Cat Tales



Writing a preface to your work is a little like having to explain yourself: "What I meant was..." Karen suggested I talk about my reasons for writing CAT TALES, and for doing the zine. I said: "That'll take about a paragraph."

I wrote the original story as a birthday gift, never intending to go any farther. The idea came from two people almost simultaneously - Karen and Bert (and I thank them both). The impetus came from the death of a beloved cat - Beelzy's prototype. Thus, writing these stories became a sort of therapy for me. Once I realized that "Cat Tales" had spawned a universe, I thought seriously about putting the collected stories together in zine form as a way of ensuring that they would be read in order and as a whole. I was also vain enough to want to see them illoed.

Quite a few people have asked for references. I couldn't hope to provide a comprehensive list of sources or inspirations, but I am happy to share with you all some very basic titles:

The Spiral Dance - Starhawk

The White Goddess - Graves

The Masks of God: Creative Mythology - Campbell

The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology - Campbell

Witchcraft Today - Gardner

Messages from Michael - Yarbro

Celtic Myth and Legend - Squire

The Mabinogion (There are quite a few translations of this work. A particularly attractive volume is available from Dragon's Dream, translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones and beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee.)

Other inspiration was provided by: Robin of Sherwood (both of them, but Praed's Robin in particular), Moonheart - Charles DeLint, The Horse Goddess & Bard - Morgan Llywelyn, The Mists of Avalon - Bradley, the works of Charles Williams and JRR Tolkien (of course).

A painfully funny work by Edward Gorey called "The Unstrung Harp or: Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel" which kept me going. The music of Alan Stivell, Silly Wizard, Bowzabella, Clannad, The Chieftains, Kitaro, Julia Ecklar, Mannheim Steamroller, W.A.

Mozart & J.S. Bach. And, last but not least, the Boys.

Finally, the dedications: To Karen - thanks for the help, the advice, the know. To all my fellow travellers - we may not walk the same path, but we are moving ahead. To Rusty who has filled an empty space. And to Sandy - nothing is forgotten.

Beltaine 1986


I see Fanny has left me a mere half page in which to write my editorial - bloody typical, that. If she weren't such a damn fine writer...

Well. It's done. Finally. Didn't think it would be, about 2 months ago, when hardly any of the artwork was done, and there were still 7 stories to write, but everyone came through. And I have to say; that I have never been so excited about any other zine I've produced. I love CAT TALES - I hope all of you will too. And that you'll write and tell us what you thought of it - whether you loved it, hated it, or were just confused by it. (Don't ask Fanny to explain anything, though, because it's useless. I know. I've tried.) Many many thanks are due our artists - Pat Cash, TACS and Karen Eaton.

There was another artist but I forget the name - Jean somebody.

Many apologies are due all the Library members and my correspondents who have been virtually ignored for the last two months - I'll catch up on everything soon, honest!

And since Fanny listed her inspirations, it's only fair to list mine - for making the editing, the typing, proofreading, correcting, etc. much easier, my thanks to Alan Stivell, Silly Wizard, Blowzabella, Mannheim Steamroller (is all this sounding familiar?), and Clannad, for providing me with lovely music that made all the scut work more bearable. Visually this zine was put together in front of Knightriders, Robin of Sherwood, various Professionals episodes, and many baseball games. Fanny threatened me that if I mentioned the Cubs she'd hit me and not be my friend anymore, so I said I wouldn't mention them. The Cubs, that is.

There isn't much point in doing an actual masthead, since all the production work was done by just the two of us, but I do want to mention our printers, Express Press of Glen Ellyn, and say thank you for doing such a lovely job on such short notice.

Enough of this rambling - there's a zine to read here. I hope you like it.

I hope you enjoy the more unusual aspects of these stories. I hope you understand at least some of it! And I hope you'll let us know what you felt/thought/experienced as you read it.

Karen Brandl

Cat Tales

When I joined CI5 I was told I'd eventually be partnered, and would work as half of a team from then on. That wasn't so much a surprise as a disappointment, since I'd hoped to work solo. I'm not much for deferring to another bloke when the result might cost me my life, and even when I was in the military, even when I was in Africa, when you worked with the team or you didn't last long (professionally in the former case and literally in the latter) I was always sure that number one, me, Bodie, was the one I looked out for first. That's my law of survival - make sure Bodie okay, then worry about the others. Anyway, that's the way the others worked too. I mean, it 's the way the world works, right? So the sooner you learn the rule, the longer you'll live.

Well, I talked meself blue in the face, and that mean bugger Cowley nodded and smiled like he agreed with every word I said and then informed me that I was to report of Neddy Bastable (the Bastard, they called him) at seven o' clock Monday morning to meet my new partner, one Raymond Doyle, and to begin training as a team. I was not amused.

I was there, feeling apprehensive and very wide-awake, when my new 'partner' strolled in at two minutes to seven, looking like he'd only just rolled out of bed. In fact, he resembled nothing more than an unmade bed, all rumpled curls and dreadful clothes, and a battery-driven shaver buzzing away in his left hand like a nest of angry bees. "Hullo," he said, "you Bodie, then?"

I gave him my most disdainful look and nodded. "'Ave I time for a cup of coffee?"

The Bastard came up behind him. "You're not going to have time for anything, my son," he told Doyle rather unpleasantly, "not for a long, long time."

"Then maybe I should use the bog now," Doyle commented, switching off the razor and smiling seraphically. He disappeared for a few minutes, and when he came back he was clad in a black t-shirt, which did nothing for him, and a pair of ratty old jeans, which left nothing to the imagination. He went beyond sexy, this one, right to fantasy. By rights he should have been ugly, with a round battered face and messy golden-brown curls, but he had beautifully expressive green eyes, a mouth that begged to be not just kissed but devoured, and an air about him that made you think he was easily the most gorgeous creature on the face of the earth. He also had a walk that was nothing short of immoral. In fact, I found that each time he walked away from me I was in real danger of exposing some of my less orthodox preferences. My first impression of him as the original well-used bed was quickly being replaced by one of Ray Doyle as something well used in a well-used bed.

I had to admit, by the end of the day, that my apprehension was unwarranted in the area of Doyle's incompetence. He was nothing if not razor sharp and very well trained. He was a smart bugger and he knew it, but what I found most unnerving was the air of independence about him that seemed to say, 'I accept you as my partner because I choose to, but should I change my mind, you're out.' He reminded me of my mum's old cat, Marmalade Sam, the most independent little monster on four legs. Funny I should think of Sam after all these years. Anyway, after the first day of learning (or trying to learn) to think of Doyle as a sort of appendage to myself, I was wondering if it wouldn't be better just to pack it in and head back to Angola. It wasn't that I disliked him, mind, but he made me uneasy. I had the feeling he already knew what was going on in my mind, and that it amused him tremendously. It's not I minded him knowing - I'm not shy about asking for what I want, but I didn't like being treated with amused tolerance.

I was on my way to my car when I heard a whistle. I turned and there was Doyle, leaning against the building, studying me in that way he had. "Fancy a drink?" he asked.

"Don't answer to whistles, " I said, turning away rather against my will because there was something compelling about that skinny figure draped so artistically against the wall. Then there was a low wolf-whistle that stopped me in my tracks and made me grain despite myself. "Fancy anything else, 'andsome?" He was very close to me and I wondered how he'd got there without my hearing him. Again I thought of Sam and shook my head, realizing that somehow, during the exhausting day we'd put in, Doyle had managed to make me believe we were partners. He'd not only made me accept him, but also made me feel something for him that I couldn't quite identify. All the same I was comfortable with him. Nice, that.

"What 'ave you in mind?" I asked, as he fell into step beside me.

"Chicken and chips?"

I would have guessed fish, but perhaps that was because I kept having this mental image of Marmalade Sam hunched over my uncle's aquarium.

So that was the end of my objections to being partnered, though I did - from time to time - complain about having to watch Doyle's back when I should be guarding my own. "What is it I'm supposed to do, then?" he'd ask, cool as anything. Truth was, I trusted him to guard my back almost from the beginning. What worried me was I was feeling protective, and that's deadly.

Start worrying about someone else and they become a liability, don't they.

But Doyle inspired something in me that I thought myself incapable of. And so we worked together, coming to think as one person, to trust each other...and in my case at least, to love.

Oh, from time to time I though about tripping him. Sometimes it seemed he'd welcome an advance, and I wove elaborate plots to bring him into my bed. I passed many dull hours thinking about seducing him. And they lived happily ever after...

But other times I saw something in Ray that warned me off. It wasn't so much the 'look-but-don't-touch' feeling he gave off at times; that was an open invitation to storm the bastions if one dared. No, it was something deeper, something troubling. I could never quite put my finger on it, but it was something, which kept me firmly in my place. I could work with him, and I could care about him, but I couldn't go the last yard - I couldn't make him a part of myself.

And so passed three years of one of the more successful partnerships in CI5.

Then in early Spring of 1980 something went wrong with each of us. Ray began to seem restless, as though he expected something nasty to happen, but he wouldn't tell me what it was. He's an independent sort, like I said, and handles his troubles on his own, never asking for sympathy or help from anyone. This wasn't the first time he'd acted this was, but just once I wished he'd let me help. It's not like I had designs on his virtue either, because I reckoned that path was closed to me. Maybe I was being selfish because I wanted him to know how much I cared about him and I thought this was the only way I could let him know. But just to be able to say to him, 'Why don't you tell me about it? Want to talk about it?' and have him lean on me a little...that'd be bloody wonderful; make me feel like I'm doing for him what he does for me, make me feel like I'm giving him something valuable.

As for me, well it had been a bad year. Marikka was gone and I found it hard not to blame myself. She'd been a bright spot in my life - seeing her there still and empty drained the joy out of me. And there was no one I could turn to, really. Ray couldn't have understood what it was I'd lost - what I was mourning. I barely understood it myself.

I let it eat at me, and I guess I let it eat at our relationship as well because I began to feel as though there was no 'us' any longer. We felt further apart that Spring than we had on the day we met.

I came through in one piece, thought there were some who thought otherwise for a time - Kate Ross most notably. Wasn't all that sure about me and Doyle though. After the King Billy business, after all the loose ends were tied up, Ray became more remote than ever. As a working partner he was beyond reproach. As a friend...well, I've had enemies I've felt closer to.

We carried on seemingly much as before, though not really connecting.

Then he asked the Cow for a week off. Odd thing is, Cowley told me, not Doyle. I had to find out from our boss that my partner asked for leave for 'health reasons'. I didn't like that one little bit, and stormed out of the office, conveniently not hearing Cowley ordering me to leave Doyle alone to work out his problems for himself. Silly old sod, did he really believe I could do that?

I raced over to Doyle's and leaned on the buzzer for what seemed like hours before I had the idea that maybe he wasn't home. I looked for the car he was using this month and saw it parked a little way down from the corner.

He was hoe, but he wasn't answering. All right, I thought, maybe he needs help; I'd better rush to the rescue. I let myself in with my key.

This time it was Doyle who wasn't amused. "What the hell do you want?" he demanded. He was sitting on the sofa, all curled up and scowling, his eyes glittering like an angry cat's.

"Thought you might need some help," I offered. It was lame, but I didn't care. He looked feverish. "You okay?"


"No or yes?"

"Both. I'm coming down with something, I think, but nothing serious; nothing I haven't been through before."


"Nah. Don't worry."

"Then I'll stay." I sat down at the opposite end of the sofa and we stared at each other for a few minutes. "Ray, why won't you tell me what's bothering you?"

He tipped his head sideways and looked at me for a long moment in a cool, measuring way. "What do you think the problem is?" he asked in a voice so low I could barely hear it.

I thought about the question for a while. "I think it's this business with King Billy." I blurted out, fastening on the thing that had seemed to precipitate this mess.

To my surprise, he chuckled. It was a mirthless sound, and not at all what I'd expected. "You're right, of course. You know me pretty well, Bodie."

It couldn't be that easy, though. With Ray, it was never that easy. "And,"

I prompted.


"Don't you want to talk about it? You can't forgive me, can you?"

"No." Impossibly blunt.

"I see," I lied. "Well, perhaps I'd better push off, then. You going away for the week?"


"See you in a week, then," I said, preparing to let myself out.

"Bodie, I lied. If there was anything to forgive, I'd do it. It's not you, it's me," he offered as a not-very-successful sop to my hurt feelings.

What an ass I am. And it gets worse.

About three days later, I was driving by his flat...accidentally on purpose, and I saw his car sitting outside, so I decided to stop and ask him out for a drink. He couldn't still be moping, and if he was, well, I'd soon pull him out of it. What are friends for, after all?

This time I just used my key, ringing only to tell him I was on my way up (little code we use - saves us no end of frustration where birds are concerned)), but when I entered the flat I found no sign of him. The flat had a musty, sour sort of smell, as though it had been shut up for several days, which apparently it had. As I was looking around I noticed two large bowls on the floor - one half full of water and the other with a little dry food in it. Then I noticed the source of the sour smell - a well-used litter box in the bathroom. Doyle didn't have a cat last time I was here...did he?

Well, he had one now, judging by the state of the litter. I cleaned out the box, wondering why I bothered to do this for the invisible cat of my ungrateful partner...and remembering Marmalade Sam; how he used to wind around my legs whenever I fed him. So I went into the kitchen and put out fresh water and refilled the food bowl. Why the hell hadn't Doyle asked me to come over and take care of his sodding cat? His sodding invisible cat?

"Puss?" I called. "Puss? Here kitty..."

A big, ginger-coloured tomcat strolled out of the bedroom and stretched luxuriously about a foot away from where my hand was extended to him. He looked at me for a moment, head tilted to the side, and I was reminded of Doyle giving me the same sort of look a few days before.

The cat marched past me, ignoring the hand of friendship, and into the kitchen, where he ate a few bites and drank a little water. Then he brushed against my legs once and ran into the bedroom. I followed him, fascinated by this ginger-puss with green-green eyes.

He'd jumped up onto the bed and was rolling around in the rumpled duvet in what would have been open invitation had he been human. I noticed, as I sat down on the side of the bed, that the duvet cover had been torn and chewed.

"Raymond won't like that, puss," I said, stroking the soft fur on his belly.

Curtains were shredded, too. In fact, there were bits of material scattered all over the bedroom. Looked as if ginger-puss had had a wild few days of it. He was rolling around, purring just as loud as he could, when suddenly he gave me a bloody great nip on the wrist and took off like a bat out of hell. Cats are such bloody-minded, perverse little sods. Why the hell are they so appealing?

"Halloween give you ideas, did it?" I called after him, knowing sarcasm wouldn't be lost on a subtle creature like a cat. Dogs you can insult 'til you turn blue and they still try to drool all over you.

No, Ray wasn't going to be at all happy about the mess. I lay back against the pillows, one of which leaking feathers at an alarming rate, and saw that the mirror on the dresser opposite the bed had been cracked, and everything on the dresser was broken or scattered. I sighed, wondering what would become of the cat when Ray discovered the damage. He wasn't the type to take kindly to his things being destroyed, but then, he wasn't the type to keep a cat either. This was very odd. Perhaps the cat belonged to a friend. But that couldn't be right either - why would someone leave a cat with someone who wasn't going to be home for a week?

"'Sn't your business, old son," I reminded myself. I knew I should leave, but somehow being here, in this quiet (and nearly demolished) flat made me feel closer to Ray than I'd felt in a long time. The remains of the pillow had a strong scent of Doyle on it, and without thinking, I pulled it up over my face and breathed in the scent of him - aromatic wood, citrus and musk.

Talk about your aphrodisiacs! I knew I should stop, but it was so tempting to pretend he was here with me that I shut my eyes and went on pretending.

The path may have been closed, but there was no reason why I shouldn't explore it in my dreams.

I could almost feel him in my arms, feel him against me, and I found that my trousers were becoming uncomfortably tight across the crotch. Oh Christ, I wasn't going to jerk off in Ray's bed! But then I though, what was the difference? I'd do it with a bird, pretending that it was Ray moving against me, Ray I was entering, filling...possessing. So I slid my zip down and wrapped my hand around myself, not bothering to make it any more than a quick, joyless, almost furtive climax. I pulled the pillow away from my face and tossed it on the floor. And I felt more alone than I'd ever felt in my life.

I wasn't though. Somehow, in the middle of that lurid little tragi-comedy, ginger cat had managed to leap up on the foot of the bed without attracting my attention. He was watching me with a look that spoke of tolerant, even affectionate amusement.

"Meow!" he said, very loud.

"I'm glad you think so," I replied, cleaning myself with some tissues I found in the cabinet beside the bed.

"Grrrowowol." He stalked up and sat beside me, watching my hand mopping up the evidence, and the light in his eyes made me tuck my cock back into my cords and zip up quickly. I was not about to be mistaken for a slightly limp mouse!

Then he stepped up onto my stomach. "Hey," I said, by way of protest, but he glared down at me with those familiar green eyes and I gave in to the inevitable once again.

"Mrrrrowp," he commented as he danced on my chest, making starfish paws.

Then he settled down, his nose nudging my chin, and began to purr. Was nice, that. And I didn't feel so alone anymore. I decided, as I began to fall asleep, that if Doyle was going to get rid of ginger-cat, I'd take him.

The smell of food woke me. I stumbled out to the kitchen and found Doyle frying bacon and eggs. "When did you get in?" I asked, feeling muzzy and disorientated.

"About four this morning. Have some juice."

"What's the time?"

"Gone nine. I called in and told them you'd be late."

"Wasn't due until noon anyway," I told him, settling leadenly into a cold chair. "Where's the cat?" I asked, missing my new friend.

Doyle gave me a brief, unreadable look. "Out. He wanted to go so I let him."

"I didn't know you had a cat."

"I don't," he explained, filling two large plates and putting them on the table. "I took him in the day I went away. He was cold and wanted to stay, so I left him here. Judging from the state of things, that was a mistake.

It's better he's gone."

I felt unaccountably forlorn. "I liked him," I said, sounding a bit sulky.

"Go and buy a kitten; stay away from strays like that," he advised. "They have nasty habits."

"Well, they like company too, don't they? He didn't hurt anything while I was here."

"Except your wrist," Doyle added.

"Yeh. 'Ere, how'd you know that?"

"He told me," Ray said, very sarky. "I see the bite mark, Bodie. Unless you've a kinky new bird with tiny incisors, I'd say it was Beelzy."


"Beelzebub. My own personal devil."

"Me mum 'ad one like him," I said, tucking into breakfast, wondering where Beelzy was now. I missed him. "Called him Marmalade Sam."

Beelzy didn't come back. When Ray moved house I felt sort of sorry because I was sure we'd never see the old reprobate again. Funny, afterglow was never better than with Beelzy.

After that, things were better between us. It was as if we had found our way back to the way we'd been. Then Ray fell in love.

It was hard to stand by and watch. It was hard for me to think of losing him, but how do you lose something you've never had? Christ but I hated that woman! Oh, there was nothing wrong with Ann - I would have hated anyone, man or woman, who claimed the piece of Ray I coveted - his heart.

In the end, of course, they parted, and Ray didn't seem any the worse for the experience.

I was occasionally aware of him wrestling with some problem or other, but since he never asked for my help, I never offered it. From time to time he went off by himself for a few days, and each time he told me in advance so I wouldn't have to have the news from Cowley. Thoughtful. Each time he came back, he seemed more relaxed than when he left. I puzzled over that one for a while, but eventually set it down to one of Ray's little idiosyncrasies and forgot it as best I could.

Spring arrived and he seemed happy about it, even suggestion that we take a week's leave and go away somewhere. It was rare for us to plan a quiet weekend like this - no birds, no real plans to speak of. Made me feel good to know that Ray still enjoyed my company enough to go on holiday with me.

I was quite flattered by the attention, so I let him choose the place - which was the New Forest - and the time, which was around the first of May.

He was very insistent, but when I questioned him, he just said, "Humour me, Bodie." Strewth, I would've gone anywhere.

We motored down on the twenty-ninth, stopping at a place Ray chose, a little inn called The Dancing Maiden. "You're lucky you called, Ray," the innkeeper told him as he signed the register. "We're booked up now. All I can give you is a double." He was a tall solid man with white hair and glasses.

"That's fine, John," Ray assured him. He had a quirky little smile playing around the corners of his mouth, that the innkeeper seemed suddenly to catch.

"Glad to be of service. Breakfast tomorrow?"


"About nine?"


"You know where the room is," John told him, dangling a key from his forefinger. Ray took the key and turned to lead me upstairs, when he was ambushed from behind by a round, jolly-looking woman.

"Ray Doyle!" she exclaimed in a rich alto voice. "Don't you dare sneak off without giving me a kiss - it's not friendly."

"Ah, Janie me darlin', and in front of your husband too?" He slid his arms around her ample, motherly figure and kissed her on the mouth, making her giggle.

"I always did say that next to my Johnnie you were the best kisser in England." She smoothed her apron. "And who is this?"

"This is Bodie, my partner and very special friend."

"Oh," she said, as if this explained something I had yet to catch. She and her husband were looking at me very strangely, almost glowing with a sort of parental approval. I felt like the boy-friend being considered as potential husband material, and wanted to assure them I'd always take good care of their little Raymond, supporting him in the manner to which he was accustomed. "Well, in that case, I'd better get back to the kitchen and make a proper supper for the two of you. You look hungry."

"She means we're too skinny." Ray whispered to me, just loud enough to be heard.

"No, lad, I mean you're too skinny. Your friend is just right. A good solid man who doesn't break when well-used."

"Oh, I'm counting on that," Ray said, starting up the stairs. His remark rattled me so much I forgot to admire the view as I followed him.

"Ahmmm, Ray?"

He was opening the door. "Hmmm?" He didn't turn around, but continued on into a whitewashed, beamed room untouched by time since...Nell Gwynne and Charles romped here, no doubt.

"Nice room," I observed, forgetting for a moment what I had meant to say.

Ray reminded me.

"Nice bed, eh?"

"You've been here before." I hoped he'd feel like elaborating, which he did, a little.

"Oh yeh, many times. I come here to get away from it all."

"Come here when you...ah..." How to ask about something he'd never really told me?

"Yes, I do now."

I was feeling very depressed suddenly, and I sat down on the side of the bed. Ray stood beside the wardrobe where he had been stowing our gear, and looked at me for a few moments. Then he sat beside me.

"After we have dinner, I'll tell you all about myself, okay?"

"I'm not prying," I told him, with real feeling.

"Didn't say you were, did I, sunshine? C'mon then, let's eat." He grabbed my hand and hauled me up and out of the room.

Janie had done us a nice late supper of salmon, wild mushrooms with the taste of the Forest - dark and mysterious, a salad that tasted as though it had been fresh-picked, and a bottle of wine without a label. Was delicious.

"Chateau Jane?"

"John. Hobby," Ray explained.

"Have you known them long?" I asked, feeling unaccountably awkward.

"Several years. They're nice, aren't they?"

What I wanted to say was that Ray seemed too nice. This place, the all seemed too perfect, as though the moment I relaxed it would all be snatched away from me again.

It never pays to anticipate.

"We've had a better year," Ray remarked, jerking me out of my musings.

"Better than the one before, I mean. I think things happen in cycles, don't you?"

"Mmm?" I hadn't the vaguest notion what he was on about, but I loved listening to him when he was so terribly serious and philosophical.

"What I mean is - life has good things and bad things and sometimes it's more of one than another - long stretches, I mean."

"That's luck, sunshine," I told him, spearing the last of his mushrooms and popping them into my mouth.

"Nah, I don't believe that. I think this sort of thing has to do with cycles. The way you feel is cyclical, innit?"

"If you say so."

He grinned. "Stop me if I'm boring you."

"Often infuriating, never dull," I told him. "I like listening to your natterings. Makes me feel so superior."

We were not alone in the Common Room - there was a group of people singing near the fire, and a few other couples sharing bottles of Chateau Dancing Maiden. Felt nice, cosy. I almost told Ray I loved him, but fortunately the wine hadn't been quite potent enough to make me forget the proprieties.

I looked across the table at him, into those gorgeous green eyes, and for a moment I saw Beelzy grinning back at me.

"I wonder what happened to him?" I said, feeling sleepy and affectionate.


"Beelzy. I liked him. I wanted to take him home," I explained. Ray hauled me to my feet and steered me upstairs. I could have sworn that everyone in the Common Room wished us a good night and sweet dreams, but then I wasn't taking much in.

"Maybe you still can."

"That'd be nice - have a pet, nice kitty." We made it up the stairs, arms around each other. "You know I love you," I said as he fumbled with the key. Oh oh, Chateau D.M. claims another innocent victim. Drunk on one bottle of wine - I'd never live this down!

"Of course I do. I love you too, Bodie. That's why I brought you here."

I didn't quite understand the last bit, but he'd said he loved me too - what more could I ask for?

He'd finally got the door open and we fell through it, laughing madly. Ray shut the door. "You get in bed. I want to do a couple of things first," he ordered. So I stripped and climbed into the big old bed while he rummaged around in a bedside cabinet. What he found in there was a handful of deep-rose-coloured candles, which he placed all around the room, lighting them as he went. It made a handsome room absolutely beautiful, and made Ray almost unbearably so. By their light he turned golden. I felt something prickle behind my eyelids - Christ, to love someone so much...I slid down under the covers and noticed that while we were at supper someone had tied bunches of greenery to each of the bedposts and had pinned one to the headboard. I looked more closely - mistletoe! If what I was feeling had left any room for embarrassment, I would have been in agony, but just then my heart was very full, and it hurt a little. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to sleep, but Ray hauled the duvet down to the foot of the bed.

"'S cold!" I protested.

"I started a fire. You won't need the duvet," he promised.

"Ray..." I began, but he had begun to undress and I was bewitched by his performance, so unconsciously sensual and so provocative. Then I had to roll away to lie on my side so he couldn't see the effect he was having o me.

I felt the bed dip as he lay down. "This isn't a tease, you know," he whispered in my ear, then bit it gently. "I love you, Bodie. I brought you here to share the dance with me. Don't turn away from love."

Dear God, I thought, all my dreams come true at once. It was too much and I gasped as he ran his hands down my back, turning me gently to face him. I couldn't think of anything to do.

"You do want me, don't you?" He smelled wonderful - even the air smelled wonderful, full of musk and rose and patchouli.

"Yes," I managed, and would have said more, but his mouth covered mine then, and it was so sweet I thought I'd die of it. For a time I couldn't do much more but lie still and let him make love to me. He did it with great skill; but more, he did it with feeling, and I found myself returning his passion very freely.

I think that was the sweetest night of my life.

I woke up slowly, without the usual start of disorientation I have when I've slept in a strange place. Ray was curled up beside me, one leg thrown across mine. My Beelzy-Marmalade-Sam-ginger-can. Silly though, but nice.

The candles had all burned down to nothing as had the fire, but the morning light was pouring through the windows, passing through bevelled panes and hanging bits of crystal to make rainbows on the walls and ceiling. The spring breeze smelled faintly of flowers over a darker, more primal scent of earth and decay. A reminder, I though, turning carefully lest I wake Ray.

On the sill of one of the windows there was a deep pink cyclamen.

"Cyclamen in the bedroom window ensures a long and happy union," Ray said into my back.

"You a mind-reader now, as well?"

"As well as what?" He asked, climbing up to drape himself on top of me.

"As well as my beloved," I said, feeling romantic and silly.

"Oh good."

We kissed for a long time, and then there was a knock at the door. "It's gone ten, lads," came Janie's reminder from the hall. "Time for breakfast."

Before we could answer, she was in the room, bustling around, clearing up candle stumps. "Have to buy more of these," she said to herself. "Did they work then?"

"Oh, they worked," Ray assured her. "Perfectly." I was trying to pull the duvet up to cover myself and my early morning response to Ray's kisses, but it was all tangled around out legs and my wriggling made the tangle worse instead of better. Ray seemed unconcerned both by his nakedness and his erection.

She came over to the bed and kissed us both. "Welcome to the family," she said to me. Then she shook her head and smiled. "Oh, the sight and smell of young men takes me back..." She patted a wisp of red-brown hair into place and hurried out of the room, leaving me almost breathless with the force of her presence.

"Isn't she lovely?" Ray asked as he rolled on top of me again. He was moving in sweet, languid thrusts against me, each movement less a means to an end than an exquisite sensation in itself.

"She doesn't mind?"

"Two men? No, nobody here will. Love you," he whispered against my mouth.

"Love you, love you..."

Perfect way to start the day.

Over breakfast in our room, I finally felt brave enough to ask.



"Why now? Why me? Why here? I don't understand the whys of all this."

I expected him to be evasive, to make excuses. I expected him to rationalize away all those years I'd spend in the throes of unrequited love.

But he just smiled rather sadly.

"Why you? Couldn't have been anyone else, Bodie. No one else is a part of me the way you are. Why here? I feel safe here. I thought you might, too.

Why now? Why not before, you mean, don't you? Well, I did know you loved me before this. I also know you wanted me from the first."

"I thought you might have known," I admitted as I buttered a muffin to cover my nervousness.

"That might have been easy; we could have scratched that itch - I felt it too, Bodie," he confessed. "I've wanted you for a long time.

"But a year ago, I realized how very much I'd come to love you and it frightened me. What began as a determination to keep our relationship professional footing became almost a mania. All my arguments on why sex and business, or sex and friendship, won't mix were made inconsequential by the thing I found myself fighting."

"You needn't have on my account," I said wryly, mourning the lost years.

"That still doesn't answer the question why now?"

"I suppose because I'm ready to love you. I don't fear it any longer. I don't fear myself as much, and I know I needn't fear your reaction. I've known for a year now that you love me. It only wanted the right moment to happen."

"A year ago?" Why then, I wondered. "What happened a year ago? What did I do?"

"I have something to tell you, Bodie, and I don't know how you're going to take it."

My appetite fled. I put down the muffin I was about to bite into and wiped my mouth. "Tell me, then. Don't make me nervous with waiting."

"Okay." He put his fork down. "Straight out, then. You know I've got some sort of health problem that crops up from time to time. What you don't know is that it...oh hell, I don't know how to explain this."

"Just say it!" I demanded, feeling almost sick with anticipation.

"It doesn't have anything to do with my health really. It has to do with Beelzy. I'm Beelzy."

"What?" I felt like laughing, it was so outside of anything I could have anticipated. It was a good joke, if a little unorthodox.

"I'm a werecat."

"Oh yeh, and I'm Dracula. See the bite marks?" I asked, pointing to his neck and chest. "Very funny, Ray."

"It's not funny, Bodie, and it's the truth."

"Well, come to think of it, I never saw you and Beelzy together," I said with heavy sarcasm. The unnerving thing is that on a visceral level I already knew he had spoken truth. I'd always known that Ray Doyle was an odd 'un.

"I reckoned you wouldn't believe me right off. Do you remember that bite mark he gave you?"

"Yeah, and you saw the mark, you said so yourself. Pull the other one, Raymond my love." I sipped my coffee, wondering what was coming next.

"Do you remember what you did in my bed?" he asked and I felt myself go scarlet.

"What do you mean?"

"That was the first time I realized you loved me as much as I loved you."

"Oh, Christ..."

"I didn't want to upset you..."

Upset? He turns my life upside down and all he can call it is upset? My first response was anger - how could he do this to us? Warring with a fading hope that this was all some elaborate joke.

"Well thanks, but you seem to have done it."

"You had to know because it's going to happen again...tonight."

"What?!?" I was on my feet in a second. All I could think of was the old adage: 'When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout'.

It seemed like great wisdom just then.

"Bodie, sit down and listen to me, please?" He was looking forlorn, which I find irresistible, so I abandoned my incipient hysteria and sat.

"Okay, okay, I'm listening."

"A long time ago, my family were witches in Ireland." That wasn't hard to believe, I decided. "One of them was a shape-shifter and a healer, and on Midsummer Eve he was out in the fields celebrating and he couldn't be found to help a man who had been injured or something...this is all old family history and probably not quite accurate," he admitted. "Anyway, the man died cursing him; said something like may he and his children be trapped forever in their damned magic. So it was passed down in the family, usually affecting only one of two in a generation. I'm that one.

"I thought for a while it was something I was going to be able to control - I mean, it happened a lot when I was growing up, adolescent stuff, you know?

But Mum helped me through it; she'd seen it happen to her favourite sister, and knew the stories and all. It didn't happen at all while I was in art school, and only once when I was a copper, so I really thought it was over, that maybe I was going to be the one to beat it at last. Mum tells me she thinks it's dying out, but she doesn't quite know why.

"But last May I started feeling that way again." His face was shadowed, half turned away from me. "I wanted to tell you, Bodie, but I didn't know how. It's a rotten thing to spring on your mate. Hey, how about a beer and by the way I'm going to change into a cat in a few minutes - just so you won 't be too alarmed...So I asked for leave, a week because I honestly didn't know how long it would take, and locked myself in. The reason Beelzy tore up the bedroom was because he couldn't get out to hunt, and that's what he wants to do more than anything. It's strongest on the eve of a festival."

"How often does this happen?" I asked, realizing that I believed him almost wholeheartedly. The logical side of me still wanted to actually see him change.

"Seems to be linked to the old festivals - Samhain, the solstices and such.

Tonight is May Day Eve and I'm feeling strange. It's gonna happen tonight, Bodie. The people here know about me, they know my family. They're like me."

"Cats?" I asked, stupidly.

Ray began to laugh. "No, you dumb crud, followers of the old ways. They understand. I could have told you back in London, but then I thought, well, Beltaine is so special to lovers - " At which I blushed. " - I decided to bring you here to share the Beltaine fires with dance the dance with me." He moved forward and I saw that feverish look in his eyes again. He laid a cool hand on my arm. "Please say you still care, Bodie," he begged.

"You great idiot," I growled, pulling him out of his chair to sit on my lap, "I don't just care, I love you. I don't care if you become a cat every Monday afternoon, just as long as you make starfish paws on my chest and purr in my ear."

We sat there like that for a long time, just holding each other. It felt so good to hold him close, to give in to all those old protective urges which always seemed so silly with a proud, independent sort like Ray Doyle. He needed me. It felt wonderful.

And much later, he slid off my lap and pulled me back to the bed. His eyes were glittering again, and he had that feral look I sometimes saw in moments of great danger. I remembered suddenly that for all his agonizing over the job and the violence, he was a clever and almost casual killer. Ray Doyle was a hunter - there was more cat in his blood than he knew.

This time I was the prey, teased, played with and destroyed utterly...willingly. I was covered with bites and scratches by the time we finished, and was very, very sore, but it was one of the most intense climaxes of my life. For the first time in years, I let myself be taken by another man, and it was the most natural thing in the world.

"Bodie, I have to go," he whispered into my ear as I dozed. "Don't be afraid of what you see tonight, but don't try to follow me." His voice was raspy, sounding almost as if he was in the throes of passion, but with a note of something like fear or anger. I was trying to drag myself out of a sated, comfortable sleep, and as I turned over to face him, I heard a low moan that became the nerve-scraping noise cats make when you step on their tails. Then I saw something leap to the windowsill and disappear.

I was suddenly very wide-awake.

I dressed and went downstairs where everyone seemed to be in a flurry of activity. "Everything all right?" John asked me as he came through the Common Room with an armload of bottles.

"Oh yeh, fine, thanks."

"Where's Ray?"

"Ahhh...out somewhere."

He nodded. "Come and have a drink. He'll be gone for a bit." He set me up with a pint and had one himself. "Don't you worry, Bodie, Ray's a clever lad. He'll be back in time for the celebration too, though a handsome one like you wouldn't lack for partners tonight. My Jane 'as taken a fancy to you." He grinned and nudged me playfully, but I couldn't quite share in the ribald good spirits with Ray out in the Forest somewhere.

"Are there a lot of animals out there?" I asked. "Predators, I mean?"

"Not to worry," John repeated, and moved down the bar to take orders.

I wandered out and saw some men laying bonfires in a nearby field. I remembered Ray saying he wanted to share the fires with me, or something. I walked further, straying into the Forest. I guess in the back of my mind I was hoping to come across Ray, or Beelzy, and bring him home.

It was darker in there, and very beautiful. I followed a path dappled with afternoon sun. It stopped at an old oak tree and so did I. It was an inviting tree, overgrown on one side with mistletoe, its low branches hung with ribbons and flowers and things. It was obviously some sort of pet tree for the neighbourhood children. I climbed into the fork between the branches and found a perfect space in which to rest and think.

Oh, I had a lot to think about.

Now I knew Ray's story to be true, I had some adjusting to do. It wasn't going to be easy, but for Ray's sake I had to work at it. Hell, I stopped believing in magic a long time ago.

And then I thought - well, mum believed. Look what it got her - a bastard son and an early grave. No grave at all, I amended, since they'd never found her body. A child's image rose up, unbidden, to fill my eyes again - my mother, sad and lovely, floating Ophelia-like in the dirty fiver water.

There were flowers in her hair. Some of the old bitterness seeped out from behind all those locked doors in my head. I don't think I'd ever quite forgiven her for leaving me...or myself for letting her go.

I thought about Ray out here alone in the shape of a cat, and I was afraid for him and for myself. I knew I couldn't bear to lose him as I'd lost everyone else I'd loved. "Why can't anything ever, ever be easy?" I asked aloud.

The woods were silent. There was no answer to my question.

I watched the sun's light go from gold to red as it moved into the west.

From where I sat, I could see a piece of the western sky through the clearing. It was orange and pink and blue and violet and streaked with haloed pastel clouds. No wonder the ancients thought of the west as the land of the blessed.

I climbed down out of the tree and walked towards the clearing along a path that began on the other side of my oak. Just now, before nightfall, there was little noise, so the walk was peaceful, the sound of my own steps the only thing to disturb the silence. And so when the silence was broken by the crackling of leaves and branches, I was both apprehensive and hopeful.

Perhaps it would be Ray coming back to me.

I peered into the darkness beside the path but I couldn't distinguish anything. Still the crackling continued. I turned and began to walk back along the path towards the inn. It was foolish to have strayed out into the Forest despite Ray's assurance that there was nothing to fear in what I saw.

He meant the, ah, supernatural (still difficult to accept) rather than concrete danger from the animals that lived here...real animals, not just occasional ones.

I was thinking very hard about the difference, when on the path in front of me about twenty yards ahead, I saw a man step out of the trees. He was tall and slender and naked, and his hair was dark, long and curly. When the light touched him, those curls gleamed copper. For a long time we stood and watched each other. Then he began to walk towards me. I noticed that there were tiny spring flowers twined in his hair...and then I saw the horns!

Small branching horns protruding from his thick curls.

I backed away without thinking and he stopped and studied me.

"Who are you?" I asked, feeling awfully stupid and very put upon. I was entirely out of my element with the supernatural.

He approached me again and this time I held my ground because there didn't seem much reason to run. When he was standing so close to me that I could smell him (earth smell and flowers and, unnervingly, blood) he began to sniff at me like an animal checking out a newcomer in his territory. He sniffed me all over, smiling all the while as if he approved of me in a way I had yet to fathom. He laid a hand on my groin and I felt the warmth of him through my clothes. My cock began to stir and he grinned. Then he touched my chest and again there was a sensation of heat.

"Great-heart," he whispered in an animal voice, then moved his hand to my head, running long fingers through my hair. He backed away. "Dance," he murmured, and then ran off into the trees.

I knew who He was, knew when He touched me the last time. I sank down onto the path and just sat there for a long time.

"Why are you alone?"

I looked up to find a girl standing over me. She was exquisite, and like the horned man, she was naked. "Have you no dancing partner?" she asked, kneeling beside me.

"I don't understand any of this," I confessed. Lord but she was a stunner!

She had long dark hair and pearly skin and small, perfect breasts. I could smell the female scent rising from her skin, from her breasts and between her legs and it did strange things to my mind. She had flowers in her hair, too. She touched my face, ran her fingers through my hair.

"Your partner is waiting for you at the fires," She told me. "Why do you wait for him here?"

Then I began to move. Like a child who is learning to walk, I crawled a few feet before I was able to stand up. I was shaky and unsteady on my feet.

Those touches had told me things I'd never have believed - words from my childhood: 'I believe in God the Father, maker of Heaven and earth...' And They'd touched me and suddenly the words made no sense any longer. Suddenly the truth of life was so vast I felt bowed under the weight of it. To be a part of all this - to feel the rhythm of life around me, to hear even the growing of the grass, the greening of the trees and the flowers comprehend all of this in a single, bright moment. Too much, too much. I felt the tears running down my face.

There was a lot of strange noise in the Forest now, and it was very dark. I stumbled along, and when I had regained my equilibrium, I began to run. I ran out of the Forest and down the path towards the inn, seeing the fires burning in the field, and the silhouettes of many people against the flames.

The moon had risen, a luminous silver disc.

(Moon mother, I am your child - no laws but your can tame me) I was almost to the nearest bonfire when I heard a familiar 'mrrrowowl' to my right, and I stopped and looked for Beelzy. He was sitting on a stone, waiting for me, and beside him there was a dead bird. He picked the carcass up and brought it to me, depositing it delicately at my feet; then he wound himself around my legs. I reached down and picked him up and he rubbed his face against mine, purring like a mad thing.

"Who's a clever boy, then?" I asked him, scratching behind his ears. My voice was thin and shaky. He made starfish paws against my chest. At last I was in familiar company and I felt myself grow calmer.

I tucked him under my arm and picked up the bird, carrying them both into the field, stepping around interlocked couples, dancing couples, in all combinations. I set him down, the bird beside him, and I lay down in the grass. "I was worried about you," I told him as he stepped delicately onto my chest as he'd done that first time. There was blood on his fur, which he cleaned as best he could. Then we waited, a circle of two.

I must have fallen asleep in the heat from the fire. When I woke, though, I found that the weight of Beelzy seemed to have increased. Of course, Ray was back! I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him awake. "Hullo Beelzy," I said. He laughed softly.

"How long was I gone?"

"Eight hours or so. How do you feel?"

"Fine...horny." There was mischief in his eyes.

"Oh yes?" I lifted my head and looked around. Some couples were still at it, some were sleeping, and a few, like Jane and John, were on their way home, draped in flowers, arms around each other. "We seem to be in good company," I observed as those slender fingers began to remove my clothes.

"I want you, Bodie," he told me as he worked over me with mouth and hands.

It took very little effort to make me ready. "I want from you what you had from me earlier." He straddled me, guiding me into his body with one hand while the other moved restlessly across my chest. He looked like a forest god, head thrown back in ecstasy as he impaled himself on me, his own cock stiff against his belly. Little wisps of grass clung to his hair.

He took my hands and wrapped them around his cock, holding them, guiding them up and down while he moved atop me. All around us were the sounds of love being made, and we joined that chorus as we moved together in the oldest dance in the world. I felt blessed, felt loved at long last.

At first light I began to stir. It was cold now the fires ha died down and the dew was settling on us. Ray stretched and picked up the bird, muttered something I didn't catch, and threw the little body into the dying bonfire.

"What did you say?" I asked him as I gathered my clothes. We walked back to the inn, arms around each other's waists.

"I asked his soul's forgiveness and wished him Godspeed to his next life.

He gave this one to be a lover's gift."

We sank into clean sheets with sighs of contentment, and slept until noon, when Janie woke us with tea and toast and plum jam.

"It was a lovely night, wasn't it?" she asked. Ray made a purring sort of noise against my chest and refused to let go of me. "I'll just leave this for you. Mind you don't let it get cold." She left quietly.

"Come on, Ray." He chuckled, but wouldn't let go of me. "Ray, we can't stay like this forever."

"Why not?"

"I 'ave to use the bog for one thing," I replied causing him to laugh and release me.

"By all means," he said magnanimously, "let us not have an accident in bed."

I thought he was going to stay there, rolling around in the sheets making those little moaning noises of him as he stretched scratched himself - he's such an appealing little animal; but he got up and trotted after me. "Can I watch?"


"While you pee, can I watch?" My mouth dropped open and he began to laugh.

"I love your body: I love everything about it."

"I just dried up."

He turned on the tap. "Shut your eyes and listen to the water. Forget about me."

It worked.

We ate the toast and drank the tea while we bathed together. This suddenly felt like forever, like a marriage, and I wanted desperately to say so, but I was afraid. I thought about I for a long time, and when we were towelling each other off I said, rather off-handedly, "We ought to get married."

"We are," Ray said, equally casual.

"Are we?"

"Don't you feel the bands? Haven't you felt them from the moment we met?"

Something in me knew he spoke the truth. We to explain? We belonged to each other. It was as if we'd been born for each other.

Finally I understood that what we had was forever - had been, always would be. I offered a silent prayer of thanks to whatever god arranged these things.

Later we walked down the same path I'd taken the night before. We were holding hands.

"Ray, does the Cow know?" I asked, suddenly worried about mundane matters.

"God, no! Would you hire a cat?"

I shrugged. "Depends."

"You're partial. No, he thinks I have a mum with a bad heart who needs attention several times a year. The first time I told him it was my health problems, but I realized that if I had some recurring problem, he'd either sack me or demand I have meself checked out by a CI5 doctor. Mum'll cover for me. It's not easy, Bodie," he warned.

"Easier with me than without me, eh?"

"Yeh," he said, and he was smiling.

Funny thing is, it's easier for me, too. I'm not alone anymore.

--Beltaine 1980-81

Letting the Cat Out Of the Bag

The trip back to London was uncomfortable at best. Bodie was uncharacteristically silent, even withdrawn, and since they'd left The Dancing Maiden the weather had grown steadily worse. They had been driving through patches of rain and fog the whole way.

Ray thought he knew how Bodie must feel, the sense of disorientation at being thrust without preparation into a world that had previously been the stuff of fairy tales and myths. He remembered how, at fourteen, he'd suffered through Beelzy's first appearance. He remembered the loss of his Ray-ness in the power of the cunning little animal; nothing he'd ever seen of heard had prepared him for the annihilation...or the rebirth after a night he only vaguely recalled. He remembered waking with the taste of blood in his mouth.

He slowed the car as they encountered some particularly dense fog. For a few moments his depth perception was minimal, the white wall of fog reflecting his own headlamps back at him. Luckily they were almost alone on the road.

Time had put some of his experiences in perspective, he decided, able to divide his concentration once the fog lifted slightly. He was philosophical about his 'handicap', though he never deluded himself that the rest of the world would take the truth of his existence in stride. It had been hard enough with Bodie who loved him.

Loved him. The thought made Ray smile and glance over at the subject of his musing. Bodie lay back against the seat, his eyes shut. He was frowning slightly. "Bodie?"


"You all right?"

"Just tired. This supernatural stuff takes the starch out." He said it lightly, but underneath there was tension.

"Home in a bit."

"Good." His silence was to be respected, Ray decided. When Bodie was ready to talk, he would. The rain began again, but as a light shower rather than the downpours they'd encountered earlier. Ray sighed and switched on the wipers.

As soon as he was able, he'd have to talk to his mother again. She'd want to know that he'd found love at last; enduring love, honest love...comfortable love. She could wish him no less, of course, but having made the mistake herself, she was unwilling to see her son carry his secret into a marriage, to know always the fear - which in her case had proved true - that a child born to him might carry that same secret, and its price, into another generation.

He remembered how, after Beelzy had first appeared, his mother sat at his side and tried her best to explain 'the curse'. How little he'd taken in that morning, almost mad with terror and self-loathing. He'd wanted to die and in fact had tried that afternoon to end his own life with several bottles of pills he found in the medicine cabinet. He only managed to make himself terribly ill.

The next day, when he was calmer, his mother had tried again to explain things to him. She told him how her sister had shared his affliction, and she spoke honestly about it, admitting that it was indeed a curse on the family, but that, if he was strong enough, he might be able to control it.

"You live with the uncertainty," she'd said, "or you work with what you have, or you die as my sister did. I can't see that last for you, Ray." He 'd been ashamed because he'd tried to do just that, tried to escape into death.

She'd spoken of other things, then, of the old ways and the Goddess and God, and he'd listened to her, forgetting his pain for a time. What she told him seemed familiar somehow, as if he'd known these things all his life, albeit unconsciously. He remembered his mother's face as she spoke, remembered how difficult the telling had been for her. "It's wrong to tell you these things," she said, suddenly. And Ray asked her, "Why?"

There was no answer that day, or indeed for many years afterwards. As Ray grew older, he learned that his family's heritage - its service to the Lord and Lady rather than to the Christian god - had been the thing, which destroyed his mother's marriage. He learned that his parents had married against the wishes of their r parents; his mother sixteen and his father nineteen. But once the enchantment of young love wore off, the differences between the two had been magnified until living together became almost intolerable. She found herself too proud and too pregnant to expect her parents to take her back and support her and her child; otherwise she would have turned her back on her husband and his family. She would have rejected their demands that she conform to their standards for the sake of her soul, and her son to be, and the good opinion of the neighbours. So she stayed with him and Ray was born, and soon after she realized that her pride had betrayed her. Now they threatened her with the loss of her child. A heathen woman was no fit mother, they told her, and over years of constant criticism and anger and threats she came to believe that they might be right. When Ray was six, she became a Catholic. And it was then she began to grow old.

Three years later her husband left her for another woman and was excommunicated for seeking a divorce. It was the cause of bitter laughter in their home in later years, but for a time she had continued to serve the Christian god instead of her own, and had taught Ray to do so as well. He thought that perhaps she'd hoped her conversion might in some way keep the curse fro her child. (How often had he heard her say in later years that the Galilean had been a good and gentle teacher, but the men he taught had been harsh and had never understood his words? In her own way, she had cut to the core of the new religion and extracted its value - the words of love and acceptance so like the words of the Mother.) But, of course, the thing she most feared had come to pass. Ray inherited the curse, and his mother turned away from all gods. She was a help to him, but she grew dry and old in the next years, as her soul grew arid.

It was the beginning of his journey, though, and so wrapped up was he in his own pain, he did not concern himself with his mother's. She was his guide, teaching him that always he had a choice in the path he would walk, despite the fact of Beelzy. The path he chose in the end had brought him to this place and moment in time. He couldn't regret any of the journey.

"Do you want to come back to my place?" Ray asked, aware that he had been silent, wrapped in his memories, for many miles.

"Or mine," Bodie replied in a slow drawl. He sounded sleepy. "Doesn't matter, does it, so long as we go together?"

So he still loves me, Ray thought with unexpected relief. "Right, then, my place. I'm more likely to have food in." At that, Bodie smiled, and Ray felt a terrible tenderness for him. He wished, for a moment, that he was a more conventional lover, but long ago he'd realized the folly of wishing for the things he could never have, and he put the thought out of his mind.

At Ray's flat, they fixed a light supper of cheese and fruit, opened a bottle of what Bodie had come to call 'Chateau DM,' and sat together in companionable silence in front of the fireplace.

"Nice this," Bodie observed as he inched closer to the grate to toast the bottoms of his feet. "How is it you were lucky enough to have this flat?"

"My winning personality. Bodie, is something troubling you?"

"Yes and no," Bodie admitted. "This is all so..." He seemed to reach for the right word. "So unbelievable. When we were at the innit was the most natural thing in the world, but the farther we travel, the more it feels like a dream. It's my problem," he added a moment later with a gesture that implied what he was feeling was unimportant. Ray was not so sure.

"It's our problem," he corrected. "If we want to make our relationship work...if it's not just that we fancy each other, that is, we have to deal with what I am."

"It's unique, I'll give you that," Bodie shot back. His smile was feeble.

"You said you were able to control it for a long time - why now? I mean..."

"I dunno," Ray admitted, picking a handful of grapes off the stem and tossing one into his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully for a few moments. "I think it might have to do with emotional upheavals. Beelzy appeared for the first time when I entered puberty...and I don't have to tell you what that does to the emotions."

Bodie smiled.

"Then when I joined the force, I wondered if he'd start to manifest again, but it wasn't until..." He bit his lip. "The first man I killed was trying to kill me. I killed him with my hands; broke his neck," he said, looking down at those hands. "It was eight years ago and I still remember the look on his face." He was lost for a moment in the memory, then pulled free with a shudder. "Maybe it's like your first sexual experience," he said with bitter humour, "no matter how awful it was, you never forget it. But it was after that that Beelzy reappeared. It had been five years since the last time and I honestly thought I was rid of him, but two days after I killed the bloke I started feeling that old feeling again and knew I'd have to get away from London. Of course I was on suspension pending an investigation, so I went to stay with my mother, praying I wouldn't change on the way.

That was Samhain...oh, Bodie, the call of blood is so strong then..." He curled up into a tight, foetal ball and rocked gently, remembering the hunt.

Bodie slipped an arm around his shoulders and pulled him close.

"Could I have that in English?" he teased. "I'm not yet one of the illuminati."

"Halloween to the uninitiated." All the same, he relaxed in his lover's strength and gave silent thanks to Lord and Lady for the gift of Bodie.

"Then it was over. I lived in fear for a couple of years before I began to feel safe again.

"When I had a chance to join this mob," he explained as he fed a few grapes to Bodie, "I almost said no because I knew Cowley needed a hard man who could kill if he had to, but I accepted anyway. I suppose I'm more of a hunter than I pretend. Bodie, I hate it with my mind, but something in my soul hungers for the hunt. And I have killed, too often in the last years, and every time I was terrified it would trigger the curse. But until the time you met Beelzy, there was nothing. That was a year ago, do you remember?" Bodie nodded, but remained silent. "Bodie, I'd started to love you then I knew it had gone past the simple lust stage and I didn't think you'd be too happy to hear I not only wanted to get you into my bed, but that I wanted you to marry me, that I wanted to be permanent." He broke off with a sigh that disguised a staggering array of emotions. "I didn't even foresee any way of working you out of my system, Bodie, because I couldn't tell you how I felt. It was that more than anything that brought Beelzy back to haunt me. I suppose I fell for Ann because I thought she might be the one to help me forget you."

He found he was breathing hard, that his eyes burned and his muscles were tense and quivering. Bodie frowned in the way he did when he was thinking very hard about something.

"We both know how that turned out," Ray said, feeling uncomfortable. "I never really loved her, and I expect she knew it. Poor Ann...if I'd loved her she'd have forgiven anything." He looked up into dark blue eyes. "The way you do. I know you'll always forgive me, Bodie."

"So long as you never tell me you took me to bed in order to get rid of the cat, I can handle anything else," he said after a moment of thought.

"You couldn't think that," Ray protested. "Bodie, you know me, you know I would never...Bodie?"

"Christ, Ray, I love you so much I don't think it would matter if you changed into Cowley at full moons and worshipped bedroom slippers! I want something permanent as well, and I swear to you I'll kill to keep it. If you don't want as much, tell me before this goes any further."

"No protests," Ray whispered, awed at the love he read in Bodie's eyes. All for him? "Dear Lord, d'you suppose we can make this work?"

"We've done tougher things...getting a rise out of the Cow for one," Bodie offered, reverting, as he always did at times of oppressive emotional highs or lows, to the wry humour that covered so much caring. The gruff man with the centre of cotton wool. Ray threw his arms around Bodie in an impulsive gesture of affection and trust. "First things first. Tomorrow we tell the Cow."

"What? About us or about..."

"Us to begin with. About the other, well, we'll just have to play it by ear until we can suss him out about the supernatural. Excuse me sir, but do you believe in ghosts and such?" he said with a grin of impish glee. Bodie lunged at him, knocking him to the floor, and began to press light kisses all over his face. "Am I marrying a lunatic?" Ray gasped under the onslaught.

"Just sex-mad, is all," Bodie whispered. "'Ave to 'ave it twice a day at least just to function."

Ray could only giggle helplessly while Bodie's hands roved over his body.

It had been so long since he'd been able to forget his troubles, since he'd shared his secret with another human being - one he loved as dearly as he loved himself.

Later, worn out with laughter and yet not quite ready to go together into the bedroom to make love, and sleep, and to end this day, they lay together in silence. Ray listened to the sound of Bodie's heart beating slow and steady. What a miracle is life, he thought as he listened to the comforting rhythm. And again he thanked the Laughing God and Lady of the Beltaine fires for their gift.

"What should we say exactly?" Bodie asked as they made their way down the corridor to Cowley's office.

"Well, I"

"See the problem?"

"Oh," said Ray, feeling less than confident now the moment was at hand.

"You don't have anything in mind?"

"Total blank," Bodie confessed.

"Well, we have to say something. We asked for this interview, remember?"

"Maybe we could tell him about you first, and then the rest wouldn't seem so...startling?"

"No," Ray said very firmly.



Bodie knocked and at the terse "come" pushed the door open and stepped aside to let Ray enter first.

"Ah, Doyle, Bodie...what can I do for you?"

"Um, well, we..."

Bodie stepped in while Doyle was floundering. "There's something you should know, sir," he said, his tone flat, "about our holiday...about Doyle and myself."

"Ah, I was wondering when this would come up," Cowley said. "Sit down, lads."

"Wondering, sir?"

"Aye. I must confess I've suspected Doyle for a long time now, but you, Bodie, are a surprise to me."

Doyle sputtered with indignation. "Why me and not Bodie, for chrissake?" he demanded, wondering if it was his walk.

"You must admit you've been somewhat more obvious, Doyle."

"I what?"

"And your appearance is, to say the least, exotic enough to cause speculation..."

"Now just a second!" Ray blurted. "What do you mean, obvious? And what's wrong with my appearance?" Bodie's hand closed around his arm and tightened, warning Ray to say nothing more.

"Sir, what are you talking about?" Bodie asked.

Cowley studied both of them for a very long moment, and Ray held his breath, drawing strength from the hand that gripped his arm.

"Good lord," Cowley said at last. "You're lovers, aren't you? That's what you've come to tell me." His face flushed with embarrassment, and Ray felt the heat rise in his own skin.

"What did you think we'd come to tell you?" Bodie asked, his voice low.

"It's not important."

"It is, you know."

"Is there something more?" Cowley asked and Ray felt something whither inside. "Was I right, then?"

Ray pulled out of Bodie's grasp and ran from the office, unable to fact this moment. He hadn't trusted Bodie with his secret only to have Bodie betray it to Cowley.

For a quarter of an hour he hid from the rest of the staff in the tiny cubicle that served as a sometime office for himself and Bodie. Here they wrote their reports, or catnapped, or, as Doyle was doing now, sought refuge. But he couldn't stay. Sooner or later he'd have to face Cowley again and accept the old man's judgement. Wasn't Bodie's fault, either, he realized as he pulled himself together and prepared to re-enter the lion's den. It was for the best.

He knocked at the door.

"Come in, Doyle." Cowley's voice.

Bodie was still seated.

"He's told you," Ray said, more a statement than a question.

"Aye, he has. Sit down and have a drink." When Ray was reasonably comfortable, Cowley continued. "If it makes you feel any better, I will tell you I'd already guessed something of the sort. It seems, however, that your circumstances are a little unusual. The others who work for this agency have control of their talents, you do not. This makes you a liability to me."

"Sir, I explained..." Bodie began, but a hard look from the Controller silenced him.

"Bodie has explained that it seems to take you at specific times of year, that is, the solar festivals?" Doyle nodded. "I see. Has it ever occurred at any other time?"

"No sir, not that I recall."

Cowley sat back and steepled his fingers. "I'm going to give you an order now, Doyle; an open-ended one, of necessity. You will find a teacher and learn how to control your talent."

Ray was about to protest that he hadn't the vaguest idea where to start, but Cowley held up a hand to silence him.

"It will take time, I know, but it must be done for your own sake as well as for this organization. I can make use of such a talent, Doyle, but not an untrained one. How is it you've remained untrained? Did your family not help?"

"There was only my mother," Ray told him, "and she turned from the old ways when I was very young. She helped in the ways she could, but we had no contact with a circle or with other..." The words seemed to stick in his throat.

"I see. Well, I don't envy you. You must find your own teacher - it's not something I can give you. It would seem that you have some contact with the community now, is that so?"

Doyle nodded.

"You'll have to be very careful. Give me the names of the people you know and I'll have someone check. I can also give you a few references if you think you'll need them."

"Does CI5 have a witch-referral service now?" Bodie asked, and his flippancy was greeted with withering looks from both men.

"You said there were others in this agency?" Ray asked.

"I did."

"I don't suppose..."

"No, lad, it's not for me to tell you that. Most of them prefer, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous. Perhaps one day."

"When I have my act together?" Ray asked. "All right. This is the place I usually go when I feel the change starting." He wrote down the name and address of The Dancing Maiden. "The people who own it know about m. They' re good people."

"Do you have warning of the change?"

"Yessir, usually several days."

"Then I expect to be kept informed. That's all."

"Sir, about the other?" Bodie began.

Cowley frowned. "Och, it makes little difference to me as long as it doesn' t impair your efficiency. Did you think you were the only ones in that as well? Mind you, I'd not like to hear it gossiped about, but so long as you' re discreet, I have no objection. I'm not even particularly surprised," he added. "Now get out and let me do some work this morning."

