Two Birds, No Stone


It was all so familiar, Doyle thought, watching the ambulance men covering Tudman efficiently before taking him off. As always, Bodie was standing close, fidgeting, Bodie's gun hand still twitching, though his gun was long since put away. The accustomed strong smell of cordite in the cold air, the slight numbness in his hand and wrist-gotta switch to an automatic, Doyle told himself, as he had twenty times before-same old, same old. Just life on the firing line.

Cowley arrived, as he tended to do when there had been a fatal shooting, and gave him a close look before going off to talk to the police sergeant holding the perimeter. The scrutiny made Doyle pat his gun, nervously; checking that it was safe back in his holster. Bodie hadn't killed his man: good shot, though, he'd bet Walker would never walk again. Ironic, that. But a good shot-Walker could still give evidence.

But I blew it, Doyle thought guiltily. He could still hear Cowley explaining the case, his hope that Tudman would lead them to Connolly, the need to keep Tudman under watch at all times. Well, Tudman would never get to testify, never get a chance to see the Bodie and Doyle interrogation show, never try to shoot around a corner again. Should he have taken the extra microsecond to aim, when he saw Tudman aiming at Bodie's back? Doyle wasn't looking forward to writing that part of the report; was glad that Cowley hadn't immediately demanded a preliminary report.

Funny, he could smell the crushed grass and Tudman's blood over the smell of the guns. His brain tended to work slowly after the adrenaline faded, but his nose was unusually acute. He could smell Bodie-a little high now, almost Bodie squared-even over the smell of cordite sticking to his own skin and clothes. He felt Bodie looking at him, though he didn't feel up to a response. He did turn, surprised, when Bodie walked off. Oh, yeah, Cowley. Bodie's way of saying thank you, volunteering to go first and break the news. He watched the people; milling about like ants after a picnic, they were, dealing with the crumbs of death and evidence left behind. Twenty minutes ago, there'd just been the five of them. Two against three; fair odds, Bodie had said.

Bodie wandered back, nothing left of his earlier energy but a small smile. "We didn't get tomorrow off," Bodie always rubbed his hands together when he had good news. Rather endearing. "But we don't have to be in until noon, and better yet, we don't have to do reports until tomorrow. He said with Tudman dead there wasn't much point."

"He angry?" Doyle didn't know if he cared, but it could be handy information.

"No, but MI6 will be. Willis had a whole new set of hot pincers and pokers heated up for Tudman."

"He can use them on Walker," Doyle said. He noticed that Bodie was sniffling in the bitter air, and handed him his handkerchief.

"Small fish, mate."

"As long as it isn't us." He let Bodie steer him toward the car, cutting through the boys in blue with no more than a wave.

"So, dinner? A little dancing? It's not often we get a Friday night free."

He watched Bodie get in on the driver's side before it occurred to him that it was his car. "Told you, Sarah gave me the push."

Bodie smiled disarmingly. "All of London's out there, my son. We shall start anew; spread our custom out among the worthy."

As Bodie gestured grandly, Doyle could see a smear of blood on his knuckle; his own, or someone else's? "Uh, what happened to Laura?"

Bodie looked away. "She said I was beautiful, but not thick enough. Didn't want to ask her what she meant."

Snort. Doyle suspected he knew. When they'd first been assigned to each other, he had thought of Bodie as a perfect iceberg, less than one-tenth ever showing. The occasional hints of what lay below the waterline had been as disconcerting as intriguing.

Bodie was still pushing. "Remember that dance place you mentioned last week? You said Sarah wouldn't like it. Well, now she won't be asked to."

Checking to make sure Bodie was staring ahead, Doyle essayed a small smile. Their girls came and went. Their partnership continued. "Hmmm."

Bodie stared out the window, taking in the peaceful view of Doyle's neighborhood at twilight, absently sipping some of Doyle's Scotch, waiting for Doyle to finish preening. A long bath and some time alone hadn't begun to take the edge off his day, and it didn't look like it had done much for Doyle either.

Bodie rested his forehead against the cool windowpane. He didn't want to remember feeling his heart stop as he saw Tudman's gun, then watched him fall. Even with all that was between them lately, Doyle would never let him down, would always watch his back. A second sigh gusted mist on the glass as he reflected on his place in Doyle's life. It was a bittersweet thing, their friendship. He shrugged, a half-smile lifting the corner of his mouth. More bitter than sweet.

He turned from the window as Doyle came into the room, looking around for something. Doyle wore black linen trousers with a forest-green silk shirt. A small tuft of chest hair showed, blossoming out from Doyle's sternum. Bodie imagined kissing lightly all around the edges of Doyle's chest hair, just before finding his pink aureole, which Bodie could see was erect against Doyle's shirt. Clearing his throat, Bodie said, "Your shoes are by the door to the kitchen," knowing that absent casting about better than he cared to. Knew Doyle better than he cared to; or was that less than he cared to? He was never completely certain.

Even though he could predict Doyle's response, he had to say it anyway. "You look terrific. Those trousers-"

Doyle looked him right in the eyes and scowled. Bodie took no notice.

"-make you look good enough to eat."

Covering the distance between him and Bodie in two steps, eyes wide with anger, Doyle hissed, "I told you not to bring that up ever again."

Bodie sighed again, this one much louder. I knew better, he thought, definitely knew better. Damn Doyle anyway. The way he looked in silk, one would think that Doyle wanted Bodie to notice. More likely, Doyle wanted some simple, attractive, relatively uncomplicated woman to notice. Bodie ruefully acknowledged it was an effective strategy; sex was a hell of a lot less complicated that way. He played it the same way, himself. Doyle or no Doyle, he was not cut out for the celibate life. Other fish in the sea and all that. With Doyle's attitude, he was going to have to be content with what they had. It was, after all, better than nothing.

Doyle grabbed his shoes and flung himself down on the settee and said in a normal voice, "I'm almost ready."

One thing about Doyle, he didn't linger over anger. His temper was like a lightning flash, bright, hot, and intimidating; and then it was gone, often leaving Bodie wondering whether Doyle really had been angry or not.

Mentally shaking himself, he stored Doyle's gorgeous appearance in his memory for future reference and moved into prowling mode himself, making minuscule adjustments to his appearance. He knew he looked good in his white silk shirt, undone at the collar (just one button), snug black slacks, and black jacket. His last steady girl-more than three dates-had called him delectable when he wore this with her. Frowning, he tried to remember her name. That lasted about two seconds before he found himself wishing Doyle thought he looked delectable. Ah, well. He could still dream, and he did, often, and with knee-weakening effect. Not that Doyle needed to know that. Probably better for his health that Doyle didn't.

"You ready yet? I'm not getting any younger standing here waiting for you." Bodie picked up his keys, smoothed his hair and started for the door. Doyle still hadn't responded. "I'll bring the car around, shall I? I had to park streets away. Someone in your building must be having a party."

"Nah, hang on a sec, Bodie, I'm ready." Doyle grabbed his jacket and followed Bodie out the door.

The evening was crisp and clear after the chill drizzle of the day. Doyle stared out the window at the city lights reflected in the wet road, glad Bodie was driving. "Not our usual part of town."

Mumbling address numbers under his breath, Bodie evaded a couple of car-eating potholes, splashed the Capri through a huge puddle and pulled over to the high kerb. "I think we're here."

Doyle understood Bodie's doubtful air. This was the address he'd taken from TimeOut, but it looked more like an abandoned warehouse. Oh well, he thought, if it wasn't there, they'd go find another place. He started to say this, with some annoyance, to Bodie, but Bodie was busy watching a slightly drunken party of five wander up to the huge warehouse door and be let inside. This was more than a little outside their usual style and suddenly Doyle wasn't even sure he wanted to be out tonight. Certainly after today he deserved some dancing and debauchery (to quote the club ad) but beer sounded too much like pissing all night and a headache tomorrow, and Bodie's whispered cajoling, "girls, girls, girls" made him think of scrubbers on parade. He said as much.

"So," Bodie shrugged, "be adventurous, try something else. Be daring. Live a little, Doyle."

Rolling his eyes he followed Bodie in, a few steps behind. The place was huge, and not what he'd expected; the roughness of the building was camouflaged by lots of lights and mirrors and large hanging pieces of fabric of all colors. The crowd was a little younger, and definitely wilder than their usual, including more than a few dressed-all-in-black arty-looking types, but he wasn't willing to put up with Bodie's teasing if he backed out now. Truth be told, he'd be happier to just spend the evening with the two of them stretched out on the sofa together, dozing off in front of a match or two. If Bodie would just leave off asking... He shrugged his jacket off, not wanting to follow his thoughts any further.

He leaned on a rail and waited out Bodie's usual hunt for the perfect pub table: good view of the room; neither of them having to sit back to the door; close to the bar; not too close to the as-yet-empty bandstand. He laughed when, as usual, Bodie decided on a table that met none of his criteria but was next to two available-looking women in the corner. He followed him over to the table, and turned slightly to better see his neighbors, Bodie's intended prey.

They looked likely enough, he supposed. Certainly not scrubbers, and older than most of the crowd; a couple years younger than Bodie, he'd guess. The redhead had beautifully long curly hair and looked like an athlete, with small but well-defined muscles at arm and calf. Her friend had almost boyishly short hair, but somehow it fit her face. He looked again, as casually as he could. He wasn't sure, her shirt seemed perfectly modest, but at the right angle, in the club lighting, he was almost certain he could see right through it. And he liked what he saw.

Bodie cocked an eyebrow at him, but he decided to answer a different question. "A pint. No, a Scotch-a good one." He dodged Bodie's mimed grab at his wallet.

Bodie made short work of the line at the bar, and, of course, managed to weave his way back directly past the girl's table. Doyle held his breath. Would he? Doyle was hard pressed not to laugh out loud as Bodie "tripped" and spilled a bit of his beer near the redhead.

"Terribly sorry-"

Doyle didn't have to listen. It was never in what Bodie said, but rather the way he said it; the quite sincere happiness of a kid in a toffee shop (and about that level of maturity) was what women responded to. Plus, as far as he could tell, women liked a man who liked to take control. Nothing wrong with that-he didn't look down on them for it-but it wasn't what he was looking for. Bodie seemed to like the amiable ones; always letting Bodie make all the decisions, all the moves. Doyle thought that most of Bodie's women were pretty but boring. Not really to his taste. He wanted an independent woman. A woman not afraid to ask for what she wanted and say what she thought.

He obeyed Bodie's "c'mere," and came over and stood between Bodie and the blonde, smiling ruefully, as if to say, "yeah, he's an orangutan, but he's my mate, what can I do?"

"The more the merrier." The blonde smiled conspiratorially at her friend, who, tilting her head, eyed Doyle up and down carefully before nodding twice.

If he got to choose, he'd take the redhead; he hoped Bodie's seating had been random. Hiding that thought, he smiled impartially at the three of them, determined to join the party. He threw a matey arm around Bodie's shoulder, and said, "Hi, I'm Ray Doyle, and this clumsy baboon is my partner, Bodie."

"I'm Torrie, short for Victoria," the redhead said, staring directly at him, "and this is my partner, Ellie, or Elizabeth if you're shouting at her." She laid an extra stress on partner. He wasn't sure whether she was laughing at him or not.

Bodie reclaimed her attention. "I have regal names myself."

Jesus, is there anything the man won't do for a chat up? This from the man who threatened Murphy with grievous bodily harm for merely mentioning that he had first names. He smiled inwardly at the enigma that was his best mate, even as he felt the tinge of competitiveness Bodie frequently roused in him. Grabbing the chair next to Bodie, he set himself to being charming, fighting the urge to stare at Ellie's shirtfront. He'd found early on in his life that speaking to a woman's breasts rarely won you any points.

"How was the first band?"

Now there were two likely women, Bodie thought. Didn't look like scrubbers and didn't look like Ann Holly. Though one had red hair and when Doyle was with a redhead it always made him a bit uncomfortable. So, he decided that the redhead was his and Doyle could take the blonde. They both looked like outdoor types-casual skirts and no make-up-or perhaps it was supposed to look that way; the entire process was a mystery to him. The redhead had an open and friendly smile. The blonde seemed reserved, or distracted, but he hoped that a little of the Bodie and Doyle double act would bring her attention fully to them.

As he walked toward them, he noticed that they sat just a shade too close to each other, touching at thigh and upper arm as they talked. The music wasn't loud enough to justify such an invasion of an acquaintance's body space. He smiled to himself, not above hoping for something interesting to come of the usual foursome-becomes-two-couples. Daring women were hard to find. He smiled to himself. A daring Bodie wasn't hard to find; he was already half-hard at the thought of seeing Doyle naked, caressing the blonde one. Such intoxicating images raced through his head that he nearly did trip and spill lager all over the smiling one. Even the enigmatic blonde gave him a tiny smile for that maneuver.

"Terribly sorry."

"Not a problem. Happens quite often you know." The woman with red hair gazed up at him, a half-knowing, amused look on her face.

Ooh, hazel eyes, Bodie observed, as he smiled apologetically and said, "Make it up to you."

"Maybe we'll make it up to you," the redhead replied, narrowing her eyes but smiling.

Her blonde friend blinked innocently up at him and said, "Would you care to join us?"

"Why yes. Uh, my friend, Ray..."

Doyle was of course watching the proceedings, and came on over as Bodie made himself comfortable.

"The more the merrier."

Doyle sat down between him and the blonde. Names having been exchanged, Bodie noticed clandestinely that Doyle was trying not to stare at Ellie's breasts. He breathed a sigh of relief. That left Torrie for him, or he for her. It struck him as odd that even as he chatted up Torrie with a wild tale about skydiving-only half-false-he was really talking to Doyle. He felt more in tune with Doyle's responses right then than he had in a long while, even though Doyle barely cast a glance his way. That sixth sense that kept them each attuned to the other at work was always amplified after the kind of afternoon they'd had. It was harder and harder for Bodie to turn it off when he was off duty. He could feel a portion of Doyle's attention on him, even as Doyle gave the appearance of rapt attention to Ellie's every word. Torrie seemed interested in Bodie and, with an ease Bodie found both disarming and charming, responded in kind with an outrageous story about hiking along a nude beach in France. But Bodie never stopped being aware of Doyle at his side, not touching physically, but close, and of how the two women were touching one another, just barely, all the time. Oh, how he wished he was that close to Doyle.

