There Once Was A...


Those of you to blame for this know who you are. Yes, you.

Jax stood up and stretched. Brooks took the chair the other agent had abandoned and then propped his feet up on the window sill. Anson casually knocked against him, and the other man's feet hit the floor.

"Bastard," Brooks said without malice and put his feet up again, six inches to the right of their former location.

"Heads up, lads. there's another one arriving," Anson dropped the powerful binoculars, letting them dangle from the strap around his neck while he picked up the clipboard.

Beside him, Doyle adjusted the lens on the camera and took several shots of the newcomer, the fifth that hour to arrive at the brick house across the street. "New boy in the game," he commented. "Drives a nice car, doesn't he?"

"I don't want to hear about his wheels," Jax said as he poured himself more of the coffee. The urn was almost empty and he had to tilt it to get the last dregs out. "Whose turn is it to make more coffee?" he asked.

"Yours," Bodie said, pulling on his jacket. It was his turn to follow the next man who left the house they were watching. He wasn't happy about it. So far, this assignment had proven both boring and unproductive.

Jax had his suspicions, but went about making the coffee anyway. He was bored with sitting and waiting.

Langdon, who was stretched out on the bed which decorated the middle of the room, yawned, and looked up from his game of solitaire. "There once was a...."

Doyle threw the pillow at him. "Don't start that again!"

"But I have a new one! Not new, I mean I just remembered it," Langdon explained as he fended off the pillow, then pulled it under him possessively.

"Ha. That," Jax said, as he used more force than needed to bang the old coffee grounds out of the machine, "was what you said about the last one!"

Langdon smirked and quoted the lines loudly enough to be heard throughout the room.
There once was a sculptor named Phideas,
Whose manners in art were invidious:
          He carved Aphrodite
          Without any nightie,
Which startled the ultra-fastidious.
"It's new," Brooks admitted. He wasn't going to say any more than that about it. Langdon had said some very cutting words about his own previous contribution, and as Brooks had created the thing himself, his ego was still considerably bruised. Not that he was going to let any of these idiots know that.

"Do you have this one?" Anson asked.
There was a young lady named Bright
Whose speed was much faster than light;
          She went out one day,
          In a relative way,
And returned the previous night.
"Yes!" replied three voices at once.

"Keep your bloody voices down," Doyle complained, mostly because his ears were ringing from being too close to Miller, who had responded with enthusiasm because that had been one of his original contributions. "Here," Doyle said, throwing a canister of film in Miller's direction and picking up a new one to load into the camera. "Go and make yourself useful. Anybody have to go?"

No one responded, and Miller headed for their makeshift darkroom. Jax had finished putting together the coffee machine again, and in a few minutes the smell of fresh coffee poured out into the room. One by one they all drew fresh cups and settled down again.

"Here's yours, Bodie," Anson said, as a man came out of the house they were watching. Bodie hurriedly finished his coffee and headed out the door. Miller came out just as he left and pinned up the new faces on the wall just to the right of the window. Duplicate copies were drying on the table, ready to be slid into an envelope and sent to Cowley.

The others settled down to more waiting. Miller and Langdon were on the bed playing a cut-throat game of double-solitaire. Doyle watched Bodie drive away and then worked his shoulders trying to ease the tension out. He always felt this way when Bodie went off on his own. Silly, he told himself. But they had been partnered for several years and he had spent too much time watching Bodie's back to be comfortable when that back was unprotected. The worry moved to the back of his mind, however, when a black sedan pulled up at the corner and four men got out.

"We expecting anybody?" he asked.

"No, worse luck," Anson sighed. "Why?"

"Police." Doyle gestured with the camera which he had once again picked up. Instinct prodded him, and he took pictures of the four men as they walked towards them.

"How can you tell?" Jax asked, moving up beside him. None of the men were in uniform, and the car was not marked either.

Doyle tapped his nose. He'd been a copper himself for too many years.

"Huh," Anson acknowledged, willing to trust Doyle's instincts. "But why are they coming here?" The four men were indeed filing into the building.

"Anson. You look biggest, oldest. Meet them outside with your ID, show 'em the small print. Langdon, get the pictures off the wall."

"Doyle," Langdon began.

"Do it," Doyle snarled, "and don't forget to keep watching the house," he added to Miller as the other stood up.

They obeyed, willing to do it his way in the absence of any reason to the contrary, and in less than a minute all were in place. When the knock came on the door, Anson slipped out. Doyle and Jax waited on either side of the door, guns in hand. They were the only ones close enough to hear what the police were saying to Anson.

"Are you the resident here?" they heard a man ask in a gruff, no-nonsense voice.

"In a manner of speaking. What can I do for you gents?" There was the sound of a match, and the scent of cigarette smoke. Anson was playing it casual.

"We have a warrant to inspect the premises." The second voice was just as firm.

"Do you? May I see it?" Anson was polite and civil. There was the sound of rustling paper. "Seems to be in order. If I read this right, it says you suspect immoral activity to be taking place in these rooms. What...."

"We're not here to chat with you, laddie. Open the door and let us get on with it," demanded a third voice, older, and with a definite accent.

"Oh, I understand. I've an item in my hand I want to show you. I'll hold it out slowly, then open it. Ready?"

Inside, Doyle frowned. Why was Anson being so careful? It sounded like one or more of the men out there with him were armed. Or were they just pushing close to him? The voices were fairly clear, even through the closed door.

"As you can see," Anson was continuing, "I'm on your side. I'm afraid you can't come in right now. CI5 business," he explained.

"See here! We've a...."

"You've got a piece of paper, and it doesn't mean anything in this case. Read the brief, gentlemen. You are to cooperate with us, and I'm asking you to do so. I'll ask that you be contacted in this matter as soon as possible. I am sure you'll be informed. Oh, and I'll keep this."

There was a silence.

"Do not leave these premises, Mr Anson. A watch will be kept on this house. Do you understand?" It was the first man again. He sounded angry. Extremely. Then there was the sound of men moving away. Anson popped back into the room, a big grin on his face.

