Bishonen Op


The sliver of moon just above the high brick wall was almost hidden behind clouds, and it was very dark in the garden. There was a line of shadow across the damp lawn, quickly gone. The man under the dark branches of the ancient tree held himself perfectly still. It was somewhat disturbing to know he was not alone, that someone else was watching the old house. Or...watching him? He saw nothing more, but he knew where the other must have gone, and where he might yet go. Good hiding places in this garden were few, and during the last few nights he had been in all of them. The hedge. Silently, he approached, keeping carefully behind the man crouching low under the sculptured greenery.

One swift move, and he had one hand over the man's mouth, the other nudged the ice cold steel of a handgun up against the man's ribs. "You will not move. When I take my hand away, you will answer my questions. In whispers." He felt the nod.

"Damn!" breathed the man as soon as the hand was gone from his mouth. Expert hands were patting him, right side, left side, back, finding and taking gun, knife, wallet. The wallet was opened, inspected, tucked back.

"So, Mr. Doyle." The low voice was deadly in its quietness. "Why are you here, in the garden of a well-known businessman, at midnight?"

"Could ask the same of you," Doyle whispered back. "You're not one of Trasker's lot."

"So true," he murmured. The long, slim and glove-covered fingers were patting Doyle down again, this time delving into more intimate locations. He found what he was looking for in Doyle's shoe, flicking the small packet open as he dropped it. The silver flash of Doyle's CI5 ID drew both their eyes.

The gun in Doyle's ribs was gone, but it took him a moment to recognise the near soundless vibrations coming from the vicinity of his left shoulder. The bastard was laughing. Before his ire reached his muscles, however, there was a second thud as a second ID case fell open beside the first.

"Van Colan. MI6," the very amused voice informed him.

"Ah, hell," Doyle sighed in disgust, falling back to sit against the trunk of a very convenient tree. "What are YOU here for?" he demanded, his voice still very low.

"We believe a kidnapped prince is held inside. You?" The man crouched, balanced lightly on his feet. Doyle wished he could get a good look at the man, but he was an expert at keeping out of the light.

"There's reason to believe they're holding a CI5 agent. Maybe. No real proof. Hunch," Doyle replied.

"You are not here officially, or you would have back-up. Since you are alone...?" The tone both invited and demanded that Doyle produce more information.

"My partner. They told me he was dead. There was a body, badly burned. They're doing tests to prove it was Bodie, but I think...he's in there." The big house was a fortress--Doyle stared in that direction bleakly, his lips thin with emotion.

"Perhaps he is," Van Colan agreed. "Is it worth risking your life to find out?"

"What d'ya mean?" Doyle whispered back.

"I go in--tonight. You are welcome to come with me, CI5. But the risk will be great." Van Colan too was staring at the unlit pile of ancient bricks before them.

According to the report Doyle had seen, it was impossible to get into that place--it was practically a fortress. Doyle had studied the thin file on it--the place was all traps and locks.

"There's not exactly a welcome mat out, is there?" Doyle breathed sarcastically. "How are you getting in?" An army might have a chance. Maybe.

"I have...made arrangements. Will you come?" The rich voice asked the question in tones that said it made no difference if he came or not.

"I'll come," Doyle said shortly. What choice did he have? Go round to the back door, ring the bell, and ask for his partner back?

"Very well. We must go to the south wall. There is a servants' door there which will be left open for fifteen minutes only. Move quietly, CI5-man." Even as he spoke, Van Colan was moving away, so that the last words were almost soundless. Doyle's gun, knife and ID were still on the ground. Silently, Doyle pocketed them and followed.

The man was good, Doyle thought. Very good. But an MI6 agent ought to be. A stuck-up lot, he had always thought, and tonight hadn't done much to change his mind. But if it would get him in there to find Bodie, he'd follow the devil himself, and so it didn't matter.

The door was in shadow. Van Colan opened it slowly, so that the hinges might not give them away. Both men slid through as quietly as possible. The hall was dark, but another corridor further on was lit. They waited, guns out, for any alarm. When there was none, they moved towards the light, and it was then that Doyle got his first good look at his companion. He almost tripped over his lower jaw.

It wasn't that the man was wearing a bloody tuxedo. Perfectly turned-out in light pink shirt and polished shoes, too, and gloves. In all ways he was the antithesis of Doyle, who was dressed in black t-shirt, black pants and ancient trainers. Doyle scarcely noticed what the other man was wearing--there were so many other features to grab the eye. The man was elegantly slim, well over six feet, and he was wearing blue eye-shadow. And the hair! Dead black, dead straight, and hanging down past the guy's ass, for God's sake!

MI6 was known for having some strange operatives, and most of them seldom had to work undercover, but THIS! Earring, too, Doyle noticed, but that was definitely anti-climactic after the hair. All that long, black hair. It should have made Van Colan look effeminate, and it didn't. Continental, he looked, and fashionable, and dangerous. Very, very dangerous. Predator's eyes, and a panther's smooth walk. Doyle felt like a rather mangy wolf beside Van Colan's elegance. But the wolf had teeth. Doyle kept his gun ready, following down one hall, then another. Servants' quarters, it looked like, but nice. Thick carpet.

Abruptly, Van Colan stopped, listening. Footsteps. The nearest door was locked. Van Colan slipped his gun away. "I am a guest, you are my chauffeur. Left your keys," he whispered.

It was as good a way as any to explain us, Doyle thought, nodding. The footsteps stopped, changed direction. A door opened, then closed. They went through a heavy wooden door, into richer territory. Fancy woodwork. Even thicker carpet. Turn after turn showing that Van Colan knew where they were going. They must have crossed the length of the house by now. They came to a foyer of some sort, and then went up the staircase at the far end. They were up two flights before their luck ran out. Someone was coming up the steps behind them rapidly.

Van Colan whirled, his eyes glittering with excitement and laughter, and pressed Doyle up against the wall. In one motion, he had his hand under Doyle's shirt and his lips over Doyle's opening mouth. Doyle fought to keep from pushing away, enduring the hard and expert lips, the pushing tongue. He knew the impression the MI6 agent wanted to give. This was wealth taking advantage of the working class, and Van Colan looked so much like the sort who would be groping his chauffeur on the stairs.

It was well-acted. Van Colan pretended to be unaware of the approaching man, and his reaction at being "discovered" was haughty disdain and annoyance at the interruption. Doyle did not have to pretend. Blushing bright red, he turned his face away as if embarrassed, and fought against the impulse to wipe his lips with the back of his hand. Not that it had been so bad--not sloppy or wet--but that it had been done to him at all--it bothered him. His eyes flashed his intention of protesting later.

The man who passed them was carrying an ice bucket and two bottles of champagne, and he scarcely gave them a look. Perhaps such sights were not uncommon in this household. As soon as the coast was clear, they went on, turning off at the next landing. The very solid double doors at the end weren't locked--Van Colan opened them cautiously, gestured Doyle in, and then closed them firmly behind them.

The low light in the room was flattering to the deep maroon carpet and the heavy wood of the furniture. Curled up like a kitten in one of the deep chairs was a beautiful girl. She smiled at them, and Doyle tensed. Van Colan caught his eye and shook his head no, but Doyle did not relax. He was reluctant to trust Van Colan's evaluation and kept himself ready for anything.

The girl--and it was a girl, not a woman--stood up, and she was beautiful. A great mass of red curls tumbled around her face and over one eye, so that she seemed to be peeping out of it with her great dark eyes. She had a red pout to her lips that gave her innocence, and a sway to her hips which took it away. Her gold high-heeled shoes lay on their sides in the deep carpet, and her slim legs were all too noticeable as she toed and nudged them on, and when she turned to face them squarely, she had a knife in her hand, and there was nothing innocent in the easy way she held it.

"CI5. He's helping us," Van Colan explained to her, and to Doyle he said, "Maraich will guide us. At some point we may have to pretend to have been captured, or that Maraich is our captive. I do not wish her harmed. I will not leave her behind if we are exposed. Do you understand?"

Doyle understood, and he could understand why a man wouldn't leave a peach like that behind, but he didn't like it. Great. Saddled with a bird, and a baby one at that. She was in the corner now, turning on a lamp and then kneeling down, pressing at the baseboard. He was not surprised to see a panel in the wall swing open. She stood, leaned in, listened, then gestured them on. Maraich, then Doyle, and last Van Colan, went into the darkness. The door closed behind them, and they were in total blackness. This had not been on the plans of the building Doyle had seen. He went down cautiously, hoping they could get out again. It was 231 steps down before they came to the bottom, where there was another door. It seemed to be locked. Van Colan knelt in front of it, prodding the knob with something metal he had taken from an inner pocket.

Before opening it, however, Van Colan stood, hand on the knob, and gave whispered instructions. "There are cells here. Doyle will search for his partner. I will look for the prince. Maraich will be lookout. If possible, kill silently, for if we are discovered here, we will die. Understand?"

Doyle nodded, Maraich nodded, and Van Colan pushed open the door. The contrast here to the lush world above was absolute. The floor and walls were unpainted concrete, broken at intervals with gray steel doors. There was a small window in each so that one could look in. Van Colan took the left side of the hall, Doyle the right. When they came across a room which was occupied, they signaled, looked in, went on.

The people in the rooms were often cuffed or drugged; they were all ages and both sexes. They were soundproof rooms, for Doyle saw one man crying, but could hear no sound, even with his ear practically on the door.

The eighth door on the right held Bodie! Doyle recognised the broad back of his partner at once and gestured frantically at Van Colan, who came with his bits of metal and soon had the door open. He did not stay to see the reunion, but went on with his own search, leaving Doyle to go in alone.

Bodie didn't move until Doyle called his name, and then he was up off the bunk instantly. Doyle slung an arm around his partner in a half hug of welcome, even as he kept one eye on the door.

"I've seen you look better," Doyle complained, seeing dark bruises under Bodie's eyes. There were marks on his hands, too, and Bodie did not quite straighten up as he walked. Bodie's eyes went to the door, and he inclined his head towards it.

"Him? He's MI6, helping get you out, mate. 'e's looking for some prince. You okay?" he asked, realising that Bodie had not said a word.

"Yeah." Rough voice. Bodie didn't say anything else, but twisted free from Doyle's arm and went out the door. At the end of the hall, Van Colan was coming out of a room, carrying the limp form of an unconscious man.

Doyle grabbed Bodie's arm and drew him out of the room and down the gray passageway impatiently.

"Hurry!" Van Colan shouted, making no effort to keep his voice down. "He was wired--an alarm went off when I cut him loose!" At a run, they went up the dark stairwell, Maraich first, then Bodie, pushed from behind by Doyle, and last, Van Colan with his not inconsiderable burden. Their heavy breathing echoed off the close walls, masking other sounds, frustrating their efforts to listen for sounds of pursuit.

