The Christmas Story


Ray Doyle stretched out his legs. Under him, the springs of an aged chair creaked. Or maybe that was the sound of his bones. Muscles aching, stiff all over--he felt as if he had fallen off a roof. Which, of course, he had. Dashing across the rooftops one minute, and through a rotten tile the next. He hadn't fallen more than a few feet, but he'd landed poorly. In one of those odd occurrences, his leg had been scraped badly, while his jeans protecting that spot hadn't so much as a single tear.

At least Brockerton hadn't escaped. Bodie had landed on the man like the proverbial ton of bricks, driving him face first into the pebbled surface. The man's beauty was forever gone. Not that he'd been much to look at before.

Bodie and Doyle had been seen by too many of the wrong people as they'd chased and brought back Brockerton. Their cover was completely blown, and Cowley had scowled at them and taken them off the case. Knowing they'd be good for little else for a day or two, he'd set them to keeping an eye on a certain house. He had no proof that the house needed watching, no real cause for his suspicions, but he pursed his lips and went with the feeling which rose from his deep Scots soul. He didn't send them in on a total observation, but only a Stage One. Take note of the neighbourhood, of the visitors, yes, but once the lights were out and the house quiet for at least an hour, they could sleep themselves, getting up at dawn to continue.

Despite the opportunity for sleep, this was not an easy job. Unlike usual, no advance team went in to rent a room to use as a base, no van or equipment was provided. There was no parking on the street, so surveillance from a car or van was out anyway. No trees or other choice loitering spots--and who'd do that in this weather?--and no buildings close by with notices of rooms to rent. It was not an easy place to spy upon.

But Doyle had been clever. He picked the building he wanted to have for a base of operations, and the window which would provide the best view, and then he'd gone up to that flat. An elderly man had answered his knock, peering out at him anxiously from the narrow space allowed by the brass chain on the door.

"302?" Doyle had began briskly, consulting a clipboard he had unearthed from the boot for the occasion. "You asked for a door to be repaired?"

The man had looked distressed. "No, no," he had said, shaking his head.

"Well, there must be some reason we were called, mate." Doyle had consulted the clipboard again. "You're not the one with the broken cooker?"

"No, I'm afraid...but you can't possibly be here about the window?"

"Let's take a look at it," Doyle said, and the man, quite hesitantly, closed the door enough to lift off the chain.

"It can't be the window," the man was saying. "It's been like that since I moved in, and Mr Hothman has told me there was nothing that could be done."

Doyle had followed him over to the window in the tiny flat. One pane was cracked, and the wind whistled in around the cardboard which patched it. "He's right. Very difficult, this," Doyle said quite seriously. "Take a whole day, and be bloody cold in here as well. We shall have to take off the entire window, I'm afraid. Look, Mr...?"

"Olson," the man supplied, nervously.

"Mr Olson, is there somewhere you can go for a day or so? A friend you can stay with while we take care of this?"

"Oh. I suppose...for a day, you say?"

"Yes. Until tomorrow at this time. Perhaps there is a relative?"

"I could stay with my step-sister, I suppose. She wouldn't mind if I came early for Christmas." He said it so doubtfully that it was clear that she might, indeed, mind.

"Suppose you give her a call," Doyle had said at once. He had seen no phone in the small flat, and added, "My partner and I will go get the materials we need and we shall meet you back here in an hour."

"Are you out of your mind?" Bodie hissed as they stood outside the door again, watching Mr Olson move slowly down the hallway to the stairs.

"Why? It's perfect. We get the use of his flat for the price of a few repairs."

"You're actually going to fix that window?" Bodie wanted to know.

"Bodie! It's Christmas. Besides, it gives an excuse to hang about the window, doesn't it?"

"Expenses are going to make very interesting reading this month," Bodie predicted. "The Cow won't allow it."

"Bottle of pure malt says he does."

"Done." Bodie had followed him out, trailed after him as Doyle went home for his tool box and a few other vitally important items, and then stopped to buy the supplies he needed. Bodie had ended up carrying the bits of lumber, paint and glass, and Doyle the tools. Bodie felt like a fool. Doyle, in his plaid shirt and worn jeans might look the part of a carpenter, he complained to his partner, but what sort of idiot would take him for a manual labourer?

Doyle had just laughed, but was saved from a reply by the anxious presence of Mr Olson, standing outside his door. Doyle had soothed the old man, helped him pack, and escorted him down to the taxi.

"He actually believed all that crap," Bodie said in wonder as Doyle returned.

Doyle said briskly, "Yes--and he won't be back until after St Stephens. We have three whole days here! Start on the window. I'll make tea."

"Me!" Bodie said, outraged. "I don't do windows!"

Doyle laughed. "Won't, or can't?" he asked.

"Haven't," Bodie replied succinctly. "Is it too much to ask if you have had experience?"

"You'd better make the tea," Doyle said with an exaggerated sigh, and he went to look at the window again. "Needs power tools to do it as it ought to be done," he said. "Landlord's probably right, even if he is a cheap bastard. This whole thing will only last another year or two, given the state of the frame. But at least fixing this bit will keep out most of the drafts until then."

"Got a good view from up here," Bodie said, coming to stand at his shoulder.

"Yeah. Where's my tea?" Doyle asked suddenly, practically pushing Bodie in the direction of the cooker. It was small and ancient, and it took Bodie three matches and a singed finger before the blue flame finally sprang up with a loud "Whoosh" of sound.

"Mustn't burn the place down around our ears," Doyle admonished.

Bodie ignored him and hunted up the tea things Doyle had brought along.

Doyle had fixed the window in less than an hour, spent another hour painting it, then another two hours finding other bits to repair. When he was done, the door didn't stick, every hinge in the place had lost its squeak and the faucet in the bathroom no longer dripped. Bodie had watched out the window, and then between them they did the preliminary report, which they sent to Cowley via the common post, and then Bodie had gone out for their meal.

And there Doyle sat, easing his sore leg, keeping an eye out for activity across the street--and trying not to think about Bodie. Or Christmas. Or....

Best think if there was anything else which could be done for old Mr Olson. He imagined Olson's surprise when he learned from the landlord that the repairs had been done by strangers. A smile came to his lips, thinking about it. It made him feel warm inside. It was, Doyle realized, the flip side of a very old coin. When he had been a boy, he had spent hours imagining surprises and gifts from an unknown benefactor. That was before he learned that anything he got in this life, he was going to have to get for himself. He'd learned quite early that Father Christmas didn't exist, and it had been a relief, in a way. At least it explained why the jolly old elf continually got young Raymond's requests confused with someone else's. Someone who wanted new underwear and shirts, instead of toys and chocolates.

Of course, when you thought about it, his parents didn't get their Christmas wishes, either. He'd known that what his mother had in mind when she'd given birth was a sweet, quiet and obedient daughter. What she'd produced, the day after Christmas, was a nine pound boy who had given her nothing but grief from the start.

Christmas had been unexciting, his birthday a pale afterthought, and yet he had still grown up with an idea of exactly how the holiday should be. Good food, friends, the odd good deed or two.

And here he was, the day before Christmas Eve, playing Santa's Helper and Spy in a strange flat, and Bodie would be here with him for three days. Bodie. For Christmas.

