Highland Comfort


Bodie woke to a pounding that reverberated from temple to temple, pulsing against his forehead. Wincing, he pulled a pillow atop his face, but the noise refused to cease and pummelling the mattress had little effect save making the headache worse and mussing the bedclothes. He hadn't drunk more than a single pint the night before, so the reaction confused him.

As conscious thought filtered through the layers of pain and slumber, he realised the noise was not coming from within his skull, but from without. With a groan, he erupted from the bed, an alabaster and onyx creature rising from the twisted bedding, naked skin sweat-sleeked, shortcropped dark hair a tight cap on his head, chest bare of hair, genitals full and ripe, pre-waking erection fading, but his cock still thick.

Absently, he rubbed his groin, lifting his testicles, fingers teasing against the length of his swollen cock as he walked to the wide window near the bed. With a well-muscled arm, he pushed the lace curtain aside and peered out the window at the construction site below. When he had contracted to renovate the miserable 18th century excuse for a Scottish pub inherited from his maternal great-uncle, Bodie had expected the foundation work to be completed before he returned from his business trip to London. He had not anticipated a month of rain that prevented the job from even being started, nor the continuing delays that seemed to prevent its progression. Now it seemed he was fated to wake up to a cacophony of diggers and cement lorries for all eternity and that he had to stay on site or risk another stoppage.

In a loud discussion the previous day, he'd fired the site manager and ordered the man's assistant to hire whatever help was needed to get the project moving. Then he'd called the owner of the construction firm and demanded progress, threatening with barely controlled civility to cancel the million-pound contract if his requirements were not met.

From the fury of activity below, it appeared he had made his point--at least a dozen additional workers were putting back to shovel to clear the forms of muck so the concrete could be laid. And the weather appeared to be cooperating as well; the sun was making its way through the clouds, spilling onto the emerald green hills that surrounded the small Scottish town of Lochfell, glowing sparkles on the water of the loch below.

Why his mother's uncle had left Ireland was a mystery, although family legend told of a green-eyed, auburn-haired beauty who had wooed him away from his own green hills to these less familiar. No one in the family had met the spirited fairy who had so captivated and lured their uncle such a distance from home and kept him there for decades but four months ago a solicitor had contacted Bodie in his London offices to inform him of his elderly great-uncle's death and his inheritance of the pub.

Bodie wasn't sure what made him decide to try to salvage the sorry excuse for a drinking establishment, but, if the truth be told, he had been charmed with the small fishing/tourist village from his first view as he drove in from Inverness. Stopping his car on the crest of the winding road that led from the outside world to the town below, cottages tight and tidy in the foothills and harbour, Bodie had rested his hip against the car boot and watched as tourists wandered in and out of the market street shops, no doubt spending too much for trinkets, but thrilled with their finds nonetheless. He saw the small fleet of fishing vessels head into the loch and from there to the sea, yellow-jacketed figures crawling about the boats getting line and net ready. He noticed the knot of women walking bent shouldered against the stiff breeze as they made their way to market, baskets on their arms. And he saw the children tagging behind the village constable, tripping along on bike and foot, dogs racing ahead and running back.

Picturesque was too mild a word for the charming village, so vital, tucked so tidily between water and mountain. There was no way not to be captivated. And so he had driven on, down the winding road into the town, stopping once for sheep, tipping his cap at the shepherd, and downshifting and clutching until he thought his hire car would have a meltdown. His own Jaguar would have done better, but he had not fancied the ferry trip from Dublin and then the long drive from the port, so the fierce black machine was stowed at home and this car hired at the train station in Inverness.

The pub, with the unlikely name of Quinn's, stood out like a sore thumb among the neat shops that lined Lochfell's High Street. The front door was battered, the stone front painted and peeling, the sign askew, the windows half shuttered and half not. Bodie stopped the car and simply sat, open mouthed, wondering what his great-uncle had possibly been thinking when he left him the place.

The four-line bequest in the will had simply urged Bodie to "follow your destiny," and implored him to "be open to the magic and not be put off".

Bodie snorted. Some magic; only a conjuror would be able to save the place. And how not to be put off was another matter entirely, he thought as he found a parking spot in the tourist car park near the harbour and headed back up the road on foot towards the pub.

