Scoring a Try


Feet jogging lightly over the churned up grass and mud, face flushed and streaked in a pattern that complemented the dirty brown skid marks and fingerprints over the rest of his body, Doyle was acutely conscious of tiredness and newly-earned aches and stiff muscles. That pervasive discomfort, however, was overlaid with a glowing sense of well-being and relaxation and not a little relief at knowing the rough, tough, energetic game was over.

Glancing to his right, he could see Bodie through the melee of running, dawdling, hobbling and equally filthy players making their weary way off-pitch. As tousled and muddy as Doyle, Bodie was nonetheless running easily, energy levels not quite depleted, back straight, the dirty, wet ball held competently under one well-muscled arm.

Doyle sniffed, loudly, the chilly air at odds with his high body heat, and rubbed a tired hand across grubby brow.

With three minutes of kick-off, he'd know it had been a mistake to agree to take part in the game. But he hadn't been able to refuse, really. Pride wouldn't let him and anyway he'd thought it'd just be an enjoyable Saturday afternoon scramble. After all, from what he'd seen in the past of Bodie's old mob, they were pretty good at whatever sport they cared to try their hands at. So he'd accepted the invitation to play scrum half, thus filling a very important gap in Bodie's team. The fact that it was odd they'd asked a complete stranger to the team and one that wasn't as familiar with the game as he might have been, and to join them in an important position at that, didn't occur till later.

He admitted now, with grim amusement, that he'd thought his last hour had arrived as he'd placed the ball in position ready for the scrum. Instead of waiting for him to get clear, a dozen or more had descended on him and in the confusion he'd thought a broken arm or dislocated shoulder would be the result. Until, that was, a stealthy hand passed swift appraisal across his raised buttocks. And another had ruffled his hair so enthusiastically his head had nearly been pushed right into the mud. But it was the third that caused him so much indignation. It smoothed slyly over one lean cheek, then slid down for a rapid reconnoitre of his genitals, its huge, ham-like proportions squeezing his vulnerable softness through the satiny shorts.

He had immediately heaved up in an effort to break free but by then they were all clustered around him, shoulder to interlaced shoulder, heads down and feet kicking, and he'd considered himself lucky to have avoided several hefty boots. Suddenly the hand left him, the ball shot away between the many legs and the scrum broke up. Doyle was left looking impotently after the fast retreating backs, wondering just who had been the owner of that obnoxiously adventurous hand, fists clenched in a helpless desire to part its owner's head from his body.

It hadn't been an isolated incident, either. During more than one offside, though legal, battle, in which he always seemed to be centred, for all his efforts at getting rid of the stupid ball, hands had been all over him. If he'd ever thought himself experienced and streetwise in male behaviour - well, he had learnt a thing or two more that afternoon. But it was the speed and persistence of them all that had taken his breath away, together with his dignity.

The funny side of it eventually leaked through his righteous indignation and he grinned properly as he ran towards the changing rooms, lifting the edge of his shirt. Yes, as he'd thought, a wide-spread set of muddy fingerprints from a cold, wet hand that had snaked under the cloth and across his ribs, very nearly reaching their goal before stunned outrage had given him enough gumption to knock the invader away. He'd never discovered the instigator of that particular grope, either, for they were all of them remarkably adept at blending in amongst each other and confusing him with their heavy speed. His furious yells had produced too many lusty grins, too, confusing him further. He could take a joke but... They couldn't all be at it, surely? Yet they all seemed to know what was going on. Except Bodie. He thought back. No, Bodie had been a different matter. A couple of times their eyes had met but Bodie's expression had been all bland innocence, underlined by the usual enquiring brow. And anyway, Doyle didn't think his partner had been close enough to have been one of the octopus-fingered grapplers.

Spikes clattering over the paved path leading to the clubhouse, they banged the double doors open and jogged into the changing room. Its cool silence was abruptly dispelled with heavily breathing bodies, a thick pall of liniment, grumbles and sniffs and the rustle of immediately discarded clothing.

Full of pleasurable anticipation at the prospect of a warm, soothing shower, a quiet drink in the bar and home to the box, Doyle's eyes searched for the cubicles.

There weren't any.

