don't let me get killed today."

Murphy rolled his eyes. "God forbid. I'd never be forgiven, would I? No, my son, I shall guard you with my life and return you unblemished."

Alone, Doyle wandered through the sunny flat, distractedly picking up some of their trail of destruction. Bodie couldn't have found a way to astonish him more. On reflection he didn't know why. It was surely no more paralyzing than the fact of their tangled clothing, the rumpled, come-damped bed. He knew that Bodie was more conventionally butch than he was, knew who would get called the girlfriend when discourteous villains and thugs chose to pass comment on their partnership. It had never bothered him. He liked Bodie's rock-solid maleness; had his own ideas on masculinity in general and didn't feel any sense of shortcoming. But something deep inside him must have perceived, or assumed, a difference between them. Assumed without question their roles in that kind of loving.

He was faintly ashamed. If he was limited to his own rigid ideas, he had obviously done Bodie an injustice. He was also excruciatingly aware - after never giving it thought in two years - that Dan had always fucked him. Never the reverse. Picking up towels in the bathroom, deciding which were past redemption unless laundered and which could get by with an airing, he stopped for a moment to examine his face in the mirror over the sink. What did he look like? What he was, he supposed... a tired man in his mid-30s, who hadn't been eating for a few days, who'd made one installment on a crippling sleep debt, and got unexpectedly but thoroughly loved up all the night before. He had an interesting bruise on one side of his neck and his mouth was swollen. If he wanted to get paranoid about his identity, now was the time: he'd let his hair grow a bit since being grabbed by it and shot had ceased to be a consideration, was tidying up after his man, planning a day's housework and shopping. Suddenly laughter shook him, the air of dreamy sensuality vanished, and there was the working-day bit of rough trade that had made the genteel fathers wince when he tried to date their daughters. "You twat," he told his reflection, snapped a towel at it and turned away. "Get over yourself."

But he couldn't get over Bodie's parting shot. Pulling linen off the bed, he caught himself breathing in its musk with animal pleasure, shook his head and bundled it into a bag for the launderette. The words played themselves back, through the birdsong and purr of car engines outside. Crossed my mind you might like to have a go with me. For some reason he needed to see the evidence again, and padded back through to the kitchen, where he took the tube out of the chemist's bag; hefted it thoughtfully in one hand. He couldn't even begin to imagine it... Promptly he began to imagine it. Shifting to mount him in the bed. Encouraging him to lean over the back of the sofa, the kitchen table -

"Oh, God." He dropped the tube onto the counter, strode into the bathroom and snapped the shower onto cold. Quickly he stripped, got in and stood under it gasping and yelping until his mind cleared and his hard-on vanished. He had things to do, although he recognized that with very little further temptation he could lie down on the bare mattress and jerk off all day to the beat of recent memories. No, he would save it, because when Bodie got back...

By three that afternoon, Doyle was worn out and the bleak little flat looked like home. He wasn't sure whose - Bodie seemed to have discarded all but the most anonymous of possessions - but it was comfortable, harsh overhead lights replaced with table lamps, the heating rejigged to match the vagaries of an English May, laundry done, bed remade, cupboards stocked. He'd discovered a little weekday market at the end of the shopping parade and gone back for some plants that looked like they could stand a bit of neglect and a set of Shakespeare, leatherbound and pleasantly worn. Every home should have one, but he also knew that Bodie had a slightly-embarrassed fondness for the Bard, and could on occasion be trapped into displaying extensive knowledge. He put the plants on the kitchen window sill, the books on a tea chest which looked quite nice with some departed tenant's tablecloth across it, then made himself more coffee and collapsed onto the sofa. He was aching. Some of it was from the fall, some from muscles wrenched last night when arousal had raised his pain threshold past caution. And he was tired, if anything more so than...

Dear God, was it only yesterday? Sitting up, he surveyed the living room. For the past few hours, working here, shifting furniture, he had been unthinkingly happy. "Daniel," he breathed aloud, lifting his fingers to his mouth, suddenly horrified at himself. What had happened to the raging storm of grief in which he'd lived since clawing his way to safety on Skye?