Jax plucked the paper out of his hand, scanning it quickly. "They do think we're running a house of ill repute! All the men coming and going and a report by a neighbour on the matter!" He thought it was funny.

"There's...." Doyle was frowning.

"What?" Anson asked.

"Just as many men going and coming across the street, but I don't see them getting a visit, do you? Is the neighbour identified?" he asked Jax.

"No. Do you think they're on to us over there? Trying to get rid of us?" Miller wanted to know from the window. "Getting into the car, and now they're driving away. No activity across the street, either."

Doyle was reaching for his r/t. "4.5 to Alpha," he said briskly.

"Alpha." George Cowley was not going to waste any words today. Not always a good sign.

"Had a visit, sir," Doyle began, and then gave a concise report and added his opinions just as succinctly.

There was a silence. Cowley was giving it honest thought, which meant that he, too, smelled a rat.

"Thank you, 4.5. Please send the latest package to me." Doyle's eyebrow went up. Cowley hadn't referred to the pictures directly. Did he think....

"Right, sir. Out." Doyle tucked the unit away and looked up.

"Humm," said Jax.

"Yes, indeed," Anson agreed. He drew a coin out of his pocket. Before he could flip it up in the air, Doyle held up a hand. "I'll go. It's my turn."

"Yeah, but I want the exercise," Anson countered.

"What, and disobey the h'officer?" Still, Doyle reached for the coin, and sent it spinning up into the air, caught it and slapped it onto his own arm.

"Heads," Anson called.

Doyle moved his hand.

"Tails," Anson said with a twist of his lips. "If you don't come back here yourself, have some supplies sent up. We're running low on tea and we could use some biscuits or cake."

"Fruit," Jax added.

"Hell, no, real food! I want Chinese," Miller demanded. Doyle left under a barrage of shouted orders and suggestions. The day was brisk, and he walked quickly down to the corner, where he caught a bus. His jacket felt tight--there was an envelope of photos as well as his gun under there. The gun was useless at the moment, as the jacket was zipped.

Agents don't look both ways before crossing a street--they look all ways. Doyle was very alert as he abandoned one bus for another, and finally was picked up by Murphy in a battered mini.

"Took you long enough," Murphy complained. He looked painfully contorted, folded into the tiny vehicle.

"Sorry," Doyle said, with a grin that said he wasn't, very.

"You'll get yours," Murphy predicted. "The Cow is issuing orders right and left. He had your better half in his clutches when I left."

So Bodie was at HQ? Doyle felt his heart lighten, and was only then aware that he had maintained his worry about his partner all this time. Stupid, really. Bodie could take care of himself, better than anyone he knew.

Murphy delivered him and sped off, and Doyle made his way quickly into the building and up to Cowley's office. He handed over the packet of photos to the young woman who waited for them, and then was directed to wait in the restroom until the boss called for him. Doyle did his waiting on his back on the couch, eyes closed.

Rudely roused by a shrill shout of his own personal combination of numbers, he rubbed his eyes and left, yawning. He had his alertness back by the time he stepped over the threshold into Cowley's office.

Bodie was there, and Cowley.

"Some very interesting aspects of this case," Cowley began without preamble, "seem to hinge on certain persons also involved in a previous investigation done in 1970. I need you to bring back a man who worked for MI6 at that time, a Ronald Dorley. Unfortunately, he can't get about well. He'll also be a surly passenger, for he's not coming willingly. He expressed a willingness to be done with all government agencies of our type forever upon the occasion of his retirement. The man in question," Cowley said slowly, "has performed extremely valuable services to this government. I want him brought here, and I want him treated well, and I want him to arrive in a mood to cooperate."

Bodie and Doyle exchanged glances. Trust Cowley to turn an easy assignment into an impossible one!

"Go on with you! Get the address at the desk. The car assigned to you is waiting at the kerb." Cowley pulled a folder towards himself, looking down at it even as the last word left his lips.

They went. The car was so new it even smelled new, and Bodie claimed the driver's seat at once, leaving Doyle the map and the job of navigating them.

"First," Doyle said as they pulled out into the late afternoon traffic, "food."

"I like the way you think! Chicken?" Bodie asked with the eagerness that a healthy appetite brings.

"You aren't thinking of taking it into this vehicle, are you? Besides, we've been living on that stuff for days. I want a real meal."

"We haven't time for that," Bodie said with sincere regret.

"We do, because I called ahead. To Julio's, Bodie. It will be on the table when we get there."

Bodie spared his partner a look of admiration. "Clever boy! When did you do that?"

"While you were in the bog. Only took a minute. Anton remembered us."

"Did he?" Bodie said, keeping his face neutral. He remembered the waiter, too. Did Doyle realize the reason Anton gave them such perfect service? Bodie had caught the way the man had been staring at Doyle the last time.

"Yes. I hope you brought your money--it's your turn to pay."

Which it was. Bodie grinned. "Good. We can't have the wine this time. Should save me a bundle."

"And you call me cheap! Drive, Bodie," Doyle commanded.

Bodie drove. They ate the good food quickly, and Anton was carefully in the background--after Bodie had caught his eye and communicated exactly what he thought of the man's overly generous attentions. Bodie didn't even mind that the little twerp now thought that Bodie had been staking a claim. As long as the man backed off, he didn't care.

They were only there twenty minutes, and the food deserved more attention than that, but duty called. They were soon heading north. Traffic was still bad, however, and after a particularly long wait, Bodie reached into his jacket and handed Doyle a book.

"Here, read some of these aloud," Bodie ordered, moving the car forward again.

Doyle took the book and glanced at the cover. "Limericks?" He opened it at random and leafed through it. "Where did you get a book of limericks?"

"The man I followed went to a secondhand book shop. I had to buy something, didn't want it to be obvious I was following him, so I bought this. Then went up the street, picked up some vegetables and went home. Very dull. Not like the excitement you had. Suspected of running a brothel!" Bodie chortled. Doyle laughed with him for a moment, and then turned to the beginning of the book.

