Story #4 (or possibly #5) in the Emma universe

She couldn't have been more then seventeen, Bodie decided and hardly a looker. Her dark hair hung in dirty ringlets, and her mascara, of which she wore far too much, had run with her tears leaving blue-black streaks down her face. She'd stopped crying apparently, and only looked sullen now. There was something about her . . .

"What d'you want?" Ray demanded.

"I told you I was coming by. Who's the bird, then?" he asked with studied calm. If Ray was having it off with this underage scrubber, Bodie didn't want to know. No, not Ray's type at all. Ray's face clouded and he turned away to fill his glass.

"She's my daughter," he said, his voice shaking slightly.

"Oh, bloody hell!" Bodie sat down quickly and tried to control a foolish grin. "Daughter?"

"That's what I said, isn't it?"

"I want a drink too," the girl announced.

"You're too young," Bodie said to her and she sneered at him.

"Sod off . . . ponce," she snapped.

"Emma!" So that was her name. Bodie gave her a charming smile.

"I'm your Uncle Bodie. Treat me with respect."

"Give over," she said, but she grinned at him. Ray's grin. He sauntered over to the bar and filled a glass for himself.

"When did this happen?" He indicated the undersized creature on the sofa. She had Ray's eyes under the smeared makeup, and his mouth too, covered by garish lipstick. And, he noticed with an indefinable surge of emotion, she had Ray's hands.

"Sixteen years ago."

"That puts you at . . . "

"Fifteen, thanks Archimedes."

"Well, where's she been all this time?"

"She's . . . "

"Hey, I'm here too, y'know," Emma announced. "I've been wi' me mum, but I'm gonna live wi' Da now, right Da?" She looked irresistably waiflike.

"Really, Da?" Bodie asked. Ray glared at him.

"No, she's not." Emma clenched her fists and began to cry again. "Em, I told you why you can't stay."

"I'm not going back to Mum, I'm not -- she hates me!" Doyle rolled his eyes and Bodie couldn't help the laughter that bubbled up in him. They were so alike. "What's so sodding funny?" they asked in unison.

"Emma," he said softly. She looked up at him with her slanting green eyes and again there was a little jolt of something like pain and pleasure all muddled together. "Stop crying now, there's a good girl."

"You my nanny, then?" she snapped. "You a copper like Da?"

"Sort of." He sat down beside her and mopped her face with his handkerchief, reflecting sadly that it would never be white again. "You like coppers, love, or are they the enemy?"

"Good-looking ones I like," she said in a laughable attempt at seductiveness. Bodie caught Ray's eye.

"Crikey, mate, your lot doesn't half start young, does it?"

"Oh, shut up, Bodie. Emma, you can't stay here -- I explained that . . . and don't start to cry again!" Doyle crossed the floor and knelt in front of her, wiping the rest of the black smudges away with the palms of his hands. For one eerie moment Bodie saw twins. He saw Ray at sixteen and the Ray he knew face-to-face . . . and he thought he ought to thank Emma for showing it him. "Love, it isn't safe. It's not possible, but that doesn't mean that I don't love you." She nodded sadly. "You can stay until we sort you out at least," Ray promised. "Is that okay?"

"'s something. I can't go home."

"Your mum doesn't hate you," Ray assured her, wrapping his arms around her. She lowered her eyes.

"It's not that . . . it's just . . . she found out about my boy-friend," she whispered. Bodie saw Ray stiffen almost imperceptably, but give away no hint of whatever emotion he was feeling.

"Well," he said after a moment, "I can see why she may have been upset. Aren't you a little young?" Bodie coughed delicately and Ray shot him a murderous look. Emma sniffed repentantly.

"I'm sorry, Da," she said in a little girl voice.

"Do you want me to talk to your mother about it?"

"No! No, we don't get on -- really. Not at all. Please, can't you find some other place for me?" she begged, clinging to Ray's arm. He sighed.

"I'll call my mum and see what she can do." He didn't see the look that Bodie caught -- a look of triumph edged with something like malice.

"Minx," Bodie whispered to her and she put out her tongue at him.

Emma, when she had her own way in things, proved to be a charmer much like her father. Bodie watched her over dinner -- watched them both, and longed to wash the makeup off and find out what she looked like with a bare face. He was appalled by her taste, or lack thereof, in clothes, but he rather liked her despite a nagging, uncomfortable feeling that he couldn't quite identify.

