Sequel is Room with a View

It seemed incredible to Doyle that anyone who boasted of their fighting experience as a mercenary, para and SAS sergeant could get himself lost in a few trees but that was what Bodie seemed to have done.

With London clogged with camera-strewn tourists and petrol fumes, Bodie had suggested that they take advantage of Cowley's brainstorm in giving them three days' leave and escape to the countryside. Once he had got over his surprise at Bodie voluntarily seeking fresh air, Doyle had agreed with a promptness aimed at forestalling a change of heart on Bodie's part as he began to yearn for the fleshpots - well, the barmaid at The Dog and Duck.

Spoilt for choice, where to go had been a problem until Doyle remembered the weekend cottage an old mate from his Soho-beat days had bought when he won a tidy sum on the Pools and left the Force. Doyle had spent a few weekends there and always had a good time, so it required little effort to sell the idea to Bodie. After a quick phone call to arrange to pick up the keys from Pete's pub they were all set.

The cottage, a Victorian relic from the days of tied labour, was on the small and dilapidated side but it was in an idyllic setting, with a rambling, untended garden. The cottage had the added advantage of being half a mile away from the nearest building and was surrounded on three sides by woodlands which belonged to a barn of a house which, lacking any architectural or historical merit, had been on the market for years.

After spending a reminiscent hour with Pete and collecting the keys to the cottage, nothing had seemed to go right for them. It had taken two and a half hours to make the forty-five minute journey, thanks to contra-flow traffic on the dual carriageway and an accident which had successfully blocked all three lanes of the motorway. Bodie had taken each set-back with untypical surliness.

Remembering only when they arrived at the cottage that they had neglected to buy food, they had to backtrack to the nearest village, the shops of which, basking picturesquely in the unseasonable heat, had closed for lunch.

His own mood still one of untroubled good humour, Doyle had made the mistake of laughing. Unamused, Bodie had spent the next hour brooding over his pint of warm bitter.

Still faintly surprised that, despite their rather spiky relationship over recent weeks Bodie should have suggested they spend their leave together, Doyle had let his partner's mood ride, knowing better than to try and find out what the trouble was. When Bodie closed himself off he had a nasty way with trespassers.

The list of minor disasters hadn't stopped there, although normally Bodie would have found none of them more than a mild inconvenience. Arriving at the cottage, they found it barely habitable, thanks to a roof that needed retiling and the heavy rain earlier that month, which had left one of the two bedrooms unusable. Spurning Bodie's suggestion that they give up and find themselves a hotel, Doyle had thrown every window open to get rid of the damp, musty smell and wandered out into the lush garden to explore over-grown corners.

Caught by the heady, sun-baked scent of the honeysuckle, and having been short of sleep for over a week, he had made the mistake of stretching out on the grass, falling asleep the moment he closed his eyes. He had woken with the sun on his face to find a terse note shoved into the top pocket of his shirt.

Only Bodie could say he had gone for a walk and be missing two hours later. Bodie, who protested if he had to walk more than fifty yards to a pub.

The least he could do was find out what was bothering Bodie, Doyle decided, feeling a pang of unaccustomed guilt that he hadn't made the effort before. He knew something must be up because brooding wasn't Bodie's style - not for this length of time anyway.

Full of good intentions, Doyle wandered unhurriedly into the sun-dappled woods in search of his partner, determined to make amends. If Bodie wouldn't open up to him at least he could let him have the satisfaction of a decent row. They hadn't even had one of those recently.

It had been a great plan, reflected Doyle. The only problem being that he hadn't found Bodie yet - or anyone else for that matter. He seemed to have been walking for hours. Probably, he admitted morosely to himself as he came upon a bush that was starting to look depressingly familiar, because he had been walking in a large circle.

His feet killing him in his new trainers, he branched off up a new trail. A few moments later he came to a grateful halt, his eyes lighting with pleasure as he stared down.

The clearing was only small, a stream running crookedly between the fern-covered banks. Trees - he hadn't got a clue what kind - tilted at crazy angles down to the water, their lower branches almost brushing the mossy ground.

Slumping down under the shade offered by one, Doyle leant back against the sturdy trunk with a heart-felt sigh of relief. He felt knackered. The trail he had been following wasn't so much steep as perpendicular and he could feel his shirt clinging sweatily to him. The sound of the stream gurgling and chuckling just in front of him was irresistible.

Drawing off his trainers and peeling off his socks, he rolled up his narrow-legged jeans and wriggled forward until he could dangle his feet into the impossibly clear water. He gave a yelp of surprise at the shock of immersion but soon grew accustomed to the cold. Squinting against the full glare of the sun that held him in its spotlight, Doyle shrugged out of his shirt, tossing it behind him before leaning back on his outstretched hands with a sigh of contentment.

A city-dweller all his life, the silence of the wood had intimidated him at first, the occasional sound of something small in the undergrowth or a foraging bird becoming magnified to immense proportions. Now he took the sounds for granted and would have resented anyone who intruded on his solitude. He had climbed high enough to benefit from the light breeze which eddied through his hair and across his naked torso. Inhaling the damp, green scents of the wood, listening to the sounds of the birds and the heavy drone of a dragonfly skimming over the stream, he began to enjoy himself. Withdrawing his numb feet from the water, he lay back against the cushion of moss, legs gracelessly sprawled, one arm limp across his belly as his eyes slowly closed.

The memory of the dream slipped evasively out of reach, refusing to be captured as he awoke, but the drifting haze of contentment remained. He might not be able to remember who, or what, he had been dreaming about but he knew it had been good. Giving a languorous stretch of satisfaction, Doyle rubbed a lazy hand down his sun-warmed chest.

"Sleeping Beauty's finally woken up, then," said a familiar voice. "I was getting worried about you. It can't be normal to sleep this much during the day."

His eyes snapping open with a delighted recognition, Doyle rolled onto his stomach, peering up the incline. Bodie was sitting just a few feet away, his back to a tree trunk, legs stretched out in front of him. It was obvious he had been there for some time.

With a lop-sided grin of welcome, Doyle clambered up onto all fours, then his feet, moving to crouch beside him, one hand resting on Bodie's shoulder as an aid to balance.

"Hello, sunshine. I came to find you. Thought you'd got lost."

"Hello, yourself. Not me, mate. I've got too good a sense of direction. Are you awake yet?" Bodie inquired as an afterthought. Staring into the smiling face only inches from his own, he felt as though he was seeing it for the first time.

"I'm not sure," Doyle confessed, confused. He stared at Bodie's sprawled form with drowsy appreciation, blinking a little in the direct beam of the sun filtering through the branches. It seemed very hot in the small clearing and he absently licked moisture from his upper lip, tasting his body's salts. And all the while he kept his unwavering concentration on Bodie, as if trying to memorize him, pore by pore.

"Why?" Doyle thought to ask.

"I thought you couldn't be properly awake." Bodie gave an admonishing shake of his head. "You want to watch yourself, mate. For a moment back there I thought you were going to give us a kiss." His flippancy hard-won, he kept his gaze fixed on Doyle's face in case it strayed to forbidden territory.

