Perfect Day

by


PART ONE

Bodie paced restlessly.

"He's a maniac, Ray, a bloody psycho."

"What, worse than you, you mean? You can handle him," Doyle said reasonably, fighting on from the depths of somewhere now that Bodie had all but refused him point-blank: "I've seen you."

"Yeah, but is it worth it?" Bodie turned to grimace at him. "When I get back I don't sleep for a week."

"Look, Bodie --" Doyle tossed a can of beer through the air "-- I wouldn't ask, believe me I wouldn't, if I didn't have to."

The tab went snap. Bodie tipped back his head and took a few deep swallows. When he lifted the can away from his mouth a fine froth hinged it like a beige moustache; he wiped it off with his hand. "Bit thick is she, this bird of yours?" he asked suspiciously. "Getting the wrong side of Clay Carver was not a bright career move.

"I know that. That's why I need you to help. Come on, Bodie! You're always tellin' me he owes you a favour."

Bodie made a face. "Yeah, but I was savin' it to use for myself."

"She's a silly young kid who played with fire and got her fingers burned," Doyle said rapidly. "Okay, she's made a stupid blunder. Can't say at nineteen I didn't make one or two myself, how about you?"

"Look, Ray. It's not our business. It's not CI5's business. Best leave 'em to work out their own thing in their own way. Maybe it was an empty threat. You know, warn her off."

"Carver doesn't make empty threats. He can't see the point, real thing's so much more fun."

"She's only a kid, Ray. Got years in front of her. It's just her job on the line, not her life."

"She put everything she'd got into that business, Bodie. She'll lose the lot if Clay Carver blacklists her. You know he's got all the small traders in his pocket."

Bodie's look said expressively that small trade was small trade. Doyle's temper rose. "I can't believe you're so heartless, Bodie. It's not much to ask, is it?"

Bodie looked at him, very deliberately. The air in the room stilled, went quiet. "Yes, it is."

After a moment Doyle shrugged, turned away. "Well, you know this Carver bloke, I don't. But I tell you, Bodie, if it was me he owed a favour to I wouldn't hesitate."

"Good job it's not you then, innit?" Bodie responded cryptically, and that seemed about the end of it.





Except that Bodie seemed to feel, uncharacteristically, guilty about the whole affair; uninvited, the following night he turned up at Doyle's flat with a sixpack of beer and raised the subject again himself.

"I don't want to talk about it," Doyle said coldly, inwardly hopeful, and he took a beer. "You've made up your mind, haven't you, and that's it."

"What is she to you, Ray?" Bodie asked with a grim set to his mouth. "You plannin' on marrying her or something?"

"No," Doyle said, exasperated, "friend of a friend. She's just a kid in trouble, that's all. Never even -- "

Bodie's face twisted. " -- and you never will, if you don't ride up on your white charger to save her, that right?"

Doyle's lip curled as he looked at Bodie. "Yeah, that's how you would see it, isn't it. I should've known it was pointless askin' you. I've been around you long enough to know that whatever little scrap of conscience and decent feelin' you might have had withered off the vine years ago. Now you only do things if there's somethin' in it for you, right?"

Bodie turned away, mouth tight. Doyle knew that had got to him; nothing Bodie hated more than Doyle's accurate stabs at the inner truth of himself. Well, he'd blown it now.

"Fuck off, Bodie," he said moodily and grabbed the rest of the beer, darting off with it into the kitchen and opening the fridge door, stashing it inside with finality. "Just get off my back: go home." But when he rose to his feet it was to find Bodie standing there blocking the narrow arch to the living-room beyond. "I told you to push off."

Bodie looked down at him, taller and broader than his partner and better looking, dark hair neat, dark eyes brooding; he held the can in his fingers so tight it was making little noises of protest.

"Excuse me," Doyle said with absolute ice, and he tried to shoulder his way past, but Bodie was immoveable.

"Maybe you're right."

"About what in particular?" Doyle planted his feet, folded his arms and faced him out, hostile.

Bodie stared down at him, expression strange. Doyle glared up, the hairs on the back of his neck starting to prickle.

"Maybe I'd do it if there was something in it for me."

Doyle exhaled with triumph, his shoulders sagging with relief. "Right. Well, now we know where we stand, let's start negotiating, shall we?"

As Bodie stood aside he thrust his way through, went to sit on the window-ledge in the living-room where he could look out at the city passing below, readying himself for the fight he knew now he would win.

Bodie didn't seem in any hurry to start. He crumpled the can he held and tossed it into the wastebin. He came into the room and stood near Doyle, staring out at the red glow of rear lights, the bright twisting bracelet of the road winding its way along to somewhere far away.

"'S funny, don't you think," Bodie's voice broke the silence.

"What is?"

"You an' me. Why did the Cow team us?"

"I dunno," Doyle shrugged. "Man's a mystery."

Bodie turned to look at him, looking right through him instead. "No, I mean -- what did he see?"

About to reply sarcastically Doyle closed his mouth on it; he still required a favour from Bodie. "He thought we'd get on well together, I suppose."

"But we don't," Bodie said. It was not a question and still he did not sit down.

"We're all right," Doyle said, immediately and unaccountably defensive. "Get the best scores every week, we do. Only Turner and Jax -- "

Bodie cut in: " -- I didn't mean that." He tugged the curtain cord so that the velvet drape crept a little way across the window, pulled it back again. "Yeah, we work okay together."

"Well, that's why the Cow teamed us then. No need to look any deeper, is there?"

Bodie did not say anything. Doyle sighed and got up off the window-seat, swinging his way across the room to get his difficult partner a drink. Brooding, Bodie watched him walk, the swing of his hips; his eyes narrowed.

Full up with beer Doyle poured them each a shot of whisky from the bottle on the bar.

"Come on then, Bodie," he said, crossing the room, glass outstretched. "What is it you want?"

Bodie took the glass and a deep swallow. "Nothing."

"Aw, come on," Doyle exclaimed, grimacing. "You said you did."

Bodie looked at him and in the depths of his eyes something blackly danced. "You're lucky. I changed my mind."

Doyle thumped the back of the chair. "No. Look, Bodie, this is important. It's really important," Doyle said, spelling it out, "to me." He banged his chest. "Come on. 1'll owe you one. Several. Pass on all my used girlfriends to you for a month. Give you all my change for the coffee machine. Sit through the African Queen with you again. Clean your gun for you."

Bodie did not smile; you could not, at this moment, imagine him ever smiling. Doyle had put no lights on in the room, the streetlamps below and wide white moon made it interesting; and the view was far and away the best thing about this flat, the sunsets across the city spectacular. But right now, looking at Bodie standing tall and dark and unlit, he decided his nerves were unhappy: so he went around the room and lit the small lamps and the big standard in the corner.

Cosy. And abruptly, Bodie became cosier too: ceased to stare at him in that unnerving way so that you remembered his days as a soldier of fortune, a paid assassin and a bringer of war.

He grinned at Doyle, and tossed the rest of his whisky down. "What you got to offer me then, sunshine?"

"Anything," Doyle told him at once, carefree because he could not imagine anything Bodie would want of him he would not give with all his heart in this most worthy of causes. "Up to and including doing all your written reports for a month."

"Trouble is, you can't spell."

"No worse than you," Doyle said, astounded. He came over with the whisky bottle, and hung it over Bodie's empty glass.

Bodie set it down filled, and took hold of Doyle's wrist. "How about your body, sweetheart?"

"Okay by me," Doyle said; but he ducked as Bodie's mouth threatened. "Be serious."

"Very," Bodie remarked; he wiped his mouth on his hand and took another sip of liquor, staring at Doyle with dark intensity.

Knowing too well his partner's offbeat humour, Doyle removed himself from the vicinity in a hurry and went to look again out of the window. Feeling a stare burn uncomfortably into his back he soon turned, hitched himself up on the window-seat again.

"Let's stop muckin' around. You gonna help me, or not?"

"You gotta understand, Doyle. If it was for you, I'd do it," Bodie said, and looked away. "But some silly little bitch I've never met -- "

"But I want you to do it, so it is for me, isn't it?" Doyle put in quickly. "Do it for me. I'm askin' you." He jumped off his perch and tumbled to kneel at Bodie's feet, looking up. "Yes?"

Bodie's face grimaced with a kind of exasperation. He aimed a gentle kick at Doyle's ribs. "Bugger off, Doyle, I'm goin' home." He threw down the rest of his drink, and headed for the door.

Doyle jumped to his feet, sour with the knowledge he had got this wrong. He followed Bodie's crisp, straightbacked walk to the door and gathered himself for one last appeal.

"Bodie. Ah, please," he said simply.

And Bodie turned at his peril, and looked at him, eyes narrowed against the light. He saw Ray Doyle, his partner of two years, still in his working gear (scruffy shirt, gun still planted there beneath his arm, faded jeans and clean white Kickers) just as he had been two hours ago when he had chased their quarry on foot through Covent Garden, cornered him and jammed a gun in his ribs. Good runner, Doyle was; good agent all round, in fact; sharp and bright and hard. His curls were loose and shining: washed this morning, Bodie decided, in a hasty shower; Doyle had come in five minutes late. His wide grey eyes were fixed on Bodie; he looked faintly anxious, a crease appearing in his cheek as his white teeth settled on his lower lip.

Bodie stuffed his hands into his pockets and rocked on his heels.

"Think about it?" Doyle asked, quick to press an advantage he sensed: no matter what the cause, of which he was quite and perfectly unaware.

Bodie looked at him without smiling. "You really want this, don't you."

"Haven't I said so?"

"Okay. I'll do it. But then, angel-fish, you do something for me."

So this was it. Victory! "Anything. I swear it," Doyle trotted out glibly, but his heart thumped uneasily at the look in Bodie's eyes, and the little smile which twisted Bodie's mouth at his words did nothing to reassure him.

"Your tongue's going to get you into a lot of trouble one day, sunshine."

Doyle propped one hand on his hip and slouched, insolent. His head tilted. "Don't tell me. You want me to paint your picture?"

Bodie put a hand on his elbow, ushered him back into the living-room.

"Let's talk," he said in a deep American drawl.

This time Bodie sat down, in one of the armchairs: Doyle stretched out on the settee, hands behind his head.

"Let's get to the point, Doyle," Bodie said without preamble: "I don't think it's really sunk into that flossy head of yours that beggin' favours from Clay Carver is not something I crave to do. In fact, I'd work quite definitely hard not to do it at all. And to do it because some fancy piece of yours took it into her empty head to trade on his patch without asking -- "

"All right, all right," Doyle cut in as Bodie tut-tutted and shook his head from side to side. "You don't want to do it. I get it."

"I've told you over and over that I don't want to do it. But that doesn't matter to you, you've made that quite clear. So now let's see," Bodie said, "just what you're prepared to offer up."

"Look, I'd do it myself," said Doyle, thoroughly pissed off with all this, "if I stood a snowball's chance in hell of -- "

Bodie's voice simply rose above his. "Let's start with what you're not prepared to do."

Doyle heaved a sigh. Resigned himself to play Bodie's game. "If we must."

Bodie regarded him with a lazy eye. "Murder, presumably, is not on the table."

"Unless it's yours." Doyle sniffed, rubbed a hand across his nose.

"Would you -- let's see. Lie, cheat, steal -- ? Commit adultery?"

Doyle grinned; then quelled it. Bodie was not laughing. "Just my normal way of life, mate."

"Would you take one of my girlfriends off my hands?"

"Yep." A cautionary thought occurred to Doyle. "Not expectin', is she?"

"Not as far as I know." All was silence as Bodie mused. "Say I wanted -- one of my ex-colleagues, from my African days say -- out of the way. Would you set up a hit for me? Be easy for you Doyle, good shot an' all, you are."

The smile died on Doyle's lips; he was beginning not to like the feel of this, Bodie so intense, studying him like a butterfly under glass.

"Like we said, murder's not up for discussion."

"Call it euthanasia in this case. Okay. Rubic Zeiss can rest easy in his bed. So."

"Get on with it, Bodie."

"Would you leave CI5 and set up a firearms business with me?"

"No."

"Would you sleep with me?"

"Bodie." He grimaced at the tackiness.

"Would you?"

Something knocked the breath out of Doyle, because at last it was real.

The heat of his heart told him so, the tense set of Bodie's mouth, the glitter in his eyes.

"Are you serious?"

"Curious," Bodie said, hard.

Doyle got up in one move and turned towards the window. He leaned an arm against the wall, rested his chin on his knuckles. "Jesus, Bodie," he said quietly, and gazed down at the passing traffic as he had done a hundred, a thousand times before. Yet he had never been so blind to it before.