"And the next logical question is--why?" Doyle asked, and then stopped, read, and a smile curved his lips.

"You and I are going to become the limerick kings of CI5. Anytime they start up with the damn poetry, we are going to take over. Eventually, they'll have to stop inflicting them on us, they'll get tired of us winning. And we won't have to listen to the same ones every time. Enough to make you..." he slowed the car, manoeuvred around a stalled vehicle, and finished, "puke."

"You want me to read them as you drive," Doyle guessed.

"Not just a pretty face," Bodie said with feigned admiration.
There was a young fellow named Hall
Who fell in the spring in the fall.
          'Would have been a sad thing
          Had he died in the spring,
But he didn't, he died in the fall.
"That one Jax uses. We want ones they've never used at all. Naughty ones," he added. "All the best ones are."

"Are they?" Doyle asked.

"You don't think so?" Bodie asked, with real amazement.

"If it's good, it's good, clean or not," Doyle said, and turned the page.

"But if it's dirty, it's better," Bodie insisted. "Read some."
There was an old man of Khartoum
Who kept two tame sheep in his room,
          To remind him, he said,
          Of two friends who were dead;
But he could not remember whom.
"Is that your idea of dirty?" Bodie asked with suspicion.

"Course it is. You know what he kept the sheep for!" Doyle turned the page.

"Wool, of course. Keeps you warm," Bodie added.

Doyle snorted and flipped some more pages.
A damsel, seductive and handsome,
Got wedged in the sleeping room transom,
          When she offered much gold
          For release, she was told
That the view was worth more than the ransom.
Doyle finished and looked over at Bodie, who had a reflective smirk on his face. "Like that one, do you?"

"I have a wonderful imagination," Bodie agreed. "She's a blonde," he added. "Everywhere." He made a turn and ordered, "Read another."
There was a young man with a hernia
Who said to his doctor, "Goldernia,
          When improving my middle
          Be sure you don't fiddle
With that that don't concernia."
Doyle paused and said, "Didn't Murphy offer that one a few months ago?"

"No. It was Miller. Murph just tried to take credit for it."

The Marquis de Sade and Genet
Are more highly thought of today;
          But torture and treachery
          Are not my sort of lechery,
So I've given my copies away.
"Hardly worth the bother, learning that one. They won't get it," Bodie predicted.

"Do you?" Doyle asked him sweetly.

Bodie ignored this, giving the appearance of one who must attend to driving. Doyle grinned and read on.
I sat next to the Duchess at tea;
It was just as I feared it would be:
          Her rumblings abdominal
          Were truly phenomenal,
And everyone thought it was me!
"Now that's more the speed of the squad," Bodie said with a nod.

"I thought you only like the ones with sex?" Doyle asked.

"I'm adaptable," Bodie stated.

"Here's one you'll like," Doyle said.
There was a young girl of Aberystwyth
Who took grain to the mill to get grist with.
          The miller's son, Jack,
          Laid her flat on her back
And united the organs they pissed with.
"Good," Bodie said. "Miller will like that one. Especially if we can alter it."

"How?" Doyle asked, all practicality.

Bodie frowned. "We have lots of time to think of how to do it," he informed his partner briskly. "Read another."

"Oh, may I?" Doyle retorted, but he did so.
There was a young man of Cape Horn
Who wished he had never been born;
          And he wouldn't have been
          If his father had seen
That the end of the rubber was torn!
That one surprised a short yelp of laughter from Bodie, and an answering grin from Doyle. "That one should be a winner," Bodie said.

"This one, too," Doyle said.
There once was a young man of Greenwich
Whose balls were all covered in spinach;
At this point, Bodie's voice chimed in, and they finished the limerick in chorus:
         So long was his tool
         That it wound round a spool
And he let it out inach by inach.
"I take it you know that one?" Doyle said.

"Learned that one in school. I remember I thought it was the funniest thing I ever heard."
"Tis my custom," said dear Lady Norris,
"To beg lifts from the drivers of lorries.
          When they get out to piss
          I see things I miss
At the wheel of my two-seater Morris."
"Jax told that one, too," Doyle added.

"Where was I?" Bodie wanted to know. "I don't remember him telling that one."

"Off following the first man. The short one with the limp."

"Oh, yeah," Bodie remembered. "The pervert who pinched the girls in the crowds at the corners. I won't forget him."

"Try," Doyle advised, and turned to the next page.
To his bride said the lynx-eyed detective,
"Can it be that my eyesight's defective?
          Has your east tit the least bit
          The best of the west tit?
Or is it a trick of perspective?"
"I knew a girl like that," Bodie said, memory making his lips twist. "It was the east. Definitely."

Doyle lifted an eyebrow but did not comment.
There was a young plumber of Leigh
Was plumbing a maid by the sea.
          Said the maid, "Cease your plumbing,
          I think someone's coming."
Said the plumber, still plumbing, "It's me."
"Classic," Bodie murmured.

"You mean to tell me you've heard that one before?" Doyle said, his doubt loudly expressed even without the benefit of a direct statement to that effect.

"Yes," Bodie said. "Fraser likes that one."

"He would."
There once was an old man of Lyme
Who married three wives at a time;
          When asked, "Why a third?"
          He replied, "One's absurd!
And bigamy, sir, is a crime."
Bodie nodded. Doyle read on.
In the Garden of Eden lay Adam
Complacently stroking his madam,
          And loud was his mirth
          For he knew that on earth
There were only two balls--and he had 'em.
"And?" Bodie encouraged.
A charmer from old Amarillo,
Sick of finding strange heads on her pillow,
          Decided one day
          That to keep men away
She would stuff up her crevice with Brillo.
"Horrid thought," Doyle commented, before continuing. "Could really damage yourself that way."

Bodie winced in sympathy.
There was a young girl from Australia
Who went to a dance as a dahlia.
          When the petals uncurled
          They revealed to the world
That as clothing, the dress was a failia.
"That's not the way that goes!" Bodie exclaimed.

