While Ray Doyle pawed through three days of mail, Bodie silently appropriated the last beer in Doyle's flat and then spread himself out on the sofa to enjoy the fruits of his thievery for as long as possible. Any minute he expected his friend to look up, give him a cuff and take it away, so Bodie was working industriously to empty the container. Because he was watching Doyle closely as he waited for the penny to drop he saw quite clearly when an expression of utter shock etched itself onto his friend's face. All at once Doyle looked his age--and more. That was an eye-opener to Bodie, who had long ago decided Doyle was either ageless or the best prevaricator on earth. Despite the recent discovery of a few grey hairs, Doyle never slowed, never showed any evidence of becoming less agile or dull.

Now, however, harsh lines were gouged into his usually attractive face and he looked distinctly pale. Even as Bodie was opening his mouth to ask what was the matter Doyle was turning away, one shoulder hunched in an automatic effort to retreat. Bodie stared at Doyle's back, draining the beer without thought as he tried to decide what to say. There was the faint sound of rustling paper. Doyle was reading the letter again.

"Who died?" Bodie asked eventually, when he'd decided that Doyle was not reading anymore, only standing there holding the white paper.

Doyle gave a start and turned, composing his face with an obvious effort. "Nobody died. Wedding." His face might have fooled anyone else, but Bodie still saw the shock there, the dullness in the usually bright eyes.

"Not the end of the world, then," Bodie observed, leaning forward and boldly twitching the square of parchment-like paper from his friend's nerveless fingers. He read the unfamiliar names aloud. "Mary Enid Carter to Edwin Arnold Canfield. Is it an old mate you're mourning or an old girl friend?"

"Old mate," Doyle identified absently.

"Met?" Bodie inquired.

"Art school."

He sounded so--defeated. Bodie frowned. "'S not that bad, Doyle. Marriage isn't catching, you know. Besides," he pointed out, "you're invited to bring a guest." He shook his head in mock sorrow. "These modern invitations. Still, a nice, cheap date. That should please you."

Obviously it did not. Doyle retrieved the invitation from Bodie without responding to the insult, and that alone was cause for concern.

"On the other hand," Bodie said lightly, "weddings give birds ideas, they do. Mind, you could always take me," Bodie joked. "Free food is free food." He was hoping for a cutting remark about his appetite, hoping for any normal reaction from Doyle. "Not to mention the chance to kiss the bride...her sisters...her cousins...." Still no reply from Doyle. Frowning, Bodie finished the beer.

"Do you mean it? Would you go with me?" Doyle asked a long moment later.

"If you get a new suit," Bodie qualified. "And if Cowley doesn't have something else planned for us on the 25th."

"Thanks," Doyle said. He made no reply to the scorn for his apparel, he did not argue the terms. Doyle must really want...what? Moral support? Or some other type of back-up? It didn't make sense. Bodie had never been one to let a mystery go unchallenged. Just as he was about to ask a question, Doyle straightened up, tossed the invitation to the floor and said, "I thought we were going out?"

"So we were," Bodie agreed mildly, standing up and successfully managing to dispose of his empty beer container under the sofa with one hand while he grabbed his coat with the other. They went out to Bodie's car. Doyle had little to say, and spent most of the drive staring out into the misty evening.

Bodie had his own thoughts to occupy him. While Doyle had spent the day putting the final polish on the report of his latest undercover assignment, Bodie had been enjoying a rare day off. Busman's holiday--he'd spent the day using every skill he possessed to make sure he was not followed as he made his rounds.

Bodie had caches. An attic on one side of town, a cellar on the other, guns in the boot of a car in the corner of a warehouse, an older car in another garage--Bodie had places which were all his own, safe places. In the country he owned three acres, purchased cheaply because the house had burned down. There, at the edge of the woods, was a buried boxcar stocked with emergency rations, a set of clothing, a packet of cash.

He had not visited all of his secret places that day, unwilling to tempt fate because no matter how careful he was, discovery was always a possibility. Being extremely careful didn't preclude disaster, and as an old mate had once told him, no matter how good you are--somewhere there's someone better. He knew quite well that an agent with modern, computerized equipment could have traced him. Still, he had put in ten hours of his best "work" and he was sure that no one had followed him, and he was well satisfied with what he had found--which had been nothing. Nothing disturbed, everything in order, and he had been in the mood for a good meal, a few drinks, pleasant conversation and early bed. However, with his partner in this brooding mood, his chances for an untroubled evening were greatly reduced. Still, Bodie decided to make an effort to cheer Doyle up.

An old mate was getting married. So what? It was a fate which had overtaken a few of his own friends and they had survived, even thrived. Of course, it was never quite the same afterwards. Things changed. Subtle, really. Less of the pubs, less money, kids--and by that point you usually lost track of them.

CI5 attracted the unencumbered employee--less than a third of the agents were married. If Cowley had been able to get away with it, he would hire men with no family at all. "Orphans preferred", the way the old pony express advertisements had run in the days of the wild west. What was the whole phrase? His memory dredged it up. "Must be good riders, orphans preferred". Yeah. Only Cowley's version would be, "Must be good fighters, ugly bachelors preferred".

Bodie opened his mouth to share the thought with Doyle, but closed it again with the words unsaid. Doyle seemed so far away, hunched there by the window, palm on his cheek. Abruptly Bodie decided against the new restaurant they had discussed trying. This was a night for the familiar, the comfortable. He turned and headed for Murphy's pub. That wasn't the name of it, but it was how it was referred to. Murphy had discovered it and over a period of months, CI5 had gradually infiltrated it, so that on any given night three or four of the lads could be found there. The decor was cheerful, the atmosphere friendly and the food good.

Once inside, Doyle did seem to perk up. He laughed, ate well and then became involved in a game of darts. Bodie, drink in hand, tilted back a chair and gave his opinion of Doyle's ability and luck loudly. Perhaps only he saw that Doyle had to make an effort to be at ease. His game didn't suffer a bit, but Bodie could see that Doyle hurt. Doyle hurt, and so Bodie did not have the good time he had promised himself. They were both silent as they drove back. Doyle scarcely mumbled a goodbye before he left the car and Bodie made his way home in a dark mood.

His flat was cold and very quiet. Bodie entered cautiously, listening for a moment before he turned on a light. Reassuring silence. No tricks, no guns, no surprises. No company. He was all alone, but that was the way he liked it--unless the company was temporary and feminine. No woman had been invited to this flat yet. He had been moved here three weeks before, and for once it had not been for security reasons. His old address had been sold and torn down. That had annoyed Cowley exceedingly and Bodie almost as much. It took him a great deal of effort to become comfortable in a new place. Before he could really settle down he had to know the neighbourhood, know the schedules of the neighbours and delivery-men. He liked to be aware of how to get in or out of a place unobserved, where the fuse box was, and even where all the squeaky boards in the floor were hidden.