But for that matter,... he had clawed back. Blindly, like a half-drowned cat out of a barrel. It hadn't occurred to him to do anything else. And yet to all intents and purposes, his life was over. He'd invested everything in his love for this man, everything he'd wanted to give ... oh, and he knew it now, knew with a terrible remorse ... everything he'd ever felt for Bodie. Had Daniel known? He wasn't the type to demand exclusive devotion, and Ray wasn't sure he understood the meaning of the word insecurity. Hadn't taken Bodie's hostility personally, either - had talked about him kindly as a friend his new lover must miss, giving Ray every chance to talk back if he had needed to. Ray did, but couldn't. Bodie for all his faults was sacred to him and had remained so, his image a flame deep down inside, dear beyond measure. And when Daniel died, that inner light had kept Doyle from falling too, though he didn't know it, couldn't, until he walked onto the canalside terrace and saw his ex-partner sitting there white-faced and utterly lost. All we had to do was find one another. Everything was there all along. I'm getting over poor Daniel so fast because he was only ever a substitute, and that's what I've got to live with. Even if he knew the score, I had no right...

The doorbell rang, making him jump - and flash helplessly back to Murphy's grand entrance last night - so that when he opened up, he was smiling despite his painful examination of conscience.

"Careful, Doyle," George Cowley said, walking past his paralysed astonishment, "You're starting to look like a civilian."

"Well, I am one," Doyle replied when he could, closing the door, then almost spoiled it by adding, sir.

"Not in this flat. Bodie wouldn't thank you for throwing open his door without a check. Or getting yourself shot, for that matter. Good afternoon."

"Good afternoon!"

Doyle trailed him into the living room, then the kitchen. He was looking around him with some amusement. "I was in here just a couple of days ago, Doyle. I see you've made your presence felt."

Not enough to get the KY put away yet, Doyle realized with an icy shock, launching across the room, desperately trying to look casual as he interposed himself between his visitor and the kitchen counter. "Ah... yes. I had a bit of time on my hands. Would you like a cup of tea?"

"Yes, if you don't mind." He pulled out a chair - the same one Bodie had settled into the night before in order to take hold of Doyle and kiss him - really, this was impossible! - and made himself comfortable. At the counter, Doyle managed to pull a drawer open and flip the pharmaceuticals inside whilst switching on the kettle with his other hand. "Doyle, I heard what happened." He waited until Doyle turned to look at him, then added, almost formally, "I'm very sorry for your loss."

"Thank you." Bracing against memories, struggling for focus, Doyle took the other chair. He folded his hands on the table, looked up cautiously at his former employer. Dictator. Owner. "Until I spoke to Bodie, I didn't know you were aware of my ... gains."

"Ah. Well, that was naive of you. I invade my staff's privacy as a matter of routine. Surely you remember that."

"I'm not..." Doyle found his throat dry and swallowed, linking his fingers together. "I'm not complaining. If you knew, then you were... very decent about it. Thanks."

Cowley accorded him a small nod of acknowledgement. "You never gave me reason to treat you with anything other than respect, laddie."

"I thought you'd have a problem with it. A big problem."

"Yes. Well, I suppose I'm not renowned for the liberality of my views. But you know how I feel about blind prejudice, and you were on the case when I was trying to help those boys in your home town all that time back." He paused. "If I'd do so much for strangers, how much more would I do to protect my own man?"

Doyle fought back laughter. The old sod was effortlessly, unconsciously biblical, even when he was trying for PC. "Alright. Sorry I misjudged you." He got up and went to pour water, bring mugs and milk to the table. "Do you mind if I ask why you're here? Did Bodie send you?"

"No. I think Bodie would prefer you were a well-kept secret at the moment. As I said, invasion of privacy is standard. How have you been, Doyle? Did you find other work?"

Evasive manoeuvres are also standard, Doyle thought, but replied, willingly enough, "Yeah. Teaching. I'd thought about it before joining your mob, and Dan supported me through college to get my certificate."

"Really? What's your subject?"

"Two, actually." He paused, smiled. "Art and self-defence."

Cowley broke into rare laughter. "Well, that's a shortage combination if ever I heard one. They'd be sorry to lose you." He stirred his tea. "You think I'm avoiding your question, laddie, but in fact I'm trying to be subtle. How sorry would you be, to make a change?"

