(This takes place about two weeks after the end of "Shadows" and is the third in the Spirits trilogy).
"I don't like this. You're still running a low fever."
"Nothing to speak of." The words came out raspy, his unused voice rebellious against his lazy tongue.
"Anything above normal's something to speak of, Mr. Bodie. You haven't been taking the antibiotics I prescribed, have you?"
"Didn't see the point, did I?"
Dr. James Logan shook his head as he looked at the temperature and blood pressure readings on his patient. He actually tutted before he spoke. "Why even come in if you won't bother to do what I tell you?"
"Part of the deal."
"With Cowley. He's got something on you, too, I'll wager, or you wouldn't be hiding out in the middle of bloody nowhere."
Snorting, Logan examined the skin around the upper end of the cast, the flesh raw from wearing. "You're a cynical piece of work, Mr. Bodie. It's a wonder Uncle George puts up with you."
"Uncle George?" Bodie jerked up slightly as the younger man ran his cool hand across his shoulder joint while raising the injured arm higher. "George Cowley's your uncle?"
"Yeah. My mum was his sister. You jumped when I did that. Did it hurt?"
"It's just tight and a bit sore, not painful. Why didn't you mention this before, about Cowley?"
"No point really. I'm a doctor, not a reporter."
The smug smile annoyed him as the man continued to manipulate and examine his back and chest, the touches both soothing and unwanted at the same time. Bodie watched warily as the man took his fingers in his open palm. The fine ginger hair and bone structure did resemble a younger version of his boss, the skin smoother and rounded with health and a lot less experience, the hand against his soft and uncalloused. Despite the differences, the light blue eyes matched too well, the intensity unnerving, too close to George Cowley's knowing look for comfort.
"Move your fingers for me."
As he wiggled his digits, he noted the expected sharp pain up the middle of his wrist, but ignored it as usual, keeping his face neutral.
"You're more on the mend than a week ago. Amazing really considering the extent of the damage." Lowering his arm, Logan stepped to a side table and made notations before turning back to speak. "Anything you need to tell me about how you're feeling other than the fever? Are your stools okay?"
"Jesus." Avoiding probing eyes, his jaw clenched, his face heating.
"I'm a doctor, Mr. Bodie. You were seriously injured. I need to know if you're having any post-surgical complications."
He fought back the rising bile as he pushed away the flashes, the sudden attack on his sensory memories, the impact of fists, the ramming cock, the teeth biting into his flesh. An involuntary shudder shook his words. "I'm fine."
Logan tilted his head, his voice a bit slower and very specific, his doubt obvious. "No more back pain? Headaches? Any blood where it shouldn't be?"
"Nothing I can't handle."
"That's not what I asked, Mr. Bodie." The stubborn set to the words brought his head up to meet an all too familiar Cowley-like expression.
"I asked you before not to call me that, didn't I."
"Mister. It's just Bodie."
"And why is that?"
"It just is. And like I said, I'm fine, or will be when I get this bloody cast off. How much longer?" Using his right hand, he lifted the end of the Z-shaped encumbrance and rested the hard elbow on his thigh. The constant throbbing in his arm grew stronger as the day wore on and the Scotch wore off.
"Another three weeks minimum, but I do have some good news. I want to remove that one and put on a half cast."
"One where I can stretch the arm out straight then?"
"Today." He stepped closer as he put one hand on his hip and then braced himself with the other against the exam table. "I have to warn you though, it's going to hurt like hell. I have to reposition your wrist before I put on the new plaster. Might feel like I'm ripping your hand off."
"Won't be the first time, eh. Just do it." Closing his eyes to the bright lights of the office, Bodie rubbed his forehead as he spoke. The queasiness returned, his stomach oily, near rolling. "The sooner I get my hand back, the sooner I can go back to work, can't I."
"Even when the final cast comes off, you realize that hand will need major physical therapy, don't you?"
"I know that. Just do it."
"You're not taking any pain medications at all, so I could give you a shot to help if you want it."
"No need. Cut the bloody thing off and be done with it, eh."
"You're an impatient bugger, Bodie. Like to get to the pain part, do you?"
"I just want my life back." He said the words softly, without thinking. When he glanced back up, a knowing expression waited.
"I understand that. The sooner the physical evidence is gone, the sooner you can pretend nothing else happened."
Biting back his anger, the heat rushing through him, he steadied his voice before speaking. "I don't want to talk about it."
"I know. You've been not talking about it for two weeks now. According to the file, you refused to have Dr. Ross or any other psychiatrist visit while you were in hospital."
"You're a shrink then?"
"Aye. I specialize in trauma cases like yours."
"A lot of call for that up here in the Highlands, is it? Always suspected you Scots were a nasty lot." When the man refused to smile, he swallowed hard and worked to keep his right hand from fisting. "Just leave off and change the cast, doctor."
"I'll do that. For now." Logan turned and stopped at the door. "Just know that before we're done, you'll have to deal with it. CI5 will need an official release before you can return to duty."
"An official release to say that I'm not some nutter, eh?"
"No. That you're safe."
"I've never been safe, mate."
Logan stared a long moment before opening the door to leave. "Aye, Mr. Bodie, that's my impression."
"Bloody hell, no wonder you're still running a fever."
Bodie let the nurse support his arm and keep it immobile as Logan ran his fingers along the swollen tissue of his wrist, the skin puckered with yellow and red around the sutures. The pain brought on another round of nausea, the waves easier to control with his eyes shut. A hand on his right shoulder startled him. "You okay?"
"It hurts when you touch it."
"Sharp or dull?"
"Sharp and burning. It got worse when you took off the cast.
Bodie opened his eyes to meet a concerned expression. "How long has it been hurting like this?"
"Never stopped, did it."
"Why didn't you say something?" Astonishment watered down the irritation as Logan still held his infected wrist.
"Thought it was supposed to hurt, didn't I. Better than numb, eh."
"Jesus, Bodie. You're a stubborn fool, you know that?" Shaking his head, Logan turned to his assistant. "Betty, I need a drain tray and bandages. Bring me the penicillin. I'll fix the dosage myself. Leave off on the plaster for now, and bring me a temporary splint package from the store room."
As soon as she left, Bodie asked, "Temporary?"
"I don't want to put another permanent cast over this wound until I'm sure this is under control. Now, I'm going to give you an injection of antibiotic and you can either take the pills I gave you or you can get a shot in you arse every day until I'm satisfied you won't lose this hand. Which is it?"
He recognized the no-nonsense Cowley tone and shrugged. "I tried to take the pills, but they wouldn't stay down, would they."
"Why didn't you tell me they upset your stomach?" Before he could answer, Logan held up his hand. "Don't bother. I know, it's nothing to speak of. Damn it, Bodie, you're the kind of patient who makes a bloke crazy."
"Good thing you're a shrink then, eh?"
The smile added youth to his face. "Aye, it is. Okay, the gastric irritation's a common side effect, that's true." A dark frown replaced the grin. "Still, if you weren't taking them with Scotch, you might hold the medication down a bit better."
Unable to control the embarrassed flush, Bodie held back the lie standing ready. "You've been talking to Henry then?"
"Henry's my uncle's caretaker and your watchdog for the moment. Did you really think he wouldn't say anything to me or to George when we asked how you were doing?"
"Didn't really spend a lot of time puzzling over it, did I?"
The nurse returned with the tray of supplies and handed Logan the syringe and the vial. "Thanks. I'll handle the rest myself."
He talked quietly after she left as he readied the hypodermic. "To be on the safe side, I'll give you the injection every day."
"For how long?"
"At least ten days. Maybe longer. I can drop by your place each night to check on this arm. If the swelling and infection clear up in a few days, I'll put on a permanent cast then. For now, this splint will have to do." He stepped closer, lifted the gown on the right side and lowered the elastic of Bodie's briefs. "This is going to sting a bit. Take a deep breath."