"Oh. Well, I wouldn't want to disappoint you," Doyle murmured obligingly. Leaning forward the necessary few inches, he unselfconsciously did just that.

Frozen with disbelief, Bodie let it happen, remaining motionless under the light touch of a warm, undemanding mouth that was heady with promise. He could feel the brush of Ray's arm and shoulder against him and the caress of soft body hair as he was enfolded in the sun-warmed scent of Ray Doyle.

Sitting back on his heels, Doyle cocked his head to one side. "Not one of my better efforts," he said with regret, still half-caught in his dream.

His guts turned to water, part wondering if he was the victim of one of Ray's monumental put-ons, Bodie heard his own voice as though it came from a great distance. "You mean you could do better?" A hand cupped the side of his face, fingers smoothing the soft skin behind his ears.

"Oh yeah," Doyle confirmed with a gentle certainty. "Much, much better."

His heavy-lidded gaze travelled over Bodie's sun-flecked skin in a lingering caress. Bodie's eyes, seeming darker than usual, stared back with a vague apprehension in their depths - and a trace of wistfulness which made Doyle catch his breath.

He shook his head in slow reassurance. "No need to look like that, sunshine. It'll be all right. You'll see."

Doyle's gaze slid back to the so familiar face, seeing the small laughter lines around the eyes and mouth, the plane of cheek and curve of that perfect nose. Bodie's mouth looked as though it wasn't sure whether to laugh or scowl at the moment. Inhaling the warm, clean scent of his partner, Doyle's stroking fingers stilled. Without warning he felt his belly twist and lurch, internal organs tightening painfully as awareness caught him unprepared.

"Oh christ, Bodie," he whispered, his voice shaking and incredulous.

Shocked by the intensity of his emotions, he accepted their source without question. Leaning forwards again, his expression one of unconscious pleading, he found the quiescent mouth and touched it lightly with his own, his lips relaxed and undemanding. Subtle and tender, his tongue traced along the compressed mouth until he felt it quiver at his touch.

Cynical, seen-and-done-it-all Bodie trembling at his touch.

"'S all right. Be all right, you'll see. Please, Bodie. Let me. Let me love you."

Pierced by a sweet yearning, a tenderness such as he had never known, he didn't even hear Bodie's choked response, every sense alight as the mouth beneath his own suddenly parted for him.

Then he was drowning in sensation, lost to the joy of it.

Caught between strong, urgent hands his initiative was lost, unmourned. Deep-buried fantasies came to frantic life in his arms as he was given the dark sweetness of Bodie's mouth, the unleashed strength of that smooth-skinned body bearing him down.

The tightly curled tips of the fern quivered, bending inexorably under the weight pressing them into the leaf mould, releasing their astringent perfume: sharp, green and fresh, it mingled with the scents of sex and sweat.

Kneeling beside his partner, his breathing still ragged, Bodie stared into eyes whose colour at this moment matched the silver-green of the unfurling fern tips; his expression was one of intense concentration, as though he was being initiated into some great mystery.

Doyle watched him in a tranquil silence as he felt his heart-beat slow, his blood resume its usual course. His every physical sense was fine-tuned, skin and nerve-endings alive to every fading sensation. The cool, springy bed of moss felt damp against him now but the intrusive scrape of twig and stone was unimportant, as was the air eddying over his cooling flesh. Reality was centred on the warmth of the hand resting possessively on his flat belly, the cool stickiness of Bodie seeping from his body as he moved his cramped legs. Doyle felt the loss with regret, wishing it was possible to hold and capture everything about that glorious, terrifying moment when Bodie had entered him.

Blinking, he pulled a face. He was starting to sound like one of those supermarket love stories, he thought, abashed. His wry chuckle faded when he saw the stern set of Bodie's features. There was an expression in the blue eyes that he didn't know how to interpret and he was wary of breaking the silence that had fallen since Bodie had pulled away from his embrace. His hand felt heavy and strange as it rose to cover Bodie's, holding it in place.

The square-tipped fingers moved, then were still as Bodie tensed, the tendons in the back of his hand starkly defined beneath Doyle's palm. Drawing a shaky breath, Doyle slid his hand down over Bodie's wrist to his forearm and back again, gentling tension as he traced the clear definition of veins up the inner arm with a careful finger. He had no clue what Bodie was thinking or feeling. Bodie's set, pale face was unreadable and curiously unapproachable considering their present proximity.

He sat up with a slow caution, wanting to be close to Bodie; to reassure him with touch that everything was all right. That everything was -

But everything was far from 'all right', he reminded himself sharply. If it had been, Bodie wouldn't be sitting here in a frozen silence. Afraid Bodie would leave before his tongue unglued itself from the roof of his mouth, he tried to speak and found he had to clear his throat.

Startled by the sound, Bodie's gaze shot back to Doyle's face. Snatching his hand away, he made to rise, released from whatever spell had held him captive. Making a sound of denial, Doyle locked his fingers around Bodie's wrist, holding him fast. His eyes fixed on Bodie's wary face, Doyle raised and kissed his partner's palm, his tongue teasing out to taste salt, semen and Bodie.

"It'll be all right," he said again. "You and me, you'll see." His voice was so low it was barely audible to the motionless man at his side.

Bodie made a soft sound deep in his throat, the unmistakable tenderness in the eyes which usually mocked the world and everything in it slipping through every shaky defence he had tried to rebuild. "Will it?"

Hearing that bleak note of doubt, Doyle's grip on Bodie tightened. "Course it will, if we want it to be."

So easy. Ray always made it sound so easy, Bodie thought with a twist of bitterness, seeing only certainty and assurance in those clear eyes. He skimmed the sweat-darkened curls over Doyle's forehead before withdrawing, the impersonal touch a warning Doyle was too tense to notice.

"There was a spider in your hair," Bodie said. Depositing the sticky thread holding its small burden well away from them, he cupped the perversely beautiful face between his palms, as though touch could tell him what his other senses could not.

"What are we going to do?" he whispered, lost, having no idea how to deal with the wordless commitment he had been offered. And Ray meant it, he had no doubts on that score. But for how long? Wilful, self-contained and independent, Ray had never needed anyone for long. Amused, Bodie had watched from the sidelines as Ray, all detached kindness, had disentangled himself from many an unwanted attachment. Suddenly that didn't seem so funny. He couldn't bear it if -

Bodie slammed his mind shut against the thought. Afraid, he stared at the green-eyed warlock who, sprawled on crushed ferns and moss, seemed at one with the wood - and a stranger to him.

"Whatever you want." Doyle's hands hung passive as he resisted the impulse to hug Bodie to him.

His unaccustomed gentleness was having a most peculiar effect. Panicked, Bodie released Doyle's face and sat back on his heels. "Then let's forget this ever happened."

Looking away, Doyle said only, "What are you so afraid of?"

Uncertain, and angry at what he took for mockery, the unconsidered, unembellished truth escaped Bodie before he could contrive some acceptable fiction. "You."

Whatever Doyle had been expecting to hear, it wasn't that and Bodie's honesty ripped through him.

His face stark with pain, Doyle stared with fierce concentration at the tree over Bodie's left shoulder, feeling faintly sick. "So what do you propose we do about it?" He sounded distant, no more than politely interested.