And so they were dismissed.

It had been easier than they had expected. Nothing more was said about either secret they had confided that morning, but a week later they were told that when it came time to move house again, for the sake of economy they would be sharing a flat. Ray was surprised, but Bodie just grinned.

"The old darlin' wants me to look after you," he explained. "Cats need extra care." Though the move was still some months away, they spent a lot of time making plans. Bodie became almost a permanent fixture at Ray's flat, sharing the double bed most nights.

Then one morning Bodie shook him awake. "Ray, I have to talk to you," he said, and the tone of his voice and the look on his face made Ray afraid.

"Why? What's wrong?" He couldn't see the clock, but from the slant of light through the bedroom window he assumed it was no later than five.

"I've been having this dream...I've been having it every night!" Bodie was obviously agitated.

"Okay, okay, just calm down a bit and tell me." He propped himself up against the headboard and pulled his lover against him, offering the one thing he knew he could give.

"I was dreaming about the forest," Bodie told him. "I never told you, but the night we were down at The Dancing Maiden I went into the forest to look for you. While I was walking there the sun began to set and I decided I'd better go back the way I'd come or I'd be lost for sure. I heard something, Ray, and I thought it was animal, but when I turned round, a man came out of the trees. He was tall and had flowers in his hair..." Bodie frowned and bit his lip. "He had horns, Ray, little horns poking up from his curls."

He looked up at Doyle's face as if he didn't think Ray would believe this madness. Doyle just nodded. He was too startled to speak. "He spoke to me and touched me and then he was gone and I couldn't move for a while, until the girl came and told me where you were."

"What girl?"

"Pretty little thing. She looked all of sixteen and she had flowers in her hair as well. They were both naked as jaybirds and didn't seem to care a bit. Anyway, for the last few days I've been having the same dream over and over - I go out into the forest to look for you and I meet her there and she says, "Did wait for thee," and then I make love to her and she gives birth to a baby that turns into me and then I kill myself...I mean, the baby who becomes me kills the me that made love to the girl. Ray, it's probably all some weird fixation about hating my father or something, except I never knew my father, and why did I choose that girl to dream about?"

Ray was quiet for a few moments, hardly knowing what to say. He knew what the dream meant, of course, but not why Bodie had had it. It worried him as it obviously did Bodie, but in a more immediate way.

"I can explain the symbolism to you," he said into the dark hair pressed against his cheek, "but I'm damned if I know why you're having the dream.

What you've seen is an extreme simplification of the wheel of the year. The girl you make love to is the Goddess; that must be who you saw in the forest that night. And the man you saw was the Old One - the Horned God, her consort. But in your dream you were the Horned One who is the brother and lover and son of the Goddess."

"All in one? That's convenient," Bodie joked, though it was a thin, nervous jest. "Ray, you're shaking. What does it mean? Tell me?"

"I'm afraid, too. I'm afraid She wants you, Bodie. How can I fight her?"

Bodie pulled away from him and looked him in the eye. "Wants me? I thought you always said She gave us to each other?"

"I thought so."

"So that's settled, then. No goddesses for me, okay lover?" His gruff good humour made Ray smile a little and he became the comforted in his turn.

"'Sides, I don't know as I believe in Her anyway," Bodie added. "For all I know those two in the forest might have been on their way to some fancy dress party...or undress, considering the state they were in. It was dark, after all."

He didn't say it to Bodie, but though Ray and never - quite - believed in Her either, what Bodie had just told him made him revise his opinion somewhat. If She existed, She wanted his lover, perhaps for a night - and perhaps for the rest of Bodie's life.

Ray found that there was too much to think about in the next weeks; he had no time to worry about Beelzy. Work piled u - the villains were always busy in late spring, as though they, like the trees and flowers, were restless and ready to burst forth after a long winter. He and Bodie put off their move, hoping to have more than a day or two here and there in which to do the work. And though he was anxious to live with Bodie, Ray decided it was just as well to have this time as lovers before they became entangled in too much domesticity. It gave them both time to think.

Not that he thought about much aside from how happy he was. They might not be love's young dream, he decided, but they were still honeymooning. For men like themselves, it was amazing. Two tough guys in love. There was no time at all for Beelzy.

But then the old feeling came on him again, and Ray knew it was Midsummer...Litha. He told Cowley, who took the news calmly.

"You'll be going south, then?" he asked.

"To The Dancing Maiden, yes. Will you let Bodie come along? I think he needs..." He broke off, unwilling to admit to any problem in the relationship.

"I quite understand. This can't be easy for him. Tell me quite honestly if you think Bodie has any magic."

"Everyone has magic, sir," Ray said, feeling slightly uncomfortable - as though they were discussing the possibility of Bodie having some unpleasant sexual habit like jerking off in crowded lifts.

"Aye, but precious few of us ever find ours. A few have theirs thrust on them, like you, Doyle. Do you regret it?"

"Not any more," he admitted without hesitation. "Or only occasionally."

"I'm glad to hear that. Now do me a favour, will you? Keep an eye on that partner of yours and tell me if you think he'll ever be able to find his magic. Whatever it is, I'm betting it's strong."

"You're hoping," Doyle said in a moment of insight. "It will make him more useful."

Cowley flashed a rueful smile. "You know me too well, lad. Almost as well as I know you."

"Never that well, sir," Doyle told him, returning the grin.

Once again they found themselves motoring down to the New Forest to stay at the inn and to wait for Beelzy's reappearance. Jane was frankly glad to see them and kissed them both warmly before showing them to their room. "Dinner 'll be ready soon, so don't get involved in anything that can't be stopped,"

she warned. Bodie blushed charmingly and Ray suppressed a grin of pure delight. Jane left and he threw his arms around his lover and hugged him very tight.

"You're beautiful when you blush," he teased.

"She cuts right through it, doesn't she?" Bodie muttered into Ray's neck, the heat from his skin betraying his continuing embarrassment.

"Everyone knows women are bawdier than men. Make a sailor blush they would, with what they talk about when they're with other women."

"Straight up?" Sometimes it amazed Ray how little Bodie knew about the earthier side of women for all his experience. He steered Bodie backwards toward the end of the bed. "What makes you the ex...OOF! The wind rushed out of Bodie as they fell back onto the wide, welcoming bed and Doyle landed on top of him.

"When I was in art school I did some modelling to help pay expenses - for a couple of semesters I was the only male model there and we all changed in the same room...worse'n a locker room, mate, let me tell you. Got an education, though. I learned which students were the best lays and who had the biggest..."

"Didn't know you were interested in that sort of thing," Bodie snapped, looking sulky, which made his mouth all the more tempting. Ray wondered how someone who looked the way he did had landed such a beauty. Still, he was not without charms of his own. What was it Cowley had said? Exotic?



"You're a million miles away."

"Was just thinking how beautiful you are," he said, disarming Bodie once again. He nibbled the full lower lip gently. "And no, I'm not particularly interested in comparing cock sizes, but it was fun listening anyway...wouldn 't you?"

"Suppose so," Bodie admitted. His tone was grudging.

"Suppose so," mimicked Ray. "What a liar you are. Every time Monica dates another squad member you buy her a coffee and try to get her to rate the poor sod on a scale of one to ten!"

Bodie levered Doyle off himself and unbuttoned Ray's shirt. "That's like business, sunshine," he explained, "just checking out the competition."

"Not anymore you don't," Doyle warned as Bodie combed his fingers through Ray's chest fur. "I bite remember?"

"Don't I know it?" He rolled on top of Ray just as John knocked at their door and announced dinner was being served. He sighed and rolled off and stood up to straighten his clothes.

"Bodie, there's something I ought to tell you," Ray said as he rebuttoned his shirt. The look on Bodie's face made him chuckle. "Not like the last confession, lover. It's just that I told my mum where we'd be and she might come for the festival as well. She wants to meet you." If he'd expected happiness or even relief from Bodie, he was disappointed. Instead, he read unrelieved anxiety on his partner's face. "Bodie, what's wrong? Don't you want to meet her?"

"It's not that." Bodie ran a comb through his hair and Ray itched to muss it again. "It's just - I'd planned a nice little romantic weekend - just you and me and Beelzy. This is a little like a cold shower."

"She knows about us. She doesn't mind."

"She what?"

"Well, she was happy to hear I'd fallen in love."

"With a man? Mine wouldn't be." He moved to the door and Ray caught his arm.

"Later," he promised, "we're going to discuss this." Bodie's nod could have meant anything from agreement to 'let's not argue', but Ray had to accept it.

They went downstairs and Ray saw his mother sitting alone at a table near the window. "That's her," he said, nudging Bodie. The look of surprise, even shock on Bodie's face mirrored that on his mother's face as he introduced them to each other. In Bodie's case he assumed the surprise had to do with the fact that his mother was still young and surprisingly attractive, though she couldn't really be called beautiful. She was, like her son, exotic, with dark, slanting eyes and dark brown curls. She had a feline air.

Ray could only guess the cause of his mother's surprise. Bodie wasn't your typical nancy-boy. Joan Doyle had had very little experience with same sex relationships - in fact, for all that her upbringing had been as exotic as her appearance, she was curiously innocent.

At first the conversation was formal, even awkward, but Bodie and Joan seemed to warm to each other and Ray relaxed and watched them, enjoying the subtleties of their conversation. Each of them was adept at saying nothing while giving the appearance of openness.

"Ray's not told me much about you...Bodie." Clearly she was uncomfortable with the name as well.

"He's close, isn't he? He's not told me much about you either."

"You work together."

Bodie nodded and turned to Ray. "I'll bet that's all he's told you?"

"Not quite," she shot back, and Bodie flushed a little.

"I grew up having to keep quiet about my life," Ray said as he sipped his wine. His mother looked very unhappy. "I told her that you know everything important there is to know about me, Bodie. It's not easy for Mum to accept..."

"We're not used to outsiders knowing," she said quickly.

"I told you, he's not an outsider."

"Nor was your father - I thought." All the old bitterness was seeping out now, and it looked to Ray that Bodie was going to be the one to suffer. He was a little surprised that his mother would react this way.

So, apparently, was Bodie. He folded his napkin carefully and excused himself on the pretext that Ray would probably like some private time with his mother. "Mrs Doyle, lovely to meet you," he said as he stood. He touched Ray's shoulder. "I'll see you upstairs later."

"What's wrong?" Ray asked, and not pleasantly. He hated seeing Bodie treated as though he was some sort of intruder. "Why couldn't you be pleasant to him?"

"I don't like it, Ray. It's not you."

"Oh, for chrissake!


He lowered his voice but pressed on. "I'm asking you a civil question and I expect a civil answer; and please don't give me some nonsense about not caring for the arrangement. You know very well if I'd brought some woman here you'd be just as upset - maybe more, considering your own life...which, by the way, doesn't stand up to close scrutiny either."

"How can you talk to me like that?" she demanded. "You know I only want what's best for you."

"Then accept that I've found it," he begged. For better or worse, her opinion was important to him.

"It's not...not the sex that bothers me, Ray, but he's like your father."

"No he's not!"

"He's not one of us."

"How do you know that?" In his agitation he overturned his wineglass and swore colourfully. "How can you judge him? Does your mistake make you the expert in these things?" He mopped at the purplish stain on the flowered cloth, feeling hopeless and helpless and terribly disappointed. "He knows, he accepts..Mum, he loves me for what I am - Beelzy and all, he loves me."

"The curse is dying out, Ray," she told him, turning from the subject. He allowed himself to be turned, unwilling to show too much more of his emotions.

"How do you know?"

"I've been investigating it. The family of the man who delivered the curse is dying out, only one old woman is left and she's nearly ninety. When she goes, so does the curse."

"So I just have to wait out the next few years," he said with more sarcasm than he intended. "How jolly."

The girl who waited tables came and took their plates, covered the stain with a clean napkin, and brought them coffee. "Is your friend not coming back, then?" She asked, smiling shyly. What female could resist Bodie?

His mother, apparently.

"Ray, you can think about having a wife and family."

He stared hard at her. "Is that it? You're sure I've picked Bodie because it's safe - no babies to worry about, no terrified adolescents to explain to?"

"Ray, don't..."

"It wouldn't matter," he said. "Understand that. It wouldn't matter. When I was eighteen I had meself fixed." She stared at him, obviously shocked and terribly upset. "I never told you 'cause I didn't want to make you feel guilty about it, but I couldn't live with the idea I might pass this on to a child. So you see, unless there's a family branch we don't know about, the curse will die with me no matter what."

"Oh, Ray, I'm so sorry," she whispered. He caught her hand and squeezed it.

"It was my choice. Just the way this relationship with Bodie was my choice - not a desperate act, Mum. Please try to believe that."

She nodded and pulled her hand free. "I suppose I owe him an apology," she said, refusing to meet his eyes.

"Only if you mean it," he told her and her head shot up. She was angry.

"Don't offer him anything you can't deliver - he's been hurt too much in this life; he won't be hurt through me if I can help it."

They parted, rather formally, after coffee, and Ray carried a slice of fruit tart up to Bodie who was stretched out on the bed reading a book about magic. "Fascinatin' stuff, this," he said, too heartily. He had that guarded look about him that always froze Ray.

"Brought you a sweetie," he told Bodie as lay down beside him, "and a fruit tart."

"Which is which?"

"Bodie, I..."

"Don't apologize for her," he snapped, picking at the pastry.

"I wasn't about to. But I did want to say I was sorry for telling her it would be okay to come down to meet us here. I should have left things as they were. It's just...I thought she'd be happy. I was so sure she accepted...when I talked to her about it all..."

Bodie slipped an arm around him. "S'okay, lover. Your mum may not love me, but you do, don't you? So that's the main thing."

"Straight up?"

"Honest." He smiled the sweet smile that was reserved for very private moments. "Anyway, I'm used to having mums look at me like I was Jack the bloody Ripper."

Ray chuckled. "Knowing you, sunshine, I'd say they look at you more as a prospective 'usband than son-in-law."

"It's my incredible personal charm," he said, or tried to before Ray covered his mouth with his own.

It was early the next morning when Ray felt the change begin. He shook Bodie awake and told him not to worry; that he'd be back by evening...

and then




and he was running again through the forest, among the scavenging creatures of the early hours, brothers all, of a common language, and enemies. A vixen barked as he ran by. There was only now to him, and self and the driving hunger that went deeper than his belly, all the way into his blood.

blood...hungry he sniffed the air delicately, his senses alive in the early light. There was only the now. He ran on.

But before he killed, another scent came to him, stronger even than the scent of his prey female She was sitting on a log, licking the blood from her black fur, a dainty creature with golden eyes. He approached. She watched. The tiny forest creatures watched the courtship dance of near violence and playful tenderness.

female She moaned low in her throat and he leapt on her, catching her ruff in his mouth and mounting her, done quickly and parted. She cleaned his ears and trotted away, and the blood hunger took him again.

He killed. blood And he fed.

And with the hunger appeased, something hidden deep within him began to reassert itself, that which remembered something other than self mate and an alien name cat language couldn't contain, but the memory of which haunted him as the hunger had done.


He turned towards the home place, towards the setting sun.

Just before he reached the bed he became Ray again, and he collapsed against the fresh white sheets and slept, drained of all his energy and feeling low.

When he woke, Bodie was there with him, arms around him, sleeping the sleep of the innocent. Ray kissed him softly.

"Lost a whole day, 'aven't I?" he asked as he saw the early morning sun creep across the window ledge, making the cyclamen in the window translucent. It struck the hanging prisms and threw rainbows on the whitewashed walls. Bodie nuzzled him, but said nothing. "I wanted to share the festival with you," Ray said sadly.

"I watched."

"You didn't go?" Bodie shook his head. "Why not?"

"Like your mother said, I'm an outsider. It's all right when I'm with you..."

"Bodie, that's not so. They know you here now. Anyway, there were all new to it once, even my mother, and she denied it for twenty years."

"Didn't want to go without you," he said, and turned to watch the rainbows dance.



"Ever? You won't ever go without me? You do it for me?"

"More or less, yeah." Ray was perturbed. He didn't want to deny the gift, but it was not for him to command Bodie's conscience.

"One thing is as good as another, eh, sunshine?"

"Not really. Not if you don't believe. Maybe when you understand how I believe, you'll come to appreciate..."

"To believe?" Bodie asked, and Ray thought he detected a hint of mockery, which made him angry.

"Don't patronize me!" He snapped, but he didn't release Bodie; he just went on stroking gently. "I've seen too much to discount magic, Bodie, but magic is a thing of definition and of circumstance, as truth is."

"Oh go on with you, gettin' metaphysical at this hour," Bodie drawled.

"Don't hide from me, either," Ray ordered, though very gently. A dozen emotions passed over his lover's mobile features before Bodie's eyes met his.

"I'm not sure I can believe in anything, Ray, except maybe you. I don't even believe in me most of the time. I'm trying very hard to understand you and what you believe in, but I keep feeling left behind. Sometimes when you tell me about all this, about the old ways, I feel as though I remember what you're talking about - crazy, huh? Other times, it's just so much hocus-pocus. Silly, y'know?"

Ray smiled. "Sometimes magic is just inspired silliness, Bodie."

"That's all?"


"Moral majority would 'ave a field day with you lot."

Ray tried to suppress a shiver. He knew enough about the burning times to be afraid. "Tell me," he said, changing the subject, "what exactly did you tell the Cow about me that day?"

"You only just wondered now?"

"No, I've always wondered. I just now feel I have the strength to endure knowing." He stroked lower across Bodie's ass, making him shudder.

"Told him you were a vampire, didn't I? And that you'd bit me and I was your slave and if he wanted to keep me on the staff he'd have to let us live together."

For one terrible moment Ray believed him. His face must have shown it because Bodie began to laugh. "Oh, sunshine, how can I take you seriously when you'd believe that?"

Ray stroked down over Bodie's cock and wiped the smirk off his face. "Now I want the truth or you'll have nothing special before breakfast."

"Told him just what you told me," Bodie said. "Told him about the curse."

"Not just like that." He ran a fingertip the length of the blindly seeking flesh and it gave a little leap, like a creature with a will of it's own; like Beelzy, he thought with a wry grin.

"No, I made him give me a bit of information for every bit I gave him.

Trade. I 'aven't worked in Intelligence all these years for nothing. You see, if he'd guessed anything that meant there had to be others he knew about. I asked him straight out and he said yes, there were others on the squad, but most of them were solo agents and we wouldn't know them anyway.

For that bit of information, I gave him the bare facts of your affliction.

I told him the specifics when he admitted he had a talent of his own.

Wouldn't tell me what it was, though, and I'd run out of good bits to trade."

"You're a sly bugger, Bodie." He kissed the dark man, opening his mouth to an eager tongue. Then he pulled away, the memory of Beelzy's mating still fresh and pungent in him. "I want to own you, beautiful man," he rasped as they pressed together, wriggling, teasing, kissing softly, almost playfully.

"Turn over and let me do you."

And without protest, Bodie flipped onto his belly and bent his knees, tilting his backside upwards. Ray knelt behind him and drew his fingernails down the delicate skin of Bodie's back, leaving red welts on the white cheeks and thighs. He took a moment to lubricate himself and without any preliminary caress he entered the offered body as Beelzy had done the day before with the little black cat. Bodie moaned, but to Ray's ears, used to the nuances of Bodie's lust, it was not a sound of pain. He pulled back and pressed in again, slowly this time, making each exquisite sensation last.

Bodie raised the upper part of his body and Ray wrapped his arms around the smooth chest and hauled him upwards, moving more freely in and out of the beloved body. He wrapped one hand around Bodie's erection and pumped him vigorously in the same rhythm. Then he kissed the padded muscle of Bodie's left shoulder and bit deep into it, stifling his own cry of release in sweat-slick, salty flesh. Bodie's cry echoed for both.

The animal, so deeply buried in Ray, spoke in an animal voice: mate

They went down together to breakfast, holding hands because Ray wanted to and despite the fact that Bodie was uncomfortable. Ray's mother was not in the dining room.

But there was a woman there who was a stranger, yet familiar in such an intimate was...She caught his gaze and smiled, absently at first, the way one does when sharing good will with a stranger, and then with growing recognition, until she threw back her head and laughed aloud. The man with her stared at her and grinned.

She rose and walked towards Ray, enfolding him in her arms, and for a moment he was afraid. But then he relaxed in her strength, and whispered 'mama' into her tight curls, and she laughed again more gently.

"Among other things," she said. "Come, share our meal." She held out her hand to Bodie who, to Ray's surprise, did not refuse, and she drew them back to the table.

"My name is Colette," she told them, "and this is Kevin, my lover, a teller of tales, a singer of songs."

"I'm Ray and this is lover." He studied Colette carefully with the eyes of a CI5 agent. She was in her forties, he guessed, and tall and slender, and her skin was the colour of milk chocolate. She was not beautiful and yet she was. Already he loved her. Kevin was more exotic - lighter-skinned and blue=eyed, he was completely bald and wore a long silver earring in the shape of the crescent moon in one ear. He could have been anything from thirty to sixty years old. Ray noticed he had artist's hands, long and slender, and that the fingers were calloused.

"Ray and I met in the Forest, or rather Niniane and..." She looked to Ray.

"Beelzy," he said, feeling foolish. Colette and Kevin both laughed.

"Ambivalent feelings about him, eh?" she asked.

"So would you have if you couldn't control Niniane," Bodie said, and Ray turned to him surprise. What did Bodie know about her and how?

"You need a teacher," Colette said, and it was not a question.

They talked then, as though they had always known each other. Even Bodie seemed at ease with Colette, and Ray felt a moment of sadness, wishing that his own mother had been so easy with his lover.

Colette said she was willing to take him on as a student, but warned him that the journey was a hard one. She told him he would have to spend some time wither her, either here or in her home in San Francisco.

When Ray admitted that time and money were at a premium, she just smiled and said, "That can be taken care of. Ray, you've called me to you," she hesitated for a moment, "or someone did. Anyway, I'm meant to be your teacher. When you're ready, you'll make the commitment without thought."

She gave him her name, address and phone number. "When you call, I'll come to you and we can begin, but be sure you know the path you want to walk. If you accept responsibility for Beelzy, your life will be more difficult."

Ray found it hard to believe that life could be more difficult than it was now, but he nodded and promised to consider carefully.

Later, when they went for a walk, Ray asked Bodie, "Do you know her? I mean, did you see her here yesterday?"


"How did you know...l mean, you seemed to know about her..." He found it hard to put his question into words. "You know something," he said at last.

"You needed a teacher," Bodie said with an eloquent shrug. "It's what I was wishing for."

--Litha 1981

Nine Lives

I hadn't been back to work but a couple of weeks when I had a bad feeling that something was wrong with one of my children. It was weird too, because I usually know which baby is in trouble - surrogate motherhood takes me like that. Anyway, this one was in a lot of trouble because he or she (though I have fewer girls than boys who need me) was pulling real hard. It only lasted a day and then it was gone again, like someone had just lifted all that hurting and fear onto himself leaving me to get on with my life.

Couple of days later, Kevin called me and said, "You know, I've been thinking about those two at the inn," and it was then I realized that it was one of them who had been drawing on me. I got rid of Kevin and concentrated hard on Ray and Bodie, reaching out to them in hope of finding them whole and well, but all I could feel was a void where they should have been.

I was depressed by the time I gave up my search Kev stopped by with a pizza and some beer and was patient while I grumbled about him never leaving me alone. Then he sat me down and made me eat - was delicious, too, a Kevin special loaded with everything that had been hanging around his fridge.

"You're too wrapped up in this, my baby," he told me. "What can you do?"

"Someone drew Ray 'n' me together," I reminded him. "I'm involved even if I can't do anything more than sit and worry."

"Okay, okay." He dropped the subject and switched on the radio to fill up the silence while we ate.

Later I took him into my bed, but couldn't get interested in more than cuddling which was okay with Kev. He has the gift of being everything I need - brother, lover, father and devil's advocate all rolled into one exotic package. He got u a couple of hours later and dressed.

"Tal is working tomorrow night. You coming? He'll be disappointed if Mama Colette isn't in the audience." Tal is one of my lame ducks and the young man who'd shared Kevin's house and, occasionally, his bed for almost six years now. Though he was almost twenty-five, he looked like a child; and in all the years we'd known him, he'd never uttered a word Kev taught him to tell stories with his face and body and christened him Taliessin since we never knew his name. I promised to be there and fell asleep before he left the house. This mother business takes a lot out of me.

About two weeks later, I got a call from my supervisor asking me to stop by her office before I went home.

"I've received a rather unusual request and I wanted to discuss it with you." She passed an official-looking letter across the cluttered desk.

"It's from a Major Cowley in London..."

I skimmed the letter. " of my men...gravely injured..." Was that what I'd felt? He didn't say which one, and for the life of me, I couldn't tell either. That was the oddest thing - I could have sworn that both of them had been hurt. Then a thought struck me with the force of a blow - was one of them dead? That would account for the void. Was it Ray? Had this Cowley person found my name in his personal effects?

"...never encountered anything like thi...Colette? Are you with me?"

"Doro, I'm sorry. The man he talks about is a friend." I knew it was Ray or Bodie, sure as I knew my own name. But which one?

"Oh, my dear, I'm so sorry. Is that why he made the request?"


"Finish the letter," she ordered gently. "Or would you rather I just filled you in quickly?" I nodded. "The Major has asked us to allow you to come to London to work with this man. He'll need extensive therapy, Cowley says.

Colette, what kind of business is this?"

"Beats me," I lied. "Must be important." Kev calls this my 'don-know-nuthin' act.

"Anyway, he's gone to considerable trouble to get you over there." She waved an airline ticket at me. "Don't they have physical therapists in London?"

The expression on her face made me laugh. "More than enough, I imagine. I guess he thinks I'll be good for Ray." There. My subconscious had provided the answer - it was Ray who was injured. I was flooded with a vast relief that my new chick was alive, but a sadness too at the thought that Bodie, that lovely, restless lostchild might be gone.

"You look pale, Colette. You okay?"

How could I explain to her? She was a friend, but she was also my supervisor. "Ray and his partner are special to me," was all I said.

"You want to go?"

"You'll let me?"

"Even if I wasn't inclined to, I don't have much choice." She handed me another letter and got up to pour coffee for both of us. "Cowley has clout," she said.

The letter was from the Secretary in charge of excess verbiage, I think, and I wondered if my taxes were paying for this expensive stationery. "Full co-operation" stood out. Hell, I don't like being ordered around even by the government, I could imagine how Doro felt. "I guess I'm causing you a lot of trouble, huh?"

She handed me a spoon and two packets of sugar. (Hospital coffee is like mud by the end of the day.) "Not as much as you might think. If you can finish out the week here, we have that new man from New Hampshire due in in ten days, so we'll only go short-staffed for a while. And the Major says he 'll be paying your salary while you're gone. Shall I inflate the figure?"

she asked with a wicked gleam in her eyes.

"Better not...well, only a little." Paying my airfare. Shit, that meant I had to fly. I couldn't use the gates.

I left a week later. Kev and Tal moved into my house to take care of things while I was away. I hated to leave since I had a new lame duck who was terribly troubled. He'd been with me for about six months...Wait; maybe I ought to explain myself first.

I was sixteen when I was told I'd never be a mother. At first it was terribly hard to bear since I'd wanted nothing else all my life. But bear it I did because there was no choice at that time. I kept on taking in stray animals as I'd always done, but soon after, when I entered college, I began to take in stray people, people who were spiritually wounded, and they all became my children. Later when I cam came to the Bay area to work, I bought an old Victorian house and fixed it up, and opened its doors to the ones who needed me. I'm forty-five next year and I've mothered more babies, human and otherwise, than any woman could ever imagine.

Tal had been one of my children for four years before he went to live with Kev. To this day, he still signs 'Mama Colette' whenever he sees me, his blue eyes all shiny with love. Tal is a sweet child, and very near to my heart, as he is to Kevin. But Jamie, my new duckling...he's a challenge. I met Jamie in the hospital eight months ago. He'd cut his wrists on the Golden Gate and had stood alone in the fog letting his bloody drain into the bay. He was seventeen years old and had been on the streets since he was twelve. There's nothing that hasn't been done to my Jamie.

I got to know him while he was recovering figured he could use a little mothering. He'd been cursed with the sort of looks that tempted even the untemptable - tall, silver-blond, sculpted face, luminous blue eyes that were shot with green or pale lilac in the right light - he had the face of a melancholy angel. It wasn't any wonder everyone wanted a bit of him, a word, a touch...just to say (as I heard one volunteer do) that they'd seen him and yes, he was the prettiest thing ever to grace these halls. It was crazy; even the straight men and gay women were drawn to all that melancholy beauty. One day, the chaplain, the head dietician and two nurses from Obstetrics, none of whom had any business being there, were hovering around him when I arrived. I remember that day because it was the first time I saw him smile. It was a wry expression and it said: "Do you believe these people?" but it was a smile all the same, and I shared it with him.

Thinking on it now, I realize that he had little enough reason to trust me either, except maybe he knew that I wasn't asking him for anything, but that I had something for him.

That day I told him, after I shooed the others out (let me tell you, there were some hard feelings about that day around the hospital) that if he needed a home, my door was open to him. His face shuttered and he mumbled, "Don't need anything from anyone." I didn't press the issue.

But three weeks later, two weeks after he'd been released and I thought I'd never see him again, I found him waiting for me outside the hospital after work. "Lost your address," was all he said. He's been with me ever since.

When I told him I had to leave for a while he didn't say much - none of these children speak much, I've noticed - but I could tell he was unhappy.

I was halfway across the Atlantic when I realized I'd be gone on his birthday - November first. He'd be eighteen. I'd have to do something about that.

I had a shock - a welcome one - at Heathrow. Bodie was there to meet me.

He looked terrible, ashen pale and ten years older, but he was alive. "I'm so glad to see you, Bodie," I said. He gave me a look that made me shiver.

"Ray's in a bad way," he said. "Girl snuck into his flat...he was careless," he added bitterly. There are no accidents, I thought, and wondered why it had happened. "Shot him three times at close range." His tone was flat.

Was it Bodie, I wondered, who had taken all of Ray's troubles onto himself?

Was he the one who had drawn it away from me? I wanted to reassure him with a touch, but he was so closed I couldn't. "But he'll live," I said, "or your Major Cowley wouldn't have sent for me. And why did he send for me?"

"Oh yeah, he'll live." And this time, I thought I heard some bitterness in his voice and wondered at it. "As for the why," he said, retrieving my bag and whisking me through Customs with a flash of his ID, "I asked him to.

Didn't know what else to do."

"I don't follow. Bodie, I'm not a healer, I'm a teacher."

"You're the only one I could think of."

"To do what?" I pushed as he led me to his car. He opened the door, tossed my bag in, waited there until I was seated and shut it behind me. Good manners are not dead.

"I don't know, Colette, okay? I was scared he'd die." He started the car and let it run for a moment. "Maybe I needed someone to hold my hand...I don't know."

"What did you tell your Major Cowley? Surely..."

"I told him the truth. He's one of you." How odd, I though, 'one of you' not 'one of us.' "I told him that you could work with Ray while he was in hospital. He's dead keen to have a tame shape shifter on the squad," he added with bitter humour. "And I told him he could use your real career as cover. Ray'll need physical therapy."

"I don't doubt it," I said. "Is he al right...inside, I mean?"

"I don't know. Maybe that's why I wanted you here." He paused for a moment. "I think he wanted to die."

"Why on earth..."

"I don't know!" he shouted. "God, don't you think I've asked myself that a thousand times?"

This time I did touch him, and the chaos inside of him was unbearable. How could he stand to feel that way, I wondered.

Ray was still flat on his back when I arrived at the hospital, and he still had tubes running through him. Wasn't much I could do with a man in this condition, though I did notice a smile on his face when he saw me. "Helluva way to get me here, Ray," I teased.

"Subtlety has never been my strong suit," he rasped. His colour was better than Bodie's.

"Do what you can," Bodie said to me, and he left the room.

Ray sighed. "He's so angry with me," he said. "Maybe he has a right. I almost left him."

"Why?" I asked, shrugging off my coat and sitting beside the bed.

"I'm not sure, really, except that the choice was to go on or go home. I'll never lose him, not really."

"Yes, but he doesn't know that, does he?" I asked sounding prim and school-marmish. There was a knock at the door and it swung open to admit a small, sandy-haired man with a look of power about him. George Cowley, I realized, and one of the servants of the Lady. Before the door swung shut behind him, I saw Bodie standing outside, staring at Ray with a look of the most intense and terrifying love I've ever seen.

"Ms Caroll, I'm George Cowley." His sharp blue eyes took in the silver pentacle at my throat.

"Colette, please."

"And you must call me George." He took my hand in his and I could feel the tingle of power at his fingertips. "Do you think we can do anything with the lad?"

"Oh, I expect so. I haven't seen his charts yet, so I don't know the extent of the damage, but I've worked with hard cases before."

"You hear that, laddie?"

"I'm for it," Doyle groaned.

"Too bloody right. Colette, I have to go back to work now, but I'd welcome the chance to speak to you again once you've had opportunity to acquaint yourself with the situation. Dinner?"

"I'd be delighted," I told him, and I felt myself flushing a little.

Luckily it hardly shows on me. Oh girl, do you think you're gonna get laid tonight? And by a Scots witch too? Yep.

"He was nice to you," Ray said after George left.

"You sound surprised."

"He mostly shouts at us."

That made me laugh out loud, and Bodie poked his head into the room.

"Trouble here?" he asked, with a wry smile that took a few years off him. I wondered how long it had been since he'd smiled. Which one of them was the harder case?

"Trouble there," I said, pointing at Ray. "That's what I'm gonna call him until he's well, anyway."

"Good idea," Bodie said, his face shuttering again. He was about to back away, when I went to the door to talk to him.

"Ray, I'll be back in a minute or two," I said, shoving Bodie back and shutting the door behind me. "You gonna be around or do you have to go back to work too?"

"I'm assigned to you for a week until you're settled, why?"

"Well, I need someone to have lunch with, for one thing, and for another, I want to talk to you." He looked wary, but said nothing. "You need help as much as Ray does," I told him, and to his credit, he didn't protest.

"Just sort him out first, will you?" he asked gently.

"Love doesn't have to do with the subjugation of self, Bodie." I patted his cheek and he leaned into the caress as though he'd been touch-starved for weeks. Of course he was, I realized. "Now, if you're assigned to me, you have to do as I say, right?"

"I'm for it," he said with a deep sigh.

"Then I want you to find an empty bed and sleep for a few hours while I talk to Ray. Will you do that?"

"Whatever you say, Mom." He kissed my cheek and walked on down the hall.

It might have been my imagination, but he seemed to step lighter than he'd done earlier.

"What'd he say to you?" Ray asked when I returned.

"Who, Cowley or Bodie?"


"None of your business. Now, tell me what happened to you."

"Haven't they told..."

"It's not details I want, Ray, its reasons."

"I told you, I don't really know why I let it happen," he said. At least, I thought, he understood that he'd made all the choices, even if the why was still murky. "I guess maybe I was just tired. Sounds pretty lame, doesn't it?"

"Depression is something we all suffer from time to time, Ray. Sometimes for no apparent reason." I paced the room, wishing for an easy answer.

"You two seemed happy at the inn."

"We were. We've never been anything but. No, it's not Bodie or our relationship that bothered me. Do you suppose this could have been a way of, of..." he was floundering for the words, he looked tired.

"Slow down, we have time."

"Maybe I need to stand back and look at what I am. That's what I did, you know. At first I wasn't sure I liked what I saw, either, but Bodie was there with me the whole between. How'd he do that?"

My head hurt and I rubbed it absently before I answered. "He's always with you, isn't he? Just like you're always with him."

"Am I?"

"You are right now. Tell me what he's doing."

He frowned at me then shut his eyes. In a few moments a smile spread across his face. "He's asleep," he said softly.

"And that's what you're going to do as soon as we're through here. Anything else?"

"I guess I realized that if Bodie values me, then I must be...valuable." I nodded, but let him continue. "I've never really felt like this before, like a part of someone. I love my mother and I think she loves me, but it's not the same."

Think she loves me. Well, that says something, I thought. "No, it usually isn't. Well, I'm not going to push you any further today. You could do with some rest." I kissed his forehead and smoothed back the long curls.

They were shiny - a good sign. I waited with him until he fell asleep.

Then I whispered, "Go find him," and crept out of the room.

The nurses promised not to disturb him for a couple of hours, and they gave me his charts and a quiet place in which to study them. Like I told George, I'd handled harder cases, but I wasn't sure just how far I could bring him.

With injuries like this, I wondered if he'd ever be back at optimum fitness again. I'd do what I could for him, I decided, and let the rest take care of itself.

I woke Bodie about one-thirty, and was pleased to see that he looked much better than when I'd sent him to bed. His colour was good, and while the dark circles under his eyes were still ominous, he looked more like himself.

He was charmingly rumpled and he looked startled when he realized who I was.

"Dreaming about your better half?" I teased, and was surprised to see him flush and draw up one leg to hide what I imagined was hard evidence of what he'd been dreaming about. "I'm hungry. Get yourself together and meet me at the elevator in about fifteen minutes. I hope you know some good restaurants."

I peeked in at Ray and saw that he was smiling in his sleep.

Bodie and I spent the afternoon running around London. He bought me lunch, got me settled into a nice furnished apartment ('flat' he kept saying each time I called it an apartment. We don't really speak the same language.), and we talked. He told me a lot about himself, and I think it surprised him that he was so voluble. He struck me as the sort of man who rarely speaks about himself.

He had a lot in common with so many of my children - on his own at fourteen and until he'd learned to say no in ways that would be respected, he'd been used by anyone who'd been strong enough and unethical enough. It's a story I've heard so often that I was able to remain cool, which is what he needed.

A man like Bodie has no use for pity - he didn't feel it for himself and didn't expect or even care for it from others.

Seemed that Ray had become the focus of life from the day they met, and that scared me a little because that sort of obsession usually leads to tragedy.

Still, they seemed to be dealing with it. Or were they? I made a mental note to find out what Ray thought of Bodie's feelings for him.

"It's this business with Beelzy and the old religion and all that bothers me a little. I haven't believed in anything but Ray for a long long time.

Dunno if I can be any more than an interested spectator. It's hard on Ray, I know. His mum doesn't trust me either."

Oh ho! Now we're getting places, I thought. "What d'you mean?" He was helping me to rearrange the furniture and was looking a little annoyed at having to move the same lamp four times. I can't help it, I'm particular.

"She married some bloke who made her convert to RC after Ray was born. She doesn't trust outsiders."

"What's an outsider?" I asked him.

"Someone who doesn't belong. Look, why don't you just buy another lamp?"

"And you don't think you belong?" I persisted.

"Don't believe in all this offence."

"None taken, but the point I'm trying to make is that you're no more an outsider than she or I or Ray..."

"Give over," he drawled. "I don't like being patronized."

"Damn you, you thick-headed Brit, what makes you think you're worth patronizing?" I yelled. He looked startled and put the lamp down in just the right spot. "That's perfect, don't move it!" Then I felt sorry for my flash of temper. "Bodie, I apologise, that wasn't nice. But just because I 'm an Ignorant Barbarian Colonial doesn't mean I haven't got some integrity."

"I didn't mean..."

"I know you didn't." I sat down on the couch and patted the seat beside me.

"Come here and listen to me for a minute." He sat down, but he was tense and withdrawn. "Bodie, there is no such thing as an outsider. The old ways are just another method of explaining the universal truth which is that you and I and Ray and his mother and George Cowley...we're all God, whatever that it."

"Always knew George was," he quipped.

"Ray needs you, he needs your strength." I took his hand and felt, as I had with Cowley, a tingle of power that startled me. Oh, he has magic, I told myself with pleasure, and a strong magic - still unknown and unchannelled it could move me the way Cowley's had done.

"I need him as well," he said, the bitterness back in his voice.

"And he tried to leave you, and you're very angry with him."

"Yes." His fingers clenched around mine rather painfully.

"Maybe he didn't really want to leave; maybe he just needed to step out of his skin and take a good look at what sort of life he was living."

"What's wrong with it?" Bodie asked defensively.

"Nothing, that's just the point. He had to realize that."

He was silent for such a long time that I wondered what he was thinking, but finally he said, in such a low voice I nearly missed it, "I miss him most in the mornings." There were tears running down his face. "I was so afraid I' d lose him."

He hadn't even cried, poor child. Probably he hadn't cried since he left home. So I held him while he did, and I wished my Jamie could find this release some day.

Bodie left before George came by - discreet devil. "'Ave some housework to do meself," he explained as he kissed goodbye.

Over dinner I gave George my assessment of Doyle's condition according to what I'd read. "Of course, until I can work with him, I won't have any clear idea of what can be done. It is a little early..."

"I understand that you're going to be his teacher, though. It's not too early to begin that."

Oh, but he was a smooth one. "You have an interest in his...abilities?" I asked as he poured some more wine.

"Oh yes. I have many talented individuals on my staff."

"Do you now? How interesting. But an untrained talent is more a liability to you, isn't it?"

"Precisely." He stared at me for a few moments. "So are undiscovered ones; they have a tendency to backfire."

"Get out of my head!" I snapped. "That's not fair."

"No, I'm sorry, it's not. But you do know that I'm right," he pursued.

"All I can do is talk to him about it."

"You wouldn't have any idea of what Bodie's gift is?"

"None at all, I'm afraid."

He sighed heavily and I suddenly saw the years that lay on him. I realized that much of his energy went to holding off the effects of time and illness of injury.

"You love him, don't you?" I asked. "That isn't mind-reading, by the way, it's instinct."

"Well, yes, he's very special to me. I could shake him most times." He sat back and folded his napkin. "He's an infuriating lad. Doyle is good for him. Steadier. Oh, before I forget, your supervisor quoted me a most interesting figure when I asked her what your monthly salary was."

Good old Doro.

The rest of the evening was lovely. We didn't talk about Bodie or Doyle again and I began to feel as if I was on vacation. George is a fascinating talker. And in case you're wondering, yes, the girl got what she wanted and she enjoyed it immensely.

When I walked into Ray's room the next day and found Bodie there, holding Ray's hand and the two of them just looking at each other, I figured the hard part was over. "Well, I'm not having you play Irving Underfoot, Bodie.

If you're going to stay, you're going to work."

The first thing I taught them was the nature of power. I taught them that it came from within themselves, that power was the focusing of their wills.

"Some folks can visualize just about anything, which is the easiest way to focus," I told them. "Others have what you'd call a touchstone; something that literally is the focus of their power. It could be a person or an object. It's possible for some of these people to use their power unconsciously when they're near their touchstone.

"When the two of you work with me we'll use visualization. I can't teach you how to use a touchstone - it has to happen on its own."

Always I included Bodie when I spoke about power because I wanted him to take it seriously for his own sake. If he was as strong as I thought he was, all that power could backfire on him one day.

Then came what Ray had begun to call 'hands-on' training. I taught them how to ground the power they called up and how to centre it. "Imagine yourself floating," I told them. "Feel the movement inward and downward. Use any image that can help you feel this. The object is to relax. I want you to learn how to relax your whole body and I want you to learn how to relax your minds."

This last was going to be both simple, because they had well-disciplined minds, and difficult because their job had taught them never to relax.

"Focus on a single image which suggest an emptying. Think of a door. Think of a room into which you put all your troubles, all your concerns, your anger and your pain. Now close the door and lock it. You've emptied your mind of its negative thoughts. Now reach for a positive image - something that pleases but doesn't distract you - a flower, a butterfly...let yourself be part of that image," I urged them.

"The next bit should be easy for you two. I want you to concentrate on your breathing and nothing else. Inhale deeply, exhale. If you know about Chakras, think of yourself as exhaling from the sacral Chakras. If not, put your hand on your abdomen about an inch below your navel and focus on the spot as you exhale. Inhale - slow - exhale. Good." They were damn good at following directions.

"Inhale - hold." I counted to five. "Exhale - hold." I counted breaths for several minutes. "Now hold each breath for as long as you're comfortable. Inhale..." I let them breathe on their own for several minutes.

"Ten." I began the deepening phase. "Nine...eight..." They were breathing deeply now, profoundly relaxed. "Seven...six...five...feel yourself You are in a deepened trance state," I told them, "and you need protection. Choose an image with which to make a circle. White light is good, though you may choose any other colour. A sound, vibrations - anything which eases or comforts you. Use this image to build a circle around yourself it will protect you from all hurt."

Then I set them simple exercises in visualization designed to reinforce this process. I hoped to bring them to a point where the trance would become second nature. I wanted them to be able to reach a light trance state in a matter of moments. From that point it would become as natural as...breathing.

By this time, the week was over and Bodie had to go back on regular duty. I made a note to speak to George about that, because I was starting to see tangible signs of his power, though not yet his talent. Once I got him past the initial feeling-silly-about-all-this-nonsense phase, I found that the vibrations of power he gave off increased with each stage in our learning.

On the last day we were all together, I told them to ground and centre the power as I'd taught them, and I actually saw the aura of it around Bodie.

It was flowing out of him - even Ray felt it and opened his eyes in surprise, but said nothing. Then suddenly, it just stopped. And Bodie was looking at both of us with the oddest expression.

"Crikey, you'll 'ave me walkin' on a bed of nails next, or fire-eatin'. An' speakin' of which, I'm hungry. Anyone for ice-cream?"

He has a talent for evasion.

Ray progressed quickly, not only learning from me, but making intuitive leaps. His education was sadly lacking, and I found myself judging his mother - rather unfairly, I suppose. It seemed a shame to me that she shoul d have turned away from the one way that offered help to her son. Still, it was not my place to judge. She had to carry her own guilt. Ray was an apt pupil and he had an open mind, which I've always considered to be one of the greatest attributes of a successful student.

He healed quickly as well, and I found myself wondering if it was all through his own efforts. It seemed to me there was someone else always standing beside him. Bodie? I couldn't tell. This power was faceless and elusive, but it seemed far too channelled. Bodie may have been strong, but I doubted that he had the focus needed for such a specific task as healing.

Besides, since the last day I'd worked with him, I'd felt nothing from him, no sense of hidden power, no vibrations, nothing. He'd obviously closed down the sources unconsciously, feeling, perhaps that things were getting beyond his control. I could tell that he didn't like the idea of magic and the paranormal.

When I mentioned his training to George, I also mentioned his withdrawal, since I felt it was significant. So did George, apparently, but he told me Doyle was my first duty just then. Then I wondered, was it George helping Ray to heal? Certainly I should be able to read his personality in the work if it was his. Power, like art, carries the signature of its creator.

"If Bodie was to accept his...if he could be brought to acceptance, could you teach him?"

"Only so much," I admitted. "He needs to find his own teacher, just like Ray did. Could it be you, George?" I asked.

"Och, no, I only have so much energy to give. I use it all in my job. No, the lad will have to find someone else to give him his training."

Before I knew it, it was mid-October. Ray was well along both physically and spiritually, and was involved in some serious meditations on the source of his own power and its form. It was, I hoped, the way into that locked room where Beelzy lived.

Physically, he was fitter than he should have been. In fact, I had to tell him to tone it down a little when other people were around. The hospital staff, used to more conventional rates of recovery, might have gotten curious if Ray seemed too rambunctious. He seemed pleased, though. He was obviously enjoying being alive; drawing an almost sexual pleasure out of the exercises I set him, both physical and metaphysical.

Bodie came by to visit whenever he could, and one evening I stopped by Ray's room to pick up a book I'd forgotten and found them in bed together. Or rather, since I'd made enough noise on the way in to wake the dead, I found Bodie hopping around, trying to pull his pants on and Doyle lying in bed with the sheets over his head.

"Bodie, you look charmingly undignified," I said with malicious glee. I could see the sheets shaking and light laughter drifted out from under them.

"And Ray, you must be feeling better." He pushed the sheet down.

"Randy as hell, if you want to know. Your timing is abysmal."

"I'll be gone in a minute," I promised. "But don't you think this is just a teensy bit dangerous?"

"Colette, I've been in hospital for two months, and not once in my memory has anyone except you or Bodie entered this room between the time they collect the supper trays and the time they bring me my medication. I have to keep him happy, don't I?" he asked with a grin in Bodie's direction.

Bodie's face was still a little flushed and his usually immaculate appearance was softened by mussed hair and misbuttoned shirt. He looked all of sixteen years old. "Do you think he can go home soon?" he asked me.

"Yeah. And it's none too soon, from the look of the two of you." I collected my book. "I'll see what I can do. You boys be careful."

"Close the door when you go," Ray ordered.

A few days later I was having coffee with some of the nurses when Bodie arrived with my mail. There was a letter from Kev saying he'd talked a friend into house- and pet-sitting for us, and he was bringing Tal and Jamie through the gates in time for Samhain and for Jamie's birthday. He said Jamie was lonely without me. What he didn't say was that Jamie was probably being impossible and needed a little maternal discipline. With Jamie, there was always a problem with shared affection, and particularly with sexuality.

He resented my relationship with Kev, but respected it because I demanded that respect. But Kev's relationship with Tal disturbed him deeply. I tried many times to get him to discuss the problem, but he doggedly insisted that there was none. He was protective of Tal and felt that Kev was using him. That Tal looks like a child only made it worse. From what little I knew about Jamie's past, it made perfect sense.

"Anything interesting?" Bodie asked as he helped himself to a cup of coffee.

"My family is coming over for the holiday...Samhain," I added, noting his look of confusion.

"If you'll tell me the date, I can fetch them for you."

"Thanks, babycakes, but I have to meet them myself. I'll tell you what, though, you can come along."

"Don't want to intrude," he said, but he looked pleased.


He glanced up and the look of happiness faded as his face closed off.

"Four-oh-five," he said to the woman who stood in front of us. She had to be Ray's mother. She had the look of him - something feral.

"Is he all right?"

"Since he's been in hospital for two months and is still alive," he snapped, "I'd say he's as all right as you can expect from a man who almost died."

I gave him a poke. "Mind your manners," I warned. Then I stood and extended my hand. "I'm Colette, Ray's teacher."

"Joan Doyle." So, she carried a witch name. She feared me, I could feel it.

She shook my hand gingerly. "I'd like to see him."

I took her to Ray's room. Bodie didn't come along. Ray was working with weights. He looked startled.

"What are you doing here?" he blurted.

"I thought..." she turned to me. "Will you leave us for a few minutes?"

"Of course." Just before I left the room I heard Ray say, "She can hear anything you have to say..."

"So that's the infamous Mother Doyle," I said to Bodie as I returned to my chair. "Can't say as I care for her on first meeting. Still, I'm not the one to judge. So, you'll come then?"

"Where? Oh, to the airport..."

"Not exactly," I said, laughing.

She stayed longer than I expected her to, and when she left Ray, she looked as though she'd been crying. Oddly enough, I felt sorry for her. Ray looked perky enough.

"Don't suppose you want to discuss this," I said.

"You're fishing. I laid down the law about me and Bodie and everything."


"Almost everything. Colette, I've spent too much of my life feeling guilty about the way I've cocked up her life. For chrissake, if she'd been so afraid of the curse, she'd never have let me happen. She gambled with my life and she lost. Now I have to live with that. I'll live with it in my own way."

"So why hasn't she been to see you before this?"

"The usual - guilt. Creature of avoidance, me mum."

"Don't sound so cavalier, my lad. She's still..."

"Don't say it."

"You ready to do some work?" I asked.

"No, I'd rather talk."

"Talk then." I sat on the edge of the bed and watched him move around the room like a caged animal.

"You asked me why this happened," he said, tapping his chest. "Why I let myself be shot." We hadn't spoken of this since the day I arrived. "I said it wasn't my relationship with Bodie...and I still maintain that it's not the whole problem," he added. "but it's part." He lay down on the bed. "I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I remember the day it happened. I lay on the floor, dying, and thinking that Bodie was going to be so upset.

I waited for him, Colette, not for 'help', but for Bodie." He laughed and tipped his head back against the pillow.

"Then while I was in between, he was there with me and I knew he was trying to hold me to life. I should have been grateful, but I wasn't. I resented him for trying to protect me from something that seemed so right, so peaceful. I was feeling sorry for myself and Bodie wouldn't let me. He's always doing that!" He punched the mattress with his fist. "I pulled away from him, Colette, not away from life, and he knows it. That's why he's angry with me. He doesn't understand that I'm not some china doll without a brain in its head. You see, I'm the centre of his life - he stands or falls with me." He was silent for a moment. "And he's the centre of mine, Colette.

"But that can't be the whole problem, can it? I don't want to think it is, anyway. The reason I had a decision to make in the first place was that I needed to want to live this life. You see, sometimes I think about what I am and it scares me. It's not just Beelzy who's a hunter," he said with heavy irony. "I'm a paid killer."

There was no self-pity in him now, only a determination to see this through.

I felt cold suddenly at the look in his eyes.

"Scares you too, doesn't it? Well, that's good. I'm a scary bloke. Only Bodie understands what that's like. I don't want that to be the tie that binds."

"And you think it is?" I asked.

"I'm afraid it is," he admitted.

"You don't figure love into any of this, I see," I said as I walked around the room, straightening things aimlessly.

"That makes it much harder."

"Who said it was easy?" I asked, and he smiled ruefully.

"Right. Want to talk about my mother now we're on a roll?"

"How does Joan fit in?" I asked.

"Guilt and resentment. I didn't think she'd come, she never has before. I don't even know why she came today. She helped me cope, but didn't help me learn what I needed to know. She never held me back but she never pushed me along either. I achieved a sort of stasis. I learned to live with Beelzy, but not how to control him. To be fair, she never made me feel guilty for what I am, but she never made me feel good about it either. And I've felt guilty for years because I feel as though I'm responsible for what she is.

Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I think so."

"Bodie was the last straw, I guess. I hate to say this, but I think she's upset because I've found happiness despite what I am. She's never been able to do that."

I took his hand and stroked it. "Ray, mothers are only human, though we're inclined to forget that sometimes. It's a long way down off that pedestal, too. But I think you might be right. She's lost a fellow sufferer - a companion in adversity."

"To Bodie, she thinks," he added with a sigh. "So what do I do about it?"

"Live your life, and let Bodie help."

"That's it?"

"You can't live her life, can you? And she can't live yours. You both should stop trying."

"Okay, teacher." He smiled up at me and I kissed his cheek.

"Now I have some news. My family is coming over for the holiday. You up to company?"

"I'd feel upper if I was home," he hinted. "Bake a file into a cake, will you?"

"I'll talk to Doctor Baker when I leave here. Act healthy this afternoon, okay?"

"Done. Hey, I feel better."

"That's why I'm here. You ready to do some work?"

"You bet."

Bodie came along with me to meet Kev and the others. He seemed startled when I told him where we were going. "Rollright Stones? Why?"

"Because that's where I'm meeting them." He looked sceptical so I tried to explain. "There are some places on the earth which are natural power sources. In many, ancient people built monuments - megaliths like Stonehenge. The Whispering Knights is the one Kev uses because it's not well known and therefore more accessible."

"Uses it for what?"

"Travel. A gate-crosser can move from site to site."

"Oh, right!"

"You don't have to believe me. Just take me there and wait and see."

It was dark when we arrived and there was no one about. I'd been here before, of course, but I could tell that Bodie hadn't. "Beautiful," he whispered. "Now what?"

"Now we wait." I sat down on the ground, leaning against one of the stones.

"She's quite mad," he told the autumn moon, "but I love her." He walked around, inspecting the place like a good guard dog. But soon the magic of the site began to work on him. He slowed and really looked at the stones, touching them, moving through them. I wondered if he was trying to feel the power.

I tried to explain how time and space warp slightly in these places. "It's simple magic once you know the way. Kev's been crossing for years."

"Give over. What are we really doing here?"

"Cross my heart..." There was a disturbance at the gate. Bodie didn't notice at first since he didn't know what to look for, but it was there - that fracturing of light and air that happens when someone is travelling through the gates. I stood up and pointed to the wavering light between two of the stones, and his mouth dropped open. "Just watch," I ordered.

The disturbance became more regular, like a pulse beat of birth contractions. It looked like a river flowing between the stones - a river of time and space which only a very few could navigate. Kev was a master gate-crosser.

The first one through was Tal in whiteface. His child's face lit up when he saw me and he signed 'Mama Colette' over and over before he flew into my arms. Then Jamie stepped through, trying to look unimpressed. He wasn't doing much of a job, though. He saw Tal hugging me and his face shut down just the way Bodie's did when he was hurting. "Hullo," he muttered. Kev stepped through and shoved Jamie towards me.

"Oh, sorry, Jamie," he said. The liar. I enfolded Jamie, too. He felt so stiff, so unhappy.

I introduced the youngsters to Bodie, and Tal was enthusiastic, but Jamie just stared at him. Kev greeted Bodie with a hug.

We drove back a little cramped, but Kev and Jamie and I sat in the back and let Tal have the scenic seat...not tat there was much to see at night, but what there was Tal wouldn't miss. He mimed constantly and even Bodie began to understand his language and laughed at the little jokes. I could see that even the hard man was charmed by Tal.

We picked up some supper on the way back to my place and I insisted Bodie stay as well, though he was inclined to leave us alone. We set out a cloth and had a picnic on my floor. Tal, in his way, flirted silently with Bodie.

It meant that he trusted Bodie instinctively and both Kev and I understood, but Jamie didn't, and I could feel an explosion building. I almost tried to stop it, but I realized that it was, perhaps, just what the doctor ordered for everyone. Bodie needed to be drawn out by someone like Tal who had never lost touch with the younger self, and Jamie needed a way to vent the rage that had been building in him for so many years. I was gambling that Bodie would understand that rage, having felt it himself. Tal was doing little bits of sleight-of-hand - pulling French fries out of Bodie's ears and making chicken drumsticks appear out of thin air. He made a breast disappear and Bodie applauded, but then Tal mimed that he was confused and unhappy and that he wanted the chicken breast. He patted his own chest and frowned, patted mine and smiled and I slapped his hands. Patted Kev - a little lower - and gave him a sweet kiss. He tried to pat Jamie's chest, but Jamie had his arms wrapped around himself and refused to be touched.

Finally Tal turned to Bodie and shook his finger at him, mimed that he wanted his chicken back. Bodie was shaking with suppressed laughter. Tal leaped on him and began groping him, tickling him and making him almost weep with laughter.

And then Jamie exploded. He hauled Tal off Bodie with one hand and fetched Bodie a kick that would have broken a rib had it connected. Bodie was too fast. He was the blow coming and caught Jamie's foot, twisting his leg so that Jamie fell with a crash into the remains of the meal. "You pervert, you stay away from him!!" Jamie yelled. Christ, it would have been funny if it wasn't so pitiful. Jamie was seven years younger than Tal. Kev almost got in between them, but I held him back and signalled Tal to keep away as well.

Bodie didn't hit him, but he pinned him down on the greasy paper plates.

"He's not a toy!" Jamie shrieked. It was the most emotion I'd seen from him since we'd met.

"I know that," Bodie said. "I know that. Calm down."

"I hate people like you!"

"People like what?" Bodie demanded.

"You." Jamie couldn't dislodge Bodie no matter how hard he struggled.

"What sort of people am I?"

"You use people like him. He's just a kid."

"I'd never hurt him like that. Jamie, listen to me..." he doubled over suddenly as Jamie's knee caught him in the groin. Careless. But he didn't let go. Jamie managed to roll over and tried to get to his feet, but Bodie tripped him again and he sprawled in the wreckage under Bodie's weight. It was going too far. I could see that Jamie was hyperventilating; scared for himself, now.

"Bodie, let go of him," I ordered. Jamie went limp, ready to accept, as always, whenever he couldn't fight.

But Bodie ignored me and hauled Jamie up to a sitting position. "Listen to me. I know what you're afraid of, Jamie. I'm afraid of it too."

And Jamie listened and believed him.

Tal came up behind Jamie and put his arms around him, holding him tight.

There were tear trails down his white greasepaint. Bodie wiped the food off Jamie's face. "You're not the only one," he whispered.

I pulled Kev out of the room. "Let them sort it out themselves," I told him. "I've missed you anyway."

The living room was clean when we got up the next morning. Tal and Jamie were curled up together on the hide-a-bed, sleeping soundly. A note from Bodie informed me that they'd done the dishes (very funny, Bodie) and washed each other and that everything was okay now. If I needed a chauffeur I was to give him a call via headquarters. My lost lambs...honestly, where did I find them all?

I took the family to the hospital to visit Ray and Tal was fascinated by Ray 's exotic features. He kept signing to Kev to paint Ray (Kev teaches art) and Kev promised that he would one day if Ray was willing.

