A Different Game

by


Followed by The Other Game: A Post-GameWrap-up


MARCH

"Let's play The Game," Ray Doyle said to his partner. This caused Bodie, who had slumped down in the driver's seat, to sit up so suddenly that he banged an elbow against the door handle and said a bad word.

"Here?" Bodie looked around. They were inside the most decrepit vehicle CI5 owned, parked between two warehouses of turn of the century vintage, and they were taking turns watching another warehouse some distance away through extremely powerful field glasses.

"Why not?" Doyle said. "I'm bored out of my skull."

"There's nothing here," Bodie objected.

"Sure there is. Got your glasses? Look beyond the doorway we're watching to the old wall to the left. See the brick? I like that color. It'd make a great garden wall, or maybe, inside, it could be on the floor, in the entry hall."

Obediently, Bodie raised his own glasses. While Doyle watched where they were supposed to watch, Bodie sought out the wall Doyle had indicated. It was a nice color, true, but was it just this early morning light? Would it look different at noon? As they would most likely be here then, he decided to ask during lunch. Meanwhile, he scanned the area for anything else worth looking at.

They had played their game for several years now. In the beginning, it had been just a way to waste time. As a side effect, they had improved their communication skills, and had become experts at directing attention to a certain place in the least amount of time. It had saved their lives more than once.

But, to Bodie, it was more. It was a way to learn about his partner, it was a window into the other man's life, it was a way to share. Too, it was the key to his own hobby.

"There's someone up on the roof," Doyle commented. Bodie swung his own glasses upwards.

"Pennsworthy, Bodie noted. "Is he supposed to be there?"

"What's the log say?" Doyle asked. Bodie dropped his glasses to pick up the notebook which came with the car and the obbo. The two who had manned the car during the night had not listed Pennsworthy as having arrived.

"No. I still say there's some sort of secret passage to some other building. How else are they getting in and out? Unless you think he's been inside for five days?" Bodie inquired with just a touch of sarcasm.

"Tsk. Don't let your baser instincts loose this early in the morning. We have lots of time to descend into mindless bickering and unkind remarks." Doyle grinned as he spoke, although he did not take his gaze from the building. Bodie let his own humor show and gently hit his partner on the upper arm to show he understood.

"Have to face facts. Anson and Waters could have let themselves be distracted. Could have fallen asleep." Bodie didn't believe it, but he offered the theory anyway.

"With Cowley on the prowl, checking in so often? I wonder why he's so hot to solve this one? Just more of the same, isn't it?"

Bodie shrugged. "Can't have that brick in the entry. You already have the Italian tile."

Doyle took this shift in the conversation in stride. He was used to it. "I do like the tile," he admitted. "But it would cost too much to have a whole wall of that brick, wouldn't it?"

"Yes," Bodie said cheerfully. "But there's the kitchen still. You could put it on the pantry floor, perhaps."

"That's right, there's a pantry, isn't there!" Doyle looked quite happy at remembering this.

Bodie smiled indulgently, even as he scanned the top of the building. What was Pennsworthy doing up there? Back and forth, rather as if he were following a path, and bending over once in a while.

"Bet he's growing weed up there," Doyle offered. "Happy smoke for the crime lords."

"What an imagination you have," Bodie scoffed. "Growing things are on your mind this month. Going on about strawberries all day yesterday, you were. I still say it's cheaper and less trouble just to buy them in the market."

"You just don't know. There's nothing like the taste of fresh berries you've grown yourself. Besides, what else do you do with a garden?"

"Sit in the sun? Mow the grass?" Bodie didn't really have any idea, not having grown up with gardens. There'd been one at home, but he had not been allowed in it, for fear he would trample the plants, perhaps. At a very early age he had been sent to school, and there hadn't been gardens there, either. Only cement and dirt and neat little boxes in the front of the building where flowers grew to impress the occasional visiting parent.

"Sitting in the sun sounds nice," Doyle agreed. There was a brisk wind outside. Spring hadn't yet reached the warm stage.

"Sitting in a warm tub sounds nice. Sitting in a warm pub sounds nice. Sitting in ... "

Bodie was interrupted by the r/t. He answered it automatically. "3.7" he said, lowering his glasses.

"Report." It was Cowley, who had asked the same question only an hour ago.

"Pennsworthy is wandering around on the roof. We've been speculating on how he got up there, sir." As he spoke, Bodie was making the notation in the book.

"Nothing else?" Cowley managed to hide most of his impatience.

"No." Bodie was going to sign off when Doyle made a noise. "Just a minute, Alpha," he said, and turned an inquiring head towards his partner.

"Smythe is up there, too. Carrying something. Big. Dragging it, really. Can't tell what." Doyle made his report into the r/t, which Bodie was holding up to his mouth, since both of his hands were on the field glasses.

"So that's it!" Cowley exclaimed, and signed off.

"I wonder what the hell's going on," Bodie sighed as he replaced the r/t and leaned back in the uncomfortable seat. He retrieved his own binoculars and lifted them to his eyes. Smythe was out of sight now, but Pennsworthy was bending over. There wasn't much to see and he frowned. Doyle nudged him to indicate that he was going to let Bodie take over watching and turned to investigate the hamper he had brought along.

"Beef and onion or cheese and pickle?" Doyle asked, knowing he did not have to inquire if Bodie was hungry. Bodie could always eat.

"One of each?" Bodie suggested. "With tea?"

"None left. Coffee or cola?"

Bodie sighed. "Coffee. But I'll need to get rid of it soon." There was no place to go except down an alley wall. It was an unsanitary practice which did not bother him as much as it bothered Doyle, who had once arrested men for doing such things and still found it uncivilized and a public health hazard.

"There's a nice bit of iron rail there," Doyle said, following his partner's thought process without difficulty.

Bodie strangled a laugh. "Play The Game even while you piss, do you?"

"Why not? Innocent enough amusement, and it takes the mind off the wonderful ambiance of the surroundings. Such as the dead rat behind the rubbish bin."

Bodie couldn't keep the grin off his face. "Thought that added a bit of elan, myself." Doyle sniggered, and Bodie had to force himself to watch Pennsworthy appear and walk the length of the building before disappearing again, instead of looking over at his partner.

"Did you notice they both appeared on the south end?" Bodie commented a little later, "but they disappeared on the north?"

Doyle shook his head, but said, "I'll write that down." He did so, in his small neat policeman's print. He handed Bodie his sandwich, tucked the coffee in its plastic cup between Bodie's legs, and said "What color is that tile?"

"Three browns and a white."

"Don't see how you remember all that. So it won't go with the brick. There's a chair in that little shop next to ... you know it, where you turn to go to your place?"

"A chair?" Bodie asked around a bite of sandwich.

"Got a nice pattern in the wood. Hand carved."

"Buy it now. Not much trouble to haul a chair around, what with all those other things you're burdened with." Bodie had helped Doyle move house often enough. He was at the point where he even knew how many cartons to find. You'd think, knowing that he was going to move at least twice in any 12 month period, that Doyle would keep his boxes, but he never did.

"But it might not go with each place." Doyle took a deep swallow of his own coffee. It was not warm enough to let it sit. He hated cold coffee.

"Who cares? Imprint your personality on the place, instead of letting it dominate YOU."

"Been reading those magazines in the doctor's office again, haven't you?" Doyle teased. It wasn't vicious teasing, for he too had spent time reading whatever was at hand as he waited for one friend or another to get patched up or admitted or released. Not all that long ago, he had waited for an entire hour while they had wrapped Bodie's ankle. Not broken, fortunately. And then there had been that terrible month two years ago, when he himself had balanced between life and death, a bullet through the heart. That still gave him twinges sometimes. He knew, in the depths of his soul, that he was not the same as he had been before. It was as if the woman had shot out his youth, his energy. He had to work for what had once come easily. He could run, he could fight, but the reserves he had once had were gone.

There were times when Doyle feared that he would let his partner down, when he strained to match him and felt the faltering deep inside him. He thought of quitting, but he found that idea repugnant. CI5 had become part of him, damn George Cowley for it, and he could scarcely entertain the thought of leaving. Leaving Bodie.

Bodie. Another problem. He was beginning to be afraid of what Bodie meant to him. Bodie was now ... more. Partner, friend, and true companion? What was Bodie? It bothered him that he could not name the essence of their friendship. Sometimes, The Game bothered him. How many years had they been playing it? Two? Very domestic, when you thought about it. Who had started it?

It had been that stakeout in Kent. They'd hidden in the bushes, and eventually, having run out of other topics of conversation, they had discussed the house itself. It had ugly shutters, but the most delightful stained glass inset in the door. The steps had been curved, with stone dogs at the bottom. It had taken almost a half an hour to exhaust the merits of stone anythings on stairs, in gardens, in houses.

At some point, however, they had started collecting the best features of the places they had to spend time at in the line of duty, and putting them into a non-existent house. They each had their own roles in the game. Either could spot a feature, either could suggest an item be added to the mythical home they had created. Doyle, however, had the last word about what was appropriate or artistic, and Bodie had the job of remembering everything which had been included, rejected or put aside for further consideration.

It was a silly thing for two grown men to do. Inventing dream houses was the province of little girls or interior decorators. Yet it whiled away many a dull hour, and it had a positive effect on their outlook. If one was planning, even for a future which would never happen, then the reality of CI5, of a job where death lingered in corners and danger was in every street, was somehow softened. Having something to look forward to was almost as important as having something to occupy the mind. It was very portable, it was not so vital that they became involved and did not give proper attention to their job, and not so dull that they abandoned it.

If it seemed strange that Bodie was most often the one who began the game, it was even stranger that it had improved their teamwork and their ability to communicate. Always good together, they now worked on a level which surpassed all other teams in CI5. George Cowley had given up trying to analyze what made it work and merely used it. Kate Ross had been forced to change computer programs and put in overtime, and still could not produce an explanation which satisfied her.

"What time is it?" Bodie asked a few minutes later.

"Just nine. Why?" Doyle took over the watching, knowing that Bodie needed his comfort stop.

"We're off at one, right?"

"Right. Why?" Doyle, eyes forward, found his mouth with his can and took a cautious sip.

"Need to go to the shops. Are you coming with me?"

"Probably. Have to get some new aftershave if I'm to impress Bethany tonight."

"Take more than cheap scent, mate," Bodie said, before leaving the car for the alley. He was careful as he picked his way through the refuse, and alert as well. It was the weekend, but there were still unsavory characters loitering here. Twice they had been accosted in their car. They had pretended to be waiting for someone -- it wasn't said, but all involved knew it was a drug dealer -- and Doyle had even had to purchase some gritty white powder from a young man who had obviously had been sampling his own wares. All this went down in the log.

Bodie watered a wall he had marked before, wondering, since it was in sight of the dead rat, if this were the place Doyle used as well. He thought about how dull stakeouts were, and he thought about Ray Doyle.

Ray. Ray, with the brown curls and the green eyes which seemed to see everything except the one thing Bodie worked hard to keep hidden from him. Beautiful Ray.

Ray, who was straight.

Of course, when it came to that, so was William Bodie. Unless one counted what went on in his head. Bodie dated girls, he had an active and normal sex life in all respects. Except one. At some point, he had developed an odd and encompassing passion for his partner.

It had been a shock, discovering he was capable of imagining sex with a man. He was grateful that the aberration didn't extend to his social life, that he could still date and make love to a woman just as he always had. But what he wanted, for some strange reason he had never been able to sort out, was this scruffy man with the shadows under his eyes. Bodie often made love in the dark so that he could let his imagination run free, and he always closed his eyes when the moment of truth came and he whirled away in the wild freedom of orgasm. His teeth clenched then, too, both with the pleasure and in an effort not to say the name he must never say. Ray.

He wanted to live with him. He wanted to wake up beside him, cook breakfast with him, work with him, play with him. The sex ... well, he assumed it would be great. Everything with Doyle was great. Even sitting in this stinking car in this miserable location on a cold day was good, because it was with Doyle.

He had it bad.

That was the attraction of The Game. It was a most bittersweet pleasure to imagine a house where he and Doyle lived. The perfect house. Surely, if the place were perfect, then the unfortunate fact that the companion there was not a woman could be overlooked?

Or would Doyle find a woman to join them? Just like him to miss the whole point of it.

But it wasn't like Bodie to stand in an alley and moon about what could go wrong in a dream which was an impossibility, so he tucked himself back in and went back to the car.

Once there, he took over the watching -- the job was hard on the arms -- and let Doyle take his turn in the alley.

Just as Doyle was sliding back into the car, the r/t crackled and sputtered and Doyle answered it.

"4.5," he said crisply.

"I want you to come in," Cowley's voice said. "Take the long way and make sure you are not followed."

"Any other instructions?" Doyle asked, as Cowley paused.

"No. Alpha out."

"He must have got those bugs in place. Wonder what fun thing he has in store for us for the rest of the day?" Bodie said.

"Only one way to find out. Fire up the horses, James."

Bodie was all too willing to do just that. They eased out of their spot and headed for more populated areas.

"You don't suppose he'll give us the rest of the day off?" Doyle asked as they found some traffic and started to lose themselves in it.

"You are talking about Cowley, aren't you?" Bodie inquired with mock concern.

"Sorry. I wasn't thinking." Doyle began to pack away the binoculars in the leather cases and to clear away some of the clutter which had accumulated during the last six hours. They had taken over from the other team at three in the morning. Not all of the mess was theirs, but they knew better than to turn in a car which had to be cleaned. It was better to stay on the good side of the grease monkeys. "I'll be glad when we can drive a real car again," he added. The motor on this one was good enough, but the appearance was of something which longed for the wrecker's yard.

"Me, I'll settle for something warmer. My toes are cold," Bodie complained.

The rest of the morning was filled with reports, but they were off by three. They shopped together on the way home, so that it was almost five when they separated. Doyle went to relax and to get ready for his date.

Bodie went to buy a chair.



APRIL

"We've recovered seven more bodies today, bringing the total up to twenty-nine," George Cowley said, checking a sheet of paper before he put it down and looked directly at the two agents who sat alertly before him.

"But who can we charge, and will it stick?" Doyle asked. He slouched in his chair, rubbing his nose absently as he thought of the consequences.

"It will be difficult, but we do have some tapes and film. I want you to follow up on several points in regards to ... "

He was interrupted at that point by the phone, which he put to his ear. The conversation from this side was disappointing; it was a series of yes, no, and of course which ended when Cowley, an irritated expression on his face, put down the phone and shook his head.

"I will have to change the plans. I've been asked to supply some men to advise local police on a matter which seems to be escalating. You two will go immediately to Brixton. In addition to giving whatever advice seems appropriate, I will want you to observe all aspects of the situation and report back to me. He made a motion with his hand, telling them not to linger.

"Yes, sir," Bodie spoke for both of them as they went out the door. Then he said to Doyle, "That's the wrong way."

"No, it isn't. We need to pick up some wheels," Doyle told him, heading down towards the garage.

"We both brought cars today," Bodie reminded him.

"Not cars you want to drive into that area. Lose your wheels before you park it. I want to see if that old wreck we had last month is still available."

"I hate that thing," Bodie grumbled, but he followed along. Doyle's experiences as a copper were usually the butt of his jokes, but Bodie knew the other man had knowledge he didn't, and he was willing to trust it. All too soon they were heading south. Their conversation was not on their new assignment, however, but on their old one.

"Who would have guessed," Doyle began, pointing to the left at an intersection so that Bodie, who was driving, would not miss the turn. Bodie gave him a gesture which involved several fingers which indicated he had planned to turn there anyway and guided the car into the traffic. "Murder. We were actually sitting in that alley watching them dispose of bodies, and never knew it!"

Bodie nodded, checking his mirror. "Layered them in the tar on the roof. Murphy said there was room for at least a hundred, and some of the bodies had been up there for at least ten years."

"They'll have to take the whole building down. Might be more in the cellar."

"You have a disgustingly clever mind. What if they started on the roof only because all the other nooks and crannies were full?" Bodie changed lanes.

"Your mind is worse than mine," Doyle replied mildly. "I hope he can pin it on the Mafia. That lot's getting too bold."

"At least we don't have to do the follow-up on this case. It's up to Scotland Yard and insurance companies and anybody else who has the manpower to sift through missing persons reports and dead bodies. What a nest of snakes." Bodie turned. "Where is the police station? Isn't that where we check in?"

"It's to the left. Turn there." Doyle answered the first question and then the second. "I think so. Advice to the police, that's the way I understood it," Doyle confirmed. The new road was not as wide as the one they had just left and Bodie slowed down.

"What's that?" Bodie lowered his window to listen to faint shouts and the wail of a siren. He exchanged looks with his partner and then changed directions. They were now going down a street with ugly old houses converted into flats on one side and even less attractive store fronts on the other. Doyle's hand was reaching for the radio.

All hell broke loose.

From out of the sky, a flaming mattress fell into traffic. It landed on top of a mini in the opposite lane, completely obscuring the driver's view as it slid forward over the windscreen. The driver panicked, braking suddenly, sending the car behind slamming into it. The third car behind that one turned into Bodie's lane to avoid making it a threesome, and Bodie had to perform miracles to avoid hitting that car, the pedestrians, or parked cars. Outside there were screams and the distant sound of a growing riot. Bodie gunned the car to get out of the tangle, braked as Doyle shouted and he saw the lorry ahead of them swerve at the arrival of a second chunk of burning debris.

Bodie's muscles bulged with the effort of doing the impossible. He swore, braced himself and, fought to force the car out of the path of sure death. He went up on the sidewalk, scattering the people too stupid to have left the scene. It wasn't enough. The sound of tearing steel and the impact of tons of metal against the ten year old car made hardly any impression on his adrenaline charged mind. They were sent crab-wise across traffic, coming up against a parked car first and then sliding sideways into the glass of a store front. He was turning his head, frantic to see Doyle, when his hand came up to his scalp. He was wondering at the feel of blood when the world vanished into a swirl of blackness.



"Doyle?"

"Ray?" Where was he? Where was his partner? "Ray!"

There was a voice. "What is he saying?" it asked. He felt impatient with it.

"What he always says. He wants Mr. Doyle. Please, Mr. Bodie. You mustn't thrash about like that. Mr. Doyle isn't here. He'll be here later. You've been injured, you know. Let us take care of you. You don't want to disturb that ankle, you know. It's broken in three places! Mr. Bodie! Nurse, the ... thank you. I ... "

It faded, after that. He woke up again and asked for water, for Doyle, for news, but got none of them, and drifted out of himself, floating in whiteness. He roused when someone did something painful with a catheter, but could not focus. He remembered trying to shout, and nothing came out of his mouth. There were bad dreams. A whole series of them, or were they all created at once in that jumbled half-awake state he found himself in? How much time had passed?

And where was Ray?

Answers came, eventually. He was in a hospital, he knew that. Knew he hated hospitals, and was reminded why with every breath he took. He knew where he hurt. Head. Leg. Back. Foot. Still, he lifted his head, trying to see. A nurse hurried over.

"Ray ... Doyle?"

"They've just brought him in. He's just out of surgery, can't talk, luv. Maybe later. You need your rest, too. Don't disturb the line," she admonished, and Bodie looked beyond the plastic tubing to the left.

That was Ray Doyle?

It wasn't. Was it? He tried to focus, tried to see his partner under the bandages. If it was Ray Doyle, then they had shaved his hair and his head was wrapped in white. His shoulder was held in some sort of frame. A cast was on his wrist. The black tracks of stitches wandered up his other arm, almost buried in swollen flesh. More stitches down the side of his face and across his torso. No doubt there were more hidden by the white sheet which lay folded across his still body.

"Ray?"

"You can talk to him later. Right now, we need to change your drip," the nurse said briskly.

"Ray? Is he ... is he ... "

"Alive? Yes. Going to stay that way? According to the doctor, he has a good chance. Just lie back. Are you feeling well enough to take some soup in a few minutes?"

Bodie did not care about the soup. The thought of food left him sick. "What happened?" He only remembered the terrible sound.

"Riots." The woman was taking his pulse. "Terrible thing. All of Brixton is ... fires, overturned police cars, police called in. Over a thousand, they said, and the Prime Minister has made a statement ... " She paused to consult her watch, counting to herself. "It's the blacks you know, no jobs and high interest, according to the telly, and something about harassment from the police starting it all, but no one can sort it out. Petrol bombs, bricks, iron bars. We've been kept no end busy, and we're not the closest hospital, either. Millions of pounds damage," she added.

Bodie closed his eyes. He appreciated the information, but it wasn't what he wanted to know. "To ... us ... car?"

"Car? That scrap they pulled off of you? Hit by a lorry, I'm told. It was slowed by the other four vehicles it hit. Miracle you and your friend are alive." She was bringing forward a tray.

"Ray?"

"He's asleep, dear. Can't bother him now."

"I need to ... "

George Cowley was there when he woke up. Cowley asked all the usual questions, gave all the usual answers. But Bodie's glance kept straying to the still figure in the other bed until Cowley told him Ray was asleep. And then Bodie was, too.

It was morning when he woke up properly. The pain pills must have run out, for he woke in that stage of agony with which he was unfortunately too familiar. The hurt fills your senses, robbing you of all the keenness of sight and sound, so that you find yourself focusing on the pain to the exclusion of anything else. Bodie hated that, hated when the pain took over. At this point there was nothing to be done but endure, and so he did, but not with good grace. They came and gave him shots for the pain, and pills, but it was never enough to take it away for long. He didn't want that anyway. He wanted to stay as alert as he could.

Ray made sounds now. Hurt sounds, moans. Doyle came almost out of the haze of his own pain, but then he would sink down again. Doyle had nurses fussing over him more often than Bodie did. Bodie would try to see, and they would block his view, he would worry, and they would never tell him what he wanted to know.

Bodie had his own hurts sorted out. The back was strained, and he had bruises top to bottom. He had a severe gash on his arm, clear down to the bone for the length of his forearm. He had a broken ankle. He'd had a concussion at some point.

But no one would tell him about Ray.