Bodie wiped an unsteady hand over his face and back through his hair. "I dunno. This isn't the kind of one-night stand I've ever thought of sharing with you." For once he was oblivious to the effect his words might have on his partner, intent only on protecting himself.

Doyle welcomed his quick flare of anger, using it to rise to his feet, ignoring the sensation of faint, localised soreness as he moved. Finding his jeans near to where his head had rested, he hauled them on, his movements unusually clumsy.

"I didn't notice you fighting me off earlier." His discarded shirt bunched between his hands, Doyle stared blindly at it. Behind him he could hear the rustling of fabric and sound of a zip being fastened at speed as Bodie dressed.

"No." There was acceptance in the flat tone.

"But you're blaming me for what happened?"

Bodie gave a weary sigh. "Look, Ray, let's leave it, all right? We're both strung up at the moment. Pretty soon we'll start sounding like one of those Sunday afternoon films. It shouldn't have happened, let's leave it at that."

"Why shouldn't it?" He hadn't meant to say that.

"Because," Bodie said, in a disastrous shot at humour, "you're not my type."

His expression savage, Doyle swung round to face him, eyeing him from toe to crown. "And, of course, you imagine you're my dream come true?"

The incredulous contempt in his voice made Bodie flinch, then stiffen. He banked down his own anger, knowing the potential danger in both of them losing their tempers. Taking a wary step backwards, he stood firm as Doyle tracked him with a chilling deliberation before stopping, his hands rammed in the pockets of his jeans.

"Dunno why I'm being like this about it," Doyle muttered. "What's a quick fuck between friends, after all?"

Bodie winced. "Ray, I - "

Ignoring him, Doyle fished in his shirt pocket. "Look, you're right. We made a mistake. We both agree about that much. Right now I'm not thinking straight. By Monday the whole thing'll be back in proportion. Here, take the car. I'll stay down here for the weekend. You never did like the countryside."

"How will - ?"

"Take it," grated Doyle, thrusting the key at him. "Just - Go back to town. I'll see you Monday morning. Don't forget to pick me up," he added, with the travesty of a smile.

His familiar world in ruins, Bodie was conscious only of overwhelming relief at escaping what was fast becoming an impossible situation. "How will you get to London?" he asked with the appearance of concern.

Doyle recognised the counterfeit coin with bleak appreciation. He would have to learn to live with it, he recognised dully. He would have to do without a lot of things - taking Bodie for granted for one.

"I'll get a taxi to the station," he said with every semblance of ease. Leaning against the tree trunk, one hand was hooked inside his belt, pelvis thrust forward as he posed with cool provocation, all too aware of the bitter irony of it.

Ignoring the twist of something he chose not to recognise, Bodie scooped up his jacket, refusing to remember Doyle helping him to remove it, ambushing him while he was caught in its folds.

"See you Monday," he agreed. He lost no time turning away, not wanting to accept the expression he had just seen on the too-pale face.

Doyle remained propped against the tree long after all sounds of Bodie's progress through the undergrowth had faded. He stayed there so long that the birds came to accept him as some peculiar growth of the tree. Eventually he slid down to sit at the base, his spine very straight, every muscle and sinew taut. Then, clasping his arms around his bent legs, he hid his face against his knees.

On his return to the cottage, it took Bodie only a few minutes to gather up his belongings, cram them into his bag and drop it into the boot of the car. Locking up the cottage, he left the key under the geranium pot. Sliding behind the steering wheel, he lost no time in setting off, wanting to put as much distance between that woodland idyll and himself as possible. Most of all, he wanted to forget his loss of control the moment Ray touched him. But the quiet roads gave him little to focus his attention on and memory travelled with him.

The shock of surprise that the first, undemanding touch of a warm mouth could produce such a reaction in him.

Christ, it had felt -

The wonderful sensation of the strength and power and grace that was Ray Doyle wrapping itself around him, the scent of him filling every sense, losing himself in a vast warm joy that his need was shared.

Fuck it, he thought with disgust. Anyone would think he'd never made it with a guy before, had never - But he might never have.

The car screeched to an abrupt halt in the deserted lane, the hawthorn hedge making an ugly scratching sound across the paintwork. Switching off the ignition, Bodie stared through the windscreen with an angry confusion.

Unbidden, he heard the soft, throaty murmurs of pleasure and the rough-voiced encouragement which had urged him on when he had hesitated. Every pore and sense reliving the exquisite sensation of the velvet heat which had held him so hungrily, he felt his flesh stir at the memory and gave a soft groan.

'One-night stand.' 'A quick fuck between friends.' Bodie's face tightened as the painful realisation hit him.

He could see Ray's face, every muscle starkly defined, staring past him as he had rejected what Ray had offered. 'You', he'd glibly said, watching that tear into Ray, knowing it for a lie even as he said it. But it was easier to blame someone else.

Never usually at a loss for words, Ray hadn't said much. In retrospect that untypical restraint was beginning to worry Bodie. Whatever he did now he'd ruined the one relationship which mattered to him - that had become a part of him before he'd even realised it. He'd hurt - oh yeah, he'd done that all right - the one person he loved.


If this was love, the poets could keep it, he thought in savage denial. He didn't want or need any part of it. Life was complicated enough as it was.

The deep ache within him intensified.

He'd realised weeks ago that he wanted Ray. There was nothing strange about that, so did a lot of other people. Ray had a good body, desirable. And he knew just how to use it to get what he wanted. He should do, he used it every damn day. Bodie had almost got used to witnessing that without salivating.

He could have dealt with the unwanted complication of fancying his partner. A few nights' fucking was no temptation at all if it meant he lost a friendship that had become the most important relationship in his life. Of his life.

It belatedly dawned on him that he was making too much of this. Desire had got tangled in the friendship, making him think it was love. Puzzle solved.

But what about Ray? Whatever he'd been offering he'd backed away from it, rejecting any hint of involvement because he'd wanted the easy option; pretend nothing had changed when everything - and nothing - had.

How did you forget the other half of yourself, even if you wanted to?

And if you didn't want to?

Restarting the car, Bodie didn't attempt to answer the self-imposed conundrum. Turning the car with difficulty in the narrow lane, he headed back to the cottage. He had no idea what he would say or do when he got there but that lack of inspiration was no bar to his new-found acceptance - he couldn't imagine a life he didn't share with Ray Doyle.

Cramped and cold, it was only when he looked up that Doyle realised how dark it had become. Staring around with a gritty-eyed disinterest, he saw that a storm was brewing, the darkening wood cold and unwelcoming now. Rising stiffly to his feet, he shrugged into his shirt and tried to control his shivering.

There was no point putting it off any longer, he'd made enough drama about it as it was. It was time to go back to the cottage and straighten out his head, then get up to town and find Bodie. They had to talk, accept what had happened and take it from there. He wasn't about to let Bodie vanish from his life - not without a struggle.