Instead, his gaze fell upon the central, sunken, and more importantly, group bath. Full almost to the brim with gently steaming water turned blue from its tiled walls, it looked very inviting, but even as he assessed it, a hugely muscled, muddy and very nude male body leapt towards it with a kamikaze yell and disappeared in the midst of a gigantic splash, sending water slopping messily over the edge. He resurfaced like a small, pink whale, rolled over and crawled on hands and knees to the side where he turned and sat, arms and legs akimbo, eyes closed, a beatific smile stretched over his flushed face.

Doyle watched, wide-eyed, heart sinking, shorts at halfmast. There was no way he could duck this - he'd have to get in with them. But with any luck, they'd be too tired to do any more than tell a few dirty jokes and he could have a quick wash and disappear. Maybe if he parked himself next to Bodie. Yes...because he had a few words to say to Master Bodie.

With that reassuring thought in mind, Doyle put a brave face on it, stripped off and padded nonchalantly to the pool's edge. There were three in the water by that time. They sat in a grinning row opposite him and he felt his toes curl over the-tiled edge as their eyes raked him from head to foot and back again.

Seeing his hesitation, one of them urged, "Come on in, Ray, me ol' darlin'," in a jovial tone. "The water's lovely and jus' what we need after a game like that."

"Yeah, come on. Don't stand up there in the cold," said another. "We don't want you stiffening up, do we?"

Doyle pretended not to hear the sniggered aside from the third.

Not yet anyway. Who the hell did they think he was, he wondered fiercely as he crouched and slid slowly into the water. Some weak, little limp-wristed boyfriend of Bodie's, available to any joker with a wandering hand? He sat down opposite and leaned back, spreading his arms along the edge, grinning faintly at the thought of Bodie having any kind of a boyfriend, and eyed them unconcernedly.

There were two more splashes either side of him and a muffled curse as a foot slipped and its owner vanished beneath the now soapy surface.

Realising he'd made a slight tactical error in sitting with his back to the benches, he craned his neck round to see where Bodie had got to - only to have his view blocked by a grizzled mass of ginger beard as the Scotsman of the bunch plonked himself beside him with a friendly grin.

Doyle smiled weakly back and turned to his other side. A decidedly furry body settled itself close, generous chest, arms and shoulders all covered liberally in black hair now lying in a slick, wet pelt over pink skin.

He faced front again, heard a familiar voice telling someone to shove over and saw his partner's bare form slide into the bath, three bodies away from him to his right.

Deciding he'd just better get on with the job at hand, Doyle reached for the shared shampoo bottle, ducked his head into the water and out again and applied the medicated stuff, wrinkling his nose at the unfamiliar and distasteful smell and lathering briskly. Bending forward for another rinse, he heard the Scotsman say something just as the water covered his ears. Raucous laughter burst out, a blurred rumble to him through the water and he sat back up, wiping the soap from his eyes, feeling at a distinct disadvantage at not knowing the joke.

Bodie, wriggling his toes enjoyably and lapping up the heat soaking into his tired muscles, watched Doyle squeeze the water from his hair and attempt to fluff up the heavy curls once more. It wasn't very successful and they clung dark and corkscrew-like against temple, forehead and ears.

There was no denying it - Doyle looked distinctly out of place here in the bath, just as he had out on the field, his slim, sparsely fleshed though strong body setting him apart from the taller, heavier members of the team.

The Captain, initially grateful at having the breach in his team filled, had been understandably doubtful when Bodie had turned up for practice with Doyle. But a quick consultation with a few of the more experienced members had persuaded him to give Doyle a chance.

Bodie smirked reminiscently at the thought of their expressions as they'd looked over the green trouser and tweed jacket clad figure, and again when the two of them had changed for the practice session. Being a little delayed in the Captain's office, they were the last to get into their kit and he'd noticed all the admiring grins and nudging elbows as Doyle had peeled off his soft cotton jeans. He'd bet himself a tenner at the time that Doyle was regretting like hell that morning's self-indulgent decision to dispense with his briefs. And that had been only the beginning of Doyle's surprise and embarrassment amongst his old mob.