As the next band began to warm up and the place began to get more crowded, Bodie noticed that Torrie looked a bit distracted. He watched her nudge Ellie and nod in the direction of the band. Rather than turn around, which was his first instinct, he took the moment to look at Doyle. Doyle looked a little uncomfortable and was still stealing furtive glances at Ellie's chest. He had seen Torrie catch Doyle at that and wondered if women had a code to express to one another that a man was leering. The way these women interacted, one might think they were terribly close friends. Close enough to communicate without words. Like him and Doyle? The thought made him sad. He put it up to the stress of the day.

"So, what do you do?" he asked, hoping that wouldn't be as loaded a question for them as it had been for him and Doyle.

Torrie turned her attention back to Bodie, smiled, bit her bottom lip and ran her hand through her hair. She then stared fixedly at a point above Bodie's head as Ellie replied, "Well, since you took the civil servant response, that just leaves us with librarians." She took on a pursed-lip parody of a librarian's expression.

Librarians. Right. Bodie knew if he caught Doyle's eye, he'd laugh out loud.

"Yes," Torrie nodded, still not meeting Bodie or Doyle's eyes. "At Queen's College."

Doyle did laugh, and while Ellie smiled with him, Torrie said, "It's true you know. All day long, nothing but musty books and men with pens in their shirt pockets walking around looking for obscure manuscripts that make oblique references to the Holy Grail."

Ellie sighed soulfully. "Not an action man in the lot."

Bodie quelled his urge to rise to the bait, barely. He knew they were mocking him and Doyle somehow, but he couldn't quite place why. It didn't seem mean-spirited, them making a joke of some sort, but he could never tell with women. Too complicated by half. Fun though, Torrie especially had more potential than any woman he'd chatted up in a long while. He put his suspicions aside and set himself to tell yet another hair-raising tale of adventure, to see if her smile would turn into a laugh. He'd only managed one from her so far, and, since he liked to make Doyle laugh, too, maybe he could get two for the price of one.

Doyle's attention drifted as he let Bodie carry the conversational load for both of them. Bodie was laughing, almost euphoric, vibrantly alive. Amazing to realize Bodie had nearly died today. Bodie's face was a little red from the heat, and Doyle noticed a small scrape on his forehead stabbing into his crooked eyebrow. Fuck! That scrape could have been Tudman's bulls-eye. Doyle took a deep swallow, washing his thoughts away, and deliberately started chatting with Ellie. His attention was caught when Torrie started talking karate.

"Need someone to work out with?" Bodie said it broadly with a nod and a wink, but Torrie answered Bodie semi-seriously.

"I've been looking for a new sparring partner." She continued with a wink, "People at work won't play with me anymore."

Going for the laugh, Doyle couldn't resist, "Bodie has the same trouble."

Bodie kicked him under the table, not gently either, Doyle noted, and asked, "Wouldn't have thought karate was that popular with librarians."

The girls exchanged a speaking glance. Ellie said, "You'd be surprised. Did I mention we're in acquisitions? Sometimes you have to fight tooth and nail for just the right book."

Everybody laughed, but Torrie stayed on track, "Anyway, if you're interested, I need someone who's good enough to give me a challenge, and not so macho I'll have to hurt him when I'm beating him."

Doyle recognized a straight line when he heard one. "Macho? Bodie? How could you think such a thing?" and laughed along with the girls when Bodie flexed his arms and crossed his eyes, the very picture of an idiot muscle man.

Ellie said more seriously, "She's been looking for a good partner for a while-"

There was the stress on that word again, Doyle noticed.

"-ever since Jeffrey hurt his hip. Would Bodie give her a good workout?"

Doyle thought he hid his doubt at the idea she could take Bodie, but as Torrie and Bodie started in with "how long have you been training?" and "which style," Ellie added quietly, "She's fast, and getting stronger. Of course in competition she only fights her own weight class, but in practice I've seen her take down men bigger than Bodie-"

Bodie had obviously been keeping an ear on their conversation, and said in unison with Doyle, "But none so perfectly formed." The line wasn't that funny, but the perfect synchronization of the partners made them all laugh out loud.

"I don't doubt you're good, Torrie, but most women in martial arts seem to lack the killer instinct." Doyle put up his hands mock protectively.

Ellie reacted by growling threateningly and snapping her teeth at Doyle. Doyle's pretend cower backed him into Bodie, who started making growling noises from his other side. Torrie laughed at their mock fight, and looked menacing in her turn.

Wonder if she really is any good? Nah, Doyle thought absently. Though Bodie seemed to be taking the idea of sparring with Torrie seriously. He snorted to himself. Doubtless it was like that blonde at work who dabbled at karate, the time Bodie had convinced him to throw the fight to win the bird-just a tactic, just part of the chase and retreat. However, this was looking like a good night, and with Torrie to occupy Bodie's attention, Doyle felt a part of himself relax. For the first time in quite a while, the tension of being with Bodie wasn't so strong, and Bodie's continual prurient interest in all things sexual had been diverted to safe areas, safe targets. As Bodie seemed so taken with Torrie (and she with him, from all appearances) Doyle decided to drop his original interest in pulling the red-head. Ellie was alluring and beautiful and he felt satisfied, if not happy, for the time being.

Doyle nursed the last of his third Scotch, noticing that the others were all in a similar place with their drinks, and resolved that Bodie was getting the next round, even though it was his turn. He was too content to move. He noticed Ellie smile at him before she turned to her friend.

"Torrie, I don't think they're going to play again, do you?" Torrie had been sneaking surreptitious glances at the stage for the last few minutes. Ellie patted her forearm consolingly.

"I suppose you're right, Ellie. Well, then," Torrie sighed theatrically, "we shall have to make do with these two for a bit longer, eh?" Doyle watched her wink at Bodie. They really seemed to have hit it off.

Ellie nodded gravely, "Yes, I suppose we shall. Well, if I don't get to dance any more, I want sugar and I want it now!"

Doyle stared; he'd heard those exact words at this time of night many times, but he wasn't used to hearing it in soprano. He saw Bodie's smile, and cut in, "You are in luck. This man knows every late night bakery, wine bar and cake shop in town."

"Maybe." Torrie exchanged a rather amused glance with her partner. "You trust us, yes?" Doyle thought she was talking more to him than to Bodie, and wasn't quite sure why. "We've got a favorite place; it's close enough to walk if you want to join us?"

Doyle could feel Bodie's grin without looking; high on Bodie's list of rules was, "if they go with you anywhere, they'll go with you anywhere," and he bet Bodie would yet again be proven right.

The night was beautiful, but cool, and they walked quickly down to the wine bar that Torrie recommended-at a place that Bodie had in fact never heard of. No sooner had they arrived and been seated than the girls excused themselves. Doyle could tell Bodie was about to make a stupid "why do birds go to the bog in pairs" comment and kicked him under the table, giving the girls time to make a clean getaway.

He ignored the menu, figuring he'd just steal a bit of whatever chocolate monstrosity Bodie ordered, and took a look around. If the dance club had been on the downscale side of hip, this place was its upscale cousin. The same tiny track lights and mirrors, but these lights shone on gleaming chrome accenting shiny black and white tiles. He noticed the girls hadn't made it very far; they seemed to be chatting with a rather nice-looking person in a waiter's dinner jacket. Doyle was a little disconcerted not to be able to tell if the waiter was a man or a woman. Torrie seemed to be pointing the two of them out. Doyle resisted the urge to wave, but did nudge Bodie.

He watched them as they finally headed over to the lavatory. Torrie and Ellie had very different styles, but they were both a pleasure to watch walk away. He turned and caught Bodie watching too. He hoped his expression had been slightly more civilized than Bodie's open greed. Bodie spied the dessert trolley, and the expression in his eyes hardly changed at all. Doyle would have sworn he'd seen the same expression aimed at him. Cheerful gluttony. Quick satisfaction of an itch. He frowned, knowing better than to be thinking about it now after they'd been drinking.

"Your coffee." The voice was soft but husky, startling him. Doyle was about to say that he hadn't even ordered yet, but he recognized the waiter behind the drink tray as the person Torrie and Ellie had been talking to. Even up close, after hearing the voice, he was still completely unsure of the waiter's sex. And he didn't like it. He'd never had a drag queen fool him in his entire time with the Met. He watched the waiter place crystal liquer glasses in front of Torrie's and Ellie's seats and outsized cups of coffee in front of each of them, then an even larger gateau in front of Bodie. Doyle would have sworn she/he winked at him as she/he set down the cream, sugar, napkins and four forks.

"They're taking care of us, Ray. I could get used to this." Bodie looked like a happy tourist, enjoying the experience of being around people with ways different from his own. Doyle wished he could relax and join him. Instead he felt more like he was on a last-minute undercover job, trying frantically to fit in before someone discovered him and threw him out. Or worse.

He took a sip of the coffee and almost sputtered. "What have they put in this?"

"I'd guess a leg-opener." Bodie grinned wickedly before trying his own drink. "Definitely some sort of liqueur. Not that they needed to, I come across pretty easy." Doyle frowned at Bodie giggling at his own questionable wit, and hissed, "Ssh," as he noticed Torrie and Ellie making their way back to the table.

To his surprise, Bodie stood as they approached the table, leaving him to follow awkwardly. He wanted to know why Bodie was having so much more fun than he was: pretty girls, great music, nice place, not particularly subtle hints that more was on offer; yet he was tempted to chuck it all in and let Bodie try and wangle a three-way. Oh, not really, but...they were so aggressive. Without so much as consulting with him or Bodie, they were calling all the shots. Picking the dessert place, ordering without asking either him or Bodie, obviously talking about them to the server. Jesus. They were probably feminists or something.

Torrie reached the table and smiled at them standing politely, turning back to Ellie to say, "They are wonderfully well trained, aren't they?"

Doyle kept expecting Bodie to get annoyed at them, but it was almost as if Bodie was in on the joke, and he was the outsider. In fact, Bodie put on his dumb puppy look and panted lightly, letting his tongue stick out a little as he resumed his seat.

"Good boy. I've a biscuit for you..." Torrie trailed her hand across the back of Bodie's neck as she squeezed past to her own chair.

Doyle rolled his eyes, catching a quizzical glance from Ellie.

This is great, Bodie thought, surveying the coffee bar. Open, airy and well lit with quiet music playing in the background, it was a perfect contrast to the sheer volume of the club. He looked around, taking in the details and the elegance of the fixtures and the art. The food looked great, too, and the servers, dressed in dinner jackets, gave the place a style that he had always found attractive. It reminded him in an elusive way of a trip he had made to Paris on the way back from Africa. He had given himself a short holiday to celebrate leaving the bush, a stop on the way home for some civilization and carnal relaxation. It had been exotic, overwhelming, and most of all, fun. That brief time, much like tonight, had given him an opportunity to be different from his usual self. Smiling to himself, content in the moment with all he surveyed, he gestured with his fork at the others and started in on the gateau.

"Mmm." Torrie smiled widely at him, plunging her fork into the cake with gusto equal to his own.

"C'mon you two, you're gonna miss out." She nudged Ellie and looked at Doyle, narrowing her eyes. "We don't want to keep all the best bits to ourselves."

Bodie laughed. "No, we want to share the best bits with you, too."

"I'd bet you like to share all the best bits, Bodie," Ellie said, making eye contact with him. She held his gaze for a minute and he realized it was the first time this evening she had done that.

Playing up to her attention, he replied, "Of course, Ellie. Best bits are only best 'cause they're shared." However, he thought, this has gone on long enough. He was drunk enough to sound melancholy, and comfortable enough not to care. "Once, when I was in France, I was in a place rather like this. Company wasn't as nice," he nodded at the women and spared Doyle a cursory glance, "but it was-" he paused, trying to get the elusive thought back. Why did I start this whole thing, he wondered? "-elegant, like this."

He glanced at Doyle, whose eyebrows had disappeared into his hair. Bodie quickly returned his attention to Torrie, feeling quite off balance. "It was nice," he floundered. "Like this."

Appearing as though she hadn't noticed Bodie's discomfort, or the fleeting look that the two men had exchanged, Ellie said, "Never made it to France, but I was in Greece once. Best coffee I've ever had. Which is surprising."

"Why?" Torrie asked. "It's close enough to Turkey."

"But Turkish coffee is terrible!" Bodie interrupted. Doyle seemed happy just listening as the conversation wandered to coffee around the world, its production, various methods of preparation and effects. For librarians, Torrie and Ellie had been around; they seemed to have been in as many countries between them as he had. As the conversation wound down, Doyle finally joined back in and he and Ellie returned to their previous conversation about films or poetry, Bodie wasn't quite certain which.

Torrie winked at Bodie. "Did you do all that traveling as a civil servant?"

"You are a wicked woman, Torrie." He smiled warmly at her. "No, I was something of a free spirit then. How about you then, you always been a librarian?"

"Sorting books in my crib." They shared a smile. "So, you and Ray here been together long?" She nodded at Doyle.

Bodie noticed she imitated his style: deflect, attack. Maybe she would be a good sparring partner. "Partners five years."

"No, I mean together."

Bodie thought about what she said for a moment and let what she hadn't said dance around in the back of his mind. He darted a quick self-conscious look at Doyle. "We're not." He tried to say it casually-man of the world, unoffended at things strange to him. From the look on her face, he didn't think he had succeeded. He took a deep breath. "You two?"

"Nearly four years. But we have open minds and wide horizons." She smiled openly at him.

"I wouldn't mind sharing horizons for a while." He didn't leer when he said that. He found that he really meant it. She-they-reminded him of the days when he'd been alive for more than just adrenaline, kind of a seven-wonders-of-the-world sort of feeling.