"Right there in black and white," Doyle protested, waving the book, which flopped in a distracting way, and Bodie had to give his attention back to the road.

"It goes," Bodie said, "like this," and he quoted:
There was a young man from Australia
Who painted his ass like a dahlia.
          The colour was fine;
          Likewise the design;
The aroma--ah, that was a failia!
Doyle burst into laughter.

"You see? My version is better!"

"Yes," Doyle said recovering himself, "But if you knew a good one like that, why haven't you told it?"

"Forgot I knew it, until I heard that other version," Bodie said.

"What else do you know that you've forgotten?" Doyle teased, and went back to reading before he could see the odd look that settled on his partner's face for a moment.
There was a young girl of Baroda
Who built an erotic pagoda;
          The walls of its halls
          Were festooned with the balls
And the tools of the fools who bestrode her.
"Ouch," Bodie contributed, with Doyle nodding his sympathy. He quickly went on to another.
There was a young sailor named Bates
Who danced the fandango on skates,
          But a fall on his cutlass
          Rendered him nutless
And practically useless on dates.
"That's even worse," Bodie protested.

"Oh, if you want worse!"
There was a young man from Berlin
Whose tool was the size of a pin.
          Said his girl with a laugh
          As she fondled his shaft,
"Well, this won't be much of a sin."
Before he could comment, Doyle said, "It's too bad we can't use this one." When they came to a stop, he quickly thrust the book under Bodie's nose. Bodie went slightly cross-eyed trying to read it, but he did manage, he acknowledged it by pushing the book aside and starting the car forward again.
There was a young fellow named Bliss
Whose sex life was strangely amiss.
          For even with Venus
          His recalcitrant penis
Would seldom do better than t
"No, but we could write it up, pass it around during a dull briefing," Bodie suggested.

"I know what would happen. You'd do it, and I'd get in trouble for it!" Doyle said with certainty, and he went on with his reading.
A young trapeze artist named Bract
Is faced by a very sad fact.
          Imagine his pain
          When again and again,
He catches his wife in the act!
There once was a fellow named Brett
Loved a girl in his shiny Corvette;
          We know it's absurd,
          But the last that we heard
They hadn't untangled them yet.
"That last," Doyle said, "is one of a series about sex in cars. Volkswagen, Fiat and Lloyd."

"We could come back to them later," Bodie said.
A delighted incredulous bride
Remarked to the groom at her side:
          "I never could, quite
          Believe till tonight
Our anatomies would coincide!"
A girl while attending Bryn Mawr
Was pinched by her low strapless bra.
          She loosened one wire
          Whereupon the entire
Dress fell, and left her quite raw.
"Left her quite raw," Bodie repeated. In tones of satisfied malice he said, "We are going to annoy our associates a great deal."

Doyle grinned at the understatement, but said, "We'll have to actually memorize them, you know."

"More fun than committing the mug books to memory. Another," he said, with the air of a sultan demanding another peeled grape.
There was a young fellow named Cass
Whose bollocks were made out of brass.
          When they tinkled together
          They played Stormy Weather,
And lightning shot out of his ass.
Bodie just shook his head.
A lady with features cherubic
Was famed for her area pubic
          When they asked her its size
          She replied in surprise,
"Are you speaking of square feet or cubic?"
"Wouldn't suit me," Bodie commented. "I like 'em nice and tight."

"Virgins, Bodie?" Doyle asked with an uplifted eyebrow.

"Not that tight," Bodie said quickly, and Doyle had to laugh again before turning his eyes back to the book. He thought about how much he was enjoying this trip. No pressure, lots of laughing, his best mate to share the fun with.

"Here's another virgin one," Doyle said.
A Salvation lassie named Claire
Was having her first love affair.
          As she climbed into bed
          She fervently said,
"I wished to be opened with prayer."
"Yeah, Claire was like that. All promise, no delivery," Bodie remembered.

"Was that why you...."

Bodie shook his head. "Nah. She went off me after...."

"Yeah. I remember," Doyle said, and went right to another limerick. He didn't want the mood broken by bad memories.
There was a young man of Coblenz
Whose equipment was simply immense.
          It took forty-four draymen,
          A priest and three laymen
To carry it thither and thence.
There was a young man from the Coast
Who had an affair with a ghost.
          At the height of orgasm
          This she-ectoplasm
Said, "I think I can feel it--almost."
Bodie groaned, but it was the kind of groan which encouraged rather than discouraged.
A senora who strolled on the Corso
Displayed quite a lot of her torso.
          A crowd soon collected
          And no one objected
Though some were in favour of more so.
There was an old fellow from Croydon,
Whose cook was a cute little hoyden.
          She would sit on his knees
          While shelling the peas,
Or pleasanter duties employed on.
"She can come cook with me anytime she pleases," Bodie said, with a gourmet's fervour.

"You once swore my cooking was the best," Doyle mourned with mock sorrow.

"Doyle, there's cooking," Bodie negotiated the turn smoothly, "and cooking." He slowed the vehicle. "We are here. Put the book in a safe place," he instructed.

"Yes, mother," Doyle said in a high falsetto, but he tucked the book away in his jacket, checked his gun, though he had no expectations of using it, and was ready when the car slid to a halt.

By the time Ronald Dorley was settled in the back seat, Doyle was just about ready to use his weapon, although the victim of choice would have been Cowley. Dorley was both stubborn and slow. They had been forced to wait while he finished his tea, and then as he pulled on his coat. The former agent was a big man. His thickened neck and torso gave the impression of strength, but his hands had twisted, gnarled fingers. He leaned heavily upon a cane. For all that, he had an air of menace about him, a leashed power which caused Doyle and Bodie to handle him carefully, to hold onto patience when otherwise they might not have done so.

Dorley had little to say, he did not wish the radio to play music or his escorts to chat. He gave them no actual trouble, but the CI5 men were glad enough to turn him over to Cowley. They did not escape. Cowley asked them to wait in the restroom until he called for them.