She and Ray were two of a kind, that was obvious as Bodie watched them together, and when, occasionally, two pair of cat's eyes focused on him at the same moment, he felt a surge of almost unbearable pleasure. It was with a pang of conscience that Bodie realized, over dessert, that he wanted to take them both to bed and sample them side-by-side.

Emma began to nod off early so Ray put her to bed in his bedroom. He came back and sat beside Bodie. "She was asleep before she hit the pillow."

"Need a place to sleep tonight, mate?" Bodie asked, teasing Ray's ear with his lips.

"Don't, Bodie."

"Why not?" He tried to catch hold of Ray, but got a handful of air.

"Because I say so. I don't think it's such a good idea with Emma here and all." He paced the carpet a few times then marched off into the kitchen. Bodie heard water running.

"Have a heart, Raymond, my lad. The girl's asleep . . . "

"The girl's my daughter, Bodie!" He shoved a towel at Bodie. "Here, you dry." He began to scrub at the plates with real feeling.

"Mind the glaze." Bodie wanted to press the issue, but knew better. "So I'm out of luck, then, until you get rid of her?" he asked quietly.

"Virgin birth, was it?"

"Look, Bodie . . . " Bodie put down the glass he'd been drying.

"No, you look. It's not my business how you treat your kid -- you want to lie to her, go ahead." He tossed the towel down on the counter. "And when you're ready to crawl back into my bed, you let me know. Until then I intend to take it where it's offered."

"Since when haven't you?" Ray snapped.

"I return the compliment, Sunshine," he said as he walked out the door.

He dreamed about cats that night.

Ray took the next day off, leaving Bodie with a stack of clerical work and a short temper. He spent the day snarling and snapping, and the night with the barmaid from The Green Man. The next day he felt a little more human and was even able to greet Ray with something approaching good humour. "You look terrible, mate," he observed.

"So would you if you'd spent two nights on my couch and all day yesterday watching Emma watch the telly and stuff herself with Coke and potato crisps." Bodie allowed himself a smile and an observation.

"Paternity not quite what it's cracked-up to be, eh mate?"

"Oh, she's a good girl, just spoiled is all. Said she'd have dinner ready for me tonight."

"I see it now -- the rose-covered cottage in Surrey with white fence and a Corgi in the yard . . . "

"Sod off, Bodie."

"Da comes home from a hard day fighting terrorists to a simple shepherd's pie cooked by his little girl." With a shout, half anger and half amusement despite himself, Doyle chased Bodie into the common room and sparred with him for a few minutes, until Cowley called them into his office.

"This should take care of some of those high spirits, gentlemen. You're going to spell Gardner and Wentworth on a routine surveillance job." Bodie groaned and Cowley gave him a look. "Correct me if I'm wrong, Bodie you did join this organization knowing that you'd be required to follow orders?"

"I didn't expect to be bored . . . sir."

"I can arrange . . . " Bodie stood up quickly.

". . . and I never am -- bored that is -- sir. Wonderful place, CI5, c'mon Doyle."

"Itching to get to it, sir," Doyle added as they slipped out of the office. "You're pushing it, son," he said as they made their way down to the carpool. Bodie grinned at him.

"'e's like a fa to me, is old George."

"Yeah, well, he'll send you to bed without your supper one day, mark my words."

They picked up a couple of take-away lunches and settled into the surveillance routine with a fair amount of good humour. Doyle told a string of dirty jokes that Emma had told him. "Lovely sense of humour," Bodie observed, "like her Uncle Bodie."

"Oh yeah, she's even started calling you that." He watched Bodie eat. "She eats like you, that's for sure."

"Soulmates, Sunshine. I knew it the moment I saw her. Here, how'd you like to be my father-in-law. I'd rather fancy you as a Da." Ray didn't laugh.

"You stay away from her, Bodie."


"I mean it. You're too charming for your own good. I don't fancy you as a son-in-law, either." Bodie was virtue outraged.

"You have a nerve playing doting fa with me, mate. You never even mentioned her before yesterday -- never even hinted that she existed. What the hell kind of father do you think you are, anyway?"

"She was . . . is none of your bloody business!" They exchanged a silent challenge and Bodie backed down first, realizing that it was crazy to argue about Emma.

"Just forget it," he said very quietly.

A quarter of an hour passed before Ray broke the silence. "I'm sorry, Bodie."

"I said to forget it and I meant it."

"Do you want to come to dinner tonight? Emma . . . "


"You're bloody jealous, aren't you?" Bodie groaned.

"You're unreal, Doyle. Think what you like, I don't care."