They burst into the room, stumbling against the furniture in their haste to get to the door. "You!" Bodie snarled as he got a good look at Maraich. There was fury in his eyes, and he went into a fighter's crouch.

"No time for that," Van Colan grunted, his look going to Doyle. Control your partner, that look said. We have more important concerns.

"Don't worry, Bodie, it's okay!" He had his gun out, and that seemed to reassure his partner. Quickly, they went out the door, down the hall, in another door, through a massive smoking room, and into another hall. Doyle was completely lost, and it bothered him. He looked behind to see how Van Colan was doing, heard a muffled curse from Bodie, and looked ahead just in time to see Maraich spring at a man. Doyle's gun came up automatically.

"NO!" Van Colan called viciously. Doyle hesitated, watching. From the front of her dress, Maraich had pulled a garrotte. It was all smooth motion, the hand dipping into the cloth, curving out, twisting. Seconds later, she was perched on the body like some small, glittery spider, her fingers jerking the wire with fearsomely easy strength that implied long practice. The man had been at some sort of check point--there was a cup of coffee and a book on a small table beside the chair where he had been sitting, and Doyle saw Maraich lean forward to look at the title of the book as she waited for the body under her to quiet. Doyle's stomach turned.

In a moment, they were on their way again, up stairs and finally into a storage closet of some kind. The window here was easy to open, and led out directly onto the roof. Bodie helped boost Van colan up, pushed from underneath as Van Colan hauled out the prince. Maraich was scrambling up next, then Bodie, and last of all, Doyle. Somewhere in the depths of the house an alarm began to ring.

It was close to dawn, Doyle realised. The chimneys and pipes made long shadows of inky blackness against the gray sky. The wet morning smell was sharp in the air, refreshing after the stale air inside. It was peaceful for only a few minutes, and then there were men climbing out onto the roof after them.

The house had suffered several additions through the years, and the roof was of several different levels and styles. One portion of it was even flat, and Maraich had been leading them towards that part when they were discovered. Doyle ducked behind a brick chimney and got off four shots, but he counted six men. The satisfaction at taking out two of them didn't help eliminate the other four. Maraich slid up beside him, whispered, "We need to hold them off only for another five minutes. Copter coming!"

Doyle could hear it, the 'whump, whump' sound coming louder every second. The lights of it were spears that stabbed at the roof, catching the outlines of the advancing men, giving Doyle targets for a second, before sliding away and leaving them all light-blinded. Van Colan had passed his gun to Bodie and had the prince over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Maraich crouched at his feet, a throwing knife in each hand, her brilliant eyes flickering as she looked first right, then left.

The helicopter angled sharply, hovering, trying to do the impossible and coming close. Doyle admired the skill of the pilot even as he squeezed off another shot. Van Colan had the prince over there now, handing up the body to someone who clung to a safety line and leaned out of the machine to help. Maraich was climbing up next at Van Colan's insistence. Then Bodie. Then Van Colan was clinging to the rope ladder that had been dropped, his black hair tumbling wildly in the artificial wind and calling to Doyle to hurry. With a last flurry of shots, Doyle made a run for it, hearing the firecracker pop of guns behind him, but giving all his attention to the dangling end of the ladder.

Someone in the chopper opened fire, covering him and pinning down those behind him with a flow of chattering bullets. Doyle leaped, felt the machine rise up as he got a good grip. "Can you manage?" Van Colan called from just above him.

"Have to, won't I?" Doyle screamed. They were being hauled up into the machine even as it wheeled and skipped away from the building. He fell against someone at the sharp turn, but it didn't matter, he was inside, and he could think of his aching arms and the fact that he was alive. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a laughing Maraich in Van Colan's arms. Van Colan...Maraich...where was Bodie?

He levered himself up into a sitting position. There, against the wall, one knee up, head down, the gun still held limply in one hand. Doyle crawled over to sit beside him, watching Maraich in Van Colan's lap. Their masses of hair were wound together, and Van Colan's elegant narrow lips had fastened on Maraich's laughing red mouth.

In the corner, a man was bent over the still quiet form of the prince. Doyle found it hard to even care if the man were alive.

"Trouble," the pilot leaned back to yell. "Our ground unit is picking up transmissions-- Trasker's is sending a plane after us. Seem to think they can track us?"

"Ah! Faranini spoke of a dust they bought from the Russians. Last night, he was...our clothes!" She was tearing off her dress even as she spoke. "Simon! Take all the clothing off the prince. And yours!" She turned towards Bodie and Doyle. "Yours as well!"

Van Colan was giving orders to have the plane that would be following them intercepted, and then he was stripping off his own elegant evening clothing, throwing each piece on the pile of Maraich's and adding his shoes as she threw on her high heels.

Her back was to Doyle--all there was to see was the curve of her butt through those red curls. Her hair was not as long as Van Colan's, but it was long enough to cover up...Doyle forced his eyes away and concentrated on his buttons. He kept back only his ID and the gun. Then he turned to help Bodie, and froze.

Someone had done a very nasty job on Bodie's back. From neck to waist, and even over the top curve of the buttocks, were welts and bruises, the type which come from a thick whip or a flexible rod. None of the lines which crisscrossed the skin were really deep cuts, but there were dozens of them, and there was no doubt that it was really painful.

Doyle kept his eyes on the ugly sight, but managed to make his voice sound merely curious as he asked, "What happened to you, mate?"

"Her," Bodie indicated Maraich with a jerk of his thumb. There was anger and disgust in his attitude, and this wasn't like Bodie. Doyle was worried, but he would never ask the questions he wanted to ask, with others close enough to hear. He went to help Van Colan shove the clothing out the door. He wondered what the people in the little row of houses would think when they got up this morning and found Maraich's shoes or his underwear in their back yard.

It was well into dawn now, the sun struggling with a face full of gray clouds and half the sky yellow and pink. The door closed, cutting off the view, and Doyle went back to sit beside Bodie. It was chilly. He shuddered and tried not to look at his fellow travellers. The prince looked dead, although the attendant was leaning over him, taking his pulse. Doyle carefully avoided looking at Bodie. It wasn't only the sight of the scabbing slices across the other man's back. It was seeing Bodie naked. If Bodie caught him looking, he'd tease him for a week. He'd caught Doyle at it once before, and after teasing him unmercifully about it for days, had offered to give Doyle a picture of the famous Bodie bum for a Christmas present. Hadn't, of course.

It was safest to look at Bodie when he was walking ahead, fully clothed, or when making their usual outrageous comments--times when Bodie wouldn't notice. Not now. Doyle looked at Maraich and Van Colan instead. Maraich was, as usual, curled up against Van Colan, but with one arm around her shoulders, he wasn't exactly discouraging her. Her attitude was all soft and cute, but Doyle was struck by something unround and unfeminine about her long legs. Tomboy long.

Van Colan shifted position, and Doyle switched his attention to him--and got a shock. Unclothed, with that long black hair slicked back, Van Colan looked like Bodie. Oh, he was taller, slimmer, but he had the same wide, muscled chest, small buns. Legs were skinnier, though. Actually, their hair was similar, if you ignored the extra five feet of it on Van Colan. Same colour, anyway. Same sparse pattern of hair on the chest, too.

Of course, their faces were also alike. Except for the blue eye shadow. Part of a disguise? Van Colan's head was turning, and Doyle looked over at the prince for a moment until Van Colan became absorbed in lighting one of the slim brown cigarettes he took from his cigarette case. That and his gun and an extra clip were all that Van Colan had kept of his belongings.

At that point, Doyle got an even bigger shock. Maraich's hair, caught on her own hip as she leaned forward with a match, fell away from her body just long enough for Doyle to see...

Maraich was definitely not a woman. The chest was baby smooth, with tiny flat nipples. Doyle's eyes rushed down the body, and he could not help himself, could not keep himself from looking. The equipment was all male. In fact, it was all very clear to his view because the entire area was shaved...unless the hair had never grown? Doyle struggled with the ideas, seeing the relatively small size of the pink and white penis. How old WAS this guy, anyway?

Doyle found himself unable to look any more, and covered his confusion by focusing on the small arsenal of weapons piled by Maraich's thigh. Two small stilettoes and a garrotte and a small black box...Maraich was old enough to be dangerous. Old enough to know her...his own mind. One small hand was caressing Van Colan's knee with soft suggestiveness. Van Colan seemed unmoved, but not unappreciative. Tired. He closed his eyes as he leaned back against the metal wall, smoking, his head turned ever so slightly in Maraich's direction.

At that moment, Maraich caught him looking. She smiled at him shyly. Beautiful. There was something possessive about her hand on Van Colan's leg that warned Doyle away from her man.

Her! His! In frustration, Doyle settled on "her." There just wasn't much about Maraich which was masculine. Doyle's eyes went to Bodie, to see if Bodie, too, had been looking, but Bodie was resting his head on his knees. For some reason, this made Maraich laugh.

Van Colan lazily opened one eye to see what amused her, and Bodie lifted his head, too. Bodie focused on Maraich, narrowed his eyes and then deliberately turned his head. Doyle opened his mouth to ask Bodie about it when the helicopter made a sharp circling turn and dropped to the ground.

A small, pudgy man, leaning into the wind created by the machine, shouted for them to follow him and, turning, led them at a fast jog towards a large, fairly modern brick building. A hospital of some sort? A woman in a white coat met them, hurried them along a green and white corridor to a room where they were sprayed with white foam by two men in white plastic aprons and surgical masks. They were herded out the door while the men were still working on the prince and his attendant, and into a room lined with shower heads, where another man in white handed them large bars of special soap and urged them to wash everything twice.

Doyle was too busy washing himself and then helping Bodie with his back to pay much attention to the other two, although he did lift his head once when Maraich giggled. As soon as they were finished, they were toweled dry by the attendant and led, still naked, through another hallway.

The doctor who had met them at the door of the building took Bodie aside and began inspecting his back, and then rubbing antiseptic cream into the worst spots. Another man bustled in with a stack of mismatched clothing, apologising for the quality of it even as he stared openly at Van Colan. Someone thrust a phone into Doyle's hand.

"Doyle?" the sharp voice asked. Oh, shit, it was Cowley. He caught Bodie's eye and mouthed it, then flinched as the man began to crisply inform him of his monumental stupidity. He seemed as irate about the fact that they had gotten themselves into the middle of an MI6 operation as about the numerous other sins he found to lay at Doyle's door. He was also annoyed that he could not debrief them himself, and as well seemed to have taken it personally that they would not be available for a job. Before Doyle could ask what that job was, he was left holding a dead phone.

Bodie turned an inquiring eye his way. "Did you know we had the mental ability of a pair of chimpanzees?" he asked with apparent sincerity. "Think that was what he said."

"Possibly right in your case," Bodie answered, but it lacked the cutting edge of his usual repartee. Perhaps because the doctor was wrapping his back in gauze, which Bodie didn't think was necessary.