Awaiting developments and still wearing a wicked grin, Bodie let himself slip down a little further into the water, allowing his head to fall back onto the bath's edge. There wasn't exactly much room in the water now they were all immersed, and he could feel other legs and feet brushing and moving against his own, but strangely, it didn't stop him from relaxing. It was all part of the extraordinary - intimate, was the only word for it - camaraderie that always took over after a game. It sent you home, or into the bar, glowing and tired but nicely loose-muscled, too, and more often than not aching from the good belly-laugh you'd had during a pleasant half-hour's soak.

Bodie stretched contentedly, toes reaching out underwater. Unexpectedly, they pressed into rounded flesh and suddenly he squawked in surprise. A strong hand had reached behind one of the bodies squatting in the middle of the bath and gripped his sensitive feet, squashing them together in meaty fingers, refusing to let go. A blond, tousled head turned and a long mouth grinned at him. Taff - everyone had forgotten his real name - had been busily dissecting the game with two of the others. Now though, his face creased in amusement.

"Cor - thought me luck'd changed when I felt that, Bodie-boy," he said loudly.

Bodie shook his head, cautiously stretching his cramped toes. "Sorry, Taff," he said regretfully. "No can do. The Welsh, as a race, do absolutely nothing for me."

"Ah," said Taff knowledgeably, eyes narrowing. "Then you can't ever 'ave tried any of our choir boys." He nodded, mouth twitching. "There's a couple in my church where I sing on Sundays that hide a lot more than cassocks under their surplices."

There was a string of ribald comments all round the bath then and several hands bore down on the blond head, forcing it briefly underwater. He sat up again, laughing and spluttering, and launched himself onto his mates, arms splashing and thumping in the water.

Doyle watched, gathering it was an old joke among them, then remembered the potted histories Bodie had given him on them all. Taff was a bouncer in a nightclub, and that fitted in well enough with the image of an ex-para, but singing...and in church...with choirboys? He shook his head uncomprehendingly. Some blokes were diametrically opposite to what you expected, a puzzle, a constant enigma. His eyes slid to his partner's relaxed form as the thought linked itself to his feelings about Bodie. No, he amended lazily, Bodie wasn't a puzzle any longer, but even after several years together, he could and did still surprise Doyle with his connections, his knowledge and his reactions to certain situations.

Bodie met his eyes in amusement, having a fair idea of Doyle's thought-route, then let his head fall back again. His voice rose over the din of the others.

"There once were three virgins from Twickenham -" The noise level dropped slightly but Bodie continued gazing at the ceiling. "Who wanted Tom, Harry an' Dick in 'em. They prayed hard to Venus, and said that between us, we'll lengthen an' strengthen an' thicken 'em."

It earned him several vulgar snorts of amusement and derogatory comments about it being as old as the hills, but generally served as the signal for the end of horseplay and the start of the dirty joke session. They all settled down in the water again, each scouring their minds for the coarsest and filthiest of stories.

Doyle began to enjoy it all, even contributing with one of his own, involving the sexual life of a camel, dredged up not from his childhood and sometimes gutter-bred days but from his footsore and weary nights pounding the beat, when finding evidence of a staggering literary brilliance scrawled on dock warehouses and viaduct walls was his light relief amongst robberies, street violence and drunken brawls.

Chuckling and revelling in the old anglo-saxon words rolling around as blue as the bath's tiles, Doyle watched the foamy water sloshing over his knees, not believing he could enjoy sharing a bath so much.

There was a fair amount of jostling and nudging going on and a sliding of flesh against wet flesh, so he ignored the first touch on his calf, thinking it just an accidental brushing from one of the three still seated in the centre. But a minute later it happened again and this time was definitely identifiable as three or four fingers stroking up his right thigh.

He hung on to his grin with grim determination and studied faces. Two were turned away from him, although he didn't discount them, and the others around him were either laughing or telling their own jokes - nobody was looking at him.

Another exploratory slide, round as far as his inner thigh this time, decided him. Enough was enough. Whatever Bodie had told them about him - and he didn't trust his partner an inch in this respect - it was time he taught them the truth, along with a painful lesson or two in common civilities. The only thing that stopped him suspecting Bodie of the groping was his distance. An ape he might often resemble in his table manners and infantile humour, unfortunately it had to be admitted that there the similarity ended. Bodie did not have arms a yard and half long.