Heath and McCloud took over for them early in the evening and they parted in the carpark with the briefest of farewells. Ray called Bodie's name just as Bodie was about to get into his car. "What is it you want, Ray?" he snapped. Ray's brows came together in a dark line and there was an unhappy twist to the lovely mouth. Bodie ached to take him in his arms and kiss away the hurt.

"Nothing, forget it." He drove away with a shrieking of tyres.

Bodie stopped off at The Green Man that night, but he found himself trying to put off the barmaid who obviously wanted a repeat performance of the night before. He was in the mood for another sort of body -- hard-muscled and graceful. When he closed his eyes the noise and the smoke faded away and he could feel the muscles flexing under his hands and smell the pungent combination of cologne and sweat that meant Ray. He could almost taste the smooth, vaguely salty skin.

"Another one, luv?" Lynda asked, brushing his arm with her hand.

"Another time," he said, caressing her round bottom regretfully. "I need my beauty sleep tonight." She smiled at him.

"I'd have thought you'd gotten quite a lot of that in your life -- judging by appearances."

"Ah, you're a darlin' wench," he assured her in his best brogue.

The rush of cool air that hit him as he stepped into the street cleared his head somewhat, but his progress was a little unsteady and his thoughts, maddeningly, lingered on his partner. "Damn you, Ray," he muttered as he let himself into his flat. "Why are you so bloody sexy?"

It was still early and he was feeling lonely so he rang Doyle intending to apologize for his bad temper. "I was a stupid pratt, wasn't I?" he asked as Ray answered.

"Me too."

"Dunno," he slurred. "Maybe you were right."

"You drunk?" Ray asked.

"Little. Did I wake you?"


"Wish you were here," Bodie whispered.

"Yeah, so do I. Bodie, I'm sorry about all this."

"So'm I. Wish you were in bed with me. I've been thinking about you."

"Good thoughts?" Ray asked with a chuckle. Bodie gave a dismayed sigh.

"Bloody marvelous -- I'm in a state."

"Are you? Insatiable bastard."

"Be fair," Bodie insisted. "It has been three days. I can almost taste you," he whispered.

"God, Bodie, don't," Ray begged. Bodie realized that he had a captive and willing audience.

"I can taste your skin, Sunshine, the way it tastes when you're all sweaty . . . "

"Bodie . . . " a small, pleading sound.

"You remember what I taste like?"

"Dear God, yes, how could I forget?"

"What I smell like?"

"Like Bodie. You smell wonderful. Stop it!"

"If I had you here I'd taste you all over . . . suck your cock . . . " There was a strangled sound from Ray and if Bodie hadn't been so aroused he might have laughed. "I remember what it tastes like when you come in my mouth, Ray -- bittersweet, and like silk on my tongue. Salty." Ray groaned. "Pretend I'm touching you now. I miss the feel of you, lover, and the taste and smell. I miss your body against mine and miss your mouth. I wanted to kiss you today in the carpark." He reached for his erection, knowing that Ray had done the same. "Pretend it's my hand on your cock, Ray," he whispered. "My tongue licking your nipples . . . " The only sound from Ray was harsh, irregular breathing. "I'm with you, Sunshine," he said as his own hand slid faster. "Holding you in my arms, mouth to mouth, cock to . . . " He heard a sharp intake of breath and a low sob. "Ray?"

"Christ," Ray said weakly, "you can do it to me over the phone. Did you?" Bodie ached for him.

"Almost," he whispered. With unerring instinct, Ray described Bodie's favourite fantasy and Bodie climaxed with a sigh of relief and a little sadness. "Wish I didn't have to pretend," he confessed as he wiped his hand on a tissue and mopped up his chest and stomach.

"Tomorrow," Ray said firmly. "After work. I'll tell Emma that I have to work late." A rush of joy made Bodie light-headed.

"Perfect. I'll change the sheets for you."

"Don't you dare. Sleep well, Sunshine." He broke the connection and curled up against the pillow, dropping into a deep, dreamless sleep.

The next day was nearly unbearable for Bodie -- trapped in a car with a man whose touch, voice, scent ignited tiny fires up and down his spine. After work they drove separately to Bodie's flat.

It was over before they got to the bedroom, before they'd undressed. He'd pressed Ray up against the front door for a kiss and they'd done it there, a knee-trembler in the entrance hall.

Afterward they held on to each other to keep from falling. Ray was laughing weakly, sweat or tears, or both running down his face. Bodie licked at his cheek, savouring the salt-sweet taste of his partner. "Never thought I'd be doing it like this, wi' me trousers around me ankles," Ray said, chuckling into Bodie's neck. Bodie looked down and roared with laughter.

