Bats at Noon


Bodie was blind.

Stumbling around in the dark, hands out in front of him, disgustingly, dependently, scared out of his wits blind.

Only temporarily, they said. The bandages would come off in a week and he'd see. Or maybe not.

In the meantime, he lay in the dark. His only memory of sight, his last -- the unimaginably bright flash of the bomb as it went off close to him. This memory so vivid it was as if it had been tattooed in indelible ink on the insides of his eyelids.

When he'd first awakened in the dark and realised that it was only him dwelling in this night black place, he'd gone just a little insane. They'd tied him then, and that had been very bad indeed. But they weren't unreasonable, weren't cruel, and once he'd calmed down and promised to leave the bandages alone, they'd freed him again. He'd felt so pitifully grateful at the sound of the scissors snipping through the gauze that held his hands to the bed rails, he'd almost slipped back into that red haze of non reasoning. But he'd held on for the sake of staying free.

Christ, he hated hospitals. Especially at night. At least in the day, there was sound, movement, smells. Stimulus for his other senses while he was denied the one he depended on most.

There was a soft sound at his door, and Bodie came alert with the instincts of a cornered animal. He forced himself to relax. It would only be the night nurse. He was going home tomorrow. There was no more IV, no more middle-of-the-night pain shots, no excuse to poke and prod him out of his restless sleep. Still, the rules said you couldn't just leave a sleeping patient lie, had to make them anxious and relieved to get out of there after all.

The soft sound repeated, much closer now and much too quiet to be the nurse. Bodie tensed again, then felt every muscle in his body let go as a familiar scent finally made its way to his nose. Once again pitiful gratitude swelled within him, gifting him with the cool, clean tide of his own anger.

"It's about bloody time you showed up," he growled toward his nocturnal visitor.

"Jesus Christ!" Doyle exclaimed. "You scared 10 years off me. Thought you were sleepin', mate."

"Where you been?" Bodie was implacable. Days in the hospital, blind as a bat at noon, and his partner had been conspicuous by his absence.

"Joined at the hip to bloody Cowley, that's where I've been," Doyle growled in defence. "Come to take you home, haven't I?"

"And here I thought I was the blind one, mate," Bodie replied in his best sarky tone. "It's the middle of the fuckin' night."

"Yeah, it's the middle of the night. The middle of the fifth or sixth night. I dunno. I've lost track. But we got the bloody bombers, and 's soon's we did, I cut meself loose. Old Man will be screamin' in me lug'ole in the mornin'. I'll deal with it then." What had started out as soft voiced but emphatic defence had drifted into an exhausted ramble as Doyle sank into the bedside chair.

Relief chased away the last of Bodie's anger. Doyle was here now. Safe. No longer chasing about the bomb filled/bullet ridden streets of London without his dark shadow to watch his back. Bodie became aware that the bandages around his eyes were damp. Tears? Just because Doyle had finally seen fit to make time in his busy schedule.... Bodie gave it up, the anger just wouldn't return. Besides, it wasn't tears. It was only his damaged eyes watering. Nature's way of healing the hurt done to them.

"You can't take me out of here in the middle of the night," he reminded gently.

"Know that," Doyle countered wearily.

There was the metallic scrape of the chair legs against the floor as Doyle dragged the chair closer to the bed, then something soft brushed Bodie's arm and the bed dipped gently.

"Gonna just put me head down for a bit of a kip. Couldn't drive now if I wanted to," Doyle mumbled.

Bodie put out a hand to investigate, found a folded arm and followed it to a wealth of sweat stiff curls resting beside him. The messy little bugger was probably covered in half the grime of the London streets as well.

"Hey, geddof," he commanded softly. "You'll mess up me bed."

His only reply was a soft snore.

Hand sliding down to rest on the narrow back, feeling the steady rise and fall of Doyle's breathing, the dark of Bodie's new world receded a little. Fear finally held at bay by the presence of his scruffy partner, Bodie settled down to await the dawn.

"Leggo, dammit!" Bodie commanded, trying to yank his hand away.

"What, you haven't been waitin' all these years for an excuse to hold my hand in public?" Doyle tried for light-hearted teasing, horribly aware of how close his own emotions were to the surface. Seeing Bodie so bloody vulnerable was shaking loose things inside him that he could not afford to look at too closely while he was standing under Bodie's nose. Blind or not, Bodie knew him far too well.

But Bodie was in no mood to be jollied. Unable to dress himself without help, being wheeled from his room, then having to be helped to the car had reinforced the terrifying knowledge that he was helpless. "No, I haven't," he snapped and yanked again, succeeding in breaking his partner's hold, only to find himself stumbling back and crashing against the wall. He fumbled for the rail. "And I can make it up my own stairs," he insisted and began the slow, careful climb. Thank God his current flat was only one flight up.

Doyle watched the painfully cautious progress until Bodie was three steps ahead of him, then set his foot on the first riser. All right, Bodie didn't want to be coddled. He wouldn't coddle, but that didn't mean he couldn't be close enough to catch him if the big man fell. That was his job, after all. More than catching the villains, more than obeying Cowley, that was his job - to protect Bodie. And if he couldn't protect him, like this time, then it was he who would damned well help pick up the pieces and patch them back together.

Inside the door of his flat, some of the tension fell away from Bodie's taut shoulders. He was on his home ground now, familiar territory where he could take care of himself. This illusion was shattered not four steps from the door when he crashed into the hall table, sending it skidding away and leaving him flailing for the security of the wall once again. He stood there panting as if he'd just run a foot race flat out. Doyle's hand settled hesitantly on his shoulder and he shrugged it away.

"Don't be like that, Bodie," Doyle murmured.

Bodie shrugged again as if to cast off the words and the warm breath that brushed over his neck with them. "Like what, Doyle? Blind? That's what I am, isn't it?"

"Temporarily," Doyle reminded, watching the other man closely, waiting impatiently for the moment the walls would ease and he could reach out again. Patience wasn't his long suit, so Bodie'd better be quick about it before his own temper got the best of him.

"What if it isn't?" Bodie snarled, whipping his head around in an attempt to use the scowl on his face to drive Doyle and his sympathy away.

What Bodie didn't know, what nobody had told him, was that with his eyes covered he seemed unable to pull up the masks that usually hid his emotions. What he felt was shown in stark relief upon his face. It was just as well, for now Doyle began to understand. He bundled up his own emotions, the sympathy, horror and fear, and, as he had been doing all too often lately, ruthlessly shoved them away to deal with later. What Bodie needed was his partner, and that was what he was going to get.

"Then we'll deal with it," Doyle commanded, laying a firm hand once again on the broad shoulder and steering the bigger man to the couch. Once he got Bodie shoved down into the cushions, Doyle stood over him, resisting the temptation to shake an admonishing finger under the half hidden nose. "We'll deal with it same way we've dealt with everythin' else that's come our way in the past five years - together."

Slowly, like the sun coming out from behind a particularly threatening cloud, a smile crept its way around Bodie's mouth. Ah, this was better. A soft centred Doyle he didn't know what to make of, but a stroppy Doyle he could handle. "Whatever you say, mate," he agreed.

Doyle rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Are you hungry?"

"I just got out of hospital. What d'you think?" Bodie answered.

"You're hungry," Doyle concluded and waited to see how Bodie wanted to play it.

After one more moment to consider his treasured independence, Bodie put out a hand. "What, you only want to hold my hand in public?" he queried when the appendage wasn't immediately surrounded by Doyle's steady grip.

"You dumb crud," Doyle insulted indulgently, and reached out to haul his partner to his feet.

"How the hell would you know?" Bodie demanded.

"Read it somewhere," Doyle insisted.

Lunch had been easy. Someone with Bodie's appetite, blind or not, had no trouble getting food from plate to mouth, and Doyle had made it easy on him by fixing a plate full of sandwiches. There was no trouble figuring out where a sandwich lay on your plate, or when the last bite was gone. However, belly appeased and resettled on the sofa, Bodie was once again becoming difficult.

"Oh right, blind people count steps everywhere they go," Bodie scoffed. "Have to have a mind like a bloody steel trap, wouldn't they."

"Ah, yeah, and we know yours is more like a tea strainer," Doyle snapped automatically, then winced. He had no business throwing insults at Bodie now. That was, however, the way they often communicated, and old habits were hard to put aside.

"Damned good thing you don't love me for my mind then, innit?" Bodie shot back. Despite the darkness that surrounded him, every time Doyle reverted to character and revealed his usual rat tempered disposition, the nagging fear receded just a little.

Doyle flushed, glad that Bodie couldn't see him. As quick as the thought was born, Doyle squashed it, horrified that he should be grateful for Bodie's disability no matter what secrets he wanted to hide from both himself and his friend.

"Doyle?" Bodie asked into his silent darkness when no answer was forthcoming.

"I need a bath. Have I any clothes here?" Doyle asked to cover his own awkward emotions.

"Yeah. Seems like half your wardrobe, mate. Two pairs of jeans and three shirts. Right hand side of the cupboard. A pair of socks and two pairs of pants. Right hand side, third drawer of the dresser," Bodie replied after a moment's thought.

Doyle stared at the other man open mouthed.

Bodie shifted uneasily. He could sense Doyle's presence, hear him breathing and almost feel the green gaze boring into him. "What?" he finally asked when he could bear the silence no longer.

"What's in the kitchen cupboards, and where?" Doyle shot back.

Irritated now, Bodie rattled off the contents of his kitchen with only a pause or two to recall details. "Why, you planning on raiding the place?" he added to the end of his recital.

"And where's the drinks cabinet?"

"Oh, for..." Deciding to humour his mad friend, Bodie pointed back over his shoulder.

Doyle followed the trajectory of the pointing finger, and shook his head in amazement. "What about your stereo."

Once again an imperious finger lead the wide-eyed gaze on an unerring route.

"Jesus," Doyle muttered softly, but felt suddenly a little better about the whole situation. However, he sensed Bodie needed to figure this out himself. "I'm goin' for me bath," he announced and abruptly retreated.

"Could have at least got me a drink before he goes haring off," Bodie muttered. Mind still occupied by his partner's odd questions and odder behaviour, Bodie rose, wandered over to the drinks cabinet and reached for the scotch. Still running on automatic, he located a glass, opened the bottle and tilted it for exactly three seconds. He recapped the bottle and carried his drink back to the couch. It was only as he settled his arse comfortably on the cushions that Bodie realised what he had done, and nearly spoiled it all by letting the glass slip through his fingers. Training, of course, it was all training. The army had taught him to put everything away just so and to remember where he'd put it. The same training that had taught him how to judge the distance to aim a weapon also let him judge the number of seconds it took to cross that distance. Amazing.

To test himself, he set the drink aside and moved over to the stereo unit. Once there, he turned and proceeded to the TV. Home ground. Familiar territory. The table in the hall had been a fluke, just a matter of still feeling off balance in those first few seconds of being home. He wasn't completely helpless, nor so totally vulnerable after all. Locating the television with no trouble, he about faced and marched toward his bedroom, making a beeline for his closet.

Doyle tipped his head back and let the shampoo rinse out of his hair for the second time. Squeezing out the excess water, he then turned his attention to a leisurely cleansing of his tired body. He needed to give Bodie time to figure it out for himself and then explore the knowledge, test it. Bodie didn't need him for that. He was safe enough in his own home. A bumped knee or skinned shin wasn't going to kill him.

With that in mind, Doyle stayed under the water until his fingers began to prune, then slowly dried himself. Wiping the steam off the mirror, he borrowed Bodie's razor and made a thorough job of dispensing with a week's worth of stubbly beard.