The jab in the hip followed by pressure and heat didn't bother him nearly as much as Logan's warm breath against his neck. He smelled of tea and mint with a touch of buttered biscuit. For the first time since he'd arrived in Scotland, Bodie pushed down his own hunger, his cock teasing and awake. Angry with his body's betrayal and his own sluttish mind, he gritted his teeth as he kept his right hand across his lap. The alcohol swab against his skin burned worse than the shot, but he welcomed the distraction.
"There. Now, I'm going to clean up this arm before I reposition the wrist." He stopped again and studied Bodie a few moments. "Are you sure you don't need a bit of something for the pain? You look a bit pale all of a sudden."
"I'm sure." He cleared his throat and motioned with his head toward his arm. "Let's just get the bloody thing over with. I'm sure you've got other patients."
As Logan brought the tray closer, he shook his head. "Actually, no."
"This is my Uncle Robert's practice. I'm just helping out with a particularly difficult case. Officially I'm on holiday."
Bodie's chest tightened at the euphemism he'd heard too many times to not recognize. "Work for the government, do you?"
He readied the instruments and bandages as he spoke. "I'm a civil servant just like you are. George Cowley says go to Scotland and take care of one of his men, I bloody well do it."
"I don't need any special treatment. The local doctor would've done." He hated the idea of George Cowley pulling in favors. He owed the man too much already.
"For the arm, maybe. For the other, my uncle was very specific."
"Specific?" Tiny tremors shook his arm as Logan draped and then braced it on his knee as he positioned the aspiration needle.
"This is going to hurt, so try not to pull away or jump."
"I asked you a question. What did Cowley say?"
"He sent me your file and asked for advice."
"Turn your stubborn arse over to me." The puncture didn't hurt nearly as much as the fear knotting his gut. Cowley knew almost every secret and probably guessed the rest. So, why hand him over to this man?
"And why should he do that?"
"Because he knows I've been where you are. He knows I can help if you'll let me." Several moments later he drew out the last of the thick yellow fluid and then used hydrogen peroxide, the white bubbles foaming and whitening the damaged skin.
Bodie remained quiet and disconnected, watching in fascination, wishing for a liquid to disinfect his soul. He ignored the hand now resting on his shoulder as he imagined the screams rattling in his skull gagged and dragged back into their cages, silenced forever.
The heat in the kitchen stifled , stole the air, his lungs double working to just breathe. His whole left side ached as he pushed around bits of crust and beef in the brown gravy. Not even the double Scotch fazed the throbbing arm this time and only added to the dizziness, his vision more blurry.
Henry's croaking voice startled him. "You've got to eat, lad. The major sent me a list of things to fix and you've touched nary a one. You're going to get me in trouble if you keep this up."
"Serve you right for being a bloody spy, wouldn't it."
The older man sat down across from him at the table, the wrinkled countenance not hard enough to hide his caring. "Dr. Jamie asked me directly if you were eating right or drinking. I tell him what he wants to know or he'll find out anyway. He's like the major that way. A waste of energy to try to keep a secret from those two."
"Aye. His Uncle Robert is Dr. Logan, too. Jamie was in the British army for awhile, but then something happened and he became a doctor."
"Any idea what happened?"
"No, and I wouldn't say if I did. You strike me as man who knows about privacy, lad. Now, if you don't want to finish that bit, why don't I put it back in the oven and make you some barley broth or something you can hold down?"
Bodie put his fork on the dish and massaged his upper left arm, the pounding in his head working in time with the spasms in his muscles. "I'm not hungry." Using his legs and rear, he scooted back the chair while he still rubbed his arm. The spin behind his eyes as he stood up brought him back down, his head forward.
"Damn it, lad. Let me help you to bed."
He jerked away, his breathing more rapid as he barked. "Sod off, Henry. Don't touch me." His whole body shook from the uncontrolled memory, unwanted hands and shoves, a long burn up his back as he arched away from contact.
"The war's over, Bodie. You're safe here."
Wetting his lips, the younger man sat back up slowly before he spoke. "Tell that to the soldiers in my head, eh?"
"Aye. They come out of nowhere sometimes. I've had my own share of sniper fire from time to time." The voice softened but the man kept his distance. "Let me help you to bed, lad. It's a hard battle to win when you're exhausted."
"Just give me a minute. The room's tilting. Damn, Scottish Highlands. Might as well walk sideways."
"You don't feel it then?" He squeezed his eyes shut and found himself twirling again, this time into a cold, grainy darkness that muffled sound. Dropping his head to the table, he rested his tongue and decided moving right at that moment might explode his skull completely.
Swimming up from the heated muck, he swallowed the sour taste of his own illness. Grunting as he tried to sit, a hand pushed him back against the mattress. "Lie still, 3.7."
Opening his eyes, he found his boss sitting on the edge of his bed, his open palm on his chest. "Sir?"
"Stewart and Jamie called me. Said you tried to take a downward turn without permission."
"Stewart?" His furry tongue scraped and irritated the top of his mouth, his throat tight and resistant to talking.
"Henry Stewart. He called me right after he called the surgeon. Thanks to my nephew, your fever's back down, but, I must confess, you gave us quite a scare. Don't do it again, lad."
"Sorry, sir." He relaxed his neck, sinking into the pillow as he closed his eyes, the room still floaty. Cowley's steady hand on his body centered his focus, allowed him a calming comfort. The bed shifted as his boss stood and took his touch away. He resisted the urge to snatch it back, to draw it closer and hold it. Instead, he whispered, "How's Ray?"
"Still hurt and worried, and far too angry to work. "
"Desk duty then, is it?"
"Aye. It's for the best until you get back on your feet."
"Bet he's a right pissed bastard then."
"Aye, Bodie. That would about cover it."
Behind his lids he imagined his partner's stern sadness, the cross between rejection and anger a heady mix. For the first time in several weeks, he allowed himself to dwell on the pout he loved, the curl of full lips that drew him. After a few moments, he eyes stung at the knowledge that he caused most of the man's misery, that his partner deserved so much better, so much more than he could give.
He jumped at the unexpected touch followed by the soothing Scottish voice he trusted. "He'll get over it, lad. Just rest a bit more and I'll check on you later."
This time he didn't resist the urge to capture the hand before it pulled away. "Sir, stay. Please." He didn't recognize the small pleading voice.
"Aye. I'm here, lad. Just sleep now." As he drifted, the hand stayed clutched in his own while warm fingers petted back fever-damp hair.
And in his sleep he could have sworn warm soft lips kissed his.
Waking took less effort as he rolled over to his right, his body stiff, but not as filled with complaint as before. His arm barely hurt, a trifling ache compared to previous mornings. He opened his eyes, greedy for both air and light.
"About time you woke up, Bodie."
Wetting his lips, rubbing his chest, he found his voice still too stubborn and his throat sore. "Where's your uncle?"
"Downstairs with Henry. I needed to examine you. You're better, but I'd imagine you could tell that yourself."
"You're welcome. Can't take credit for the antibiotic though. Damn stuff does miracles."
He coughed several times before he spoke again, his words breathy and still hard to manage. "I'm a miracle now, am I?"
"You would've died without it."
The serious tone brought his head around to look into calm blue eyes. "That sick was I?"
"Aye. The infection in your arm decided to play havoc with your whole body at once, your lungs in particular. Your chest is still tight, but doing better. I wasn't expecting that as a complication, but I guess I should've been looking more carefully."
"No reason, too, was there." He rolled over on his back and then used his stronger right arm to give him leverage for sitting up. Logan helped bring his feet over the side of the bed while he balanced himself. "Need to use the loo."
"I imagine you do. It's been a couple of days."
"What?" Tired from just sitting up, he wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"You don't remember?"
"I remember Cowley. Not much else."
Logan nodded as he wiped off his hands. "Aye. You wanted to belt the rest of us, but for him, well, you calmed right down. No wonder he favors you. You're a true soldier, obeying your commanding officer even when you're delirious."
