The world changed.

Between one breath and the next, as I sprawled over my best mate and tried to keep his hot temper from ruining everything, as I babbled explanations to the men who looked down at us in confusion, my whole universe tilted. God knows what I said. I could hear the clatter of pins falling, balls rumbling towards them, I could hear my heart, and his. All I was really aware of were my hands. I touched him places I shouldn't have, but my hands seemed to have moved on their own.

I shook my head to clear it. My hands tingled, and I clenched them into fists, then found his thigh still under my hand, found myself clutching. I opened them because I didn't want those watching to see my aggression. I helped him up, my senses swimming with the scent of him, and it wasn't aggression I felt. It was....

That's when I had the shock. Revelation. The truth had started to sink in the second my hand closed on Ray's thigh, but it only hit me once I was upright.

Waves of emotion made me dizzy. I felt like I'd been hit right behind the ear. I was horrified, excited, I was happy and unhappy, shocked, and not at all surprised. It started to whirl inside, catching up my heart, fogging my brain. Only training kept it all from showing on my face, and I was squashing it back, into a back corner of my mind frantically, because we were on a job and I couldn't afford to let my feelings get in the way. I wondered if Ray could tell something was wrong. He's always had a keen insight into what makes me tick, sometimes he knows what's bothering me before I do. The idea of Ray, knowing, almost stopped my heart.

The idea of Ray, knowing...what?

The "what" haunted me. Not that I was thinking of it, really, as I hauled Ray up. It was in the back of my mind, though, as we went on. The case was all go. I liked that. I like it when the job's fast paced. Hate it when a stake-out takes months, when we work and work and there's never a clue, never a break. This one unwound quickly. Almost too fast. Before I knew it, Ray was crouched over a real atom bomb. All of us were sweating like pigs, and the fear in that room was like air pollution. You could feel it, taste it, smell it. It had my heart beating, my lungs constricted, my head throbbing.

Or that could have been love.

Even with the fate of London in our hands, I found myself thinking of...that. Even with the stink of fear in the air, I could smell Ray's sweat. It was different. Exciting. Sexy. Warm. I was across the room, holding a gun to the head of a world-class arsehole, but my eyes were on Ray's every move. I told myself that if there was a mistake and the bomb went off, I was going to shoot that fool even as the world ended. Shoot him for ruining my world, for killing Ray Doyle before I could even tell him....

Thinking about it was something I couldn't do during the worst moments. About loving Ray. I resented the terrorists because I couldn't think about what I wanted to think about. I had to stand there and worry about being blown to hell.

Yet...I was jealous of the younger one. His head was so close to Ray's. So close their breath probably mingled. Told myself the other man was ugly. He was to me, but I was rapidly developing prejudices in the matter.

The intensity was building, but I was proud of my mate. His hands were steady. Like a rock, he was, and quick to see what to do. He's good in a team, is Ray. He works well, even with terrorists.

He works best with me.

Good to be with, is Ray. Even when I'm acting like a prick. I'd been belligerent all day, obstreperous, even with Doyle. He put up with it, even with the teasing. Gave as good as he got, as usual.

I thought about that as the fate of the City rested in Doyle's steady hands. Lovely hands. Square, with nice nails.

I had it bad.

Wanted to talk with Doyle, say something to reassure him, to put heart into him. I couldn't, and not only because I might disturb his concentration and blow us all to the moon. I couldn't say the things I wanted to in front of strangers. Of enemies. So I kept my mouth shut and my gun steady. I kept my eyes hard, and I kept them on Ray Doyle. It was like I could will him through this. Help him.

I wondered if I'd do any better, if I were the one holding that damn thing.

If we were blown up, I was going to be more than annoyed. But if we went, we went together. If I had a choice, I'd go out with Ray.

Shows how bad I had it.

And then it was over.

Like letting the air out of a balloon, all the tension went out of all of us. I was limp as a noodle and didn't dare show it. Ray did, but he recovered quickly. I carried on as usual, joking with Ray. The old man showed up. He was pleased with us, but his compliments were back-handed ones, as usual. I was so dazed with relief that I don't even know what I said. Don't know what he said to me.

Then Cowley was gone, and all the big brass with him. He went to mend fences, and to point out that two of his men saved the country. Budgets were coming up, and he's a canny old fart. He's never said the words to us, mind, but we knew anyway. And we were as good as the man we work for. Who's damn good.

"Want to go for a drink? For some reason, my throat's dry," Doyle said. I grinned. My own throat could use a few pints of soothing, and maybe something strong as well. So could my nerves.

"This time of night? This area? Time you found one, it'd be closing. Be lucky if we can even find a taxi," I said.