"Is that it, then?" he said without turning.

"Is that what?"

"That's what you want, is it?"

Bodie's voice stayed even, quiet. "Yeah, that's it."

Doyle kept on looking out. The dusk was layered; midnight hovering darkly across the ground to the horizon, yet the sky was a vast dome of light. A fire engine, flashing blue and siren wailing, careered through the streets, closely followed by a police car, and two police bikers flanking it. Something, somewhere, was going up in flames.

Bodie, behind him, said: "I take it you're saying no."

"I haven't said anything yet."

"I think we'd better forget the whole thing."

He was on his way out, halfway through the door when Doyle got to him. "Bodie. Hang on."

Bodie's skin looked like marble beneath the ghostly light, which picked out blueblack tints in his hair, made his eyes dark and opaque. Doyle pulled him in and slammed the door shut.

"Bodie. I'm thinkin'. Don't rush me."

"How much time d'you need for one syllable?" Bodie returned ironically. "Stupid idea. Forget it."

Sleep with Bodie: save a soul. The very weirdness of the bargain intrigued Doyle: without another thought he put out his hand. "Deal?"

Bodie eyed the hand but didn't touch it. "Doyle, you'll never go through with it," he drawled with insolence.

"Why shouldn't I?"

"I know you, Doyle. You'll promise anything to get what you want. Then afterwards you'll conveniently forget you ever said it."

"Screw it, Bodie," Doyle said in disgust. "If you haven't the guts for it, then -- "

Bodie smiled, and shoved two hands into his pockets. "Oh, I've got the guts for it, Ray."

"Right." Without waiting this time, Doyle leaned over, seized his hand firmly and dropped it. "Done. Signed, sealed, delivered -- "

"-- you're mine?" Bodie said derisively.

Doyle shot him a speculative glance. "And let's get it straight -- when you say, sleep with me, I suppose you don't mean pyjamas and cocoa then lights out at ten."

"Well, it sounds all right," Bodie said expressionlessly, "as far as it goes."

Doyle hustled himself nearer Bodie and looked at him, unconsciously aggressive. "Let's spell it out, Bodie. Sleep with me --?"

"Sex with you," Bodie said, coolly enough, and the sound of it echoed between them, casting a new and different light on everything, everything that had ever occurred between them: all their history had to be rewritten now. Bodie saw his expression and said ironically: "Yeah, Ray, that's about the state of it. I lie down for Clay Carver, and you -- you do the same for me." His voice had dropped, suddenly, to a low murmur: the silence which ensued was resonant and Bodie's quick smile sharkish, bitter. "Well. Not bad going, for a bird you hardly know and I don't know at all, is it? I hope she's worth it, sunshine, I really do."

After a moment Doyle coughed to clear his throat, and followed Bodie to the door. But Bodie left without a backward look.





Doyle opened a bleary eye.

2.04 a.m. and the phone was ringing. He groped for it, knocked off something else with a clatter, cursed, and got it at last into his hand.

"Doyle," he mumbled into it, rubbing his eyes.

"Bodie. Just to let you know it's all taken care of."

And you had to wake me up to tell me, was his first, unworthy thought.

"Good. That's -- great. Go okay?"

"It went okay, yeah. "

" -- Bodie? You okay? You sound -- "

"Yeah, I'm okay."

"So -- "

"So I'll see you in the morning."

Doyle replaced the receiver, and turned over to embed himself more deeply within the sheets and blankets. Awakened in the night, four hours to go till up-time. Bliss, after all.

He closed his eyes and instantly the image sprang up before them of Bodie, pulling on a pair of white gloves and looking at him.

Intrigued and aroused by this he lay and let the fantasy wander: the thought of Bodie touching him that way unexpectedly exquisite. Drifting in and out of dreams, his subconscious wooed him with scenarios; and during one of these, while the fantasy Bodie prepared to thrust into him a beautiful, jewelled pin, he fell heavily into sleep and did not dream again.





At work the next day Bodie was pale and uncommunicative. Warned off, Doyle did not mention matters other than routine. They got on with the business of the day.

At break time, after a cup of poor machine coffee, Bodie sat on a desk and looked at Doyle properly for the first time that morning. "Well? How did she take it? Gonna get on her knees to apply some serious gratitude, is she?"

"Who?"

Bodie's eyes dwelt on him in curiosity. "Your bird. When she heard she was off the hook."

Doyle clapped one hand to his head and cursed. "Christ! D'you know, I haven't told her yet." He began to hunt through his pockets for small change.

After a moment, Bodie laughed, with an odd twist to it. "You beat me, Doyle, you really do."

There was a phone nearby. He moved towards it. "I'll ring her now."

"Look, have I got this right? It was," Bodie said, moving with him, "important to you, was it?"

Doyle directed a black look at him, sorting out a 10p and two fives. "You know it was."

"That's good," his partner murmured, high on some sweet, cynical amusement. "Because it certainly was to me."

Misunderstanding, Doyle cut in: "Don't worry. You'll get your dues."

Bodie looked at him blankly for a moment; then he laughed again, unconditionally amused this time. "Christ, but 1'd almost forgotten. Tonight the lovely Raymond serves himself up like a Persian banquet. For my delight."

"Shut up, Bodie," Doyle muttered, conscious of stares. The phone clicked and buzzed in his ear.

"Don't worry, Ray." Bodie patted him on the shoulder with brisk reassurance. "I'll let you pass, I think."

Doyle stared at him. In his ear the phone ceased to ring; he thrust in his coin as the pips went. A voice said: "Can I help you?" Gathering his wits, Doyle said, "Yeah, Miss Kaufman, please," and when she answered her extension he relayed the information quickly and cleanly, cutting her off: " -- yeah, great, yeah, but listen, Jen, in a hurry, must go. See you some time. Yeah. Yeah, right. Don't mention it. Be seeing you."

He had rushed it, in the light of more pressing concerns, but when he turned around it was to find Bodie gone, rather than hanging at his shoulder eavesdropping as he had expected.

"Dammit!" Doyle swore at the empty space; they had an afternoon's briefing to come, and when he got to the room assigned for it, it was crowded. He threaded a way through the assembled agents, sourly ignoring even the friendliest of comments, and hitched himself onto a desk beside Bodie.

"Very much relieved, eternally grateful. Anything she can do -- "

"I'm so happy, Doyle," Bodie said ironically, adding as a suited stranger entered and a hush fell. "What next, Ambassador? Animal Liberation, Nelson Mandela?"

The lecturer, from the look of him, was one of Cowley's club friends on a free lunch trip. Not known for civil respect, the sixty-four CI5 agents eyed him with varying degrees of boredom, disinterest, disfavour, or what Cowley might call dumb insolence. Two hours later, it was over.

"Not too bad," Doyle remarked as he picked up his notepad (blank) and his pen and swung himself off the desk.

"Might be useful if ever we get lost in Bengal, yes," Bodie returned grimly.

"Oh come on, he wasn't that bad. Never knew that trick about the water and the silver bullets, did you?"

"Never needed to," came the disgruntled reply.

Doyle threw up his hands in exasperation. "What's eating you, Bodie? You've been crabby as hell -- " He looked at Bodie suspiciously. "Not sickening for somethin', are you?"

Bodie ignored this, shouldering on. Doyle grabbed him by the elbow and dragged him back. "What is the matter?"

"Doyle," his partner said wearily, "let me go. I've got some notes to finish, I'll see you around tomorrow."

It began to dawn on Doyle that something was wrong, but then Bodie could be a puzzle; a dark and silent mood betook him sometimes and it was best to leave him alone until it passed. Tomorrow, no doubt, he'd be back to normal, bounce in with a rubber rat to terrorise the typing pool.

Only this time --

"I wanna talk to you." Someone jostled Doyle from behind; he whipped around and glared. All around them agents flowed liked tributaries of a river. He lowered his voice as he said: "You doin' anything tonight?"

"Yes," Bodie said unemotionally.

"I'll drive you home, then," Doyle said.





The city streets sped past and dusk enveloped the car. The silence within had become notable some minutes ago.

Not taking his eyes off the road, Doyle said: "So. How long you been after tryin' it on with me, then?"

"Dunno," Bodie shrugged. Carefully, he eased his long legs out in front of him. Spotting his chance in the rear mirror, Doyle flipped the indicator quickly and pulled out sharply. The Capri accelerated to overtake an aging lorry emitting noxious clouds of smoke.

"What about tonight? Oh yeah, you're busy. Tomorrow?"

"I told you." Ice splintered Bodie's voice. "I'll let you off. I wasn't serious."

Doyle pulled back in again, settling behind an Allegro with a dodgy rear light. "Oh, I think you were, Bodie."

"At the time, maybe, but I've told you, Doyle, I'm not intending to hold you to it. For godsake. So now can we just forget it?"

He had never heard Bodie in quite this mood. He was really pushing it; inside his shirt his skin prickled with sweat. But his voice was cool enough as he said: "Oh no, matey, we can't. We made a deal, right? and we're sticking to it."

Bodie dragged down the passenger mirror and checked it as Doyle nipped out again to get past the Allegro, whose erratic course was getting on his nerves, and nipped in again behind an oil tanker. "You got your mind on the road, have you, sunshine? Not on the Norton now, y'know; this baby's six feet wide."

Not to be diverted, by no means, Doyle said grimly: "I said, we're gonna do exactly what we agreed."

Bodie stirred one finger in the dust on the window-ledge. "Yeah? How you gonna manage that then, Doyle: all on your own?"

His partner choked on an expletive, waved one hand in the air. "I dunno what's the matter with you, Bodie. You stick your neck out, you really risked it last night, you know, what the hell made you think I wouldn't shove your teeth down your throat?"

"Why should you?" Bodie said. "No slur on your honour, is it?"

" -- you go through all that, you get through the hard part --and now you've changed your mind. Not gonna bother after all. Well, I'm not 'avin' it, mate. I want it all straight. You did me a favour and now I'd rather go through the lie-back-and-think-of-England routine than have you hold this over me for years."

Bodie's fingers which had been drumming on the window-ledge stopped; then resumed again. "You think I'd do that?" He sounded no more than curious; a little careful, maybe.

"How do I know?"

Bodie moved violently, causing Doyle to eye him sideways. "Look, Ray, the only bloody thing I want from you is for you to bloody drop it. Stop going on about it. Kill off a few thousand brain cells, will you, and cultivate amnesia. It's over, dammit. You got what you wanted, didn't you; and keep your eyes on the bloody road."

His hand shot out and grabbed the wheel, turning it fractionally. Doyle cursed him loudly and profanely, though a cold sweat had broken out on his skin: an excellent driver, one of the best, he just had not been paying attention when the tanker in front had pulled to a halt, emergency flashers going like crazy; they had missed it by inches.

"Where the hell are we going, for chrissake?" Bodie asked him, realising for the first time -- "Bloody hell, Doyle, where've you got in mind -- ? Dover?" For that indeed was the large legend borne by the blue sign they had just passed. All around them serious signs were popping up, demanding a decision: they were coming to a major junction.

Doyle deflected this calmly. "Just wanted to sort a few things out. What's changed, Bodie? -- no need to panic, I'm not abducting you, we'll go off here." The car pulled down the slip-road and began the long turn around. " -- What did I say?"

Bodie was still, very still. "Nothing," he said. "I'm sure, quite sure, that you handled everything with the greatest sensitivity."

Doyle was looking at road signs coming up thick and fast. "Chigwell or Ealing?" he said urgently.

"Chigwell then East Stride," Bodie said without looking.

"You gonna answer my question?" Doyle said, moving into the correct lane. Bodie ignored him. They were going to get nowhere.

He took Bodie home.

But if Bodie thought that was the end of it, well, then Bodie had another think coming, that was all.



Usually they went out on a Saturday night, quick drink, try to score with any likely looking birds, game of darts if not. Although they had not, precisely, quarrelled, certainly something had changed: neither of them mentioned meeting up when the weekend came around. Tired and stretched after a day training with Macklin, Doyle did not give more than a moment's thought to going out alone; he'd stay in, do something relaxing, have an early bath then bed.

He was in the back room when the doorbell rang; absorbed in another world, it made him jump. Wiping his fingers on an old cloth he went to answer the door.

Bodie stood on the threshold. (Didn't charge in as he usually would.) "You busy?" Bodie asked.

A mixture of emotions gave way beneath the desire to make Bodie stay: "Bit of paintin'. Come and see?" He stood back invitingly, but Bodie stayed where he was.

"I was just passin'."

"Come and look at this," and Doyle led the way through to the back bedroom, not looking to see if Bodie followed: how could he not?