3.7 and 4.5 exchanged glances, knowing they would be taking the man back as soon as George Cowley had drained him dry of whatever knowledge the controller needed. After a stop to relieve their bladders and another at the tea urn to refill them, they sprawled in the room's most comfortable chairs. No one else was about, and Doyle brought forth the book with an air of deep secrecy, looking right and left. Before he could begin to read, Bodie plucked it from his hands.

"My turn," he said, and opened it to the middle. His eye was caught at once.
There was a young girl of Darjeeling
Who could dance with such exquisite feeling
          Not a murmur was heard,
          Not a sound, not a word,
But the fly-buttons hitting the ceiling.
Doyle rolled his eyes toward their own ceiling.
There was a young man of Devizes
Whose testes were two different sizes.
          The one was so small
          It was no ball at all;
But the other one won several prizes.
"Oh, that's an old one," Doyle protested, "We won't have to bother with that one." Bodie nodded his agreement and read on.
There was a young fellow named Dice
Who remarked, "They say bigamy's nice.
          Even two are a bore,
          I'd prefer three or four,
For the plural of spouse, it is spice!"
"Should have just stayed single, if he liked variety," Bodie said as soon as he had finished reading it.

"Wouldn't want his expenses," Doyle agreed. "Four of everything. Kids, too, I suppose. Bet he had dozens."

Bodie shuddered, and read another, as if to flush the thought of dozens of children from his mind.
There was a young man of Dumfries
Who said to his girl, "If you please,
          It would give me great bliss
          If, while playing with this,
You would pay some attention to these."
"I'm in total agreement," Bodie said. "Too many birds think a cock is all that's down there."

"I know," Doyle agreed. "Ever had both sucked at once?"

"Ever had somebody try that--and fail?" Bodie countered.

"No. Bit painful?" Doyle speculated.

"Real passion killer," Bodie agreed.
Let us now broach a firkin to Durkin,
Addicted to jerkin' his gherkin;
          His wife said, "Now Durkin,
          By jerkin' your gherkin
You're shirkin' you firkin'--you bastard!"
Doyle was shaking his head. "You'll never get away with that one. Jax will complain that the rhyme and Miller will complain that the last line doesn't rhyme at all."

"So we'll save it for some time when we want to start an argument. Preferably just before we head out the door."

"Evil, Bodie, evil."

It was hard to bow sitting down, but Bodie managed to convey a gracious acceptance of this acknowledgement of his brilliance with a slight inclination of his torso. Then he struck a pose and read off the next limerick.
There was a young man of Bellaire
Enjoying his girl on the stair;
          On the forty-fourth stroke,
          The banister broke
And he finished her off in mid-air.
"Only forty-four? Impatient young brat," Doyle commented. "Everybody knows a woman wants a hundred strokes with her hair brush for her top hair, and a hundred strokes from her husband for her bottom hair, before she goes to bed at night."

"Who the hell told you that?" Bodie asked.

"My great-aunt Mabel."


"No, it's true!"


"And she told me my first limerick, too!"

Bodie in no way believed this tale, but he challenged Doyle anyway, demanding, "What was it?"
There was a young lady of Exeter
So pretty the men craned their necks at her;
          And one was so brave
          As to take out and wave
The distinguishing mark of his sex at her.
"Not surprising you learned that from an old lady. The second and last lines are the same. Doesn't count."

Doyle straightened. "Does! Because of the necks and sex."

"No, it doesn't. You can't have two lines the same," Bodie insisted.

"Lots of limericks have two lines the same! Look at the ones Edward Lear did!"

"He rhymed the first and the last, not the second and the last. Besides, he did them for children."

"Well, then, it must be just the thing for you?" Doyle snapped.

Bodie refused to take offence. He changed the subject by reading another one from the book.
I once thought a lot of a friend
Who turned out to be in the end,
          The southernmost part
          (As I feared from the start)
Of a horse with a northerly trend!
Bodie was diving before he even finished reading, rolling, book held as shield against Doyle's none too gentle blows.

Of course, Susan chose just that minute to come in. They scrambled up, laughing, as she expressed her opinion of the level of maturity they had managed to obtain and then left with her full tea mug and a rueful shake of her head.

"Oh, make me look bad!" Bodie complained.

"Me!" Doyle gave him a push. "Just be glad it wasn't Cowley! Sit down and read a few more, like a good boy!"

"I know that one," Bodie said and recited,
"For the tenth time, dull Raymond," said Chloe,
You have told me my bosom is snowy;
          You've made much verse on
          Each part of my person,
Now do something--there's a good boy!"
"You put in the Raymond," Doyle said, with a sniff. "I never have to be asked to get on with it!"

"Beg you to slow down, do they?" Bodie asked sweetly. "Bit fast off the mark?"

"No one's complained," Doyle said. "Shut up and read."

"If I shut up, I can't...."

Doyle lifted a threatening hand, and Bodie moved out of range before starting again.
A publisher once went to France
In search of a tale of romance;
          A Parisian lady
          Told a story so shady
That the publisher made an advance.
There once was a young man of Ghent
Whose tool was so long that it bent.
          To save himself trouble
          He put it in double
And instead of coming, he went.
"Good one," Doyle remarked, and encouraged Bodie to continue.
A mathematician named Hall
Has a hexahedronical ball,
          And the cube of its weight
          Times his pecker, plus eight
Is his phone number--give him a call!
"I know a better one about a chap named Hall," Doyle said, and declaimed,
There was a young fellow named Hall
Who confessed, "I have only one ball,
          But the size of my prick
          Is the dirtiest trick;
For the girls always ask, 'Is that all?'"
"I like the first one better," Bodie said stubbornly.

"Oh? Giving a mathematician named Hall a call is more to your taste?"