"Taxi?" He wasn't usually that stupid. It was the tension, still.

"I've everything we need at my place. Food and drink." I knew what would interest him. "Got three kinds of cheese in, plenty of eggs, some ham. Toast, too."

"That's not all I need," Doyle mumbled, and I recognized the signs. He was keyed up, agitated, he needed to unwind, he needed....

He needed a good screw. He wanted a woman.

You have no idea what the pain of that was like. Jealousy tore into me like knives. Like the fox clutched to a Spartan lad's abdomen. I didn't give him a choice, though. I kept talking, put my hand to his elbow and hustled out of that place. Didn't give him a choice. Moved fast, talked fast. I remembered there would be reports to write, and I tried hard to forget it again. Did a good job. Found a taxi, went on and on about bowling and skill and match scores during the ride. Talked about the violence at that match in Spain, about what this world was coming to.

But it wasn't violence I was thinking of there in the back seat. His knee touched mine sometimes. Like touching fire. I remembered where my hand had been on his leg when I wrestled him down in the bowling alley. I'd clutched his inner thigh, low down, towards the knee. That had never seemed a sexy part of anybody, before now. Now I wanted to do it again, on a bare leg. Wanted to put kisses there, a whole nest of them, and then march them up his leg towards.... Wanted to do it now, so much. Knew what would happen if I tried it. He'd blow up worse than that bloody atom bomb, and then the driver would chuck us out. With my luck, a passing constable would nick us for doing it in a public place.

So I forced myself to wait, because I couldn't do anything else. I paid the taxi off, escorted Doyle up the steps to my newest abode, and I was so high on anticipation and fear that I was silly. I bowed him in and offered to take his coat and generally played the fool.

Once inside, Ray shed that ugly jacket. Don't know why he favours patterns and plaids sometimes, because they don't suit him. I was glad the jacket was gone. His arse really is wonderful. I regretted not watching him when he bowled. Must have been a sight to see from behind. But at that point I'd been more interested in the op.

Ray doesn't fuss much in other people's kitchens, not like he does in his own. He likes to know what is where. He left it to me to scare up the meal, which is why we ended up with huge ragged sandwiches and beer. I had pie, too, but Ray declined when I offered him some. He was yawning. There wasn't much of the night left, and we were both tired. I hadn't been able to sleep in the bowling alley--he'd put an elbow into my side every time I dozed off.

So I invited him to share my bed.

He agreed and made it to the bathroom first, leaving me to clean up. Not that there was much to do, a few plates and utensils to wash is all. I did them just to have a bit of time to think. I was being a damn fool and I knew it. Invite him to bed feeling as I did? In a few minutes he was going to climb into my king-sized bed with me and I was going to have to turn over and just go to sleep. If I could.


But I did. After I took my turn under the shower, I dried off, pulled on the bottoms of the pair of pyjamas I never wear, and I crawled into the bed. He was already there. The lights were out. I would have been okay, only he started talking. Going on about sweet fuck all, he was, first about the young man in the bowling alley who gave him so much trouble, and then about how the terrorists had looked so normal, so sane, and then he brought up the subject of the bomb.

I listened, but part of my mind was supplying pictures to go with his words. Doyle, leaping. Taking a swing at that fool. Doyle, leaning over the man who turned out to have radiation poisoning. Got a good bedside manner. The lies he told! Students, indeed. And people believed it, lord knows why, because he gets this kind of casual, distracted air when he lies. Not as good at it as I am. Needs practice.

He talked, and some of the emotions I felt that day came back, stronger than ever. Worry. Want. It all built up inside and I went stupid. When he seemed to run out of things to say, I opened my bloody big mouth.

"Y'know, when you were helping our diehard-who-didn't-want-to-die-for-the-cause dismantle the bomb?" I asked. "It Wish I could have recorded the words for posterity. The papers will all want to know."

He made an inelegant sound.

"True!" I swore. It was. And all the words were etched into my brain already, so if posterity ever wanted it, I could parrot it back, no problem. But I didn't tell him that!

"Sexy?" His doubt was obvious.

"Yeah," I told him, and then I repeated, in an imitation of his voice, "'Hold it here, and here,' he said, and then you said...."

"Your mind," Ray said too kindly, "is never off, is it? One track mind, mate."

"You are in error," I said, in lofty disdain.

"Bugger that," he said, and maybe it proved his point. The images that came to my mind when he said it were X-rated. Then, in that thoughtful tone he gets sometimes, he said, "You're right, worse luck. The man said, 'lever forward as I pull. Gently and smoothly,' didn't he?"