Doyle shrugged. He thought he saw what was coming. And he had loved his time with Cowley's outfit, but if the old man had been philosophical about Daniel, Doyle thought it would be different in the case of his blue-eyed Bodie, the surrogate son. "Depends on the change. I like the job well enough; it's rewarding. Pretty much essential now I'm on my own."

"On your own?" Before Doyle had time to react to the mild, sardonic query, Cowley suddenly stood up, collecting his newspaper and umbrella. He looked his host up and down, shamelessly, evaluating meat on the hoof. "You seem to have kept in reasonable shape. Of course you'll need re-induction from scratch - weaponry, psych tests, the works."

"Wait a minute - "

"Och, laddie, I'm a busy man. Thank you for the tea, but I must be on my way."

Doyle surged to his feet. "Listen, Cowley. I can't. I'm different now, I - "

"Mr Cowley. Have I started calling you Ray? Of course I shall expect you and Bodie to be discreet. Times are changing, but not fast enough, and you'll be a potential blackmail risk. Don't expect married quarters. You'll each have to keep a single man's flat, no matter how token one of them is."

"Isn't there - some kind of non-fraternisation rule?"

"If there is, it doesn't appear to have affected Bodie in relation to my secretaries. Maybe he'll leave off that now, at any event. It's been a damned inconvenience. Anyway, Doyle, rules are made to be broken. If you've bothered to pick up a newspaper in the last two years, you'll know this city is more in need of good men than ever. And I am in need of my best team. Besides, it was only really a formality, wasn't it?"

"What was, sir?"

"You and Bodie. The formality being his stubborn neck." He glanced round him again, nodded pleasantly at Doyle, who had subsided onto the edge of the kitchen table and was looking inclined to pass out. "Report to HQ for your physical first thing Monday. Bodie will tell you HQ's current location. And don't worry, I'll clear matters up with your school."

"You don't... You don't even know where my school is."

"Oh, I think you'll find I do. Goodbye for now, 4.5."

Fortunately, Doyle had looked after himself for long enough that he could cook lasagne on autopilot. Half his attention was caught on a replay of what his visitor had said, in disbelief at the old man's arrogance and presumption - half on his own failure to tell him where to get off. He was dismayed, too, that his new relationship to Bodie - not yet 24 hours old, and painfully tender to his own imagination - was, for Cowley, a faintly-amusing fait accompli, a mild inconvenience that could be worked around for the sake of efficiency.

And on another level he didn't care. Cooking, cleaning, Cowley - all were fading off like shadows into the late spring twilight. It had started to rain, and distant thunder rumbled over the wet, luminescent slates, set the plane trees' foliage to electrical rippling in the wind. The day - even an arduous section-5 day - was ending. Ray Doyle knew, by the prickle of the skin between his shoulder blades, that Bodie was on his way home.

He set the table in the kitchen, smiling faintly. The room was full of copper-grey light, too poignant to be banished with neon, so he unearthed the supply of power-cut candles from under the meter and lit those. If it was a cliche, Bodie would have to cope. Doyle had a few others in mind - quiet dinner, shared bath, bed. It was time they got a little finesse into their dealings, stopped scuffling like a pair of weasels in heat. Dan had showed him the pleasures of deliberation, method, control...

A footfall in the corridor outside, on the far edge of human hearing. Doyle opened the door before Bodie's key could touch the lock.

"No thanks, I've got one already."

"I know, I've seen it."

They held still, grinning at one another. Thunder shivered through the dusk again. As the echoes died, Ray watched his friend become serious... almost painfully intent. His hair was damped, a fever-glitter in his eyes. He ground out, "Ray," as if something inside of him was breaking, tearing loose - "Ray, lover, I thought I'd never get home."

Deliberation, method, control. Wild laughter shaking him, Doyle saw the candle-flames blur, the plants, the lamp on the living-room table. Carpet and ceiling upended themselves as he hit the rug by the fire, somehow soft-landing as strong hands got between his bruises and the impact. The same grip that had borne him effortlessly from door to floor fastened on his upper arms, pinning him, and an instant later Bodie's mouth was on his.