Only when he was comfortable with the place himself would he invite a woman to share it for a night. On the whole, he did not like spending the night in someone else's flat. Their beds never felt right and, too aware of a sense of displacement, he never slept well.

Thinking of women, of sex, made him restless and he turned to the corner where his new set of weights was arranged. He sat down on the bench, ran his hand over the cold metal of the bar and decided on a thirty minute session, to be followed by a hot shower and bed. The exercise calmed him. Slowly he warmed up, increasing the amount of weight he lifted only when he felt he was completely ready. It was quiet except for the sound of his breathing and the clink of metal against metal.

He double checked the doors and windows before he went in for his shower. He stood under the hot water until it began to run cold, losing himself in the pleasure, hoping that it would relax his body and send him to sleep. He knew the moment he was horizontal that the hope was to be unfulfilled. Pity, that, because he loved to sleep. Instead, his mind treated him to snippets of his day, a string of images that were almost random--except that the vision of Doyle's head bent over that bloody invitation kept reoccurring.

Damn you, Doyle. Bodie turned over, settling his shoulders and hips but still not comfortable. The bed was positioned so that his back was never towards the door. It was away from the wall so that he could roll and drop to the floor if necessary. There was a knife tucked between the mattress and the frame and a gun within reach as well. Yet, Bodie still felt vulnerable.

Not safe places, beds. Safer than many other spots on the planet but not without their dangers, even when occupied by only one. Indeed, he thought briefly of getting up and finding his little black book so that he could call some willing, sweet bird who would come and take his time and his attention at least enough to leave him exhausted and asleep. But he didn't move. He wanted no company other than his thoughts, and those thoughts ranged no further than Ray Doyle. He stopped fighting it.

Ray. Ray, damn his green eyes. His sea-green, smiling eyes. Only they hadn't been smiling today. He wished that it had been a day off for both of them. He could have taken Ray away for the day. Fishing, hiking, somewhere--or, he turned over again and thought of how he did spend his day. He could have taken Doyle with him, showed him at least one of the secret places. One of the cars, maybe. Or the marvellous collection he kept in Mrs D's attic.

But no. He would not show Ray the foxholes he'd made. He would no more show Ray the Uzi in the boot of his old car than he'd show him the lust that burned in his gut for his partner. Neither was part of Ray's world. Neither would improve Ray's life. Probably the opposite. Bodie had an imagination capable of showing him precisely how Doyle's face would look as Bodie said....

Said what? Fancy you, mate? Have from the first moment I saw you?

That'd go down a treat. Fastest way to dissolve a partnership ever invented.

Could say it. Could say, I love you. But that thought frightened Bodie as much as it would distress Doyle. Love? Course it wasn't love. Couldn't be. Wasn't anything like love. Just lust. A need for that fantastic little bum, that's all it was. He didn't want to kiss those red-plum lips. It was all.... Bodie turned over in his bed again and lied to himself some more.

In the morning Ray seemed to be his own laughing, wicked self and Bodie, with a grin, matched his mood to Doyle's. The work Cowley had for them was dull. They were to go through the information various agents had collected on forty different men and women and try to find the connections among them. All were suspected of having some part in a weapons smuggling ring. Doyle kept Bodie and the two other agents entertained with pithy, nasty observations as they sat in a darkened room watching the series of grainy slides. Later, as they were reading through the folders, Doyle still managed to insert a lighter note by sprawling with unconscious grace over two of the hard wooden chairs. With one denim-clad leg dangling, the sleeves of his soft white shirt scraped high and his mouth pursed in concentration he should have looked silly and instead he looked--beautiful.

Bodie thought so. He allowed himself another look each time he put down one folder to take up another. He rationed himself out of long habit, unwilling to draw attention to either Ray or himself. It wouldn't do to be caught staring at Doyle. Not among this lot. It was cozy, and it was boring as hell; he loved the quiet and hated the inaction and he was glad when they were called out in late afternoon to give back-up to another team. The man eluded all six agents and they returned to CI5 to receive a few well chosen words from Cowley before he sent them home with the command that they be back at 0700 the next morning.

The rest of the evening loomed unattractively before Bodie after he watched Doyle climb into his own car and drive off. He decided on a fast meal of chicken, which he ate in his car as he drove back to CI5. He was rather surprised at himself. There were only four files he hadn't read. Might as well finish them off. Only take an hour, after all. Forty people. Guns. It was past nine when Bodie finally gave his tired eyes one last rub. He stretched, struggled into his jacket and went home.

His night was a repeat of the one before. He exercised, showered and went to bed with a Dick Francis novel and a glass of milk. It was quiet. It was not uncommon for Bodie, when alone, to go for an entire day without making a sound. His interest in television or radio was sporadic. His treasured stereo system was used almost entirely when he had company.

The thriller kept him occupied for almost an hour before he put it down and reached for the telephone. But he did not make the call. There was nothing he needed to say to Ray Doyle that wouldn't wait for morning. Yet he was uneasy as he turned over and settled down to sleep. Something about Ray....

A quick five mile jaunt at dawn started his next morning. He was not a natural runner, but he jogged almost daily. Know your own weaknesses, Cowley told them. Bodie knew them, and he had a fear of growing heavy, of having his muscle metamorphose into fat, and so he forced himself to run. Doyle ran with him sometimes. They would meet once a week, sometimes twice in the summer, for a few brisk turns. Running with Doyle was different than running alone, for when he was with Doyle he ran hardly knowing what he did, a stolid hound following a twisting, bounding hare. This morning he ran alone.

A second shower and Bodie was ready for the day. When he walked into the restroom, Murphy called a greeting and Doyle, propped artlessly on the corner of a table, held up a Styrofoam cup in cheerful salute. Bodie grinned, snagged the cup from Dole's loose fingers and drained it. Enjoying the cry of outrage and the poke in the ribs as Doyle took exception to this outright thievery, he dared to complain about the very bad quality of the coffee.

"And just what you deserve, too," Doyle grumbled, but Bodie didn't care. Half of Doyle's coffee was in Doyle, and half in Bodie, just as it should be. "There's no time for a second cup," Doyle sighed. "We're the relief today."

"Marvellous," Bodie sighed theatrically. "How long's the list?"

"Longer than last time," Doyle told him, standing up and pulling it from his back pocket. They went out and settled into Bodie's car, Doyle with the list in hand and Bodie driving. All normal.

Yet the tenseness was still in Doyle. Bodie could sense it, a thread of dissatisfaction or unhappiness or anger, too faint for identification. He hoped the variety they were to get today would erase it. He liked this type of assignment--if it didn't occur too often--and he knew Doyle did, too. It was a whole string of tiny little jobs. They checked on first year agents, or took over an observation for an hour to allow the agent to improve his cover or even to take a short exercise and elimination break. Sometimes they acted on specific instructions. Go to a store and buy a certain item. Note how many people were in an area at a certain time of day. Deliver a message. In these instances they played minor characters in a CI5 drama--their purpose was to move the action along and they seldom knew why, for it was neither necessary or cost effective for them to know the details of each case.