"We get debriefed here. Cowley's sending somebody." Doyle decided to be more informative and take his partner's mind off his troubles. "Then--you'll like this part," he said in a tone that implied the opposite, "we've been loaned to MI6 for a week." He was right. Bodie definitely didn't like that part. Partly to avoid looking at the black scowl on Bodie's face, Doyle pulled on a faded flannel shirt and turned to paw through the stack of pants for something in his size. The choices seemed to be too loose or too long. He chose too long and hauled them on.

Van Colan managed to look just as elegant in a blue pullover as he had looked in a tux, and Doyle spared a moment of envy that Van Colan had got to that shirt first. Maraich had managed to put together one of those crazy- colours layered arrangements that looked like Boy George had spent a thousand on it. Bodie, last at the clothing, settled for jeans and a t-shirt. In Doyle's opinion, the effect was smashing. He ducked when he told Bodie so.

A middle-aged man in a three-piece suit and a scowl came to the door and beckoned to Van Colan. Maraich pouted when it was clear she wasn't included.

"Jealous?" Doyle teased. Even considering that Van Colan seemed to be the sort who fancied men, the older man didn't seem to be his type.

"It's not fair!" Maraich flounced to the side of the room--she would have flung herself into a chair if there had been any to fling into. "Six days I'm undercover, risking my life for the prince who does not even have a country any more, but That Bastard..." Interrupted by a man who beckoned this time for Bodie and Doyle, she was left to complain by herself.

The debriefing went quickly, but it left Doyle curious, for each man spoke privately to the CI5 agent who collected the information, and Doyle didn't get to hear the explanation for the state of Bodie's back, or how Trasker had gotten hold of Bodie anyway. As they finished up, Van Colan, accompanied by his suited friend and a Maraich whose temper had not improved a bit, entered.

"Ah, Mr. Bodie, Mr. Doyle. My name is Obergarst, MI6, in charge of this operation. Mr. Van Colan has explained to me how helpful you were in recovering the prince. The poor man is...has been rather heavily drugged. We are sending him overseas." He paused, seemed sorry he had said that much, then shrugged and went on. "You," he waved at all four, "are useless to your various agencies until the S84 dust wears off. Tenacious stuff. Actually, it will be to our advantage--we will turn the tables on our friends who have made the mistake of so liberally sprinkling their house with this substance. We can trace THEM!" It seemed to make him very happy.

"However," he went on, "there are still small amounts of it on you, and will be for a week. It will be best that you are well away from our detectors." He turned to the CI5 men. "Your superiors have been informed, and you have been assigned to us for eight days. I understand you will have the use of a yacht and that the eight days will be rather pleasant. A Mr. Cowley has asked me to inform you that this will be considered as your, ah, vacation. Your holiday." He leaned forward to see if they understood.

They understood. Trust the Cow to turn them over to MI6 for eight days and call it a holiday. After exchanging glances, they indicated that they understood by nodding dourly.

"Good! Very good. Now, you will be transferred to an ambulance and taken to an air field. There to France, where you will switch planes. I understand you will eventually end up somewhere in the Mediterranean. We'll try to get you some clothing and, um, passports, and...well, it should all catch up with you in France. Ah, gentlemen," he hesitated uneasily, and at first Doyle thought it was because he wasn't sure it was polite to include Maraich in that category. "I have designated Jack Van Colan as team leader--in effect, I have assigned you to him, if you understand, and..." He stopped, opened his mouth to rephrase, but could think of no polite way to tell them that they were expected to obey the orders of a peer and a member of a somewhat rival agency. "You understand," he said at last.

"Yes," Bodie answered for both of them, stepping away impatiently. "I want a gun," he bargained, and seemed disappointed when the man agreed immediately to provide one. He went off to see to it, and met a nurse at the door bringing in a cart with breakfast on it. They were forced to balance the trays on their knees, and unfortunately it was without a doubt hospital fare. Hunger gave it its only spice, but at that point, none of them cared overly much.

Going by ambulance to the airfield turned out to mean dress-up time. Maraich was thrilled to be given a nurse's uniform to put on, and spent a great deal of time pinning on the cap this way and that. Bodie and Van Colan, in the role of patients, had only to lie on gurneys, covered by white sheets, their heads wrapped to simulate head injuries. Doyle, in an orderly's white smock and over-sized white pants, felt less than convincing, but found himself automatically falling into the role, arranging the sheets over the other two with mock efficiency, helping load the gurneys into place, and then swinging up beside the driver. Fortunately, it was not a long drive to the airport, one of those small fields that dot the countryside, and it wasn't long until they were airborne and could toss aside the disguises.

France was another small airport, and a quick dash between planes. They were up in the air again ten minutes later. This plane was different from the last one, which had the no- frills simplicity of government issue--this one had blue velvet seats and sound proofing and piped-in music. Maraich went first to confer with the pilot before sitting down beside Van Colan. He whispered a question to her, and she twisted to face Bodie and Doyle.

"D'you fancy Greek islands?" she asked.

"Suppose I could," Doyle agreed cautiously, and watched the flash of her white teeth as she grinned at him in delight.

"That's where the yacht is--unless He decides to move it." She made a face ceiling-wards.

"We will have the use of the vessel owned by the young king of Marinera," Van Colan explained. His narrowed eyes and the quick flick of his cigarette told quite plainly how he felt about the king.

"Patalliro might show up, even though we do not plan to be where he can find us," Maraich explained, while Van Colan muttered something about murdering the brat.

"'N I thought we'd be going somewhere relaxing," Doyle complained.

"Oh, it will be wonderful," Maraich assured him.

"Why don't you just drop us off somewhere?" Bodie suggested, "and pick us up on your way back?"

He was serious, Doyle realised. To Doyle, a week lazing around on a fancy boat sounded great. He wanted to get to the bottom of Bodie's sourness, but it wasn't really possible here, so he limited himself to a terse, "Get some sleep, mate," and closed his own eyes in example. He was tired, and he settled down, head forward so that his neck would be spared the jolts which were unavoidable even in this plane designed to minimise jolts. The murmuring voices of Van Colan and Maraich didn't bother him--he tried not to listen, although once in a while he heard a word or two; it was in the tone lovers use, and he was sure he was not meant to hear.

When he woke, he was hungry, and it was hot and sunny, and they were taxiing slowly down a runway towards a small hangar. From the plane they transferred to a car, from the car, after a wild ten-minute ride through a picturesque town, they were left at the wharf, where a fishing boat waited to take them out to sea. It was close to sunset when they boarded a sparkling white vessel.

On deck, Maraich sorted through the pile of luggage that had come with them since the French plane, pulled out the two largest, and headed immediately for the depths of the ship. Van Colan lingered long enough to put Doyle and Bodie into the care of the steward, and then went after her. It was Doyle's considered opinion that they anxious to wash their hair. The two CI5 agents were ushered into connecting staterooms along with a suitcase each--and Bodie went into his without a word to Doyle, locking the door behind him.

Doyle made a face at the door. Great. When Bodie was in that kind of mood, it was sometimes best just to leave him alone for a while. He puttered around unpacking the suitcase--clothes in just his size but not at all in his style--and finally searched out the bathroom facilities. He spent a whole minute longer in the shower than the sign on the wall suggested, but he emerged feeling 100% better. As he was dressing, there was a knock on the door, and dinner was announced.

Quickly, he finished, banged cheerfully on the connecting door, and roused Bodie out. Bodie, clean and dressed in white pants and a yellow silk shirt, wouldn't have looked much like himself if it were not for the scowl he still wore. Well, maybe a good meal would set him right. It'd probably been quite a while since his last one.

They were seated at a round table covered in fine linen. The sky was magnificent in oranges and rust over an incredibly blue sea. Van Colan was magnificent in black, and Maraich was in an oriental robe of some sort, featuring a riot of embroidered flowers and a plunging neckline. After only a few minutes, Van Colan got tired of the somewhat stilted conversation, and put down his spoon.

"Let us clear the air," he said, and, turning to Maraich, asked, "What have you done to Mr. Bodie to so annoy him?" His tone said it could be anything, that he himself had occasionally been annoyed by her actions.

Maraich had the ability to look adorably contrite, but seeing that this did not have a great deal of effect on the others, she abandoned it for a professionally cool demeanour.

"I was there as 'entertainer,' but," she paused with slight disapproval, "they liked their entertainment quite kinky. I wore red, very," she gestured, "tight, with black lace and net stockings, black shiny boots. Quite classic," she assured them. "Bradford, who was in charge, said he had men in need of chastisement which I would provide. They gave me a whip. There were different men each night, except for this one. They brought him up every night, last."

Bodie's face was very controlled, and he did not look at her. Van Colan looked at him, and then back at Maraich.

"Well, they got BORED," she complained. "I had to be there for you, I could not be dismissed, or all our work would be for nothing. So, I improvised!"

"How so?" Van Colan asked, idly playing with one of his own shining tendrils of hair. For all his apparent casualness, however, he seemed intent on what she was saying.

"I TRIED not to lay the whip on too often," she pointed out, "and I HAD to do something, didn't I?"

The look Van Colan gave her said that clarification would be in her best interest.

"I...played with him. A little," she admitted, with a guilty glance towards her lover. "I had to pretend to be wicked, so that..." She giggled suddenly, remembering. "I kept pretending his body was distracting me from my job. Rather fun, actually!"

Bodie's expression was one of remote distaste. Doyle, remembering the dozens of cuts and scabs, the blue bruises up and down Bodie's back, leaned forward. "You WHAT?" he hissed dangerously.

"Well, it was better than what THEY wanted me to do!" she exclaimed righteously.

"Which was?" Van Colan's cool voice inquired.

"They wanted me to use the whip on his...manhood." Suddenly coy, she lowered her eyes. "I couldn't. He is so fine--all long, like..." She cut her eyes towards Van Colan's crotch and trailed off. After a deep breath, she went on. "So, I put the whip to his back and I kissed him." She shrugged--her response to the three dark looks she was receiving. At a prod from Van Colan, she looked at Bodie and said contritely, "I AM sorry. But it was necessary. I HAD to be there, to learn about the alarms and eliminate some of the guards. Or Van Colan could not have rescued the prince."

"Or Doyle, you," Van Colan added to Bodie. "It was the job," he emphasised, slightly apologetically.

"The op." Doyle reminded Bodie of all the times they had had to go against good sense or decency in the name of the mission.

"All of it?" Bodie asked, his blue eyes on Maraich. She tossed her head and looked away.

Van Colan's hand soothed along Maraich's thigh. "Let us put it behind us," he suggested.

"Fine," Doyle said quickly. "Bodie?" He had to be content with a bare nod. "Maraich?" Doyle asked, more tentatively.

Maraich picked up her fork. "Yes. Is this shrimp?" and relegated the entire matter to trivia beneath her notice.