"Bodie, I'm coming!" It must have been obvious but Ray felt a wild urge to tell him so anyway. He went with it, reached back to anchor on the underside of the armchair, crying it out, convulsing. "I'm coming! I'm coming!" Bodie leaned close, grinding his hips powerfully, staring into the wildcat eyes. They were feral, barely human. Lightning flickered through the room and Doyle stiffened, arched - let it rip through him then dragged Bodie down by the arse to get him there too, again and again until there was nothing left but rainsound, ragged breathing, occasional gasps that fell somewhere between laughter and sobs.

"Good... God..." Bodie rolled off him. When he could move, he gathered him up in a rough but comprehensive embrace and propped them both against the armchair. "Sorry."

"Should think so. Bloody... industrial pile-driver." Doyle smiled and kissed him while Bodie unfastened his shirt and checked he hadn't done any damage. "Was fantastic."

Heart-rate slowing, Bodie began to take in his immediate surroundings. "Oh, nice rug. Where'd you ... "

"It's yours, you cretin. You bought it four years ago in the Portobello market. Don't worry, it'll dry-clean."

"Hey. You..." He swallowed, got a breath or two. "You transformed the place. What did you do?"

"It's called taking things out of boxes. You want to try it sometime; you'd be surprised."

"Very surprised. Those books weren't in there in the first place. Here, pass one down."

Doyle made an improbable stretch and handed him The Winter's Tale. He took it with a reverence Doyle normally saw him display when handling a high-powered rifle or grenade launcher, and he realized how much pleasure he had always taken in seeing those big capable hands about their work. "Found 'em at the market. Don't mean to weigh you down with possessions, but..."

"Nah, I'm tired of living in a bivouac." He gave Doyle a little double-take as if hearing him properly. "Oh. You got them for me?"

Doyle sighed. "Only to give your rare guests the impression you can read. You like?"


"Oh, that reminds me. I had a visitor this afternoon. A bovine one."

Bodie processed this, or tried to, absently caressing his hair. For one awful second he thought, Shit, Ann Holly's tracked him down, but he managed to keep his mouth shut on that. Then a worse possibility struck. "Cow... Cowley? The old man was here?"

"Afraid so."

"What did he want? Have you counted the silver?"

"Yeah. Should probably check me fillings... No, it was me he was after. He asked me a dozen questions, didn't listen to the answers and told me to report for duty on Monday."

"He..." Bodie went pale, the flush of arousal draining, leaving his handsome face anxious and tired. "He wants you back on the squad?"

"After a suitable period of brainwashing and reprogramming, yes. Ah, Bodie," he said gently, taking hold of his hand. "I know it's not feasible. I've been out of the loop for too long. And I know you're settled with Murph. Can you just stop him canceling my teaching contract, because - "

"You think that's what it is?"


"That I'm - settled? That I don't want you back? Ray, there's nothing I'd like better than to work with you again. But..."

"Hey. It's alright. You can say it. I know I've lost my edge - "

"But I'd be dying inside every time you were out of my sight."

Doyle found, when he closed his eyes - and he wanted to close his eyes when locked into these devastating kisses, wanted to shut out all other sensory data - that hot tears were forcing themselves from under the lids. "Oh, sunshine," he managed, chuckling wryly, when he could get a word out. "Can you remember a time... Did we ever not feel like that about each other?"

Bodie thought about it. The weeks and months of their early partnership flashed across his memory with peculiar lucidity: maybe it was the storm, still prowling and grunting in the street outside. There had been a while, when they were still trying to prove things to one another - when Doyle was working out so hard he was whipcord thin, with a temper to match - when he himself, for some reason, couldn't manage a sentence without reference to Belfast or Angola - but then they were out there, part of the war, flying wing to wing, and soon they had shoved one another out of the way of so many bullets, given and received so much covering fire... "No. How the hell did we do it?"

"Like Alexander's army. Fight at your lover's side, and you can't afford to lose."

"But we weren't..."

"Oh, Bodie. Like the old man said, it was a formality."

Bodie had been carefully brushing tears from Ray's cheekbones with the pad of one thumb. Now he stopped dead. "A form-... Cowley knows about us?"

"Practically rubber-stamped us. We're not to do it in the street and frighten the ministers, but..."

"He knows? Jesus, Ray, I didn't know myself until one o'clock this morning! I - Oh, hang the fuck on...!"

