Christmas Pantomime


Shoulders back against the wall, one hand in his pocket, Doyle took a questioning sip from his glass. Its contents had been poured from a bottle that seemed to have mysteriously lost its label, but since the taste was fruity and full-bodied on his tongue, he wasn't going to query it. All kinds of drinks tended to turn up at these rare, impromptu parties, from someone's brilliant and proudly proffered homemade wine to very obscure foreign stuff that deserved to be arrested for fraud.

Taking another, longer drink, Doyle's eyes swept round the room, dwelling on faces and bodies, enjoying the hum of conversation, raucous laughter and the background beat of pop music issuing from the restroom's battered old stereo.

The mood was good -- noisy and high, very self-congratulatory and with good reason. They'd all thought this Christmas would sneak by unnoticed and unremarked, stretching tiredly into January, a lost party the least of their worries. Until yesterday. Yesterday had seen the end to one of the longest, most exhausting ops Doyle could remember, and he had a long memory when it came to dragging jobs. This one had held more than the usual share of excitement, too, especially its most satisfactory climax. And that was the high none of them had quite come down from yet. It had culminated in the biggest haul of hard drugs the UK had ever seen.

The majority of CI5 had been involved in the operation in one way or another, some of them taking turns at different levels of involvement and so experiencing almost all that their questionably elite service had to offer. Doyle had been called upon to put all his knowledge and wide ranging talents to the test, from initial investigating, filework, through to shadowing, infiltrating and tracking down informants from one end of the country to the other. And the reports he'd written were nobody's business. Pages and pages of the bloody things. He almost felt sorry for Cowley for having to read them all. At least he and most of the other agents had finished with the op now, having brought it to a very satisfactory conclusion, and one that should silence their critics for a while. Cowley was pleased with them all, and very pleased with himself.

Doyle grinned. Cowley could let go with the best of them and today his exuberance had been catching. Just when they'd begun to believe they were too tired for anything but creeping home to neglected families or simply neglected beds, he'd galvanised them into a celebration. Drinks had been procured from all manner of places, and a large table along one wall was liberally covered with appetising food.

It was a long time since they'd all been together like this and under happy circumstances. This job had lost them not a single man, which was another reason for celebration. Injuries had been low in number, too, the worst being Robbie Reynolds who'd caught a bullet in the shoulder. But even he was here now, sitting over by the wall, healing wound pleasantly anesthetised by a variety of drinks that Jax was lining up for him.

If it wasn't for one important omission, things would have been near perfect. That exception was a certain fun-loving, beer-swilling, womanising comedian. Bodie. So many sins encapsulated in one word, Doyle thought, amused. How he'd missed his partner's presence these last two months. Missed that simple ability of his to bring new perspectives to a job, his leavening of humour or his seriousness; qualities equally valuable and valued.

In an unusual and tentative liaison, Bodie, along with two others, had been seconded to another security force, sent over to the continent to help monitor drug movements and step up investigations of known heroin dealers. Not the bitty, smalltime street filth, but the big, backroom boys, the men in high pristine positions, unexpected and deadly ruthless.

Bodie and the others had tracked shipment after shipment as it shifted, winter blizzard fashion, along the European coast. For the last month Doyle hadn't even heard from his partner. He'd acknowledged the bleak necessity of it, known it vital that Bodie's cover be maintained, but it had been hard not knowing where his partner was in so many hundreds of miles of foreign coastline.

It had been a strange time for Doyle, kept exhaustively busy, working long hours, sometimes alone and sometimes with others, having no time to think of Bodie then, only be aware of his absence.

The sound of the door slamming shut broke into Doyle's train of thought then and a draught set the paper decorations fluttering. Immediately his eyes were drawn towards the entrance, searching heads, colours, textures... until he caught himself and looked away. It wasn't any use searching. Bodie wasn't going to be back for another 2 days at least.

This morning's word from Cowley had been that Bodie was far away and inextricably tangled in the red-taped formality of another nation's police force. About to pursue the matter, Doyle had been silenced by a look from beneath sandy, disapproving brows and he'd held his tongue.

It wasn't very fair, he thought again now. Everyone but him had their partner alongside them or within view, or had their favourite drinking buddy marking time with them. Doyle didn't even have a girlfriend -- the last four months had seen to that.

To hell with it, he thought, suddenly defiant and swallowed the last of his wine. Time to stop this introspection and join in the laughs. There were surely enough going spare around the room.

Doyle made his way towards the drinks table, intent on something with a little more bite to it. On the way he was hooked and drawn into a noisy crowd comprising Murphy, Corrigan, Vic Downes, Turner and more surprisingly, Macklin, who, as Doyle was pulled into the group, appeared to be telling some obscene and very oriental story.

Murphy pressed a small glass into Doyle's hand.

Trying to pick up the threads of this interesting sounding tale, Doyle nodded his thanks and took a sip, eyes refocussing as he realised exactly what the amber liquid was. Only one of the best malt whiskies around -- Glenfiddich, he guessed.

"Why, Murph," he grinned. "This my Christmas pressy, then?"

"Cowley's," the tall agent corrected him and indicated the bottle on the table. "His thank-you to everyone."

"Mmm... kind of 'im. Hope everyone appreciates it like I do."

"Laddie," Murphy began in a porridge-thick accent, "you havnae tasted anything yet. Weaned on tha' in ma cradle, I was. Mother's milk. Now the real thing -- You havnae tasted the real McCow till you've sampled ma da's home brew." Doyle groaned and Murphy gave his shoulders a confiding squeeze. "He culd varnish the keel of his boat wi' it. Or strip it... one o' the two."

Doyle laughed and punched him lightly in the ribs, enjoying the group's banter and back and forth joking as everyone relaxed and let their tensions go. He stayed with them for a while, then moved on round the room, chatting with other colleagues he hadn't laid eyes on in weeks, catching up on some gossip.

He found he wasn't the only one lamenting Bodie's absence. Several of the girls demanded to know where he was and whether he'd make it to the party. They were disappointed to be told no, most especially Kirsty, who sulked so much that Doyle asked her whether Bodie had promised her anything special.

"No," she said, "but you know what he's been like other years. Really gets the fun going with that weird sense of humour of his. I hoped he'd be here."

Doyle put an arm round her slim form. "Never mind," he said confidentially, feeling her perfume mingle pleasantly in his senses. "You've got me now, an' I'm one better. Your up-market party addition, you might say." He smirked into her eyes, testing, knowing she'd only ever had eyes for Bodie.

She wasn't much appeased. "You're okay, Ray," she allowed, "But Bodie's more fun. Remember that costume he arrived in last year?" she went on before he could contradict. "God, he was a scream."