Bodie gave Doyle a narrowed look and clutched the book more tightly in case the sudden odd shiver which went up his back might be detected. He immediately read off another poem, needing to distract both himself and his partner.
A baritone star of Havana
Slipped horribly on a banana;
          He was sick for a year
          Then resumed his career
As a promising lyric soprano.
"Ouch," Doyle said.

"Are you ready for this one?" Bodie asked, after reading it over to himself.

"What?" Doyle was suspicious.

"Bet you don't get the joke," Bodie taunted him.

"Read it, Bodie."
There was a young fellow named Hyde
Who fell down a privy and died.
          His unfortunate brother
          Then fell down another,
And now they're interred side by side.
Doyle's eyes narrowed, and his lips moved, and then his eyes opened wide. "In turd? Bodie, that's a terrible pun--even for you!"

"Not mine, sunshine!"
Nymphomaniacal Jill
Tried a dynamite stick for a thrill;
          They found her vagina
          In North Carolina
And bits of her tits in Brazil.
"Bit of a waste, that," Doyle offered.

Bodie nodded sadly.
There was a young lady of Kent
Who said that she knew what it meant
          When men asked her to dine
          Gave her cocktails and wine
She knew what it meant, but she went.
A head appeared at the door. "Three seven? Four five? You're to see the old man at once!"

Bodie stood up, tucking the volume away. "The staff are getting rather above themselves, don't you think?" he asked Doyle.

"Nah. It's just you're getting old. Come along." He led the way to Cowley's office.

Dorley was there, looking little different from before, but their boss had the look of a cat with canary feathers in its whiskers.

"Take him back at once and then report back here at eight tomorrow morning," Cowley ordered. Then to his visitor he said, "Good-bye Ronald, and thank you," and he shook the man's hand firmly, but with a certain amount of care for the damaged fingers.

Dorley proved no more talkative than he had been before. Bodie, who drove, kept the car at the upper limit the entire way, and Doyle had the opportunity to cat nap. It was getting late by the time they had let off their taciturn passenger and were once more on their own.

"And we don't have to report back to the stake-out," Bodie said happily as he backed the car and then turned into traffic again. "Here," he reached into his jacket and handed over the book.

"Almost out of light," Doyle complained, but he took it and opened it anyway.
There once was a fellow named Kimball
Whose prick was exceedingly nimble
          But so fragile and slender
          And dainty and tender
He kept it encased in a thimble
Rosalina, a pretty young lass
Had a truly magnificent ass;
          Not rounded and pink
          As you possibly think--
It was grey, had long ears, and ate grass.
He hated to sew, so young Ned
Rang the bell of his neighbour instead;
          But her husband said, "Vi,
          When you stitched his torn fly,
There was no need to bite off the thread!"
"This light's terrible," Doyle said. "Why don't we go to my place? I've got a chicken I need to cook up if I don't want to waste my money. You can read while I cook."

"You've got yourself a deal," Bodie said happily. They discussed other things as they headed for home. A light rain started, and it took longer than they expected to make it back, so that they were both hungry even before Doyle turned on his oven and began to cut up the chicken.

"Oh, I see one you skipped," Bodie said on opening the book.
A bobby from Nottingham Junction
Whose organ had long ceased to function,
          Deceived his good wife
          For the rest of his life
With the aid of his constable's truncheon.
"That how you manage it, Doyle? In the dark, they don't know the difference?"

"They know the difference, Bodie," Doyle said, significantly waving his knife, "but I suppose you could learn the technique if you had to." Bodie eyed the knife with mock horror and went on to another limerick.
In the depth of the crypt at St. Giles
Came a scream that resounded for miles.
          Said the vicar, "Good gracious!
          Has Father Ignatius
Forgotten the Bishop has piles?"
"Naughty, naughty." It wasn't clear if Doyle was responding to the poem, or Bodie's attempt to snatch a bit of orange as Doyle squeezed orange juice over the raw chicken before sliding it into the oven. "Just read, Bodie."
There was a young man of high station
Who was found by a pious relation
          Making love in a ditch
          To--I won't say a bitch--
But a lady of no reputation.
"Peas?" Doyle asked.

"Yes. Do you still have that tin of peaches?" Bodie asked, putting down the book to poke about in the cupboard. Doyle swatted the portion of anatomy thus presented and left Bodie to discover that the peaches no longer existed. Bodie did find some pineapple, and opened it at once, eating out of the can between poems. He picked up the first yellow chunk, eating it slowly, and then let his eyes rest thoughtfully on Doyle before he swallowed and began.
There once was a warden of Wadham
Who approved of the folkways of Sodom,
          "For a man might," he said,
          "Have a very poor head
But be a fine fellow, at bottom."
Doyle said, "Give me a piece of that," and took the next bite of pineapple out of Bodie's hand. He popped it into his own mouth and sucked the juice out of it before chewing it up. Bodie averted his eyes and read.
There was a young man of Racine
Who invented a fucking machine;
          Both concave and convex
          It would fit either sex,
With attachments for those in between.
Doyle shook his head. "That's not the last line. It should be, 'With a saucer beneath for the cream.'--if I remember it correctly."

"If you say so," Bodie said, with another dip into the can. The juice seemed cold on his fingers and as soon as he had disposed of the mouthful, he licked his fingers clean before reading again. Doyle bent over his peas.
A neurotic young playboy named Gleason
Liked boys, for no tangible reason.
          A frontal lobotomy
          Cured him of sodomy
But ruined his plans for the season.
Bodie looked up to see if Doyle had anything to say to that, but Doyle was getting out plates and glasses and beginning to set the table. Bodie's eyes lingered a bit too long on the back side of Doyle as the man bent over the table to deal out the plates. When he realized he was doing it, he went back to the book at once.
Take the case of a lady named Frost
Whose organ is two feet across't.
          It's the best part of valour
          To bugger the gal, or
One's apt to fall in and get lost!
"Here's another one on a similar theme," Bodie said slowly.
Well bugged was a boy named Bill Pass
By all of the lads in his class.
          He said with a yawn,
          "Now the novelty's gone
It's only a pain in the ass."