The day was brisk, but not cold, a bit of drizzle and the wind keeping the midges away from the town. Bodie stuck his hands under his armpits and tucked his head down as he walked up the incline. He was glad he had eschewed his usual cashmere coat in favour of the battered leather jacket that he now hugged tight. If there was one thing Bodie knew how to do, it was cause a stir--he also knew when not to.

Both his accountant and his solicitor had called him mad for making the trip to Lochfell, urging him to sell the damned place and be done with it, but Bodie remembered his mum speaking fondly of Cameron Quinn, so he had come to see and decide for himself. As of right now, the decision would not be difficult--the place was a wreck, appearing even worse from first view than in the surveyor's reports.

"The fieldstone needs blasted and repointed, Bodie," the engineering firm had reported. "And there is no kitchen to speak of, just some old Aga with a century of grease and rust coating it like paint. Can't even imagine surviving what they would have cooked on it, poisoning from the lead in the water piping system notwithstanding."

"She'll not pass modern inspection," echoed the other inspector. "It's a right ruin. Though," the man had added grudgingly, "the foundation seems solid, and I expect, with a fire in the hearth, she'd be cosy enough if you have a mind to have a pint on a cold day. She does have a certain character."

"That's what they say when a place is run-down, lacking modern conveniences and barely fit for habitation," Bodie's assistant had snorted, flipping her notepad closed with a snap that seemed to close the whole issue as well.

However, Bodie was nothing if not a cautious man; it was what had built his fortune and made him a man to be reckoned with in the trendy world of art; a world that he inhabited with skill and finesse, a world that he was said to own--or could, were he a bit more ruthless and his heart less hardened. His mother had given him that balance, tempering the military school his father had insisted upon with trips to Florence and Paris and his first wondrous views of the Louvre. He was not an artist himself, neither painter nor sculptor, but he was an appreciator of beauty, both raw and refined, and it was the raw beauty of both Lochfell and Quinn's that caught his eye--the possibility. And possibility, Bodie had learned, was always worth salvaging.

He kept that thought firmly in mind as he pushed open the door to Quinn's and peered into the musty room, still redolent with tobacco and beer. Stale as it was, it smelled of life, of life lived, of struggle and of the Highlands and the sea. He stepped over the threshold and pulled the door closed, at the same time activating a small torch he pulled from his jacket pocket. He shone the torch about until he located a light switch on the wall near the door and then flipped it on. A row of lamps lit along the front wall--or some of them did--enough to see by, so he turned off the torch and pushed it back in his pocket.

The glow of the lights cast an eerie shadow on the wall behind the bar, shining through half-filled dusty bottles and creating giants behind them. Bodie raised an eyebrow and chuckled at his own fantasising. If there was a monster there, it was just the size of his imagination running wild.

The floor was a gorgeous hardwood, scuffed and scarred to be sure, worn in places, but carrying the tread of honest men who found their regular place at the bar after a day at sea or in the hills with their sheep. It was the sort of thing that intrigued Bodie, whose work was more behind a desk than outside in the weather, and who had built an undeniably impressive physique in his private gym, not hauling line and net from the water. He longed to be ordinary, his psychiatrist told him, though Bodie suspected it was triviality that he suffered from most, and stopped the sessions after that first one.

Two tankards sat on the bar, apparently abandoned as the door was shuttered some four months before when Cameron Quinn had died and Quinn's served its last drink. Mouse droppings' littered the well-polished surface of the finely crafted bar, so Bodie resisted the poetic urge to lift a glass and see what it might contain.

It was odd--time had stopped and now here he was winding the clock. He wasn't sure if that didn't give him more power than he wanted or deserved. Yet his great-uncle had laid it firmly in his hands, so here he was.