"Costume?" A vague and silly picture was forming in Doyle's mind. Red woollen trousers and jacket, edged in fluffy white fur, a matching hat and a long, luxuriously curled silvery white beard and wig.

"Yeah, I remember." And he started to laugh. Bodie had suddenly appeared in a Santa Claus outfit, all clues to his identity hidden as he'd clumped around the room, presenting everyone with a joky gift from a rather lumpy looking sack. All clues hidden, that was, until he'd drawn level with Doyle and laughing blue eyes had given the game away. Laughing back, Doyle had held out an expectant hand to him, but without delving into his sack once more, Bodie had offered something he was already holding in his palm and had closed Doyle's fingers over warm, coiled sponginess, before winking at him and moving on.

Opening his hand and looking curiously down, Doyle had let out a revolted yell, dropping it to the floor where it had lain, in a small and disgusting heap, looking exactly like the dog turd it was meant to represent.

That night had been a laugh, Doyle thought fondly, happy and uncluttered by worries. A lot had happened since then. Faces had come and gone, well known and liked as well as new and untried. And one was still missing.

Before unwelcome melancholia could take hold again, Doyle grinned round at the girls as a wicked, wholly enjoyable thought began to form.

"Have we still got that costume?" he asked, and as interested eyes turned on him, he nodded. "I've got an idea."

Kirsty nodded. "Yes, one of the girls ran it up for him on her sewing machine. He didn't want to take it home so it's still here somewhere. Only thing that had to go back to the shop was the wig."

"Great. D'you know there it all is?"

"Yes," said Jenny, one of the typists. "I saw it this morning in one of the storerooms when I was getting the other stuff out. Shall I fetch it?"

Doyle wouldn't tell them exactly why he wanted it and they assumed he was going to try the same thing, just play at being Santa Claus, but it was a bit of fun and two of them went to search out the outfit. Doyle moved on to have a few more serious words with Cowley.

"Enjoying yourself, Doyle?" Cowley asked as Doyle gazed at him with candid interest. Cowley could take on a surprisingly dissolute appearance when it suited him, clothes a little disarrayed, sparse hair rumpled and ruffled. Enough to make him look endearingly human and as imperfect as the rest of them.

Doyle hurriedly swallowed the thought and the grin that came with it.

"Yes, sir," he replied and held out his glass. "Believe I have you to thank for this."

"Aye," Cowley began smugly, then clucked in disapproval. "Och, you always did have the cheek of the devil, Doyle." And from somewhere he found a half full bottle of the precious pure malt, tipping a generous measure into Doyle's glass.

Realising now that what he'd held aloft had been empty, Doyle stared at the liquid with amazement. The Cow had to be half cut to be giving this away without hardly being asked. To have got a second malt from Cowley -- Why wasn't Bodie here to have seen this?

His benefactor drifted off to another group and Doyle stood alone for a moment. Still amazed, he held up his glass, turning it so that the light glowed through the warm amber nectar.

And around one side of the glass, in his peripheral vision, his eye seemed to catch a strangely familiar sight. He lowered it to check and found himself gazing across the room, full into Bodie's amused night-blue eyes.

Fuzzy with tiredness and a little blurry round the edges, Doyle didn't move but continued staring, wide-eyed and serious, stunned by his second consecutive shock that night.

Wearing an enigmatic smile but clearly twinkling eyes, Bodie inclined his head a little, almost in congratulation it seemed to Doyle, and held up his own glass in a silent toast.

After a pause and still held by those eyes, Doyle did the same, brain trying to tick over furiously.

Bodie. He was back. Brilliant. Now they'd have some --

Then his partner's appearance registered on Doyle's consciousness. Open shirt, no jacket: Bodie looked warm and relaxed, as if he'd been in the room for some while. Not just arrived then, Doyle concluded. So how long... and why hadn't he -- ?

A two month absence and he hadn't even bothered to tap Doyle on the shoulder to say he was back.

In the mood to hold off until he'd thought about it and got some sort of answer for this strange behaviour, Doyle nodded slowly, raised his glass and drank, a mischievous glint in his own eyes. Bodie started to walk towards him, still smiling. Immediately, Doyle sidled away and circled a noisy crowd from which issued several conflicting voices, drowning everything else for yards around, competing with jokes and rude sound-effects. One of its number, McCabe, drew Doyle in, demanding to know whether he'd heard a particular story. Doyle dutifully listened but as the punchline approached and his eyes were drawn upwards by Lucas' exaggerated movements, he realised Bodie was still standing watching him, wearing a crooked little smile. It made Doyle miss the crunch to the joke entirely, forcing him to lie through his teeth about having heard it before, that being the only way to explain why he hadn't laughed in the right place.

Bodie joined the group and was enthusiastically welcomed, slapped on the back and questioned about his trip, much mileage being obtained from his 'holiday' in Amsterdam, Germany and France.

"Oh, yeah, it was one long booze," he agreed sarcastically. "But you know what Amsterdam's famous for, don't you?"

"Tulips?" quipped one wag.

"Being flat and watery?" someone else suggested.

"Well, they don't know what good beer is, it's true, but -- It's a pimp's paradise, me old fruits. Some real class there, too," Bodie told them, wanting some mileage of his own. "So much to go round, could've done with some of you to share it." He looked round at them all, coming to rest at last on Doyle who was talking intently to Anson. Bodie raised an eyebrow. Nobody talked intently with Anson.

Doyle had heard every lying word, easily splitting his attention between the cigar-chewing agent and everyone else's conversation.

Bodie watched, and waited. Doyle was just being perverse, showing his annoyance at not being told of his partner's return. Smugly confident of how much he'd been missed, Bodie hadn't yet admitted to himself just how good it was to be back.

He'd never have thought it would feel so much like coming home, walking into this old building, up the tatty stairs and along bleak corridors, but it had. And seeing everyone again was great, even better seeing them all together. But what had given him the biggest surprise was his pleasure at seeing Ray again, the funny little jolt he'd felt when he'd first spotted him, standing alone, savouring his whisky. Without realising he was doing it, Bodie had stayed still, charting Doyle's progress around the room, watching the different expressions cross the tired, pensive face. Apart from that tiredness, there was little change from two months ago, Bodie was pleased to note. The soft brown curls were a bit longer, perhaps, the wide-set eyes a little dark-shadowed, but the full, expressive mouth still looked the same, hedonistically enjoying the malt, long fingers wrapped round the glass, lifting it frequently; and the fitted shirt and slacks were showing off a slim and fit body, same as always.