There was a young Turkish cadet--
And this is the damnedest one yet--
          His tool was long
          And incredibly strong
He could bugger six Greeks en brochette.
"That is the damnedest one yet," Doyle said, turning around suddenly. He gave Bodie a long, intense look, but said nothing else and went back to his task.

Bodie, whose throat was suddenly dry, drained the tart juice from the can, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand absently, and his eyes sought the book.
There was a young parson named Bings
Who talked about God and such things
          But his secret desire
          Was a boy in the choir,
With a bottom like jelly on spring.
"Bodie?" Doyle said.
"Then up spoke the king of Siam
For women I don't give a damn.
          But a round bottomed boy
          Is my pride and my joy.
They call me a bugger--I am!"
"Bodie?" Doyle said, just a bit louder, and he moved a step closer, so that Bodie was forced to look up from the book. Bodie didn't say anything. He wore a confused look on his face, but also one of dawning knowledge.

It was utterly silent in the kitchen, for although there was the faint hissing of chicken under the broiler, the bubble of boiling water and the rattle of rain on the window, the men heard nothing at all. Eyes met eyes. Bodie swallowed, hard. Doyle's eyes went to that motion, to Bodie's white throat.

"Bodie?" Doyle asked for the third time. He said it quietly, but it was a question which asked many questions. "Are you trying to tell me something?"

", but...." Bodie swallowed again, at a loss for words and shocked at it. The book fell from his limp fingers and he stumbled backwards, not so much against the counter as along it, until the wall brought him to a stop.

Doyle, advancing, did not stop until he was only an inch or two away from his partner. He stood there, staring, green eyes wide and his breath coming in little pants through his slightly parted lips.

"Oh hell!" Bodie gasped, and he grabbed Doyle and pulled his partner against his own heaving chest. He may have been lowering his head, but it was Doyle who reached with both hands for Bodie's head, almost jerking the smooth dark head down to his. Their lips met.

It wasn't until the pan of peas made that ominous sound that tells of the last of the water being boiled away. Doyle threw himself out of Bodie's arms, rescued the vegetables and then stood, back to the room and steam in his face, trying to regain his senses.

Behind him, Bodie came up silently and folded his hard arms around Doyle's waist. Without turning around, Doyle spoke.

"God Bodie! What are we doing?"

Bodie moved the inch forward which brought his entire length of body against Doyle's. His hardness at his groin pressed the curve of Doyle's arse, and he moaned into the riot of curls against his face.

"Bodie!" Doyle jerked himself away, but he didn't go far. He opened the door of the oven, not because the chicken needed his assistance, but because he needed something to do and he did not dare turn and face his partner.

"I don't know about you, Doyle, but I'm seeing the light," Bodie said, in a strained attempt at humour.

"We're not gay!" Doyle said, as if he were trying to convince himself.

"Bisexual?" Bodie suggested, as Doyle poked the chicken with a fork and then turned it a trifle prematurely.

"We're not that either," Doyle said, without a great deal of conviction.

"I am," Bodie said. "Always known it. Just never acted on it. Never worth the price. School, mercs, army. Best if you show the world you're hundred percent straight. Then they don't try it on so much."

"You?" Doyle closed the oven and turned. He was flushed from the heat and the emotion, and the curls around his face were damp and wild. Bodie bit his lip, then licked it. Doyle was staring at the tiny red tip of his tongue. With a shiver, Doyle looked away.

"Me. I know what I want when I see it, Doyle. Just that I can't always have what I want, can I?" He moved closer, but did not touch. He was asking a question, and Doyle was not quite ready to answer it. He pretended interest in his feet. But there were two other feet down there, big feet in leather boots, planted in front of his own.

Bodie's hand came out, and with gentle fingers he lifted Doyle's head so that he could look into those green eyes. "May I?" he asked, softly, yearningly.

Doyle gave in to the begging he saw in his friend's eyes, gave into the quick heat in his own veins and the impulse he had held in check. His motions were fast and hard, and he pulled the unresisting body to him and fastened his lips on Bodie's again.

Blindly, Bodie reached behind Doyle, found the knob and turned off the oven. Then he broke the kiss and headed for the bedroom, his arm wrapped around Doyle.

The bedroom was cold. Neither noticed. They didn't bother with the light, except what came in through the open door. Hands worked quickly, tugging and unbuttoning, working into the darkness where the skin was hot and wonderful to touch. They ended up half undressed, their pants around their knees as they humped together. Side by side, to small sounds and half-frantic, they brought each other to the peak and then lay, panting but otherwise silent and letting the full meaning of what they had done descend upon them.

"Shit." Bodie spoke for both of them.

Doyle rolled over onto his back, his open hand resting on top of his sticky genitals as if to shield them from his own stupidity, or protect them from Bodie's.

"Why did we do that?" Doyle asked, after awhile.

"Men fuck things," Bodie said flatly. "We hadn't had it for awhile."

"We didn't fuck," Doyle snapped, and then darkness seemed to come alive and the idea of fucking each other rebounded through each brain.

"No? Maybe next time," Bodie said, with an attempt at lightness. Then, in a more serious tone, he said, "Don't try to make me regret it. I don't." With that he rolled off the bed and stalked to the bathroom. From there he went back to the kitchen, but he knew from the sounds when Doyle got up, visited the loo himself, and then came back into the kitchen as well.

Bodie was pulling the chicken--well browned--from the oven, leaving the door hanging open to flood the kitchen with heat. Doyle reached over him and turned it off, then went and put some butter on the cold peas, putting them in the oven while he got out the bread. A few minutes later they sat down and ate. Between them they demolished the chicken completely, ate all the peas and half a loaf of bread with new butter.

Doyle put down his fork. "I suppose," he said, speaking for the first time since the meal began, "if you don't regret it, you'll want to do it again."

Bodie looked up, trying to read Doyle's face and failing, so he just shrugged and offered the truth. "Yes."