One afternoon, just after the nurse had come in, checked Ray, not answered questions and left, Bodie sat up. He waited for the world to become still again, and then forced himself to his feet. He held onto the bed, the frame which held the privacy curtain, the table which held his water, and managed to make it the seven steps to the other bed.

"Ray?" The backs of his fingers brushed the white skin. Damp with sweat, pale with loss of blood and pain, Ray Doyle still looked good to Bodie. "Are you there?" he asked, making his voice as normal as possible. Doyle's eyelids fluttered and his head turned.

Bodie smiled. None of his friends or co-workers would have recognized that smile, and Bodie was uncertain as it touched his face, for he didn't need a mirror to know that it showed more than he wanted shown. No one was about, and he let his face show what he felt, what he usually kept inside.

With determination, he pulled back the sheet which covered his partner. The smile left him as he saw the sorry state Doyle was in. The stitches traveled in strange parallel lines across his abdomen, and down ...

Bodie swallowed, shocked in spite of his belief that nothing was left to shock him. The stitches continued on Doyle's penis; it had obviously been a near thing. A puncture wound and scrape on the thigh made him wonder what exactly had happened. A combination of fear and curiosity made him reach forward and gently check to see if there were any hidden injuries. With one finger he lifted the penis and nudged aside the balls. No damage beyond a scratch. He had touched Doyle only lightly, with one finger tip, but that small action made him draw a deep breath.

He had never touched a man there.

Soft. Yielding. The bruises were a rainbow of purples, blacks and blues. He understood the cliche which said it hurt just to look at it, for his own genitals had tightened as if they wished to crawl into his body. And yet there was a warmth, too, which told him that if he were not hurt, if Ray were not hurt, if ...

If. Bodie's smile returned, but this time it was bitter. He took his hand to Doyle's head this time, tracing the edge of white gauze. Five or six stitches there above the ear, and scrapes and cuts over most of the left side of his head, Bodie noted, but none of them looked very bad. Scalp wounds bled a lot and his imagination kept supplying him with a picture of Doyle covered in blood. He shivered.

"Doyle?" he asked softly. He didn't want to attract the attention of any of the staff. "C'mon, mate. Let's see those jade green eyes."

A ripple of tenderness went through him. He could say that. No one to hear.

"Sunshine? Time to wake up. Want to be sure you're all right," he told him. Doyle moved his head at the sound but did not respond in any other way, so Bodie just sat there, looking, touching what bits looked unharmed every so often, and occasionally whispering a word or two. Only when he heard the clank of a trolley did he make his way slowly back to bed.

This didn't stop him from doing it again that night when the shift had changed and the place was almost quiet for once. He sat on the edge of Doyle's bed, ignoring the trickle of blood spilling from one of his own cuts which had re-opened with his exertion, and talked, and touched when he dared -- it wouldn't do for anyone to come in and catch him at this -- and willed his partner to wake up.

It worked. Doyle sighed, moved restlessly, and opened his eyes. They wandered, then focused on Bodie. The full lips, now split both top and bottom, parted, and then moved as Doyle almost managed to say Bodie's name.

"Glad to see you back with the living," Bodie said, more lightly than he felt. "Was getting a bit dull around here, talking to myself. Of course, there are the nurses, but somehow they manage to shove things in embarrassing places as they chat. Quite ruins the conversation, it does."

Doyle's lips trembled with what was probably intended to be a smile, but his eyes closed almost at the same time.

Bodie was content to look at him for a moment before he went back to bed. He did not sleep well. Chimes, pain, voices, cries in the night. There were no comfortable positions. He dozed, until a nurse came in and, before he was quite aware, she had slipped a needle into his arm.

Ten hours later someone called his name and he realized that Murph and Jax had dropped by. When they were gone he wondered what he had said. Doyle had slept through the visit, moaning once or twice. Bodie had explained that Doyle was doped against the pain, which was not true. Most of the drugs should be out of his system by now. It was just sleep, the sleep an abused body needed to repair itself. Still, Bodie was uneasy, and when his friends were gone he called a nurse and bombarded her with questions. To his surprise, she sent a doctor to him with answers.

Dr. Allen was thin, intense, and obviously in a hurry, but he was also a fountain of information. Doyle's x-rays showed he had a hairline crack in his skull which should cause no problems with reasonable care. They were most worried about his heart, where the trauma and bruising and swelling had aggravated the scar tissue from his old bullet wound.

"But he's going to be fine?" Bodie asked when the man paused.

"May I speak frankly?" The doctor had a beard shadow which he rubbed absently with his hand. Bodie wondered how long he had been on duty.

"Please." Bodie made the one word bland and hid the rising worry he felt.

"I think you both will be looking for a new line of work."

"Both of us." Bodie didn't make it a question, just a flat statement.

"Yes. Unless there's desk work for you in CI5. You've done the same ankle three times now. It's going to mend, but not the way you want it to. Doyle's heart is going to take a long time to recover. The scar tissue from his previous heart surgery tore. He will have an early retirement out of this. Fancy a pension?"

Bodie made a face.

"I'm serious. I will tell Mr. Cowley that I will sign the medical papers on Mr. Doyle at any time. For you, there might be enough change in six months to warrant a re-evaluation, but I am giving you no false hope. I will show you your x-rays if you like. Calcium deposits."

Bodie looked at him sharply. "Why are you telling me this?" he asked.

"Recognize the technique, do you?" The doctor smiled a wintery, tired smile and straightened. "May I speak even more frankly?"

Bodie stared at him a moment and then nodded.

"Mr. Cowley seems to think that you and Mr. Doyle are ... close."

"Close." Bodie repeated the word with just a slight change in inflection which asked what the hell the doctor thought he was on about.

"Close, Mr. Bodie. As in," he paused, obviously uneasy, "as in, lovers."

"Mr. Cowley thinks that?" Bodie hid his surprise, but not the twinge of pain the thought brought.

"Is he wrong?" the doctor wanted to know, studying his patient carefully.

"You could say that."

"Mr. Bodie, I need your cooperation here! Plans for Mr. Doyle depend upon your answers. It would help if I had some."

Bodie, although reluctant to speak, knew the doctor had pushed the right button. The name of Ray Doyle had its own power. He adjusted the pillow at his back and spoke.

"Cowley's got part of it right. What I feel for Ray is more than ... what it should be. Doyle doesn't know. But he's my best mate."

"That changes things, I suppose. Mr. Cowley's idea was that Doyle would need your support once the news was broken to him, but he was of the opinion that as long as he had you, the loss of his job could be weathered."

"He's got me, doctor, as a friend. It will be enough."

"Will it be enough if you retain your CI5 job and he loses his?" asked the doctor.

"I can get other jobs. So can Doyle. Nothing wrong with his brain, after all. Is there?" Bodie asked the last suddenly, as if the thought had struck him, hard.

"As far as we know at this moment, he is mentally unharmed. However, I have read the reports. He's not responding quite as he should. He took a very long time to come out from under the drugs. It's been suggested that he can't understand the difference between this occasion and the last time he was in the hospital. He may subconsciously believe that he has been or is near death, and he doesn't want to face that. It's important that you be there for him, Mr. Bodie."

"Bodie."

"Excuse me?" The doctor straightened up, confused.

"No mister. Just Bodie. And of course I am going to be there for Ray. What do you want me to do?"

"Talk to him. Explain things as he recovers his senses. If possible, prepare him for the news Mr. Cowley will give him about his future. Keep his spirits up. Help him plan for the future."

"I'd do that anyway."

"Good. We're also going to ask you to tell us if you think he needs help. A spy in the camp, so to speak."

Bodie shook his head. "No. I'm going to be honest with Ray. Nothing behind his back."

"We're not asking you to ... " The doctor began, and then paused, and shrugged. "As long as he gets help if he needs it." He glanced at his watch. "I have patients to see. We can talk again later. Bodie." With a nod, he left the room.

"Fool."

Bodie swung his head at the new voice. He hid his surprise. "How long have you been listening?"

Doyle opened his eyes. "Long enough."

"How long?" Bodie insisted.

"Long enough to hear that Cowley has very odd ideas about us." Doyle, whose voice was light, paused, wetting his lips. He looked over at the water on the bedside tray, which was just out of his reach. Bodie reached out and managed to push it a few inches closer. With his good hand, Doyle brought the water to his mouth and sucked on the straw. He made a face as he set it down.

"Warm."

"Yeah."

"The doctor's wrong, about me, too. I know this isn't the time I was shot. Figured that out hours ago."

Bodie was more concerned with another aspect. "So you heard what I said? About ... "

"I heard."

"Sorry. He shouldn't have talked to me here. Loud lout." Bodie chose to rail at the doctor rather than address the thousand questions and fears which tumbled in his mind.

A drop of sweat left Doyle's hair line and slid into his eyebrow. Doyle gave a short, quickly aborted shake of his head. "You should have told me."

"You're joking, aren't you? Not the sort of thing one says to a man, is it?"

"Depends, doesn't it?" Doyle's voice was a little stronger and his face had lost some of its paleness. Bodie did not look at him directly, but he was aware of Doyle's every move. "It wasn't quite clear to me."

"What wasn't?"

"How you feel. About me."

Bodie took a deep breath, but it did not help. He remained silent.

"Well? Love, lust, what?" Doyle asked.

"You'll laugh."

Doyle grimaced. Maybe it was a twinge of pain. "Do you really think that?"

"So maybe you won't laugh. Maybe it will be worse."

"I won't laugh." Doyle took another sip of the water.

"It's everything."

"Everything?" Doyle asked uncertainly.

"Yes. You know how it is. You date a bird, you like her sense of humor or her legs or ... something. But there's things you don't like, as well. Her laugh or her perfume or what she wants to do or she gets serious too fast. So you go on and find someone else. With you ... there's nothing I don't like. Face, body, mind. Everything." Bodie looked away, fiddling with his own water glass with his good hand. He took a drink. His mouth was dry.

"I didn't know you were gay," Doyle said a bit later.

Bodie looked up sharply. "I'm not."

"You aren't into fellows?"

"Never had one."

Doyle raised an eyebrow. It looked odd, for part of it was shaved away. "But you fancy me?"

Bodie nodded.

"How can you know that's what you want then? You could just be ... " Doyle didn't finish.

"I just know."

Doyle didn't argue with that. He closed his eyes. Bodie wondered if he had fallen asleep. Eventually, Doyle opened them again. "What do you want from me?"

"Whatever you can give."

Doyle's eyes closed again, and this time Bodie was sure he was asleep. Bodie eased back into his own hard pillow and stared at the ceiling. So much to think about. He let his mind dwell on Cowley, being wrong. Clever old sod. Half of what he was doing was keeping Bodie's mental state positive by giving him a project. In seeing Doyle through, the old man expected that Bodie would come through, too. Was he really ignorant of the state of affairs, or was he trying to arrange things in his favor, as usual? Did he know about Bodie's feelings and feed the doctor enough facts to force Bodie to reveal the true state of their relationship? What did Cowley really think?

What did Doyle really think? He had taken the shock well. He hadn't been disgusted, but then Doyle had a liberal streak left over from his misspent youth.

Doyle knew. It was up to Doyle, now, what happened. Bodie was in for a rocky few days. Right now, Doyle seemed to be focusing on Bodie and the shocking news that his partner fancied him. Later, what the doctor had said about the job, about his future, would come back to Doyle. He'd be hard to live with until he worked it out inside. Doyle was adaptable, but he hated to have his choices taken away, he hated to be forced.

Bodie knew things would be different between them now, no matter what conclusions Doyle would come to in his brooding and thinking. Everything was changed. The thought made him tired. He closed his own eyes, realizing that the pain had faded into the background as he had talked, but now it seemed to be intensifying. He tried to force himself to relax because it was worse if he fought it, but his body would not listen to him. The pain rose, but Bodie's awareness of the man in the other bed remained with him until his exhausted body fell into the deep sleep it needed.



Hospital food. It was vile. Bodie jabbed his spoon into mashed potatoes which had more in common with plaster than with food. But he ate. He was hungry. He thought about chocolate and wine and cake. He tried not to look over at the other bed, where a pretty nurse was helping Ray Doyle eat.

Why did she have to be so pretty? Her soft blonde hair and deep blue eyes were just the sort of thing Doyle liked and of course he was responding to her gentle coaxing ways. She was patting the sweat from his brow now, in classic fashion.

Bodie frowned at the chopped meat on his own tray and brought a piece up to his mouth, reflecting that while he had some difficulty eating, there were no pretty women to help him.

Not that he wanted pretty women. He responded to attention from them, of course. Always had, even after he figured out where his heart lay. Sublimation, that was, and lifelong habits. No, it wasn't that he wanted the nurse for herself. It was because she made things out of balance between Bodie and his partner. She wasn't something they could share, the experience wasn't one he was having, too. Bodie felt alone.

This was partly because Doyle had said little to him in the last 24 hours. Of course, a good deal of it had been spent in sleep. It seemed like if Bodie was asleep, then Doyle was awake, and if Doyle was asleep, then Bodie woke up. They had given Doyle a light sedative when he became so restless the night before. Bodie had held himself still, head turned away from the light but listening to everything said, every move made. Afterwards, he listened to the small sounds Doyle made before he fell asleep, and he thought about how intimate it was to listen to another person in the darkness. He let his mind toy with thoughts he usually did not allow himself.

Bodie played his own version of the game they had invented. He imagined Doyle in each room of their dream house. Doyle, in the kitchen, constructing one of his elaborate salads, looking up as Bodie came in, smiling. That was one of his favorites. And Doyle, emerging from the shower wrapped in one of those huge towels he had once said he favored. Deep blue it was. Or green. Green to match his eyes. Doyle, in the garden, Doyle in the pantry, Doyle crouched down in front of his stereo, while a fire burned in the fireplace. Doyle, stretched out on that huge sofa he had admired last year, his head in Bodie's lap as they watched the match on the box.

Sweet, silly dreams, easy to build, easy to imagine when the soft sound of Doyle's breath was only a few feet from him. He thought of a king-sized bed, and Doyle on the other side of it with him, just about as far away from Bodie as he was now, waiting for Bodie to scoot over, wake him with a kiss and ...

And love him.

Pure fantasy, of course. Doyle was over there, breathing unevenly, ill and sore and unlikely to have anything more than survival on his mind.

Cowley came. He had obviously spoken with the doctor. In his clipped voice, he echoed what Dr. Allen had said. The job they had done well for years was not theirs anymore. They would not be expelled at once, however. They would first heal, and then be evaluated. Cowley asked if they would be willing to do a desk job. Those he described had little appeal, but both Bodie and Doyle promised to consider it. The rate of pay was also less, of course. The real question, which all three were aware of but did not voice, was if they could stand what was essentially a demotion. Could they endure the pity, the casual dismissal by new agents, the long hours in the files or on the phone?

Cowley did not ask for answers, he only presented facts, but he seemed willing to go to considerable lengths to provide them with a future. He also left them with chocolate for Bodie and grapes for Doyle. He did not stay long and he did not make any reference to their personal relationship, or lack of it.

When they were alone again, Doyle slept, and Bodie watched the TV and tried not to give into the impulse to wake him up. He wanted Doyle. Not sexually. He was still at the stage when a lusty thought found his body unwilling to second the motion. He wanted the company, the comfort that just being with Doyle brought.

Doyle woke up in time for the evening meal, which he neglected.

"You should eat," Bodie said, striving to keep his worry from showing in his voice.

"I have Cowley's grapes," Doyle pointed out as the cheerful woman removed the remains of the meal.

"Going to share?" Bodie asked.

"Will you share your chocolate?" Doyle teased.

"Yes." He hesitated and then confessed, "I like the idea of sharing with you."

Doyle looked up.

"Half of it in you, half of it in me. Seems right, somehow."

"I wondered if I dreamed it." He did not have to say what. Bodie knew.

Bodie shook his head. "None of it, I suspect. The question is, can you accept it?"

"What do you mean?" Doyle asked. He was not looking at Bodie, he seemed to see something beyond the white walls.

"Can you stand to be with me, knowing how I feel?" Bodie asked intently.

Doyle gave a casual shrug. "Why not?"

Bodie made an inelegant sound. "Look mate, it's important. If you can't even stand to be around me, then I won't even bother making you this offer."

"Offer?" Now Doyle turned his head to look at Bodie.

"We aren't going to be much good for awhile. Our careers are ... " He made a face and gave a wry smile. "We're both going to be out. Maybe for good. That's fact." Bodie didn't appear to be nervous, but he made the curious hunching motion that a person wearing a shoulder holster makes to settle it, which betrayed his emotional state. "I know how you felt about that place they had you in while you recovered from your last bullet wounds."

"It was nuns," Doyle complained, as he had a hundred times since. "I'd been without for weeks and bloody Cowley puts me in a home run by nuns!"

"I remember," Bodie said. "And who knows where you'll be put this next time? That place in Kent where MI5 and MI6 stash their invalids? I have a better idea. You and I can put together our own convalescent home."

"Not one of your better ideas. They'll never let us do it. Besides, I'll need some therapy, too."

"We can have someone in every day for an hour or two. I'll get the place ready. They won't keep me much longer." Years of experience were behind that prediction. "By the time they let you out, I'll be getting around fairly well. We can have some help in. We can do on the cheap, much less than that place you were in before. Cost five hundred a month, it did."

"Don't be daft!" Doyle was both amazed and upset. "Cowley never paid that much to have me harassed by nuns!"

"They didn't harass you. They just kept you fed, helped you to the loo and made sure you did your therapy."

"You don't know," Doyle said darkly, "how they can torture you! All in the name of good health! One gave me a sponge bath daily, with ice water!"

"Which I would never do! Only the finest warm water for you, scented with roses!" Bodie was joking, but Doyle recognized the underlying seriousness in the offer. "But that's why you'd have to be comfortable with the idea. Would you feel right letting me help you do all those intimate things, knowing how I feel about you?"

"It couldn't be worse than the nuns!" Doyle insisted.

"What did they do that was so bad?" Bodie asked, curious.

"It wasn't them, it was me. My body didn't know they were nuns, even if my head did! Fatal beauty drove two of those women to the convent! And the other was a drill sergeant in a former life!"

"Not so loud! We don't want Sister in here, do we?" Bodie asked, with a glance at the door.

Doyle made a face, half agreement, half mock-horror. Bodie was glad to see it, for it meant that his partner was feeling better. For the first time he seemed like himself.

"So here's what. You and me, a house, somebody to clean up a bit, and the PT in every day. Could you stand it?" Bodie kept most of the hope out of his voice.

"I could try," Doyle said. Bodie knew Doyle would want to get out of hospital as soon as he could. Bodie was the same way himself.

"I promise I won't make it hard for you. Won't put the moves on you or make myself a pest. Just friends."

"Can you do that?" Doyle asked.

"Yes." Bodie said it firmly. He was sure he could. He knew he would hurt, he knew it would not be easy, but he knew he could.

"I'll think about it."

Bodie knew none of what he felt showed on his face, but his partner knew him enough to read the non-expression.

"I not only want to be able to think about it," Doyle said, "I want to find out the options, and I want to hear from the doctor before I decide. I'll let you know as soon as they tell me when I can get out of here. If we do, there will be a lot of work. We'd have to make plans, rent a place, get everything ready."

"WE don't. I have to. I'll be out before you. All you have to do is mend," he said, and then he added, as Doyle's eyes closed briefly, "and sleep."

"Mmm." Doyle didn't speak again. He slept until they woke him up to check his blood pressure. They also wheeled out some of the monitoring equipment which had been beside him ever since he had first been brought in. Bodie was heartened by that, and he had napped the rest of the day, turning his head every time he woke up to be sure that Doyle was there, that he was breathing. Then he sank down into a doze again, able to sleep for a little while longer.

The result of sleeping during the day is that one is awake during the night. Some time after midnight, Bodie woke up. He knew the moment his eyes opened what his body needed, and he cursed it silently. Bodie sat up slowly, letting the waves of pain roll over him and then ease a bit before he stood up. He made it to the loo, had the relief of doing it all himself instead of with the assistance of a nurse and a bedpan. His back ached. Only wrenched, they had said, but it hurt more than his ankle in the cast. He was right handed and most of the damage was on his right side, so he fumbled around left handed as best he could.

His excursion left him so tired that he fell asleep at once. He woke up to light feminine laughter.

Emma.

He knew who it was before he opened his eyes. She was a friend of Doyle's, a nurse in another hospital. It was evident that she had heard he was here and come to offer comfort.

She straightened his pillow, helped him drink his juice, and patted such parts of him as were not injured. Bodie kept still and pretended to be asleep. She stayed what seemed to him a very long time, as she helped Doyle eat his breakfast.

When she was gone, Doyle said, "You can open your eyes now."

Bodie could see no reason not to. He gave a great show of stretching and waking. His own breakfast was there. Cold, he noticed. He was hungry enough to spoon up the cereal and devour the dry toast without complaint.

"We're well enough for visitors, apparently," Doyle said, watching Bodie at his single-minded pursuit of sustenance.

Bodie paused and said evenly, "She's a nice woman."

"Yes, she is. She's volunteered to take care of me once they let me out of here." Doyle watched Bodie carefully for his reaction. Bodie kept up a steady chewing. "Bodie?"

"If it's what you want," Bodie said after he swallowed.

"Generous of you," Doyle said with light sarcasm.

"I've never known anyone who can force you to do something against your will. Except maybe Cowley," Bodie said plainly. "Either you'll go for my plan or you'll find another course of action. Up to you."

"But it bothered you, Emma showing up?" Doyle pressed.

"Not at all. Loved every minute of it." Bodie made it a joke, all the while ignoring the dull feeling which had invaded his chest when he remembered the light smacking sound of her parting kiss. "I expect we'll both get some visitors now that the news has had time to get about. No doubt we'll have a steady stream of your former conquests showing up on the doorstep from now on."

"Yours, too, I suppose," Doyle commented, and he let himself ease back onto his pillows.

Bodie did not answer. When he looked over at Doyle, he found that his partner had fallen asleep, mouth partly open. Not very attractive, thought Bodie. That didn't explain why he spent several minutes just watching Doyle sleep.