Then Doyle had looked up and seen him and again Bodie had felt that odd jolt somewhere under his ribs. Large eyes had flashed green surprise at him, a flicker of warmth, changing to speculation and then mischief as Doyle had decided to play Bodie at his own game.

Bodie had no argument with this, but as the game advanced, part of him acknowledged it probably wasn't wise. But it felt good, different, and after the rigours of the past few months and his own sense of loss, the present party atmosphere and his own well-hidden hedonistic streak demanded he continue with it and see what happened.

And so he followed Doyle around the room, his partner always somehow managing to stay a step ahead of him, smiling often now. Bodie let him go, resigned to being ignored until Doyle should deign otherwise. But every now and then, at unexpected moments, between conversations or in the middle of one, Doyle would catch and hold his eyes before looking away again.

Another half an hour went by like this and Bodie's patience began to thin. He now wanted to talk to Doyle, reassure himself that everything had been okay for him over the last eight weeks, and tell Doyle a little of what he'd seen and done.

But the girls from data processing had surrounded the pair of them, monopolising the conversation, their smiling attractiveness in marked contrast to the more serious faces of Ruth Pettifer, Sarah Pring and even Betty, who all tended to prefer the company of the older men in the squad. They did have more responsibility than the other girls and consequently their wish for more meaningful conversation was respected. But they weren't the sort of party companions either Bodie or Doyle usually sought out.

Doyle watched Kirsty making eyes at Bodie, only just stopping himself from laughing. It did something funny to his stomach to see Bodie with this usually much-sought-after section of the female workforce and yet know his partner wanted to talk to him alone.

Cowley drew Doyle's attention then and he withdrew from the circle with a laugh in his eyes. Their boss kept him talking for several minutes with various comments on his last reports, seeming totally unaware that he held less than fifty per cent of his agent's attention. A tiny, half-hysterical voice inside Doyle's head kept insisting that Cowley was definitely well-oiled.

After the second long, enigmatic look from beneath lowered lashes, Bodie had an amazed thought.

He's teasing me. Not giving me the cold shoulder treatment -- bloody flirting with me. Another jolt disturbed several butterflies into fluttering life in his stomach.

It felt strange and exciting, and he tossed back velvety red wine, feeling another inhibition slide under the onslaught of alcohol and visual and very sensory input. Daringly, he let his eyes slip down over the front of the slim body, lingering in places, knowing himself observed and interested in the result. It was worth it.

The inscrutable smile disappeared and the green eyes became strangely heavy for a moment, sleepy almost, before blinking rapidly and focussing themselves intently on Cowley's unseen lined features.

Bodie grinned and slung an arm around a feminine waist, unthinking. It got him into trouble with Kirsty, dragging his mind off Doyle and back to the girls. Asked rather possessively about his holiday plans, he was forced to keep his mind on them for a while and by the time he excused himself on the pretext of feeling hungry, Doyle seemed to have vanished.

Nibbling half-heartedly on cheese and biscuits, Bodie eventually located him over by the stereo, looking idly through the record collection someone had brought in. Bodie took determined steps towards him.

Escaped and mercifully alone for a few minutes, Doyle was sorting out and coming to terms with his feelings -- above as well as below the waistline. Inwardly laughing at their teasing game, that suddenly unexpected and sensual survey had taken his breath away, and the nerves it had set fluttering told him that he hoped for, wanted, more. And he didn't want it to be a game any longer. For several minutes afterwards, while his thoughts might have been puzzled and questioning, his eyes had appreciated his partner's dark good looks as if for the first time. It was the first time... in this way. Never before had his eyes lingered on that softly waved dark cap of hair or the smooth, fine-grained skin below. Never had he taken such personal pleasure in the length of those lashes or the colour of the eyes they at first revealed then concealed from him. At their more adventurous, open movement, Doyle had swallowed jerkily and been forced to fix his attention very firmly on Cowley.

There was a decision to make here, for the good of the partnership. Several decisions, never mind what he might want for himself. They could stop the game now and ignore its possible implications as if they'd never happened; continue with it but keep it light; or -- and here his nervousness increased as he considered this last alternative -- continue with it and take it as far as he... and Bodie... wanted to take it.

The next step was his... but which way?

Leafing blindly through a pile of singles for the third time, he became aware of a pair of black-clad legs standing before him. All around, laughter and conversation swelled as the party spirit began to carry some of their colleagues away, and behind him the tapedeck thumped out a stirring, never-ending beat.

Still and quiet inside, Doyle looked up into deep dark eyes and an unfathomable expression. Bodie held a glass of wine out to him, eyes dropping briefly to Doyle's mouth before locking gazes again.


Considering how best to break this tantalizing silence between them, without losing the mood, Doyle watched the movement of the shapely mouth as it touched the lip of the wineglass. He took the one still being held out to him, feeling faintly flushed with heat, and stroked the stem of the glass lightly. "This wouldn't be the apple... would it?" he murmured naughtily, eyes cast down.

Bodie drew in a breath, but before he could say anything, the door opened and his partner's head turned as someone called his name.

Hidden from Bodie's view, red and white fabric was being waved at Doyle from behind the door. After an utterly blank pause, Doyle remembered his earlier rather silly idea. It was on the tip of his tongue to dismiss it, then he thought, why not, just for a laugh? Give Bodie a laugh.

Glancing back at his partner with a 'wait, back in a minute,' look, he sidled quickly out through the door and shut it after him.

"We've found it," one girl said.

"But there's no wig and you'll look silly with dark hair and white beard," reminded the other, then brandished a spray can at him. "But we did find this. Silver glitter," she announced. "Spray your hair with it?"

Doyle nodded almost absent-mindedly, something further on down the corridor having caught his imagination. There was a splendid bunch of mistletoe hanging over the lintel of Cowley's office door. The visions that conjured up made Doyle grin widely. But the Cow didn't need the whole of that generous bunch...


"'Nother idea," he mumbled and went to pinch a heavily berried bit of the mistletoe. "Where's this storeroom?"

It felt too warm in the room for Bodie's liking, and he sipped his wine thirstily, eyes on the door, wondering what his partner could be up to.

Doyle didn't reappear and a little at a loss, Bodie looked idly towards the food table again.


Bodie's head snapped round. "Yes, sir?" How long had he been standing there?

"Ah, welcome home, 3.7."

Bodie ignored the sardonic tone, deciding to be prudent in the hope that a second glass of Glenfiddich might come his way too.

"Yeah, 'tis nice to be back." He smiled at the Scot.

"Aye, well you won't think so in a couple of weeks."