Accordingly, Doyle lay back against the wall, both hands out of sight, and drew up one knee, relaxing the other in deliberate and open invitation. Eyes fastened on the current joke-teller, Doyle waited for the underwater lurker to take the bait.

He didn't have long to wait. His defenceless and inviting posture drew the hand in like a deep-sea ray gliding stealthily over sand. It slid around his upraised leg and sped rapidly upwards, ending with a full and lingering handful of genitals.

Shark-like, Doyle's hand moved and found a thick and hairy wrist. Still having no idea who it belonged to, he kept his easy smile pinned on his face - it took less of an effort now - and started to tighten his fingers, scanning the nearest faces in a relaxed fashion, for the first sign of discomfort.

A tentative tug away by his prey was rewarded by the sharp pressing sting of fingernails and an even tighter grip.

There had been no retaliatory movement of the hand and that surprised Doyle. In the first few seconds it could have easily twisted its fingers back and taken him somewhere in a crushing grip where he'd have had no choice but to submit in his turn.

The fact that it hadn't did nothing to soften Doyle's menacing sense of purpose and he continued flicking gently smiling eyes from one face to another, all the while increasing the numbing pressure.

Before very long he saw a wide grin falter and fade away completely and a small frown appear between a set of brown eyes. He waited for the head to turn his way. When it did, wearing a faintly puzzled expression, Doyle let his own eyes narrow, face and smile sharpening, wolf-like, the thinly veiled savagery revealed now but relaxed in the knowledge that this oversized prey would stand no chance at all in his own familiar and unsporting battlefield.

He leaned forward, bending the captured wrist painfully. "I don't know your name, sunshine," he said in a low and pleasant tone, recalling exactly what it was, "but I've got a message for you. You...and your mates." Doyle paused and smiled threateningly. "The next overdeveloped fairy that as much as breathes on me gets 'is fuckin' wrist broken. An' then each of his fingers. One by one. Okay? Pass it on." Doyle abruptly released the wrist and leaned back against the bath again.

Left in no doubt that the menace suddenly being exuded by this strangely beautiful man was very real and that he had been in some danger, the player nodded and edged away from him.

Several feet away, Bodie had been watching the little by-play with considerable interest - had been expecting it, in fact. They'd all taken what he'd said about Doyle at face value and had pushed their luck rather too far. But it had produced the desired results and Bodie hadn't had this much fun in a long while. He wasn't worried about the outcome, either. Flicking a quick look at Doyle, he found himself the recipient of a hard stare and grinned unrepentently in response. That was all part of the fun too. His gaze shifted to the large rugby player, still sidling gradually away from Doyle, rubbing his wrist ruefully, and thus found himself caught in a reproachful brown glare from that direction, too.

Time for another rude limerick, Bodie decided, feeling a definite need for distraction, and riffled through his memory.

"There was a young fellow from Leeds," he began and felt the laughing and muttering switch targets to himself. "Who swallowed a package of seeds. Great tufts of grass sprouted out of his arse, and his balls were all covered with weeds."

All the players turned to him and in one voice sang, "That was a jolly song, sing us another one, do."

And Doyle, wanting to test the sensed shift of attention, chimed in with his own. "There was a young couple named Kelly, who were found stuck belly to belly, because in their haste, they used library paste, instead of petroleum jelly."

That earned him some laughs but unfortunately there were drowned by Taff's voice.

"Ah, a boy after me own heart, ah?" It was accompanied by a wink and a playful push at Doyle. "Listen to this, boyo." He cleared his throat noisily and thrust out his chin. "There was a young parson named Binns, who talked about women and things. But his secret desire was a boy in the choir, with a bottom like jelly on springs."

Doyle gave him an inscrutable look and proceeded on a eulogy of his own.

"There was a young girl of Detroit, who at fucking was very adroit. She could squeeze her vagina to a pinpoint or finer, or open it out like a quoit."

That went down even better, got a chorus of "oy,oy's" and he received a matey clap on the shoulder for his trouble. Ridiculously pleased and feeling they were beginning to accept him now and that he could ignore the Welsh idiot, he relaxed and shut his eyes as someone began a song.