Ignoring his own blush, Bodie frowned. "Delirious?"
"Aye, but don't worry."
"About whatever you said being used against you. George kept us downstairs when you got a bit wild. Besides, I have clearance. If you gave away any Crown secrets, I didn't hear it."
"Bloody hell." He leaned forward, miserable in his own thoughts. Being out of control with himself, that made him tense. Cowley or Ray seeing him, that pissed him off royally, but not remembering, well, hell that just plain scared him.
"It's not a crime, Bodie. You just had a fever. Now, come on. You need help to the loo?"
"I can do it. Where are my clothes?"
"Down here on the locker. You need anything else, just call. There's tea and breakfast downstairs. You need to eat something bland. I'll have Henry fix some oatmeal and biscuits."
"I hate bloody oatmeal."
"Leave off. I'll eat whatever the rest of you are having."
Logan stepped closer, his face suddenly stern and impatient. "Look, you stubborn bastard, you'll eat what I tell you. Got that?"
"And if I don't?"
"Then my uncle can feed you."
"Fuck you, Logan. I don't need you grassing to the boss."
"Grassing about what, Bodie?" Cowley's calm, familiar voice came from the doorway. "Well, 3.7?"
"Nothing, sir. I'll eat the damn oatmeal."
"There's a good lad, Bodie. Now don't hang about. Get dressed and join us. I might have some news that will take that ugly scowl off your face."
"News, 3.7. About Sheila Kaufmann and the whole Munich mob."
Squeezing his eyes shut momentarily against the bombardment of emotion, he nodded and spoke with a practiced evenness that surprised him. "Hope it's news they're all dead and buried."
He didn't miss the flicker of agreement in his boss's eyes as he simply added, "We'll talk downstairs, Bodie. I think you'll be pleased enough for now."
As he picked up his clothes to head to his morning clean up, he heard Logan talking to Cowley. "Damn it, George, you're not helping me here."
"On the contrary, Jamie lad. You said he needed closure. I plan to give it to him."
"That's not what I meant and you bloody well know it."
Fading voices eased the ache in his chest with assurance. George Cowley understood what his nephew didn't, that balance could be gained by offering up some kind of reason to survive the suffering, some higher purpose than just drowning in his own bitter self-hate and failure.
If stirring the mush turned his stomach, putting it in his mouth spelled disaster. He drank the tea slowly as Cowley and Henry chatted about repairs for the spring, the light discussion and the steady, clear voice a comfort. After a brief silence, he glanced up to find eyes trained on him. "What?"
"You were just sitting there, lad. Are you all right?"
"Fine. Just thinking."
Cowley's eyes narrowed slightly, but he smiled. "Aye, can't move and do that at the same time, can you, Bodie."
"Kindly put, sir." He shifted uneasily before he added, "Bit out of practice that's all."
"Aye." The older man turned to his nephew and Henry as he spoke. "If you two wouldn't mind, I need to talk to Bodie alone for a bit."
Henry stood without question, grabbed his coat and left without speaking. Logan hesitated. "George, maybe this should wait until he's better. He's been pretty much unconscious off and on for two days."
"You're better, but fine isn't even close. You need to rest.
"I'll rest better if I know what's going on."
"Enough, you two. Jamie, just leave and come back in about an hour. I have to go back to London today anyway. He's yours after that."
Defiance twisted the young man's features, but he stood reluctantly and then turned to Bodie, his voice tight. "I'll be back. Be sure you've eaten. I'm moving in here for now. Whether you like it or not, Mr. Bodie, I'm here to help and I plan to do just that no matter how much you fight me. Later, George."
As soon as the door shut behind him, Bodie put down his tea and grumbled. "Bloody prat. Sorry, sir. I know he's your nephew, but he gets up my nose."
"Aye. Jamie's a bit headstrong. My sister, bless her, lost her husband and had a terrible time with him as a lad. Bit of a wild one, our Jamie." Leaning forward, he spoke softly. "Still, I've heard he's a good doctor. Give him a chance and he can help you deal with the darker part of what happened with Riker and Keller."
"They're both dead. Why keep going on about it, eh?"
"It's not enough that they're dead, anymore than it's enough we have most of the Munich mob in custody."
"I still don't know why I have to see anybody about this, especially this bloke who won't even listen when I tell him not to call me mister. Doesn't bode well for hearing anything else about how I feel, now does it?"
"Well, you wouldn't talk to Dr. Ross and Jamie, despite his faults, at least has experience in this area. He's been a prisoner himself once."
Meeting pale blue eyes, Bodie recognized the meaning. "There are all kinds of prisons, sir."
"Aye, and all kinds of cages. You can lock yourself in or open the door and walk out. I can't have you as an agent unless you're able to free yourself from these ghosts hiding inside your head." Pausing, his voice became hushed. "You wear their faces in your eyes, lad. At least give it a try."
He shuddered, his friend's words hitting too close to his own fears. "And if I don't?"
Cowley stood and walked to the counter and leaned there with his arms crossed. "If you don't, CI5 loses two good agents."
"Ray Doyle won't stay without you. Right now, he's still angry, but he's still on duty, biding his time until you come back. If you can't work, he'll leave, too."
"He's said that, has he?"
"Didn't need to, 3.7."
The burden of his partner's life and decisions weighed heavy as the sudden wave of fatigue settled him back against the hard chair. "He's a stubborn bastard, our Ray." He rubbed his forehead, his eyes squeezed shut against the pounding. "I'm sorry, sir. I can't think much right now. Everything's still a bit foggy."
"Aye. You still haven't eaten, but you can do that later. Let's get you back upstairs, shall we?"
As he stood, his leg muscles shaking, a strong arm braced him and then wrapped his middle. "Lean on me."
Heated contact wrapped his side and he hugged a bit more than he needed. Awkwardly walking to the stairs, he cleared his throat to speak. "Don't want to hurt your leg, sir."
"Well, I won't carry you, but I think I can manage if you don't pass out. Even after being ill, you're no lightweight."
"Ray's always complaining about that, too, sir." He bit his lower lip, fighting back the urge to add how much he missed his best friend's grumbles, the quick wit, and irreverent jabs.
By the last step, sweat dripped down his cheek. Cowley helped him to the bed, lifting his legs up and then pulling up the blankets and quilts. The shivering got worse as he took deep breaths. "Guess I wasn't as well as I thought, eh?"
"No, but you are better." Instead of leaving, the older man sat on the edge of the mattress and spoke quietly, his voice like a fine music. "I know Jamie can be a hard man to like, but you're not here for romance, Bodie. He can help. Let him."
"Is that an order, sir?"
"Aye. I want you to do what he tells you. He's got some crazy ideas, new techniques I don't understand completely."
"If he's got computers and buttons to push, I can do that."
"No, he's no Dr. Ross. He believes in some new method. I'm not sure about all the details, but apparently it works. He's had positive results with other men with similar situations. They come back to work and Jamie's had nothing but praise for his success rates."
He started to turn his head, to resist the eyes watching, but found his chin held in place by strong fingers. The back of a hand stroked upward twice and then turned and cupped his face. "Don't turn away, Bodie. Promise me you'll try. You're my best man, part of my very best team. I don't want to lose you, lad."
Raising his own hand to hold Cowley's, he absorbed the energy he found there. "Sir, I need to know something."
Hands still together, eyes meeting, Cowley tilted his head. "What?"
"The other night, when you stayed with me."
"Did you kiss me when you thought I was sleeping?"
Wetting his lips, his eyes still not looking away, the older man nodded. "Aye, I did, lad. I'm sorry."
"It's not proper."
"I know." Bodie turned his face and kissed the palm of the man who's hand held him. "And you know Ray loves me?"
"Aye. Despite your own opinion, it's not a hard thing to do, lad." For the first time he saw true sadness as Cowley stroked his cheek once more before pulling back and standing. "I need to go, Bodie. What just happened, well, we both know it would be wrong to go further."
"Do we, sir?"