The smile faded and regretting his harshness, Cowley made himself say what he'd wanted to in the beginning. "You did well, 3.7. We've already had some good reports of you." He clasped a broad shoulder awkwardly, already turning away. "And you were missed."

Bodie stared after his employer in surprise.


Bodie turned at the mutter in his ear to find Murphy grinning at him. "Yeah, I know. Didn't get me anywhere though, did it?"

"What did you want?"

"Was hoping for another malt. Doyle got one."

"Ah, but Doyle's an odd case. Don't think the Cow can ever make up his mind about him."

"Makes two of us," Bodie muttered under his breath. "Did you keep an eye on 'im like I asked, Murph?"

"Tried, yeah, but Cowley had him here, there, and everywhere." Murphy pulled an expressive face. "We're all knackered, Bodie. And Doyle isn't the sunniest of blokes to work with. He was mostly on his own, I think."

Bodie frowned at this. "Alone? You know he's not suited to that. The Cow knows as well. Why'd he -- ?"

"Bodie," Murphy interrupted. "You're mothering. Doyle did okay. You think Cowley didn't know that he was doing, sending him out on his own? And anyway, I spent some time with him -- as per your instructions -- and Cowley's," he said ironically, "so I know he was okay. Happy now?"

Bodie shook his head but gave a reluctant grin. Maybe he was fussing but if he'd known that while he'd been away --

"Well, maybe this'll help." And snaking an arm between bodies, Murphy snagged his bottle of scotch off the table. He held it enquiringly over Bodie's glass.

Bodie stared at it. "You're a magician, Murph," he said appreciatively as the whisky trickled into his glass. "You really are. Ah, this is the stuff." A thought struck him and he welcomed the diversion. "What the hell are you doin' with that bottle, anyway?"

"Officer in Charge, I am. Cowley's orders," Murphy told him with a laugh in his eye. "One measure for all who deserve it, an' two for special cases." He grinned at Bodie's disbelieving expression. "'S right."

"The Cow obviously doesn't know you as well as he thinks he does," Bodie observed at last in a dry voice, ignoring the questionable compliment.

"I can't think what you mean." Murphy took an innocent sip of his orange juice. "I'm no drinker. Not like some I could mention."

"Not now you're not," Bodie replied meaningfully. "But the Cow 'asn't seen all the sights I 'ave."

"Uh, let's go and talk to Robbie, shall we?" Murphy suggested hastily.

Bodie grinned and followed him across the room. They seated themselves alongside the hapless Robbie, who beamed at them and the arrival of the precious bottle still clasped to Murphy's bosom, and good-naturedly prepared himself for some more teasing.

A while later Cowley departed with the teetotal Miss Pettifer, amid many whistles and rash cries of 'whae hae!' from around the room. Mouth twitching, he waited until he'd reached the door then turned.

"Enjoy yourselves," he told them all. "You deserve it. But -- " and he held up a finger of warning, "If I hear of anyone using their ID to try and get themselves off a drinks-drive charge, they'll be off the Squad, permanently. Is that clear?" He scanned the nodding heads and then softened. "Have a good Christmas and Hogmanay, all of you, and I'll see you in the New Year."

"Now the fun'll begin," observed Murphy as the door closed, and he studied his glass of fruit juice morosely. A very light drinker by choice now, he considered he paid for his folly most unfairly. How many piss-artists would he play taxi for before the night was over, he wondered.

As if to echo Murphy's observation, gales of laughter were heard from the group standing near the door. Both Bodie and Murphy looked round but couldn't see anything through the throng of bodies. Jax, ever curious, stood on a chair for a better look. He snorted very loudly.

"Hey, Bodie," he called, "you'd better take a look at this. Ray's makin' a prat of 'imself."

"This I must see," said Reynolds, and they all got up to go and have a look.

A very strange sight met their eyes. Just inside the door, making his way from girl to girl was an extremely vulgar parody of Santa Claus.

Doyle was wearing the trousers and jacket all right -- nothing wrong with that -- but it was what he was wearing on his head that was causing the laughs. He wore the beard properly suspended below mouth and chin, but above gleamed not a harmless curly white wig, but silver glitter. And lodged firmly on those sparkling curls was a circlet of tinsel-entwined wire. Leading up from the back of the circlet in a long tinselly arch, was another piece of wire. The curve finished several inches above his glittering forehead and dangling from the wire hook was a fine sprig of mistletoe.

Bodie stared, then grinned, then snorted and finally began to laugh. Trust Doyle. Put his own interpretation into anything, he would, willing to make a complete berk of himself on occasions, as long as he got what he wanted out of it.

He wasn't doing too badly, either, Bodie allowed, wiping a tear from his eye. The level of enthusiasm differed from girl to girl -- not to be wondered at when that gorgeous mouth was half obscured by a hairy beard -- but amid catcalls and laughs, Doyle was getting one after another, fortifying himself inbetween with sips of wine.

"Can I 'ave one?" a very masculine voice yelled. Doyle turned and advanced on the group with puckered lips, causing some of them to back away in laughing haste, while the others made a grab for him. He evaded them.

"Dontcha like me initiative?" he asked plaintively. "The Cow'd be proud of me."

That caused more guffaws and rude suggestions.

"Can I take you 'ome with me? McCabe wanted to know. "You'd fit a treat on top of my Christmas tree."

"Hey, hey," Doyle called for some hush. "D'you wanna know what I did jus' now?"

"You got the Cow!" yelled someone.

"Nah, one better than that," Doyle dismissed, then announced delightedly, "I got Ruth! I got Ruthie under the mistletoe. Ha ha! She won't forget that in a hurry!"

"No, and neither will you," Lucas told him. "She won't let you."

"Ah, she won't think any the worse of me than she does already." And with that, Doyle forgot the superior Miss Pettifer and got back to the job in hand, happy with the success of his outfit.

Half admiring and envious, Bodie watched him get to work on two girls at the same time, while a couple of others lined up in a giggling queue. A few more disappeared over the far side of the room, having experienced Ray Doyle before.

A naughty thought occurred to Bodie as he watched and listened and before he could have second thoughts, he nudged Murphy to watch and pushed his way round the outskirts of the crowd. He evaded Kirsty and emerged between two of the prettiest computer girls, hunkering down a little to their level.

Doyle was advancing unsteadily along the line towards him, looking a little dishevelled now, silver glitter absolutely everywhere, highlighting eyebrows, cheekbones and beard.

He homed in on the girl next to Bodie, still not noticing the dark-haired masculine anomaly.

The anomaly cast an eye at his mates. Not all were watching but the few that were were silently falling about.