Doyle sighed. Yes, he wanted Bodie, and not just for Christmas. He also knew the chances of getting his partner into bed were identical to young Raymond Doyle's chances of getting a train set at age six. In a word, zero.

But then, what would he do if he was given Bodie? Some pressie! Imagine trying to stuff Bodie down the chimney and into a stocking. He wouldn't cooperate...but imagine Bodie, sitting in front of a fire, wearing nothing except one red sock....

It was getting dark outside. Doyle was watching the house across the way but no lights came on. It was very easy to do. There was no overhead light in this place he had borrowed, just two lamps, which he had not yet turned on. The flat probably looked much better by lamplight. Hide a multitude of sins, that would. It was lonely here. He thought about being old, about living out his life in a bedsit like this one. All the while he watched the house across the way. He had long ago perfected the ability of being able to watch and think of something else at the same time.

The knock at the door was Bodie's, and Doyle let him in. The rich smell of the orient came with him, and Doyle's taste buds woke up.

"Make sure you divide it evenly this time," Doyle said at once.

Bodie laughed. "We're eating it directly out of the carton, mate. I bought one for you and one for me. Mine," he said smugly, "is sweet and sour pork."

"What did you get me?" Doyle asked with suspicion.

"Garlic chicken."

"You remembered," Doyle said, half amazed. As often as not, Bodie forgot such things. He had a real tendency to buy what he favoured himself, so that even while he was generously handing you half, it was quite likely to be half of something you wouldn't eat on a bet.

Bodie was already coming up beside him, thrusting the food at Doyle while he tilted his head towards the window. "Any joy?"


"I drove past it both coming and going. Dark on all sides." He sounded disgusted.

"Have plans for tonight?"

"There's a new barmaid at the Purple Pig."

"Nice, is she?"

"Nice," Bodie announced, "is an inadequate word. She...."

Doyle didn't really want to hear about it. Nothing like having the one you yearn for rabbiting on about someone else. "Bring breakfast in the morning," Doyle interrupted.

"What, you staying here?" Bodie asked, amazed. He looked around the dump they were in, shaking his head.

"Sleeping seems like a good idea," Doyle said. He started in on his food, hungry.

"Bed looks uncomfortable to me," Bodie stated. It was old, a full size mattress which sagged slightly in the middle. "If you're lucky the sheets are clean."

Doyle was glad his mouth was full.

"You know you want to come with me," Bodie said, around his own mouthful. "We can go dancing, if you like."

"Nah. Just be back here on time! I know your habits!" Bodie had a tendency, deplored by all agents who worked with him, of being late to relieve someone, if he was to report in the morning. Bodie liked to lie in.

"I'll bring breakfast," Bodie agreed. Then, stopped shovelling in his food to mumble, "Bloody hell" and stop to take notes. Several people had arrived at once at the house, and their food got cold as they noted the numbers of the cars and the description of the men.

"The Cow might be right on this one. Hard men," Bodie said, giving his evaluation of the visitors. "That one on the left is carrying."

"Why don't you report it in?" Doyle suggested. Bodie lifted the r/t to his lips. Doyle was glad to have something else to look at. Lately, the sight of Bodie's lips held up to an r/t had seemed erotic to him. Stupid thing to get him turned on.

Cowley was in, and he said that camera equipment would be forthcoming, but it was obvious he had more important matters to concern himself with, and he cut the connection at once.

"And a Merry Christmas to you, too," Bodie said to the dead connection.

"Just be glad you don't have to go fetch the camera," Doyle told him. The temperature outside was dropping quickly.

"Huh." Bodie went to make use of the ancient plumbing, returning in a few minutes to take over the watch and allow Doyle the same experience.

He hadn't warned Doyle about how cold it was in the little cubicle, and at Doyle's yelp he yelled, "Hey! I warmed it up for you!"

Doyle's reply was in very basic Anglo-Saxon.

"Tsk! Good little boys who want lots of pressies don't say such things!"

"Up yours."

"Or that either. Raymond, you really must mend your evil ways."

"Since I'm the one picking up after you let's hear less about evil ways," Doyle said, quickly making the flat tidy again.

Except for the arrival of a young man with a canvas bag containing the camera equipment, and the flurry of activity when the visitors left the house across the way, it was a quiet evening. Bodie had found and turned on the radio the old man had--there was no television--and they passed the time easily enough.

The house they watched became dark, and an hour later Bodie pulled on his coat, said good-bye and ducked out the door.

It was quiet without him.

Doyle poured the last of the lukewarm tea into his cup and drained it down with two aspirin. His leg hurt, and he was tired. Restlessly, he moved around the flat, washing up the tea things. He fiddled with the radio until he found a station playing Christmas carols, and then, lights out, he stood by the window, looking beyond the house they were watching to a small shop with a string of colourful blinking lights in the window. He could see they circled a small, artificial Christmas tree wrapped with garlands and a few cheap ornaments. A house a bit further down had seven artificial candles in the window and a wreath on the door.

Very slowly, a sense of peace slid over him, and some tightness in his chest gave way. On the radio, old songs followed one another, and he listened to snatches of them, while other times he did not hear as his mind played with old memories and vague fantasies. Eventually, he slipped off his clothing and crawled in between the icy sheets of the old man's bed, to fall asleep within minutes, while the radio sang the old carols to unhearing ears.

In a pub less than a mile away, Bodie took a keen drink from his glass and studied the crowd around the bar. He decided to wait a bit before going for a refill. He shifted in the hard oak chair and frowned.

The itch was there. It was driving him crazy.

It annoyed him. The itch, in a place he could not decently scratch, brought faded memories to the surface. It had been years since it had plagued him, and he had thought it banished forever. It had taken a lot of hard work to get rid of it. Years of bedding only women, of learning not to look at a man as a bed partner.

Yet, here it was, back again. A definite, physical itch, which lingered, half outside of his body, half inside. He remembered, all too clearly, how to go about relieving himself of the nagging sensation. It took a cock, well greased and hard, applied a few dozen times straight up his arse.

He hadn't always had the itch. It had been acquired in the jungle, along with a few other bad habits which had been hazards of the job. Now, he hadn't smoked in years, or chewed tobacco. The tattoo he'd had removed was only a blurry patch on his hip. He'd left all the signs of the jungle behind years ago.

And now the itch was back.

He clenched his buttocks, driving it away for a few seconds, and then he got up to move, to allow the natural motion of walking ease it for a bit. Once he had his glass refilled, and flirted with the barmaid, he returned to his chair and his brooding.

He knew what had precipitated the itch, what dragged it up from the black depths of memory. It was Doyle. No, to be quite specific about it, it was Doyle's arse. At some point, he had become aware of it, and now it haunted the back of his thoughts. Lovely arse. He had dreams of taking it, of losing himself in the depths of it, dreams which were interspersed with visions of Doyle doing the same to him.

Bodie took another drink. He could take care of the itch. He had seen the look the fellow in the corner had given him several times now. He could get a royal fucking just for the asking. But he made no move to see about getting it. He'd tried that once last month. It hadn't helped at all. No, it was Doyle he wanted up his backside, Doyle's cock rubbing out the itch. That told him the itch was partly psychological, and it told him that if it wasn't a physical need, then it had to be an emotional one.