Today, the jobs were easy. They checked the locks of a safe house, they made a delivery to two agents holed up above a shop which sold water-beds, they gave an early lunch or a late breakfast break to an agent who had been watching the comings and goings of a minor government official. Afternoon saw them inspecting an alternate route for a motorcade to take place the following week. They had to drive the entire length of the route, noting road repairs needed and potential danger spots. They ate their mid-day meal at a fast food emporium specified by Cowley, but did not linger--the food was enough to drive almost everyone away. There were, however, a great many people hanging about. Cowley had decided there was something suspicious going on and had agents sniffing around there for weeks. All that Bodie discovered there was heartburn. Doyle...Doyle was not saying much.

Therefore, when Doyle directed him to pull up at an address not on the list, he did not at first realize it and automatically checked his gun as he prepared to get out of the car.

"Won't need the hardware, mate--even though the prices will probably be highway robbery," Doyle said. He was shrugging out of his denim jacket and then his shoulder holster and bundling it all beneath the seat.

"Suddenly warm, are we?" Bodie asked with mild sarcasm. It was, in fact, much cooler than it had been that morning.

"No. Early," Doyle replied. Bodie found this singularly unhelpful and said so. "We're forty minutes ahead of schedule and can't show up to give Murphy a break until three. And I promised you I'd buy a suit." He pointed out a business across the street.

"So you did," Bodie remembered.

"And that I might never hear a word of censure from your ruby lips in this matter, you will select," his voice was assuming an affected accent, his nose in the air, "what you consider appropriate attire."

"Which you will pay for," Bodie reminded him.

"Of course!" Doyle said, in the too swift manner which said that perhaps he had indeed been planning on sticking Bodie with the bill.

Half an hour later, Bodie stood on one side of his friend, staring into the mirror and mentally reconsidering. It might be worth the price of buying Doyle's clothing to see him looking this good. It was a simple thing--good black material over a white silk shirt. No ruffles, no extras. Only a well-cut coat over well-tailored trousers, and new black shoes which added an inch to Doyle's height.

Bodie was pleased, the hovering clerk was pleased, and Doyle--his expression was curiously blank as he wrote out the cheque. He did not protest over the amount, or the need to leave it for minor alterations. That was because, Bodie decided, of the wedding invitation. That wedding--hurt Doyle. Bodie could not have said how it was he knew this, but it was true, and so he did not make jokes all day about the suit and the occasion, as he might have usually. In fact, he was careful to take the conversation far from it. He was glad when the crackle of the radio sent them roaring off.

A vocal Jax was being shoved into an ambulance by two unsympathetic men in white when they arrived. The men were disinclined to delay transportation of their patient just so two toughs from some jumped-up government agency could ask questions. The red stain on his shoulder was spreading entirely too quickly, and Jax was quick with his whispered information, but it was still ten minutes before Doyle had all the facts. Bodie ran interference, keeping back the policemen as well as the curious until he saw Doyle wave.

"He says nobody saw anything," Bodie said with a jerk of his chin at the harried copper now dispersing the crowd. "What does Jax say?"

"He says female, five-ten, 180 pounds, brown hair, maybe forty, walking with a man or boy--he looked of an age to be her son--and she held him while the kid knifed him. I've already radioed the details in to Cowley. The old man said a very bad word," he observed mildly.

"What, again?" Bodie smiled grimly. "Jax?"

"Looks...." Doyle shrugged. "The one in his shoulder is fine. The lower one got at least the edge of his liver. He's in for a long stay."

"Umm. Have a scar like a zipper, right up his front," Bodie predicted. "Did he say where mum and sonny-boy went?"

"Round the corner. Nobody saw anything," Doyle sighed.


"To go with the list," he pointed to the two men who had just pulled up. "They get to handle it."

"Lucky," Bodie commented. At Doyle's look, he explained, "Now we're late. We were supposed to have given Murphy a break," he checked his watch, "ten minutes ago."

Murphy, of course, lost his anger when he heard the reason for the delay, but they never did make up the lost time and it was after seven when they were at last done and had called in. Then they went straight to the nearest pub.

Thick sandwiches, a full glass and Doyle across the table. Tired Bodie was, but never too tired to appreciate circumstances like these. No one here knew them, and no one paid them much attention, not even the bored barmaid. She was--Bodie checked again--yes, pregnant. No competition for Doyle's attention there. In fact, Doyle was busy appreciating his food. He didn't know the picture he made. The yellow neon sign in the window shed a rich light on Doyle's molasses curls and his face was shadowed as he bent to take a huge bite from his sandwich. It was all sprouts and cheese on brown bread and Doyle's tongue was kept busy capturing the dangling edge of it.

Bodie scarcely tasted his roast beef. He asked questions, offered ideas, and stretched the conversation--and the meal, as late as he could. Then he dropped Doyle off, drove home, and called Lauren before he went to bed.

He was early when he arrived to pick Doyle up the next morning, and he was forced to help Doyle finish his toast and jam. It was nice to sit in Doyle's sunny kitchen and to pretend, if only for a moment, that they had just shared a shower together before sitting down to eat. The fantasy lasted less than a minute. It was only a game he played for a moment before letting it go.

After yesterday, they would have a day of paperwork, he predicted to Doyle as they drove in, and smirked when he was proven correct. Lunch was squeezed in after a visit to Jax's hospital bed, and then it was back to the desk.

After reminding Doyle to pick up his suit, Bodie was off. He'd promised Lauren a play. Lauren was a practical woman. She knew quite well that Bodie wasn't matrimonial fodder, but she was quite willing to trade a nice evening for a little exercise afterwards. He did his best for Lauren, with dinner at her favourite restaurant, and afterwards, in her bed, he made slow love to her.

He worshipped her breasts with his tongue and lips and hands, giving attention also to her face and neck before working his way down her body to the warm treasure between her legs. It should have been enough. He loved the smell and taste of a woman, loved the feel of her around him, welcoming him into her body. Her pacing was superb, the milking clenching around his hardness heavenly and the relief was wonderful. Why couldn't his mind be as satisfied as his body was?

Cigarettes after sex were a cliche, but he could understand the allure. It would be better to have a reason to be awake, an excuse. Now, with Lauren asleep on his shoulder, he stared up at the murky white of the ceiling. She would have been surprised to know he was thinking about weddings. He was still thinking about weddings when, CI5-silent, he dressed. Flowers, he decided, as he let himself out. Tomorrow he would send red roses.

Roses. There were roses at the door to the church and garlands of pink and yellow ones at the front. Bodie, a silent Doyle in tow, paused automatically at the door, checking it out.