Mistletoe bobbing, Doyle extricated himself finally, beard sadly awry. He smirked at the girl and took a decadent swig of wine, eyes already moving on to the next potential pair of lips.

Meeting those eyes in innocent expectancy, Bodie saw them widen, then blink and then water as a mouthful of wine went down the wrong way and Doyle began to cough and laugh it the same time.

Finally composed, Doyle shook his head at his partner. "Shouldn't do that to a bloke," he complained. "Gave me a nasty turn, that did." He grinned and began to move on to the next girl.

But Bodie wasn't having that. "Oi, oi," he said, plucking him back. "What about me, then?"

Doyle knew precisely what his devil of a partner was after and yesterday would have delighted in giving it to him, but now -- Stupidly, just when he most wanted to, he couldn't. He was obsessed with the eyes around them and the thought of the consequences; too scared to do anything about it. He looked blank. "What about you?"

"I'm in line," Bodie pointed out reasonably. "Why can't I 'ave one too?"

"Yeah, go on," one of the girls urged, and a couple of the others nodded at Doyle.

Doyle's stomach clenched. He would readily have traded all the girls for a moment's privacy with Bodie, but that insistence, coming from someone other than his partner, said that he could do it, as long as he kept laughing. Did he dare?

"Sorry, sunshine," he began mischievously, feeling a sudden wild need to be unpredictable and perverse and bugger the consequences. "I don't know what you're after. You'll 'ave to spell it out."

Bodie's resolution grew. Trust Doyle. The little bastard. Okay then.

"You're wearin' all the gear," Bodie gestured to the swinging sprig of mistletoe, "an' you've been doin' fine so far. We're all patiently waiting and I'm next in line. So le's 'ave it -- pucker up an' give us a kiss!"

Doyle shook his head laughingly, wanting to too much.

"G'wan, give 'im a kiss," one of the girls hissed. A wolf-whistle from somewhere urged them recklessly on.

"Go on."

Eyes twinkling, mouth laughing behind long white whiskers, Doyle finally capitulated and stepped closer, beginning to lean forward.

Bodie immediately leant backwards.

"Wait," he said imperiously, and gestured with disdain at the lipstick marked beard. "Hoist that up out the way first. Yer not kissin' me through that."

"Oh lah de dah," mocked Doyle, desperate now. His insides felt like an enormously hollow cavern at the thought of what he was going to do next.

They were surrounded by a cluster of the younger girls by now, all determined that Doyle would pay the fine his partner had fixed for such a game.

Nothing else for it, Doyle decided, no other prevarication springing to mind. He lifted the beard out of the way, surreptitiously wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and leant towards the waiting face.

Holding the beard up in the air meant he couldn't see a thing and therefore was relying on Bodie to be accurate.

He felt his lips touch firm gentleness, a quick and delicate contact, hardly able to believe it was happening, but as he began to draw back, a shove in his shoulderblades pitched him forward and for a brief instant he was pressed full against that well-remembered, sculptured shape.

Shock and feigned outrage brought him out of it a second later and he whirled around amid gales of laughter to try and find the perpetrator.

Of course, he couldn't tell who'd done it and it didn't really matter, but by the time his brain had unscrambled itself sufficiently to allow him to turn back to his partner, Bodie was grinning slyly again, arms around two girls.

Doyle could have kicked himself for missing the first few seconds' expression on that smug face. It might have been revealing. Instead, something he'd wanted but not expected had happened and been relegated to the joke it probably was before he could --

Before he could what? Muddled thoughts coalesced.

Enjoy it, his honesty proclaimed unflinchingly. No, he had enjoyed it -- it had just been too quick. He wanted more. Next time he'd --

Next time? What was he thinking of? Doyle berated himself for stupid thinking and settled his whiskers back into place, glad they covered a revealing flush of heat.

Seeing that the remaining girls were happily occupied with Bodie, Doyle sidled quietly away and made for the cluster of colleagues around the food table. He wasn't hungry but it'd give him some time to think. But the right thoughts wouldn't marshall themselves and instead he got himself another drink and remembered the feel of Bodie's mouth.

Surreptitiously, he searched his partner out between the heads and found himself being observed from several yards away, the deep blue eyes crinkled in private amusement... and something else.

Too smug by half, Doyle thought slowly. Did Bodie think he'd discomfited him, then? He'd probably like to. But if Bodie thought that, he had a little more to learn --

Losing himself determinedly in the throng again and pulling off his beard as the first concession to the heat, Doyle procured himself a glass of straight lemonade and drained it. Too late to wish for a clear head, but he was going to be reckless enough without further prompting.

Avoiding Bodie, he made his way to the door, managing to pass Jenny on the way.

"Come and give me a hand with this clobber, love," he asked her. "I'm too hot in it."

They left the room, unnoticed by all but one, and he'd only guessed because he saw the door open and close.

Bodie relaxed then and hid his expression in his glass, heartbeat still too high. Would Doyle be back, he wondered, or was that it -- he'd got what he'd wanted, done his rounds and had a laugh and was off home? Always one to act on a decision, Doyle.

Whoever had pushed that skinny little body so precipitately into his arms had a lot to answer for, and if Bodie knew who it had been, he'd stalk up to them, nail them to the wall with a glare, and... thank them... his wayward heart finished independently.

Yeah, thank them then give them a wallop over the head for making him see that what he yearned for was a joke. Impossible.

He fetched himself another drink and gazed down into fizzing bubbles, knowing himself to be half cut. He'd be okay in the morning... but for now it was making him dream of unobtainable things.

"Bodie, Bodie." Someone was jiggling his arm agitatedly. It was Jenny. "Come and help," she urged, pulling him towards the door. "Ray's hurt himself. He's in pain. Come and help, quickly."

Her expression was so urgent that Bodie felt a lurch of worry. He put down his glass and followed her without demur, quickening the pace as soon as they were though the door.

"He couldn't get that thing off his head," Jenny was explaining. "It's hurting him." She led him down the corridor and around a corner into a narrower passageway, standing back to let him enter the storeroom first.

There was no sign of Doyle between the racks and shelves, but then Bodie heard a low moan. He took a few steps inside, searching. "Ray?" he called urgently, "Ray, are you all right? Where are you?" There was another moan and then with shocking abruptness, the lights went out and there was silence.

"Eek," squealed Jenny, frightened in the doorway, and Bodie heard her pattering carefully back to the main corridor, which he could see was also in darkness.

"What the hell -- Ray, where are you?" Very worried for his partner, Bodie tried to listen but apart from his own rapid breathing, he could hear nothing. Then, from behind him came a small click.

The door.