After spending an hour exploring the main part of the pub, the kitchen--or lack thereof--and the upstairs sleeping quarters accessed via the narrow stairs behind the bar, Bodie could confirm there was little in the inspection report that didn't prove decidedly accurate. However, other than the problems with plumbing, electrical system and layout of the place, and the fact that the toilet was little more than a hole in the floor, he found it to be sound in a way that a modern building cannot begin to touch, and, of greater importance, it touched the romantic in Bodie, the part of him that made him stare awestruck at a Monet before shrewdly negotiating it down to a barebones' price. From the moment he bought the plane and train tickets, hired the car and started the trek from Dublin to Inverness, the decision that he would restore Quinn's was a foregone conclusion, even if not yet admitted. However, the decision that he would oversee the work himself was not made until he stepped across the threshold that day and saw the two tankards waiting so patiently to be reclaimed. It may not be the Sistine Chapel, but that didn't mean it should be left shrouded.

Now some eight months later, as he peered out the window at the loads of brick and rebar and cement, at the movement of hammer and shovel and heard the accompanying cacophony, he wondered what he could have been thinking when he announced he would do it--would refurbish Quinn's, would in fact, do more than restore, but would add a modem kitchen, a comfortable private suite, and, at some point, a gallery. And a bathroom--please, god, soon a bathroom--though they needed to finish the kitchen first, as both would share the wall of new pipes and service, upstairs and down.

The first task had been to seal the sorry and fragrant excuse for a toilet inside the bar, so now Bodie shared the portaloo with the workmen and took his showers at the B&B down the road, or if it was filled as it often was, at the harbour where the fishermen cleaned up before heading home. He had roughed it in the services, so he could manage, but each time he hiked down the steps to use the plastic encased toilet outside, he remembered he had hated the latrines as much as the trenches. His father had been right about the discipline being good for him, but that was twenty some years ago, and Bodie was now used to more luxurious conveniences, including indoor plumbing. That he had a Jacuzzi, two person shower and matching toilet and bidet at his bidding at both his Dublin and London homes was something he tried not to think about, especially on cold mornings.

Shivering in the chilly air, he pulled a soft white sweater from the cupboard and tugged the cable-knit wool over his head, knowing with subconscious ego that the colour and style suited him. He needed to piss almost more than he needed to be warm, so, eschewing pants, he slipped into a pair of comfortably snug corduroys, pushed his feet into socks and then into wellies, grabbed his old coat from the door knob and made his way with more abandon than care down the worn back stairs to what had been the back of the building. While the front room was still intact, a thick sheet of plastic now served as wall and barrier between the outside work area and inside of the pub, ineffectual at keeping out the chill and noise, but serviceable against the rain and grunge. Bodie moved it aside and waved a greeting at the nearby workers--both men and women, he noted absently--as he made a beeline for the loo, cringing at the thought of the cold air on his privates. Some inheritance this was.

Two hours later, a warm mug of coffee in hand, the plans for the building spread out before him along with the remains of his breakfast on the big oak table at Mrs. McGarry's B&B, everything looked brighter, and Bodie actually felt pleased with the prospect of what Quinn's might be. He had made several notations on the plans, small changes here and there to improve traffic or make a work area more convenient, and had pencilled in a couple of significant alterations to what would be his master suite, though he wasn't fully satisfied with the master bath.

He was frowning over that bit when Mrs. McGarry collected his china and offered to freshen his coffee.

"Hmm. What? Yes, please." He softened his lack of attention with a brief, dazzling smile. "Thank you, Mrs. McGarry. And I'm sorry to be tying up your parlour."

The elderly woman beamed at him, and Bodie could have sworn she nearly chucked him under the chin. The absurd thought made him grin again and won him another fond smile from his hostess.

"You're doing a good thing for this village, Mr. Bodie--fixing up that bar. Why it's been part of Lochfell since I was a child--the centre of our social life and more. Aye, in fact, my Leo helped your great-uncle with the refitting--earned his first pay from Cameron Quinn, he did. Oh, he was just a boy then, Leo was, but he was a fair hand with the tools even then. Clever laddie. It's how we met, don't you know," she continued, brushing errant toast crumbs from her once immaculate table cloth onto Bodie's disused plate. "My daddy did the finish work on Quinn's and hired Leo on when he saw his work."

She hesitated a moment. "I don't mean to pry into your business, but if you're curious, I could show you the original plans. I wouldn't want to bother your work though...."

Bodie nearly choked on his coffee. "You have the original plans?"

"Oh, yes. My Leo was a saver--good Scots; no waster was he. Never know when something might have a use, now, do you?"