Bodie arrived around lunchtime and I saw Jamie's face light up only to have that light extinguished when Bodie went to Ray and kissed him before he acknowledged the rest of us. Oh, my poor Jamie, not this heartache too!

"Doctor said I can go home tomorrow," Ray told Bodie. "Said I should take it easy for a while." He grinned up at his partner who smiled back.

"In that case, sunshine, I'm making the most of my free time. I'll take Colette and her family to lunch this afternoon...that is, if they agree," he added with a look at us.

"That'd be lovely," I said. I hadn't missed the look of expectation on Jamie's face. Bodie was sweet with him at lunch, being very careful to pay a lot of attention whenever Jamie decided to enter the conversation, which he did surprisingly often. And some of the things he said! He's seen a good deal more of life than I have...

I saw something else too, something I hadn't realized - Tal was in love with Jamie. Why, I wondered, did life always have to be so complicated?

Later, after we returned to my apartment, Jamie babbled on about Bodie until we were sick of it. I finally had enough and told him so. "I realize he's a paragon, Jamie, but the rest of us would appreciate five minutes on another subject...any subject."

That perfect face of his became sullen...odd how he could never look less than handsome even at his worst. "Sorry," he muttered. "I guess I'm just wound up." He went off into the living room and switched on the television.

Tal watched him go, then got up and followed him. He sat on the couch and snatched a rose out of thin air and held it out to Jamie.

"Oh go away, Tal, and quit that nonsense," Jamie snapped.

I itched to go out there and slap Jamie's pretty face, but Kev caught hold of my hand. "You can't protect them from everything," he said quietly. Tal came back and slipped the rose into a glass of water. He set the glass in front of me and knelt beside me, laying his head in my lap.

"What good is it?" I asked, stroking Tal's soft dark curls. "If I can't help, what's the point of trying?" Did all mothers feel this helpless when their babies were hurt?

Then I heard a voice that I'd never heard before...which I might never hear again. "You give us a safe place, Mama," Tal said. That was all. No amount of coaxing could get him to speak again.

Kev pulled him into his lap. "My boy talks with his face and his body," he said, rocking Tal gently. "He don't have much use for words." He kissed Tal's head. "Your rose has thorns, my baby. Best leave it in the garden."

Tal nodded.

I noticed Jamie standing in the doorway looking at Tal, and felt unaccountably sorry for him. He was the one turning away from love. "I'm sorry," he said to Tal who nodded again. He reached for the rose, but Tal signed that it belonged to Mama Colette now.

In bed that night, I couldn't resist asking Kevin, "Has he ever spoken to you?"

"Just once."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"It was private," he said, pulling the sheet around himself.


"He said, 'I love you.' Now go to sleep."

Bodie called the next morning and asked me to stop by Ray's apartment.

"I have to pick Ray up in an hour," he told me when I arrived, "but I need to know if this place looked all right." He was nervous as a cat, straightening books and polishing the same brass box four times in ten minutes.

"Looks fine. What's the problem? Bodie, why did you call me?"

He sighed and sat down on the couch. "I don't know. I'm just tense, I guess."

"All right, we're gonna do some of those exercises I taught you."

"Oh no, not..."

"Just do as I say," I ordered, pushing him back. "Now lie down and shut your eyes. Concentrate on your breathing."

After about twenty minutes he looked calmer. "Do you want to talk?" I asked. He shrugged and opened his eyes.

"Maybe I'm worried that he won't be happy here with me. I feel so helpless.

You remember asking me what an outsider is? Well, after careful thought, I can say that an outsider is someone who can't help, who doesn't know how to help."

That struck home with a vengeance, I can tell you. I must have made a derisive gesture, because he sat up suddenly and glared at me.

"It doesn't matter if I've read all the right books, or if you teach me to walk on water like some Liverpool shaman if I can't make the connections.

Six bloody months and I still feel like I fell down the rabbit hole! Now, what do I tell Ray when he comes home and expects support?"

"The truth."

"And how will he feel?"

"Guilty," I blurted before I could stop myself.

"Too bloody right. Oh God," he rubbed his forehead. "There goes all that relaxation up the spout. I'd better go. He'll be waiting at the door with a suitcase and a nurse. Do you want to come to supper?" he asked as he pulled on his jacket.

"Wouldn't you rather be alone?"

"Frankly? No. I'll fetch back some Chinese take-away. We'll party.

Tomorrow's Halloween."

"Ohmygosh!" I stopped short in the doorway and he ran into me. "Bodie, I'm coming along to the hospital. I want to talk to Ray."

"Why?" He pushed me out of the apartment and into the elevator.

"Tomorrow's our New Year's. If Beelzy is going to manifest himself, tomorrow will be the time. Has he mentioned..."

"Nothing." He opened the car door for me. His mouth was set in a grim line.

We drove the whole way to the hospital without another word, but as we parked, he said, "I'm angry."


"Because I don't understand. Because I'm an outsider and it hurts our loving. I'm angry because there's a whole world of experience I can't share with him."

"Won't share," I corrected. There, it was out.

"That's not so!"

"When you touched something alien in yourself, you ran from it, Bodie. You' re closed now. You won't try." I could see from his expression that I'd scored a point. So he was conscious of what had happened, to some small degree at least.

"Let's go fetch Ray," was all he said.

"Colette! I didn't know you were coming along." Ray looked wonderful for a man who had nearly died sixty days ago.

"I'm going to talk to the doctor," Bodie announced and left the room.

"I want to ask you something, Ray. Are you feeling anything that might lead you to think you're due for a change?"

"No, nothing, why? What day is it?"

"Tomorrow is Samhain," I told him.

"Not really? But then I'd know by now. It must mean I've done it, eh?" He was grinning widely.

"Or it could mean that you're still too ill. The body protects itself, Ray.

You couldn't change in times of illness of injury."

"I remember you saying that." He looked downcast. "And here I was thinkin' I'd made such great progress."

"You have, pet, wonderful progress. In fact, I've never seen anyone catch on so fast...or heal so fast."

"Yeh, weird, innit? I've wondered about that. Not all me, is it?"

"Could be. Then again," I said, sitting on the bed, "could be help from the outside."

Bodie poked his head in. "Doc wants to talk to you, Colette. I think he wants to hire you. Shall we wait?"

"No, you go on. The way Ray's been pacing, he'll wear himself out before he gets home. I'll see you both later." I got up to go and Ray grabbed me and hugged me very hard.

"Thanks, Mum," he whispered, and released me. The door swung open and a nurse wheeled in a chair.

"Oh, no...Bodie!!"

When I left they were arguing about Ray being wheeled down to the car.

Later that evening, we all went over to Ray's apartment. Ray looked a little tired, but happy...I could feel it, a deep-down contentment that hadn't been there since the day we'd met at The Dancing Maiden.

True to his word, Bodie provided a wonderful Chinese meal. He spent a lot of time seeing to Ray's needs, much to Jamie's chagrin.

Jamie volunteered to help clear the table. I don't know what went on in the kitchen while the rest of us sat in front of the fireplace and talked, but when the clearing up was finished, Bodie came out and sat beside Ray, who immediately curled up against him, and Jamie sat beside me, staring straight into the fire.

"Bodie, do you mind if we celebrate tomorrow night?" Ray asked.

"Whatever you want, you know that."

"Do you want to join us? Don't say yes on my account," he warned. "I need you to want it."

"In that case, no."

"Bodie, Jamie's not staying either," Kev said. "Why don't the two of you go to a movie?" I dug my elbow into Kev's ribs rather hard.

"If he wants the company," Bodie said without looking up.

"Sure, why not?" Jamie asked, equally offhand.

"Why'd you do that?" I asked later that night as we were getting ready for bed. "You know how Jamie feels about Bodie. You shouldn't encourage it."

Kev bounced into the bed and said, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder and familiarity breeds contempt." He began to leaf through a magazine he found on the nightstand.

"Thank you, oh purveyor of platitudes. Sill wasn't a good idea."

"Loan me your glasses, Colette. These old eyes is tired."

I threw the case at him and went off to wash.

Before I went back to the bedroom, I checked on the boys. Tal was curled up in a tight little ball, fast asleep. Jamie was wide awake and looked unhappy.

"Want to talk about it, baby?"

"Nothing to tell."

"Okay, have it your way." I brushed blond silk out of his face. "You need a haircut," I said. " do know I love you?"

He turned away. "Sure," he said, his voice unsteady.

"It's good to be able to cry."

"We can't ever have what we want," he whispered. "Not every."

I turned his face towards mine. "We can usually have just what we want most, Jamie - that's what I've tried to teach you. Is it Bodie you want, of is it to be loved by someone strong and understanding? If that's all you really want, you don't have to look farther than this bed." I waited for that to sink in, then I kissed him. "Remember, once you set your heart on something, you'll get it. Be careful. Life is full of surprises.

Goodnight, sweetheart."


"Feel better?" Kev asked as I came back into the bedroom.

"I beg your pardon, oh wise and holy one?"

"Girl, you have a mean tongue in your head."

"Stings a bit, does it?" I teased as I got into bed and rolled up against him. "You know, I've missed having you around. Put that magazine down and make love to your woman before she goes elsewhere for it."

He chuckled softly, threw the magazine on the floor and turned off the light. "I am still much in demand for my legendary virility," he announced before he grabbed me. I began to laugh.

The next day I ran out and bought all the things we'd need for the ceremony - candles, wine, fruit and some little teacakes. We went over about five. Bodie and Jamie left and we got started.

We made a nice altar in front of the fireplace, decorated with leaves that Ray had collected. I usually leave the ceremony to Kev since I'm not priestess trained and his sense of the dramatic is greater than mine. In a small group, he can make a ceremony seem large.

First he walked a circle around us - Kev's very physical and he uses his body as an energy channel. Then he led us in a meditation. "It's possible to move in other planes," he said and I felt myself tense, knowing he meant to guide us out of our bodies. I wasn't sure if Ray would accept this. His own death and rebirth, brief as it had been, might still be too fresh in his mind. "In a few moments you'll move into another life space and experience something important."

I trust Kev. He'll push only when he knows it's for the best. I let myself drop down into a deep trance state.

"Take a deep breath. You're filling with air. You're becoming lighter and lighter as you inhale. You're starting to rise. Hold that breath. You're floating up to the ceiling. And exhale, slowly. Now feel yourself floating back down, down..."

I went with his voice and felt myself rise and fall like waves on a shore.

"Inhale, slowly, deeply. Fill yourself up with air and rise. Upwards, upwards. You've reached the ceiling - it can't stop you. Go through, go through."

With a mental shove I broke through and found myself in my mother's kitchen in the place I grew up. "Mama?" She was sitting at the table reading the Bible. A cup of coffee sat at her elbow.

"Baby, it's good to see you. Come and sit."

"I can't stay." I sat beside her.

"I know. 'bout ready to move on myself. They's other lives to live. But you rest now. That's why you're here. And Mama'll sing to you like she used to."

Her voice rose in an old hymn - the one they sang at her funeral. Her voice was as rich and sweet as I remembered. I'd thought I'd never hear her sing again, but in the years since she passed, I've heard her voice so often in dream, and in moments like this when I find my way back to her. Mama is my safe place.

"...coming down, slowly, slowly, you're through the ceiling, coming down, floating down real easy. You touch the floor. Feel the earth's energy flowing through you."

Kev's voice welcomed me back. I felt refreshed; new.

"I want you all to come back to me now. Take a minute to open your eyes and think about where you've been."

Tal stretched and sat up. He was smiling. I rolled over and checked Ray who was still lying on the floor with his eyes shut.


"It's okay, I'm here. Everything's okay." He sat up and opened his eyes.

"You all back with me? Good. Let's start." Kev held up his hands. "This is the New Year. This is the time when the worlds are close and the veil between them is thin. The dying king has passed through the gates and the dead walk with us now, revealing the truth of life - in our end is our beginning. So it is with all life and death." He made the invocation.

Then: "Reach into the darkness, into the night.

All men live, all men die.

Reach into the darkness, into the night.

This man lives, this man dies.

He held his hands out to me.

"Reach into the darkness, into the night."

I took his hands and stepped out of the circle. "This woman lives, this woman dies," I responded as he blindfolded me. I heard him repeat the chant for the others and heard Ray say, "This man lives, this man dies," with a catch in his voice. Kev spoke the responses for Tal as he blindfolded him.

"Earth receive an honoured guest As each of us is laid to rest.

Let the human vessel lie Emptied of its poetry."

Though the words and rhythms belonged to another man, Kevin made it our chant for this night.

"Follow, sun-child, follow right, To the bottom of the night With an unconstraining voice Still persuade us to rejoice.

In the deserts of the heart Let the healing fountain start, And in the prison of our days Teach your children how to praise."

There was a pause while he wrapped something around our wrists, binding us together. "The ship sails on," he said and touched my shoulder.

"The ship sails on," I repeated again and again.

"Waves rise and fall," he said and I heard Ray pick up the thread.

"Into the west," Kev said, building the words into a hypnotic chant. After a few minutes of this, I could feel the pitch of the waves, could see the green shores.

"We are in sight of the land of Summer, step into the sea, step onto the shore and be free."

I walked through the surf to the green and golden place he'd led us to. I pulled free of the binding.

"Nothing binds you here, nothing binds you here."

I removed the blindfold.

"Your tasks are completed, your battles over. Here you are healed, here you may you will grow young again. This is the isle of apples. This is the heart of light. Sleep now and be comforted."

And I sank to my knees in the grass and smelled the sweet tang of apples in the cool breeze.

"The gate is opening, death is no barrier for He is the Lord of the Dance of Shadows, King of Dreams, Keeper of the gates of Life and Death."

Kev handed me a bowl of water. "Look into the water, sister, into the Well of Life."

I saw things. I saw Ray and Bodie. I saw Jamie and Tal and Kev and myself.

I saw a gypsy girl...I saw a generation wearing the faces of those I loved.

I saw Him - Lord of the Forest - on His black stallion. His black hair whipped around His face as He rode under the full moon. His eyes were as green as the see and His teeth were white and sharp. He was beautiful and terrible. Who was He hunting?


Dear Lord, not Ray.

His red-eyed hounds crashed through he forest towards the place where Ray waited. A man stood in the shadows beside Ray. I could not see his face.

With a shout, the Lord stopped the dogs. He studied the two men. Then he bared his sharp, white teeth. "You," He rasped, pointing to the shadowed man.

"This is the cauldron of life. Through it, you shall be reborn. Seed to fruit to seed - know this and lose your fear. The wheel is turning.

Blessed Be."

I was back. I was sitting in Ray's living room, holding his hand. What was it I had seen? I looked over at Ray and he smiled at me.

Kev passed out wine and cakes, and encouraged us to talk about our experiences.

"It was...different," Ray admitted. "It was more intense than any other ritual I've been involved in. Not that there have been many," he added with a laugh. "I saw something..." He scowled. "I don't know what it meant."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Kev asked.

"Not just yet. Let me think about it for a while."

Kevin was looking tired. "I'm gonna get this woman to lead us if it's the last thing I do," he told us.

I was about to protest, but Kev shook his finger at me. "No excuses. If there's God and Goddess in each of us, there's Priest and Priestess too.

You're just shy about getting up in front of other people and feeling like a fool."

"You got it," I said, nibbling on one of the cakes. I was disturbed by what I had seen, but I remembered that visions can come out of the past as easily as the future. And a vision is what may be, not what will be.

It was past ten when Bodie and Jamie returned. There was something in both of their faces that unnerved me. What had happened between them?

Bodie sat down beside Ray. "Good ceremony, lover?" he asked, and Ray rubbed his face against Bodie's by way of greeting.

"Lovely. One of the nicest."

"You want a good ceremony, go the The Green King outside of Inverness," Kev told them. "There's a Frenchwoman there who is a trained Priestess. She's very strong and very creative."

Jamie was sitting outside the circle looking forlorn. "What did you see?"

I asked.

"Nothing," Bodie said quickly. "We went to supper and we talked."

"Can we go home now?" Jamie asked. "I'm tired."

"Ray must be tired too," Kev observed. He got up and began to dress and Tal and I did the same.

"What're you doing for Jamie's birthday?" Ray asked.

"It's up to Jamie," I said, looking over at him.

"I'd just as soon forget it," he mumbled.

"Forget a birthday? You only have so many of them," said Ray.

"Cake and ice cream, hunh? And a load of relatives with gifts?" Jamie sounded bitter. "Not a chance. I've never had a party; no reason to start now."

"There's every reason. If not for you, Jamie, then for the people who love you." Kev pushed Jamie's hair back out of his face very gently.

"If you want to do something, I'll go along with it," Jamie said ungenerously.

"Then we'll have a party," Ray said.

"Oh boy," Jamie replied.

"So, what do you suppose went on tonight with Jamie and Bodie?" Kev asked later. I was trying hard to sleep, so I didn't respond. "Think they slept together?"

"Your prurience shocks me," I snapped. "Go to sleep."

"Don't you wonder?"

"Maybe, but I never want to know. Leave it, Kev."

"I just want him to work Bodie out of his system, is all."

The birthday party went about as well as could be expected with Jamie determined not to enjoy himself. I wondered why I put up with him, but I suppose it was because he needed me so much.

Ray gave him a book - The Little Bach Book - because I'd told him how much Jamie loved Bach and Glenn Gould. Kev told him his gift was at home and he could open it as soon as they went back. "Any time," Jamie said quietly. I 'd wanted to give him the same thing I'd given Tal on his eighteenth birthday - a silver pentacle on a chain - but I knew he wouldn't like that, so I bought him a sweater and felt as though I'd shortchanged him. Bodie gave him a book of poetry and something that I didn't understand - a battered old toy soldier. It must have had some meaning because Jamie smiled a little when he saw it.

Tal made an empty hands gesture. But then he plucked a box out of the air and handed it to Jamie. Inside was the pentacle I'd given him. It was his most prized possession and Jamie knew it. "I can't," he protested, but Tal refused to take it back. Then he did something which Jamie wouldn't understand, but which Kev and I knew - he made a gesture of protection. He was sending the pentacle out to protect Jamie. It was all he could give.

They left a few days later, and I was sorry to see them go, but relieved as well. I promised to be back for Christmas.

Now that he was at home, Ray seemed to progress even faster. There was no question in my mind that he could prevent Beelzy from manifesting now, but it wasn't until the beginning of December that I realized I couldn't teach him any more. On that day Beelzy greeted me at the door, catted around for about fifteen minutes and then changed back into a smug Ray. "I've been doing it all morning. I just woke up this morning and knew I could do it.

Colette, I feel wonderful!" He grabbed me and danced me around the living room. "I feel marvellous!"

"So do I...but there's no reason for me to stay any longer now." His face fell.

"I'm used to having you around," he admitted. "Won't you stay for a bit?"

"I'm homesick, baby. I want to see San Francisco again. I want to sleep in my own bed again."

"Yeah...I reckoned you'd say that. How can I thank you?"

"By going on and learning all you can...and by helping Bodie. He's hidden his magic away, but it's inside of him and it's strong. I'm afraid for him."

"Whatever you say. Colette, do you think I can change into anything else?"

"Oh, I should think so. But do yourself a favour and stick to Beelzy for a while until you get used to doing it at will. Too much all at once isn't a good idea."

He promised to take it easy.

I said goodbye to Bodie the next day when I went to CI5 headquarters.

"I'll miss you, Colette."

"And I you, Bodie. You will take care of yourself, won't you? Please?"

"Have done all these years," he teased. "But yes, I will."

"And keep an open mind?"

"For you, anything." Then he kissed me goodbye.

I went to see George last. "It's that time," I announced.

"Ah, Colette." He rose and greeted me with a kiss. "Your work here is finished, then?"

"For a time. He'll be all right."

"And Bodie?"

"I don't know," I confessed. "You'll just have to wait and see."

"Well, thank you for what you've achieved in so short a time." He handed me an envelope. There was an airline ticket in it. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"I'd rather use the gates," I said.

He looked at me and smiled. "There's one keyed here. Saves money as well as time. Do you have your luggage with you?"

"Yes." I returned the ticket.

"Good, then come with me." He led me down into the basement, through a warren of disused rooms, stopping in front of a locked one. "This is it,"

he said, unlocking the door. "Key it and be off. There'll be a check drawn in U.S. funds waiting for you at the hospital. I shall miss you," he said, softly.

Before I left, I kissed him once more. Then I stepped through the gate.

It was good to be back home, much as I loved London. Kev was sitting in my living room listening to Villa Lobos when I got in. "Hullo lover, where're the boys?"

"Upstairs screwing. Haven't been doing much else since they got back.

Hullo yourself, gorrrrrjusssssss." He pulled me into his arms and kissed me hello very nicely.

I thought about it much later, before I fell asleep. Jamie and Tal. I remembered Bodie saying to me how he wished they'd find each other; that it would be easier for everyone if they did. I never thought it would happen, and hardly believed it when Kev had called me in London to tell me about it.

Bodie, I said to the handsome image inside my head. Did you do this?

Thank you, I whispered.

--Samhain 1981

Cat On a Hot Tin Roof

Wednesday "It looks okay," Ray remarked as he surveyed the area. "But then one abandoned building looks much like another, dunnit? Maybe I should check..."

I knew what was coming before he said it. "You're not going in there alone," I told him. The idea made me go all cold inside.

"Not me, Bodie, but Beelzy could."

"NO!" And how did I think I was going to stop him?

Ray sighed and slumped against the wall. "Look, lover, what's the point of my having a talent if I can't use it to make things easier?" I hate it when he tries to be rational.

"I don't like it," I said sounding mulish.

"I know that. It'll be okay. Don't forget where I leave my clothes, will you?" And with that he was gone, and a cat was stepping delicately out of a pile of Ray's clothing and winding around my legs.

"What am I gonna do with you?" I bent down to get him, got a nip for my troubles, and watched the orange streak disappear into the building.

Then I waited.

Ten minutes later I was ready to go in alone. It shouldn't have taken that long, there was something wrong; I was sure of it. I hauled out my R/T.

"Doyle's been inside for ten minutes; that is, Beelzy has. I want to go in after him."

"You'll have back-up in a moment," Cowley assured me, but I wasn't about to go in mob-handed and risk that little monster who means more to me than me than my own life.

"No, keep them outside. I'm going in alone."

"Have you lost your mind, Bodie?"

"No sir, just my cat. If they've seen him, they'll think I'm on the up and up. Just wait two minutes, and if I'm not out, then come in after me." I shut off the unit before he could protest and left it on Ray's discarded clothes, adding my gun and ID to the pile. "Let's hope it's just some comely little tabby that's captured his attention," I muttered just before I went in.

"Here, kitty. Here Beelzy..." The place was dark and musty, but the dust on the floors had been recently disturbed. The thought, though satisfying, made me uneasy for my sake as well as Ray's. "C'mon, cat, where are you?"

Something was pressed between my shoulder blades and I froze.

"Wot you doin' in 'ere?"

"Lookin' for my cat, if it's any of your business. 'ere, what's goin' on?

You the watchman or somethin'?"

There seemed to be crates stacked around the room, but I didn't like to look too closely.

"No, I'm not the bleedin' watchman! Frank, Eddie, over 'ere. Look what I' ve found!"

Two figures emerged from the shadows. The larger of the two was holding Beelzy. There was blood on his fur.

"What have you done to my cat?" I yelled, feeling real panic.

"Nothin'. Don't get so excited, mate." The man shoved Beelzy into my arms.

"He cut hisself on a bit of bottle. I heard 'im cryin'. You oughta take better care of 'im. 'e's a nice little puss, 'e is."

At that point I was the picture of the concerned cat-lover. Strewth, I was feeling more concerned over Beelzy that the oppo. Anyone who'd spot me for a CI5 agent had to be psychic. "Yeah, thanks. I'll take him to the vet now. Thanks for taking care of him." I walked away oblivious of the three men, all my attention focused on Beelzy. "What did you get yourself into?"

I crooned to the obviously uncomfortable feline.


"Never mind, Ratty, let 'im go. Bloke's got enough on 'is mind with 'is cat and all."

Somebody sniggered.

"He could be a cop," one of them whispered.

I kept walking.

"'e's no cop. Now shut up."

I slipped out of the building and forced myself to walk at a normal pace back to where I'd left our things.

"It's okay now, Ray," I told him. "You can change."


"Change back, Ray." I was begging. "Please!" But Beelzy remained Beelzy and squeaked in discomfort as I hugged him a little too firmly. Cowley appeared suddenly.

"Three of them," I reported, "and stacks of crates - looks like ammo, guns...they'll not be expecting you so soon after sending me packing."

"Three of them," Cowley said into his R/T. "Move in."

"I'm taking Doyle to the doctor. He's hurt."

"How bad is it?" Cowley demanded, as the area came alive with agents.

"He's cut his paw. He won't change back."

"May I suggest a good vet?"

"Nice cat," the nurse said. "What's his name?"

"Beelzy. Beelzebub."

The look on her face said 'it takes all kinds.' "He's cut his paw," I told her rather unnecessarily. "Can the doctor look at him right away?"

"Unless it's an emergency, you'll have to wait your turn," she said, and I decided I didn't like her much.

"Emergency? What d'you call this?" I extended my own hand covered in Beelzy's blood.

"A cut paw. I'll bring something to put on it until Doctor Stein can see you. She disappeared into a room in back and came out with a pad of gauze.

"Press this against the wound."

"Will it help?"

"It'll make you feel better," she told me.

I was ushered into an examining room where I had to wait for the doctor.

"It'll be all right, Ray," I promised. "He'll fix you up and you'll be able to change back - just don't do it here, please." I waited for what seemed hours, though my watch told me only 10 minutes had passed. They were letting my partner bleed to death! Never mind that the gauze pad had slowed the blood flow to almost nothing. I knew he was dying. He looked pale to me - sort of an off-salmon.

I was really starting to lose my grip.

The door swung open and a fair-haired, middle-aged woman in a pink lab coat strode in. "Hello, I'm Doctor Stein..."

"This is outrageous. I've been waiting..."

"Mister..." The doctor consulted a card. "Mister Bodie, I have had a bad day, too. I've been bitten twice and I have one suspected case of feline leukaemia in isolation, so I don't need to be chewed out by you. If you don 't care for the treatment you receive here, you are free to go elsewhere.

Now, may I tend you cat please?"

Well, that was telling me. I suppose I was over-reacting a little. If it hadn't been for the fact that I couldn't get Ray to change back into Ray, I might not have gone off the deep end like this. I apologized and set Beelzy down on the table.

"What happened?" she asked as she cleaned the injured paw and examined the cut. Beelzy squirmed, but remained calm.

"He got out on me. Some fellows who found him said he cut his foot on a broken bottle."

"Where was this?"

"Abandoned warehouse.

"I see. Well, the cut itself isn't bad, but it could use a stitch. I'll give him a tetanus shot and some antibiotics as well. I'm sure he'll be just fine. Please hold him for a moment, I'll be right back - and press the pad to the wound."

I cradled Beelzy while we waited. "She said it's not too bad, Ray," I whispered. "You'll feel better soon, I promise. Why won't you change back?" Still nothing. I was hoping Cowley could find out from Colette what the problem was. He'd promised to call her as soon as he got back to HQ.

"That's good, just keep talking to him. They trust their owners instinctively and they'll always forgive you."

"Not this one," I muttered.

"Now put him down and hold him around the shoulders and chest." She prepared a wicked looking needle and stuck it into Beelzy's haunch, and Beelzy screeched and lurched forward, trying to climb up my jacket. "You'll have to hold him a little more securely, Mister Bodie. Let's try again."

"You didn't get it in?" I have to admit I was feeling rather shaky by this time.

"Just the point, not the anaesthetic."

I gripped Beelzy more firmly and gritted my teeth against his cry.

"Talk to him, Mister Bodie. It does help."

"There, there, everything'll be okay," I said stiffly. The vet raised an eyebrow but said nothing. "I'm here with you."

This time the shot was a success.

"It'll take a couple of minutes to work. Keep talking to him. Oh, and Mister Bodie?"


"Don't you know any baby talk?"

"We're going to fix you up, mate," I promised after she left the room.

"Christ, I'm covered with car hair! You don't have something else wrong with you, do you? You shouldn't be losing this much hair." Visions of a suddenly bald Ray assaulted me and my insides lurched unpleasantly.

I waited for what seemed like another hour, worrying about infections and tetanus and hair-loss and feline whatsis in isolation and would Ray catch it from her?

"Where have you been?" I demanded. "The anaesthetic may have worn off by now."

She rolled her eyes. "I was seeing another patient. Please calm down, Mister Bodie, you'll give yourself indigestion. The anaesthetic won't wear off for several hours yet."

"Only, he's lost so much you think there's something wrong with him?"

For a moment Doctor Stein seemed to be fighting the urge to laugh and I had a feeling I was making a fool of myself. No, I knew I was making a fool of myself. That didn't stop me.

"It's quite natural. Cats shed when they're agitated. We sweep up enough here each year to knit several sweaters. It's nothing to worry about. How long have you had a cat?"

"Not very," I admitted, wondering if I was going to survive this first day of cat-ownership.

"I see. Very well, hold him now, roll him onto his side. And talk to him."

She cleaned the wound again and very deftly stitched it. Then she bandaged it. All the while I cooed and gurgled at Beelzy rather stiffly. I didn't think my dignity would every recover from this experience. And I just knew Ray was laughing at me. Everybody else was.

"He'll probably have the bandage off in a matter of hours, but don't worry about that. Let him lick it - it's good for the wound. But don't let him bite at the stitch. You'll have to use shredded newspaper in his box instead of gravel for a day or two. It helps avoid infection, particularly as this is a back paw which doesn't usually get cleaned as often. And bring him back in a week and I'll clip the stitch out. Now let me give him a couple of shots...don't worry, he won't feel these. His leg's numb. Restrict his activity for a couple of days...if you can." She stuck that needle into Beelzy twice more and I flinched each time. "How old is he?" she asked.



"Uh - in human years. Sorry, I meant almost seven." Careful, old son, I told myself.

"Well, you really ought to think of having him neutered," she told him as she eyed the little furry sacs that bulged out from between Beelzy's hind legs. "It'll save you all sorts of trouble later on."

Beelzy began to growl.

"I um..." It was terrible - I wanted to laugh, but I knew I'd never ever be forgiven. I liked those furry little balls.

"Doesn't he spray?"

"Not really." I bit the inside of my lip and prayed for control. I could tell she was wondering what my flat smelled like.

After the day I'd spent, I was more than relieved to be home. I deposited Beelzy on the sofa and fixed myself a drink. I almost fixed one for Ray too, but then I remembered.

"The things you put me through," I muttered. "Do you have any idea of how frightened I was when I saw all that blood?" There was half-dried blood all over my jacket and the sickly sweet smell of it was making me queasy.

Beelzy meowed plaintively.

"Your paw hurt, does it? Well, it's your own fault." I was feeling unsympathetic. "I told you not to go in there."

The phone began to shrill.

"How is he?" It was Cowley.

"He's fine - I'm a wreck," I admitted.

Cowley chuckled. "I spoke to Colette about this situation. She tells me that until the wound heals, he'll remain a cat."

I groaned. Couldn't help it.

"Incidentally, you were right about those crates, though I can't say I approve of the way you handled the situation. But we'll discuss that another time. Is there anything you need?"

"Cat food."

"I'll sign an expense chit for it." The old bastard - I could swear he was laughing at me. "You might want to ring up Colette," he suggested. "You may have tomorrow off, but I expect to see you here Friday morning, clear?"

"Yessir. And thanks."

He rang off and I began to dial Colette's number when Beelzy hopped down off the sofa and promptly collapsed as the anaesthetized leg refused to support his weight. This time I laughed aloud, then froze as a baleful green gaze transfixed me. "I'm going to pay for that, aren't I?" Beelzy hobbled, three-legged, towards the loo. I put the receiver back in its cradle.

"You need to use the - uh...Ray, we don't have a cat box anymore, remember?

You threw it away when we moved."

Beelzy yowled and scratched at the door.

"Wait there, wait a mo'." I hunted around frantically and found an empty cardboard box that had recently held some new shirts. "'Won't need a cat box anymore' you said. 'All through with that,' you said." I grabbed a stack of newspapers and tossed them into the box, then ran back to the loo.

"Here, use this."

Beelzy struggled into the box, squatted and began to pee. I didn't think a little cat could hold so much. When he was finished, he stepped out as carefully as he could and gave his hurt leg what was meant to be a disdainful shake, splattering cat pee all over the carpet. Life with Beelzy was not going to be easy.

"Here, you're making a mess," I complained, and carried him out to the kitchen where he cleaned off his paws. "You've wet your bandage, too." I decided to remove the wet gauze and tape, figuring that if I didn't he would, and anyway, I didn't want him to come down with some raging infection that would prolong this little farce. I cut the bandage away and Beelzy was surprisingly cooperative. Then I carried him into the bedroom and deposited him beside the pillows. "You rest a bit. I'll bring you your supper."

I went back to clean up the cat box, but when I picked it up, the now sodden cardboard came apart in my hands, showering wet paper all over the carpeting.

It took me a while to clean up all the wet papers. By the time I'd finished, Beelzy was asleep in the middle of the bed, so I went back to the phone to call Colette. I was able to reach her at the hospital.

"Bodie - how is he?"

"Sleeping. It's not too bad - right near paw. But it needed a stitch, and the doctor gave him a tetanus shoot and some antibiotics."

"I don't think you have much to worry about," she told me.

"Life with Beelzy."

"Is he that bad?"

"He's...difficult. He's a lot like Ray in a cat suit."

She began to laugh. "That's a priceless description. How are you holding up?"

"Ack! Not well. I've been acting the dithering idiot since it happened.

Everyone's amused but me. How long do you suppose this will last?" Please let her say twenty-four hours, I thought.

"Hard to say - a week, ten days."

"Oh God. Do you think this has anything to do with his being shot last fall?"

"No, not really. He's over that. It won't be that bad, I promise you."

"You don't have to live with him. Ah, Colette, what's feline leukaemia?"

"A very unpleasant disease, why? He hasn't been exposed has he?"

"How do you become exposed?"

"Body fluids, cat to cat. Saliva, blood..."

"No, nothing like that." I felt my heart begin to beat again.

"Well, that's good. You take care of yourself now, and call me if you need anything."

A week to ten days...lovely, I thought. We'd only just moved in together a fortnight before, and now I had a cat instead of my lover. I bet he did this to get out of the housework, I thought. What a way to begin a marriage.

It was going to be a long siege.

Thursday I was worried. Ray...that was, Beelzy hadn't eaten a thing since lunch the day before. Well, Ray had eaten lunch. Beelzy hadn't eaten anything. (I was also confused.) I'd bought a cat box that morning and it hadn't been used. Beelzy was still asleep in Ray's overstuffed chair. There was something wrong, I could tell.

I called Dr. Stein late that afternoon. "My cat, Beelzy," I said, feeling the complete fool. "He's not eating and he hasn't used the cat box today."

"The lack of appetite isn't unusual, Mr. Bodie," she told me. "Cats often stop eating when they're feeling under the weather. If by tomorrow he's still refusing food, then bring him in and we'll see what we can do. As for the other, when was the last time he urinated?"

"Last night."

"Again, not unusual considering he's put nothing in his stomach all day, probably not even water. If he doesn't use the box tonight, do bring him in tomorrow, even if he eats. That's a little more serious."

Wonderful, I thought, a werecat with failing kidneys.

"I expect it'll all come right by tomorrow morning. How's the paw?"

"I took the bandage off last night," I told her. "He wet it when he used his box." I can't even begin to describe how it felt to be discussing my lover in this way. "I didn't want him to get an infection."

"Quite right, you did the correct thing. How does the paw look?"

I reached out and lifted the leg gently. "Reddish, puffy, some dried blood."

"Sounds quite normal. I'm sure he'll begin to act more like his old self soon. Oh, and Mr. Bodie?"


"I have hopes for you too."

I felt as though I'd just been given a prize.

After I rang off with the doctor, I set to tempting Beelzy into eating. I threw away the food that had been sitting in his bowl since breakfast.

"I've brought some lovely cat food for you," I said, but there was no flicker of interest. I emptied a grocery sack and showed him the cans.

Beelzy shut his eyes and frowned, and I began to wonder if he had a fever.

He looked feverish, all listless and dull. I felt his head and was rewarded by a look that said 'will you leave me alone?' I should have asked her about a fever, I thought as I opened the first can.

Ray refused to be tempted by seafood supper, or mixed grill (yummy chopped innards in gravy), or tuna fish or turkey and giblets, and I had to admit I didn't think I'd be too tempted either. But I kept on trying until the chair on which Beelzy was lying looked like a kitty cafeteria.

"I'm taking you back to the vet tomorrow morning," I threatened. Then I set to eating my own supper, chicken and chips, which had been sitting in the oven.

Beelzy's right eye opened a slit. His pink nose began to twitch.

"Would you eat this?" I asked, holding out a drumstick. Beelzy stretched a bit and sniffed at the chicken.

I tore off a strip of flesh and held it out, and Beelzy stretched a bit more, and nibbled at it, the he fell back and sighed.

"No, come on now, you were interested." Frantic to get him to eat, I tore the chicken into small pieces and held one in front of his face. "Give it a try, Ray. 's good."

This time the chicken went down and I felt irrationally pleased with myself.

I fed him another and another...

Then I fed him most of my chips.

Friday The catbox had been used in the night. I knew this without leaving my bed because the smell had wakened me. Beelzy lay on Ray's side of the bed cleaning his wound with great concentration.

"Phew, she was right, wasn't she?" I asked. Beelzy did not deign to acknowledge my comment, as if it was bad form to discuss kitty smells.

I changed the papers, showered and dressed.

"I suppose you'll be all right on your own today," I said as I ate breakfast. Again, Beelzy refused to be tempted by the cans of food I'd stored in the refrigerator. He did, however, accept a few slices of bacon from my plate.

"I'll be back as soon as I can," I promised as I prepared to leave. It might have been my imagination, but Beelzy seemed to be smiling.

I have to admit I worried about him all day. I kept imagining him getting into all sorts of dangerous situations, wondering if I was going to come home to cat singed or drowned or strangled or electrocuted. This was worse than having a small child.

Murph asked if I wanted to go for a pint after work, but I refused.

"Hen-pecked, are we?" he asked archly.

"Piss off, Murph."

"Come on, Bodie, don't let him wind you around his little pink finger. What 's he 'ave, I 'aven't?"

"Pack it in, it's not going to work."

"I'm wounded," he said, clutching his chest. He could be a right prat when he wanted to.

The smell of cat was becoming fairly familiar, I realized as I opened the door of the flat.

"Have a cat, do you?" someone asked. Mrs. Ritter from upstairs. She wrinkled her nose. "You ought to have him fixed, Bodie."

"We're just cat-sitting for a friend," I explained.

"You know, if you give him a teaspoon of vinegar each day I his food, most of the smell will go away." She went on up the stairs. "If you need anything, just call."

I locked the door behind me. "I need my partner back," I said with a sigh.

Beelzy was curled up on the bed looking the perfect little angel. "Sweet as you can be," I said stroking the silky head, "I want Ray back."

I fell to fixing supper, Beelzy's first. But for the third time he rejected the food. I was beginning to get the message. Cat food was all right for cats, but Ray wasn't about to eat the stuff. He skewered bits of my steak on his front claws, and ate them daintily. I could tell he was feeling better. I objected when he began to chew at the steak itself, and was rewarded with a stinging slap from a greasy paw. I finished my meal in the loo, with the door shut. Beelzy sat outside and howled. I had a funny feeling that I'd been had.

Saturday/Sunday More of the same. I was almost glad to go to work. Beelzy seemed to take great pleasure in doing just what I didn't want him to do. He chewed on electrical cords and shredded lampshades, savaged my shoes and batted my watch around the floor in the middle of the night. (Had to dig it out from under a chair.) I kept wondering why, if he felt so perky, he was still a cat.

Monday I stumbled into the flat about 6am, dog-tired and dispirited after eighteen hours of almost useless running about. Every lead we'd had either proved false or worse than useless. I'd been teamed with Murphy who'd alternated between fits of sullenness and bouts of excessive friendliness. Murph needed to be taught to keep his hands to himself.

I managed to reach the bedroom and collapsed face-first into the pillows, promising myself I'd undress in a bit - just as soon as I had my second wind.

The bed dipped, and there was a soft, whuffling noise in my left ear.

"God, Ray, don't do that!" The warm, moist breath was having an unexpected effect. I pushed Beelzy away and put a pillow over my head.

A few seconds later Beelzy stepped up onto my backside, lay down and began to purr, making starfish paws, those needle-sharp claws digging uncomfortably into my arse.

"For Christ's sake!" I shouted, rolling over and dislodging Beelzy who landed on the floor with an 'umph' sound. "Why won't you let me..." Then I noticed he was limping and I went cold inside. What had I done?

I inspected the wounded foot. It may have been my imagination, but the paw seemed redder and more swollen than it had last time I looked. "I'm sorry, Ray, I didn't mean to hurt you. Here, lie down and let me put some ice on it or something." But when I set Beelzy on the bed he jumped off, landing clumsily, then limped out of the room.

I was desperate. I dialled the vet.

"There's no one here this early," a girl told me. "Except me. I clean here. I can give you an emergency number if you like."

I took down the number and dialled. Beelzy limped out to the kitchen and began to cry.

"Veterinary Emergency Service."

"It's my cat, he's hurt his paw...He's just fallen on the injured paw and it seems to be more swollen than before. He's crying."

"Seems to be or is more swollen?"

"Seems to be. I can't swear to it, but it looks pretty red and..."

Just then Beelzy limped out of the kitchen and around the living room. He was limping on a different leg this time. The little bastard.

"If you need someone to come out, we can send a doctor, but it's expensive."

"Thank you, I think he'll survive." I rang off and grabbed for Beelzy.

"You little sod, making me worry like that over nothing, c'mere!"

He darted away and hid under the sofa.

By then I was wide awake, so I changed the cat box and put down fresh water and food. Then I undressed and crawled under the covers. I could hear Beelzy using the box, and a few seconds later heard him in the kitchen, eating the food I'd set out.

"It's what you were after all along, isn't it, you little bastard? I hope you get well soon," I grumbled. "You're going to pay for this week, Ray."

I woke up about noon and found I was feeling better. Beelzy was curled up beside me, sleeping very determinedly, and I found it hard to be annoyed at him now he was being so angelic and quiet. I lifted the injured paw with my forefinger and saw that it looked almost normal. It was a little darker pink than the others but it was scrupulously clean, no dried bloody anywhere that I could see, and the pad no longer bulged on either side of the stitch.

It looked nearly healed. "I wish I could take you back today," I said, feeling wistful. "The sooner you're healed the sooner I have my partner back."

Beelzy woke and stretched fiercely, his toes splaying with the effort. He licked his side and rolled over to clean the other one. Then he began to purr and roll around, swatting at my hand. This was his 'cute' act.

"Are you going to be sweet today?" I asked, not quite ready to trust this sudden change in disposition. I wouldn't have put it past him to be planning some sort of major outrage.

We breakfasted together on bacon and toast, and Beelzy managed to behave himself through the meal. I began to hope not only that it signalled Ray's return to good health - more important, Ray's return.

There was a rap on the door while I was washing up.

"Mrs Ritter, hullo."

"I've popped down to see your houseguest. He is still here, isn't he?"

"Uh, yes...come in, please." I liked Mrs. Ritter. She'd made supper for us the night we moved in, and we'd eaten in her flat upstairs surrounded by her five cats. She was always stopping by to see how we were settling in, bringing us home-baked pastries and fresh flowers.

"I see him staring out of the window each day when I do my shopping. He looks like a sweet little thing. Oh, there you are, puss!"

Beelzy minced out, tail like a flag, and rubbed against her legs.

"What a dear baby you are, aren't you? What a little love. What's his name?"

It took me a second. "Beelzebub," I told her.

"That's a criminal name for such a little darling." She picked him up, cooing all the while. "Are you keeping him for long?"

"Not very. End of the week probably."

"Here, what's this?" She'd found the stitch. "Did the sweet baby have an accident?" She inspected it carefully. "Well, it's fairly well healed, do you want me to take the stitch out for you? Save you a trip to the vet."

"You can do that?" I asked, and she nodded, sending me running for the nail scissors.

"Now you just hold him tight and we'll have this nasty thing out in two shakes." A snip and it was done. "There, does my little man feel better now?" She rolled him over onto his stomach and began to pet him in long strokes down his back, smoothing the ruffled fur gently. "He'll be just fine now. He'll be his old self soon enough," she told me and I had to stifle a laugh. "What happened? Or don't you know?"

"Bit of broken glass. Thanks for the help. How'd you know how to do that?"

I asked. The woman had earned my eternal gratitude.

"When you've had cats - lots of them - all your life, you learn how to take care of them or you spend a fortune in vet bills and time. Well, you must come up and visit the children sometime - I have six now - and your partner too...where is he, by the way?"


"You don't holiday together?" she asked in a way that made me wonder how much she knew or had guessed about us.

"Not always. We work together, too."

"Ah, then it's a good job to get away from each other occasionally. Well, things to do. If you need anything, just ask."

She let herself out and I sat down in the chair and began to pet Beelzy just as she had done. I was rewarded with a loud, moist purr.

"Now you can work on getting well, can't you?"


"You'll be your old self soon, she said so, didn't she? Mrs. Ritter didn't know the half of it."

Tuesday I let myself in carefully, balancing a paper sack full of supper, and a grocery sack full of essentials like bread and cheese. No sign of Beelzy.

Lazy little sod was probably sleeping as usual. I found it hard to understand how cats could sleep so much.

I carried everything into the kitchen and put away the groceries, then went out to look for Beelzy. No sign of him in the bedroom. I even looked under the bed. And he wasn't in the loo, either, though the cat box needed changing rather emphatically.

This was becoming routine, and I reflected that we might as well get a cat - a real one. It would have been nice if it wasn't Ray I had to clean up after and worry about.

Just then I heard a crash from the kitchen, and ran out to investigate, gun drawn, ready for anything. I found Beelzy half inside the sack that held our supper, eating with gusto.

"Here, that's not fair!" I hauled Beelzy out of the sack and was dealt a sharp blow to the nose. I dropped his hindquarters and he went back into the sack.

"I'll just put that someplace you can't get to it," I told him, picking up the sack and shaking him out of it. Then I put dinner in the oven and went back to changing the cat box.

I removed the soiled litter, but when I returned I found a little present in the box.

"I just changed that!" I groaned. Beelzy was perched on the edge of the bath, staring at me. "And you're supposed to wait until I put the litter in." It was worse than useless, of course. Half the time I'd have sworn Beelzy understood every word I said, and the other half...well, I just wasn't sure. "Are all cats as obnoxious as you?" I asked, but Beelzy didn't deign to answer.

When I sat down to supper I found that each piece of fish had a bite taken out of it. "Trust you to be that perverse," I muttered as I broke off the chewed parts and gave them to Beelzy. "Y'know, Ray, I never fancied spending my middle-age as an eccentric old cat owner."


"Nah, always thought of myself goin' out in a burst of glory somewhere, and not makin' it to this point. Thing is, I'd rather have my partner back than a cat, no matter how sweet that cat offence?"


"Good. Anyway..." I paused and stared at Beelzy who seemed transfixed by the sight of something just beyond my left shoulder. From the look on the cat's face, whatever it was looming back there was about eight feet tall, covered in warts and spewing green saliva. I swung around.


When I turned back, Beelzy was staring at me.

"What was it?"

Beelzy went back to his meal.

"Cowley was asking how much longer you'd be out of commission - as if I'd know. I told him..."

The damn cat was doing it again. He was staring over my left shoulder with a look of such intensity I was sure there had to be something multi-legged and hairy about to land on me. I turned carefully.

Again, nothing.

This time I stared up at the walls, wondering if Beelzy had seen a small insect crawling along. Nothing.

When I looked back, Beelzy was eating quietly.

"What is it you're looking at, huh?"


"As I was saying," I continued, sure that this was yet another great cat mystery humans would never solve. Perhaps cats could see into other dimensions. "As I was saying, I think Cowley's about ready to dock your pay for this, old son, so you'd better...oh, not again!"

Beelzy, hair standing on end, was staring past my right shoulder this time.

From the look on his face, this couldn't be another false alarm. I was ready for a wasp the size of an ICBM. I turned...


"Now look," I began as I turned back to Beelzy. This time the look on the cat's face was one of unadulterated amusement. I'd been had by an expert.

"Very funny, very funny."

I carried our dishes to the sink and tossed the scraps into the garbage bag.

I decided I'd do the dishes in the morning.

Morning...dishes? I'd left dirty dishes...what happened to last night's dishes?

I hadn't done them, had I? I thought very hard. No, I'd left them in the sink and was going to do them when I got home tonight. Then the penny dropped. I poured myself a glass of beer and sat down at the table.

"Y'know, Ray, I have to confess something. I'm not really proud of this, but it's been eating at me, and, see, being without you all this time has been difficult. I mean, I miss you and all, especially at work, but it's the sex that's the hardest for me. Going without it, I mean. And well, this afternoon Murphy and know how it is, Ray."

Suddenly it wasn't Beelzy sitting on the table in front of me but a stark naked Ray Doyle, murder in his eyes and grease on his face.

"No I do not, how is it, Bodie?" he demanded.

From my vantage point, I had a marvellous view. Ray always got excited when he was angry. "You mean that you and Murphy had it off at work while I was stuck here in a cat suit?"

"Stuck? Give me a break, all right? Since when do cats do the washing up?

Patent that and you could make a fortune, old son."

He looked sheepish. "You twigged?"

"You're damn right I did. How long have you been okay?" I was somewhere between wanting to kill him and wanting to kiss him.

"Since about the time Mrs. Ritter took the stitch out. It was getting rid of it gave me back the power to change. You mad?"

"Only a bit."

"You and Murphy?"

"No, but if I had it'd served you right, you perverse sod."

He grinned, secure in his claim on my body as well as my heart.

"You know, I'm starving. A few chewed bits of fish aren't enough for Ray Doyle. I don't suppose you'd fix some supper for me."

"Oh, fix it yourself, you spoiled thing." I was pleased to have him back, but I wasn't about to be his servant...well, I'd have to be coaxed a bit.

"Please, Bodie? My foot is hurting me a little." He extended one foot and waggled the toes in my face. There was a pinkish cut on the heel. I kissed the tip of the big toe.

"What do I get for playing servant?"

Ray wrapped his leg around my neck and pulled me forward to plant a kiss on my lips. This was more like it. "Ever made it with a contortionist?" He whispered.

Supper was somewhat delayed while we made other use of the table.

--Candlemas 1982

The Persian of CI5

Midsummer. Nice time of year. Bodie and I were heading north for a midsummer festival this year, instead of spending the holiday at The Dancing Maiden. I was looking forward to a few days of revelling and feasting and...other things. I was feeling particularly good this year. It was the first time we'd been able to go on a real holiday since I was shot. And since Beelzy was no longer a problem this festival was going to be just for us - me 'n' Bodie.

After work that day we rushed back to our flat to pack, and caught the train that would carry us up to Inverness, to a little place I'd heard of called The Green King. John and Jane had recommended it highly and Colette had mentioned it to me again in her last letter, so, being a great believer in serendipity, I made reservations for us. Bodie was pleased; he always is.

There are times when I worry about him; worry that he's just being dragged along in the wake of all this, accepting this totally alien sort of lifestyle just because he loves me. At Beltaine this year - our anniversary - we went to The Dancing Maiden and he did participate...sort of.

He came out to the fields and danced the dance with me. (Though he did draw the line at leaping through the flames. I know he only did it 'cause he loves me, but it was a lovely thing to do. Bodie must have magic of his own (everyone does, but so few of us are able to touch it much less use it) but he's never shown any indication of 'special' talents. I wish he could find his magic. I'd feel better about mine then.

Anyway, we'd been underway for about an hour when, predictably enough, Bodie announced he was starving. So we walked down the corridor towards the dining car, peeking into compartments as we went (we're both great people watchers). In the last compartment in the car, we spotted one of the most gorgeous women either of us had ever seen. She was Eurasian, dressed in white, and had hair like black silk spilling down almost to the train seat.

She was holding a large white Persian cat on her lap, but was otherwise alone in the car. Bodie nudged me. "Shall we go in and compliment her on her pussy?" he asked.

"I can't take you anywhere, can I?" I snapped, laughing a little despite myself. He's so endearingly goofy at times.

"It's a great ice-breaker," he insisted, rapping lightly on the door to attract her attention. She motioned us in. "What a beautiful cat," Bodie said to her.

"Why, thank you." She had a low musical voice, and no discernible accent.

"Won't you sit down?"

"Male of female?" Bodie asked, scratching the cat's head just behind the ears. He knows we like it there.

"Male. His name is Murphy," she replied, at which we both snorted with laughter.

"We have a friend named Murphy," I explained, "a less Persian-cat person I have yet to meet."

"People can sometimes surprise one," she said with a smile. "Are you two going up to Scotland, or are you on a shorter journey?"

"All the way to Inverness," Bodie told her, having recovered some of his composure. Murphy meowed loudly and jumped from her lap to Bodie's where he proceeded to shed all over Bodie's good black cords.

"By the way, I'm Ray Doyle and this is Bodie."

"Beatrice Emrys. Call me Bea, please." She chuckled. "Did you expect something like May Ling?"

"Well, perhaps something a little more exotic," I confessed as Murphy stepped delicately from Bodie's lap to mine.

"My father was Welsh," she explained. "And my mother, although she was born in Vietnam lived most of her life in France with her father's people, so you see, I am exotic. I just hide it exceptionally well." She smiled. "And at the moment I'm rather hungry." She looked from me to Bodie. "You were on your way to the dining car, were you not?"

"Um, yes, would you..." Bodie began.

"I'd rather not leave Murphy alone and I don't know if they would welcome him, well-behaved as he may be, in the dining car. Can I ask you to bring something back for the both of us?"

"Oh certainly," Bodie breathed, totally captivated. He's incorrigible when it comes to lovely women.

"We'll go to the canteen and bring back enough for all of us, that is, if you'd not object to some company?"

"How marvellous," she exclaimed. "I didn't like to ask, of course, but a trip this long can be so boring without companions." She took Murphy from me. "Come here you rascal. Ray and Bodie are going to fetch us some supper, isn't that lovely of them?"

Murphy began to purr.

"So," Bodie began as we waited in line behind half a dozen people who had the same idea, "what d'you reckon..."

"About Bea? Is there something to reckon?" I asked innocently.

"D'you think she's me?" he asked, an Irish twinkle in his eyes.

"She's not daft, mate. Probably saw an easy touch, is all. You're paying, aren't you?"

"I thought you could handle yourself and Murphy."

"Don't have to handle meself, do I?" I whispered into his back. "You do it rather better than I could ever hope to." He turned a lovely shade of crimson. It was most gratifying.

We had a fine picnic in Bea's compartment, and talked about travel - she was on her way to Inverness to stay at The Green King too - and history, and music (she was a cellist) and a lot of other things. It was almost midnight when I noticed that the conversation was beginning to lag. Murphy was sound asleep, curled up on the seat next to Bea, and Bodie was nearly asleep, done in by a long day, the wine we'd had with dinner and the heat of the compartment.

"I'd better tuck the lad in," I observed, hauling Bodie to his feet and propelling him to the door. "Thanks Bea, it was lovely." She did not speak, but her reply was eloquent. I read it in her golden, almond-shaped eyes, and heard in my mind as I steered Bodie back to our compartment, 'Any time at all, Raymond Doyle.' I had planned to be up early the next morning, half wanting to bring Bea her breakfast and to spend an hour or so in her company, but Bodie was feeling randy after a good long sleep, and he climbed up into my bunk and woke me very nicely, and kept me busy all through the breakfast hour. In fact, I forgot all about lovely Bea until I saw her stepping down from the train at Inverness, holding a docile Murphy against her chest. I wondered if she'd like another cat, but put the idea out of my mind.

Bodie hailed her. "Bea! Would you like to share a car with us?"

"I'm being met by some friends later today," she explained as she set Murphy down on the pavement. He looked disgruntled. "If you'd like to wait with me we can motor down together..."

"I think we'd better go on, then," Bodie said before I could answer. "Just so you have a way of getting there."

"We could have waited, Bodie," I told him as we motored south out of the city towards The Green King.

"Where's the map? You do have one, don't you?"

"Take a left at the next crossroads and answer my question."

"It wasn't a question, it was an observation, but to answer what you didn't ask, no I'm not jealous. She will be at the inn after all."

"I didn't think you were jealous," I protested wondering why he wasn't.

"Oh no?"

"Well, maybe..."

"Well then, maybe I am, just a bit."

"Oh, thank God. I thought you didn't care anymore."

"Just love you for your body, eh?"

We arrived at the inn at mid-morning. It was a lovely place, though not so homey as The Dancing Maiden. The garden was magnificent, though, and the inn as clean and neat as anyone could hope. The young man behind the desk greeted us cordially.

"I'm Jeff Spencer," he said with a pronounced American accent.

"Ray Doyle," I offered. "We have reservations."

"Oh yes. I'm glad you decided to stay with us." I signed the register. "We serve lunch at one-thirty," Jeff told us.

I looked over at Bodie. "We'll be there," I said, sure of his priorities.

"You might want to take a walk," Jeff suggested. "Though I wouldn't stray too far. It's going to rain later."

"Sunny out," Bodie observed, looking at the shaft of coloured light spilling through the stained glass window over the desk.

"Is now. Won't be later."

"Weather forecaster, are you?" Bodie asked, a little arch.

"He does live here, sunshine," I reminded him.

"Not me, my wife. I've never known her to miss yet." He plucked a few dead leaves off a fire-red geranium. "Warts."

"Beg your pardon?" I asked, not sure I'd heard the last bit.

"Warts - that's how she forecasts the weather."

Bodie stared for a moment. "Pull the other one - if has bells."

Jeff laughed. "For just a minute, you weren't sure, were you?"

"He was prepared for an old woman on a broomstick, I think," I told him.

"He's new to magic."

"How'd you hear about us?" Jeff asked. "Oh, wait, you said you were friends of Colette's, didn't you" He shut the register and swept the pile of leaves into his hand. "You're doubly welcome, in that case."

"She's a friend of yours, then?" Bodie asked.

"For a lot of years. I owe her. She's a special lady, isn't she?"

We agreed she was that.

"I've gotta run. If you're going, you'd better get started before the rain does."

We dropped our things in our room and went back out. Bodie wanted to stroll down towards the loch to see if Nessy was home. The countryside was stark and beautiful in green and brown. In the distance we could see snow on the mountains. The loch itself was a brownish-grey and was choppy that day, due in part, no doubt, to the storm that was brewing. The clouds were dark and heavy over the glen.

"No hunting tonight, lover," Bodie told me.

"Isn't this the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?"

"Almost." He said it so quietly that I nearly missed it...and the implication. But when I did catch it, I found I couldn't stop smiling.

We had to run a bit to stay dry, but we arrived back at the inn just as the sky opened up. We stood in the doorway for a few minutes watching the downpour.

"Glad you got back in time." Jeff was standing behind us, holding two glasses of wine. "This will take a bit of the chill off," he said. "Lunch is nearly ready if you'd like to go in."

We took a little table near the window so we could watch the storm.

"Bonjour." I looked up into a lovely little face with dark, merry eyes.

"We have today sole Veronique or breast of chicken Florentine, or if you wish, my 'usband will make you 'amburger from California with sprouted seeds and raw vegetables." I was completely enchanted. "I suggest the chicken or fish," she added with a mischievous grin.

"Fish by all means," Bodie told her. "You're Jeff's wife?"

"Oui. My name is Dahout. I'm French."

"Really?" Bodie asked, wide-eyed. I kicked him.

"Don't make fun of the person who prepares you meals," she warned in her enticing accent, but her smile was friendly. She had obviously felt Bodie's not inconsiderable charm already. "And you, Mister Doyle?"


"Two very good choices...but my 'usband will be disappointed. There is an excess of greenery in the kitchen. I will bring you some more wine."

She slipped away, half turning to smile at Bodie over her shoulder.

"Married woman, sunshine," I warned.

"No harm in looking, so long as you don't plow in the field."

"I'm not sure I like you looking," I admitted, sipping my wine.

Bodie leaned forward. "Speaking of looking, my love, look who just arrived."

I turned to see Bea in the doorway. She had her arms around Jeff and was laughing and hugging him. There were two men standing behind her, one small and dark, one taller and fairer with a well-trimmed beard and moustache.

Murphy, ignore by the crowd at the door, marched purposefully up to our table, leapt onto it and began cleaning himself.

"This is your cat?" Dahout asked. "What a beauty!"