Bodie whirled in pitch blackness, senses reaching out for sound, hand going for reassuring solid metal that should have been nestling in his armpit.

Genuine electricity failure, or terrorist attack? In the centre of CI5 HQ, rationale argued. But he was afraid for Doyle.

"Ray! For god's sake..." But there was still no answer, and unfamiliar with the layout of the room, Bodie groped his way back towards the door, hoping to find the light switch. As he reached the wall, a soft voice made him jump and the back of his neck and scalp began to prickle.


Pulse rate quickening with the strangeness of it, he tried to peer into the inky darkness. "Ray? Where are you? What are you doing?"

"I'm right here." The voice held velvet self-assurance, cat's eyes bringing Doyle to stand unseen, right in front of Bodie and so close Bodie could feel his body warmth.

"Must've been a mains failure, mate," Bodie managed over a thumping heart. What the hell was going on?

"No," Doyle replied placidly, letting his every sense work for him. Five foot ten of dynamic, sexy body stood a bare step away from him, a turbulent lifeforce Doyle knew he wanted to know better, explore its ways, its mysteries. The thought excited him. Powerful predator in the dark, offbalance and vulnerable for a moment; Doyle wanted to keep that advantage for now.

Stepping forward without warning, he plastered himself against Bodie's length, hearing and feeling the gasp and jolt of surprise as Bodie instinctively backed against the wall, giving Doyle chance to retreat, accepting him fully when he didn't.

"Ray," Bodie tried again, shocked. He didn't know what to think, but his hands came up to hold bare, hot arms.

Doyle leaned against him. "Haven't welcomed you home yet," he murmured musingly, one obviously naked knee insinuating itself between both of Bodie's. Had this wanton any clothes on, Bodie wondered, totally bemused.

Heart thumping, Bodie took him, letting Doyle press them both back against the wall, feeling the steel grip of narrow fingers around the tops of his arms pinning him back against cold plaster and paint. In staggering contrast to that chill was the heat seeping through his thin shirt and slacks, holding fast in bony sections to his chest, hip and thigh.

"Oh?" he queried with deceptive lightness. "Thought you did pretty well, back there."

"Oh, no," came the faintly breathy reply. "Not half as well as I'd've liked. Not as well as I'm able."

"Well... the Cow always says we've got to give our best." Bodie's hands tightened helplessly around heated flesh, the words leaving of their own accord. "What's your best, Ray?"

"I'll show you..."

Still unable to see anything, Bodie's surface nerves tensed, literally creeping in sensory anticipation as slender fingers left his arms and travelled inwards, without breaking contact, along his collarbones and up the wary tendons of his neck.

It was a terribly vulnerable feeling, almost of dread, and Bodie was close to pushing his partner away, when a gentle thumb traced along his jaw and up to rub softly at the side of his mouth.

Head blurry with alcohol and dizzy with shock, the rest of Bodie felt alive, open and warm with longing, each cell now acutely aware of the pleasure to come.

Fingertips grazed his cheek and temple. "I'll show you," the soft whisper came again, and thumbs providing a beautiful point of triangulation in the dark, Doyle's mouth found his.

This was no brief, frivolous contact barely permitted by social, yet festive, behaviour. Doyle lingered, supremely gentle, coaxing and promising, putting all his feelings of loneliness and loss into the kiss, instilling into it his rediscovery, his knowledge now that Bodie wanted this, his gladness and a newer, more tender emotion.

Bodie tried to draw him closer, seduced totally by that full, undemanding mouth, more shapely and more giving than any remembered female's. He wanted, needed, had to have more, the lick of fire flickering insistently through his body demanded it. But before he could obey that longing and make the softness open for him, Doyle took the initiative.

A subtle shift of muscled warmth along Bodie's body fanned the flames out of control and made him gasp in helpless arousal. In counterpoint, a clever, silky-slide of fingertips along his ear and into his hair tilted Bodie's head, and a hot tongue plundered his open mouth.

Eyes slowly closing in luxurious anguish, Bodie moaned and took that sleek, wet probe fully, meeting it with his own, caressing and duelling, slowly then fiercely as it charted his mouth with a touch of arrogance now.

Unwilling to break this most delicious contact with his mate, there was nonetheless a wild hunger in Doyle to know more. Slowly he pulled back from the deep kiss and pressed many small caresses on the still parted lips. But Bodie wouldn't let him go and pulled him in again, mouth demanding.

So much fervour in so little time, sound and light. As if in a void, they were aware of nothing and no one save each other.

Doyle went willingly, feeling and tasting, breathing shallow and rapid, prolonging the kiss past all bearing until both were in need of air.

His erection almost unbound, Doyle wanted desperately to feel Bodie's, flesh to flesh. His mate's head fell back against the wall as he panted for air, and Doyle slipped lower, pressing his mouth into the softness under Bodie's jaw, feeding on the rapid pulsepoint he found there. Lower still, he ranged over the so-smooth skin; creamy in texture to look at, it stood the test of intimate touch, silky under lips and exploring tongue.

Bodie's breath caught, ragged and halting as the knowing mouth descended. Buttons were being unfastened, fabric pushed aside and a fiery wetness skimmed and lingered, licking, pressing and biting in an accelerating dance over his upper body.

Lost as they both were in this hungry world of sensation, the approaching clamour of voices went unnoticed until it stood outside the very door. A faint glow shone under the bottom of the door and the handle rattled.

The knowledge of what he'd done returned to Doyle and he relaxed, but he felt a jolt of panic run through the body he held as Bodie guessed the door would open.

But the yale lock held and with murmurs of 'It's locked... we'll have to go down to reception,' the voices retreated.

Returned unpleasantly to the world that lay outside the door, Bodie tried to speak. But ready for this withdrawal, Doyle kissed him again, palms circling on damp, aroused nipples. He felt Bodie's tension drain away, felt the bloodfire rise again in himself and was powerless to prevent his right palm from dropping down to discover Bodie for the first time. He found heat and hardness, so close to his own, and felt Bodie jerk in shocked pleasure, his breathing stopping altogether before resuming in heavier cadence.

Cloth was annoyingly in the way and slender, skillful fingers plucked at leather buckle, button and zip, undoing all three with nimble speed. Close-fitting stretched cotton was pulled down and away and Bodie was bared to him, free to touch and caress.

With each new action, Bodie's fingers dug harder into Doyle's arms. The wiry strength under his frantic grip and the solidity of the wall behind were all that was keeping him upright. If he lost either, he knew he'd sink to the floor. Unable to do more than take these searing, searching caresses, begging silently for more, he was startled at the speed and surety with which his partner was mapping each exciting new point of reference.