"There's something about sex that borders on the absurd, poppet. Do we have time for a proper one?"

"Can you make it to the bedroom?"

"I can if you can." Bodie peeled off his clothes, dropping them in the hamper on the way.

The next was a `proper one', and Bodie used every skill he possessed to make it good for Ray. Each a sensualist, they'd learned the other's body in the early stages of the affair, and had unerring instincts about what made their partner feel good. Bodie knew, from a cursory investigation that the normally fastidious Doyle had skipped his morning shower because he knew that Bodie liked the smell of his body better than the smell of his soap and cologne. Bodie sniffed him all over, kissing, licking and caressing all the most sensitive spots on an extraordinarily sensitive body. He liked to watch Doyle respond to his expertise. He liked making Ray feel good.

It was dark before Ray got up to leave. Bodie longed to ask him to stay, but knew it would be useless. What Ray chose to give would have to be enough. "I wish you'd come to dinner tomorrow, Bodie. She really is a good cook. I'd like you to get to know her." Ray sat on the edge of the bed and brushed Bodie's hair with his fingers. "Silky," he murmured. "You ought to let it grow." Bodie made a face. "Anyway, Mum's agreed to take her for a while starting on Friday when she gets back from Leeds, so you won't have much of a chance after that." Bodie grasped Ray's wrist and kissed the palm of Ray's hand.

"I am your obedient servant. Whatever you say."

"Oh, give over, Bodie, you pratt," Ray said with a laugh, flattening Bodie's nose with his trapped hand.

"More, more," Bodie begged.

"Love it, don't you?"

"You know I do. All right, tomorrow then."

"Good. Now I've got to go." He kissed Bodie's cheek -- a feather-light brushing of lips against beard-stubbled skin -- and was gone.

The case broke the next morning, as luck would have it, just as they were relieving Gardner and Wentworth. Despite the resulting confusion, and a twisted ankle suffered by Doyle as payment for a too-theatrical leap over a railing, the operation went smoothly enough, and they were shed of all but the paperwork by mid-afternoon. Bodie was in an expansive mood and suggested that they round up Emma and take her shopping before dinner. "She's got her Da's taste in clothes, old son," he informed Doyle who was having his ankle taped.

"Who has, Bodie?" Cowley had come in so quietly that Bodie, concentrating on Doyle's bare leg, had not heard him.

"Emma, sir, you remember I told you about that?" Doyle reminded him.

"Ah, yes, of course. You two did well . . . though, Doyle, you'd be better off not emulating Errol Flynn on the job."

"Yes, sir." Cowley surveyed Bodie.

"I trust you're fit and undamaged?"

"Well, I do have this little twinge, sir, around my . . . "

"Yes, of course you do," Cowley said in his plummiest tones. "She has Doyle's taste in dress?"

"Yes, sir. Flowered mini-skirt and purple tights." Cowley winced.

"You'd best take her shopping as soon as possible," he decided.

"Thanks," Doyle grumbled as he limped along to the car. "Flowered mini-skirt and purple tights!"

"No less than the truth, lad. 'Ere, wonder what you'd look like in purple tights?"

"Not my colour."

"What's she like, then? Em's Mum, I mean." Doyle shrugged.

"Pretty. About three years older than me and ambitious. I was okay for bed, but not husband material." Bodie snorted and Ray grinned. "Well, I mean, I was ready to do the right thing, wasn't I? Anyway, she wasn't sure who Em's father was until she saw her."

"Dead giveaway, eh?"

"Yeh, and by that time she'd married this rich guy who liked 'em young. I only ever saw Emma twice before the other night." He sighed. "It wasn't that I didn't care . . . " There was a strange, unnerving note in his voice that Bodie had never heard before. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"You don't need dispensation from me, mate."

"Who from, then?" Ray asked quietly. "Emma?"

"Maybe . . . naw, she's probably had better than what you could have given then," Bodie drawled. "It was probably best, Ray. Don't let it worry you."

"I don't know. I really don't know."

The mood lightened as they climbed up to the flat, discussing what sort of clothing they were going to choose for Emma. "Do you think we could get her hair washed while we're at it?" Bodie asked, putting on a long-suffering look.

"Don't you like anything about my kid?"

"Yeh, her Da." They found the livingroom empty, but the stereo was blasting Led Zeppelin. Bodie checked the kitchen. "Not a crumb. Maybe she's gone shopping for supper." Ray went into the bedroom to check.