He was on his feet, carefully depositing Doyle in the chair. Bemused, Doyle got up and followed him as he headed for the bedroom. "What are you...? Look, I think it was just a lucky guess. It didn't take Einstein, he said he'd been in here two days ago, and there was I with a duster in my hand and a lovebite - "

In spite of his distraction, Bodie turned at that and had a look. His eyes glimmered. "So you do." But then he grabbed a chair, stood on it and began to run his fingertips along the picture rail, and Doyle caught up. He almost laughed, almost said, don't be so paranoid - but then he remembered, remembered what it meant to be property. Cold sickness swept him. "I'll do the living room."

They checked the entire flat, a rapid, efficient fingertip search, quartering the place between them without comment. Ten minutes later they converged in the kitchen, shamefaced, smiling wryly. "Almost a pity," Bodie said. "Video would've been worth something. Hey, is that your lasagne cooking?"

"Mm. Go have a shower and I'll feed you."

They ate distractedly, though Bodie was properly appreciative of the homecooked. He couldn't long keep his eyes off his companion. Doyle was still disheveled from their lovemaking, jade eyes fathomless in the candlelight. Outside, the wind had died, the storm spreading its wings, making the lamps flicker as the power surged. One window was open a few inches, admitting a deep, leafy freshness of spring, wet soil, ozone, all underlaid by the vigorous city tang of raw gasoline. Doyle was drawing the toes of one foot up the underside of Bodie's, into the sensitive arch, again and again. "D'you mind very much, love? That the old man knows?"

Don't mind anything in the world when you call me that. He shrugged. "Not as such. I'd parade you naked down Pall Mall if I could... No, it makes things simpler in a way. Was just a bit disconcerting, and... I'm feeling a touch... possessive about you at the moment." He finished his glass of wine, but when Doyle reached to pour him another, put his hand over the top. "No more of that."

"Too dry for you?" Doyle asked innocently.

"You know it's not. You know why I'm stopping. Same reason you stopped half an hour ago."

"Oh, God, Bodie. Something's going to happen, isn't it?"

"Undress for me."

Incredible, to be able to ask this. Not even ask - command it, though his throat was so tight he could barely speak and the words came out in a whisper. It could never have worked this way round with Dan - once more, it would not have occurred. Not the nature of their beast. Doyle felt no sense of deprivation; he wouldn't have enjoyed it, although he had stripped for his lover, and got off on Dan's easy appreciation of the act. There was nothing easy here. Bodie was backed up against the sink, a study in contrasts where the candle flame and street light touched his skin, his shining hair. His eyes were fixed on his partner where he sat on the edge of the table. He looked afraid. "Ray..."

"Do it."

Slowly, then, one shirt button at a time, with fingers that trembled and missed. Lightning came and went, burning ice-blue images onto Doyle's retina as he watched.

"Ray, this feels weird."

"Stop if you like."

Bodie closed his eyes; swallowed audibly. Doyle almost flew to embrace him, abort the operation, let him off the hook, pleasure him again with his hands or his mouth... but then Bodie looked up, breathed, "No," and slipped the shirt off his shoulders.

Dear God. Doyle released a shuddering breath, shifted on the table as his jeans became painfully constricting. "Good lad. Aren't you beautiful? Now the rest. Slowly."

He was naked down to his watch, and Doyle bade him remove that too, with a glance and a smile, a touch of humour in a drama whose tensions were rising by the second. When he had pushed his pants down, his cock had leapt so hard and explicit that he had almost cut and run: for a man who never dropped his guard, this was quite a lapse. But there was a dark excitement at the core of the fear, at being watched, watched with such rapt hunger, by this one man... Then Doyle said, very softly, "Turn around," and he did so as if in a dream, clasping the edge of the sink and staring down into the street.

Automatically his mind searched for windows and angles from which he could be shot. Certainly they could be seen, and easily, from the third-floor flats over the road, but he didn't think anyone was home. It didn't matter. Doyle had commanded that this happen here, and so it would. The submission, which he had arranged and invited himself, was a powerful thrall. He found he was breathing shallowly, the air coming in from the street rainless now, crackling-dry, unsustaining. Suddenly he felt alone, unbearably exposed...