"Can tell. But you'd be too easy. He's," she nodded at Doyle intently listening to Ellie, who was gesticulating purposefully, "he's more what we had in mind."

Bodie realized he wasn't even surprised: there'd been something off kilter about them from the beginning. He glanced again at Doyle, this time frowning, and thought, Doyle won't even know what to do with you two. The man would starve in the middle of a banquet if it wasn't the same old, same old. "Can't help but warn you I'd be more fun." He leered extravagantly at her.


"Another time?"


"First lesson in civil servant school is to accept that the taxpayer is always right." He sighed again, but met her smile with his own, open and sincere. "Tell me, why him?" His tone was light, inviting confidences.

She let out a deep breath, obviously deciding what to tell him. She leaned in closely, brushing his cheek with her lips; her scent filled his nostrils. He touched her hand, stroking it gently. Finally she said quietly, her lips lightly brushing against his ear, "Well, you're a lovely man, but what would be the point? You'd enjoy everything we did to you." She sat back a bit, looking in his eyes, smiling slightly, "Doyle, now, he's going to fight us almost every step of the way."

She winked and Bodie let out an explosive laugh. Doyle looked over, apparently wondering what was going on. Well, this was one punch line Doyle was going to have to wait for. "I'm jealous," he said, still chortling.

"I don't blame you," Torrie consoled him.

"Blame him for what?" Doyle asked.

Bodie ignored him. To Torrie, he said, "Smug, aren't you?" He sipped his coffee, wild images forming in his mind. Doyle could use some shaking up. He'd been acting like a prat ever since... Bodie shied away from naming it. Well, for weeks now.

Doyle thought it was a little early for Bodie to be sharing secrets with these girls, especially since Ellie apparently knew what they were talking about. Stupid to feel left out, he thought, they're probably just making arrangements for the evening. But Bodie's laugh-Bodie wouldn't be crazy enough to try to take them both, would he? He was more than a little tired of Bodie always pushing him, and this competitiveness was an annoying piece of it.

Well, two could play at that game and if nothing else, it should make them laugh. He leaned back and stretched, thrusting his chest up just a bit to show off the patch of hair tufting out, catching everyone's attention. He smiled seductively at them all, turned up the heat a little, and deliberately stole one of Bodie's lines. "You two lovely things, it's too cruel to make you decide which one has to martyr herself with this over-sized primate. I'll make it easy and invite you both back with me."

He was midway through a challenging smile at Bodie when Ellie said, "That would be lovely." To his amazement, both Ellie and Torrie seemed to be taking him seriously, smiling and getting their things together.

He looked to Bodie for some help, but Bodie had taken one look at his expression and was, predictably, laughing at his expense.

"Careful what you ask for, eh?"

"But, but-" He wanted to think it was a joke-he'd bet Bodie still thought it was-but, though smiling, Torrie seemed completely serious. And why wasn't Bodie pouting, saying "why him, why not me?" He wanted to say, "I don't want you both," but he could already see Bodie snickering, and anyway, he had asked them. It was-allegedly-his idea. He didn't think expostulating, "it was a joke"would help matters any.

It was just that-they looked so calm. No, in control. Almost smug. In fact, Torrie rather reminded him of Bodie right now. He hadn't noticed before how thick her neck was. Almost put him off.

He couldn't fool himself any longer. He was angry, at Bodie if no one else, but still-the two of them all for him, an embarrassment of riches, all for him, and best, having Bodie know. Except what was the joy of having Bodie know if he wasn't going to be jealous? Bodie was taking it well so far. In fact, he was almost gracious, helping Torrie on with her jacket, kissing them each good night-

"Wait, Bodie drove."

"That's all right. We've a motor ourselves."

"Don't worry, Doyle, they'll take good care of you." The leer was evident, but Torrie and Ellie clearly didn't mind; rather they were adding their share, looking him up and down as he stood there, awkwardly holding his jacket.

There was an air of unreality to it now; he kept waiting for "April Fools" or the man from Candid Camera, or at least for Bodie to get pissed off, but nothing of the sort happened. It was all very civilized as the four of them started back to the club and then past a bit to Bodie's car. Bodie kissed each of the women good night again, and smiled at Doyle. In the dim street light, Doyle was hard-pressed to read that smile. Malicious? Wistful? He waved good night as Bodie drove off, and looked at Torrie and Ellie, standing expectantly next to him, and awkwardly put an arm around each of them. He'd never really felt the meaning of the phrase embarrassment of riches before.

Doyle drove into the CI5 car park lot four minutes before eleven a.m., wasting valuable seconds pulling all the way through to look for Bodie's silver Capri. Not in sight. He bit back his surprise. Bodie had acted strangely about the whole thing. Maybe, strangest of all, he hadn't planned to ambush him and try to squeeze every possible detail of the night before. Doyle parked his car, locked it, and ran up the steps to the back entrance.

Bodie's name wasn't on the sign-in. Doyle felt his tense shoulders loosen in relief. He started up the stairs and almost jumped when Bodie came around the corner.

"Good mornin' mate. Is that a guilty look I see?" Bodie nudged him none too gently and looked more closely. "Or just tired?" He laughed lecherously. "Kept you up all night, I see." Doyle kept walking, pushing by him, ignoring Bodie's lascivious grin and the host of questions he could see hovering on Bodie's tongue.

"Hey, careful, you almost spilled me mug." Bodie took a sip of tea and openly stared.

Doyle knew he was looking for signs of the previous evening's activities.


"Fuck off, Bodie!" Doyle grabbed Bodie's tea, took a drink, almost spit the nasty unsweetened stuff back out and swallowed hard. Winding his way to the restroom, he muttered darkly, "Where's god-damned Cowley?" His head was beginning to throb, and his patience with his partner was at an all-time low.

"Now, now Raymond. Cowley's not likely to damn himself." Bodie was obviously smirking as he followed him into the room. That only threw Doyle further off balance. Off balance, and transparent, as if Bodie could see everything he'd done; everything they'd done to him. He busied himself starting a new pot, but dropped his mug, almost knocking the kettle over as he tried to save it.

"Here, let me do it. Didn't you get any sleep?"

Doyle batted Bodie's hands away, angrily. "Would you leave me alone?"

"Bodie, Doyle." Cowley's no-nonsense tones interrupted.

Damn, not even time for a cup of tea. Sleep-starved and annoyed that Bodie obviously either had plenty of sleep, or at least enough caffeine to hide the lack, Doyle sat through Cowley's five minute castigation quiet and resentful. Bodie, as usual, was the fair-haired boy for merely wounding his prey but damn it, would Cowley be happier if Tudman had lived and Bodie had died? He bit his tongue, but couldn't stop his frustrated internal dialogue.

"Well, enough. You know what you've done wrong, I know what you've done wrong, and," Cowley said more quietly, "MI6 will make sure that everyone else knows what you've done wrong, but what's done is done." Cowley pulled his glasses off and gave them a quick cleaning, a glad sign that the lecture was over.

"Bodie, Marriot needs someone to go down to Islington and make enquires about the Kieler shooting." Doyle relaxed a little, embarrassed at how happy he was to hear they had separate assignments. Of all the times he'd sat in Cowley's office, had he ever been more self-conscious, more aware of his partner? He could sense Bodie beside him, could feel every shift of body weight, every squirm. Felt his aggrieved intake of breath, heard the leather in Bodie's jacket creak in a way that betrayed his tension.

"What about Connolly?" Bodie asked. "Who'd you assign to find him?"

Some part of him was still able to smile at Bodie's fear that some other team was taking their operation.

"Apprehending John Connolly is currently not the responsibility of CI5," Cowley said dryly.


"MI6 has formally petitioned the Minister to take over the case." Cowley tapped on the file for emphasis. "We have just as formally objected. Until the Minister responds, there it sits."

"After all our work, that damned sneak-"

"Enough, Bodie."

Bodie shifted again in his chair, but said nothing further.

"Doyle," Cowley interrupted his musing. "You've been summoned on the Wallace case. Once you finish your report on Connolly-be sure to include full details on the Tudman shooting-reacquaint yourself with the details of the Wallace operation. You will be called Wednesday or Thursday to testify."

Doyle nodded yes, reluctant to speak. Every time Cowley looked at him, he expected him to notice something different, as if those women had marked him physically in some way, as if anyone looking at him could see what they'd done, what he'd done.

"And Doyle-" Cowley waited for him to look up. "None of your tricks on the Connolly-Tudman report. The Minister has specifically requested it. Bring it to me for review before you type the final version." Cowley's phone rang, startling them all, and half a sentence into the conversation, Cowley waved them away, unceremoniously ending the briefing.

"Politics, it sounds like." Bodie opened the restroom door ahead of him.

"Huh?" Brushing past Bodie through the small entranceway, still desperate for morning caffeine, Cowley's hints were the last thing on his mind. Bodie crooked an eyebrow at him, and Doyle realized he'd missed a cue. MI6 and the Minister himself getting involved? Doyle just couldn't make himself care.

When Bodie pushed him through the door, he jumped. He was all nerve endings and confusion, and felt guilty at Bodie's questioning glance. But even that didn't distract Bodie from what seemed to be his only interest today. "I'm still waiting for a little report from you myself." Bodie waggled his eyebrows at him. "You will tell me, later, won't you, Raymundo?" Bodie's silky, semi-threatening voice held a little humor at Doyle's expense. "I should think you would be eager to brag of your exploits."

Doyle looked straight at Bodie and almost said, "nothing about my sex life has anything to do with you." But they'd done enough fighting about it recently, and this was Bodie, after all-since when had any part of their lives been off limits to each other? He was too damn tired to make sense of his own thoughts. With a nod, he said, "Later, Bodie." Doing a poor imitation of Cowley, he continued, "On your bike, man," and almost smiled at Bodie's two-fingered response.

"See you, sunshine."

Doyle watched without cheer as Bodie headed off to find Marriot. He knew Bodie would be back.

As he looked around for Marriot, Bodie reflected on Doyle's lack of composure this morning-he'd seen raw recruits face Cowley better. Shaking his head at Doyle's obviously relieved expression when Cowley sent them in separate directions for the day, Bodie wondered what he'd done this time. As he spied Lucas at the end of the hall, laughing and chatting with McCabe, he tried to remember the last time he and Doyle had laughed together without the buffer of women between them. He couldn't. How could he have believed that he knew Doyle, that he was in tune with him, when he couldn't predict what would make Doyle snarl at him next? Express some interest in the situation he'd been gracious enough to let Doyle have and Doyle acted like Bodie was putting grubby paws on Doyle's mum's fine lace. La-de-da, Doyle.

Bodie knew he was headed for a bad mood. At least he had Marriot to take it out on. Fucking Doyle, he thought, gets a man's wet dream and the next day acts like he was subjected to torture at the hands of the enemy. Well, Bodie snorted to himself, I have had enough of covering for Doyle in front of Cowley and putting up with this suffering martyrdom.

Doyle sat at his desk making little piles out of Bodie's old toffee wrappers and bent paper clips. He eyed the files like the enemy they were. How to sum up the Tudman case? Four weeks of legwork and two weeks of nail-biting undercover and he'd blown it all in a single shot.

Bodie's eyes had been huge as Tudman fell. Doyle knew Bodie had known he'd been about to die. Bodie would have, too, if Doyle had been a second later, or an inch off.

Doyle swallowed hard and opened the file, bent on getting it over with. Write it all down in appropriate governmentese, type it all up in sterile black and white, deposit it in the proper receptacle, and move on-no questions asked, no explanations given. He'd learned that the hard way with the Schumann case. People die. That's the way this high-stakes game is played. Sure, Doyle. He combined two of his paper clip piles, then separated them again. Aw, fuck it. He went back to laying out their notes on the case, his chicken scratchings only marginally easier to read than Bodie's scribblings.

He was less than halfway through a timeline before the papers were swimming in front of his eyes. It was easier to shut his eyes and think of the mixed pleasures of last night, letting the last month disappear.

He'd always felt in charge while getting a blow job. It was something she, whoever she was, was giving him. Often kneeling at his feet, or at least below him in bed, it always felt like a not just pleasurable, but commanding position. But he'd never had one like this. Torrie had drawn his arms up over his head to massage his biceps, and then knelt there above him on the long couch, kneeling lightly on his arms. Of course, he was certain he could free them, but why? If this was a test, he was determined he could pass it. She was leaning down, kissing him, her breasts touching the top of his head, her long hair veiling them both, her lips interestingly different upside down. Ellie was lying over his legs, effectively immobilizing them, and choosing exactly what she wanted to do-every flex of his hips was punished by less attention to his "good bits" as she called them. He thought he could dislodge her as well if he wanted to, but fighting the wanting was more fun. She stopped nibbling and licking from time to time and rubbed her short brush cut over his thighs and balls. Surprisingly erotic, but too ticklish and teasing. He wished she'd get down to it.

He flashed on the conversation earlier in the evening, about Torrie being a black belt. Maybe he couldn't get away as easily as he had thought. He put some more resistance against the weight holding his arms above his head only to feel that pressure increased to match his. He tilted his head farther back, catching a nipple in his mouth and sucking it a little harder than he normally would. With a laugh, the breast was removed from his reach and the nipple replaced with lips and a tongue, plundering in, slowly exploring his teeth and meeting his tongue. As the other mouth blew gently across his testicles and came teasingly close to his cock, he moaned, fire surging through him, lost in the sensation, not knowing or caring where he ended and one of them began.


He looked up to find Murphy looking at him. "What!"

"Touchy." Murphy looked like he'd been practicing Bodie's smirk in the restroom mirror. He flicked a finger at Doyle's report. "Heard you'd cocked that up, and Bodie'd nobbled you with the writing."

"Nah, it was Cowley."

"Well, he's the fair-haired boy."

"Nah, he's dark-got the hairs in my shower drain to prove it."

Murphy pulled a curl lightly and said, "Kinky," waiting until his pun was grudgingly appreciated to let go. "Want some coffee?"