What a stupid conversation. Bodie brooded on it as the morning advanced. Towards afternoon, Bodie's prediction came true. Visitors came. Fellow agents, former girlfriends, various doctors and nurses, all popped in for one reason or another. Bodie watched Doyle force himself to appear alert and on the mend and Bodie bit back most of the negative comments which came to mind as he listened to the same conversations again and again. Didn't visitors ever have anything original to say? He was glad enough when visiting hours were over. Doyle fell promptly asleep, but moaned once in a while as if his dreams were bad, or as if in his sleep he could no longer hold the pain at bay.

It kept Bodie awake, and finally he climbed out of his bed and hobbled over to Doyle's. He sat there, daring to place a hand on Doyle's arm and pat him when he made any sound. Eventually, Doyle became quieter, and Bodie took his own stiff and complaining body back to bed.

They had Doyle out for tests the next morning, and he returned grey and silent. Bodie was allowed to get up for an official first trip to the bathroom. It was hardly adventure, but then again, it was the high point of the day. There were more visitors in the evening, most of them for Doyle, most of them hard to ignore. Bodie dozed.

Dr. Allen came by to tell Bodie he would be released tomorrow. Bodie wondered if the man knew he was better than he pretended to be, or was just clearing the room for another patient. He didn't like the idea of some other man sharing the room with Doyle. He knew, however, that he himself was on the mend. Crutches would give him mobility enough, and he was well used the bloody things, having broken and sprained his lower extremities time and time again. He asked to be taken to a phone to make arrangements and was wheeled out by a pretty nurse who flirted mildly with him all the way, but who showed her displeasure when his one phone call became three, one of them quite lengthy.

The crowd had cleared out of their room by the time Bodie returned.

"So you'll be set free tomorrow," Doyle said, thereby proving that he had listened in on Bodie's conversation with the doctor -- again.

"So it seems," Bodie said, grimacing as he struggled back into bed. It felt great to stretch out. He sighed as the bed took his weight. "Would you care to make up your mind?" Bodie asked as soon as he was as comfortable as he was likely to get.

"About what?" Doyle asked.

Bodie made a face at the ceiling. Doyle was not that dumb.

"Oh. That." Doyle sighed.

"I need to know."

"You or the nuns," Doyle said dispiritedly.

"Easy choice," Bodie told him.

Doyle made a negative sound. Bodie made a mildly offensive gesture with the hand closest to his partner.

"You're better than nuns," Doyle decided. "I'll give it a try."

"Ta very much," said Bodie in the face of such enthusiasm.

"I've a right to be concerned." Doyle told him. "I don't like being dependent on anyone. Even you."

"But you are, of course. Every minute out on the street. Just as I rely on you. It's not a thing measured out, you know. You won't owe me anything for this. It won't change anything."

Doyle said, "I've always admired your dry wit, Bodie. Ha ha."

"It won't. You'll see." The nurse came in to test their temperatures and they let the subject drop.

The next morning Bodie had to wait for the doctor on his rounds to check him over and pronounce that Bodie was fit to leave them. There were too many people around for Bodie to have an opportunity for a word in private with Doyle, so they only exchanged nods as Bodie was wheeled out of the room by a male nurse, crutches carried by one female attendant and his few belongings by another.

Bodie greeted Murphy, who had come to escort him home, and they both got into Murph's car and drove away.



"It will be quiet without him," Doyle said to the woman who came to change the bedding on Bodie's bed.

"Don't worry about it, luv. We'll have you some company straight away!"

She was right. In an indecently short time, a young man of eighteen was installed on Doyle's right. The young man had two interests in life. He liked himself and he liked women. Any woman. He expressed himself often and crudely.

Doyle began to wonder if he had ever been that thoughtless and stupid. He began to wonder if the young man was ever going to shut up. He took to pretending to be asleep. He began to wonder when he would be let out. Fortunately the kid was out for tests that afternoon and scheduled for surgery the next morning. Doyle found that there was something even worse than nuns. Young Richard Smith. The fool moaned, he whined, he fussed like a baby and complained incessantly.

Doyle wished with all his heart he had been able to leave with Bodie.

Bodie called, of course. He called once every morning and once every evening for five days. Five long, painfilled, dreary days. Doyle seldom felt good enough to read, but he took to holding a book between himself and the motor mouth with whom he was forced to share quarters. Richard's doting mum came to visit him and decided that Doyle was as interesting, if not more so, than her own offspring. Not that Doyle blamed her, but fending off mother was a bit of a chore. Mrs. Smith, moderately attractive, was plainly looking for a father for the children. Doyle could not decide if he looked older when he was injured, or if she liked younger men. Perhaps she, like her son, valued a captive audience. Doyle began to look forward to getting out, even though he lay awake at night and chased his thoughts like a squirrel in a wheel.

Bodie, wanting him? Macho Bodie, who had a different girl every week? Bodie, with his no chains philosophy and his smooth lines?

Had Bodie gone crazy? No man suddenly decided one day that he was going to change something that fundamental. Did that mean Bodie had always been -- that way? Or that he was merely mistaken? Doyle seriously considered that. A mistake. If Bodie had never had a close friend, had never had much of a family, then maybe he did not recognize normal non-sexual love. His brain could be translating friendship into something more intimate.

But what if that was wrong?

What if Bodie loved him, really loved him, like that? Could they remain friends? Could they work together?

And then Doyle remembered that his career was finished. At least, his function as an active agent. He knew the sorts of jobs which were left. Dispatcher. Researcher. Hell, he had lots of options -- typist, clerk, and tea lady! It was just that none of them appealed to him.

Why worry about it now? He had Bodie to worry about. Bodie, who said he wanted his friend, Bodie, who wanted them to share a flat. Could it be done? Should it?

It was, after all, not really a choice between Bodie and the nuns. Cowley had access to a dozen such facilities. Doyle had been in several. He had hated them all. They were such impersonal places, filled with people who did not understand that CI5 agents needed more than sunny windows and help to the loo. Everything was done to schedule in such places. It had to be, of course, but Doyle and men like him needed different handling. Unused to the life of an invalid, they needed challenge, exercise, hope and more specialized assistance than the average patient. They hated the petty tyrants who sometimes surfaced in the medical professions, perhaps because agents were tyrannical by nature themselves.

So it was not the idea of convalescence with Bodie which Doyle found disconcerting. Bodie would know exactly what they both needed, and he'd change if the need arose. No, it was that other aspect.

Doyle would need help. Help with his exercises, help getting up and down, help with personal hygiene. Help from Bodie.

Bodie, who had developed some very queer ideas lately.

Doyle was not naive. Consenting to join Bodie, to live in a flat together, sent a message that he was not 100 percent opposed to the idea of sharing -- and maybe sharing more than a flat. If he had been utterly against the idea, he could have said no. Doyle had said yes. Did that mean he was, in the darkest corner of his mind, intrigued with the idea?

Doing ... THAT? With BODIE?

Intriguing wasn't the word! Frightening, unnatural, stupid. Try one of those.

What was intriguing was the idea of Bodie wanting to try such a thing. Not because it was with a man. Bodie had always seemed to be a mad bastard, capable of anything. But ... domesticity? Home life and devotion to it was the opposite of everything he knew about his partner. Given that he wanted to try such a thing, why with Doyle? Why not with one of the charming young ladies he had seduced by the dozens? Was he frightened of trying a deeper relationship? If he succeeded with Doyle, would he throw him over eventually for a more traditional match?

And wasn't Doyle putting the cart before the horse? Early days to worry about Bodie moving on, for there was nothing between them!

Yet.

The word hung in the back of Doyle's mind. He wasn't stupid. He knew how often he had fallen for one of his nurses. Emma, for one. She had nursed him for weeks last time, when he had been shot through the heart. He'd become more than fond of her, but before it had become too serious, she had recognized what was happening and taken herself off his case and onto another shift. When he met her again, months later, they had dated a few times, but both of them were different people, and they had remained friends but not sought a more serious relationship.

Already close to Bodie in one way, he was not unaware that it was possible to become emotionally dependent. Would Bodie understand that the closeness was not the kind of closeness he wanted? Would he settle for that?

It was fortunate Doyle slept a lot, for the hours between bordered on hell. Even when he had visitors, they were constrained by the presence of a civilian in the next bed, and the short conversations were limited to match scores and observations about the weather.

Bodie did not come to visit. He phoned, but he did not show his head until the afternoon of the day Dr. Allen pronounced Doyle fit to leave.

Release from the hospital is only the first step towards recovery. The rest is a long slow climb, with progress and lack of progress a cycle with which Doyle was all too familiar. He could not help feeling excited and hopeful at the thought of getting out. He wanted out. The sight of Bodie's head thrust into the doorway lifted his heart.

"What are you up to, then?" Doyle asked when Bodie did not immediately come in, but stayed at the door with only his head and shoulders in sight.

"Wanted to make sure you hadn't changed your mind. Don't want anything chucked at me," Bodie told him. He was using only one crutch and getting around rather well.

"You can't be that daft. What took you so long?" Doyle complained, pulling himself up with his good arm, which in this case was his right. It had no cast and fewer stitches.

"This and that," Bodie replied, and waited for the joke which was sure to follow. It didn't. Doyle was busy getting up off the bed and into the wheelchair which stood ready. "In a hurry, aren't you?"

"Not at all," Doyle said with false mildness. "Grab that box, that bag and that plant and let's go!"

"I can't think it's me. What's the motivation for your sudden desire to ... "

At that moment, a young blond nurse with a flushed face and an irritated look on her face pushed Richard Smith and his chair into the room.

"Leavin' us? But you were going to say good-bye to Mum!" Richard was blocking the door. Doyle's frown grew deeper.

"Actually, I wasn't. Bodie?" Doyle glanced towards his possessions, most of the desperation out of his voice.

"Right." Briskly Bodie scooped up the desired items, piled them haphazardly onto Doyle's lap and turned his charm on as he addressed the nurse. "Can you do the honors, Miss?" He waved the crutch to show why he could not be of more help. She fell for the shy smile and the blue eyes. Women usually did. Or perhaps she, too, was willing to do almost anything to get her away from the obnoxious Mr. Smith.

Ignoring Smith, who was still bleating on about his mother, they made fairly rapid progress down the green and white corridor. After a brief stop in the name of paperwork, they headed outside.

"Fresh air!" Doyle exclaimed, drawing a deep breath. The day was barely warm enough, with a wind rising and clouds on the horizon. It would rain later in the day. To Doyle, however, it was beautiful. He enjoyed it, his face up to the sun. The nurse did not complain, but waited for the return of the chair. Bodie just waited, watching Doyle.

"So how do we get home? And where's home?" Doyle asked, looking up at his friend. Bodie had changed in the days he had been away. Some of it was for the better -- his bruises were fading. It was, Doyle decided, the clothing. Bodie was wearing a faded pair of cords and a thick sweater, not at all his usual well-turned-out style. "Who's your tailor?" he added, teasing. He knew Bodie wore an older pair of trousers because the seam of one leg had to be slit because of the cast. He wore a black sock over the cast and a black trainer on the other foot.

"Our ... yes, there he is." Bodie lifted an arm and an old estate wagon pulled up to the kerb. "Your roller, sir!"

"Have you thought of having your eyesight checked?" Doyle asked kindly.

"Every time I look at you," Bodie said cheerfully. "Let's have you in, then." Doyle and his possessions were tipped into the back seat, and then Bodie gave a kiss and the wheelchair to the nurse and slid into the front seat beside the driver.

"Introductions are in order," Bodie said. "In front, Arthur Andrews, who works for us. In back, Ray Doyle, partner and patient. Any questions?"

"Dozens. They'll keep," Doyle said, studying Andrews as best he could from the back. The man was small. Mid to late fifties, if his grey hair was anything to go by. He wore glasses and drove with slow care. "Glad to meet you, Mr. Andrews."

His polite words were greeted by a short nod and a terse, "And you." Doyle lifted an eyebrow but did not comment. The traffic was nasty just here, after all. He leaned back against the warm plastic of the seat and let the stored heat of the morning seep into his sore back. He could not get comfortable, however, and restlessly changed positions every few minutes. His head itched, his shoulder ached, and the tiredness which never went away was increasing a little. Ten minutes later, his eyes closed and he dozed.

When the car stopped, he did not rouse until he felt Bodie's hand on his shoulder.

"Wake up, sunshine. We're home."

"We're ... oh." Doyle let Bodie help him out of the car. Andrews was on his other side to assist as well. Doyle leaned on Bodie and looked at the man his partner said worked for them. Andrews had a plain face, his skin pale and his eyes brown. He had rough calloused hands which seemed big for his body and he had the posture of a man who has labored hard all his life and cannot quite straighten all the way up any more.

Taken up with the study of the man, Doyle did not at first notice where they were going. When he did look up, he stopped so abruptly he almost had Bodie and himself over.

In front of him was a house. It had been standing long enough to have a wall of ivy up the north side and two large trees in front of it. A waist high hedge ran down one side of the property, dividing it from a bit of wood. The piece of land was an odd shape, but then, so was the house. Each previous owner had added a room or two. Some of them had been able to afford brick, some had not. The entire effect was one of comfort, with just a hint of mystery in the many nooks and corners.

A broad walk led to the front door. From the front there were three steps, from the side a sloping ramp of wood with an attractive railing. Doyle opened his mouth to comment on it when he caught sight of the door.

It was the stained glass inset in the door which held his eye. In red and white and black, with a clear bit just at eye level so that one could look out. The subject was unusual. It was a representation of an old Indian motorcycle.

Doyle turned to look at Bodie. His partner had a funny look on his face, part delight, part apprehension, part ... what? It confirmed Doyle's suspicions, however. Doyle said nothing, but began to walk up to the door.

Andrews slipped ahead to open the door, and then he turned and handed the key to Doyle. Slipping by the two younger men, he went to fetch Doyle's things from the car.

Doyle remained silent as Bodie helped him into the house. A stairway, broad, with well polished wood, went up. From where he stood he could see a landing, with a window and a comfortable chair, before the stairway made a turn and continued up. To the left was a small cloak room, and to the right a large sunny room with a comfortable sofa, three chairs of different types, a fireplace, a TV and a beautiful oriental rug on the polished wooden floor. Beyond it he could glimpse an equally large kitchen with a few bright copper-bottomed pans hanging where the morning sun could touch them.

Doyle finally spoke. "Show me the house."

"You need to rest," Bodie protested.

"Show me the house," Doyle repeated, stubbornly.

Bodie sighed, and he was unable to hide his worried glance, but he gave a short nod. "Sitting room," he said unnecessarily. A few steps brought them to the kitchen. Doyle stared. Cooker, fridge, sink, all to be expected. But on the counter one of those new microwave ovens, and to the left of the sink, a dishwasher. The walls were white, but many of the items here and there were blue. Coffee pot. Tea things. The new cabinets were oak.

"What's that?" Doyle pointed to a door which looked as if it should lead to the sitting room, but didn't.

"Lift."

"Lift!" Doyle walked slowly towards it, followed by Bodie, who demonstrated how it worked by punching the right buttons.

"It won't go unless all the doors are shut," Bodie said as it took them up. "First stop!" He opened the door but let Doyle precede him out.

They emerged about six feet from the stairs. Straight ahead was a bedroom. "Andrews' room," Bodie said, opening the door so that Doyle could see the neat and tidy room with the small telly, the carefully made bed, the comfortable chair under the lamp. "It has its own bath." They did not go in, and Bodie closed the door and went a few feet down the hall to the next door. "Guest room. About like Andrews', only empty. Also with own bath. The woman who owned this before ran a sort of boarding house."

There was nothing in the room except a large and colorful rug of red with a blue and white border, with matching curtains at the window.

"Also has the best view. Both roads and the front of the house." Not that such things were important here, but old habits died hard -- if they died at all. He closed the door and continued the tour. "Here is a linen closet, and here is a storage closet. Here is another room -- very small, no bath. It could be a box room or a sitting room. Here are the rest of the stairs. Now we go back to the lift," he suited his actions to his words. They went up again. The lift door opened into a smaller corridor, with only two doors opening off of it.

"This is my room," Bodie said, opening the door to the right. The room was small, plain, with a single bed and a dresser, a wardrobe and a chair. He closed the door almost at once. "This is yours," he said, opening the door across the hall. "We share the bath."

Doyle did not hear him. He moved into the middle of the room and stared. Stared at the window seat and the window which looked out over the back garden, at the oriental style carpet, at the tall lamps and the comfortable chairs, at the fireplace and the bright brass fittings. The king-sized bed with its cover of black satin, and the two large wardrobes with the carved doors were studied silently and thoroughly.

"Mine?" Doyle whispered, to himself.

"Let's go see the rest of the house," Bodie said.

"There's more?" Doyle said, but not as if he were aware of the words. He seemed bemused.

"Some." Bodie led the way back to the lift and they were both silent as they went back down. They heard steps on the stairs as they came out into the kitchen; Andrews on his way up with Doyle's bags. Doyle noticed his plant on the kitchen table. He'd have to find a place for it.

At the far end of the kitchen there were two doors. One led out into the garden, which was long and narrow. The other led into a large room. It was painted white, with a shop of some sort on the far end, mats and exercise equipment in the middle, and a table with four chairs at the near end. It had an unfinished look to it. Double doors led out into the garden, and there was a window north and one west.

"There's a room here," Bodie said, opening a door, "for storage, or it could be made into a bedroom. Over here, a sauna with one of those spa tubs. Two sheds and a garage outside."

Doyle turned without speaking and went back to the main room, where he carefully sat down in one of the chairs.

"Doyle, you need to get to bed." Bodie stood, impatient, worried, in the kitchen doorway.

"Do you," Doyle said, so quietly that Bodie had to take a step forward in order to hear, "love me that much?"

Bodie froze. Only the movement in his throat as he swallowed, hard, showed his reaction.

Doyle turned to look directly at Bodie. "It's all here. Everything I ever mentioned when we played that damn game. Every stick of furniture I ever admired. Every color I like, every whim I had, every ... everything."

Bodie had nothing to say.

"You didn't just go out and find this place. You didn't put it together in just a few days. You've been working on this for years. How many?"

Bodie did not try to evade answering. "Two. And a half."

"Is that how many years you've had the house or ... the other?"

Bodie limped closer, easing himself down into the chair nearest Doyle. He did not answer the questions.

"Bodie?" Doyle waited.

"Had the house for three years."

"Just happened to buy it?" Doyle asked, too lightly.

Bodie shrugged. "I took what I got in the mercs and invested it. Got a decent return after a few years. Decided to put it into real estate."

"So it was just accident you bought a house so much like the one I described growing up in, before my father died?"

"Do you want a drink?" Bodie asked, standing up. His fingers were white where he held onto his crutch.

"I want an answer to my question," Doyle said.

"What question?" Bodie said, although Doyle knew Bodie was not that obtuse.

"The first one. Do you love me that much?" Doyle was not looking at him now, sure that it would be easier for Bodie to answer if he was not under Doyle's sharp green gaze. Absently he rubbed at the scabs over his left ear where the stitches had been taken out that morning.

"Yes." A tiny word, with defeat in it. It was almost as if Bodie expected to be hit or shot for the confession.

"That much," Doyle said softly, to himself.

Doyle continued to sit. Bodie went to the kitchen where he could be heard clattering the tea things. Doyle closed his eyes and thought, and didn't think. He heard Andrews come down the stairs again.

"I'll be working on the wall," the man said, and then there was the slam of the back door. All such ordinary sounds.

Doyle only opened his eyes again when Bodie came in, cup in hand. He put it down on the table beside Doyle and went back for his own. Taking up the cup, needing the hot sweetness of tea made the way he liked it, Doyle took a first, too-hot sip and then held it in his cold hands. His restless gaze flicked from a picture on the wall, which he had last seen in his own flat, to the window, to the stairs. All so very ... right. It felt like home. All he had ever wanted.

As for what Bodie wanted ... Doyle sighed. He was seeing new sides to his partner, learning things which disturbed him because they were in conflict with what he had known before. Love 'em and leave 'em Bodie, capable of a long and secret devotion? Strong, confident Bodie, afraid of admitting how much he loved? Randy, lusty Bodie, willing to live in a chaste relationship just to be near the one he wanted most of all?

Warmth welled from Doyle's heart, causing his face to flush, his pulse to beat faster. Stupid, wonderful Bodie. Bodie, who deserved to have the one he loved turn to him and say, yes, I love you, too.

"Are you going to stay?" Bodie asked as he sat down again. His tea had slopped over his hand and he licked at it to catch the drip.

Doyle said, "Yes, I'm going to stay."

"Good."

He didn't ask how long, Doyle noticed.

"When does the PT start?" Doyle asked, after another swallow of tea.

"Tomorrow. Her name is Mrs. Jones. She's supposed to be good. Cowley's had her vetted."

Doyle nodded. He drank his tea.

"Do you want more?" Bodie wanted to know.

"I think I need to go to bed." Doyle yawned, punctuating the statement with proof.

Bodie drained the last of his own cup. "I'll show you how things work," he said, pulling up his crutch and heaving himself to his feet.

Doyle nodded. They went to the lift. Bodie let Doyle punch the buttons which took them all the way up. They didn't speak.

The bedroom was warm. The bed looked inviting. It was the proper height, not low the way some modern beds were since the advent of the waterbed craze. Bodie turned it down. White sheets, red pillow cases. It looked good.

"I cleaned out your apartment. All your belongings are here. I put them away but of course you'll want to move things about. There's still several boxes of your books and things out in the shed. I didn't know whether you'd want a bookcase up here, or another downstairs. You decide and we can either buy it or have Andrews build it. He's good. Most of the work on the place is his."

"You'll have to tell me about him. Later," Doyle decided as he was ambushed by a yawn.

"Need ... ?" Bodie tilted his head towards the bathroom.

"Unfortunately, yes. Can go by myself, but I'll need help after that, getting the jeans off." Doyle was slow in moving. His chest hurt more now, and his thigh ached.