The dozens of roses, the hundreds of beautifully dressed people, all reeked of it. Bodie gave Doyle a nudge, but his partner, all stiff and quiet, didn't respond, so Bodie let the serious teenager seat them. With Doyle doing a fair imitation of a rock Bodie had nothing to do but look at the crowd and listen to the low hum of voices. The organ began and the noise died away.

Flower girls, bridesmaids and then, the measured tread of the bride. Hard to tell under that bloody veil what she looked like but her figure was good. Maybe that was why Doyle was staring at her so intensely. The two made a nice couple. The man was tall, thin almost, and while he didn't look unathletic, he didn't carry much muscle either. His hair was sandy, with a touch of ginger in his sideburns, his eyes were brown, his mouth wide. Actually, Bodie thought as the veil was lifted, just about the same thing could be said for the bride. He felt Doyle beside him move restlessly.

Bodie glanced down at his partner and then back up at the couple at the altar. Art school days, Doyle had said. Ten years back, at least, and maybe as many as fifteen. Bodie half wished they were closer, so that he could get a good look at the man who had kept in touch with Doyle for ten or fifteen years. Things were progressing rapidly now, though. The bride was being thoroughly kissed, the music rose and then they were all standing, waiting their turn to file out.

Bodie and Doyle kept to the fringes as the crowd sorted itself out. Eventually the bride and groom were inserted into a lovely antique automobile. Doyle stood, long after they had driven out of sight, his face curiously blank.

Finally, Bodie nudged him. "Reception? All that food you promised me?"

"All sugar and cream. Your arteries will choke closed with the third bite," Doyle predicted half-heartedly.

Bodie responded as if Doyle's comment had had its usual acidity, knowing instinctively that the normalcy of his reply would be the best response in this very strange situation.

So he bullied Doyle into letting him drive, even though it was Doyle's car and he kept up a crude and cheerful chatter during the drive to the house of the bride's parents, where the reception was to be held.

"'E did all right for himself, your old mate," Bodie approved as they made their way up to the big house. They were some of the last to arrive, and were ushered immediately to the end of the small group of people queuing up to face the reception line. Bodie heard Doyle sigh as he took the first step towards the spot where the bride and groom stood together in front of a veritable wall of flowers.

Bodie straightened, put a pleasant smile on his face and managed to bestow his charm among half a dozen strangers before they faced the bride and groom. As he had been studying the man with the cold thoroughness he usually reserved for suspected terrorists, he saw every nuance of the man's response as the groom caught sight of Doyle. First the man turned towards them, smiling; then, eyes narrowed, he swallowed, hesitated, and then introduced his wife to "My friend from school, Mr Raymond Doyle."

"And my friend, Mr Bodie," Doyle said, smoothly shifting attention to Bodie, his hand on Bodie's shoulder in a matey fashion.

"Mr Bodie," the other man acknowledged with a cool smile and a brief handshake.

"So nice you could join us," the bride murmured, but there was a touch of confusion in her eyes.

Bodie sympathized with her utterly. There was an undercurrent here, some double or triple meaning to every gesture, every word or glance. Then Ray's hand on his shoulder trembled ever so slightly and Bodie raised his head a fraction in response. It didn't matter what the situation was, he was there to back up his partner. So he met the brown eyes of the other man with his own straight-forward gaze. He was not aware of the elements of challenge and warning he projected, but he did note the bride draw closer to her husband.

"A lovely ceremony," Bodie heard himself say. Ray's hand left his shoulder, drifted down his arm and then closed on his hand, where he gave a tug to urge them on. Bodie nodded and let Ray draw him away. Ray did not look back, but Bodie did and he saw an odd smile cross the groom's lips before his bride drew his attention to the next guests.

The next room was given over to a huge buffet, except for the corner where a string quartet was tucked away. Bodie, despite the appetite Doyle was fond of attributing to him, was not interested in the food but he made the effort and urged Doyle into generous portions, which he then proceeded to pilfer from Doyle's plate. As entertainment for his friend, as distraction, it was only partially successful. Despite a sincere effort to eat, and to respond to the teasing, Doyle's attention still seemed to be focused on the bride and groom.

Once, when Bodie leaned forward to liberate Doyle's shrimp, he got a glimpse of an expression in Doyle's eyes, a fleeting pain which touched deep inside, in the place where he kept his feelings for Ray Doyle. He found himself glaring at the bride and groom, definitely not wishing them well.

"Don't you like them?" Bodie said at last, using his chin to indicate the happy couple.

Doyle shrugged, the confessed, "It was unexpected. The wedding 'n all."

"Surprise, was it? Going to have to think of a name for junior in six months?" Bodie suggested.

"Wouldn't think so," Doyle said after a moment's thought. "Bodie...would you mind if we left?"

"What, before I get the wedding cake for under me pillow?" And then, in more outraged tones, "Before I get me glass of bubbly?"

"I'll buy you a bottle tomorrow," Doyle said impatiently. There was a flat tenseness to his voice which caused Bodie to abandon all thought of teasing.

"Home it is, sunshine," Bodie agreed, disposing of the last candied cherry on Doyle's plate. "We can change and go running--get some fresh air."

"Yes, all right," Doyle agreed, still somewhat absently, giving Bodie a bit of a shock as he hadn't thought Doyle would agree. Bodie, who had already done his five miles that morning, groaned and mentally called himself a fool as he followed Doyle to the door.

The happy couple were still greeting those coming in and so Bodie and Doyle did not stop to make proper good-byes. Bodie was quite aware that the bride turned her head to whisper something to the groom as the two CI5 agents passed by, but Bodie couldn't find it in himself to care. It was a relief just to be out in the open again, away from them all.

An hour later he was jogging with his friend. They ran for a long, long time, and from the first Bodie found that he could not keep up with the pace his friend set. Bodie was content to follow behind, to allow Doyle to be alone with it. Whatever problem Doyle had, he would work it out. Always did. The wedding was over now and they could get back to normal.

One week later, a snarling Bodie clutched one hand to a bullet crease on his shoulder. It stung like the devil, but it pained him not nearly as much as the knowledge that it was Doyle's bullet which had so nearly ended his life. Doyle should have known that Bodie had moved into this position. Where did he think Bodie was going to be? Was Doyle thinking at all? Bodie rolled down the hill, inched himself into a better position, and squeezed off the one shot needed to end the confrontation. Immediately, he heard the voice of the remaining robber lifted in surrender and heard Doyle take charge of him. Heavily Bodie staggered to his feet and began to make his way across the muddy lawn.

The rapport that had existed from the first between Doyle and himself was gone. It wasn't deliberately eliminated. Doyle wasn't mad at him. It was just...gone. Bodie knew when it had gone, too, but he didn't know why. At that point, he had every intention of finding out as soon as possible. His words to Doyle were about the job, however.

"One dead, three in custody," Doyle replied in answer to Bodie's first question about how they fared. " berk! You never told me you'd been shot!"