"Name's Murphy," Bodie told her, "and he's not ours."

"Oh Mairphee, you're a bad boy!" Dahout set down the wine bottle and picked the cat up. "Shame on you for disturbing our guests." She kissed the tip of his pink nose and tossed him onto the floor, pointing towards the doorway in a clear gesture of banishment. Then she refilled our glasses, smiling at Bodie the whole time. "You would like some salad, yes? It will make Jeff so 'appy. He is from California and he dotes on salads."

"Yes, of course," I said.

She turned to leave and met Bea who was on her way to our table. They greeted each other like long lost sisters, jabbering in French and speaking too fast for me to follow. I realized, after listening for a few moments, that it wasn't classic French they were speaking.

"Ray, Bodie, why don't you join us at our table? I'd like you to meet some friends of mine." Bea put her hand on my shoulder and the sensation was electric. From the look in his eyes, Bodie knew it, too.

"Sounds good to me," he said, and I gave him full marks for generosity. We moved our place sett8ings and wine glasses to the larger table. Then Bea introduced us.

"Ray Doyle, Bodie, clockwise from myself you have Tomas," she said, indicating the smaller man, "Daffydd and," here she paused and gave the third person at table a strange, quizzical, almost challenging look.

"Inge," said the beautiful blonde who made up the foursome. "How nice to meet you. How do you know Bea?"

"They picked me up on the train."

"Oh! Then they're the ones you told us about...oh my!"

Oh my? I thought. What had she told them?

"Where's Murphy?" Bodie asked.

Inge smiled. "I took him upstairs. He was becoming a pest." Tomas and Daffydd grinned. "What do you gentlemen do for a living?" she asked, pouring herself a glass of wine from our bottle.

"We're civil servants," I told her.

"Oh, you push a pencil? That's the life, eh? Quelling riots in the accounting office, high adventure around the water cooler..."

"Inge, darling, why don't you go upstairs and find Murphy?"

She began to laugh. "What Tomas is saying is that I'm being rude or bitchy or both. My apologies. I'm a sort of civil servant as well, so I really hadn't intended any insult."

"None taken," Bodie assured her, but I wasn't so sure. He had a funny look on his face that said he was none too taken with Inge.

The rest of the meal progressed smoothly enough. Outside the thunder crashed and lightning flashed, but inside we were all quite cosy and friendly. Bea had made it abundantly clear that if I was to stumble into her room by mistake that night, I wouldn't be unwelcome. It was tempting.

Tomas and Daffydd were obviously a couple, which left me wondering about Inge, and Dahout continued to flirt outrageously with Bodie.

By the time we finished lunch, the storm had passed through. It was raining gently when Bodie and I went upstairs to unpack and, frankly, to take a nap.

We weren't over-full, but the effects of the wine here were quite different from chateau DM; we were both a little sleepy. I was in the loo for a few minutes and when I came out, Bodie had opened the shutters and was leaning out of the window, oblivious to the rainwater dripping down from the eaves onto his hair.

"What're you looking at, you great daft thing?" I asked, pulling his damp hair gently. Then I saw Dahout in the garden. She was walking among the roses, naked and wet, looking for all the world like a dryad. She bent to savour the scent of an apricot-coloured rose.

"You're a dirty old man." I accused half-heartedly, feeling strangely moved by the sight.

"She did a dance...just held her arms up to the sky and danced," he whispered.

"Ray, she looks like the woman I met in the forest that night."

Of course she did. I should have expected that.

"You really want her," I observed, feeling no jealousy, but a strange sense of helplessness.

"She's not for the likes of me," he said, and in a moment the awe was gone and it was my Bodie standing there with one arm hooked around my waist.

"But you, on the other hand," he began, picking me up and tossing me onto the bed, "you're just right for me, aren't you, my beauty?"

We loved for what seemed like hours, tasting and touching and telling each all the silly things lovers say when they make love. I told Bodie I wished I could help him find his magic.

"My magic? I don't have any magic."

"You do. Everyone does. It's just hard for some of us to find, is all." I rolled on top of him and pulled the sheets up to cover my bare backside.

"I'll, Ray?"


"Don't look now, but we have a visitor."

I turned and saw Murphy sitting at the foot of the bed, staring at us with quizzical blue eyes. "Hullo Murphy."


"Wha'd he say?"

"I'm not a translator, Bodie. C'mere puss, c'mon..." I held out my hand and he stalked up and rubbed his head against it. "Who's a pretty boy then?" I asked.

"'ere, how'd he get in? The door was shut."

I shrugged. "How'd you do it, Murph, hmmmm? Who's a clever boy, then?"

He threw himself onto his side and rolled around. Like our Murph, this one was a tease.

"He does that almost as well as Beelzy," Bodie observed, rubbing Murphy's soft belly fur.


"Doesn't make me all excited when he does it."

"Mmmmmmm." I rubbed my face on his chest. Then, with Murphy watching, we made love again. When we finished, Murphy stretched, stood up and licked his chest, then jumped down and went to the door where he scratched and miaowed until I got up to let him out.

"Bodie, I have this funny feeling about Murphy all of a sudden.

He pulled me down into his arms. "I have this funny feeling about you," he said, driving all of my suspicions right out of my mind.

That night, the bonfires would be lit. Jeff had kept his firewood dry under a canvas, but he still sprinkled paraffin over it to make sure it would light. I helped him lay three fires, and we talked.

"How long have you known Colette?" he asked.

"About a year. We met at The Dancing Maiden." He nodded.

"It was visiting there about seven years ago that made me want a place of my own. Dahout had a similar dream so here we are. Your Bodie is taken with her, isn't he?"

"I'd say the reverse is also true," I snapped, taken aback by his bluntness.

He laughed at me. "Oh don't look so serious. Ray, Dahout and I married because I wanted to be with her forever, but we took each other with no strings - nothing to bind us but the need to be together."

"Oh...well..." I didn't know what to say.

"What I mean is, neither of us are jealous, okay?"

I nodded, still a bit ill at ease. I pride myself on being uninhibited, but I'd just come smack up against an interesting brick wall - I found I was a lot more conservative about relationships that Jeff or Dahout apparently were. I understood their attitude, of course, but I had a hard time dealing with it. I guess I'm more of a twentieth-century man than I pretend sometimes. "Tell me about you and Colette," I asked. "How did you come to know her?"

"I met her in San Francisco about ten years ago," he told me as we dragged the last of the wood to the fire site. "I was going through some really heavy mind-trips," he confessed. "I was a prick." He smiled reminiscently.

"It was Colette who got my head screwed back on the right way. Christ, you name it, I did it - drugs, alcohol, all kinds of sexual scenes, I stole, I couldn't keep a job. I was involved in this weird black magic group from up north; amateurs mostly, but it was real soul-retarding stuff; very nasty.

"Someone from the hospital brought Colette one night because he knew she was into the occult and I guess he figured he'd impress her and get into her pants - you know." He wiped his hands on his jeans and went back for the paraffin. "Well, she was really upset by some of the stuff that was going down and she said so - you know Colette." He stopped for a moment to wrestle with the cap. "Ah, shit, broke a finger-nail. Anyway, she told everyone she thought they ought to quit this nonsense and the guy who brought her got ugly; said she had no right to put down other folks' religion. She told him she didn't have any problems with honest religious impulses, but this was a group of children trying to prove something, trying to prove they could break every taboo in the book, trying to prove they were 'cooler' than the rest of the world. He asked her if she really thought she had a pipeline to God, and she said, cool as anything - you know how Colette can be - 'I thought you didn't believe in God.' Wham! Like a good slap in the face. Well, that slap hit me, too, and I listened to her. Dunno why, 'cause I was pretty far gone by then. I was stoned out of my mind most of the time, and thought I was a pretty heavy dude just because I could spit on the crucifix and fuck a lot of foxy chicks who were impressed with devil-worship. But like I said," he sprinkled liquid paraffin on the firewood, "I heard her, really heard her that night and she was the first human being who ever made sense to me. She wasn't say 'come to God' or anything, she was saying 'don't waste your time in this life with such stupidity. Take responsibility for your own life.'" He stood back and nodded, remembering the moment, savouring it. "You know, I realized then I' d never bothered to do that. I'd always said, 'well, I got bad breaks,' or 'it's the boss' fault,' or 'it's my family's fault' or stuff like that.

"Anyway, I was about to deck the guy because he was getting real abusive with her, but instead I just came up to her and asked if she'd mind if I drove back to town with her, told her I wanted out and she said she'd be happy to take me back. So then the guy says to her, 'oh, that's it, is it?

You like the white boys? Well just remember you're a nigger just like me!' and she said, 'oh no, not just like you. Not like you at all.' Man she was so great. Then she reminded him they had to work together and he'd better watch his manners."

I found myself grinning at the story. That was Colette, the coolest, most together lady I'd ever met. I remembered all over how very much I loved her. Jeff did too, it seemed.

"Well, the rest is history," he said as we walked to the second pile of wood and he sprinkled that as well. "If only because she put up with me she's a candidate for sainthood. I'm not the type for revelations," he admitted, "and I was a difficult case. I guess it was two things that made the difference - she never let me blame anyone of anything else for the fix I was in and she never demanded I accept anything she told me as gospel. I lived with her for about a year and except for the house rules like no dope, no excess drinking, and that sort of thing, she never demanded anything of me. She had a lot of 'strays' in that big old house, some stayed and learned some couldn't handle the responsibility. It is a responsibility too, you know?"

"Yeh, I know," I admitted. We emptied the last of the paraffin on the third pile of wood and walked back to the inn. "She was my teacher for a while.

I wish I could have had more time," I told him. "I just don't think I've learned enough to be really comfortable with my talent."

"You're like Colette?" he asked. "A shape-shifter?"

"Uh-huh, but not a very good one."

"I'm like a battery," he told me as we walked. "A power source. It's a real passive talent. What's your totem animal?"

"I only do one other shape, a fiendish little marmalade cat. I suppose he's my totem." What a thought!

"You ought to talk..."

"Jeff!" It was Dahout in the doorway of the inn. "If you're finished laying the fires, there's a lot of other things to do."

He shook his head and laughed. "Ask me again why I married her," he said with a wry grin. "She never lets me rest. We'll talk later," he promised, and then he ran off.

I told Bodie, as I always do, that he was free to skip the ceremony, but, as he always does, he said he'd like to come along. It's a sweet gesture from someone who feels this is all harmless nonsense. I've explained to him that I don't entirely believe in the old gods, but paying my respects is a nice idea. Besides, observing the old holidays gives me a sense of the continuity of my history that's important to me now I'm getting older.

So Bodie and I were together that night when the fires were lighted. There were several dozen people in the field. Many of them were skyclad, though some wore light-coloured robes and a few, like Bodie and myself, were casually dressed. I would have happily stripped off, but I knew it would make Bodie uncomfortable. As it was, I could see he was starting to regret having agreed to participate. I put my arm around his waist. "At least Inge isn't here," I whispered, and he grinned.

Bea and Jeff entered the circle together. Kev had said something about the high-priestess here - a Frenchwoman, was it? He had also said she was very powerful. I felt a prickle of anticipation as Dahout entered the circle.

She was dressed in a shimmering white robe and a crown of white and red roses. A heavy amber necklace hung around her neck. She walked to the centre of the circle, to the small fire laid there, and held up her hands for silence.

"This is the time of the rose," she intoned. "The triumph of light is light 's death. We celebrate the dance which moves worlds. Dance with me."

She walked around the fire once, shedding her robe as she went. On the second circuit, she pulled Bodie into the dance. I grabbed his other hand with my right and felt someone clasp my left. We began to weave around in swirling, twining patterns, dancing around the fires, past the woven wicker figure of the God resting on the flower-decked altar. Dahout raised a chant.

SEED sower GRAIN reborn HORNED ONE COME BRIGHT sun DARK death Lord of the winds COME

SHE who is at CENter SHE WHO BLOOMS LEAFy one GREEN one LEAFy one GREEN one SHE who is CROWNED SHE who embraces!

This continued as we danced, some chanting the God chant, some the Goddess.


JOUE ici Joue la!

SUN child summer CROWNED IO EVOHE!

HAIL old Moon WISE one HAIL old Moon WISE one HAIL old Moon ma MAH MA mi AH ee mah MAH ah MAH ah AH...

The chant became wordless vibration in some throats.

DANCE ici Aaaaahhhhhhhh DANCE la!

Eeeeehhhhhhhhaaaaaaaa JOUE ici AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH JOUE la!


I could feel my own voice rising into an atonal cry of pleasure, of sheer excitement and joy, breathing the sounds, feeling them echoing throughout my body. Beside me, Bodie was howling at the moon - one of the eeriest noises I've ever heard. Dahout's voice was raised in harmony.

The dance slowed and stopped. We stood, hands linked, voices raised in wordless praise of life. I shed my clothes. Dahout undressed Bodie. I needed to feel the night air, the moonlight wash over me.

The air seemed denser and light shimmered around us, almost a tangible force. Coloured sparks flew in and out of the circle and upwards. I watched them rise and saw the cone above us, luminous and white in the darkened sky.

Dahout pulled Bodie to the fire and raised her hands to the light. Suddenly the separate threads of sound became one.


Bodie's arms were raised, the firelight playing on his face making him feral, unearthly. He was glowing with sweat.

The sound grew louder.


And Dahout cried: "to ME, TO ME!" and I felt as though my soul had been released from my body. It floated up into the cone of light while my body sank into the damp grass, and I heard it whispering to me: 'the God has gone into the corn', it whispered. 'He is in tree and vine. The sun is within us.' I rolled around, rubbing my face against the cool, green spears.

I could smell flowers - Dahout and Bodie were tossing wreaths of roses into the flames. I stood.

"Set sail," they chorused and the rest of us repeated it. "Set sail, set sail. One thing becomes another, in the mother, in the mother."

The wicker figure was fed to the flames and as it burned, Dahout led Bodie to each of the coveners. Before each of us they linked hands so we would see the flames through the circle of their arms. "See with clear sight and know the mystery of the unbroken circle," she told us.

And when they had come to each of us, Dahout went to the fire and pulled out a wrapped package. She broke it open and held up a wreath of bread.

"Behold, the God has gone into the grain!"

Bodie came back to me and took my hand. There was something in hi that was not my Bodie.

"The sun is on the water, the God is in the corn!" she broke the bread and passed it to each of us and we ate. Then she took up a cup. "He is in tree and vine. The sun is within us." And she passed the chalice so each of us could drink.

"The sun is not lost."

"He will feed us," we answered.

"The sun is within us."

"See how we shine!"

"The sun is not lost."

"He will quench our thirst."

"The sun is within us."

"SEE how we SHINE!"

the others sat and I pulled Bodie down onto the grass, into my arms.

"You are so beautiful," he said.

We watched the flames die and the sun rise again. The birds were singing as we walked back to the inn.

We went upstairs and made love so sweetly, and before I slept, I could hear in the comfortable, weary places in my mind, a line of poetry, unidentifiable and perfect: "...Nor one word be forgotten/ Said at the start/ About heart/ By heart, for heart..."

we were unbroken.

When I woke, the room was warm and the scent of flowers hung heavy in the air. I was thirsty, so I threw on my roe and crept downstairs in search of something to drink.

Dahout was there, trimming pots of herbs. "Allo, Ray. Did you sleep well?"

"Mmm. What's the time?"

"Past two. Almost everybody slept through lunch. What can I do for you?"

"I was thirsty. Some water? Juice?"

"Sit, I'll pour some juice for you."

I sat down and rubbed a sprig of basil between my fingers, savouring the fresh, slightly spicy scent. "Wonderful ceremony," I told her.

"Merci. Bodie helped." She set a glass of apricot juice in front of me.

It was sweet. I felt like a bee collecting nectar.

"How did you get him to cooperate?" I asked. "He's very unsure about all this."

"It's inside of 'im." She put the pot of basil in the window. "And one day he will know this. But he'll remember little about raising the power with me. He was, how to call it? Trancing." She clipped some chives and laid them beside the basil. "Would you be terribly upset if I took him for a night?"

I gave her ten out of ten for bluntness. "As a lover?" I asked stupidly.

"I don't know what to say."

Chervil joined the growing pile. "I 'ave a reason, and the desire is in both of us - you know that. Jeff does understand," she assured me. "I need him to raise another sort of power - a private one."

I thought about it while she trimmed a few sprigs of dill and tarragon. "I can't speak for him. I can only say that," I took a deep breath, "I'd like to understand the request, but so long as you make no claim on him, I'm content."

"Blessed art thou among lovers," she said, placing a sprig of rosemary in my curls. "Thy children and thy children's children shall praise the greatness of thy spirit." Then she smiled her enchanting smile and something - an expression, a trick of the light - made me see Bodie's face in hers.

"Not just now, though," I asked.

"No, not now," she agreed with a little laugh. "I 'ave work to do.

But...before you leave here."


I went back upstairs...and found Dahout in bed with Bodie.

Not possible, I thought, and went back downstairs. She was still in the kitchen.

"Attrapeur de mouches?"


"Your mouth is hanging open - are you catching flies?"

"Who's upstairs with Bodie?" I asked.

"I don't know. Who is?"

"You are."

She said nothing, but led me back upstairs and into the bedroom. "What is this?" she demanded when she saw them together.

Bodie blinked at the two Dahouts for a moment, then scrambled out of bed.

"What the hell..."

"Mairphee, tu n'a pas have gone too far this time!"

there was a sullen look on the face of the ersatz Dahout when the real Dahout left the room.

"Where's she going?" I asked the other Dahout.

A masculine voice issued from the very female form in the bed. "Probably to find Bea." The form began to shift and alter, and suddenly it was our Murphy - the one we work with - the original.

"Hi fellahs."

There was a long, uncomfortable silence.

"Surprised? I'm a shape-shifter. You know, someone who can change..."

"Get the fuck out of our bed," Bodie snarled, stepping towards Murphy with murder in his eyes.

I stepped between them. "Easy, sunshine," I warned.

"You were anxious enough when I was Dahout," Murphy reminded him.

"Don't antagonize him," I warned Murph. "I may let him beat you senseless."

"Look, I'm sorry it's such a big deal." He stretched and I mentally took back what I'd said about him not being cat-like.

"That was you on the train - the white cat!" I accused. "And Inge too..."

"Cleaver boy..."

Dahout returned and she did, indeed, have Bea with her. They were both furious.

"What have you done?" Bea demanded. "How could you do this?"

for the first time, I saw discomfort on the smug features.

"It's just a game, Bea."

"I can't deal with this any longer. You'll have to find someone else." She stalked out of the room and Murphy scrambled after her.

"Bea, wait...please!"

Bodie seemed to relax visibly after Murphy left the room. I put a hand on his shoulder. "It's all right," I told him.

"You think so?"

"Bodie, Ray, sit down. I want to talk to you." Dahout shut the bedroom door and I pulled Bodie over to the bed. "You should understand that Mairphee is like a child with this gift - he's only learning how to use it. He needs a teacher - you know, Ray."

I nodded.

"It's very sad. No soul calls to his. And yet, we can only bear the childishness so long. I think he may need a lesson in manners, ne'est-ce pas?"

"You have something in mind?" Bodie asked.

"Oh, yes..."

after supper we all gathered in the common room. "There's a dance in town,"

Jeff informed us, "if anyone is interested." A few of the other guests decided to go and they went upstairs to get ready. Bea went off with Jeff.

As planned, I turned to Dahout and asked if she wouldn't prefer a rather more private dance. "Just the two of us," I said pointedly and if Murphy thought it was odd, he didn't let on. In fact, he laughed. We went upstairs to a chorus of whistles and catcalls.

"This isn't going to be easy," I whispered to Dahout.

"Trust me," she said.

About an hour later, a gorgeous redhead walked into the common room.


"Hullo everyone," I said, trying not to laugh at Bodie's expression. Bless him, he was trying hard to control himself.

"Colette," he managed. "I didn't expect to see you here."

I insinuated myself into the empty chair beside Murphy. "Well, hello," I purred. He was clearly interested. This was a strange sensation. I rather liked it. "And what's your name?"

I was loving this. Dahout and I had worked together on the transformation - she had incredible power. And she and Bea had dressed me in one of Bea's slinkiest outfits - black silk with a skirt slit up to my hip.


"Just Murphy? Like, just Bodie?" I smiled at Bodie and the look in his eyes startled me. It was hunger, pure and simple. I got up and went over to him, and sat on his lap. "Haven't you had enough of me yet?" I teased, running my hands through his hair.

The idea had been to turn the tables on Murph; to teach him how it felt to be mocked, and to have his desires twisted and trampled. But all I wanted then was to experience Bodie with my new body.

"Never enough." He caressed alien curves.

It was so...I felt so strange - so much of my sexual awareness seemed to be cantered higher, and there was a feeling of fullness, almost congestion in my pelvic area. I put Bodie's hand on my belly. Something in me longed to be filled.

"Well, then..." I stood up and pulled him to his feet. "Perhaps another dose of Colette might help." As we started out of the common room, I turned to Murphy and mouthed 'later' and he grinned at me. Things were getting complicated.

Bodie was so excited by the time we reached our room that it nearly happened before we made it to the bed, but I was determined to enjoy this and I made him stop before we went too far. Then, when I thought we'd both cooled sufficiently, I let him undress me, loving the feel of his hands on this new flesh. I felt different - I wasn't Ray Doyle and yet was. I felt at hoe with this new body, with breasts and that mysterious place between my legs.

It all felt right as Beelzy's skin had always felt, and I was both elated and a little afraid. It would be easy to lose myself in these changes.

"Wait, wait," I ordered, and stepped in front of the mirror. I was looking out of alien eyes, out of an alien body which was sending urgent messages I could only understand on an instinctive level. I began to touch myself - breasts, belly, pubic mound...something missing...between my legs, the moist opening and tiny bud. A feather touch there made me gasp with pleasure.

So, this is what it was like.

"Let me," Bodie whispered. He picked me up and carried me back to the bed.

He kissed me - his touch was different. There was a holding back.

"I won't break," I promised.

He touched and kissed me all over. He took a long time to pleasure me. And all those stories about his prowess - they were all true. I'd appreciated Bodie as a lover when I was in Doyle's body, but hadn't ever taken seriously his claims to be a great lover with women. He's every bit as good as he claims! He knew all the moves, all the right places to use them; he was a considerate lover, entering my new body carefully, knowing it was the first time in more ways than the usual one.

And afterwards, I held him close and cried a little because it had been so strange and perfect and wonderful, and then I laughed because of the same things. I guess I'd known I loved him for a long time, but I'd never realized how much we belonged together. I wanted to tell him all of this, but it was getting late and I had to finish what I'd begun, though after what we'd just had, I didn't want to bother.

He gave me one of those crooked Irish grins and pushed me out of bed. "Go on, you little tease - tie him in knots, then come back to me."

I slipped on my robe, thanking providence that I'd brought a towelling one that could pass on either sex, and crept out and down the hall to Murphy's room. I met Jeff going into Bea's and he smiled at me. I heard her murmur a greeting before the door closed behind him. Just before I rapped on Murphy's door, I saw Dahout coming up the stairs with a candle. She looked at me and then glanced at the door of our room.

"I'm likely to be busy for some time," I told her, then knocked. I was reminded of a French bedroom farce for some reason.

Murphy greeted me enthusiastically and I bounced into his bed wondering if I was becoming a loose woman. I used every trick that had ever been used on me to make him respond, to make him crazy with wanting me, but every time he tried to finish it, I stopped him. Finally when I sensed that the excitement was about to give way to frustration and perhaps anger, I held him back for a moment. "You really want e, don't you?" I asked in my most seductive voice.

"God yes! Can you doubt it?" and I had to admit that I certainly couldn't.

the physical evidence was right there in front of me in living colour.

"Then you may have me," I said, lying back against the pillows. But when he stretched out on top of me, and slipped a hand between my thighs, what he found there was not what he had expected to find.

I'd never seen Murph move so fast.

"What're you doing here?" he asked stupidly, standing in the middle of the floor.

"Turnabout being fair play, I'm here giving you a dose of your own medicine.

Not so funny from this side is it?" I climbed out of bed and pulled on my robe. "You're not the only bloody shape-shifter in the world," I informed him, "and next time you think about putting your hands on Bodie, remember this: if you hurt him, I'll break you."

"You're not going to leave me like this, are you?"

"Consider it one of the gentler lessons you have to learn," I snapped as I left the room.

Bodie was sound asleep and I wondered if Dahout had come to him at all.

Perhaps it was all my imagination, I thought...but no, when I slipped into bed beside him, there were roses on the pillow and a handful twined in his hair, and beside the bed, the candle she'd carried scented the air.

He reached out in his sleep and pulled me against his chest, sniffed me and smiled. "Love you, Ray," he murmured.

"Me too."

"How'd you do it anyway?" he shifted around until we were tied up in a knot and would probably never be able to free ourselves and would die up there in that room all tangled and happy.

"Dahout helped," I told him. The scent of crushed roses hung over the pillows. Bodie opened his eyes and they were violet-coloured in the light from the candle. "She told me that I probably couldn't change into anything but Beelzy because I didn't believe I could."

"Now that sounds way too simple," he said, and yawned.

"Wasn't just that, but it was a big part of it. She helped me learn to visualize what it was I wanted to be - that's a major part of the change - visualization. I had trouble at first," I confessed. "I kept getting men-women and cat-women and once I ended up as the Sphinx and kept asking riddles..."

He chuckled. "So, how'd you know?" "Know what?"

"About my dream woman. You were her, you know."

"I was?" This was a surprise.

"Sure. Ever since I was old enough to dream about women, she's been hovering around in my mind. I've been looking for her since I was about fifteen." He rubbed his cheek against my hair.

"Straight up?"

"Cross my heart. It was lovely, Ray, thanks." He muzzled my chest and dropped back off to sleep very quickly.

"You daft thing," I said.

I lay awake for a while, thinking. I thought about Murphy, alone and confused and angry. I felt a pang of guilt. Revenge is never as sweet as you hope it will be. I thought about Jeff and Bea - was it love between them? And how did Dahout feel about it?

And I thought about us - me and Bodie, and about love. What I'd felt at the ceremony as I watched him play priest to Dahout's priestess - God to her Goddess - had not been awe, but love so deep and fulfilling I couldn't hold it in. I let it spill out of me into the cone of power. Was part of that love in each of us? Was it still ringing?

And still, there was so much left.

Enter with him, these legends, love...

Some memory stirred and was silent again.

--Litha 1982

Belling the Cat

"I don't see that it matters, Bodie," Ray grumbled as they approached the pub. It was like Bodie to be factious about Ray's attempts to use his talent - what he didn't understand he denied. Then Ray realised he was being unfair. This was still all too new to both of them.

"I just like to know what I'm coming home to is all," Bodie replied.

"Beelzy's one thing, but the griffon was just too much."

"I thought it was imaginative." He tugged the door open, feeling sulky.

Perhaps he had been changing more often that was strictly necessary, but surely Bodie could try to understand...

"To say nothing of the miniature whale in the bath last weekend." Bodie stepped in the narrow doorway so that their bodies pressed close together; and, as always, the electricity between them sparked, damping the petty irritations. Not for the first time did Ray realise that sex was a powerful agent of dtente.

"An experiment, Bodie!" he protested.

"And the giant dung beetle..."

"I never!" So Bodie was having him on. "Very funny."

"I never know from day to day," Bodie chuckled, offering a fleeting caress to Ray's backside before shoving him through the doors of the pub. "Now if I was to find that long-legged redhead..." he stopped short, his expression turning to stone. Confused, Ray followed Bodie's eyes and found himself staring down the barrel of a shotgun.

"Don't say nuffink," hissed the man in the balaclava. "Just stand quiet and you won't be 'urt." Another, similarly masked and armed, was forcing a frightened young barmaid to empty the till into a canvas sack. Resisting the instinctive urge to reach for his gun, Ray played the scene loud and obtuse, hoping to convince the robbers that he and his mate were harmless.

"'ere! Wot's goin' on?" he demanded.

"Over there with the others," the first robber snapped, prodding him with his gun, "and keep yer mouths shut."

Ray stole a look at Bodie, whose ramrod-stiff posture and tightly drawn mouth were clear signs of barely leashed rage. Well, keep it leashed, sunshine, Ray thought at his partner, and let's get these folks out alive.

Instinctively the moved to opposite ends of the group of frightened patrons.

A clearcut robbery wouldn't be too difficult to wait out. These two were professionals - they were moving quickly, economically, wasting neither time nor words. If all went well...

"Doyle, is it?" The second man, the one who had supervised the emptying of the till, turned his attention to Ray. The voice filtering through the mask was vaguely familiar. He stepped a little closer to Ray and peered at him through the slit in his mask. "Yeh...oh, yeh, I remember you," he breathed.

There was a nasty sort of glee in his voice.

"You ready?" the other robber asked, already backing towards the doorway.

He held the filled sack and had stuffed his pockets full of cigarettes.

"Nah, wait a tick, this is the copper wot sent me to prison. I told you..."

The air in the pub was stifling, heavy. Ray was finding it difficult to think clearly. This had the potential to be an ugly little incident if handled badly. If only he could place the voice... "Don't remember me, copper? Maybe it's the mask. I'd hate to think you'd forgotten me." He nudged Doyle's chin with the barrel of his shotgun. "I couldn't go without saying how do, could I?"

That voice...

"Irving," Doyle said, suddenly sure. Eyes sparkled with malice from the slitted mask. Ray was aware of a palpable tension pouring off of Bodie.

Stay put, don't move, he thought. I can handle this.

"I remember you, Irving. I also remember what you were in for."

Instinctively Ray began to use what Bodie called his 'copper' voice. "You know if you hurt any of us it'll go badly for you."

"IF they catch me."

"They will, you know. They always do."

"Not this time, Doyle. This time it's a sure thing." He laughed unpleasantly.

"Must be if you're willing to blow your disguise on a bit of petty revenge."

He sounded cooler than he felt. The temperature in the pub must have risen twenty degrees.

"Petty? You owe me a good dozen years, don't you? An' I'm takin' it out of your hide."

Bodie growled low and stepped towards Irving, but the other robber swung round and levelled his own gun on him. "For chrissake, people'll be coming in, let's go!" The tension in the air was almost tangible, much of it radiating from Bodie.

"I'm gonna leave you a little token of my affection, Doyle," Irving promised. He aimed his gun at Ray's right knee. "'ow about a limp...or wooden leg?" he asked. He raised the shotgun and nudged Doyle's crotch.

"Or maybe," he hissed, a malevolent gleam in his eyes, "I'll turn you into a girl."

There was a moment of silence in which time seemed to spin out endlessly, thin and tenuous, and before Ray could react, the air grew even heavier with something like an electrical charge - a crackling, dangerous sort of energy, as though a storm was brewing there in the pub. Doyle felt as if the air pressure was going to crush them all, and he found it difficult to breathe...even to think. Then, around Irving, time and space seemed to warp, shimmering and iridescent, and in a moment the man was gone, vanished, his shotgun clattering to the floor. One of them women, released from the shock of the moment by the noise, screamed just once, and then all was silent again - heavy and oppressive. Doyle sagged a little against the bar, his mind numb to what he had just seen, unable to quite comprehend that the danger no longer existed. The second robber backed away, dropped the sack he held and bolted, and the movement snapped Ray out of his fog. He turned to Bodie, as he always did in moments like this, for his familiar presence; but what he saw sent a frisson of horror through him: a tiny smile tugging at the corners of Bodie's mouth - an expression of childlike, unrepentant satisfaction.

Bodie caught Ray's eye and stepped close; Ray could feel energy crackling around him like fire devouring kindling. Bodie touched Ray's arm and he flinched away involuntarily. "You okay, sunshine?" Relief changed to something so dark Doyle could not name it. He wanted to be away from this place, away from Bodie.

"I'll call in," he managed, stumbling away from his partner, pushing through the crowd that milled around the place where Irving had disappeared as if the spot itself held some significance. He heard Bodie reassuring the others as he made his way out to the car. "Everything's all right, folks, just calm down."

Not possible, it was not possible. Doyle radioed in and asked for the police, then sat out in the car for several minutes, too weak to move, unable to face his partner who might well have been the agent of Irving's disappearance. It had happened so quickly...He remembered the almost tangible feeling of power flowing from Bodie. He remembered the smile, and amended his thoughts; might have been? Bodie must have been the agent of Irving's disappearance. "What did you do to him, Bodie?" he whispered, feeling sick at the thought that anyone could have so much power. Did Bodie even realise how powerful he really was? And how dangerous?

When the police arrived Ray went back into the pub with them. Bodie was standing at the bar, chatting with the barmaid who was giggling shyly. The other customers were seated around the room, talking quietly. There was an air of relaxation in the place and even Ray, as agitated as he was, lost the fine edge of near hysteria. This time the energy pouring off Bodie was not red like fire but green like the ocean. The colour of peace. He looked up at Ray's approach and smiled one of those supremely innocent smiles that always took Ray's breath away. No, Bodie had no idea of what he had just done, of that Ray was sure. Which of them, he wondered, would suffer more over this in the long run?

He was anxious to be away, and promised to have detailed reports sent round to the police. Not for the first time did Ray say a silent thank yo7u for his CI5 id. As they left, there was a holiday sort of atmosphere in the pub, the customers and the police chatting pleasantly about what had happened. Eerie, Doyle thought, like something out of Village of the Damned.

Bodie was behind the wheel, taking charge with a cheery efficiency that did little to reassure Doyle. "You hungry, lover?"


"Hungry? Want to eat? You okay, sunshine?"

Still numb, and inclined to drift back into the memory of Irving vanishing in front of his eyes, Ray heard a scream that had never come and felt sick again - violently so. "Bodie stop the car." He barely got the door open before he doubled over and vomited in great, shuddering spasms, the tiny scream echoing in his mind. Bodie's arms slid around his waist and Ray felt an insidious calm creeping over his; a calm forced on him from the outside.

"'s'okay, lover, take it easy," Bodie crooned. "I'm here."

That's part of the bleedin' problem, Ray thought. "Handkerchief?" he asked, shoving Bodie away and searching his own pockets vainly. Bodie produced a tissue and wiped Ray's mouth. "I feel terrible," Ray complained, but he attempted a smile.

"Ice cream sound good to you?"

"I'll have a go," Ray conceded with false lightness. The thought of any food made him feel queasy. "But I'm tired, Bodie. Can't we take some home?"

"Leave it all to me. I'll take good care of you."

Bodie took him home, put him to bed, and fed him mounds of ice cream - strawberry and vanilla and chocolate - making Ray feel like a child again, safe at home, every wish instantly gratified.

"Sleep'll be good for you, petal," Bodie was saying. "You'll feel better in the morning, I promise. You'll forget all about this." And Ray, tired as he was, felt chilled by that promise. He wanted to forget, but knew he couldn't afford to. "Don't think it's stomach flu or anything serious,"

Bodie added. Did he really not know what was wrong with his partner?

By way of protection, Ray summoned up the white light - the energy he used to keep others out of his mind, and fell asleep immediately. He slept hard for several hours, and woke with an unpleasant jolt out of a bad dream.

Bodie was sound asleep beside him, looking as innocent as a child, his ridiculous eyelashes fanning dark across skin any woman would envy. How was it that Bodie was so damn beautiful? And he'd been so sweet earlier when Ray had gone off the deep end about the robbery.

Ray wondered if he wasn't coming down with flu or something; it wasn't like him to be so upset by a straightforward robbery, particularly when it turned out so...Then it all came crashing back on him - true memory was still there, locked away in a private place. He crept out to the kitchen and called Cowley.

"Sorry to bother you at this hour, Sir," he began.

"I presume you do know what hour it is, Doyle, and what you have to say to me is important."

"It is. Sir, you've been told about the robbery this evening?"

"We've had a report from the police. Seems fairly..." Doyle could have sworn he heard a sharp intake of breath from Cowley's end. "What is it, Doyle?

What haven't I been told?"

"I'm not quite sure," Ray admitted, feeling foolish. "Were you told what happened to the robbers?"

"I was told they fled, leaving the money behind..." There was a long pause.

"That's not what happened, is it?"

It was Doyle's turn to hesitate now, not quite willing to commit himself to a story that might just be false, and yet that very uncertainty made him angry enough to press on. "No," he said, his voice flat. There was silence from the other end. "The man, the one I knew, he disappeared."

After a moment Cowley asked, "Can you define your terms more clearly?"

"Disappeared as in abracadabra, now you see him, now you don't. Vanished into thin air."

"And?" Cowley pursued.

"And I think Bodie did it." There, it was out; and suddenly it was less threatening. The fear in him began to recede.

This time there was a distinct intake of breath. "What makes you think that, laddie?" The emotion was clear in Cowley's voice - so he did care for Bodie...

"I just think he did is all. It's hard for me to explain why I believe it's so. Will you take my word on it? Hear Bodie's explanation; talk to him about it. Christ," he breathed. "I feel like a raving nutter!"

"No!, I don't believe you're wrong. I've been afraid of this, or something very like it for a long time. I'll speak to both of you first thing tomorrow. Now give me your version of the story - the important part - so I can contrast it with the reports and with Bodie's version."

Doyle made his report, grateful to be able to share the story with Cowley, who did not think him mad, then went back to bed and slept soundly at last, Bodie's familiar presence comforting in spite of everything. When he finally woke to the alarm, he found that he did feel better. The phantom scream no longer echoed in his head, and he found himself wondering if the events of the evening past had happened at all.

Bodie, for his part, seemed to have forgotten the incident entirely. He was cheerful, if a little solicitous, and it was easy for Ray to forget that their interview with Cowley was still to come.

When they arrived at headquarters Betty informed them that they were to go directly to Cowley's office.

"Reckon it's about last night?" Bodie asked. It was the first time he'd alluded to the incident.

"Maybe." Ray felt guilty; perhaps he should have let it go. He was no longer quite sure what had happened the night before.

Cowley didn't waste any time. "Doyle's reported the incident to me and I'd like your report as well, Bodie."

"Wouldn't you like it typed in triplicate?" Bodie asked, giving Ray a look of half anger and half betrayal.

"Now, if you don't mine."

Bodie sighed and recounted the incident, hesitating only slightly at the disappearance before he stated flatly that both robbers fled, leaving the lolly behind. Cowley glanced over at Ray but said nothing, allowing Bodie to finish before making any comment.

"Why did they flee?"

"Dunno," Bodie said after a moment. "Guess they were frightened by something."

"Too bloody right," Ray muttered under his breath.

"4.5, will you please repeat the story as you told it to me?"

Ray obliged, his story paralleling Bodie's until he reached the moment when Irving vanished. For a moment he was confused by the way his memories seemed to blend together. Irving threatening him, the tension in the pub, the oppressive heat...he shut his eyes and saw Irving backing out of the pub, warning them not to move. No, it was all wrong! He concentrated. Irving nudging his groin with the shotgun and...Bodie! A sense of Bodie seemed to engulf him, swallowing him up. He opened his eyes and the scene played itself out as it had the night before - fractured time and space and in the eyes staring out from the black wool of the mask a look of uncomprehending terror.

Then nothing.

"Ray..." it was Bodie. Only his eyes betrayed his concern.

"He vanished," Rays said, voice flat as his emotions. Then he felt sick again, remembering the expression on Bodie's face.

"It didn't happen that way!"

"It's what I saw, Bodie."

"No!" Bodie's eyes had gone dangerously dark. "You're wrong," he said evenly. When neither Cowley nor Doyle replied to this, he tried again.

"What do the customers say happened?" he asked. "And the barmaid; what did she say?" He looked like a trapped animal.

Cowley said nothing for a moment, then he smiled wryly. "It's most interesting, Bodie. Apparently none of them remember exactly what happened from the time Irving threatened Doyle to the moment when the other robber dropped the money and fled the pub. It seems to be a case of mass amnesia."

Ray was feeling dangerously queasy by now. Not possible...and yet it had happened.

"Maybe it's..."

"What?" Cowley prodded. "Care to explain group memory loss?"

"All right, so maybe the bloke did disappear, so what? You seem to think it 's our fault. Look, just because Ray can ch- ch- change..." He broke off, panting as though he'd run a race. Ray moved to his side and began to stroke the short, sweat-damp hair. Bodie turned his face against Ray's stomach. It wasn't often you saw Bodie scared silly, Ray realised, and he shot a warning look at Cowley. Enough, enough...

"It's not Doyle I'm worried about, laddie," Cowley said gently. "Miss Emrys..." The door opened and Bea entered the office.

"What's she doing here?" Bodie demanded, stiffening in Ray's loose embrace.

"George called and asked me to help."

"Go to hell."

"Bodie, please," Ray begged. "Please, hear us out."

"Us?" The expression on Bodie's face was painful. "You believe I did..."

"I don't know."

"I didn't!" He wrenched free of Ray's grasp and stood, knocking over the chair I his agitation.

"Bodie..." Bea's voice was low, hypnotic.

"Leave me alone."

"Bodie, listen, we want to help," she continued relentlessly. Ray felt himself relax as Bea wove threads of calm into the highly charged atmosphere. "We want to know for sure what happened last night; you're the only one who can help us. Won't you help us?" For a moment longer Bodie was able to resist the spell she wove, then he sagged against the wall, his expression docile. Ray was impressed; Bea was a powerful lady.

"How?" There was a blankness in Bodie's eyes that frightened Ray.

"We're going to The Green King - you'd like that wouldn't you?" she coaxed.

"You'll see Dahout again."

"Don't know."

"She can help. Trust me, Bodie."

Bodie's hand closed convulsively around Ray's "Ray?"

"I'm coming too, sunshine," Ray promised, silently daring Cowley to contradict him. He rubbed a tense spot between Bodie's shoulders. "I won't leave you, I promise."

The journey up to Inverness was miserable. Bodie lay awake for most of the trip, clinging to Ray. His eyes had a drugged, bewildered look that was almost painful for Doyle.

And it frightened him to think that the man he loved and trusted, who he thought he knew better than himself, would prove to be a stranger who'd sent another human being off so some never-never land, erased the memory of the disappearance from the minds of the witnesses, and had tried to do the same to Ray's memories of the incident.

The inner voice whispered, "You're still alive and you still have both legs and both balls thanks to this 'stranger', my son, perhaps a little gratitude is in order."

"I am grateful," he protested silently, "it's just that...Christ, what he did to that man." He shuddered.

"Dead is dead," the voice reminded him. "Doesn't much matter how you get there."

"But it does, it does. For chrissake, couldn't he have just made the gun jam of something? Any why won't he leave my mind alone?"

"Because, you prat, the memory was hurting you."

"Me." The thought struck with sickening clarity. What Bodie had done to Irving, he had done for Ray's sake.

The next morning Bodie seemed more himself, discussing the trip as though it was a holiday. Selective memory, Ray realised, feeling not a little depressed by the situation and the lack of sleep. Bodie was wary of Bea when she joined them in the rental car, and was equally stiff with Jeff, who seemed confused by their sudden appearance during off-season, but happy to see them nonetheless.

"We've thought about you a lot," he told them as he showed them to their rooms. Then he left them alone.

Ray set about unpacking with an efficiency born of unease. Bodie hadn't said a word since they'd arrived, and he was pacing the room, looking miserable. Ray had to keep reminding himself that they were there for Bodie 's sake.

"It's sort of a holiday, sunshine - a paid vacation. Never thought I'd see the day that the Cow would part with this much money for our sakes. Though I'd prefer something a bit homier, wouldn't you?" He knew he was chattering, but he couldn't stop. "Riviera would 'ave been nice, wouldn't it? Or Barbados?"

"I haven't done anything," Bodie whispered, and Ray would rather have cut his own heart out than endure the sight of Bodie standing in the centre of the room, a little bowed under the weight of this unwelcome attention, emphatically cut off even from his lover. He had never seemed more vulnerable than at that moment. Ray reached out to him.

"Let me help."

The reply was lost as someone rapped sharply at the door. Bodie stiffened and moved away.

The door opened to admit Bea with a tray, followed by Dahout who looked incredibly lovely and very pregnant. Bodie watched them both with undisguised hostility, but their presence seemed to compel him to pretend all was quite normal.

"'allo Ray." Dahout kissed him and then approached Bodie, who stepped away from her. Her dark eyes studied him for a moment. "I thought, some tea?"

"Sounds fantastic," Ray said, feigning enthusiasm. Dahout poured while Bea tossed a few logs on the fire.



She poured anyway and held the cup out to him. "It's very good," she coaxed.

"Drink it yourself, then," he snapped. But his mood was no proof against her silent determination. He snatched the cup away from her and drained it.

"Happy?" he asked ungraciously, before retreating to a far corner to stare out of the window.

They chatted for a quarter of an hour and Ray, who was watching Bodie the whole time, noticed his partner struggling with sleepiness. Finally Bodie went over to the bed, lay down, and fell asleep immediately.

"Good, he needs the sleep," Bea said. "I'll take the tea things down and you undress him, will you?"

"What did you do?" Ray demanded as Dahout began to unbutton Bodie's shirt.

"Some 'erbs in his tea; they won't hurt."

"They better not," he grumbled, but she seemed unconcerned.

"Sleep heals, Ray." His name fell from her tongue, soft and seductive.

"You 'ave been well? I know you live together now. It's better, non?"

"How did you know? Oh, Colette..."

"Oui. I speak to her often."

"You mean...telepathy?" He had a fuzzy mental image of the two women gossiping on the astral plane.

"No. Telephone." She grinned and Ray felt like a fool.

He unzipped Bodie's cords and hesitated only a moment before he remembered with a quick pang of jealousy that a naked Bodie was nothing new to Dahout.

"Why did Bea bring us up here?" he asked as he hauled the slacks and pants off. "She could teach him in London just as easily, couldn't she?"

"She could, but I can't. I am Bodie's teacher, Ray, not Beatrice. Eh, bien, we will make things right again, non? He's too strong not to choose life."

A chill ran through Ray. He hadn't realised what the other choice would mean. Desperate to change the subject, he latched on to the word 'life.' "When's it due? The baby, I mean?"

"Eostar." She brushed the hair back from Bodie's forehead and kissed him sweetly.

"So much longer?" he asked stupidly. She blinked at him, uncomprehending.

"It's look ready now."

"Oh! Twins," she explained as she pulled the duvet over Bodie. "Boy and girl."

She folded Bodie's clothes and Ray counted backwards from March. June.

Midsummer. They had been here at Litha, and Dahout and Bodie had slept together at full moon. "Bodie's?" he asked, sick with apprehension.

"Mine," she said with an air of finality.

The inn was empty but for the five of them. Ray curled up in front of the fire in the common room and Bea brought tea and biscuits in later that afternoon. "Do you think he'll be all right?" he asked her.

"Yes." No evasion, no hedging.

He nodded and stared into the flames as she sat down beside him. "It's cold up here," he said. "Bodie hates the cold."

"It's warm inside...his friends will keep him warm. Ray?" A dozen questions in that one word.

"I'm angry with Bodie and I feel guilty about it. I keep thinking that if he'd bothered to learn what Colette was willing to teach him, none of this might have happened."

"He did learn, Ray." She stretched out her long legs and wriggled her toes, basking in the heat from the fire. "He learned too much and not enough."

"Come again?"

"He learned enough to make him dangerous, but not enough to control that power. However, Colette is no more the right teacher for Bodie than I am."

"And I thought that's why you were here," Ray said, prodding the logs with a cast iron poker with a bird's head handle.

"'s just that George has had need of me in the past, and he calls me automatically when he needs advice in this sort of matter. Fortunately I knew who Bodie's teacher was."

"Did you know when we were here at Midsummer?"

"I guessed. I had other things on my mind."

Murphy, Doyle assumed. Suddenly his catlike curiosity got the better of him. "Bea, about Murph..."

"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies," she replied, shifting around on the hearthrug to toast her wonderfully exotic face. "In other words, he is none of your business, my pretty, though I will tell you this - he has a great deal to learn and he refuses to learn; he is a danger to himself. I pray that neither you nor Bodie will ever become so lost in the paths of your magicks. As to why I'm staying up here with you...well, I thought perhaps you and Jeff might need some companionship on the occasional cold hieland night. The three of us are going to be extra appendages once Dahout and Bodie commence their work." She tilted her head and smiled at him.

Instinctively Ray wanted to deny that he'd need, much less desire what was implied in Bea's offer, but he was wiser now than he had been a year ago and understood only too well his need for human comfort in bad times. Sex was occasionally all muddled together with compassion and spiritual healing, and he could accept it without guilt; understanding, as he now did, that it implied nothing more than a gentle, undemanding affection. Having known passion with Bodie, he was in no danger of confusing the two; nor was he in danger of confusing the love he and Bodie shared with all the other sorts he felt for people like Bea and Colette and his mother, and even for people like Cowley. He must have begun to smile unconsciously because Bea smiled in return.

"Penny for your thoughts," she offered. "Or are they worth more than a penny?"

"Nothing special," he told her. "Thanks for being here."

"Were you wishing that Colette could be here as well?"

He rolled onto his back. "I hadn't allowed myself to think about it, but yes, now you mention it, I do wish she could come if only for a day. I haven't seen her's been over a year." He was surprised at how quickly time had passed. "I've worked on my own, of course, and learned a lot, but I think I'd learn faster if we were together." He glanced over at Bea who was studying him intently. "I suppose you think I rely on her too much."

"Was that a question or an observation?" He didn't answer. "No, I don't think that, though the danger exists. You see it clearly - that's good, it' s the way you should see your relationship with Colette. She gives so much that sometimes people tend to drain her." Bea sat up and began fussing with her hair.

"How well do you know her?"

"Very well, and for many years. I've known many of her 'lame ducks' as she calls them. You're not one of the harder cases, Ray, so you needn't flatter yourself that you're Colette's bad boy."

He chuckled. "That would be Jamie, I'll wager."

"I don't know him well," Bea said, looking troubled, "and I don't like him either. He's..." She broke off with a frown.

"Does he have a talent?" Ray asked. "Or rather," he added, remembering all his lectures to Bodie on how everyone had a talent, "has any talent manifested itself?"

"Odd you should ask that because I've been wondering the same thing recently. I expect that part of the problem I have with his is that I think he does have a manifest power and that it's terribly warped because of the life he's led. Makes me uncomfortable to see anyone allow their power to..."

She seemed to search for the right word. " violate them," she finished with a little shudder.

"What d'you mean?"

"I'm not quite sure, Ray, except that I think his life is the result of the power he has - one that uses him." She sighed. "I ought not to make either judgements or uneducated guesses about anyone," she admitted. "Let's discuss Jamie some other time, yes?" She curled up against his side and began to stroke him gently - head, shoulders, neck, arms, back - and Ray could feel the tension and anxiety begin to release their hold on him.

"Good hands," he murmured, growing contentedly sleepy.

"Someday I'll do the whole number on you, my dear, and you'll know what good hands are!"

The last thing he remembered was the sound of her quiet laughter.

Jeff woke them for supper, and told them Bodie was still sleeping soundly.

Ray and Bea shared their meal with Jeff and Dahout and they talked about little things, unimportant things, until Ray finally had to ask: "How long will he sleep?"

"Possibly through the night," Dahout told him. "You must not be concerned, Ray, sleep..."

"Heals, yes, I know, but I'm worried about him. I can't help it. Anyway, I thought you were supposed to be working on him, not putting him on hold."

He was feeling surprisingly grumpy and wanted to know that Bodie was all right rather than being told. "This all seems a lot of fuss over nothing..."

He was brought up short when he realised that his memory of the incident was becoming more muddled. He shivered.

"Are you all right?" Bea asked.

"Fine. I just realised how necessary it is to help Bodie. He's rearranged my memories of the robbery. They'd be gone entirely if I hadn't blocked him."

"He'll be okay, Ray," Jeff promised. "Dahout hasn't lost a student yet.

Just how strong is he?" he asked almost as an afterthought. He looked concerned. And well he should, Ray thought to himself. Poor Jeff seemed lost in the midst of this craziness. He seemed like a nice, average man who had been tossed into a world of magic and mayhem.

"We don't know," Bea told him, but Dahout shook her head.

"I know," she said. "Jeff, Bodie is like me; we share blood." She rose suddenly and cleared away the dinner plates, carrying them out to the kitchen without another word. Ray was unnerved to see that Jeff had paled slightly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Ray demanded, but Jeff didn't answer.

Instead, he followed Dahout out to the kitchen. "Bea?"

Her eyes were fixed on the swinging door. "Ray," she said in a soft voice, "have you ever heard of the Sidhe?"

Bodie moved restlessly, deep in his dreams. He was standing in the pub watching Irving threaten Ray, feeling his rage build along with Ray's fear.

Surely Ray knew that Bodie would take care of him. Hadn't he done just that for years now? Did Ray doubt Bodie could deal with Irving with his usual efficiency? Well then, he decided, no lucky break this time; no stroke or heart attack or timely arrival of the seventh cavalry. Bodie would prove to Ray once and for all that he had nothing to fear while Bodie was caring for him.

Shunning all the flash, showy tricks he could have used on Irving - having him explode (too messy), or consumed in a pillar of fire (might burn down the pub, and Cowley would not be amused), he opted for the simple, efficient method of turning the man at right angles to himself. Irving went away.

And then, knowing the danger was gone, Bodie permitted himself a little smile.

Suddenly the pub disappeared and space flattened out all around him, and a man whose face was smooth and featureless but for terrified eyes screamed and screamed...

"Child, what have you done?"

"It wasn't like that!" Bodie protested. In his sleep, his fingers tore the sheet. "I was afraid for Ray. I just wanted Irving to go away!"

It seemed to Bodie that he walked a slender thread spanning a bottomless chasm. To one side was a mass of amorphous shapes, shifting, forming briefly into things seen only in dream or nightmare. And from the mass rose a din of voices and noises, as formless as the shapes from which it issued - clicking, muffled thuds, voices garbled as by poor radio transmissions. To the other side was a vast stillness opening like a chasm. So deep and quiet was this silence that Bodie perceived it as annihilation and was afraid.

"Mother...Mama..." He reached out blindly to touch the moon.

"Come back to me, manchild," she said to him. "I would not lose you to Chaos.

Then he was awake, and sweating heavily despite the fact that he was cold deep inside himself. Where...? A few memories came back to him - Ray, Bea, the trip to Inverness, Dahout, and Chaos all around him, nipping at his heels.

He rose and washed, wincing a little at the sight of his face, pale as the moon he had touched in his dream, with dark pits for eyes. Then he threw on some clothes. It was dark, but a fire burned in the grate, the warm light casting odd shadows. He hurried out of the room and down the stairs in search of something human and reassuring.

Ray and Jeff were playing cards in the common room. When Ray saw him, he rose and walked forward, stopping a few paces away. There was a question in his eyes.

"Need a cuddle," Bodie admitted, and if felt good to be able to do so. Ray moved into the circle of Bodie's arms and held him very tight.

"I'll take care of you," Ray whispered into Bodie's neck. "It's gonna be okay, you'll see."

From over Ray's shoulder, Bodie could see Dahout hovering in the doorway, holding a bottle of wine and five glasses. "I need your help," Bodie told her.

They all settled before the fire and drank a couple of bottles of wine. For the first time in many years Bodie felt completely safe. In fact, he'd not felt like this since...since before he'd been sent off to school. He tried to recall those wintry evenings spent in the nursery. He and his mother would sit in front of the fire and she'd tell him stories of the Fair Folk. So long ago...He'd believed her when she told him that his father was a faery warrior who wore silver armour and rode a silver horse. Time enough later to wonder what black-Irish lothario had taken advantage of a young girl who wasn't all there.

He clung to Ray, content for the first time in their relationship to take comfort and security rather than giving it. It was nice to be cared for for a change. He realised that his whole life had been spent taking care of himself and trying to protect the people he loved best - Ray, his mother...only he hadn't been too successful with his mother who'd died while he was away at school. And much as he prided himself on being a pragmatist, the sorrow of that loss had never quite left him.

It grew late, and still they sat before the fire, wine glasses littering the floor around them. Jeff was propped against the long settee, right arm around Bea and left arm around Dahout who looked peaceful and beautiful.

Bodie remembered the girl in the forest and the woman who'd loved him at Midsummer. He dropped back into an untroubled sleep and she was with him - the girl from the forest with flowers in her hair and smudges of dirt on her cheeks. She was naked and laughing. "Did wait for thee," she said.

"Cummon, sunshine, left foot then right foot," Ray urged, chuckling softly in his ear. "We'll get upstairs yet."

"Slept all day," Bodie complained muzzily, wondering how they'd got to the stairs in the first place. Last thing he remembered was dancing with the girl with the beautiful eyes. "Wanna dance."

"Oh, charming. Tomorrow, I promise I'll dance with you, okay?"

"Wanna celebrate."

"You've 'ad a bit, 'aven't you? Never mind. We'll celebrate tomorrow, tiger. Tonight it'd do us both in." For the second time that day he undressed Bodie and put him to bed, but this time he slipped between the covers and pulled his lover into his arms. Bodie kissed Ray's nose and dropped off immediately, back into his dream.

Despite the accumulated fatigue of the last forty-eight hours, Ray found it impossible to drop off to sleep immediately. He found his thoughts turning to the things Bea had said about the Sidhe, about Dahout being the daughter of one of them. He knew all the old legends, of course, but even he, who had every reason to believe in the strange and supernatural, found this hard to believe. Dahout, and, by implication, Bodie, with faery blood (and he allowed himself a pleasant moment to contemplate the mileage to be had from that turn of phrase) - Bodie...not quite human? No. The whole thing was too bizarre for words. The man asleep in his arms was as human and substantial Ray was. Faery blood! Still, he thought, as he finally became drowsy, whatever it took; whatever Dahout wanted to believe about Bodie, she could believe, just so long as she helped him.

"We'll celebrate in the morning," he repeated before he dropped into sleep.

But to that sleep there came a dream so strangely familiar that Ray found himself giddy with relief at the feeling of being home. He was running through a field, leaping over...bodies? No, that couldn't be right. He was laughing. Then he dove into a river and the shock of the cold water made him cry out. Warm arms, arms tattooed with blue snakes, wrapped around him and a mouth touched his very softly. Bodie.

And then there was emptiness...and Beelzy was running through the fields, but not Beelzy, and a sudden tearing away of something important...emptiness and pain in his heart that he thought he could not survive.

Then he was dreaming of the day he met Bodie, and he smiled in his sleep.

Bodie woke him with a kiss and for a few minutes there was no past or future for them, only the now. The feel of Bodie in his arms was reassuring in a way he'd never known before. Ray broke the kiss and held his partner at arm 's length. "Are you okay?" he asked. Bodie certainly looked a good deal better than he had for several days.

" 'bout you?" He licked Ray's shoulder. "You taste fine."

"Do you remember..."

"Yeah, I remember. I remember what I did and I don't like it much.

However," he continued after a bone-cracking stretch and yawn, "that's what we're here for, isn't it? To make sure I don't do things like that to people who steal my parking space."

Doyle had to laugh.

"Watch out or I'll turn you into a newt," Bodie threatened. "Or an anteater...they have very long tongues." He waggled his eyebrows and Ray dissolved into a fit of laughter. "Of course, you could do that yourself, so what's the use my threatening? 'ere! You're supposed to take me seriously," Bodie complained. "I'm a dangerous character."

Ray laughed harder. "I yield, I yield! Enough! My stomach hurts."

"What'll you give me if I stop?"

"Kiss." His hand slid down to indicate that he was offering something more.

"Can't refuse such a generous offer, can I?" Bodie kicked the duvet aside and propped his head up on his arms. "I'll watch and let you know if you're doing it proper." He was partially erect, his cock flushed and heavy against his thigh. He had gorgeous thighs, Doyle thought as he bent and took the organ into his mouth. He had gorgeous everything - gorgeous eyes, gorgeous cock, fantastic hands that made Ray lose control every time they touched him. Bodie moaned a little and his legs parted slightly. Ray slipped a hand between them and cupped the soft loose sac in his palm; such a lovely sensation, so soft and heavy in his hand. He rolled the fragile contents gently between his fingers. His tongue travelled the length of the cock, now completely erect and straining against the stimulation of hand and mouth. Touching Bodie was a sort of magic for Ray. He revelled in bringing his not inconsiderable skills to bear on his cool, contained partner; in making him want what only Ray could give - not merely release or even the transient pleasure of a purely sexual encounter, but a chance to touch something deeper and more resonant. It was an experience that Ray had never had before Bodie, and never since with anyone but Bodie.

Thought you wanted to watch, Ray thought, smiling inwardly at the sight of Bodie, head thrown back, eyes squeezed shut. Bodie's mouth was open slightly and the tip of his tongue slipped, moist and pink, over his teeth.

Ray felt his own body respond with a surge of pleasure that was near violence in its intensity. It was always like this for them - pleasure for one was pleasure for both.