Poor sod, he thought ruefully as he searched for a missing trainer. Bodie must have wondered what the hell had hit him. Not surprising, Doyle was still trying to work it out for himself. But they'd sort something out. They'd have to, if only because they had to work together. Doyle refused to think further than that. One step at a time, he told himself firmly, fighting his depression as he continued his search. He groaned inwardly when it began to rain, the drops large and cold and falling harder by the second.

By the time he located his missing trainer, lodged behind a large stone mid-stream, he was already soaked to the skin. Pulling on the soggy trainer with distaste, he looked around, wondering which way to go. Briefly envying Bodie his unerring sense of direction, he plodded through the rain, his shirt collar raised around his ears, having abandoned hope of finding his jacket.

Bodie had travelled through several layers of emotion since his return to the cottage. Remorse had changed to a steadfast determination that they would talk about this like two rational adults, whether Ray liked it or not.

As time passed and Doyle still didn't appear Bodie moved from niggling worry to a blistering fury. It had been pouring with rain for over an hour now and there was still no sign of him. What the hell was the stupid bastard up to? Having found Doyle's jacket in the garden he knew his partner could have no more than a handful of loose change on him. With no money or transport where could he have got to after all this time?

There was a brief moment of panic when his imagination got the better of him, until his sense of humour came to his rescue. Ray might be a lot of things but the Lady of Shalott wasn't one of them. Not Ray's style at all, for all his picturesque posing. Ray was much more likely to stalk in, grab hold of him and fuck him into the carpet; that or batter him unconscious.

Right now either of those seemed a pretty good option.

Every light was on, emblazoning the fact the cottage was now occupied. He wanted Ray to know that as soon as he turned up.

For the fifth time Bodie left the sagging sofa to peer out through the small front window. His breath escaped in a relieved whoosh. Ray's waterlogged and muddy figure turned in through the gate. Seeing the car and the lights, he stopped dead before continuing up the narrow path.

Bodie wrenched open the front door. "Where the fuck d'you think you've been?" he demanded, his good resolutions fleeing in his relief that Ray wasn't lying out in the wood somewhere, hurt.

Dripping on the porch, Doyle just stared at him. As reunions went this one was - Bloody perfect, he decided as he brushed past Bodie and into the relative warmth of the cottage.

"Got lost, didn't I?" he said lugubriously. "And I've got the biggest blister you've ever - "


Grabbing hold of Doyle, Bodie hauled him further into the living room and slammed the front door shut. "How the hell could you get lost in a few acres of woodland?" he demanded with asperity. A reluctant grin twitched at the corners of his mouth as he took in his partner's bedraggled appearance.

"Natural talent, I suppose," mumbled Doyle, purposefully vague. He heeled off his trainers, shivering as water dripped from his hair to run down his nose. He looked frozen.

"You daft bugger! You aren't safe to let out on your own."

"No," agreed Doyle peaceably, recognising the relief behind the scolding.

Not knowing what to do with his hands, he wrapped his arms around himself for what warmth he could find. He hadn't realised it could be this hard to be in such close physical proximity with someone while staring into the void. Despite the bulk of Bodie standing only a few feet away he would have given a lot to confirm his presence with a touch, no matter how fleeting. Their relationship had always been cluttered with potential pitfalls, he'd just failed to allow for this one.

Before he could give in to this new need to touch, and ruin everything all over again, Doyle moved to stand in front of the two-bar electric fire. It spat angrily as a drop of water fell on it.

"Come on," said Bodie with rough concern, resisting the impulse to hug that skinny independence to him. "You need a bath, something hot to drink and then we talk." He saw Doyle's face tighten, a new wariness in his eyes and felt something deep within him melt. Doing his best to ignore it until they had sorted everything out, he marched into the kitchen. "I'll make some coffee. Go and turn on the water for that bath," he called over his shoulder.

Busy with mugs and kettle in the tiny kitchen, it occurred to him that he had not heard any signs of life in the room above. Poking his head around the sitting room door, he saw Doyle where he had left him, staring down at the carpet, his expression one of bleak misery.

"Bath," Bodie repeated in a firm tone, making Doyle jump.

"All right," Doyle snapped, "I'm going." He hesitated, took a breath, and said, "Bodie, I - "

"We'll talk when you've warmed up a bit," Bodie interrupted. "You're nearly blue and I don't fancy sharing a room with a giant head cold - there's only one bed, remember?" His expression gentled, his voice easy and relaxed. "It'll be all right, Ray. Promise."

Hearing the echo of his own voice returning to mock him, Doyle tensed, then relaxed as he absorbed the warmth in that velvet soft voice. His own expression underwent a radical change. "Course it will," he agreed, in more of his usual tone.

Staring at each other across the small room, they both became aware of the whistling of the kettle at the same time.

"I know, bath," said Doyle with resignation, forestalling Bodie. His face was lit by a fleeting grin as he turned away. "I never knew you had this fetish about cleanliness before." His voice faded as he made his way up the steep, narrow staircase.

Bodie's reply was lost in the gurgling rush of water flooding into the ancient bath.

Foraging in the bathroom cabinet, Doyle unashamedly stole some bubble bath; it was a bit fragrant for his taste but he couldn't face the thought of that chipped and stained enamel without something to hide it - the bath looked like one of George Smith's rejects.

Peeling off his socks, he squeezed them dry in the sink before dropping his sodden shirt in after them. Draughts whistled around him as he fumbled with the belt of his jeans with numb fingers. Unaccountably happy, he was humming under his breath, halfway out of the damp denim when he heard an indrawn breath behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he offered a rare smile.

Holding two mugs of coffee in a nerveless grip, one tilting dribbling coffee onto the floor, Bodie was staring at him with great intensity.

"Did I do that?" he asked, his voice tight with tension.

Peering around at him, and not unnaturally being unable to see much, Doyle shrugged. Then, realising what Bodie was talking about, he ran a reminiscent hand over his backside. "I expect so," he said, bending to drag clinging denim from his other leg. "But only because you were quicker off the mark than me," he added casually.

Straightening, he saw the confused amalgam of emotions on his partner's face and padded over to him, relieving Bodie of the mugs while they still held something to spill. As he turned back Bodie's hands settled over him, infinitely gentle and he melted against the body offering itself to him. His arms locked around the high rib-cage, hands flat against the muscled shoulder blades, sliding down to mould them together in a mute expression of need.

"Pair of bloody fools," muttered Bodie into wet hair, some time later.

Doyle mumbled his agreement as Bodie stroked down his spine with a sure delicacy which sent ripples of pleasure shuddering through him, each pulse centring in his groin.

Even as a randy teenager a single touch had rarely produced this intensity of response. Just as well, it wouldn't have done his career much good getting done for indecent exposure.

Gentle fingers tangled in his damp hair, lifting his face from concealment. Bodie studied the bemused face before kissing Doyle once, drawing away before he could respond.

"Hey," protested Doyle mildly as he was nudged in the direction of the steaming bath water. "What about me?"

"All in good time," Bodie told him, his own breathing unsteady.

Any need to assert spurious claims of independence or impose his will on the way things were going faded before they were more than half-formed. Doyle took one look at Bodie's determined expression and another, more lingering, at the taut swelling at his groin. He brushed the clear definition of Bodie's sex with a gentle finger, feeling his partner's tremor of response.