Nothing was more impossible to imagine, however, than the granting of his wish. Macho little stud, Doyle. How would he take it if Bodie asked for that? Would he lose respect for him. Or start using him, taking what was offered without thought of reciprocation? And what if it ruined the partnership? It had taken Bodie a good deal of time to learn to pull in double harness, but now that he had learned the trick of it, he was disinclined to haul the weight of the job alone. Better to endure the itch than bugger the working relationship.

But he still, deep down in his blood and bone, was aching for the stab of this one man.

He even knew what it meant. It had taken him awhile, but he had finally untangled all the mixed emotions and thoughts, the impulses and the convictions. It had come to him one night a few months ago. He'd just rolled over, and into, the dark-haired beauty who had been his date that night, and for a fraction of a second he had imagined it was Doyle. He'd known, then, how much he wanted Ray, and worse than that, he'd understood that he wanted more than just his body and a few hours humping in the dark.

Keep him forever.

What a thing to want.

What a stupid thing to want.

A group at the bar had burst into song, a ribald version of "Jingle Bells" which under other circumstances he would have been enjoying enormously. He watched the swaying couples, the laughing faces, and he gave it up with a curse, lunging to his feet and towards the door, leaving his unfinished drink behind.

It was cold outside, a damp cold with the bite of snow promised in it. White Christmas?


He pulled his collar up and went waling towards his car in long strides, as if he could out pace the bitter chill. Christmas had never been a holiday he thought much of, and later experiences hadn't improved his opinion of it. There was more than a touch of pagan in Bodie's soul, and the parts of the holiday which appealed to him were the old parts, the green tree, the holly, the mistletoe. And the feast, of course! The candles and the turning back of winter meant more to him than the birth of Christ. He didn't have much use for the religion founded on the birth of that poor sod, having long held the conviction that should Jesus come back to earth and see what a mess organized religion had made of what he had tried to teach, he would be sick all over the nave.

A fine holiday for parties, Christmas, and they lasted into the new year, a nice long holiday. Parties had been enough for years, but now Bodie was thinking of a shabby flat where Doyle slept alone, and he wished he could....

But he couldn't, and so he started the car with more force than the act required, and pressed too hard on the gas, so that he squealed out into the dark streets with a roar which reflected some of what he felt inside. He went home and went to sleep.

Up before dawn, he showered and put on fresh clothing, and he arrived just as the sun was trying feebly to put forth a new day. He had no key, and so he knocked smartly on the door, juggling the bags and boxes which contained breakfast.

A tousled Doyle answered, wearing only a pair of pants. Barefoot and bare-chested, he looked cold--and he looked good enough to eat.

"Get dressed, sunshine, before you freeze off your assets," Bodie said, bustling in and taking charge. In minutes, there was hot coffee and the ring of Christmas bread Bodie had brought on the way over was heating in the oven.

The place smelled of hot bread and coffee, and Doyle was there and a part of Bodie relaxed.

"What's this?" Doyle asked, rummaging through the bags Bodie had brought.

"Chocolate?" Bodie suggested.

"No, did you get that, too?"

"Must be the pots of jam." Bodie had bought fresh bread and butter, and jam. His favourites, but he had known Doyle liked them, too.

"One of them has a bow on it," Doyle observed as he emptied the sack.

"That's for the old man. We get the strawberry and the grape."


Bodie sighed. "You needn't sound so surprised about it. You're not the only one with charitable impulses. Thought it would make up for kicking him out of his own home on Christmas Eve."

"I'll put it up here in the cupboard," Doyle said, quietly. Bodie wished he'd never thought of it; something in the tone of voice Doyle was using was embarrassing him.

"Quiet night?" Bodie asked, to change the subject.

"Yeah. Got up a couple times to check, but it was quiet as the grave over there. They're still not up," he added.

"I'll take the first watch," Bodie volunteered.

"You just want me to bring you your food and butter your bread," Doyle accused.

Among other things, Bodie thought, but what he said was, "Got it in one!"

"Lazy sod," Doyle said, without rancour. He left Bodie well supplied and then went to shave, using the electric razor which he had brought over.

Bodie lifted his cup of coffee and drank. There were Christmas carols on the radio. Not his sort of music, but they were turned down low enough so that it didn't intrude. He took a big bite of his hot bread and decided that life wasn't so bad at the moment.

They traded off throughout the morning, eating off and on so that they were not hungry for a meal when noon came around. It was midafternoon, and Bodie was watching the quiet house--no one since the postman that morning--when he realized that there was an odd sound coming from behind him.

"What are you doing?" he asked, risking a glance behind. Doyle had a small magazine in hand, and was folding down the pages, one after another.

"It's Christmas Eve," Doyle explained.

"I know it is. But what are you doing?" Bodie asked, with as much patience as he could muster.

"Not Christmas without a Christmas tree," Doyle said.



"Have you lost it?"

"Depends. What have you found?" Doyle joked.

"Feeble. Just tell me what you're doing," he demanded.

"Learned this back when I was six or seven. You take a magazine, and you fold each page back to the center of the magazine and crease it. You end up with something vaguely tree shaped. Then you decorate it with whatever is about. Bits of ribbon and such."

Bodie visualized that. It wasn't easy. He made a sound of doubt.

"I'm going to paint it with some of the paint we got for the window. It's green," Doyle said.

Doyle must be bored out of his skull. Bodie thought so later, when he traded places with Doyle and got a good look at the half folded magazine. Waste of a Reader's Digest, in his opinion. "Hope the old man had finished reading that," he said.

"It was October's. You might amuse yourself by helping me out."

And Bodie found himself bending back and creasing the pages until the job was done. It still took a leap of imagination to create a tree out of the cone shape which resulted. However, by the time he had served another stint at the window, Doyle had the thing painted, and he had to admit that now, at least, you could see what the idea was. By later afternoon, when the snow had started outside, the little tree had bows made of scraps of red string and snowflakes cut out of the white paper which had once wrapped the bakery goods.

It was almost pretty. Bravely festive. Bodie was inspired to resurrect some old skills of his own, and when he traded places again with Doyle, there were two animals made of folded paper beside the tree. One may or may not have been a camel, but the other was plainly a frog.

It made Doyle laugh, and make a joke about wishing a "hoppy" Christmas, and all at once the itch was back and Bodie was fighting himself, fighting what he wanted.

"You're quiet, all the sudden," Doyle said a few minutes later.

"Just thinking," Bodie said, frantically trying to keep one word ahead of his mouth. "D'you know, this is the first holiday we've spent together?"

"You're not counting last year, when we sat around the rest room with five other agents, waiting for word on that IRA bombing?"

"No. Doesn't count when we're with the lads, or at a pub. Year before last, remember? Went out for a meal before Cowley dropped us in it at the docks?"

"I remember how bloody cold it was! But, you're right. You know something else? It's been nice. Peaceful." Doyle nodded to himself, and said again, "Peaceful. Maybe that's what makes it seem like a real Christmas."

"Not a real Christmas without a Christmas goose, and all the trimmings," Bodie bemoaned, and then cursed and laughed as Doyle made a grab at him.

"Tell you what, Bodie. I'll go out and get you the best meal I can find. What do you say?"

"I say, more power to you. On your bike, lad! I'm hungry already!"