"No. You never know," echoed Bodie, a bit stunned. He'd give his eye teeth to have a look at those plans--not only was he curious about how the old building was put together, but they would help immeasurably in the reconstruction.

"Well, then let me just get them. Won't be a minute. I keep a tidy house. Everything in its place. I know right where they are."

As Mrs. McGarry toddled off to find the plans, Bodie took a gulp of coffee and checked his watch. He had several calls to make before noon, but he still had time and he'd be damned if he was leaving before she found the papers. He resisted the urge to rise and pace, or to race after her to help, instead forcing himself to concentrate on his dilemma with the master bath and how to find room to install both a Jacuzzi and a sauna. While it seemed as if there should be space, he couldn't get it to work, and it had become a challenge he couldn't let go of. The whole project was costing him a large fortune and he knew his associates were questioning his reasoning, judging him sentimental at best, impulsive and reckless at worst. Still, it was his money, and, quite frankly, he had more of it than he knew what to do with. That added to an increasing state of boredom, an idea the bar might actually become a tourist draw for the area, and the sentimentality he was accused of, made the project logical, if not prudent.

"Here we are now," puffed Mrs. McGarry, returning to the parlour with a cardboard tube in hand. "All neat and labelled just as I said."

Bodie accepted the tube and carefully prised off the metal end, removing the papers as if they were the original Magna Carta. Setting the tube and the new blueprints aside, he unrolled the old plans and, with Mrs. McGarry's help, used several of her prized knickknacks to hold the curling edges.

The print on the old plans was small and faded, and Bodie raised a conspiratorial eyebrow to Mrs. McGarry as he pulled a pair of reading glasses from his jacket pocket. "Not a word," he warned, waggling the glasses at her before placing them on the end of his nose.

She nodded knowingly. "My lips are sealed, Mr. Bodie. I know how vain a man can be."

Bodie started to argue, realised the futility of it and instead stood and rested a hand on each side of the plans, peering down as he studied them. After a moment, his eyes widened. A lower level--there was a lower level to the building. Amazing. Incredible. He stepped back and opened the current blueprints, searching for how the lower level could be accessed, what panel or door or set of stairs had been closed off. It was like finding a painting covered over by another--something that had happened to him only once, but had earned him his initial and significant fortune and the start for Bodie Galleries. It was the stuff dreams were made of, and he could scarcely believe his luck a second time, though, for all he knew, there could be merely rat bones and rock down below.

An hour later, Bodie still sat at Mrs. McGarry's table, absolutely stymied. No matter how hard he studied both old and new drawings, he couldn't work out how to access the lower level short of tearing a hole through the floor of the pub. It made no sense. Why would someone completely close off the basement? And when had it happened? And who did it?

Mrs. McGarry was no help. She had been busy catching young Leo's attention, not watching the remodelling all those years before, and according to her, none of the tradesmen who had worked on that crew were still living--most of them had been older than Quinn, and her Leo the youngest.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Bodie. I was all hair curls and party dresses back then," she said sorrowfully, sipping at her own cup of coffee. "I wish I knew something that could help."

Bodie sat back in the carefully embroidered chair with a sigh, running his hand through his grey sprinkled hair. "Wait. Mrs. McGarry, do you remember a woman?" he asked hopefully. "Auburn hair, green eyes. The family story is that my great-uncle came here for holiday, met her, and eventually left Ireland to return to her here."

Mrs. McGarry pursed her lips thoughtfully. "A woman, you say?" She shook her head. "No. No, I'm sorry, Mr. Bodie. There was no one in his life that I know of."

"Isn't that a bit odd, Mrs. McGarry--that there was no one? My great-uncle was still a vigorous man when he came out here."

"I couldn't speak to that, Mr. Bodie," said Mrs. McGarry, a warm blush creeping up her neck and colouring her cheeks.

"No, of course not. I didn't mean to imply.... Please, go on."

"There's really nothing else to tell. I wish I could help you, but Mr. Quinn was a gentleman bachelor as far as I know. He was a good enough publican--though the pub could have used a good cleaning both in and out," she editorialised with a rueful cluck. "Still he served a fair pint. And if he kept to himself outside the bar, if he was distracted now and then and a bit reclusive--well, we put a big value on privacy here in Lochfell. It wouldn't have been right to pry into his affairs, now would it?"