"That's beautiful. It seems a shame to waste it," he added, looking up at Bodie through his lashes, only then realising that this flirtatious game was one he and Bodie had unconsciously played many times before.

"It won't be wasted, sunshine." Bodie's warm confidence mutated into exasperation as Doyle shivered, not with passion. "Are you getting into that bath or do I have to put you in it?"

"You wouldn't even - All right, all right, I'm going. There's no need to push." Poised with one narrow foot in the water and the other on cold lino, Doyle added without turning, "But stay and talk to me, eh?" A part of him still refused to believe that anything which made him feel this good could be so simple. And he was afraid that if he turned he would find himself alone again, and Bodie gone - maybe for good this time.

Hearing the note of uncertainty Bodie understood that he was responsible for this show of insecurity in a man who, he would have sworn, didn't know the meaning of the word. With a rare tact he said only, "Of course I'm staying. I don't trust you to wash behind your ears." Turning away from his partner's smile to turn off the tap, he seated himself on the edge of the bath, watching as Doyle subsided, with caution, into the steaming water.

"I'll look like a boiled lobster when I come out," Doyle complained half-heartedly once he was fully immersed. The effect was ruined by his unconscious sigh of satisfaction as the heat began to sink into his chilled bones.

Idly collecting a handful of bubbles, Bodie coated a glistening shoulder with them, caressing rather than cleansing the flesh beneath. "Better red than purple," he announced, handing Doyle what was left of his coffee.

After his first sip Doyle lifted his mug in acknowledgement. "Don't often get coffee-flavoured whisky," he said in appreciation, taking another long, slow swallow. The spirit hit his empty stomach, spreading warmth throughout his body. The smile in Bodie's eyes was even more potent, licking through his blood. Disposing of his empty mug, he reached out to take Bodie's hand in a slippery clasp, needing some physical contact while he made a fool of himself.

"Who would've thought so much could change in one day," he said, his manner deceptively casual. "How could I have worked with you all this time and suddenly realise you turn me on like - But it's more than that. A lot more. I didn't know how much until you walked away." His grasp of Bodie's hand tightened. "I've never felt like this before. I'm not sure how to deal with it. It feels most peculiar." His voice reflected his bewilderment.

His heart lurching between his mouth and his kneecaps, watching the grave tenderness of Ray's face with a spreading grin of sheer happiness, Bodie just stared at him, the sound of his blood pounding in his ears. Taking refuge in his mug of coffee, he emerged full of Dutch courage.

"It's all right," said Doyle quickly, before he could speak. "Don't say what you don't mean. I'm not trying to push you into anything." He released Bodie's hand.

"No?" said Bodie, finding his voice at last. "Well, in that case I won't bother.

"You daft sod," he added roughly, when he saw Doyle flinch. "If I don't make a joke of this I'm liable to start snivelling or something, I feel so confused. Good, but confused. You're not the only one feeling a bit out of his depth. Not by a long shot. I'm so bloody scared of ruining this before it's even got started, all right?

"All right," he answered himself, satisfied he had got his message across.

He shook his head. "You're enough to make a cat laugh sometimes. I mean, when have you ever known me to be pushed into doing something I don't want to? This afternoon... One touch, that's all it took. Then I panicked. You don't... " he took a steadying breath " don't spend your life backing away from commitment and then rush into the real thing with open arms. Or I didn't - until I found you in that wood, asleep, looking like something out of a fantasy."

Desire, hot and urgent, had taken him onwards then, doubts overcome before they could even form. Now Bodie found himself speculating with distinct anticipation what it would be like when they took their time. When Ray took him.

Busying himself with the soap as he scrubbed an already clean armpit, Doyle swallowed with determination.

"Yeah, the sex was great. The best," he said in a voice devoid of expression.

A strong hand turned his head around, fingers digging into the soft flesh just above his jaw.

"I'm liable to belt you if you don't stop leaping to conclusions," Bodie snapped. "I'm sitting here trying to find the guts to say I bloody love you and you're telling me we had a great screw."

His eyes bright, his smile blinding, Doyle shook his head, nodded, then gave a ferocious sniff as he busied himself with the soap again.

With a grunt of comprehension, Bodie leant closer. "You great cretin," he said lovingly. "So that's it. You're meant to be the bright one of this team, remember? I thought it must be shining out of me."

"Got soap in me eyes," defended Doyle with shaky belligerence.

"Then it must be catching," said Bodie with tart disbelief. Before he could continue he found his arms full of scented bubbles, somewhere in the middle of which was a Ray Doyle who was kissing him with ferocious hunger - and something more - murmuring deep in his throat as Bodie met that hunger.

His grey cords proving a severe impediment to the fire in his groin, Bodie moved. A moment later there was a loud splash, a yell and a muffled curse.

Immersed in cooling water from mid-chest to upper thigh, Bodie glared with incredulous ire through the clouds of bubbles scudding around them, the corners of his mouth set tight against any betraying twitch. Drenched anew by the tidal wave his partner had caused, Doyle stared back at him, struggling to maintain his preternatural gravity. The laughter built in him until he was scarlet, his eyes wide and desperate until a small sound burst from him and he collapsed in an incoherent heap of laughter.

Able to count on one hand the number of times he had heard Ray laugh like that, Bodie sobered first, so he could enjoy that sight - despite the distraction of being folded in half and soaking wet.

Still grinning himself, he grabbed a handful of wet curls to gain Doyle's attention, shaking him slightly. "It's all very well for you to cackle," he complained, struggling to right himself. He pulled a disgusted face. "These cords feel like they're shrinking. Hope I can get 'em off," he added as he lurched to his feet, dripping soggily.

"Maybe we should find out," said Doyle with hopeful lechery.

Still hiccupping as he stepped out of the bath, he got a face full of the towel Bodie threw at him.

"Raucous ribaldry I can live without," Bodie announced as he unzipped his fly under his partner's steady gaze. "It could have been nasty, that." Struggling with wet cord that was hugging him with a loving persistence, he abandoned hope of retaining any dignity. "The state I was in, I could have ruined myself for life."

Doyle mumbled some reply while concentrating on the emergence of dark-downed thighs, the bunch of muscle in flank and upper thigh as Bodie struggled to free himself from the damp fabric. He knew it must be bad when even a bony kneecap could turn him on. His face feeling as if it was suffused with heat, his eyes heavy and bright, his breathing was erratic as Bodie, sublimely unaware of the effect he was producing, continued to strip.

The shirt went next, followed by black briefs. Doyle swallowed hard, his mouth feeling all tongue as he took in the pale cream skin, with its delicate blue tracery of veins at the lower belly, the startling dark bush of hair against tender flesh and the heavy swing of Bodie's sex as he turned away to the sink. Doyle sighed with longing as his eyes lingered over the curve of the generous buttocks and flex and relax of gluteal muscles, the hollow of his spine and the long, broad sweep of that muscular back. Every movement Bodie made was sleekly powerful.

Having deposited his soaked clothing on top of Doyle's, Bodie turned back to his partner and became belatedly conscious of Doyle's interest in the proceedings. Self-conscious for the first time since puberty, he remained still, wishing his body could be perfect for Ray.