"Do you want to sleep in anything?" Bodie asked, knowing that Doyle usually slept nude.

"No. The cloth bothers me when it rubs against my sore places. I'm hoping to spend a lot of my time in my dressing gown."

"Fine with me!" Bodie attempted one of his leers, but it didn't quite go. He was too tense, and it was too important to him. He tried to pretend it wasn't so, but it was not hard for Doyle to see it.

When he came out of the bathroom Doyle limped over to sit on the edge of the bed. Sitting beside him, Bodie helped him off with his clothing, fingers carefully neutral and eyes not meeting Doyle's. Doyle knew his body was being looked at, and he wondered why he didn't feel concern. The nurses had not been so mindful of his bruises -- or as impersonal.

"I see they've done away with most of the threadwork," Bodie said as he slid Doyle's pants off. Doyle glanced down. There were only a dozen stitches left over his stomach. His arm, his chest, his cheek and ear, his penis, were all marked with still painful red tracks, but the actual stitches were gone.

"Not before time, either," Doyle said. "These have to stay," he touched the line of stitches just above his waistline, "a week more. That's my deepest one. There's ointment in my box. My pills should be in there, too."

Bodie went to bring them, arranging all the medications in a row on the bedside table nearest the bathroom. He brought a glass of water and put it down on a bit of folded cloth. "Need anything now?" he asked, peering Doyle through anxious eyes.

"No." Doyle stretched out, grateful for the soft firmness of the mattress, for the warmth of the sheets.

"I'll be off then," Bodie said awkwardly, pausing to pull the curtains closed before he went out. He closed the door firmly behind him. Doyle could hear him going to the lift, hear the faint hum as it went down.

The lift. Put in just for the few weeks they would need it, or in anticipation of other injuries? It was true that between them they usually had some hurt or another, but their careers were due for an involuntary change. Surely they wouldn't be injured as often in a new line of work?

A police artist. He'd once had that ambition, but it had been set aside for loftier goals when he realized that Photofit had put most of the artists out of work. He'd gone for CI5. The top. Now, going back to the Met as a specialist in identification had only a little appeal. He could go back even further. As a teen, he'd wanted to paint. Well, now he had the time for it. His shoulder shouldn't get in the way of either of those plans. The doctor had said he had lost ten to twenty percent of the mobility in that arm. Quite likely he would never be able to lift it over his head again, the man had said. Privately, Doyle was sure that with work, he could get back most of the use of it. If nothing else, he wanted to be able to scratch his head with that hand. He was forever lifting his arm, remembering, and then having to use the other one. His head itched, with the new hair growing in. He had been told he could take off the last light gauze tonight, and he was looking forward to it.

A nurse had told him the three areas where his head had been scraped and cut had turned out to have only superficial damage, except for the stitches which had been above his left ear. They could probably have left most of his hair alone, but the only way to discover that had been to take it off. Head wounds bleed all over, he had always known that and he didn't blame them for being careful, or for taking it all off to even it up and make it easier to bandage. But he hated the itch. At first it had itched because the shaved areas had started to grow in, and now itched where the scabs pulled at it and where it was healing. Good sign, itching, according to the doctor.

He itched other places as well. Thinking about it, he let his hand fall to his groin. His penis lay there, a damaged warrior without a trace of life in him. Dr. Allen had warned him about any "excitement" for at least a fortnight, and longer would be even better. The delicate tissues needed to repair themselves, and there was a chance that an erection could tear the wounds open again. Passion killer, that was. Not that passion was on his mind at all. Good thing he wasn't madly in love with Bodie.

He lay, hand cupping his private parts, thinking about Bodie, about love, about sex. Bodie, who loved him.

Bodie had hidden it well. Still gone out with girls. Sublimation? Was he always with women when he was out at night? Or did he sometimes come here, and work on this place? Bodie ...

Bodie was his last thought as he fell asleep, and his first thought when he woke up several hours later. It had been the deepest sleep he'd had since before the accident. No voices, bells, passing rattle, and no one to wake him up to test his blood pressure and give him a sleeping pill! He did hear voices, very faintly, and the sound of a closing door. He sat up. It was almost dark outside. His own robe was across the foot of the bed and he got up, shrugged into it, found the slippers he almost never wore near the foot of the bed, and slid them on.

He had to wait for the lift to come up. It seemed quite strange for it to be there. It was one item which had never been mentioned in their game. He wondered what it had cost his partner. He had a good idea of what the house itself had sold for, and he experienced a twinge of guilt. The fool had probably spent every penny he had on this place.

Mixed in with that guilt was another feeling, part annoyance, part understanding. If Bodie could, indeed, keep their new relationship platonic, then Doyle owed it to him to do what he could to maintain their strange household. Imagine what it would be like to live surrounded by items bought to please a lover who would not have you, would not have the sacrifice or the offerings.

Was that what this was? A shrine? Or was it a bribe? As the lift went down, Doyle leaned against the wall and rejected both those ideas. It was just Bodie's way of dealing with a love he didn't understand and didn't dare ask for. It was a way to keep hope in a situation which had none, and it was a way of wishing. Dreaming.

The lift door opened.

"You knew it was tea time. Trust you!" Bodie seemed to be in good spirits. He was pulling a pan of hot rolls out of the oven.

"Never tell me you've taken to baking!" Doyle said as he sat in the nearest chair. It was lovely and warm here, and the smells were fantastic.

"I can't tell a lie. They're Andrews' specialty. He bakes them in butter, and the bottoms are all crusty and good! He'll be joining us as soon as he gets washed up." Bodie tumbled the rolls into a basket, brought fruit, jam, butter and a plate of cakes to the table and then went to see to the tea.

"You'll have to tell me how we acquired this paragon," Doyle said as a tea cup was thrust in front of him. Actually, it was not a cup, but a nice deep mug with thick sides to hold the heat in. One he had used at Bodie's place, if he remembered correctly. Strange to think of his things, and Bodie's, all mixed in with new ones. Hard to sort it out what belonged to whom. Which would make it hard to leave.

"Later," Bodie said, as the back door opened. "It's ready," he said over his shoulder to Andrews, who washed his hands at the sink.

"Of course it is. I should know. I made it." Andrews gave a nod to Doyle, took the cup Bodie handed him, and sat down. "The wall's to the corner. Half done," he reported. Bodie had dealt out plates and started passing the food. "It will be raining tomorrow. I'll leave it for now," Andrews said.

Bodie nodded, his mouth already full.

Doyle sampled one of the crispy rolls and gave a respectful glance towards Andrews as he took another bite. "Marvelous," he said sincerely. "I am more than tired of hospital food!"

Andrews nodded. "You should have seen this one when he was first out. He finished off a pan of these," he lifted up his roll, "in the time it took me to change out of my gardening clothes."

"I saved you two," Bodie protested, already on his second one.

"Very kind of you, that was, Master William," Andrews said, sarcastically.

"He wouldn't make them again, to punish me," Bodie complained.

"Served you right," Doyle said, just to tease. Everything tasted wonderful, and he sat and listened to the combination of planning, gossip and explanations which Bodie traded with Andrews. It was a strange sort of relationship they seemed to have. While it was clear that Bodie gave the orders and had final say on the plans, Andrews had nothing of the servant in his manner. That didn't surprise Doyle. He remembered a long rambling conversation he had with Bodie on the subject of class and servants in British society, one night when they were staking out the very posh home of a drug czar.

When the meal had been reduced to scraps the three of them cleared the table. Only that small exertion was almost too much. Doyle's chest hurt and he was glad to go when Bodie turned bossy on him and ordered him from the room.

He went to the sitting room, where he sat on the couch and looked around. Bookcases, Bodie had said. There was space between the windows, but that might block the light. Over by the door, perhaps. He hadn't seen his stereo or Bodie's, for that matter. Unless they were behind those cabinet doors? Music would be nice, but he felt too tired to go and look. He heard a door open and then close, and then the sound of a car engine starting.

"I thought about putting a dining table over in that corner, but it looked crowded, and the kitchen was big, so I put it there. You can decide how you want it," Bodie said, coming in. "And I forgot to show you the washer and dryer, just off the kitchen."

"Can just see you sorting your whites out," Doyle said with a grin. "Where's Andrews?"

"Off to town in the car. It's his car, actually, and since he's the one doing the errands while I'm," he waved his crutch to explain, "it works out well enough."

"Where did you find him?" Doyle asked. Bodie joined him on the couch, a careful distance away.

"He came along with a load of lumber," Bodie said, seriously.

Doyle gave him a stern look.

"He did!" Bodie insisted. "I'd just bought the place and had decided I could fix it up in my spare time." At this, Doyle gave a snort of derision and Bodie had the grace to look embarrassed. They never had spare time. "I was looking at lumber and heard him asking the yard man if there was any work. One of those men who do just about anything to keep off the dole. Lots of pride. No real career, you see, just did a bit of whatever came along which would bring in money. Never needed much because he never married. He helped me that day, and then I had him checked out. Clean record except for one occasion when he got into a fight a few years ago. We came to an agreement. Having him live on the premises kept it safe from break-ins and he could work on it as well. He had a place to stay and a little money."

"And?" Doyle asked. When Bodie looked puzzled, he said, "I know you, Bodie. There's something you're not saying. Spit it out," he ordered.

Bodie glanced at the window. The curtains were not yet drawn, but he didn't quite feel like pulling himself up and going over to do it. So he did anyway.

"Bodie?"

"He's gay, you see. That's one of the things I found out when I had him vetted. At that point I was finally admitting to myself how I felt, what I wanted. I was curious. That may be part of the reason I hired him. I watched him work on the place, studied him. There's nothing about him that's different from any other man. I expected it would show, but it didn't. He'd work, he'd go out for a beer, he'd talk about the match. Just like anyone else. And politics. Has a lot of interesting ideas on government. When I offered him a fulltime job, he told me about himself. Said if it made a difference, he'd go. I can't see it does. Once every two or three weeks he goes somewhere for an evening and comes back with that look. You know. He doesn't do it often, really. Hates the places mostly and just goes because ... well, you know.

"I told him I worked for a government office and I told him I was renovating the place as my retirement home. At first he thought I had money. He soon had more of the truth out of me. He knows about ... the game, that I planned this with you in mind. He put two and two together and figured out how I feel about you. I think he liked the idea of it, of planning a love nest. Not that it is, I just think he thinks of it ... " Bodie seemed to decide that sentence was too dangerous to finish. "When we were in the hospital, I called up and asked if he wanted to stay even though things were changing. I knew we'd both need help for some time. He admitted he had been thinking that the job was almost done, that I wouldn't need just a person on the place if there was no other work. I told him we'd been in an accident, and I asked if he'd mind taking on a bit of cooking, cleaning, helping us out. Told him it might be months before we were both on our feet.

"He said he didn't mind." Bodie came back to sit down.

"He's ... given me advice. Helped me out." Bodie shrugged. "He's been a friend, told me off when I needed it. Told me how it is to be gay. Sometimes he acts more like an uncle than anything else. I ... don't mind. Short on family, you know."

Doyle knew. Damn shame there were people in this world who got more help and support, and affection, from the hired help than they ever got from their own families.

"He seems decent enough." Doyle looked down at his feet, still slipper clad. He was starting to feel tired, but was reluctant to give up the freedom from routine, and the peace. Besides, if he went to bed too early, he would be awake in the middle of the night.

"You should be in bed," Bodie said.

Doyle lifted his head to look at Bodie. Bodie, he realized, knew him. Even off the streets and even though they had not worked together for weeks, his partner's knowledge of him remained. Did Doyle have the same ability, that same awareness of Bodie? He had always thought so, but why hadn't he noticed that Bodie had fallen in love with him? Or was it love which gave Bodie that extra knowledge? Doyle, however, was well aware of his own sensitivity to Bodie out on the street. Sometimes they moved as if they were man and shadow, or as if yoked by invisible harness. How much of that was due to Bodie, and how much to Doyle?

How much to love?

"Don't you like the pattern?" Bodie asked. "We can change it.

"What?"

"You're looking at the wallpaper, and frowning."

Doyle took a deep breath. "The wallpaper's fine. It's all fine, Bodie. Just a bit of a surprise. I wasn't expecting something nice, you know. I thought we'd have some ground-floor flat. Something like the one Murphy got lumbered with in January. You remember."

"Can't forget. We made a list of all the features we didn't like in a flat and Murphy showed a place which had every single one of them."

"Poor sod."

"Yeh. But he got to move. He's in your old one now," Bodie told him, grinning.

Doyle let the corners of his lips turn up, too. "Good. He liked the staircase."

"He was happy. He had a celebration of sorts last Saturday. Everybody off duty went over and got pissed. According to Jax, even Macklin showed up for a bit."

"Let him out without a keeper, did they?" Doyle inquired mildly, his thoughts on CI5. It was strange to hear about what everyone was doing; already it seemed as if they belonged to another life. Yet he hated the thought of being left behind, forgotten. The squad, drinking at his apartment. Without him. He made an effort not to think of it. Instead, he looked at Bodie.

"Are you ready to prove your strength of character?"

Bodie appeared puzzled.

"I think I would like a bath. Most of the damage is on the front side of me. The doctors warned that if I did take a bath, I would have to sit up, not lean back and get the cast on my shoulder wet. I'd have to have the hole in my leg swabbed out with disinfectant afterwards. And because of my wrist," he held out his left arm, which had the wrist wrapped in plaster, "I can't wash my hair properly. What's left of it," he added, with a shake of his head.

"I do miss the tatty curls. But they'll grow back," Bodie said, studying Doyle's head. "Let's go up, then." He stood, held out his left hand, and when Doyle took hold, he pulled him up easily.

They walked slowly, Bodie with his one crutch, Doyle trailing a hand along the tops of the chairs as he went by in case he might need their support. The lift was slower than the types found in commercial establishments, and it featured a humming motor and various rattles and clanks. Doyle kept his mouth shut because he didn't ever want to be the sort of person who talked when he had nothing to say. Bodie wasn't saying anything either.

The bathroom was big. Of course, it would be, for he remembered the occasion when he and Bodie had discussed the perfect bog, and he remembered what he had said he liked. Mirrors. Enough light. A new tub with a fancy shower attachment. Heated towel bars. Fancy tiles.

Bodie started the water running and came to help Doyle out of his clothing. He was as silent and as impersonal as a valet, and that was strange. Bodie's normal joking, the lightness which would have made it easier for both of them, was missing. Bodie didn't want to make it difficult for him, and so he was very careful, which made it difficult. Doyle may have intended to grin at the thought, but it turned into a grimace. Everything still hurt.

Bodie noticed. "Want your pills?" he asked, checking the temperature of the water with his hand, and then standing.

"No, I don't want the bloody pills," Doyle said, moving to stand next to the tub. He got into the water fairly easily -- it was getting out which would pose problems. Even a few inches of warm water was better than the sponge baths he'd been enduring. One handed, he soaped the flannel Bodie handed to him, and began industriously to scrub at the nearest bits. It was easier to ignore Bodie if he was busy. Easier to pretend he wasn't naked with a man who had expressed a sincere interest in his body.

Only he couldn't forget it, really. Not when Bodie's too-gentle hands worked shampoo into the fuzz on his head and then rinsed it. Bodie, who had to go so awkwardly down to his knees to perform the task.

"I could wait until Andrews returns," Doyle said as Bodie was forced to shift his weight as he leaned forward.

"Not a chance," Bodie said, with a trace of his old lecherous bonhomie.

"But you would if I insisted," Doyle said.

"Course I would. But you won't. Unless I do something stupid. Which I won't. Lean forward."

Doyle leaned. He had a towel draped over his shoulder to protect it from splashes. He was very aware of the texture of it, and that a corner of it had fallen down and was wicking up water.

When Doyle was rinsed, Bodie helped him up, and wielded the towel with brisk efficiency. After assisting him into the robe, Bodie knelt beside him and tended the wound. It was a strange one, for the metal bar which had pierced him had been three sided, and it had not gone out exactly as it had gone in. Bodie's hand trembled and he spilled a little of the disinfectant, but neither of them commented on it.

"Done," said Bodie as he pressed down the last bit of tape and gauze. "What would you like now? Music? A book?"

"Just sleep." Doyle made his way through to the bedroom. The bed looked comfortable. He'd never had a bed that big. It was clearly designed for two. He didn't look at Bodie as he folded back the bedding so that he could climb in. The sheets smelled good.

"I can get you a hot water bottle," Bodie offered.

"No need. I'll warm up fast enough."

"You'll be all right?" Bodie asked as he watched his partner climb in.

"Fine. I can finally sleep on my side. Only this side, mind, but it's better than a couple weeks, flat on my back. I can't sleep properly on my back."

"I know what you mean. I still can't rest on my right side for long," Bodie said. He was standing there, the light from the bathroom behind him causing his face to be difficult to see. He was making no move to leave, but not coming any closer, either. He seemed to be leaning heavily on his crutch, and Doyle felt a stab of guilt. Getting up and down was hard for Bodie. It wasn't his broken ankle which gave him trouble so much as his wrenched back.

The phone rang. There was an extension beside the bed. Bodie looked at Doyle, who made no move to answer it.

"It's your house," Doyle said.

"Ours," Bodie said, and picked it up. "Good evening, sir," he said, and Doyle knew it was Cowley by the way Bodie straightened just a little.

"Yes. He's here. Yes. Tomorrow. Yes, of course. Seven, sir?" A pained look on his face said that it was seven in the morning the old man was suggesting. "Yes, we'll be expecting you, then. Good-bye." He hung up.

"He's coming here tomorrow morning at SEVEN?" Doyle asked, although he knew the answer perfectly well. Bloody typical, that. He'd been so looking forward to lying in, to sleeping as late as he wished without the badgering nurses and the noise of the hospital to prevent him.

"Before his meeting with the minister. He didn't say which."

"He never does. That means I'll have to get up at six," Doyle sighed.

"True. But you can go back to bed when he leaves, which will have to be before eight."

Doyle sighed. "It's not the same. Is Andrews up to helping me put together breakfast?"

"You're never going to feed him?" Bodie asked, but his expression showed the prospect didn't bother him excessively.

"He doesn't eat properly," Doyle said, which wasn't really an answer, but he knew Bodie understood. "Doesn't have to be elaborate. Toast, tea, eggs and bacon ... "

"Sausage, bit of tomato, a bowl of oats." Bodie shook his head in mock sadness. "You'll spoil him."

"What have we got in?" Doyle asked.

"All your favorites and all mine," Bodie said with satisfaction. "And juice and fruit and everything needed to put you back into the pink."

Doyle eyed Bodie's waistline significantly. Not that his partner had put back the weight he had lost in hospital, but he well knew Bodie's tendencies.

"And Andrews makes lovely pancakes, as well."

"Just the easy stuff this time," Doyle said. "Is there an alarm?" He looked around.

"In with the radio," Bodie said. "Or I can wake you up?"

"This will be fine," Doyle said, fiddling with the dials and buttons of the bedside radio.

"Good night, then," Bodie said, and he went to the bathroom to turn off the light before heading for the lift.

"Good night," Doyle said. Finished with the alarm, Doyle turned off the bed-side lamp and stretched out. Fantastic to have his own pillow again, and the normal weight of blankets pressing onto him. Hospital blankets were light, to the benefit of bodies so wracked with pain that even a few extra ounces of blanket could be punishing. But they didn't feel right. Hospital sheets were just a bit too stiff, too.

He was tired, he was comfortable. He should be asleep.

There was the sound of a car, a door, and distant voices. Andrews, coming home? Had to be.

Home.

He fingered the soft binding on the blanket and thought about Bodie. About the house. About what Bodie wanted. About what Doyle felt he could give. Friendship with Bodie was good. He might even say he loved his partner. The feeling in his heart as he thought about the house, about Bodie buying it and furnishing it via the game so that it was as near to perfect as anything Doyle had ever imagined, was keen. Such a house. Bit of garden outside, but not enough to be much work. Or, at least, no more work than he cared to make it. He had no doubt his motorcycle was in one of the sheds out back, next to Bodie's.

"Gratitude." Doyle said it aloud into the dark. His thoughts were muddled. Illness did that to him. His thoughts skittered from one idea to the next. Gratitude. Was that what Bodie could settle for? Was that what Doyle felt? Gratitude was a burden which Bodie wasn't handing him. Bodie, Doyle realized, had done it all as much for his own sake as for Doyle's. He had always wanted a home, and maybe he didn't know enough about them to design his own. Bodie didn't expect gratitude. He didn't expect Doyle to trade his body for a home, either. Yet, there was an air of hopefulness which Bodie could not quite bury. Did Bodie really expect that Doyle would eventually come around to his way of thinking?

Could he? Love Bodie? That was easy, he was fond of the bastard. But MAKE love to him? Bodie was, in every respect, the opposite of what Doyle looked for in a date. Given his druthers, he liked slight women, blondes or red-heads with blue eyes. Curves. Graceful ladies who made a fuss over his masculine attributes and yet who still had a mind of their own.

The only one of those points Bodie had was a mind of his own. Oh, two. Bodie had blue eyes, after all. Three? Maybe Bodie would make a fuss over Doyle's attributes, given half a chance. Doyle was quite fond of that moment when a woman realized that nature had been kind to him below the belt. What would Bodie say? What would Bodie want?

What would Bodie settle for? Doyle, when he could imagine himself with a man at all, could only think of himself in the "masculine" role. The one doing the fucking. It wasn't that hard imagining having Bodie under him.

What was hard to imagine was Bodie, playing bottom man for anybody. No, if he ever said yes to Bodie, he'd be saying yes to everything. To mutual ... everything.

It had to be that way. Doyle had fought hard to be equal in their partnership, to force Bodie to respect his opinions and to let him take the lead when they were dealing with his areas of expertise. Just as he let Bodie lead when his partner had knowledge he didn't. There was no permanent leader in their group of two, no submissive partner. The roles passed from one to another in a natural way, making them true partners, and Cowley's best team. They hadn't become Cowley's best until they had given up their struggle for power; each had come into the partnership expecting to be the leader, the alpha, and at first they had been constantly at odds. Doyle had to force himself to give up his position, to bend a little in the name of unity. He only managed it because Bodie had done the same.