It was nice to have Doyle close, concerned, fussing over him. "Just a touch. Got caught in the crossfire," Bodie said. He had no inclination to let Doyle know whose bullet had marked him. "It will keep. Give Uncle George a call so we can go home," he ordered. He was content to let Doyle trot off while Bodie attended to his gun and then made his way to where the local constable crouched over the fallen figure in the drive.

Cowley arrived, irate because his net had collected nothing but small fish, annoyed because he expected more of his best team, and inconvenienced by Bodie's injury. He sent Doyle off to transport Bodie to the doctor. They left him still surveying the site and expressing his opinion pointedly.

As soon as the doctor finished cleaning and covering the small wound, Doyle and Bodie retired to one of the small, typewriter-inhabited rooms of CI5 to fill out the forms. There was an extra form when an injury occurred, and it was almost as annoying as the pull of the tape on his shoulder. Usually, Doyle would be teasing him about causing extra paperwork. Not today.

Bodie scowled. He had the ability to consider a new problem even as he worked on the papers of a previous case, and so part of his attention was on his problem with Doyle.

Or rather, he thought, the problem of the effect the marriage of Edwin Canfield had on Doyle. If that was, indeed, the problem. It was obvious that more information was needed. Fortunately, CI5 had taught him quite a bit about the fine art of investigation, and he was in the right place to begin one.

A few minutes later he left Doyle to finish the report and made his way down to the computer room, whistling tunelessly and making plans. Tax records and security files first, and then perhaps a late night visit....

When he joined Doyle forty minutes later, he let himself be talked into a ride home. It suited his purpose to have his car stay, in plain sight, in the car park overnight. Doyle delivered him to his door, but Bodie was on his way ten minutes later. A taxi to the takeaway, a fast meal, a second taxi to a point not far from the shack where he kept a car--Bodie used all his skill. He approached the old building cautiously. He had told the old man who owned the building that he was a sailor, only in town two or three times a year. To the best of his knowledge, the doddering old fool did not keep track of Bodie's comings and goings, but it would be best if the man never knew Bodie had come by. The car was slow to start, and Bodie reminded himself to drive it more often. Then he was driving across the city, one eye on the traffic and the other on the mirrors.

The happy couple were not back from their honeymoon yet, and it did not take Bodie long to get into the house. It was brick and stone, well kept but not at all protected from the criminal elements. Bodie went silently through the rooms, using his small torch prudently. It was odd to be in someone else's home, to feel and smell the essence of their daily lives.

There were two bedrooms upstairs, but only one in use--and that one had both men and women's clothing in the closets. Bodie suspected that the bride had moved in a month or two before the ceremony, an arrangement Bodie in no way condemned. There had been other changes. In some rooms the smell of new paint lingered. Attached to the back of the kitchen was a garage, which contained a BMW, a ten year old Fiat, and a workshop which featured a half dozen oddly welded structures. After looking these over, Bodie decided that young Mr Canfield had made the right decision when he gave up art school for the business world.

Easing back inside, Bodie went to the den he had discovered earlier. It was a neat, masculine room done in tones of brown and blue, with a window which looked out over the garden. Bodie was most interested in the files behind the large wooden desk which dominated the room. Canfield's records were in good order and the story of his life was an open book. Bodie found nothing in any way unusual. The man spent money on his club, on fancy holidays twice a year, and, recently, on courting his wife. There were no mysterious financial transactions, no evidence of drug use or any common vice. Either there was nothing to hide or it was well-hidden.

Eventually, Bodie went out as he had gone in, retraced his route and arrived at home in time to snatch a couple hour's sleep. Bodie was waiting for Doyle when his partner drove up. Freshly shaved and bathed, no sign of his late night lingered. In fact, there was almost a bounce in his step as he approached the car. He slid into the passenger seat, fastened the seatbelt and attacked.

"I'm tired of your bloody foul mood," Bodie said. "What's been wrong?"

"Most people prefer 'Good Morning' as a greeting," Doyle replied, starting the motor.

"Answers," Bodie replied, "would make it a good morning for me. Ray, you've been on edge a month or more. You are not quite your normal, sunny self, Raymond. You...."

"You," Doyle interrupted, "have let your imagination run amuck again."

"Maybe," Bodie implied otherwise. "Mate, I know you and I don't make a habit of heart to hearts, but why don't you just tell me what the bell's on your mind and save us both some time?"

"Nothing," Doyle changed lanes, "is on my mind."

Bodie lifted his chin to glare at his partner. The effect was wasted as Doyle's eyes were glued to the road. Neither was unaware of the messages being exchanged, for all their silence. Bodie lifted his chin even higher and coldly turned his head. He did not pretend to be interested in the houses sliding by outside the window, but he rested his jaw on his hand and let his anger show.

"I'll find out," Bodie made it a statement and a warning. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Doyle's full lips thin. Stubborn little bugger. Bodie kept his mouth shut after that, afraid to let Doyle know how far he was prepared to go to fix this.

Too, he was afraid to speak again and show his fear. The fear he could not afford to acknowledge. Deep down in his gut he knew that there was a potential in this situation for disaster. The partnership was at risk. Whatever was the problem it was close enough to Doyle's soul to.... Bodie took control of his thoughts, refusing to think further along that line. No, Bodie would find out. Whatever was wrong, he would fix it and then he'd have his partner back and not this half-distracted bloke with the haunted eyes and the gaunt figure. Doyle must have lost eight or ten pounds this last month, between that damn health food and his nerves. The man needed steaks and cream and loving.

If not from Bodie, then from someone else. That girl Doyle had been seeing six months ago, the nutritionist...even before Bodie had recalled her name he rejected the idea. No, Ray was his problem. His. Bodie's. Bodie's jaw clenched. Doyle, his? That was only true professionally, and someday a bullet or a word from Cowley would make it a lie. He sat up straighter. So what. He would fight to keep the status quo. Soon he'd go pay Mr Canfield a visit. Meanwhile--he forced himself to relax, put a smile on his lips and turned and asked Doyle a question about Saturday's match. To his relief, Doyle answered, his tone normal. They argued amiably all the rest of the way to work.

At 10.30 on Monday night, five days after he returned from his honeymoon, Edwin Canfield went to his study to get his book and was startled into a gasp as he opened the door to find a man sitting at his desk. The big man was, in fact, paging through the book Canfield had come to get, and he took his time looking up and then setting it aside.

"What are you doing in my house?" Canfield demanded, even as his brow wrinkled with the effort to recall why the man looked familiar.

"I came to talk to you, of course. Close the door--unless you'd like your wife to come join us? I don't think she'd like it." The threat was delicate. Canfield shut the door.

"Explain yourself," Canfield snapped when he faced his unwanted visitor again. Then, when Bodie said nothing, he asked sharply, "Do I know you?"