Doyle was out the door, pulling on his coat as he went, and Bodie was left alone with the job--and an itch. At least here, alone, he could scratch, and he rubbed at the area hard through the fabric and scowled out at the darkening world. The snow was light, barely noticeable, but gave promise of turning into a real storm before morning. A gold rectangle of light sprang to life in the house across the way, and Bodie groped for the pad of paper and wrote down a quick summary of what he saw before the curtains were drawn. Three men around a table, food before them, wine glasses full, while the fourth came to the window, glass in hand. None of them were familiar. Why were they eating upstairs, and not down in the dining room on the bottom floor?

No answers. Never were.

Doyle was gone well over an hour, and Bodie was hovering between irritation and worry by the time his partner returned. His arms were full, and Bodie helped him get it all onto the table. As a trained agent, he noticed there was one package that disappeared when Doyle hung up his coat, and he smiled. It warmed him to think that Doyle was planning a surprise for him. It didn't matter what it was, only that Doyle had thought of it.

Doyle had found a place that sold roasted chickens, and they split the bird in half and feasted, sharing the salad which came with it and the chips which Doyle had bought because he knew Bodie would want some. Most of the chips went down Bodie's throat as a result, although Bodie left a few for his partner. He wanted to offer Doyle the chips with his fingers, wanted to feel the nibble of those lips against his skin. But of course, he kept his hands under control.

"Where shall we go tonight?" Bodie asked, to distract himself.

Doyle looked up, obviously startled. "Tonight?"

"You hadn't planned on staying here again?" Bodie demanded.

"Yeah. Bed's not as uncomfortable as it looks. Besides, I have a feeling about that place," Doyle said, gesturing towards the house they were watching with his fork.

"Come on, Doyle, give it a rest. Nice pub, some willing local talent--that's the way to celebrate a holiday!"

"Nah. You go on," Doyle said, and Bodie glimpsed a funny, half-sad look on his face for a moment, before Doyle's usual expression asserted itself. "Have one for me," he said generously, not really clear as to if it were drink or woman that he referred to.

"Are you feeling okay?" Bodie demanded. Maybe Doyle had been hurt more than they had known of at the time.

"Sore a bit, yeah. Not quite up to the effort," Doyle said quickly. "Think I'll take a nice hot bath and an early night."

"In that thing?" Bodie demanded, having seen the stained and chipped tub.

"It's clean."

Bodie shook his head. "Come on, Doyle," he coaxed. "Come with me." I don't want to go alone, he thought. I want to be with you.

"I'm sure you'll do well enough, even without me to lure them in close enough for you to grab," Doyle joked.

"Do better," Bodie assured him automatically. Doyle laughed, and didn't argue it, rather to Bodie's disappointment. There had always been something about hunting with Doyle, the touch of competition along with the thrill of the chase, which he had enjoyed. In fact, the idea of going off alone did not appeal at the moment.

But, there was nothing he could do about it, and as they finished eating and cleaned up--a long process as they had to stop twice to record comings and goings across the street--he thought of several other ploys for coaxing Doyle to go out. None of them worked.

Keeping an eye on the house across the way became increasingly difficult, for the snow, and the visibility, were getting worse. Not much of it had yet stuck to the streets, which were wet and slushy, but that would probably change by morning. Bodie was parked three streets away, and he didn't look forward to the tramp there, to cleaning off the windows and warming it up.

At eight, everyone across the way left. The house was dark. At nine, Bodie stood slowly up. "Sure you won't change your mind? he asked, as he pulled on his coat.

"Enjoy yourself," Doyle said, shaking his head as he once more declined the honour. Bodie shrugged, as if it didn't matter and the loss belonged to Doyle, and he left at once.

Damp, cold, fresh air filled his lungs as he stepped into the street. He gave a careful look at the target house before he turned up his collar and headed for the car. He was cautious as he went, knowing that snow muffled sound or changed the way it carried. He was wary of the situation, for if he were doing a hit, he would choose this type of evening to do it. Not many people out to witness, easy to get lost before discovery.

His car was untouched, except that some child had drawn sloppy 'happy xmas!' across the bonnet in the snow. The car just ahead had a heart and two crooked stars decorating it. He checked warily, but when he finally climbed into the car and started it, nothing blew up. He pulled out slowly, heading for the Purple Pig.

It was crowded, but the woman at the bar remembered him. It was too busy for her to spend much time with him, however, and he retreated, glass in hand, to watch an arm wrestling match between two women at a table at the back. He offered sympathy to the loser--until her boyfriend came back from a trip to the bar and he realized she was not alone. He switched his attention to one of her friends, buying the lady a drink and whispering tried and true bits of scandalous suggestion into her ear by the time she finished it.

It wasn't enough.

It wasn't what he wanted. If the woman had taken him up on his whispered teasing, it might have been different, but she was in no hurry to leave at this early hour, and when a friend asked for her company on one of those mysterious trips to the loo that women take, he was glad to find himself alone. He told himself he was tired, and went home.

It was strange to be at home. Quiet. Hollow, somehow. The biscuits he had left open on the table were stale. He ate them anyway, and after standing in a long hot shower until the water turned cold, he went to bed.

It was no good. He punched the pillows, turned, tossed. Twice he got up to get water, to look for more food, although he was not hungry. He itched, and there was no way to scratch it; physically rubbing it, working a finger in to massage the spot, only seemed to make it worse.

When he got up, it was with no clear idea of what he would do, and yet he dressed. He hunted up a bottle of expensive wine he had hidden away a month ago, and yet he didn't open it. Midnight. He could hear bells outside. Merry Christmas. With a muffled oath he threw himself out of the chair, snatched up the bottle and his keys, and left his flat. Pausing only to lock up properly, he practically ran down to his car. With his arm he wiped the windows free of accumulated snow, heedless of the icy wetness which was forced up the sleeve of his coat, and without checking for tampering, he unlocked the car, climbed in, and started it. There was little traffic, and the snow was much worse than it had been earlier, swirling into the twin beams of light before him. He hardly saw it, driving by instinct while his head buzzed with wild thoughts.

He could pretend to be drunk, and....

He could blame the weather, say he was on his way home from a pub and....

He could come up with a theory about the men they were watching, something important enough to explain why he was bursting into the place in the middle of the night....

Nothing seemed right, no answers came to him. Some of his schemes were so impossible, so off-the-wall, that a grim smile flirted along his lips. As the inside of the car warmed up, snowflakes which had been caught in his hair melted onto his face, and he scrubbed them away with the back of his hand, in the same way small children rub away tears.

He found a place to park only half a block from his destination. He should have looked for one further away, but he was beyond caring about ought and should. He locked it, and stood in the snow, staring down at the house they were keeping under observation. The snow and wind slashed at his face, but he didn't turn his head away until he determined that there was no activity there. Then, head down, his mind a curious blank, he slogged through the snow to the ugly building, climbed the two flights of stairs quickly, and knocked on the door before his vacillating courage could fail him.

"It's me," he called out, as he heard sounds of movement inside.

"Which me?" Doyle's voice called out.

Doyle knew who he was, but was cautious enough to want to know if everything was all right. Bodie gave his usual knock and the door opened.

"What's wrong?" Doyle asked. He was dressed only in his underpants, gun in hand, and shivering. Bodie found his eyes focused on the goosebumped flesh, seeing how the nipples peaked within the circle of darkness which surrounded them. There was a bruise over his ribs, not colourful, but long. It reminded him that Doyle had been hurt, he was sore. The thought of Doyle hurting brought a frown to his face.