Would Bodie be that way in private life? Would he want a partner, or a paramour? Had he built a cage for a pet bird?

No, Bodie knew Doyle better than that. Bodie would be expecting things to go on as they had been. Equals. Which meant that Bodie expected to get fucked. When and if ever Doyle agreed to it. Bodie. Hard man Bodie. On his knees with a cock up his ass? It couldn't even be imagined.

And why was he trying? He was tired, and he needed to sleep. Doyle closed his eyes. How quiet it was here. Houses on two sides and across the street. Some sort of park behind the garden wall. He tried to recall details. He had a policeman's mind, and could remember what he had seen, even when he had not paid much attention at the time. There were flowers, pink amid a tangle of greenery, on either side of the front door. The drive was concrete, with a row of shrubs along it, neatly trimmed. The front door ...

The front door, decorated with a stained glass window of a classic motorcycle. A smile formed on Doyle's face. That damned window. He remembered well the utterly boring stake-out over a year ago. The unit had been parked right across from a church, which had been set on the lot so that six stained glass windows had faced the street. Each window had a biblical scene presented with unimaginative precision.

After three days, they had been reduced to discussing what each could possibly represent, and why the artist had not been shot at birth for his crimes against art and humanity. Then they had talked about what they would do if given the task of designing such windows. They had agreed, at last, on one window for each of their favorite machines, but had not been able to form a consensus on anything except the motorcycle.

Bodie had made it real. All the speculation, the laughing suggestions and the serious ones, had all found form here. From the front door to the back garden, Bodie had made it all come to life.

Bodie ...

Doyle fell asleep, and he slept the night through. He woke, and though his body was sore, and the deep ache was still with him, he felt refreshed in a way he had not at the hospital. There was clean cold air coming from the open window, and Doyle wondered why he hadn't come awake at the sound of someone in the room, for the window had been open only a crack the night before. That was what the hospital did to you. It took away your edge.

Up on one elbow, he looked at the clock. True to form, he had come awake just ten minutes before the alarm was to go off. At least ALL his instincts weren't failing him. He let himself back down and stretched each limb. The deep hurt in his chest was the only part of him which was not noticeably better. He made a face at the fresh white paint of the ceiling and forced himself up out of bed.

He shaved, one-handed, he dressed as best he could, and went not to the elevator, but to the stairs. Going down wasn't so bad, and he wanted to look at it. All wood, it was, polished and clean. There were a couple places could use a picture on the wall, he decided, but nothing else cried out for change.

Andrews was in the kitchen, placing hot scones in a bowl before covering it with a cloth. Looking up, he saw Doyle, and he gestured towards the coffee. "Cups above," he said.

"Morning," Doyle said with a friendly nod, which the older man returned.

Doyle opened the cupboard and found his own mugs stacked there. By moving slowly and stretching, he was able to take down his favorite. He filled it with fragrant coffee and went to the table, where he sat down with care.

"Bodie said you wouldn't mind if I got started on breakfast," Andrews said diffidently.

Doyle wasn't sure how he felt about this man. "Grab a cup and join me?" he asked.

Andrews nodded, and filled his own cup with the fragrant brew. The hospital had nothing like it, Doyle thought as he took his first sip. This coffee had golden glints in it, as coffee should. Only in the two days before he had been released had he been allowed coffee, and that liquid had been an insult to the name of coffee.

"Bodie says you cook."

"Only in comparison to Bodie," Doyle replied, and watched the small smile form on the other man's lips.

"He also said you'd not mind me doing most of it. Until you get better," Andrews said, lifting his own cup for a small mouthful. It was still quite hot.

Doyle did the same, and then nodded. "If you don't mind?"

"I don't. We've one of those dishwashers and a dozen other gadgets here. A new kind of oven, and a juicer. There's no work at all."

"Trust Bodie to go overboard."

Andrews nodded. "He does. He says you keep him in line."

"Ah?" Doyle chose not to say more.

Andrews nodded again. Outside the window, a bird called. Doyle's head went up as he listened. Andrews took the opportunity to have a good look at Doyle. Doyle, who turned his head and caught him at it, gave an inquiring look, but Andrews chose not to answer it, either verbally or by any other sign. Each took another sip of coffee.

"Bacon and eggs, Bodie said, and oatmeal," Andrews said a moment later.

"Yes. Tea and toast with jam as well, if I know Bodie," Doyle contributed.

"The oatmeal is on. Would you like to cook or set table?" Andrews asked. "The other table is in the wing. It seats six, but it's not as nice as here, with the sun. But, your choice."

"Here. And I'll cook. I'm not good with reaching into cupboards yet." He looked down at his bad arm, frowning.

Andrews stood up, cup in hand, and began to show him where things were. It would not be hard to remember, for the arrangement was a curious blend of how his own kitchen had been arranged, and the way Bodie's had been, and he had always known his way around both.

There was something different about this morning. It reminded him of that poster, the one about today being the first day of the rest of your life. If he wanted it, this could be home. This could be the kitchen he cooked breakfast in for the rest of his life. It was an unsettling thought. He looked around. It was large and modern, and it wouldn't take much at all for him to think of it as his. His kitchen, his house.

His Bodie?

Was the price too high? Bodie had said that he was willing to take as much as Doyle could offer, that if friendship was all that there would be, he could be content. Was it so? Could he have a home, and Bodie, without having to ... put out? He grinned at the spattering bacon at the phrase which had popped into his mind.

There was a hum which it took Doyle a minute to classify, and by the time he remembered the elevator, the door had opened and Bodie stepped into the room.

"Good morning! And any morning which starts with THAT much bacon has to be a good one!" Bodie's nimble fingers snatched a twisted slice from the plate where Doyle had just put it. He had to blow on it before he could push it into his mouth.

Doyle slapped the fingers as they came back to steal another. "Go find something useful to do. Like make toast," he ordered. "Cowley will be here in a few minutes." Even as he spoke, there was the sound of the bell. "Early," Doyle sighed. Of course.

Andrews went to answer it, and Doyle began to crack open eggs. They were alone for just a moment, and Bodie took the opportunity to give Doyle a quick pat on the shoulder as he passed by with the bread. Doyle could not look over his shoulder in that direction because of his cast, and so he did not follow his impulse to see what expression was on Bodie's face. He turned back to the eggs. He did turn around to greet Cowley a moment later.

The old man looked tired. His face looked just a little grey. His eyes were as bright as ever, however, and he looked well pleased about something. Perhaps it was just the sight of the attractive table. Andrews was placing bowls of hot cereal around.

"If you need to talk business, I can do the chores first," Andrews said. He was speaking to Bodie, but his eyes were on Cowley -- he obviously knew Cowley was the one to make the decision.

"I've nothing to say that you can't hear, Andrews," their boss said, which told Doyle that Cowley had been here before, and Andrews thoroughly vetted.

Andrews nodded. "Would you want coffee, or tea?"

"Tea." Cowley sat down in the chair Bodie indicated, and then said, "Thank you," as the cup was handed to him. He began to speak even before the meal was on the table.

"I have the report from the security team. They will be making some changes here this week. Please provide them any assistance required. Mr. Andrews will have to attend several training sessions concerning these arrangements. I trust there is no objection?"

Andrews gave a shake of his head and began to eat his cereal. Mr. Cowley tasted his as well, and gave a nod of approval before he continued.

"4.5 and 3.7 will have the opportunity to leave an lasting impression on CI5. I am asking you to attempt to redesign the forms we currently use. I have heard you both complain often enough about the paperwork; we shall see what you can come up with to improve it, given a free hand. I will provide you with a lists of consultants, should you need assistance. I want something that will be compatible with the new computer system as well. I am interested in clarity, in streamlining the reporting process, and in cutting costs." He paused to give his attention to his food and allow the news to be considered by his agents.

"Those New Scotland Yard forms as well?" Doyle said hopefully.

"I'm afraid that's their bailiwick. There's little we can do about that." Cowley took up his tea again.

Doyle was looking distinctly interested. "Something that would make looking through the files easier? That's what you want?"

"Aye. And easy to fill out, as well."

Bodie had finished his cereal and was helping himself to eggs and bacon. It was only then that he remembered the unmade toast. Fortunately, there were scones, and he reached for them while saying, "Our names would be blessed for generations to come."

"Don't let it go to your head. Forms change every year," Doyle reminded him.

"It's not just that they change. It's that we get more of them," Bodie observed.

Cowley ignored that. "You can't start until the security teams have finished checking your house. Also, we will be installing a safe here. It should be on the ground floor. I'll want to search for the best location before I go."

"Er ... yes, sir." Bodie looked around and then took refuge in his eggs.

"I know the place." Andrews surprised them all by speaking. "But it's not downstairs. Up." When Cowley opened his mouth to speak, he went on. "No place down here that's private. Windows look in on every room. Upstairs, though, in the small room, near mine, there's a closet that would do. It backs up to the shaft we had reinforced for the lift. The structure can support the weight," he went on.

Cowley looked at him directly. "I'll check it out, of course."

"It was my thought you'd not want it on the ground floor, with the physical therapist coming and going, and no doubt others as well. You could put it in the loo, of course," Andrews said with absolute seriousness.

Cowley was actually considering it. Bodie and Doyle exchanged glances. Andrews passed the tea when he saw that Bodie's cup was empty.

"On another matter," Cowley said, accepting a refill as well, "The paperwork is not finished on the incident in which you were injured. As you probably know, riots developed in that area after you were removed to hospital. The police would like to know if you saw this man," he produced a photograph from his pocket, "in the vicinity."

Doyle looked, and shook his head before passing it to Bodie, who did the same.

"Nasty bloke. Needs a shave," was Bodie's opinion.

"Needs a jail cell, by all accounts," Cowley said, putting the picture away again. "He seems to have organized several disruptions." Cowley turned his attention to his food.

"If you are ready, I could take you upstairs," Andrews said as soon as Cowley put down his fork. They went off together, using the lift, and Bodie and Doyle were left to exchange another speaking look.

"Forms," Bodie said sadly.

"And security locks. And a safe!" Doyle chimed in.

Bodie grinned suddenly.

"What?" Doyle wanted to know.

"Andrews has Cowley up in a bedroom. Alone!"

"You," Doyle informed him, "have a dirty mind. The Cow could give straight lessons to a ruler."

"You never know. Still waters run deep!"

"Why don't you make yourself useful and help clean up here?" Doyle suggested.

"Tired already?" Bodie was joking, but under his lightness was a question.

"I'm fine. I won't be able to say the same thing after the session with the PT, will I?"

"Mrs. Jones? Sweetness and light, she is," Bodie assured him.

"Not bloody likely. She'll stretch me, thump me and tell me to work harder. They always do."

Bodie knew that. "Has to be done."

"I know." Doyle stood up briskly and began to clear the table. Only a few seconds later, he was forced to slow down. There was a deep ache inside if he tried to hurry. He really was not looking forward to his therapy.

Cowley came down the stairs, pausing on the landing which was halfway down to look out of the window there, then he said a kind word about the house and took his leave. Andrews came down in the lift a moment later and started on the breakfast dishes.

When Mrs. Jones arrived, she confounded both Bodie and Doyle by asking -- no, demanding -- to see Bodie first. Cowley, it turned out, had asked her to see to exercises which would not harm his healing back. Bodie hoped to end up in the warm water of the whirlpool bath, but the matter of his cast caused her to suggest that the strain of keeping it dry would be bad for his back. She left him with a heating pad and started in on Doyle.

He had been through it all before, he knew the why and when of everything she told him. He was tired of it before it began, but he cooperated because he knew it was the road to as much health as he could regain. So he moved when asked to move, he worked as hard as required, and he was grateful when it was all over.

He did not end up with a soak either, for she wanted to avoid lengthy immersion in warm water because of his leg. It was not yet at a stage where the risk of infection could be ruled out.

Mrs Jones was brisk and professional, with a bland patter and impersonal hands. He was glad when she left.

As soon as she was out of the door, Doyle announced that he was going up to bed. Bodie went with him, saying that it was the best idea he'd heard all morning, and they were both so tired they did not even turn, acknowledge the double meanings which could have been in those words. They parted at the lift, Bodie going to the right, Doyle straight ahead. Doyle didn't bother to undress, but lowered himself gingerly onto the black satin cover and stretched out on top of it.

Black satin. Typical Bodie choice. Doyle himself favored more practical, washable bed covers. He wondered if he had ever said anything which Bodie had construed as a desire for a huge bed covered by black satin?

Maybe that was Bodie's dream. Nice to think that he might have pleased himself at times, instead of using Doyle's tastes as a measure of everything. What had Bodie dreamed of as he picked out the spread for this huge bed? Was he hoping ...

Of course he was. And were was he now? Sprawled out on that small bed in the room on the other side of the bathroom. Bodie hated single beds, he'd always said so. Liked room to move, did Bodie. Confinement of any kind got up his nose.

Doyle came up with the same conclusion he had reached before. Bodie must love him a great deal.

Love. Doyle sighed and wished he could fall asleep, wished his thoughts would settle down and leave the problem of Bodie alone for now. But love was something Doyle knew a little about. He knew how often love turned out to be something else. Or turned into something else. Anne Holly, for example. He had been sure he was in love with her, but months later, after it was all over, he had come to the conclusion that it had not been love he felt for her. Just as it has not been love she felt for him. Perhaps it was not love which Bodie felt for Doyle.

But it was closer than what Anne had offered. Anne had wanted things from him. Not material things as much as furs and diamonds, although she wouldn't have minded some of that. She had wanted him -- but only in a certain way. She'd wanted changes, both in his attitudes and his lifestyle. Bodie, on the other hand, had not ASKED for changes. Bodie had not asked for material possessions either. Quite the opposite. He wanted changes from Doyle, no doubt about it, bigger changes than Anne had wanted! But he did not demand them and he didn't even really expect them. He was just waiting to see if they would happen.

Impossible changes. Weren't they? Doyle would have said so, but then at one time he would have sworn that Bodie was the world's most dedicated ladies' man. Bodie had changed. It followed that change was possible. Which meant that Doyle ...

Inside, Doyle laughed at himself. The whole idea seemed silly. Besides, how much did Bodie change? He'd been out with women during the last two years. A whole gaggle of them.

But did they mean anything? Not much. Funny to think that if Bodie had met some woman and fallen in love, then he would have stopped doing the house to suit Doyle and done it up for his new love. And Doyle would never have known.

Bodie.

It was almost warm in the room. Doyle felt his eyes growing heavy. With care he turned onto his side and let the sleep come. He dreamed he was back in the hospital, with Bodie in the next bed, and yet the next bed wasn't there, and when it was, it didn't always hold Bodie, but some stranger.

When he woke up again, it was because his body was ready to wake up. He stretched and looked at the clock. Tea time, he thought hopefully, and he got up, washed his face and went down the stairs, slowly, to find Bodie in front of the television. A plate of cakes on his left side, a pot of tea on his right. Bodie was in heaven.

"There you are. Tea?" Bodie waved towards the covered pot expansively.

"You aren't going to pour?" Doyle asked, in mock dismay.

"Not bloody likely. And anyway, I'm not to spoil you. Your doctor said so. He rang up and when I said you were sleeping, he gave you a list of things to avoid. Mostly fried foods and rock concerts. Oh, and you mustn't take up smoking."

Doyle snorted and pulled forward his tea cup, filling it full. It was empty in short order and he filled it again. "What's keeping you so enthralled, then?"

"A nice bit on the Olympics. It's over now. We're waiting for the next."

Doyle said, "Are we?" and put his feet on a sort of ottoman. "Have I seen that before?" He waggled an elbow in the direction of his feet.

"You remember. That shop we had to pretend to be interested in when we were tailing Overman. You were really taken with it."

Doyle couldn't tell if Bodie were miffed with him for not recognizing it immediately, or there was some other reason for him to sound impatient.

"I didn't know it in decent light, that's all. I do like it. It's big enough for comfort. Not one of those little things you sometimes see."

"It's useful," Bodie said. "Big enough for two. If you'd care to share."

"Be my guest," Doyle moved his feet over a bit to leave room for Bodie's. "What are we having for supper?"

"Take away. Chicken. Andrews is bringing it on his way home from the market. Unless you'd like something else?"

"No, that's fine. Unless you think the doctor would object?"'

"Fucking hell!" Bodie's feet came off the stool as his body came upright. "I didn't think! I'll ... "

Doyle stopped him as he stood up. It was to have been a hand on his arm, but Bodie was moving so quickly that his hand trailed across his chest. Bodie's eyes went wider.

"I'm not going to be able to eat much of it, am I? A little won't hurt me, and frankly, I'm glad of the change. Relax," he ordered as Bodie seemed about to get up.

"I can't believe ... just after the doctor rang up, and then I ... "

"I told you it was fine, Bodie."

Bodie sat back because he could see Doyle was adamant.

"I don't need a keeper, Bodie. This fine house is not going to become a golden cage."

"Is that what you think?" Bodie's eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. "You think I want to be in charge?"

"If you could get way with it. But it would be easy, wouldn't it, to fall into roles like that while I'm under the weather. It's going to be hard enough because of ... "

"Because of how I feel."

"Because of that. But Bodie?"

Bodie turned his head.

"I like it here."

"Good." Bodie stood up as the sound of a car outside told him Andrews was home.

The older man had his arms full with plastic carrier bags and paper parcels. Bodie unlocked the door for him just as he reached it, which earned Bodie a nod of thanks. They were soon settled down in front of the box, with Andrews in one of the two chairs and Bodie and Doyle on the sofa. Doyle experienced a tingle of guilt. True, he and Bodie had spent dozens of nights in one flat or another, doing just this -- feet up, papers and bones piled on the low table amid beer cans and sometimes even their own stockinged feet. But this was new furniture, it was a house, Andrews was with them -- and all combined together, it did not feel right.

Maybe it was because everything was new, including the situation. With time, it would all come to seem normal. Doyle wanted normal.

He stared, unseeing, at the woman on the screen, and became lost in his own thoughts. Normal? It would never be normal again. His body would never be as it was. He wouldn't go back to his job. Even Bodie had changed. None of it was change for the better.

Others might not agree with that. What was so bad about having a nice house, an easy -- if temporary -- job, some help around the place, and a willing and devoted lover?

It was the lover part which had him brooding. Still. Why couldn't he just give in, give it a try? Maybe he'd like it. Doyle thought about that as the screen changed and the opening credits for drama scrolled by. Why couldn't he? Because he had to be sure first, to avoid hurting Bodie? If he waited that long, they'd be old men before this was resolved. He sighed. All he knew was that the time wasn't right for it, he didn't even want to think about it.

"You're half asleep, mate. Why don't you go to bed?" Bodie asked him a few minutes later.

Doyle roused from the stupor which he had fallen into, looked around, and then nodded. He climbed to his feet. "G'night," he mumbled.

"Need some help?" Bodie asked. He didn't entirely keep a note of worry out of his voice. He kept out everything else, but Doyle wasn't fooled. Bodie wanted to fuss over him. Doyle ignored it.

"No, thanks. See you in the morning."

"Yes." Bodie returned his attention to the screen. Doyle began making his slow way to the lift. Once inside, he leaned against the cool wall. The throbs had started, the reminders of every hurt he had, and all he wanted to do was take one of his pills and climb into bed. Knowing it would take a long time to do what he should: undress, brush his teeth, wash a bit, he was determined to do it -- until he saw the bed. He did no more than gulp down his pill and kick off his shoes before he collapsed onto it. In seconds, he was asleep.

Much later, he woke up to gentle hands at his waist. Bodie. He knew it was Bodie, even in the dark. Rolling away, he lifted his head, looking at the dark shadow perched on the side of the bed.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"Taking off your clothing. You can't be comfortable, sleeping that way," Bodie told him.

"You doing this for me or for you?" Doyle asked.

"Insinuating what? That I'd cop a quick feel?"

He couldn't see Bodie's face at this distance, and it was hard to tell much from his voice. Doyle pulled himself up, leaning back against the headboard of the bed. The medication had done its work in the night. He felt both better -- the ache had dulled -- and worse, because his head felt foggy. Damn pills.

"I wouldn't," Bodie told him.

"But since it had to be done, you decided to do it?" The faint mockery in his voice wasn't cruel. It made Bodie laugh.

"Got it in one. Let's get these things off you." He reached forward, but Doyle pushed away his hands and went about it himself. Several minutes later, he was down to his underwear. "Those, too!" Bodie said, but he made no move to do it for him.

Doyle hesitated. How stupid. Not that long ago, Bodie had helped him in the bath. They'd showered side by side for years. Doyle had never been particularly modest, either. So why didn't he want to take off this last little scrap of clothing? Bodie's wasn't likely to be overcome by lust and attack him. He'd just look.

Just look. And want. Which was more cruel, to take them off and let Bodie look, or to leave them on and let him yearn? Doyle snorted to himself at the idea of Bodie yearning for a sight of HIS body. It was curiosity which caused Doyle, in the process of pulling off his pants, to move so that he was closer to Bodie and could see his face.

It was true that Bodie watched with an intensity of which Doyle was all too aware, but it was also true that he did not move a muscle, not even to help when the cotton got awkwardly hung up on a fold of the spread and Doyle had to struggle to keep his arse lifted off the bed long enough to get the garment off. Doyle kept his eyes on Bodie's face. What he saw there confused him. It wasn't lust or any emotion he could put a name to. He wondered what he would see if there was enough light to see properly. Bodie looked ... quiet. Almost ... gentle. No, that wasn't the right word. It was ...

Doyle looked away for the briefest of moments, and when he looked again, all that was on Bodie's face was a brisk efficiency.

"Right, then. Let's get you under these sheets." Bodie was pulling them back. Doyle crawled in obediently, thinking that he did not remember the last time he had been tucked in at night! The sheets felt cool. Good.