"Aye, we do. We won't speak of it again. Now, rest and then work with Jamie. I need you back in London, whole and healthy. And your partner needs you."
As Cowley turned to leave, Bodie whispered, "Thank you, sir."
"Thank me by getting well, 3.7."
"Aye. That's all I'm asking."
Left alone, Bodie lay quietly, the warmth of Cowley's kind touch still burning on his cheek. He pushed away his guilt and trapped his vision of Ray in another place in his heart. Confused, but strangely content, he closed his eyes and imagined how that tender, older hand might find a place in his dark universe. He spoke in a hush to himself, a small smirk twisting his lips. "God, Bodie, you're a greedy sod."
Several days later, Logan stood against his uncle's kitchen counter pouring more hot water into the teapot. His voice broke the silence. "My uncle favors you, you know."
Ignoring the comment, Bodie continued to look through the local paper, his eyes not really focused on the print. The man's arrogant, taunting tone irked him.
"You're a tight-lipped bastard, aren't you?"
"Better than talking to be talking."
"You saying that's what I do?"
"I'm just trying to read the bloody news, mate." Bodie turned another page and then rubbed his forehead as he tried to see the print more clearly in the low light.
Before he realized it, Logan stood behind him, both hands on his shoulders, squeezing. "You're too tense, Bodie. You need to relax."
Reflexes had him out of the chair and to the other side of the room in seconds. Steel control barely kept Logan alive and standing as words found a hard path through clenched teeth. "Don't ever do that."
"What?" The physician stood, his hands out to his side, his eyes studying him with an exaggerated pretense of innocence.
"You know what I do for a living and you know what I've been through. For a doctor, you're either pretty bloody stupid or just plain daft."
Logan smiled, dismissive. "It's just a startle response. We need to work on that. You need to get used to being touched again."
"You're a right barmy bastard, Logan."
"You're all tense, your muscles tight. I could give you a massage. Loosen you up some. It'll make my job easier if you weren't so ready to run or pummel me at every little movement."
Bodie crossed his right arm up over his sling and shook his head. "I just don't like having people sneak about, do I."
"That's a valid feeling considering your experience, but it's not realistic. I'm your doctor, and I'm here to help, not hurt. I can't do that if you keep resisting."
"I'm not doing that."
"No." Bodie walked into the sitting area and sat down, his boss's words playing over in his mind. He steeled himself to try harder. "What do you want me to do then?"
"First, you have to trust me." Logan came into the room and seated himself in a nearby chair, his hands open and extended.
"Not an easy one, mate. I don't know you."
"Then let's start by getting better acquainted. I'd like you to try something for me."
Still wary, Bodie asked, "What?"
"I'd like to go upstairs and get casual. Then I want you to start by letting me see what you do to make yourself feel better."
"Hang about. You want me to what?"
"You know, show me what you do to pleasure yourself. It'll give me a starting point to know how much work we have ahead of us to get over this trauma you've suffered."
Bodie sat with his arms crossed, shaking his head. "You're out of your bloody mind, mate."
"Because there's no way I'm ever going to do that." He scratched the skin above the new plaster as he continued talking, his voice tight. "I can't believe you'd even suggest it. I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty damn sure that's not a standard treatment plan."
"The old therapies don't always work, especially for men like yourself."
"Repeat abuse survivors. This works, Bodie. I've got a whole book of case studies and success stories."
Rubbing his stubble, his whole body tense, he wanted to grab his jacket and run, but knew he couldn't. Cowley told him to stay, to work at getting better. Still, he wondered if his boss had any idea about his nephew's questionable methods. "Look, I won't do it, so best find another way or I'm in a car back to London."
"Would you do it if my uncle told you to?"
"That's not going to happen either, so just leave off."
Logan stood up and paced several times in front of the sofa and then sat back down, leaning forward with both elbows braced on his knees, his hands moving while he spoke. "Listen, I know you're scared."
"I'm not scared of sex."
"Yes, you are, Bodie. It's natural after what's happened. Have you even had an erection since you were attacked?"
"Bloody hell. I don't believe you're asking me this shit." Bodie took a deep breath, crossed his arms again and avoided making eye contact.
"I'd wager you haven't, or if you have, you felt immediately guilty. Am I right?"
"What's your point, Logan?"
"My point is that you need to be reconditioned. You need to start by touching yourself and learning to enjoy it without the guilty part.
Snorting, both disgusted and amused, Bodie couldn't stop the ugly laugh. "Doing myself was never the problem."
"But someone else doing it to you is, right?"
"I don't like being fucked against my will, no. Can you blame me?"
"No. But you won't let anyone near you at all without flinching, without pulling away and hating yourself if you like it. Look, Bodie, I can be your partner in this, show you how it can feel good to have someone make love to you without all the pain."
Shifting, uncomfortable with the close aim of the words, he clenched his jaw a few times before he trusted himself to speak. "I'm not doing myself while you watch, and I'm not having you fuck me. You call it therapy. I say it's too bloody wrong."
Logan sat back and studied him a few moments before he smiled. "You're a very rigid person, very close-minded, but you forget I've seen you with my uncle."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It's obvious that you're not just some man from the ranks. You're the favored son, the one he's chosen."
Suddenly nervous, the tone of the conversation even more dangerous, he asked, "What are you on about then?"
"I'm saying I know you're bisexual and that it wouldn't do for it to get out that you're more than just an employee to my uncle. He's powerful, but not so highly placed that a scandal couldn't cause a problem if the word got out he'd taken a fancy to one of his men."
The words hissed against his tongue, his body taut. "I don't know how you could be related to George Cowley."
"George is no saint. You might think he's a man of honor, but that's only because you're under his influence. I've seen the way you look at him, how he handles you and you just do whatever he says. He's like your bloody master. You've got too much spirit to let that happen. Let me retrain you. Free you from that kind of submissive thinking."
The swarming in his brain took over, his words tingling his lips. "You touch me and I'll fucking kill you."
"Don't be so dramatic."
Bodie stood, his hands down, but his entire body ready to spring if need be. "You've read my file, right?"
"Then you know all the men who raped me died."
Panic suddenly flickered. "Pardon?"
Awareness flashed as his lips curled, pleased by his boss's tight hand with secrets. "Cowley gave you the abridged Bodie history then, eh? Well, let me fill in just a few of the details, mate. The men who touched me without permission paid a bloody high price. Max Richter, I snapped his neck with my legs and his partner Karl Riker I shot dead. The guards in the Congo prison, well one died a month after my release when a sniper shot him. The other had his throat slit in his sleep, but not before he saw my face and knew why he was dying. The captain of my second ship died on leave in a whore's bed, a knife in his fat belly. Do you want the rest of the list or do you understand better why you'd better rethink this plan of yours?"
Shock widened the eyes as Logan held up his hand. "Calm down, Bodie. I really didn't mean to upset you."
"I'm not upset, doctor." He smiled, the coldness of the moment chilling the sweat beading his skin. "I'm dead calm really."
"Just please sit down."
"I don't want to sit down. I want you to take your arse out of here and if you try any more blackmail, you won't ever have another peaceful night."
"Are you threatening me?"
"It would appear so, yeah. Now, get the hell out of your uncle's house."
Logan remained seated, but his arms trembled slightly. "You're making a mistake, Bodie. You still need me. Without my release you can't work."
"Sod the release. Get the fuck out."
"You'll regret this."
"Maybe, but maybe you're the one who's going to regret trying to blackmail one of your uncle's men into letting you fuck him."
Standing slowly, trying to maintain some shred of dignity, Logan headed to the door. He stopped briefly, his hand on the latch. "Are you going to tell my uncle?"
"He needs to know."
"He won't believe you."
"Doesn't matter, does it? We both know the truth."
"Maybe, but I know you're the one still in trouble. Regardless of what you think of me and my methods, you're the one ready to kill again, the one not ready to face his own fear."
Before he could level another threat, Logan left, the door clicking loudly behind him.