Scooping up his sodden towel, Doyle suddenly realised there was no need for false modesty at the moment. Bodie couldn't see him, wouldn't know if Doyle wandered around his bedroom starkers. The thought appealed to the sensualist in him, but he wasn't sure he wanted to look too closely at why the thought of sauntering around nude under Bodie's nose was so fascinating. Besides, it would be unfair. He was here to take care of Bodie, not take advantage of the situation. Before he could change his mind, he whipped the towel around his hips, tucked it in firmly and made his way into the bedroom.

"So what are you doin' then?" he asked when he saw Bodie sitting on the bed.

"Want to bath and change. What did I get out?" Bodie asked with ill-concealed eagerness.

"Black cords, white poloneck, black socks, black pants," Doyle recited, watching the delighted smile spread over Bodie's handsome face, knowing his own was just as wide. "Reckon there's some advantages to being ex-army, after all."

Bodie laughed for the first time since the bomb had blown up in his face, grabbed up his clothes and headed confidently for his bathroom.

Several hours later, Bodie's euphoria had had a chance to fade. It was all well and good to be able to make his way around his flat, but it didn't change the fact that he was blind. What would he do if he ended up this way for the rest of his life? He sank into morose silence as the television prattled mindlessly on. He heard Doyle moving about the place, the clink of glasses, the slide of a record going into its sleeve. His partner was tidying up as he wouldn't do at home because he knew Bodie hated mess. Or maybe because he thought Bodie'd make a worse mess, knocking things over, stepping on them, if they weren't where they belonged.

The sound of jangling keys brought him up to ramrod attention. "You're off then?" he asked with carefully schooled indifference.

"Off?" Doyle echoed, occupied with tucking his keys into his jacket and hanging it on the stand. He was nearly asleep on his feet, so tired his mind was becoming almost incapable of processing new information. "Where'd I go?"

"Home," Bodie reminded, tone even more casual. It didn't matter to him, after all if Doyle left. He could manage. Been managing all his life, hadn't he?

"Home?" Doyle reiterated again, coming over to stand over his friend.

Automatically, Bodie raised his head to look up to where he ought to be able to look into the cat-green eyes. Just as automatically, he brought sarcasm to bear as a weapon against the distress he felt growing in his chest. "Yes, you know, that hole in the wall you've been rabbitin' on about since Cowley put you in it a month ago."

"Thought I'd stay here this week," Doyle murmured in hesitant bewilderment, knowing Bodie was teetering on the edge of his temper once again and, not having been privy to Bodie's thoughts, unable to grasp the reason for it out of thin air.

"I don't need a bloody keeper!" Bodie exploded, verbally and physically, coming up off the couch and forcing the other man back an automatic few steps. He stood there quivering with barely leashed anger that was the only thing saving him from other, less familiar emotions.

"Neither did I after I was shot, but you stayed," Doyle reminded very quietly.

Exhausted by the emotional rollercoaster he'd been riding all day, Bodie opened his mouth to protest, then closed it abruptly when nothing came out.

"Well, can I stay or not?" Doyle asked impatiently.

"You just want a chance to order me around." Bodie dredged up a bit of the usual banter to stop himself from delivering a heartfelt yes and started to sink back down onto the couch.

"'Er, no you don't," Doyle protested, catching the muscular arm and keeping Bodie upright. "I'm out on me feet, and I can't sleep with your arse parked in me bed."

"I knew it," Bodie complained, nonetheless making haste to get himself around the back of the couch and oriented towards his bedroom door. "You just want to take advantage of my helpless state."

Doyle snorted inelegantly and threw a toss pillow at the retreating back. "G'night then," he called.

Bodie stuck his head around the door frame once more, "G'night," he said, throwing the retrieved cushion in the general direction of Doyle's voice.

Doyle was still chuckling as he shucked off his jeans and shirt and slipped under the covers. He switched off the lamp and lay staring at the ceiling as the darkness closed in around him. He closed his eyes to prevent him from seeing the room around him become clear as his eyes adjusted. This was what Bodie could see now. All he might ever see again. The thought that those beautiful blue eyes might never smile upon him again was enough to make him feel sick.

Beautiful blue eyes? It was high time he had a close look at all these emotions he'd been tucking away recently, before something crept out that he couldn't pull back in time. The other man's helplessness was bringing Doyle dangerously close to the edge, and he needed to figure out what he was feeling and whether to reveal it to Bodie. Not now, of course, he couldn't take advantage as Bodie had accused, but a week from now, when the bandages came off and Bodie could see once again.... Well, that was why he had to do some thinking now. Determined not to let himself fall asleep, Doyle turned his thoughts back to when he had first noticed that his partnerly feelings for his big, strong shadow had turned the corner into something else entirely. He'd been awake for the better part of six days, however, and even a will as determined as his own couldn't keep his body from seeking the rest it needed.

Bodie woke up fighting the dark and the tangled blankets, fingers instinctively clawing at the bandages blinding him. Awareness returned in time to stop him from ripping the protective wrapping away. He lay in the complete blackness, letting the sound of his gradually slowing heartbeat calm him, before the silence around him began to speed it up again.

Giving in to the need to move, Bodie climbed out of the bed and made his way cautiously to the kitchen. Reaching into the fridge, his hand closed around the bottle of orange juice and pulled it out. He drank directly from the bottle, recapped it and returned it to its place on the shelf. Feeling a little better, he moved out to the sitting room, pausing at the door, listening intently.

Doyle was asleep. Bodie could tell. The even breathing was intermittently broken by soft snores, unintelligible grunts and the whisper of blankets as the other man shifted on the uncomfortable make shift bed. Right now, Bodie would like nothing better than to slump down onto the floor and let those sleeping sounds soothe him. Would be awfully embarrassing though, if Doyle woke before him in the morning and wanted to know what Bodie was doing curled up near naked on the floor like someone's neglected puppy. Trouble was, that was exactly how he felt.

With a silent shake of his head at his own weakness, Bodie started back toward his bed. In his distress, his spatial sense had deserted him, however, and his shin connected with the end table with a painful smack, sending the lamp skidding along its slippery surface to the floor with a resounding crash.

More than half asleep, adrenaline pumping, Doyle came off the couch and into a defensive crouch, his hand snaking under the pillow for his gun as he rolled and brought it to bear in one smooth motion on the large form looming over him. It took him only a moment to identify his nearly naked partner.

"What the hell are you doin'?" he snapped in relief.

"Just getting a drink. Was thirsty," Bodie explained sheepishly, resisting the urge to rub his smarting shin.

"Oh," Doyle replied with less than stunning wit. He let his arm drop down to his side and levered himself back up onto the cushions. "So g'back t'bed."

"Yeah, right," Bodie murmured, and started off again, this time stubbing his toe on the fallen lamp.

Ready to accuse Bodie of crashing around on purpose just to wake him up, Doyle held his tongue until he had switched on the other lamp, and was immediately glad he had. Something had stolen his partner's awareness of his home and the other man was once again as helplessly blind as he had been on the street.

Pity, along with several other emotions, welling inside him, Doyle moved to his friend's side.

Remembering only at the last moment how Bodie had reacted earlier to his attempt to offer comfort, Doyle took a firm grip on the muscular arm and led the unresisting body towards the bedroom. "Come on then, you're half asleep," he muttered.

Grateful for the graceful out Doyle offered, Bodie let himself be led and pushed down onto the wreck of the bed. Without thought, he reached out as Doyle let him go.

"What, Bodie? What is it?" Doyle prompted softly. At that moment there wasn't anything Bodie could ask of him that he wouldn't do if it would only wipe the lost bewilderment off that well known face.

"Nothin'," Bodie denied himself and, unknowingly, Doyle, the comfort they both needed. He lay back rigidly against the pillow, listening for Doyle's departure.

Automatically straightening the covers, Doyle tried to puzzle it out. Bodie needed something and, being Bodie, couldn't ask for it. What? What could he do? He glanced out to where he had been sleeping, taking in the light that still burned, holding the darkness at bay. Maybe that's what Bodie needed -- somebody to hold back the darkness, if only a little.

Decision made on the strength of the thought that Bodie probably couldn't thump him very hard if he couldn't see to aim, Doyle lifted the covers and unceremoniously climbed in on the opposite side of the bed.

"Here! Whatchya think you're doin'!" Bodie protested.

"I'm knackered. Need me sleep," Doyle replied, pitching his tone to the perfect level of self centred temper. "Gonna make sure you don't go crashin' 'round again. Get to sleep," he commanded and turned over onto his side, back to Bodie, with the air of a man determined not to be shifted.

Bodie lay rigidly until the sleeping Doyle sounds began to fill up his senses. It was only then that he allowed sleep to ambush him and drag him down to dreams that no longer came to him in pictures, but only in sounds and scents and fleeting touches.

Once again the return to consciousness brought with it the surge of adrenaline that made his heart thrum in his chest like a jackhammer. Fully awake, Bodie laughed ruefully to himself, wondering if his heart could take the strain until the bandages came off. It would be ironic if he died of a heart attack before then.

"You all right?"

The unexpected sound of Doyle's voice made Bodie jump. "Yeah. Gives me a bit of a jolt when I first wake up in the dark," he admitted. "Wake you up, did I?"


Bodie could tell by the sound of his voice that Doyle wasn't fully awake. The husky tone was too easy, too reasonable for his partner to be fully up to speed. Bodie tried to picture a sleepy eyed, dopey Doyle, but couldn't. All he could see was the black.

"What time is it?" he asked for something to say.

Doyle reluctantly uncurled and propped himself up to get a look at the clock on the bedside table on the other side of Bodie. He flopped down with a moan.

"That early, is it?" Bodie inquired innocently.

"Six o'clock, mate. Even Cowley isn't awake yet," Doyle complained.

"Cowley? He hasn't even been to bed," Bodie predicted. "The man only sleeps on Saturday, you know."

"Right, and only if it's an odd numbered day," Doyle contributed contentedly. It felt so right to be doing their double act. So normal. So natural. As long as he didn't look at Bodie's bandaged eyes, and didn't think about the fact that they were lying in Bodie's bed. But he couldn't help thinking about it, and he'd been too tired to stay awake last night and sort himself out like he'd planned.

"You can get your head down for another hour," Bodie reminded. "Cowley won't expect you in before eight, will he?"

"Nah. Not goin' in," Doyle mumbled into the pillow.


Doyle lifted his head to be heard more clearly. "On standby till further notice."

"Oh. Can have a lie in then, if you want."

"Not with you rabbitin' on, I can't."

"Right then, I'll just shut up."

After a minute's silence, Doyle opened one eye and encountered exactly what he expected to see -- one quite adorable pout. That bottom lip could work its way around Cowley upon occasion, a decidedly sleepy Doyle didn't have a chance.

"Nah, go ahead and talk. Tell me about Africa. Put me to sleep for sure," he teased.

Bodie launched himself. Even without sight, he was still a good match for Doyle, more than a match for a Doyle just off a hard op and barely awake. In a few swift moves he had the other man turned away, and securely pinned against him.

Doyle flexed his muscles, testing the tenacity of the grip of arm and leg across his chest and thighs and found it unbreakable. Doyle hated to lose almost as much as Bodie did. As a result, he opened his mouth and, considering his unanalyzed emotions, let pure idiocy sneak out. "So what's this, eh mate? You tryin' it on with me?" he asked innocently.