"No," Bodie replied flatly. "But I did attend your wedding. Lovely ceremony," he said, echoing words he had spoken then--only this time there was a bite to them, a tart sarcasm. "Do sit down," he ordered.

"Thank you, I prefer to stand!" Canfield snapped back, and he strode forward to get a better look at Bodie. "You were the one with Ray!" The penny had finally dropped and it seemed to take some of the starch out of Canfield, who groped for the arm of the chair and sat down stiffly. "Why are you here?"

"I came for some information. About you--and Doyle."

"Ask Ray," the answer came quickly.

"I'd prefer to hear it from you," Bodie said firmly. Canfield did not reply, but sat and stared at him. "Let's begin with something simple," Bodie went on. "What was it that you did to hurt Ray?"

"Hurt Ray?" Canfield began hotly. "I'd never...."

"But you did," Bodie's voice was low, smooth. "You hurt him, and he hasn't been worth tuppence since he got that bloody invitation to your wedding. I want to know why."

"I'm sorry. I can't help you," Canfield said, after a brief hesitation.

"You mean won't. Don't be stubborn, mate. I can be more stubborn. Also," he said conversationally, "it's worth more to me that you talk, than it's worth to you to remain silent." This was accompanied by a delicate caress of one fist with his other large hand. A fighter's gesture. A threat.

"No. I won't," Canfield answered. He had recovered from his earlier surprise and now crossed his legs and leaned back in his chair with a confident air Bodie admired tremendously because he knew it was entirely manufactured. Bodie cocked a questioning eye at Canfield and presented him with his own cool, confident smirk.

"You will," Bodie countered. He picked a paperweight up from the desk and turned it over in his fingers while he waited.

"You've got your nerve, breaking into a man's home and making demands!"

Canfield's anger moved Bodie not at all. "Nerve? Yes, I do," Bodie admitted with an arrogant lift of his head. "Patience, now--that's another matter." There was a trace of hardness in his words.

"Pity," Canfield said, with just the right note.

Bodie laughed, a flat bark of a laugh, and said, "Yes. Unfortunately, I don't have an infinite amount of time to waste. Let's skip the preliminaries, shall we? Just tell me what I want to know."

"I don't...," Canfield began, and then his voice left him. Bodie had taken a small gun from inside his jacket as he spoke and then he had very gently laid it on the desk in front of him. The blue steel gleamed in the lamplight.

"Do you intend to shoot me?" Canfield asked, his voice steady.

Bodie smiled his hard, mercenary smile, and waited. He well knew the average citizen's reaction to a handgun. He was surprised then when a full minute passed and Canfield said nothing. His face had developed a very stubborn and apprehensive expression.

"I admire your loyalty," Bodie said. It was half true. He damned it as well. "But it would be better if you spoke. I don't want much," he murmured persuasively. "Only enough of the truth to let me understand." When he saw that left his prisoner unmoved, he tried another course. "It's Ray's life we're discussing. If he continues acting like a bloody idiot on the job he's going to get killed. Not to mention the possibility he'll manage to end my days as well."

"Killed?" Canfield managed to express both concern and doubt of Bodie's veracity. "How could he be killed? Ray left the police force three years ago. He told me so!" He looked at Bodie with an expression which left no doubt he now considered Bodie a bald-faced liar who was fabricating stories for the sole purpose of swaying him.

"Yeah, he left the police. Runs with a faster bunch now," Bodie said. "He didn't tell you? Maybe I'll have to revise my estimate of how close you are--were--to him." Bodie said it with a touch of satisfaction in his voice. Canfield reacted to it with a tightening of his jaw, but said nothing.

"Come on, Canfield. I'd hate to use this." Bodie didn't sound as if he would hate it at all.

"You wouldn't shoot me," Canfield decided.

"Oh, I never had any intention of shooting you," Bodie assured him. "Not you," he repeated, and then he allowed his eyes to glance upwards to where he knew the bedroom to be. He pretended not to hear the quick intake of breath from the other.

"You bastard!" Canfield said, his voice thick with repressed fury.

"Yes, maybe the new Mrs Canfield would be able to answer my questions," Bodie said, beginning to stand.

"Sit down," Canfield snarled, standing himself, as if to place his body physically between this madman and the door. Then, in a calmer voice, he said again, "Sit down." He sat himself, obviously fighting to control his voice.

Bodie compromised by half sitting, half leaning on the desk. The gun was held in his hand loosely and he had an expectant look on his face, which faded as the other man began to speak, into another scowl.

"You wouldn't," Canfield stated. "You wouldn't shoot me--or Mary. It would get back to Ray. If you did shoot us you'd have to kill me so I wouldn't talk. Ray would never rest until he found out who murdered us. You know Ray. His loyalty. Even if he never found out who did it, you'd live afraid he might find out some day."

Canfield was up now, pacing back and forth as he worked it out. "So you won't. You care too much for Ray. You wouldn't be here if he wasn't important to you. You might be concerned for your skin, yes, but it's more than that which brings you here." The man turned abruptly. "You said I hurt him. You were angry that I hurt him." He looked for confirmation but did not see it on Bodie's face, which was closed and dark. "He's important to you. Really important," Canfield decided, and there was actually sympathy in his voice as he went on.

"Let it go. Forget it. Even if you somehow forced me to talk, what good would it do? It would only hurt Ray. It's all in the past. It's not important now."

"It's important to me," Bodie contradicted, harshly.

"Important? You'd chance destroying your friendship with Ray?"

"Nothing would destroy my friendship with Ray," Bodie said with certainty.

"Perhaps," Canfield pointed out gently, "but what I mean is, it may destroy Ray's friendship for you. Let it go. What does it matter? He's yours now. I saw that at the wedding. But that's why he brought you, wasn't it? To show me it didn't matter to him that I was marrying Mary, because he had someone as well--someone younger, better looking than I am."

A cold gathering of iron formed in Bodie's stomach. The struggle to keep his mouth shut, to keep his face impassive, seemed to take place at a distance. The truth flickered into his mind, found him unreceptive, but settled there anyway. A silence fell between them for a long moment. It was finally broken by a question from Bodie.

" could you give Ray up?" Bodie was startled to find that particular question coming from his lips. It wasn't what he had thought he would say. It wasn't what he wanted to know most. Was it?

"That's it then? Afraid I'm going to decide I made a mistake?" Canfield shook his head. "People change," he said, as if that explained something. When he noticed that those words didn't precisely reassure his unwelcome guest he shook his head and tried again to put it into words.

"Art school wasn't right for us. Ray and I both knew early on that the talent we had wasn't enough. Ambition wasn't enough. Not enough to make us what we'd dreamed of being. We stayed with it the year; the tuition was paid. I, at least, didn't want to face the truth just yet. Didn't want to admit to my father that he was right. Besides, I liked it. There was a freedom to explore, to find out who and what I was. It was the end of the sixties. Parties, drugs--I tried a bit of everything." He sighed, his eyes half closed with the memory.