Bodie switched off the record, and heard a sound coming from the bedroom that chilled his blood. A body came flying through the doorway -- a naked teenage boy -- and Bodie registered what Ray had found in the bedroom. He heard Emma, not frightened or contrite, but enraged, screaming at her father who was advancing on the dazed youth with murder in his eyes.

"It's not my fault!" he kept shouting as he tried to scramble to his feet. He shot a frantic look at Bodie who had helped himself to a bottle of beer. "She said it was okay!"

"Can't trust 'em, lad, can you?" Bodie observed as Ray's hands closed on the boy's long hair. "Don't kill him, Ray, it's not worth it."

Emma leaped into the fray, mother naked and furious, pummeling both Ray and the boy with her fists. Too skinny, Bodie decided, no breasts. He waded in and pulled her away, holding her under one arm as Ray worked off a little fatherly outrage. Emma shrieked abuse of himself and his parents until he shook her very hard and ordered: "Enough, Minx, or I'll wash your mouth with soap." Ray dragged the boy to the door and threw him out into the hallway.

"I see you again, I'll kill you," he promised before slamming the door. Emma slugged Bodie's kneecap.

"Put me down, you great lump!" she ordered and he dropped her unceremoniously.

"Is this why you wanted to know when I was coming home each night?" Ray asked, not looking at Emma.

"You bastard, what d'you think?" Bodie gave her a warning tap with his foot.

"C'mon, mate, let's go have a drink."

"No, Bodie."

"Oh, leave her. She's not worth it." Doyle swung around and glared at Bodie.

"What do you know about it, Bodie. You just walk away when things get rough, don't you? Walk away from you family, your girls . . . friends too, Bodie? When you gonna walk away from me?"

"No fear, mate," Bodie said with more serenity than he was feeling. He straightened his tie and buttoned his blazer. "I don't walk out on working partnerships." He walked past Ray to the door. "And I'm always careful not to let them go any further." He heard Emma crying softly as he left the flat.

Relations were cool for much of the next day. Neither man was willing to discuss the scene, Bodie because it had hurt too much -- cut too deep, and Ray because . . . because he was Ray. They had a wrestling session in the gym in the early afternoon, and the body contact was painful for Bodie. Much as he hated to admit it, Ray had gotten to him the day before. Ray had gotten to him long before the previous afternoon. He took a few laps around the track while Ray went off to shower.

"You going to the target range?" Ray asked as Bodie dressed.

"Thought I might."

"Then I'll wait for you." He settled down on the bench and propped his leg up. The silence was worse than talking. "How's the ankle?" Bodie asked. Ray flexed it experimentally.

"Still holding the foot to the leg."

Bodie pulled his sweater over his head and slipped into the shoulder holster. "I meant, does it hurt?"

"Yes, it bloody hurts. I'll have to get used to it, won't I?" Bodie shrugged.

"It's a temporary thing at best, isn't it?" he asked.

"You tell me."

"Time heals, Sunshine. You'll feel as good as new by the time the tape comes off." He put on his jacket, adjusted the collar and picked up his gun. "For which I imagine you'll be grateful. Come on, then."

"I talked to Emma about what happened."


"Yeh, I can't cast stones," he said, limping along beside Bodie. "I started younger than that."

"Precocious lad, eh?"

"In more ways than one." They arrived at the range and began to load their guns in silence. Bodie couldn't help but be curious about Ray's past, so seldom did his partner talk about his life before he joined the police.

"How early?" Bodie asked as Ray moved into position.

"Nine." Bodie whistled, but the sound was lost as they adjusted the earguards and Ray began to shoot. "Ten out of ten," he said when he was finished. "Girl next door. We used to play doctor. Sometimes her older brother played too." He grinned. "Family taught me a lot."

"I should think so." Bodie shot next, but his concentration was poor and it was reflected in his score. "George will put me on foot patrol in Hackney if I shoot that way too often." He shot a sidelong glance at Doyle who was loading the pistol. "Democratic at that age?"

"Oh, entirely. Didn't know it was nasty, did I?" He filled the chamber with those long, elegant fingers of his. "I may have suspected, but it felt good, so why worry?"

"It's a sobering thought."

"Not as sobering as being a Dad at fifteen." He leaned back against the wall. "Mum had a lot of men, y'know?" Bodie was surprised. He'd always thought of Ray's mother as a puritanical little white-haired terror. Ray's mouth twitched in a half smile. "Poor old sod Doyle married her, took one look at me and scarpered. God knows who my Da was. I'll bet he wasn't in Debretts."

"Who's Who in Outer Mongolia?"