The conversation afterwards was somewhat improved, although primarily it was between Van Colan and Doyle. Doyle learned that Van Colan had an apartment in London and one in the castle in Marinera, and a little about the life of a bodyguard to a ten-year-old who fancied himself a detective and a scientist, and who was just successful enough at both to be in constant trouble.

The fine meal was the culinary opposite of the hospital fare of the morning, and they ended with brandy and a strolling tour of the ship. Maraich was the first to say good night, and Van Colan echoed it, and then Bodie and Doyle were alone in the slightly cramped passageway.

Bodie gave a quick "'night," and went to his door, then turned impatiently when he realised Doyle was right behind him. "Forgot something, have you?" he demanded with sarcasm.

"Not me manners," Doyle replied pointedly, pushing his way in. "Take off your shirt--I want to see your back," he demanded, giving a tug to the shirt tail when Bodie seemed reluctant. "Looks bloody awful," he assured his friend a moment later. Bodie shrugged. Doyle made a thorough inspection. It was healing already. "Must itch," he commented.

Bodie ignored him and pulled on the white pajamas he found in his bag.

"Was it that bad, then? What Maraich did?" Doyle asked.

"Bad? What, standing naked every night while a dozen perverts watch a taunting bitch alternately groping and whipping me? What's bad about that? Great fun, it was!"

"But she had to, didn't she?" Doyle asked. "She didn't LIKE doing it to you."

"Sure of that, are you? Better not put any money on it," Bodie suggested. "Clear out, will you? I want to sleep."

"Need my beauty sleep. Didn't get any last night," Doyle agreed, rubbing Bodie's nose, just a little, in the reminder of who he'd sacrificed last night's sleep for. But he said his good night and went through the connecting door to his own room.

He should have been so tired he could sleep weeks, but found himself, shirt only partly unbuttoned, pacing his tiny room. He decided to go out on deck and get some more fresh air and work the restlessness out of his system. Once up on deck, he noticed the brandy and glasses still out, and poured himself a full glass before going to lean on the white rail and stare out at the black sea.

Bodie's attitude bothered him more than it ought to, he decided. His partner had his moods, but this one was just a little different. He tried to think of what he could do. Usually, he could jolly Bodie out of almost anything, but this was...

The faint sound of an opening and closing door came to him. Bodie? Or was it further away? He didn't turn around. The night was quiet and a white sliver of moon hung in the sky. The breeze was warm and he didn't have a schedule to keep, and Bodie was okay...he had been so very worried about Bodie. The rumour Cowley had come up with had been so fragile and unlikely that Doyle had lurked in the Trasker garden eaten up with the nagging in his mind that said he was wasting time there, that while he skulked from tree to tree, Bodie was dying somewhere.

He hadn't been. The Cow's source had been right, and, thanks to Van Colan, Bodie was out and everything OUGHT to be fine. He sighed, went back to fill the glass again--it was very good brandy--and then walked down the rail a little more until he was almost at the stern.

The red glow of the tip of a cigarette was his first clue that he was not alone. Silently, Van Colan came up and leaned on the rail next to Doyle. The night wind twisted strands of the man's unbound hair out over the rail, playing with them. After a last drag on the cigarette, Van Colan flicked it out over the water. They watched it arc and then flicker out as it hit the water.

"You cannot sleep either?" Van Colan lit another cigarette, the lighter casting yellow and shadow over the lower part of his face for a brief second.

"Time change," Doyle suggested.

"Yes, it can be disruptive," Van Colan agreed. They both knew that was not the reason, but both appeared to accept that explanation. Out of the corner of his eye, Doyle was looking at Van Colan. The man wasn't dressed in the clothes he had worn to dinner, and his shirt was not buttoned all the way up. Instinctively, Doyle knew that Van Colan had been to bed, and no doubt he left Maraich, sleeping and well satisfied, in that bed.

The wind rose, and took further liberties with Van Colan's hair. He lifted a slim hand to shove it back behind an ear, and added, "Perhaps it is tension. All is not well between you and Mr. Bodie?"

"He'll get over it," Doyle replied.

"And you?" Van Colan had turned to face Doyle so that he could better see his face. He took a step forward, and his hair swayed with the movement of his body. It was mesmerising. Doyle understood how useful it could be to distract an opponent--if you didn't trip over it in some vital second and half-kill yourself.

"You are tense, and you are exhausted," Van Colan diagnosed. "If you would care to have that tension dispelled...?" One long-fingered hand came down onto Doyle's curls, tangling there, massaging the back of the neck gently.

It was clear what Van Colan was offering. One part of Doyle's mind reeled with shock, not because of the offer but because his reaction to the touch was not surprise, but acceptance. Van Colan's other hand came up to his face to trace Doyle's lips, and those fingers caressed the tip of Doyle's tongue as he opened his mouth to speak. No words came. It was almost terrible, and definitely exciting to be pulled into Van Colan's embrace. The arms were solid with muscle, reassuring. Doyle remembered that he had not fastened up his own shirt as his flesh touched Van Colan's.

To have those lips come down and suck on his with the delicacy of a bee at a flower's centre...the dark curtain of Van Colan's hair fell around him and blocked out the night. He felt a silky length of it over his arm, against his neck.

From somewhere he found the strength to pull away. They stood together in the night for minute after minute while Doyle tried to find the words to explain. "Van Colan..." he began at last.

"Jack," Van Colan whispered. "Jack...Barbarosa...Van Colan."

"Jack," Doyle began again.

"Do not fear," Van Colan said soothingly. "You are one who recognises the dual nature of man." He drew Doyle close again, one arm around his shoulder, so that he could lean his face against Doyle's curls. "But you are not for my bed, that is clear. A pity." His regret was sincere, and he did not withdraw the comfort of his arms. He did lean forward and whisper in Doyle's ear. "Bodie?"

Doyle turned to stone in the circle of Van Colan's arm.

"I thought so," Van Colan laughed into Doyle's curls. His hand drifted down from Doyle's neck to his arm, hip, and buttocks. "You'll need luck to get that one into your bed," Van Colan commented.

"No." Doyle straightened. "YOU would need luck. I'd just need--time." Then, amazed that those words had come out of his mouth, and even more amazed to learn that he desperately wanted his words to be true, he pulled free of Van Colan's caressing hands. "Sorry, mate," he said, smiling.

"Oh, I, as well. Very much sorry." Van Colan snaked an arm back around Doyle's waist, but didn't seem to be insisting in any way. The wind blew the ends of Van Colan's hair against the back of Doyle's knees, and he shivered.

"If you should change your mind," Van Colan began a moment later, "I will welcome you."

"Wouldn't Maraich...?"

"Be jealous?" Van Colan finished the sentence for him. "Maraich is always jealous, whether there is cause or not." Van Colan made his complaint without bitterness.

Doyle looked out over the water, acutely aware of the hand on his waist. "You give 'm good reason," he observed.

Van Colan laughed. "But Maraich is also very understanding, and would be pleased if I brought you back to our bed. Very pleased."

The offer of Van Colan's loving had been exciting, but the thought of being in bed with that red-headed wildcat as well left him feeling a little ill. Van Colan would have been gentle with his inexperience. Maraich...

"Go to bed, Raymond," Van Colan said with a final squeeze to Doyle's buttock that expressed great regret at having to take his hand away. "For if we stand here together much longer, I shall become uncivilised," he sighed. He gave one last, lingering look at Doyle, and then turned away and walked to the deck chairs. He made himself comfortable with a pillow behind him and sat, smoking and staring out at the ocean.

Doyle leaned on the rail again, and tried to think. His mind was not particularly clear tonight. He ought to go to bed. He kept thinking of Van Colan, patiently waiting, not so far away. He was good at waiting. Doyle remembered hundreds of stake outs, knew about waiting in the night, usually for nothing. He knew Van Colan also knew about waiting. He felt kinship for the man. Van Colan was something Doyle was curious about. All he would have to do is go over and sit down, and then Van Colan would make love to him, maybe right there in one of the deck chairs. His loving would be powerful--perhaps more than an ex-copper who'd never done it before would want to face. The thought of being fucked made his mouth dry with fear, but he did think of it. And of Bodie.

The rail was hard under his hands, and cold, and he decided he was as stupid as an adolescent, standing here dreaming. He forced himself to step away, and his foot knocked over the brandy glass. Doyle stared at it--he didn't remember putting it down. He picked it up, left it on the table on his way by, and went below without calling good night to Van Colan. He went to bed, uneasy in the dark and the quiet. Eventually he slept.

The steward's knock announced breakfast. Doyle's body, reluctant to succumb to sleep the night before, was now reluctant to give it up. Muscles a little sore, head a little weary-- there was nothing wrong with him a good breakfast wouldn't cure, and so he forced himself out of bed and padded barefoot down to the head. Bodie didn't answer the knock on his door, so twenty minutes later, when Doyle arrived at breakfast, he was glad to see it was because his partner was already there. Doyle loaded down a plate at the generous buffet, collected a cup of coffee, and sat down in the place empty between Maraich and Bodie.

The morning was fantastic, bright and warm. There was an island off the bow, all white and gold in the middle of incredibly blue water. They must have moved...sailed? the night, because Doyle didn't remember it being there the night before.

Maraich noticed his appreciation of the island. "Would you like to go there? We were talking of a picnic," she said, while under the table her bare foot slid up his leg suggestively. "We could play tourist," she suggested.

"Is that like playing doctor?" Doyle asked with a wide Doyle-grin, as he moved his leg away. Maraich pouted slightly, and stabbed a fork into her food.

"No," Van Colan said dryly. "But we thought to go there for an afternoon. There is a small beach, and there should be no others there. It is very pleasant," he added. "Very private."

"Thanks, we'd like to," Doyle said, boldly speaking for his partner. Bodie didn't object, so Doyle decided that meant he agreed.

"Don't bother with swim wear. There is no one but us," Maraich said to him. Predatory little smile she had, Doyle decided. He gave his attention to spearing his bacon before answering.

"Right. Best keep Bodie covered, though. He burns," he told the others with an artificial, conspiratorial tone.

"No. It is that he is ungenerous," Maraich complained.

"Wrong, love. I'M ungenerous," Doyle corrected. Van Colan laughed as Maraich pursed her lips thoughtfully and considered that information. Van Colan finished and went to make the arrangements with the captain. Maraich left her plate unfinished to go after him.

Bodie grabbed Doyle's arm as soon as they were alone. "Since when do you speak for me?" he demanded.

"So stay here if you want," Doyle answered with a shrug. "Besides, how 'bout last month? That Blasdell party you dragged me to? Accepted THAT invitation for the two of us without asking, didn't you?"

"That was different," Bodie maintained.

"Wasn't," Doyle insisted. "Look, try and have a good time, will you? This is our holiday, after all. We'll go lay about on the beach. You can tell me what happened after you left the pub."

"All right." Reminded that they had catching up to do, Bodie seemed more cooperative. Doyle happily finished his breakfast, and it was almost normal, with Bodie making cracks about his appetite and manners.