"Ruined yourself?" Doyle padded across the small space between them, his towel abandoning its untenable position. "No chance," he whispered with lazy appreciation. "Could never happen." His flat-palmed hands slid down the curve of shoulder, brushing small taut nipples and the arch of ribs to rest at Bodie's waist, fingers gently circling the silk-smooth skin. "You feel so good. I didn't get the chance to look at you properly. To touch you. You're...beautiful."

Immeasurably disconcerted, heat ran up under Bodie's skin as he rested his forehead against Doyle's, the intimacy of the gesture wholly natural.

"I've been telling you that for years," he said almost inaudibly, trying to make a recovery back to an image that had, as far as Doyle was concerned, been smashed years ago.

Doyle stroked up his spine to ruffle his hair. "I suppose you have," he conceded in a thoughtful fashion. "Well, you were right for once. You are."

Responding to the gentle tug on his hair, Bodie looked up.

"You do know you've still got your socks on?" Doyle pointed out, all severity.

"I thought they looked rather fetching myself."

"You would. Get 'em off and let's get to bed."

"Well, if you put it like that." One hand on Doyle's shoulder, Bodie tugged the offending items free, only half trusting Doyle not to move while he was off-balance. Correctly interpreting that wary look, Doyle gave a reassuring grin.

"I wouldn't. Not today. I don't want you injuring anything you might need to use later." Even as he spoke he was encouraging Bodie through the doorway, across the landing and into the bedroom. As they stared ruefully at the bare mattress, Doyle gave a faint sigh. Easing his hand from Bodie's clasp, he moved away, muttering under his breath.


"It's a conspiracy, that's what it is," said Doyle, distracted by the look in his partner's eyes. "Make the bed first," he insisted with more determination than he felt. "We've got three nights down here so we can afford the time. Three nights.... I intend to spend them finding out what turns you on."

"You do." Bodie found himself the recipient of a heart-lurchingly sweet smile.

"Yeah? That's good. Just keep it in mind."

Remaining where he was, Bodie tracked Doyle's progress around the room, enjoying the honey-tinted skin and patterning of soft body hair, the hollow of a collar bone and line of the strong throat. Appraising the familiar, thin-fleshed body, he studied it through the eyes of a lover, revelling in the line of spine, the small, compact buttocks and narrow hips, the sharp jut of bone at hip and rib and play of muscles as Doyle bent and straightened with an armful of bedding.

Then Doyle turned to him and he had the intriguing vision of the absorbed face and narrowed eyes as Doyle tried to see where he was going over the mound he carried. A drifting portion of blanket revealed tantalising glimpses of pubic hair, Ray's genitals swaying with heavy luxury as he crossed the room.

Odd, Bodie mused, striving to be objective, how your perception of someone could change in such a short space of time. He'd always been aware of Ray's innate sensuality, betrayed by every movement he made. During their first week together that supreme physical assurance had irritated, then amused him, before he'd come to take it for granted. Now that same face and body were an unlooked-for bonus, the part of Ray Doyle he knew least.

Staggering past Bodie's unmoving figure, Doyle gave a hard-done-by sigh. "Don't worry about me," he said with heavy sarcasm. "I'll just walk around you."

When that gained no response he glanced up and found he couldn't look away, transfixed by Bodie's heavy-lidded scrutiny. His legs leaden, his skin was a heated expanse of sensitised flesh, his cock giving a convulsive leap of response, needing no more stimulation than that intense stare watching it - him.

The bedding tumbled to the floor.

"Bodie, will you pack it in," Doyle protested weakly.

Smiling, Bodie's gaze lingered appreciatively. "No control, that's your trouble," he said with lofty disdain.

"No?" For a brief moment green eyes held the look of provoking challenge that had so infuriated Bodie during the first months they had worked together. Then Doyle gave a disarming grin.

"Nah, you're right. Not where you're concerned anyway."

The hopeful look which Bodie, even at his sternest, had never been able to resist, appeared. "Still, once we've got a bit more used to this - " Doyle gestured in a vague manner " - maybe I'll be able to start taking you for granted again."

It was an unfortunate choice of words, highlighting hidden fears. Something within Bodie froze, his warm contentment overset by bleak uncertainty.

He knew Ray Doyle; knew both sides of the coin. He'd seen Ray at his best - and his worst. Today Ray, all warmth and tenderness, had offered commitment but tomorrow - ? That was anyone's guess. Once those barriers went back up Ray would close him out and resume his emotionally unhampered path through life without a backward glance. Ray could be a ruthless bastard. Not that he'd thought anything of it; he'd accepted that along with all the other facets of the man as being just another small part of who Ray was. But now...

Icy with the fear of it, Bodie was terrified of the power he had given his partner to destroy him.

He turned away to the window, staring out into the rain-lashed darkness. "Yes, I expect you will," he accepted, his voice flat as he wondered how long it would take. Not long, probably.

Childlike, he traced a pattern across the condensation on the glass. "What do you want, Ray?" He needed to know before it was too late, fighting against the knowledge that it was and always had been too late.

The flippant reply Doyle had intended died unvoiced when he saw the concentration tensing Bodie's face. Going over to him, Doyle perched on the window-sill so he could see Bodie's expression. It would be too easy to ruin this without even knowing what he'd said that had hurt Bodie so.

"What do I want?" he echoed with deceptive calm. "All the usual things - to be happy. To find someone special and settle down with them. I gave up on that ideal years ago and settled for getting what I could from where it came. Until today, when it all fell into place." He held his partner's eyes, willing Bodie to believe him - to believe him and to want the same things he wanted. "I want you, sunshine. Now and for however long you feel the same way. And if you don't feel that way - Then I want to keep the partnership. I won't let it make any difference. I need you in my life."

At the expression on Doyle's face Bodie actually began to accept that Ray really meant it. Breathing was a luxury he seemed to have dispensed with. "That long? You've wanted me for that long?" He touched the side of the full mouth with a gentle finger.

"That long," Doyle confirmed. "I love you, you prat." Rising to his feet he drew Bodie to him, hugging him close. "And stop sounding so humble," he added, a more familiar bite to his voice. "I'm the one getting the good deal in this bargain."

His nose buried in soft hair and his arms full of Ray Doyle, Bodie knew Doyle was talking without hearing a word he said. It felt good standing like this, he thought vaguely, tightening his grip a little. Felt bloody marvellous, in fact. He told Doyle as much and got a mumbled agreement. It was some time before Bodie realised there was something not quite right. He took a deep breath, then sniffed again.

"You're a bit fragrant, aren't you, mate?"

"What?" Looking blank, Doyle's head rose from where it had been resting.

"You. Perfume's a bit over the top, isn't it?"

"Bloody cheek. It's the bubble bath, not me. And while we're on the subject, you're a fine one to talk. You fell into the same bath water." Doyle's sniff was followed by an artistic shudder. "Strewth, it is a bit much," he conceded. "Hang on, I can smell a bit of something else," he announced, brightening.

Identifying the added ingredient with no difficulty at all, Bodie looked impossibly smug. "Essence of me," he said as Doyle snuffled his way across his rib cage.