Looking down into darkness but seeing nothing, Doyle wished fervently that he could see how Bodie looked. Skimming softly down the hairless chest to the small navel, he descended in a straight line, gentle, questing fingers finding the intriguing beginnings of crisp, curling hair. It lured him lower and his palm closed at last on slender-solid heat, eliciting a low, throaty sound, abruptly cut off as Bodie waited, trembling, for Doyle to do more.

Not yet ready to obey the restless twitchings, Doyle continued searching with touch and pleasure-knowledge of his own body to guide him. Fingers a loose, stroking circle, Doyle passed lightly over each swollen ridge until he reached the curve of the velvet-smooth head, feather-brushing it ticklishly, then as Bodie thrust in helpless desire into his hand, he laid a thumb squarely against the sensitive flesh, tightening his fingers.

A hissed curse came out of the darkness and Doyle smiled, holding the thrusting body back against the wall with a restraining arm over broad chest.

Doyle longed to stop and be rid of the infuriating, chafing garment he had left on himself, but there was no time. The throbbing heat under his hand demanded he follow this course, bring Bodie's pleasure before any thought of his own; this quickening of pace in his lover demanded it, and he wanted to give.

Undisturbed now by the fact that his body was being played by a sensual connoisseur, Bodie let it happen, thoughts empty of everything except unfulfilled pleasure and the desire to hold this vital body in his arms, if he could only move them. Never before had anyone put his needs first, his own pleasure before theirs. It was uncovering new levels of arousal in him, each touch spiced with the unknown, darkness heightening everything.

Bodie barely held back a groan of desperation as the searching fingers slipped lower and cupped him, holding him up against his own body, lifting and rubbing softly until he could bear no more and ground out his lover's name, panting hard.

Open to the approaching, pulsing waves, Bodie beckoned them, strung taut and lost. He needed -- needed --

But Ray seemed to be slipping from his grasp just when he needed him most. He wanted that strong, hot body against him as he thrust, not apart from him, down there --

Fuzzily aware of the clutching fingers and incoherent sounds, Doyle reached up, reassuring with a caress over trembling thigh and belly, nuzzling moistly, the scent and feel of Bodie sweeping all else away.

But incredibly, Bodie seemed to be pushing him away. Unsure, Doyle paused, hearing a repeated blurred negative. Still crouching, he looked up, limbs weak, and felt strong fingers encircle his arms. He went with the lifting hands and stroked the smooth chest, waiting. He could feel Bodie's eyes searching him out. Clenching fingers loosened and slipped upwards, onto his shoulderblades and then down. Doyle leaned into the caress, lifting in feline pleasure, encouraging it further. How he needed this.

He half expected Bodie to stop, unsure, when he found fabric, but his partner didn't hesitate. Two thumbs hooked into clipping elastic and eased it surely down.

Wanting to be rid of the annoyance for good, Doyle leaned back and lifted each leg in turn until the briefs were gone.

Bare and beautifully unhampered, he let Bodie pull him in again, senses concentrated in his groin as fire met fire, hard and pushing. Panting, he thrust back, fitting them together and was pulled even closer by warm hands spanning his buttocks.

The pulling and pressing increased in pace as rhythm was found and easily followed. Hot and desperate, there was so much more Doyle wanted to do, so many ways he wanted to touch Bodie, but he'd followed his partner's desire until it was his own, more than content for this time to keep this reassuring closeness.

The sweet, dark gathering began to spread outwards, Doyle felt hard fingers slip between them, searching his chest, slowing and softening as they found a peaked nipple. Mouth empty with longing, Doyle leaned in and found a muscled shoulder, collarbone and neck, feeling the movement of working tendons under his lips as Bodie panted and groaned.

Doyle felt the silky head fall forward at the exact moment Bodie stopped breathing. Warmth spurted moistly against him. He loved the slick feel of it and the hot breath on him, was nearly there himself, when sharp teeth latched onto his neck and bit down. Doyle gasped in pleasure and with one more hard thrust, came, with violence, a cry building.

Head lifting, Bodie clamped a squarely capable hand over his open mouth, muffling him. Doyle struggled to breathe and as tumbling waves of ecstasy passed and receded, and they both held each other up against the wall, he began to chuckle.

Feeling the residual thrumming pleasure throughout his body, Bodie held his lover close, faintly worried about the stronger vibrations under his hands. Taking his hand away, he traced the well-known feature with gentle curiosity and felt its upward curve lighting the unseen mouth just before his fingers were pressed close in a kiss.

Still breathless, Bodie gave a huge, contented sigh and rested his cheek on silky curls.

"Will I -- Will you always give me a welcome home like that, d'you think?" he managed at last, breaking the long silence between them.

"Mmm... yeah... should think so," Doyle murmured, moving himself stickily against Bodie, words a little slurred. "'S often as you like... an' in diff'rent ways... if I'm allowed next time," he finished meaningfully.

"'S many ways as you like," Bodie told him contentedly in the darkness, completing the simple commitment, and his hands rose to cradle the loved face, pulling it gently forward.

Doyle let himself be felt and tasted this time, happy to finish this almost as it had started. It also kept him from laughing, which was a good thing as he didn't want Bodie to misunderstand his bubbly happiness.

"Can we go home now?" Bodie was suggesting softly to him. "Wanna see you..."

"Yeah..." Unable to stop stroking and caressing the bits of Bodie that were newly open to him, Doyle found and cupped tautly clenched buttocks and felt another stirring of pleasure at the intimacy.

Bodie felt it too. "Home," he stressed softly.

Coming out of the spell with reluctance, Doyle took a breath. "P'raps Murph'll be good 'nough to take us home, eh?"

"Yeah, go and see," said Bodie, still holding him fast. "'M not fit to face anyone yet."

"Mmmm... gotta dress." Doyle kissed him again. "Put the light on."

"No. No light. Not yet. Wanna keep this... this... magic for a bit longer."

Doyle chuckled again at this obvious reluctance to voice such things, the unaccustomed otherworld feeling he knew was running through his mate. There was also, he thought, a touch of shyness in the deep voice.

"Go an' hold the door open, then. The lights are back on an' it'll give me enough to see by."

Pulling his own clothes into some semblance of order, Bodie complied, hearing quick rustling movements behind him.

Without warning, a fully clothed body pressed with intimate knowledge against his back as he watched the corridor, the heat and immediacy of the last few minutes only a little subdued.

"Stay here for a while, " Doyle whispered. "Give me time to find Murphy and go out to the carpark with him."

"Hey." Bodie caught him by the arm as he passed. "Was it just luck that the lights went out, or did you...?"