There was a sudden slickness under his tongue, and the tender sac in his hands began drawing up tight beneath the straining cock. The smell of musk prickled ray's nose and the back of his throat. Just before Bodie climaxed he arched up, muscles tensing into knotted cords, fingers and toes digging into the mattress. He fell back with a little groan and his eyes slitted open and he smiled at ray. After they made love, ray realised, Bodie's eyes were always a dark, dark violet.

"Oh, very nice, lover," he said, bending to kiss Bodie. "And now it's my turn." He straddled Bodie's chest, and to the delight of his sated lover began to toss off. He knew how to touch himself; how to make himself respond quickly, and how to make the sensations last. There was a smile in Bodie's feverish eyes and it tugged on the voluptuously, maddeningly, red and swollen lips. Bodie began to urge him on; ray liked the words - forbidden, rich and redolent of sex, earthy words, whispered between them only in such moments. The things he promised to do, the images they conjured nearly sent Ray over the edge...too soon, too soon. He stopped and shut his eyes and tried to breathe normally, controlling his urge to finish quickly.

"You are so beautiful," Bodie whispered, and ray felt as though he might weep with happiness. If Bodie loved him, he must be worth loving. His hand closed around his cock again and he stroked slowly, thumb sliding over the slick, snub head. Bodie's hands moved restlessly up and down his thighs.

"Almost," Ray warned, his voice shaky. His hand moved faster now, seeking only release, but then Bodie pushed his hands away and replaced them with his own, catching, at the moment of melting, glorious climax, a handful of semen. He licked his hands clean, a conspiratorial grin on the wide, quirky mouth.

"Christ!" Ray hissed, collapsing against Bodie's chest.

They remained gloriously indolent for nearly an hour. Bodie tickled Ray with lightly drifting fingers. "Don't want to get up...ever," he said.

"Let's not. Let's be the eccentric old gentlemen of Inverness who never leave their bed." Ray stretched his arms up and twined his fingers in short, damp, silky curls. "They'll write books about us, ate, and famous people'll come and visit us and we can serve tea right here in this room.

Wouldn't you like to spend the rest of your life in this bed with me?"

Bodie chuckled softly. "This is a once in a lifetime offer," Ray added with a wriggle of his hips. He could feel that Bodie was slightly hard again.

He enjoyed arousing Bodie.

A rap at the door interrupted them. Dahout stuck her head in. "You would like some breakfast, non?"

"We would like some breakfast, yes," Ray responded as he tried to pull the sheet up over his naked backside. It kept slipping down and it took him a moment to realise Bodie had caught it between his toes and was pulling it back down. "Will you stop!"

"Do not stop on my account," Dahout told them. "This is the best view in the 'otel. Come down when you are dressed and Jeff will fix you something.

Then I want to start working. Ray, it will do you no 'arm to work with us if you wish." Then she was gone.

"So, do you wish?" Bodie asked as they washed and dressed.

"How do you feel about it?"

"Be nice to have a friendly face about. Is this going to be painful?" he asked, suddenly serious.

"Only as painful as you make it. Look, if you want me to go at anytime...if there's something you think you don't want me to know, just say so.

Everyone keeps secrets, even from their lovers and best friends. I won't mind."

Bodie just nodded.

After breakfast that morning Dahout took them up to a little attic room which was her private place. It was comfortable and warm, cluttered with books and little figures. A Celtic harp stood in the corner. When Ray asked her if she played, her face grew solemn and she said, "It was my brother's harp. I hold it for his return."

"Oh, where is he? Travelling?" Doyle asked.

"You could say. He died ten years ago."

The teaching, once begun, repeated the work Ray and Colette had done together. Dahout taught them about energy and power, and about the harnessing of both. The first few days were occupied with learning how to consciously summon power. Bodie was not immediately successful, and Dahout asked Ray to stay away for a day or two until Bodie had overcome whatever was holding him back. "I see now he focuses on you, Ray," she explained, out of Bodie's hearing. "And if he thinks, or senses, that you 'ave some problem about the expression of his power, he'll hold back."

The request, though it came earlier than he had expected, was not a surprise. He took it well enough, understanding that Bodie needed to set his own pace free from any pressures from Ray or anyone else, but even so, there was some tiny part of him that resented the banishment, and which feared being parted from Bodie.

Ray, Jeff and Bea drove into the city once or twice a week to shop, and to relieve some of the monotony of life in an empty inn. Christmas was approaching and it gave them something to plan for.

"What would you and Dahout do if you were all alone up here?" Ray asked one afternoon when they were having lunch at a teashop.

"Sometimes we go away for the winter, sometimes we stay. It depends," he said, pushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. The older women in the tearoom found him exotic, with his fair hair pulled back into a short braid and held in place with a leather band. "She has resources. She's never bored."

"What about you?" Ray asked.

"I read a lot." He grinned. "Yeah, okay, sometimes I'm bored silly. When that happens I usually go away by myself. I'll visit friends - Bea or Colette..." He glanced up at Ray. "I know what you're thinking and I suppose you're right. It doesn't seem like much of a marriage."

"I didn't say that," Ray protested.

"You didn't have to. And I've said it to myself many times."

"Jeff..." Bea laid her hand on his arm.

"No, let me say it. I love Dahout, always will, but what held us together is over now - something has been fulfilled and I'm restless again." He took Bea's hand between his own and kissed her fingers "I'm longing for something based on passion, not intellect or spirit."

"Oh, my dear," Bea breathed, "I wish..."

Ray felt as though he'd stumbled onto something very personal, and was embarrassed.

"However," Jeff said briskly, "there's no point in thinking about it for a while now. She needs my energy for the work she has to do with Bodie, and for the babies. Afterwards, we'll settle it between ourselves. Let's make a baby," he said to Bea.

"Sounds wonderful."

"I have a question," Ray said. "You can tell me to mind my own business if you like, do you manage to run an empty inn?"

"Oh my." Jeff sat back and folded his hands across his stomach. "That's a long story. When I was four, my parents split up. My mother remarried about a year later and her second husband was the only father I ever really knew. We moved out to the West Coast in...sixty-six, I think it was. I was fourteen then. I wasn't really unhappy so much as restless, I guess. I got into drugs and the Haight-Ashbury thing, then I lived on a commune for a few years. Then I..."

At that moment the waitress came by with a fresh pot of tea and asked if they'd like dessert. When she'd brought the sweets, Jeff continued.

"Basically, I dropped out. Went to Mexico and lived with Huichol for a while - this was after I met Colette. I spent a year riding with a motorcycle gang...I did it all. And when I came back to San Francisco, there was a fortune waiting for me. Oh, not a big one. I'm not Paul Getty or anything. But my father had died while I was on the road, and his entire estate had come to me. It was sort of a shock considering I couldn't remember anything about the man. The lawyer I talked to told me my father was a little eccentric. My mom told me he meant my dad was nuts."

He shrugged and ate a bit of the pastry he'd ordered.

"Anyway, I gave some of the money to Mom, and kept the rest. It's a nice income, and we both supplement it. I write and Dahout..." He smiled. "Well, she has resources in that area as well."

"You never cease to amaze me," Ray admitted, much to their amusement.

On the way back to the car Jeff stopped at a phone box and begged a handful of tens from them. He dialled, waited for what seemed a very long time, then said, "It's Jeff, take down this number and call me back." Then he gave the number, hung up and waited.

"Who are you calling?" Bea asked.

"You'll see." The phone rang and he answered it. "Hi! No, what time is it? Really? Sorry, I forgot. Anyway, what're you doing for Yule? And Christmas," he added. "Can you all come and visit? We're lonely up here.

Oh..." He winked at Ray and Bea. "Bea, Ray, Bodie...Dahout is teaching Bodie.

Uh-huh. Hurry up, we're freezing! When? Okay, we'll have your rooms ready. Bye." He hung up again. "That was Kev. He says that he and Colette and the boys'll be happy to spend the holidays here." Bea squealed and threw her arms around Jeff's neck. "I'm a creature of impulse," he said with a sheepish grin. He picked Bea up and carried her down the street. "I wanted to see them again," he said to Ray who walked along beside them. "Of course, now we have to buy more gifts, don't we?"

"Any excuse," Bea said, but Ray knew she was pleased.

"You're not paying attention," Dahout accused for the third time that afternoon. "What's the matter?"

"Dunno. Bored, I guess. None of this makes any sense to me, Dahout. I feel like I'm being taught to walk on water, but I don't know why."

"I should have thought the why was obvious," she began, and he lost patience.

"I did something awful to someone who was going to do something awful to us...I do that every day, love, only I usually use a gun. What's the big deal?"

"You have control of the gun, non?"

Put so simply, it was obvious. Bodie was embarrassed and annoyed. He paced the room, unable to find an outlet for his anger. "So the answer is party tricks, is that it? Make this disappear, make it come back...shall I make Irving come back, Dahout? Is that what we're leading up to?"

"NO!" She was on her feet, and the look on her face frightened him. "No, that's not a good idea."


"It just is not. Don't ever think of it again."

He remembered the faceless man struggling to scream, and wrapped his arms around himself, suddenly cold and very lonely.

"I don't know what you want," he admitted quietly.

"I want you to be safe and happy."

"Oh, is that all? He took refuge in heavy sarcasm. "Nothin' to it," he said, snapping his fingers.

"I think we should stop for today - we achieve nothing when you're in such a mood." She walked past him, then stopped and turned back. "We do 'party tricks' because it's all you'll allow yourself to do, Bodie." Then she left him alone in the room.

He stood there for a long time - ten, twenty minutes - his mind wandering.

A month ago things had been so simple. He loved Ray and Ray loved him and they were both alive and healthy and lusty and basically happy. For a moment he was consumed by a wave of negative emotion directed against himself - guilt, anger, amazed him, shook him and left him weak.

This was his fault. He'd ruined what they'd had.

Without thinking, he wandered to the window seat and sat, pulling the harp towards him. His fingers drifted across the strings aimlessly, making soft, formless noises. Things would never be the same between them; his life would never be the same. The wires vibrated under his hands, the sounds hanging in the air. The Bodie who had walked into that pub was gone forever.

The sunlight was fading and the little room was growing cold. He set the harp back into its corner and went downstairs.

Later that night, when they were alone together, Bodie asked Ray, "Do you regret what we've lost?"


It was so hard to explain... "That night in the pub, things changed, Ray. You know that as well as I do."

"Things change all the time, Bodie."

"Too easy..."

"Do you want me to say, 'Yes, I regret the changes'? I don't, you know."

When Bodie didn't respond, he continued. "I don't see them as negative."

"Pollyanna Doyle."

"Not at all." He put out the light and climbed into bed beside Bodie.

"Change is healthy. Doesn't mean anything's lost. Ah, have you been worrying about this?" He reached out to muss his lover's hair and Bodie jerked away.

"Don't patronize me, okay?"

"Not my intention. You want to fight about this? I don't." He turned over and hauled the duvet up over his shoulder. "G'night."

Bodie lay awake for a long time before he turned onto his side and fell asleep.

The next morning he went up to Dahout's room. She was sitting in the window seat, holding the harp, tracing the knotwork with her fingers.

"I want you to tell me what you want me to do," he told her. "Straight out."

The look she gave him was not what he had expected. "I want you to find that place in you where you hide yourself," she said. "It's there you'll touch your real power."

"And where is that?"

She shook her head and ran a finger over the strings. "I don't know...your heart, your mind, your soul...they can all be labyrinths, treasure rooms.

But, if I had to guess, I'd say look into your heart first. Look for the things you love best."

He tried to sound derisive, but her guess truck a responsive chord. "You'll never find that among the things I love best."

"No? Well, perhaps not. It was just a guess. Shall I ask Ray to come back and work with us?"

"No! I mean, why bother? What good would it do?"

She smiled at him. "You won't leave this place, my dear, until you stop handing me parlour tricks when I ask for your magic."

"Can you stop me?" he asked, affronted.

"I think so. Shall we try?"

For a moment he was tempted, but something in him warned him away from testing her strength. "Another time, maybe," he drawled. "Where did you say I should look?"

"That's for you to decide."

He sat on the floor. "Sort of like an armchair scavenger hunt, innit? Oh, great and wise spirit, show me the way," he intoned, sneaking a look at Dahout. She was grinning. "Aren't you going to scold me for being facetious?"



She shook her head.

"You're no fun."

"You'll learn," she said. "Listen to this; it was a favourite piece of my brother's." She began to play in earnest, her fingers drifting across the strings. The song she played was simple, yet elusive. Bodie found himself concentrating on it, trying to follow it in his mind. He relaxed a little, forgetting his frustration in the music. "'s nice, that."

"It's an old tune."

"It reminds me of something..."


Once he'd captured the melody, he sat back and drifted with it, feeling himself vibrating along with the strings. Dahout was a good harpist, he decided, and the was like one his mum used to sing. Not the same, of course, but very like. How did it go? He shut his eyes and thought hard about the melody, hummed a few bars. Close...something about roses and willow trees...he could almost hear her singing. She was playing the harp and singing her song. "I didn't know you could play," he said.

"There's a lot you never knew about me." He was unaccountably hurt by her words.

"Not for want of trying," he said, a trifle defensively.

"No?" She sang another verse. "You made me over in your own image of me,"

she said. Her hands stilled, but the music continued. "How could you know what I really was?"

Nothing would ever be the same.

"Is that why you left me?" he whispered, fearing her answer.

"I never left you, Gwyn."

"Why did you always call me that?"

"It was what I wanted to name you. They wouldn't let me. They named you after my father and uncle. It never took, did it?"

He shook his head and they shared a smile as they used to.

"When you find me as I really was, you'll find what you seek, Gwyn." She began to play again. Soon there was only the melody.

"Bodie..." Dahout was watching him from the window seat. "Where have you been?"

"Where you sent me," he snapped, feeling angry at the whole world. But he was intrigued by the challenge. " I really was..." What and where was that? "Play something else?" he asked, and without comment, she began again.

This time he travelled consciously down the paths she had shown him in the last few weeks. Many of the places he knew well, for this was where he stored those 'party tricks' he'd become so good at. Here a rabbit out of a hat, there a flame leaping from his fingertips...all done with mirrors, folks.

But then he came to the place where he had faltered many times before - a fork in the road. One side was a well-worn path, lined with the familiar and the comfortable. The other road was unknown, unlit and untravelled. He hesitated for only a moment before he chose the second way.

The first thing he found there was himself. "You don't want to come this way, old son," he said to himself. "Nasty stuff back there. Go on back before you get hurt."

"Tough guy, huh?" he asked.

"You bet...the toughest." He ached to wipe the smirk off his own face. "Hey, you keep going and I can't answer for the consequences," he warned.

He kept walking, past a young soldier who dug frantically through the rubble of a demolished building in Belfast, searching for the child who had delivered the bomb, past a lovely dream named Marikka, past a boy fighting off his own mates on so many hot, drunken nights in the jungle, on a ship, far away from home.

And then he stopped beside a child who stood, stony-faced, in a church. "It 's okay to cry," he told the boy, who didn't seem to hear. "It wasn't your fault."

"I'm back," he said to his mother, who stood un-noticed on the other side of the child.

"Almost there, keep going."

He walked on, and as he reached the crest of a hill he saw Ray sitting on a fence that ran by the side of the road. "What're you doing here?" he asked.

"Waiting for you. I thought you'd never make it." He hopped down off the fence. "Thought you might want some company on the way."

"Could have used a bit back there," Bodie grumbled as Ray fell into step with him.

"Nah, that's nothing you haven't faced every day of your life. This is the real thing, now, this is the stuff that separates the men from the boys."

He cackled obscenely and Bodie laughed at Doyle's ribald good humour.

They walked on in companionable silence for a while. Then Doyle stopped and caught hold of Bodie's arm. "I'm with you," he said, all trace of levity gone.

"I know."

And once again that chasm yawned before him - chaos and peace opening up into infinity, spanned by a single bright thread. "I won't let the goblins get you, mate," Doyle promised, and Bodie turned to him and smiled.

"I've been walking this thread all my life. This time it'll be easy.

Common." And he stepped out onto the strand of light, surefooted, Ray close behind. "Hear the one about the CI5 agent and the farmer's daughter?" he asked.

"Hear it? I made it up," Ray replied.

Bodie stepped off the thread onto solid ground. "It figures. We made it, though. Nice place, eh?" It was a small room with white walls and a fireplace. "Looks a bit like my old nursery," he mused.

"I think it looks like the bedroom at The Dancing Maiden, meself," Ray observed. "Here, isn't that your mum?" He gestured to the window, and Bodie looked out to see his mother, dressed in a sea-green dress, dancing with a handsome, dark-haired man. She was laughing in a way she'd never laughed with him. He watched them kiss, then turned away.

"Well, I always knew I wasn't the immaculate conception," he said to Ray, who was grinning broadly.

"Didn't keep you from actin' the part, did it?"

"Prat. Help me find it, will you?"

"Find what?"

"Me...well, part of me, anyway."

"Which part? A good one?" He leered at Bodie. "Okay, why don't you try that chest?"

Bodie turned to find his old toy chest sitting against the wall. "Haven't seen that in years," he said, running a hand over the well-remembered designs - dancing rabbits, the teddy bears' picnic. "Can't be in here, though. 's too small." He opened the box anyway and drew out a cap and top hat.

"Gwyn the magnificent will now produce an egg from my ear!" Ray announced.

"Go on, you know you want to."

"Saw you in half, more like. Look at this!" He drew a battered old lion from the chest and gave it an unconscious hug. "This is Africa. Uncle Bill gave her to me. I used to dream about going there and seeing real lions."

The expression of tender affection in Ray's eyes made Bodie blush. "You know something, though? This is the magic. I thought it would be bigger, Africa here. I always thought she was big and fierce and she's really just a little threadbare toy." He stared down at the lion and then with great deliberateness, he hugged her to his chest. "Funny, innit? It's all the things that you hide away 'cause they mean too much."

"If you hide them from yourself, you risk losing them," Dahout observed.

Bodie looked up at her and smiled.

"I know the was now," he said, "though I can't say I enjoyed the trip."

"But you brought your magic back."

He was still clutching Africa.

Christmas had given the 'extra appendages' something to do. They aired and cleaned the bedrooms, decorating them with evergreen and potted flowers and herbs. On one of their excursions Bea found a box of old crystals in an antique store, and spent a whole day hanging them in all the windows of the inn. Later, Ray heard her say to Jeff, "We should think about painting some of the rooms. New curtains might be nice as well." And he realised Bea was beginning to nest. She was never for him - not really. The flame of their attraction had faded to a warm glow. He was content.

They bought a tree, its root ball wrapped in burlap so it could be planted outside in the spring, and decorated with ornaments they took from the storeroom.

Carried away with the spirit of the holiday, Jeff took to the kitchen and baked cookies and cakes and breads. Bea bought pots of amaryllis bulbs and set them everywhere, asking each one if it would consent to bloom for the holidays. At first Ray thought she was joking, but he noticed the plants seemed to be making an extraordinary effort to do just that.

For his part, Ray wrapped gifts. His own packages were so admired, as they sat in splendour under the tree, that everyone else brought him their gifts and begged him to wrap them as well. He took great pleasure in making each one both beautiful and unusual. He'd just finished one of his gifts to Bodie - a handsome leather-bound set of Tolkien that had set him back a good few quid - when Bodie appeared at the table where Ray was working, clutching a battered toy lion. "Need a bit of help?" he asked.

"Nah, everything's under control. Could use some company, though." Bodie sat down. "Where'd you get that?" Ray asked, indicating the toy.

"Hm? Oh, you wouldn't believe it. Here, have a biscuit. Jeff made 'em."

He held one out to Ray. "G'is a kiss?"

"You don't have to bribe me." They kissed and Ray claimed the biscuit.

"Nice," he said. "both."

"What's in this one?" Bodie asked. "Is it for me?" Ray rescued the package before it could be shaken.

"You're Peter-bloody-Pan, you are. Never grown up."

"Grew up too soon; never 'ad time for this. Nice, innit?"

Ray stopped and looked at him with real affection. "Yeh, 's nice," he agreed. "So're you. You're feeling good today," he observed as he swallowed the last bit. "Good session?"

"Yeh, not bad. Miss you though." Bodie picked up a scrap of paper and folded it into a little square, then into a rectangle, then tore it in half.

"Feels like I'm back in school and, oh, you know, missing me friends." He wrapped his arms around the lion and rested his chin on it.

"Missing? Your friends always skiving off, were they? Bad lot?" He went o wrapping as he talked.

"Nah, 's just that I went away to school and my friends didn't. My best friend..."


"Nothin' really. Is that one for me? What's in it?"

"Mind your own bloody business!" Ray told him, laughing.

"All right, all right."

Late that evening Colette and the others arrived, laden with gifts and holiday cheer. Ray was overjoyed to see her again - it had been so long since they'd been together. He threw his arms around her and hugged her until she begged for mercy.

"Lord, Ray, you've healed up stronger than when you started, haven't you?"

"I'm growing younger, didn't I tell you?"

"And I'm afraid it's my fault," Bodie said, pushing Ray aside to claim a hug and kiss for himself. They were all standing in the common room, falling over luggage as they hugged and kissed each other.

Ray began to greet the others and when he came to Jamie he hesitated, remembering what had happened between Bodie and Jamie the last time they were together. Jamie's eyes narrowed. "It's okay, you don't have to," he muttered, just loud enough for Ray to hear.

They sat down to a late supper and talked about what had been happening since they'd all seen each other last, a year ago. Colette was thrilled about the babies, and couldn't stop talking about them. Ray noticed that Bodie was frowning.

He also noticed Jamie watching Bodie with that same terrible longing that Ray had seen on Jamie's last visit. It made him angry remembering the rousing fights he and Bodie still occasionally had over Jamie. Even a year later it upset him to think of Bodie and Jamie together. They were supposed to have gone to dinner and the cinema while Ray and the others celebrated Samhain; instead they'd gone to a hotel. Bodie hadn't lied about it. He'd explained that Jamie needed loving more than he needed a Cagney retrospective. Ray hadn't understood then and he didn't understand now.

Tal stretched and stood up, signing that he was sleepy and wanted to go to bed. Then he kissed everyone goodnight - even planting a kiss on Dahout's swollen abdomen - and went upstairs. Jamie's gaze followed him, then shifted to Bodie, and something passed between them - a question. Bodie shook his head and Jamie stood up. "I'm going to bed too," he said abruptly, then followed Tal.

Bea watched him, her head tilted and her expression thoughtful. "When did this happen?" she asked.

"Last year. Hearts and flowers it ain't," Kev admitted, "but it's lasted this long."

"They are good for each other, non?" Dahout observed. She moved her chair close to Jeff's and leaned against him, pulling his arm around herself.

"Well, Tal's good for Jamie," Colette said, "in more ways than the obvious.

He needed a healer, and, no offence Bea, it wasn't you."

Bea nodded thoughtfully. "I never liked him much," she admitted.

"He's not a likeable kid," Kev began, "but he's..."

"A loveable one," Bodie finished and Ray forced himself not to react.

"You think so?" Colette asked.

"When he lets himself be...yes, I do."

"Empathy is a double-edged blade," Jeff added, with surprising insight.

The conversation turned to other things, but Ray found he couldn't stop thinking about Jamie and bed. It infuriated him though he did his best to hide it. It was nearly two before they retired to their beds.

"Are you upset about something?" Bodie asked under cover of darkness. "I know you're not asleep," he added, rubbing the tense back.

"I'm not upset."

"Pull the other one. Is it Jamie?"

"Oh, drop it, Bodie," Ray said, sounding exasperated. "I don't want to fight with you. You do what you want, okay?"

Bodie wanted to say that it was not okay, but something seemed to be caught in his throat. "Night," he whispered and rolled over to face the wall. It was all wrong - he didn't understand where the line had been drawn. He had tried over and over to explain what had happened between Jamie and himself, but Ray hadn't wanted to understand, and time, apparently, hadn't proved to be any more persuasive.

He rolled over again. "Ray? Won't you even talk to me about it?" Silence.

"For Chrissake Ray, are you going to make me pay for a little kindness for the rest of my life?"

"Kindness?" Ray sat up and stared at him, his eyes glittering in the moonlight. Angry cat. "How stupid do you think I am? Kindness?"

"Yeah. That's all it was. I tried to tell you that before."

Ray shut his eyes. "Whatever you say...anything you say. Anything for some peace."

"Don't cut me off like this," Bodie begged.

"I don't want to argue."

"We don't have to argue, Ray, but I think we ought to straighten..."

"I don't want to argue, don't want to straighten anything out, don't want to discuss, talk, fight, chat, rap, converse, exchange views or even bloody think about you and Jamie, so just shut up about it!" He rolled over and pulled a pillow over his head.

Bodie wanted to break something. He wanted to grab Ray and shake him until he had to listen to what Bodie wanted to say. He wanted to slap Ray silly.

He wanted to hurt Ray.

Suddenly the windows blew open and a wind swept into the chamber, picking up anything that wasn't nailed down and tossing it about. It even lifted the bed slightly and moved it across the room. A bolt of lightening streaked through and struck the chair where Ray had tossed his clothes, reducing it to a smoking wreck. Then the storm ended, leaving Bodie bereft of his senses in the sudden and complete silence and darkness. He felt Ray slide out of bed and heard his soft footfall as he walked across to what was left of the chair.

"Was this me?" Ray asked bitterly.

The door flew open and Jeff and Kev entered. "What the hell's going on?"

Jeff demanded.

"We had a little storm. Sorry for the noise."

Bodie missed the rest of the conversation. He pulled his knees up and pressed his face against them. He was sick to his stomach.

He heard the door close.

"I suppose I should be grateful it was my clothes and not me, eh? I'd better sleep somewhere else."

He heard the door open, and close again. He looked up. Africa was staring at him.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Bodie whispered, rocking back and forth like a frightened child. He sat like that for hours, and didn't remember finally falling asleep.

He skipped breakfast the next morning, dressed, and went directly to Dahout' s room. "Did Jeff tell you what happened?"

"What he could. You tell me."

"I was angry. I killed the chair instead of Ray."

"You wanted to kill him?" she asked, sitting beside him.

"I thought I did."

"But if you'd wanted to you would 'ave, non?"

"Don't know."

"I do. Now we work on controlling that temper of yours." He found that far from being comforted, he resented her businesslike attitude.

"Doesn't anyone have a minute to spare for me, for the Bodie who doesn't really understand any of this?"

She sighed. "I expect you are right. What would you like to talk about?"

"Why didn't you tell me you were pregnant?" he demanded, wanting, irrationally, to fight with anyone and everyone.

"That's not what I had in mind," she countered.


For a long time she didn't answer, then she stood up and touched the harp in the corner. "What could it mean to you?"

"Is that your way of telling me I'm not the father?" he asked unpleasantly.

"No. But I ask you - what do you think you could do that I cannot? Could you be a father to them?"

It was truth and it had a bitter flavour. "No," he admitted in a barely perceptible whisper. "No, I'm not father material, am I? Doesn't matter,"

he said with a gesture of dismissal. "Let's go back to work."

"No, it's time for us to talk to each other," she said. "I 'ave waited to long for this - it is my fault. D'accord, we talk." She sat beside him once again and took his hand. "Was Ray angry because of Jamie?"

"Is it that obvious?"

"Yes," she said, and Bodie felt himself blush. "You and I are very much alike, I think."

"Are you trying to tell me I was a sympathy fuck?" he asked with bitter humour.

"No, I'm trying to tell you something else, something I should have told you long ago." She touched her abdomen in the unconscious gesture of protection that pregnant women make. "Tell me about your mother."


"I want to hear about her. What is she like?"

He resisted at first. "Dead," he said with an angry bluntness. But then he realized he wanted to talk about her. "She was a pretty thing - dark red hair, green eyes...spray of freckles across her nose. Typical Irish." He could see her now, very clearly. "She went on holiday with her friends and came back with me inside her. Later she told me my father was a faery night. She wasn't all there, you see." He smiled and shook his head.

After all these years the bitterness had faded and he felt only a rueful sadness for his shy, pretty mother. "She was my best friend," he added quietly. "She died when I was fourteen and away at school. She walked into the river, they told me. Never found her body. They brought me home for the funeral and when they put me on the train to go back to school...I kept going. Never looked back." He looked at Dahout. "Enough?" He was surprised to see compassion in her eyes.

"She didn't lie to you, Bodie...about your father."


"Would you like to meet him?"

"Dahout, for god's sake, don't!" He stood up and pulled away from her. "I don't want to play these games any longer. Just help me to control this craziness. Why the hell can't I wish it away like I did Irving?"

"Do you want to meet him?" she asked again, and something in her tone made Bodie stop and listen. "He exists. I know him."



"I don't know. This is too much. How do you know him?" Despite the rational self who was now almost gibbering, Bodie was intrigued.

"I recognise him in you - I saw him there the moment we met."

"Crony of yours, is he? Share spells, do you?"

"He's my father as well."

"This isn't happening," Bodie muttered. She smiled at him. "I don't believe it."

"Very well," she said, businesslike once more. "Then we should work and not waste your time. Eh, bien...last time I told you..."

"All right, all right, I yield. Do your party number."

"Are you sure?" she asked, and he glared at her. "Very well, then. Come here, beside me and do as I say."

He sat beside her on the floor and watched as she lit a tall candle, listened as she called her father.

It'll never work, he thought as he waited for something...anything to happen.

Then he realized the room had grown dark. He looked around and saw that there was still sunlight coming in through the windows, but it shed no light there in the centre of the room. Instead, the light from the candle seemed to be growing larger and brighter, filling the room with a silvery glow.

"Thee's called me from the wars." An aggrieved voice broke the unnatural silence. "Will talk to me now, daughter?" A figure, not more than five feet tall and clad in silver, stepped out of the glow. The face, framed by longish blue-black curls, seemed oddly familiar.

"It is time you met," Dahout said, indicating Bodie. "Bodie, this is thy father, Gwydion. Gwydion - thy son."

The tiny warrior tilted his dark, shaggy head and studied Bodie for a moment, then he smiled. "Fiona did say thee was fair," he said. "Come."

He extended a slim hand and without thinking, Bodie took it.

They were in a sunny meadow, filled as far as they eye could see with brilliantly-coloured wildflowers, shaded by an ancient oak. "Who are you?"

Bodie demanded, numb with shock.

"Thy father! Have forgotten already?" He laughed, the sound like music.

"Thy mother's missed thee," Gwydion said, and Bodie's heart did a strange dance.

"She's with you?"

"Aye, could not let her go for long." The smile faded from his face and he placed his hands on Bodie's shoulders. "Has been well with thee, lad?"

Bodie tried to avoid the steady gaze, but could not. Gwydion's eyes were clear violet. "Thee has little enough of me - my face and Fiona's heart.

Dost need aught of me? Do you ask of me, and if I have the power, I grant it."

No, Bodie thought, I have nothing of his. The man standing before him was almost unbearably beautiful. To Bodie's way of thinking there was no similarity between Gwydion's unearthly beauty and his own commonplace regularity of features. Next to this man Bodie felt lumpish and ugly.

"Can I see my mother once more?" he asked, looking away from the steady, knowing gaze.

"See, thee might, but time runs strange where thy mother is now. Thee may cross, if thee wishes, but..." He hesitated and Bodie remembered old stories about humans caught in faery rings.

Bodie nodded. "There's nothing, then. But, tell her I love her?" Then: "The stories she told...I didn't believe them."

"Thee's believed," Gwydion countered, a half-smile playing on his handsome face. He leaned against the gnarled trunk of the oak. "The young self believes still."

And suddenly there flared in Bodie a resentment towards this...not man, this creature who claimed him now, who had taken his mother away and who so glibly informed him of what he did or did not believe.

"Actually," he snapped, "I believe I'm as mad as my mother."

The blow on his cheek caught him by surprise. "Be real enough for thee?"

Gwydion enquired sweetly. Then the harshness in his small, perfect face faded and Bodie was surprised by the look of gentle sadness in the amethyst eyes. "Will not hear thee speak ill of Fiona - a's never mad." He brushed Bodie's cheek with gentle fingers and the sting of the blow faded. "Should have taken thee back as well; tall-folk's hurt thee into anger. Do love thee, child of great happiness. Thee's my wealth, and they brothers and sisters. Stay with us, child."

"Can't...I, Ray..."

Gwydion tipped his head and frowned, then he reached for Bodie, touching his face with fingertips. He sighed. "Thee's found him at last?" he asked, a slow smile forming. "Two thing, then, I give. The first - what thee needs most. The second - a father's blessing on thee...and on Redhair. A's fey enough." He kissed Bodie's forehead. Then his wide mouth twisted into a smile. "God's go with thee, my son. Do you ever wish so, the People will welcome thee both."


He was sitting on the floor in front of a guttering candle. There was no longer sunlight coming in the windows. It was dark out. "Is there a storm," he asked, feeling stupid and logy.

"It's evening, my dear. You 'ave been gone for hours."

He shut his eyes as she flicked on the room light. "Nice trick. How'd you do it?"

"You don't want to believe?" she asked, seeming genuinely puzzled.

"Oh, it's a lovely little fantasy..."

"Why must you always hide even from yourself?" she snapped.

"What do you recommend?" He stood up and stared down at her. "Life would be lovely if we could all be beautiful and good and wealthy and spend our days singing hey-nonny on the greensward, wouldn't it? But it's not and we can't, so there's no use in pretending."

"But you can..."

"Yea, I can make things happen...with a vengeance. You think that really pleases me? You think I like the idea that my father is an elf and I've slept with my sister? Did you think that would please me? This is a joke.

Tell me it's a joke..." And suddenly he was pleading with her.

"I can't tell you that. I can't deny what I am even if you choose to do so, Bodie." She stood up and suddenly seemed different somehow. She was no longer the girl with the beautiful eyes and violets in her hair; she was fierce and imposing and untouchable. "If you choose to reject your power, I can take it from you. Is that what you wish?"

Bluntly stated, that was exactly what he wanted. But with the possibility within his grasp, he hesitated. "How could you do that?"

"Like a surgeon removing a damaged limb. Once gone, you can never have it back," she told him. "Think about it, brother. Make no hasty decisions."

She left him alone in the room.

He stood there for a while, then went back to his bedroom, undressed and fell asleep immediately.

A soft voice woke him. "Bodie? I brought some supper." Ray uncovered the plate. "Lamb stew."

"I'm sorry about last night, Ray. I'm sorry about Jamie. I..."


Bodie turned his face into the pillow. I've done it wrong again, he thought. Then he felt the bed dip and Ray's arms around him. "I meant, don 't apologise. Don't worry. I behaved like a cuckolded adolescent and I have a lot to apologise for as well. I'm not very good at it, so could we take it all as read and start over? I love you, Bodie."


"Always. Did you think you could get rid of me that easily?"

Instead of picking up on the joke, Bodie buried his face in Ray's neck.

"Love you too," he muttered.

"I know. Bodie, sometimes I forget how important this is. I get caught in the details. I'm sorry. I think we ought to talk about Jamie if you're still willing. I need to understand what brought you two together."

There was a long silence, then Bodie said, "I just passed along a bit of kindness someone once showed me. Jamie was willing to sell himself for a little affection; I just showed him that affection was free for the asking and that a bed doesn't have to be a battlefield. What I started Tal is finishing. That's all there is, Ray. Just that."

Ray pressed his cheek against Bodie's hair. "He's lucky you were there for him," he said, dreamily. "I just didn't understand before, Bodie. I've been missing you, and sometimes I'm afraid I'm losing you."

Bodie stirred. "Ray, what would you think if you found I wasn't...what you thought I was?"

"Come again?"

"How would you react if I told you I wasn't, say, really Bodie? If you thought I'd made up my life or something?"

"How could anyone make up your life?" he teased. Then, "You're serious, aren't you? Oh dear, is it something you're likely to tell me?"

"Might be."

"Well..." He shifted slightly to press the length of himself against Bodie's side. "I suppose I'd be surprised, and I'd want to know the truth, but I doubt it would change the way I feel about you."

"What if the truth was something not quite...What if it was very strange and not quite normal?"

"You're really from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse - I knew it!"


"Well, have a heart, mate, you make it all sound so ominous and creepy. I don't think there's anything you could tell me that would make me love you less."

"Or change the way you think about me?"

"Alter pure lust? Never. Bodie, what are you on about?"

"It's about my family. I...they..."

"Wait, wait, before you say any more..." He elbowed himself up and looked down at Bodie. "Bea told me something that I had a hard time believing, but from the look of you, I may have to accept it. Does it have to do with Dahout as well?"

"Yes. They told you?" He was outraged and Ray was quick to calm him.

"Dahout said you were like her, that you shared blood. I asked Bea what she meant and she said Dahout's father was one of the Sidhe and Dahout must have seen the blood of the People, as Bea calls them, in you. That's all I know.

Is it true?"

"I think so," Bodie admitted.

"Well, there's a thing." He crawled on top of his lover and rested his head on Bodie's shoulder. "You're upset about it. Tell uncle Ray."

"I met my father today...or I was persuaded that I did."

"What's he like?"

"Incredible. Ray, you've never seen anything so beautiful. I don't believe he can be any part of me."

"From that description, I can believe it. Continue."

"My mother told me about him when I was little and everything she said was true. He wore silver armour and had blue-black curly hair and eyes amethysts. He couldn't have been more than five feet tall."

"The mind boggles," Ray said with a chuckle. "He sounds wonderful. What's the problem?"

"I don't want to be half-human."

"Has it changed it you at all?" Ray asked.

"No, but..."

"What you mean is you don't want to be anything but what you are, which is what you'll always be, Bodie. Just because you call it by another name doesn't make it any worse or better."

"Do you believe it's possible?"

"Of course."

"You do?"

Ray grinned. "You're asking a man who regularly changes into a cat? C'mon Bodie, don't you think your perceptions ought to change with the times?"

"You're telling me I should just blithely believe in all this?"

"Essentially...yes. What's it cost?"

"My sanity."

"Oh, don't be so melodramatic, and don't argue with me!" He mock threatened Bodie, who gave him a sheepish smile.

"All right, uncle Ray. You still love me then?"

"You'll do in a pinch," Ray said, and Bodie did just that to his favourite part of Ray's anatomy.

It was suddenly morning and Bodie was feeling comfortable if a little disoriented by the events of the previous day. It must have been some daft sort of dream, he decided - his father was no more a faery knight than he was Sir Lancelot. What, he wondered, had Dahout put in that tea?

Ray stirred, but didn't wake, and Bodie lost himself in contemplation of his lover. Tousled curls - an obvious place to begin - he loved those curls, loved to wrap them around his fingers and straighten them out, only to watch them spring back into the original shape when he released them. They were a source of endless fascination to him. Then the face...some found it ugly, some thought it was ruggedly handsome. Ruggedly? Bodie almost laughed aloud remembering the woman who'd described Ray as ruggedly handsome. Must have been the cheek because nothing else about the face qualified even remotely for that definition. No, Ray was beautiful in a way you just didn' t see in this world too often. With a start, Bodie realised Gwydion had that same sort of beauty, though unflawed - slanting eyes, sensual mouth and a nose...well, Bodie'd seen that often enough when looking in the mirror.

Perhaps that's where Gwydion had come from, perhaps he'd been born out of Ray's feyness and Bodie's own physical quirks. He looked up to see Africa still staring down at him from the bedside table. She looked as though she was grinning at him, like the Cheshire cat. Maybe it was all true...

Anyway, he thought with a forcible shift of gears, then there's the body.

It was surprisingly strong, resilient, and had a quirky beauty. Bodie loved the smooth golden skin and the dark gold pelt of hair, light at the throat and thickening down at the groin. And rising out of the fur, a creature with a mind of it's own. Beelzy's alter ego, Bodie thought with a secret glee. He stroked the smooth flank under his hands and felt the warm skin quiver at his touch.

He lay back against the pillows and continued to stroke Ray gently, knowing that, like the cat he was, Ray loved to be petted. This, then, was contentment. It was the thing that had drawn Bodie to Ray before they knew each other very well...long before they became lovers...mates. If he analysed the feeling, he'd have said it felt like coming home. Startled by that revelation, he stilled his hand.

"Don't stop, it feels wonderful!"

"Didn't know you were awake."

"'m not." He moved back against Bodie and nestled his pretty round ass tight against Bodie's groin. "Give you any ideas, sport?"

"No new"

Ray giggled. Then he stretched, and sneezed a few times, and gave a tremendous yawn. "Crikey, now I'm all worn out."

"We're getting lazy. Soft life up here."

"I'm getting fat as a pig," Ray announced. Bodie ran his hand over Doyle's abdomen.

"No fear," he said, hand lingering over the still-sharp jut of pelvic bones. "You'll always be rangy, like an old alley cat."

"I beg your pardon!" Ray grumbled as he rolled over and climbed on top of Bodie.

"Oof! I take it back, you are fat."

"That's more like it." He bit Bodie's chin, rubbed his face on Bodie's chest and changed into Beelzy.

"Hullo, kitty. I've missed you." Beelzy began to purr and make starfish paws on his chest as Bodie scratched behind his ears. Beelzy's eyes slitted in pure bliss.

"Who's a handsome boy, then? Hmmm? Who's my big, beautiful marmalade tom?"

Beelzy rolled sideways, nearly sliding off Bodie's chest, and his purr became a roar. "He's a pretty puss, he is...little heart-breaker. King of the gigolos." Beelzy started to drool. He shut his eyes and stretched out full length on Bodie, still purring madly. Then Ray was back.

"You don't half talk rubbish to that cat," he observed, but he was grinning.

"Want me to talk that way to you, don't you? Ah, cummon, I know you want it...'ere! You jealous?"

"Nah, like to watch you make an ass of yourself over Beelzy." He turned over and Beelzy was back, purring and drooling and digging his needle claws into Bodie's side.

"You are the most, I've ever met."


"'Course, sometimes you're a better conversationalist than Ray."

"Grrroowowlll." A cold wet nose pressed against Bodie's chin and Beelzy stretched full length again down Bodie's torso. "Mmmeowp?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Bodie asked, scratching behind the soft ears.

"What's the time?"

Bodie rolled over, dumping Ray onto the mattress, then reached for his watch. "Gone ten. That's odd, usually they call us if we oversleep. You don't suppose we've missed breakfast?"

Ray began to laugh and held out his arms to Bodie. "I'll give you breakfast, you twit."

It was almost eleven thirty before they finally put in an appearance downstairs. The first person they met was Jeff, who was carrying an armload of holly and looking harassed. "It's catch as catch can in the kitchen today."

"What's going on?"

"Solstice. We're having the celebration tonight. Tomorrow through Christmas we party, but today we work. Go have something to eat and then come and help."

In the kitchen, all was in uproar. Bea, Colette and Tal were all working there and inclined to be snappish if disturbed.

After a hurried meal, Ray and Bodie went to find Jeff who put them to work fetching and carrying. They hung mistletoe and holly and laid a fire of oak roots in the fireplace in the common room. Jamie watched them, and while he helped clean and move furniture, he refused to have anything to do with the preparations for the solstice celebration. "Not convinced, eh?" Bodie asked him as he took a rest. "Well, I'll tell you a secret - neither am I."

"Then why are you going along with this bullshit?" Jamie asked.

"Because it can't hurt. No, really," he insisted in response to the young man's derisive laugh. "What's the cost to you? You don't believe in any god, do you? Well then, you don't believe you'll be punished for believing in the wrong one."

"Of course not!"

"So what does it hurt to go along with something that's harmless at worst and will probably make you feel better?"

"How is it supposed to make me feel better?"

Bodie sat back and considered the question. "I guess it becomes a sort of touchstone - something that allows you to feel as though life has meaning and order. It lets you believe there's some purpose even to the most seemingly unimportant lives."

"Big deal."

"Yeh, it is. For the first time since my mother died I feel content. For the first time, I respect life. How about that? Maybe I am convinced after all." He looked closely at the boy sitting beside him and was aware once again of the confusion and unhappiness that had led him to take Jamie into his bed once before. "Still so unhappy? I thought things were better for you."

"They are and they aren't. Bodie..."


"Nothing, never mind."

"No, tell me. No secrets, remember? We agreed."

"Not a secret. It's just that I...I don't feel right about anything; especially about Tal. I'm afraid."

"Of what?" He put his arm around Jamie and felt him tense, then relax.

"Of hurting him, afraid he'll leave, afraid he'll die, afraid I can't give him what he needs or wants. I'm afraid of everything."

"Sounds like love to me."

At that, Jamie laughed a little. "If it is, why is it so popular? I think it's a nuisance."

"Because it's only a part. The other parts are much better."

"Yeah, well..."

"I'm going back to work or Jeff and Ray'll have my hide. We can talk more later, if you want."

"Okay, thanks." He muttered, but sounded unconvinced. Bodie hesitated at the door of the common room. Suddenly he understood a great deal about himself. He turned back and went to Jamie's side. "Maybe they can cope without me after all."

"You don't have to..."

"I know. We're friends, yes? And friends ought to be honest with each other." Jamie nodded, avoiding Bodie's eyes. "I feel the same way about Ray."

"I know." It was a defeated sound.

"You've known that since we first met."

"I wanted you to love me."

"I do care about you." It hurt to see the boy so unhappy. "Why me?"

For a moment Jamie was silent. "Because you don't need..." he began, then shook his head.

"Need what? Need to use you? No."

"Everyone else...nobody ever...gave me anything before. Now everyone is being nice and I don't know what to do. I wanted you to help me."

"I can't be your father, Jamie. I can't tell you how to live. And I can't be strong for you. That's what you want, isn't it?" Jamie was silent again, withdrawn. "What I tried to give you was affection...hope, maybe. I told you then I was giving to you what someone gave to me many years ago. I don't know what else to say to you."

"I wanted you to love me," Jamie repeated.

"I do...but not in the way you want to be loved."

Then, unaccountably the darkness fell away from the handsome face. "Maybe I 'm smarter than I used to be." He kissed Bodie's cheek and walked out of the common room without looking back.

Later that afternoon a small group of people arrived at the inn. Bodie met Ray in the hallway and watched Jeff take them up to their rooms. "He told me we'd be thirteen at the ceremony," Ray remarked. "It'll be the first time I've worshipped with a full coven."

"I hope they weren't counting on Jamie," said Bodie.

"They never do."

It was late when the circle gathered in the darkened common room. Dahout stepped into the centre of the group. "This is the solstice," she said, "the longest night of the year. Darkness triumphs, yet must give way to the light. And we wait for the child, the coming of dawn, together - the promise of light and life. This is the time out of time when all life waits suspended...we wait. We call the sun-child from the womb of night. Blessed Be!" She motioned to the others to sit, and while she stood silently at the centre of the circle, a chant began with Kev.

"We die and are reborn," he chanted. "The wheel turns. What must we leave behind us?" The chant, picked up by the others in turn, echoed in Bodie's mind as each member of the group offered something to the night. It had a hypnotic effect on him - he felt suspended in time and distanced from all the reality he had know, from his self, his Bodieness. "What must we leave behind?" they asked over and over again and he heard his voice rising above the others. "Fear," he said, and heard the word picked up and woven into the music they were making. His fear was part of the music. He was part of the music.

Then he was standing, moving in a spiral dance around Dahout, passing the alter where Kev stood holding a small bowl. Dahout led him to Kev.

"Everything passes, everything fades," she whispered as Kev placed a pinch of salt on Bodie's tongue. "Everything passes," Kev echoed. "Taste of death."

It brought tears to his eyes, this harsh salty death. He huddled in a tight, fearful circle of humanity, half hearing Dahout telling them to sleep in the earth, to know the perfect freedom. He was afraid at first, but remembered, as the sharpness of the salt faded into the saltiness of his own taste, that he had left fear behind him in his old life. He trusted her and crumbled to the earth and slept. Space of perfect freedom.

"Oh child, you are welcome," said the same sweet voice he had known in a dream.

But there were no dreams here, no visions, nothing but the peace he had been promised. He floated, thoughtless, fearless...until he was grasped by strong hands and drawn up through layers of darkness and warmth. He remembered to breathe in one shuddering gasp. He was cold. Kev squatted next to him.

"Sleep the sleep of the newborn, dream of the life to come, sweet child."


There was a sweetness in his mouth. "Taste the sweetness of life, my dear,"

Dahout whispered as she smeared honey on his tongue.

A chant was building, waking him to the darkness of the room. "Set sail, set sail, Into the wind and storm, To be reborn, to be reborn..."

"We are awake in the night." He joined the music. "We turn the Wheel to bring the light."

"Who is that?"

"Golden sun...light the skies."

And there was a flare of light as the candles and the roots of oak flared into life. "Io Evohe!" Kev cried and the others echoed him. "I who have died am alive again today."

"We are born again, we shall live again," the circle answered. A hand curled around Bodie's.

"Blessed Be," Ray whispered. Bodie's face was wet.

He found himself sitting beside Ray, passing a bottle of wine, a plate of cakes and fruit. He was ravenously hungry. He was entirely at peace.

"Thank you," Ray said.

"For what?"

"Taking part. It was important."

And though there was much he wished to say, his heart was still too full.

He just nodded. There would be time. Only one thing marred the contentment - Jamie, pale-faced and alone, hovering in the doorway, watching Tal sleep, his head in Colette's lap.

A few of the group dropped off to sleep, and Ray was nodding off in the heat from the fire and wine when he felt Bodie pulling away from him. "Wha?"

"I'll be right back, lover," Bodie promised. Ray curled up on the rug and felt vaguely abandoned. Then suddenly warmth closed around him and he smelled Bodie nearby. "You brought the duvet!"

"And pillows. Some of the others are doing the same. I guess we're all kipping here tonight."

Ray chuckled and allowed himself to be tucked in like a child. A pillow was placed under his head, and Bodie lay beside him, warm and solid and comforting. "Love you," he murmured. Then, "meow." Bodie was chuckling as Ray dropped off to sleep.

He woke with a start and looked around. Several of the group were sitting up, wearing their blankets like pale-faced Indians, talking quietly. Dahout and Kev were awake, wrapped in a duvet, Kev's head resting on her shoulder.

Colette was asleep, one arm curved around Jeff and the other around Tal.

Bea was awake, but holding a sleeping Jamie close. There was a look on her face Ray had never seen before - one of such fierce tenderness that it was painful to watch her.

And Bodie...his sweet-faced, vulnerable lover was sleeping peacefully, face pressed against Ray's arm. The worst was over - he could feel it in his bones.

"Ray..." It was Dahout. He looked towards her and she pointed to the large window on the east side of the house. He could just see a glow on the horizon. Dawn.

She came to his side and kissed him. "Good morning."

"Morning. Thanks."

"De rien." She kissed Bodie awake, then moved to the others, repeating the gesture for each.

"Whasup? The old man call?" Bodie asked sleepily.

"Nothin' like that. Look. Suns coming up."

Like the sunrise, the look of childlike wonder on Bodie's face was a revelation.

Later that morning, after a glass of juice and a promise of a fine supper, they all made their way up to their rooms to sleep. Ray dropped in and out of sleep, and of dreams about things he didn't understand. Each time he woke, all he could remember was being happy.

Bodie woke occasionally and each time he did, he propped himself up on one elbow and stared down at Ray for a few moments, then they smiled at each other and he lay down and fell asleep again.

There was a commotion in the hallway about sunset, and a knock at their door. "Oh go away," Ray muttered, too comfortable to move.

The door opened and George Cowley stepped into the room.

"Oh, crikey," Bodie groaned, properly awake at last.

"Good evening, lads. Cold night." To Ray's surprise, Cowley was smiling broadly.

"I hope you don't expect us to hop up and salute or anything," Bodie drawled, but he was grinning at Cowley.

"Not just now. Tomorrow perhaps. Lessons are suspended for the holiday, I understand. That will give us ample time to discuss the situation. I will expect to see you at super." He turned on his heel and left as suddenly as he had arrived.

"Are you ready for this?" Ray asked with a chuckle. All the same, he felt a little chilled by the arrival, as though the presence of Cowley would make official the thing he'd been fearing since the night Irving disappeared - separation from Bodie. He wrapped his arms around his lover and snuggled closer, trying, unconsciously, to burrow his way into Bodie and disappear.

"Father-bloody-Christmas just popped down the chimney," Bodie muttered, "and what d'you think 'e's giving us?"

"An all expense paid vacation to the south of France?"

"Two weeks in the outer Hebrides, more like."

"And a rubber raft!" They both began to laugh. "Fancy him finding us in bed together and not turnin' a hair," Ray mused.

"He did know..."

"Still, it must have been a bit of a shock."

"He's seen it all," Bodie countered in his best man-of-the-world voice.

"Not yet he hasn't, and he'd better not if you want to keep your happy home, mate. Wonder why he is here, though."

"Ah, let's not worry about bloody Cowley tonight. I have you and you have me and this is a lovely cosy bed in a lovely cosy room. Why should we ever think about the world again?"

"Because we have to live in it is why," Ray countered. He rolled over and spooned himself against Bodie, pulling Bodie's arm over himself.

"Maybe not," Bodie said, but refused to elaborate.

"Well, we have to eat...I'm starved."

"Skinny thing like you - can't afford to let you go without, can I?"

"Cor, skinny! Put on half a stone here, 'aven't I?"

"Not possible. Ooh, crikey, all around the middle, isn't it?" Bodie teased.

"You don't have to be vulgar. Come on, it's getting late."

But it was another half an hour before they went down to supper.

True to his rod, Cowley was waiting for them. Ray groaned quietly when he saw the man, but Bodie caught his hand and gave it a squeeze. "Together,"

he whispered, and Ray felt better.

As usual there was a fine spread - pork with sage and dried fruit, fresh bread, several crisp-cooked vegetables, potatoes, and half a dozen desserts for which credit was taken by Jeff and Tal.

Ray tuned in to the conversation in time to hear Bodie ask Cowley straight out what he was doing in Inverness.

"More to the point, what am I doing here, eh, Bodie?"

"Didn't like to be rude, sir."

"Indeed. Well, I am here because I was invited to spent the holiday here."

He glanced at Colette and smiled. "And I felt it was time to find out how my investment is coming along."

"If you mean Bodie..." Ray began, annoyed.

"Doing well," Bodie interrupted.

"We'll discuss it later."

After the meal they went to Cowley's room to talk.

"I'm going to be frank with you both - I have no intention of allowing Bodie to continue as a field agent now that I know what he is capable of. He's far too valuable to risk in such a capacity. On the other hand, Doyle, you would be very valuable remaining in the field considering your talent. What I'm driving at is..."

"No." Cowley looked at Bodie who was sitting, ramrod stiff in the big, brocaded wing chair that dominated the room.

"I beg your pardon, Bodie, but I wasn't finished."

"I know what you're going to say and..."

"Have you taken to reading minds now, too?" Cowley asked sarcastically.

"That's your department, isn't it? Still, it wouldn't take a genius to suss out what you plan on doing to us, and the answer's no. No split. We work together or we're gone."

Cowley raised an eyebrow and for a long time no one spoke. Cowley and Bodie simply stared at each other, seemingly engaged in some private communication to which Ray could never be a party.

"Don't you think you should consult Doyle before you speak for him?" Cowley asked, finally breaking the silence.

"Together," Ray said. And strangely enough, Cowley smiled.

"I'm not really surprised," he admitted, "nor am I entirely displeased."

"Loyalty is at a premium, isn't it, sir?" Bodie remarked with an answering smile.

"In this business, especially. Well, I suppose I'll have to find some new job description to fit the two of you. God knows, you're becoming a bit long in the tooth to be poncing about in this green and pleasant land after villains young enough to be your children. Bodie, should you be that thin with all this food about?"

"Can't I ever do anything right?" Bodie groaned rolling his eyes. "Macklin' d be happy to see me looking like this."

"He's not paying your salary. Have you been eating?"

"As much as Doyle..."

"More," Ray added, painfully aware of his own weight.

"Good Lord!"

"Don't rub it in, sir," Ray told him.

"It's this magical stuff takes the starch out."

"Well, I suppose it's all right so long as Dahout isn't concerned. I'll speak to her tomorrow. Right now I'm tired and I could use some sleep."

Thus dismissed, they went back down to the common room to relax and listen to some music.



"What did you do, I mean to Cowley? How did you make him back off on the split?"


"Pull the other one," muttered Ray.

"No, honestly. I just let him know what I could do."

Which, Doyle reflected sleepily, is exactly what the old fox wanted. Oh, Bodie, you're such an innocent, he thought, with a rush of affection.

Christmas came, for Bodie, in a hazy sort of happiness. Everyone was content to leave him alone with Ray, asking nothing more than the occasional attentiveness. It was rather like a honeymoon, he decided as he watched Ray shave on Christmas morning. Hard to be more than a few feet apart at any time. It was nice that the others were allowing them this time - Christ only knew that once back on the job, they'd have little enough chance to behave like young lovers.

The others who had come for the ceremony were gone now. It was like a family at the inn. Before breakfast on Christmas morning they exchanged gifts. Ray gave Bodie a watch, he gave Ray a gold chain. They held hands at breakfast.

The rest of the day was quiet. Kev told stories and Bea played the old piano in the common room. After supper they played Sardines, all but Cowley and Dahout, who sat together by the fire.

Dahout came to Bodie that night and said, "We 'ave to work tomorrow Bodie, and every day until you are ready to go back into the world." It occurred to him then that his was not an endless idyll. Cowley had come to take Ray back to London.

"It won't take long," he promised her, and when she shot him a sceptical look he added, "I'll make sure it won't."

The next morning he was up early, anxious to begin, to finish his studies so the separation should not be long, when he realized he had the means to prevent any separation. He sat down in the chair beside the bed and looked at Ray for a long time, then he cleared his mind and began.

It was hard, at first, concentrating on the path down to that secret place.

"Together," he whispered. "Always together." And he felt something change inside him, felt something open. "You will never separate us. When you leave, it will be without Ray." He wove the words, considering them carefully, sending them out, wrapping them around the sleeping Cowley. It was simple, then. The magic was there. He dressed quietly and went up to Dahout's room.

She gave him a strange look as he entered. "You've been working," she said.

"How did you know?"

"I know the currents of power in this house, and in the people in it. I know your power and I felt it at work."

"Are you going to scold me, sister?"

She smiled. "I have no power over you and no right to scold I felt the control, Bodie."

"I did it well, then?" It was strange to be here with her discussing something that was still not quite real to him.

"We shall see when George wakes."

It was mid-morning when the summons came. Cowley wanted to see him in the dining room.


"Sit down, sit down and eat something."

Bodie sat beside Ray who was already tucking into a dish of raspberries and cream.

"I'll be leaving this afternoon. I was going to take Doyle with me, but I' ve decided he'd be better off working with you for the next week or so."

Bodie managed to suppress a grin. "I want you to be a more effective team when you return than when you left."

"That's a tall order, sir," Bodie observed, drizzling heather honey on a hot baking powder biscuit.

"Aye, it is." Cowley seemed about to say something else, but he stopped short and stared at Bodie. Then he smiled. "And I don't think it'll take much longer, will it?"

"Not much," Bodie admitted. "Things seem to be coming together nicely."

"I imagine they are. Watch your step, laddie."

"I plan on it."

"What was all that about at breakfast?" Ray asked as they watched Cowley's car pull away from the inn.

"What d'you mean?"

"You know, all that unspoken conversation that you both thought I wouldn't catch. I know when someone's talking around me, you know."

"I thought you were too wrapped up in your berries and cream to notice,"

Bodie teased. "Besides, it wasn't really important. He wanted to take you back to London and I didn't want you to go." Ray's smile faded, and Bodie was puzzled.

"So you won."

"Of course."

"Think that was fair?"

This time it was Bodie's smile that faded. "I couldn't let you go, Ray, I..."

"What if I'd wanted to go?"

For a moment Bodie was confused and annoyed. He'd done it for them, couldn' t Ray see...and then he saw, too clearly. "If you want to go, I can call him back," he said, simply. "I'm sorry. It's too easy."

"It is...but that's why we're here, isn't it?"

"Do you want to go?"

"No. But next time I'd ask first. Now we'd better go upstairs. Someone has to learn how to control the uncontrollable." He smiled at Bodie who returned the expression hesitantly. "It's as bad as trying to bell a cat, I swear!"

"You ought to know," Bodie snapped as they started up the stairs to Dahout's room.

"Since when has Beelzy ever been anything but a little angel?" Ray asked with an almost straight face.

"Don't tempt me..."