"No," Bodie sighed. "Not right at all Well...." Bodie pushed back his sleeve to check his watch. It was nearing noon, and he needed to check in with the construction manager as well as make his calls to his associates in Dublin. "I appreciate you telling me what you did. And showing me these plans." He gestured to the old building plans. "Would you mind if borrowed these for a while?"

"Keep them. I have no need for them, and this must be why Leo saved them--to pass them along to the new owner. Just one favour...."

"Of course, if I can."

"When you open up the basement, could I be there?"

Bodie smiled and patted her hand. "I wouldn't do it without you."

"I do love a good mystery," Mrs. McGarry sighed, obviously pleased. "Keeps the blood young."

Bodie rolled up both old and new plans and replaced them in the tube, capping the end, then impulsively he leaned over and gave his hostess a peck on the cheek. "I suspect you could give anyone's blood a run for it."

"Naughty boy," she scolded. "But you are a charmer. Now that's you away. I have work to do."

It was three weeks before Bodie even had an opportunity to think about opening the basement. Between getting an unrelenting cold courtesy of a week of rain that made using the outdoor bog even more unpleasant and a crisis at the London gallery, Bodie alternated between sneezing and coughing and burning up the phone lines between Lochfell and London.

"Pornographic?" Bodie roared into the mouthpiece, a coughing attack reducing the vehemence. "It's a realistic photo of little boy pissing into a garden."

"And it shows his penis," Bodie's assistant replied, repeating herself for the sixth time.

"Well if you can piss without a cock, I'd like to know how."

"It's that it's a child, Bodie. And the child rights' activists are getting good press on their complaint."

"Fuck them. We'll go to court if we need to."

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line, "You know, Bodie, you may be happily off there in bum-fuck nowhere playing lord of the pub and indulging in some sentimental bullshit, but there are a lot of people who depend on this gallery for their livelihood. It's your fucking business, and you haven't paid it any attention in two months or more. Well, this is serious, and you're the person who has to put it right. So if you don't get your ass back here and resolve it, you can consider this my fucking resignation."

Now Bodie was silent, save for a few ineffectual coughs. Lying in the bed in Lochfell with the covers tucked around his waist, London seemed so far away. As did Dublin. The people and sights of Lochfell felt like home, not the busy city streets, not the political machinations of right wing extremists like the coalition. Before getting the cold--perhaps instigating it--he'd gone out for a day in one of the fishing vessels, rubbing his hands raw dragging in nets and line, sweating and swearing and becoming drenched with seawater and blood and guts from the bait. Those hours seemed far more real than any of his years running the galleries.

And he'd started taking his evening meals at Mrs. McGarry's, drying while she washed up and sitting in her parlour afterwards, learning some of the history of Lochfell while sharing scalding, bitter coffee from china cups, All of this raced through his mind along with the images of the village children scattering through the streets after school, the tides rushing in and out from sea to loch, the wind rattling the windows of his bedroom at the bar, the constable stopping by to check and make sure all was right on his night rounds, sharing a sip of single malt scotch from his flask before he was off again.

Bodie blinked and cleared his throat. "You're right. You have been dealing with this crap--and you deserve something for it. I'll give you a 50% interest if you take over the London gallery, Marsha. And I'll make the same deal to Tommy if he'll run the Dublin branch. Each of you equal owners in each gallery. But you run it, you solve the problems and handle the day-to-day business just as you have been. They keep my name, I'll administer the finances, and I'll still be involved with major acquisitions."

"You're giving away half your business, Bodie? That godforsaken tip of nowhere means more to you than this business you struggled to build, that you put your blood, sweat and tears into...?"

"Struggled?" Bodie laughed. "I was lucky. There was no blood or sweat--just luck and maybe a few tears. I'm cold and wet most of the time here, my hands are as raw as my throat. There's art everywhere here, Marsha."

"You're a crazy sod."

"I'll talk to Tommy and have my solicitor draw up the papers. Agreed?"