Warm hands found him, skimming his shoulders, fingertips following the channel of his spine, stroking him like a cat. He arched to the comforting touch. "Listen," Ray said, low and vibrant at his ear, "I know you never got this done to you right. Was it just clumsy lovers, or..."

"No, I got raped." And there was another decades-old secret out in the light, shocking and unstoppable as being unexpectedly sick. For a moment Bodie thought he would be - he had never even let himself think the word in relation to his experiences - then Doyle's arms were around him from behind, only comforting, holding tight. "God. I didn't mean to tell you. I'm sorry."

"What for?" Doyle asked roughly, an edge-of-tears scrape in his voice. "I needed to know." He rested his cheek on the back of Bodie's shoulder. "Oh, lover. Did they hurt you very much? Do you know if you're scarred?"

"I-I don't know. I don't think so. It hurt at the time, hurt like hell. Why?"

"Because I want us to do this, but if you've got scar tissue, it might hurt like hell again, no matter how gentle I am. And like you said - not on my shift."

Bodie considered this. It was hard to think straight, with Doyle's lean-muscled belly pressed to his spine, Doyle's erection heating his buttocks through the fabric of his jeans. But all he had ever wanted was to be given a choice. "I know," he said at last. "There's only one way to find out. Don't stop. I couldn't bear it if you stopped."

Standing behind him, Doyle traced one lube-slicked thumb up the crack of his arse. The dark head was down - rather emphatically - and he decided not to drag out this preliminary too far. They had shared brief, appalled laughter when Doyle had pulled open the cutlery drawer and explained the presence of the KY therein - but Bodie was serious now, muscles standing tensely in his arms and shoulders, knuckles white where he held the edge of the sink. Doyle pressed his perineum, nearest exterior access to the pleasure-centre that lay inside, and heard him inhale softly with surprise. "Feels good?"

"Jesus, yes. What - ?"

Doyle almost laughed that he didn't know, hadn't explored himself to that extent. Missionary with the ladies and a quick one off the wrist in lean times, that was his Bodie. He was stunned that the man was letting this happen. "Don't worry. It'll feel even better when I'm inside. This can be good, mate; this can be bloody wonderful, I promise."

"I believe you, but... Christ, it doesn't feel like anything would go in there at the moment..."

Doyle stroked the pucker of flesh with the pad of his thumb, pushing gently. "No, you've clamped up. It's alright. I'll open you. I'll ease it." He took the KY off the counter and squeezed a good amount into his palm; covered both hands. Reaching round Bodie's body with his left, he took hold of his cock and pumped his erection back to life - he had been losing it, in fear and strain. Moaning, distracted by the sensitivity the lube imparted to the contact, Bodie felt the press at his arsehole only as a caress, and Doyle caressed his way inside, middle finger sliding past the ring of muscle unimpeded. "That's it, lover," he breathed, bearing the finger down and forward so he would feel his prostate respond before fright or rejection could kick in.

"Oh... my God." Bodie felt his arsehole flutter and contract, a spasm beyond his control. It wasn't expulsive. Waves of pleasure shot outward from where the muscle worked, from where Ray was pushing and rubbing inside him. "Don't touch my cock any more or I'll come. Let me feel that, let me feel..."

Listening with profound excitement to his cries, Doyle obeyed him. He was in him to his finger's second joint. Careful not to miss a beat of the caress, he unfastened his jeans with his free hand and let his penis brush the skin of his backside - no more than that, no more than a whisper of intent. Feeling it, Bodie shuddered and spread his legs. Leaned forward over the sink, offering, easing himself onto Doyle's hand. "Oh, yes. Beautiful," Doyle encouraged, his breathing ragged. All he had to do was straighten his finger and hold still: Bodie was bearing down voluntarily - too much too fast. He hissed in pain and began to tighten.

"No. No. It's alright." Quickly Doyle withdrew a little, moved his hand back and forth in tiny crucial shifts that would override the rejective surge. Gasping, sweat breaking on him, Bodie rode the need to push out and be empty, and then the wave passed and it was better, much better, Doyle moving freely within him. Light-headed, he reached back and grasped the lean wrist, encouraged its inward push. "Yes. Jesus, more of you. More."