They set off well after midday, in a small launch with "P" woven into the upholstery. After some manoeuvring, Van Colan got the boat close enough to let them wade to shore, which they had to do several times as they unloaded rugs and towels and baskets of all kinds.

Bodie chose a good spot and spread out a rug. Doyle debated, and then nudged him over and forced him to share. Head on hands, he watched Maraich lure Van Colan down to the water, where they slipped out of their clothing and went wading in the water. They looked like two long-haired children, holding on to each other's hand for balance. He turned to point it out to Bodie, who lay, face in his arms, caught sight of Bodie's battered back, and thought better of it.

After making himself comfortable, he plunged right into conversation. "When you didn't show up the next morning, Cowley was ready to take off your head. What happened after I left the pub? Joe said you came back in, met some people, then left again."

"Met some people?" Bodie said bitterly. "More like, they met me. Jumped me. Recognised me. They were some of the Red Car terrorists we were after last year. Took me to a telephone and had me talk to somebody--wanted to be sure it was me, I guess. I'd been telling them they had the wrong man, that they were making a mistake. Blindfolded me after that. Next thing I know I'm in that cell. Put me on a regular schedule. Questions morning and noon, Maraich and the whips at night. Had a lovely time."

"Questions?" Doyle asked.

"About the Suffolk op, mostly. How we caught them, who our contacts were. What happened to Cerelli. They wanted to know about CI5, too, and the second day they used drugs, but Dr. Ross's training paid off. I went into the hypno-spiel smooth as anything."

"Good. Bodie? About Maraich. What did she do to you?" He felt Bodie tense beside him.

The silence stretched out. The far away call of a gull echoed through it. The sun was suddenly warmer on Doyle's back.


"What, besides lay her whip over my back? D'you get your jollies hearing about this sort of thing now?" The sarcasm was weak.

"I have to know," Doyle said quietly.

"Planning on taking up with the little bitch? You'll get some trouble from the 'Bishonen Killer' if you try it."

"The what? Oh, Van Colan. Why'd you call him that?" Doyle asked.

"Don't you know our host? Got a real reputation. He's the one blew up that plane of hijackers last year. You know--got all the passengers out, even. He was on loan to the CIA. Some joint work on eliminating terrorist groups after they almost got the Mexican president."

"You know him from before, though?" Doyle prodded.

"Didn't KNOW him. Heard about him. A buddy of mine..."

"Back in your jungle days?" Doyle asked.

"Yeah," Bodie said, in a tone that implied he could get on better without so many interruptions. "He picked Horst up in a pub in Sydney. Took him to the fanciest hotel there. Wined him, dined him, took 'im to bed. Before that, there was nothing bent about Horst. Afterwards--he was a real pest about it some nights."

When it was clear Bodie was finished, Doyle said, "He works well--got the drop on me when I was watching the house." What Doyle was thinking about was Horst, and if Bodie had ever taken advantage of the man.

"Got a gun on you? Then you HAD better leave Maraich alone, mate," Bodie advised. His head was still in his arms, and his words, while muffled, were clearly a warning, a sincere warning.

"Yeah," Doyle agreed, and then realised that he had been led neatly away from his original question. "Bodie? What DID Maraich do to you?" When there was no immediate answer, he gave Bodie a nudge in the ribs with his sharp elbow.

"Told you. Whipped me. Giggled all the while, too."

"And?" Doyle asked. "I know there's more. Was it that bad?"

"No, a picnic!" Bodie snapped. "Hell, yes, it was bad! Why do you want to know every sordid detail?" Bodie sounded very mad.

"Don't get your fur up. I like Van Colan. I even like Maraich, and God knows why, because 'e is one of the kinkiest I've ever met. YOU don't like Maraich, and I need to know why, because if what Maraich did was...really bad, then I won't have anything to do with them. I don't have friends who have hurt my other friends. You know that."

Doyle's loyalty. Yes, Bodie knew about that. He sighed. "She had a knife. I was chained up. She'd pretend she was going to cut off my ears, nose, privates. Had me down on my knees, and she rode me like a horse. Finger fucked me. Whipped me. Gave them a real show," Bodie said bitterly.

"Did she...hurt you? Besides these," he said, lightly touching one of the scabs on Bodie's back.

"Been hurt worse. By experts. It was...just that it was a little worse, a little kinkier each night, and her threatening to have 'em off, playing with that little silver knife while they yelled at her to 'do it, do it!'...I didn't know she WASN'T going to, you see."

Doyle patted a relatively unscratched part of Bodie's shoulder gently. "She had to, didn't she? Playing the part, same as we have to do sometimes. Remember when you had to pretend to rough up Michelle?" Bodie remembered--Doyle could feel it through his skin. He fell silent, looking out at the sea. What he finally focused on at the water's edge caused his mouth to drop open slightly. Maraich was lying on the sand and Van Colan, obviously nude, was kneeling...Maraich's legs slid up and over Van Colan's shoulders, her slim feet pointing, poking through the heavy veil of his midnight-black hair. Doyle swallowed and wished he were either much closer or much further away, because a sound that might have been a bird's faint cry, or a sound Maraich made as his lover entered him, came faintly to his ears.

Him. Suddenly, he knew Maraich as "him." Maybe before he had wanted to think of Maraich as a woman. It was easier--he looked like a woman. But...he wasn't. He was a man. A man...that sound...Doyle's hand on Bodie's shoulder trembled and he wanted to take it off, but dared to leave it. Bodie. Bodie's flesh, warm and moist, touching his.

Van Colan was thrusting now--the motion was unmistakable, and Doyle felt the yearning in his body for the same. Not with Van Colan, not with Maraich, with...

He found the strength to take his hand away from Bodie's skin.

"Um?" Bodie asked, sensing some of what was going through his partner.

The truth, the truth. "I'm watching them," Doyle admitted. "They're having it off down there by that big rock."

"Voyeur," Bodie accused, but he raised his head for a moment himself. "Funny position," he mumbled, letting his head fall back into his arms.

"Nah. It's just that you only know the one," Doyle said condescendingly, leaning back as Bodie took a punch at him. Seeing as how Bodie didn't even bother to look up, it was extremely accurate, thudding against Doyle's thigh.

"Ouch! Bloody sod," Doyle mumbled without anger, with a new awareness of the words, as his eyes instinctively sought Maraich and Van Colan again. They were in a heap, now, kissing. They'd turned slightly, and Doyle could see Van Colan's back and ass, white, and the black hair tangled in the sand on either side of them.

"You still watching them?" Bodie asked after a few minutes.

"They're done. Washing off in the sea. Coming this way...putting their robes on...Maraich's got a basket out--bet it's lunch time." He found he was extremely hungry. "Come on," he said, sitting up.

Bodie gingerly turned onto his back. "Maybe a little later. Want to get some sun on this side first." His arm over his eyes, he stretched out slowly.

Doyle found himself staring with speculation at Bodie's nylon-covered crotch, and decided he absolutely could not sit there next to Bodie thinking the thoughts which were coming to his head. He stood up.

"Suit yourself. I'm starved." He went down. They took his explanation about Bodie's need for even sunning without comment. Lunch was fun. Maraich sat between them, offering bits of fruit to each in turn, flirting openly with Doyle while she lounged on Van Colan's leg. There was chilled wine and bottled water, and afterwards they lay drowsing in the afternoon sun. Eventually, Doyle realised he was the only one awake. He grabbed up some food and padded back to Bodie, who was also asleep. Prodding him awake, he thrust a sandwich into his hand.

"Keep your strength up, sunshine," he assured him, and began to peel an orange for Bodie. "We have to go down and see the water before we leave. It's very nice." He held out a chunk of dripping orange, and was pleased when Bodie leaned forward to have him poke it into his mouth.

"This is good. Can tell YOU didn't put up the lunch," Bodie teased, and Doyle punched him gently, grinning because things were almost back to normal. They went down to the beach and walked the curve of it for a while, until they noticed the other two packing up the rugs and towels. Maraich called out, asking if Bodie wanted food, and when the answer was negative, she packed that up, too. It was very late afternoon as they made their way back to the yacht. Bodie was silent again, but it was an alert, energetic silence, not the sullenness of before. Maraich responded to the improved atmosphere, chatting about the local villages and the history of the area as she absently lifted her hair to dry it in the breeze. She seemed to be enthralled with the romance of Greek history, and it made her quite animated as she described the "brave men." Van Colan caught Doyle staring at her and winked, and the CI5 agent was reminded again of the physical resemblance between Bodie and Van Colan.

Once back, they took turns washing the salt off in quick showers, and afterwards they relaxed in the comfortable chairs on the deck. The steward served wine and later brought a black- covered booklet to Van Colan, who apologised for having to spend a few minutes on "work," and sat reading it. Maraich did her nails, and then spent the rest of the time before dinner putting a keener edge on one of her thin stilettoes. Her delicate dedication to the task left the conversation in the hands of Bodie and Doyle, who soon retired to the magazines stacked on the side table. It was an informal, comfortable time, like sitting around with family. It got dark, the steward turned on the lights, and Maraich suddenly announced it was time to dress for dinner.

Maraich presided over dinner as she had over the earlier meal, although this time she wore a sophisticated black dress with pearls. It was amazing, Doyle thought, that one person could be so completely two things at once. She flirted, and he flirted back. It was a game, just another version of the one he had played before, with an added spice, the tingle of added daring. It got dark as they ate, and the steward turned on the lights below water level, which turned the sea a glowing green and brought the shapes of strange fish, which they discussed over brandy until Van Colan and Maraich excused themselves, leaving Bodie and Doyle alone.

The moment the others were out of hearing, Bodie turned on Doyle. "How can you DO that?" he demanded, fiercely. Somewhat taken aback, Doyle blinked and managed a less than brilliant reply.


"Flirt! With her...him!" Bodie elaborated. "Maraich!"

Doyle shrugged. "It doesn't mean anything," he said.

"How bloody stupid are you? That's a MAN!" Bodie revealed.

"Very observant, mate," Doyle approved.

"You know? Then what do you think you're doing? What do you think will happen if one of those two takes you seriously?" Bodie asked scornfully. Bodie opened his mouth to say more, changed his mind, and turned cold, shutting himself off the way he had been before.

Anger flooded Doyle, the rare kind that made him lightheaded and blurred his eyesight. "Well, then, that would be my problem, wouldn't it?" he spat. "If I wanted it, I'd take it, wouldn't I? Might be interesting," he said lightly, forcing himself to pretend that he felt that easy unconcern.

"You'd...!" Bodie seemed to find it hard to finish that sentence--at least with words. His hands fastened like vises on Doyle's upper arms, and he gave Doyle an impatient, powerful shake. "No," he snarled, and he tightened his hands even more as Doyle made a move to twist out of his hold. Doyle could have broken free, but hesitated, reluctant to hurt his partner, afraid violence would unleash more violence. And...something wild was replacing his feelings of shock and anger, something frightening, exciting. Impulse tugged at him, and he followed it, grinning up into Bodie's furious face as he spoke.