The level of everyone's enjoyment and participation seemed to rise with the songs and his near neighbours began to sway in time. Once, Doyle felt a length of bare back touch his shins and opened his eyes. Immediately, the body shifted and actually muttered an apology. He drew his knees in to give more room and eyed Bodie, swaying and singing the choruses with the best of them.

Any minute now, Doyle thought, he's going to launch into his favourite Eskimo Nell, and then turn to me when he can't remember half the verses.

In the event, that's exactly what happened, and Doyle more than joined in, he sang the lengthy ballad in alternate verses with Bodie, thoroughly enjoying the bawdy story of Dead-Eye Dick with his mighty prick and Pete with his gun in his hand.

And no one in the bath was left in much doubt as to the identities of Pete and Dead-Eye Dick, but between the two of them there was a fair amount of friendly wrangling as to who deserved which name.

Doyle could hardly sing for laughing and collapsed back, letting Bodie handle the next few verses by himself.

His wickedness by no means diminished by the reciting, Bodie determined to prove just who was the hero of this story once and for all. Annoyingly, Doyle's eyes were closed and Bodie had to wake him up with an, "Oi. Look at this," before he launched into the few remaining verses.

For a second, Doyle stared at his partner. Bodie had risen to his feet mainly as an aid to his grandiose recital, but also in order to display what he'd been slyly working on beneath the now rather grimy surface.

It was a faintly startling but impressive sight. Smooth, pale skin, tinged delicately pink by the heat of the water, gave way to a thicket of black hair at his groin, from whence there emerged the now admirable symbol of Bodie's manhood. Stroked nearly into a state of readiness, it hung proud and heavy, lending substantial proof that here indeed was Dead-Eye Dick.

After the first moment of wide-eyed surprise, Doyle threw back his head and roared with laughter.

"Fancy yourself, do you, Bodie?" he yelled, amid all the other obscene remarks and guffaws. "Or is it one of us?" "We know what you've been doing," chanted several voices in unison.

Bodie struck a pose and expression of lofty disdain, which was spoilt by his dirty grin, and went on with his song.

Still chuckling to himself at the thought of what Bodie had been doing underwater - for if he was always that size, Doyle wouldn't be the only one to be forever attracting the wrong sort of attention - Doyle felt a silly little surge of affection for his partner. Bodie was fun to be with. A true fruit and nut case. At times very sensitive about himself and his image, at others he would blow it all to hell with his lunatic jokes. Thinking of which, Doyle's mind started to think about ways and means of repaying Bodie's practical joke on him...with interest.

Never one to hold back out of considerations of delicacy if he could have more fun by going over the top, Bodie deserved one of the best practical jokes Doyle could come up with. One that could be made public, if possible, to get the maximum laughs, and one that could be extended over some time - if only Doyle could think of one good enough.

He eyed his continually interrupted and still partially roused partner, hoping for a stroke of inspiration, and let his eyes drop idly down over the vigorous, compact body. Alongside the heavy, thickset and mostly very hairy team members in the bath, Bodie looked positively elegant.. beautiful, almost. That smooth- textured, virtually hairless chest of gently sculptured muscle must be eminently touchable for his girls, Doyle supposed, and raised his eyebrows briefly at the surprising thought. And just below his navel - a neat little hollow in a flat belly - a thick, dark line arrowed down to the bush of public hair and his impressive maleness.

Doyle gave a low, throaty chuckle. Yeah, a firm believer in keeping fit through constant exercise, that was Bodie.

As he looked, a strange, empathic streak of pleasure went tingling through his body and began to warm his own groin with a lingering coil of heat. It was a slow, uncomplicated pleasure and as he drifted with it, half closing his eyes in enjoyment, a glimmer of an idea began to form. His grin grew wider.

It was worth sharing, though, this simple, intrinsic fellow-feeling, this solidarity with his partner. It didn't matter about the others, but he wanted Bodie to know it.

And it was the perfect opportunity for - Watching his mate, Doyle, waited until Bodie's gaze fell casually upon him, and when it did, gave him a slow, sensuous smile, eyes sultry beneath lowered lashes. For a moment Bodie just stared, with no obvious response, then he faltered slightly as if he'd forgotten the next line.

Round two to me, Doyle thought complacently. Bodie blinked and picked up the thread of the story once more.