"Yeah." Doyle stood and stretched, dislodging a few of the papers on his desk.

"You look rather under-impressed with your achievement."

"Four weeks of my life on this, and at the end, some expense sheets and a booze-up or two. We caught the minnow, let the fucking shark go free-" he looked down at the desk.

"Least you got Tudman." Murphy tapped on the file and said, "heard you picked him off at fifteen meters."

Doyle frowned; Bodie must have been telling tales. "He wouldn't have liked jail anyway." He followed Murphy into the rest room.

Murphy poured four coffees and handed him one before stacking the rest awkwardly together. "You up for afters? More of a late lunch. It's slow-a bunch of us are talking about the Red Hare. Maybe twenty minutes?"

"Slow? Must be nice." Doyle pointed back to his office at the stack of papers on his desk and frowned at Murphy's laugh.

"Want us to come get you?"

He followed Murphy out of the rest room. "Nah, I'll make my own way down." He drifted back to his desk, determined to get more done and not let his mind wander. Doyle's coffee was cold before he thought of it again, and he grimaced as he sipped at the bitter, nasty stuff. Despite himself, he remembered the coffee the girls had made him last night.

"Nightcap, Ray?" Torrie asked from the kitchen.

"Yeah, white and sweet." He'd wandered into the living room behind Ellie as she turned on lights. Pretty place, he thought. They'd almost wallpapered the place in books, but the odd bare spots were filled with art, and the floors were covered in thick, bright carpeting. Not much furniture, though.

"Here you go." Torrie held out a cup and kicked off her shoes.

He'd known she was short, but without the heels, she seemed to barely reach above his belt buckle. He took the cup, annoyed to see the darkness of the coffee.

"Try it. It's too easy to always do what you're used to."

He twisted his lips, but took a sip; it wasn't worth getting brassed off at. "Hmm..."

"French roast. A couple of friends of ours own a shop."

Ellie kicked off her shoes as well, and sat down on a couch-like collection of pillows on a frame.

"What is this?" It didn't look comfortable or inviting to him. He'd rather expected a larger bed for their maneuvers.

"It's a futon-it's very comfortable," she hinted, patting the cushion next to her. He took another drink of the coffee, still not willing to admit how good it was without his usual milk and sugar-and sank down into the soft cushion. Ellie took his cup and set it on the table out of the way, immediately leaning in for a kiss. Without stopping for breath, she was quickly on his lap, running her hands through his hair and undressing him. No, he realized, Torrie was undressing him. The feel of four hands on him, rubbing him, pulling his shirt off, his shoes... He broke from the kiss, panting, but Torrie pulled him down, murmuring, "my turn," into his open lips.

Next she gently licked and kissed his nipples, first one, then, upon abandoning it with her mouth, she teased it with her fingers as she kissed the other. Another set of hands, followed by a mouth, worked their way up his legs, skillfully removing his trousers and pants as he reached for any random breast, not wanting to feel so left behind. The hands on his legs reached his buttocks, and slid under them, squeezing them a bit roughly, almost painfully. He felt off-balance, dominated, as the pain felt like pleasure, and his control slipped further away. Her fingers on his arse crept toward the separation with each caress. He moaned, overwhelmed and unable to even begin keeping up.

"Ray, you ready?"

"What!" Doyle jerked at the desk, spilling the cold coffee over the report notes. "Damn it!" he yelled as he grabbed for some napkins. "Said I'd make my own way!"

"All right," Murphy said, unapologetically. "See you there."

"Bodie, you coming to the pub for afters?" Lucas thought about food almost as much as Bodie did.

A broad smile came on to Bodie's face. "Oh yeah." Then as quickly as it came, his smile disappeared and his face returned to his "I'm thinking tough thoughts" scowl. Idly, Bodie wondered if Doyle would be there. If not, Bodie could really set him up. Make him the talk of the squad by tomorrow. Serve Doyle right for not coming in early to share the 'creme de la creme' with him first. What the fuck was Doyle's problem anyway? It wasn't enough time and exposure for even Doyle to fall in love with one of them. Nor could he see those two women hauling out the whips and chains, so that only meant that Doyle was being coy or secretive or just plain bloody minded. Well, well, well. He'd see about that.

Surveying the pub, teeming with CI5 agents as well as several other smaller groups of London business people and tourists, Bodie was elated to note Doyle's absence. Bad timing though; as he approached the table they were talking about yesterday's shoot-out.

"Hey, Bodie. Heard Doyle saved your worthless hide again." Anson, always a bit too loud and too crass, blew smoke at Bodie.

"Yeah, and he didn't do it just to let you kill me by smoke inhalation," Bodie replied, waving the smoke out of his face. He pulled up the chair and dropped into it.

"Went to a new club last night," Bodie began at the next conversational lull. Murphy had sat down beside him and he and Anson provided a rapt audience. "Met some," he paused, appearing to think, "interesting women."

"Interesting, eh? How interesting?" Murphy was never shy about things sexual and never satisfied with insufficient detail.

"Yeah," Bodie drawled, "very knowledgeable-could answer any question."

"Oh. So they were teachers, then?"

"Nope. Though they may have taught Doyle a couple of things he didn't read in a book." Bodie chuckled at his own wit.

"Wait a minute... Librarians?!" Murphy nearly spit beer at Bodie trying not to laugh too hard. "You and Doyle, and the best you could do is librarians. You're losing your touch, mate."

"Nah, they were intriguing."

"Is that a word they taught you?" Anson butted in.

Bodie ignored him with lofty disdain. "Well-stacked shelves." He took a big bite of his sandwich, wiped his hands on a napkin and continued, waving his hands in an hourglass shape. "Fancy covers." He gave up the metaphor. "Shapely and," he cupped his hands in front of his pectorals, "muscular."

"Oh, go on, you lout, I don't believe it." Murphy shook his head. "Mousy women, that's librarians. After yesterday I would have thought you and Doyle would have tried to pick up something more challenging than that."

"Doyle's age must be slowing the two of you down." Anson nudged Bodie companionably. "You should come with me sometime..."

"Not a chance." Bodie turned away from Anson and directed all his comments to Murphy. He knew Anson was not that easily put off, but he wanted to make him work a little. "These women weren't what you two obvious illiterates would expect. Took pity on poor Doyle, they did, and took him off to teach him some new tricks." Bodie took a drink of his pint as Murphy's eyes widened in shock.

"Two women, and you-you, Bodie, the Casanova of CI5-let Doyle take both of 'em?" Murphy snorted. "That's a load of shite, mate. Granted, most of your tales are, but this is too over the top. You neither one scored last night, did you?"

"Oh, Murph." Bodie delivered this in his most elevated and patient tones. "Poor Doyle, you know, being so ugly and all. These were the first real birds I didn't have to pull for him. Seemed only right to let the two women show the pathetic bloke a good time." Bodie oozed benevolence and good will. He nudged Murphy conspiratorially and continued, "Poor Doyle has a hard time, you know, getting laid." He whispered the last word in as honest a tone as he knew, seeing that Anson hadn't quite overheard, but knew that he could guess what Bodie had so secretly confided in Murphy. Should be all over the squad by dinner. Maybe even by teatime.

Murphy, oblivious to Bodie's machinations, frowned doubtfully.

"I got the feeling," Bodie went on a bit louder, "Just from chatting 'em up, you see, that they were no amateurs at coming across."

"Doyle didn't mention anything outrageous to me, and I saw him all morning." Murphy shook his head. "So, what did he pay you to tell us that he pulled two birds last evening -- and what will he do to you for making up all the shite about you pulling all of his birds for him?" Murphy was chuckling now. "And what will you pay me not to tell him?"

"Murph," Bodie leaned away from him, "I'm hurt, I am. As if I would do such a thing."

Murphy laughed loudly and clapped Bodie on the back. "Christ, Bodie, you're a piece of work, all right."

The conversation turned to other conquests and other problems. Lucas, always drawn into competition when the Bodie and Doyle show was on, was trying to convince McCabe and Murphy that he'd once taken three Swedish stewardesses to Paris for a long weekend.

While Lucas was soundly mocked, Bodie plotted a phone call to Torrie. The thought of a workout with her interested him even more now, since Doyle wasn't telling and didn't appear willing to put in an appearance. Besides, she had implied that another time he might find himself in Doyle's place. Maybe that other time should be as soon as possible...

Doyle pulled the paper out, turned the typewriter off, and closed the file over Tudman's picture, just as the ambulance attendant had pulled the blanket over Tudman himself yesterday afternoon. He'd been doing fine, all details duly accounted for, until he reached the shoot-out. He didn't think Cowley wanted to hear how the thrill of adrenaline and excitement turned to sour bile as he realized how close Bodie had come to death, Tudman's body a stand-in for the almost unthinkable possibility that Bodie could fall.

He heard Cowley yelling at Betty, "Where's Doyle with that file?" Doyle looked at his watch-1:45-and at the scant page and a half of his final report. He opened the file again, impatient with his own vacillating. The facts were quickly checked, after referring to Bodie's notes as much as his own, and he bundled the pages back in the folder, tucking their notes in the back. He frowned at his typos, but Cowley would probably make one of the office girls clean it up if it really was going up to the Minister.

Closing that file only unveiled the Wallace file waiting below. Between remembering yesterday's shooting, last night's whatever-it-was and the Wallace debacle-it was one-too-many example of how little good he did in his personal pursuit of truth and justice. Bodie would tell him to chuck it all in and get a beer. He glanced at his watch again, grabbed the Connolly file for Cowley and his jacket. There were times Bodie was right.

Neither Betty nor Cowley was in sight when he went to hand over the files. He dropped them on Betty's chair, and, unable to think of anything else to do, slowly headed over to the Red Hare, dragging his feet. He'd have to tell Bodie something-if only to shut him up-but what? He wasn't about to describe what had happened just for Bodie to turn it into a sniggering joke, to be passed on to Murphy or Lucas during a boring stakeout.

He didn't know why he was so brassed off at Bodie. He would never have met the girls except for Bodie, would have stayed home feeling sorry for himself instead. Bodie had seemed to know what he needed. He'd never told Bodie how he felt about killing people either, but Bodie seemed to know that, too. He shook his head, trying to shake some sense into himself: it was too easy to get angry at Bodie these days, to make every thing Bodie's fault--and then too easy to forgive him, even his worst offenses. It wasn't that he had trouble making up his mind, he just had trouble keeping it made up.

The pub was crowded, the usual lunch-time crowd mixing uneasily with the loud bunch of hard men taking over the center tables. "God, it looks like a grade four callout," he muttered crankily.

"Hey Doyle," Lucas clapped his shoulder. "Bit of all right last night, I heard-"

Doyle didn't bother wasting his ire on Lucas, just grunted as he pushed him out of his way and continued towards his intended victim.

Damn you, Bodie, I knew it, Doyle thought. Everything is a dirty joke to you. Bodie had the grace to look wary as Doyle pushed his way over.

He growled, "Bo-dee..." and waited.

Murphy put a pint in his hand, deflecting him. "Thanks, Murph." He shouldered between them, bumping Bodie a little too hard to make space.

Bodie pushed back, "Hey, watch the elbow, mate," but Doyle ignored him, turning to Murphy. "You eaten?"

Bodie's RT beeped, and Doyle automatically leaned over to cover him talking into it.


"Where's 4.5?"

Doyle rolled his eyes. He'd left his R/T in his desk. Resigned, he said, "Right here, sir," as Bodie aimed the RT at his mouth.

"Doyle, have you finished your write-up of yesterday's shooting?"

"Yes, it's on Betty's desk. But Bodie hasn't reviewed it."

"Never mind that. Both of you. Now."

Bodie pulled the R/T back, said, "running all the way," and turned it off in case Cowley had pithy observations to make regarding Bodie's lack of contribution to the file.

Perfect, Doyle thought. Not enough sleep, not enough caffeine and now no food, either. Just perfect.

Betty waved them by without a word. Cowley was up and pacing; both his limp and his Scotch bottle in evidence.

"It's the Hessman situation." Hessman? Doyle raised an inquiring eyebrow at Bodie. Sure, they were supposed to keep informed on all the major cases, but in case Cowley hadn't noticed, they'd been a little busy themselves the last week. "Lewis and Biggs are both ill. Dr. Handel thinks it is simple food poisoning, but there is a chance that they're on to us." Cowley tapped on a file in front of him on the desk. "We still have every reason to think that they have something planned for the Israeli Ambassador's speech next Friday."

Doyle relaxed, finally dredging up a few details. Lewis and Biggs, sometimes Allison, had been watching a group of college dropouts, mostly middle-class champagne anarchists, but backed with a couple of real thugs. Not a cakewalk by any means, but nothing like the Tudman mess. "Doyle, you head over now, and provide backup for Mason and Malone; they'll stay there until Bodie shows up. And stay in close contact until we find out what happened to Lewis and Biggs. I'll try and get another team over there before midnight."

Doyle's heart sunk. Sharing ten-hour watches in what was probably a two-room flat, just when the whole of London didn't seem big enough for both him and Bodie. Before he could think of an objection, Bodie leapt in. "With your permission, sir, Doyle's on stand down: fatal shooting yesterday..." Doyle, as always, stayed out of the way when Bodie was trying to sweet-talk Cowley.

"That's just a recommendation, not a requirement."

"But a good recommendation, sir." Bodie leaned in towards Cowley. "A killing takes a lot out of a man."

Doyle felt some of his anger toward Bodie fade. Bodie must have known how he was dreading the two of them alone on an obbo.

"He's gone directly on the streets again after shootings in the past, and this should only be a watching brief."

"Yes, but-"

"Bodie, are you saying that Doyle isn't up to the assignment?"

"No, sir," Bodie kept trying, "but-"

Bodie protecting him even from Bodie himself; Bodie helping him pick up women whether he wanted it or not. Bodie wanting him...

With all of the considerable sarcasm at his command, he broke in on Bodie and Cowley's conversation. "I think Doyle will be all right on this assignment."