"Just about." He sighed. "So there were a lot of new Dads in and out of the house and Mum too, and one of 'em took a fancy to young Raymond, didn't he? Anyway, she caught us, just like Em and that kid yesterday, only she walloped me not the guy -- put me right off men for a long time. Then she got religion and she's been the widow Doyle ever since. That was a year after Em was born." Ray's hand gripped the gun butt so tightly that his knuckles were white. Bodie reached out and gently pried the fingers loose.

"You still sending Emma to her?" he asked, unloading the chamber and replacing the pistol in its box.

"They'll be good for each other, won't they?"

"Will they?"

"Mum likes a challenge. She's been trying to convert me to RC for years." He ran a hand through his curls.

"Anathema," Bodie muttered.

"I can't keep her, and her Mother's just as glad to be quit of her, poor little git." He looked sad, and Bodie reflected that Ray looked that way a lot these days. "Feel like a drink?" Bodie shrugged. "Oh, come on, Bodie, do us a favour, hey? We can even go to that one near your flat -- Green Man, isn't it?" He studied Bodie carefully. "New barmaid?"

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

"You have that expression on your face," he told Bodie as they left the range, "sort of embarassed and expectant all at once. Anyway, your extracurricular activities are your own business."

Too bloody right, Bodie thought as they left the building. He wanted to say that it wasn't as good with Lynda, or anyone else since he and Ray had started sleeping together.

They parted after two pints apiece. Doyle flirted outrageously with Lynda who seemed to regard one as very like the other, and responded warmly. Bodie felt restless. Even when the spectre of Emma was removed from his life, there would be no guarantee that his relationship with Ray would go back to pre-Emma status. A lot had been left unsaid between them, and what had been said had been damaging. Bodie found himself dialing up an old mate from the paras who had always been good for a few enjoyable, if strenuous hours in bed. He wasn't sure what his motivation was, but he had the uncomfortable feeling that if he didn't start building his walls, and making them as strong as possible, something unpleasant would break through. He'd let Ray become too important and he was frightened. Patrick was frankly happy to hear from him. "I've been sitting here wishing for a good fuck, Bodie. You're heaven sent. Get over here as fast as you can." He did and Patrick did not disappoint him. And yet, he was conscious of something missing in their coupling. When he left for home early the next morning, he realized that the missing piece was what he felt for Ray that he'd never felt for Patrick; what he'd always avoided. He loved Ray -- had done for a long time. No bloody good for it. He'd have to learn to live with it too. He knew how to keep that sort of thing to himself, had learned at an early age.

On Friday he broached the subject of Emma and was met with a rueful smile. "I feel like a failure at paternity. I don't know what to do with her. She's been stealing cash -- nothing much, but stealing it all the same, and she gets drunk and she has her boyfriends up when I'm gone, and I can't stop her. She's not afraid of me. I told her that if she didn't shape up I was going to send her away and she said: `You're doing that already, why should I care?' I suppose she's right."

"You sound as if you expect to undo the damage of sixteen years in a fortnight. You sorted yourself out at that age, didn't you? She will too. Just leave her alone and she'll turn out fine."

"Don't you suppose," Doyle asked, a slight edge to his voice, "that I ought to show her some sort of affection too?"

"Oh yeh, just don't make the mistake of thinking that affection will turn her into the Blessed Virgin. She's a bit too much like her Da for that."


"Give us a kiss," Bodie urged with a music hall leer. Doyle pushed his face away, but he was laughing. Bodie decided that making Ray happy and keeping him safe would be enough to insure his own happiness. And maybe, if he played his cards right, there'd be a little extra reward for his troubles. His fingers itched. "You taking her after work?" he asked as Doyle sorted out a stack of files that were piled between them on the table.

"Bloody paperwork! Yeh, tonight. Why?"

"Want some company? Moral support, y'know." Ray frowned.

"You don't have to."

"I want to."


"I'd love to meet the widow Doyle," he admitted.

"She'll eat you alive."

"Promises, promises," Bodie said with a leer.

Emma was sulky and withdrawn on the trip across town, and Ray wasn't much better company, so Bodie kept his thoughts to himself, and occupied his mind with anticipating Ray's mother. Would she be four feet tall and silver-haired, with a bible in one hand and a strap in the other? Or would she be an obvious reformed tart with questionable taste in clothes, furnishings and friends? He pictured her about sixty-five, red-haired, green-eyed with cleavage and wrinkles in equal abundance. `Oh, Mr. Bodie,' she'd say, extending a red-taloned hand, glinting with paste jewelery, `it's such a comfort knowing that Ray has a good friend like you to keep him on the straight and narrow path.' He'd bet a month's pay that she'd be wearing crimson lipstick, green eye shadow and support stockings. The picture delighted him.