"Nah," Bodie replied automatically. This felt good. In fact, it felt very good. Bodie wasn't usually a man given to deep introspection. Act and react was his credo. Figure out what you want and go after it. Figure out what to do and do it. He also understood that there was a price to be paid for anything that was worth having. "Nah," he repeated more thoughtfully, "but can, if that's what you want."

Every centimetre of Doyle's body froze. His lungs forgot to breathe, his eyes forgot to blink. He was almost certain that his heart even forgot to beat. All those inconvenient emotions he'd been tucking away so blithely to deal with later were rushing to the forefront, announcing that later had arrived. This was what he wanted. Exactly what he wanted. And he couldn't take it. It wouldn't be fair. Bodie wasn't exactly in the best frame of mind for such decisions. The big body shifted restlessly and Doyle felt the press of lax genitals against the curve of his arse. Well, that settled it, didn't it.

"Leave it out, Bodie," Doyle finally replied, frustrated arousal investing his voice with more bad temper than he'd intended. He felt Bodie stiffen and begin to pull away, but caught the arm around his chest before Bodie could withdraw completely and used it to pull them back together, having belatedly recognised what Bodie wanted and what he thought he had to do to get it. "Didn't say you couldn't have a cuddle, did I?"

Still, he was surprised when Bodie snuggled up against his back quite happily without so much as a murmur of protest. The things I do for you, mate, Doyle thought to himself, trying to will away his erection and settle back down to sleep.

"You make a right skinny teddy bear, sunshine," Bodie murmured contentedly a drowsy minute later.

"Shuddup, Bodie."

Two healthy young men, both used to an active life, trapped in a flat on a beautiful spring day seemed a recipe for disaster. Added to that mix was the fact that, except for his lack of sight, Bodie was perfectly healthy. For a morning that started on such a positive note, it quickly soured, becoming a bad day. Bodie was bored, and a bored Bodie was an exceedingly difficult creature to deal with.

Doyle racked his brain trying to come up with ways to keep his restless partner occupied, which were summarily rejected with increasing bad temper. Bodie couldn't see to play a game of cards, could he? Not that he'd trust Doyle not to cheat. And why would he want to listen to Doyle read to him, mangling the English language the way he did? It was no help that Doyle couldn't bring his usual efficient thought processes to the problem. Most of his mind was still occupied with the startling knowledge that he'd fallen into lust, and quite possibly love, with his handsome partner. It seemed he couldn't have five minutes free of Bodie's incessant complaining in order to have a good long talk with himself.

By bed time, two very out of sorts, dangerous men were circling each other like a pair of leopards in blood fever.

Bodie was praying for the return of his eyesight with new fervour, simply so he could indulge in the pure delight of kicking Doyle's skinny arse out of his flat and watching him bounce down the stairs. As for Doyle, if Bodie pouted at him one more time, he was going to plant something on those kissable lips. Whether it would be his own mouth or his fist was still up for debate.

"So, d'ya want me to sleep here or not?" Doyle growled, standing at the foot of the bed. Whether he wanted to climb back into that bed with Bodie was another matter that was also up for debate.

"Why'd I want that? You snore," Bodie snarled right back, wilfully cutting off his nose to spite his face. Even fighting with Doyle might be preferable to being alone in the dark, but he couldn't bring himself to admit it. He slid down onto his back, determinedly pulling the covers up to his chest and crossing his arms over them.

Doyle snatched up the extra pillow and blanket off the bed. "Fine."

"Fine with me, too, mate."

With a whip of his arm, Doyle sent the bedding he held flying across the room. "Fer Chrissake, Bodie, can't you ask just once? Can't you give an inch?"

"Offered you more than an inch this mornin'," Bodie reminded. "You didn't want it."

"You don't have to play the whore for me," Doyle shouted, then firmly shut his mouth. Mentally, he grabbed his uncertain temper between both hands and held on for dear life.

"Then what do I have to play?" Bodie asked.

"Nothin', Bodie," Doyle replied wearily. He shouldn't be doing this to Bodie. Not now. He gathered up the bedding he'd flung and retreated to the couch.

It was another gorgeous spring day. Outside, the sun shone, the birds sang, and not a cloud marred the horizon. Inside the flat, however, definite storm warnings were in evidence. Bodie was pouting and Doyle was simmering.

Down on his hands and knees in front of the stereo, Doyle attempted to devote his attention to

Bodie's collection of records. Maybe a little music would soothe the savage beast he was caged with. His mind, however, would not focus on the words. He had to do something. He was afraid that he and Bodie were going to kill each other, and it would be his fault. Bodie was scared and Doyle knew it. Suffering his own emotional upheaval, he just couldn't seem to keep his mouth from running away with him every time Bodie growled at him.

Despite his blindness, Bodie was still capable of moving around his flat silently. As a result, the first Doyle was aware of his presence was when a solid knee smacked into his side and a heavy weight landed across his back, knocking the wind from him and then tumbling clear.

Panting for breath, Doyle jumped to his feet and stared down at the body sprawled on the floor. "For Chrissake, Bodie, whyn't you watch where you're goin'!" he bellowed, wishing he could bite back the words almost before they had left his mouth.

"Ta, mate. And I thought you were supposed to be the sensitive one."

Appalled with himself, uncertain if he touched Bodie whether he'd commit murder or rape, Doyle stalked away and into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

Ears still ringing from the resounding crash, Bodie struggled up to his feet, oriented himself and moved over to the couch. That had been a miserable thing to say, even for Doyle, who was often so self focussed that he never gave a thought to those around him. He wanted Doyle to act normally, but his behaviour the past two days had been almost a parody of himself. Stroppy Bodie could deal with, but all you could do with a mad dog was shoot it.

He heard the bedroom door open and swivelled his head, following the footsteps as they stalked over to stand in front of him. Something soft landed lightly in his lap and he put down his hands to investigate.

"Go put that on," Doyle commanded.

By this time, Bodie had discovered that the bundle in his lap was a running suit. "What for?" he asked suspiciously. God, he wished he could see Doyle's face. He couldn't read what was going on under those ridiculous curls otherwise, and sometimes not even then. Of course, if he could see, none of this would be happening in the first place.

"We need to get out. We're going for a run," Doyle announced and walked away to collect his trainers.

Bodie's mouth dropped open. "You have lost it. I'll break my bloody neck!"

"I'll hold your hand." Doyle dropped down onto the floor and began pulling on his trainers.

Bodie's laughter emerged as a bark of disbelief. "You can get arrested for that sort of thing, you know."

"Not with those bandages around your eyes. Nobody'll give us a second thought." Trainers tied to his satisfaction, Doyle jumped to his feet and stood with his hands on his hips. "Well, go on. Get dressed."

Bodie threw the clothing away from him. "No. I'm not goin' out." Not out there, where every unwary step was a chance to fall on his face and make a fool of himself.

"Come on, Bodie. We both need to get out. We're gettin' cabin fever."

"You go," Bodie insisted stubbornly.

Doyle threw up his hands. "That'll only solve half the problem."

"No." Implacable, determined bull headedness screamed out of Bodie's tight drawn posture and hard voice.

Allowing newly acknowledged emotions to feed him some insight, Doyle forced himself to look beneath the façade. He dropped to one knee and caught at Bodie's hands, holding on despite the sincere effort to break free. "Listen to me, Bodie. Wouldn't set you up. Your partner, aren't I. Didn't spend five years watchin' your back for you, just to stick a knife in it now." He paused to study Bodie's face, hoping to find some softening, hurrying on when he saw that he, at least, had Bodie's attention. "We're gonna kill each other if we go on like this. We need to get out. If not a run, then at least a walk. Trust me, Bodie. I'm not gonna let you get hurt."

The sensual mouth scrunched as Bodie tried to resist persuasion. Why couldn't he grow a little backbone where Doyle was concerned, he wondered, not for the first time. He never seemed to be able to say no to him and stick to it. Finally his shoulders slumped in defeat. "Where'd I throw the damned suit?"

Doyle sighed in relief, gathered up the clothes and put them in Bodie's hands. For once knowing when to keep his mouth shut, he remained silent while Bodie changed, fetching the other man's trainers and standing back as Bodie struggled into them.

"Walk or run?" he finally broke the silence when they stood by the door.

"Run," Bodie replied, acknowledging the need in both of them that a simple walk around the neighbourhood would not ease.

Doyle fished his wallet and keys out of his jacket, took a firm grip on Bodie's arm and lead him out the door.

Ten minutes later, Doyle pulled the car up to the curb and shut down the engine. He watched his silent passenger, waiting for Bodie to give some sign that he was ready.

"Where are we?" Bodie asked.

"Park. North entrance," Doyle supplied succinctly. "Thought we'd do the perimeter."

Of course, Bodie thought, not many people ran the perimeter. Less on a week day. Was it a week day?

"Should have it pretty much to ourselves on a Thursday," Doyle said as if he had read the other man's mind. "You ready?"

"Yeah," Bodie replied with all the enthusiasm of a man going to the gallows.

"Right, then let's have at it. You're on the curb," he supplied matter of factly, just as if he told Bodie what side of the car he was on every day of the week.

Slowly, Bodie climbed out of the car, standing close, one hand on the roof, until he felt Doyle's hand on his arm. He was trying with all his might for blind trust, but it wasn't easy.

"There's a bench about 10 yards in front of us. We can warm up there."

Doyle dropped his arm, but Bodie could feel him staying close, striding along at his side. Bodie squared his shoulders, attempting to project his usual self confidence.

"Almost there," Doyle murmured. "'Nother three steps. There, you can feel the back."

Bodie reached out cautiously, finding the back of the ironwork bench exactly where Doyle had said it would be. He gripped it gratefully, feeling the empty space echo around him.

They began their usual series of stretches, warming their muscles like any well-trained athlete. Bodie moved hesitantly, acutely aware of his precarious balance and of Doyle's presence close beside him.

"Ready?" Doyle asked.

"As I'll ever be, sunshine," Bodie admitted.

"Come on then."

Once again acting as if it were a daily fact of life, Doyle reached over and entwined his fingers securely with Bodie's, giving a slight tug to bring Bodie around onto the path.

"You're on the path. Remember it curves to the right. We'll start with a jog. Let me know when you're ready to take it up."

Tightening his grip on his life line, Bodie took a deep breath and set out. For the first few hundred yards, Bodie ran hesitantly, expecting a misstep, a trip, or to run flat out into a tree. It wasn't that he didn't trust Doyle. He did, but not as much as he trusted himself.

With each passing minute, however, the strain lessened. His body fell into well remembered rhythms, despite the hand holding his which tugged slightly with each step Doyle took and the firm pressure that guided him. This was Doyle, the man he had trained with, run with, fought with, nearly died with, and gradually their bodies became attuned, moving smoothly together. Then all at once it wasn't just all right, it was marvellous. Muscles lethargic from too many days of inactivity were coming alive, his heart was pounding from exertion rather than adrenaline, the scents of green and growing things rushed by his nose, and the self made wind whistled in his ears. Once again in harmony with his body, Bodie hit his stride and moved without fear for the first time in days.

"We're almost once 'round. Go again?" Doyle panted.

"God yes," Bodie exalted, lengthening his stride even further.

Wanting to laugh with the sheer joy of it, Doyle contented himself with squeezing the hand in his and saved his breath for running.

By the time the north entrance came around a second time, both men were breathing hard and ready to quit. Doyle steered them back to the same bench where he finally released Bodie and they fell into their cool-down routine. Soaked with sweat and gloriously alive, Doyle lead his partner back to the car and saw him safely inside it. Seated behind the wheel, he threw back his head and let loose a satisfied groan.