Bodie examined the canvas from all angles while Doyle waited, patient, a little embarrassed.

"What d'you think?" Bodie was usually rude about his artistic pretensions, and something pithy was what he was expecting: so when Bodie said seriously, "It's good. I like it," Doyle snorted.

"Come on."

"No, I really do."

"No you don't. You're just saying that because -- "

He stopped dead still, overwhelmed by his incaution. He had meant to say nothing of the sort. But a surprising sensitivity about Bodie's opinion had, for a moment, stood in the way of all else; and it was too late now. He had said it. So there it was.

But it seemed, after all, that Bodie was ready to talk. For after a moment, Bodie turned away from him and stared at the wall. "Look, Ray, it hasn't made any difference before. Why should it now? All this time... you didn't even guess."

Doyle laid down his brush on the easel tray. "So. It wasn't a spur of the moment thing at all."

"No," Bodie said with his back to him. A moment passed. Then Bodie turned and looked at his partner, scruffy in overalls and besmeared with paint. "You don't have to worry about it, Ray. I won't let it get in the way."

A silence fell between them. Doyle was remembering a look of Bodie's which surfaced at odd times. After a while Bodie made a gesture: "Look, Ray -- hard day today. I'd better go."

"Wait," Doyle said, and he moved two steps forward, took Bodie by the arms; hands settling on the black leather of his jacket, gripping. A light leapt from his eyes and transfixed Bodie, who forgot even to worry about getting paint on his clothes; watercolour, it would wash off.

"You gonna hold me to it, Bodie? Are you?"

Bodie's eyes creased a little, in surprise perhaps, in anger. "God in heaven, Ray, do you want me to?"

"Oh, I think you should," Doyle said, very low: but he was caught unawares by the look in Bodie's eye now, another look of Bodie's he was familiar with and it unsettled him: he could swear, at times, that Bodie all but disliked him. Just sometimes, it crept through.

Yeah, but Bodie fancied him, didn't he.

That was the real power, and he held it.

"Come on," he whispered. "We could go into the bedroom -- "

Bodie shoved him violently away. "I told you: no."

"Lost your nerve?" Doyle jeered. "Or maybe, yeah, just maybe, you'd rather toss off to a dream than try it for real. Safer, innit?"

"Well, there is that," Bodie said, and Doyle saw with a thrill of fear that Bodie was angry again. "Yeah, there's that all right. You couldn't possibly be as good as I can make you be." Twelve stones of hard, fit fighter seriously annoyed with him, an odd dark fire in his eyes Doyle had never seen before though he recognised it; and here he was deliberately provoking it.

Crazy, Doyle; you're crazy, he told himself: but then, he had always had that in him. The prowl of danger, the spice of perversity; incense of violence: all these things excited him. Bodie began to move, walk around him. Doyle circled as he did, to keep him in view, his hands tight, tight at his sides. He opened his mouth and began to talk.

"Whassamatter, Bodie? Oh, you're just about shittin' yourself, aren't you -- don't you just wish you'd never let it spill to me? Because you're damned right, I never guessed, hid it very well, you did. Casts a new light entirely on all those shared showers: oh, and there was me thinkin' you were just Keen to be Clean."

"Shut up, Doyle," Bodie said, with a soft menace that thrilled him to the core. "And if you're wise, if you've got any intention at all to keep this partnership goin', then you'll drop the whole thing."

Doyle kicked the wooden stool between them out of the way. "And if I'm not?" Bodie stared at him in silence as the stool clattered away. Doyle looked back at him, eyes wide and very clear. "See, Bodie, you know me too well. Every way but one, you know me. And you know I'm not going to let this drop."

"Then we'd better split right now," Bodie said, and he turned for the door.

Christ, he was losing this; had to move fast. Doyle followed him. "There's an alternative."

"What's that? Blasting a fist through your teeth? Don't tempt me, Doyle, I'm seriously considerin' it as it is."

"You could make me pay up."

"I can't see how that would help. In fact," Bodie turned to look at him, and a slow, sarcastic smile slid across his lips, "I may just have lost my appetite. Pretty you may be, but I reckon you'd leave a nasty taste."

Doyle stood his ground. "Like the look of me, do you?" One-handed, he began to undo the buttons of his shirt. "Want to see more?"

"I've seen it before, Doyle. Managed to contain myself in the past."

Doyle grinned, a flash of white teeth. "Yeah, but you won't this time."

Bodie watched the slow play of Doyle's hands on his clothing, letting show an inch of skin here, a whorl of hair.

"I dunno what's the matter with you, Doyle. Born into the wrong profession, you were."

"Ah, come on, Bodie. I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

Bodie smiled back, a smile which clashed vividly with the look in his eyes. "Beats me why you want it, Doyle. You won't like it."

"It's fair, that's why I want it," Doyle said. "It's what we agreed."

But in his secret heart of hearts he knew the truth: that he was looking for the ultimate thrill. The thrill he knew it would be to have Bodie play with him; and more than that and beyond it, the subtler thrills of power play. He could make Bodie do just what he wanted: or maybe, just maybe, he could not.

He stripped, and watched Bodie do the same as he threw himself onto the bed. "Clean, are you?" he asked coolly. "Shower's in there if not."

"Come on, Ray," Bodie said unmoved, "next you'll be asking me to wear a rubber." But the sound of water pattering down followed; Doyle lay where he was, and considered what might happen. His hand lay lightly on his cock, stirring it gently.

The bed dipped beside him and he opened his eyes to look at Bodie; Bodie was not looking at him, but at the errant hand which he slipped his own fingers beneath and lifted gently away. The chance contact set pleasure rippling through Doyle's belly; holding on to Bodie's hand he tried to drag it back down again.

"'Ang on a bit," Bodie said with amusement; Doyle opened his arms with enthusiasm, accepted Bodie into them and gave him a long hard hug. Bodie's skin was still wet, goose bumped. "Want to get in?" he offered, holding back the covers; but Bodie made no move to, looking him over.

Doyle closed his eyes under the inspection; he was excited, ready to be touched. "Come on then, what we gonna do?"

"Just give me time." Bodie traced a finger down his nose, dwelt it on his lips. Doyle nipped it between his teeth.

"Well, come on, Bodie. What do we usually do?"

Bodie's eyes turned opaque; then he laughed, not nicely. "You're a real thinker, aren't you, Doyle. You got it all worked out."

"I thought about it all the time," Doyle said. "Ever since I knew what you wanted."

Bodie considered him pensively. "And you like the idea."

"Yeah," Doyle said.

"But trouble is, Doyle," Bodie said, "the idea's one thing. It's a big step from there to reality."

"Same for you, innit? Worse, maybe. You've had longer to think about it. So, c'mon. Tell me what we get up to in these fantasies of yours." He stared up at Bodie, narrow-eyed and curious.

Bodie said, slowly, "Lie back and think of England, wasn't that what you said? Yeah, sometimes that's what you do. You owe me one and you're paying -- just like this, in fact. You don't want it, but you come round. All my dreams come true." He laughed. "Or maybe it's you who wants it -- desperate for it one night after some bird's left you in the lurch, an' you beg me to step in. Or you might fight me -- not meanin' it, just enough to get us both charged up, y'know -- ?"

He stopped, very abruptly. Doyle, hushed into silence, opened his eyes wide. "You really have gone into this, haven't you."

Bodie shrugged; he had turned distant, his eyes far away.

"What a game," Doyle said, shaking his head, "this double fantasy life I never knew I was leadin'."

"Yeah, what a game," Bodie echoed him softly, and then his eyes, restless, settled on Doyle's face and he smiled at him.

It was a strange smile; curious, dispassionate almost. As if he knew something Doyle did not. Doyle did not find it a comfortable scrutiny this time; but Bodie broke it soon enough, and leaned over him to kiss him. Doyle shut his eyes.

Bodie took his time over it, at first delicate, tender... so that he wanted more, deeper, to summon passion in a blaze. Stars whirled beneath Doyle's eyelids, a vista of erotic possibilities danced before him: his cock burned and lengthened and yearned for the other man's touch, which never came.

He felt the touch of lips at his throat, at his nipple; opened his eyes to see Bodie, unkempt, rakish, beautiful, his hair untidy and his mouth swelled a little from the kissing. Bodie stroked his curls back from his forehead, absorbed in the lie of them. Doyle stretched, languid, under his gaze, and Bodie's attention seemed to snap onto him again.

"That was nice," he said, quietly.

"Yeah," Doyle said, and grinned. Alarmed, however, in the next moment to see Bodie get up, stride across the room and glance out of the window. "Oi. Where you goin'?"

Bodie's body was powerful, richly muscled, biceps bunching unconsciously as he drew the curtain across. He said without turning around: "This isn't going to work, Ray."

Doyle looked askance. "What the hell d'you mean, 'not gonna work'?"

"I mean, that's enough. Consider it done. Debt paid."

"One bloody kiss?"

"It's just not a good idea. You and me -- it would never work out."

"Who's askin' it to?" Doyle tossed into the air. "C'mon, Bodie, don't make such heavy weather of it."

"Someone would get hurt."

Doyle laughed out loud at his partner's intenseness. "Don't be daft. No strings, Bodie... Just you and me comin' on to each other. How could anyone get hurt?"

There was a long silence, and then Bodie said slowly, "You do it without knowing, Ray, it isn't your fault."

Doyle was silent. "Don't worry about it," Bodie added, turning from the window at last. His thighs were muscular, darkly haired. He leaned over to pick up his briefs, stretched them automatically on his hands and stepped into them. Then his shirt, doing it up with quick fingers, straightening each cuff in turn and fastening the wrists.

Doyle propped himself up on his elbows. "Look, Bodie... did I do something wrong?"

Bodie regarded him from the darkness of over-long lashes: and smiled suddenly, a surprisingly sweet smile. "Not a thing, sweetheart, not a thing. It's me, not you." He pulled on his trousers, fastening them firmly. Sat down on the bed, to pull on his socks. All finished, he loomed in over Doyle lying naked, with crossed eyes and a slow, fatuous blink. "So ends our night of passion," he intoned.

But Ray Doyle was very far from being charmed.

"Oh, very nice, Bodie," he said, fierce and low. "You punishin' me for something, or what? First you won't, then you will, now you won't again."

Bodie's eyes hardened. "You'll get over it." He got up.

"Left me very disappointed, you 'ave." His body had caught on by now; it was not going to get what it wanted, and it tingled all over unpleasantly. He dropped his head back on the pillow and stared up at the ceiling. Then, against all expectation, he felt a hand fall onto his raised knee; slip down his thigh to the soft skin beyond, circling a little, stroking him.

His body perked up again and tingled more sweetly. Bodie's voice, when it came, was very low, the macho purr which he used to his girls. "And my beautiful Raymond should never be disappointed."

"Right," Doyle grumbled, but inside he turned light, inhabited by angels; because he knew after all he was going to get what he wanted.





Current girl on Sundays, Fridays; at rest on Tuesdays and Thursdays, thereby leaving Wednesdays free for new conquests; Bodie on Saturdays. This seemed to Ray Doyle an ideal schedule.

And he didn't see why it shouldn't be arranged, either, Bodie being hot for him as he was, and the art of seduction being one of Doyle's strengths. Why, these days he only had to walk across a room stripping his overalls back from his shoulders to get Bodie's full attention; one flirty glance, a look tossed backwards, and Bodie would stand, drawn.

It was worth going for, too; what Bodie had done to him, assured and skilled, had been superb, one of his all-time erotic highs right up there with the girl who had dared to feel him up when they were fifteen; his first night with Kathy Mason (only too clear now why she'd done for him what she had); and a tender night once with a girl he'd loved, when he just could not quite believe that anyone so beautiful would do this ugly thing for him.

He started his campaign on Friday, to give Bodie time to adjust: and invited himself around to supper, bringing a bottle of wine.

All went as planned.

His Saturday affair. What could be better?





PART TWO FLIPSIDE

Panting, Doyle hurtled around the corner and froze with his back to the wall, weapon whipped up and ready. A shot smacked into the brickwork and sprayed him with dust: already he was down flat, rolling, coming up in a crouch. Fighting, for his life, with every breath in his body.

He fired.

The target fell down flat, backwards. Being made of plywood, it rose again with rather less trouble than a human opponent; its crude wooden outline wobbled in the wind.

Doyle lowered his weapon with satisfaction. Around the corner of the building came Cowley, fixing him with an acute eye.

"Not bad, Doyle, not had at all."

Not bad! Bloody brilliant, was Doyle's rating. He adopted an insolent slouch. Cowley looked him over with something less than favour. "My office in twenty minutes, 4.5. Changed."