For a few moments, Bodie stood absolutely still, his whole body sizzling with unfocused rage. He wanted to kill Logan and all the smug buggers who abused for a living, who enjoyed hurting for their own pleasure. After several deep breaths, he walked to the phone. "Henry, mate, got enough petrol to get us to London?"
"Yes, sir. I need to come in."
"Of course." Looking past his shoulder, Cowley signaled to his caretaker and driver. "Put those in the hallway closet, Henry." Turning his attention back to his agent, he motioned to the other room. "Go sit down before you pass out, 3.7."
As Bodie slumped into the cushions, he leaned his head back and shut his eyes. The drive back drained him, the cold weather dragging at his bones. Voices played off in the distance while he rested, his fatigue pulling him into a grey world, soothingly muffled and warm. Opening his eyes, he saw Cowley sitting across from him just watching. "Henry said you were upset. I take it something happened with Jamie?"
"I know he's your nephew, but I can't work with him."
"What happened exactly?" Cowley leaned back, his posture formal as he listened.
"Do you have any details about this so-called new therapy he uses?"
"Not really. Just that it works."
"He calls it reconditioning, I call it trying to take advantage."
"Taking advantage how?"
"He wanted to blackmail me into sleeping with him."
Cowley stiffened, sat forward, his voice hard. "Be careful what you say, lad. Those are hard words."
"Yeah, but true. I've done a lot of things, sir, but you know I'm not a liar."
After a long pause, he nodded. "Aye, that's true." He stood up and went to the cabinet and poured two drinks. He handed one to Bodie and drank the other himself. "You said he tried blackmail."
"What was he going to use against you?"
"Me? Make sense, lad. How could he use me against you?"
Bodie sipped his drink, the liquid burning his throat, the words difficult to form. "By spreading the rumor that you had a fancy for me."
"Blast. That sorry bastard." Not shouted, but hissed, the words still sounded powerful and angry.
"You heard me. I blame myself partly for this. I should've spent more time with the lad growing up. Maybe I could've taught him a little something about honor."
"Bit busy defending your country, sir."
"Aye, but it's a hard thing to admit one of your own blood has no scruples."
Bodie finished his drink and held up his glass and Cowley refilled it. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to grass, but it needs to stop. Can't imagine some poor bloke being put in that position, not after already being done over by some other rotten bastard." He worked to ignore the irony of his own words, stared into the glass, closing off his mind from the tiny catches in his skin.
"You did the right thing, 3.7." After a brief pause, the older man sat down on the sofa. "What I can't imagine is that you're the only person who's brought this forward. Surely someone in the ministry knows what he's doing."
"I don't know, sir. I just know it happened to me. Can't really speak for the rest, but he said he'd done it before. Sounded like he meant it."
Turning, his knee touching Bodie's, Cowley spoke quietly. "I'm sorry about all this. I really had no idea."
"I know that."
"Did you tell him you were coming here?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
"Then I need to do some calling. See what the lad's up to. He's probably already issued some kind of warning about you."
"Well, I assume you threatened to kill him, didn't you?"
His face burning, he gave a weak grin. "You might say that, yeah."
"So, while I'm busy running this thing to ground, why don't you go take a lie down? You look done in."
"I am a little tired, sir."
"The loo's just down the hall on the right. Use the next bedroom past it. There are extra blankets. If you're hungry, I can fix something first."
"No, I'm fine. Just tired."
"Aye, lad. Go get rested then. By the time you wake up, I'll have a better idea what kind of situation we're facing."
As he stood up, Bodie paused. "I'm sorry about your nephew, sir."
"So am I, but I'm glad that for once your tendency to not follow orders played in our favor."
"Can I use this as a reminder the next time I'm in trouble?."
"Fancy an extra month with Macklin, 3.7?."
"Then go to bed."
"Yes, sir. Running all the way, sir."
Bodie lay on his back, his encased arm resting across his belly, the other behind his head. Even with his eyes open, the ghosts waved from a very short distance. A click sounded at the doorway as Cowley entered, his face tight and strained.
"Didn't mean to wake you, sir."
"You didn't. Nightmare?"
"Yeah. Can't seem to get past it."
"Sometimes it helps to talk."
"True, and sometimes I just need to leave it."
"Aye." Cowley sat in the chair by the bed, his tie undone, his white sleeves wrinkled and rolled up his forearms.
"Did you find out about Logan?"
"Don't worry. His efforts are neutralized for the moment. The pick up order he issued has been rescinded, so you're safe. I've called for a meeting tomorrow afternoon to review both his actions and his former cases."
"At least it won't be boring. More naughty bits than an old girl on the game, I'll wager."
Cowley's eyes met his, the serious stare even more potent in the low light. "I've often wondered about your dark humor. Never quite understood the reason for it. Until now."
Bodie closed his eyes, his body still too tired to stop shaking completely, the raw aftermath of the dream too fresh. The mattress sagged beside him from the other side. Strong arms pulled him in closer as he rested against the offered chest. As one hand cradled his head, the other secured his position along the body of the smaller, more compact frame. Slowly his strained muscles relaxed and pounding temples eased their earlier rhythm.
"You're safe here for as long as you need it."
His tongue failed him as he simply nodded, his forehead rubbing against the starched shirt front, the buttons scraping his jaw. A hand lifted his face and kisses trailed his damp cheeks. Warm breaths comforted chilled skin as he drifted, the mental flurry of images held off, replaced instead by a steady stream of shushes and Bodies.
A grey morning brightened the window with the paleness of winter light, the odd slant just enough to nudge Bodie from sleeping. Lifting his head, he found himself wedged between a bunched up pillow and Cowley. He settled back and stayed still, the older man's arms still wrapped tightly around his body. It only took a few moments before his companion spoke. "Morning. Feeling better?"
"Much." He tested by shifting a little closer, his hip against Cowley's bulging groin. The involuntary catch in breathing pleased him. "You feel pretty fine yourself, eh, sir?"
Whiskers rubbed back against his palm as he caressed the face staring at him. "Bodie, be careful. I don't want to take advantage. You know the wisest thing would be for me to get up and leave now."
"And you want that, do you?"
"No. I must confess, lad, I don't."
His thigh pushed against Cowley's as he ran his right hand across his shoulder and the fine hard muscles. "I've been thinking about something Logan said."
Startled, Cowley pulled back. "Aye? What's that?"
"He's a bastard, there's no doubt, but he's right about how jumpy I've been. Anyone touches me and I'm a nutter in training."
"Yeah, but it's strange. For some reason I don't mind you touching me. In fact, I like it."
"Maybe it's because you trust me."
"Maybe. Whatever the reason, this feels okay, like I'm not going to shake to a million bloody pieces if you decide to kiss me."
Cowley stroked his cheek, his eyes focused, but his face flushed. "Is that what you want, Bodie, a kiss?
"A little one to start, maybe move on to something bigger?"
The lusty grin caught the older man off guard and he laughed out loud. "Christ, Bodie, you're a handful."
Removing the loving hand from his face, he directed it lower, cupping his aching balls. "I try, sir."
"I think under the circumstances, 3.7, maybe you should try using George."
"Well, that's my master plan, sir."
Pushed back into the pillow, lips captured his, gently at first, then harder, a tongue hot and slick sliding in. The taste of old Scotch lingered, the faintness of it enough to awaken both thirst and desire, his hips shoving up against the steady hand massaging his erection though thin cloth. He swallowed low groans as he returned the favor with his good hand, the heated wetness against his fingers spreading. Awkwardly, he unzipped and pushed down elastic, found his prize and wrapped his hand around his lover's silky cock, the tightly curled pubic hair tickling his skin. George's body shuddered at the first testing stroke.
"Slow down, lad. Please. God." Pants parted the words and Bodie smiled at the obvious nearness.
He loosened his grip slightly, but maintained contact, the warmth a blaze of tingles to his middle. "Touch me." His whispered rasp surprised him.