Timing his movements to the next revelations of dirty old Pete, Doyle brought himself to his feet and stood, hands on hips, fingers pointing the way to his own individual statement of sexuality.

Drowned out by catcalls and wolf whistles, Bodie stopped again and surveyed the equal blatancy with a lifted brow and crooked grin. Shameless and with thorough enjoyment now, Doyle carried on and they finished off the raucous song together, ending up arm in arm in twin chorus and phallic display.

Their audience loved it and yelled for more, but by then Bodie had decided it was more prudent to sit down again and released himself from the disturbing contact with Doyle.

Doyle subsided next to him, content to stay for the rest of the afternoon if it was going to carry on like this; until a choppy movement of the water suddenly changed his mind.

A small surge was set up around the pool by the landing of three large bodies. Disturbed by the displacement, the water slopped and redistributed itself and seated on the far side, Doyle watched with fascination as a small whirlpool of muddy scum spun slowly off-centre and made straight for him.

"I - think it's time to get out," he said as it drifted closer, and hurriedly suited his action to his words.

Bodie followed. "Yeah, water's cooling, anyway." He wrapped a hand around the stringy arm moving just ahead, enroute to the benches. "Oi," he said and pulled. "This way."

"Eh?" Puzzled, Doyle turned, saw the others going in the same direction and followed.

Bodie led him round a previously unexplored tiled corner from whence there issued a suspiciously familiar hissing sound.

Showers. Doyle gritted his teeth and added one more game to his return of play.

He stepped under a vacant, already warm-running spray and rinsed off the last remnants of soap and mud. Hair clean to his liking once more, he squeezed as much of the water out of it that he could and let the shower play over him, turning slowly under it.

Bodie was under the neighbouring head, performing his own blissfully slow pirouette.

Doyle snaked a fast hand across to the temperature control, promptly turned his back and started running busy hands over arms and chest.

There was a shocked gasp behind him.

"Bloody hell! Who did that?" Bodie demanded, jumping out of the icy spray with alacrity.

Doyle didn't trouble to hide his grin. "Soapy water can shrink some funny things, y'know," he said with an obvious glance at Bodie's now thoroughly limp cock.

Bodie leapt on him. "You lousy bas-" he started to say but was ambushed by laughter.

The skinny, slippery body evaded him easily and dodged away.

Bodie sped after him and amid yells of encouragement, trapped Doyle in a corner, clasped both hands on the metal rail running above the bench and leaned close.

"I'll get you for that, Raymond," he promised, voice low and silky. "In fact.. you're not quite clean enough. Come on." He let go of the rail and grasped Doyle's shoulders, trying to pull his lashing partner upright off the wall.

Doyle relaxed his tensed body suddenly and let himself be pulled against Bodie's sturdy form. Closer than he'd meant to be, Bodie stared into wicked green eyes.

"Gis a kiss," Doyle breathed and batted provocative eyelashes. Face oddly expressionless, Bodie's eyes dropped and he leaned closer.

Faintly alarmed by the immediate reaction of his knotting stomach, Doyle tried to draw back but his muscles wouldn't obey him, at least not with the speed he wanted them to. He could feel that dark blue gaze on him almost like a physical touch and swallowed, strangely disturbed by it.

Time seemed to have acquired a slow motion effect, though in real terms only three or four seconds elapsed before his partner looked up again, teasing eyes twinkling, voice low.

"One day, curlylocks," and he tweaked a damp curl, "You'll get what you ask for...and l hope you're ready for it. An' that I'm the one to give it."

Doyle felt a need to clear his throat but didn't. "Not following through, 3.7?" he mocked. "Tut, tut. You'd better go back and wash off that yellow streak."

Bodie's face twisted itself into laughing disbelief.

"Break it up, you two," one of the others called out. "And come and have a drink."

Giving the wet hair a last rough-handed ruffle, Bodie told him to get a move on and turned away. Doyle jerked away from the hard hand and reached for his towel, suddenly aware that they were the last to get dressed. Feeling a slight tremble in his hands and not understanding it, he searched crossly through his clothes.

Oh, great. Now his briefs had disappeared. Clean pair as well as sweaty ones. How could someone have picked those up by mistake? Impatience got the better of him and he hauled his jeans on, dragging the reluctant cloth over still damp skin. Buttoning his shirt he forced himself to slow down. What the hell was the matter with him? Where'd all that relaxation gone and what was the big hurry? He sat down on the low bench and started to towel his hair dry.