"Too right, mate. That was bloody marvellous," Bodie agreed with the non verbal exclamation. "How'd you know?"

Doyle sobered abruptly. "We're gonna go home and talk about that right now."

Morosely, Bodie carefully counted seconds as he poured tea into his cup, then repeated the exercise with the milk. What a lousy way to live. What if he had to do it for the rest of his life? For a little while this afternoon he'd been able to, if not forget his blindness, at least put it aside. Why did Doyle have to spoil it?

Upon their return to the flat, Bodie had allowed himself to be bullied into the bath, recognising Doyle's implacable determination by the firm grip on his arm and the inarguable tone of Doyle's voice. Now he sat waiting for his partner to finish his own bath. All the wonderful release the run had given him had disappeared, replaced by tension and trepidation.

He didn't jump when Doyle entered the kitchen, having been listening closely for his approach. "Tea's hot," he offered and listened to the soft sounds of Doyle pouring himself a cup and settling at right angles to him at the table.

"You're gonna ruin it, aren't you?" Bodie jumped in with his own complaint in the small hope that he might actually be able to divert Doyle. He knew better, of course. "We had a great run. Why d'you have to talk it to death."

"Because I'm sick of us snarling at each other. We need to communicate." Doyle looked down into his teacup. "I'm not a nice person, Bodie."

"Ah, come on. You're not that bad," Bodie countered, automatically defending his partner, even if it was against Doyle himself. This was not, however, a tack he had expected Doyle to take and his curiosity was aroused.

"Ta much," Doyle acknowledged the faint praise sarcastically. "But it's true. There's not another agent on the squad who'd be partnered with me for five days let alone five years."

Bodie slumped back in his chair. He definitely wasn't up to dealing with Doyle if he was wallowing in guilt, especially when he couldn't see Doyle's eyes, or use his own to coax and persuade. "Are you saying I'm thick?" he countered in the hopes of turning the tide.

"Nah. Maybe a masochist."

Hearing no cocky grin in the immediate comeback, Bodie resigned himself to a serious discussion. "They respect you, Ray."

"As back-up, yeah. As an agent. But they don't like me." Doyle lifted his head, eyes searching Bodie's half concealed face. He knew Bodie hated to be put on the spot emotionally, but he had to do it. "I can live with that, 'cause you like me. Don't you, Bodie? Straight up."

Bodie knew the green eyes were on him, searching out their answer in his face. He shifted uneasily in his chair, reached for his cup and bent his head as if he could stare into its depths. "Yeah," he finally admitted.

Doyle sighed softly in relief. That one word didn't sound like much of an admission, but he knew that for Bodie it was a giant concession. "And you know me," he continued. "You know I get... blindered sometimes. Get focussed on what's under me nose and don't notice what's happenin' on the sides. Like when you're in trouble."

Bodie's head shot up, immediate defence coming to his lips once again, but remained silent when he felt Doyle's hand touch his arm.

"I don't mean on the job, Bodie. I mean trouble here." Doyle moved his hand from Bodie's arm to his temple. "Or here." More hesitantly, the fingers tapped Bodie's chest over his heart and withdrew. "I've never been able to figure out how you can always read my mind."

"Don't have to read your mind, Ray. You wear what you think on your face." To Bodie, that sounded like the ultimate insult to offer an agent of Doyle's quality, and he knew it wasn't strictly true. If Doyle was an open book to him, it was because he had taken the trouble to learn how to read his language.

"But you don't Bodie," Doyle said earnestly. "You wear your masks so well, I don't see when you need help unless it smacks me in the face. I know it's hard for you, but I need you to tell me what you want. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you, Bodie, if you could just tell me."

This was getting altogether too maudlin for Bodie's comfort. "Ah, you do all right," he muttered.

"Yeah? 'Whyn't you watch where you're goin', Bodie'," Doyle mimicked himself harshly.

Bodie pushed against the table, thrusting to his feet and retreating to the counter. He stood with his back to his friend. As much as he was inured to the sharp edge of Doyle's tongue, that comment had hurt.

"I've seen you open-mouthed stupid, flat on your face pissed, and bleeding in the street," Doyle persisted. He knew what he was doing to Bodie, but could see no other way to put an end to the destructive tension between them. Perhaps if Bodie understood that what Doyle was asking of him could be as temporary as the situation that caused him to ask. "Do you think I'd think less of you now because you can't see and need to touch."

Locked inside his dark world, Bodie fought a silent battle, torn between the habit of giving Ray what he needed and the older habit of self protection. It didn't help that Doyle was right. He was blind, and he did need to connect in the only tangible way left to him -- touch. Nor did it help that Doyle was the one and only person he trusted enough to make that connection with while he was so vulnerable. Life had taught him to keep his own soft centre well protected. He heard Doyle's chair scrape away from the table, and then two strong hands were on his shoulders, gripping the taut muscles as if they could squeeze out what they sought. He wanted to fight it, but his body seemed to have a will of its own, relaxing beneath the silent demand.

Feeling the surrender, Doyle offered respite. "You berk. Thought you'd jump at the chance to give me a good swift kick in me arse."

Bodie's laugh was a bit shaky, but his lips curved in genuine amusement. "You're only offering 'cause you know I can't do it," he countered.

"That's what I'm tryin' to tell you, Bodie. Right now I'd stand still and give you directions, but you're gonna have to ask for them."

For what felt like the hundredth time in the past hour, Bodie cautiously shifted his position on the firm mattress. Despite feeling truly physically tired for the first time in days, he was no closer to going to sleep now than he had been when he and Ray had climbed into his bed and they'd said their goodnights.

"What's the matter?"

The soft question out of the darkness didn't surprise the restless man. Doyle might have dropped off quickly, but Bodie knew his own constant fidgeting had roused the sleeper.

When there was no answer forthcoming, Doyle rolled over and stared at the back of Bodie's head, wishing he had the nerve -- no, not the nerve but the right -- to stroke that midnight hair. "Are you hurting?" he asked instead. Bodie hadn't mentioned any pain up to now, and the doctor had said nothing about painkillers, but you never knew.

"Nah," Bodie finally answered.

"Just not tired?" Doyle ventured.




"Need to pee?"


"Want a bedtime story?"

Each successive suggestion had held an increasing hint of teasing.

Bodie finally let the wheedling tone get to him and laughed shortly. "Yeah. How about the one about the Big Bad Wolf sleeping with Goldilocks," he suggested.

"Think you got your fairy tales mixed up there, mate," The silence fell between them once more. "You know, Bodie, sometimes you put the blinders on me. Distract me with a bit of patter," Doyle accused carefully.

"God knows, with your brain doesn't take much," Bodie said, still trying to do exactly as Doyle accused.

Doyle sighed softly, refusing to let his temper get the better of him, or to be side tracked. "Admitted that already, didn't I? Know I wasn't snorin'. So what's the matter?"

Bodie rolled over onto his back. If he could see, he would be staring at the spot on the ceiling, the one that sometimes looked like a squashed spider, the one he used to concentrate on when one of his birds started talking a little too seriously. But Doyle wasn't a bird, and Bodie couldn't see the spot, and he had already tacticly agreed to be honest.

"Bit of a jolt waking up, that's all," he admitted, his tone as casual as he could make it. "Told you that already."

"Yeah, you did," Doyle admitted, "and can understand how it would be." He sighed softly, wishing once again that he could just reach out casually and offer the comfort he longed to give. "Don't think you can stay awake till the bandages come off, Bodie."

Their old companion, the silence, crept in between them again for what seemed like a long time, before Bodie's voice banished it back into the corners of the room. "What if it's not just a few days? What if the bandages come off and I'm still in the dark?"

Doyle sat up and gripped both of Bodie's arms with caring fingers. "Doctor said temporary," he reminded fiercely, barely resisting the desire to shake Bodie.

Bodie shrugged, attempting to appear cool, but careful not to dislodge or discourage the grip Doyle had on him. It felt so good to be connected. "You know me. Contingency planning. Can't seem to picture myself with a white cane and cup of pencils, though."

"Jesus," Doyle murmured. Determined resistance had finally met and been conquered by irresistible emotion. Forgetting about rights and inappropriate moments, he wrapped himself around Bodie's big strong body and felt the other man return the embrace with a strength that nearly squeezed the breath out of him.

They were both shaking like trees in a gale, but neither man was crying. Bodie wasn't the type to give way to tears, and Doyle's tears only came easy, never for the things that touched him the deepest. Hanging on to each other for life and sanity, they waited for the emotional buffeting to pass them by.

As the calm settled, Doyle felt the big body so close to him begin to relax, the arms loosening their fierce grip as Bodie finally slipped away into sleep. Easing his own possessive grasp, Doyle shifted into a more comfortable position, realising only then that, although he and the man he loved had been squashed together with nothing but flimsy tee shirts between them, and not even that between their better bits, he was not aroused. This hadn't been about lust, but love and trust and comfort, and Doyle was rather perversely proud that his randy body knew the difference.

Bodie woke up with the jolt that had now become almost natural. It was not, however, quite so hard to take this morning enwrapped as he was in Doyle's wiry arms with his head resting rather comfortably on Doyle's shoulder. That first hard gasp of surprise upon full wakefulness had brought with it the clean scent of the curls brushing his face and allowed him to adjust more quickly.

"Okay?" Doyle asked softly, one hand smoothing the sleep-tousled silk under his hand.

"Yeah," Bodie confirmed just as quietly. "Sorry I woke you."

"Was awake," Doyle said. In fact, he'd come awake quite some time before, rubbing his dream hardened sex against the satin skin of Bodie's stomach. He'd had to do some cautious adjusting of their positions in order to provide his friend with the touch he wanted and still conceal the secret of his own arousal. On his back now, with Bodie's head on his shoulder and his arms around the broad back, he reckoned he was safe enough. Just as long as Bodie didn't get too playful, or he didn't come just from the sheer joy of holding him.

"Early yet. Want to sleep some more?" he offered although he knew he wouldn't dare let himself go back to sleep. Next time it might be Bodie who woke first to the impudent prodding of a imprudent organ.

Bodie shook his head, sliding a bit lower until his cheek rubbed against the soft hair covering Doyle's chest. "Nah. Not worth the waking up. Bit of a strain on the heart," he confessed and wanting to be even closer, he bent his leg at the knee, and slid it half way up Doyle's outstretched thighs.

Thinking that Bodie's heart was going to get another jolt if he moved that leg any higher, Doyle stiffened and tried to casually dislodge the heavy restraint.

Acutely sensitive to the change, Bodie reached out with his other working senses, noting the not quite steady breathing and the familiar scent of aroused male. It wasn't his own organ making its usual early morning demands, therefore, it had to be Doyle who was lying there hard and aching and trying to pretend it wasn't happening. Just like the first morning, Bodie realised, understanding now what had prompted him to offer Doyle sex when such thoughts had never occurred to him before. Doyle had been aroused then too, surrounding them in the same heady scent as engulfed them now. Deeply grateful for the tangible connection to the world that Doyle was providing, Bodie saw no harm in offering to repay that generosity with his body. He'd certainly been intimate with others for worse reasons, and he knew how deeply sensual his partner was.

Without looking any deeper into his own motivations, Bodie shifted, sliding his leg up until his thigh rested heavily on Doyle's throbbing cock. Hearing the sharp gasp of pleasure, feeling the small thrust Doyle was unable to control, the heat begin to gather in Bodie's own groin as well.

The strident shrill of the telephone exploding into the breathless silence made both men nearly jump out of their own skins.