"Yes, love?"

"If I promise to be good, will you take me back with you?" Her face was clean, and Bodie had been wrong in his assessment of her looks. She was remarkably pretty with all the goop removed. She looked very vulnerable and rather sad.

"You're making this very difficult," Ray told her.

"I know. If it hurts me, it ought to hurt you too."

Bodie sighed.

Ray's mother was fair, her hair twisted up into a chignon from which wispy tendrils escaped from time to time. Her eyes were bright blue and she couldn't have been more than fifty at most. She was still lovely despite the tight creases around her mouth. She eyed the party sourly. "I don't know why I said yes. You're old enough to be responsible for your own mistakes." Bodie gave her his most charming smile. "Bring her in."

They filed into a small, neat and austere sitting room. The aspidistra in the window made Bodie shudder. "Who are you?" she asked him, softening slightly. He had an urge to tell her exactly who he was, but though better of it.

"I'm Bodie, Ray's partner." She'd been a stunner once, he decided. She was still a handsome woman, and she had Ray's hands . . . or rather, Ray had inherited her hands.

"There's tea. Will you stay?"

"Thank you, yes," Bodie said before Ray could refuse. She turned to Emma. "You can help."

"I'm not your sodding tweenie," Emma snapped and got a cuff for her insolence. She was tough, was the widow Doyle.

"Mum, don't! It won't help to hit her."

"Never did you any harm that I can see. I should have done it more often." She left the room, but a faint scent of roses lingered. Perfume? Probably not, but soap, perhaps. Her little vanity. Bodie wasn't surprised to find her attractive -- the whole damn family got him going. Ray turned to Emma whose lower lip was so downturned that he could have written a letter on it. She looked about seven years old.

"Love, you have to do as she says if you want to stay."

"I don't want to stay. That's what I've been telling you all along."

"It's this or your Mum," he told her bluntly and she pulled away from him and followed her grandmother out of the room. Ray rolled his eyes at Bodie.

Bodie relaxed in the threadbare easy chair, sipped his tea and watched the family power struggle. Emma was testing her grandmother and finding little quarter. It seemed to Bodie that Ray and his mother had little contact, and that each was curious about the other though not inclined to show it. For his part, Bodie flirted with Mrs. Doyle and was pleased to see that with a little concentrated attention even she would melt. She was transformed from a sour, middle-aged woman to something of what she must have been in her youth. She had a lovely smile -- not quite Ray's smile, but enticing. Bodie decided Emma could learn a lot more from the widow Doyle than her catechism.

"My late husband was a black Irishman too, Mr. Bodie," she told him as she passed the plate of cake to him yet again. Bodie risked a glance at Ray who was absorbed in his cup of tea. "He was a handsome 'un," she said wistfully, "and he had a way about him. Raymond favours him." Bodie nearly choked on a maid of honour.

"Does he now?" he managed. Ray grimaced and carried his plate and cup out to the kitchen.

Ray was as silent on the way home as he was on the trip down. "She's not half bad, mate," Bodie hazarded.

"You don't have to live with her."

"I meant her looks. She wasn't half a looker when she was a girl, was she?"

"She liked you," Ray told him. "I'll bet she hasn't been flirted with in ten years." Bodie shrugged.

"Think she and Em'll work out?"

"No, but it was the only option open to us."

"You could enlist her," Bodie suggested. Ray chuckled.

"I'm not sure they'd keep her, but she'd be regimental wife in a matter of days." He jumped as Bodie caressed his thigh. "Her Mum says she takes after me. Maybe she's right," he muttered. Bodie noticed that Ray was responding nicely. "God, Bodie, wait 'til we get to a bed."

"Spoilsport," Bodie whispered. He kept his hand on Ray's knee for the rest of the drive, and when they entered Ray's flat, he captured his partner in a deep, insistent kiss. "I'm hungry for you," he rasped against Doyle's mouth. "I can't wait any longer." His fingers fumbled, trying to undress Ray and himself, and achieving nothing. He wanted to tear at Ray's clothes.