"Oi!" Doyle called after him, adding an unchastened: "Sir. What did I get?"

A steely glint flashed his way. "A-minus."

"Minus?" Doyle scowled. "Ah, come on, sir, that was an A-plus performance -- wasn't it?"

"Too much time rescuing your partner, Doyle. Bodie can look after himself."

Yeah, and the British Empire.

"Dunno why you need the rest of us at all," he muttered resentfully, but Cowley was well out of earshot. Not that he wouldn't have said it in Cowley's hearing, oh no. Not everyone around here was all yes sir, no sir, three-bags-full-sir the way Bodie was.

And oh-ho, hadn't it just worked. Sun shone out of Bodie's arse where Cowley was concerned.

He squinted up at the cloudless sky, azure. He was so hot, sweating still. His T shirt was wringing wet, the sage of its green darkened to moss in huge patches. He stripped it over his head, the sun drying him as he jogged back towards the Portakabin.

His rescued partner was there already, having a vigorous wash in the sink.

"What d'you get?" Doyle asked him, balling the T-shirt and chucking it.

"What d'you think?" Bodie said smugly.

"My hero," Doyle said coolly.

"Bloody hot out there."

"You know, Bodie, the old man really rates you."

"Are you surprised? Knows a good thing when he sees it." He turned around from the sink, and began to dry his torso. Scowling, Doyle watched the brisk motions, the green towel flying over Bodie's skin. Bodie was humming cheerfully: old man's favourite, bloody A-plus, male beauty to its extreme.

Doyle felt hot, and scratchy, and irritable. "You didn't get overcome by your feelings, then."

"What?" Bodie leaned forward critically, rubbed Doyle's nose with his forefinger. "Sorry, mate, made it worse. Use the mirror."

"Me, I got docked for worrying too much about my partner. Not something you're guilty of, eh?" Doyle regarded him grimly, arms folded.

"Ah, Ray, " Bodie remarked, pulling on a pale blue shirt, "only you know where my true heart lies."

Bodie was lightly sarcastic, Doyle serious and becoming more so, hidden resentments flying up like jackdaws from the corn. "You comin' round tomorrow night?"

"Sorry, sunshine. Got something else on."

"It's Saturday," he said pointedly.

"I know that, mate," Bodie said patiently. "Got me CI5 diary, just the same as you 'ave.

"Ah, come on, Bodie. Got a nice steak to tempt you with," Doyle offered off the top of his head.

"Promise anything, you will. Then when I get there all there'll be is a mouldy loaf and half a cold sausage." Bodie loomed in and winked at him. "I know you, Doyle."

Unamused, Doyle stared at him. "What's the matter with you? Doesn't seem long since you were keen enough to come."

Bodie shrugged. "Well, where I'm keen to go now is Cowley's office, because that's where we're due." He pushed himself past Doyle without looking at him. Doyle's expression remained unsweet. He dragged a clean T-shirt on over his unclean skin and went after him.

"So you're not coming, then. Saturday."

"I told you," Bodie said, irritated. "No."

"Playing so hard to get, Bodie, aren't you," Doyle jeered.

"No," Bodie said mildly, "I've just got something else on."

Doyle took two extra strides to dance in front of Bodie and confront him, going backwards fast.

"Do you know how many weeks it's been?"

"Shut up, Ray," Bodie muttered; they were approaching the little cluster of agents waiting outside Cowley's temporary office. "Jax looks fed-up; he must have blown it. Anson's smilin', though -- watch out."

"Bodie." Doyle planted himself and glared.

But Bodie just shoved him aside, joined the rabble without another glance at him.





But it wasn't that easy.

It was eleven, later, and Bodie loitered at Doyle's door, and could not decide.

What the hell am I doing here?

A pale moon shone; blown by a southerly wind clouds scudded across the sky and would not stay to make pictures: no omens there to help him.

He had done the right thing yesterday, held Doyle off; and to go back on it would be madness. The man was a leech, greedy for it all, uncaring of his host's decline.

So what point was there in letting himself listen to something which had been, at best, an echo; a long-ago dream which contemptuous reality had forced into the dust?

No point at all.

A sure man, confident in himself and unused to indecision, he stood there for too long. A discreet cough behind him made him act, more to show he was not lingering suspiciously than anything; he had a key to Doyle's flat and used it.

Inside all was quiet, very quiet. One glass on the drainer: all the plates on the rack. The bedroom was in darkness, but the air had that warm scent of occupancy; and Bodie heard as he came to the bedside the sound of light, even breathing.

Until that moment there had been nothing to it; he could as easily have slipped away and out into the dark again. But the moment passed, and it was too late; Doyle, always a sensitive sleeper, shifted in the bed and rolled onto his back.

Eyes flicked open, dark in the absence of light, and Bodie tensed, in case he would dive instinctively for his gun.

"What you doin' 'ere?" Doyle said indistinctly, but he was already moving over. The decision, for now, was out of his hands. Bodie began to undress, and slid under the duvet without saying a word. His hands reached out for the other man's body; they knew him, and the pattern of his responses, better than they had ever known anyone's. Doyle sighed and lay still for him. They made love with all the fierceness and sweetness of a farewell; and yet Bodie had not meant it that way, had meant to keep it from Doyle a little longer.

Afterwards Doyle lay open-eyed in the dark, loosely in his arms.

He had not spoken at all since the beginning; unusual for Doyle who fired off prayers and promises in the heat of the moment, along with hints as to his lust's current demands. None of that. Silence.

Bodie was almost asleep when at last Doyle's voice filtered out of the dark, but then he came awake immediately.

"Is it a girl?"

"Yes," Bodie answered him, and it was easy, after all.

He heard the swathe of Doyle's huge sigh cut a chill between them; the winds of change.

"It's serious then?"

"Yeah."

Doyle felt stupid with disbelief; as if something massive had slammed against his mind and stunned it.

"How serious?"

"Let's say exclusive," Bodie said starkly: there really was no kinder way.

Doyle stared at him. "Do I know her?"

"Nope."

Doyle made a vague gesture. "Well. What can I -- ?" He glanced at the bedside, hack to Bodie again. Under the duvet their feet touched briefly and moved apart. "Well, good for you, mate," he said with an obvious effort. "Congratulations. I never thought -- Well."

Bodie thought, No, you never did. "You want a cup of tea or something?" he offered, stupidly.

"Yeah, that'd be -- "

Bodie pulled on his clothes and went out to the kitchen, winced as the bright light went on; put the kettle on, began arranging cups. His knees felt weak. Tea. He threw off lids. Here. He heard Doyle behind him.

"Sugar?"

"You know I do."

"Oh yeah."

What else. Milk. In the fridge -- ?

"When did you meet her?"

"Few weeks ago."

"You never said."

"Didn't know then it was going to be -- "

"So that's it then." In Doyle's soft, deceptive voice Bodie heard it: the first trace of anger, rising like heat through a storm. "Backs against the wall time, and I'm the first to go."

Bodie spooned tea desperately. "Well -- you know, Ray -- it just wouldn't -- "

"Oh no, I can see it wouldn't. Don't want any little bedroom secrets hanging around now Miss Right's turned up, do you?"

The kettle screeched, making Bodie jump. With shaking fingers -- ridiculous -- he poured it onto the tea in the cups. A scummy mess of leaves rose to the top: undrinkable. He threw it, steaming, down the sink and began to start again.

"Don't bother," Doyle said huskily. "Tea and sympathy's likely to make me vomit at the moment."

The man's precious semen was at this moment cooling on his belly. Desperate, Bodie turned.

"Ray, don't be like this." Though he had known he would be.

"Don't be upset, you mean? Oh, that's a laugh."

"I thought you might even be -- relieved."

Doyle's eyes searched out his, dangerously. "Oh yeah. That's a good one. And just how'd you work that out, then?"

Doyle was so pale, delicate skin and looks for a man in some lights; yet brutish in others, and he was as tough as they came. Bodie took a deep breath, and said valiantly: "Look, Ray... We both know I had a bit of a thing about you one time. Now you don't have to worry any more." Stupid that: he nearly laughed with nerves and irony. Ray had never shown any signs of worrying; that was half the trouble, or all of it. Take what I can get, that was old Ray's determined policy: and Bodie had to admire it. In fact, he shared it.

"So, that's it," Doyle said. He folded his arms and leaned against a cupboard. "Not got a thing about me any more."

"You grow up, Ray. You change."

He was trying, quite desperately as it happened, to work his way through this with the least possible hurt for both of them; but he never had expected it to be easy. Doyle had his pride. Not only that, but he was quite and unreservedly unused to rejection.

"And now you're on your way. To a more grown-up relationship: is that it?"

"Ray, I'd better go." And he was on the move. But Doyle was there snapping at his heels, hounding him.

"Grown up so much you left me behind, have you, Bodie?"

Bodie turned around then, painful, angry. "Ray, you never wanted me. Don't -- "

"Don't what?" Shockingly, Bodie saw tears standing out in the proud green glitter of his eyes; but then Doyle had always come by tears easily, not for him the bitter, inward struggle. Bodie kept on, with dogged persistence.

" -- Don't make more of it than it was. I don't kid myself, Ray, I never did. You liked having me around, good old Bodie handy for a quick thrill once a week, didn't even have to buy me dinner first. And that was it, Doyle. That was all there was to it." Dammit, dammit; and he had meant to be so cool.

"I'm goin', Ray. You're angry, and I -- look. Everything'll be the same. We'll still be friends."

"Oh yeah?" Doyle said bitterly, and Bodie reached blindly for the door. He was grabbed from behind.

Tense with anger, ready to fight, Bodie turned but Doyle's mood had changed. He shook his head, lifted both hands in a gesture of surrender, steadying himself with an obvious effort.

"Hell, Bodie... I'm sorry. Here you are tellin' me this, and I should be wishin' you the best, and instead here I am -- sorry. I'm sorry, mate."

As with all Doyle's moods it had the virtue of sincerity. Bodie gave him a cool nod, not trusting himself to speak.

"I'll see you in the mornin'," Doyle called after him, and Bodie made his escape.





"What's her name, then?" Doyle said, amiably enough. He was fiddling in the glove pocket, looking for something.

"Sally-Ann," Bodie said.

"Where'd you meet her?"

"Paul Ives' party."

Doyle frowned and extracted a packet of mints, shutting the pocket with a snap. "I didn't see you with a bird there."

"Probably because you left with Melissa from Accounts before 9 p.m."

Doyle sucked in his cheeks and popped in a Polo. "Did I? Yeah, maybe I did. Is she pretty?"

"What do you think?"

"Yeah," Doyle decided, "she's pretty."

"You comin' out for a drink tonight?" Bodie said, more to change the subject than anything; in the silence he sensed Doyle's surprise. "Look, I didn't say I was goin' into purdah, Doyle. Just -- "

Doyle rocked backwards in his seat. "Just. Yeah. I understand. So she'll let you have a drink with me, this Sally-Ann of yours, will she?"

Bodie did not bother to reply.

"Do I get to meet her?"

"Course." Bodie shrugged.

"You plannin' on marrying her?" Doyle was abrupt, looking not at Bodie but his own hand, clutching the dashboard as they took a fast corner.

"I dunno."

"Don't hold out on me."

"I'm not. Just haven't looked that far ahead."

Doyle's moods were erratic; he had, to all appearances, settled, adopted this air of semi-polite interest: yet every now and then something else would flare up through the calm. Bodie could see that hell, whatever he tried to do or say, lay on the horizon.

"Would she have you?" Doyle said, and chuckled suddenly, breaking it off at once. "Does she know you snore -- ? What your breath's like first thing in the morning?" He reached out and patted Bodie's knee solemnly. "Only joking, old son. Only jokin'."

"What time tonight, then?" Bodie said, dogged, resolute.

"What -- ? Oh, time. Say eight? Dog and Duck? -- Does she know about your thing for leather?"

"Knock it off, Ray." Bodie let fly, goaded out of all patience. "D'you wanna walk home?"

Doyle twisted to look at the sign they were passing. "Not from 'ere, no. Sorry, mate. Didn't know you were so sensitive."

Catching a glimpse of his profile, Bodie saw something beyond malice: a calmness, clear as glass over water, and a chill rippled through him, to the very bone.

He drove on, to Doyle's flat.



8.10 p.m. Doyle downed lager with a cheerful disregard far the Government's Recommended Safe Drinking Levels, and was much his usual self for a while. Bodie began to be lulled; worse, he caught himself eyeing the eggshell skin at Doyle's temples, the dusky points of his nipples through his thin shirt, the line of his thigh in blue jeans as he leaned to help himself from a packet of crisps open on the table. And his eyes: Doyle had particularly lucid eyes, wide and so clear you felt you could see right through to the heart of him; misleading.