"I'll do more than that, lad." His eyes stayed with Bodie's, watching closely, his pupils dilated and sweat beading his forehead. A few simple grinds into his fist, and the older man pulled the hand away. He stood up and quickly took off his shirt and slipped off his own trousers before returning to bed. Moving back in closer, much more slowly, he unbuttoned Bodie's shirt, his strong hands careful, smoothing and petting the skin beneath. His nipples hardened as fingers teased and rolled the nubs, the surge to his groin electric, fire to his balls as he bucked up when a mouth suckled one and then the other. His own groans deafened his hearing, the swarming buzz in his head competing for attention and losing to the spin and spark when a tongue tip lapped his exposed navel, followed by quick nips and whisker swipes heading south.
Steady hands took off his pants and underwear, again very deliberately, tension in his heavy thighs growing tighter, the sweat catching at the cloth. George, still without speaking, pushed and brought his knees up and then spread them further apart. Bodie's cock engorged and standing up, twitched and glistened. The delicious pain increased as fingers massaged the foreskin and lips wrapped the crown. Quick reflexes captured his left hand as he brought both hands forward to touch the fine hair.
"God, I'm sorry, George. Almost beaned ya."
He words shut down abruptly as teeth lightly edged the upper side of his cock while a willful tongue brought his full attention back to the center of the known universe. One hand fingered his swelling balls, while the other one held his left arm safely to his side. His ass clenched several times as stubble scraped the inside of shaking thighs, the trembling worse up through his middle, every muscle tensing. Slippery fire grabbed his mind behind closed lids as flashes burst flames into sheets of color, first red, green to yellow to fading white. Spine arching and bowed, he shoved several times deeply, the suction perfect, drawing energy from his bones, his marrow sapped and drained from both legs, his throat ragged from catching his own screams. Suspended by release, he found his breathing daunted by fickle air, his lungs failed wastelands.
Floating back through grainy and puffy greys, he found himself wrapped in a blanket, arms holding him, his own musky smell near his face. "Bloody hell, lad, you scared me."
"You stopped breathing for a minute and then you just sort of relaxed with your eyes closed and wouldn't speak. Are you all right?"
"A damn sight better than all right, thank you. You?"
Smiling, he used the back of his hand to stroke the side of Bodie's cheek several times. "Fine now." His voice softened slightly, his lips still red and swollen. "You're a bonnie lad, Bodie."
"I love the feel of your hair."
Flushing slightly, Bodie lifted his aching left arm. "Sorry. Could be a right lethal weapon, eh?"
"I don't think we'll make them standard issue just yet, 3.7." George's light tone matched his still gentle touches, nimble fingers trailing along his chin and his mouth. Kissing brought his own taste, bitter to his lips, washing his tongue in an almost metallic heat.
As the older man pulled back, Bodie caught the slightest hint of sadness in the eyes. "George? What's wrong?"
"Not now, Bodie. Let's get cleaned up and have breakfast. This was wonderful and I don't want to spoil it."
"What's going to spoil it then?"
"We need to talk."
"I think you know, lad."
His elation slipped and he nodded, the joy dipping into guilt. "Yeah. Ray."
"Aye. Ray Doyle, your partner."
Ray, the only other man he cared for as much as he cared for George Cowley. He rubbed his hand across his eyes and wanted to hide back under the covers, but instead, he sat up, his legs over the edge of the bed. He needed to start living again, possibly even regain more than he had before.
"You want tea or coffee?"
"Tea then." George readied the pot and got down the tea from the cupboard.
He sat at the table, the heat from the oven and stove bringing a needed heat to his chilled limbs. The casual wearing of old jeans and blue wool cable-knit sweater suited him against the intrusive cold of winter. George stood, dressed in his usual suit and tie, turning over the toast in the pan and then nudging the sausages to browning.
"Should be ready in a minute."
"Aye. Love the smell of breakfast. I don't always bother to fix it for just myself, but it's a pleasant way to start the day."
"One of 'em, yeah." The off hand remark reddened the back of his lover's neck. "Sorry, George. I didn't mean to embarrass you. I'm just a little new at this domestic scene."
Pouring the hot water over the tea, he shook his head, his back to Bodie. "I just worry you'll say something like that at work or in front of the wrong person and then we'll both be done in. I never want this to be a problem for you."
"It's not a problem, though I'm not exactly sure what this is? It's different now. Between us, I mean. I like it but it scares me at the same time."
"I'm still your boss and you're still an agent. But, you're right, we've crossed into a very dangerous difference. We could be blackmailed."
"Nothing new for me there, so that bit doesn't bother me. I'm just still not sure where I stand. I need to know this isn't just some offering out of pity or some ruse to get me back in the field faster."
Turning, his face suddenly stony, George carried the tray to the table and set out the tea. Beside it he placed the fried toast with marmalade and butter along with sausages before sitting down. Neither man made an attempt to drink or eat and several long moments later, his lover's voice cut the air. "I know I sometimes seem like a ruthless bastard, Bodie, but that's what you really think of me, is it?"
"No, at least it's not what I want to think." His words sanded the air, dry and raspy. He cleared his throat before he continued. "You're an honorable man, George, but I just need to hear it. I don't trust my own judgment sometimes, is all."
Taking his right hand in his, George spoke quietly. "Look at me, Bodie." As he met the blue eyes, he found himself caught up in their clarity, the wrinkles around the edges only adding to the depth of expression. "I have no right to say this, but I love you."
Stunned, Bodie looked away, his heart pounding. He expected affection, a declaration of friendship, hell, even lust, but love? Damn.
"Stunned, lad? Don't be. I've got feelings same as any other man. Got ambushed by your good looks the first time I saw you, but I wrote it off. A bonnie lad who walks with the purest sex appeal I'd ever seen, that's all. On top of that, you were a fine soldier. Bound to be a real pull for a military man like myself. You put me in a troubled state from first glance, lad. No doubt about it."
"Aye, really. But after Doyle came into the picture, you changed."
"He threw you off balance from the get go. Made you uneasy."
"Chalk and cheese, we were, that's true. Your fault, George."
"True, but I thought the clash was only because of personality, but then I saw the way he looked at you and I knew.
"That he had no better chance than I did, poor bugger."
Pulling his hand away, Bodie massaged his temple, the pressure nearing unpleasant, tiny spikes waking the flesh. "You're saying Ray's loved me all this time? Why did he wait so long to tell me?"
Fingers pushed back his hair from his forehead, the touch calming the waking panic. "You never seemed open to it before. With the return and betrayal of Keller, maybe he felt you needed more than just a regular partner."
"And maybe more than just a boss, eh?"
He took the older man's hand again, his thumb rubbing the thin bones and veins. "The thing is, I think I always knew there was something extra between you and me, and I'm not talking about sex, George."
"I didn't think you were."
"You're the only man besides Ray who's even given me half a chance to prove myself. That mess in SAS nearly destroyed any chance of staying out of the jungle."
"You mean the mercenaries? Are you saying you'd have gone back if CI5 hadn't come along?"
He met sad eyes as he nodded. "My only home really. Being a soldier is all I know. If I couldn't do it for my country, then I'd do it somewhere. Had to, didn't I? Either that or put a bullet in my own head and be done with it, eh. Everyone else just wrote Bodie off as an expendable nutter, a bloody wash-out like Mad Tommy, but not George Cowley. You took a chance and gave me the only taste of respect I've ever had. Through your eyes, I wasn't such a bad bloke, was I? No matter what happens between us, for that, I thank you."
Eyes too bright and watery watched him, the Scottish voice almost choked. "I'd like to kill all the rotten bastards who ever made you think like that. You put on this bravado, but I always knew that's how it was with you."
He gently touched the shaved cheek and smiled. "It's not like that anymore, George. Between you and Ray, I can't get away with it, at least, not for long anyway."
"A good thing, too."
George took a deep breath and pulled back. "Best eat your meal, lad. Tea's getting cold."