"Yeah, Doyle can..." Bodie ground to a halt, abashed. He looked from Cowley to Doyle.

Cowley looked up as well, giving nothing away. "Oh, sit down, both of you." Cowley gave them both a rather considering look, then walked out into Betty's office and shut the door on them. Doyle ignored the look he knew Bodie was sending his way.

"You're not still angry, Ray. This is just like you-you go home with two beautiful birds, leaving me high and dry, and yet somehow I'm the bad man."

He ignored Bodie's whole, 'C'mon, share the joke with me' tone, nursing his grievances. "Oh yeah, as if you really went home alone." He stubbornly stared out Cowley's window at the afternoon's dark clouds.

"Didn't I? Would you be less upset if you thought I did?"

"No!" he said indignantly. "It's nothing to me what you do, just don't try and set me up. I don't need the help."

"What help? You pulled those two last night all by yourself. No one made you ask them both home."

"It was a joke." Finally he looked over at Bodie. "But you already knew what was going to happen, didn't you."

Bodie looked away. "Yeah, Torrie told me at the wine bar."

"Damn you! You-"

Cowley walked back in, cutting him off mid-tirade. "I'll have Turner and Sims cover the stakeout."

A reprieve, however short. Doyle was grudgingly grateful for Bodie's wheedling.

"Doyle. Make sure you brief Lucas and McCabe, and they can tie up the loose ends on the Connolly case. They've just had time off." Testily, he continued. "Take the weekend, but I want to see you first thing Monday morning."

Bodie caught his attention and winked the eye Cowley couldn't see.

Cowley turned to Bodie. "Review the file before you leave and remember where it's going. Retype it if necessary." Doyle was too grumpy to snicker at Bodie's pout. Cowley didn't look particularly charmed either. "Out of here, both of you." Doyle was only too happy to comply.

He ignored Turner and Sims waiting in Betty's office as he retrieved the file, feeling awkward as Bodie trailed behind him. God he was tired of feeling awkward around Bodie. Conscious of his audience, he just said, "You might need to flesh it out a bit; it's a little sketchy." He couldn't wait to leave, the prospect of a quiet weekend bright before him. He shoved the files at Bodie, muttered, "See you," and headed out quickly, determined that if he didn't see Lucas and McCabe on his way out, Bodie could do the briefing.

Bodie took the file and watched Doyle walk away. It was a good view, but a little too familiar recently, Doyle walking away from him. He made his way to their miserable excuse for an office, threw the file down unseeingly, and reflected on when the partnership had started to unravel-his one attempt to seduce Doyle.

It had been nearly by accident. Of course, he'd been thinking about it, but then he thought about having sex with almost everybody and Doyle was twice as attractive to him as anyone else he could name. But it hadn't started with sunshine and daisies. That day had been hell, much like yesterday had been. Bodie forgot the exact details, after a while all the bad days blended into one in his mind, but he vividly remembered one thing-his utter certainty that Doyle would have died if he hadn't pumped an entire magazine of bullets into the guy they had been chasing through various East End alleys.

Doyle had slipped and was on one knee in a puddle as Bodie came round the corner, only a few steps behind. He saw the gun pointed at Doyle's head and, shouting incoherently, fired everything he had left. The suspect got off one shot nowhere near either of them, but Bodie could still close his eyes and see Doyle in the puddle, staring at him with an inscrutable look. So close to death, and yet so far from it once the immediate threat had been perforated. It hadn't been one of their better days.

He didn't know if the memory of the day was worth the memory of the evening. Sometimes, at just the right moment on a rainy day, he would remember Doyle on his knee in that alley and all the feelings that followed. The terror, the unthinkable possibility he could have been two steps too far behind and Doyle would breathe no more. He remembered that evening with just as much clarity. As if he could ever forget. Ecstasy. Confusion. Heart-stopping fear. He cherished this memory, bittersweet as it was. In his current melancholy mood he ran through the evening again.

After his bath, Bodie made himself comfortable on his settee, wrapped in a warm dressing gown. His hot tea was liberally spiked with something as soothing to his mind as the bath was to his body. He had put every Stones album he owned on the spindle, and after he turned them over and listened to the other sides, he intended to watch some mindless comedy on television. The evening thus planned to his satisfaction, he was mildly annoyed when his door buzzer signaled. Tired and comfortable, he contemplated ignoring it, but decided to see who it was. Could be Cowley, after all.

It wasn't Cowley, it was Doyle. He'd brought two bottles of better-than-his-usual wine and take-away curry. They sat on the floor of Bodie's flat, contentedly eating naan and curry and getting more and more relaxed. They had talked about something, but Bodie's memory hadn't held onto those details. He only remembered the comfort and naturalness of sitting there with Doyle. A state of affairs he'd taken for granted back then.

"Cowley's let us off tomorrow," Doyle said, tipsily clinking Bodie's glass with his own.

"It's not as though we don't deserve it." Bodie returned the toast pensively.

Doyle reached out and touched Bodie's forehead gently. "Yeah." Doyle's fingers lingered on Bodie's skin and then Bodie reached for Doyle's hand, clasping it gently. He distinctly remembered Doyle reaching out first. Without Doyle's action, Bodie was certain he would never have ventured further. But in the warm relaxation of good food, good alcohol and good friendship he had quietly said, "I'm glad you're here."

"Well," Doyle had replied and Bodie clearly remembered the near blush on Doyle's cheeks, "I knew you'd be hungry and you never have any good food in this dump." He laughed, sounding almost nervous to Bodie's ears. "Can't have you fainting from malnutrition, can I?"

Then Bodie stopped wishing and started acting. He turned Doyle's hand over and lightly placed his lips on the center of Doyle's palm. Doyle tossed his head back, breathing out a deep sigh.


He wasn't certain that Doyle had spoken, but he could still hear that breathless gasp as though Doyle were standing beside him.

Bodie gently continued kissing Doyle's hand, touching his lips to Doyle's wrist and gently licking the center. Sensing Doyle's acquiescence, he risked a glance up at Doyle's face, stunned to see it flushed with desire. Bodie sighed, and reached his palm up to Doyle's face, cradling it as he moved ever so slowly toward Doyle's lips. He wanted to savor every moment of this tenderness, hoping to convey his feelings to Doyle without having to express them in words. His own head spinning, he leaned carefully toward Doyle's mouth. His eyes lost their focus as he came near Doyle's head, so he closed his eyes, and with his nostrils filled with Doyle's scent, he tasted his first sweet taste of Doyle's mouth.

The thrill of "I'm kissing Ray" was followed by the recognition of "I'm being kissed back by Ray." Bodie's drunken thought was he might burst from excitement and happiness and feelings unnamed and unexamined. Afraid to break the kiss, Bodie shifted his weight and moved his other hand up to Doyle's throat, gently caressing his jaw and neck, savoring the difference between the stubble of his jaw and the softness of the skin behind Doyle's ear. How thin his earlobe had felt, how thin and how soft, yet a different kind of softness than Doyle's hair, which was lightly brushing Bodie's knuckles. All of these sensations competed with the sheer bliss of their continuing kiss. Even as he realized that they must stop kissing to explore other, equally interesting options, Bodie wanted this moment to last forever. Briefly, Doyle was his, all he had ever dreamed of and wanted.

As the kiss ended, reluctantly it seemed on both their parts, Doyle had started to speak. "Bodie-"

Bodie shook his head and reached for Doyle again. If Doyle was allowed to start analyzing what was happening, then nothing would happen. He knew better than to give Doyle any sense of the upper hand. Doyle leaned into the renewed kiss and Bodie felt the warmth of Doyle's chest against his. Maybe he was imagining it in hindsight, but he swore he had felt Doyle's heart beating against his chest, a syncopated counterpoint to his own pounding heartbeat.

Surrounded by dirty plates, empty wine bottles, and Doyle's discarded shoes, Bodie realized that his ability to move was severely hampered. As he pulled back from kissing Doyle's full lips, he allowed himself a moment of contentment, with his eyes closed, savoring the final moment of silent tenderness between them. Then, opening his eyes, he said quietly, and deliberately, staring directly into Doyle's bright eyes, "Come to bed with me, Ray, please."

And the spell was broken.

Bodie's memory relentlessly played the rest of the evening out. Doyle's quick intake of breath, pulling back from Bodie's body space so that he felt cold all over, not just where Doyle had been touching him. Doyle running his left hand fretfully and repeatedly through his hair as he shook his head.

"No, Bodie," he glanced up briefly before returning to his contemplation of the carpet, "I mean, I'm not, and well, neither are you and so we just, you know, aren't-"

"Oh, Doyle, give over, you know you were enjoying it!" Bodie now wondered whether if he'd been less frustrated, if he'd tried for understanding, whether Doyle would have given in to him.

"No, Bodie, no, I've been this way before. Not this way exactly and, well, no, I just can't." He shook his head continually, and grabbed for his left shoe, tugging it on hurriedly.

Their partnership was balanced there between them. Bodie knew it would take just a gentle push, but he couldn't be sure which way it would go. He couldn't imagine terminating the partnership, not now, not with so much to sort out in his own mind. And he couldn't risk losing Doyle after he had come so close earlier. He shook himself. "Okay, Doyle, relax. It was just a little snogging between friends." He stood, his erection fading, his hands open and extended, trying to look as harmless as possible. Trying to control the slight shaking of his hands. "Not all that uncommon. Don't do anything rash." Even his memory made him sound desperate.

"Right, just a bit of snogging..." Doyle's voice had hardened, as if firmness could keep his reactions at bay. Bodie watched him reach for his jacket, still one shoe off, one shoe on. Even more resolutely, Doyle changed direction, "No way, Bodie-" he shook his head fiercely, and continued standing up and looking around for his other shoe "-that's not going to happen again." He sat back down to put his shoe on, but jumped back up before he'd even laced it and pulled on his jacket, as he walked to the door. "I'll see you day after tomorrow, pick me up, okay?" and then the door of Bodie's flat slammed closed behind him.

Bodie had spent the rest of the night drinking, and the next day in bed, in between headache remedies and attempts to sleep, he told himself very sternly he would never bring it up again.

Good intentions, however, were all lost by the next long stakeout.

"Doyle, you know, I've been thinking."

"Should I call the Guinness book?" Doyle didn't take his eyes away from the binoculars.

"Ha bloody ha. No, about the other night." Bodie waited for some response and even though he could feel Doyle's emotional barriers go up, he knew he'd go on.

"What other night, you mean with my Sandy and your Shelley?" Two women, lots of fun and no commitment. Bodie had been trying to get a date with Sandy ever since to get the details of what he hadn't been able to watch.

"No, I mean with you and me." Bodie took a deep breath and in that brief second, Doyle interrupted.

"I don't see how you could-"

"How I could what?" Bodie turned to face Doyle's profile.

Doyle gave him an angry, sideways glance and snorted. "As if I would let you stick..." he paused before letting out an angry sigh. "There's no way for there to be equality between us."

"Oh." Bodie responded non-commitally, hoping Doyle would continue without Bodie pushing him.

"But that's not the point, either. It's disgusting, Bodie, it makes the other," here he paused and chose this word with care, "partnership between us seem tainted. Don't ever mention it again, Bodie. It won't work."

Bodie had dropped it then, but sometimes, without even meaning to, he would mention how wonderful Doyle looked. Or without thinking, he'd make casual references to couples of the same sex in jokes, or when referring to a movie or out of thoughtless general lewdness. Each time Bodie felt innocent in bringing it up, but each time Doyle became angrier. Bodie knew he was driving Doyle away but he couldn't seem to help himself.

He sighed and closed off his sadness and opened the file.

Doyle stared out his window through the growing shadows. He couldn't see the storm clouds gathering, but he knew they were out there in the gloomy London dusk. He couldn't see Bodie either, but he knew Bodie would show up soon. As inevitable as death and taxes, Bodie was. He thought about going out, avoiding him, even leaving London for the weekend, but Bodie would eventually catch him up, and worse, Bodie would know he was running away. On the other hand, it might be worth Bodie laughing at him to be safely out of his way for a few days.

Safe? Bodie? Not a possible combination, and what good would it do anyway? Bodie couldn't be escaped. Doyle walked the circuit of his flat, checking the security absently. Bodie was the irresistible force, determined to erode his defenses. Even with all that happened last night, Bodie had always been on his mind. He might as well have been there with them.

It had felt so good at the time, but the memory was searing now. He tried not to picture himself lying flat, passive under them. Ellie straddled his legs, her mouth warm and tight on his cock, and Torrie, kneeling over his head, leaned over him, her breasts brushing his curls, her legs holding his arms over his head. He remembered pushing upward against his living restraint despite his promise not to-not quite desperate, but close to it, trying to press his cock further up into Ellie's throat, determined, wanting to come. And wondering if Bodie made them promise to tease him to death.

"No, no, the fruit's sweeter when you have to work for it, Ray." Torrie spoke into his mouth, still reversed over him, her mouth upside down, kissing him lightly now. Her knees still pinning Doyle's arms above him, she reached out with a hand and touched Ellie. Doyle almost whimpered into Torrie's mouth as Ellie suddenly stopped, abruptly pulling her mouth off his now almost-aching cock. He felt the futon creak, but Ellie came right back, kneeling between his legs now instead of straddling them.

"Give me some room," she prompted as she pushed lightly at his inner thighs.

Torrie crawled down the futon a bit, freeing his arms, feeding him her breasts one at a time, her own lips nibbling their way down to his nipples. "Nipple sixty-nine we call this," she giggled, and nipped a little. It felt good, but distracting; he wanted to concentrate on what Ellie was doing. He couldn't see her, but each square inch of flesh between his legs was busy tracking her every move. He gasped in surprise when she put a cool slick hand on his cock, and sighed as she started to move it up and down, very slowly. It felt good-no, great-but he was sad nevertheless. In his experience, women hated the taste of lube, so once they'd put it on his cock, they weren't likely to go down on him again. Still, it felt incredible; he wasn't complaining, even to himself. He almost laughed, thinking of telling Bodie, "And I didn't even complain!" He put one hand up to steady the breast he was sucking, and ran his other hand softly up and down Torrie's back, holding her close.