And tonight he could see that Doyle was not going to let it rest: clearly it tormented him like a harrowing ache he could not ignore.

" -- brunette, blonde, redhead?"

"Dark."

"Eyes?"

"Blue."

"Mmm." Doyle made a little, considering face. "Small, tall, fat?"

"Tallish. Well-built."

Now Doyle laughed. "Bodie, she sounds just like you. Narcissus meets his match, eh?" He took a drink of his beer, smacked his lips, shaking his head. "You wanna watch it, mate. She could be a sister. One your mum didn't tell you about, by-blow from the milkman or summat. Happens all the time."

The pub was one of their regulars; on certain summer's nights Bodie had decided that it was a good place for him, a happy place: they had had some good times, in here. Eat at Ray's flat, or his own maybe, then come on here for a pint or two, sit outside on the pavement under a parasol, talk of nothing, or not at all. Relaxed, no need to begin the hunt; because they were going home.

Tonight, when outside it was cold, the harsh lights shone on dark green Victorian tiles like a public lavatory; the little booths were filling up fast and the air was blue with smoke. The jukebox played a sentimental song of longing; and tonight they would be going home alone.

"It was just like this," Doyle sang, lashes downcast as he studied his pint, "behind the kisses you so soon swept away -- " He caught Bodie's eyes on him, stopped abruptly. "Ah, 's bloody rubbish, this. Never get any decent music in 'ere. Have one of these." Doyle fished in his pocket and slapped .two cigars on the table; huge brown things, torpedoes. Bodie stared at them. "Since we're celebratin'." Doyle stuffed one between his own pursed lips and flicked a lighter like a pro.

"Cigars are for a birth, Doyle." But he took it up with something like alacrity; the dulling of alcohol was making him lazy and unwise, when he had to keep sharp. He poised the tip over Doyle's proffered flame, dragging in a dizzying burst of nicotine, felt nausea for a moment, then forgot it in the glory of the rush to his brain.

"Well, that'll be next, Bodie. Want kids, does she?" Again Doyle took a deep suck on his cigar, eyes wide and cool; he removed it swiftly and blew out a thin fast stream of smoke.

"Haven't asked."

He wanted to get Doyle off the subject, pass on and away from it once and for all; and yet he knew sinkingly that Doyle, eyes bright and set and wild, was going to thrash it out till it died a screaming death: and sure enough it came.

"Good in bed, is she?"

Bodie gave him a cold and quelling stare, and swallowed beer. "Isn't like you to be nosy, Ray."

Cooler still, Doyle faced him out. "Ah, c'mon. You can tell me. We always have."

"This is different."

"Oh yeah. I forgot. Exclusive, didn't you say." He picked up the glasses. "Same again?" Without waiting for a reply he was off, threading his way through hordes: the pub was opposite a theatre, one of the reasons they had liked it, watching toffs and tourists all with a common purpose, getting a few in before the arid stretch between curtain-up and interval. Bodie breathed out, carefully, and relaxed the tense muscles of rib and chest. He kept on smoking. It seemed to help.

A few minutes passed before Doyle was back with two brimming pints. Sitting down he drained about half of his in one go. Bodie knew better than to comment. Saturdays, it had been their custom to drink a fair bit: relaxed the inhibitions wonderfully, and there had been one night when Doyle had wanted him to --

Bodie stubbed out the cigar in the tin ashtray with swift, jabbing motions.

Doyle watched him. He was wearing a short brown leather blouson which suited his angel-hustler's looks to perfection: so soft it didn't creak when he moved. Had style, old Doyle. Everything he wore looked good. His eyes, vast and greyish-green, had a dark ring around the pupil, his mouth was pretty. Bodie watched him, and did not smile, and lifted his glass.

Doyle's cheek creased; a flash of a chuckle. "What's the matter, Bodie -- don't like the taste?" He thrust his glass to Bodie's, clinked it hard. "To you. And your lady. Congratulations."

"Save 'em till they're needed: I told you, nothing's settled."

Doyle made a dismissive face. He seemed constantly amused, by some joke Bodie did not see. "A small detail. Because you're pretty damn serious about her, aren't you." The joke fled; ice sheered across. It was coming. "Serious enough to break this up?"

Here it was. "Break what up?" Bodie asked neutrally, looking across the table, not precisely at Doyle; instead, he kept him in the fringes of his vision.

Doyle leaned nearer him. "Us."

"Us. What, you mean the quick screw we used to have of a Saturday? Oh dear, Doyle, and you will miss it, won't you. Shall I give you some numbers to call?"

Doyle just stared at him, the cigar smoked down to the last wet, chewed inch. He pinched it, redly glowing, between his fingers.

"Nothing else will change, I promise you," Bodie said quickly, urgently. "Still partners. Still friends."

Friends! He nearly laughed as he said it. He got on better with Murph than Doyle when it came down to it; and Doyle was a loner, who didn't seem to need friends. People to knock around with, yes. To open his heart to, no.

Doyle flicked the stub into the ashtray where it lay across Bodie's, and shed glowing ash for a while. "Why are you doing this, Bodie?"

Bodie stared at him. "You know why."

"Wasn't I good with you?" Doyle asked with a kind of introspective hatred.

Good? -- startled into nostalgia, Bodie remembered the sight of him, the look in his eyes as he drew closer, the scent of his skin. A glow chased the chill in his belly away; he was conscious that he had flushed.

"Of course you were -- " he dropped his voice " -- good. We were good together."

"Not good enough, obviously," Doyle said viciously. He drained his glass.

"Look, the sex was great. You know it was."

Doyle lifted his chin, stared him full in the face. "Not always."

"It was great, Doyle," Bodie insisted. Their voices, keeping low beneath the babble, were beginning to raise: they'd have to leave. The slanging match was coming next, and he'd just prefer not to have it all dragged out here: though the playgoers, no doubt, would find the secrets of their bedroom more compelling than Act One of Daisy Pulls It Off.

Doyle gave him a very deliberate glance.

"I know you wanted to lay me. And I never let you."

Bodie set down his glass on the table and looked around casually. No-one seemed to be looking their way, but he sensed a certain stillness here and there. "Let's go."

"But I was working up to it, I swear it, Bodie."

Not that it mattered. But Bodie felt a shiver pass down his spine. As he led the way out, he felt Doyle's murmur against his ear: "I'd've let you if I'd've known it was that important to you."

"It wasn't. Shut up about it."

"I reckon it was," Doyle persisted. "Reckon it must have been."

The door swung open and then shut behind them; and they were out in the cool night air. The car was nearby, down a side-street. A large white square was fixed to the windscreen, firmly taped on all sides with Sellotape.

"Bloody ticket!" Bodie exclaimed, incensed. He strode around to the front of the car and tore the offending object off. "Christ, how do they expect you to get around these days?"

Doyle stayed by the passenger door, tapping his fingers on the roof. "Beam us up, Scotty," he said.

"I'm not paying it," Bodie decided, unlocking the door and hurling the ticket onto the back seat. "Take a Kalashnikov round there if I have to, but I -- am -- not -- paying a bloody parking fine. Fuck it, Doyle, I know some of those guys and I'm not paying it."

"Not above the law," Doyle intoned, "inside it."

"Yeah, well we deserve some bloody perks. Apart, of course, from the enhanced life insurance in case we die in the line of duty."

Doyle cackled. "And who collects that? Not us."

"I'll drop you off at your place," Bodie said abruptly.

"You goin' on to Aunt Sally's?"

Bodie didn't answer; put the car into gear and drove off.

"All right then," Doyle said, examining his fingernails, "we'll talk 'ere. Okay, so I never let you fuck me. Sucked you off though, didn't I?"

Bodie jolted violently in his seat. "Christ, Ray." Hadn't seen that coming.

"Remember?"

Himself lying down in a darkened room, too tense to enjoy it lest Doyle throw up or something: fear in his belly, Doyle's mouth --

Bodie said, spurred by Doyle's bitterness into his own, "Yeah, and you hated it. You made that very clear."

"Never let me get close enough to try again, did you?"

Bodie's smile was gay and violent. "Can't force a man to eat against his religion."

"I suppose Aunt Sally sucks like a sword swallower."

"Ray, change the tune will you? Give it a bloody rest."

Although Bodie had pulled up outside his flat, Doyle made no move to get out. The engine cut: the lights from the dashboard died. Doyle half-turned to face him, and his eyes were glittering points of light.

"Okay, so I wasn't good enough. Didn't fuck, didn't suck. I thought you seemed 'appy enough, at the time."

"I was. Look, Ray," Bodie said, with desperate reason, "you're not being very gracious about this... dammit, when it was you with the Holly woman I backed off, let you run."

"Yeah, but you still came round Saturday night."

"It was Friday that week," Bodie said, dragged into bitter memory. "She couldn't make it, so you wanted me to instead." And it had been one of the best nights; tinged, perhaps, with the knowledge it would end. Ray wild, fighting like a tiger, all claws and teeth; and soft, soft lips as he succumbed.

And he knew what was coming next. Shut up Doyle, shut up, shut up.

Doyle fidgeted, and stared out of the window. "Is it because of that night I made you -- "

"No," Bodie said harshly, pushing the steering wheel with the palm of his hand. "It wasn't because of that. You wanted it and I did it."

Now Bodie was angry Doyle was calm, staring at him with cool eyes. "But you thought I was sick to like it."

"No, I didn't." Sick? Doyle had been beautiful, caught on an extremity of pleasure, quivering; Bodie had loved him more, and deeper, at that moment than he had ever done. Still, it was not an easy memory, laced with guilt and tension; Bodie leaned his arm on the steering wheel and his head on his arm, and wished for this to be over. Doyle watched him, with cold appraising eyes.

"Don't suppose Aunt Sally'll want any of that kinky stuff. Strictly up-and-down missionary stuff for you from now on." He laughed. "Maybe a blow-job on your birthday if you're lucky." He reached out, flipped Bodie on the arm. "Hey, pity, innit? Pity your birthday never fell on a Saturday, all the years we been at it."

Bodie resisted with great and complex difficulty the urge to hit him, either with physical force or a bitter barrage of rhetoric.

"I told you: will you listen? Look, get it out of your head once and for all, forever, dammit, that this has got anything to do with anything we did, or didn't, do in bed."

Doyle was silent; then he laughed. "Hasn't it? What is it, then, she cook a better lasagne than me?"

"Ray," Bodie said in despair, because he had never got this across before and never would now: "the sex was great. I never in my life got so high as I did with you. Especially on that night, believe it or not. " And at this peculiar moment, of all things he wanted nothing more than to take Ray into his arms, because he was brave, fighting on with that terrible bright courage: such despair, beneath the rage.

Of all things...

He said, struggling on with his own battle: "But -- I need more than that, Ray: there comes a time when -- it just isn't enough. You do know what I mean. It's time for us to move on, that's all. Try and find something -- that'll last."

Doyle's eyes engaged his boldly, dangerously. "And that's what you've done, is it? Oh, a quick worker."

"I'm trying, that's all I can say."

"And that's it, then," Doyle said, and he laughed unpleasantly. "End of ride: you want me to get out of the car."

Bodie let out a long, long, slow breath. "Yeah."

"All right. I' m going."

But he didn't stir: moved by something probably unwise Bodie leaned over and kissed his mouth.

He discovered that it was all a myth put about by the anti-smoking lobby; the smokiness lingering about Doyle tasted nothing but exotic. His pulse raced and his heart hammered and he took Doyle's tongue in his mouth with a tenderness he had thought beyond them. But that was all; because it was over. Ended.

And that sleepless night there came to Bodie words whose source he had forgotten but which rang in his mind over and over: We have done those things which we ought not to have done, and left undone those things which we ought to have done. And there is no health in us.





Doyle paced around, spun on one foot, began to whistle. Bodie's flat was military neat -- just as usual, Bodie kept it that way. No little feminising touches -- no bunch of flowers on the dining table, no pretty little bottles in the bathroom, just Bodie's usual array of manly toiletries. Doyle used to share them, on the occasions when he had stayed the night.

He wasn't meaning to pry. Bodie was supposed to meet him here and Bodie was late, it was as simple as that. Uneasy looking around as he once had never been, Doyle sank into a striped armchair and eyed the files he had brought, without enthusiasm. Couldn't be bothered. Let Bodie get stuck into 'em.

His eyes flicked up to the mantlepiece, automatically scanned the poster of naked girls in suspenders Bodie had there; now that would have to go once Little Miss Prim got herself installed. Firm and strong like a games' mistress, that was how Doyle saw her; fed on milk and butter and clean Irish air.