"Glad you didn't say bad luck," Doyle chuckled wickedly. "You didn't expect me to be anything less than in control, did you? I knew there was a mains switch in 'ere."

Without another gesture, Doyle slipped past and was gone.

Grinning to himself in disbelieving admiration, Bodie waited, then made his way out and stealthily down towards the main doors. He felt extremely odd, lightheaded and very out of this world. As if he'd been plucked out of an old, painfully cold life and thrust into one coloured with new understanding, laughter, lasting love and a warm, responsive body. He didn't feel all there and uncharacteristically held onto the bannister all the way down the stairs. Life was never going to be the same again, he recognised fuzzily, liking the warm, secret feeling lingering in his chest. Tonight had definitely been touched with something very like magic.

Standing in the darkened foyer, having thankfully met no one, Bodie waited and at last the familiar car drew up outside. He slipped through the doors and into the car, wishing fervently that the body standing close as he climbed past the tipped up front seat was going to be close to him for the ride home, instead of sitting far away beside the soberly competent Murphy.

Their friend looked back at Bodie in the glow of the car's interior light before Doyle slammed the door shut.

"Okay, Bodie?" he asked. "Ray said you've 'ad a drop too much. Say if you want me to stop."

Bodie hid a grin. Par for the course that Doyle would manage to get in a slur on his body's alcoholic adaptability. He let it pass, eyes on the haloed head of curls as they pulled out into the late night traffic. "Oh... yeah..." he agreed in soft slurred tones. "So used to the fine French wines and brandies, all this rough stuff 'as gone to me 'ead."

"It's all right for some," Murphy remarked glumly, then enquired, "Where to, then, gents?" There was a rather blank silence.

"My place," Doyle said quickly. "'S nearer. Quicker we get there the better for 'im." He cocked a thumb Bodie's way. "Unless you'd like your upholstery a different colour, Murph."

A wicked face looked briefly round at Bodie in the gloom, another message altogether in his eyes.

"Understood," Murphy said hastily and began driving them through the maze of back streets. "'S bin a good night, hasn't it?" he said.

"Yeah, not bad," Doyle agreed lightly. "My outfit went down rather well, I thought." He pretended not to hear the muffled snort from the back seat.

"Oh, yeah. I think there's several people who won't forget that in a hurry," Murphy told him. "You left your mark over a lot of the girls, you know. Yeah... sticky stuff, that glitter."

Too pleasantly sleepy, Bodie wasn't with it enough to think the remark odd. In fact, the next thing Bodie knew, they'd arrived at Doyle's flat and he was struggling to co-ordinate his feet and legs enough to climb out of the car.

The air struck chill on his warm flesh, made warmer by the memories he'd been indulging in during most of the drive, and he realised they'd both left their jackets behind at the party.

"...I'll look after him," Doyle was saying into the car to Murphy. "Thanks a lot, Murph. Happy Christmas."

"Yeah... 'appy Chrishmas, Murph," Bodie repeated, conscious of a warm, steadying hand around his arm. Whether it was strictly necessary or not he didn't care. It was wanted.

With a wave, Murphy was gone, leaving them alone. Doyle led Bodie up the short flight of steps to his front door.

"C'mon, sleepy 'ead, let's get inside in the warm."

They made it up to Doyle's flat, in silence mostly, but also because it seemed to Doyle that Bodie didn't exactly want to talk to him. He unlocked his door and ushered Bodie inside.

Bodie stood, back turned to his partner as Doyle set the locks, strangely at a loss for words. It wasn't like him and he couldn't pin down why he was feeling so reluctant.

Eventually, in a lingering silence, he turned and found Doyle patiently waiting for him. The stab of sweetness that lanced through Bodie's chest and stomach as he met those heavy eyes told him what his feeling was, but before he could think of anything to say, Doyle's expression underwent a drastic change.

His eyes widened as he stared at Bodie, and his mouth quivered before being pressed into a straight line. But whatever it was bursting to come out was too strong and refused to be hidden. One giggle escaped him which let loose a load more until he was laughing right out of control, head back, uneven white teeth revealed.

Puzzled, Bodie looked down at himself and felt over his hair in case some joke had been played on him. He found nothing wrong.

Quickly, Doyle took pity on the embarrassed expression and not wanting to spoil their mood, moved towards him.

"Oh, love," he managed, still chuckling. "Look." He led Bodie to his full length mirror and held him there.

Bodie scanned his person, rising slowly, eyes stilling in horror for a second until a smile pulled at his own mouth and he too began to laugh.

His shoulders were liberally sprinkled with glitter, but his face and hair were worse, heavily streaked with the stuff, glinting betrayingly under the soft glow of Doyle's hall lamp.

"No wonder -- " Doyle spluttered at last. "I thought that remark of Murphy's was a bit odd."

Bodie continued staring at himself, quiet now, as the magnitude of what they'd done weighed heavily on his mind. But no matter what serious thoughts came, his eyes were inexorably drawn to the reflection of the man at his side.

It was inevitable, he admitted, a culmination somehow, one that had been expected, worked for, longed for, for a long time. No regrets.

Doyle, hand on his partner's shoulder, was no longer looking into the mirror but at Bodie's profile. Serious now and slightly aloof, the beauty of it drew Doyle as it had always done. But now that awareness was touched with magnetism and a little awe at the knowledge of what this slowly unfurling emotion in him was.

He watched the longlashed eyes still gazing into the mirror. This touch of shyness his partner had inadvertently revealed to him was very endearing. He knew it wouldn't last long, but while it did, it was potently sweet and something Doyle was going to enjoy, and coax that same enjoyment from his mate.

Still sideways-on to Bodie, he ran his free hand caressingly across the broad chest and leant forward to press his lips to a faintly flushed cheek. Then quickly, before Bodie could turn from the mirror, Doyle's hand sped down to seek out his responsive lover, eyes turning mischievously to Bodie's in the glass.

Caught by their reflected tableau, Bodie couldn't move. What Ray had just done epitomised what he'd discovered for himself in his friend -- surprisingly gentle affection at one end of the scale, and sheer, unabashed physical lust at the other, and a whole range of feelings inbetween. He felt himself swell further under the softly probing fingers.

But, if Doyle should imagine he was always going to have this his own way...

With a sudden sharp movement, Bodie turned and pinned Doyle back against the wall, staring into surprised green eyes.

"Bedroom," he said with heavy softness. "I've had enough of walls, and this way I'll know no-one's going to come through the door."

And with that deliciously veiled promise, he pulled his silently appreciative love through the appropriate door and closed it firmly behind them.

-- THE END --

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