--Yule 1982

Cat's Cradle

Sunday, March 13 1:30 am

Bodie's been sick all night. I wanted to take him to the emergency room or at least call Dr Krige, but he keeps saying it'll pass and not to worry. He says it's stomach cramps from the curry we had at that new restaurant, but I think he's rationalizing. He's sleeping now and seems easier. I guess one of the good things about keeping a journal (and let's see, I've been keeping it since...Christmas of '81. Fifteen months. And I see I'm about due for a new book.) What was I saying? Oh yeh - it's good to keep a journal because it gives you the chance to work out all the negative emotions quite harmlessly.

We've been putting in a lot of time at work these days and I find I'm sort of tired of it all. Oh, not tired of being on the side of the angels, but, well, sometimes I'd rather someone else played shepherd for a while. We're due in at eight so I'd better join Bodie.

9 pm, same day

Long day. Bodie's cooking supper - pepper steak. I told him he shouldn't drop anything too strong into his stomach after last night, but he says he feels fine now.

I guess he wanted some time to himself which is why he volunteered to cook tonight. There was a telegram from Bea today. Bodie's a dad. Dahout had twins last night - boy and girl. Bodie made a joke about sympathy pains, but I could tell the news had affected him. He's unusually quiet tonight.

I suppose that, in his position, I'd want some time to assimilate the news.

Oh, supper's ready.

2 am

Couldn't sleep. We ate, watched a film and went to bed. Bodie's in a strange mood. I thought we were going to make love, but we ended up just cuddling instead. He asked me what it felt like when I became a woman, and I tried to explain. I was never really a woman, after all. I just had the shape of one.

He fell asleep and I lay there thinking about women and how little I really knew about them despite my ability to assume the form if not the substance.

There have been times, mostly when I'm feeling really depressed, when I've wondered if I'd chosen to love a man because I couldn't really love a woman.

Felt rotten for wondering, too, but in all honesty, my track record with the fair sex leaves something to be desired. I seem to be happier with women as friends.

I got out of bed because it seemed silly to lie there awake when I could be out here doing things.

A lot's happened in the last few years and most of it's been good. I've been happy with Bodie. I don't really suppose I love him because of some lack in myself. I think I love him because he completes me.

Funny, but for all I'm comfortable with the supernatural, any hint of it in my relationship with Bodie makes me...not uneasy so much as edgy. Maybe I don 't trust the tiny voice inside me which says there's more to us than partnership, love and passion.

Passion. God, sometimes there's so much of it I wonder if either of us will survive it. Like a storm, it is. Some days all I can do is think about his body and how it fits together with mine, and how good it is when that happens.

He's doing it to me again. Three in the morning and I'm aching for him.

But I'm not going to wake him up. He needs the rest. And I need to go off to the bog for a good wank. Then it's sleepies for me.

Wednesday, 3 pm

Jeff called a little while ago. Said he's been trying since yesterday.

Wanted to invite us for the weekend.

"We're having a sort of christening for the twins," he said, and I said, "Christening?"

"Okay, a welcome to life party. Can you two make it?"

"It's up to George," I told him. I didn't say that I'd begun to wonder if we'd ever have another day off, or that Bodie might balk at the idea.

"Bea's already spoken to him. He's coming up too. Why don't you come with him? He'll be using the gates."

I told him I'd get back to him on it, and rang off.

When I told Bodie, he was thoughtful. "I don't know how to feel," he admitted. "I don't know what to think."

I expected him to talk about it, but that was all he said.

9:30 pm

Took him a while, but he finally did talk a bit. "I don't feel really involved in this," he said. We were sitting in front of the telly. "Y' know, we joke about being studs..." He grinned and squeezed my hand. "But it 's an empty thing unless you can be involved."

"We don't have to go, you know."

"I want to see them. Maybe if I do I'll believe they're part of me. Do you mind, Ray?"

"I'd love to go," I insisted, but he shook his head.

"Not that. Do you mind about them? That they happened?"

I didn't want him to think there was any hesitation in my answer, but I needed time to consider my words. "I can't ever regret anything about you,"

I said, finally, and he smiled that sweet smile of his which always makes me think of sunrise.

He's having a shower right now. I have this urge to drop the book and go join him.

Thursday, 10:15 pm

I did.

Bodie's packing. He's terribly methodical. I just toss things into a holdall and hope for the best. I called Bea this afternoon to ask how everyone was. She says the babies are gorgeous. Jonet, the girl, has violet eyes and black curly hair. Janicot has green eyes and reddish brown hair. I asked her where on earth Dahout got the names.

"They suit. How's Bodie?"

"Ambivalent," I admitted. "I think I'm happier about this than he is. I'm aching to hold his babies. My god, do you think I've discovered a maternal instinct in myself?"

She laughed. "I think you're in love."

"How does Jeff feel about all this?"

"He's pleased. He's not jealous, if that's what you mean. We're planning on having one of our own eventually. Soon, I hope. And before you ask, Dahout doesn't mind about us. She and I have an understanding. I've known her for almost twenty years. Ray, how's Murphy?"

I hadn't expected this. "Fair, I expect. I don't see much of him. Why?"

"He's been calling up here several times a week. Sometimes he just wants to talk and other times...He's asked me to marry him."

I suddenly felt very sorry for Murph, though I didn't say so.

"I don't know what to tell you, Bea. He's a strange bird."

"I don't want to hurt him, but...well, enough of my problems. When will we see you?"

"George told me he'll be ready to leave tomorrow afternoon, which may mean any time between noon and midnight."

Then Bodie talked to her for a while. When he was done, he ran out for about an hour and came back with two packages wrapped in white paper. One had a pink bow and one a blue.

"Don't tell me - for the babies?"

"How did you guess?"

"I've developing my psychic talents. What are they?"

"Teddies. I'm old-fashioned. Every brat should have a bear."

That's my Bodie.

Friday, 7:45 pm

My Bodie's getting anxious. George is closeted with a suspect and has been since four this afternoon. He sent us to supper an hour ago which bodes ill for leaving any time soon. I keep trying to tell Bodie it's okay.

Midnight Sometimes I wonder if Bodie's talent isn't responsible for most of the serendipity in our lives lately. Suspect confessed, was booked and we were through the gates by eight-fifteen.

Everyone's here - Colette, Kev, Tal, Jamie, the three of us. It's like a holiday. Colette was cooing over Jonet when we arrived, and Kev was holding Janicot. Then they turned the babies over to me 'n' Bodie.

Bodie held his daughter as though he thought she was made of porcelain. The difference between us is I knew Janicot was breakable. They're beautiful children. I can see Bodie in both of them. Christ, he warmed up to them immediately. Carried one on each arm and showed them to everyone in the place. "Look, these are my kids."

Was different with Dahout though. I don't think he's ever got over the idea she's his half sister. She's explained to him that the blood they share isn 't subject to the same taboos as human, but I'm not sure he'll ever be entirely comfortable with the idea. Still, the babies are handsome and sound, so there's no cause for regret. He was stiff with her. She seemed sorry, but I don't really know her well enough to make any guesses as to what she's thinking or feeling.

We had coffee and cake in the kitchen, and talked about what had been happening in our lives since we were last together, at Yule. Like us, everyone's been involved in their work. Jeff sent a manuscript off to his agent, Bea had done some chamber music concerts in Edinburgh, Kev's been teaching and exhibiting his artwork, Jamie and Tal have both been working in a theatre group, Colette had been pursuing her interest in holistic and alternative medical practices, and Dahout had been making babies.

"What a terribly exciting group of people - maybe we should christen ourselves Bloomsbury Two," Jeff suggested.

When Dahout went upstairs to feed the babies, Bodie and I turned in. He dropped off immediately, but I found myself wide-awake again, so I thought I 'd catch up on this evening's events.

I like keeping a journal. It makes me feel settled, makes my life seem more significant. And it gives me the opportunity to express ideas and feelings I don't think I could express openly. It's not that Bodie wouldn't understand (or try to), but I'm not sure I'm ready to share some things, even with him.

Unfortunately I'm feeling awfully sleepy, and my handwriting is beginning to be affected. I just realized this is the first day off we've had in three weeks. And the first holiday since...Yule, though that wasn't technically a holiday, considering. I hate the idea of wating...wasting it on sleep. Shit.

Goodnight, Ray.

Saturday morning - The Green King

The new sign for the inn arrived this morning and Bodie and I helped Jeff hang it. It's wonderful - a horned, green-clad man crowed with flowers.

Jeff says the artist is very simpatico. Bodie asked what being Italian has to do with it.

Colette, Bea and Dahout are planning the ceremony for tonight. From what I can gather, it's a combination of the Eostar ritual and a welcoming to the two new-born souls. Sounds nice. I wish we could all be welcomed into life by those who love us.

Bodie asked me if I thought Cowley and Colette were still an item and I said I didn't know they ever were. I didn't think the old man had it in him! He did look sort of smug over breakfast this morning. If they are, Kev doesn't seem to mind.

That got me thinking about love and such. Seems everything does these days!

I realized I'd come into this group with much more rigid attitudes than I thought - I was a little perturbed by all the bed-hopping that was going on.

But now I see their...our sexuality as something different, something less concerned with pairing and power than with affection and need and warmth.

How to explain? I know Bodie and I belong together, and I understand that my claims on his heart is the strongest. I'm satisfied. Whatever else he is to anyone else, he's my other half first.

I think I'd better think about this some more. There has to be a better way of saying it.

Later...about six I had the most amazing experience this afternoon. Over dinner we began to talk about reincarnation. Dahout was saying she felt her brother's presence very strongly in Jonet. She meant the brother who died, not Bodie.

I don't know much about the subject, though it's always seemed the most sensible alternative to me. What surprised me, though, was to hear that Bodie had always believed in it.

"Had a past life reading done my misspent youth," he added with a typical Bodie smirk.

"And?" I asked.

"Well, in me last life I was a Mayfair fold-fold."

After the laughter had died down I asked, "Seriously, what did you find out?" Why it was so important to me, I didn't understand - then.

"Oh, that I've lived a lot of adventurous lives. I'm something of a daredevil by nature, I reckon. And I've done a lot of things I'm not particularly proud of...or wouldn't be if I'd done them this life."

"So have we all, laddie." There was a surprise - Cowley talking as though he believed in the subject. Then, Cowley's something of a study in contrasts. He, as Bodie puts it, punches the bible. No, he's not a bible-thumper so much as a devout man. He's a good man is George Cowley.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that George seems to be able to reconcile paganism with Christianity. Though, when I think of it, there's not much in the former to contradict the latter. Most people don't understand this.

I don't mean to reduce the difference in these two philosophical systems to a matter of semantics, but...

But I'm off the track now, and I want to get this down before the celebration.

Kev said to us, "If anyone wants to try a past life reading this afternoon, I'm game."

"Kev's very good at it," Colette told us.

Naturally I was curious, so I talked to him after we finished eating and he said he was willing to work with me.

"If you want, we can try a regression into the most recent life."

I told him I was willing to try just about anything, and he laughed and said, "Never give me carte blanche like that, boy."

He told me to go into a light trance, and took me back through this life.

There were some bad moments - the shooting, Sid's death, Beelzy's first appearance - but there were some things which were a pleasure to relive such as my first meeting with Bodie. Perhaps it was hindsight, but I could feel the sparks between us.

Back through my childhood which (surprise!) wasn't as awful as I sometimes though it had been. Memory is such a selective thing.

And then, almost with my knowing it, he had me floating free. It was frightening at first, but Kev kept saying that he was there with me. "You' re never so far down you can't come back up right away," he assured me.

"You want to go on?" I said I did.

We went into my last life in which I was a minor political official in Berlin during the war. I was a Nazi. I didn't much like the idea, but when we talked about it later Kev reminded me that everyone has things in their past which go against all their best interests in the present. He also suggested I think of this life as, perhaps, an attempt to expiate whatever negative actions I performed in the last one. I discovered my name had been Georg Hoffman, and I'd been engaged to a Jewish girl.

"Interesting," Kev said.

Apparently I didn't allow my feelings for her to interfere with my allegiance to the party. I broke off the engagement when anti-Semitic feeling began running high. She died in a camp. My life went on. I died of a stroke in Berlin before the war ended. Fairly mundane life, really.

I don't think he'd intended to take me more than one life back, but I found myself pulled backwards. I had the sense I'd find Bodie there waiting for me.

What I found was a jumble of images - Bodie and myself in different bodies, but still recognizably ourselves. I saw a scene of great love and great anger which confused me, and I saw the self I was then running through the fields on silent cat feet. So, this isn't the first time I've been a shape-shifter!

I saw myself swimming in a river - could feel the water, cold and bracing, and a handsome, arrogant figure watching from and oddly-shaped rock. I knew that place. It had some special meaning to me. Bodie, with blue snakes winding around his arms! And I was alone in a field, on a red horse, and I was weeping.

I couldn't catch hold of any of those images for more than a few seconds, not nearly long enough to make a coherent story out of any of them. I tired to force myself to focus on one thing - that rock formation beside the river - but the effort brought me back up to the present. I was still in a light trance, but I was home.

"It's so frustrating," I complained to Kev. "I couldn't hold on to anything."

"Maybe you're not ready to know," he suggested. "The mind runs from the things it can't deal with. What did you find out?"

I told him about my most recent life. "If I had to be a Nazi, couldn't I have been Goering or someone famous?"


That produced a shudder. "Rommel," I countered.

"I suppose all of us have to have a life other folks remember. Me, I'd rather live my famous life as Bach or DaVinci." He lay back on his elbows and grinned.

I began to laugh. "Nothing like reaching for the moon, is there?"

"Bodie told me you're an artist..."

"In my spare time," I hastened to add.

"Exactly. Do you think it's the first time you've used a brush?"

I thought about it for a while. "No," I admitted. "It feels too right."

"What else did you learn?"

"That Bodie and I have shared many lives."

"Does it surprise you?"


"Did you find any of us back there? The rest of this family, I mean?"

"I wasn't looking for you," I confessed, and it was Kev's turn to laugh at me.

"Next time you look for us; we'll all be there."


"Boy, you always get involved with the people you've been involved with before. It's a law of the universe or somethin'."

I thought about it. "Maybe Cowley was my mother last time."

"And I was your twin sister."

"Really?" I asked, thinking he was serious.

Kev rolled about and howled.

"Well, I am new at this." I kicked at him and he calmed down a bit.

"Hoo! You're a stitch."

"The harder I try to remember, the less I can hold on to. I really do want to understand all this."

"Give yourself time. You might try working on it in dreams."

"How do I do that?" I asked, feeling sceptical. He gave me an outline of how to do what he calls 'dreamwork', which includes keeping a journal of dreams. I'm already on that path. If I'm not too tired tonight, I'll...oh, Bodie's calling. They're ready to start.

Sunday morning...early Tonight I really can't sleep, but then Bodie's awake as well. There's a wild party going on downstairs. I came up here because I was starting to fade. I also wanted to write all this down now, before I sleep, because when I wake week, probably, this will all seem like a dream.

When Bodie called I went down and found everyone in the common room. Bodie was holding one of the babies and Dahout the other. The room was filled with flowers. Bea and Jeff were playing priest and priestess. Even Jamie was there.

"This isn't going to be as flashy as Dahout or Kev," Jeff admitted.

"We'd like you to join hands in a circle," Bea told us, and we did. Bodie and Dahout put the twins in their cradles and joined us, Bodie holding my left hand and Dahout my right.

"This is the joyful time of light's return, a time of balance for all of us.

There's new life everywhere..."

I stole a look at Bodie who was smiling.

"The Sun King and Kore, the dark maiden have returned to us from the land of shadows, bringing the glory of life with them."

Bea moved around the circle handing each of us a small bunch of flowers.

"Where They step, flowers bloom, as They dance, want turns to abundance.

May our hearts bloom with the flowers - Blessed Be!"

Jeff picked up one baby and Bea the other. "Help us welcome the new life,"

he said, and they carried the children around the circle, so each of us could hold and welcome each child. They began the Kore chant.

She changes everything She touches And everything She touches, changes.

And we picked it up.

When the children came to me, I was a little overcome. I guess part of me wished they'd been ours - mine and Bodie's, impossible as it was.

We were all sitting sharing cakes and wine when the air around the cradles began to shimmer. I panicked because the last time I'd seen that happen was in the pub, the night Bodie made the bloke disappear. Dahout said: "Just wait, Ray."

The disturbance grew, and I could tell most of the others were a little perturbed by it as well. And then the air itself seemed to fracture, and people came spilling out.

"Have missed all but the wine!" one voice complained. Bodie started to laugh, and I knew, just by looking at the speaker, that I was seeing Bodie's father. He was just as amazing as Bodie had said - smallish, porcelain-perfect and so much like Bodie...a miniature Bodie, that I ached to touch him.

The odd thing was, I knew him from...somewhere.

But then Bodie stopped laughing and stood up, a funny, wistful look on his face. "Mum?" Was that Fiona? He put his arms around her and hugged her.

I could see why she'd stolen the heart of a lord of the Sidhe. She was flawlessly lovely with eyes as green as new leaves, milk-white skin with a spray of freckles across the nose and cheekbones, and a tangle of dark red curls. His face was buried in those curls. I could see the muscles straining - trying to draw her into himself and at the same time, to hold back from her, knowing she was no longer wholly his. I could feel waves of joy and pain pouring off of him.

He raised his head and his face was wet. "I never thought I'd see you again," he told her.

"How could you and I ever be parted?" She wiped his face with the edge of her scarf. "Oh, Gwyn, you've grown up so big and handsome!" He laughed again and swung her around.

I'd loved her in the past. I knew that much, though how I knew was still a mystery. And Bodie had loved her as well.

"I made them all wait until the ceremony was over, else they would have stormed in and taken over," she explained. "Put me down, Gwyn, I want to see my grandchildren." People were still spilling out of the fracture.

Gwydion's cronies, I thought, all clad in the green armour of the Sidhe.

Only Gwydion wore silver. They crouched around the cradles and dangled things over the babies and made what sounded like speeches and prophecies in some language that was only vaguely familiar. They all made way for Fiona, who picked up each child in turn. "Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again," she said to each baby. "Welcome." And she kissed them both.

Bodie nudged me. "Don't you expect Flora, Fauna and Merryweather to pop in next?" he asked.

Gwydion came over and pounded Bodie on the back. "Thee's done well, lad.

Be fine children."

"As if it was any more his doing than Dahout's," Fiona replied, returning to his side.

Gwydion looked sour for a moment, then turned sunny again. "Or mine," he added. She laughed. "Redhair, thee's unnatural quiet tonight..."

"Um," I said.

"Have not had the remembering yet?" A sly smile quirked at the corners of his mouth, and he turned to Bodie. "A's much to remember, na?"

My god, I thought, this isn't happening.

Gwydion and Fiona went off to speak to Dahout, and Bodie slumped against me.

"He wears me out," he confessed. The other warriors came up and introduced themselves - Mac Greine, dark and hawkish; Lugh, fair and smiling; Kai, Govannon, Robin, Gwyrhyr...I can't remember them all. And they brought their ladies with them, all of whom exclaimed over the children as though they'd never seen one before.

"Be under my protection," Mac Greine announced. "Shall count children before a leaves," he said to one willowy faery woman who was holding Janicot. She grimaced, but replaced the child in the cradle.

Then Gwydion's mob began vying for the favours of the humans in the room.

Govannon was pretty obviously chatting up Jamie, who found his English a bit confusing, and kept saying, 'Huh?' Tal looked annoyed.

Jeff put on a record and Fiona and Gwydion began to dance.

"She's beautiful," I observed.

"She always is," Bodie said. He looked wistful. Yes, she always is. I may not have had the remembering yet, but I knew that Fiona is always beautiful to us.

"Bodie, what do you know about blue snakes?"

He looked at me as though I'd asked him if he was keeping a comely ewe for immoral purposes. "What?"

But before I had a chance to answer, Fiona claimed him for a dance while Gwydion danced with Dahout. One of the faery women held out her hands to me and I joined the dance. "Thee's a fine dancer, Redhair."

"Thank you...ah, what's your name?"

"Blodeuwedd." (She spelled it for me." She seemed amused that I didn't remember her.

Dahout put the babies to bed and everyone danced. Even George tread a measure with Fiona, before he sat down to share a cup of two with Gwydion.

Govannon, having got nowhere with Jamie, cornered me. Now I can honestly say I've been groped by a real fairy.

We danced and drank and ate and danced some more. Bodie stuck so close to Fiona, I began to feel a bit jealous. Yet even that seemed familiar somehow, comfortable. Time seemed to stop for us tonight. There were no worries - nothing but the warmth of love.

It's late and I'm so tired I can hardly hold my head up. They're still downstairs whooping it up, except for one or two who have discreetly retired, like me, though not for the same reason. I saw Tal and Jamie go upstairs with two of the ladies. Will wonders never cease? Bodie was right. I kept expecting to see the three good fairies come flying in the window and bestowing gifs on the babies and sprinkling fairy dust on everything in sight. The whole night has had a fantastic aura, though most definitely no Walt Disneyish.

Perhaps it's a holdover from this afternoon's session with Kev, but I feel an affinity for these people - Gwydion's people, I mean. It isn't just that I've known Fiona before, but more, I've known these warriors before. We've fought side-by-side. I suppose in one sense a shared past validates my relationship with Bodie - if we've belonged to each other in the past, it's obvious we'd be drawn to each other this life. But in another sense, I'm less pleased at the thought because it means we had less choice in the matter. I like to think we made a choice to love based on the people we are now.

'Course, now I think of it, maybe the two aren't mutually exclusive after all.

I'm so tired.

I'll think about this tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another day.

Thank you, Scarlett O'Hara. (snicker)

Sunday afternoon

Bodie's still sleeping. Grrr. If he hadn't stayed up so late, he might be awake now, and I could talk to him. Idiot.

Half the house is out cold.

From what I can gather, Gwydion and his mob disappeared around cockcrow, leaving a group of sodden, exhausted human being in their wake.

While they were all carousing, I was dreaming about Redhair and Gwyn - us - me and Bodie. It was a confused dream, but it had to do with a battle, and, I'm not sure I'm ready for this, King Arthur. Well, I suppose the subconscious mind can be allowed a few literary pretensions. The thing which disturbed me was Gwyn's death. Once it happened, it was as if I had to live it over and over, like a cycle. I'd come to love him and he'd die.

Finally I remember thinking, 'I don't like this dream,' and I started to come out of it.

I should be doing what Kev taught me to do - writing the dream down in detail on one page of the journal and using the other side for analysis.

But I'm not comfortable with this dream. I don't like thinking about it, much less analysing it. I don't like to think of what it means either. If that's the end of all things for us, what's the point of loving? If I lose him each time, if I lose him too soon.

What's too soon, anyway? Tomorrow? Next year? Ever? If I had my way, we' d live until we were ready to call it quits, and go at the same time.

Life isn't like that. I don't want Bodie to suffer my loss, but I don't know if I could bear to lose him.

This is becoming depressing.

Maybe I'll go and wake him very nicely.


I went up and snuggled under the covers and tried to raise the dead to no avail. He just groaned and asked me to come back next week when he'd feel more in the mood. So I came back down to write out my dream because I think it might be an exorcism of sorts.

As I said, we were preparing for battle. Gwyn was with me - my partner. He said to me, 'I've seen my death, Dru', and I knew he was serious because he never called me by anything resembling my real name. 'It will come to me in the night.' I told him not to be so morbid; that men about to go into battles have fancies like this.

'It's not the battle. I've fought in as many as I have teeth, and I don't fear honest combat. I feel someone creeping up behind me. The Lord of Shadows is stalking me, Dru.' He was right, of course. That night someone came to our tent and cut his throat. I never woke up.

After that I saw him die three, no, four more times. Once he died cursing me, once he died at my hands, once he was hanged for my murder, and once we committed suicide together. We were fifteen years old in that life.

Kev said to analyse, but where do I begin? It's pretty bloody obvious that we've shared a lot of lives. And it's obvious we've had intense relationships in many of them. But why death? Why am I dreaming our deaths and not our lives? I wish I could find someone to tell me the significance of this focus.

Oh, this time, Bodie, let us die quietly, together.

Cowley came to talk to me while I was writing.

"You're feeling low, aren't you, Doyle?" he asked.

I admitted I was, and explained a little of what I was trying to work through.

"Aye, I know. You may not realize it, but I've shared a few lives with the two of you myself. I have to live with the fear that I'll see you both die before me. Of course, it's not as bad now I've begun to ease you both out of the more dangerous field work." He laughed a little. "Bodie did you a disservice in healing you so well after the shooting," he told me. "If you' d survived even slightly impaired I could have, in good conscience, taken you out of the field altogether. But I have to be thrifty with my men. I can't afford to waste one so useful to me."

What he was saying, I think, was that he loved us.

"I can't promise you'll predecease him, but I will promise not to send either of you into obvious danger without good reason. If only because I value your talents over your more physical skills..." He broke off and studied a ragged fingernail. "I shall have to find a file."

"Thank you sir."

I did feel better after that.

Ah, Bodie's awake and looking for food.

Still later...

Quiet day. We spent most of the afternoon and evening with the babies.

Bodie'd made a terrific Da, I expect. He's obviously feeling more involved now that he was when he heard they'd been born. And Jeff's good with them.

I hope he and Bea will have a mob of their own soon.

Speaking of Bea, I guess Murphy called this morning. She's worried about him - talked to Cowley very seriously for quite a long time. I tried to listen but Colette came down and dragged me off for a talk.

Was nice. I hadn't talked to her in a while, though we do try to keep in touch as much as we can. My own mum...well, things haven't been right with us for too long. Oh, she and I exchange cards on all the usual occasions - Christmas, birthdays - but we never really talk. I realized that we never have. I don't really know my mother at all. It's as if she's some stranger who carried me for nine months because Colette couldn't. I wouldn't say that to Colette, of course, because she's very sensitive about the link between mother and child. But she, of all people, should understand that a blood tie is not always a guarantee of love or affection or even duty. How many children has she mothered because their own mothers have had nothing for them? Or their fathers, or...I don't know.

Jamie and Tal cooked supper which we ate picnic style in the common room.

In fact, we haven't left this room since we finished dinner. I feel surprisingly peaceful tonight. Bodie and I are sharing one of the sofas.

He's dozing, wrapped in a woollen rug. I'm writing. Dahout is lying on some cushions by the fire feeding Janicot, while Jonet sleeps on Jeff's stomach. Everyone else is lying about, sleeping or reading. Kev is playing Dahout's brother's harp. Peaceful.

This is my family. Doesn't really matter where the ties come from - the past, or our own affinities. What matters is that we are as close as anyone tied by blood. I love these people and I fancy they love me.

One of them does, anyway.

He just sneezed in his sleep.

Suddenly the whys don't matter very much.

--Eostar 1983

While the Cat's Away

Being married to a cat - especially a male one - isn't the easiest life. I was fond of Ray's alter ego, so occasional appearances by Beelzy weren't any problem; in fact, I rather enjoyed them. Beelzy is an affectionate little bugger, just like Ray.

Still, after about two years of wedded (almost) bliss, I started feeling the itch again - you know, pretty girl, right mood...bang! It's the Irish in me.

Then I met Annie at our local and she made it clear she was interested. I was sorely tempted.

Ray was out of town on assignment, and would be gone, according to Cowley, for just as long as it took. (Has no sympathy for my frustration, has Cowley. I don't think he has the slightest idea that Ray and I wake up every morning just as hungry for each other as when we went to bed. Maybe I should be grateful, eh?) Anyway, Ray had been gone a week, and I was feeling lonely and itchy and the self-pity was coming on strong, so I took myself off to the pub on the corner hoping for a little uncomplicated human companionship.

Annie was there. She looked gorgeous in dark green and brown, her hair like burnished copper. Her eyes were green - funny, that. I sat down at her table and we chatted a bit.

"Where's your friend?" she asked. I must have looked startled because she began to laugh. "You never noticed me, did you? Well, I've noticed you.

You're always here with the curly-haired fellow."

"He's on a business trip."

Her mouth quirked into a smile. "I have cause to be grateful, I expect,"

she said. "I should make the most of this opportunity."

She was running her hand up and down my arm. I didn't have to ask her what she meant. I hadn't come her planning to cheat on Ray, but now all I was thinking of was making love with a beautiful woman.

I took her back to our flat because she said her flatmate was entertaining that evening. Made me uncomfortable taking her there. I almost called the whole thing off. I fixed drinks and she wandered round looking at everything.

"Do you live alone?" she asked.



"I live with Ray. The curly-haired fellow."

"Oh...really?" She took the drink from me and gave me a smile that was nothing short of feral. "Have I misjudged the invitation?"

She touched a raw nerve - one I didn't know I had. I took the glass out of her hand and pushed her down on the sofa.

"No, you know what I want," I told her. I would have had her there and then, but she stopped me.

"Save your enthusiasm, I have to use the loo for a minute." She squirmed out from under me and went off.

I was feeling manipulated; my ego was demanding I prove myself to Annie. I hate that feeling. I knew I hadn't been emasculated by my relationship with Ray.

She came back wrapped in a towel. "Aren't you coming to bed?" she asked.

And then, there was the obvious attraction. She was a little raver.

"Oh, bugger it," I muttered. I followed her into the bedroom, undressing as I went.

Annie had a rip, round figure and she was good at the mechanics of sex. I thoroughly enjoyed her, and if I felt a little guilty because of it, I reminded myself that Ray and I had never made any promises of fidelity.

I dropped into a light sleep. What woke me was the sound of Annie talking to someone.

"Here kitty, kitty, kitty," she was saying.

Oh no...

I lay there, trying not to move. This was a dream, I decided, a guilt-induced nightmare.

"Here kitty, nice kitty..."

The bed dipped slightly.

"Bodie, you didn't tell me you had a cat."

Oh no...

I rolled over very carefully and saw, at the foot of the bed, a pair of green eyes gleaming in the darkness. Beelzy...grinning at me.

"What's his name?" she asked, reaching for Beelzy. She pulled him into her arms and cuddled him and he began to purr, but all the time, he watched me.

Gave me the creeps.

"Beelzebub," I told her.

"What a sweet kitty," she crooned and the purring became louder. Beelzy rubbed his face against hers and looked over at me. The expression in his eyes was one I'd seen before.

"Meowrr," he said. I was in a lot of trouble.

"How old is he? Where'd you get him?"

"He found me," I said. Beelzy wriggled free of her grip and stalked around the bed, sniffing the sheets. "What are you doing here?" I demanded of him, and Annie gave me a sidelong look, wondering whatever was wrong with Bodie, I imagine. It's bad when you start asking the cat questions.

Beelzy found the edge of the sheet and dove under, and I though, oh oh, better beat a hasty retreat. So I rolled over and started to get out of bed, but the nasty little sod was too fast for me. A paw shot out and raked my backside before I could get clear of him. To make it worse, Annie started laughing.

"It's not funny!" I yelled, watching the lump beneath the sheets move around wildly, as if he was chasing a mouse under there. I was bleeding. I went to the bog and washed the scratches, which stung like mad, and came back ready to do battle.

"All right, out!" I ordered, swatting at the bulge under the sheet. A marmalade-coloured head poked out and Beelzy growled a little.

"There, you've hurt him," Annie accused, hauling Beelzy back into her arms.

"Poor puss, do you want to come home with me?"

Little bastard started purring again.

"He likes me, Bodie," she said, triumphantly.

"Mnph," I said, noncommittally.

Beelzy meowed loudly.

"Let me put him out, Annie, or he'll be stomping on us all night," I said with deliberate malice, reaching for Beelzy who was glaring at me. Serve him right, I thought as I took him out of her arms. But before I could chuck him out on his pointy ear, he escaped and leapt back onto the bed, marched up to my pillow and sprayed it...liberally, which drove Annie out of the bed. And the two of us stood in the middle of the room and watched Beelzy march out, tail held aloft like a banner of war.

"Why did he do that?"

"He's jealous." She laughed. She didn't know the half of it.

"How about a drink before I push off?" she asked me as she pulled on her under things. I was so glad to hear she was leaving that I agreed immediately.

I put on my robe and went out to pour two drinks - double whiskey for me and vodka and lime for her - and watched Beelzy stalk around the flat, hair bristling.

"It's your own fault for not calling first," I hissed at him.

"What?" Annie asked, walking out of the bedroom, brushing her long coppery hair. Talking to the cat again - dear, dear.

"Nothing, here's your drink."

"Wwooooo," Beelzy replied.

"Is he hungry, Bodie?"

"Very probably."

"Then feed him."

"He's getting fat. I'm trying to cut down." I scowled at the monster who seemed to rule my life lately. The worst part was that I knew he had every right to be upset with me. We needed to talk, but we couldn't - not with Annie here and Ray refusing to be anything but Beelzy.

"Awww, poor puss. Tell daddy you're hungry." She urged as he rubbed against her ankles and sharpened his claws (which were already quite sharp enough, thank you) on the brand new and rather expensive sofa.

"Stop that!" I yelled. Annie giggled.


He ran around the room, knocking over Ray's collection of tin soldiers, then leapt on the drapes and climbed all the way to the top and swung there, yowling.

"Help him down, Bodie," Annie ordered between fits of giggles.

"He can get down by himself," I told her.

"WWWoooooWWWWWWWW!" He didn't half sound pitiful when he tried, and loud...we 'd be having complaints from the neighbours for sure.


"All right, all right!" I got up, but before I reached the window, he'd slid down, laddering the curtains in the process. Then he arched his back, hissed at me and danced sideways - devil cat. It was a pretty good performance, really, and I started to laugh.

"Is he always like this?" she asked. She'd finished her drink and was getting ready to leave.

"On heat, I think."

"Oh yes? You should have him neutered.

"I'm considering it."

"Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr." Ears laid back, hair standing on end.

Finally Annie kissed me goodbye and I nearly shoved her out of the flat.

"Now, Raymond my love," I said, leaning against the door and surveying the damage, "we're going to have a little talk." He was sitting on the bar with one paw in Annie's glass, trying to flip the ice up and out, and the glass was wobbling ominously. "Growp?" he asked as it fell over splattering him with dregs of her vodka. He jumped to the floor, knocking over the bottle of limejuice which spilled all over the bar's surface.

"Stop pratting about and change back!" I yelled.


"Don't pretend you don't know what I'm on about, Ray. Change back!" I grabbed for him, but he sidestepped me neatly. "Ray!"

"Prrrtt," he said from a safe distance. I had the feeling I was being laughed at.

"Look," I said, desperate, "I'm sorry, all right? But if you won't talk to me, how are we going to work this out?"

Beelzy seemed to consider this for a moment, then stalked over to the couch and leapt up, and suddenly Ray was there, curled up against the arm, frowning at me.


"I'll think twice before I cheat on you again." I sat down beside him.

"Are you going to forgive me?"

"I'm not sure. Tell me why I should."

"Because I love you," I offered. His response was unexpected. He wiped his face with a rough swipe of his hand. I pulled him onto my lap and kissed his nose, his eyelids and his mouth very gently. "What am I going to do with you?"

"It's Beltaine," he said, as though it explained everything.

And then I remembered. It was our anniversary.

"Oh, Ray, I'm sorry. You came back to be with me and found me with Annie.

You have a right to be angry," I admitted.

"Did you have to do it here?" He was trying to pull out of my grasp, but I wouldn't let him go.

"She has a flatmate. I really am sorry. I didn't think."

"Yeh." He sagged against me. "We never made any promises, did we?"

"No, we didn't'. Am I forgiven?"

He nodded.

"Okay. Kiss and make up?" I asked. He nodded again and leaned into the kiss so eagerly I could tell he wasn't really upset any longer.

We kissed for a long time and when he finally pulled away, I couldn't see straight. He has more magic than he thinks. "You want to make promises?" I asked blearily. I was hearing wedding bells for chrissake!

"Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see." He patted my knee and went into the bedroom. "I'll change the sheet, shall I?"

"Ummm, yeah..." Bodie-mouse was rushing headlong towards the cheese. I followed him into the bedroom and found Beelzy rolling around in the crumpled linen purring and asking to be scratched.

I lay down on the bed and rubbed my face against his soft belly fur. "I love both of you," I whispered to him and he curled around my head and bit at my hair, purring like mad all the while. Then suddenly I was holding an armful of Ray, resting my head on his stomach. His cock was hard and bobbing in my face, so I did the obvious - I took it in my mouth and began to suck. He tasted wonderful. He always does. He just kept on purring and purring all the while. And when we finished, he curled around me and rubbed his face against mine, against my hair, my chest, and went on purring.

Life is never dull with Ray and Beelzy.

--Beltaine 1983

Manx Without a Past

It was evening, Bodie realised as he left the market. The day, which had begun ominously with a storm, had passed too quickly, the tail end of it slipping away from him as he absorbed himself in the little domestic things that demanded his attention. The rain had begun again and the streets were slick, so he was a little more careful as he drove home. He had someone to come home to.

Just as he parked the car the skies opened up again. Rain spilled down in waves, completely obscuring his vision. "Rainin' cats 'n' dogs," he mused, silly visions of a skyful of gently drifting Beelzys filling his mind. He sat back to wait out the worst of it.

Five minutes later, his fantasy had played itself out, his patience had worn thin, and the rain was still slanting down in sheets. He decided he no longer cared about getting wet, gathered up his groceries and dashed down the street to his flat. Just as he reached the doorway the rain let up, and he cursed with real feeling. In the shadows to his left, there was movement, and he stepped back quickly, a half-formed image of a rat scurrying through his mind. His keys dropped from his hand with a dull clang. The thing moved again, detaching itself from the shadows to investigate the tangle of keys now lying in a puddle. To Bodie's vast relief it turned out to be a tiny, taffy-coloured kitten, soaked and shivering. "Where'd you come from?" he asked as he picked it up, depositing it in his jacket pocket for safe keeping. Then he retrieved his keys and carried in the groceries.

"Ray? Ray!" The flat was dark and silent, and Bodie's spirits dropped a little. He looked forward to coming home to Ray - the thought alone could brighten the dark times. "Must have gone out," he said to the kitten. "You 'll like Ray, he's your sort of people." He stripped and dropped his wet clothes in the bath, pulled on a warm towelling robe, and wrapped the wet cat in a large towel. "Not a fit night for man nor beast," he told it, rubbing it dry. Its fur stood up in brownish spikes, making it look for all the world like a child's toy gone mad. As he worked, he went round the flat turning on all the lights in an effort to banish the feeling of isolation.

"Wish Ray was here." The kitten began to purr and Bodie felt foolishly pleased, as he always did when Beelzy purred for him. He noticed that its fur had begun to dry to a distinctively orangish hue, and a horrible thought struck him. He pulled the kitten out of the towel and inspected it carefully. Couldn't be...could it?


The purring grew louder.

"Ray, is that you?"

The kitten licked his nose.

"All right, stop pratting about...Ray!"

It was nonsense of course. Ray wouldn't be mad enough to stay outside in weather like this even if he had decided to play at being a kitten. But what if he'd been locked out by accident? Would have changed back, Bodie decided. But then he would've been stuck outside in the rain stark naked.

That was assuming he was stuck outside at all. Ray wasn't the type to change just anywhere. This was just a stray. He wrapped it up again and set it down on a chair. "I'll be back; you just relax."

He was in the kitchen, stacking tins, when there was a tremendous crash just behind him. He spun around to see one of the grocery sacks lying on the floor, its contents spilling out - eggs, juice, cereal - and the kitten, wide-eyed in the doorway, a blob of egg yolk on its head.

It had to be Ray.

"I ought to make you clean it up, you rotten little sod," Bodie grumbled.

"Cummon, Ray, that's enough now. Change back." The kitten began to clean its face and Bodie realised he was talking to himself. He knelt down and began to mop u0p a pool of orange juice. The kitten, having made short work of the egg yolk, attacked one of the few intact eggs lying on the linoleum, and sent it wobbling and spinning crazily across the floor. "Stop that, stop that!" Bodie yelled as he caught the egg just before it impacted against the table leg. "Do that again and I'll wallop you," he promised, though he knew he couldn't wallop a kitten. He decided to save it for Ray's reappearance.

He finished storing the groceries without any more help from the kitten, and fixed himself a cup of coffee. Then he went out to flip on the telly. The kitten was curled up on Ray's side of the sofa. He picked it up, lay down and deposited it on his chest. "You're just not going to co-operate, are you? Why are you being this way?" he asked. "Are you angry with me?" By way of reply the kitten sneezed in his face. "My God, you're sick, is that it? Oh no, not again," he groaned, remembering the last time Beelzy had got hurt and hadn't been able to change back. It'd been a nightmare of a week.

He cuddled the kitten against his chest and touched its nose, which was warm and dry. Bodie knew a moment of real panic. He unbuttoned his shirt and slipped the kitten in next to his skin. "Have to keep you warm, don't I?"

He grabbed the phone and dialled Mrs Ritter upstairs. She'd know what to do.

"Mrs R? This is Bodie. I've got a problem."

"What sort?"

"Kitten problem. Can you come down for a minute?"

"Be right there, love."

A few minutes later she was at the door, laden with tins and packets and toys. "Now, what's the problem?"

He pulled the kitten out of his shirt and handed it to her. "I think 'e's sick."

"What a little beauty you are," she cooed as she inspected the kitten. She lifted its tail. "Well, first thing is, it's not a he, Bodie. You've got a little girl here."

"You sure?"

"When you've raised as many as I have, you know. Sick, you say?"

"He...she's been sneezing and her nose is warm."

Mrs Ritter pressed the kitten's nose against her own and was rewarded by a sharp little bit and a lick. "Has she been resting?"


"So it's not unusual, really. How's her appetite?"

"Dunno. I just found her half an hour ago. She was out in the rain."

"Poor little thing! Well, I brought down some food. I don't imagine you and Ray keep cat food."

"Only as a treat," Bodie mumbled.

"She's rather thin. You feed her up properly and I don't think you'll have any trouble with her. I brought some vitamin and mineral supplements as well. And a catnip toy with some extra catnip. She'll love it - I grow it myself." She opened a spice jar and offered a pinch to the kitten.

"'ere, she's eatin' it!"

"Of course, that's what they do."

Bodie picked her up, and the kitten went rigid in his grasp, then bit him with little needle-sharp teeth. Bodie nearly dropped her. Then she began to purr and rub her face against his hands.

"It's better with older cats. They go quite mad."

"You have anything like this for people?" he asked as he sniffed the herb.

Mrs Ritter chuckled. "If I had, the police'd be after me, wouldn't they?

Well, things to do. I must get home to my little family."

Bodie reflected wryly that seven fractious cats was hardly a 'little' family. "Thanks for the help," he called after her.

"Well, a little cold, eh? Is that the problem?" He put away the tins of cat food, opening one to offer to the kitten. "Here, herring. Yum!" She fell on it with gusto.

He'd just finished when there was a knock at the door. It was Mrs Ritter.

"Just me again. I forgot that you'd probably need a cat box and some litter. I have extra so it's no problem." Then she was gone.

Wonderful, Bodie thought. Now we have two of everything.

"Are we in for a long siege?" he asked the kitten who was eating greedily.

"Please," he prayed to whatever god was listening, "please don't let this take too long."

He stretched out on the sofa again, wondering if he should bother fixing some supper. He didn't have much of an appetite, unlike the kitten who had settled on his chest after demolishing her meal.

"Phew - herring breath!" She began to clean her paws. "I suppose I'll have to call the old man...Christ, he'll love this, won't he? And what am I going to call you? Can't call you Ray or Beelzy, can I? How about Pansy...that's good. Honestly Ray, sometimes you're more trouble than you're worth." He was feeling warm and sleepy, and he enjoyed having a kitten curled up on his chest. "Still, I love you. Have to put up with the little...inconveniences, don't I?"

"Who're you talking to, Bodie?"

He half sat up, clutching the kitten who kept on washing. Ray was standing in the hallway. "Ray?"

"Last time I looked. Who're you...hey, where'd you find the kitten?"

Bodie began to laugh. He laughed so hard he dislodged Pansy who went off to sit on the other chair. "Wouldn't believe..." he managed.

"What's so funny?"

"Thought...'s' Beelzy!" Bodie gasped.


"You!" He clutched his belly which had begun to ache, and laughed even harder.

"You thought it was me? You daft thing." Then Ray began to laugh too, finally collapsing on top of Bodie. The kitten watched them disdainfully.

"I thought you couldn't change back again," Bodie explained, once he'd managed to get back some control.

"God, it must have been some hour."

"Fairly gruesome," Bodie admitted. "'s' better now."

"I should think."

"Where've you been anyway?" Bodie asked, shifting around to settle more comfortably. He wiped a few damp curls away from Ray's face. "I missed having you to come home to."

"The Cow had me run an errand before I left. Took about two hours with the traffic fouled up because of the rain. Then I arrived home to hear you tellin' someone else that you love 'em and have to put up with the little inconveniences."

Bodie began to chuckle again. "Didn't hear you come in, did I? I might have been more discreet. Gis a kiss then?"

"Don't know as I want to kiss a daft thing like you," Ray said, but he bent and nibbled at Bodie's lips. "Hungry?"


"I'm starving. Haven't had lunch. Shall I make some spaghetti?" He climbed up off the sofa, picked up Pansy and dropped her on Bodie's stomach.

"You watch the baby." He went into the bedroom.

Pansy walked all over Bodie and finally settled for his groin.

"Where'd you find her anyway?"

"Just outside in the rain. That's why I thought it was you."

"You implying I don't have the sense to come in out of the rain, Bodie?"

Ray emerged from the bedroom clad in a green silk robe that made Bodie's mouth water, with a towel draped over damp curls. "What shall we call her?"

"Something simple. I thought Pansy."

"Nah, she ought to have something regal to grow into like Prunella Phoebe Fortescue Fitz-bananafingers-Doyle-Bodie...Pansy for short."

"Don't know if anyone could grow into that. You want to keep her then?" he asked as Ray went out to the kitchen.

"Don't see why not. What kind of sauce?"

"Do the one with garlic, cheese, bacon and egg - we love it, don't we Pansy?" he cooed to the kitten.

"I have two children to take care of now," Doyle shouted back to him.

Had a habit of picking up strays, did Bodie. Ray smiled as he worked.

There was an affinity there that was endearing - the hard man and the helpless stray. Pansy might be a good thing all around. Pets helped settle people.

He cut up the salad greens and set them aside. Then he fried the bacon.

"Need any help?" Bodie called. From where he stood, Ray could see Bodie sprawled comfortably on the couch, Pansy curled up on his crotch.

"Nah, be ready in two ticks. World's greatest slap-up spaghetti."

The garlic was cooking in the pan, and the pasta was boiling, so Ray began to crush the herbs he wanted to use - oregano, a healthy handful of basil...he found an unlabelled bottle among the herbs, so he opened it and sniffed. It smelled wonderful, so he added a liberal pinch to the mortar, and ground the mixture. It gave off a heady aroma. Ray added a pinch more of the unlabelled herb, and took a pinch for himself. It tasted fabulous. "Bodie' s gonna love this," he told himself with a little chuckle. "Wonder what it is."

Bodie was almost asleep when a crash woke him. "Ray?"

There were giggles from the kitchen. "'s okay, 's okay - just dripped...dropped me spoon." Another loud bang and a burst of laughter.

"Dropped it again, didn' I?"

Bodie sat up and Pansy dug her claws into his thigh. "You all right?"

More giggles - not a Doyle-like noise. "This is primo spaghetti, Bodie."

"Almost ready?"


"I said..."

Ray ran out of the kitchen, stark naked, and flung himself on a startled Bodie (dislodging an even more startled Pansy from her nest.

"Ohgodbodiescratchmybelly!" He rubbed his face against Bodie's and nipped his ear.

"Ow! What the 'ell..."

"Scratch my belly!"


Suddenly Beelzy was rolling around on Bodie's chest, purring loudly and biting Bodie's hands. Pansy hissed a tiny kitten hiss from the safety of the top of the drapes. Beelzy took off like a shot, ran headfirst into the wall, bounced off, yowled, and began to chase his tail, knocking over a lamp and a chair as he went. The phone rang.

"Three-three-seven-nine!" Bodie yelled, trying to make himself heard over the noise.

"What's that commotion, man?" Cowley "Er, um, it's Doyle...sir."



"I don't suppose you'd like to explain?"


"Carry on, then. Have him call me...when he's through."

"Thank you, sir," he said, and rang off.

"Let's fuck!" Doyle purred, running remarkably sharp nails down his back, under his shirt.

"What's got into you?"

"Nothing yet, but I can hope...cummon Bodie, don't be so stodgy."

A leg tangled between Bodie's and he fell in a heap with Doyle on top, tearing at his clothes, biting scratching, licking and giggling like a loony. He managed to bear the business part of Bodie, then knelt in front of him, asking to be mounted. The noise he made when he got what he wanted was incredible.

The phone rang again, Bodie ignored it.

Afterwards they lay in a damp tangle and Doyle chuckled to himself - a noise of complete satisfaction. "God, that was fantastic!"

The phone rang yet again, and Ray answered this time. "Honeymoon cottage."

Bodie prayed it wasn't the Cow. "Oh, hi, Mrs Ritter. No, the kitten is just fine. Noise? No, I didn't hear any noise. Maybe it was outside - catfight or something. I'll ask Bodie. Did you hear a terrible noise just a few minutes ago?" he asked with a straight face. Bodie could only stare at him. "No, I don't think he did. He's sort of tired. Yes, okay. G' night, Mrs Ritter." He hung up the phone. "Goodness, I'm hungry. I wonder if the pasta is overcooked."

Bodie watched him get up and go back to the kitchen where he retrieved his rob from the top of the refrigerator and went back to fixing dinner as though nothing had happened. Bodie on the other hand, felt as though he'd been run over by a steamroller.

"You're going to love this," Ray promised as he set a generous plate of spaghetti in front of Bodie. "Smells wonderful, doesn't it?" He set a little plate of pasta at the end of the table and set Pansy in front of it.

"You don't mind her having a place at the table, do you?"

"Would it make any difference if I did?"

Ray tilted his head and stared at Bodie, a smile quirking the corners of his mouth. "Do you think I ride roughshod over you, Bodie?"


Long fingers crept under Bodie's shirt, and a tongue snaked into his ear.

"Damn cat," he muttered when they were withdrawn, and Ray sat down to eat.

Pansy ate greedily for a few minutes, then began to roll around on top of the table, purring madly.

"She likes my spaghetti," Ray said, twirling his fork in a pile of pasta.

Pansy rolled off the table top.

"What the hell is the matter with you two?" Bodie asked as he suddenly found Ray in his lap, kissing his cheek and biting his hair. "What's in that spaghetti?"

"Just what you see...Bodie, take me to bed."

"I haven't got the energy. Pasta, butter, egg, bacon..."

"Garlic and herbs. Finish it then. It'll give you the energy." He stuck his tongue in Bodie's other ear and Bodie's hair stood on end. Pansy climbed up his trouser leg.

"How can I eat with your hands inside my pants?" he asked plaintively as Ray went on exploring. "Jesus, that's enough!" He put Pansy on the table and pushed Ray off his lap. "I don't know what's going on...what herbs?"

"The ones in the cabinet. Don't you ant to make love with me, Bodie?" Ray looked sulky and altogether desirable, his robe slipping off one shoulder and his curls wildly tousled.

"Was there one in an unlabelled bottle?"

"Yeh, I think so. Sure, it's the one that smelled so good."

Bodie started to laugh again. He laughed until he was sore.

"What's so sodding funny?"



"Catnip...the b-b-bottle!"

"That was catnip?"

"Mrs Ritter brought it for Pansy." Bodie wiped his eyes on his napkin. "I asked her if she had anything like it for people."

Ray sat down and chuckled. "I just had a wonderful thought, Bodie."

"Which is?" He had ambivalent feelings about the plate of pasta in front of him, but he began to eat anyway.

"We ought to have Murph over for supper some night..." Ray couldn't finish the thought. He buried his face in his napkin and howled with laughter.

Bodie choked on a mouthful of spaghetti. "Let's go to bed," he suggested.

"I wish you could feel the way I feel, Bodie." Ray was rolling around on the bed, rubbing his face against the pillows, stretching and yawning. He looked as though he was having a wonderful time, and Bodie began to wish the same.

"Ah, but I'm immune. I'm not a cat."

"Aren't you? You're a leopard." Ray held out his arms and Bodie slipped into them. "You're a big cat, a hunter." Ray's breath smelled sweetly of herbs as Bodie kissed him. "I wish you could feel the way I do," he repeated.

"I want what you want," Bodie whispered, and used his power consciously, to please himself. He felt strange...not quite in control, not quite out. He felt utterly sensual - the feel of cool sheets, warm flesh, soft body hair, all unbearably arousing. He felt wild and completely free. Their mating was like nothing he'd ever known before.

Bodie woke in a demolished bed. The lights were still burning. Ray was curled up against the headboard, snoring softly. His bladder was uncomfortably full, but when he tried to get u he fell in a tangle of damp sheet. He managed to untangle himself and stumble off to the loo where he lifted the seat, shut his eyes, and waited.

It'd been incredible, he thought. He was scratched and bitten and utterly satisfied, and though it wasn't something he'd want every time they made love, it made a nice change.

Something not quite...he opened his eyes and looked down to see a little taffy-coloured paw reaching out from between his legs towards the family jewels. "Pansy, stop that!" He tried to grab for her, but couldn't without making a mess. "Get down, get down!" Something very cold and wet pressed against his balls and he yelped. A soft paw patted his cock. "Ray!"

There was a thud, a muffled curse and the sound of Ray stumbling towards the loo. "Whasup?"

"Get the cat...please!"

Pansy's head was nudging his balls as she watched him pee, fascinated by the stream of water. A paw reached out...


"I have to get a picture of this."

"Goddammit!" Bodie gritted his teeth and tried to finish, but his bladder was taking it's own time. Pansy began to slap at the water. "Pansy, cut that out." He tried to sound stern, but by now he was seeing the funny side of the situation. He trapped her between his thighs while he finished, then grabbed her and gave her a shake. "You're as bad as Ray is," he grumbled, nuzzling her soft fur.

Ray ran back in. "Aw, you stopped."

"How long did you think I could go on?" He turned on the tap and stuck Pansy's paws under the water.

"What're you doing to that cat?"

"We're washing our paws, thank you. We need it." He washed and dried his own hands as well, then carried Pansy out to the bedroom. "Now we are going back to sleep, puss. You may sleep with us if you promise to be good."

Ray was straightening the bedclothes. "You think that'll do any good?"

"Works with you, doesn't it?"

"Does it?"

"Sometimes," Bodie admitted.

They crawled under the duvet, and Bodie deposited Pansy on top of it where she spent the next five minutes walking up and down all over them, trying to find just the right spot in which to sleep. She finally settled between Ray 's knees.

"Know what this feels like?" Ray asked, just as Bodie was falling into sleep.


"A family."

"At last," Bodie sighed as he draped his arm across Ray's chest. "Took us long enough."

--Litha 1983

It's Only a Beautiful Persian

Cowley was in a fine temper when I entered his office, and I wondered just what it was I'd done to get up his nose like this.

Then I saw Murph, and I knew it wasn't me 'ad the old man's back up.

Relieved as I was, I couldn't help feeling sorry for poor old Murph.

"Sit down, Doyle."

I slipped into the chair next to Murphy's.

"You know, I expect, that agent Murphy's talent is the same as yours. You may know also that he has had some problem learning control."

He's not wasting any time on preliminaries is he, I thought.

"I speak of the use and abuse - " here he directed a hard look at Murphy, - of said talent and not the control you had to learn recently. I don't doubt some of the same lack spills over into other facets of his life."

The sarcasm was deadly. Murphy was squirming.

"I've been as patient as my situation would allow - more perhaps because I appreciate the difficulties involved in dealing with power - but Murphy has placed me in an impossible position to which I can find no acceptable solution. My initial inclination was to terminate his employment, but I rejected this because I can ill-afford to lose a fully-trained and experienced operative, and I balk at turning him loose on the British public."

He was going for the jugular, and I wondered what the point of this exercise was. Usually he chewed you out privately, or fired you...or put you on some sort of duty that made you wish you were dead. He rarely aired anyone's dirty linen in front of another agent.

"In his zeal to make a water-tight case against Frank Ambrose, he took it upon himself to become Ambrose during the commission of a crime."

"Murph broke the law?" I choked.

"Not precisely." Cowley was wearing his prissy expression which gave one the impression something nearby had begun to go bad. "We had information that an arms shipment might be hijacked yesterday on its way north. While Military Intelligence was in charge of the operation, I was able to send 6.2 and 4.7 along because of the internal security angle. 6.2, on recognizing members of the hijack team as Ambrose's men, became Ambrose and implicated himself in the actual hijacking. He then, naturally, disappeared to return to his own form. A number of witnesses identified what they thought was Ambrose, and Ambrose's fingerprints were found on the scene..."

Privately, I was impressed - Ambrose right down to the prints? Amazing.

"When Ambrose was brought in, he denied everything and threatened to sue, saying he'd been set up, which, in essence, he had bee. The weight of the evidence is against him, of course. I consider it fortunate some of the hijackers have signed statements to the effect he was the brains behind the job. However, the chances were good that some of them would have done so in any case."

Murph muttered something I couldn't make out, and Cowley pretended he hadn't heard anything.

"6.2 put himself in considerable danger, risked the operation and took it upon himself to implicate a man on the basis of a hunch."

"You know he..." Murphy began.

"I knew nothing at..."

"You know he planned it!" Murphy shouted. "The others have admitted it!"

"But at the time you did not know, not did I. And you will please remain silent while I speak to Doyle."

I examined a non-existent hangnail. This was uncomfortable at best. I could empathise with the urge to cut through all the red tape; it had come on me often enough in my career. Yet I knew what he'd done was wrong; it violated every ethical standard I could think of. It violated the ethics of our kind - those who must live by a strong code. To me this last was the most damning - the betrayal of the thing we worked so hard to uphold.

"If I was able to disclose the truth, I'd throw him to the wolves," Cowley said quietly. Then he sat down and shut his eyes as though he was trying to calm himself. "Doyle, I want you to work with him. Knock some sense into him."

"If I can't?"

"Then I'll ask Dahout to deal with the problem."

Made me go all cold, that did. What he meant was that he'd ask her to take the power from Murphy; take it away like a diseased limb or organ. It was a crippling process.

"I'm willing if Murph'll help me," I told them. Truth was, I hated the idea. Murphy and I have never got on really well. Partly jealousy, I expect, and partly something I'd never bothered to wonder about.

Murphy was staring past Cowley. He nodded stiffly in agreement.

"You have a fortnight. Dismissed."

Murphy followed me out of the office and down the hall. What the hell was I going to do with him? Christ, I was still learning myself; hardly the one to be teaching Murphy.

"Look," I said, "I'll level with you. I don't know where to start."

"Why don't you start with the 'I believes'," he snapped. "Tell me how to be a good little boy so God will love me...or Cowley which is much more important, innit?"

So much anger.

"We have to work together for two weeks," I shouted to his retreating back.

"We ought to have a little respect for each other!"

"Sod you!" he shouted back without turning around.

I called Bea as soon as I got home. She was still up in Scotland with Jeff and Dahout and the babies. "Can you help?" I asked, after explaining the problem.

"I've never been able to do more than control Murphy's more foolish urges,"

she admitted, "but I'd dearly love to help him deal with this. I've made some notes on the subject - I'll bring them along, shall I?"

"You're a saint, Bea," I said with a laugh.

"Heaven forbid. I'll come tomorrow evening: can I use the gate at your headquarters?"

I told her I didn't think Cowley would mind.

"I suggest you call Colette and see if she can help. She's handled harder cases. Is Bodie going to be working with us?"

"I don't know. I doubt it. Why?"

"Oh, just something I wanted to discuss with him. Perhaps I can talk to him before we begin." Then she rang off and I called Colette.

"Help!" I said as soon as I heard her voice.

"What help do you need, my baby?"

"Tell me in twenty-five words or less how to tame a wild shape-shifter."

"In two: don't even try."

I explained the situation yet again, and to my surprise she began to chuckle.

"What's so sodding funny?" I demanded, feeling put out.

"Now you know how I've felt with some of my babies. It's the first step on the road to being a good teacher, Ray. You have to know the fear of not being able to help."

"Can't you give me a few pointers...anything?" I massaged my temples hoping to chase away what promised to become a whacking great headache. "I only have a fortnight and I don't even know where to begin. Bea's going to help, but she can't do what needs to be done, or it'd be done already. I don't know..."

"Bea's coming down?" She sounded startled.

"Yeah...why shouldn't she?"

" reason, really, I suppose."


"Where do you think you should start, Ray? You were a good student; I expect you'll be a good teacher if you put your mind to it."

"Colette, how will I know if I succeed or not? If he's a good actor, he could fool all of us..."

"Not all. Bea would know, George, Dahout..."