His gaze travelled on, around the room. Something had changed, but what it was --

His eyelids creased in a sudden frown. Goddammit, the bastard had --

He jumped to his feet to confirm his guess; it took only a selective glance around to see what Bodie had done.

Yeah: the photo which lived on the mantlepiece of Bodie, Doyle beside him, holding the CI5 pairs shooting trophy, both of them sweaty and grinning and muddy. Gone. The little beer mug beside it, the one he'd presented to Bodie after winning it at the fair shooting ducks with an air rifle: Forever Yours, it said. Gone. The programme for the Albert Hall concert he'd dragged Bodie to once -- all classical lollipops, Rossini, Vivaldi, the Water Music.

"Oh yeah, I know this," Bodie'd announced loudly, and crunched on a nut chocolate. "Andrex loo rolls, innit?"

Gone. Torn up and chucked in the bin, most likely. Like their relationship.

But they weren't in the bin: Doyle checked, rifling the flat like the expert he was, lifting everything then settling it so it seemed untouched. He found them, finally, in Bodie's desk, shoved into a side drawer: all the little things, valueless, memorabilia of things only the two of them would know about, or care.

For example: a huge and useless pencil brightly adorned with animal pictures; the little plastic grinning camel. What d you call a camel with three humps? -- dunno, a -- lemme see, not a dromedary, a tertiary? Nope. Humphrey. Not funny, Bodie, not funny. Yet they had fallen to the floor laughing.

Doyle closed Humphrey in his hand and remembered too well: a hot day, a haze in the air, a visit to Regent's Park for the zoo. A stupid idea, of course; very many of Bodie's ideas for leisure were stupid, paintgun battles for example, a day at Alton Towers riding the worst and the nastiest: but the strange thing was that Doyle always enjoyed himself as never before, put CI5 behind him whatever the latest deadly news, on a high of excitement only Bodie's particular outlook inspired in him: Bodie didn't see anything immature about playing the games of children when they had graduated, too soon and too much, as men.

The zoo...

... had been a perfect day; warm sun on their backs, families and kids milling all around them, a thrill in the air. Rude comments about the blue-bottomed monkeys, egg sandwiches at a picnic table. They had ridden in the llama-cart eating ice-cream in a cone; Doyle had perched for a circuit on a camel, but Bodie refused, claiming exemption as the photographer. Doyle's camel-ride remained, however, unpreserved on celluloid; Bodie had been convulsed with laughter as he returned with great dignity, and quite unable to stand, much less speak.

They had been so happy. Doyle could taste the echoes of it now, felt the sun on his skin, the warmth of Bodie's smile; the arm slung around his back as the cart jolted and children screamed. And the night still to come.

Here were the remnants of the day: the happiness folded in on it and crammed into a drawer.

Doyle knelt where he was, and considered what he had lost: because he knew now that he had lost it. In Bodie he had had it all, or as good as he was likely to get: companion, lover, friend; and now he had blown it, and that was that.

Well, of course. Of course he had taken Bodie for granted, because he had never had any reason not to: Bodie was always there. Secure of his place (first) in Bodie's heart, and always, always finely conscious that he was doling out favours: just fancy, how funny, he had never seen the moment when the tables had turned.

And now it was too late. Bodie was breaking away, and it was always too late to rewind your life and stop it at some crossroads: that day at the zoo, perhaps, when he should have turned in the crook of Bodie's arm, and said -- something. Some litany to set the locks on Bodie's heart. He could have done it. He knew he could: at that time Bodie had been his for the asking.

After a while he rose to his feet: there was no point in brooding. A handful of paper and plastic, after all. He left them there.

Wandered back to the living-room. The files were waiting. It was an unpleasant case. Did Susan Cheng, the personable drug-dealer, know what she'd been doing when she sold the very young and now very dead girl two grams of heroin laced with caustic soda -- ? or was she simply part of a longer and more sinister chain? Because the young girl's father was a highly-placed Tory minister and there was going to be one hell of a stink.

Doyle, an expert in drugs and people's various twists on unscrupulousness in the face of profit, put the file down, yawned. Maybe Bodie would have some insight, spot some linking factor. He himself did not have the heart for it right now.

Where the hell was Bodie?

He got up and wandered round again, scratching one armpit, staring out of the window. No pretty views here. Just London chimney pots. Still, they had their own charm.

His restless feet took him to the bedroom; standing in the doorway he looked at the bed, its duvet neatly, freshly laid. It looked different in the daylight. He had always taken the pillows to be white; now he saw they were in fact pale blue. Just a detail, but it hurt him unaccountably: even his memories were false. And would grow falser, no doubt: nothing fades so quickly as reality.

How long, for instance, since Bodie had lain here with him, and for the first time realised that the magic had gone?

"1 used to have a bit of a thing about you... "

Had Bodie been relieved to find the longing purged?

And how had he kept that disenchantment from his partner...

Doyle positively shivered, thinking of Bodie; here with him a thousand times in the night, dark and tender fire between them. Bodie going with his whims, gentle or rough as Doyle pleased: Doyle the capricious one, the attention-seeker. But of all things, he had never for one moment guessed that Bodie was tiring.

And not when he himself was growing into it, like a pair of old shoes that you did not feel on your feet, so right for you that you began to want nothing else.

Well. That was life, and no mistake.

Nothing so dead as an old love, so they said.

Bodie was right: it was time to move on.

He left the room, and just in time too, because Bodie was there at the door, he heard the key turn. He slouched in the kitchen door-arch and watched him heft in groceries with a hard eye.

"You're late."

Bodie shrugged. "Stopped off for a few things." He handed Doyle a laden carrier. "Ta." Larger than life, cheerful and handsome in black leather jacket and cords, Bodie smelt of crisp autumn air; he unpacked provisions rapidly and stacked them on the kitchen table in three piles - Freezer (peas, ice-cream cake), Fridge (cheese, eggs), Cupboard (beans, bleach and toilet paper).

There was also a double pack of boneless chicken breasts, a pallid sight so untypical of Bodie's roast beef tastes that Doyle stared at it.

"Sally-up-your-alley coming to dinner tonight, is she?"

"Yep." Bodie had ceased to be fazed in the face of Doyle's rudeness, remained calm in the face of all things. "Shove that in the fridge door, will you?"

A bottle of wine -- white. Doyle stuffed it into the fridge next to the apple juice: revolting stuff. They both loathed it. He stared at it with dislike, a knocking sensation in his stomach. Gradually, she was seeping into every corner of Bodie's life, taking it over from within.

You know, he had never quite believed in her. Until this.

Unsettled, Doyle felt the pangs of homesickness, as if he did not belong here and should be getting home; a trespasser suffered by Bodie to encroach on the territory that was Sally-Ann's. Soon Bodie would be looking covertly at his watch, hoping he would be gone in time.

He straightened. "Better go," and he went.

Bodie caught him by the arm before he'd gone two paces. "Oi, you," he said good-humouredly. "Files -- ?"

"You read the bloody things," Doyle snapped.

"Cowley wanted us both to read 'em." His gaze, inexorable, crept over Doyle's face. "You okay?"

Doyle glared at him. "Of course I'm bloodywell okay. You can see I'm okay. Two arms, two legs. Upright."

"Look as if you're getting a cold."

"Ah, sod off, Bodie," Doyle hurled at him, and the moment was far more intense than it should have been.

Two beats of silence: Bodie stared at him, dark eyebrows arched in a quizzical line. "All right, Ray." Doyle shouldered past him again, making brutishly for the door. "I just want to say, before you dash off as if your tail's on fire, why not drop in later on? !f you're passing. Come in, say hello. About time you met her, isn't it?"

Doyle took a deep breath, kicked one foot against the ground. "No," he said.

"Ah, come on," Bodie said, mildly enough. "Only got enough for two or you could stay. But join us for the pud, eh?"

Doyle's gaze fixed on him with as much insolence as he could muster. "No thanks. Can't stand gateau, it cloys. You two lovebirds enjoy it together."

And for the second time he was off, heading for the door. Behind him, Bodie said: "Look. We've got to talk, Ray."

"What is it, Bodie, you want me as bridesmaid?" Doyle drawled through gritted teeth. "Sorry, mate, all that orange blossom makes me sneeze."

"What's the matter with you?"

Doyle froze where he stood, his head cocked in disbelief.

"All right, all right. I do know what the bloody matter is... " Bodie's tone took on a sharp note of mockery: "Poor old Ray, given the elbow, and you think I should be a damn sight more sensitive about it. But the truth is, Ray," he took a step forward, grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him, "you're not jealous. Oh no. What you are is -- piqued." Bodie's eyes bored into his, a dark-blue glaze. "Because you think you're so damned pretty it should be you calling the shots: you signin' the start date and pulling the ripcord at the end. I got there first, and you don't like that one little bit. But," he moved in closer, touched Doyle's cheek, brushed back the curls over his ear, savage and tender, "believe me. You'll get over it."

Doyle threw back his head and laughed. "Find myself a nice girl?"

Bodie stopped touching him then, turned away. His voice sounded weary suddenly, a little dispirited. "Don't think it's been easy, Ray, because it hasn't."

Despite his self-preoccupation Doyle heard a real, untold story there: beneath the quietness and the calm, the chaos of a struggle he would never know about. But his own bitterness carried him on: "What wasn't easy? Droppin' me -- or having to bed me when urge went cold on you?"

Bodie swung round and looked at him, unfathomable.

"Urge never went cold on me, Doyle. Don't put yourself down for the sake of it."

But Doyle would: it was one of his things. Turned too easily onto a track of self-pity, did Ray Doyle; sludged along in the Despond with his head down, feeling unworthy on a cosmic scale.

Until he bounced back again, all his perky male pride restored by a good night's sleep.

Doyle said, with unpleasant calm, "I wanna know when you realised."

"Realised what?"

"You didn't fancy me any more."

Bodie made a helpless gesture, exasperated. "It wasn't like that." He gazed at Doyle. "The whole thing was going nowhere, Doyle. We had to split up; give us a chance to find, I dunno, something else. Something which might -- grow a bit; you -- " he fell silent, looking askance. "You were too close to me. I couldn't see past you..."

"Goin' nowhere?" Doyle said, fast, snapping it out. "How did you feel when I met Ann, Bodie? Relieved?"

Bodie stood his ground in the face of all that furious energy, flying sparks.

"I was wiped out," he said simply.

There was a little silence. Somewhere a clock was chiming; the same one Doyle had often heard from Bodie's bed, counting out the hours before dawn.

All his anger focussed; he exploded. "But you -- 'got over it' . Got any tips for me, Bodie. Meditation help? Running? C'mon, Bodie, get me through this."

Bodie was shaking him now, hard and fast. "Shut up, Ray. Shut up. It wasn't the same, can't you understand that? I -- " he looked, unflinching, into Doyle's eyes " -- loved you, for chrissake." Deep breath. "You knew it was more than a quick tumble for me, right from the start you knew that. Christ!" He threw back his head and laughed, bitterly. "I thought it was my lucky day that first time, when you lay down for me and let me do it. Like fallin' into heaven when you didn't know you'd died." His eyes trailed consideringly over Doyle's battered, tough face. "So beautiful, aren't you, every now and then? But it wasn't the same for you, and I never kidded myself. Just marginally better than a solo flight, far as you were concerned, isn't that right, Ray?"

Now it was Doyle who was calm, as he stood still and Bodie's squeezing hands hurt him; he stared back with eyes of stone. "You never asked me."

"Asked you what?" Bodie said with a kind of anguish; his thumbs pressed hard into Doyle's biceps, springing bruises to the fore, yet he did not seem aware that he was touching the other man. Doyle never moved.

"Making some pretty broad assumptions, aren't you? How d'you know, how are you so damn sure, it wasn't more than that for me too? Because you sure as hell didn't have a quorum on it, Bodie, whatever happened to democracy?" Savage and mocking, his lip curled. "Have to get rid of old Ray, won't I, he's standing between me and something real."

The doorbell rang.

"I love you, you pillock," Doyle said, eyes wide and clear.

Bodie hit him.

Light as he was and not expecting it, the weight of Bodie's fist knocked him flying across the kitchen; he crashed into the cupboards, slid down to the floor, jarring his back, his spine, his coccyx. Stars danced before his eyes and his head rang with explosions of pain. A warm wet salt stuff filled his mouth and Ray Doyle swallowed blood.

Through a film of fog he could see Bodie standing there. He spat, wiped his mouth with his hand. A wide red smear ran from his wrist to his knuckles. Gingerly, he dabbled his tongue against his lip. Split. Welling.