Ellie nudged his legs further apart and he gave her a few more inches of room, hooking one leg over the side of the mattress. He thought, not for the first time, that Macklin would be proud of the uses Bodie and he made of their physical fitness and flexibility. Ellie gradually had sped up her slow root-to-tip strokes, but her hand was still very tight on him, her movements deliberate and incredibly rousing. He felt her other hand, vaguely, as she played with his balls and lightly rubbed the area below them. Torrie changed sides, replacing one breast in his mouth with the other, and he went to work with a will, still feeling that he didn't have enough receptors in his brain to keep track of all the different stimulation, when, my God, he nearly bit Torrie's nipple.

Ellie had simultaneously deep-throated his dick, and thrust a finger inches up his arse. "Jesus."

"You okay?" Torrie didn't sound serious, and Ellie didn't even stop sucking, just looked up and smiled with her eyes. She didn't stop moving her finger within him either. He didn't even know if he liked it or not. All he could think was "wow." Did Bodie know what this was like? Is this what he'd wanted?

Before he could decide whether he wanted to say 'stop' or 'more', Torrie moved down further on the mattress, licking her way down his chest to Ellie, and not coincidentally, straddling his face with her hips. He grabbed her thighs to guide her clit to his mouth, suddenly thirsty to taste her, to participate more than he'd been doing. He felt more than heard her and Ellie talking, and lifted his head the little bit he needed to look down at Ellie. She was pushing his legs back together and straddling his hips. The women were facing each other, and Torrie drew Ellie to her and kissed her deeply, the two of them making a triangle above his body. Lighter skin against darker, small breasts against full ones; they were beautiful together, and he suddenly wished Bodie could see them like that.

He rose up gently, reminding them of his presence. In all the changing around, his urgency had faded slightly, but he was still rock hard. He felt Ellie take his cock in hand again. Despite the warm scent of Torrie's wetness, he was too distracted to do much more than nuzzle her thighs and breathe in her essence.

He was losing track again, who was doing what to whom-he reached up to touch Ellie's breast, and Torrie was leaning so close to her that he was touching them both at once. He felt Ellie rise up, Torrie steadying her, and oh, God, suddenly she mounted him, sinking root-deep on his cock.

He grabbed Torrie's hips, pulling her down onto his mouth, burying himself in her wet folds until he had to pull away to breathe, panting harshly, feeling himself pulsing, holding himself back, trying not to come.

As suddenly as she'd enveloped him, Ellie pulled back completely off his cock. He whimpered again, muffled by Torrie's body. Though he'd have sworn it was impossible, the coolness of room air hitting Ellie's juices on him made his cock even more sensitive. He felt Ellie rise up again and braced himself, wanting to come, but not wanting to shoot as soon as she mounted him.

This time it was much slower, and seemed much tighter. Oh my God, he realized. She's, it's... He realized he was babbling to himself. He'd never had a woman this way, and had never wanted to. Every time it had been offered, it had caused a sick, roiling sensation in his gut. And the thought of him and Bodie doing it-he tried to pull out, pressing his arse deeper into the futon, trying to sort out the sensations away from the building revulsion.

God, it was tight.

And hot, and incredible, realizing what she had done. Where his cock was. Mindlessly, he wanted to thrust, to seat his whole cock in her, but she held down his hips, completely controlling the penetration. Damn, he wanted... he wanted... He flashed briefly on his terrified conversation with Bodie and realized he'd had no idea what he'd been talking about.

Torrie was filling his view so he could barely see, his ears were squeezed by Torrie's legs, his hands moved ceaselessly on the bodies on top of him, frequently unsure of who he was touching, someone's hands on his nipples, pinching, pulling, rubbing his chest. His attention was split too many ways. He was on overload, trembling, thrusting up into Ellie, almost heedless of the fragility of the channel, while frantically licking, plundering Torrie with his lips, all but biting, following her as she rocked and swayed above him. He grabbed Ellie's round cheeks, pulling them down on himself, unable to speak, thinking, I'm in there: planted in that arse. He could barely breathe. Oh my God, he thought, oh my God, and came.

In the moment or two before he could pay attention again, Torrie laughed, moved off his mouth and bent down to give him a big sloppy kiss. He knew he was grinning stupidly back at her. She kissed him again, turned and kissed Ellie, then lay down with her head on his lower stomach. His breath caught, hard, as he realized she was licking Ellie's clit as Ellie rocked slowly on his still hard cock. He wiped off his mouth with his arm and stared at them, rapt, enjoying the mix of his slow pulsing and Ellie's increasingly erratic movements. The girls looked... perfect together. Despite the fact he was fucking one of them, and the other was wrapped around him, he suddenly felt superfluous, an outsider. Would Bodie have felt left out?

Before he could think further about anything, he felt Ellie become impossibly tighter on his cock, and raised his arms to support her as she came, calling out incoherently, slowly collapsing and pinning Torrie between them. The echoes of his orgasm pulsed through his body as he stroked Ellie's short hair with one hand and held Torrie's hand with the other.

With regained breath came a sense of responsibility. He drew Ellie up on one side of him and pointed a brow at Torrie still slumped, resting on his chest, arms now wrapped around them both.

"No, she's fine." At his continued puzzled look, she laughed, and went all Cockney, "Comes like a laid-ee, she does, all quiet so you cain't tell-" back to her normal voice "-she probably came while you were nibbling at her."

"Twice, but who's counting," Torrie mumbled quietly. "That was lovely." She slowly pulled herself up, crawling over Doyle to coil around Ellie, encouraging him to curl up behind them both. The bed moved as they fumbled around getting comfortable, murmuring quietly, arranging the sheet as a light cover and then he gradually felt Ellie relax, falling into sleep against him.

He was abruptly, against all expectation, wide awake. What had he done? Things he would, just yesterday, have said were disgusting. Doyle thought of Bodie again, of how Bodie would have reacted to this evening, these women, this kind of sex. Damn, what was Bodie doing intruding even when he was on the other side of London from him? Even in Doyle's mind, Bodie didn't know his place. And Doyle knew that in his place Bodie would have enjoyed himself more. And worse, he didn't have a clue why, but he felt like he'd betrayed his partner. That he'd taken something from Bodie, or given something to someone else that belonged to Bodie alone. He remembered Bodie's face as he'd driven away from them outside the club, and finally made sense of the expression.


A honk from the street below brought Doyle out of his brown study. He was tired of saying no. Of seeing Bodie all hopeful and sad next to him. Of wanting Bodie for everything but that. This whole thing was unnatural and unbelievable from the very beginning. Bodie, miserable in love? Who'd have thought it possible?

All of his excuses were gone. He was already so close to Bodie, he couldn't claim he needed to keep his distance. What distance? Bodie was his other half. He thought of Lucas and McCabe, and wondered how other partners managed it. It wasn't exactly something that got talked about in the rest room between assignments, except in sick jokes, and sniggering innuendo. Sometimes it felt like Cowley had done the whole "In sickness and in health" over them. They didn't have to be so close...but they did. They were.

When the buzzer signaled, he flipped the switch without even checking, and opened the door to watch Bodie climb the stairs. He angrily noted the six-pack under Bodie's arm. A leg-opener, Bodie? he thought, tempted to leave the bastard in the hall. He remembered Bodie talking at dessert last night with Torrie and Ellie about his life before CI5. Bodie never talked about himself that way, least of all with Doyle. Why would he want to spend an evening with a lecherous bastard of a partner who only wanted to fuck him and never gave anything of himself away, except to strangers? Why was Bodie such a puzzle? Did he do it on purpose? Doyle ruthlessly pushed the image of Bodie watching him leave with Torrie and Ellie away and nursed his anger. Who was Bodie to take him for granted?

He let him in anyway, barely looking at him, and only grunting in response to Bodie's greeting.

Bodie looked at him warily. "How were Lucas and McCabe?"

"Assumed you'd talked to them. You've talked to everyone else."

"Get over yourself. You'd think I gossiped about your wife or something."

Doyle dropped his head in his hands, mentally counting to ten. Great. Bodie hadn't even taken his jacket off, and they were back at it.

Well, Bodie thought as he parked his car in front of Doyle's flat, Doyle should be over his temper fit of the afternoon and either have completely forgotten it or been wallowing in a good bit of guilt for closing him out of all the fun. Bodie, having noticed Doyle's silhouette at the window and, proud of himself for thinking through all the possibilities and thinking of food, honked as he got out of the car. He balanced the beer and curry-he wasn't as good as Doyle at choosing wine and had opted for the easier beverage instead-and slammed the car door and headed for the flat. He felt guardedly happy; good food, a weekend off together, and maybe a chance to finally get things back on keel with Doyle. Feeling the master of all he surveyed, he rang Doyle's buzzer. As Doyle let him in, he thought of his phone call to Torrie. She had been more than willing to spar with him next week (provided he wasn't working). He'd get her side of the story then. He saw Doyle open the door, scowling, and put away all thoughts of later pleasures as he tried to gauge Doyle's current mood. From his first words, clearly not amiable.

As he eyed Doyle at the door, Bodie knew a moment of complete irritation that Doyle wasn't over his bad mood. He sighed dramatically. "Get over yourself," he said as he pushed past Doyle into the flat. "You'd think I gossiped about your wife or something." The best defense is a good offense. Bodie opted to be strongly offensive. "You had a night of kink with a couple of bad girls. What else d'you think gossip was invented for?"

He walked into the kitchen, dropped his holdall and the six-pack on the table and set the bag of food on the counter. Doyle followed him; Bodie could feel Doyle's eyes boring holes into his back.

"I brought some food and beer, Doyle. You hungry?" Bodie glanced warily sideways at Doyle who was clearly bristling for a fight. What is it now? he thought. Still pissed off from Cowley's office? From the pub? From when the doctor spanked his arse? Good thing Doyle's tantrums were generally short-lived. "You want a beer?" he asked, as Doyle slumped against the counter.

"Sure, fine, whatever." Doyle didn't stop glaring at Bodie.

Bodie shook his head, fighting his own anger. He handed Doyle a beer and said, "Come on, out with it. It'll make you feel better if you tell me what's on your little mind." Bodie nudged Doyle with his elbow and, having finally managed to look Doyle directly in the eye, winked conspiratorially.

"It's just..." Doyle looked tired and harassed as he wedged himself into the corner of the kitchen counter. "Remember yesterday, how he nearly shot you before I got him?" Doyle's voice broke slightly and he took a drink of lager before continuing. "I could barely talk, I was so... you know. And you ran interference with the police-which you hate to do-and with Cowley. You and Cowley kept looking at me as if I might explode."

Bodie contained a sigh. He was not very patient with Doyle's self-flagellation when he was in a good mood. He wasn't anywhere near a good mood now.

Doyle looked him right in the eye. "Doesn't it seem insane to add to that? To make us even more important to each other?"

"You didn't think that all through as you were running for the door that night. We didn't seem so important to each other then."

"Of course I didn't think it through!" Doyle flung himself off the counter, running his right hand through his messy curls. "And I wasn't running!"

Bodie made no attempt to disguise rolling his eyes, as he sighed with exasperation and backed against the opposite counter, safely across the room from Doyle.

"And if you must know, I was repulsed."

Bodie nearly laughed aloud, but now that he finally had Doyle talking, Bodie wasn't giving him an excuse to stop. Besides, laughing would only bring on the probable punch-up sooner. He covered his snort with a long drink of his lager.

Doyle didn't appear to notice any of Bodie's rather calculated body language, as he paced the few steps between the counter and the 'fridge. "Or I thought I was repulsed. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, and told myself it was revulsion, and I even believed it for a couple of days." Doyle stopped and half-smiled at Bodie.

Bodie, who remembered those next few days too vividly, and apparently quite differently, examined his fingernails, flicking at them with loud clicks of nail against nail. Doyle could go on like this for hours and Bodie was too tired. He had what he thought he wanted-Doyle was talking-but Bodie realized with sudden clarity that Doyle would only say the wrong things. Why hear what you already know, he thought, idly thinking of where he would go after he left Doyle's place. The pub? Back to the club? The gym? He absently calculated the number of steps to the door. Thirteen. The lengthening silence and Doyle's relentless pacing brought his attention back to the moment.

"But the next time we were under fire, I recognized the feeling in the pit of my stomach-it was just fear and adrenaline."

"You love that stuff, Doyle," and the anger was clear in Bodie's voice, a little more focused than he had realized until he started to talk, "or you would find a job that's less likely to give you a tummy ache." Bodie felt his anger build. Damn Doyle and his fucking, tedious, emotional scenes.

"But I didn't know that. You didn't really want it either, Bodie, or you'd have tried harder."

The tone and delivery hit home too perfectly not to be intentional. Bodie's rage won. "You're right, Doyle. I don't really want you." He straightened off the counter, flexing his hands into fists, breathing heavily. It wasn't worth the agony later to hit Doyle now. Just give him another thing to guilt Bodie about. He grabbed the holdall he'd set on the table, turned away from Doyle and started walking toward the door. He knew he shouldn't do this, leave Doyle like this, but he couldn't stay and not beat the living hell out of Doyle just for the pleasure of doing it.

"This isn't happening. Ha. This can't be happening." Doyle chuckled, albeit a bit nervously. "I don't believe it. William Andrew Philip Bodie running out of my flat like some outraged bird? I can't believe it." Bodie recognized the shrillness in Doyle's voice for the panic he couldn't admit to. He suppressed a smug, if angry, smile.

"I know you far too well, Bodie. What have you been doing these last two months? Loitering around palely, sighing noisily, staring sadly out of windows, playing St. Bodie the martyr. Trying to make me feel guilty? Huh, is that it? You're pissed off because you gave me a stick to hit you with, and I used it 'til my arm got tired." Doyle grabbed Bodie's jacket in the center of his back, pulling him toward the living room. Bodie didn't struggle against Doyle's inexorable tugging, but he didn't turn around either. "When was the last time you really wanted something from me and didn't get it?" This time Doyle shut up and waited for an answer.