"It's not bad." Doyle offered a thoughtful lick, followed by a quick kiss. "Listen, we already know the sex is going to be..." he rubbed the side of his face against Bodie's shoulder, still not used to the tenderness mingled with his desire.

"Great?" supplied Bodie, wishing to be helpful.

"Passable." Doyle's grin faded. "But... I'd like more than that with you. I want to live with you."

"Yes, please." Bodie's arms tightened around the one human being who had the power to stir him like no other.

Doyle relaxed against him with a sound of contentment.

It was then, without any great sense of epiphany, that Bodie knew it would work. For once, their bloody-minded determination was going to work for them. His lips moved among the tangled curls as he accepted fully that his own well-being depended on having Ray in his life. He'd never wanted, let alone expected, security. Ray had just made him a gift of it. Not that they could be sure of living to be old enough to enjoy it, of course, reminded the voice of caution. Bodie ignored it. That was something else they would have to talk about - later, when this new-minted awareness of each other's sensuality had become more familiar.

It was Doyle who stirred first, leaning back a little to peer up at him, his warm hands stroking Bodie's flanks. "We were going to bed," he said in gentle inquiry.


Doyle ran his tongue tip down the just-visible artery at the side of Bodie's throat, savouring the taste. "It'll be nicer in bed," he said encouragingly. "Soft mattress, a bit of comfort." Glancing over Bodie's shoulder his face fell when he saw the still unmade bed. With a sigh of resignation he disentangled himself and set about his interrupted task.

"No good expecting you to help, I suppose?" he asked without heat.

One shoulder propped against the wall, Bodie shook his head and grinned, almost certain that given the mood Ray was in he would probably get away with it.

He did.

"You'd better made the most of this," Doyle said tolerantly, "because I'm a firm believer in parity of work. Which," he added pointedly, "means that you're going to have to learn how to cook."

"I already know," said Bodie, stung.

Doyle's expression spoke volumes. "Freezer-to-oven-to-table. Forget it. All right, surprise me. You do the cooking for our first week together." He grinned at the dismal silence behind him.

Clear-eyed now, Bodie abandoned his vengeful thoughts when he saw the darkening bruises across Doyle's back. The reddened scrapes looked like friction burns. Woodland fantasies were all very well but they took no account of reality. Ray must be as sore as hell. Saliva was hardly the best lubricant in the world.

Resisting the lure presented when Doyle bent to corner the blankets at the foot of the bed with a surprising efficiency, Bodie disappeared back into the bathroom. If the cabinet could hold something like that bubble-bath, it should have some antiseptic cream or something. Rummaging through the jumble of tubes, packets and squashed containers, he returned with a crumpled tube of cream.

Straightening, Doyle didn't notice he was holding anything. "Bed's made," he announced unnecessarily.

"I can see that. Ray, don't take this the wrong way but... I want to look at you."

Laughter, bright and uncomplicated, lit Doyle's eyes. "That's nice. I want to look at you, too. I wouldn't even mind touching you," he added, in the tone of one making a great concession. "Why don't we see how we get on this time?"

"Yeah, in a minute. I just want... This afternoon... I might have hurt you when..." Untypical reticence made Bodie's voice fade.

"You screwed me into the ground?" finished Doyle cheerfully. Not a chance." He clambered into bed. "It'd take more than that, mate. Just because I'm a bit - a bit, mark you - smaller than you doesn't mean I don't have - "

" - staying power," completed Bodie in resigned chorus, having lived with that refrain throughout their years together as Doyle warded off his over-protective instincts. "I know, but..." He shrugged, a sheepish look on his face. "If you say you're all right - "

"Never better," Doyle confirmed happily, ignoring localised soreness. Sprawled on the mattress, his gaze was thoughtful as he watched Bodie draw the curtains. In the normal course of events Bodie wouldn't have hesitated to insist, whatever his own views on the subject. At the moment they were still working on what was normal for them. The fact that Bodie didn't meet his eyes as he came to bed decided Doyle.

"You want to check me out, you check," he said. "Though I reckon it's just an excuse to cop a feel myself." He made light of his capitulation, wanting an end to the uncertainty wavering between them.

Rolling onto his belly, Doyle parted his legs and pillowed his head on his folded forearms, wriggling until he was completely comfortable. "Well, come on then," he encouraged, glancing over one shoulder. "But I give you fair warning, if your fingers start doing anything untoward while you're back there I'm liable to get peeved. I'm not Superman and what I've got left I don't want to go wasting on the sheets. On you would be much nicer."

Listening to that promise, Bodie's gaze was hardly objective. The sight of Ray lying there in open invitation banished coherent thought. Swallowing hard, he managed to mumble his agreement.

Think of it as a test, he told himself sternly as he picked up the tube of cream before looking at the sprawled trust that had been given to him. Detachment, that was all that was needed, he thought with determination.

"As impersonal as a doctor," he promised, with more hope than expectation. He gave a muscled haunch a reassuring pat, just managing not to turn it into a caress. "Can you move a bit?"

Curving one leg the better to present himself, Doyle had had time to appreciate the magnitude of his over-confidence. The delay in proceedings was only making matters worse.

His eyes screwed shut as his hungry flesh rose in inexorable demand. He shivered in anticipation, not trusting his own reaction, never mind Bodie's intent.

"Well come on then," he snapped.

He heard an indrawn breath then felt Bodie's fingers brush across his skin, moving delicately from thigh to buttock before placing a gentle fingertip on the slight soreness around the now exposed anal muscle.

His eyes wide and desperate, Doyle gave an incoherent whimper of pleasure, his fingers cramping around the sheet as he pressed against the mattress.

"I'm hurting you," said Bodie in a strained voice, stopping.

The great cretin, thought Doyle with savage disbelief. He can't be so thick he doesn't know what he's doing to me. Remembering Bodie's earlier uncertainty, he revised that opinion.

"No, you're not," he promised, his voice tight with a need that was becoming unbearable. His flesh arched and quivering, his breathing was ragged, in rhythm with each jolt of pleasure spearing him.

"Are you sure?" asked Bodie, still worried. It looked bloody sore to him and Ray was shaking.

"I'm bloody well positive," Doyle ground out, glaring at the pillow in frustration. He tried to relax, to explain. "It's just that I keep forgetting I'm supposed to be the patient. Will you just get on with it before I lose what little of my mind I've got left."

"If I can do it, you can," Bodie told him with scant sympathy. His expression intent, he resumed his examination.

Giving a low groan, Doyle felt hysteria beckon. He knew Bodie was thorough but this was ridiculous.

The first application of cream along some scratches on his upper thigh made him flinch. He had forgotten the cream would be so cold. But Bodie's movements were brisk and reassuringly impersonal. Imperceptibly Doyle began to relax under the gentle application, confident he could cope with this undemanding touch.

Warm hands traced up the cleft of his buttocks, making goose bumps ripple over his skin.

"There are a couple of scratches here, too," Bodie told him. "Nothing serious."

"Told you," said Doyle fighting not to grind against the mattress by this time.