The doorbell rang again, excited and insistent.

"Be'er ge' that, 'adn't you?" he said thickly, and without a word Bodie left him. Very, very carefully, Doyle eased himself to his feet, his face twisting through a variety of expressions. His back hurt and his elbow stung fiercely; he pulled it around to examine it. Raw. Sick to the stomach he bent over the sink and ran cold, cold water, dowsing his face thoroughly. Voices behind him: grabbing a tea towel and pressing it to his lip, he turned. And there she was.

A dark girl with dimples, red blouse and skirt, blue eyes dwelling doubtfully on him from the doorway.

"It's all right," Bodie said easily, behind her. "It's only Ray. He won't bite."

"Can't, as of now," Doyle said through the tea towel; christ, everything hurt.

"Has there been an accident?" she asked him forthrightly; pretty, yes, she was almost as he'd imagined her but more vivid. Her scent filled the room as she moved: Opium. Bodie liked Opium. He'd almost considered buying some himself: who'd care? Call it perfume, aftershave, as you would, it was all just sexless scent.

"He walked into a door," Bodie was saying smoothly. "Very careless, Ray." And the smile which shot his way was dangerous, a knife in the glare of the sun.

Ray Doyle looked into the hard dark eyes of his partner, and began to laugh. "Oh, ho-ho; I can see this is going to be a relationship founded on mutual trust." He chucked the streaked tea towel to the floor and pushed past them, one fist punched into the air. "Honesty Rules, O.K."

He turned at the last moment and stuck out a hand. "Excuse me. Very remiss of me. Ray Doyle." He shook her hand then dropped it. "Nice to meet you. I'll leave you to it."

"That lip looks -- " she said, peering, and he ducked away from her gaze. As he did so a splash of blood dropped to the parquet floor, and then another.

"Sorry," Doyle said to no-one in particular, and dived back to the sink. Dammit: now his nose was bleeding. No chance now of a fast exit; not knowing whether to laugh or to cry he stood there, head down, and watched the blood splatter wetly and redly onto the stainless steel.

"He'd be better off putting his head back," Sally-Ann was saying behind him just as Bodie said, tentatively, "Ray," very close to him.

"Oh, fuck off," he snapped, past caring, on edge, right on the very edge; every facial extremity throbbed with an ache like an unburst boil, and then there was the little matter of his nosebleed: on and on it went.

"Here." Another towel was pressed into his hand. He rinsed the bright blood away, swirling down the drainhole. He was beginning to feel dizzy.

"Sit down," the girl was saying, quiet and insistent.

"Just leave me alone," he said without turning, "do you mind?"

At last, at last, they left, and he was free to concentrate on the various indignities his body was serving him with: but after a few short moments Bodie was back.

"Are you okay?"

Oh, really.

"Yeah, bloody fantastic. And now sod off so I can enjoy it uninterrupted."

"Could lend you the doorkey," Bodie offered gently, watching the steady drip of blood into the sink.

Doyle heaved a sigh and turned around, propping himself against the sink and tipping his head back. In this position the blood ran coolly down the back of his throat instead. Delightful. "Don't let me stop you getting the dinner on," he said to the ceiling.

"You okay, I said?" Bodie asked him brusquely, and came over to him, peering into his face. Doyle sniffed, coughed, and swallowed.

"Yeah, I enjoyed it," he said sarcastically, "it's just the afterglow provin' a bit troublesome." He stuck his head under the tap and rinsed out his mouth, spitting copper. "I'll be off in a sec."

"You can't drive like that. I'd better take you home."

"No!" Doyle held up one hand. "Can't have whatsername, Pally-Ann, deserted." He swung away from Bodie and snatched up the towel. "I'm okay now, it's stopping."

"Want a clean shirt?" Doyle looked down at his own, saw it damp and patched with crimson. He stripped it off, dropped it on the floor and began to flood his skin again with cold water. Anything to get this numb, dazed feeling out of his head.

Sally-Ann Tierney, twenty-six years old and mildly confused, walked into the kitchen where her lover's friend still leaned over the sink, spitting, and now half-naked.

He turned at her approach, and eyed her insolently: narrow but strong-looking, skin a honeyed brown. Trying to avoid navel or nipples her eyes settled instead on his arms: "You didn't do that when you fell?"

He barely glanced at himself, saw red marks beginning to purple in a quite spectacular way. Bodie entered at that moment, and threw him a shirt. Doyle shrugged it on, wincing as the pain in his back caught him unawares. Ignoring their eyes on him and their silence he felt once again that eerie gripe of homesickness, an urgency that he shouldn't be here, he didn't belong.

"You never introduced us, Bodie," he said, head down to button his over-large shirt. At least the nose had stopped, all but a trickle. His mouth had a foul tang: iron predominated.

Bodie was responding to him with grim economy of expression. "Ray Doyle, my partner. Sally-Ann Tierney."

Blue eyes dwelt on his face. "I've heard a lot about you, Ray. Nice to meet you at last."

His swollen lip sketched a sarky grin. "Yeah, well, sorry I ruined the aperitifs." Head tilted, he appraised her better and liked what he saw. Opium hit him in a warm wave: sultry stuff. He took her arm. "Tell you what. Why don't you come and look after me, let the chef here get on with the job?" And without a glance at Bodie he collected her arm and swept her off with him into the lounge, leaning on her more than he needed to to get into a chair, "Aah! -- " as he eased himself down.

"That was quite some fall," she said, looking at him; strangely, for he was not a big man, he looked tougher than Bodie did: with the broken tooth, the flawed cheek, he looked as if people had been chipping away at him for years without ever getting very far. And she had felt the strength of him in that one brief contact; not a spare ounce of flesh, all sinew and bone like the best of runners.

Under her scrutiny he smiled, guessing. "You're not seein' me at my finest, believe me.

"It's not bad as it is," she assured him, because his eyes were beautiful though absolutely cold, and the sight of his body had left its imprint on her mind.

He stretched, very carefully. "I reckon a whisky might help -- strictly medicinal, of course."

"I was just going to suggest that myself," she said, and went to Bodie's bar to pour them both one. Doyle appraised her backside: rounded and real, a good handful of flesh. Bodie liked bums, and thighs -- and breasts; had a wholehearted appreciation of things feminine, did Bodie. Things which Fanny-Ann here had in spades.

"So, you work with Bodie, do you?"

"That's right, love," he said, and took the glass from her hand, raising it in a toast of mockery. "Cheers."

"Why did he hit you?"

Doyle swallowed warm fire and felt magically improved from within. "Walked into a door, didn't I -- wasn't that what Bodie said?"

She regarded him sceptically and perched on the edge of his chair. "Look, lovey, I'm a copper. You've been beaten up, not done a tango with a piece of wood."

Doyle spluttered with laughter. A policewoman! Obviously Bodie had a taste for coppers. Catching her eye he pulled his features back into solemnity and found his lip was bleeding again. "What division, love?" he asked her, pulling out a handkerchief from his pocket to staunch the trickle. "Used to walk the old beat meself."

"So Bodie told me. But we wouldn't have met. I was in Manchester, then Durham till I was posted here four months ago."

"I'd have remembered." His eyes paid her the compliment his heart didn't feel: because in fact he was not all that taken with her. Pretty enough, yes: nice enough, maybe: but nothing special. If Bodie was going to throw him over it ought to be for something special. Certainly not just for two tits and a big bum.

Bodie must be desperate, if this was the best he thought he could do. He and Doyle had had countless girls just like this one; so why the sudden call to permanence?

And she had a hardness about her typical of the ladies of the Metropolitan Police: Bodie didn't need somebody hard.

"I still want to know why he hit you."

Still, what did he know. Maybe she softened, alone in Bodie's arms; maybe she had the bedroom skills of the lushest courtesan. One of her legs swung beside him, a nice ankle but a too-solid calf. Too much pounding the beat.

"Are you going to tell me?"

Persistent. Doyle leaned forward a little, as if ready to confide; the whisky had done him a hell of a lot of good, dulling his pain and sending him flying free. "Told him I didn't like his colour scheme. Old Bodie!" he laughed, shaking his head. "Never knew he was so touchy."

She eyed him, unamused, and he became instantly sober. After all, Bodie was the man she was (presumably) trying flat out to hook: must be disconcerting to discover he was so very capable of domestic violence.

"Truth is, darlin' -- " he held out his glass suggestively and lowered his voice " -- I made a pass at him. He didn't fancy it."

She halted where she was with the bottle and stared at him: he winked, swung himself to his feet and grabbed it. "One for the road for me, sweetheart, then I'll be off."

"Hope you're not over the limit," she said coolly.

Doyle leaned in nearer. "Breathalyse me," he suggested.

She grinned, showing dimples, and became all at once rather prettier than he had realised; he poured another tot of whisky and drank it in one gulp. "Aren't you staying for dinner?" she asked.

"Only two breasts," Doyle explained, delighted with himself. The doorbell rang. "Excuse me."

In the hall he bumped into Bodie, who looked at him strangely. Floating at present one dimension away from reality, Doyle looked back without speaking; the doorbell rang again.

Doyle swung away from Bodie and applied himself to the spyhole. "Milkman, looks like," he announced, seeing a flat cap, overalls, leather collecting-pouch. "I'll see to 'im. You get back to the Cock O-Van." A scent was drifting out of the kitchen, onions and meaty juices.

"Oh yeah, pay 'im, will you?" Bodie extracted his wallet and thrust it into his hand, vanishing.

Doyle unset the locks and opened the door, nodding briefly at the man there. "'Ow much?" He snapped open the leather wallet, riffled through the notes.

The man consulted his book. "Extra pint silver top Monday, litre of fresh orange juice Tuesday -- "

Doyle shifted impatiently. "Yeah, yeah, just tell me how much." This was life all over: surreal. Still, you could hardly expect the milkmen of the world, going about their daily business like snails under the sun, never to intrude on the high dramas played out behind locked doors.

"Two pound eighty," the man told him.

Doyle extracted a fiver, handed it over, watched the man slowly jingling his pouch in search of change. Then he shut the door, set the locks, fiddled around with the wallet to stash the notes away. Lot of cash Bodie had in here, fifty, sixty --

He stopped, arrested: there in the little leather corner meant for your book of stamps was a photograph of himself. He took it out, held it in his fingers and looked at it.

He remembered this photograph being taken, and it had captured the flavour of the moment well. It was a flattering snap, too; the thing had a dreamy, soft-focus feel, though his eyes looked forth with impure intent; his mouth was just parted, his nipples alert, waiting for a finger to stir them. The snap ended at the navel which, he fancied, was just as well.

He closed the photograph within his palm. The smile lingered on his lips.

Funny old Bodie; exorcising all the rest, ruthless and clean. But he could not bear to part with this one. Looking at it from a new angle Doyle thought that maybe, just maybe, the magic never had gone. Maybe Bodie had shut the door on it himself.

His hands tightened as he thought; then he went to the kitchen. Bodie and the girl were there, not close, not even touching, yet he stopped when he saw them. Various cooking operations were going on; whatever it was smelt good.

"Bodie -- " he said, and stopped as a wave of acid lurched upwards from his stomach. Dammit: should never have had two large whiskies on top of shock and pain. He swallowed down firmly on nausea. "Bodie, I'm goin' now."

"No, don't, Ray," Bodie said, urgent.

Doyle tossed him a fleeting grin, arching his back in the doorway: christ, but he was going to be stiff in the morning. "Think it's best. You know where to find me."

Bodie was there in front of him. For a big man, he moved superbly. "I said, don't go."

Did Bodie, too, sense that this was it? For there would be no more chances. Doyle stared into Bodie's eyes, but he could not read a future there.

Help came from the least likely quarter: "I was just saying to Bodie," Sally-Ann Tierney said, clearing her throat in a tactful kind of way, "that I can see you two've got something to discuss. I can always come another night."

Doyle wasn't going to argue with that: it was Bodie's choice. And after a moment Bodie walked with her to the door and Doyle closed his ears to the sound of their voices, pottering round the kitchen, lifting lids, setting steam escaping; he stuck his finger in the sauce and discovered that part, at least, of his nausea might be hunger in disguise.

Bodie came back and stood in the doorway.

"Smells good, this," Doyle said, and prodded a potato with a knife -- not done.

"Ray."

Bodie sounded tense, preoccupied. Doyle turned and Bodie took two steps towards him. Doyle eyed him, light and hard and fast. "Look, I'm sorry to mess up your dinner party, mate. Bleedin' all over the sink, and all. It's enough to put you off red meat, innit?"

"Are you okay?" Bodie said with grim unsmilingness, his eyes roving from the blood-encrusted nostril to the swelled lip.