"Yes, I probably would know, too." She laughed. "But I can do better than give you some pointers. How'd you like to come out for a visit? Bring Murphy along, I'd like to meet him. Bea, too. Sometimes it's easier if you take your student out of their environment - makes them more vulnerable and dependant on you."

"Don't know if Cowley'd agree," I said, privately thinking that he might if this didn't cost him anything.

"You leave George to me, sweetheart."

"Then yes, yes, yes, we'll come. When?"

"Tomorrow night? I'll have to come get you since Bea can't work the gates for so many people. Let me call George now. You go get packed."

I was elated at the thought of seeing her again. But while we were saying our goodbyes, Bodie came home and my spirits plummeted. How could I leave him to go off to San Francisco even for a couple of weeks? I must have broadcast my dismay because he came over and cuddled me. He's a sweet lover.

"I have something important to tell you," I said.

"We're preggers?"

The bastard always makes me laugh when I feel least inclined.

"You berk, this is serious. The Cow's given me a special assignment to be Murphy's teacher."

"And what are you supposed to be teaching him?"

"Cat magic."

He detached himself from me and went over to pour a drink. "He's already quite good at that, isn't he?" he asked stiffly. His relationship with Murph had never quite recovered after the unpleasantness at The Green King last June.

"On all the practical bits, I suppose he is," I admitted. "He does have some problems with his ethical standards, though."

"Tell me something new."

Pansy minced out and began to rub against his leg, and he picked her up and cuddled her for a moment before he handed me my drink. "Why you?" he asked.

"Because Cowley says so. Christ, I don't know. I don't want to do this.

Murphy and I don't even like each other much."

"Colette could do it, couldn't she?"

"She's going to help, but I'm not sure she's the right person for the job.

Anyway, Cowley asked me and..."

"And Bob's yer uncle, eh? Well, good luck and how long will this take, do you think?" he was becoming stroppy for no good reason and it got up me nose a bit.

"A fortnight, give or take. I plan to spend part of the time with Colette and Bea in San Francisco." The minute I said it I wanted to bite my tongue.

Bodie stiffened, turned and smiled a brittle smile. "Well, then, a bon voyage," he said, lifting his glass in salute. "And will you be leaving immediately or are you dining in?"

"Bodie, I'm sorry. Don't be so..." But he left the room without another word.

I was about to go after him when Cowley called, so I growled at him for a few minutes while he informed me that the plans to stay with Colette were approved. "Bodie doesn't like this idea, does he?" he asked.

"Is it quite ethical to read minds?" I asked, rather sarky.

"I never have to with you - you broadcast everything. It doesn't take a genius to realize it's Bodie problems making you difficult."

"He's not happy about any of this, and I can't say I am either...with the exception of seeing Colette," I amended. "I don't suppose he could..."

"Right again, Doyle. I need him here. Och, you two are grown men, aren't you? You're not joined at the damn hip!"

"Not at the moment sir," I replied, fighting the urge to laugh.

"Your sense of humour is sophomoric at best, my lad. I'll contact Murphy and have him here tomorrow evening between six and seven. Be there."

"Yessir," I said, and he rang off. God, how I resented Murphy for putting my personal life in jeopardy, and for fouling up my professional one as well. It was not a good beginning to the project.

I started supper, and while I was tossing the salad Bodie came into the kitchen. He was wearing a bathrobe and the kitten. His hair was damp and curled endearingly despite obvious efforts to torture it into its usual style. I couldn't resist mussing it, but to my surprise he didn't grumble about it. "Ought to wear it a bit longer. Curls suit you."

"Ray, I'm sorry for being such a shit."

"My fault too. I had no right to throw my plans at you like that. I knew they'd make you unhappy. Pax?"

"Yeah. You leaving tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow evening. I asked Cowley if you could come along and he said he needed you just now. Something big?"

Bodie shrugged and took a slice of tomato out of the salad. "Could be. He doesn't always confide in me, but I think it has to do with meting Medved on Tuesday." He began to lay the table while I finished the potatoes. "You know they're setting up a trade - Litvak for one of our lads. I think he wants me along to make sure everything stays on the up and up. All very murky though."

We sat down to eat, but I didn't have much of an appetite. "Be careful, Bodie." The idea of letting him go into a potentially dangerous situation without me to guard his back was putting me off my food. I suppose it was foolish to worry since Cowley had been ultra careful with Bodie since his power had begun to develop into something useful. Bodie was too precious to both of us.

"Why aren't you eating?"

"Hmm? Oh, just wool-gathering." I ate, but I didn't taste much. "I hate the idea of leaving you," I admitted.

We did the washing up, and Bodie wanted to watch the match, so I went off to bed to read. But I found myself thinking about Murphy, and how I was going to deal with something I didn't entirely understand. Bea had said she had notes on him which made me think I might do well to do the same. I thought about using my journal, but decided not to mix business with...navel contemplation? Whatever. I found a little notebook and a pen and began to jot down some ideas and questions I'd thought of since the interview this afternoon.

1) I don't want to be doing this.

2) I resent being forced to do this.

With that committed to paper I relaxed a bit.

3) What exactly is Murphy's problem? Cowley as much as said it had something to do with a lack of self-control. Is it that he has control of the technical side of his talent, but not of the emotions it raises?

4) Am I the best person to be helping him with this? I'm hardly out of the student phase myself. Do I have any right to tell him what is and is not ethical when I've caught myself using my own power for reasons that don' t always bear careful investigation?

And then I thought: does it matter, really? So I wrote it down.

5) Does it matter, really? Somebody has to do it. At least I accept that there are standards to be followed. Murphy doesn't seem willing to acknowledge even that much.

6) How long has Murphy been an active shape-shifter?

7) Who taught him how to use the talent? Why didn't this person teach him all the rest of it?

I was scratching away on this last bit when Bodie came in and flopped down beside me. "Writin' me a love letter, sunshine?"

"Might be." I put the notebook down and rolled over to face him. "Won't send it until I get to the States though - be too mushy to deliver in person."

"Didn't think sloppy emotions were your style." His hair had dried all mussed, and he looked rather waiflike. "You never send me flowers," he pouted.

"Who won?"

"Dunno. I fell asleep.

"Feed Pansy before you came to bed?"


I switched off the light and cuddled up beside him. "Christ, but I'm going to miss this," I muttered as we managed to wriggle into the most comfortable position, somewhere between close and entwined. I felt Pansy hop up on the bed and step onto my bum. "I thing she sharpens her claws before she walks on me. God, I don't want to do this."

"Shall I wish Murphy into a toad? Ribbit, ribbit..."

I started to laugh and Pansy squeaked her disapproval and stepped onto Bodie 's hip.

"Ouch! How can such a little cat weigh so much? Never mind, Ray, go to sleep. Things'll look better tomorrow, I promise. They always do, don't they?"

I had to admit he was right, and since I was feeling so sleepy and content, I had no real objection to his suggestion. Just before I fell asleep I thought of number eight.

8) How the hell does Murph do fingerprints?

Bodie was gone by the time I woke up, and I rather wished he'd woken me so we could have had time for a proper goodbye. I lay about for a few minutes, savouring the luxury of not having to get up and bounce into work even though I was on assignment - technically. Pansy was curled up in the crook of my elbow, washing herself with a vast indifference to my problems that was comforting. "Pansy, he still loves me, doesn't he?" I asked her, and she yawned in my face, which made me think we should feed her less fish.

There was a note in the kitchen: "I love you and will you go shopping before you leave today?" And a list of things we needed.

"Unromantic, that's 'is problem," I told Pansy, who wisely stayed out of it.

Cats are born diplomats...except for Beelzy.

But I did the shopping anyway, and laid in a few things I knew he'd enjoy - little treats. I guess you could say Bodie brings out my maternal instincts.

He called while I was having lunch with Pansy in front of the telly.

"'lo, Ray, the Cow wants you here a bit early tonight."

"Who is this speaking?" I asked loftily.

"Bodie...what's wrong?"

"Oh, Bodie...yes, I remember. You're the bloke who lives here, aren't you?

So easy to forget."

There was a moment of silence, then: "I thought you should sleep. Are you really upset?"

"No, I think it was the note: 'I-love-you-do-the-shopping-before-you-go.'"

He began to laugh. "Did you do it?"

"Of course I bloody did it!" I yelled. "At lest you said 'I love you,' I suppose one should be grateful for small mercies, eh? You going to be there this afternoon?" I asked, feeling a little wistful.

"Might...might not. Can you offer some inducement?"

"My body?"

He pretended to consider it. "I suppose it's enough."

"You bastard. Christ, how much earlier does Cowley want me to come in?" I asked, wondering if it'd be best just to leave now.

"He doesn't. I was laying a trap for you, my succulent little pigeon. I wanted you to come in early so I could ravish you under the desk."


"It's the way you walk, Ray, I've told you and told you..."

"More comfortable here, you know. Can't you leave a bit early?"

"Wellllllll...I might be able to make some arrangements. See you about four?"

"It's a little pigeon."

It was almost four-thirty when he arrived looking harassed. "Bloody Cowley kept sending down reports for me to look over. He'd still be doing it if Lee hadn't brought in a suspect in that French embassy kidnapping." He sighed with real feeling and flopped down on the bed. "I'm knackered," he groaned.

"From a day of reading reports? No stamina, mate, that's your problem," I told him as I began to strip off his clothes. "Think I'll trade you in for a new model, or maybe I'll send you off to Macklin for a weekend."

"No use, I couldn't fancy him." He began to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"I was just thinking - seems sort of silly, doesn't it? I mean, two grown men; two of this country's real tough guys planning a dirty afternoon away from the office just because they can't stand the idea of being parted for a few weeks. Like a couple of spotty teenagers, we are." He lifted his hips so I could pull of his trousers.

"You speak for your own spots, sunshine. Me, I'm protectin' my interests.

When I'm through with you, you won't have the energy to be unfaithful."

And then I jumped him.

I'd set the clock for half past five, just in case, and when it went off, Bodie groaned and pulled the sheet over his face. "I can't move," he complained.

I tried to hop out of bed, real spritely-like, but gave up the idea before my feet hit the floor. "One thing you can say, sport, no spotty teenager ever had half so much fun."

"Or was half as sore afterwards. Was that a particularly good one, or am I just getting old?"

We thought about that one for a moment. "Both," we decided in unison.

So Bodie helped me pack and drove me to HQ, and hung about looking deserted until Cowley showed up and took pity on him.

"Never mind, laddie, he'll be back before you know it. Come and have supper with me tonight, why don't you?"

After he left, Bodie nudged me in the ribs. "Hear that?"

"Pity, that's all it is. You didn't hear him offering to buy, did you?

Probably stick you with the tab."

"'as designs on my body," he said confidentially.

That made me laugh.

A few minutes later Bea arrived and I was surprised to see she looked quite ill. Her skin was chalky and her hair dull and dry-looking. She looked haggard.

"Before you ask, I'm not sick, I'm pregnant."

"You could have fooled us," Bodie observed as he steered her onto the sofa.

"When's it due?"

"Around Candlemas next year. I'm just shy of three months gone. It's a Beltaine baby," she said with a reminiscent smile. "I'm having a rather difficult pregnancy," she said rather unnecessarily. "It's my first." Her hand curled protectively over her abdomen. "And as I'm thirty-four, likely to be my only one. Jeff's been so understanding - I'd like us to have one healthy baby, at least."

"Christ, you should be travelling," Bodie told her, slipping an arm around her shoulders.

"I know," she said, "but, well, I had ulterior motives. Bodie, I know it's wrong to ask this, but I...oh!" Her eyes widened.

"You all right?" I asked, feeling completely lost in the realm of women's things.

"Fine...perfect, I think." She glanced at Bodie who looked vaguely embarrassed. "Did you just..."

"Sometimes I still anticipate," he admitted. "I apologize for doing it before you asked. I assume that you were going to ask."

I had to admit the change in Bea was amazing; the colour had come back into her cheeks and her hair looked softer and shinier. Even her eyes seemed brighter. It was a fairly dramatic example of just what Bodie could do when he wanted to.

"Would you like something to eat?" Bodie asked her. "I can fetch something from the canteen."

"Yes I would. Thank you." She looked a little dazed too, and I couldn't blame her. "I'm suddenly very hungry."

"It's the good London air. Ray, make some tea?"

After he left, she turned to me. "I had no idea he could do it just like that."

I set the kettle on the hotplate. "Bea, why didn't Dahout help you?"

"She couldn't'." Bea sighed. "Since that babies were born things have been different for all of us. Dahout is different; you'd hardly know her. It seems that all the power has gone out of her."


"We don't know. She doesn't seem to miss it, and normally, we wouldn't either. But it came at a bad time. This has been a difficult year for us, what with two new babies, and one on the way, and not being able to depend on Dahout for all the things she used to do before the twins were born."

Just then Cowley returned with Colette. "My word," he exclaimed when he noticed the change in Bea.

"Bodie," she and I said in unison.

"Good lord."

"Tea, sir?"

"Yes, thank you. I think I need a cup." He sat down and frankly stared at Bea who by now had begun to look more like her old self. I was more than a little startled by the change as well.

Colette embraced us both, then settled down on the sofa beside Bea. "It's about time that boy began to earn his keep," she joked. "I was apprehensive," she said to Bea. "I thought it was foolish for you to volunteer for this."

"It was the only chance, really. I had no intention of leaving London without asking, even though I was hesitant."

Bodie reappeared then with a try full of food. "I thought the cake looked good, so I got enough for all of us." He moved a little table over in front of Bea and set a plate of steaming stew in front of her. "It's Irish stew.

You have to eat it all before you can have your cake."

To his vast surprise and evident discomfort, she burst into tears.

"What did I say?"

Colette began to laugh. "I imagine it's hormones," she said, at which Bea nodded and blew her nose on the napkin he'd given her. "Sometimes pregnancy does funny things to us."

"It's terrible," Bea agreed as she began to shovel the stew down even while she was wiping the tears away. "I cry at the strangest moments."

Funny, I thought, I used to think of her as being the ultimate in glamorous and mysterious women, and here she is eating like a trencherman and crying into her stew. Her eyes are puffy and her skin is blotchy from the tears, and she's still one of the loveliest women I've ever met.

"Women are strange," Bodie observed, "but they're bloody marvellous, aren't they?"

Cowley and I both nodded as we watched her devour the meal Bodie'd brought.

"That was delicious!" Bea said as she wiped up the last of the gravy with a slice of bread. "May I have my cake now, please, Bodie?"

"May I have mine?" Colette asked rather pointedly, and I realized that the kettle was boiling and Cowley, Bodie and I had been standing transfixed watching Bea eat.

I fixed the tea and we all settled down to talk. Bodie gave Bea his cake as well. I split my piece with him. Greater love hath no man, and all that.

Colette flirted with George the whole time, and I was surprised to see that he seemed to enjoy it, giving as good as he got. It was a very relaxed and happy group that Murphy walked into.

"How cosy," he said coldly as he took in the scene. "I see I'm too late for tea."

"You're late, period. I told you to be here an hour ago," Cowley snapped, all business once again. "Colette, lovely to see you again. Please don't be such a stranger in the future. Bea, I'm happy for you. Bodie, it's time for us to go."

Bodie pulled a face, but realized there was no point in arguing. He kissed me goodbye and slouched off with the Cow.

"Murph, I don't think you know Colette Caroll, my teacher. Colette, this is Kieran Murphy, the new Bad Boy of CI5."

He scowled at me, but acknowledged the introduction and went to sit beside Bea. "You all right?" he asked her, taking her hand.

"I'll tell you about it later, I promise."

"You coming along?"


It might have been my imagination, but Murphy looked relieved.

"I guess there's no choice, is there?" he asked. "Well, when do we start, and where? The Cow told me we were going to the States. I quite fancy a free vacation."

Our passage through the gates was new for me and for Murph. I found it a little hard to believe we could walk through a door at HQ and arrive in San Francisco a few seconds later. But Colette stood in the doorway and motioned each of us through. Bea went first, holding Murphy's hand, and I followed them. It was a strange sensation - I felt disorientated for a moment, the single step through the door seemed to take several minutes, during which I was nowhere at all. Then, suddenly, I stepped into a pool of sunshine. We came through a strange-looking piece of sculpture on a large, well-manicured lawn.

"The owner is one of us," Colette said as we gaped at an enormous and obviously expensive house. "Nothing says a pagan can't have buck, does it?

Leo's a good guy. Maybe someday I'll introduce you. Now I just want to go home."

The first thing I noticed when we arrived at Colette's was how much her home reflected her personality. It was a comfortable place, full of old furniture, books, plants, and animals. It was just the sort of home I expected her to have. Colette took Bea upstairs and put her to bed, despite Bea's protests that she felt fine.

"God, morning again," Murphy muttered as he stared out the big bay window into the sun-washed street. "We'll have to live this day all over again.

Depressing, innit?"

I didn't know what to say to him, where to begin.

"Was it necessary to bring me so far just to shake your beads and rattles at me?"

"Was Colette's idea," I told him. "She's my teacher and I trust her instincts."

"Well, that's nice for you."

"Murph, listen..."

"Don't have much choice, do I?"

"I'm not crazy about this either. Let's just get it over with."

"That's the first sensible thing I've heard all day. What do you want me to do?"

"Talk. Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your power."

He sat down in a threadbare brown wing chair and stared up at the ceiling.

"I'm the same age as Bodie, I have all my teeth, and I've been..." Here he faltered. "I've been a freak for two and a half years now. What else do you need to know?"

Colette entered the room and Murphy scowled at her.

"Can you stand the company of another freak, or shall I make my self scarce?" she asked him.

"Whatever you want," he said, ungraciously.

"Then I'll stay. Ray could do with a bit of moral support, I think."

I rolled my eyes and wondered why I'd agreed to this. It was all very well to say I'd been forced, but I hadn't really. I was doing it because there was no one else who could...or would. I was doing it for Murph. Because of this, his condescension rankled.

"Are there other shape-shifters in your family?"

"I don't have a family, unless you count Father McWilliams who raised me when my aunt died. I was four. I don't remember much of Aunt Mary and nothing of my family. Do you suppose it's likely they were freaks too?"

I was about to snap at him, when Colette took over.

"Possible, certainly," she told him. "What we're concerned with is the reason it took so many years to manifest itself. Bea tells me you're very talented."

Murphy snorted derisively, but he seemed uncomfortable.

"She says you've been good since the first. Is that true?"

"What's your criteria? Not being able to remember who you are? Lying in bed at night and not being sure you're even human?"

"No, that's what happens when you cannot or will not deal with the facts of your own life. What I want to know if the changes are physically easy for you to achieve."

"Too easy," he admitted.

"You can do fingerprints," I added and it came out sounding like an accusation. Colette narrowed her eyes at me and I shut my mouth.

"Can't you?" he asked me.

"Of course he can," Colette told him. "He just never bothered to check."

I caught myself looking at the pads of my fingers and Murphy laughed at me - a sound of genuine amusement that made me smile too. "I told you I was still learning."

"This came on you with no warning about two and a half years ago?"

Murph nodded.

"How did it begin?"

"Dreams. I would dream of animals, or people I knew. I'd dream I was an animal, or someone else. They were incredibly vivid dreams.

Disturbing...anyway, so long as they were dreams I didn't worry too much. It was when I began to daydream...I mean, like at night only during the day. I 'd be sitting, watching the television or reading, always something passive, and my mind would pop off somewhere else. By that time it was almost always into a forest, and I'd dream about being a bear. I could hear the forest sounds, smell the trees and the plants and scents of other animals. It was mad; I don't even like bears much," he said inanely.

"Then one morning, after a particularly vivid dream, I began to feel my mind drift off while I was trying to dress. I kept trying to shake off the urge to slip into one of the daydreams, but while I was shaving, the pressure became too strong. I felt almost the way you'd feel if you'd been drugged and couldn't fight it any longer. I just drifted off into one of my bear dreams. Only this time when I looked around, I wasn't in a forest, but in my flat, in the loo, paws on the basin. The face in the mirror was mine -, it was a bear. It was me." He paused for a moment, lost in the memory, no doubt. That first time is always with you. "After that I just knew what it is I could do. Someone else knew too."

"George," Colette said.

"Yeh. He talked to me about it; gave me to Bea. I..." He frowned. "You all seem to think I have a choice."

"You seem to think you have none," Colette replied.

"Do I?" he growled. "Short of suicide?"

"That's why you're here. I think..."

At that moment we all heard the front door open, and Murphy froze. A small, slender young woman burst into the room.

"Colette, I don't have time...oh! Forgive me, I didn't realise."

"Liar," Colette snapped, but she said it with affection. The girl was pretty, in an exotic way, dressed in jeans and a hot pink sweatshirt.

"True. I wanted to meet our guests."

"This is Jem. She lives here. Jem, this is Ray Doyle."

"The famous Ray Doyle? How nice." She shook my hand and winked at me.

"And this is Kieran Murphy."

"What a nice name. Do you answer to Kier?"


"Pity, it suits you. Hello." She extended her hand and he ignored it.

"Charming manners. Well, I'll just grab some yoghurt and be off. I'll be home for supper." She disappeared into the kitchen.

"Another lame duck?" I asked.

"Not so lame. This one adopted me. She seems to think that Mama Colette needs a mother. Tal brought her home."

"I'm going now." Jem returned, holding a yoghurt carton and plastic spoon.

"See you later, Colette, Ray. See you at supper, Kier, you crabby thing."

She dashed off, leaving me with the impression of something fey and insubstantial.

"I'm hungry," Murphy announced.

Colette stood up and stretched, cat-like and sensual. "I'll fix lunch. You two get settled."

Once upstairs, I found I was terribly tired. I lay down on the bed, intending only to rest for a few minutes, but when I opened my eyes again, the room was shadowy though the sky was still light. The sun must have moved to the other side of the house. I checked my watch and it said one.

I was still on London many hours difference? They hadn't called me to lunch which was just as well.

I got up, washed my face, and found a little clock on the dresser. Five p.m. Before I went back downstairs I decided to take a few minutes to set down some more impressions in my notebook.

9) No family background. This is frustrating. I was hoping for some sort of handle. On the other hand, it explains why Murph is so ignorant of this sort of thing. No one to teach him.

10) What brought this on? Why did he lead a normal life for so many years before this talent came on him with a vengeance?

I expect Murphy asked himself that all the time.

11) What's Murphy's real attitude towards his talent? If I have to spend the next month sifting through his defenses, I'll never accomplish anything.

How do I get through?

12) Do I tell him about myself? Would he care? Would it help? Can I do it?

That last bit, it bothered me. Colette knew, and Bodie, but I hated talking about that period of my life because the fear was still too fresh, too real.

I could taste it sometimes when I woke from a dream (yes, like the ones Murphy described. That took me back.) Or thought about my adolescence.

Telling Murph about the early years with Beelzy might open some old wounds.

13) Put yourself in his place. Would it help you?

I was going to have to tell him. Not right away though. Not just yet.

Bea came down for supper. She looked sleepy and beautiful, and I felt a momentary regret that she and I couldn't ever be more than friends now.

Momentary. She gave me the stack of notes she'd promised, and Murphy looked curious, but said nothing.

Jem was there too and kept the conversation going. "Colette's been telling me all about you, Ray," she said as she helped herself to seconds on everything. For a small girl she could really put the food away. "I've been longing to meet you. She said you're one of her more successful lame ducks."

"Well, thanks, Colette," I muttered while Murphy snickered.

"If there's anything I can do to help, just give me a call," Jem continued.

"Not that there's much I can do. I haven't got any manifest talent to speak of. I just plan to have babies."


" Bea. Colette's my partner. I'm going to have them and she and I are going to raise them, right mom?"

Colette grinned. "Right you are, my baby. I'm gonna be a mother at last...eventually. Jem has to finish school first, though. That's the deal.

She's studying stage design at the college where Jeff teaches."

"I'll be finished in December. I could start a baby tonight and still graduate."


"Jemima?" Murphy stifled a laugh.

"That's my real name, too weird for words, isn't it? Like Aunt Jemima. My mother didn't know. She was half Chinese and half Swedish and she thought Jemima was a nice American name. It would have okay if my dad hadn't been black. I'm entirely too nappy to be comfortable with the name. Still it's sorta funny."

"Who's Aunt Jemima?" Murphy asked.

"You'll find out at breakfast," Colette told him, leaving him as much in the dark as I was.

"And Jem has a nice lush sound to it, doesn't it? So I decided to keep the name."

I was just as glad Jem had a lot to say since I didn't feel much like talking. This afternoon's conversation, brief as it had been, had made me feel woefully inadequate to the task ahead of me. I didn't even know the right questions to ask! And when Colette suggested that we begin after supper, I observed that I was still very tired and that Murphy must be as well, and suggested we wait until morning so we could start fresh. Murphy's smile told me he thought I was a coward.

And so to bed, I thought a few hours later as I settled in under the covers and began to read Bea's notes. Research. Well, you can postpone the inevitable but you can't escape it.

The notes made interesting reading. Much of what she'd set down was a chronicle of Murphy's abilities. On such-and-such a date he became a cat to avoid rail-fare up to Scotland. (Oh yes, I remembered that date.) On another occasion he pretended to be Robert Redford in order to pull a bird.

It would have been funny had they been isolated incidents in a long and relatively clean history of his power. But the pages and pages of notes were filled with nothing but wilful misuse of his talent. It was as if Murphy was trying to be as unethical as possible. It was as if...

Bea had heard the cry for help, but had been unable to answer it. She'd contented herself with drawing him away from the worst misuses, but beyond that could find no cure, no answer to Murphy's needs.

There was a soft click and the door opened slightly. Bea.

"May I come in?" she asked. "I've been wanting to talk to you."

"Of course. How are you feeling?"

"Much better, thank you. Have you read those?" she asked, gesturing at the pile of notes.

"There's a lot to read," I admitted, gathering them into a pile. "I've skimmed most of them. I think I have my work cut out for me."

She nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed. "You know, Ray, you and I have some unfinished business." Her hand closed over mine and I had a moment of utter panic.

And then, comprehension.

"No, not Bea and I."


"Bea and I have achieved the balance. It's you and I that I worry about."

After a moment, Murphy was sitting on the bed. "How did you know?"

"Sloppy thinking, Murph. Of all the women in the house, she's the last who would come to my bed. Or did you want me to guess?"

"Maybe." He stood up and began to wonder around the room, inspecting everything. "Or perhaps I just think beyond what I know about you."

"Which is?" I asked with some trepidation.

"That you've always wanted Bea to yourself."

"Not entirely accurate, but I'll let it stand. I'm more interested in your motives."

He shrugged. "Thoroughly impure. I wanted to finish what you started at The Green King."

"You can do better than that," I told him, tucking the notes into the drawer of the bedside table.

"Don't suppose you'd let me read those?"

"You'll have to ask Bea. Try again."

"You're enjoying this," he accused.

I was about to protest, to tell him that on a scale of one to ten this ranked only slightly above being chewed out by Cowley, and somewhat below a flesh wound. The look in his eyes stopped me. "Enjoy might be too strong a word. I'm intrigued," I confessed.

For a moment I thought he was going to snap at me, but his mouth twisted into a smile that conveyed only a touch of humour. "Intrigued? Why?"

"Because your experience is so different from my own. Colette and I were born into it, and I thought you'd been as well. It came on both of us at puberty."

He sat on the edge of the bed. "So why...look, Ray, I know you're here to help, but all I want is to be rid of this. I can't feel any gratitude.

This is killing me."

He stood abruptly and left the room before I could think of anything to say.

In the silence that followed, I sat and thought about what he'd said. I began to write: 14) He says he wants to be rid of his talent, and perhaps it would be for the best. Dahout could do it, but Bea tells me that Dahout has lost...or misplaced her power. Could Bodie do it? Would he? And what would it do to him?

I knew I couldn't ask it of him. I didn't sleep well that night. I had the strangest dream.

I was in a little room with Madame Ojuka and everything was white - the walls, the chairs we were sitting on, her clothes, mine - everything. She said to me: "I thought, at first, that my life had been lived to no purpose, but now I see what I have done was beyond my estimation. I leave it to you to finish it."

Then I saw Jem. She was dressed like a gypsy with red and blue ribbons in her black hair and a warm glow to her caf au lait skin. She looked beautiful and desirable and she said: "You owe me service, Red-hair. You owe me a life."

Where, I asked myself, did that come from?

Finally I was standing beside a tree - an old oak, I think it was - and a very old woman, clad in pale lavender, approached me. "It is not I who bound you," she told me before she walked off towards the setting sun.

Colette woke me before she left for work. "There's breakfast food in the fridge and the coffee is ready to go. Just press the 'on' button. I'm taking Bea with me today; I want her to see a specialist I know just to make sure everything is okay. We'll be home about six. Kev and the boys are bringing supper so you're on your own until then, 'kay?"


"You'll do just fine, sweetheart. Murphy's still asleep. Feed the cats, will you?"

As I dressed I found myself wondering what it all meant - the dream, that is. It was so strange - so unexpected.

I knew I should wake Murphy, but decided to postpone the inevitable long enough to have a cup of coffee and plan my course of attack. I had to make Murphy want to control his talent. I was beginning to realise that being a successful teacher was a positive use of power. I think I needed to feel that shapeshifting was more than a freakish curse, or a sort of occult toy to be used as a diversion - or a weapon. Perhaps I looked at Murph, and some part of me recognised 'there but for the grace of God' and all that.

While I was drinking my coffee and thinking, Murph stumbled down and sat opposite me. "I slept like the dead," he told me. "Is there any more coffee?"

I poured him a cup and he muttered "Thank you."

"You said you were raised by a priest?" I asked. He nodded. "You a practicing Catholic?"

"Not really...why?"

"I was wondering if you were having any problems in that area?"

"Probably. I don't know," he confessed. "I try not to think about God.

What about you?"

"The gods I believe in..."

"Gods?" He snorted. "Is this going to be a theology lesson?"

"Only if you want it to be. You did ask," I reminded him, feeling a little put out. "Forget I said anything."

"No, tell me."

"I'm not sure you're ready for it." I wasn't sure I was ready to explain.

Putting into words what you believe is never easy, unless you're the type to take what you're taught as, literally, gospel. "Do you know anything about the old religion? Paganism?"

"Saints preserve us," he drawled, sounding as though he was just off the boat from Belfast. "A pagan, is he? And will you be sacrificing infants on a stone altar?"

"Let's just skip it." I got up and started fixing breakfast. "Eggs and bacon all right with you?"

"I'm sorry."



"Do you want any breakfast?" I demanded.

"They will be fine, thank you."

The silence was deadly, and I knew I'd made a mistake with him already.

There was no point in being oversensitive with Murphy, when he found it so easy to insult people.

"It's Bodie, isn't it?" The question was so unexpected, all I could do was gape.


"It's Bodie. That's part of what's wrong between us, isn't it? That's why we antagonize each other so much."

I didn't answer him right away, though I thought seriously about the question while I cooked.

"I suppose you're right," I admitted at last. "I know what you want and it eats at me. We've always had him between us."

"And if I had my way, you'd be out on your shapely arse in a split second.

Believe me, Ray, if I thought there was a chance for me, I'd take it."


He looked blank for a moment and I thought, "Good, I've startled you, you bastard.' "Because I want him," he said.

I filled his plate with bacon and eggs and toast. "No law says you have to tell me the truth," I observed. Then I served myself and sat down to eat.

When I looked up he was staring at me.

"Because he's like a flame," Murphy whispered. "He burns brighter than anyone I've ever known. I need him."

And I knew this to be the truth because I'd felt the flame too. But after that there didn't seem much more to say, so we ate in silence.

"What is it you pagans do?" Murphy asked while we washed up.

"We believe in magic, we reverence nature, we try to lead good lives."

"That last bit sounds a little suspect to me. Are you sure you aren't Christian sheep in wolf's clothing?"

I couldn't help but smile. "There's nothing in paganism to deny Christianity in its pure form. You know, all the great teachers said pretty much the same thing."

"Love one another? Nice words."

"As an ideal, Murph."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. So where does that leave me? I was raised to be a good catholic boy. Father McWilliams would be spinning in his grave...if he was dead."

"Look, the only reason I brought it up in the first place was to explain how it was that I learned to deal with the emotional problems inherent in having a talent like this. Belief in this sort of thing is part of my background,"

I told him as I put away the last plate and folded the towel. "When I first started to change, I couldn't control it - literally, Murph, I became a cat eight times a year no matter what. I had no say in the matter." There, it was out.

"You mean you couldn't not change?"


"How old were you?"

"Fourteen. It was traumatic," I told him, with a wry appreciation for my own understatement.

"And Colette?"

"She told me she underwent a sort of ritual at puberty that made her receptive to whatever talent she was born with. She never told me much about it, though. I just know that she was prepared to deal with whatever it was."

He dried his hands and wandered out of the kitchen. I followed.

"You people..." he began. "You pagans are used to this sort of thing? Then why couldn't you control it at first?"

I debated with myself about telling him the story of my life, and honesty won. I took a deep breath.

"It was a family curse. All right, laugh if you want to," I told him when I saw his face twist up into a grimace at the word 'curse.' "But it killed my aunt. My mother knew about it and never prepared me for it. To please my father she became a catholic after I was born."

"Well, and we both know they take a dim view of people turning into animals on any regular basis, don't we?"

I smiled. "Very dim. Didn't stop me, though. Nothing did until I met Colette and she began to teach me. The story of my life in a nutshell," I said as I opened the window.

"My God, but it's hot in here this time of year, innit? Couldn't you have found a teacher in a pleasanter part of the country?" He sat down and stretched out. "I can change when I want to - no problem. What is it you think you can teach me?"

"How to change only if you need to."

"When's that?" This was a direct challenge; I could feel it.

"Maybe once a year. It keeps the beast at bay, as Colette puts it." He frowned, but said nothing, so I bashed on. "She says she find it easier to get away from everything about once a year and give her totem animal a day in which to run wild. It helps keep the balance."

"Totem animal? Balance? This sounds like some crackpot cult already. I don't know..." He sighed and shut his eyes.

I was doing this badly; I wasn't making any progress. "When do you think you need to change?" I asked him.

"Whenever I forget who I am. Whenever I see the bear in the mirror.

Whenever Murphy isn't enough anymore...all the time. I'm lost, Ray. I don't want this. Can't you take it from me?"

I shook my head. "I don't have that power."

"Colette then, or Cowley?"

"Murph, listen..." But before I could reach out to him, he changed into Bodie. "Stop that!"

"Stop what? Ray, I miss you," he whispered.

"Murphy, don't do this!"

He advanced on me, still looking like Bodie. "I could make you happy, couldn't I?" he asked. "You'd like to try, to see how I compare. You're fascinated by what I can do, aren't you?"

"I'm appalled at what you're willing to do! Get away from me, you make my skin crawl."

"You don't like the freak show?" Murphy was back suddenly. "Neither do I."

He stalked away and went back upstairs. Damn, blast and bloody hell! I'd blown it already.

I thought about the problem for several hours. There was something I was missing, I thought, some angle that would give me the edge I needed when dealing with Murphy.

When he deigned to come back downstairs sometime later, he seemed subdued.

"I suppose I ought to apologise for that last bit," he told me, "but I don't really feel sorry for having done it. I don't feel sorry for reading your journal either." He produced the book and the stack of notes. "I must say, you two have rather interesting opinions of me."

I was beyond anger at this point. Nothing he did surprised me.

"Your book said Dahout could take this away from me. You also said you thought Bodie could - would he?"

"I don't know. I've never asked him. Murph, let me make a deal with you.

You cooperate with me for two weeks, and if you still feel the same, I'll talk to Dahout on your behalf."

"Twice nothing is still nothing. She's lost her power - you said so in here." He waved the journal at me. "You ask Bodie."

"I can't do that to him."

"Can't? Won't, more like."

"Think what it would do to someone like Bodie...Murph, think what it could do to that bright flame."

"I'm worried about me now!" he shouted. "To hell with the two of you; when have you ever had time for me?"

What I wanted most at that moment was to force him to see himself as I was seeing him - spoiled, petulant and tiresome.

There it was, right in front of me - my angle.

"All the time you need," I said as I changed, very slowly and deliberately, into Murphy.

"Don't do that."

"Why not?"

"I don't like it."


"I'll change into Bodie again," he threatened.

"I can do that too, want to see?"


But I did anyway. I changed into Bodie and began to come onto him. He backed away from me, pure loathing on his face.

"Stop that."

"Don't you like it? It's what you wanted, you said so."

"It's not the same thing, Ray."

"I could make you think it was, couldn't I? You'd love to find out, you'd settle for Ray in a Bodie suit, wouldn't you?"


"You'd settle for anybody in a Bodie suit." I change back into Murphy. "I don't care about anyone but myself. I want instant gratification of all my desires. I do what I do because I can do it - it's a toy, a weapon...but sometimes I get lost in here and I forget who I ma and why I'm doing this and I'm afraid." Suddenly it had become too easy to be Murphy. I did find myself forgetting who I was, and I became caught up in his emotions. From the look on his face, I could tell that everything I was saying was hitting home. "I don't want to forget who I am, but sometimes I think I never really knew."

A tear rolled down his face and I could feel that my own face was wet as well. We were like mirror images suddenly.

"I never did know who I was," he admitted. "I never knew my family."

"I never really knew any family but Father McWilliams," I added. I wasn't sure where I was getting all this from, but I knew it was the truth. It was if I was sharing Murphy's memories. "He wouldn't tell me anything about my family."

"He told me he didn't know anything," Murphy said. "I knew he was lying, but I never knew why."

"They were different," I said. "He didn't know how to deal with that, so he ignored it. He kept it from me."

We were spiralling downwards now, going back into the memories, into the past. I was remembering with him.

"'You need a little extra help, Kier,' he used to tell me, 'so you pray extra hard for guidance, will you? And I'll be doing the same for you in my prayers.' He never told me why I needed that extra help, though. I used to think it was because I was a particularly bad person, though he never scolded me - he was never angry with me. Later I decided it must have been some family scandal that he wouldn't repeat. When I first began to change, I wanted to go to him and tell him about it, but I was afraid to."

I don't which of us said the words. I know I felt each one of them like a physical blow. Suddenly Father McWilliams was sitting in front of me.

"What have you become?" he demanded. "What are you, Kier? What sort of monster are you?"

"It's not my fault."

"I told you to pray for guidance, I taught you to lead a good and Christian life and you turned your back on it."

"You lied to me," I accused. "You told me you never knew my parents. You knew them and you knew what they were. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Because I knew what they were..."

The moment seemed to drag on forever.

"Because I knew they were godless and pagan...and because they were part of me and I loved them both dearly, and loved their son as though he was my own.

Kier, I didn't know how to tell you. I prayed you would never be what my sister and her husband were and that you'd never pay the price they paid.

They died because of it. They were killed by people who didn't understand."

I began to cry.

When the pain ebbed, I felt the real me, Ray Doyle, struggling to reassert himself. I went with it, and changed back into my true form. What I'd just been through was entirely beyond my experience, and I couldn't help but wonder who was responsible. I needed to talk to Colette.

Murphy was back to being Murphy. He was sitting, glassy-eyed, on the floor opposite me. "What have you done?" he whispered, and I wasn't sure if he was speaking to me or himself.

The phone began to ring, saving me from having to comment on a situation I didn't entirely understand. It was Bodie.

"How goes it?" he asked.

"Don't ask."

"Ah, I see. Well, far be it from me to disturb you, but I have a wire here from your mother and I thought you might be interested in knowing what it says."

"Yeh, read it to me then." There was the sound of an envelope being torn open.

"She says, 'The old woman is dead.' That's it?"

"Yeh, that's it. That's just like my mother, too. She means the last member of the family that cursed my family is dead, so the curse should be dead too."

"Then it's good news?"

"Should be, but it doesn't really affect me anymore. I'll never have kids to pass it on to. I feel sort of sorry that my family's happiness should depend on some old lady dying. How's things at home?"

"Pansy's well and so am I, but we miss you. I'm on Cowley's list after today."

"What happened?" I asked, imagining all sorts of horrible possibilities.

"Well..." he sounded sheepish. "You remember I was supposed to go along with him when he worked out the trade for Litvak? I was supposed to make sure Medved was telling the whole truth."

"Did you?"

"Yeh. Only Cowley began to tell the whole truth as well."

"Oh no!" I began to laugh.

"There they were, spilling their guts to each other in this seedy little pub they'd chosen, telling each other about their personal problems..."

"What'd you do?"

"First I panicked, then I fixed it so nothing that was said would be remembered. Unfortunately that meant Cowley forgot all the details as well.

So we had to begin again and since I was the only one who could recall anything of what was said, he spent most of the afternoon debriefing me. I didn't remember much, and he's furious with me."

"I can imagine. Will we be looking for new jobs soon?"

"Nah, he'll forgive me."

"Why'd it happen?"

"I dunno. I'll have to think on that one. How's it going...oh, I already asked that, didn't I? And you said not to ask. That bad?"

"Not good," I confessed. "And very strange. I wish you were here."

"So do I, and not just for the obvious reason. However, I'd better ring off now, or we'll have to work for the rest of the year just to pay for this call. I love you," he said.

"I love you too." There was a click and the line went dead.

I found Murphy in the kitchen, hunting through the refrigerator. "How is he?" he asked.


"You hungry?"

"Yes, very."

"Do you want to cook or shall I?"

"You go ahead." I sat down and watched him move around the room. He was moving like an old man - very stiff.

"You feel all right?" I asked him.

"I feel old, Ray."

I waited a few moments but he didn't seem to want to elaborate. "What happened between us...has that ever happened to you before?"

"All the time. It's what I've been trying to tell you. Doesn't it happen to you?" He began to tear up a head of lettuce. "It's always like that - as if I'm someone else."

I had to admit that this sort of thing had never happened to me, except in the early years when I couldn't prevent Beelzy from emerging. Then I thought it was part of the curse to lose my own personality in Beelzy's.

And when I learned to control the changes, I also learned to control the personality. It was always Ray Doyle inside whatever body I was wearing now...until this morning when I had lost myself in Murphy's personality. It was a frightening thing.

Murphy set a plate of salad in front of me. "There's soup if you want it."

He indicated a small pot on the stove, but I declined. "Bothers you, doesn' t it?"

I admitted that it did.

He sat down and picked up a fork, then set it down again. "It scares the hell out of me," he said quietly. "One day I'm going to forget who I am altogether."

"Then why do you keep changing?"

"Maybe..." He considered the question. "Maybe because I'm not sure that would be a bad thing. I was happy until this came on me. I knew who and what I was, and was content. Don't you understand why I want to be rid of this?"

"Of course I do."

"So tell me, oh wise one, what do I do?"

"I don't know," I admitted.


I couldn't answer.

It seemed an unspoken agreement between us that we didn't speak about the problem while we ate, or while we cleaned up the kitchen afterwards. For my own part, I was stymied. Having never encountered this aspect to our power before, I was at a loss as to how to deal with it. Perhaps the best thing would be to admit defeat right away and allow someone else to take over. I found my journal and began to write.

15) I feel so lost suddenly. Nothing I've encountered has prepared me for what I'm dealing with here. For me, control of my consciousness came with control of the curse - one with the other. I can't seem to divide the two in my own mind which is exactly what I have to do if I'm going to help Murphy. But perhaps there is something vital that I'm not seeing. Perhaps the answer is right in front of me and I'm just not able to reach out and hold on to it. I'd hate to quit before I was sure.

Murphy came out and sat beside me on the sofa. "Tell me about your gods,"

he asked. "I promise not to make fun."


"I need something to think about that isn't me. Bea tried to tell me about them but I wouldn't listen. I guess I wasn't ready to. Please, Ray. Are they real?"

"I don't honestly know. Sometimes I think they're only symbols and sometimes I swear they're as real as I am. They wear different faces.

Bodie says he's seen them both - the Lord and the Lady - but I never have; not outside of dreams. But then, he's more fey than I am."

"What do they look like to you?"

"I've never seen the face of the God. Perhaps He's Bodie to me, I don't know for sure."

"Isn't that blasphemy?"

"There's no blasphemy with these gods. The Goddess, oh, She's worn different faces. For Bodie She's Dahout, for me, She's been Colette and Jem and some woman I've never seen before...and, figure this one, Madame Ojuka."

"What?" He was ramrod stiff, and he had a strange look on his face.

"Madame least I think that's what the dream was all about. I had a dream last night and three aspects of the Goddess appeared to me. That's what it seems like, anyway. There was Jem who said I owed her a service, and an old woman who told me that she was not the one who bound me, and Madame Ojuka who said something about her life being lived to some purpose.

I don't really understand any of it, though I expect that if it had some meaning, I'll find out Jem's part in it soon enough. What's wrong? You look as though you've just bitten into something unpleasant."

"I don't know. I dream about her too - often."

"Madame Ojuka? Why?"

"I wish I knew." He sighed and slouched against the arm of the sofa.

"Since she died, she's been talking to me in my dreams. You do know she's dead?"

"I suspected as much."

"He had her executed, beheaded, like Anne Boleyn."

One more puzzle piece and no clue as to how they fit together.

"Why do you believe in them - your gods, I mean?"

"I suppose because they're a part of me or because I'm part of them. They' re nature gods, Murph, and they represent everything there is to life - birth, death, love...chaste and otherwise," I added with a reminiscent grin.

"The turn of the seasons, winter to summer to winter, infancy to old age and rebirth. When we come together to worship we do it with every part of ourselves, heart, soul, mind, body. We are our gods and they are us."

Suddenly I could almost smell the woodsmoke and roses. The corn-king was dying; it was his time of year. A door swung open in my mind.


"I believe in them because I can feel them all around me in everyone I meet, in everyone I touch. I can feel them in you, even if you can't." I reached out to him and stroked his hair, and the feel of it was like silk under my fingers. "Be me, Murph, and understand," I begged.

I was holding myself suddenly; looking at myself looking back at me. "It doesn't matter where you wander," I told him, "because I'll be there to help you back."

"I can see them," he breathed. Then he was silent as he searched through my mind, sifting memories; here my mother telling me about the curse, and there the dreams I had while I was in hospital. He relived my learning with Colette and absorbed it all with terrifying speed. Why couldn't I have done this? He lived those memories and I relived them.

"Murph, Murph?"

"I'm back, it's okay. I was just thinking."

We were lying on the floor side by side. I felt dizzy each time I tried to sit up, so I lay still.

"He was there the whole time."


"Bodie. Don't you know? You're carrying around a bit of him inside you."

I suppose I knew, but had never thought about it. It was one of those things I take for granted. "Did you learn anything?"

"You'd be surprised," he said cryptically. "I need a drink." He got up, went to the kitchen, and brought back a bottle of whisky. "Bourbon. Sounds reasonable." He poured a bit for each of us.

"To...what shall we drink to?"

"Your Lord and Lady?"

"That might be nice. All right then, to the Lord and the Lady."

We touched glasses and drank. The whisky lit little fires all the way down to my stomach where it flared nicely. "'s nice," I observed as he poured again.

"Are you feeling all right?" he asked. "You look..."

"Just tired is all. This is new to me too." We drank and he poured once again. I remember thinking I should stop or I'd get drunk, but it didn't seem too important.

We finished half the bottle.

"I'm drunk, are you drunk?" he asked.

"I think so. I feel sort of...drunk."

"Didn't drink that much!"

"'s this magic business - takes a lot out of you," I said, trying to sound older and wiser. Not easy to do when you're lying on your back with whisky dripping down your cheek.

We both began to giggle.

"Shouldn't ever drink after magic."

"One more for t'road?" he asked.

"Yeh, and I have a toast - to magic."

"To magic," he echoed, "and all those who sail in her."

"Too bloody right," I agreed and we nearly touched glasses.

Then Murph leaned forward and kissed my cheek. "Thanks," he said.

"For what?"

"Everything." He kissed my other cheek, and licked off the trail of bourbon. "An' that's for everything else. An' this is because I want to."

He kissed me on the mouth.

It was very nice.

I went with it.

I remember thinking I was being an awful hypocrite, letting Murphy make love to me like this after making such a fuss about that girl Bodie slept with a few months ago. Didn't stop me though. I kept thinking, 'I'm sorry, Bodie, I can't help it.' I needn't have worried. Neither of us were capable.

"Need a kip," Murphy muttered. He got up and walked away, just like that, dragging his clothes with him. Somehow I managed to make it back to my bedroom too, and slept like the dead until Colette woke me.

"Ray, it's after six. Are you okay?"

"Hungh?" I was not feeling very together.

"Oh, phew, you've been drinking, haven't you?"

"Ugh," I said.

"What went on here today?"

"Nahgh, oh god, I need some water."

She poured me a glass from the pitcher beside the bed and I think I swallowed it in one gulp. "That's better. I hurt all over. Is Murphy up yet?"

"He's downstairs working a crossword puzzle. What happened Ray? Why'd you get drunk?"

"Didn't mean to. We didn't drink that much, really - half a bottle between us - but it hit hard. We made some good magic today, Mama."

"Did you?"

"Colette, when you become someone else, someone specific - say me or Jem - do you really become them or are you always Colette in someone else's body?"

"You mean in my mind?" She thought about it for a while. "I get flashes of them, Ray. If I was you, say, I'd have flashes of what it was to be Ray Doyle. Is that what you mean?"

"Yeah, but this is actually touching someone else's consciousness...this is getting lost in there sometimes."

"No, never that far. It sounds terrifying. It also sounds fascinating."

"It's what Murph can do. He's always been able to, and when I'm with him, I can too."

"Dear Lord, no wonder he's been having problems with it." She stretched out on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "Can you help?"

"I did what I could today. I let him have all the memories I'm carrying around. I don't know how to give anything more. Colette, I'm not a teacher. I know that now."

"Maybe it was enough. Get yourself together now. The boys should be here any minute." She kissed my cheek and winked at me. "I have this feeling everything will turn out all right."

By the time I'd washed and changed, Kev, Tal and Jamie had arrived. Tal and Jem were whispering to each other, which was strange enough, but when I entered the room, Jem pointed to me and they giggled. I checked to see that nothing was unfastened.

"He started talking a couple of months ago." Jamie was carrying a big paper sack which he set on the table. "No particular reason for it. I asked him why and he said that it seemed like a good idea. Hello, Ray."

"Hi Jamie. How's life?"

"Better, thanks. Now that I've figured out there's no easy answers, I'm not angry all the time. How's Bodie?"

I had a moment of annoyance that I managed to stifle. "He's very well thank you." Why did people fall in love with Bodie all the time? "I wish he was here now."

Someone grabbed me from behind and hugged me very hard. "Don't shoot me, boy, it's just Kev."

"God, it's good to see you," I told him while we hugged and pounded each other on the back.

"And this time you're gonna let me paint you, aren't you? Bea promised to sit for me, didn't you, beautiful?"

"If I don't I'll never hear the end of it, will I? Ray, do you mind?

Working without me, I mean," she added in a low voice.

"Not really. I'll talk to you about it after supper. Kev, you've met Murphy, haven't you?" I asked.

"Not as I recall, hello Murphy."

They shook hands and I introduced Murph to the others.

"You're like Ray, aren't you?" Tal asked. He had a soft, pleasant voice.

"Yeh, we work together..."

"I meant you're a shape-shifter too, aren't you?"

"How did you know?" we both asked.

"I can smell it," he explained with a mysterious smile.

"Tal is a good guesser," Jem said, and was rewarded by a good hard pinch.

"Come and eat, come and eat," Colette announced. "And don't you children be horsing around, you'll get food all over my good company tablecloth."

"Tonight is Japanese carry-out," Kev explained as he and Jamie emptied the sacks. There were half a dozen beautiful three-tiered lacquerwork boxes, and a number of smaller wood and lacquer containers, all filled with the most beautiful food I'd ever seen. Everything tasted as good as it looked.

"I'm sorry Bodie couldn't be here as well. You know he promised to let me draw him next time we were together," Kev said.

"Knowing Bodie, that may mean you'll never see him again."

"Is this raw fish?" Murph asked, holding up a suspicious-looking morsel.

"Raw tuna. Try it with some of the green paste and some soy sauce. Not too much of the paste, though," Colette warned. "Would you rather have something cooked?"

"No, I just wanted to know, is all. Always meant to try this." He popped it into his mouth and everyone watched him chew. "It's good, I like it, all right?"

"I was afraid we'd have to go out and deep fry all the sashimi," Jamie observed.

"And serve it with chips," Tal added.

"Did Kev tell you he's putting together a show?" asked Jem.


"We're all helping," Jamie said. "It's going to be wonderful."

We discussed the show for most of the meal, and I was grateful because it gave me an opportunity to think about what had happened that afternoon.

Murphy seemed easier than he had yesterday. He was talking and joking with the others as though he'd known them forever. The hostility was gone, and I realised for the last year, that hostility had been the dominant aspect of his personality. Surely this was a good sign. I allowed myself to relax a little.

Jem and Jamie cleared the table while the rest of us took our tea into the living room. Kev sat on the floor, with a big white cat on his lap, and sketched each of us while we talked. Murphy sat beside Bea and put his arms around her.

"You have to come and see the show before you leave," Kev told us. "My ego cannot deal with rejection, you see." He held up a drawing of Bea and Murph. "Well?"

It was wonderful. He'd captured what I saw as the essence of Bea - her exotic beauty, earthy good humour and a touch of vulnerability. The drawing gave her a Madonna-like air.

And Murphy...Kev saw more than I ever had. There was a tension in the body, a sense of protectiveness in the way his arms were wrapped around Bea, and in his face there was such sadness - a sort of loneliness that ate at me when I looked at the picture.

Bea took it from me. "It's good, Kev. It's us. May I have it?"

"For you, my lady, anything. But that leaves Murphy pictureless. Would you like on, Murph?"

"One of Bea...just Bea," he said, and Kev went to work again, producing a picture of Bea that was just this side of impish "Ah, that's what I love most about her," Murphy observed. "Thanks, Kev."

"Now, I've had a request from several anonymous admirers for a sketch of you, Raymondo, so you'll have to sit very still while I draw you about half a dozen times."


"No talking; spoils that delicious mouth."

"Kev, tell us a story while you work, will you?" Bea asked. "It's been so long since I've heard you spin a yarn."

"Let Tal tell one lady. I want to concentrate on this face."

Tal stood up and made a little bow. "If you will accept my poor talents in place of those of my illustrious teacher..."

"Get on with it, boy, don't play Henry James," Kev admonished.

Tal proceeded to launch into a long and rambling story about two moonshiners, a giant alligator and a girl in a bright red dress. He played all the parts beautifully and had us laughing helplessly long before he reached the end.

Then Kev displayed his sketches of me - four of them, all very different.

There was one that looked childlike, and I wondered if I ever looked that way. Colette claimed that one. There was one of me laughing which Tal took and a thoughtful one which Bea asked for. The one I took was the strangest of the lot. It was me and yet not, with long tangled curls and just the hint of a pointed ear emerging from them. It was all slanting eyes and hard mouth; half warrior and half wanton. If the one Colette claimed was out of character, this was pure fantasy.

Bodie's love it.

Finally he did a group portrait, or rather, a caricature, adding Bodie and Jeff and Dahout and Cowley. "This one's for me," he announced as he showed it off. "This is the way I want to remember you all."

He'd drawn himself with Colette sitting on his lap. To their right were Jamie and Tal, their arms around each other, Jamie's chin on top of Tal's head. In the centre, between the two couples, was Jem, pregnant and grinning like the Cheshire Cat. To the left of Kev and Colette were Jeff, Dahout and Bea. Jeff was seated and Dahout and Bea stood behind him. Each woman had one hand on his shoulder and a pitchfork in the other.

"That's American Gothic revisited," Kev assured us.

Bodie, Murphy and I were to the right of Jamie and Tal and all three of us were robed like choirboys and holding hands. Above us was a smiling Cowley leaning on a cloud, blessing us.

"He never smiles," Murph observed. "Apart from that it's all on target."

"George is god," I remarked. "At least he seems to be."

Murph passed the picture back to Kev. "Tell me about your gods," he asked, and I felt myself tense. If Murph was going to be difficult about religion, Kev was not the person to be difficult with.

"What do you want to know?"

Murphy frowned. "I'm not entirely sure. I'd like to feel comfortable with them. I was taught that witches...that is what you are, isn't it?"

There was a general murmur of agreement.

"Well, I was told that witches worship the devil and..."

This time there was a strong sound of disagreement, but Kev held up a hand for silence. "Let him finish what he's saying - that's the rule."

It might have been my imagination, but Murphy looked quite uncomfortable.

"I was told you do a black mass..." His voice trailed away. "Only, that's what I was taught. Wrong, eh?"

"Entirely," Kev said, not unkindly. "But popular imagination prefers the image of an ugly old woman riding a broom and worshipping the devil at all night sex orgies."

"That last part sounds interesting," Tal remarked. He was sitting on Jamie's lap and had one hand inside Jamie's sweater.

"The truth is something else. Witches worship a creative force just as all other religions'd be stupid to worship a destructive force, wouldn't it? Anyway, Christians use God the father, son and Holy Ghost as symbols of that force, but witches use the Lord and the Lady. The faces change even as the seasons, but some things remain the same - our god is a horned god, a forest lord, the king stag. Stop me if I sound too pedantic," he added.

"Murphy, this religion is older than Christianity, no matter what you've been told. It's the oldest religion there is, and the most basic. When Christianity began sweeping through the world, the church fathers found that paganism was a threat to their control of the people - I mean, imagine being told by the Christians that there's only one life, and for most people it's miserably hard and short. And imagine them saying to you God wants you to suffer in this life so you can spend eternity in heaven praising his name.

Then the pagans tell you no, there are hundreds, even thousands of lives and in some you'll be unhappy, but in others you'll be on top of the heap...who would you listen to? Then the pagans tell you that eating and drinking and making love are all forms of worship and that you should have fun - it's what life is for...well, I can't see much reason to go to mass and feel guilty for going out to dance around the Beltaine fires, and loving whoever I want to love, can you? So the church fathers thought about it and they said, well, we have to scare them into coming to our church, don't we? So they started an advertising campaign about what happened to people who worshipped other gods - they went to hell and were burnt to crisps and writhed around in agony for the same eternity they would have spent singing 'alleluia' at God's feet. And they said to the people 'The pagans are trying to send you to hell. They worship a devil, don't they? Look at him, he looks like an animal with those horns and cloven hoofs. If you worship him, you're worshipping Satan and it's the roasting pan for you after you die. Q.E.D.' Well, they did convince a lot of folks who decided the best way to get rid of the devil is to get rid of his worshippers. So they began burning witches. Then they burned people they didn't like - people who were old or ugly of folks who talked to themselves because they were lonely or a little bit crazy. They burned women who were too beautiful or too proud, or men who had too much property. They burned folks who were inconvenient. And over the years, most folks forgot that it was the Christians who called our Horned God the devil in the fist place. Have you ever found a description of the devil in the bible?"

Murphy shook his head. "If that's what He's not, what is He?"

"Father, brother, lover and son to the Goddess, and to all of us. He is all of us - a symbol of the maleness in everyone."

"And your goddess is the femaleness in everyone?"

"This boy learns fast," Kev said.

"So if there is no devil and no hell, and when you die you come back again, what keeps you from doing just what you want to do? What keeps you from killing or stealing or...anything that according to Christian ethics is wrong?"

"According to some Christian ethics, everything is wrong...but I'm not gonna get into that. Thing is, it's not guilt or fear that keeps us from doing any of those things. You tell me - you're a Catholic, aren't you?"

"Not any more."

"Well, you were, though. You've killed. How do you feel about it?"

The atmosphere in the room became tense.

"How do you suppose I feel about it? I don't like it."

"But you do it."

"When I have to, yes. Are you going to tell me it's right or wrong?"

"I'm going to tell you that it's your choice to live a life where you have to make those decisions. What we believe is that what you do comes back on you. Violence begets violence. Lies engender lies. Anger causes anger.

Accept that and you can make an informed decision about your life. Choose to kill and you run the risk of having violence done to you. In your case you see it as a necessary evil, or as a sort of justice - that's valid...for you. You're the only one you have to answer to. If you make karma you have to burn it too. And if you think anyone in this room is going to tell you how to live your life, you're going to be disappointed."

"I didn't say I did," Murphy protested.

"No," Kev agreed. "You didn't say that. Well, did somebody want a story?"

He told an American Indian tale about Grandmother Toad and her 'little mysteries', about the place of the Dreaming Thunder. After his finished, Colette told him he and the boys should stay the night.

"It's awful late to e traipsing back home," she said. I checked my watch and was surprised to find it was gone two.

Bea walked upstairs with me. "How are you two getting on?" she asked.

"Better. I think we've reached an understanding at least. We had a good session today - he's beginning to open up to some new ideas."