"Yes, sir." As he sipped and chewed, he found his mind wondering as they both ate in silence. Finally he wiped his mouth and spoke again. "What about Ray? What am I supposed to do?"
"What do you want to do?" He finished his tea and poured more. "How do you feel about him? Do you love him?"
"I'm not sure what that means."
"Bodie, are you saying you've never been in love, ever?"
"Not that I know of, no."
"Too busy keeping blokes and birds away, eh? But Ray's really special to me"
"Aye. That's easy to see."
"So are you, but in a different way."
"Different how, lad?" George sat back in his chair, his napkin and cup returned to the table.
"With you I feel secure, safe even. You make me feel good about myself and what I do. Now, it's even stronger. Christ, the sex about took my bloody head off, didn't it. It's nothing like I expected it might be."
George smiled, the thin lips curled up in amusement. "You've thought about us then?"
The heat spread up his cheeks as he smiled back. "Your desk has been a wicked twist in my dreams, George, and yeah, I've thought about it. Often."
"You've not seen my study yet, have you?"
"Oh, lord." Bodie groaned as he dropped his hand to his lap and closed his eyes. "Not now, sir, not when I know you have to leave in a bit."
"Aye, so what about Ray then?"
"Ray's a different fantasy, sir, a man of pure heat and passion and a roller coaster in need of both protection and handling. He needs me and I need him. We watch each other's back in the middle of gunfights and he knows what I'm going to say or do sometimes even before I do. I've never known anyone quite like Ray Doyle. He fills me up with purpose and tells me where to get off. He's my best mate."
"I've always envied him."
"Because he has more of you than I do."
Leaning forward, Bodie shook his head. "That's not true, not exactly. I spend more time with him, yeah, but he's not got more of my heart than you do, just a different part of it."
"And neither one of us alone is enough for you?"
Saddened by the truth of it, Bodie nodded. "It would seem so, yeah. I'm not sure why, but there it is. I'm a greedy bastard, but I've never denied that. I want you both."
"I can share you, if that's what you need, but we both know Doyle. The only man I know less likely to share is you."
"You calling me selfish, George?"
"Aye, but I'm used to it. I think it's a requirement for most CI5 agents. Ross even has a mathematical graph or something to prove it."
"Must be true if Ross says so. Bloody numbers don't lie, do they. Count on them more than people sometimes. You're forgiven then." His voice lowered and became more serious. "Thing is, I'm not sure how Ray's going to act, am I? He could kiss me or shoot me at this point. He surprised the hell out of me by just saying he loved me."
"You really never suspected?"
"Yeah, some super secret agent, eh? Can't even suss out my own partner. Still, he's been bloody patient through all this."
"No dispute there."
"I don't want to lose you, but I can't lose Ray and I will if I don't tell him. Besides, he'll find out anyway."
"Aye. Trying to keep a secret from Ray Doyle is like sticking your finger in a loaded gun about to fire. Tell him the truth, lad."
"And if I just wait?"
"Then the gun goes off in all our faces."
"How the hell did you get in here, you bastard? They changed the locks just last week."
"Good to see you, too, Ray? Want a beer then?"
Ray slammed the door behind him and remained silent, his eyes narrowed and forehead scrunched as he hung up his coat. He turned around and put his hands on his hips before he spoke. "So, you've decided to finally come home, have you?"
"I'm sorry, Ray. I really am. But I just had to get away for a bit, didn't I. Too much going on inside me, eh?" He remained seated, his head lowered, his good hand at his mouth. The ache in his gut matched his partner's twisted and angry features.
Wetting his lips, his body relaxing just a little, Ray sat down and crossed his legs. After a few moments, he asked, "You look a lot better than when I last saw you."
"Thanks. Feel better, too."
"When did you get back then?"
"Been to Cowley's, have you?"
His head jerked up to meet accusing eyes, the look a cross between rage and sorrow. "Jesus, Ray. What do you know about it?"
"I know that Dr. James Logan put out paper saying you were a danger to yourself and others and Cowley pulled it. I know Logan, despite being the old man's nephew, is going to have his ass buggered and shredded before it's over."
"He deserves whatever he gets, Ray."
"Maybe. We'll talk about that bit later. Did you stay at Cowley's the whole time?"
"At his place in the Highlands and then last night here in London, yeah."
"So, it's true then?"
"That you trust him more than you do me to protect you?"
"It's not like that." Bodie watched as his friend stood up and walked to the window, his arms crossed, his whole body tense. "I didn't want you to see me like that."
"Why's it okay for Cowley to see you go through hard times and not me? I don't get that."
"I don't know how to explain it."
"You'd better bloody well try, mate."
His throat dry, the words dragged hard against his tongue. "Your eyes magnified every pain, Ray. Every time I looked at you, I saw the misery multiplied a hundred times over. It was just too hard knowing that I caused that."
Ray turned and shook his head. "You're a nutter for sure, sunshine."
"I've never disputed it, did I."
His partner came back to the couch and kneeled beside him, his hand on his knee, the touch electric. "Sure it hurt to see you in a state, battered like you were, but hell, nothing sliced me worse than you shutting me out, running away like you did."
"Hell, Ray, smash my face in why don't ya? Damn it. I'm sorry."
"You should be, mate. It's been bloody lonely here without you." Very slowly, Ray Doyle lowered and rested his head on Bodie's thigh.
Running his fingers through thick curls, he found his hand shaking even more as his partner rose and settled beside him. Arms pulled him close, the embrace a comfort as he offered no resistance. "Don't ever do that again, Bodie. I can handle just about anything except you leaving me."
"I won't, Ray." One hand stroked up and down his back while the other one held him even tighter. "I really am sorry."
"I know, but you ever do that again and I'll have to hunt you down and shoot you myself. Got that then?"
"I've got it."
Pulling back, Ray used his fingers to straighten the wild hairs at the base of his neck, just above his turtleneck. His hand froze suddenly and his eyes met Bodie's once again. This time only anger flashed. "You bastard."
"Let me explain, Ray."
"Explain what? That you've been with someone else? Jesus." He stood up and paced several times before he hissed. "Please, tell me you're not fucking Cowley."
"He's fucking you then? Bloody hell, Bodie, you son of a bitch. Why are you even here then?"
"Because I need you, Ray."
Too stunned to continue ranting, he stood hands out, his voice suddenly much smaller. "Tell me, Bodie. Were you going to sleep with me first and then tell me?"
"I was going to tell you."
"I wanted to explain first."
"Explain how I need you both."
"You're out of your bleedin' mind, sunshine. Gone right daft, you have. Become a complete nutter before my very eyes."
The stubborn air slowed in his lungs as he tried to form the right words, the phrases to explain what he couldn't understand completely himself. "You're my other half, Ray. I need you as much as need to keep breathing."
"You did all right for over a bloody month, no letter, not even a fucking call to say bugger off."
"I know, but I wanted sorting out, didn't I? It's scary to figure out that everything I've ever believed about myself, about my life, is totally wrong. It's hard to admit that even to myself, much less to someone like you."
Sighing, his rapid anger shrinking to mere puffs, he sat down. "What are you on about then?"
"You wear your heart on your sleeve, don't you, mate. Always telling what you feel, what I feel, but I don't do that, never have. It's hard to say what's going on inside me sometimes. I hide it all away, even from myself. Put the bloody beasts in cages, don't I. Scared of what I might find if I ever let the monsters out to run wild."
Doyle nodded, his face still flushed, but calming. "Yeah, well, you've had more to deal with than most blokes, haven't you? Still, it's no excuse. I still don't understand how this fits with you and Cowley and then you flaunting it in my face, not when you know I love you."
"I'm not flaunting it, Ray. I just wanted you to understand. I need him for a different reason than I need you."
"Be serious, Bodie."
"I am, Ray. I can't fully explain it, but when I'm with him, there's an order in my life. Somehow, being a soldier, he understands some of the things I've been through and helps me deal with it."