Rolling away, at once grateful for the interruption and cursing it, Doyle grabbed at the receiver. "What?" he snapped into it, then fell silent for the few moments it took the voice on the other end of the line to snap him back to the real world. "On my way," he assured, cradling the phone and scrambling out of the bed.

"What the hell?" Bodie asked, turning his head as he tried to track Doyle's mad search for the clothes he had discarded the night before. "Call in?"

"Yeah," Doyle confirmed shortly, dragging up his jeans and trying to force the material closed over his cock which was still hard and swollen, blindly seeking the heat and pressure of Bodie's caress. "Balloon's going up on Murphy's op. Needs back up. The Old Man's calling everybody out."

Scooping up his holster, he slipped his arms through the straps and buckled it, automatically sliding the gun out and checking it before pushing it back under his arm. He took two steps toward the door, then suddenly turned back as he realised the wrongness of charging off into action and leaving Bodie behind. The expression on Bodie's face let him know that, not for the first time in their partnership, they were thinking the same thoughts. He crossed back to the bed and caught one of Bodie's hands between both of his. "I've got to go," he said helplessly.

Bodie squeezed the hands holding his and then pulled away abruptly. "Watch your back, sunshine."

Bodie fumbled with the toaster, burning his fingers before finding the lever and popping it, the pungent odour of burning toast filling his nostrils. "Damn. At this rate, I'll starve to death before Ray gets home."

At that moment, the kettle began to whistle, and, sucking his singed fingers, Bodie turned to deal with it. Ham handed and clumsy, he managed to add to the pain in his fingers with a scald as he forgot to carefully align the edge of the kettle with the pot and began pouring too soon. Persevering, he got the tea made, and deciding he wasn't hungry enough to eat charcoal toast, sat down at the table with only a cup of tea for his breakfast.

His quiet confidence on his home ground had disappeared. True, Ray had been doing most of the cooking, but Bodie had managed simple tasks such as making tea without inflicting grievous bodily harm on himself. Chin resting on his palm, he ran his tongue over the small hurts on his fingers, soothing himself absently. That didn't account for the pants he couldn't find this morning, nor the furniture he'd bumped into.

It wasn't being alone in the flat either. Ray had made brief forays out for food and such, leaving Bodie alone in the stillness. It was knowing his partner was out there without him. He acknowledged that. Of the two of them, he had always been the more protective. Likely, he had acknowledged long ago, because Ray sometimes looked decidedly... fragile. If, that is, the wiry frame was covered from neck to ankles, and one failed to note the coiled muscles beneath. Bodie laughed softly. Yeah, right, Doyle was about as fragile as a cobra.

It was also, and more so than anything else, the morning's wakening which occupied his mind to the point where he could not concentrate on the necessity of careful movement his blind state demanded. Doyle was a sensual bugger, Bodie had concluded that long ago as well. And Bodie had learned very early the attraction of his looks and body and the value for which they could be traded. He'd never whored, in the commercial definition of the term, but he hadn't been above trading the sexual delights his body could provide in exchange for something he himself wanted. This morning, he had wanted the emotional security Doyle was giving him and had sought to expunge the debt he felt by giving Doyle his sexual expertise.

Even the slow coil of heat that had begun in his own body prior to their being interrupted hadn't come as a particular surprise. He was every bit as capable of casual sensual enjoyment as his partner. What had shocked him, and what would likely have ended the encounter if the telephone hadn't, was the sudden surge of emotional longing that had seized him as he'd held Doyle's aroused body against him and heard the other man's helpless response.

To Bodie, love and sex were two entirely different situations. He had tried them in conjunction a time or two and had been hurt so badly, he'd placed the two in entirely separate compartments of his mind. Sex meant birds, and the occasional bloke if it suited his fancy of the moment. Love meant faith, trust, loyalty. Love meant Doyle, and he knew that love was returned in kind. This morning he had discovered that sex and love could still co exist inside him.

"What a hell of a time to find out Doyle's been right all along. I am a great big softie," Bodie complained to the silence and darkness that surrounded him.

But Bodie was nothing if not a practical man. So, having made the discovery, he accepted, if a bit uneasily, and set his mind to more practical matters. Like whether to reveal himself to his partner. If he could. He had nearly choked on his one word reply when Doyle asked if Bodie liked him. He thought his throat might seize entirely if he tried to force the word "love" through it.

His ability or lack thereof, however, might be entirely academic, for Bodie was sure of one thing. If, when the bandages came off, he remained in this frighteningly cut off world, whatever new found emotions he felt would have to be hidden from Doyle. As Bodie had once observed, that lad had a guilt complex that prompted him to shoulder the cares of too much of the world as it was. Faced with a helplessly blind and hopelessly in love Bodie, Doyle would instantly and automatically sacrifice himself.

Bodie was having none of that. He was not, however, certain he could keep the truth from Doyle. Which meant some contingency planning was in order. With a sigh Bodie rose from the table and made his way into the sitting room. His mind once more at ease, he moved confidently toward the sofa, settled himself and picked up the phone. He dialled the operator and waited patiently the few moments it took to answer. "Yes," he said when the connection was made. "I wonder if you could connect me with TWA Airlines."

Doyle glanced around one last time, noting McCabe, Anson and Stewart all in position waiting, like himself, for Murphy's signal. Murphy's nest of terrorist vipers had found themselves what had to be one of the sweetest little bolt holes in London. Three exits for the suspects and precious little in the way of cover for the CI5 men moving in, and the floor plans Murphy had shown him of the house itself had only made him groan. Nothing less than a defender's dream. He had, however, faced worse situations. It wasn't even the first time he had braced himself to go into action without Bodie at his back, but it was one of the very few, and he couldn't help the feeling that he was wearing a bullseye on his back.

Satisfied with his fellow agents' placement, Doyle forced himself to compartmentalize thoughts of his missing partner and turn his full attention to the op. He couldn't afford to think about Bodie now, especially a helpless Bodie struggling to care for himself in Doyle's absence. Doyle's body tensed as he saw Murphy's hand go up, pause a moment, and then come down in a decisive slice. With no more time for thought, Doyle ran forward, allowing instinct to rule.

Bodie returned to his flat by dinner time. He had spent an hour on the telephone, setting up his escape route and bolt hole, and then had realised that he was going to have to make a dry run. He had to know, should he turn up just as blind two days from now, whether he could utilize the tactics he'd planned. The afternoon had, therefore, seen him taking a cab out to Heathrow and from there on to Gatwick where he obtained the first of a series of tickets he had reserved with TWA. There would be six altogether, each one awaiting him at his new destination. They had cost him a bloody fortune, but, hopefully, would be enough to put even Doyle off his trail. That same exigency had prompted him to travel first to Heathrow and then on to Gatwick. If he did have to bolt, he hoped chasing around Heathrow trying to ascertain the flight Bodie had taken would slow Doyle down.

It had nearly paralysed him at first, the thought of going outside alone while he was so vulnerable, but as he carefully dressed like the businessman he had purported himself to be to the airline agent, he had calmed himself with the thought that he could look on this outing as nothing more than a particularly unpleasant undercover role. He could pretend, in his own mind, that his bandages were fakes, nothing more than a ruse to draw in the suckers. It had worked a treat, both on his own unsteady nerves, and on those around him. He'd quickly discovered that, standing still in the middle of a heavily trafficked area and looking quite helpless brought a myriad of offers of help from airport employees and fellow travellers alike. Garnering the innocent trust of so many had both amused and amazed him. He hadn't thought there were that many good Samaritans left in the world, let alone in two of England's busiest airports.

He had prepared only the flimsiest of excuses in his mind to explain his absence if Doyle should return before him, counting on Cowley to keep the other man busy until evening with mopping up operations. He was, therefore, relieved but not surprised to hear no petulant voice demanding explanations as he opened the door and stepped inside the flat. Setting the locks, he hurried to divest himself of suit and tie and hide the incriminating ticket before Doyle could return.

Feeling more secure now that he had a back-up plan, Bodie ordered Chinese take away and a taxi to fetch it, and settled in to await Doyle's return.

"That will be all," Cowley pronounced.

With relief, Doyle and the rest of the agents shuffled to their feet and headed for the briefing room door.

"Doyle, stay behind."

Back turned to the seemingly tireless Scot, Doyle allowed himself the luxury of a grimace, then turned back, wondering what Cowley could want with him now. It was already gone eleven, and it seemed more like 60 than 16 hours since he had raced out of Bodie's flat.

"My office," Cowley instructed and set off with the full expectation that his agent would follow.

For a foolish moment, Doyle considered rebelling, then gave it up as a lost cause. If he didn't come to heel, he had no doubt that Cowley would have him stopped at the door before he could escape the building in any case. He was tired, filthy and worried nearly sick about Bodie, but he knew better than to disobey the voice of his master.

"Take a seat," Cowley commanded and went around the desk, spreading open a file on his desk and giving it his attention while Doyle obediently sat and fumed.

Finally Cowley closed the file, took off his glasses and looked up at Doyle. "You did well today."

Instead of relieving Doyle of any anxiety he might have felt over this private meeting, the compliment simply infuriated him. "You expected otherwise," he growled, soft voiced and, at this moment, dangerous even to the man who normally held his reins.

"Quite frankly, yes," Cowley admitted to Doyle's absolute astonishment. The older man leaned back in his chair with a quiet sigh. "It's been some time since you faced a situation like today without 3.7."

"Yeah," Doyle countered sarcastically. "Must be all of 3 or 4 days."

"Ah, but then you were bent on revenge," Cowley reminded.

Doyle shut his mouth and looked away, focussing on anything except the canny Scot across the desk.

"Well, now you know I can function without Bodie to hold my hand for me," Doyle said after a considerable silence. "Can I go now?"

"How is 3.7?" Cowley asked.

"Blind, dammit," Doyle exclaimed, coming up out of the chair and leaning over the desk threateningly. "And...." Once again he shut his mouth and straightened abruptly. No way was he going to flaunt Bodie's vulnerability, not even to this man who, occasionally, seemed to possess a true fatherly affection for the ex SAS trooper.

"And?" Cowley prompted.

"And anxious to see the doctor on Monday. Can I go now?" Doyle repeated.

"Aye, go on with you. You're back on standby," Cowley dismissed the impatient man.

When Doyle had retreated and the door was safely closed behind him, Cowley flipped open the file on his desk once again. He couldn't concentrate on it, however, as the previous conversation ran through his mind. He had been expecting it for some time now, but had never been able to force himself to split his best team in order to prevent it. It was too late now. It would appear that Bodie's injury had been the impetus it had taken to strip the blinders off his oblivious partner, and, given Doyle's nature, Cowley had little doubt that Bodie would be missing his own blinders well before his bandages were removed.

Letting himself into Bodie's flat, Ray felt a moment of panic as he stepped into the solid darkness. Bodie wasn't here. Then he remembered that, of course, Bodie would not think to put on a light. He fumbled for the light switch, then moved into the lounge. Finding it empty, he continued his silent progress to the bedroom. Worry didn't begin to blossom again until he found the bed was empty. Then all kinds of horrific pictures -- Bodie wandering the streets helpless, Bodie knocked down and trapped under the wheels of a bus, Bodie.... The sound of a muted splash from the direction of the bathroom banished the vivid waking nightmare and carried him over to the door.

Hand on the knob, he brought himself up short. Did he really want to walk into that room and see Bodie stretched out in the bath? Naked and wet, smooth white skin flushed pink from.... He cut the thoughts off abruptly and rapped his knuckles on the wood separating him from his fantasy.

"Hey, mate. You sleepin' in there?"