"I know. And I suppose you'll never let me hear the end of it. But - "

A lush groan escaping as a cream-laden finger rimmed him again before slipping through the relaxed barrier of muscle, Doyle never heard what Bodie said next. All his senses were concentrated on what that finger was doing to him as it sank into him with a moist familiarity. Lost to the voluptuous delight of Bodie moving slowly inside him Doyle thrust back to meet it in unthinking demand.

"More. Oh god, don't stop. Don't stop don't - "

Thrusting frantically, he stiffened, the plea lost in a throaty cry as he lost himself in a luxurious orgasm which seemed to last forever.

Boneless with the pleasure of it, he slumped on the mattress, dewed with sweat, his limbs feeling heavy and uncoordinated until the storm in his blood should quieten. Slowly becoming aware of the murmur of Bodie's voice, he rolled over in a lethargic kind of way, the sweetness of his coming still humming within him.

"That was..." Opening heavy-lidded eyes, he chuckled when he finally focussed on the face leaning over him. Bodie's expression was a compound of rueful dismay and that of a child deprived of presents on Christmas morning.

"I warned you," Doyle told him, his fingers curving around Bodie's skull to draw him down against him. "One bloody touch from you and I'm done for. Couldn't you see what was happening? I can't help thinking I must have been a bit unsubtle."

Shivering with banked-down need, Bodie inhaled the scent of Doyle after sex before he remembered he was supposed to be answering a question, not licking Doyle's throat.

"Subtlety's never been a word I'd associate with you. I," he added with dignity, "was trying to keep it impersonal." And for what, his expression added.

Doyle was chuckling again, soft, barely audible huffs of sound gusting against Bodie's shoulder. "You didn't do a bad job of it either. Till the end. How did you manage it?"

"You're not that irresistible, you know," pointed out Bodie, nauseated by that lack of modesty. "Actually it was pretty easy once I pretended you were Cowley."

"Cowley!" Momentarily deprived of speech, Doyle surged from sated lethergy to pin an acquiescent Bodie flat on his back, body weight taken on his own knees rather than something of Bodie's he might want to play with later. "I'll have to see if I can't steer you away from fantasies about the old man," he said, just before he bared his teeth.

Bodie ignored that display of machismo to pull a face. "You're all sticky."

"Not to worry," Doyle said, aware of the pulsing heat of Bodie nudging the inside of his thigh. "Because you're going to be even stickier by the time I've finished with you. I've got a lot of catching up to do. I'm gonna love you, Bodie. Taste you all over and then come back for seconds." Bending, he tongued his way up Bodie's torso from pubis to sternum. Bodie gave a helpless tremor of response.

"Well, now I've got your attention, which end shall I start from?" Doyle sat back astride the body presented to him, eyeing the goods.

Mistrusting Doyle in this sparkling mood, Bodie gave him a wary look from beneath his lashes. "How about starting in the middle?" he suggested, arching his pelvis as best he could for the man straddling him. He gasped as the head of his cock jabbed Doyle's backside.

"What, and make it easy for you? Oh no, we're gonna take it slow. Make a nice change, that will. I've been wanting to - "

The tension in Bodie's face penetrated his haze of pleasure. "That can wait," he said quickly. "But don't think you can escape me this easily every time." One arm crooked over Bodie's thighs, Doyle rested his cheek on Bodie's shuddering belly as he studied the quivering flesh only a breath away.

"I didn't realise... How could I have missed how beautiful..." He traced the bobbing length with a careful finger.

Bodie cried out, arching up.

"It's OK," Doyle promised, hoping his unpractised mouth could make it so. Then he took all that urgent need into his curved hand, then his mouth, feeling the slick, silken hardness pulse. Needing to experience the feel and taste of Bodie, he wanted to make it so good for him.

Concentrating on the soft pleasured sounds Bodie was making, Doyle applied everything he knew about his own body and touches brought to him over the years, tongue, lips, teeth and fingers all urging Bodie to climax. It didn't take much, Bodie too far down the road. And as he spasmed, coming in a seemingly endless flow, Doyle's hand caressed Bodie's testicles in rhythm with each pulse of pleasure.

Bodie smoothly coating his tongue and stinging the back of his throat, his eyes watering a little because he hadn't withdrawn enough in time, Doyle's eyes were narrowed with empathic delight as he watched Bodie come. Slow to release him, he continued to caress him before he released his now softened cock and crawled up to lie in the curve of Bodie's arm.

"Was nice that," he murmured contentedly into a warm shoulder. He felt Bodie nuzzle his throat but was too tired to respond.

"Say one thing for you," Bodie mumbled, on the edge of sleep. "You've got a nice line in understatement."

Waking in slow stages, Bodie was sure he must be dying. He felt terrible. His eyes were gummed together, his head hurt, his throat was sore and he ached all over. Sneezing twice, he wiped his nose on the back of his hand and opened a pathetic - and moist - eye. Doyle was lying beside him, watching him, a fatuous expression on his face.

"Now I know I'm done for," said Doyle with gloom, by way of welcome. He made a point of wiping his cheek as Bodie sneezed wetly again before thrusting a roll of soft toilet paper into his suffering companion's hand. "Blow."

Bodie glared at him from red-rimmed eyes. "I'm the one with the cold," he croaked, after he had done as he was told.

"Oh, is that what's wrong with you," marvelled Doyle. "I would never have guessed. That's how I know I'm done for, you fool. Look at you, runny-nosed and red-eyed and I still think you look bloody gorgeous." Disbelief at his own lunacy echoed in his voice.

"Very funny," growled Bodie thickly, unimpressed. "It's your fault I've caught the sodding thing in the first place."

Leaning down over the edge of the bed, Doyle fished around for the jug of fresh orange juice he had prepared, then the tumbler. "How d'you work that out?" One glare dared Bodie to reject the proffered glass.

Bodie gave it an unenthusiastic look but took a sip because it was often easier to do as Doyle wanted than to argue. "You're the one who got soaking wet, so how come I'm the one with the cold?" he said with shaky logic.

Opening his mouth, Doyle thought the better of what he had been about to say. Now didn't seem the right time to point out that Bodie must have been incubating this bug before they left London. He left Bodie to his misconceptions about the common cold.

"Cheer up, maybe you'll give it to me," he consoled.

Bodie brightened. "There is that."

"You couldn't sneeze in the other direction, could you?" Doyle inquired, removing the glass and handing over another wad of toilet tissue.

There was an expectant pause before the sneeze sneaked up on Bodie just as he relaxed.

"Too late," said Doyle with resignation. "You're a revolting bugger, you know that?" His arm went around the pathetically sniffing figure as he offered his body-warmth for comfort.

Making an inarticulate sound of appreciation Bodie wasted no time wrapping himself around that beautiful heat. "Love you," he announced nasally. Tucking his head beneath Doyle's chin, he felt Doyle's arm tighten around him. Smiling, Bodie fell asleep again within seconds.

Listening to the snuffling snorts that prevented him from doing the same thing and ignoring the dampness that was, he hoped, only Bodie dribbling, Doyle turned his eyes heavenwards.

It was never like this in the books.

-- THE END --

Writted August 1982
Published in HG Collected 2, Doghouse Press, 2002

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