He woke up to a bursting bladder and a grey morning. The kind of morning where staying in bed sounds delightful. With a groan he forced himself up and into the bathroom. He pissed forever and then settled down for the other half of the business. Hospitals always played havoc with his intestines. Bodie's, too, for that matter. Fortunately there was a magazine rack within arm's reach, with a selection of his favorite titles.

It was an hour before he made his way to the lift, nose still in the magazine. No one was in evidence, and so he made his own tea and breakfast. There was yogurt and orange juice and croissants and he feasted, hungry and delighted to have exactly what he wanted. He finished his meal and his magazine, cleaned up, and went wandering around the house, and then out into the garden, and then to the door when he heard the sound of the car. Bodie and Andrews, arms full, talking football as they came up the walk.

"Awake, are you?" Bodie said with a nod. "No PT today. Cowley has the security boys coming. Aren't you glad?"

"Yes," Doyle replied honestly. "What's in there?"

Bodie manfully refrained from making one of his usual light remarks. Andrews answered. "Food. What else?"

"The papers, too!"

Doyle, who was holding open the door, looked interested, and followed them into the kitchen.

"This madman of yours insisted on raspberries. Too early for them, I told him." Andrews talked as he put things away in cupboards, pantry and fridge.

Madman of mine? Doyle glanced at Bodie, expecting reaction. There wasn't one.

"I like raspberries." Doyle started poking about, looking for them.

"So he said. And they're for this evening, so leave them alone," Andrews told him sternly.

"Worse than Bodie," Doyle mumbled, managing to snag only one berry.

"He's not!" Bodie protested. To prove it, he ordered, "Get out of here. Go rest or something."

"Go fuck yourself," Doyle suggested cheerfully, as an alternate plan.

"Want to watch?" Bodie asked, but there was that look in his eye which said keeping up the old give and take was beginning to be a strain.

The old lightness wasn't there, no matter how hard Bodie was trying for it. Maybe Andrews sensed that.

"Go bill and coo some other damn place. You're both in the way!"

Bodie laughed and dragged Doyle from the room.

"If he thinks that's courtship, no wonder he never pulled a bird," Doyle grumbled when they were safely out of earshot in the front room.

"Who says he never?" Bodie asked, as he sat down on the sofa.

"Hey! You're not using your crutch!"

"Cowley's finest," Bodie breathed admiringly. "Don't change the subject. When I was reading up on being gay, I found an account of a man who didn't discover he was gay until he was seventy years old! Been married twice, too!"

"Senile, was he?" Doyle wanted to know, sitting on the other end of the sofa.

"No more than you are. Want the telly on?" Bodie reached for the guide.

"This time of day?" Doyle snorted. "Where's the crutch?"

"Huh? Oh, at the door, in with the umbrellas. I know I'll need it soon. Afternoon, or evening. Thought I'd try to do without it."

"Without your brain, too? Doctor couldn't have okayed that, or the therapist, either."

"She did. Said I could try it, anyway."

"Didn't."

"Did."

"We sound like idiots." Doyle couldn't help but grin.

"The man is coming to put in a safe. Got any valuables?" Bodie asked.

"I don't even have my wallet."

Bodie disagreed. "Up in your top drawer."

"Into my drawers, are you?" Doyle asked, realizing what he was saying, but some recklessness causing his mouth to go on anyway.

"Aghh!" It was a sound of frustration. "How can you expect me to leave a line like that alone!" Awkwardly, Bodie struggled up, marched as well as he could to the easy chair, and threw himself down again.

"Sorry," Doyle said, and he was.

"It's folks like you who worry a loose tooth until it falls out, when if you left it alone, it would heal up on its own," Bodie proclaimed.

"Does that mean if I leave this situation alone, you'll forget about that little idea of yours?"

"No. It means, given that I can't respond as I might like, my only recourse is to thump you."

"No hump means thump?"

Bodie hit him. Doyle scowled, rubbing his good arm awkwardly with the cast, but keeping a wary eye on the promise of more he could see in his partner's eyes.

"I just don't understand," Doyle said.

"You want me to keep telling you until you do? It's simple, Doyle. I want you. P.S. I love you."

Doyle looked at his feet. The floor. The ottoman.

Bodie sighed. "Sorry. Know I wasn't going to keep bringing it up, and ... " He shrugged.

"Might as well. Then maybe I could believe it. Bodie, it's such a change, it's impossible to think it could be real."

"Not such a change. You've always been important to me." Bodie wasn't looking at Doyle. "It was just one step further, when it happened."

"A step most people never think of taking." Doyle was still looking away as well.

"How do you know?" Bodie asked.

Doyle shrugged.

They sat, thinking.

"I am going up to rest again," Doyle said at last. Bodie nodded but did not move.

Up in the room, Doyle lay on the bed, letting sleep drift towards him, listening to the sounds of the house. Door. Deep voices. The men to put in the safe? His chest ached. He wanted to get up and see what was going on, he wanted to fall asleep and stay that way forever. He wanted, he realized, on the edge of sleep, to be held in strong arms as if he were a child. Dangerous thought. Bodie.

Two hours later he struggled out of the fog of a mid-day nap to find the bathroom again. Another magazine. Constipation. He felt like his head was as blocked up as his colon, and went back to the bed. There were no comfortable spots.

He thought of leaving. Hell, the nuns weren't so bad. He could think better away. Maybe. But he hated the nursing homes, convalescence homes. Homes? They weren't.

So what made a home?

The place, and the people. Was there any other place he'd rather be? Not with relatives. They were worse than the nuns. None of his flats stood out as necessary to his happiness either. So, this was home.

This was home?



Home. A nice place. With Bodie. Doyle laughed aloud, a choked sound wrapped in irony. It would be home if he didn't leave it. And Bodie would be ... what? If he didn't leave the handsome sod, would he be Bodie's lover by default, falling into the role eventually just because it was there?

No. He'd press the issue long before then. Or Bodie would. Impatient man, usually, was Bodie. Wanting his gratification now. Which made it all the more odd to see him forcing himself to patience.

But then, he had to, didn't he? Doyle let his good arm fall to his groin. Even through the cloth, he knew where the stitches had been, where the red scar tissue made lines down his penis. No sex for weeks, his doctor had advised, or the swelling might cause the skin to split. Wouldn't that just ruin the moment! He could just imagine Bodie ...

He woke again to the sound of his name being called. Andrews. Lunch? He was starved and called out he would be there in a moment. It was ten minutes before he arrived in the kitchen. Fruit salad and sandwiches, and Andrews for company.

"Where's Bodie?" Doyle asked.

"Phone. D'you want some juice?" Andrews was getting it out anyway, filling up the glass before Doyle could express any negative opinion. Doyle lifted it up and took a deep swallow. It tasted great. He drained the glass and looked with more interest at his food. He was almost finished with his sandwich when Bodie entered.

"Mr. Cowley will be by for breakfast again tomorrow," Bodie said as he sat down to his own thick sandwich.

Doyle lifted an eyebrow, then turned to Andrews. "It must be our cooking."

"Has to be," the other man agreed blandly.

"Probably is," Bodie agreed. "A lot to be said for a half-way decent free meal."

"You'd know," Doyle said. "Safe's in and he's bringing the papers?"

Bodie nodded. "They showed me how to work it, so I can show you whenever you feel up to it. Couldn't get clearance for Andrews," he said, with an apologetic look towards the older man.

"Wouldn't want the combination anyway. If anything goes missing, I want to know nothing about it," Andrews said. "I don't want to know anything about it in any case."

"You're easy to get along with," Bodie mocked.

"Cautious. It's the key to a happy life, caution." Andrews gave a wink and then tilted his head. "The mail," he said, identifying the sound at the door, and he went to get it.

"Nothing but bills," Bodie predicted.

"Have to sit down with those," Doyle said. "I'm paying half, if I'm living here."

"You won't like it. Criminal, what it takes to live in these inflated times," Bodie said, but he did not argue.

"Taxes on this place a bit high?" Doyle speculated.

Bodie made a face.

"I think I'll go take a walk around outside. Survey the kingdom, as it were," Doyle said. "Do you want to come with me?"

Bodie scooped up his second sandwich to take along, and followed him out the door. It was actually a sunny day. They walked back to look at the shed and the garage, where the bikes were parked, covered with canvas. There was space in the back of it for a workshop, and his tools, and Bodie's, were already hanging on pegboard or in the drawers. Doyle peered here and there, satisfied he could find everything when the time came, and then wandered out to the side of the house, then around to the front.

"There was a great tree here," Bodie mourned, stopping at a point outside Doyle's bedroom window. "Had to take it out. Open invitation to a second story man, it was. But we got the use of it. Firewood," he said, pointing to a nice stack of it beside the back door.

"Have to be aged," Doyle said.

"Been there two years," Bodie told him.

"And you didn't burn it?"

Bodie shrugged. "Wasn't here that much. Besides, was waiting for a nasty night in the middle of winter, you and I curled up on the couch, dancing flames, bottle of something fine -- you know."

"Part of the dream, was it?" Doyle asked, a funny half smile on his face.

"It all is. Even today," Bodie said. "Thought about pointing out the features of this place to you more than once."

"Your fantasy life's a bit odd, Bodie."

"You don't know the half of it," Bodie admitted cheerfully. He leaned forward. "A dog!"

"A dog?" Doyle repeated. "You fantasize about a dog? That's kinky, even for you!"

"And a cat. In front of the fire, you know." Bodie didn't rise to the bait of the sexual innuendo, his focus firmly on his vision of heaven on earth.

"I thought you didn't like dogs."

"You do. We can find one I can tolerate."

"Maybe. Poodle?"

Bodie looked pained. Doyle laughed and walked around to the front door. He looked at the stained glass panel there and then at his friend. "You really are a ... "

"Don't," Bodie interrupted, "say it. Come in and I'll show you the safe."

So they went in, and took the lift up to the first floor. All the doors there were closed. Bodie led the way to the walk-in closet. The safe was behind a panel which swung out. Well hidden, it had an electronic clock which recorded the times it was opened, and for how long. It had an alarm which went off if it was tampered with, all run on a battery which had to be replaced every six months -- from inside. The three section procedure for getting in took quite awhile to explain.

It was on the third time through that Doyle became aware that Bodie had stepped back, that he was not looking at the safe, or at Doyle. Bodie had a strained look on his face, and that was not all which was strained. Doyle forced his eyes away from the lump in his partner's trousers and pretended to focus all his attention on solving the mysteries of the safe.

"Sorry," Bodie said as they left the closet.

"Understandable, I suppose," Doyle said.

"Oh, yes," Bodie agreed, struggling to keep it light. "You were bent over a bit. Showing me your best assets."

"In whose opinion?" Doyle asked.

"Ask anybody. Though I did once hear one of the lasses in the typing pool make some cogent observations about your mouth."

"Shouldn't listen to gossip. I'm going back to lie down."

Bodie nodded.

Doyle went to his bed again, but not to sleep, he only rested, waiting for the ache which went bone deep to ease a bit. He heard Bodie in his room perhaps an hour later. Even iron man Bodie wasn't up to snuff yet.

Or was he doing something else in his room? Like taking care of a little Doyle-generated problem which had risen in the closet? Was Bodie on his narrow bed, pants down around his knees, taking the heat off so he could stand being in the same house with Doyle? How often was Bodie going to have to do that?

And was he thinking of Doyle as he did it, imagining ... what? Doyle going down on him? Doyle bending for him? Or ...

Sleep was absolutely the last thing on Doyle's mind. He groaned, rolled over and sat up, running the fingers of his good hand through what was left of his curls. He went down the stairs, taking them slowly, thinking about going up them tomorrow. No, not tomorrow, his body told him. Not tomorrow. Day after tomorrow, then, he insisted to his inner voice. He remembered running up three flights of steps, gun drawn, Bodie behind him. Never again?

Thinking about all the things in the category of 'never again' hurt.

He went down to the long room off the kitchen, looking at the equipment there, the mats and the weights and the treadmill. He looked at the whirlpool tub in the small room at one side, and at the other room which was empty. White walls. He thought of murals, and his fingers itched. He had always wanted to try to paint something large.

If he was in his own house, he could do whatever he wanted to the walls. For that matter, he could do whatever he wanted to them anyway. Bodie would let him.

Doyle closed the door hard and went back out to the garden, where he sat on a bench, watching the evening come.

"Doyle!" It was Andrews.

It was cold, Doyle realized. His back hurt. He levered himself up and went in.

"Steak, salad, bread, for the meal. Bodie says you've a fine hand with salads." Andrews waved at the ingredients piled on the cutting board in a way that was half invitation, half order. Doyle chose to smile, and after washing his hands, he got to work. It was slow -- everything he did was slow, thanks mostly to his shoulder, but by the time he finished his own special honey-mustard dressing, everything else was on the table and Bodie was drawing up his chair as Andrews carried the broiled steaks to the table.

They ate, and talked, and Doyle wondered if Bodie realized how much Andrews acted as an old fashioned chaperone. With him there, the conversation never took a turn into dangerous subjects, and there was no way it could be seen as an intimate meal.

The same could not be said later, when Andrews shooed them away after the table was cleared, and he and Bodie were settled in front of the box. This was dangerous. Only a few feet between them, with Bodie in the big chair and Doyle stretched out on the couch in a darkened room.

Doyle retired early.

He was up early as well, down to start breakfast even before Andrews put in an appearance. Putting together a big breakfast was fun if one wasn't the only one working on it, if one knew there would be help with the washing up! By the time Bodie, and then Cowley, put in an appearance, it was on the table.

It was a strange meal. His instincts said there was some sort of under-current between Cowley and Andrews, but he could not pin it down. He knew there was tension between Bodie and himself. Bodie was a shade too polite, a bit too careful not to accidentally touch when they both reached for the salt at the same moment. Fortunately, Andrews sent them off to the table in the long room when they were done, so that he could clean up and the other three could discuss CI5 business. Business was a safe, welcome topic, and the three of them became involved with the papers until Cowley made an impatient sound, looked at his watch and said he must be off.

The therapist arrived at ten, and Bodie went to put the papers in the safe while she had her way with Doyle. Later, as Doyle suffered her bending and twisting requirements, she told him he was a prime candidate for hydro-therapy and suggested that as soon as his stitches were out and his cast off, he should begin. She praised water therapy the entire time she was with him, and he was glad when Bodie came in and she had another victim.

Mrs. Jones pressed them to their limits and left them both pale shadows. Doyle went up and took one of his pain pills. In the floating, half awake state it left him in at first, he wished Bodie hadn't got that odd idea about them, because then he could call him in and Bodie would let him lean against him. Nice to be with a mate when you were hurting, have a supporting arm around your shoulders. Couldn't. Bodie liked him too much. Absolutely stupid, Bodie.

Doyle woke in the afternoon, groggy, trying to remember all of what may have been dreams and may have been half-awake mental activity. He went to the bathroom, stared at himself in the mirror, mumbled something uncomplimentary, and then relieved himself. Then he washed his hands, went to the door of his bedroom and shouted for Bodie.

The answer showed Bodie was in the long room beyond the kitchen. Have to think of something to call that, Doyle told himself as he waited for his partner. At last the hum of the lift told him Bodie was coming.

"Something wrong?" Bodie asked as he entered the room, his eyes darting to the corners, searching for trouble in the way he had been trained.

"No," Doyle said, thinking that was not strictly true, but not wanting confuse the issues. "Have a seat," he said, and waved towards the two chairs over by the window. He took the one Bodie did not, and tried to think how to begin. He had known when he called, but now it had all fled his mind.

"I'm a bastard, Bodie. And I'm going to prove it." Doyle shifted in his chair, uncomfortable.

Bodie looked at him quizzically, hiding his fears and his questions behind mild interest.

"That room you have would make a great studio. Place to paint, you know. You could move the furniture down to that empty room next to Andrews'." Doyle watched Bodie, watched the non-reaction as he came to understand the words.

Bodie nodded. He stood up to go see to it, but Doyle caught at his wrist, holding him in place. "Only the furniture does down. You stay up here."

"What the fuck are you playing at, Doyle?" Bodie jerked his wrist free and turned on his partner, honest anger on his face.

"No game. It's going to be hell on you, Bodie. Told you I was going to act the bastard. We're going to share this room. Meant to be shared, isn't it? Only you're going to have to be a roommate, not a lover."

Bodie's jaw firmed. "You....

"I'm going to see what it's like to share a room and a bed with you. I might even touch you."

"How kind," Bodie responded viciously. "Oh, MAY I?" His sarcasm was biting.

"You? No. Me, yes. I want you to promise me...control. You said something like that before, that this is going to go at the pace I want it to, that you'll take what I can offer, even if it isn't much." That had not been exactly how it had been put, but both recognized that Doyle essentially identified the truth of it.

"Control."

"Complete control. For as long as it take me to get my head on straight."

Bodie managed a tight smile. "Straight isn't what I had mind."

"Straight isn't what you'll get. You're going to hate it. Maybe, in the end, you'll hate ME."

"Is that what you want? Be a solution for you, would it? Drive me crazy to the point I do something stupid, give you an excuse to prove it wouldn't work?" Bodie had returned to his chair, his hands on the arms of it, holding tight to the wood.

"No. What I want is a chance to see how it might be. Safely."

"Nothing safe about it."

"No. But you're going to promise me. Aren't you." He did not make it a question.

"Bleedin' fool! I am not going to rape you, you know!" Bodie said harshly.

"That's right. You wouldn't. Given your list of injuries, you probably couldn't. But I know you. You'd be all over me if I didn't set the rules. You want me too much, Bodie! It practically radiates off your skin!"

Bodie did not deny it. What he did say was, "I can't do that!"

Doyle said, "Yes, you can. For awhile. Move your bed down the stairs, Bodie." Remembering his partner's back, he amended it. "Have Andrews do it. The furniture goes down there, but your clothes and things go up here."

"You wish is my command, your majesty," Bodie said sarcastically, and he stood and walked off.

"Bodie!" Doyle struggled to get out of the chair, gratified that Bodie stopped at the door, but frustrated that he could not be up and after him immediately.

"There's compensations," Doyle said mildly. He was breathing a little hard, partly from the exertion, partly from the thought of what he was going to do. "Give me the kiss, Bodie. The one you've been thinking about. I can see it in your eyes when you look at me. You look at my mouth. Let's get it over."

"A first kiss isn't something you do just to get it over," Bodie told him, coming closer.

"This one is. It isn't going to be romantic, Bodie."

"Then it won't be the one I want," Bodie surprised him by saying, "but I'll take it anyway." His left arm went around Doyle's shoulders to pull him near, mindful of the cast, and his other hand spread wide to cradle Doyle's shorn head. He was slow to bend his own head, to match their mouths. Keeping his tongue to himself, he did not prolong the kiss, but broke away softly.

"That's it?" Doyle said, somewhat surprised. He'd had heartier kisses from maiden aunts.

"Left you wanting more, did I?" Bodie teased, his big hand rubbing Doyle's scalp, moving down to massage his neck. He leaned forward and whispered, "Good."

"Go move your clothes in. Give you something useful to do." Doyle pulled away and left, going out the door and walking slowly down the stairs because he needed the challenge, needed to think about where to place his feet and not of the wide lips of a man, of Bodie, on his. It hadn't been much of a thrill.

But it hadn't been horrible, either.



MAY

Spring. May arrived. Doyle got his stitches out. The weather got better. It made little difference to Bodie and Doyle, who spent much of their time indoors. They invited CI5 agents over for happy evenings in which they could enjoy the company of friends -- and pick their brains for opinions on what might improve the paperwork which was every agent's bane. During the day there was therapy and meals and work.

During the night, there were two people who shared a big bed without sharing much of anything else. But Doyle learned the pressure point just above the two smallest toes which would ease the vicious leg cramps which came to Bodie in his sleep and cause him to wake, yelling, and Bodie showed Doyle a way of easing the itching underneath his cast which did not involve a clothes hanger and the risk of putting his own eye out during contortions to get it to the right spot.

Doyle had his easel up in the small bedroom, and had even started to paint the scene out the window there. Bodie teased him about it, asking why he bothered when all that had to be done was to stand at the window to gain the same view! Doyle knew the picture he was working on was only a way to find old skills, and he was ruthless with it, changing it and experimenting in a way he would never do with a serious work. So the state of the canvas changed daily, and Bodie was free to come and look and make his comments at the end of the day, but not to stay as Doyle worked. While he painted, his fingers finding their way, he thought, working always on the ideas of love, of Bodie, of sex, of the future.

Cowley had come by once more for breakfast, but he feared a routine which could be spotted by an enemy, and so he did not make a habit of it, despite his evident enjoyment of the meal and the company. Doyle imagined Cowley's usual breakfast was a hasty meal in a silent house, and he understood the attraction of the breakfast table in this house. Bodie would take over his special province of toast while Andrews and Doyle between them would provide a meal which was always a bit different from any they had created before. There was laughter and humor and on the surface it was ... home.

Under the surface was a net of tensions and questions which could never be completely ignored. Andrews, unwittingly, caused some of it. After helping move the furniture from the room Bodie had been using, he could not help but know that Bodie and Doyle shared the big room, and his attitude changed.

There was a touch of envy, oddly combined with respect, in the way he treated his employers. He was so careful to give them the privacy a new couple would desire, announcing when he was leaving and how long he would be gone when he went to the shops, and spending long hours working in the garden some afternoons.

There was also the air of 'one of us' which Andrews managed to project, a sense of community which it bothered Doyle to perceive because he knew it was not the truth, and yet he knew he rather wished it was true. The lure of it surprised him. He put it down to the human urge to be one of a pack, to the need for a sense of belonging.

Sometimes Doyle tracked Bodie down when the confusion was too much, and he demanded a kiss from him, waiting for the magic, for the moment when it all would slide into place and he would have for real what he only played at, and other times he gave a kiss to Bodie when he saw by the shadows in the back of his partner's eyes that Bodie ached for it. Nothing wrong with the kisses. Only with Doyle.

He thought about cheating. Lying. Making a commitment to Bodie. Partly because he had rapidly come to love the house, partly because he held real affection for his partner and hated to see the stolid, stoic waiting the man did. It wasn't like Bodie. Doyle felt as if he were making a race horse pull a plow, as if he were reining in what should be free.