"Yeah. Who you expectin'?"

Bodie, about to issue an invitation into the room, took the time to give the matter a second thought. Not wise, not wise at all. "You okay?"

"'Course," Doyle answered cockily. "'Cept me belly thinks me throat's been cut."

"Left over take away in the fridge. Chinese," Bodie offered as he heaved himself out of the tub and reached for the towel he had carefully placed on the edge.

Doyle chuckled. "And here I was worried you were starvin' without me."

"Never starve as long as I can use the phone," Bodie insisted.

Taking himself away from temptation, Doyle retreated to the kitchen to rewarm the food. Bodie hung up the towel and wrapped himself in a robe, tying the belt securely before leaving the bathroom. He followed the sounds of banging pots to the kitchen, detouring by the drinks cabinet to pour Doyle a drink. The smell hit him two steps into the kitchen. The glass dropping from uncaring fingers, Bodie crossed the space between himself and his partner before it even had a chance to hit the floor. Grabbing at whatever part of Doyle came under his hand first, Bodie began searching the slim body, hands frantically searching out the source of the sweet, sickening scent of blood.

"You said you were all right! Why'd you lie to me, Ray? I can smell the blood!" he demanded.

Lighting up like Wembley Stadium from the sudden manhandling, Doyle brought his own hands into play, trying to prevent Bodie from groping the throbbing evidence of his response. "It's not my blood, you berk!" he shouted.

With one hand on Doyle's shoulder to hold him still and the other inside the hastily opened shirt and cupped protectively around the ribs that Doyle had damaged too often, Bodie froze. "Oh."

Bodie looked so relieved and bewildered, Doyle found himself leaning forward with every intention of taking possession of those slightly parted lips. He stopped himself just in time, but couldn't seem to find the will to move away or the wit speak.

Realising he was holding his perfectly healthy partner in a far too familiar embrace, Bodie took his hands back to himself and moved away, trying to pull up a concealing mask or, at least, think of some bantering comment to cover his confusion.

Doyle managed to gather his wits and clutched at Bodie's hand as it retreated from inside his gaping shirt. "I don't lie to you, Bodie."

"Know that. Sorry," Bodie apologised, still flustered. "Just surprised me. The smell of blood so strong in here."

"Yeah," Doyle conceded, steering Bodie toward the table. "Well all I can smell now is whisky. You spilt my drink all over the floor. Siddown while I clean it up and get my dinner."

Bodie allowed himself to be pressed down into the chair and listened silently as Doyle sopped up the spilled drink, rescued his dinner from the cooker and brought fresh drinks to the table. He accepted the glass and gulped gratefully at the contents.

Still charged up from the op and the unexpected, if not undesired, feel of Bodie's hands caressing his body, Doyle made short work of his drink, mentally scrambling around for something to talk about to ease the awkwardness between them.

It was Bodie, however, who broke the silence. "So, what death and destruction did Murphy manage to lead you into today?"

Gratefully, Doyle latched onto the familiar ground. "You wouldn't have believed the set up, Bodie...."

Doyle woke for the second morning in a row with his very hard cock trapped happily between his own belly and Bodie's. Despite the instinct to stay right where he was for a few more pleasurable moments, Doyle cautiously eased away from the other man until he lay on his back and then, just as carefully, eased Bodie against his side and back into his embrace. When he was sure Bodie had settled back into a deeper sleep, he allowed himself the luxury of gently caressing the short, sleep-tousled hair and the satin skin of broad shoulders.

If he had an ounce of sense, he'd climb out of this bed right now and dive into a shower. Preferably an icy cold one. Or maybe not. Maybe he'd turn up the heat, close his eyes and let his imagination carry him away while he reached for the demanding flesh between his thighs. Not wise, not bright, in fact, such thoughts were patently stupid while lying with the object of his desires cuddled close in his arms. Too bad he hadn't wakened an hour earlier, he could have chanced sneaking off then to relieve the pressure, but now it was too close to the time when Bodie would awaken. Not for anything was Doyle willing to leave Bodie to wake up all alone in his dark world that terrified him so. Especially not for his own selfish needs. Without much hope, he ordered his errant flesh to behave and tried to concentrate, in a less lusty manner, on his bedmate.

Fortunately for Doyle's sanity, it wasn't long before Bodie began to stir. Hoping to save him the jolt, Doyle continued petting the smooth skin and began talking softly, hoping to coax the other man into a pleasant consciousness.

Bodie swam up through the last layers of sleep, lured to wakefulness by the soft, gentle voice, the smooth, stroking hands and the warm rich scent of his bedmate's arousal. Before he was fully awake, his body began to respond, skin flushing warmly and a sweet, yearning ache taking up residence in his groin.

"That's it, mate. Nice and easy," Doyle coaxed, feeling the returning consciousness, but unaware of the stirring arousal.

Reaching out for the man beside him, and anxious to see the soft expression that would go with that lazy, affectionate voice, Bodie tried to open his eyes. He froze, his heart kicking in his chest as he realised all over again that he was blind. On the heels of that shock, and doing absolutely nothing to calm his racing heart, he also realised that he was already well on his way to making love to his partner. The partner he'd fallen in love with. The partner he couldn't tell.

Doyle tightened his embrace protectively when he felt the shock of awareness flood through Bodie. "Okay. You're awake now. You all right?" he asked when he felt the big body go slack a minute later.

"Yeah," Bodie answered shortly.

They lay together in the strained silence, both men painfully aroused, and neither one of them willing to admit it.

"What do you want to do today?" Doyle finally asked in desperation. If he didn't talk, he was going to do something that could definitely be considered taking advantage of the situation.

Knowing only that he absolutely did not want to sit around his flat all day with absolutely nothing to occupy his mind but Doyle, Bodie said the first thing that came into his head. "Maybe run again. Go to the pub for a pint or two," he suggested.

Vastly relieved, Doyle was about to voice quick agreement when suspicion suddenly reared its nasty head. Two days ago, he'd practically had to drag Bodie out the door. "Hey. Why're you wantin' to go out all of a sudden?"

Bodie shrugged and, despite his own desires, disengaged himself from the warm embrace and rolled over onto his back. He raised one knee, tenting the sheet and, hopefully hiding his erection. "Ah, just don't want to be snarling at each other again."

Doyle, however, had seen the evidence Bodie was trying to hide. Just a general, early morning hard on, or something a little more specific? "Bodie?" he said, voice soft and husky, breathless with the possibilities. But whatever the cause of Bodie's arousal, the big man had himself firmly in control now, facing Doyle's question with a bland expression.

"Uhm, glad you're willing to recognise common sense when you hear it," Doyle offered lamely.

"Yeah," Bodie agreed with a grin. "Even when it comes from the most surprising sources."

"Whyn't you just put your hand on my shoulder," Doyle suggested as he paused outside the door of the Red Lion. Given the popularity of this particular pub with CI5 agents, it was quite likely that some of their co workers would be inside, and he didn't want Bodie to feel embarrassed.

"Don't want to give Murphy the idea you might go for the big, dark, handsome type?" Bodie quipped.

"Yeah," Doyle agreed sarcastically. He should have known Bodie would pull up humour to guard whatever misgivings he might have. If they did encounter any teasing, chances were that Bodie would camp it up, lay it on with a butter knife, and easily turn the joking aside. "Got enough on me hands with you, don't I?" he shot back.

"More than enough," Bodie replied, and, grinning, swung their joined hands up between them. "Let's go get 'em, shall we, petal?"

A somewhat predictable silence fell around the table of CI5 agents as Doyle lead his partner through the lunch-time throng. A glare prompted a couple of the agents to shift their chairs sufficiently to allow Doyle to bring an extra one up to the table beside Murphy, and he guided Bodie into it.

"What'll you have?" he asked.

"Pint'll be fine," Bodie replied.

Doyle wished he didn't have to leave his partner alone with their co workers. He had little doubt that a few of the agents presently seated at the table, like Anson and Stuart, wouldn't hesitate to try to get a little of their own back. He and Bodie had both verbally topped those particular agents too often to hope they might now hesitate to stick the needle in when Bodie was most vulnerable.

"Now, if that isn't a classic case of the blind leading the blind, I don't know what is."

Just as he'd feared, Doyle heard Anson's taunt before he was more than a few steps away. He spun around to deliver a scathing retort, but found that Bodie had already taken the floor.

Lounging back in his chair, amiable grin glowing on every visible part of his face, Bodie seemed totally at ease. "Know what you mean. Was thinkin' of gettin' a little cup and pencils. Think we'd clean up, don't you?" he inquired of the table at large.

As he turned back towards the bar, Doyle wondered if he would ever really fathom all the facets of Bodie's character. What had been a whispered confession of terror only two nights ago had now been turned outward against those who would torment him in the black humour Bodie employed so well.

"Havin' a high time of it at the government's expense, then are you?" Murphy asked before Anson could come up with some other asinine dig. He sprawled in the chair beside Bodie's, leaning slightly toward him, knowing the two of them together made the picture of dark, dangerous men, even with Bodie's eyes covered. Despite launching a few of his own verbal assaults on Cowley's best team, he genuinely liked Bodie and wasn't about to sit back while a couple of morons tried to take advantage of a situation all of them prayed they'd never find themselves in.

"Yeah," Bodie agreed sarcastically. He knew that, whatever their opinion of him personally, every agent at the table would agree with him. There was nothing quite like being injured and having to remain idle, all the while wondering if Cowley would take the time out of your vacation. "Heard you got up to some very nasty dealings yesterday yerself."

Taking his cue, Murphy launched into a description of the op that was still going strong when Doyle returned with Bodie's drink. In a passing of the mantle that was almost visible, Murphy subtly altered his position away from Bodie as Doyle carefully placed the mug in Bodie's hand and sank down in a hastily vacated chair on the other side of the injured agent. Now that Doyle was there to watch over his own partner, Murphy wound up his description, finished his drink and got up to leave.

"Well, some of us have to work for a living. See you Tuesday, Bodie," he threw out as a challenge, and a reminder, to the rest of the table. Be careful, boyos, his tone seemed to say, this is only a temporary situation.

The rest of the agents appeared to catch the implied warning, for, if any further comments occurred to them, they kept them to themselves, and, after hurriedly downing their own pints, also beat hasty retreats.

"Jesus," Doyle exhaled. "More mouth than brains, the lot of them."

"Not Murph," Bodie qualified. "Murph's okay."

"Murph won't hit you when you're down, you mean?" Doyle modified further.

Bodie paused to consider the comment carefully. "Yeah, well, what more could you ask for from someone in our business. Unless you're partners, of course."

Knowing he was being set up, but willing to allow it if it would make Bodie happy, Doyle bit. "And what should you expect then?"

"Another round?" Bodie inquired innocently, holding out his empty glass.

"Shameless, you are," Doyle accused, but took the glass and went to buy another round. For a moment he considered how sad it was that he felt better leaving Bodie sitting alone than he had when leaving him with a table full of men that should have been their friends.

When he returned to the table, the two men sat talking quietly for a while, sipping their drinks, until Bodie began to fidget subtly.

"Something wrong, mate?" Doyle asked, leaning closer to his partner.

"I'm being stared at," Bodie whispered back, head lowered.

For the first time since returning to the table, Doyle took his eyes off Bodie and glanced around the room. Trust Bodie's infallible instincts. Their table was drawing more than an inordinate amount of interest, and, for a lunch-time crowd, the place was considerably more quiet than usual. Most of the looks darting their way were simply curious, if not a bit sympathetic, but Doyle knew that wouldn't matter to Bodie at all. It was true that Bodie occasionally liked to be the centre of attention, and that he was readily willing to lap up the sympathy for a fairly minor injury. At the moment, however, he was more like an injured animal, anxious to hide away until it could once again defend itself.