"Why?" he asked Bodie. "Want to keep me all to yourself?" he taunted. He watched, horrified, fascinated, as an entire spectrum of emotion chased across Bodie's face. Denial, disbelief, fear, and then...lust? No, more possessive. Bodie's grip on his arms got even tighter, jerking Doyle forward, and then he was gasping for air under the pressure of Bodie's-- Bodie's!--heavy mouth.

He was going to gag, he was going to cry, he was melting, grabbing hold of Bodie's waist to keep from falling, and then wrapping his arms around Bodie's solid torso.

Bodie tore his mouth away viciously, and into the hot space between their faces, he insisted, "I'm not like them! WE'RE not!" and he desperately looked into Doyle's eyes for reassurance.

"That means my lily-white body is safe?" Doyle asked. It wasn't what he wanted to say, but it was all he could think of--to take refuge in the bantering that formed the pattern of their communication. His hands were saying what his voice hadn't dared, reaching around, pressing Bodie's buttocks with wide hands, desperate to take hold of as much of Bodie as possible. Bodie gasped, and Doyle's grin deepened, became a grimace, because whatever Bodie said, that tightness in his pants meant otherwise.

Doyle dared to continue to press them together. His throat was thick with either fear or anticipation, and he felt himself tremble with it. He remembered Van Colan kneeling over Maraich on the beach that morning; the image filled his mind, and he couldn't seem to put it from him.

"We're not LIKE that," Bodie repeated again, but Doyle scarcely heard. His world reeled, his clutch at Bodie became one for balance as his groin throbbed, and he emptied himself into his pants. Bodie's reaction was a half-curse-- he looked right and left, realised they were in public, and yanked Doyle down the hall to his room. There, he undressed the stunned Doyle, shoved him towards the bed, and then...

Bodie was leaving! His hand was on the door.

"Where the hell do you think YOU'RE going?" Doyle yelled, finding his voice.

Hand still on the knob, Bodie said, "I can't stay."

"What are you afraid of? Me?" Doyle asked from some well of pseudo-calm.

"We're not..."

"Like that. So you said. But you kissed me," Doyle reminded him.

"It was a mistake," Bodie explained tersely, and opened the door. Naked, Doyle jumped from the bed and followed him out. "Ray!" Bodie protested, with a quick look up and down the passageway. Doyle didn't spare him a glance, only pushed past him and went down the corridor to Maraich's room. His hand was raised to knock as Bodie caught up with him.

"Stop it!" Bodie demanded, his hand closing over Doyle's wrist. With an effort to keep his voice down, he added, "Come on back. We'll talk." When he pulled on Doyle's arm, the man followed him back to the room. This time, Bodie undressed, too, not looking at the erection between his legs, at the betrayal of his body.

Doyle stared. He wet his lips, swallowed, stepped back and sat down. One hand clutched at his head as he tried to think of what one thing he could do next to make it all right between them.

"This is what you want?" Bodie asked, when it became clear that Doyle wasn't going to speak. His hand was pressed against his cock as if to stop its dull ache. "If this is what you want, come on. Take it." He threw himself down on the bunk, face up.

Doyle, who was sick at the thought of forcing Bodie into anything, of taking instead of sharing, remained where he was, staring dumbly.

"What? Changed your mind?" Bodie taunted, when Doyle still had nothing to say.

"No. I know what I want," Doyle said, looking over at Bodie, at the hard muscled, furry chest. Yes, he knew. But was it worth it? Did he have faith in his charm, his skill, when it came to using them on Bodie? The answer wasn't yes. It wasn't no, either. Images from his copper days roared through his mind. Rape victims. The blood. Then--the other side of the coin. Maraich's sweet call as Van Colan...

Knowing it was probably a stupid mistake even as he did it, Doyle climbed into bed, onto Bodie. Wonderful, skin on skin, the warmth of Bodie head to toe. His face he put into the pillow beside Bodie's head, because he was afraid to see that face, afraid of finding distaste there. His hands stroked, his arms holding that solid body as he reveled in the sense of having captured Bodie. Bodie! Bodie, who couldn't be owned, maybe couldn't even be mastered. Not in the way Doyle wanted to own, be owned. Master, and be mastered.

If this once was the only chance he could get...well, Bodie had offered, and Doyle decided to take what he could. If Bodie objected to part of the proceedings, stopped it--then that was that. Doyle began with Bodie as he would have if Bodie were a woman, kissing jaw and eye and cheek very tenderly. His hands explored, and he tried to remember numerous late night conversations in which Bodie had occasionally mentioned liking one thing or another.

Eventually, Doyle manoeuvred them onto their sides. Bodie still wasn't doing any of the touching--he kept his hands lax. But he was very hard, as hard as Doyle, and they lay with their hardnesses pressed together. Doyle's hands had found Bodie's buttocks now, and he invented ways to prod and touch and rub that fascinating bum. It was only as he dared to take one finger down the warm crack, probe for that one spot...

Bodie cried out, convulsed, and twisted on top of Doyle, his mouth coming down hard for a savage, open-mouthed kiss. His cock changed to iron and grew even bigger between them. So big! And heavy--it branded Doyle's abdomen with its bigness and heat, and Doyle doubted his own sanity as he spread his legs, pelvis tilting, and offered. With wide open eyes, he watched Bodie draw back to look at his face, watched the look of horror and fascination and lust that...Bodie's hands were on his hips, Bodie's giant cock was...

"You idiot! We can't! I'd split you in half!" Bodie growled at him, sitting back on his heels and panting with the effort to deny himself. With the back of his hand, he wiped the sweat off his brow, all the time staring down at Doyle. "You'd really let me do that?" he asked when he was a bit calmer.

Doyle nodded.

"We're neither of us ready for that," Bodie explained.

"Do it anyway," Doyle insisted, his green eyes intense, as if he could will Bodie into it.

"Why?" Bodie asked, leaning forward, one of his hands cradling his own aching, distended member.

Doyle asked himself that question. Why DID he feel that he HAD to have Bodie that way? Because he'd seen Maraich and Van Colan that afternoon, and been turned on by it? Why did he have to have Bodie INSIDE him? Because if he left the "male" role to Bodie, maybe Bodie would stay with him? Love him? What was he doing? The thickness of tears in his eyes embarrassed him, and he turned his head to the side.

"I know why," Bodie said softly, watching that line of wetness gather along Doyle's dark lashes.

"Because I love you," Doyle confessed, and then went wide-eyed as he realised what he had said. He hadn't known he was going to say that, but he knew, once the words were out of his mouth, that it was so. Of course it was. "I love you," he repeated, and added, "You love me, too."

Bodie didn't answer, only bent and took hold of Doyle's hardness and pumped it vigorously, until Doyle cried out his relief. Almost simultaneously, Bodie emptied himself against Doyle's thigh.

"No, we're not like Maraich and Van Colan," Bodie whispered into Doyle's crisp curls, his lips soft against the man's small ear. "It's different for us, sunshine. Different," he said.

Different? It wasn't different, not really, Doyle thought as he struggled to breathe, to understand. Did he mean he didn't want to show affection in public, as they did? Of course they wouldn't. Didn't his partner know him better than that? They'd find their own limits, their own roles, not copy someone else's. A soft sound at his shoulder told him Bodie had fallen asleep. Doyle curled into a comfortable position against Bodie's heavy body, and followed suit.

Breakfast the next morning was bizarre. Maraich was full of coy glances and innuendo. Van Colan, in a cool white suit and more eye shadow than he had been wearing previously, also gave them a knowing smile over his orange juice. Doyle remembered that he had cried out last night--which caused him to remember last night--and this morning. They had been awake at dawn, and Doyle had suggested sixty-nine, to which Bodie had not only agreed, but had exhibited what seemed to be considerable natural ability in that area.

Now, with Bodie coldly pretending he didn't know what Maraich was making a fuss about as he ate his sausage and croissants, Doyle sipped his coffee and smiled at them all. Couldn't seem to entirely keep his feelings to himself. He studied their little group, sensing something else different and finally decided it was the sarong type garment Maraich wore--the first one which showed enough of her...his chest to prove him not a female. Looked good, though. Not that he stared too long. If Van Colan didn't take offense, Bodie would.

"What shall we do today?" Maraich asked as the meal drew to its leisurely close.

"Travel," Van Colan replied.

"Paris?" Maraich asked hopefully, leaning forward.

"We are not to go that close to England," Van Colan informed her. "No, we sail North." Maraich shrugged with eloquent carelessness. If it wasn't Paris, her action seemed to say, then it could be anywhere--it was all the same to her. "There are temples to visit and the cook wants to get provisions," Van Colan explained. "If you will excuse me." He went out to make the arrangements with the captain.

The moment he was out of earshot, Maraich dropped the pose and turned to the others, eyes sparkling. One slim hand dipped to her waist, where she brought, out of a hidden pocket, a small crystal jar with a gold and black cap.

"Van Colan says I must not speak of what is private between two people, but," she leaned forward conspiratorially, "I am pleased to see you--happy," she winked, "and wish to offer you this small token. It is the best, from Spain," she assured them, and dropped it into Bodie's lap. "Do not use too much," she warned, and as she heard Van Colan's returning step she snatched it up and thrust it into the front of Bodie's loose shirt.

They were all distracted as the ship turned, and low thrum of the engines deepened and they got under way. They were going at a good clip within minutes. Maraich went to stand in the bow--apparently to let the wind blow her hair around. Van Colan went also--apparently just to watch her hair blow around.

"Let's go try out our present," Doyle said, very quietly.

"This morning wasn't enough for you?" Bodie asked. That wasn't a yes or a no, but at least he wasn't pretending not to know what his friend meant.

"No such thing as enough of you," Doyle teased.

"It's too soon," Bodie insisted, stretching out on the chair as if he were planning on settling there for a while.

"Been four hours," Doyle said hopefully, "and there were even oysters for breakfast."

"Didn't eat any," Bodie reminded him.

"I did," Doyle admitted. "Was hoping I'd need 'em." He stood up, reached a hand down. "Come on," he urged, taking hold and giving Bodie's hand a pull.

"Dammit, Ray! What if you don't like it?" Bodie demanded at last.

"I'll like it. So will you," Doyle promised, waiting expectantly.

"I'm first," Bodie demanded, standing suddenly.

"Anything you say," Doyle agreed. They went to Bodie's cabin this time, locked the door, and undressed quickly. The motion of the boat was enough to keep them moving cautiously as they slid into bed. The sheets were cool against their skin, contrast to the springy aliveness of flesh touching flesh. Their touches were still tentative, their kisses still seemed feats of daring, dangerous and unbelievably sweet. Mouths and hands were busy as they twined around each other.