"Who am I to turn down a fortune, even if it is given by a mad-man." Marsha paused and Bodie could hear her fiddling with the phone cord. "Bodie--whose side of the family do you take after--looks-wise?"

"My mother's, I suppose. Why?"

"And that uncle--he was your mum's blood?"

"Aye. I mean, yes."


"Just what's that supposed to mean?" Bodie reached for a tissue and managed to cover his mouth and nose before he sneezed.

"Just that maybe you've inherited more than a run-down excuse for a bar from your uncle Quinn. Seen any green-eyed, auburn-haired sirens around yet? Be careful. Look for two heads, and hair made of snakes."

"It's real here, Marsha."

"It's real everywhere, Bodie. It's just a colder, dirtier, less civilised real there than in London or Dublin."

Bodie sneezed again. "I'll have the papers drawn up."

"Fine. And remember: nothing under the kilt, Bodie--should be easy--like what's between your ears." She sniggered and then Bodie heard the line click dead. He stared in amazement at the phone and then stuck it back into its cradle, realising he felt light-headed all of a sudden and was burning hot.

He tugged the quilt and covers up to his chin and closed his eyes. It was then that the dreams began.

Marsha was berating him, laughing at his self-indulgence, when her face shifted, became masculine, the cheekbones more defined, the eyes exotic. Suddenly Bodie realised that the eyes were green, the hair auburn on this glorious creature.

"You. Is it you?"

The creature laughed, sexy, husky. "We all are who we are."

"Do you have a name?" Bodie asked, watching as the shimmering being coalesced into something more solid and slipped beside him under the covers.

"Ray Doyle."

"You're not Scottish. What are you doing here?"

"I could ask you the same."

"My great-uncle left me a legacy."

"We all follow fate's path."

"Why are you here?"

"To seduce you."

"Oh, that simple?"

"That simple."

"You're a man."

The laugh again. "Well, I'm male--and I have all the right equipment."

"What makes you think I would be interested in a man?"

Bodie felt a hand on his cock and realized he was rock hard, had been since that first sexy laugh. There was another chuckle and Doyle's head disappeared beneath the blankets. Lips and a tongue laved Bodie's cock, slowly, expertly, pulling, teasing, loving. He felt bathed in warmth, safe and cherished. His hips rose and fell. A finger teased into the cleft between his buttocks and then into the tight ring of muscle, soft and hard, no pain, pain, no pain. He rocked back and forth, so near orgasm, but never falling off the edge--exquisite perfection. Then the mouth that had kissed his cock moved upward and suckled his lips, sucked on his tongue, joined with him. Doyle was riding him, kissing him, caressing him, two parts now fitted to make a whole. Bodie felt the rush of orgasm slide through his system, he felt his cock explode and his sense of self shredded and reborn. Doyle kissed him again and again, and then held him, whispering Bodie's name, loving him with his voice, until Bodie slept.

When he awoke, Bodie felt disoriented, but sated and soothed as he had never been. He sat up, remembering. Doyle. Green eyes, soft lips, hard cock, auburn hair. Love. Orgasm. A dream--a wonderful, glorious, fantastic wet dream.

He reached beneath the bedclothes and touched his cock, feeling about for the wet spot, but finding none--no dried semen, no wet spot beneath him, no spray of mess on the bedding above. A dry, wet dream? Odd, but not unheard of--and he did have this cold.

Yet his lips were ripe and used, his mouth tasted of another, and his anus was just ever so slightly sore.

He tried to will himself back to sleep--to recapture the dream, but he could not make it so. Eventually he gave up, dressed, slogged down to the pier to shower, and then back to the bar to call Tommy and his solicitor.

That was a week before; he had not had the dream again, though he had dreamed of having the dream and felt a loss for not finding Doyle again--or not being found. And now, cold vanquished, business matters resolved, heart aching slightly with his newfound loss, it was at last time to open the basement.

Mrs. McGarry and Mr. Carlyle, the police constable, waited with Bodie as the workmen began to remove the pieces of thick flooring they had earlier cut like puzzle pieces. Bodie felt no regret at tearing up the old floor--the new seams would be part of the bar's history in due time, and he was not about to be denied a view into the building's past.