"Get me the hell out of here, Ray."

Doyle was already rising to his feet, catching Bodie's hand in his before the request had even left Bodie's lips. "Come on, mate."

"Are you staring at me, Ray?"

Doyle started and looked guiltily down at the book he was supposed to be reading. Yes, he had been staring at Bodie who was, to all outward appearances, focussed on the mindless prattle coming from the telly. He just couldn't seem to help it.

"Ray?" Bodie prompted, knowing that the eyes were no longer on him.

"Yeah," Doyle admitted. Giving up the pretense, he put aside his book and pulled both legs up onto the chair which sat at right angles to the couch where Bodie sat. He let his eyes linger on the half concealed face, cataloguing each feature as if he had never seen it before.

"Why?" Bodie asked, at this point only curious and anxious for conversation. The silence that followed, however, twigged his instincts. What was going on in that convoluted brain? "Why were you staring at me?" he prodded in a tone that broadcast his intentions to be given an honest reply, no matter how long it took.

"Because I'm grateful," Doyle confessed softly.

"Grateful I'm blind?" Bodie countered, but gently, not believing his own accusation for a minute. Despite the dangers of it, he couldn't resist the urge to probe more deeply.

"No, you..." Doyle cut himself off. He reminded himself that he shouldn't be insulting Bodie now. In fact, he didn't want to insult him, not even in fun. "No, grateful that you weren't two or three steps closer when that bomb went off. Grateful you're here."

Bodie found himself back at his original question. "Why?"

For a moment, all his tangled up and sorted out emotions sat on the tip of Doyle's tongue, just waiting for him to part his lips and let it all flow out. He swallowed it down, wrapped both arms around his legs and rested his chin on his knees. "You don't wanna know."

"'Course I do. Wouldn't have asked otherwise, would I?" Bodie kept at it, knowing he was walking on dangerous ground for both himself and Doyle. You could only push Doyle so far and no further. He could picture him there, curled up in his chair, as protective of his soft centre as a porcupine, wide green eyes staring out of a face that would be at once closed and incredibly vulnerable above a mouth that would be pulled taut with misgiving, but not taut enough to disguise its perfect shape. Suddenly Bodie realised that for the first time since the explosion he was seeing. Not with his eyes, but with remembered images. Doyle was as clear to his mind's eye as if the vision was being fed to him by traumatized retinal nerves. He gasped. "I do," he insisted, more urgently now.

"What's wrong?" Doyle asked, alert to the sudden tension and flickering expressions on Bodie's face.

"Nothin'. Want to know. Answer me," Bodie demanded.

Doyle looked away. "Can't," he insisted. Didn't dare, was closer to the truth. Bodie was so vulnerable now, and Doyle had already had a couple of examples of the lengths Bodie was willing to go to repay what he considered a debt for Doyle's understanding and protection of that vulnerability. He certainly wanted Bodie, but not like this.

Bodie stood abruptly and put out his hand. "Come on."

"Where to?" Doyle asked suspiciously.

"Bed," Bodie ordered and without waiting for any more argument, made his away to the bedroom and began shucking out of his clothing. By the time Doyle shook off his surprise and followed, Bodie was already in bed.

Doyle stood in the doorway, nervously shifting his weight from side to side. "It's only nine o'clock."

"Don't care."

"'M not tired."

"Don't care."

"Forget it."

Bodie sat up in bed and reached out one hand toward where he knew Doyle stood. "You told me I had to ask for what I needed. Said you'd do anything. I need you to come to bed. Now."

Damn. Hoist by his own petard, Doyle conceded silently. A few days ago, he'd relentlessly opened Bodie up with an emotional can opener. He didn't have the right now to stand here and refuse to offer the same emotional nakedness. He wanted to think that he could resist Bodie's advances, knowing the time wasn't right and the circumstances were worse. He knew his own nature better than that, however. He was already heating up as he silently crossed the space between door and bed, trembling fingers working buttons and zip as he moved. In a moment, he lay beside Bodie, stiff-limbed and anguished.

As soon as he felt the other man settle beside him, Bodie rolled to his side and took up the position that had now become almost familiar. Head pillowed on a bony shoulder, arm wrapped around the slim waist and his leg riding high on tense thighs, Bodie settled himself comfortably, then remained reassuringly still.

Slowly, Doyle relaxed, accepting that whatever had prompted Bodie to order them into bed at nine o'clock, it hadn't been sex.

For what could have been hours, but was really only a few minutes, Bodie allowed himself to simply enjoy the closeness and comfort of the other man. When Doyle's fingers began to card hesitantly through his hair, however, he brought his mind back to its purpose.

"When you were shot," he murmured, allowing himself, with his face safely hidden from that too knowing gaze, to feel once again all the emotions the event and long months of recovery had stirred in him. "When I came to live with you afterward. Sometimes at night, or just when you weren't paying attention, I used to stare at you, too. And I was grateful, too. Not that you'd been hurt. Not that every unwary movement caused you pain. Not that you faced months and months of torture to get back on the squad. I was sorry for all of that. Wished I could go through it for you. But still, I was so bloody grateful that little MayLi hadn't had the stomach to finish you off."

Silence settled around them as Doyle took in the hushed words, let them scatter around in his brain until they brought to him the knowledge that possibly he was loved as much as he loved. "Jesus," he murmured reverently.

"Yeah," Bodie agreed.

"Now what do we do?" Doyle wondered.

"Now we go to sleep and see what tomorrow brings," Bodie decreed.


Bodie put up a hand to cover the protesting lips. "Tomorrow, Ray. After the bandages come off."

Stubbornly, Doyle kissed the fingers pressed to his mouth, but remained silent. This, quite possibly, was going to be one of the longest nights of his life.

Monday arrived. Finally. At last. Already. As anxious as they had been for the bandages to come off, both Bodie and Doyle were also dreading that small possibility the doctor had mentioned that the damage was permanent.

Cowley was there, of course. Bodie was a valuable agent. At least that was the reason for his presence on the face of it. His agents knew better. Not one of Cowley's boys or girls ever faced the consequences of a work-related injury without the Controller beside them. He took his responsibility for his agents seriously. It was one of the reasons they were all so fiercely loyal to him. So, George Cowley waited, hiding his impatience behind a polite façade.

Across the room, seated beside his partner, agent 4.5 wasn't doing quite as well at concealing his anxiety. Though the clock on the wall had dragged through only five minutes since they had entered the office, it felt more like five hours. Doyle fidgeted in his seat, crossing and recrossing his legs, shifting from one uncomfortable position to another. In his hand he held an extra pair of sunglasses. He had pocketed them as he led Bodie out of the flat that morning. It was a sunny spring morning and Bodie was going to need the glasses to protect eyes that had spent nearly two weeks in the dark. With the single minded determination of a terrier, Doyle refused to believe otherwise.

Bodie felt his friend's nervous shifting, but refused to allow it to penetrate through the walls he had drawn about himself. Although optimistic by nature, Bodie had chosen to accept the possibility of the worst case scenario. He'd lain awake for hours after Doyle had gone to sleep, cherishing the closeness, accepting the possibility that by the next night he would have put his contingency plan into action and thousands of miles would stretch between himself and this precious sharing.

"Mr Bodie, you may go in now."

At the receptionist's prompting, Bodie rose to his feet, hearing his companions do the same. He waited, wondering which of them would lead him, unaware of the silent battle of wills taking place over just that decision. It only took a moment, however, for Cowley to concede to Doyle's position as Bodie's partner.

Taking a firm grip of Bodie's hand, Doyle lead his partner into the examining room and then over to the chair the doctor indicated. He wished he could stay there, hold Bodie's hand through the next tense moments, but acknowledged that partnership granted absolution for only so much. He backed away.

"We'll just turn these lights down a bit." Dr Harrison suited actions to words and then sat down in front of his patient. "Have you experienced any pain, Mr Bodie?"

"No, no pain," Bodie confirmed tonelessly. "Itch a bit."

"Well, that's always a good sign with any injury, you know," the doctor chattered. "Itching is a sign of healing."

Bodie didn't bother to comment. He had certainly been injured often enough to know the truth of that statement.

"Now, I want you to close your eyes and keep them closed until I tell you to open them," the doctor instructed. Moving at a pace that had the other three men in the room nearly snapping with impatience, the doctor slowly unwound the bandage around the dark head and removed the gauze patches it had held in place.

"Now, keep them closed," he reminded once again, then proceeded to swab the pale flesh and clumped lashes with pads soaked in something that felt wonderfully cool.

"Slowly, now, just a bit at a time, open your eyes," the doctor commanded, watching his patient less anxiously than the rest of the audience. He was quite certain of his prognosis. "Don't be distressed if your eyes water. Even with the lights low, well, they're not used to it, are they. That's it. I expect everything is quite blurry."

Bodie followed the instructions, his heart pounding in his chest as the first sliver of light crept beneath his cautiously lifted lids. Purposely, he faced the sound of the doctor's voice, unwilling to face either his partner or his boss until he knew for sure. Slowly, an indistinct white blur presented itself for consideration. He blinked rapidly in an attempt to focus, without results.

"Can you see, Mr Bodie?" the doctor prompted.

"I... well, it's not black any more," Bodie replied guardedly. True, the darkness had retreated, but he could not yet call what had replaced it sight. He resisted the urge to rub at his stinging, watering eyes.

"Let's have a look then."

That was all the warning Bodie got before a bright light suddenly stabbed into his eye. His head reared back and he barked out a protest.

"You saw that well enough," Cowley observed.

"Ah, yes, sir," Bodie mumbled, settling back in his chair.

"Your eyes have healed perfectly," the doctor reassured, and pressed a handful of tissues into Bodie's hand. "They'll water for a while, and it will be a few hours, perhaps as much as a day, before your vision clears completely, but I can say with complete confidence that you have regained your sight."

Cautiously hopeful, Bodie turned his head slowly until the blurry figure of his partner came into view. He knew he was grinning like an idiot, suspected that everything he felt was plastered all over his face for the other man to see, but didn't care. Despite the fact that he couldn't even tell if Doyle was grinning or scowling, Bodie had never seen a sight more welcome or more beautiful.

"Another 24 hours, you say?"

Cowley's impatient inquiry reminded Bodie of the Controller's presence. He struggled to bring his expression back under control and to present a bland façade to his eagle eyed boss.

"That's right, Mr Cowley. I would expect that by this time tomorrow his vision will have returned to normal."

Cowley glanced at his watch as he rose to his feet. "Then I'll expect the pair of you in my office at 10.00 sharp tomorrow morning. No excuses," he commanded. "Thank you, Dr Harrison," he added and departed.

"Looks like I got you an extra day off," Bodie said cheerfully as he came up out of the chair, wiping at his wet eyes, and promptly crashed into the cart beside him, knocking the instruments resting on it to the floor.

Doyle stepped forward quickly and wrapped his hand around Bodie's arm, leading him around the scattered instruments. "Ah yeah. What a fun day it's going to be. It looks like you still need a keeper." Beneath the bantering tone, however, he was barely containing his own joy.

Bodie turned toward the white blur that was the doctor and held out his hand. "Thank you, Dr Harrison."

"I did very little," the doctor insisted, but shook the proffered hand nonetheless.

"Here, put these on," Doyle instructed as he lead his partner out of the office, slipping the sunglasses into Bodie's hand.