"Nothing's wrong." Bodie shoved his way inside, shedding his wet coat and throwing it across the old chair. "Doesn't this place have any heat?"

"Let's just say the heat is inadequate," Doyle told him, obviously still waiting for some sort of explanation for Bodie's presence.

Bodie thrust the bottle of wine at him and went to the loo, which was even colder than the rest of the room. He practically expected steam to rise up from the yellow stream of piss. Didn't really have to go that much, he told himself. You just don't want to face Doyle yet. Coward.

When he stepped out, it was to find Doyle had pulled on a t-shirt, the green one which had seen many a long year of clinging to Doyle's torso. "Bodie?" he began, his eyes narrow with consideration as he looked Bodie up and down as if searching for some external clue to his mate's odd behaviour.

Bodie faced him and gave the only truth he had. "I decided I wanted to spend the holiday with you." A fraction of the truth, but after all, the important part.

"How drunk are you?" Doyle wanted to know.

"I had a few earlier," Bodie said, not mentioning it was hours ago. It was fine with him if Doyle leaped to a few wrong conclusions.

"I'm not in the mood to drink, Bodie. I want to go back to bed."

"The bottle's your Christmas present. Put it under the tree," Bodie suggested. He started unbuttoning his shirt, pausing to unzip and then unbutton his trousers, then finished with his shirt.


"Climb back into bed," Bodie advised. "Warmer that way." He took off only his top layer, and still wearing undershirt, pants and socks, he turned off the lamp and followed Doyle to bed. The bed had not been made for two big men, and the blankets were barely adequate. "That poor sod," Bodie groaned as he manoeuvred to make sure his feet stayed covered. His back was to the center of the bed, and Doyle took the same position facing in the other direction, so that their backs were within an inch of one another.

"Bodie, this is the stupidest idea you've had in months," Doyle told him, shifting as he tried to find a comfortable spot.

"Yes," said Bodie honestly. "I know. Shut up and go to sleep, will you?" It was lumpy and cold and crowded, and coming here hadn't made his itch go away at all. The heat from Doyle's body was making him want to shove back that tiny distance and plaster himself against his partner neck to arse. But he didn't. Slowly, he relaxed.

This is enough, Bodie realized. Just being close like this is enough. If not all he wanted, it was at least what he needed. He sighed and folded the flat pillow under his head in half to provide support. Behind him, Doyle did the same with the other poor excuse for a pillow. Their backs briefly touched, and Bodie realized they were both wearing shirts. He mourned the layers of cloth, even as he yawned, and drifted into sleep as Doyle twisted and made another attempt to get comfortable.

Ray Doyle was wide awake. An enigma at his back, and a cold room at his front combined to chase away the deep sleep which had been his only few minutes ago. What was Bodie up to? Why had he come back here instead of going home, or, for that matter, why was he here instead of in bed with some bird?

Doyle clenched his jaw, unhappy with the closeness of the big warm body because he wanted most of all to relax, to let his body touch every inch of Bodie's strong, solid back. Actually, even more than that, he wanted to turn over, push one of Bodie's legs forward, and shove himself into that heat.

Beyond consideration, that. No way was a macho stud like Bodie going to accept anything of that sort. Bodie was all aggression and control. If anybody was going to get shoved into, it wasn't William Bodie. Fine. Okay. Let him do the fucking. Just do it, Bodie, he pleaded silently.

A gentle snore told him Bodie was asleep.

Doyle almost laughed out loud. Typical that. He was aware of every inch of Bodie, of every breath the man took. He was longing to be in the midst of a torrid moment--and Bodie was asleep. Nothing more clearly indicated the differences between them.

Jesus, Bodie. Why?

But did it matter why? Bodie was here. He could have gone home, or stayed with a bird, but he came here. The thought eased him, made him sigh aloud. Suddenly, he decided to hell with the effort he was making to make sure he didn't touch Bodie. Bodie was the one who came here, after all. Bodie's choice, he tried to tell himself, as he quite deliberately leaned back and pressed his spine to Bodie's.

God, it felt wonderful. Like a giant hot water bottle. A long, sexy hot water bottle. Each breath pressed them together, and he was glad of the shirts they wore. Bare flesh would be a temptation beyond his ability to control Also, skin on skin would create sweat, cold or sticky, and then Bodie might pull away. This way, they would touch all night. Be almost worth it to stay awake and savour it. He did manage to enjoy it another fifteen minutes before he followed Bodie into slumber.

Dawn. Instinct had Doyle awake as the first pale light crept into the room. Doyle eased out of bed, stretched, and dressed before he went to the loo--it was just too cold in the room. Mr Olson, Doyle decided, was made of stern stuff. The room really needed a heater of some sort. One of those portable things. But could Olson afford to run it? Surely the landlord had some responsibility to provide heat? Pondering these points, Doyle forced himself through his morning routine and then went to start the tea. He paused by the window, looking across at the house they watched. It was a crisp, clear morning, and cold. No sign of anyone over there, and the snow on the stoop was unblemished. No one had stayed the night. Was it because they had gone away for Christmas, or because no one lived there? Did they use it for something other than a residence?

Thinking about that, he made a pot of tea and poured a cup for Bodie. Bodie had changed positions while Doyle was gone; he had turned onto his back and as Doyle sat down on the edge of the bed, his eyes opened.

The expression in those eyes stole the words of greeting from Doyle lips. Bodie looked pleased to see him; the smile began in the eyes even before it reached Bodie's lips.

"Good morning," Bodie said, his voice husky from the night. It sent sparkles down Doyle spine, and he couldn't help his warm response.

"Good morning," Doyle said, and offered the tea.

"Thanks," Bodie said sincerely, and after he had drained half of it, he said, "Knew there was a reason I came back last night."

"For my tea?" Doyle asked. He had intended to tease, but the question came out quite seriously.

"Yeah," Bodie said, smiling again. "For your tea." But his eyes said other things. Doyle blinked, not quite sure what he read there.

"I thought you came for your pressie."

"Pressie? Oh. Christmas morning, isn't it? Is my stocking filled?"

"Since you wore your socks all night, yeah, you could say that. Time to get up, Bodie. Past dawn. Time to go to work."

Bodie finished off his tea, handed the cup to Doyle and hauled himself out of the bed slowly. His speed increased as his feet hit the icy floor, and he headed for the bathroom.

Doyle poured them both more tea, checked to see if there were any changes outside, and then went to pull from the closet the package he had hidden there the night before. He placed it beside the bottle Bodie had brought. The gifts rather overwhelmed the little tree. In the light of day, Doyle got a good look at the label on the bottle, ad he whistled silently has he realized what it must have cost. His small effort seemed hardly to compare.

But then Bodie was dressed and out, and after a comment on the brightness outside, he homed in at once on his package. It wasn't wrapped, but it was boxed, and Doyle watched as Bodie opened it and a grin spread across his handsome face.

"You know what I like, don't you?" Bodie asked, bringing out the huge Swiss roll. "Where's a knife?"

"You're having it now? For breakfast?" Doyle laughed, but Bodie was serious, and a few minutes later they were feasting on cake.

"Won't go with the present you gave me," Doyle said after a few bites of the rich chocolate cake.

"Can save that for tomorrow," Bodie said. "Or whenever you're off duty next. Bottle like that deserves respect, you know."