He thought about it. About what Bodie wanted. He even went so far as to crouch in the bathroom one morning, probing with seeking fingers at his anus, tracing the ruched opening, learning it, before tentatively working a finger inside. It was not at all a sensual or sexy feeling. In fact, he felt stupid, and his shoulder ached from the strain of the position. Put a cock up there? Too small, mate. The first man who thought of that must have been mad.

Or desperate. Or a rapist.

That should have been the end of it, but a week later, Doyle found himself doing it again, wondering if he had made a mistake before, if he had just not done the right thing, touched the right spot. Maybe a man had to be aroused before it opened up, before he could feel anything.

He went hunting for his magazines, the pile of well-thumbed girlie books he had accumulated through the years. Hell, Bodie had even given him two of them, the one with the ladies with the big knockers, and the one with all the birds posed on motorcycles. With a full sense of the irony of it, Doyle took this one to the bathroom with him one day when Andrews and Bodie were away.

The ladies did their job. It had been a long time for him, and his body was willing to give it a try. With a feeling of gratitude that it was his right hand which was in better shape, Doyle closed his hand around himself and began to pump. The delightful feeling of the foreskin sliding had him closing his eyes, head thrown back, as the first Coca-cola sparkles chased though his groin. He did have some pain, just enough as the organ swelled and stretched the scar tissue, but he massaged that part, reaching up for the hand lotion from beside the sink, which not only eased the skin but made for a pleasant slickness.

He brought himself to quick fruition, pouring over his fingers, before he remembered to reach back, to explore himself. The anus did seem a little more amenable to invasion, but the fireworks had already happened and there was no pleasure to it.

Were gays crazy?

Was he? Even thinking about it, about having Bodie put that big cock up there, was mad. If he didn't want it for himself, then why was he thinking of it? Just to make Bodie happy? To make their household into a real home?

Do you want it that much? Doyle asked himself that as he sprawled on the carpeted floor, back against the tub, hand still splayed across his groin. The white flecks of semen dried on his thigh and he absently rubbed at it, considering.

Was he hoping to grow to like it? Like cantaloupe, which he had not liked as a child, but which he relished now? Could you learn to be gay?

Was it worth it?

The problem was, the answer to that question was ... maybe. Maybe.

At least all his parts were working. He had some vitamin oil to rub into the scar tissue, and the rubbing usually had a predictable effect when it was his penis which got the attention. He took his magazines along, feasting his eyes on the bosoms and buttocks, legs and faces.

One day, he left the ladies in the drawer and invaded Bodie's, looking for the cache he knew his partner had once had. He found them in a box, unused of late, by the looks of the string which had fastened it. He found what he was looking for at the bottom of the stack and purloined it. Yes. A magazine of men, with a date more recent than the dates on the other publications. After putting the rest back just as he found it -- a skill learned long ago in his days with the Met -- he took the magazine to the bathroom.

Men. Men with men. Muscled bodies, bent to pleasure, to domination, to ecstasy. Young men coiled around each other, kneeling to each other, mouths full of cock, asses full of cock. Black into white. Large and small. Tan lines and hairy chests. Backs arched in mock passion. Or was it real?

He stared a long time at one illustration. The man looked like Bodie, he decided. Not in the face, but in the way the body was put together. Solid. He knelt behind a man on his hands and knees, a man who twisted his head to look behind and see what was being done to him. The Bodie-man had one hand on his cock, thumb on top, fingers below, aiming it at the buttocks of the other, and one hand on the hip of his ... lover? It was clear that in only a moment, he would shuffle a few inches closer, steady himself, and then push that rosy-headed cock between the white cheeks of the man in front of him.

On the next page it was done, two faces twisted in reaction. The man on the bottom had his eyes wide open, his mouth open, as if the intrusion had been a surprise, and the man on the top had pulled the buttocks firmly onto his cock, was still doing it, and he looked strained, as if it were not yet enough.

Doyle looked at the pictures, while his hand brought him to the peak and he knew it was because of his hand and not his eyes that he came. He ended up leaning over the sink, washing his hands, looking into the mirror but seeing nothing. He was feeling depressed as, magazine in one hand, he left the bathroom, stepping right into ... Bodie!

Avoiding collision only with an effort, Doyle threw up his head, flushing as he saw that Bodie noticed the magazine right away. Bodie snagged it from his fingers, glanced at the cover and then at Doyle.

"This is mine."

"That's right," Doyle said as easily as he could.

Bodie glanced beyond Doyle to the bathroom, then back at his friend. "Need some help understanding the big words?" He grinned. "Or the pictures?"

"The pictures are perfectly clear, thank you. Which doesn't mean I understand them."

Bodie opened the magazine, flipped through it, and asked, "What part don't you understand?"

Doyle grabbed the magazine, pointing. "That. How can a man do that to another man?" The 'that' in question showed a small, youthful man on his knees before a very large, well-hung individual. The small man had an incredible amount of penis down his throat.

"Well, these aren't just any blokes off the street, you know. These are professionals. Shouldn't try this at home," Bodie informed him quite seriously.

Doyle laughed, he had to. "Seriously, Bodie! It can't be any fun for that one," his finger stabbed at the glossy surface. "What's he get out of it?"

"I don't know," Bodie confessed, surprising Doyle. "I thought if we ever got around to it, we'd find out, and if we didn't like it, we wouldn't do it."

"To get that," Doyle's finger stabbed again, "I'd have to do THAT."

"Could be the other way around," Bodie said seriously.

"Oh? For this, too?" Doyle flipped the page to a graphic illustration of a man on his hands and knees, being fucked by another man. "They don't look like they're enjoying it, do they?"

"Poor actors," Bodie said. "Just want to go through the motions and get their money, don't they? It's different in real life."

"Is it? How do you know?" Doyle demanded.

"That's easy. It's the same in the magazines with the girls. Most of them look like that, too. Like they're going through the motions. Because they are. But you know, from when you were with a woman, how it is. World of difference, mate."

"That's different. That's ... natural. This isn't."

Bodie disagreed. "For some people it is."

Doyle moved off, shaking his head. Bodie caught up in a few steps, holding out the magazine. "Here. Consider it a present."

Doyle shook his head, refusing take it. "I don't need it," he said.

"True. Got the real thing any time you want it. Don't forget that, Doyle."

"Do you think I could?" Doyle kept going.

"I'll move out if it will help. Down to the room next to Andrews." Bodie offered.

"Might as well. Do you think I haven't noticed how often you fall asleep in front of the television? You come in after I'm asleep and you're up before me."

"Thought you'd prefer it that way." Bodie looked a bit grim. "It's easier on me." He grabbed Doyle's arm, stopping him, pulling him around so that they could face one another. "You can't tell me you want it otherwise."

"We could go to bed at the same time. Just talk."

"What would we say there we couldn't say during the day?" Bodie frowned. "Are you waiting for me to make a mistake? Jump you, so you can fight me off, have a reason for pissing it all off?"

"That's ... " Doyle began.

"Or do you want me to do it? The excuse. He made me try it, forced me! Is that what you're going to say?"

"No! Stop putting words into my mouth! Is that your own plan? Force me once, prove to me I'll like it? It doesn't work like that! Nobody forces me to do anything!"

Bodie let go of Doyle's arm. "That's true enough. Or bribes you into it, either." He moved as if to pass, but this time, Doyle took hold of Bodie's arm in much the same way he had just been held.

"Bribes? The house?"

Bodie shrugged.

"That's not a bribe."

"What is it, then?" Bodie asked.

"More like," Doyle paused, then grinned. "A hope chest. Women used to have 'em. They ... "

"I know what a hope chest is, Doyle."

"Everything you need for a new life together, including hopes and dreams. Everything except the man."

"I don't exactly have the man," Bodie pointed out.

"It's only been a month."

"Five weeks."

"And three days."

Bodie laughed. "But who's counting?"

"It's early yet. Takes time to change. Or to find out you can't."

"You really are trying?"

Doyle reflected back on his explorations in the bathroom. "I'm trying."

"I'm going to bed at eight tonight," Bodie told him, and although he grinned, his eyes said he was serious.

"There's this show on ... " Doyle began, and then turned and hurried away, Bodie behind him. It was a pitiful race, with neither of them able to go much faster than a walk, and it ended in the kitchen, where Andrews scolded them both for risking their health and then put them both to work on the vegetables for that evening.

The atmosphere was charged during the meal. Andrews noticed it, but didn't comment. He did wear a knowing smile, and he shooed them away from the dishes and the clean-up, saying there wasn't much and he would do it himself. Neither Bodie nor Doyle was noble enough to turn him down. They didn't settle inside, but went for a walk. Up one side of the street and then down the other wasn't much of a trip, but Bodie with his cast on his ankle and Doyle with his damaged heart were evenly matched as to speed and stamina.

They went up to bed at nine, leaving Andrews still in the kitchen. They took the lift, tired at the end of the day, and they did not look at each other as they shared the small space. Doyle stepped out first as the door opened, and Bodie followed. After going through the nightly routines, they came to the bed at the same time.

"You're wearing your pants to bed?" Doyle asked, apparently unmindful of the fact that he, too, wore his underwear.

"Only polite," Bodie pointed out.

Doyle let his humor show, but it quickly faded from his face. He climbed into bed, taking the side he always took, nearest the bathroom. Bodie's side was near the window, and he paused to adjust it before joining his partner. Doyle awkwardly twisted to turn out the light.

"What do you want to talk about?" Bodie asked.

There was a short silence, and then Doyle said, "We're almost done with the forms. What do you suppose Cowley will be having us do next?"

There was the sound of Bodie stretching, settling himself into the bed. "Dunno. One good thing about it -- he can't put us to work in the file room!"

"Yeah. Means everybody else is doing our share. We may not be popular in the future, Bodie."

Bodie made an inelegant sound. "There's worse things than files. What are you doing?" he asked.

"Getting comfortable."

"On my half of the bed?" Bodie asked. "Stay on your own side. Unless you want to start something."

"I'm on my own side. Don't get ... " Doyle paused. "What was that?"

Bodie was already getting out of bed. In the dark he found his gun, the one he wasn't supposed to have, and he moved over to the window. "It's in the back."

Doyle was up as well, slipping into his robe. Without a weapon, he was unhappy. Then he remembered Bodie's crutches down stairs in the umbrella stand. The knives in the kitchen. The placement of the chairs. With his possible arsenal in mind, he led the way to the stairs. The lift was too noisy. Bodie had lingered just long enough to throw on his own robe and was right behind him.

Voices in the kitchen. Murphy? Bodie and Doyle relaxed a fraction and hurried down.

Andrews was to one side of the back door, eyes wide. Murphy and Jax between them were supporting Cowley. The controller had a cut over one eye and an arm in a makeshift sling. Jax slipped out from under his boss' arm and back out the door. Murphy hit the light switch, throwing the room into darkness.

"What's going on?" Doyle whispered, getting his knife from the kitchen drawer.

"Coming home from the meeting with the South African leaders. Car accident. Can't tell if it was deliberate, but Cowley decided not to go home or to HQ, so we went to safe house four, stayed there twenty minutes, then went through the tunnel and here." Murphy made his report in a whisper as well.

"Hurt much, sir?" Bodie asked.

"Cuts and bruises. And a twist to my knee. My good one," Mr. Cowley replied, his irritation at the whole fiasco plain.

"A doctor," Murphy began, but he was interrupted.

"Not needed. What I do need is to sit down," Cowley said pointedly, and hopped over to the breakfast table. He eased down, and although it was too dark to see his expression, they all heard the hiss he could not keep back as the pain hit him.

"The bed on the first floor is made up," Andrews said very quietly. He moved to stand next to Cowley's chair. "I can help you into the lift."

"We'll keep on top of things here, sir," Bodie said crisply.

There was a pause as Cowley considered all aspects of the situation. "Aye," he said at last, struggling up to his feet. "You'll inform me of any change in the situation as it happens," he ordered.

Murphy, as soon as the lift door closed behind him, let out a muffled curse. "Stubborn old bastard. He needs a doctor for that leg."

"I'll take him up my pain pills later." Doyle moved closer to Murphy. "What do you think, Murph? Was it really somebody after the old man?"

"Honestly? No. It was strange, the way the car came out of nowhere like that, but the driver was an old lady. We left her having hysterics. Thing is, she was bumped, forced into our car, so ... "

"A drunk?" Bodie asked.

"Probably. Left the scene. Wouldn't want to be in his shoes when the boys in blue catch up with him. They will, they have part of the number."

Bodie was moving around in the kitchen. "What are you doing?" Doyle asked impatiently.

"They're hungry," he informed Doyle.

"That's ... "

"Absolutely true," Murphy said. "You're a life saver, Bodie! What do you have?"

Doyle left them to raid the cupboards and took a tour of the house, pausing at each window to study the view. Nothing. He made his way up the stairs to the spare room. Cowley was there, stretched out on the bed, fully clothed. Andrews was sitting in the chair beside him.

"All okay?" Doyle whispered.

"Yes," Cowley said, just as Andrews said, "No!"

"He's hurting," Andrews said flatly.

"Wait." Doyle went up the stairs to his bathroom as quickly as he could, too quickly for his own good. He had to wait, leaning over the sink, for the worst of the ache in his chest to ease before he found the vial of pills and tucked them in his pocket. It was better going down.

They had a battle to get the pill into Cowley, who had a natural wish not to have disaster descend upon him while he was knocked out. Doyle's repeated assurance that the pills would not have that effect finally convinced him.

Doyle hiked back down the stairs. Murphy and Jax were at the table, eating. Bodie was not in evidence, and Doyle decided his partner was outside, covering for Jax. Half a favor to a friend, half the conviction all agents had that it wasn't really secure unless he checked it himself.

It was midnight when Bodie slid in. "No sign of anything except a rabbit in the garden."

"You and Doyle go to bed. Jax and I can handle it down here for the rest of the night. Nothing is going to happen anyway," Murphy predicted.

It was true. "Right," Doyle said. Bodie made a sound of agreement and said, "Leave something for breakfast."

"Too late," Jax said with false remorse.

Bodie waggled the appropriate fingers in front of his face and joined Doyle in the slow climb up the stairs. They did not want to risk using the lift, of waking Cowley if he were finally asleep. Pausing to rest between floors, they heard the murmuring of voices coming from the guest room, but neither said anything until they were once again in their own bed.

"What do you suppose they were talking about?" Doyle said in a low voice as he wiggled into a comfortable position.

"Match scores," Bodie said firmly.

"Berk. Do you suppose Andrews is making indecent proposals?"

"Naw. Cowley is. Look, Doyle, if you're going to show so much interest in somebody else's sex life, why not make it mine?"

"What? With Cowley in the house!" Doyle sounded honestly shocked.

"Yes, with bloody Cowley in the housel Not likely to hike up here and check out any odd sounds, is he? Besides, I locked the door."

"Clever lad. Only I'm not up to it, Bodie."

"Not even a kiss?" The edge of disappointment in his voice was real.

Doyle sighed. "A kiss," he agreed, and rolled over to face Bodie.

When his partner's arms came around him, Doyle remembered that the other times they had kissed they had been upright. It was different this way. More intimate.

Sweeter.

"You're good at that," Doyle had to admit a moment later.

"Good at other things, too," Bodie said, his lips at Doyle's ear. "Show you, someday." He turned so that he lay behind Doyle, with Doyle's cast up and resting against him. His arm was over Doyle' s waist. "Comfortable?"

"You want to sleep this way?" Doyle asked.

"Yes," Bodie whispered into his ear.

"For now," Doyle compromised, and yawned.

Which why he was surprised to wake at dawn, Bodie's arms still around him. It felt good. Doyle lay, thinking about that. There was no revulsion at all. Even though Bodie's hand had moved in the night and now rested on his lower abdomen, just above his groin. He thought about Bodie moving his hand just a little lower. Touching him.

His cock twitched.

Doyle's eyes opened wide. The tiny movement he made woke Bodie, who understood the situation at once.

"Sorry," Bodie said, and made to move his hand. Doyle's hand fell on his, holding it in place. Then, very slowly he picked up Bodie's hand and brought it lower, pressing it against his cloth enclosed penis. Bodie cupped him through the cotton, daring to move his fingers, to learn the contours of Doyle's parts through touch alone. Doyle sighed and his hand fell away. Bodie paused.

"Should I stop?" he asked into Doyle's ear.

Doyle said, "No."

Bodie began again, rubbing, pressing, fingers seeking. Doyle was breathing loudly within moments, thrusting himself into those fingers. It was much like doing it to himself, with one major difference. Behind him, he could feel the growing bulk of Bodie's own maleness, cloth covered, pressed to his buttocks. Bodie had slid his hand beneath the waistband of Doyle's shorts and was touching him, skin on skin, holding him in a big, capable palm, squeezing just right, skinning it properly, running his thumb over the damp tip. Just right, just right! His head fell back and Bodie brought their lips together, real kisses, open mouthed and generous. Bodie was grinding himself against Doyle's backside, a response to Doyle's hips, which were thrusting him over and over against Bodie's knowing hand.

Doyle came, crying out in a choked voice, his face a grimace, and Bodie left him too soon, rolling away onto his back, his hand, spattered with drops from Doyle, going at once to his own hardness. He tore away his pants in one motion and began to pump himself desperately, eyes almost shut.

Doyle watched. Watched the way the balls rode the rhythm, the red flush over them, the movement of the hand up and down on the thick shaft. It did not take long. The strings of white shot out in pulses, one, two, three, four, to fall over Bodie's fingers as Bodie made a small "ahhh!" sound of relief and opened his eyes.

"Good morning." Doyle said it without inflection, so that Bodie searched his face for signs of annoyance or disgust. Bodie absently wiped his hand on his belly, eyes on Doyle. Ever so slowly, he twisted over, pulling Doyle partly under him, and then he kissed him deeply, his tongue finding teeth and gums and then falling aside so that Bodie could suck on Doyle's tongue for a few seconds.

Bodie broke the kiss. "Yes," he said solemnly. "The best morning of my life." Then he rolled away, adding, "So far."

Doyle made no reply to that but got up and staggered to the bathroom. When he came out, Bodie went in, and they took the lift down to the kitchen.

Andrews was already there, preparing a huge breakfast under the encouraging and appreciative gazes of Murphy and Jax.

"He's asleep at last," Andrews said, without needing to say who 'he' was. "That knee, though. Not good. I kept ice on it. Needs a hospital."

"How bad?" Doyle asked, joining in the preparations for the meal. Bodie went for the bread, to start on his specialty, his head turned so that he could see the answer.

"Bruised. Swollen."

"It's his good one, he said," Doyle reminded him.

"We could take him directly to hospital," Murph said, slowly.

"Have an expert look at it. He's going to be off his feet for awhile, so he might as well have that surgery he keeps putting off on the other one as well," Jax put in. "The doctors told him there was nothing to be done about that leg unless he wanted to take the risk of losing it, but it's been what, ten years? Progress made in that time, surely?"

"He'll be having x-rays anyway," Bodie added in. In one moment, a sense of resolution swept through the five men.

"After breakfast, I'll drive." Andrews. "The rest of you may have the honor of making him see reason."

"It will take all of us. Or more. Who's his doctor? We can call ahead, have things ready," Jax suggested.

They discussed strategy through breakfast. Andrews was going to take some up to Cowley, but Doyle stopped him, saying that if there was going to be surgery, it was best done on an empty stomach.

They ate heartily, and Doyle decided to stay behind, both to contact HQ and fill them in, and to clean up the kitchen; but mostly because he needed a chance to be alone and think.

Cowley had not protested as much as expected when they took him down in the lift and out to the car, and that alone told Doyle they were doing the right thing. He locked up after them, called HQ and asked them to call the doctor, and then he started to clean up. Five people made a lot of dishes. How did women with large families do it, facing a stack like this every morning, noon and night? At least it gave him plenty to do as he thought.

It hadn't been bad this morning. Having Bodie bring him off was no different, basically, than doing it himself.

Bodie would want more.

Doyle thought about giving more. Was sucking a cock worse than what he did to women? Mouth between their legs, finding the magic button and making them thrash and scream? He'd done that often enough. Maybe he could go as far as that. But fucking? His mind shied from that like a wild horse seeing a rope.

He was going to do it again. Going to crawl into bed with Bodie and share with him. Anticipation? To his surprise, he did feel anticipation. His friend below his belt gave a questioning twitch. He told it to behave and then stood, wondering at himself, staring out the window and seeing nothing.

Andrews and Bodie came home just after noon, and Doyle had sandwiches ready, and tea. Jax and Murphy were no doubt in bed now, sleeping off their eventful night. Bodie and Andrews both looked like they ought to be doing the same.

"Rough?" Doyle asked, unlocking the door.

"Bloody awful," Andrews said.

Doyle looked at Bodie for confirmation and Bodie gave a weary nod. "He was a right bastard about it, but the doctor was on our side. Turns out George had been getting warnings from his doctor for two years, so with this, the man got positively vicious. Shouting match. Cowley, won, actually, but Jax started in on him, then Andrews here called him some names I haven't heard in years," Bodie threw an admiring look at the older man, "and then Cowley said, 'Very well then! Have it your way! But you won't like the cost!'"

Doyle frowned. "The cost?"

"He wants to come here to recover. Says we have a secure phone line and location, a PT already coming in and we can make ourselves useful."

"Oh, shit," Doyle said eloquently. "Speaking of which, you missed the PT."

Bodie did not at all show regret. "We've bigger tyrants to consider," he said. "He can have the room he was in last night, but we have to have a place for one more person. An active agent. We'd have to fix up the other small room upstairs."

Andrews broke in, "Or the room down here, the small room off the exercise area."

Bodie and Doyle did not look at each other, but they both had the same thoughts. So Andrews didn't want anybody else up there with Cowley? Well, it made some sense to have the agent posted on the bottom floor, where a breach of security would be most likely to occur.

"It will be easier not to have to haul furniture up the stairs," Doyle said, thinking of Bodie's back. And his own!