"I met Ray at a party. Orgy, really. He wasn't with anyone, neither was I, and we were talking in the corner, both of us trying not to be too obvious about watching a couple having it away on the table. When the man was done, just sprawled there on top of her, another man stripped, grabbed the first man by the waist, climbed onto the table and just shoved it into him. Ray and I, we couldn't take our eyes off it; the two of them heaving about, shouting, and the girl, irate, cursing, trying to get out from under them and then the table collapsed and everyone was laughing. Ray and I shared a joint with the three of them...what a long, foggy night! Seemed natural somehow to lure Ray away to a corner later. We were high, but not so high we couldn't get hard at a single touch. God, it was wonderful. I never knew if it was the booze, the weed or Ray's magic hands, but...." He shook his head as if to clear the memory away, a smile lingering on his lips.

"We got into the habit of it--going to parties, then going home together. Things got progressively more adventurous and we were doing each other by the end of the term. I remember, I felt so wicked, so sophisticated, walking into a room with my arm around Ray's waist, watching the women and half the men envy what I had--cigarette in one hand, Ray's derriere in the other. He looked like a rock star in those days, all long hair and torn jeans, and the devil's own hot eyes." Canfield sighed again.

"The year ended. We each made new goals, wanted new careers, but they took us a hundred miles apart. Neither of us wanted to end it, so we were meeting every month or two but there was no place in our lives for what we had. Then, we hit on a solution. We made an agreement. Once a year, on a weekend between my birthday and his, we'd get together, go on holiday. Hire a room for two or three days. We'd talk, relive old times, laugh--and never get out of bed.

"It was something we both needed. A break, a total escape from reality. I know we both looked forward to it. We had agreed, though, early on, that if either of us were to become to...become committed to someone else, we'd end it."

Confused or abstracted, his vision turned inward, Canfield now hardly seemed aware that Bodie was there. He went to the window and stood looking out. Bodie was sure he saw nothing. Canfield bit his lip.

"I made such a bloody mess of it," Canfield said in a near whisper. "I'd met Mary, I'd asked her to marry me, and she had said yes. I should have written Ray then, or called him and explained. I...I was too greedy, perhaps. Not ready to let it go, even though I knew I wanted Mary, wanted to spend my life with her." He shrugged. "I don't know. I was a coward. Afraid of disappointing Ray. It was my turn this year. We'd been taking turns planning, paying for the weekend. I'd made the reservations months before so I just..." he shrugged again, "went ahead with it. I didn't handle it well. I found it so hard to say. So in the end I didn't tell him about Mary, just said I didn't want to do it any more. I told him when the weekend was over, on the plane back to London."

Canfield turned then to look directly at Bodie, to explain to him as he had not been able to explain to Ray. "I'm sorry. I hurt him, you were right. I tried to break it to him gently, been chatting about making changes, needing permanence in my life. I think he thought I was suggesting a real relationship between us. He went so white when I said I wanted it over...." Canfield's voice shook. "I wasn't sure about sending the invitation to the wedding. I had some idea that if he could see Mary, then he'd understand, he'd forgive me. It meant more to Ray than it did to me, you see, but I didn't know that until it was over, and then all I could do was say I was sorry. Sorry doesn't help Ray, it doesn't help me, and it doesn't help you, does it?"

Bodie saw that Canfield seemed to think that Doyle had taken up with Bodie on the rebound, and Canfield seemed to think he still had Ray's love and that Bodie was a second-best sop to an aching heart. Bodie felt a stab of pain in his heart because he wasn't even that. Maybe it was true, and Doyle was pining for this skinny businessman with the receding hairline.

So what. So what if Doyle loved him? Somehow, Bodie would make Doyle forget this fool who could have had Ray Doyle and was stupid enough to want someone else instead.

"Ray's got you now. I saw the way he took hold of your arm, at the wedding. It's okay for Ray now. It won't take him long to adjust, you know. You'll just need to jolly him along. He gets moody."

The words hurt, but it was anger that flared in Bodie. The thought that this man would dare give him advice about Doyle, dared presume to know better than Bodie how to handle his partner, burned Bodie. He slid the gun into his pocket and spoke harshly.

"You're out of Ray's life. Stay out," he ordered coldly. "I'll take care of Doyle's birthdays from now on. Don't even send a card." Then he was gone, passing Canfield like a shadow and going out the open window. His last words came floating back on the evening breeze. "Get a security system, mate. For Mary."

Bodie should have taken his car back, retraced his steps and covered his tracks. Instead, he drove directly to Doyle's flat. Yet once there he sat outside, leaning forward to rest his arms on the wheel and stare at the square of yellow light that was Ray's window. Ray was up, then. No reason not to go inside. Yet the spectre of all the things which could go wrong rose up and barred the way until with a muffled curse he forced himself to get out of the car.

It took a long time for Doyle to answer the buzzer. He heard the sound of a voice and wondered what he would do if Doyle had a bird in for the night. She could pack up and go home then, couldn't she?

"It's me, sunshine. Open up!" he called when he knew Doyle was on the other side of the door.

"Out and about quite late, aren't we?" Doyle greeted him as he got the last lock and latch unfastened and the door swung open.

"It's not gone midnight. Early yet," Bodie pointed out, walking in.

"Cowley had best not send you to impersonate a clock. It's five past," Doyle pointed out. "What are you here for?"

"I came for the pleasure of your company," Bodie said over his shoulder as he headed for Doyle's drinks cabinet. Yet once there he did nothing but stare at the bottle. He was quite aware that he was only using up time, trying to get a sense of Doyle's mood. He got out a bottle but did not pour it up. Maybe drinks would be needed later, but not now. This was a conversation he preferred to have with no alcohol in his system. Neither the bracing or numbing qualities of it would help him and he didn't want Doyle to assume it was the alcohol in his system talking. He stood up.

"Nothing you fancy tonight?" Doyle asked with mild sarcasm. Bodie turned. Doyle was sprawled out on the sofa, watching him, and the man beautiful. His long legs led the eye up to the slim hips, to the t-shirt covered torso and then up to his lovely neck and fantasy provoking face. The tumble of curls hadn't seen a comb in hours, the green eyes were steady and serious.

Bodie shook his head to clear it, to wipe the expression from his face which he could feel forming. "What I want isn't found in a bottle," he said, and then he went to sit in the chair nearest Doyle so that he could look at him directly.

Doyle lifted an eyebrow in silent inquiry.

"I've been worried about you," Bodie said quietly. He took a deep breath. Confession time. "Ever since you were invited to that bloody wedding. So I went to see your friend, Canfield, tonight."

Fear, followed swiftly by blazing anger, burned in Doyle's eyes; he sat bolt upright and his mouth thinned dangerously. Bodie hurried on.

"I made him tell me," he began.

"Did you hurt him?" The fury Doyle projected caused Bodie to flinch, but he did not falter. He looked Doyle right in the eye and told the truth.