The flooring put aside, a ladder was lowered into the dark opening, and Bodie flicked off his hand torch. "Wish me luck," he requested, stepping down onto the first rung of the ladder and beginning his descent. It was dank and smelly--like a tomb that hadn't been opened in decades. Bodie got an odd tingling along his spine, and he stopped and shined his torch downward, checking what was below. Seeing nothing untoward, he continued on, jumping the last two rungs to the bottom.

Lips pressed against the back of his neck, soft, warm, definitely alive. Bodie dropped the torch, and it rattled against the rock-strewn floor.

"Don't be afraid. You've not gone nutters."

"What the fuck are you?"

"Do you want me to go? I've just always been curious about why this level was boarded off, so I followed you."

Hands busied themselves at Bodie's fly, and he batted them away. "Don't," he hissed. "There are people up top."

"Hallo up to them that you're going to have a look around," Doyle commanded.

Bodie stared at the man/apparition and then called up. "Just going to have a quick look, and then the rest of you can come down."

"Satisfied?" he asked Doyle.

"Not quite."

Bodie felt a tug on his hand and allowed Doyle to guide him away from the ladder and light. He heard a zip that he knew did not come from his own trousers and then an echo that he knew did. His cock was hard, almost painfully swollen. He hadn't been able to orgasm since Doyle's nocturnal visit, and his testicles were begging for release.

"Fuck me," Doyle whispered and in the dim light, Bodie could see him spread-eagled against the wall of the stone foundation, trousers around his ankles.

"You're mad. We're both mad."

"Put your hard cock inside my arse and fuck me. Do it. Breathe your life into my arse, Bodie."

Bodie glanced up towards the opening in the floor and then towards the more inviting one spread before him. Doyle was masturbating now, and Bodie nearly came from the sight of it, long, lean sinewy thighs and tight welcoming cleft. He pressed himself forward and pushed his weeping cock into Doyle, immediately feeling the rapture of love and trust that had so captured him before. He rested his hands on the wall on either side of Doyle's head and felt Doyle's fingers leave his cock and entwine with his. He didn't know if seconds or centuries passed when his balls tightened and semen shot up through his cock into Doyle's arse. He buried his face in Doyle's hair, smelled the sweet scent of his future and willed his knees not to collapse.

"Oh, God, Ray, I love you," he whispered breathlessly. "Who are you? What are you?"

Bodie felt his now flaccid cock slip from Ray, and then Doyle turned into his arms, pressing kisses to Bodie's neck and face and eyes and finally to his lips.

"I'm yours," Ray answered simply. And then he was gone.

Bodie stared at the air and then realised he was standing with his cock hanging from his trousers, his torch beaming on the floor, folks upstairs waiting to come down. He gulped, quickly zipped up and reclaimed the torch, shining it about the small room. There was nothing. No one. An empty room.

"I'm not finding anything except four walls," he called up. "Come down if you want, but I don't see...." Bodie paused and flashed his torch over at the farthest wall--there seemed to be an indentation, almost an opening. And was that a piece of metal?

As Carlyle and one of the workmen made their way down the ladder, Bodie approached the notched area. There was a plaque against its back--small, unobtrusive, engraved. He peered at the lettering, wiping decades of grime away to make out the words.

"What does it say?" Carlyle asked over Bodie's shoulder, adding his torch to Bodie's.

"Esmerelda...Doyle," Bodie choked. "Beloved."

"That's it?"

"See for yourself."

Carlyle picked at the plaque. "It's like a grave marker."

"Aye," echoed the workman. "Best not to disturb it. Probably why old Quinn sealed this off. Keep the ghoulies away. Not good for a pub's business."

Bodie backed away, felt the prickles rise on his neck again and a voice whisper in his ear. "Bah! Foolish superstition. It's me grandmum. Didn't know she was buried down here. Explains a lot."

"Ferchristsakes, Ray. Stop doing that."

"Pardon?" Both Carlyle and the workman bad looked over.

"Nothing," Bodie dissembled. "Said I felt a chill, better stop poking around unless I want that cold back."

"Wonder what a Doyle was doing in Scotland," Carlyle wondered aloud.

"Wondering that myself," Bodie muttered.

"Me grandmum thought a lot of your great-uncle," Doyle noted, following Bodie up the ladder.