It was Bodie who broke their last kiss. "Me first," he reminded Doyle, his breath hot against Doyle's exposed throat. He gave in to an impulse and nibbled there, distracting them both for well over a minute.

"What'd you do with the stuff, then?" Doyle asked when they finally came up for air again.

"Right here." This wasn't entirely accurate-- he had to feel around beside the bed for it-- the motion of the ship had slid it beyond easy reach.

He deposited the extremely feminine looking jar on the pillow beside Doyle and twisted himself around into a comfortable position again.

"No label on this thing. What d'ya think is in it?" Doyle asked, inspecting it.

"Dunno. Not too much, she said," Bodie reminded him. He took the bottle from Doyle's hand, opened it, sniffed. "Not bad," he admitted, holding it out under Doyle's nose so he could sniff, too.

It was oil, almost colourless. Bodie poured out a few drops onto his palm. He poked a finger into it, testing the texture, which was smooth, and the slickness, which was remarkable. Hitching himself up, he leaned over Doyle and closed his hand around his cock, smearing the whole swollen organ with it.

"Bodie..." Doyle began, questioning, tense.

"Told you I was first, didn't I?" Bodie said, smiling, and he turned onto his hands and knees, head towards the foot of the bed. "Nice and slow," he advised, and braced himself, not only against Doyle's cautious weight, but against the movement of the ship as well. When Doyle finally found his position, that same motion seemed in collusion with them, adding an extra push to Doyle's tentative nudges. Doyle was barely inside the ring of muscle when Bodie lowered his shoulders, finding the angle best for them both.

"Deeper," Bodie grunted heavily.

"Deeper?" Doyle gasped, as Bodie pushed back a little. "Bodie...I'm going to...Bodie!" With a wail, he thrust forward, emptying himself into Bodie with a flurry of tiny pushes, as if he were desperate to continue the fucking even as it became too late. With rag-doll weariness, he slid off Bodie's back and onto the bed.

Allowing himself only a moment of indulgence, Doyle forced his eyes open, looking to see if Bodie were still unsatisfied, and searingly pleased to see that long, erect organ swaying in front of his partner. He grinned, groped it, and with his other hand reached for the glass jar.

"Ray?" Bodie whispered, watching the sea-green eyes focus on his, glowing, eager. Doyle was rolling over onto his back, parting his legs, offering the oil with his hand, and himself with the look in his eyes.

"Bodie!" Doyle insisted.

With reluctance, Bodie opened the jar, applied the oil, enjoying the feel of his own hand, knowing he would enjoy Doyle's more, and denying that touch at Doyle's insistence. Doyle wanted...him. Bodie almost fell forward into position, pushing blindly. He was too rough, but Doyle didn't seem to mind, seemed to be doing everything he could to ensure his own impalement. The twisting of his body was irresistible, and without thought of anything except the most exquisite pleasure he had ever experienced, Bodie reached his limit and spurted his soul into Doyle's darkness. He fell onto Doyle, rolling to one side to hold him better, to wrap him in arms and legs as hard as iron, as if unable to let go of the closeness, as if afraid Doyle and the pleasure would be stolen from him.

Doyle didn't seem to mind--he did his own share of hugging tightly, his face buried in Bodie's neck, his hands lying softly on the cuts and scabs of Bodie's back. One of them was bleeding slightly, and Doyle ran a finger over the wetness and asked, "I didn't hurt you, did I?"

Bodie laughed at him. "No. That was pretty good," he admitted.

"Yeah, it was, wasn't it," Doyle understated, too. "But frankly--I think it makes us a whole lot like Maraich and Jack," Doyle told him, and then held his breath to see if Bodie would be offended.

"You going to start wearing dresses?" Bodie asked, apparently seriously.

"No. You going to grow your hair down to your ass?" Doyle countered, squeezing the part under discussion as he spoke.

"No, no earring, either," Bodie growled. "Cowley'd have a fit." He waited until Doyle's giggle died down, and then he said, "Ray? Nobody else, right? We're not going to be Van Colan. He's had so many lovers, even CI5 has a two-inch file on him. I don't want to share you. Not with Van Colan, or Maraich, or anybody."

"Is THAT what's worrying you? Of course, not any other blokes. Do you..." He wet his lips and repeated, "Do you still want...the ladies?"

"I dunno. Do you?" Bodie cautiously answered.

"I don't know, either. Guess we'll have to work that out as we go along," Doyle decided. "I'm used up," he added, turning his head so he wouldn't be yawning in Bodie's face. "Kip?" he suggested. Bodie agreed, and they settled down, but after a minute, Doyle said suddenly, "I think you're wrong. About Van Colan. I think Maraich's got him good and proper." Bodie grunted. "No, I do," Doyle insisted.

"Until he gets old enough to grow a beard," Bodie said scornfully. "Van Colan likes them young."

"Maraich's smart," Doyle countered.

"Smart enough to go to sleep? Smarter than you? You're the one who suggested the nap," Bodie reminded him.

"Yeah, okay," Doyle agreed, and this time he did fall asleep. The call for midday meal woke them. Doyle was complaining about the shock it would be to his system to go back to work after the lie-abed life here, to Bodie's amusement, when they got to the table.

Maraich reigned alone over the teapot, and Van Colan didn't arrive until halfway through the meal. It was clear that something had displeased him.

"The king," he replied, when Maraich asked him what was wrong.

"What does HE want?" Maraich frowned.

"To come, of course. I put him off. I said the CI5 agents were so ill that they still had to spend most of their time in bed."

Doyle found it funny, and so did Maraich.

"I thought he might leave us alone a little longer," Van Colan excused the exaggeration--he would have done almost anything to discourage Patalliro.

"He will just come. With chicken soup, or some potion he has made up," Maraich predicted. She turned to Doyle. "The child is really obnoxious," she said.

"His Majesty? Patalliro VIII? Obnoxious?" Doyle asked with artificial amazement.

"And a brat," Maraich added. Van Colan lit one of his long, thin cigarettes and inhaled viciously.

"The ship belongs to the king?" Doyle remembered.

"My usual assignment. For more than a year, now. To prevent harm to the king." Van Colan was reduced to terseness to keep his expression normal.

"He is very precocious, very smart. He is ten," Maraich explained. "He gropes. Be careful," she added, with a shiver. "He also once bugged the bedroom, and he likes to play about with disguises. Also, he took my best bottle of scent last time we were there, damn him. Playing Cleopatra, or some such." It was clear she was not ready to forgive the boy.

"I do not plan to endure being trapped on this small vessel with Patalliro. This is my holiday," Van Colan announced.

"How will you not?" Maraich asked wearily. "The young monster is almost impossible to get away from, and you know it better than anyone."

"Nothing is impossible. If we are ready to go at a moment's notice..." Van Colan planned, as he slumped in his chair.

"It was the home movies, last time," Maraich suggested. "You left before the good part, love, really. He'd redubbed the whole reel of his first cabinet meeting. Absolutely filthy. Also," she added, with a thoughtful look, "really funny." At Van Colan's increased scowl, she explained to the others, "It's that he's a genius, so he does hit the mark sometimes."

"That doesn't mean we want his company," Van Colan pointed out.

"Hewitt owes you a favour," Maraich reminded him. They all fell silent as the steward cleared the table. "Hewitt has a chalet in Switzerland," Maraich went on when they were alone again, "that the king cannot possibly know about." It was practically a prayer, rather than a statement. "If we can go there, I will not rip Hewitt's balls off, as I swore I would."

Doyle lifted an eye, asking if there would be more of this story coming.

"There was an op," she said carefully, "designed by the powers-that-be, to trap an individual, and to do this they pretended to kill Van Colan, without letting me know the truth."

"We needed your very real reaction to convince the syndicate," Van Colan explained.

"My very real reaction almost got Hewitt my knife in his ribs," Maraich said darkly.

"Ah. But I remember also your very real reactions the first night after my return from the dead," Van Colan replied, and his eyes sparkled, and his brief smile was sly and sexy. Maraich slapped him lightly on the cheek, lips pursed in a bee-stung pout.

Bodie and Doyle exchanged glances.

"If you like," Van Colan changed the subject and turned to the CI5 men, "you may go ashore tonight. We will be at a village where we will get supplies. There are ruins there which will be worth seeing. At sunset," he added.

"Almost as romantic as Paris," Maraich conceded. A quick look at her watch gave her pause--only two hours to dress and get ready. She made a face when Van Colan asked her if that would be enough time!

They were all ready in plenty of time. Maraich had managed to find a soft tunic of very classical lines which, worn over skin-tight black pants, had them all taking second looks. Once on shore, it took a half hour's hiking to reach the ruins. The shattered columns against the red and gold sunset were postcard perfect. Very soon, Maraich and Van Colan went one way, while Bodie and Doyle went the other.

"Very romantic," Doyle commented, as he watched the other two wander off hand-in-hand.

"You aren't expecting me to hold your hand, are you?" Bodie demanded.

"Course not!" Doyle replied indignantly. "Might steal a kiss over there in that shadow," he threatened.

"Might let you do that," Bodie conceded.

"Probably I couldn't manage more," Doyle regretted. In the distance, they could hear Maraich faintly, protesting that Van Colan had looked too long at a bit of statuary. Maraich was of the opinion that, when his body was available for viewing, a statue could easily be ignored.

By mutual consent, Doyle and Bodie turned and walked back the way they had come. Who knew what those two would be up to, or for how long? They ended up sitting on a slab of rough rock, watching the few lights of the village, and just talking. They did not talk about the recent change in their relationship. Instead, they spoke of normal, everyday things--Doyle's motorcycle, and the new crop of recruits, and the operation they had been working on before Bodie got kidnapped. Both of them sensed that they were growing comfortable with each other again, that they needed this time to be just friends.

All too soon, Maraich and Van Colan joined them, and the group walked quietly back to the launch and remained quiet on the trip back to the ship. It was a companionable silence, however, and there was an air of satisfaction coming from Maraich that was subtle and arousing. Doyle was looking very speculatively at Bodie as they climbed up onto the deck of the yacht. He had plans of diverting what was left of the evening to certain pleasurable exertions.

It was not to be. There was a sudden blinding flash from above, flares that sent the CI5 agents instinctively into the shadows. Through the bright lights fell a small, pudgy figure, dangling from a huge parachute. Even before he hit the deck the boy was calling out in an excited, shrill voice.

"Van Colan! Van Colan!" Thud. He was immediately smothered in the folds of the parachute.

Van Colan closed his eyes in pained resignation.

"The king has arrived," Maraich announced unnecessarily. And then he said a few nasty words very quietly to himself.

The parachute heaved, billowed, and spat out an extremely short, chubby and unattractive child, and a rather dizzy cat. The boy threw himself at Van Colan's long, black-clad legs. Van Colan offered him an ill-favoured glare in return, and gave a hard slap to the small hand crudely stroking up his thigh. Over the boy's head, Van Colan caught Maraich's eye, and gave a jerk of his chin towards the radio room. Maraich understood instantly, and disappeared down the hatch.