"Apparently I didn't really want this from you, or didn't you hear me the first time?" Bodie did turn now, angrily shrugging Doyle's hand off his jacket. He stood close to Doyle, glaring at him, wanting to wipe that arrogant and annoying expression off Doyle's face. "I wasn't the martyr, mate, you were. You and your," he raised his voice to a shrill falsetto for the jab, "'ooooh, Bodie, that's so disgusting' attitude." He was yelling now. "You're the one with the Christian saint complex, Doyle, not me. I'm long over that shite. And I'm finally over you. You want to keep pushing me? I won't simply walk out of the flat if you don't stop NOW!" Bodie emphasized each word with a furious shake of his finger in Doyle's face.

"Face it," Doyle continued relentlessly, and not too quietly either, "over the years you've developed an arsenal of techniques to make me do what you want-waste weekends hiking in the back of beyond, date your bird's homely sister, volunteer to work Christmas so you can turn Cowley up sweet-you wheedle me, you tease me. And why didn't you try on any of that before now? You know why, Bodie? You know why?" Doyle was yelling in his turn now. "Because, Mr. I'm-so-fucking-tough, you didn't really know if you wanted it, and best of all, this way you got to blame the whole thing on me and protect your precious ego."

Bodie knew that Doyle was nearly as angry as he was. He weighed his options. Punch Doyle's ugly, good-for-nothing face and risk some solid punches in return, not to mention Cowley nosing around in their problems, or leave now and call Cowley to request some time off for R&R. Effective immediately. Amsterdam is lovely no matter what time of year. Yeah, Bodie thought and nodded once to himself, it was time to leave, before this ended with them both in hospital. Time to move on, somehow, out of this rut. Maybe a couple of weeks apart would give him a chance to get back on track. Maybe give him an opportunity to put his place in Doyle's life into proper perspective. Maybe give him the time he needed to find contentment with what Doyle was willing to give. Bodie felt this kind of agony was to be tolerated only by a different kind of partnership than they currently had. A closer, stronger partnership.

But Doyle seemed to run out of anger. His voice was nearly normal when he said, "You've learned a little from me over the years."

As those final words registered, Bodie shook his head and laughed, truly surprised. "Oh, Doyle, give it a rest. Apparently you've learned from me, since you think I'm so good at making you do exactly what I want when I want. That's what you're trying on now, isn't it?" Bodie was suddenly certain the neighbors were hearing as well, and, taking a deep breath, lowered his voice. "This is the end of it, Doyle."

Doyle's voice was quiet, too. "End of what, Bodie? End of the game you've been playing?" He continued even quieter, "End of the thought of sex with me, end of the partnership, end of what? Or don't you know that either?"

"It's the end. I don't know what's left." Suddenly exhausted, he turned away from Doyle and walked through the short hall to the door. He just wanted to go home now, never mind Amsterdam.

"No." Doyle didn't sound angry, not anymore. He sounded a bit scared. "Please wait." But Bodie didn't stop. Doyle darted around him and blocked the door. "Please."

Bodie stood before him, but did not meet his eyes. Had he known from the beginning that wanting Doyle could end the partnership? No, he realized he'd had no idea how it would affect the partnership because he hadn't really believed Doyle could want him. He hadn't realized what he had been risking. Did Doyle think it was originally just curiosity? Had that been all it was?

He realized he was still standing in front of Doyle's door. He sighed and started to open it, using the door to try to push Doyle aside. He felt Doyle's fingers tighten on his arm.

"Wait, Bodie. Wait." Doyle leaned slowly toward him, pulling gently on his shoulder, pushing the door closed with his other hand. Their lips met lightly for a chaste, passionless kiss. As Doyle leaned back, Bodie closed his eyes; closed them tight. He knew he should say something, but nothing sounded plausible in his mind over the ringing in his head. Their anger was still clearly playing in the back of his mind even as this fragile desire ran parallel to it.

Doyle kissed him again, gently tracing his tongue over Bodie's lips, not demanding entrance, but exploring the contours and texture. With sudden ferocity, Bodie pushed Doyle back up against the wall and kissed him passionately and demandingly, plundering his mouth and lips with tongue and teeth, showing none of the gentleness Doyle had just given. Doyle met passion with passion. When Bodie broke the kiss he snarled, "Don't fuck with me, Doyle."

Doyle didn't move away. Still letting Bodie press up against him, he laughed nervously. "Isn't that what you want?"

"No." No hint of laughter-there was no fucking way he'd let Doyle make this all a joke now. Bodie was shaking all over, and filled with disbelief. He took a deep breath and released it slowly. What was he going to do with Doyle now? Be careful what you wish for, he chided himself.

Bodie couldn't believe that he was standing there with only two layers of clothing between them: Doyle's chest against his, Doyle's belly against his, Doyle's cock against his leg, and Doyle's lips against his. He ached inside exquisitely. He felt as though his heart were contracting and expanding at the same time. He knew he was dying, in this moment, right now, and he embraced it. "Ah," he sighed, involuntarily. What had changed for Doyle, he wanted to ask, but he was afraid of speaking. He didn't want to give Doyle any excuse this time. He'd follow Doyle's lead.

"Bodie," Doyle interrupted his reverie and Bodie felt the adrenaline in his blood focus all his senses on Doyle's every word, every expression. "I am not going to fuck you over." He hesitantly put his hands on Bodie's waist, and Bodie gasped as he felt their cocks press against each other.

Doyle's lips were twice as tender and lush as he had remembered them, those long, dark nights alone in bed. Last night had been one of those nights, and, even as he leaned slightly into another kiss, he couldn't believe he wasn't dreaming it. He had been leaving, he didn't even know where to, and now-how had it happened?-now, Doyle was kissing him so gently.

As the warmth from Doyle's body sank into Bodie's he tried to tell himself that he should go, that this was a ruse, that Doyle was doubtless manipulating him. But Bodie couldn't. He wanted this so desperately. He reasoned slowly that Doyle had to have meant something when he kissed him first. He put his forehead on Doyle's shoulder, pulling him a bit closer. "And if I stay..."

"Sssh." Doyle tilted his head slightly and kissed Bodie's neck lightly, working his way toward Bodie's earlobe. "Sssh," he whispered, "it'll be all right, Bodie," and then Bodie knew he was lost, as he felt Doyle's teeth lightly nip his earlobe, tonguing it lightly. Remembering the last time he had been kissing Doyle's earlobe, Bodie didn't answer. Words drove Doyle away and he wanted Doyle as close as possible. When Doyle leaned away, pushing Bodie around, Bodie followed mechanically. He noted the sensation of Doyle's hand grasping his and tugging him gently through the hall and to the bedroom. His chest felt cold, just as he had remembered it had the first fateful night in his apartment. He was light-headed, all thoughts of running evaporated in the heat of their kisses.

Once in the bedroom, Doyle led Bodie to the dressing table beside the bed and turned Bodie to face him. Bodie felt the solidity of the edge of the dresser against his lower back. Doyle was untucking Bodie's shirt, putting his cool hands on Bodie's sides, leaning against him and licking lightly at Bodie's jaw. As Doyle's hands inched upwards, he nudged Bodie's head slightly sideways and kissed him, gently. Bodie responded hesitantly. A rather insistent voice in his head was demanding that he respond more enthusiastically, but emotionally he was still reeling. Ending the kiss, as he noted that Doyle's fingers were tantalizingly rubbing his nipples and they were hardening as rapidly as his cock, he forced himself to say "Ray." He swallowed, closing his eyes. "Ray, what are you doing?"

Doyle's softly exhaled giggle was followed by a kiss to each closed eyelid. "Kissing you," as he kissed Bodie's left eyelid, "you berk," kissing his right eyelid. "What do you think," kissing Bodie's lips lightly.

"Ah... well," Bodie sighed, forming each word with care, "I noticed that, but why?"

"Because we are, Bodie. I am and you are and we just are."

Well, Bodie thought, Doyle is in control enough to make fun of himself. He chuckled nervously and began to untuck Doyle's shirt. He noticed his hands were still shaking. He took a few deep breaths, trying to steady himself. "All right then, let me catch up." As he kissed Doyle's neck, up against the hairline, feeling Doyle's hair lightly against his forehead and ear, he heard Doyle's sharp intake of breath. He reached Doyle's ear and blew into it softly, licking the edge in swirls with the tip of his tongue, slowly edging inward. With his other hand on Doyle's back, he pulled Doyle against him, feeling Doyle's erection against his own and hearing him moan, "Ooh, Bodie." Bodie was higher than he had ever been on just touching and kissing--the result of months of hidden foreplay.

Slowing disentangling his hands from Doyle's hair, he found Doyle's belt buckle and unfastened it, rubbing his knuckles up Doyle's stomach and chest, slowly working his way toward Doyle's nipples, all the while kissing his neck and collarbone. He heard Doyle's sighs and soft moans and counted each of them as a gift. He slowly undid the zip of Doyle's jeans, and as he did Doyle's hands inched towards Bodie's waistline. He held his breath as Doyle struggled with his belt and trouser button. Bodie tossed his head back, breathing in deeply, as Doyle's lips found his neck again.

"Why can't you ever wear a shirt with buttons?" he heard Doyle exclaim what seemed both seconds and eons later.

"Oh. Well, I could take it off." Bodie refused to meet Doyle's eyes, afraid that at any moment, Doyle would realize what was happening and put a stop to it.

"That would be nice."

Bodie couldn't tell what that tone meant. His mouth was dry and he felt breathless. He had wanted this but now he was certain that it was a mistake and Doyle would change his mind at any second. But he tugged his shirt up and over his head, slowly. He opened his eyes as he dropped the poloneck carelessly on the floor.

Doyle's eyes were huge in the dim light, his lips slightly swollen, his hair mussed from Bodie's hands running through it. Bodie thought he looked gorgeous. His shirt was mostly unbuttoned, his trousers open but not down.

"Well, seems we have gone as far as we can like this. Shall I finish undressing you, or will you do it yourself?"

"Uh." Bodie bit his lower lip, feeling off-balance and confused. Narrowing his eyes at Doyle, he said, "You can help."

Apparently that was all the invitation he needed as Bodie found himself naked and being pushed to the bed in record time, Doyle's hands caressing his lower back and buttocks. He was fondling Doyle's hip and thigh and pulling him toward the bed with as much eagerness as Doyle was pushing him back. They fell together on the bed, Doyle making a supreme effort not to land on Bodie. From their new position-horizontal-Bodie removed the last of Doyle's clothes and settled in to gently explore the naked, beautiful Doyle beside him.

He'd never really been able to figure out what had turned Doyle off, that one time before-and now didn't seem like the right time to ask-so he concentrated on simple stuff: touching and stroking, and oh God, feeling Raymond Doyle's cock in his hand. Bodie caressed him, just to feel the contrast of the skin from the shaft to the head, nothing urgent yet. He wanted to treasure every moment of this loving, lest it be the only time. He was not going to say anything at this point; it was his talking that had ruined it last time. Big butch Bodie, getting exactly what he wanted, and so afraid he'll fuck it up, he can barely enjoy it. How Doyle would laugh, if he knew.

"Hey, look at me." Doyle must have sensed something. He pulled back a little to give them a chance to get untangled and straight in the bed. "What did you want? You know, last night."

"When last night? At the club, at the wine bar?"

Doyle sighed the sigh of a man tried beyond all patience. Bodie suppressed a grin. Served the sod right, expecting him to admit he was jealous.

"When you were watching us leave."

"What are you on about, Doyle?"

"Was watching you as we left you. You looked as though you'd lost your best friend." He was drawing spirals on Bodie's chest with his index finger and Bodie found it quite impossible to remember last night, much less what he was feeling then.

"I don't remember. Nothin', I suppose." He pulled Doyle toward him, lifting his lips toward Doyle's.

"Uh-uh, not yet. Isn't there something you'd like to tell me?" Doyle pulled back from Bodie's attempt at a kiss.

"No, not really." Bodie replied, after a few moments pause. It wasn't an empty silence, as Bodie had been doing his level best to distract Doyle from this particular line of questioning. Judging from Doyle's short gasps and irregular breathing, nipples were going to be a rewarding territory to explore. Bodie pushed Doyle onto his back, caressing and kissing his neck and jaw as they moved.

Bodie was kissing Doyle's abdomen, slowly winding his way to Doyle's cock, focusing totally on the sensation of lips against soft skin and coarse hair. Doyle laughed as Bodie licked his navel.

"Whoa, mate, what's the rush? Besides," he continued as he pushed Bodie over onto his back, "I want a turn."

This worried Bodie, even as he acquiesced to Doyle's demand. As Doyle kissed him, his neck, his throat and collarbone, Bodie felt panic swelling inside him. When was Doyle going to freak out? He felt his erection subside as his mind continued to fret.

"Hey, relax. I know what I'm doing."

Bodie refused to meet Doyle's eyes. He was afraid and he had nowhere to hide. Here he was with his heart's desire and he was paralyzed. He closed his eyes, trying to recapture the mood.

He felt Doyle moving around him. He couldn't open his eyes to watch Doyle walk away again. Doyle's voice was suddenly in his ear, the breath silky against him. "Really, Bodie, you can be so thick." He kissed and licked Bodie's ear, while caressing his thigh and around his cock gently. "Don't you see, I want this, too. I want you, too."

Doyle sat up then and moved down to Bodie's legs. He kissed his legs, from knees to hip bones and back, up and down, whispering fiercely and tenderly in turn, telling Bodie "you're lovely," "you're everything," "you've got a freckle on your knee," thoroughly and slowly exploring Bodie's body. Bodie felt that anticipation would make his cock explode long before Doyle ever touched it. When he felt Doyle's tongue lick slowly from the base to head, he groaned. When Doyle's mouth surrounded the head, he cried out and when Doyle began to suck him in earnest as he slid one saliva-wet finger into Bodie's arse, Bodie screamed.