"Yes, I know," Doyle agreed. He'd cook a meal, he decided, steak perhaps, and invite Bodie over.

They were sitting where they could do their duty and eat at the same time, but the house was completely still, the piles of snow still undisturbed on the steps. The sun on the snow was incredibly bright. The day 'felt' different, the way Christmas did sometimes. Many years ago, when walking on a Christmas morning much like this, he had figured out that the special feeling he had for the morning was partly born from the quiet. This was one morning when staying in was almost universal, when the lack of traffic and voices occurred on half the planet. It was a silence from entire nations he heard, combined with the excitement of a million children. Surely that much emotion in that much silence had some effect? He smiled as he thought of the old fancy.

"What's funny?" Bodie asked.

Doyle shook his head, not wanting to explain things he was not sure he could find words for, and said, "Thanks."

"For the bottle? Ulterior motives, Doyle. Don't go wasting that on some bird!"

"I'm supposed to share it with you, am I?" Doyle asked, amused. He had never had any other intention, but once he might have done just that.

"Supposed to share everything with me. Partners, you know," Bodie reminded him lightly, but Doyle could see again an odd light in those wonderfully blue eyes.

"I know." But most partners didn't give up a warm, comfortable bed to join their partner in a cold hard one. There was something in the atmosphere of the room, something partly born of the Christmas quiet, but also from questions with no answers, yearnings twisting inside.

Bodie was so beautiful, lanced across with a beam of morning sun--even with a bit of chocolate on his lip. Doyle had to look away, and he turned to the job, to staring out at the house they were keeping under observation. At first he saw nothing, his mind stealing the input of the eye and substituting still the image of Bodie in the sun. Gradually, thought, a small bell ringing in the back of his mind got his attention, and he stared at the house, trying to understand what it was his subconscious was telling him. Something was different, something not quite right.

"It's the roof," he realized after several long seconds.

"What?" Bodie wanted to know, around another mouthful of cake.

"How much snow is out there, three inches? Four?"

"Five, maybe," Bodie said, looking out as well. "Expected more, after the mess it made of the streets last night."

"Makes a lovely picture, on the rooftops, doesn't it?" Doyle murmured. There was almost no snow on the roof directly across from them. Only a lacy edge of it lingered on the edges, supporting an icicle or two.

Bodie understood at once. "The roof isn't really dark, and the sun hasn't been out long. All the other houses are still covered."

"So why do you suppose that, which is uninhabited this morning, as far as we can tell, has nothing left on it?"

"Heat," Bodie said.

"Nothing coming out of the chimney or the pipes," Doyle pointed out. No smoke, no vapour.

"Odd," Bodie said, with a certain amount of understatement. Then he sighed.

"What?" Doyle asked.

"The old man loves a puzzle. He's going to extend this obbo, just watch."

"And Mr Olson coming back tomorrow. Fancy doing some work for the old lady next door?" Doyle joked.

"Maybe she had a more comfortable bed!"

Are you going to share that one with me, too?

The question was in Doyle eyes. Bodie's eyes were caught in his for a moment, tangled, won free to look out at the house again.

"What do you suppose makes enough heat to melt that much snow?" Doyle asked. "A kiln?"

Bodie offered, "A sauna?"

Doyle made a motion with his hand, dismissing that idea.

Bodie came up with an even sillier one, saying, "They show blue movies in the attic. That's the heat of passion you see melting the snow, Doyle!"

He laughed, of course he did, but their eyes knotted again briefly in the wake of the word 'passion'. Each had to look away.

"Do you remember when Cowley said...." Bodie paused.

"What?" Doyle looked up.

"That old line about, 'Just because there's snow on the roof doesn't mean there's not a fire in the furnace,'--you remember?"

Doyle grinned. They'd been speculating about the old man's love life--or, to be honest, his sex life--when he had come up behind them and gifted them with a few pithy words followed by a bugger of an assignment. Yeah, he remembered. He also remembered they needed to call in this little bit of news.

"Here." Bodie was handing him the r/t. Doyle frowned, not because Bodie had anticipated him, had practically read his mind. That happened all the time. But what we he reading from Doyle now? Was that really interest he saw in Bodie's eyes earlier?

He was afraid of making a mistake. If he got this wrong, Bodie could do anything. Laugh and make a joke of it, deck him where he stood, go stomping off the break the partnership--anything. Keep your mouth shut, he told himself, even as he was dictating his report. Cowley wasn't there. Off enjoying his own Christmas, no doubt. The boss would read it all tomorrow. He had an image of Cowley, glasses on his nose, scanning reports, pausing a moment at theirs, then reading on. All that work, skimmed. Read in a moment and then filed.

Bodie was speaking.

"What?" Doyle lifted his head, blinking away the image. He knew why he was thinking about Cowley. Kept him from thinking about problems closer to home. Bodie.

"I said, weren't you going to cook that roast?" Bodie asked hopefully.

"Hungry already? You're still eating your present!"

"And very good it is, too. A roast beef will make a fine 'afters' won't it?"

"I'll get started," Doyle said. "You keep an eye on the hot house."

"Hothouse? There's an idea. Maybe they're growing pot in the attic."

"Not enough light." Doyle began to collect up what was needed for their Christmas dinner. No Christmas pudding, which would break Bodie's heart, but potatoes and a vegetable. Maybe gravy. Bodie liked that.

"They make special lights," Bodie said. "You know that!"

Doyle grinned. "You seem to know a bit too much about it!"

"Widely read," Bodie suggested.

Doyle make a rude sound.

Eventually, when he had done as much as he could towards the meal, he took over from Bodie while the other made a trip to the loo. Doyle was very aware of Bodie when the other came up. Doyle was sitting, Bodie was behind him, and the faintest scent of groin, of Bodie, wafted into his nostrils. The hair on the back of Doyle neck stood on end, and there was a twitch inside his pants.

"Quiet," Bodie observed.


Neither said more until the meal was ready. They didn't eat at the table, but held their plates in their laps while perched in chairs by the window, and Bodie cleaned up while Doyle made notes about children playing in the street in front of the house. The sun and the kids soon turned the snow to dirty, melting mush.

The afternoon advanced. Traffic increased, and the special feel of the day was melting away even faster than the snow. Doyle turned on the radio, finding Christmas carols, sung by choirs so huge that the words were lost in swelling, lifting sound.

"When do you supposed the old man is coming back tomorrow?" Bodie asked.

"Mr Olson?" Doyle shrugged. "As long as we're not here when he arrives!"

"Anything we won't be using, I could take down to the car now," Bodie volunteered.

"Could just wait until you went home for the night." Doyle said it lightly, as if it were accepted that Bodie would not stay.

"What makes you think I'm going anywhere?"

"The fact that the bed is as comfortable as a pile of rocks?" Doyle suggested.

"I've slept in worse," Bodie stated.

"When forced to. What's forcing you to sleep in this one?" Doyle made sure his face was showing nothing of the way his heart was thudding in his chest.

One, two, three, four...long seconds, during which Doyle could see that Bodie didn't have an answer ready on the tip of his tongue. Glib Bodie, who had a quick word and a ready come-back in any situation.

"Wanted to spend the holiday with you. Explained that before," Bodie said eventually.

"And being in my bed's a holiday?" Doyle asked swiftly.