Sighing deeply, his hand rubbing his forehead, Doyle spoke more quietly than before. "And I can't do that?"
"No. I know you want to, but you can't. What we have is totally different. We're best mates and partners. George is, well, to be honest, I'm not quite sure what George is. I just know he helps me keep the darker side away, makes me work harder to be the man he thinks I am."
"God, Bodie. This is crazy. You actually expect me to share you?"
"Yeah, but I'd understand if you said no."
"What would you do if I did then?"
Bodie stood, his back leaned against the wall, his right arm folded over the sling. "I'd have to quit CI5 and we'd go somewhere. Don't know where, do I? But I couldn't work for him and not be able to be with him like I have been. Just couldn't do it, Ray. Sorry, but there it is."
"But you'd choose me over Cowley?"
"If I have to, yeah. I'd rather try to work it out though, wouldn't I."
"And does Cowley know this?"
"Yeah. He's a little worried about you, Ray. Thinks you're going to be a real selfish stickler when it comes to sharing."
"Nobody ever accused George Cowley of being stupid, did they?"
After a long pause, Ray met his eyes. "So, what do we do here, Bodie? I don't want to lose you."
"And I can't lose you either."
"And yet you still want Cowley, too?"
"God, you're a greedy bastard."
"Yeah, sunshine, pretty much."
"I've been thinking."
Bodie groaned into the pillow and rolled over onto his back to stare up into Ray's tired eyes. "What time is it?"
"Three or somewhere around there. Look, I have to know some things before I decide about this."
He rubbed his eyes, the blurriness clearing very slowly in the low light. "You want to get up to talk then?"
"No, here's fine." Ray stretched out beside him under the covers, his head resting on his upraised hand. His partner's free hand rubbed lazily and lightly up and down Bodie's chest, the warm touch slowly waking up the rest of his body. "I need to know that what we say in private stays that way."
Bodie touched the side of his friend's face, the stubble against his finger tips easy fire and tingles. "That's a given, sunshine. It works the other way, too, eh. What George and I do has nothing to do with us either."
"Totally separate, just like that?"
"Has to be. The work's the same way. On the job George is Mr. Cowley, no special favors, for either of us."
"And you can do that?"
"Have to." Bodie combed his fingers through the loose curls and found Ray's face leaning closer, his breath scented with an earlier lager.
"I just want you to be happy." His lips barely touched his, the smooth skin slicked by a shy tongue. "I'm afraid of losing you, Bodie." A whisper of a kiss punctuated the sentence before he pulled away.
"You won't, Ray." He placed his open palm over his partner's heart. "We can leave together any time you ask. It would be hard, but I could do it. We could go wherever you wanted. No questions."
"And what about Cowley? You'd just leave him?"
"If I had to, but he understands about us."
"He's a better bloke than I am then. I couldn't stand knowing you could just walk away anytime like that. God, he must be as crazy as you are."
"Or as lonely."
Ray shook his head, his eyes watching Bodie's. "I don't know what I hate worse, thinking about Cowley being lonely or thinking about Cowley with you, making love to you, being close to you like we are."
The pain in the voice coupled with the too bright eyes tightened his throat. "Try not to think about that part, Ray. Please."
Eyes met as Ray shifted his body closer, a low growl in his throat. "Make me forget, Bodie."
A long leg slid up and over his thigh, the slow movement heating his skin to fire, his belly suddenly tight. Fingers tweaked his left nipple, the hardening only a little slower than his cock, the swell a sweet tugging of muscle. Breathing more labored, Bodie found his voice hiding, too husky not to drag against raw tissue. "We're the only ones here, Ray. Just us."
Bringing himself up onto all fours, Ray quickly spread the larger man's legs to kneel between them, his hands on both sides of his head. Lowering himself slowly, his mouth captured ready lips. His head pushed back, Bodie sucked in the invading tongue, the sweetness made stronger as Ray stretched out his weight over him, the bulk, cock to cock, like possession.
His body shuddered as Ray lifted and wrapped his hand around him, pumping in rhythm as he ravaged his neck, nibbled his earlobes, nipped at his nipples, one and then the other while his body worked against his groin. Whiskers scraped his own and then burned the enflamed nubs being squeezed, devoured, and tortured. Eyes clenched shut he swam in sensation, rolling waves building tighter and more tense across his stomach, his back arching up to Ray's drawing away. Loud roaring grew stronger, stressing and spreading like black swarms against wild storming, grey clouds swimming up and expanding, warping sound to echoes, dark transmuting to rainbows dizzy with spirals. Nothing stayed still or quiet, everything exploding into pressure, bones expanding, tissues swollen to bursting. Deep inside him trails of pleasure collided between his legs and surged in all directions, his thighs, his gut, his spine whirling wheel-like and then slowing.
Ray controlled his strokes, alternating, not steady, letting momentum grow and then switching to keep him off balance. Near the edge of coming, his balls drawing up, his partner would bite down on his throat, lick, and change one more time. His mind flashed into spinning red rays laced with golden halos as the air coated his lungs with melted glass, streams running flashes to his spine. Words and thoughts failed him, his skull brittle and dusty, throbbing in cadence to Ray's touches, his licks, his incantations of Bodie.
Finally his thrusting allowed to even, ripples collected to quakes to spasms. His whole body shook, Ray's cock still thrusting against him, his teeth still raking his shoulder and chin. The salty grab of his own blood washed against his tongue as he bit his lower lip to keep from screaming. White erupted around him, his head shattering with light pulsing out from his center, all wails silenced, suspended and held by his partner's true grip and favor.
Sweat slicked and still panting, he moaned into damp curls lying on his chest, too tired to speak.
Weight shifted as Ray moved over to his side, bringing a blanket up to cover them both. A strong hand caressed his cheek, a thumb wiping the blood from his mouth. "God, sunshine, what have you done here?"
"Couldn't tell you. Too busy keeping my bloody head from exploding."
Full lips curled, Ray's face still near his. "Do you have any idea how long I've been wanted to do that?"
"Since about the first time I saw you. You got up my nose, but there was just something about you that made me want to do you right away."
"So why did you take so long to tell me?"
"Couldn't risk it, could I?"
"Couldn't risk what?"
"Having you say no."
Bodie turned his head and kissed the palm of the man who loved him, his own heart stirring, making new noises. "You would've been surprised, sunshine."
"I'm always surprised when it comes to you, mate." He scooted down and pulled Bodie in closer, both bodies snuggled together, Ray's arms around the larger man's shoulders. Gently he stroked his hair, the pets soothing, his muscles loosening with every touch. "Now, just settle a bit. I can feel your heart about ready to pound out of your chest."
"Not my fault, now is it?"
"Not bloody likely."
Chuckling, Ray rested his head back, his curls rounded out from his face on the pillow. "I'm knackered and I've got a right load of records to sort through in the morning. Bloody paper work's been my life for over a month now."
"Don't be. Wasn't fit to be on active duty, now was I. My fault, mate, not yours. Let my head get too cluttered up with fear and frustration. Too afraid of losing you, that's what I was. Made Mad Tommy look a right sane berk."
"You never say it, but I know you love me and that makes whatever decision I make worth the pain that comes with it."
Bodie turned slightly, his face lying over his lover's heart. "I never wanted to hurt you, Ray, not ever."
"I know that." He took Bodie's hand and spoke in a whisper. "Go to sleep, sunshine. You're with me. All the other bloody details don't matter right now, do they."
"You're sure, Ray?"
"As sure as I am that I love you."
A light kiss teased his ear as he drifted, the even sounds of his partner's heartbeat like stolen promises from the lips of his past. In his mind trust ran wild, panicked and raving, settling slowly, tamed only by both his lovers' patient hands. Drawing his knees up, embraced in Ray's strong arms for the night, Bodie eased a part of himself out of one more of his unlocked cages.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Chalk and Cheese 19, Agent With Style, 1999, along with the other two parts of the series.