"If you're willing. If you let me stay."

Doyle started to clear the table. He back was to Bodie as he said, "You can stay."

"You don't sound very happy about it," Bodie said, standing up to help.

"I'm not sure I am. I can't believe we did that."

"If I stay, we'll do it again."

"I know."

They did they dishes without much conversation, but there were touches, perhaps accidental, and there were moments when their eyes met. The last cup was in the cupboard and the dish towels rinsed the way Bodie had been taught--Doyle showing some impatience during the process--before they spoke again.

"Want to watch the box?" Doyle asked.

"You know what I want," Bodie told him.

"I hope," said Doyle with false lightness, "it's not my arse."

"Is that why you're acting like this?" Bodie asked.

"Like what?" Doyle asked.

Bodie disregarded it, going to the heart of the problem. "You worried about sodomy, Doyle?"

"Aren't you?"

"No. Because I know that we won't do it unless we're both ready for it."

"I don't think I'll ever be ready for that," Doyle told him.

"Maybe not. I'm not too sure about it either. But this isn't just about getting a cock in, is it? I thought...." He stopped rather suddenly.

"You thought what?" Doyle wanted to know.

Bodie gave a tiny lift to his shoulder, denying the importance of the question.

"You thought what, Bodie?" Doyle asked, with the relentlessness he had learned on the beat many years ago.

"I thought it was You know."


Bodie shrugged again.

"Us," said Doyle thoughtfully. "You want there to be an 'us'?"

"Isn't something you decide. It's just there, or it isn't."

Doyle shook his head. "No. You build it or you blow it up."

"So we build it," Bodie said, too firmly.

Doyle stared at him, trying to see into Bodie, past the surface into what was in his heart.

"Don't look at me like that. Just told you I don't plan on starting at the bottom!" He reached out and patted Doyle there, his hand curving around that part of Doyle automatically. He squeezed before he let go.

"You'll start at the top, and like it," Doyle said, pointing to his lips.

Bodie thought that a good idea, and matched their lips.

"This is really strange, Bodie," Doyle said, as they headed for the bedroom.

"Get naked," Bodie replied, beginning to strip off his own clothing with quick efficiency.

"Order, Bodie?" Doyle paused, one leg still in his jeans.

"A natural born leader, aren't I?" Bodie said, stepping out of his last garment.

"Bodie...." Doyle's tone warned Bodie that Doyle was about to baulk, and Bodie hurried to pour a little oil on Doyle waters.

"I know. You're one, too. Half our problem when we were first teamed, wasn't it? But we adapted. Took turns, learned to work together. We can learn it again, can't we?" As he spoke, Bodie was pulling Doyle into the bed, touching eagerly because he couldn't hold himself back from it any longer. He kissed Doyle thoroughly and then pulled him close and whispered in one curl covered ear, "I thought of something while I was in the bathroom."

Doyle wiggled, the hot air in his ear tickling, but settled down close to Bodie. "Miracles still happen," he said knowingly, and then kicked out as he was pinched.

"Listen," Bodie ordered, and then he recited softly, his lips almost touching Doyle's temple.
They say that sodomy is a joy
With an eager and round-bottomed boy.
          But I'd rather, instead,
          Have Ray Doyle in my bed,
A true lover instead of a toy.
Doyle went absolutely still.


"That wasn't in the book," Doyle said, turning so that he was in Bodie's arms, and facing him.

"Made it up," Bodie confessed. "In the bathroom. I told you. But I borrowed the bit about the round-bottomed boy."

"I didn't know you could do that," Doyle said. "Poetry."

"There's a lot you don't know about me. Yet," Bodie punctuated the sentence with a lick and a kiss on the side of Doyle's nose.

"Nobody ever made up poetry about me, before. Not that limericks are what I think of when I think of romantic poetry," he added, honestly.

"You're adaptable. You'll get used to it. I've spent all day thinking of rhymes for Doyle."

"Coil? Spoil?" Doyle offered.


"What rhymes with Bodie?" Doyle asked, slightly distracted by what Bodie's fingers were doing down at hip level.

"Not much," Bodie answered, unable to think of a single one as Doyle began his own explorations.

"We do," Doyle said.

"Wha...?" Bodie felt fingers close around his cock and he could hardly think at all, much less speak coherently.

"We rhyme. Your body and mine." They were moving together now, automatically finding the rhythms of love. The covers were sliding away.

"Matched at the end?" Bodie managed to ask, taking hold of Doyle's arse, and rolling so that Doyle was on top and both of Bodie's hands were free to cup the tight buttocks possessively. He felt the flex of the muscles under his fingers, felt Doyle's cock against his stomach. Poetry in motion, he thought, understanding what it meant as he had not understood before. He thought of that movement, thought how it would be if it was pushing Doyle into himself. It was going to happen, he knew. Not tonight, not tomorrow. Someday. So many things to discover between now and then.

"Come on, lover," Ray said into his neck, his hand between them, now trying to hold their cocks together, to rub them both at once. Back and forth, a simple beat, da dum, da dum, nothing like the da-da-dum of the limerick. This, he decided, was not at all the time or place for limericks. He forgot all about them as he was caught up in loving Doyle.

It was only later, wide awake, his blood singing with his happiness as he held an exhausted Ray in his arms, that he thought again of limericks. His mind began to play with it, backed by a desire to put what he felt into words, as if it were not real until given structure and form. Too, he wanted to surprise Doyle with one or two in the morning, wanted to hear that admiration in Doyle's voice.

There once was a wonderful lover....

Nah. Have to watch that. Wouldn't do to get too sappy.

My lover, a marvellous delight....

He was caught up in the idea. Ray Doyle. My lover. My lover, he thought.

There once was three seven and four five....

No, he couldn't think of poetry with Ray Doyle actually in his arms, with his groin wet with Ray's milk and his nose in those curls. Tomorrow, he told himself, turning a little to find a more comfortable spot. Tomorrow he'd write the perfect limerick about Ray.

-- THE END --

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