It was over for Bodie far too soon. As he lay there, willing himself to breathe and berating himself for crying out, "I love you, Ray, Ray," as he came, he realized that Doyle was grinning at him.

"I love you, too, you great berk."

Bodie smiled, his warmest, most open, genuine smile. Without any further words, he rolled onto his belly, presenting his back and his arse to Doyle. He wasn't sure what he was doing, or why this seemed like a good idea; maybe he wanted to give Doyle every reason in the world to run, just to make sure he wouldn't. Better to know now. He heard Doyle's sigh and the wrestling with the tube of K-Y which Doyle had produced from God knew where. Gently, and with far more self-control than Bodie believed he would have shown were their positions reversed, Doyle lubed him, a fingerful at a time. Each careful step on Doyle's part, not fumbling, or nervous, reaffirmed they were back together. It was more than he had ever hoped, the intimacy of Doyle's fingers in his arse, Doyle making him ready, preparing him for Doyle's cock. Closeness, intimacy, partnership. They were together. As Doyle coaxed him up onto his knees and eased into Bodie, groaning quietly, Bodie tensed. He wished he could see Doyle's face and that Doyle could see his.

"You okay?"

Bodie couldn't answer; it wasn't a simple question. There was pain, but mostly this was far more intimate, far more profound than he'd thought it would, they would be. He still didn't know why he'd offered his arse to begin with. Doyle certainly hadn't asked for it. But Doyle hadn't run or said "no" and Bodie knew this would bind them-somehow.

Doyle's knuckles were white where he clutched Bodie's arm, and he almost shook with his efforts to go slow. Bodie knew Doyle was waiting for him to relax, but he couldn't. Bodie's legs started to quiver with the strain of holding them both up, so he let himself slowly collapse onto the bed, Doyle following him down. They both groaned as his movement seated Doyle's cock deeper inside. Instead of starting to stroke, Doyle just arranged himself over Bodie, covering his whole back like a blanket, hands to hands, legs to legs, even stretching to press his cheek against Bodie's. With a sigh, Bodie relaxed totally, no longer tensing against Doyle inside his body. He had never felt so completely enveloped by a lover, so part of another person. He noted Doyle's breath against his neck, the softness of Doyle's thighs between his legs, the rough brush of Doyle's chest hair and the stubble against him as Doyle kissed his neck and back. Every single sensation of having Ray Doyle as part of Bodie's body and soul.

Slowly, still covering Bodie almost completely, Doyle started to move within him, forcing Bodie's stiffening cock against the mattress. When Doyle's cock brushed his prostate, Bodie's erection was straining. Beyond the capacity for language, he reached for Doyle's hand. Somehow, Doyle knew what he needed, and pulled them both over onto their sides, still moving deep within Bodie's arse. He brought his hand around to Bodie's cock, slick with semen and pre-cum, and pulled tightly. They came together, Bodie hearing Doyle call out his love even as Bodie sobbed out Doyle's name.

They lay for a long time, silent in the dark, everything seemingly said between them, their hands stroking quietly, gradually slowing until they slept.

The blare of the phone at 6:45 a.m. seemed cruel beyond his capacity to express. Somehow he knew, weekend off or not, it had to be Cowley. He grabbed for the handset, trying not to dislodge Bodie, still curled up, heavy and warm along his right side. "Ye-es?"

Cowley's voice, crisp and clear, started in with no introduction. "We have the case back. I need you and Bodie immediately."

Bodie slowly woke, and looked up at him, questioningly. His eyes were heavy and full-lidded, and for a moment, Doyle's breath caught from the sweetness of their regard.

"Um, yes, sir. Bodie and I... um," he blundered, Bodie's smile making it harder to recover. "I mean, I'll call Bodie, that is, I'll pick him up on the way in, and be there in... how long, sir?"

"Connolly has been seen outside Tudman's warehouse-you're the ones who know that place. Get Bodie and get down there, and Doyle, be careful. MI6 almost certainly has agents down there by now as well."

"Operation Susie?"

Bodie grabbed his hand, the phrase cutting through his sleepiness.

Cowley sniffed, "No, not quite. But do watch your backs."

"We'll watch each other's backs, sir."

"What are you waiting for, Doyle?"

"Yes, sir." Doyle hung up the phone, and looked down at Bodie. His lover. He slid back down next to him, and without a word, wrapped himself around him, pulling him even tighter once Bodie started to hug back. They needed to talk, but God only knew when they'd get a chance to, and how much good it would do anyway. This, though-the feel of Bodie wrapped up in his arms, and he in Bodie's-this gave him the strength to know it was worth trying.

Without loosening his grip at all, he said, "We've got to go. Cowley wants us there ten minutes ago." He started plotting how he could keep at least one of his body parts touching at least one of Bodie's through shower, dressing and breakfast. "He thinks they've found Connolly."

It was all so familiar, Bodie thought, crouching behind a stack of dusty packing boxes in the dimly lit warehouse, waiting for Doyle. Just the two of them and who knew how many bad guys. He'd stopped wondering about their backup; he'd stopped worrying about the possibility of MI6 wandering in. He knew two things: Connolly was in this warehouse, and Doyle and he were going to take him out.

Pallets of boxes and machinery filled most of the concrete floor space, leaving a maze of small walkways and paths. The echo in the huge cluttered space made it impossible to tell where noises came from. He heard the pad of steps on the concrete floor.

Not Doyle. He faded back into the packing crates, making sure he had an escape route, and concentrated on not listening to his own breathing. The footsteps' rhythm picked up a whisper of an extra beat. Doyle. He waited. Sure enough, a muffled clunk that barely carried to his ears, then a dragging noise. "Thought you could use the company," his partner barely whispered as he dragged a casually-dressed man into the cul-de-sac of boxes Bodie was hiding in. They exchanged a wordless glance as Doyle eased the limp body onto the floor.

Doyle signed that he was going off to the left, still trying to pinpoint Connolly and the others. Bodie circled right, swinging wide around some heavy machinery. He crouched low, about to peek around some barrels when he heard a bottle roll loudly on the cement floor. He stopped short, his heart pounding.

"Who's there?" A clear quaver in the man's voice. Good; he liked it when they were afraid. He picked up a screw from the floor, and tossed it across the warehouse, bouncing it off the far wall. "What was that?" A second voice, more angry than frightened. Connolly.

He circled around, quietly, trying to come up behind Connolly. He heard a sound above him and crouched in the shadow of another row of boxes. He strained to hear some sign of Doyle or Connolly. To his right, he caught a glimpse of Doyle on top of a stack of wooden pallets, up between ten and twelve feet, and thought, that must give a nice view. Sure enough, Doyle signaled to Bodie's right, "Two more rows," and faded back into the shadows. Bodie crept toward where Doyle had pointed, breathing shallowly and stepping lightly.

A shot rang out, then another; neither of them from Doyle's Colt Python.

Bodie sprang around the corner and yelled, "Freeze!"

Doyle had a gun centered on Connolly, right at his head from the vantage point of the pallets, but one of Connolly's men had his gun lined up on Doyle's chest. Bodie had thought his heart was pounding before. He could barely hear over the roaring of his blood. He moved forward carefully, his gun leading the way, pointed at the punk's chest. "Drop it!"

"Shoot him, Adler, NOW." Connolly was worried, the shaking in his voice undermining the power of his command.

No one moved. Not Connolly, not Adler, not Doyle.

"Damn you, Adler, drop it. We've got two guns to your one. You might hit Doyle, but Doyle'll kill Connolly, and I will kill you." He had to finish this up. He didn't know if Connolly had other men in the warehouse, and he wasn't in the best defensive position. Doyle was standing in a shaft of light, every fraction of him clearly outlined to Bodie's eye. He could see Doyle's breath in the cool air, his chest moving up and down regularly. Doyle gave no outward sign of fear except his knuckle, almost white on the trigger. Adler was trying to look at him and Doyle and Connolly all at once. He looked scared and jittery. The surest sign of inexperience, and that combination was deadly. The tension grew with each passing moment of inaction and Bodie could see the sheen of sweat form on the Adler's face.

Suddenly Bodie knew Adler was going to fire, just to get it over with. Without even a chance to glance at Doyle, he squeezed his trigger, shooting Adler high in the chest as Doyle threw himself down on the pallet. Connolly ducked around a pillar and headed for the door. Slowly, Doyle stood up and kicked the gun out of the Adler's quivering hand, turning immediately to his partner. The gun clattered against the concrete. Doyle knelt to cursorily examine him. "He'll live," Doyle proclaimed, looking down at Bodie. Bodie walked over to the pallet and reached his hand up. Doyle took it and jumped the twelve feet to the floor, falling partially on Bodie. As he jumped, Bodie noticed the knees of Doyle's jeans were ripped and bloody. "You all right?" he asked as he grabbed Doyle's upper arm and started brushing him off.

Doyle grabbed his shoulder, and they stood there, not quite embracing, for no more than a second. "Yeah."

He heard a shot, then another, and they sprang apart, Bodie running, Doyle falling in behind as they headed toward the sound. The door to the outside was wide open. He paused just long enough to peer around the door jamb, and with no more than a shared glance, they sprang out together, guns drawn.

They heard "Freeze!" in firm alto tones.

Bodie took the scene in bemusedly. John Connolly lay on the ground, apparently dead. Standing on either side of his body, guns drawn and aimed at he and Doyle were... Ellie and Torrie?

When Cowley and their backup arrived, he, Doyle, Ellie, and Torrie were standing over a dead man, laughing like drains.

Give it up, Cowley, Doyle thought, watching the ambulance men covering Connolly efficiently before taking him away. Bodie seemed to be actually listening to Cowley's rant, but Doyle was busy wondering about Torrie and Ellie, currently getting their own dressing down by Willis. Torrie's long red hair was pulled back in a tie, but wisps of it were still being caught by the breeze off the water, and he could just barely see their shoulder holsters through their jackets-a little like pantylines. He felt Bodie's hand brush his, carefully, and just as carefully, touched him back.

"If I told you anything about this case," Cowley yelled, "it was how important it was that Connolly stay alive, Doyle."

He'd never noticed before how Cowley's eyebrows went up and down when he was annoyed. "Yeah, well, we didn't kill him." In fact, the whole aftermath of a shooting scene seemed unreal, but he didn't think telling Cowley "librarians killed him" would help.

Cowley "och'd" in disgust and moved off after bigger prey, dragging Willis off out of earshot.

He stared at Ellie and Torrie. Doyle couldn't believe he'd thought these two were a domesticated breed. Time to get your eyes examined, Doyle. Or your head. He smiled briefly at Bodie and they walked toward the women.

Ellie and Torrie stared back. Somehow Doyle doubted he and Bodie were making a good second impression; the three or four hours sleep they did get somehow looked like much less, and the quick shower and shave had been barely more than a spit and a promise. Bodie's savoir faire was not aided by the fact he was wearing yesterday's trousers, and one of Doyle's shirts, too tight in the shoulders and ribs. The silly helpless grins they kept not-so-surreptitiously sharing weren't helping either. Going to have to work on that.

Me first, Doyle thought. "Librarians, eh?" Bodie was an inch from his left shoulder; the perfect backup.

"Told you we were in acquisitions, Ray." Torrie's banter had an edge.

He watched Ellie move so she could keep an eye on Willis. Smart girl. He said, "You know, at my library, I get an extra bonus for bringing them in alive." It was impossible to see these two as the bar girls who had picked him up Friday night.

"Yeah? Tell that to Tudman," Torrie laughed. "He was delivered as a very closed book."

Doyle said, "What, you've read our files, too?"

Bodie added, sotto voce, "Knew you should have tried harder on the spelling, old man."

Torrie smiled, devilishly. "You could say we know you inside and out, Doyle."

Before either of them could reply, Willis and Cowley stomped over toward the four of them.

"Sherel, Lamond!" Willis collected them with the snap of his fingers as he walked by. Torrie whispered to Bodie, "You've got my number," and waved, cheekily; Ellie just smiled goodbye as they followed Willis out to the street.

Doyle looked around at all of the crime scene people milling about and saw no pressing reason for them to stay. Adler had already been carted off, and the rest of this wasn't even their doing. He steered Bodie to the car, cutting through the boys in blue with no more than a wave.

"All this, and it's not even noon, Bodie."

"Yeah, and I'm starved." Bodie gunned the engine behind a green Fiat, gently convincing it to change lanes or else.

Of course he was starved. Bodie always wanted to eat after they shot somebody.

"Got anything in?"

"Nah... you?"

Doyle sighed, not really feeling like cooking, but not wanting to be in public either. "Yeah, last night's left-over. We never did eat."

Bodie snorted. "No wonder I feel faint." He sighed dramatically, raising one hand to his forehead. He took a left, heading away from the warehouse, Connolly, Cowley, and CI5.

They were halfway home before Bodie said, "You know, they thought we were a couple? Torrie asked me about us, that night in the bar-"

"We are, you great ape." He watched Bodie's hands on the driving wheel, not really paying attention. Long pale fingers, splayed out on the black leather grip.

"No, before."

"Yeah, we were then, too." He stared at his partner, thinking of all the things he meant when he called Bodie partner.

Bodie said, "You thought so? Why didn't you say?"

He noticed Bodie kept his eyes carefully on the traffic ahead of him. Not even a furtive glance in Doyle's direction.

Oh, Bodie, he thought, is that what this was all about? Doyle was amazed that Bodie hadn't seen something that he knew was so incredibly clear. Two months of hell we put each other through-all because you thought it took sex to make us a couple?

You great berk, Doyle thought, sex between us is just the cherry on top of the cake. A wonderful cherry, mind you. He felt like he had early this morning, looking at the sleepy sweetness of Bodie's waking smile.

He'd been silent too long, working this all out. Bodie nudged him. "Ray?"

Heedless of the daylight and the cars all around, he put his hand on Bodie's knee. "I thought you knew, hot shot. I thought you knew."

-- THE END --

Originally published in Guilty Pleasures, Media Cannibals, 1997

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