"Bed," Ray said, pulling away. He undressed on the way, and Bodie wondered if Ray hadn't the same fire burning in him that Bodie had. He watched the man strip, awed by the slender grace that always made Ray seem smaller and more delicate than Bodie. To read the toughness, you had to know what to look for -- the play of muscle under skin, a set to the mouth and a look in the eyes. Bodie sat at the edge of the bed and watched the garments drop until Ray was wearing only his black cache-sexe. He held his characteristic pose, hips canted and chest thrust forward. There was a whorl of red-gold hair around the navel on the hard, flat belly. Bodie felt as though he was suffocating.

"Do I have to undress you too?" Doyle asked with a laugh. He sat on Bodie's lap and unbuttoned the shirt slowly, tracing an idle pattern on Bodie's chest with his finger. "Solid," he said, flicking his fingertip over one nipple. It puckered and strained against Ray's hand. "I like it. I like to hold you because I'm not afraid I'll break you. I like that weight on top of me." Bodie gasped a little at the warm, moist breath against his face, and the dizzying mental image of Ray beneath him. He tried to flip Ray onto his back. "Slow down, Bodie, we have all night."

Bodie had expected to be met with something apart from this amused expertise. He recoiled slightly and lay against the pillows. "You undress me then," he said, his voice shaky.

Ray's hands slid sure and firm down his chest to the waistband of Bodie's trousers, undoing belt and zip smoothly. He pushed the garment, ordering `hips up', down to Bodie's knees, then pulled off both shoes and socks and tugged at the trousers one leg at a time.

He pressed his wanton's mouth to Bodie's chest in dozens of light, grazing kisses like butterfly wings against Bodie's flushed skin. Deliberate, slow, he made his way downwards, teasing with tongue, lips and fingertips, burying his face in the black hair that furred Bodie's belly and groin. "You smell wonderful. We could bottle this and make a fortune." Bodie laughed weakly then gave a small, choked cry as Ray's mouth closed around his half-erect penis, tongue sliding wet beneath the foreskin. He had all right moves, did Ray.

Doyle's tongue teased the tiny cleft of glans, his hand cupping the fragile testicles that drew up, tight, ready for release. Something damp oozed down the shaft and Bodie shuddered. Then the mouth moved away, leaving Bodie lust-blind and desperate for a touch. He reached out, but Doyle pushed his hand away. "Not yet, my fine, black Irishman, not just yet." Bodie lay back on the pillows, panting, sweat-soaked and nerve endings crackling like Christmas snappers. Ray stretched out, cool and graceful beside him. "Rest a bit then make love to me."

Bodie took Ray in his arms and pressed his mouth against the full, sensual lips, urging them open, grazing the chipped front tooth and sliding along Ray's tongue, recognizing there the taste of tea with milk, almond paste and the slight bitterness of chocolate. Ray laughed and the sound echoed in his own throat. He licked Ray's lips, his nose and eyelids, his cheeks and throat, finding there a strange pungent sweetness on the skin that he'd not noticed before. "New cologne?"

"Mmm, Sandalwood."

Sandalwood. It tasted as good as it smelled. Ray's nipples strained erect and flushed against the palms of his hands and he felt the beginnings of his lover's arousal against his belly. In the nest of gold curls, Ray's cock was swelling, foreskin sliding back collaring glans. Bodie pushed it back with his tongue, swirling silken around the velvety head. Here too that pungent sweetness, but with a sharper note. Ray's soft moans caught at Bodie, sending a surge of almost palpable pleasure through him. He lowered himself onto Ray, recalling `I like that weight on top of me.'

"God, yes," Ray whispered against Bodie's chest, fingertips maddeningly light on the sensitive flesh of Bodie's arms, chest and back. Sweatslick, their cocks slid between them, Ray arching upwards, buck and thrust, uttering breathy sobs that caught in his throat. Bodie's right hand twined in wheaten curls and he looked into a face that seemed not wholly human -- the face of a faun with stormy eyes.

Ray pulled Bodie's head down and fastened a hungry mouth over Bodie's, crying out over and over, the sound echoing through Bodie as exquisite as the climaxes that spattered chest and belly.

They lay like that for a long time, mouth to damp mouth, gasping for the same breath. Bodie wondered if he'd ever move or think clearly again. Finally Ray pushed him off, onto the mattress. "W.C.," he said simply and padded off unsteadily to the bath. When he returned, he fluffed his pillow and pulled the duvet around himself. Bodie reached out to stroke him.

"You washed."

"God yes, I stank."

"I suppose I ought to as well," Bodie said, regretfully.

Ray was asleep when he came back to the bedroom. He stood for a few minutes, watching the sleeper, then dressed quietly. He liked his own bed better after all . . . and he knew Ray wouldn't care.

-- THE END --

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