"I didn't touch him. I wanted to. He'd hurt you. I wanted to make him pay for that. Then he and he had been lovers. I wanted to kill him for...."

Doyle interrupted, "Damn you, Bodie! You had no right" and then Bodie interrupted Doyle, shouting more loudly, imposing his words by sheer virtue of lung power.

"I wanted to kill him for it! The stupid bastard, I wanted to kill him. He hurt you! He had your heart and he threw it away! The bastard threw it away!" Bodie's fury at Canfield, restrained when he had been in Canfield's presence, poured out now that he was with Doyle. He didn't realize that he was out of his chair, that he had taken hold of Ray's arms. Doyle made no effort to twist away, and his calm seemed to affect Bodie, who left off shouting and loosened his grip.

"I'm sorry, Ray. I'd get him back for you if I could."

"Bodie," Doyle said softly as he gently twisted out of his friend's hands, "It's okay, Bodie. Relax", he ordered, pulling gently at Bodie's jacket sleeve, tugging him down to sit beside him. "I don't want him. It's true, mate. I don't want him." He said it with a catch in his voice, with a faint note of amazement, as if startled by the realization. "He's got his Mary. I don't want him."

Bodie shook his head dully, as if to disagree, but what he said was, "He hurt you."

"No, Bodie, I hurt myself." He settled them both on the sofa, sitting right beside Bodie and keeping one hand on Bodie's arm.

"Listen, I'll tell you about it, shall I?"

Bodie's eyes were fastened on some spot on the floor halfway across the room, but he nodded.

"Eddie and I shared something in art school. It was only foolin' around at first, but it got heavy. Neither of us...we were both too smart to get into the drugs but this...this was anti-establishment enough to make us feel wicked and normal enough--there--to make us feel as if we belonged. I didn't want to end it, so I came up with a plan. One weekend a year, about the time we had our birthdays, we'd plan the most wonderful weekend we could. Took turns. Been something to look forward to. A treat. I know it came to mean more to me than it should have, but it was...a tradition, and being with somebody who loved me was," he shrugged. "I haven't got much family. Maybe I needed...." He broke off and went on, "I read more into it than was there. Or maybe, through the years, it became more important to me while it became less important to Eddie. Last year, I took him to the Bahamas. This year, Eddie took us to San Francisco. The very best of everything. He was so good to me--indulgent. He kept talking about commitment, about there being a time in a man's life when he had to settle down. Between the pampering and the location, I thought he meant...."

Bodie moved restlessly, but Doyle did not let go of his arm.

"Bodie, I thought he wanted us to settle down, but I...wasn't sure. It meant giving up so much. The mob. His family's approval. They would have made him lose his job, his inheritance, too. That was a lot for him to give up. I was totally unprepared when he said he wanted to pack it in. You see, I had almost decided to do it. Quit. The only thing holding me back was you. I couldn't even imagine telling you, and I didn't want to break up the partnership, didn't want to give up the job. Then, he told me he wanted to end it. Thought he'd developed cold feet, that he'd just needed some time to decide. Then the invitation came, and I realized I had it all wrong."

Bodie nodded, remembering.

"I felt...betrayed. I felt stupid. Bodie, I wanted to show him I wasn't angry, but I wanted to hurt him a little too, so I--god, I'm sorry, I used you. I went to that wedding looking my best, with the most handsome man I knew. Maybe he thought I found another fella the minute he was out of the picture. Maybe he thought I broke my word. We'd promised each other that we'd bed women, but no other men. But once I got there, it didn't seem important any more. I couldn't stay."

"Ray..." Bodie began.

"I was stupid. Most of all for not looking at the situation from all sides. Too close to it. Cowley was right, the old sod. Warned me about that particular fault more than once. I should have listened to 'im."

"You're making it all your fault. It wasn't. Not even half," Bodie told him.

Doyle disagreed, with a shake of his head. "I let emotion get in the way of clear thoughts."

"You love him," Bodie said grimly. "So, of course...."

"Loved him? I dunno. I've asked myself that question a hundred times. Hell, I don't even know what love is, do I? There was Ann. I went that far with Ann without telling Eddie. I could have done the same thing to him--almost married her, didn't I?"

"You would have told him."

"Would I? Always had a problem in situations like that. I ruin it with my bad timing." Doyle shook his head, his smile a sour one.

"He's no better then," Bodie growled, his hostility towards the other man still sharp.

"Why should he be? Did he really know me? Did I know him? For all the talking we did, we were just keeping company with an image we had of each other. With memories. An old dream." Doyle twisted and brought one leg up under him so that he faced Bodie. "I learn from my mistakes, Bodie. It's going to be different this time."

"What?" Bodie said, confused.

"This time. With you. Or have I misunderstood this time, too? You were so angry when you were yellin' about him throwing my heart away. From the look on your face, I thought.... Bodie?" Doyle leaned forward, anxiety leaping to his own expression as Bodie went white and closed his eyes.

"Bodie?" Doyle said more loudly, and he took hold of Bodie's arm to give him a shake.

"Ray? You'll let me take his place? Ray, I'll always be honest with you. I'll...once a year, on your birthday? I'll make it good, Ray, you'll see, I'll...." Bodie's voice was tight with his hurry, with the hope that was brightening his face.

"No," Doyle interrupted. As Bodie's face turned blank and hard, he reached out with both hands and took hold of Bodie's shoulders. "Don't be a prat, Bodie. I just told you, I learn from my mistakes. No more once-a-year, no more half-way relationships. I'm not having you once a year, in secret. That's not good anymore, Bodie, it's not what I need. I need a full time lover, Bodie, someone who's there for me all the time, who wants me," he emphasized, "as much as I want him."

"Him?" Bodie asked, needing to be sure.

"You," Doyle clarified. "If you'll have me, Bodie. Full time. Completely." He gave Bodie another shake. "I know that's asking a lot. If you don't...umph!" The last of his words were lost as Bodie suddenly came alive under his hands, grabbed hold of him as if he would never let go, and covered Doyle's mouth with his.

It went on forever, and was every bit as wonderful as he had dreamed it would be, and when their mouths finally parted, Doyle had just enough breath to murmur, "Show me how you feel, Bodie," into Bodie's ear.

"There's a few things you'll have to show me," Bodie confessed, watching as understanding came to Doyle's expression, and then speculation and lust.

Bodie responded with a shudder of anticipation, lowering his head as Doyle's hand crept up behind his neck and pulled it towards Doyle's waiting lips. For a brief moment Bodie thought of all the secrets he had to show Doyle: cars and caches, woods and weapons. He was suddenly quite sure none of it would be a patch on what Doyle was going to show him now.

-- THE END --

Excerpt from "Bodie's Book of Words to Live By": "It isn't what you know that counts, it's what you think of in time."

Originally published in The Hatstand Express Fiction Supplement 10

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