Meanwhile, the boy gave up his groping attempt as he caught sight of Bodie and Doyle. "AH! CI5!" he shouted, running forward to shake hands. He half-stumbled as he turned from Bodie to Doyle. Perhaps it was just accident that, when his hand went out for balance, it landed where it did. Van Colan came over and introduced them properly, and then the king was calling for his dinner.

Patalliro presided over the meal, enthusiastically clattering through subjects like a mower through grass, leaving the pseudo- conversation in scattered bits behind him. Apparently, he required little from dinner companions except that they act as an audience for his rapid-fire patter of comments, orders and suggestions. Maraich and Van Colan knew the exact moment to interject a comment or question which would set him off again, and require no more conversation efforts on their parts for several minutes. Bodie and Doyle did not escape so easily, as a good many of the questions asked were directed to them.

Doyle found himself staring at the child who could make such short work of course after course, while talking almost non-stop. He got so involved, staring at the white hair and half listening, that he missed a question put to him.

Van Colan jumped at the opportunity. "Mr. Doyle is somewhat--fatigued," he explained to the king, reminding him that these guests were near invalids in the way he expressed his concern. His firm kick on Doyle's shin told the CI5 agent to do his best to look tired. Doyle slumped convincingly.

"Oh!" Patalliro cried, clutching Doyle's arm, "I am remiss! You are exhausted. To bed! Immediately!" In an instant, he had reversed his white jacket so that it had the appearance of a doctor's smock, and he produced, from somewhere, a stethoscope, which he slid onto Doyle's chest. Doyle gasped as the cold metal touched him, and he wondered how the kid had undone his buttons so quickly. To his obvious surprise, Van Colan agreed with the young man.

"Yes, to bed," Van Colan agreed. "It has been a long day. No," he held up a hand, "it is not necessary to exhaust them further with an examination tonight. In the morning will be soon enough." With gentle hands, he urged Bodie up, and then pretended to help support Doyle as the other stood up. Doyle felt Van Colan slide something into his pocket. The man had a pickpocket's skill, Doyle thought, as he realised that the only reason he had felt the touch was because Van Colan wanted him to know it was there. Doyle made a show of needing Van Colan's helping hand, and the MI6 agent escorted them to Bodie's door, but left them promptly. Patalliro had followed them down the hall, and Van Colan intercepted him, and urged him back to the table.

Once inside, with the door safely locked, Doyle unfolded the note. "0100--Be Ready," it said. He showed it to Bodie without reading it aloud, and then destroyed it. Bodie seemed to think this gesture a little overly dramatic, but he just shrugged and climbed out of his clothes. Doyle was eager enough to follow suit, but once in the bed, they heard voices in the corridor, and by mutual consent, they went no further than a kiss and a cuddle. The clock showed them that they had over two hours to wait. It was as if they were on the job--they took turns sleeping and watching. It was curiously restful to lie entwined closely in the dark.

At the appointed time, Bodie and Doyle were up and waiting by the door, and moments later it opened soundlessly. Van Colan stood there all in black but with his feet bare. He gestured for them to take off their shoes as well. Silently, he then guided them up onto the deck, where there was a place where there was a rope tied to the rail. Maraich was there, also dressed in black. She mimed that they were supposed to go hand-over-hand down the rope, legs around the rope, that they were supposed to enter the water without making a splash. They each nodded, and she went over the side first. Doyle followed, then Bodie, and last Van Colan, who had readjusted the rope so that it could be pulled free of the rail and give no clue to the manner of their exit.

The night was warm, the sky overcast, the water cold. At a sign from Van Colan, they all began to swim away from the ship. Half an hour later, with the ship still visible behind them as a white shape, they finally stopped. Gratefully, Doyle tread water, gasping for air, annoyed that the other three seemed to be having less trouble with the exertion. The water pulled against him, but they were not going towards shore. Another boat? They'd have to get further away than this if they weren't to be detected. Van Colan seemed to agree--he waved them to go on.

It was silent except for the noises they made-- a hand hitting the water too hard occasionally seemed exceptionally loud. Doyle wondered how Bodie's back was taking it. If the swimming opened any of the cuts, the sting ought to be considerable. You wouldn't hear any moans about it from Bodie, though. His partner was tough.

A moment later they stopped again. Van Colan listened. Something touched Doyle in the water--it was a long twist of Van Colan's hair. It spread itself out from Van Colan's head, a moving black stain in the water. He wondered why the man didn't tie it up in a situation like this. Anybody else would. Must be a symbol of some kind to him. Unbound, unrestrained? Symbol of masculinity, then? Strange for long hair to be...

There was a noise, but Doyle could see nothing. He went back to his consideration of Van Colan's hair. It caught the eye, of course, and, combined with the man's good looks, it was arresting to see--made you focus on it instead of hands or eyes? Or maybe people underestimated him by thinking that he had weaknesses. People tended to assume women and gays were weak. Some of them were, some of them weren't--it was a dangerous assumption to make. No doubt, someone meeting Van Colan for the first time was distracted as the automatic human impulse to catalogue someone was fouled with conflicting data.

The waiting, the treading water, grew tiresome, and Doyle was about to give up his speculations and whisper a question when a small submarine surfaced practically under them, and swamped them with gallons of water. Maraich whispered a wonderfully creative curse as she shook the water out of her face, but she started to swim towards it, and Doyle followed.

The hatch at the top opened, and a tall, well- built man with a mane of tawny hair that reached to his shoulders leaned down and said, "What took you so long?" in a cheerful American accent.

Another one! Doyle shook his head in amazement, as he was helped over onto the sub. Big, strong man, smiling, and all that hair. Van Colan introduced him as Hewitt, CIA. They crammed themselves into the cramped interior, and Hewitt took his place at the controls. Half his attention was on the instruments, and the rest on a conversation he was having with Van Colan. Maraich, who was sitting on Van Colan's knee while the two of them dripped streams of water from their hair onto the floor, coolly ignored Hewitt, even after he gave her a friendly word or two. Maraich, it was clear, held grudges.

"Chopper over the ship after we submerged," Hewitt reported after several minutes, and his gesture showed he was talking about the yacht, not the sub.

"Coming after us, is he?" Bodie asked listlessly, not only because he hadn't taken to the young king, but because he wanted to see Van Colan's reaction. The dark-haired man took his cigarette case out of his wet pocket and put a cigarette, unlit, between his lips.

The image of the helicopter was computer- generated onto a small screen among the instruments in front of Hewitt--on another, blips traced its progress. It was obvious from his grin and the way Hewitt grasped the controls that the man had played entirely too many video games, because under his breath he was making chopper sound effects.

"Ah!" Hewitt broke off. "He took a swing over us, but never knew we were here. I'll have you in Cousi in two hours."

Two hours. Only Bodie heard Doyle's sigh, and Bodie had the bad grace to snigger about it. Doyle shoved an indelicate elbow into Bodie's ribs, and slumped down against his partner. He deliberately leaned back against Bodie and closed his eyes and, to his surprise, Bodie's arm moved to support him.

He hadn't intended to go to sleep, but the next thing he knew, Bodie was shaking him awake. They all climbed out, and they were close enough to shore to be able to wade in. Hewitt was handing Van Colan all the change from his pockets and laughing. Van Colan handed half of what he received to Bodie, shook hands with Hewitt, and then went over the side. Maraich relented enough to say thank you, and Bodie and Doyle followed Van Colan's example and shook hands, before sliding off the rounded hull and into the cold water.

Hewitt and his machine sank beneath the waves again, and the others waded to a rather rank and fishy beach, where a good many fishing boats moored along a ramshackle wharf. In the distance, there was some sort of cafe or pub, and they went there.

"Good. They have telephones here," Van Colan said, as if the matter had been in doubt, and the availability a miracle. "You call in first." He and Maraich pulled aside to confer, and Doyle followed Bodie into the building. They got a lot of stares from the locals, but not what Van Colan or Maraich would get when they came in. Bodie went to figure out the phone, and Doyle sat and wondered if there'd be enough money for a beer when the call was done.

It seemed to take a long time. Once he caught Bodie's eye and made gestures asking how it was going. Bodie made a face, and turned back to speak, one hand cupping his ear so that he could hear the person on the phone a little better. The place was noisy, clearing out, and Doyle realised that these people weren't going home for the night, but had arrived here early to go out on the fishing boats. As dawn came, the place emptied out, with only a few men left. Bodie finally came over to the small table where Doyle had parked himself, and they did have enough for one beer, which they shared between them as Bodie talked.

"Finally got hold of Cowley," he began. "Guess who was on that copter as we got away?"

"Not the Cow?" Doyle asked, his teeth white in his grin, and his green eyes sparkling.

"He isn't going to forgive us for this one. The king got hold of him..."

Doyle giggled, imagining those stubby fingers groping Cowley.

"Took him two hours to get away. He was looking for us--says we have escort duty. Going to South America to pick up some ex- embezzler. Anyway, they'll be here for us in an hour. Sending the helicopter for us."

"Typical, that. Didn't even get our week off." He drank the last of the beer over Bodie's grunt of protest. "Let's go find them," he said, standing. "Say good bye." Bodie just grunted again, and they went out, while Doyle teased him about his great vocabulary.

Maraich and Van Colan were arguing, and as they came up, Maraich turned to them. "We can't use Hewitt's place in Switzerland, because his mother is there. I say we should go to Paris, because surely MOST of the powder is off us now, after all that swimming! Van Colan says Japan or India. What do YOU prefer?" she asked eagerly, looking from one face to the other, and like a child mouthing "Paris" to prompt them.

"Can't do either. Got called to work," Doyle explained. Bodie told about the copter, about Cowley getting caught by the king, and they all laughed, but it was the strained laugh of people about to part.

"I'll leave a message once in a while in the Interpol computer," Doyle promised at last.

"When the machine comes, it will be best to be inside," Van Colan pointed out to Maraich, "in case the king..."

Maraich nodded, grabbed Doyle, kissed him, and turned to Bodie, who shrugged and allowed one on his lips as well. Maraich said good bye three more times, and then Van Colan was tugging gently on his arm, pulling Maraich away and towards the cafe door. Doyle and Bodie turned and walked towards the clear space near the road, which was the only place in this rocky terrain for a landing.

"We'll see them again, I suppose," Doyle said, leaning on a pole. The sun was coming up. His hands were in his pockets, and he fingered the small jar there.

Bodie noticed. "You brought that along then, did you?" he asked. He looked pleased.

Doyle blushed. Or maybe it was just a reflection from the eastern sky.

"Maybe back in London we can invite them to our place for dinner," Bodie suggested.

"Our place? You proposing?" Doyle asked carefully.



They smiled at each other, and then stood, arms touching, facing East and waiting for the chopper to land.

-- THE END --

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