With exquisite caution, holding his buttocks apart with his left hand, Doyle stretched his anus to insert his index finger. There was scar tissue here, a little, a place where the muscle could not give. Fiercely he censored his reaction - now was not the time - and worked around it until the combination of massage and inward pressure unlocked him. The sounds he made as the second finger slid home were almost overwhelming, wildly erotic, deep astounded grunts of pleasure, and he was thrusting sinuously back to meet him now... then froze, not in pain this time but as if seized by a thought. "Ray - God, am I clean enough?"

For a moment Doyle had no idea. You just had a shower before dinner. I'm not that fussy - but then understood what he meant and leaned against him, holding the penetration, smiling. "Perfectly, from what I feel so far. Anyway, as I recall, you're a late-afternoon man, so..."

Bodie's turn for bemusement. He felt Doyle's reined-in laughter before clarity and a massive heat-flash of embarrassment swept through him. "Ahh, Ray," he groaned, laughter rattling his own voice in spite of himself. "How the hell did you know that?"

"You make a splendid operative, my son, but you lack an ex-copper's powers of observation. Anyway, we shared a four-by-five surveillance truck for weeks on end; I'm sure you knew all my... little habits, as well."

"Not that one," Bodie growled. "Some of us are too polite to notice." But he couldn't maintain the chagrin. Doyle was moving his hand again, more powerfully now, and instead of painful tightness it was producing a sensation of room within him, of endless possibilities. He tipped his head back, losing himself in enjoyment. Doyle was kissing the side of his neck. He could have stayed here forever, in these safe waters, going no further, letting himself be rocked...

Sheet lightning flickered behind the clouds, a long, silent discharge. Both found themselves waiting tensely for the thunder, but it didn't come - a dry, anguished spring storm, weather systems trapped and circling high above the London heat, nowhere to go. "Christ," Bodie whispered into the odd, waiting quiet. "If I can take that much, I can take you. Fuck me. Do it, Ray. Fuck me."

Shaking, Doyle withdrew his hand. "I-I've got one technical question, too, lover..."

"Make it short!"

"You bought condoms. Want me to - "

Bodie groaned. "No, idiot! Not unless you want... I bought the things to give you the choice - "

"Ever the courteous host," Doyle chuckled. "No. I want to feel you." He used the wave of eroticism and amusement washing between them to carry him inside, holding his cock in his hand to control the penetration. Despite this Bodie gasped and cried out as if speared, but he held on firmly, forbidding him the reaction. "Don't. Easy, sweetheart. No bad memories. Stay here with me."

Telepath, Bodie thought with a shiver, and came back from the Congo jail, from the Belfast barracks where Jimmy Keller had forced him down on a bunk in the interests of doing him a favour. This was Ray, entering him powerfully but with such care it made him want to weep. Ray, at the end of a decade of love and protection, Ray who had forgiven him and come home, given him this miracle chance... "Stop holding back! Come inside of me. Come on."

Thunder at last, peals and cascades of it, drowning out their cries. The rainstorm had broken, too, and the flat seemed to rock like a ship in a tempest, sheets of water breaking on the glass. Cold ozone-laced air rushed through the open window, unfelt on fevered skin. Doyle had given up all gentleness as cruelty now, as unworthy teasing of the man now braced to the sink, enduring his onslaught with cut-off howls. He had obeyed his occasional choked-out injunction - harder, deeper - until he was buried to the root with nowhere deeper to go, until muscles in his sacrum were tearing with the strain of harder, but had kept the beat the same, the heartrate rhythm that came from oldest instinct, timed to the squeezing of his partner's muscles. Deep contractions there now, a pushout and in-dragging clench. Veins were standing on Bodie's temples and neck. Feeling the warning thrum in his balls, praying he could haul back if the man wasn't ready, Doyle let his pace increase - when Bodie made a sound of small but exquisite relief, let it soar until he was pounding him against the edge of the sink.

Bodie felt his frame of reference, his normal grip on the world which had served him so well for so long, beginning to slip. The cold aluminium of the sink was changing under his hands, heating, like velvet or moss or warm skin. His whole pelvic girdle, waist to thighs, was a crucible of fire, flaring in time with the movements of the angel of fire behind him. The walls and the floor seemed to be dissolving, falling away - or was he rising? Doyle's hold on his hips seemed to be bearing him up. He could feel the rain on his skin. When the thunder next spoke the roar came from his marrow, his blood, the depth of his bowels where Doyle was holding him open, his cock which spurted hotly with no surcease of the ecstasy. The ejaculation was nothing; he was coming inside, coming with his guts and his soul, and it was as if he prayed and God heard him, as if he put out his hand and touched the heart of the storm...