"I felt guilty about leaving you alone to bash it out with him," she confessed. "But Colette insisted on taking me to see a doctor-friend of hers. He confirmed what I already knew - I'm having a perfectly normal It's amazing, Ray. He told me that from what he could tell, I'd probably have as many more as I wanted to. Whatever Bodie did to me, he did it well. I'm awfully grateful."

I hugged her. "At least he managed to fix you with making a balls-up of it.

He's Ben having trouble at work with his power. Seems it works on everyone."

"What d'you mean?"

I walked her to her bedroom. "Well, if he wanted to...change Cowley into a white rabbit, say, he could do it, but he'd end up in a whole room full of white rabbits."

She began to giggle. "Broad spectrum spells, is that it?"

"Essentially, yes."

"Goodness, you'd better have yourself checked when you go home."


"You might be pregnant as well. Good night, Ray darling." She kissed me and slipped into her bedroom.

It was a sobering thought.

Sometime in the night, someone came into my room. I woke to an uneasy feeling of being watched.

"Who's there?"

"One of your anonymous admirers." It was Jem.

"You scared the hell out of me. What are you doing here?" I reached out to turn on the light, but she stopped me.

"Don't. I need the dark, Redhair."

I could feel my skin crawling. "What did you call me?"

"You owe me a service, Redhair. You owe me a life."

She slipped into bed beside me and I could feel her skin warm and silky against mine.

"Jem, I..."

"You know who We are. Will you give Us our due? We wish one of your blood to survive."

I knew what she was asking and I couldn't do it. "I'm not able...I'm sterile."

"No longer."

At first it made no sense, but then I remembered what Bea had said. Damn you Bodie, I thought...then I couldn't think any longer.

When I woke I was alone. It was almost morning; the air was grey and still.

Had it been a dream, Jem coming to me in the middle of the night?

No, no dream. But like my dream in which she said to me: 'You owe me a service, Redhair. You owe me a life.' Funny how I'd feared that, never understanding it was a new life She was asking for.

Had She got it? I wondered. It was something new to me, something I'd never considered before - me, a father?

I shook my head. No, it must have been part dream at least. Why me?

Dozens of other men had as much to offer to the gene pool.

Not that I hadn't enjoyed it. In fact I felt a little guilty because I'd enjoyed it so much. I'd missed the feel of a woman, the smell of one.

Maybe that was why I'd been so angry with Bodie over the woman he'd brought home while I was away. I was jealous of him, having something I'd done without. Well, we weren't either of us creatures of overwhelming fidelity.

I decided I wasn't going to go back to sleep, so I got up and took a shower.

It was something we'd have to discuss when we were together again, I thought as I leaned into the warm spray. I love water. I love Bodie in water; the image makes me want to purr.

Then as I was drying myself, I thought about the rest of my dream. If Jem's part in it had come to pass, couldn't the other two as well? And if so, what exactly would happen? What had they meant?

When I was dressed, I went downstairs and found Colette sitting at the table, reading the paper.

"Good morning, baby. Did you sleep well?"

For a moment I was completely at a loss. Should I tell her about Jem? If I didn't, and she found out later, she might be more upset than I thought.

But she told me. "Jem was with you last night, wasn't she?"

I nodded.

"It's okay, you don't have to worry about getting me upset. She's an adult."

"You said you wanted her to finish school..."

"Good God, if everyone waited for graduation before they had sex, there'd be no population problem. I just don't want her burdened with a baby before she's ready. You were careful, weren't you?"

"I...don't know."


"Well..." I told her what had happened, told her about the dream and Bodie's problems with 'broad spectrum spells.' "I'm just not sure what to tell you, Colette. I wouldn't have done it on purpose." I felt like a teenager again, trying to explain some lapse to my mother who, I was sure, wouldn't understand.

She usually did, though, and so did Colette. To my surprise and overwhelming relief, she began to laugh.

"Poor Ray, you must have had a bad night. Well, if we have kittens around here in nine months, I'll know who's to blame. Now stop worrying about it and have some coffee."

"Isn't just that that worries me," I confessed. Then I told her about the rest of the dream. "Madame Ojuka may have some link to Murphy," I said.

"He told me he dreams about her quite often. And the old woman...I've never seen her before. I don't know what she means when she says she wasn't the one who bound me."

"What sort of link could this woman have had to Murphy? How close were they?"

"As close as we ever are to the people we deal with in the course of our job. He interrogated her as I recall. Otherwise I don't think they had any real contact. It's been a few years since the case in any even, and she's been executed. What link could they have now?"

"Let me think on it," she told me as she rinsed out her coffee cup. "I have a pet theory about Murphy, but I'm not quite ready to trot it out yet."

"Any coffee left?" Kev shuffled out, rubbing his eyes. "Morning, Ray.

Morning, beautiful," he said to Colette. She handed him an empty cup and he pinched her arse. "This is a real woman, Ray, not one of them spiky little things with no hips and no tits."

"Will you stop?" Colette snapped, but she was grinning.

"No, now let me educate this boy."

"I think he's doing very well without your help, old man."

"I have a whole room full of erotic drawings of her," he said as he sat down at the table. Colette pitched a towel at his head.

"You're feeling perky this morning, aren't you?" I observed.

"I'm always like this after a good night."

"It's the rest of us who suffer," Colette added, rolling her eyes.

We chatted for a while, and were joined by Jamie who looked as beautiful rumpled and sleepy-eyed as he did at any other time. Hard on the ego, that.

"Morning." He fell into a chair and yawned.

"Where's your other half?"

"Sound asleep. He could sleep through a war. May I have some coffee, Mama?"

"Somethin' wrong with your feet, boy?" she asked.

"They're asleep."

She grinned and stood up. "Like my brain. All right, but don't get used to being waited on." She poured him a cup and set it in front of him.

"I'll do the same for you when you're old and grey. Was nice last night, wasn't it?" When we all began to laugh, he looked indignant. "I meant the stories, and the drawings and everything. You people are worse than teenagers about sex," he grumbled.

Kev tried to stifle his amusement, but Colette was snorting with laughter.

"Pay no attention to them," I told him. "They have it on the brain." I noticed he was wearing the silver pentacle Tal had given him on his birthday. "Have you come 'round to believing all this?" I asked him.

He put his hand around the silver circle. "Not entirely; not the way you all do, but I'm not afraid of it any more. I used to hate all gods..."

"What changed?"

"I don't know. Maybe realising that I have control over my life. When Tal started talking, one of the first things he said to me was that he finally felt he had enough control of his life to be himself for a change. He didn' t have to hide anymore. I guess I realised then that I'd been hiding for a long time, too. Now we keep each other from running away again."

I glanced at Colette and she looked proud. Jamie was special to her in a way many of the others had never been. She'd said once that she'd always felt guilty because she loved Jamie so much more than her other children.

Bodie'd cared for him too, but now the thought didn't bring the sharp pang of jealousy I'd come to associate with Jamie. Instead, I was pleased to think Bodie might have helped Jamie reach this understanding.

After that, we talked about mundane matters. Kev promised to take us all to supper at Fisherman's Wharf over the weekend. He cooked breakfast for everyone - pancakes and bacon - and Murphy and I finally understood who Aunt Jemima was.

Jem came down last, and I didn't have time to talk to her alone. She did wink at me across the breakfast table, though, and asked me how I slept.

"Hardly at all, thank you," I replied.

"Me neither. Colette, I'm spending the night at Fran's house tonight, so don't wait up."

Seduced and abandoned!

"What are we going to do today?" Murphy asked as we finished the washing up.

We were alone again - Bea had gone with Kev and the boys and Colette and Jem were at work.

"Whatever needs doing, I expect. How have you been feeling since yesterday?"

"Better, really. It's helped. I learned..." He thought for a minute. "More than I expected to."

I put away the last stack of plates. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I learned a lot about you."

"Occupational hazard."

"And about you and Bodie."

I wasn't sure how to take that so I let it alone.

"I never realised how special your relationship is. I always thought it was convenient."

"Give us credit for more than that," I admonished.

"Well, you know what I mean."


"Anyway, I learned how linked you are - you didn't know, did you? You're carrying around a piece of him inside you and you didn't know. Was it always there, I wonder, or did he put it there?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," I told him, but Strewth, I had an uneasy feeling about it. I knew he was right. "Look, we're not here to discuss me and Bodie. Why don't we talk about you - did you find something to help? The key to the mechanism?"

"I think so. It's a matter of how much you open up. Maybe it has to do with the need to hide. You never felt you had to. I envy you that."

Hiding. What was it Jamie had said earlier? How many of us had mechanisms for hiding from other people? "And you did?"

"I still do. You can't just change that, Ray."

He walked out into the living room and sat on the floor. "I'd like you to be here while I practice. I trust you to be able to call me back if I lose myself in someone - yes?"

"Yes," I said, sitting in a chair nearby.

I watched.

He shut his eyes. A second later Kev was sitting in front of me. We chatted for a few minutes, and then he said: "Am I doing all right?"

"Depends, how do you feel?"

He thought about it for a moment. "I feel odd - as though someone is standing outside the door trying to come in."


"And I just have to lock the door and ignore them." Suddenly Colette was there. "I have to think of myself in my own flat, with the door locked against someone who wants to get in and kidnap me."

"You might be wiser to think of it as locking the door against a door-to-door salesman. Less threatening image."

He smiled...or rather, Colette did. It was a strange feeling to look at her and think 'Murph'.

Then I was staring at myself. "This is harder," he said, "because I know you better. You're fair bashing at the door."

"Don't let me in," I warned.

Bodie was next. I knew he would be.

Murphy was silent for a while. "He's less insistent," he said at last, "but more insidious. I want to lose myself in this one. He's what I'd like to be sometimes."

He was wearing the wistful expression I always find hard to resist. "You make a good Bodie," I told him, "though I prefer the original."

A moment later Bea was sitting in front of me. "This is hardest of all," he said, in what was barely more than a whisper. "You know I'm in love with her, don't you?"

"Yes, I thought so."

He shut his eyes and Murphy was back. "I just thought of something - I've never changed into anyone I didn't know. I've never made up a face, have you?"

"Yeh, any number of times."

"Maybe that's part of it, do you think?"

I'd never considered it one way or another. "It's possible, of course.

Would you like to try to make up a face?"

"I don't know if I can."

The results were...unusual. I'd forgotten how difficult it is to construct a mental picture of a face you've never seen. For an artist it's not so bad, but for Murph the process was obviously a trial. The initial results were hilarious. He began with the face of a woman on his own body. The face itself was blunt and lopsided, with one eye noticeably larger than the other, a too-long nose and a tiny mouth perched above an impossible jawline.

Then he tried to fix it and managed to even out the eyes and enlarge the mouth, but this time one of the eyes was made-up and the mouth was too wide.

He went back to being Murphy.

"This is harder than I thought it would be."

"Try making the picture before you change, not as you change."


Greta Garbo sat in front of me. "She just popped into my mind," he said sheepishly. "Let me try again."

The next transformation was more successful in that each of the features was approximately in proportion to each of the others, and the face was, as a whole, not one I'd seen before. But when I examined him more closely, I recognised my own eyes, Bodie's mouth, Cowley's nose...

"Too eclectic?" he asked when he noticed my expression.

"I could wish for less variety," I admitted. "Sorry to be such a stickler."

"Half a mo'." He frowned, concentrating very hard, and suddenly a total stranger was sitting in front of me. "Is it all right?"

"It's good," I told him. I inspected the face. "It's very good. How'd you manage it?"

"I thought about a face I knew well, and changed a bit here and there."

"Very good. And you've done the body too. By George, I think he's got it!"

Murphy smiled up at me. "I feel wonderful."

He spent most of the day practicing, and I wrote to Bodie, stopping to admire this creation or that one. The only time I lost patience was when he changed into a demure little white cat and Colette's monster tried to jump its bones.

Colette came home about six and we told her about Murphy's progress. "I think this calls for a celebration. Let's order a pizza for the three of us."

I thought it was a wonderful idea and so did Murph. We ordered two pizzas, some bar-b-qued ribs, garlic bread, fried shrimp, mostaccioli, and antipasto and three stuffed artichokes. There was enough food to kill all of us, but we made a good dent in it.

"I love a good pig-out once in a while," Colette said. Murphy belched and I reached for the last rib. "Save some for breakfast. Nothin' better than cold pizza and Coke in the morning. Breakfast of champions."

"Gaah! How can you eat that way first thing in the morning?" I asked.

"Is it any worse than fried eggs, fried bacon, fried tomatoes, fried bread and beans first thing in the morning?"

"You forgot a plate of chips," Murphy added. "Lovely things, chips. Is there any more garlic bread?"

"You'll burst," I told him.

"It's for you," he said, handing me the last slice. "Garlic is only good when it's shared."

We spent the rest of the evening watching films on her video machine and vegetating.

Later that night I was brushing my teeth when I heard my bedroom door open.

"Whassa?" It was Murph.

"I brushed mine too," he said.

I rinsed. "What a relief for your dentist."

"You know why I'm here, don't you?"

And for a moment I wanted to lie, to send him away believing he'd read me wrong, but after what we'd gone through together I couldn't do it. "Yes, I do." I turned out the light and went over to the bed.

"This has been hovering over us for a long time," he whispered.

The bed dipped and I felt him lying beside me. He was bigger than Bodie - taller and heavier, and I had a moment of hesitation. Two men together can be a difficult thing.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he said. "I'm not into that sort of sex."

"I know." Then I kissed him to let him know I wasn't going to back out. It 'd been a long time since I'd been with any man but Bodie.

It wasn't what I expected from him - I thought, 'Here's a rough and ready bloke', and was prepared for good, hard, active sex. Was good, too, but it was surprisingly tender. He a gentle man. His hands could convey affection, or uncertainty, could express his pleasure in touching me, or the need to be touched.

He's a sensual man too who enjoyed the feel of skin on skin, the taste of kisses, the scent of arousal, and was not shy of saying so. When our long and affectionate foreplay gave way to more urgent demands, we settled for an expression of sexual equality, mouth to each other's cock, easing into orgasm not with cries of pleasure but with sighs of contentment. And after, we were spooned together, me wrapped in his arms and he asked me if I was going to tell Bodie.

"I don't know. I might," I said. I thought he would understand.

"He hates me for what happened at The Green King. I didn't know how he felt about her..."

"He doesn't hate you, Murph, but you made him very unhappy. You played with something important to him."

"Of course I regret it. I regretted it while it was happening."

Then we were silent for a while. Finally I heard him breathing softly, regularly. His grip loosened and he rolled onto his back. I lay there trying to sleep for almost half an hour without success.

Have to do something, I thought, so I sat up and found my notebook. When I turned on the bedside lamp, Murphy muttered and rolled away from the light.

16) Whatever else happens now, at least I could help him with his problem. I couldn't bear to see him destroying himself - I must have cared more about him than I knew when I started. Now it's in Murphy's hands.

I need to see Bodie again soon. I didn't realise I'd miss him so much. And I have to talk to him. I know very well I'm going to tell him about Murphy and Jem. It's something we have to clear between us. Besides, he'd know if I was keeping something like this from him, wouldn't he? He can read my mind most of the time.

Thing is, I don't think he's going to be upset. He knows me fairly well, doesn't he? He probably saw something like this coming.

One thing is certain, I'm not cut out to be a teacher - not like Colette. I 'm happy to have had the experience, though.

Then I put out the light and fell asleep immediately. Sometime in the night, I dreamed about Bodie. He was sitting on a rock next to a river.

"Hullo," I said, coming to sit beside him.

"I was just thinking of you," he told me. "I've been missing you."

"I'll be home soon. I've missed you too."

"Do you remember the times we spent here?" he asked. "Lots of lives ago.

We began here and we'll probably end here. It's a good place to be. Ray, it's me who's bound you."

I thought about it. "Yes, I see that now."

"Shall we finish the play, then? And begin another?"

I agreed.

You can't lose a piece of your soul.

--Lughnasad 1983

Cat's Paw

"Fee, fie, foe, fum...I smell something rotten in the state of Denmark," Bodie intoned.

"That's mixin' metaphors with a vengeance."

"Those aren't metaphors, they're...what's the thing that's like a metaphor?"

He was peering so intently through the telescope, he didn't jump when I came up behind him and fondled his backside.

"A simile?" I love the feel of Bodie's body.

"Nah, the other thing." He pressed the button on the attached camera. The motor whirred and the shutter clicked half a dozen times.

"What other thing?" I tried to see what it was Bodie was shooting.

"A palindrome."

"That's never a palindrome."

"'Course it is."

"A palindrome of that'd be..." I thought for a moment. "Kramned of etats...why am I playing this stupid game with you?" Despite myself I started to laugh.

My RT beeped. "Who's on first?"

"Is everything quite all right, Doyle?"

"Oh, yeh. Just discussin' semantics."

"Padgett and Meyers are on their way to relieve you. Pack up and come home.

I have an important one for you."

"Ah, there goes my new career in photojournalism," Bodie mourned.

"Piss off...not you, sir," I added to Bodie's vast amusement.

"Half an hour, then." The channel was closed.

"What d'you suppose it is?" I glanced over at Bodie and the expression on his face made me go cold. Bodie looked about to let fly with a prophecy.

He had a Cassandraesque look in his eye - far seeing and a little demented.

"Cat up a tree," Bodie said, and though he smiled, he still had a far-away look.

"God, I hope not."

Cowley's desk was cluttered with files. He handed me a photograph of a fair-haired young man. "Can you manage this one?" he asked.

Youngish, tousled flaxen hair, cornflower blue eyes. The boy had the look of a piece of expensive porcelain. "Of course."

"I mean down to the talent, the thought patterns, everything. If you're spotted, it's the end."

"Of me?" I looked at the picture again.

"And a great many other things," Cowley added cryptically. "Can you do it?"

he asked again.

"I'm not sure. The personality, certainly, but the talent...what is his talent, anyway?"

"Energy source."

"Will you fill us in?"

Another photo was passed across the desk. "This is David Rice," Cowley told us. I put his age at about forty. The man was hawkish and dark with pocked cheeks and thinning hair. And unlike the boy in the first picture, this man 's personality made itself felt. He was vivid even in two dimensions. "The first one is Alexander Kollo. They are complementary talents. Rice is like Bodie."

"Nobody's like Bodie," I countered with a smile at Bodie who was looking stormy.

"Rice's talent, so far as we know, isn't as powerful or focused as Bodie's.

That's part of the reason he needs Kollo."

"And we have him? Kollo, I mean?" Bodie asked. He glanced at the photo again. "Little raver, isn't he?"

"There's something else," Cowley began.

"There always is. Christ, don't tell me they're lovers! Don't you ever stop pimpin' for Doyle?"

Cowley ignored the comment. "None of our intelligence has been able to determine the extent of their relationship. You may be walking into an awkward sexual situation," he told me.

"I'll jump off that bridge when I come to it. Where is this Kollo?"

"He's been hospitalised."

"The way you say that makes me 'air stand on end. Is he crazy? Is that it?"

Cowley nodded.


"It's a lot to ask..."

I closed my eyes and concentrated on the face, feeling it take shape.

"Good Lord," Cowley exclaimed, "I've never seen it happen before."

"Problem," I said when I opened my eyes. "I'm still me. Kollo's not in here with me." I tapped my head. "Not even a thread. I don't understand it." The only reason I could think of for my inability to pick up on the personality was that I'd never met Kollo. Perhaps, in order to take on the personality, I had to have contact with it.

"Why don't you tell us the rest," Bodie suggested as I changed back into myself.

"Rice is an ambitious man. He's been acquiring power in our government, but very quietly. Coming in through the back door, as it were. I've been aware of him for some time - we've been monitoring his activities in Europe for several years. About six months ago he came to this country and began to make contact with certain government figures." He passed us several files.

"Unfortunately he's been very careful to cover his tracks. He has power enough that setting him up would be well-nigh impossible."

"Through other people?" Bodie asked as he studied one of the files. "Very clever. But what's his ultimate goal?"

"We're not sure."

"And you want me to help to break his power?" I asked. "How?"

"By making him believe that his energy cell is in good working order, and by bringing him into contact with Bodie in a situation which won't alert him to our plans."

"At which point I strip away his power, is that it?"


"You might as well kill him," Bodie observed. "It'd be kinder." He tossed the folder onto Cowley's desk.

"Why don't you just have Bodie take away Kollo's power?" It seemed a more direct way of dealing with the problem.

"We can't be sure he won't find another power source. We have considered termination, but only as a last resort. Bodie, I realise this may be distasteful..."

"Distasteful? I'm not sure I could do it."

"I think you'll have to try. It's that important."

"I'd like to talk to my sister."

"By all means."

"And I," I told them, "had better meet Alexander Kollo."

"He was arrested for smashing windscreens on the cars in his neighbourhood,"

Cowley explained. "He said they were full of spies."

"Were any of them ours?" We were walking down the corridor towards Kollo's room. I was imagining a paranoid delusion coming to life.

"Only one. When I heard he'd been arrested, I had him brought here. Rice was told Kollo had undergone a sort of breakdown and that he needed several days' rest."

"And he brought it?"

Cowley shrugged. "He hasn't argued with the doctors. He visits everyday.

Kollo's been heavily sedated." We entered the room at the end of the hall.

"Rice is afraid of losing the boy entirely."

I studied the silent figure in the hospital bed, took in the tousled hair and pale skin. There was a strand of hair in Kollo's mouth, and I reached out and pushed it away. Then I changed.

And this time Sasha was there with me. I could feel the madness there like a living thing. I changed back quickly to escape him.

"Dear God..."

"You found him?"

"He's farther gone than you think. I'm not sure I can...please let me sit and think about this for a few minutes."

Cowley left me alone in a quiet, sunny room. I didn't want to do this thing. I feared the madness, feared the loss of my own personality in Kollo 's. Sasha's - that was how Kollo thought of himself - Sasha. A nickname, a pet-name. In those few moments I'd met some of Sasha's demons and too many of them had a lovers face. He was being torn apart by Rice.

But I'd also confronted the truth of Rice's plans and they frightened me as much as the idea of becoming Sasha. I had seen the future - a terrible power...Rice wouldn't balk at war. When he consolidated his power in Europe, he would turn his eyes east. The man was building a network of psychic slaves with Sasha's help.

I buried my face in his hands, and that was the way Bodie found me.

"Brought you a lovely cuppa, sunshine."

"I'm scared to death," I whispered.

"I know." Bodie sat beside me. "I am too."

"Has to be done."

"Don't know why the old man won't just have one of them twepped."

The tea was comforting - a good, English feeling. "He'd probably feel it coming. Cowley tells me Rice has tremendous psychic barriers. This won't be easy Bodie."

"It's down to us, then. Cowley's angels, eh?"

I couldn't help smiling despite my anxiety. "I'll need your help."

"Anything. You know that."

"Two things, then - I may need you to supplement my power so I have something to pass onto Rice. And I need you to be close to me. I'm afraid of being lost in Sasha."


"Kollo. It's what Rice calls him."

"Sasha, is it?" He put an arm around me. "I'm always here with you."

"I need to be able to find you if I need help."

"Are they lovers?" Bodie asked. I could feel the tendrils of Bodie's thoughts snaking through my mind.

"Sometimes," I admitted. Bodie might accept a denial, but he'd know it to be a lie.

"Maybe I can help you with that, too."

We went together into the room where Sasha was sleeping. Cowley was there waiting. "Have you decided?"

"I can do it," I told him, squeezing Bodie's hand for reassurance. "What's the drill?"

"This afternoon you'll be released into Rice's care. He'll be told he has to bring you back here for regular sessions with your counsellor." He nodded towards Bodie. "I want to know who he's in contact with, which of our people belong to him."

"If Sasha knows the names already..."

"I want to know who his contacts are in other governments. He must keep detailed files on his activities. I want them. As far as we are able we have to neutralise his activities."

"I still think you should kill him and be done with it," Bodie remarked.

"Always direct. Can you do your part?"

Bodie nodded.

"Very well, let's begin."

Just before I began the change, Bodie grabbed me and kissed me. "Just so you won't forget me," he whispered. Then he left the room.

We'd built a house in my mind, and each of the rooms had a purpose. In one room I kept Bodie - a place to go for help, for comfort and security. In another room Sasha was held. In yet another he and Ray were allowed to come together. Finally there was a room where I could go to find myself. Each of these places were safety measures for me. Without them, I might become lost in the maze of a dual personality. I had seen it happening to Murphy, and it frightened me.

I changed, and could feel Sasha knocking at the door of the room where he was held. You can come out only if you promise to be good I told him.

I promise. The door opened and Sasha entered my consciousness.

"Doyle?" Cowley looked anxious. Sasha asked me who the old man was.

"It's all right. I'm still in here. We're getting to know each other."

"Is it safe to leave you?"

"Safer than staying, I think. Don't let this take too long," I begged.

Rice came for us that afternoon.


I took a deep breath. "Why am I here?"

"You had a little breakdown. It's all right now, isn't it Doctor?" He turned and appealed to Bodie who stood in the doorway, wearing a lab coat and glasses.

"He's much better. But I think it might be wise to bring him back for regular visits for a time, Mr Rice. He's had a bad time of it."

"Davy, I want to go home." I grabbed Rice's hand and held on for dear life.

"I'm sorry for what I did. Take me home."

Bodie took Rice aside. "You might find him a little...changed."

"Changed? How?"

I pushed Sasha back into his room and locked the door. He was becoming too assertive suddenly. It must have been Rice's presence.

"This has been rather traumatic for him. He'll be subdued, perhaps even a little confused. I don't think it'll last, but it's best to be prepared.

Be patient with him for a while. Don't push him to be exactly as he was before the breakdown."

"No pressure, is that what you're saying?"

"No unnecessary pressure. You don't have to handle him with kid gloves, Mr Rice. You may notice a certain curiosity about the details of his life - he seems to have blocked some things."

Good old Bodie! He was setting up a workable scenario for the next few weeks.

"Bear with him. Answer his questions as though it was quite ordinary. Let him get to know himself...and you, again."

"I'll do my best. Thank you, Doctor...uh..."

"Doctor Gwyn."

I stifled a laugh.

"Sasha, we can go home now," Rice said to me.

"Talk to the nurse and set up an appointment." Bodie left the room. It was down to me now.

"Are you hungry?" Rice asked as I dressed.

"A little."

"We could go to your favourite restaurant."

"Whatever you want, Davy."

Rice sighed. "What do you want?"

"I don't know..." I called Sasha. What is it you like best? I asked him.

"Ice cream."

Rice grinned. "That's what I thought you'd say."

I found it easier than I thought it would be. I just let Rice talk. I had ice cream while he ate a proper meal, and he told me about what he'd been doing while I was in hospital. It all sounded too mundane. He'd gone here, seen this person or that. I wondered if the names and places had any significance for Sasha, but rather than let him back in, I just nodded and pretended to be tired and abstracted. Rice seemed just little miffed that I wasn't wildly interested in his doings, but he didn't press the issue.

I decided sleep was safer than conversation, so when we arrived at their flat, I announced my intention of going to bed early. It may have been my imagination, but Rice looked relieved.

On the way to the bedroom I drew a blank. Had to make the best of it, though. "I can't remember!" I shouted. "Davy, I don't remember anything!"

I stood in the hallway panting and shivering until Rice appeared to lead me to my bedroom.

"That was stupid of me, wasn't it?" I asked, trying to sound brave but shaken. Rice undressed me and put me to bed. "I just couldn't remember where I was. I'm sorry, Davy."

"It's okay, poppet. We all get lost from time to time. You sleep now." He placed a chaste kiss on my forehead, and asked, "Light on or off?"

"On, I think. For tonight."

Then he left and I lay back and considered my situation. Sasha was not entirely reliable. There were great gaps in what I could learn from him.

Thus, it was best to play the partial amnesia for all it was worth. I'd have to tread carefully, though. Couldn't overplay or it would be obvious.

I'd learned something about Rice already, something which surprised me.

Rice loved Sasha. Their relationship went beyond the symbols Cowley had implied. And that Sasha loved Rice was obvious from the moment I had taken the essence of Sasha's personality into myself. These revelations made me uneasy. It made these two men far too human.

I sought out Sasha. He's worried about us, Sasha said.

Help me make it right so he doesn't have to worry? I asked him. Tell me what I need to know. And for a few moments, Sasha's mind was opened to me and I learned as many of the details of their life. But again the madness swept out, like something hungry for new minds to gnaw. I pushed him away, back into the locked room. Too much, it was too much to ask of anyone.

I managed to pass the next few days by playing at being subdued and forgetful. Rice was reasonably patient, but the strain began to show eventually. Finally he came to see me and asked, "Sasha, do you feel up to doing some work?"


"I have a meeting with Sir Jeremy Frazer. I need you there."

Frazer was in Defence. I decided to take a risk. "What are you talking about, Davy?"

A stunned silence followed, and I wondered if I'd overplayed my hand.

"That's enough, Sasha."

"Have I done something wrong?" I asked, all innocence and wide blue eyes.

His face flushed red. "Goddammit, I'm tired of waiting for you to decide to remember! This is too important to leave until you feel like dealing with it!" he shouted.

Sasha was pounding at the locked door. He needs me! he yelled. I was being assaulted from all sides.

"Go away!"

rice grabbed my arms. "Sasha, listen to me!"

Let me out! Sasha shrieked. It was deafening coming from inside my head like that. I grabbed my head and groaned, and it must have looked as real as it felt because Rice's grip eased.

"I'm sorry, Sasha. I didn't mean to...are you all right?"

Let me out. He needs my help! "Leave me alone!" I screamed.


"It's this voice in my head," I moaned. "He won't leave me alone."

Rice drove me back to the hospital.

"He seems worse," he said to Bodie.

"Let me talk to him."

Rice left us alone and I slumped into the chair beside Bodie's desk.


"Is the door locked?"

Bodie nodded.

I changed back into Ray. "Thank God. Bodie, I don't think I can take much more of this. Sasha's really mad, and I don't seem to be able to use him without the madness creeping in on me as well. Every time I look for help, it surfaces." I wrapped my arms around Bodie and took fresh strength from him.

"Do you want me to tell him you have to stay for a couple of days?"

I considered the idea and rejected it. "No. I'm going to try and finish this as soon as possible." I ran a hand through my hair. "Next time we come here I want you to be ready. Tell him it would help if he could find some time to talk to you - to us. Tell him...I don't know. Make something up, something that sounds psychological."

"I'll tell him that the healing process occurs most efficiently in a loving, supportive environment, shall I?"

I found myself smiling for the first time in days. "Sounds very psychological to me. I think he'll buy it. He really cares about the kid.

How is Sasha, anyway?"

Bodie made a face. "Not good. He's been taken off sedation and the delusions are worse. He's convinced he's being watched by demons."

"You know, you could bring him in now. Rice, I mean."

"It's too soon. You haven't found out any of what Cowley wants to know yet, have you?"

"Not for that. I just thought it might be a good thing if he started getting used to being around you. Persuade him to drop his guard a little so when the time comes, it'll be easier."

"Good thinking, oh wise one. Can you take it?"

I took a deep breath and changed back, making sure Sasha was securely locked away. "I can take it," I said.

Bodie brought Rice in and asked him to have a seat. "There seems to be some problem between you," he began.

"What's he told you?"

"I said I thought you were angry with me for forgetting things, Davy. Are you?"

a strange look flitted across the dark face. "No, poppet, not angry. I' m...worried."

I'll just bet you are, I thought, and Sasha's voice echoed me. He's worried he'll have to conquer the world alone. "You wanted me to help you, but I just don't know how."

"Mister Rice," Bodie said, picking up his cue like a pro, "what is it you want Sasha to help you with?"

rice looked unperturbed. "Well, it's business," he said, very smooth. "I don't see it having any bearing on his condition. He's forgotten that we work together, that's all."

"It sounds a little more serious to hear him tell it," Bodie insisted, and Rice slanted a look at me which boded ill. "He seems to have a block about the subject. Has there been any problems in the past that might provoke feelings of guilt or inadequacy on his part?"

Don't push too hard, Bodie, I thought at him.

"Not that I know of. I know he found the work not always to his liking."

"Can you tell me the nature of this work?" Bodie asked.

Don't go too far...

"I'm afraid I can't at this time, Doctor. I'm involved in some delicate negotiations..."

I squinted at Rice and could see his aura change to a blinding electric blue. He was protecting himself. He was uncomfortable.

"Davy, I want to go home now," I announced. "I feel fine. I was just tired." I got up and went to the door. "Doctor, I'm fine now, really. I just need to try harder to remember things."

On the way to the car, Rice put his arm around my shoulders; one of the few times he had touched me for no reason. "Don't worry about forgetting things, Sasha. Sometimes I wish I could forget everything for a while."

Was all forgiven?

"I really do want to help," I protested. "If you'd just tell me what it is I have to do."

"We'll talk about that another time. How about some supper?"

that night, for the first time, Rice made it clear he wanted me to share his bed. "It's been a long time, poppet. I've missed you."

I'd been afraid of this moment. To refuse meant running the risk of antagonizing him, but if I agreed, Rice might realise I wasn't the real Sasha. I didn't respond immediately, and he asked, "Don't you want to?"

"Of course I do, it's just...I don't want to disappoint you, Davy. I've been such a disappointment already."

"You couldn't ever disappoint me." He put his arms around me and bent to kiss me. "Love is never disappointed."

I felt ashamed. Screwing for Queen and country was one thing, but I was trespassing on private property. I felt terribly betrayed by my job - this wasn't what I'd wanted to do when I joined CI5. Never again, I vowed.

We went upstairs and came together in Rice's big bed. I let Sasha out and retired to the room where Bodie was, detaching myself from what was happening to my body.

"I've been thinking," David said as he dressed the next morning. "Perhaps you'd like to just come along to the meeting today. It might bring back the right memories. You don't have to do anything. Just listen. Don't even have to do that," he added with a conspiratorial wink. "I guess I just need some moral support."

"I just wish I could be more help."

David knelt on the bed and took my face between his hands. "So long as you' re here for me, that's all the help I need. And afterwards we'll go for ice cream."

The meeting with Frazer took about an hour. On the surface, they talked about mundane matters, but towards the end of the hour Frazer suddenly acquired a glazed expression.

"Do you understand what I require of you?" David demanded.

This was what I'd been waiting for. I listened carefully.

"Yes, entirely."

"You understand the policies I wish to pursue?"

Frazer nodded.

"And you will furnish me with the information I requested?" David's face was subtly altered. It had taken on some of the intensity I'd seen originally in the photograph of Rice.

It was useless - whatever was done to Frazer had been done silently, under cover of legitimate business. There would be no papers, no conversations, taped or otherwise - nothing to incriminate David.

"You understand what will happen to you and your family if you fail, don't you?" Again Frazer nodded. What, I wondered, was the threat? I imagine I was happier not knowing.

"Call me when you have the figures, Jeremy." His voice lost the edge it had taken on. He was functioning on two levels again.

Jeremy stood and shook his hand. "It's always a pleasure to do business with you, David."

"Come on, Sasha, let's go eat ourselves sick on ice cream."

"Was it successful?" I asked. Inside his room, Sasha was laughing. I'd learned almost nothing.

"Oh yes. Very."

I was silent until we reached the car. "I helped, didn't I?"

David nodded and smiled. "You're a good boy, poppet."

He's a user, I realised with a trace of bitterness. What had happened between us the night before had been as much to establish the energy link as to convey affection.

The next day David left me alone for the first time. "Stay in the house, Sasha," he ordered. "No more going outside and destroying windscreens, yes?"

"That was stupid, wasn't it?" I replied, trying to look shamefaced. "I won' t do it again, I promise."

"I'll be home about two. I was thinking - would you like to go on holiday?

When I finish work today, I'll have a few days free. We could go to the coast if you like."

"Sounds wonderful." This was bad. I didn't like the idea of being too far from Bodie.

I waited a few minutes after David left, then went into his office and began to search through the drawers of his desk.

There wasn't much to find, as I'd feared. Names, phone numbers...certainly nothing to incriminate David Rice or his contacts. But Cowley wasn't interested in building a case against David - judgement had already been passed. And any doubts I might have felt about David's intentions had been shattered by my contact with Sasha. Sasha knew what was going to happen...

That was it.

I called Cowley.

"All I have to do is become Rice for you," I explained. "He can tell you everything you need to know about his contacts and his plans."

"My God, why didn't I think of that? It's brilliant, Doyle."

"Right. Can I do it now? He's out and I want to finish this as quickly as possible."

"Show me you can do it. If it works, we'll do it after Rice is put out of commission."

I went from Sasha to David Rice and the difference was incredible. All the information was there waiting for me in mental files. But there was something of Sasha there too. A dark thing that fed on David's mind. They were not so different.

I gave a bit of information to Cowley and changed back.

"I can do it," I told him. "He has an orderly mind, but...I felt what he wants," I confessed. "I felt myself wanting it, too. We'll have to debrief in short sessions."

"Good enough. Arrange to come to the hospital tomorrow afternoon and we'll take care of Rice. Good work, Doyle."

I felt a weight lift off me. "You know what the joke is? He's on our side - technically. He wants to run the world for the sake of our way of life."

"Can't be done, laddie," Cowley said, quietly.

David arrived home about two as he had promised, and was feeling affectionate. "Everything's working out beautifully, Sasha." He caught me around the waist and pulled me into the bedroom.

"Are we going on holiday, then?" I asked.

"Wherever you want to go, poppet." David began to undress me.

"Before we leave, can we stop at the hospital?" He looked at me as though he thought I'd really lost my grip.

"I thought you were better," he said.

"I am, really. But the doctor told me...if I felt I needed a tranquilliser..."

"Do you?" He seemed perturbed, so I tried to reassure him.

"No, but I'm afraid of going away and maybe needing them, Davy. Doctor Gwyn told me to think of them as a...lifeline, he said. He told me to try to get on without them, but that if I needed them..."

"They'd be there for you," he finished. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt," he conceded. "Okay, we'll stop on the way."

He began to fondle me through my cords, so I opened the door for Sasha, intending to leave them alone together.

Something dark and terrible came roaring out.

Bodie, he's loose. I don't know how to stop him.

Relax, relax...he can't hurt you. Now concentrate. Wrap the whitelight around him wherever he is. Bind him with it. That's right.

I hate this! I cried inside my mind. The thing inside the web of light was screaming.

Lock him away, Ray. You know where he belongs. We built the room together. Put him in the room and shut the door. Good, now lock it. Now give me the key and I'll keep it safe.

I opened my eyes and Davy was standing beside the bed. "What happened?"

"I don't know. You threw me across the room then collapsed. How do you feel?"


"I shouldn't wonder. Sasha, those doctors aren't helping you at all. I'm going to take you to see someone who might be able to."


"He lives in Wales. We'll leave tonight."

"Oh, God," I moaned. It wasn't happening, it couldn't be.

David began to pack. I levered myself up off the bed.

"I want to go back to the hospital," I told him. He didn't answer. "I said, I want..."

"I heard you. And you heard me. Those doctors are worse than useless. I'm taking you to see a friend."

Something was beating at the door.

"Please, Davy? Just let me get some tranquillisers from them."

"No!" He began to fill my case with my clothes.

"You always have to have things your own way, don't you?" I shouted. "Well you go to Wales and I'll go to the hospital."

I started for the door but he grabbed my arm and swung me around.

"You go where I tell you to go," he said, very calm.

"You go to hell!" I shoved him away and ran for the door, but he tackled me and I fell, hitting my head as I went down.

I blacked out.

So, now you know a voice said. Sasha. He'll kill before he'll let me go. I could see the dark thing in his eyes, lying over his shoulders like a cloak.

And when he finds out who you are, he'll kill you.

Go away I told him, but he just laughed.

You invited me here. He leaned closer and smiled. And when I'm gone, there'll be a little part of me in here - he tapped my head - Something to remember me by

when I woke it was nearly dark. We were in the car. "You had a little accident," David said in a light, conversational tone. "I called the hospital and Doctor Gwyn arranged for you to have these." He handed me a bottle. Valium.

You liar, I thought.

"Why don't you rest a bit?"

"I'm not tires." I was scared. He drove on and I tried to contact Bodie.

Can you follow? I asked him. And a voice in my head - Bodie's, thank the Lord and Lady - said I'm with you, Ray. We had reached Shropshire when suddenly the room in which Sasha had been locked simply exploded. I began to scream.

Hold me, holdmeholdme...I don't want to go into the darkness again...who are you? Will you hold me? I'm afraid of the dark. I'm afraid of the dark thing - it was eating me up, but now it's gone...


it's not a dark place, is it? I can see the light ahead - look Ray - that is your name, isn't it?

Hello. Can you see the light too? Let me go to it please?

Poor David. Say goodbye for me, will you? It can't work - he won't let it happen.

Goodbye Ray.

"Sasha! Sasha!"

"What?" I blinked. The light hurt my eyes. "Godinheavin, he's dead."

"What?" Rice shook me. "Sasha, what's going on?"

"He's dead. I felt him die."

"We'll stop for the night. There's an inn nearby on the other side of Clun forest. The innkeeper is a friend. You'll feel better after a night's sleep." He was babbling. I could hear the fear in his voice.

I could almost feel my body blurring like melting wax. I couldn't hold on to the image of Sasha any longer. "Let me out of the car," I said, sounding calmer than I felt. Rice let go of me and I crawled out of the car and fell into the grass by the side of the road. Rice got out and ran around to help, but stopped short as he watched me change back into Ray Doyle.

"Who are you?" he demanded. "What's happening? Where's Sasha?"

"Sasha's dead." I sat up and shook my head to clear it.


I wished I could have broken the news more gently. "Only just. He told me to say goodbye." Put so bluntly it sounded almost ghoulish. I stood up, my legs rubbery, and began to move around. I felt as though my whole body had been deprived of blood for several hours. Everything hurt, everything was tingling with the return of my own life. Never again, I vowed.

"You killed him," Rice said quietly.

"No. he..." I groped for the truth. "He killed himself - in the hospital."

There was no point in lying. If I could keep Rice talking, Bodie would find me.

"No, you killed him," Rice repeated. "And I'm going to kill you." He meant it. He blamed me.

I watched the man for a moment, then heard Bodie's voice run. I'll find you. I broke and ran into the forest.

I ran for my life, crashing through the undergrowth, running ever deeper into the forest. The forest floor was lightly carpeted with fallen leaves, and the scent of their death filled my sense.

I could hear Rice running behind me, and above the sounds of our flight, another noise - it sounded almost like a pack of hounds. Crazy, who would be hunting in the forest at night?

Who, aside from Rice?

I ran on. The baying of the hounds became more distinct and in desperation, I ran towards them. Hounds - hunter, someone who might help. I began to hear the sound of their movement through the forest.

"Hoi!" I broke into the clearing just as the pack did, and immediately realised my mistake. No ordinary pack of hounds, this - they were enormous black dogs with bright red eyes and red ears. They ringed me quickly, intent on holding me.

Rice burst into the clearing, saw the dogs and began to laugh. "Hell hounds. They knew you were going to die."

Then he raised his hands and I tried to shrink into the tree at my back. I was going to die at the hands of a madman...literally. I remembered how Bodie had killed that man in the pub and was sick with terror.


a horse and rider moved into the clearing. The horse, like the hounds, was black as jet and red-eyed. The rider...oh, I knew who the rider was. Dark and muscular, He was easy on the restive horse. His long black hair whipped around his face, and the smile which bared sharp white teeth did not reach his sea-green eyes. King of the forest, He wore a crown - antlered like the king stag. I sank to my knees. The face of the God was terrible...beautiful.

My eyes filled with tears.

Cernunnos studied us both for a moment, then He addressed Rice. "Who are you to hunt in My wood? Who are you to claim one of My own?"

"Who are you?" Rice demanded, arrogant to the end. Or perhaps he just didn' t know.

"I am Lord of the Hunt and God of Shadows." The voice had a raspy, animal quality. For a moment the God watched us, the He held out His hand to Rice.

"You," He said, pointing at the man.

The hounds moved towards Rice who backed away. "You can't do this!" he shouted as he began to run. "Don't you know who I am?" The hounds were close on his heels as he fled the clearing.

The Hunter reigned in His horse and it reared up, its great hoofs close to my head. "You are no stranger to the gates, Redhair, but by My will you have no, in this life, passed through them. I tell you this - the next time we meet, I will take you."

He threw back His head and laughed, and the big horse leaped forward, galloping towards the sound of the baying pack.

I was alone. I sank onto the cool grass and slept.

Bodie found me asleep in the clearing. "Ray!" He shook me awake. "You all right?"

"'m fine." The sun was rising. "Wha's the time?"

"Early. I couldn't find you - I was following you, then you weren't anywhere. I couldn't find you in my mind. I was terrified you were dead."

He sank down beside m onto the damp cushion of grass and fallen leaves.

"Don't ever do that to me again."

I was momentarily indignant. "I didn't plan it." Then I began to laugh, and Bodie laughed with me. We laughed until we cried.

Somewhat recovered, I edged closer to him. "I can't ever do that again," I whispered. "Not for anything." Then I began to kiss Bodie's face, revelling in the touch of warmth and life. "I was so lost..."

Bodie's hands eased me out of my clothes, and wherever they touched me, they brought back life. I felt reborn.

Afterwards, we stood and brushed ourselves off.

"What happened to Rice?" Bodie asked as we walked back to his car.

"It's a long story, Bodie."

"I've a lot of time. Did you know Kollo's dead?"

did I know? Dear God...

"Yes," I said. Then I remembered what Sasha had promised. I looked for him, and found him in the ruins of his room.

There has to be a better way than this I observed.

It's not forever. I'll let go soon enough.

You're welcome though I told him quite honestly.

I have to find him. It's not finished between us.



"You were a million miles away just now. What's up?"

I thought about it for a few moments. "I'll tell you all about it, but not just now, all right? Not just this minute."

Bodie's arm tightened around my waist and we walked on in silence.

--Mabon 1983

Cat Among the Pigeons

I wasn't happy about it.

Cowley'd assigned me to work with Bodie. What's that you say? Yeh, six months ago I'd 'ave jumped at the chance. Would've made a right prat of myself, too, wouldn't I? But then, six months ago I'd've done a lot of things I wouldn't do now.

Worst part of it is, it was a stakeout assignment which meant that no matter how difficult things were between us, we were stuck together for twelve hours at a time, for as long as it took. Or until we killed each other.

I thought about refusing, but considering me recent record it wouldn't have been a good idea. I thought about appealing to Cowley's better nature, but he hasn't one. And then I thought: I'll have to make the best of it.

Nobody ever died of shame. Don't think they did, anyway.

You see, there was a time I would have sold me old gran for a chance to be alone with Bodie. And I would have kept at him until I had what I wanted, or had a black eye out of it. But I'm smarter than I used to be...I hope, and I realised if I could prove to him the old Murphy - the one he seemed to like - was back, well perhaps we could be friends again.

I knew the reason he was on stakeout was because he'd cracked a rib a few weeks back, and wasn't up to the more athletic assignments. (Doyle, by the way, was escorting a Danish diplomat - a beautiful Danish diplomat - to some disarmament conference.) Anyway, I thought my best course would be a little sympathetic attention.

"How you feeling?" I asked when I walked into the bed-sit we were going to be working in.

"Like hell, thank you very much."

Not to be deterred, I asked if there was anything I could do to make him more comfortable and told him I'd take first watch if he wanted to rest.

"I'm not an old man, Murph, I can still pull my weight. I'll take first watch."


Later I made the mistake of trying to commiserate with him over the assignment. "Shame you pulled this when Doyle had the plum, innit?"

"Why don't you just go piss up a rope, Murph?"

swell, I thought. I'm stuck here with a raving lunatic who loathes me.

We changed watch and I had ample time to sit and think about life, the universe and everything. It wasn't fair of Cowley to insist on this pairing. He knew things weren't right between Bodie and myself. Christ, we 'd both as much told him so. It was pure madness, I thought. He had to prove something.

And Bodie! There was no reason he couldn't have made a stab at being civil to me, at least. I was trying to help, after all. Why I cared what the bad tempered bastard thought of me was beyond my comprehension.

Then it hit me - Ray must have told him about us, about our...well, it was hardly an affair, thought it was more than just a one- off. Ray must have confessed. Wonderful. Just what I needed in this situation. I was stuck in a tiny room with the man I cuckolded. That I hadn't woken up with my throat cut was a surprise.

I worried at the subject for several hours and managed to convince myself that I was just a poor, misunderstood lad who had only ever tried to do his best...

And that was when my sense of humour and my sense of proportion both reasserted themselves. Bodie had been feeling low and my solicitousness had rubbed him the wrong way, no doubt. And Ray, if he told Bodie about us, had every right to. It wasn't as if I was ashamed of what had happened between us. On the contrary, it was and is one of my most precious memories.

And Cowley...the old fox knew if Bodie and I spent this many hours together in a place the size of a biscuit box, we'd work things out or kill each other.

Either way he'd be quit of the problem by the end of the assignment.

I was feeling very much better when Bodie shoved a mug of tea at me. "You' re smiling," he observed. "Something funny?"

"Yeh, me." I took the mug.

"'s a relief," he muttered. "You're so boring when you're abject."

My mouthful of tea sprayed the telescope base. "That bad?" I asked, as I cleaned up.

"You can't imagine. I expected to wake up to hair shirts and flagellation.

Mea culpa, you know?"

"You slept through it. I run through guilt very fast these days."

He laughed and offered me a sandwich.

The rest of the shift was pleasant enough. When Taylor and Taff showed up to relieve us, Bodie suggested we go off to his local. "Might 'ave a bite too. I hate CI5 rations."

In the end, we picked up supper and went back to their flat. "Easier to talk," as Bodie put it.

"Not to be abject again," I began as he shared out the chips, "but I do owe you an apology for what happened at the inn. I had no right to take anyone else's form to get what I wanted."

"Apology noted and accepted. Light or dark meat?"

"Bit of both." He put several pieces of chicken on my plate and passed it to me. "And for everything else I've done in the last two years. Can we start over?"

"You saying you're sorry for sleeping with Ray?"

"So he did tell you. No, I'm not. That was not covered in my blanket apology."

"I respect that," he told me. "And I accept it, too. All right, we'll start over. Hello, I'm Bodie. Nice to meet you."

"Hello Bodie, I'm Murphy."

He grinned at me and I began to laugh.

We talked for several hours. I told him about what life had been like for me since my talent started manifesting. "I can empathize," he said, and I thought about what it must have been like for him to deal with something so frightening and seductive as his power. For the first time, I think, I felt grateful for my own power and its limitations.

"It drives Cowley mad," he admitted, speaking about the problems he was having with focus. "If he asks me to do something straightforward like stop a villain, there's no problem. Getaway car won't start or something. But in a situation where the...ethics are less well-defined, I have problems. You remember the Landauer case last month?"

I nodded and snatched some chips from his plate.

"Well, Cowley and Landauer both knew that unless we could produce Landauer's girlfriend to testify, Landauer would walk. So Cowley asked me to make Landauer believe the woman was in custody and telling us everything. He hoped to provoke a confession. What happened was that everyone in the building also thought Sallie was in custody, and Helm ran in and told Cowley that she'd just signed a statement implicating Landauer not only in the bombings here in London, but the ones in Paris and Bonn as well. At which point Landauer demanded to see her and Cowley told Helm to bring her to the interrogation room."

"What happened?"

"I stopped everyone in their tracks," he confessed, rolling his eyes. "Then I made them all forget the last ten minutes and we began again."

"I don't have problems of the magnitude, thank God."

Later he spoke about living with Ray. "I wasn't sure it would work at first," he confessed. "Cowley once said we were chalk and cheese and he wasn't far wrong. But I wouldn't give this up for anything." Then he smiled. "I don't think the occasional, ah, side attraction is out of place in our relationship, though," he said, rather pointedly. "When he told me what had happened between the two of you, my first thought was 'bloody typical.' But I haven't been lily-white either. So when I realised I had nothing to angry about, I was curious. Asked him what you were like, didn't I?"

I could feel a flush creep up into my cheeks.

"I suppose I should find out for myself."

"Offer's still on," I told him.

He leaned forward and kissed me very softly on the mouth. "There. Didn't kill either of us, did it?"

"Quite the contrary."

We kissed again, and I knew this was just the beginning.

"I have a favour to ask. Will you let me become you for a few minutes?"

he blinked in surprise. "Why?"

"I want to know you better. It's a way of learning about other people.

Shortcut, really. If you don't want me to, it's all right. It is fairly...intimate," I said, for lack of a better word. It was intimate only for the shape shifter so far as I knew.

"If it helps. Go ahead."

I shut my eyes and took Bodie's shape. As always, his personality was there, waiting for me to open the door. This was the first time I'd dared let him in even a little way.

It was a revelation on several levels. I felt what he felt for me, and was both surprised and pleased. I was important to him - I was a friend and he had few of those. But it was Bodie's attitude towards himself which was the greatest shock. I learned that his arrogance self-assurance was mostly on the surface. I should have expected it; I'd always known he had a centre of marshmallow crme. But the uncertainty...this was no superman, no matter how powerful he was. He was as human...

No...not as human as Ray or I. What was this? Something elusive and fey. I' d never suspected - could never suspect anything like this.

"Thee is given a gift," said a strange voice. "Keep it safe."

I changed back and opened my eyes.

"That was amazing," Bodie told me. "Gave me an odd feeling to watch

Did you find out all my secrets?"

"If I did, I've forgotten most of them." It was true - very little of his personality remained in my conscious mind. If I knew him better now, it was on an instinctive level. "There is one thing I don't quite understand - who 's Gwydion?"

he chuckled softly. "I'll tell you all about him one day, I promise. Right now, there's far more interesting things to do with our mouths." He pushed me down onto the carpet, resting his forearms on either side of my head, and bent to kiss me. I could feel his erection through our clothes.

"I'd rather do this in a bed," I confessed, and he sat up, flushed and excited, and grimaced.

"Puttin' me off..."

"No I'm not. We haven't even started, Bodie." I stood up and pulled him to his feet. "This isn't any five minutes on the floor of the lounge and thanks ever so. This is special."

We went into the bedroom and undressed. Then I put my arms around him and tripped him so we both fell onto the bed.

"Mind the ribs, sunshine," he warned.

"Sorry, you all right?"

he nodded.

I nibbled one ear, and down the strong neck, feeling a slow, steady pulse of life under my lips. I tasted his shoulder, curved and muscular under the most satiny skin I've ever touched. Over his chest, pausing to tongue each of the tiny, dark-rose coloured nipples; flat belly; straining cock. I took him in my mouth and he moaned my name - I'd dreamed of this moment - just the two of us making love. Somehow it didn't matter that I couldn't keep him, that he wasn't mine. We were touching on a deeper, more enduring level now.

"Wait, wait..." He pushed me away. "I want you inside me," he said. I had no objection. My God, this morning I'd wondered if we would ever be friends again!

It was...beyond description. It wasn't so much sex as a mystical experience, as - for me at least - a realisation that I had come through intact. I was healed, I was whole. I was home. There was nothing more to fear from life, and no reason to try to hold on to something I could never really have.

I held Bodie while we slept. And she came into my sleep again - Madame Ojuka. She was wearing red. "I'm not sorry for the gift I gave," she told me. "Though I do regret the pain it has caused you."


"I was the catalyst for your power. Without me, it might never have manifested. I did not know this at the time. It could not be helped."

"I suppose I have reason to thank you."

"As well as curse me. Think kindly of me if you are able. We shall meet again, I think."

"I look forward to it," I said, quite honestly.

"Blessed Be, Kieran Murphy."

I hesitated only a moment. "Blessed Be."

I don't know how long I slept, but I was awakened by movement beside me.

Then I heard the front door open and shut.

"It's Ray," Bodie whispered. "I didn't think he'd be home until morning."

Oh no, I thought. It can't end this way. I could hear Ray calling out.

"Bodie, you home?" He approached the bedroom.

I panicked. I turned into a woman.

"God, no, not a woman!" Bodie hissed.

"Bodie?" The door began to open, and I did the only thing I could think of.

I turned into Bodie.

Ray walked in and flipped on the light. There were two Bodie's in his bed.

He stopped short and stared at us for a moment, then an evil smile spread across his face.

"An embarrassment of riches," he observed. "I assume one of you is Murphy.

I hope one of you is Murphy," he added, sitting on the edge of the bed.

Bodie began to laugh weakly. "I've heard of auto-eroticism," he began.

"But this is ridiculous," Ray finished.

I changed back. "Stupid thing to do."

"It was different, I'll give you that. So, you two have worked out your problems, have you?" He looked from me to Bodie and back again.

"Apparently," Bodie offered.

"Well, are you going to invite me to join you or am I going to have to sit outside until you're finished?"

we both moved forward and grabbed Ray, dragging him down into the rumpled sheets. We undressed him and made love to him together, and afterwards we held him between us.

"Lovely...both of you. It was wonderful. Thank you," he said, kissing me and then Bodie, who buried his face in Ray's curls.

"No," I said. "Thank you...both of you. You've taught me some things no one else could have done."

Bodie arranged the pillows more comfortably. "Such as?"

Ray slid a leg over my hip.

"Mostly you've reminded me that I'm a valuable person..."

"About fifty pee on the open market," Bodie quipped. He was always uncomfortable with too much open emotion. And I was feeling emotional.

"And I found out what a sod you are," I added.

"A poor thing, but mine own," Ray remarked, patting Bodie's hand.

"And I realised I love you both."

In the moments that followed, I knew that Bodie couldn't respond. Ray did it for both of us.

"An' we love you too, Murph. We always have - even when you were at your worst."

"Especially when you were at your worst," Bodie added, and despite his cynical smile, I knew he really meant it. They were part of me. I was home.

--Samhain 1983

Discovered In a Litterbox

---Being the thoughts of Beelzebub Doyle as told to Fanny Adams over catnip---

'If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but deteriorate the cat.'
- Mark Twain.

Bein' a cat is hard work. Lots of folks think we do nothin' but lay about all day, tossin' down mice like the Queen of bleedin' Sheba. 'aven't a clue, keep our humans amused. Full-time job for some of us, it is. All that 'Darlin'' this and 'Sweet little moggy' that an' 'Come and purr for me, kitty.' Just like little kids. And always rushin' off to the vet over nothing. Yeh, my human does that. Little cut on the foot and 'e's off. Could 'ave told him a bit of cat spit'd put it right, but I don't expect he' d 'ave listened.

My human? That's Bodie I'm talkin' about. I do have a soft spot for him. Handsome bloke...oh, you think so too? Make a good cat with that face. (High praise indeed! F.A.)

Bodie's a sport. Lets me sleep with 'im - even lets me sleep on top of him. Generous with the food too, and not prone to all that sick-making talk. You know - 'Is iddy-widdy kitsy hungry-wungry?' Bleah. Though lately 'Who's a handsome boy, then?' 'as got on me nerves a bit. Doesn't he know which one of us is better-lookin'?

Yeah, I have another human - name of Ray. Never met him, but I know all about him. Looks a bit cat-like too, though no self-respectin' feline'd go about fur all standin' on end like that. Year, I've seen snaps of 'im. Bodie has some tucked into the bedroom mirror - Ray squintin' into the sun in Ibiza where they went on holiday one year. Looks a bit like me, Ray does, though not 'alf so sleek.

If I was the type to hold a grudge, Ray'd be for it. Near got me killed once. Got himself shot up, didn't he? Careless bastard. Come to think of it, though, we did meet briefly then, but not in this world.

Eh? Astral travel? I dunno. It's just the Other Place. I go there often. Cat's do, you know. We have our paws in a lot of different places. Who was it said: 'He lives in the half-lights in secret places, free and alone...'? (It was Margaret Benson. F.A.) Anyway, that's us.

I could quote you a hundred other cat proverbs, but I think it goes without sayin' that cats are a superior species. Oh yeh, humans are nice too. I'm fond of individual ones. As a group, though, they have a bit of trouble keepin' in their place.

It's like I said before - nobody appreciates how hard we work. We stay up at night guardin' over our people, an- we're up early help with the work - nobody folds a towel or makes a bed like we can. So why begrudge us a couple of hours sittin' in the sun?

My humans have a special reason to be grateful to me. If it wasn't for me, they'd never have met Niniane...sorry, Colette and the others.

An, Niniane. Pretty little thing. Always did 'ave a weakness for the dainty little part-Siamese ladies...hmmm? Sorry. I was just thinkin' about - well, never mind.

Yeh, I've seen a good bit of life. Cat of the world, you know. But to tell the truth, I like living with Bodie and Ray and Pansy - she's a bit young for me; nice kid, though.

I'd better be off. It's nearly time to wake the lads. I think this time I' ll lick the soles of Bodie's feet.

--Yule 1983

-- THE END --

Originally published as a zine anthology, Bound in Leather Press, c.1986

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