Bodie was caught with an expression on his face. Doyle, looking directly at Bodie, who had been gazing out at the house, saw every nuance of it. There was at first a flare of absolute lust, buried at once by a flicker of realization which turned the edge of a lip up in a flash of wry smile, before a blankness descended over everything.

But Doyle had seen it, and Bodie knew Doyle had seen it, and then Bodie seemed to decide to brazen it out. He looked away from the house and then he turned his entire body so that his back was to the job and he faced Doyle directly.

"Yeah. Being in your bed is my idea of a holiday." Bodie said it with his eyes fastened on Doyle, challenging, daring him to make something of it.

Doyle swallowed, hard, still not quite sure if he was being set up, given Bodie's nasty sense of humour. "Not much of a holiday, mate!"

"That's true," Bodie said. "But it's not my fault you're slow."

"Slow?" Doyle asked, on a rising note.

"Yes! Slow!" Bodie practically shouted. "Why do people usually crawl into bed with you?"

Little splinters of hope jabbed at Doyle, bringing a flush to his face. He framed his answer carefully. "Well, some of them want to get their end away. Quick fuck and all that. And some of them want to make love, nice and slow, all night long."

"Yeah? And are there some who want both?" Bodie asked.

Doyle nodded.

"Are any of them men?" Bodie asked, his voice dropping.

"Apparently," Doyle said.

"Then the only question is, am I going to stay here tonight?" Bodie asked.

"No," Doyle said flatly. He regretted his joke the moment it left his lips when he saw the lack of expression cover Bodie's face again and realized his partner had taken that for rejection. "We're going to my place--or yours--and do this properly. In comfort. With heat and hot water and a bigger bed."

Bodie turned abruptly back to the window, looking out intently. "Good," he said, in a voice which did not quite manage to sound normal, though an obvious effort was being made. After a bit, and with his back still to Doyle, he asked, "Have you ever...?"

"Once or twice. You?"

"More than twice."

There were a dozen questions Doyle wanted to ask, and in fact he was going to make a light comment about their amateur status, but then the implication of "professional" in this area kept his mouth firmly shut. It didn't matter what was in Bodie's past, or his. What mattered was the future.

So he said, "It's going to be a long afternoon."

"Ah. But a long night as well!"

"You know, if you're pratting about, trifling with my affections, I'm going to tear off your balls and make you eat them?" Doyle said in a friendly and reasonable tone.

"That's not what you have to worry about," Bodie said.

"Oh? And what do I have to worry about, then?" Doyle wanted to know.

"Permanent fixtures," Bodie said. "Every night a holiday." He added, "I'm hard to get rid of."

"Your birds never had that impression," Doyle observed, his heart beating a little more quickly in his chest.

"We," Bodie said, "are not talking about the birds."

"Talking about your men, are we?" Doyle didn't like the thought of Bodie collecting men the way he did birds.

"Just talking about us," Bodie said. He turned around enough to look out the window again, but his body was still angled towards Doyle.

"Hard to believe," Doyle said, moving closer. He was having to squash impulses to grab Bodie, to show physically the force of the emotion which was roaring inside. The damn job! He knew, and no doubt Bodie knew, that he didn't dare even touch him. So he said the only thing he could think of. "Want a sandwich?" There was leftover beef from their early meal.

Bodie laughed. "Oh, Mr Romantic!" he mocked. His voice was warm, though, and Doyle knew Bodie understood. "Yeah. Don't forget the mustard this time."

Doyle made up sandwiches for them both. He wasn't very hungry himself, but eating it helped to ease the fluttery feeling he had. Something in him soared, seemed lifted into the very air. He was acutely aware of a sense of wonder that they had broached the matter, that Bodie felt as he did, that they were going to go home and climb into bed....

It was a cliche, to say that something wonderful was like Christmas and birthday rolled into one. But it was Christmas, and his birthday was tomorrow, and for once, it seemed he was going to get everything he wished for. The sheer impossibility of it made the waiting hard, but he fought to stay calm, to give away no sign of how eager he felt. In the back of his mind was the fear that it was all an impossibility, that it would be snatched away at the last minute. But it wouldn't--unless Cowley--and it didn't bear thinking about.

No one came to the house across the way. No lights came on as the night slowly fell. The radio ceased the carols and Doyle fiddled with it, trying to find music to his taste, or Bodie's. A sombre voice predicted rain for the next day, and he imagined the condition the streets would be in. Eventually, he turned the radio off.

They switched places in rotation, each careful to keep the job in the fore of their thoughts. It would have been easier to do if there had been anything at all to watch. To keep himself sane, Doyle did a few light exercises, testing out the parts of his body which had been injured, happy that he had healed enough to make the idea of a night of passion undaunting. Two days ago, the idea would have appealed, but the ability would have been curtailed. Now....

And then, when Bodie called in on the r/t to report all was quiet, Mr Cowley himself told them to stay until midnight, then take 30 hours off.

"That's six in the bloody morning he wants us in!" Doyle yelped as Bodie broke the connection.

"But it's also 30 hours all to ourselves," Bodie said, more pragmatically, "and we can sleep in tomorrow as late as we like."

"Your place or mine?" Doyle asked.

"Well, I have the bigger bed, but you're more likely to have food in when we finally get around to breakfast." Bodie was standing in the dark room, and it was hard to see his expression.

"It's easier for me to wear your clothes than for you to wear mine," Doyle pointed out.

"My place it is. Guess we'll live on love," Bodie joked.

Doyle had a mental image of feeding on Bodie, of his mouth on Bodie's cock, of chewing on his chest or neck or ears, and he almost missed the implication of that word.

Live on love? Just a phrase, that. Didn't mean anything.

"Yeah," he said. Then he added, "It's hours till midnight."

"True, but with luck, nothing will happen."

"Yeah," Doyle said again. "At the stroke of midnight, three cars will drive up and a Russian spy, two terrorists and a mad bomber will climb out!"

"Don't even think it."

Doyle agreed with that. Plenty of other things to think about. Permanent fixtures, Bodie had said.

Time crawled. Nothing happened. Doyle let Bodie take the last watch, and used the opportunity to check and make sure they had collected everything. He hesitated over the tree and the paper animals Bodie had folded. In the end, he left them. The magazine had belonged to Mr Olson, after all, and they had enough to carry. They could make more next year, some time when they had time to fill on a job like this one. Make it a tradition. Maybe they would even have a real tree one year....

Quiet. The street was quiet, perhaps because it had grown fucking cold this last hour. How did Olson stand it? Bodie was wearing his coat because the cold seeped in from the window despite Doyle's repair job. What must it have been like before? Doyle had collected up the last of their stuff and piled it beside the door. There was quite a bit of it, including some tools. It would make a heavy load, but Bodie was determined to carry it all down at once. No way was he making two trips in the bitter weather. The car had better start, too. Could just see trying to deal with it at this time of night!

There was the faint sound of bells. Midnight. They could go. Bodie stood and stretched, feeling his vertebrae snap into place.

"Ready?" Doyle asked.

Oh, was he ready! "Let's go," Bodie said. He took most of the items himself, balancing the load so that objects of equal weight were on each side. He left relatively little for Doyle to carry, but then he wanted Doyle free to use his gun if necessary. Having both of them unable to react was stupid.

Not that he expected any trouble, but being prepared was second nature to each of them. He didn't have to explain what he was doing. He'd have the heavier load, but Doyle would have to keep his coat open. Trade-off.