"The big stuff doesn't fit in the lift," Bodie agreed.

"Andrews, we'll need a better lamp for Cowley's room, and furniture down here. See if we can get two twin beds into that room. Bureau. Wardrobe." Doyle was already making plans.

"We have a week," Bodie protested. "Is there anything to eat ... Doyle, you gem, you've made sandwiches!" Bodie attacked the plate at once.

"Save some for the rest of us! Greedy hog," Doyle said, quite without rancor. He had made plenty.

"The doctor said Mr. Cowley will be released in a week only if there were no complications," Andrews corrected, helping himself to a sandwich as well.

"It will take a week. Cowley does not believe in complications. Cook up some things ahead of time, fill the freezer. Buy some malt." Doyle was ticking off the things to do on the hand which was not full of sandwich.

"Expenses," Bodie said gloomily. They never did pay for the full amount you put out. Then he focused on the last item Doyle had listed out. "That's why he wants to stay here. Knows the hospital won't give him a toddy at night, and you will!"

Andrews shook his head. "He drinks too much."

Doyle wondered how Andrews knew that, but all he said was, "If he drinks because of the pain in his leg, then maybe he won't have as much reason now."

Bodie snorted.

After they ate, Doyle went upstairs to lie down for an hour. He had missed out on sleep the night before. Healing bodies needed more than healthy ones, he had found that out years before.

He woke up as Bodie was stretching out beside him.

"Your ankle hurts," Doyle said.

"Nah. Just wanted to wake you up the proper way," Bodie said, and leaning over, he pressed a kiss on Doyle's mouth.

It really wasn't too bad kissing Bodie, Doyle decided as they ended it.

"Two?" Bodie asked hopefully.

"Don't press your luck," Doyle said lightly.

"I could press something else," Bodie offered. Doyle punched him in the arm.

"If you have too much energy we could start getting ready for Cowley. Good thing we put the safe upstairs. He'll want to work."

"That saying about all work and no play make Jack a dull boy is right. It worked on Cowley," Bodie commented.

"Cowley's not dull, exactly. Tarnished. Still bright under all that surface camouflage." Doyle grinned, "Something like you."

"Oh, thanks," Bodie said, making a face. "So you're saying all we need is a little polishing and we'll shine? Show you what I want polished," he said suggestively, waggling his eyebrows and making Doyle laugh.

Doyle didn't take him up on the offer. "Do you suppose Andrews does a little Cowley-polishing on the side?"

Bodie looked skeptical. "When has he had a chance? Last night? With armed guards in the house and the Cow in pain? Not likely!" He rolled over. "It's all just your fantasy anyway. Cowley and Andrews."

Doyle tapped his nose. "Copper's instinct. There's something there."

"For somebody leery of the light-footed brigade, you don't seem to mind if somebody else leans that direction. Why doesn't the idea of Andrews with Cowley bother you?"

Doyle shrugged. "He needs someone."

"Cowley?"

Doyle nodded. "Yeh."

"So do I, but the idea put you off at first. A lot."

"So?"

"You're not going to like this theory."

Doyle said, "I don't like most of your theories. Even when you're right, we end up in trouble."

"Keep a civil tongue in your head, lad." Bodie assumed a severe expression, but ruined it within seconds. "Speaking of your tongue, mine would like to ... "

Doyle pushed him away. "Your theory," he reminded.

Bodie sighed in a loud, exaggerated way, but flopped over onto his own side of the bed. "I figure, you want Cowley to find true love with Andrews," he ignored the derisive sound Doyle produced, "because then it would be okay for you and me. If the boss does it, then ... "

"That's your dumbest idea yet! Only a military mentality could come up with THAT!" Doyle was sitting up in his reaction, his expression indignant.

"Told you you wouldn't like it," Bodie sighed. "Okay, then you don't like it. What's your theory? You a sucker for romance? A lid for every pot?"

"Well, if he had a sex life, maybe he wouldn't show up in such a filthy mood in the mornings."

"What makes you think he doesn't have a sex life?" Bodie asked.

Doyle just gave him a speaking look.

"Besides his own right hand?"

"He's too driven. The job is too important," Doyle said.

"Or is the job important because he doesn't have anything else?" Bodie suggested.

"Why would he want Andrews? Andrews is a decent bloke, sure, but he doesn't have the education or the background Cowley has. If Cowley went for a man, it would be someone like himself. Military background, touch of class."

"No. Picking a lover from among your own social circle is a sure way to get talked about. If your friends don't blab, his or hers will. Remember, it's always been accepted that the upper classes dally with the help, expected, even. Cowley may be responding unconsciously to that. Besides, the military isn't the place to find a lover. Rank gets in the way. Even if you start out even, the minute one gets promoted, the problems start." Bodie stretched, pulling the pillow more comfortably under his head.

"No, if I were Cowley and wanted a lover, I'd find somebody who has nothing to do with the military, security, the home office, any of that lot. Trouble is, finding a complete stranger isn't easy."

"So why not pick out some little woman and set up a love nest somewhere?" Doyle suggested.

"Where? And when would he have time for her? She'd get fed up and leave, and as he has told us so many times before, ex-girlfriends are trouble. A woman scorned and all that. Besides, he has that old fashioned attitude towards women. Ever noticed that as soon as a woman becomes an agent, he puts her into another compartment of his mind? Agents aren't like the rest of humanity in his book."

"Old-fashioned. There's the religious aspect, you know. Mr. Cowley believes in a stern old God. Not one who approves of this sort of goings on." Doyle stretched out again as well.

"Mr. Cowley can bend the 'thou shalt not kill' and a handful of the other commandments to his purpose. He can bend one more rule, if he honestly feels the end will justify the means."

"So you think if he thought it was worth it, he'd do it? Find a man?" Doyle said it just to keep Bodie going. He hadn't realized his partner had given what made Cowley tick so much thought.

"Well, remember in the hospital, when the doctor was talking to you? Cowley thought you and I were ... lovers. Never said anything, did he? Never tried to stop it."

Doyle shook his head. "Doesn't mean he'd approve of it, just means it suited his purposes to let it go on."

"It suits my purposes, too," Bodie said, and his hand dropped down to fold over Doyle's inner thigh.

"Time to get to work," Doyle said, and he rolled over to the side of the bed and stood up.

"That's all I get? One quick feel?" Bodie complained.

"You got a kiss just a moment ago," Doyle reminded him.

"I'm insatiable, I warn you. I shall want another tonight." Bodie got up as well, if a little reluctantly.

"I consider myself warned." Doyle said, and headed for the stairs. Whenever he felt up to it, he took the stairs. It was exercise, and if he still had difficulty going up, at least he was getting good at going down.

Once down, he poked about, making a shopping list and then stopping to hunt up a quick tea when Bodie came in claiming terminal hunger. They had just finished when Andrews returned. Doyle had to amend his list -- Andrews had purchased many of the items. Doyle made arrangements to go with Andrews early in the morning to the shops, and Bodie kept making suggestions of items which had in common a high calorie count and a high sugar content, none of which Doyle added to his list.

"You're a hard man, Doyle," Bodie complained.

"Well, you know what they say. A hard man is good to find," Doyle said, with a wink.

Andrews nodded. "Quite true," he intoned, in his best Jeeves imitation, and he left his employers laughing.

At ten that night, after Andrews had already retired, Bodie came to the doorway of the kitchen, and after watching Doyle put the finishing touches on a kettle of red sauce, he asked, "Are you coming to bed?"

"In a minute." All of Doyle's concentration was on the sauce. "This has to cool a bit. Then I can put it away."

Bodie didn't answer, but just went to the lift. It was almost an hour later when Doyle showed up. Bodie was in bed, propped up with both pillows, reading a paperback book. He set it aside as Doyle arrived.

"Waiting for something special?" Doyle asked mildly as he shed his clothing.

"You could say that." Bodie said, watching as Doyle headed for the bathroom. "Do you need any help?" Doyle no longer needed as much assistance getting into the bath, but he did need an occasional helping hand getting out.

"No." There were the sounds of brushing teeth and running water. Doyle stuck his head out the door and said, "I'm tired."

"There's always the morning," Bodie said philosophically, turning out his light. Doyle got the impression he was glad enough just to go to sleep, that he was not in as good shape as he pretended to be.

Doyle slid into the bed, half expecting Bodie to reach for him. He'd said something earlier about wanting another kiss at bedtime. Did he forget? Tonight he touched Doyle's blanket-covered shoulder lightly and then turned over and went to sleep. Doyle was left looking up into the darkness, too tensed up to sleep right away. Strangely, Doyle found he had been expecting the kiss. Maybe even looking forward to it. Dammit, Bodie ...

He got his kiss in the morning. He woke up before the alarm, as he usually did, to find Bodie awake and looking at him with eyes which glowed with suggestion. When he saw that Doyle was awake, he sat up and, very slowly, he pulled the covers off them both. Bodie, Doyle saw, had already wiggled out of his pants. Everything he had was on view, and it was impressive. Half hard, flat belly giving way to ... Doyle blinked, his artist's eye seeing all the basic shapes learned in his early lessons at art school. There was the line of hair running from navel to crotch, the cylinder of the penis topped with the cone of the glans. The balls were roundness under ovals. He was looking for the square, the cube, wondering if the bed, the frame for the entire picture, would count, when he was distracted by Bodie's big hands at his waistband. Blue eyes asked a question, and when there was no answer he went ahead and pulled down the soft fabric.

Doyle looked with an almost detached interest as he was stripped. His own crotch held no designs unless the lazy curves of laxness could be counted. He watched as Bodie's fingers traced those lines, exploring amid dark curls, poking into folds, lifting to peer under this bit and that. The slit at the tip of his penis was stroked, and then his inner thighs. Doyle's legs fell open of their own accord, and Bodie pushed Doyle down to the pillow and kissed him deeply as his hand continued to rub and stroke.

Doyle lit up. He gave back in equal measure, his tongue delving into Bodie's mouth. They broke and met again, the need for oxygen setting the limits for them. Bodie's hand was never still, and Doyle felt himself fill and lengthen.

Bodie at last twisted from Doyle's mouth to pull back enough to look down at what his hand had created.

"Bloody hell, you're a big lad!" he breathed.

Doyle grinned. "Got you beat, have I?"

"In girth, yes. I have you on length. I may have to re-think this. Not sure that monster will fit into my delicate arse." Under his hand, Doyle twitched and grew even harder. Bodie's own grin grew wider. "Might take real work, getting that up into me."

"Bodie, stop it!" Doyle gasped.

"What, this?" Bodie let his hand close on the hard cock.

"No! All that talk about ... " Doyle lost track of the thought as a knowing thumb rubbed across the tip of his organ.

"Your wish is my command," Bodie said lightly. He whispered in Doyle's ear, "My mouth has better things to do than talk."

Doyle lifted lips already kiss swollen, but opened them in surprise when they were not met, and his eyes grew wider as he saw Bodie's head was moving towards his groin. Doyle made a sound, almost like pain, when the mouth closed around the head of his cock. Bodie's hand encircled the lower part, pumping.

It was clear at once that Bodie was new to this. Only as Bodie changed his position, trying for a comfortable angle, his grip too hard as he shifted, did Doyle realize the skill of the women who had done this for him. There was more than one trick to it, and Bodie was intently learning them all. His tongue came into play, rubbing the little bridge of skin on the underside of Doyle's cock, while his hand found a better rhythm.

Doyle's hand came to Bodie's head, half for balance, half to guide it, to wordlessly beg for more of his thickness to find a haven in that hot mouth. Bodie offered as much as he could, gagging twice when he found depths he could not handle, but he never stopped, and when Doyle moaned and tried to pull out, on the verge of coming, Bodie only wrapped his arm tight around Doyle's waist and sucked.

Doyle cried out again, not believing this was happening, that Bodie would do this, would want to let this happen in his mouth. He spurted, and part of his brain counted the pulses, imagining each of them hitting the back of Bodie's throat and trickling down inside. Doyle offered his last spasm and Bodie's mouth pulled away as he sat up.

Blinking, wiped out, panting, Doyle saw Bodie's hand fall down to his own bursting groin. The head was a deep red, the long length at full extension, the balls quite noticeable below.

"Ray?" Bodie did not ask for the favor to be returned, but Doyle knew what was wanted.

"I can't!" he said, sure of it. Not now, and perhaps not ever.

"Just kiss it," Bodie pleaded. "You don't have to put your mouth around it. Just ... " Bodie was falling back, his hand a blur as he ministered to himself, hips thrusting, head back and thrashing.

Just ... kiss it?

Doyle sat up, tentatively, thinking frantically, feeling he owed Bodie but not certain he could even offer to touch his lips to a cock. But there was need on Bodie's face, and Doyle put his palm on Bodie's hard abdomen to hold him still, and his other hand closed around Bodie's flying fist, stopping it near the damp groin. Slowly, Doyle leaned forward and pressed his lips to the tip of the penis.

Mt. Vesuvius. Doyle jerked back as the first long stream of white viscosity shot from Bodie, and he watched, his hand still on Bodie's, as six pulses in six seconds sent streams of white, each shorter than the last, up in the air, to fall back on his hand, on Bodie's, on the bed and on Bodie's thighs and crotch. All the while, Doyle was still feeling on his lips the strangeness of the glans, skin unlike skin anywhere else on the human body.

Slowly, Doyle took his hand away from the tower, watching it fall to one side as Bodie took his hand away as well. Absently, he wiped his hand on the sheet, watching Bodie return from pleasure to the real world.

Bodie blinked, and a smile came to his lips as his eyes met Doyle's. The look said Doyle was worshiped, Doyle was perfection, Doyle was loved. Doyle was uneasy at the sight of it and turned away at once and went to the bathroom for a cloth. It was only coming back that he realized Bodie had watched his retreating backside avidly and was now paying as much attention to his front.

Doyle handed the cloth over, having taken a quick swipe at his own sticky spots while in the bathroom, and he watched Bodie take the worst of it off, rolling the now pliant flesh as he cleaned first one side and then the other.

"Good morning," Bodie said, tossing the cloth to the floor.

"Don't forget to pick that up," Doyle said.

"Romantic," Bodie said dryly, but Doyle saw the darkening behind the blue eyes and knew that, deep down, Bodie was hurt that Doyle could dismiss a profound experience so easily. So Doyle leaned forward to kiss Bodie. It was sweet. Sweeter than Doyle had expected, to share a kiss with no sexual pressure behind it, a kiss that was just a gesture of appreciation, of fondness.

"Again?" Bodie begged.

Doyle indulged him, if only to see if the second kiss was like the first. It was. He didn't give Bodie a chance to ask for a third. "Get up. We have a lot to do today."

"PT," Bodie agreed sadly.

"Among other things." Doyle slapped him on the thigh and left the bed.

The day gave him too much time to think. To remember, while he brushed his teeth, what Bodie's mouth on him felt like. To know what Bodie was brave enough to dare. It came to him again as he whisked eggs, as he bent under Mrs. Jones' hearty hands, as he cut bread, as he went through the mail.

"Anything for me?" Bodie asked, joining him at the table.

"Notice of doctor's appointments tomorrow. You at ten, me at ten thirty. The rubbish bin for the rest." As he tossed the circulars aside, he caught Bodie smiling at him, and he knew this morning's activities were on Bodie's mind as well.

He couldn't resist the look on Bodie's face. Half hope, half uncertainty. "Time for your mid-morning kiss, is it?" Doyle joked.

The joy which blossomed out all over Bodie made Doyle feel awkward, and yet flattered. He leaned forward for a quick kiss but Bodie slid an arm around him and made it into something more. Nor did he stop with just one.

"You took the noon kiss and the mid-afternoon one as well," Doyle told him when he got his lips back.

"I'm going into debt at the kiss bank," Bodie said. "With a lot of work I can be up to Tuesday next by tea time."

"Silly berk."

"Want to go upstairs and say that?" Bodie challenged.

"It'd kill you. In case you haven't noticed, you're walking funny. You hurt your back this morning, didn't you?"

"Just a little. Was worth it," Bodie said, smiling at the memory.

"Ha."

"Gives me an excuse not to do the heavy lifting. What's for lunch?"

"Sandwiches. We're not cooking. No time. Andrews is out, picking up the lamp."

"Sandwiches are good. Coming?" Bodie said over his shoulder as he went to the kitchen.

Doyle left the line alone and followed. The phone rang.

Bodie was nearest. The series of yes, no, yes told him nothing, but he knew by the way Bodie straightened that it was work related.

"Well?" Doyle asked as Bodie put down the receiver.

"They put Cowley under the knife this morning. Five hours of it, but it went well, they think."

"Good."

Bodie nodded.

They prepared the food, ate it, cleaned up the mess, leaving two thick sandwiches under a cloth for Andrews. After the meal, Doyle said he was taking his nap, and Bodie said he was in the mood for a kip as well, and they crawled in to the bed from opposite sides but met in the middle. Doyle had not been very sleepy, but he had known that Bodie would not be able to resist stretching out beside him. Bodie had fallen asleep at once, his hand touching Doyle in an apparently casual fashion which did not fool Doyle at all. Doyle had watched Bodie sleep, the rise and fall of the big chest and the blue shadows under the closed eyes. Lashes like feathers. Hair long enough to begin to show the curl. Handsome bugger, Bodie. Yawning, Doyle found a comfortable position and fell asleep.

It was a shock to wake to dusk, to the rattling sounds of the delivery van. They could hear Andrews' voice as he directed the workmen around to the back. Bodie was just waking as well, sitting on the side of the bed and rubbing his eyes like a little boy.

They did not speak as they got up. They took the lift down, both of them feeling stiff and sore. Andrews had bought chicken, which Doyle cooked with lemon and basil, and after the meal Andrews cleaned up while Doyle and Bodie ran through some mild exercises to loosen up. Doyle could not help but notice how much range of motion Bodie had lost, and later that night when they were in bed and Bodie reached for him, Doyle told him not to be stupid, planted a kiss on his forehead and turned over to go to sleep.

Bodie sighed, but Doyle knew he had done the right thing when Bodie did not try to change his mind, but put his energy into trying to find a comfortable spot on the bed. That comfortable spot turned out to be braced against Doyle, who fell asleep wondering why it felt so good to be used as a pillow. He hated it when birds flopped all over him at night, especially when they trapped his arms under their bodies. Was it because Bodie had left his arms free?

PT was early the next day -- just after breakfast, so they could be at their appointments in good time. Dr. Allen was quite blunt. With Bodie, he showed him again the x-rays of his ankle, lecturing him on the possibility of walking with a limp for the rest of his life if he didn't take care. He suggested a cane. He also told him to stop doing whatever it was which had strained his back again. It was said with a knowing look which Bodie chose not to see.

The doctor was more serious with Doyle. With x-rays and diagrams, he explained how scar tissue had torn in Doyle's chest in the accident, causing his heart to change position slightly, putting stress on the major veins and arteries, which was not helped by the cast on his upper arm. He was going to suggest removing the cast early, but that would require even more care. Doyle listened, nodded, and took the prescription for new medicine to help his heart.

Andrews had driven them to the appointment, waiting with his paper in the lobby until they both had arrived. Once home there was the mail and the meal and phone calls to make, so that it was not until afternoon, when Doyle went up to the bedroom to rest and Bodie followed him, that they had a moment alone to talk.

"Problem?" Doyle asked, when he caught Bodie just standing, staring at him.

"You could say that." He was taking off his shoe, not really looking at it.

"Your news was bad, too?" Doyle asked lightly, as if the answer would not matter to him much one way or the other, which was not the case at all.

"No sex."

"The back?"

"Yeah."

"They're taking my cast off next week. No stress on the area at all. It's another way of saying no sex, since anything which would not stress my shoulder is going to stress your back."

"Damn." Bodie said it flatly, without emotion, which told Doyle he felt it deeply.

They were silent as they climbed into the bed. The sun, which had been out that morning, had lost the battle to the encroaching clouds, and it was grey outside.

"Only for a month or two," Doyle said, eventually. He knew Bodie was afraid Doyle would change his mind, that without the reinforcement of pleasure Doyle might have the time to reconsider. "You can still kiss me," he said, rolling over carefully.

Bodie was no fool, and he took advantage of the opportunity, but he stopped when it became too interesting.

"Character building." Doyle laughed, when he saw Bodie's face, trying to ignore the twitch he felt in that place deep in his balls.

"Fuck character."

"The doctor won't even let you do that. Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere." Doyle realized it was true.

"Promise?" Bodie was on his back, staring up, and he did not look at Doyle as he asked the question.

It was a more important question that it appeared to be on the surface. Doyle hesitated, reaching inside himself for the answer. Then, quite deliberately, he said, "I do." He could have just said yes.

"Sickness and health?" Bodie asked tentatively, as if to make sure the wording was not just fluke, that Doyle had meant to imply vows.

"This is the sickness part. Health comes later. Bodie, I still can't imagine ... there's some things I might not get around to. Ever."

"I know. But we were doing pretty well before my back gave out. Someday we'll find out exactly how far we can go. I can wait."

"Then go to sleep, Bodie. The more rest, the sooner we'll be back on our feet."

"I don't want to be on my feet. Want to be on my hands and knees, looking back over my shoulder, watching you ... "

Doyle interrupted. "Go to sleep, Bodie!" he ordered, but he lightened it by lifting Bodie's hand and bringing it to his lips for a loud, smacking kiss, and when his hand went back to the bed, he kept hold of Bodie's, giving it a squeeze. He only let go when he felt sleep come to his partner. Doyle drifted in that halfway stage before sleep, when the mind toys with this and that, most of them having to do with Bodie. It came to him that he had begun to make a habit of this, that it meant something that every time he fell asleep, his last thought was of Bodie.

He thought of the game they had played, the game which had furnished this house. Wasn't much use playing it anymore. Have to think of a new game. One that involved making Bodie happy. He could do it bit by bit, the same way Bodie had furnished the house. Bodie ...

-- THE END --

Originally published in Lovers 2, Chained-to-the-Typewriter Press, 1992

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