"Yeah," I said weakly, my imagination inventing wonderful scenarios in which I might say those words to Ray Doyle. Pull Ray forward? Towards me? Into me? I must have groaned.

"What's wrong?" He gave me a poke with a hard finger.

"What he said," I invented quickly. "He said, 'It's coming, keep it coming,' and 'Hold the tension there while I take this screw out,' and...."

Ray gave a short laugh. "And, 'Have you got steady hands?' didn't he?"

What a joke. Mine were trembling like pennants in the wind. I laughed too. It was funny and I used it to let out the tension inside of me. But then--he's called me a mad bastard, yelled at me for the chances I take. Without planning it, I was suddenly talking, the words just flowing out of me even as part of me frantically tried to shut my mouth. All my good sense went out the window. I turned and just sort of flopped over on top of him, and I kissed him, good and hard. Took all of that wild laughter inside of me along with his breath. He was banging on my ribs with his fist but I didn't stop until I hadn't any more air and was forced to break away.

"You mad bastard!" he yelled, and I laughed because it was exactly what I had thought he would say. "What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?"

"Kissing you." Thought it was obvious, but I've been wrong before.

"Fool." He hit me again. "Why?"

"Because...." So many reasons. As I hesitated, he hit me again. Marvellous interrogation technique he has.

"Because..." I started again, "I wanted to. I've been wanting you all day. Ever since the bowling alley." I was shocked to hear the truth flowing from my lips. I knew the truth was a dangerous thing. "All this suggestive talk got me going," I added.

Dammit, he hit me again.

"Ouch!" I said, loudly. Right in his ear, and serve him right, too.

"Knock off the humour, Bodie. Give me a straight answer."

I laughed. Had to. Straight answer, when I was going to tell a bloke I loved him? My laughter bordered on hysterical as I realized what I intended to do.

"Bodie!" Doyle's voice warned he had had enough. I tried to get control of my voice, but I'm sure it came out strained and nervous.

"Straight," I said, fighting back the laugh again. "I realized today that I love you. Every sarky, nasty arrogant bit of you. And I almost lost you. Hell, almost lost everything. That bloody bomb. Would have been the end of more than London, mate. I know it's stupid. I know you'll kill me now, or laugh." That would kill me too, in a different way. I would hate to hear Ray laugh at me, at my love, but what else would a sane bloke do?

"Bodie!" Ray was shocked. Flabbergasted. That's a good word. Amazed, too.

"True," I swore. "Stupid, isn't it? Any other time, I'd've kept my bloody mouth shut, too, but it's too close to forever tonight, mate. Too close to turning the pair of us into nuclear dust. There might be another bomb out there. World could end this minute. I don't expect you to understand," I went on. "I don't myself. I just know I had to say it. I love you and I want you. I suspect you'll want to hit me again now," I said philosophically, and I waited for him to thump me. Expected more than one, and I considered scrunching my eyes shut so I wouldn't have to see it as well as feel it. He packs a hard wallop, does Ray, especially when he's mad.

He didn't hit me. I looked at him. He was staring at me with wide eyes, looking as if I had suddenly grown three heads. Well, maybe it was just about as bizarre as that. It was pretty dark. I squinted, trying to see his expression.

"You love me?" He said it in a voice which sounded like he was being strangled. Almost a croak to it.

"Er...yes," I confessed, scooting back just a few inches.

"You want me? Want me? As in...." He faltered.

"As in sex? Fucking? Making love?" I suggested helpfully.

"You're daft."

"Am not. Have you seen yourself from behind? Nicely packaged, aren't you?"

"Idiot. That's no reason to suddenly start fancying me."

I shrugged. "Don't think it was so sudden. I think I've felt that way for ages. I just didn't know." It sounded all right when I said it.

"You didn't--know?" Put that way, it sounded pretty stupid.

"I don't understand it myself," I said. "I just know what I want."

"And you just expect me to lie back and let you have your evil way with me?" Astounded. That's what he sounded like. Astounded.

"Yes. Unless you'd like me to lie back and let you have your evil way with me?" I asked hopefully.

"I am not," he said forcefully, "gay."

"Nor I. But I know what feels good. That kiss," I pointed out. "That did." But I wasn't so stupid as to try for another. Already my ribs ached, and so did my arm. He's stronger than he looks.

"Bodie," he began. I cut him off, reaching out to put my hand on his shoulder.

"Please?" I said. Even I could hear the begging in it. Lost my pride somewhere.

"Bodie," he said more softly, as if asking what he had done to be lumbered with a great fool like me.