Doyle caught him as his knees buckled. He was weak with his own outpouring but the man was actually unconscious. Swiftly, carefully, he withdrew, the dark head falling back onto his shoulder. "Bodie! Bodie!" He cradled him for a second then, reluctant to let him down onto the cold lino, hoisted him into his arms with a strength he didn't know he had and carried him bodily through to the living room. Then he lowered him onto the couch and knelt to listen at his chest.

"Doyle, you moron, what are you doing?"

Doyle released an explosive breath. Blinking a wave of coloured sparks from his vision, he rested his brow on the broad chest. "Bloody hell. Thought you'd had a heart attack."

Bodie considered this. The organ in question was still racing at post-shootout speed, and his lungs and his throat and his skull's interior all felt scoured, clean and empty, full of light. He put out a hand and shakily drew Doyle up off the floor, guided him to lie beside him, put both arms around him tight. "I think I nearly did. Ray - lover - I've been waiting ten years for you to do that to me."

"Hit the spot, did it?" Doyle queried unsteadily, then surprised himself very much by bursting into tears.

Bodie rocked him. A glittering heat was still washing through his limbs: silently he meshed Ray in a net of it. He did not yet feel fully separate from him. Deep in the core of him a pulsing shape remained, a pressure which he wryly accepted would be soreness in due course, for all the care his lover had taken. In that last four or five minutes neither of them had been in control, but a link had been forged at the white-hot instant before he passed out, and through it in great surges he could feel Ray's love and grief, the passion-born exorcism of his guilt and shock over Dan. "Alright, angelfish," he murmured. "I know. I know."

Doyle didn't need to ask what. The sensation of being read, clearly, with infinite compassion, swept waves of heat through him, slowing the sobs in his throat. "I did - " he choked at last, clutching at Bodie's solidity. "I did... love him."

"Yes. I know. But?"

"But not like I should. Not like this. I - oh, God, I think he knew!"

"If he did," Bodie said carefully, stroking his hair, "he chose to accept it." Not like this was dancing in his mind like sunlight on water, but for Doyle at this moment it was an aside, a throwaway declaration, and he had to treat it as such. "I think you were everything he wanted. I think if he'd needed more he'd have told you so." A small wry grin, remembering the verbal pasting he'd taken in the locker room. "Expressing his feelings didn't seem to be a problem for him."

"But I had no right. I used to think of you when he was fucking me. I used to - get jammed up inside somehow and I - I used to think of you to get me over. Ah, Bodie, I used to think about you all the time. I had no right to be with anyone but you."

"The fact that you weren't wasn't your fault."

Doyle closed his eyes. It completed a circle within him, finally closed a wound so deep he hadn't been able to acknowledge its existence. Bodie's betrayal of him had done more damage than MayLi's bullet. But it was over now. Over, and against all odds they had another chance.


In fact they had two nearly perfect years. In the end, no-one knew if the IRA device had gone off too soon or the warning deliberately called in five minutes late. It made little difference. The blast took out half their section - Murphy, unwilling survivor, knelt weeping in the flames.

Cowley kept the outfit running a couple of years more, but he knew his time was done, his world changed beyond his ability to make a difference. He had fought his battle for the peace on the streets of Britain, but now there were men and weapons that could reach across the planet to destroy. On a spherical Earth, eventually everyone lay in the path of the crossfire. There could be no place of safety. No longer anywhere to go. He disbanded CI5 in 1987. None of his original team remained.

He saw to it personally that material gleaned from internal surveillance was destroyed, all but one photo. He still felt bad, that he had kept a watch on 4.5 and 3.7 in the weeks after Doyle's return, but the man had been gone for two years, and he had to be sure. They were coming out of a nightclub. They were not touching. They didn't have to.

They died as they lived, together, in pursuit of their duty. They will never have to face the inevitables - ageing, disease, the wearying-out of even the finest love by time. They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old...

-- THE END --

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