Doyle put a hand to his back and straightened, experimentally. "Few aches and pains. Apart from the mess you've made of me beauty, that is. Sorry I drove Aunt Sally away." He didn't know what else to say, what line to take; with Bodie looking like this, dark-eyed and unreachable as Mars, too far out to everything he said. He shrugged, slipped one hand into his pocket and brought out the little photo. He held it out to Bodie. "You'll be wanting to lock this away with the others, then."

Bodie stared at the little snap, but he didn't take it. Some change filtered into the tension; for good or bad, something was going to happen now. Bodie dropped his head back and sighed. "Ray..."

"She's okay, Bodie -- pretty, " Doyle said rapidly, "but to be honest, if there was anything else, I missed it."

Bodie just brought his gaze down from the ceiling and regarded him seriously. Doyle changed his position with care; stiffening up fast now.

"Okay, Bodie, this is it. I think we need the truth now," he said, and his heart was pounding terribly fast, "I know you've already told me it's over -- but somehow I can't quite believe it. Don't want to believe it, I suppose: you know me, never lets go of anything." He tried to grin but his lip wouldn't let him, splitting smartly and painfully; and Bodie was giving him no help at all. But he struggled on: "I keep feelin' that, I dunno, maybe you've got it wrong. Maybe things could be the same -- better. See, Bodie -- " he looked at him, conscious that at the moment he was far from beautiful and there Bodie was on the other hand, broad and dangerous, beautiful blue-dark eyes, looking at him with a brooding stillness while he struggled on like a wounded scruff yelping in the dark " -- what can she give you that I can't?"

Bodie made a sweeping gesture, his voice low and uncompromising: "Plenty of things, Doyle, if you think about it. Try loyalty, for a start. Stability. Kids."

It hurt him, but even if it was over, even if he had lost this, he wanted Bodie to remember him like this: fighting till the last. Not lying down and weeping like a baby. "Kids -- no way. Sorry. I've had the op," and he saw Bodie's unwilling smile.

"All right," Doyle decided, rock-steady, "you've made up your mind. I just thought -- it was worth a try." He turned to check on the state of the meal. His stomach churned.

"You just used me, Ray." Bodie's low voice came to him. "I got sick of being one of your toss-off fantasies come to life, that's all."

Tense, strung-up, Doyle threw up his hands. "Okay, okay. I get the message. Not wanted on voyage." There was a bird outside the window, sitting on the branch with its black eye winking, blinking. Blackbird. Nothing interesting. Once he'd seen a Green Woodpecker, believe it or not. A woodpecker! in the middle of Clapham. He blinked his eyes to clear them; steam from the bubbling pots seemed to be affecting his vision. He really ought to go now, but it was going to be difficult. Not to look as if he was stalking off in a huff. Better wait a minute -- Bodie said just behind him, "But I do still want you: that's just the problem."

His heart beat once, then slipped in his chest; he realised, out of the blue, that he wasn't feeling at all well, held up by tension alone. His head throbbed and every bone and muscle in his back was strained and sore. So it was with blessed, blessed relief that he felt Bodie's arm slip around him; he just leaned there, amid the warmth of Bodie's care. Of all things, it was what he needed.

And what he needed was also just this: that Bodie, in the midst of everything, should see him first and always.

Warm lips nuzzled his ear, said softly: "Oh, I want you all right. God help me."

"I've got it," Doyle said, twisting his head to squint into Bodie's open eyes. "You want Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays too, is that what all this's been about?"

He heard the beginnings of a smile in Bodie's voice. "That's about it, yeah."

"Well, that's easy," Doyle said, and he closed his eyes again, leaning his head on Bodie's shoulder.

Bodie's lips mouthed his hair. "Don't rush into this, Doyle. I don't think you know what you're saying."

A little spark of impatience inflamed Doyle; they weren't children, or virgins. "Ah, don't give me that. Of course I do. You don't think I 'aven't thought about this as much as you? Last few days I haven't thought about much else; god knows what's happened to my reaction times." Bodie smiled a little but his eyes remained serious. Doyle grimaced at him. "Ah Bodie, you know. Think about it and you'll know." He dropped Bodie's arms. "Feed me. I'm starving. I think."

The chicken was done to a turn in its sauce (white wine and mushrooms), Bodie mashed up the potatoes, brawny arms beating them into lightness, and Doyle ate hungrily, and said: "About Sally-Ann."

"Look, Doyle -- "

"You don't have to tell me," Doyle hastened to say.

" -- you asked," Bodie said, "if there was a girl. There was, but -- "

Bodie had grasped it like a rope in the pit. A way out. Only fair: how many women had dropped him, once they sensed he was not after anything with a seed of permanence? Doyle understood that perfectly; and in the light of his own behaviour afterwards Bodie's seemed hardly worse.

More than that: he remembered his own regrets, the things he knew he should have said. He put down his spoon, the cake untasted on his plate.

"What is it you want, Bodie?"

Bodie's eyes looked, suddenly, very blue. He smiled at Doyle, suave and charming. "What are you offering?"

"Don't tell me you want to marry me."

Bodie growled: "You'd look cute in a white dress, Doyle."

But Doyle was annoyed with himself for missing the moment. He snatched Bodie's hand across the table and held it, rough in his own roughened one; daily gun-practice wore callouses across the palms they were never free of.

"Look at me, Bodie." And Bodie did, vivid and attentive; the look in his eyes took Doyle's breath away; but not before he remembered the truth of the matter, when Bodie had told him as clearly as it was possible exactly what it was that he wanted.

No kids. But the rest.

His eyes distant, absorbed, he met Bodie's gaze. "Well, let's go for it. Why not?" Instead of saying any more, he leaned across the table to engage Bodie's mouth in a kiss. Then he stood up, still holding Bodie's hand.

"You'll 'ave to be -- very -- gentle with me."



In bed Doyle took Bodie's mouth and tasted the truth in the way Bodie kissed him, as if he were trying to suck the soul out of him and merge it with his own. When Bodie left his mouth he offered up his cock in both hands with eagerness; Bodie was gentler here but wicked; when the point of his tongue flicked an invasion Doyle gasped, thrashing, pushing Bodie's head away.

"Matter?" Bodie asked him softly.

"You know what that does to me."

Bodie smiled. "Yeah," he said wryly.

Some nights they had done some pretty wild things, experimented. Remembering that one night: the night which they had never forgotten. He wondered if Doyle wanted him to do it again: he would, and more than willingly, it had been one hell of a turn-on to see Doyle that way, opening him up, to cause not pain but the bitterest, most exquisite delight.

Doyle had come almost at once, in great white flying spurts; the thought of it, the anticipation, almost more than the thing itself, though not quite. And Bodie had known, fired by some inner intuition, just how to draw it out, create such a pitch that Doyle could bear it no longer... Bodie shivered at the memory, a thrill of cold and fear and excitement rippling over all of his skin. Doyle met his eyes, wide open.

"Bodie, my back hurts like hell. I don't think tonight's the night for anythin' fancy. Unless you can think of anythin' to do with me like this?" And he rolled onto his stomach, pillowed his head on his arms. Of all the things Bodie had wanted -- loyalty, stability -- commitment -- this seemed the least of it. Yet it too was something he wanted Bodie to have.

Bodie's heart plunged dramatically; the sight of Doyle's reddened spine, tracing down to the milky, muscular globes of his buttocks, parted a little to show a glimpse of what lay within. His hands were drawn to soothe the marks on his back; then he bent to kiss them, lower still, dipping his tongue into dark and secret pleasure. Doyle shivered and pressed his cheek against the pillow.

"You sure, Doyle," Bodie asked him, low and quiet.

"Yeah, go on."

Bodie looked down at himself: ready, no doubt about it. He gave himself a few long, hard strokes anyway. Doyle turned his cheek to watch, vaguely stirred by the sight of such blatant self-abuse.

"Bodie," he said in mild alarm, "don't make it any bigger."

Bodie grinned at him, breathless. "Be quicker this way. Okay. Prepared to think of England, are you?"

"Can't see how that'll help."

"You ever done this before?"

"Would I be makin' all this fuss if I 'ad?"

"With a bird I mean?"

"Oh, with a bird, yeah." Doyle closed his eyes and remembered the illicit pleasure of it, the thrill even of talking them into it: the shock as they realised what you wanted. And the beauty of the honeyed bottom before you, parting it to glimpse the entrance; how it had to be forced (gently): the tight, slick grip of it all along the length of his cock. No doubt about it, it felt fantastic and the sense of power was intoxicating.

Good on you, Bodie. Have it. 1 want you to.

He said acidly: "I suppose you've been up every arse from here to Angola."

"Not quite." Bodie kissed the nape of his neck, brushing the curls away. "Think you're going to like it?"

"I dunno, do I? Yeah, probably." Bodie's lips brushed his spine. He said without moving: "Innocent I may be, but I reckon rather a lot of lubrication might be a good idea."

"Oh yeah," Bodie remarked softly, "knew I'd forgotten something."

He was gone and back in an instant. "What you using, gun oil?" Doyle tossed over his shoulder.

"You deserve the best, Doyle."

"Call me Ray," Doyle said, closing his eyes again as something slick and wet on the point of Bodie's finger invaded his anus. "Or do you think it's too familiar?"

And, "Tell me a fantasy," he said a moment later, to distract himself. "What's your secret wish, eh Bodie? Not pretty needles down your cock, not your style at all. So what is it?"

"I haven't got your exotic tastes. Meat-and-two-veg. man, I am, Ray. Nothin' fancy. Layin' you'll do for me."

Bodie's weight settled on top of him, his cock lodging its way between his buttocks and slipped about there. Doyle breathed slowly and consciously relaxed.

"You got nothing to prove to me, Ray," Bodie whispered into his ear, thrusting easily and rhythmically. "We don't have to go the whole way. I can come off here, no problem."

Nothing to prove but something to give. Doyle bit down on a last shrinking and concentrated on curiosity. "Ah, stick it in." He tilted his buttocks up, luring Bodie's cock to probe: and there it was, slipping inside him with an ease he found sensuous: but trailing in its wake a knife of pain.

He winced; fought with himself not to tense up, not to whimper. In a moment Bodie had eased him open all the way. And it meant something, after all, this surrendering of self: he had known it would. He was giving himself to Bodie in the truest of senses. Pressed beneath Bodie, entrusting his fragile insides to Bodie's sexual power, which Bodie might control or might not be able to, Doyle felt enraptured by his own helplessness; and now they could not be closer.

He gathered himself up, on his elbows and knees, began to thrust back at Bodie. He could imagine the view Bodie had, his big cock stretching him wide, and he liked that thought, and also Bodie's panting breaths and the slick sounds of sex. He bit the pillow, quivering, because it was coming: transfixed inside by a sudden flower of delight, blossoming at Bodie's every thrust deep within. He threw his head back, panting, felt Bodie's sweat drip onto his forehead, Bodie's tender lips touch his skin. And Bodie's hand reached under him, brushed his nipples lingeringly, took hold of his cock: he thrust into Bodie's hand as Bodie thrust into him, with blessed relief: coming across Bodie's fingers in seconds as the high, delicious pleasure streamed away from him. Still throbbing with the bliss of it he felt Bodie's fingers touch his mouth, letting him taste himself, and then Bodie tensed violently inside him, and he knew it was over, they had done it and survived, and become something new.



Afterwards they lay for a long time quietly; kissing -- with passion, or idly; it was getting late.

"So? Did you like it?"

"So much you're stuck with me."

" -- Stuck to you?"

"That too. No, don't -- Christ, Bodie -- ! that was the worst part of the whole thing."

Waiting silence. Not quite ready to sleep.

"What shall we do this weekend?"

And a drowsy reply.

"I fancy the zoo."

"I read this thing about adventure gaming. Out in the forest, you know, Epping way? Role-playing, dungeons and dragons stuff."

"No thanks, Bodie."

"Make a good elf you would, ears like you got. I'd be a Mercenary. Or do I fancy the Warrior -- "

"No thanks, Bodie." Aggrieved silence.

"I fancied that."

Yawn. "I want the -- " yawn " -- zoo."

"Zoo it is, then. Bloody hell, Doyle. Get everything you want, don't you? Every bloody thing."

"Feed the -- you know, the -- "

"Doyle. Doyle. Don't go to sleep now! The bloody files, dammit! We've got to read them tonight. . . "

No reply.

Resigned.

Silence.

Settled.

-- THE END --

May 1991
For EW - remembering Regent's Park 1984
and also for Meg, who started it all




Originally published in Unprofessional Conduct 1, Gryphon Press, 1992



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