"Please?" I said again. "If you want, just for tonight. Just tonight, Ray." Because we were alive and I love you. Because it will somehow make the sour terror which lingered in my guts go away. Because I'll never again have the nerve to ask it. I couldn't say all of that, but perhaps it was in my voice.

"Oh, hell. Tonight," he said, even as I tried to believe what my ears were hearing. "No fucking," he qualified. "Just...."

He never had a chance to finish the sentence. Whatever it was going to be, I crushed it out with another kiss. I made it a good one, tender and hot in turns, using all my skill.

He kissed back.

I didn't think he would. Thought he would just lie there like some sacrificial lamb and let me have what I wanted. But he didn't just indulge my craziness, just put up with me. He snaked a hand into my hair, held my head, and he kissed me back.

It was everything I had ever dreamed of, and more. He tastes better than Swiss roll, better than jam, better than anything in the world. I could have eaten him up, only I was afraid, even now, of offending him, forcing him to leave. So I kissed him softly, I kissed him deeply, I kissed him in all the ways I knew.

He knew them all, knew when to open his mouth, when to trace my tongue, suck on it, when to draw back. Kissing him was like kissing myself. Sounds narcissistic, doesn't it? But that's how it was. Like he could read my mind.

I went after the rest of him. I kissed him on his neck and chest, sucked his funny man's tits and his furry stomach. I let my hands go where they would, stroking, loving. I found my way between his legs, and I touched parts of him I had never imagined touching on another man. His balls were cradled in my palm when I realized he was squirming, pushing against me. Wanting more. So I moved down his body with my mouth until I found his cock, and I took it in my mouth and I sucked.

I knew what to do. I'd had it done to me. But I knew something else. I knew how he liked it. He'd told me once, just a few words years ago when we were drunk after an op. I knew how he liked it and I gave him just exactly what he wanted.

He screamed when he came. Just about scared the shit out of me. I managed to keep on what I was doing, just. When he was quiet again, I took hold of his hand, and I held it in mine and it was as if I had three hands, all on me, all stroking and pulling and squeezing at once. I held his hand to me and thrust against it and when I felt it close around my shaft I lost it.

Atom bomb. I went off like a bloody atom bomb. Went light-headed, exploded all over the sheets, all over him, all over me. I screeched, too, even louder than he, and I've never done that in my life. It was all of it coming out, all the fear and the relief and the need.

It was the need to insure life goes on, I guess, stupid, really, because it was basically a non-fertile thing we did. Even if he'd been a woman, it would have been, well, outside the body. I wanted to be in Ray, even as I lay there panting and knowing I wouldn't be able to get it up again for hours. Blasted it all right out of me.


Typical. I'm incapacitated, and Ray's trying to get my attention. I groaned.

His hand was on my shoulder, and he shook me, hard. "Bodie!"

"What...." I opened one eye.

"You did say you loved me?"

"Yes," I confessed, but I wasn't at all sure what his point was.

"Good." He didn't say anything else, but now my curiosity was piqued.

"What do you mean, good?" I asked.


I got irritated. "Doyle, what the hell are you on about?"

He laughed. I would have been even more annoyed, but I decided I liked the sound. Shows you how bad I had it.

"Bodie?" He said it with his mouth at my ear, tickling it with his breath, making me squirm. At the same time his hand trailed through the sticky patches on my chest, making patterns there for a moment before going lower.

"What?" I managed to say. His fingers were exploring my limp cock, making it twitch with the light touch, and then he reached lower and took hold of my balls.

"You know the game we were playing earlier in the bowling alley?"

"Yeah," I managed to croak. One finger had gone a bit beyond and was pushing at the entrance to my body. All at once I couldn't breathe.

"I've decided I like a game with a few more balls," he said, taking mine in his palm. "Want to know something?"

"Agh." Maybe he didn't notice that wasn't a yes. Wasn't a proper word at all.

"I finally," he said, mock seriously, "figured out how to score."

I laughed. You know I did. It wasn't as funny as it seemed to me at that point, if you know what I mean. I laughed because he had made a joke, because he wasn't mad, because he was holding me close and maybe even wanting me. I laughed because I loved him, and I laughed because I couldn't stop. He shut me up the one way he knew would work. With a kiss. I knew then that I was going to surprise us both. I could feel my cock lifting, wanting. He touched it, making it welcome, and that's when I knew there was life after the bomb. I wasn't even afraid of the day after, of the crater in the universe which George Cowley would make when he found out. I just closed my eyes, held him close and waited for the blast. I remembered thinking as the pleasure ignited within me that Ray Doyle had very steady hands....

-- THE END --

Originally published in No Holds Barred 2, Kathleen Resch, 1992

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