"Contingency planning?" Bodie inquired with a grin as he recognised the shape of the object he held.

"'S not like you've cornered the market, you know."

Doyle glanced over at his silent partner where he slumped in the passenger seat. "You all right?"

"Yeah," Bodie confirmed quietly and not at all convincingly. His vision was clearing a bit with each passing moment, but, surprisingly, his mind was not occupied by the return of his sight but by the man beside him. After the bandages came off, he had decreed last night. Now the bandages were off and he could feel Doyle's anticipation nearly vibrating in the air around him. Now what? Too much had been revealed to allow them to slip back into their previous easy relationship, but too little had yet been acknowledged to let them slide easily into the new one that seemed to be waiting. He really hated it when life got complicated.

"How're the eyes?" Doyle asked, barely restraining the urge to reach out and touch Bodie.

"Sun hurts," Bodie allowed, hand lifting to tap the side of the glasses he wore. "Glad you thought of these."

Doyle grinned teasingly. "Well, I wouldn't look in the mirror if I were you. You look a right berk in 'em."

"Why'dja think I never wear 'em," Bodie countered, grateful for the humour. He tucked away his serious mood for the time being. "Be in a helluva fix if I ever do have to get glasses."

Doyle grunted in agreement as he concentrated on manoeuvring them through a suddenly thick patch of traffic. "Nah," he contradicted himself a few minutes later when they had turned into the relatively quiet streets leading to Bodie's flat. He remembered seeing Bodie in glasses once, and the effect hadn't been the least bit unattractive. "You'd do all right."

"How would you know?" Bodie wondered.

Doyle slid the car into a parking space not far from Bodie's building. "Remember Billy Turner and that doctor? Whatever his name was."

It took a moment, but then Bodie remembered how he had appropriated the doctor's glasses and slipped them one, turning to Doyle with a grin. "As I recall, you were rather disapproving."

"Of the plan, Bodie," Doyle agreed. "But you looked all right in the glasses." In fact, he'd looked damned cute, Doyle recalled, the way the heavy dark frames had drawn attention to those thick lashed, deep blue eyes. "Intellectual," he offered in lieu of his more personal thoughts.

As they left the car and made their way to Bodie's flat, the nervousness they'd both been suppressing took a firm hold of each of them and caused an awkwardness between them that neither man was used to dealing with. Grasping at practical matters, Doyle went about the flat closing drapes and blinds while Bodie discarded his jacket and sprawled on the couch.

"Can probably get rid of the glasses now," Doyle said when he had plunged the place into twilight gloom. "You want a drink?"

"No thanks," Bodie replied. He slipped off the glasses and spent a few moments looking around his familiar space. Things were still pretty blurry, but he could definitely see more than even a few minutes ago. Finally, he turned his gaze on his fidgeting partner. The sight seemed to banish his own nervousness.

"You want somethin' to eat?" Doyle asked, switching from the practical to the mundane.

Bodie shook his head, continuing to stare at the other man in silence until Doyle finally flopped down onto the other end of the sofa.

"Reckon we should talk," Doyle acknowledged reluctantly, casting about for some way to ease into this conversation that was going to change their lives so drastically.

"Ah, Ray, why bother," Bodie asked, exasperated. "We said most of it last night. Why don't we just go to bed?"

Doyle straightened abruptly. "Christ. You're not half blunt, are you. What's the rush?" he protested, feeling ridiculously like a cornered virgin.

"Rush?" Bodie laughed. "We've been sleepin' together for nearly a week."

"As mates," Doyle protested, wondering how the hell he had managed to find himself playing devil's advocate when what Bodie proposed was exactly what he himself wanted.

"There's more than one meaning for that word, you know," Bodie teased gently. "Come here."

"Now wait a minute, Bodie. We can't just jump in 'ere. Need to talk..."

"Has anybody ever told you you talk too much. Com'ere, Ray." Bodie enforced his command by reaching toward the blurry figure, latching onto an arm and hauling the other man toward him.

Doyle let out an inarticulate protest as he found himself suddenly sprawled across Bodie's lap, held firmly in place by an unbreakable embrace. He watched spellbound as Bodie's face came closer and closer to his own.

"Wish I could see you clearer, sunshine," Bodie murmured, his breath washing warmly over Doyle's parted lips. "Want to always remember what you looked like the first time I kissed you."

Doyle never got a chance to voice his own opinion of this decidedly romantic declaration because the mouth he had been longing to taste was exploring his own lips with a delicacy he had never dreamed Bodie capable of. In the brief moments of fantasy he had allowed himself, he had imagined that Bodie's kisses would be a little rough, demanding. Given the strength of the man, the potential was certainly there. Bodie, however, had chosen to coax surrender from him, using the gentle persuasion of brushing lips and a devilishly clever tongue that left Doyle wide eyed and breathless by the time they retreated.

"Jesus," Doyle murmured fervently as those talented lips moved to the imperfection of his cheek, worshipping it with the soft, moist caress of inner lip.

"Let me, Ray. Just let me."

The seductive words were delivered on a warm whisper that tickled his ear, sending tingles straight down Doyle's spine, and distracting him from the fingers that were carefully unfastening the buttons of his shirt. He gasped and arched in response as Bodie's knowing fingers carded through the hair on his chest, zeroing in on the hardened tip of his nipple.

"Oh, yeah. Wanna make love to you," Bodie murmured, enraptured by Doyle's sensual response to his touch. Drawn irresistibly, his lips sought out the tiny erection, tongue tip tracing the limits of the crinkled flesh before engulfing it in the suckling heat of his mouth.

Nearly missing the words in the wave of sensations swamping him, it took a few incredibly pleasurable moments before Doyle's mind was able to overcome his runaway body. Wrapping trembling fingers in the dark hair, he tugged, forcing Bodie away.

"Love, Bodie?"

Bodie smiled softly, once again wishing he could see more clearly. "Yeah. Sorry, mate, but don't see any sense in being faint hearted about it." He reached to trace a fingertip over the perfect lips, feeling the smile there that coaxed the final confession to his own lips. "Love you, sunshine."

"Oh God," Doyle husked, drawing Bodie's mouth down to his own. "Love you, Bodie. Love you."

Where Bodie had coaxed with his kisses, Doyle seemed intent on devouring the mouth that was offered willingly for his plundering. Hungrily, tongue, teeth and lips demanded to be allowed to explore at will and were not disappointed. Bodie gave way to each demand, as aroused by Doyle's ferocity as Doyle had been by his gentleness.

"Let's go to bed," Doyle panted when he forced himself to tear his mouth from Bodie's.

"Doin' all right here, aren't we," Bodie protested, running one finger the length of Doyle's denim-clad erection.

Doyle arched up into the tantalizing caress, but remained firm in his demand. "Don't wanna grope about on the sofa like a couple of randy kids."

"Not kids any more," Bodie agreed with a smile. He grasped the slim hips and pushed the firm arse down onto the hard heat of his own arousal. "But definitely randy."

"Bed, Bodie. Please," Doyle insisted, trying to squirm off of Bodie's lap.

Bodie groaned and abruptly released his partner. "Do that again and it'll be over before it half starts."

"Me too, sunshine," Doyle confessed. He finally succeeded in clambering off Bodie's lap and getting his feet under him. He caught Bodie's hands and dragged the big man up, determinedly towing him toward the bedroom.

Both men were too aroused to allow the brief break in the action to renew the awkwardness between them. Doyle did, however, take the opportunity to quickly divest Bodie of the black poloneck before allowing Bodie to finish stripping off the shirt that hung from his shoulders.

Tempted nearly beyond resistance by the sight of the broad expanse of creamy flesh, Doyle forced a semblance of control on himself, fumbling with belt and snap and zip. He might have had better success had he been less eager to accommodate Bodie's busy fingers as they sought to divest him of his tight jeans.

"Much as I love the view," Bodie panted, finally managing to get the recalcitrant jeans down as far as Doyle's knees, "now I wish you didn't wear these damned jeans so tight."

"More like this, you mean," Doyle asked as his fingers tucked in the loosened waistband of Bodie's trousers and pushed. Obligingly, the material slid down the muscled thighs until it caught around his knees.

"Enough," Bodie roared in frustration, stepping back and hurriedly shucking the rest of his clothes. "Out of 'em," he ordered Doyle who was already discarding his last sock as the words left Bodie's lips.

They came together on the bed, gloriously naked flesh pressed together from shoulders to knees. Two hungry mouths sought each other and clung frantically as four hands roamed at will and both muscular bodies did their very best to share one skin.

Gradually, Bodie rolled to his back, granting the writhing body in his arms dominion over this first encounter. Willingly, he followed where Doyle's caressing mouth and thrusting hips lead, knowing he would have his own chance to set the running. He arched up into the lean body, moaning his pleasure as their cocks, slippery with their mingled excitement and trapped between their taut bellies, rubbed against each other.

"Close. So close." Doyle panted his warning, arching up on braced arms to grind their groins that impossible fraction closer.

"Oh, yeah. Give it to me, Ray. Come for me. Now," Bodie commanded huskily and froze as he felt his lover obey. The throb and pulse of the cock pressed to his own and the sudden silken heat that bathed them yanked Bodie over the edge. Hands clenched on Doyle's arms to anchor his sanity, he let the helpless clench and drain overtake him, spilling his own offering into the warm wet sanctuary between them.

Slowly locked muscles gave way, bringing Doyle down to be cradled on the broad expanse of Bodie's chest where he lay gasping, revelling in the sweat and semen that sealed them together and in the hard arms that gathered him close in a loving embrace. He let reality slip away and simply lay there, letting the gradually slowing beat of Bodie's heart lull him into sleep.

Equally content, Bodie was happy to remain beneath the warm, breathing blanket he wore, smiling softly down at the sleeping face resting on his chest. Sometime during their lovemaking, his vision had cleared completely, soon enough to deliver to him the image of Ray Doyle's face caught in the ecstasy of climax. As he took it into sleep with him, he knew it was a sight he knew he would never forget.

"Contingency planning," Bodie explained with a cheeky grin.

"What do you mean, contingency planning?" Doyle growled, advancing on his lover and waving the airline ticket he had just found in the pocket of Bodie's grey suit. Luckily for Bodie, Doyle had already noted the flight's date. Knowing Bodie as well as he did, he thought he already knew the explanation that would be forthcoming and most of his ferocity was for show.

Bodie plucked the ticket out of Doyle's hand and slipped a proprietary arm around the slim waist. "Damn. Forgot all about this. Could have got a few quid back if I'd remembered it sooner." Of all the flights that had been arranged in accordance with his escape plan, only this first one to Geneva had been ticketed, the others had simply lapsed when he'd failed to claim them.

"Don't suppose you want to tell me just what contingency plan had you flyin' off to Geneva the day after we became lovers," Doyle coaxed persuasively, sliding his arms around Bodie's neck to complete their embrace.

"Just a precaution," Bodie assured. "Thought I might need a bolt hole."

"You mean if the bandages came off and you were still in the dark," Doyle supposed correctly. "Some place to hide from me."

Sobering, Bodie used both arms to draw his lover close to him. "Know you, don't I, sunshine. Knew what you'd do."

Tightening his own embrace, Doyle placed his lips very close to Bodie's ear. "No more bolt holes, Bodie," he commanded in a fierce whisper.

"Blind, deaf or dumb, Ray, I've finally figured out you're the only place I'll ever feel safe again."

Unnoticed, the unneeded airline ticket floated to the floor.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Motet Opus 3 in B and D, Keynote Press, October 1999

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