Bodie stopped. Quinn and Esmerelda? Dear god. He was mad. A family of ghosts? Ray's hands caressed Bodie's buttocks as they rose up the ladder, Bodie could feel the long fingers teasing and he willed himself to ignore it. When he reached the top of the ladder, he shrugged at Mrs. McGarry. "Looks like there might be an old gravesite down there--nothing else. Listen, I have to go back to London for a couple of weeks. There's urgent business with my gallery. I'm not sure when I'll be back."

"Come back whenever you're ready, dearie," Mrs. McGarry told him, pecking his cheek.

Carlyle nodded. "I'll keep an eye on the place to be sure."

Bodie stared at the computer screen in disbelief, almost wishing his research had never paid this return. How could this be? Leo and Jenny McGarry had been dead for 100 years. The same for Robbie Carlyle. Esme Doyle was listed as being an indentured serving girl two hundred years before. There was not a single bit of information on Ray or Raymond Doyle. But Bodie had seen them--seen them all. He knew Mrs. McGarry and Carlyle were real--were alive in this day and time. And Ray....

"Ray...." Bodie drew a deep breath. He missed him. Missed him with an unreasonable passion. It wasn't the sex, though Bodie had found himself decidedly disinterested in his cock since his return to London a month before--it was the warmth, the unconditional love. He rubbed his eyes, felt dampness against his fingers. "Ray."

"Here, lover."

Soft lips caressed his neck and Bodie groaned with relief and joy. He felt Doyle's fingers massage his temple and he leaned his head back against Ray's solid chest.

"I can't stay here long, Bodie. Shouldn't be here at all. Probably took a century or so off my life doing this."

Bodie felt Doyle's form soften and then flow into him so they were one body, one mind, one soul. It felt like he was making love to himself, in love with himself, a whole being for the first time in his life.

There was a whisper in his ear. "Come back to me." And then Bodie felt a gut-wrenching blow as Doyle slipped from him and was gone. His arms empty, his heart in tatters, Bodie dropped his head to his knees and his body shook.

Lochfell looked much the same. The construction on the addition to Quinn's had continued in Bodie's absence and all the framing was done, the walls up, some of the finish stone in place on the outside, the roof done overhead.

He saw Carlyle ahead and called out his name. The constable turned, but was not Robbie Carlyle--it was someone else entirely. Bodie blanched, nodded, apologised, and hurried up the road to the B&B. He was barely in the front door when a young woman with a small child greeted him.

"Do you need a room then? I'm Laurie Campbell, the owner here."

Oh, Christ. Bodie gulped air, offered another apology and backed out the door, heart pounding.

He wasn't sure if he was more afraid to go into Quinn's or more afraid not to, but he pushed the door open and entered, making his way up the back steps to the private rooms.

Doyle sat on the bed, legs spread, shirt unbuttoned, a wanton look on his face.

Bodie backed away, suddenly afraid.

"It's okay, Bodie."

"Carlyle. Mrs. McGarry.... "

"The constable is just outside. Mrs. McGarry's probably knee-deep in her washing."

Bodie looked out the window. Carlyle was there--just as Ray said. Children were tagging behind him and he looked up and tipped his hat at Bodie, grinning broadly.

Down the street, Bodie could see Mrs. McGarry in her back garden, a basket full of clean sheets and a bag of pegs, putting out the washing to dry.

He turned back into the room, trembling, not sure what to believe. Not sure if this was reality. Not sure if he cared.

"Trust me," Ray whispered, kneeling forward on the bed.

Quaking, Bodie felt himself tugged down. Nimble fingers unbuttoned his shirt, slid along his chest, tweaked his nipples. Lips burned against his, his tongue slid against another's, responsive and responding.

"I can't go from here again," Ray told him, pressing kisses down the length of Bodie's now nude body.

"I'll never leave," Bodie promised simply, finally understanding the truth of Quinn's legacy.

Ray nodded and slipped between Bodie's thighs. Bodie felt Doyle's cock slide into him and he shifted to open wider. They moved together slowly, time paused, and there was magic all around.

-- THE END --

Originally published in A Third Priority A-3, IDP Press, 2001

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