He moved quickly out the door, pausing while Doyle locked up, then following him down the creaking stairs. Unheated stairs. All the sudden the places CI5 had lumbered them with through the years didn't look so bad.

Cold outside. Their shoes made squeaking sounds as they moved over the snow, and he was glad they didn't have to follow anyone like this. Hear them coming for a mile.

The car was a chunk of freezing metal, unwelcoming. He stowed everything while Doyle did a bit of brushing and scraping, and Bodie was behind the wheel warming the engine up when Doyle at last climbed in.

The need to give his attention to the road kept Bodie silent, and he was glad. He tried not to think of Doyle, and he tried not to think of the itch which tormented him even more now that the prospect of relieving it loomed closer. They were silent during the drive to his flat. He spent ten minutes after they arrived getting the car into the parking space that was almost too small for it. Almost that made it difficult to get into the boot, but at last they managed to collect everything.

At the door, Bodie's cold fingers fumbled with the keys, but Doyle didn't say anything. Once inside, he discovered it was almost as cold in his flat as it had been at Olson's, and he went to take care of the heat and left Doyle to deal with the packages and boxes.

Doyle in the kitchen, putting away food items, Doyle running water. Bodie followed his partner's progress aware of every mood the other made, even though they were not in the same room. That sound was the bottle going into the fridge to chill. Something for tomorrow. Bodie was drawn to the kitchen, where he stood, staring at Doyle as if he had never seen him before.

Doyle looked up. "I'm done here," he said. He looked nervous. Bodie knew the feeling. Bodie wondered exactly how much experience Doyle had. Enough, he hoped. It was too late to begin as they ought to begin, and there was all day tomorrow...tonight, he only wanted one thing.

"How would you like to give me a belated Christmas present?" Bodie asked.

Doyle considered. "Depends," he said. "What did you have in mind?"

How to say it? Would Doyle think less of him for wanting this? He forced himself to speak lightly. "How quickly do you think you could get your cock shoved up my arse?"

"Sounds more like a present for me than for you," Doyle said, without moving.

Bodie went over to stand directly in front of Doyle, and he looked down into those green eyes which never left him. "Then you won't mind doing it."

"First things first," Doyle said, and he took hold of Bodie, hands flat against his head, fingers in the short dark hair, and pulled Bodie's head down to his. Their lips touched. Bodie leaned into it, deepening it, but he kept his tongue to himself and it was a remarkably chaste kiss.

When it was over, Bodie left his lips on Doyle and whispered, "What's second?"

"The part where we go to bed and I give you your present," Doyle answered, also whispering.

The itchy spot just within the barrier of his anus gave a throb, and Bodie's cock lifted eagerly. Having Doyle push in was not going to cure the itch, Bodie knew it instinctively, just as he knew that after a night with Doyle, the itch would be permanent, and only Ray Doyle would be able to eliminate it. Bodie took his lips back and headed for the bedroom. He went right to the bedside table and took out the tube of lubricant. Doyle was shrugging out of his shirt. Bodie dropped the tube and did the same, hurrying, leaving his clothing where it fell. The moment Doyle was nude, Bodie dropped in front of him, one hand taking up the cock, the other going to the balls.


Bodie's lips had been inches from Doyle's head, but at those words, his head jerked away and he looked up, hardly able to believe he heard that word.

"It's too cold to start out here. Bed, Bodie." Doyle pulled away and went to the bed, crawling in and giving Bodie an excellent view of his arse. A flush of lust hardened his already rising penis, and Bodie's hand went to it automatically. He had to take his hand away to turn out the lights.

The sheets were cold, but the heat of Doyle's body reached out to him. His eyes had not adjusted to the dark, but his hand found Doyle, pressing into it the now warmed tube.

"You sure, mate?" Doyle breathed at him.

"Yeah. Now."

They were on their sides, Doyle behind Bodie, one arm over Bodie's hip, one between his legs, finding, pressing, exploring quickly.

Doyle gave him no preliminaries beyond stroking touches to his cock and the slow and repeated application of the lubricant. the touch of those fingers at his anus drove him mad, silently mad. He didn't want to wait, but Doyle forced him, pressing down on his hip to hold him still when Bodie's thrust-back buttocks demanded more. Doyle pushed Bodie's limbs into position, stroked himself hard and Bodie felt the fingers, the rounded flare of cock head, the hesitation as all were aligned.

Then the press forward, the cock making a place for itself, sliding in and in. Big. Bigger than Bodie had expected, but that was only an extra ribbon on the gift he was being given. Bodie did everything he could to open, to draw Doyle in, to feel the inches fed into him bit by bit. When he felt Doyle balls up against him, the rounded, rolling weight of them, and knew Doyle was in as far as he could be, Bodie let his breath out in a wistful but hungry groan.

Doyle shifted, his lips closer to Bodie's ear, the lifting of Doyle's body driving into Bodie just a fraction more.

"D'you like that?"

"Y...." The rest of it was a sigh, as Doyle made a minute movement which moved the cock within him.

"Cock?" Doyle murmured, with a second tiny, teasing wiggle.

"Yours," Bodie breathed. "Yours!" It felt better than any cock he had ever had up him, better than dildoes pushed up by willing whores, better than....

Doyle began fucking him, hard and deep, breathing on his neck with the effort, holding with iron fingers onto Bodie's flesh. Bodie's own hands found himself, and he pulled and squeezed and found the moment when, like a chorus of screeching angels, his body found the peak and exploded. He came, while Doyle still pounded into him, twin pleasure doubling, and doubling again, until it began to dissipate and he knew sanity again as Doyle grunted, thrust hard and emptied into him.

Sweaty, boneless, they lay, Doyle's spent cock still inside. The small pains he had not noticed as they made love were raising their voices, promising to become larger pains as the night wore on. Bodie didn't care; worth it. Every twinge and twist.

He sighed when Doyle moved and his cock pulled from Bodie's body with a sound like a kiss. Doyle used Bodie's shoulder to pull himself up, and he leaned over Bodie's sprawled form.

"That what you wanted?" he whispered.

Always. "Umhuum." Mumbled agreement.

"Bottom man, are you?" Doyle didn't sound amused or mocking. Only pleased.

"This pressie you just gave me for Christmas?" Bodie said, forcing himself out of the wash of sleepy exhaustion claiming him.

"The best pressie I ever got in my entire life? What about it?" Doyle asked.

"I'm giving you two of them. Tomorrow."

"One before breakfast," Doyle told him, "but I'm having you again for lunch. I'm going to fuck you until you can't walk. It's my birthday, you know."

Bodie's anus clenched at the very thought. "You can try," he said, but it didn't come out aggressively. More like he was half asleep. Doyle's birthday, was it? Have to celebrate, of course, but right now, it was hard to think. He yawned.

"Turn over. I had enough of your back last night. I want your front," Doyle demanded, and Bodie managed to roll over, landing half on top Doyle, who heaved and wiggled until he was satisfied with their positions.

Bodie fell asleep with the lazy press of lips on his face. His last thought before he fell asleep was that he'd robbed Doyle of what was his due. Kisses. Words. Promises. Plenty of time, tomorrow....

-- THE END --

Originally published in Old Friends, Chained to the Typewriter Press, c.1994

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