Several minutes' therapeutic rubbing had its usual calming effect and he folded the towel with a long sigh.


Doyle looked up to see Bodie in the doorway with a couple of the others.

"You coming for a drink?"

Doyle nodded. "Yeah. See you in there." And he bent to pull his socks on.

Pleased that his partner wasn't going to disappear right away, Bodie went off to the bar, taste buds dying for a long, cold pint.

Supping contentedly and listening to the surrounding talk with half an ear, Bodie thought back over the afternoon. Doyle had taken it all very well, really, and had played a reasonable game to boot. Once or twice he'd looked furious but it hadn't lasted. There was no room for complacency, though: Bodie knew his partner batter than to think that would be the end of the matter. The vengeful little sod wouldn't settle for merely a surprise cold shower. Still, anything Doyle came up with he'd be equal to, Bodie thought confidently. And it had been well worth it.

He cackled into his beer at the memory of all the groping that had gone on onfield, and Doyle's expression every time. Then again, in the bath. He'd known exactly when Doyle had set himself up, set the trap, so to speak, and had regretted his distance not at all. The picture of Doyle's goolies floating comfortably in the water and suddenly being captured by Williams' huge paw was hilarious. Even better was the memory of the large-scale rugger player being viciously put in his place by a diminutive Doyle.

Yeah, it had definitely been worth it. It was more than time Doyle was made to see what trouble his flirting could get him into in the wrong company.

Then the image of that slow, sensual smile swam before Bodie's eyes and he suppressed a small shiver. God, but Doyle was a sexy little bugger at times. When he put his mind to it - and even when he didn't - he could put out such an aura that no one was safe.

I ask you, thought Bodie in disbelief, he puts all that across to a load of hard playing, dirty thinking, beer swillin' blokes and then gets uptight when they--

The hilarity of the afternoon got to Bodie yet again.

Mind you, he continued fairly, as soon as Ray had let them know they had the wrong idea, he had relaxed and joined in with the fun without hesitation, even going so far as to stand up, in keeping with the song, with as near an erection as...made no...difference...

Bodie's beerglass hung suspended two inches from his mouth for a full minute as that previously unregistered thought sank in.

God, the thought of what Doyle must've been up to down there - No wonder he'd had a smile on his face. The vivid picture sent another shiver through him, this time right through his gut. He swallowed hard and at that moment Doyle pushed his way through the wing doors, caught sight of him and ambled over.

"Wha's up, mate?" he asked lightly and slipped his jacket off his shoulders, watching Bodie watching his every move. "You look like you've 'ad a mouthful of bad beer. 'S not that bad, is it? What're you drinking?"

That was the cue. Half a dozen glasses crashed down onto the table - all of them empty.

"Nice of you to offer, Ray."

"I'll have a pint of Hoffmans."

"Mine's a tartan."

"And me."

"Thanks, mate. Vodka an' tonic for me."

"An' a whisky for me, please, Raymond."

Doyle's mouth tightened and a heavy, resigned breath gusted from his nostrils. Without a word, he slung his jacket over the back of the spare chair, turned and stalked to the bar.

"Hey," one of the players nudged Bodie. "He's not stingy with 'is money, is 'e?"

Bodie put down his own empty glass. "No," he said slowly. "He just doesn't like to be taken for granted." And he smiled innocently.

"Uhuh. Is that so?" the rugger player replied with a smile of his own. "Well, we don't take anything for granted, do we, boys? But it's your round next, Bodie, old mate. For settin' us up," he confirmed.

Bodie tried to hide his smirk. "Mmm. I think I'll just go an' help Ray with the drinks."

"Oh, no you don't." And a large hand clamped round Bodie's arm. "You just sit there a minute, Bodie."

As Bodie sat obediently, wondering what was coming next, the player got to his feet. "Cos I'm going." And he was off across the carpet before Bodie could stop him.

Bodie watched him lean his arms on the bar close to Doyle, saw the freshly washed, wildly curling head turn towards him and wished he could hear what was being said.

"Glad you could get a round in, Ray," the man was saying. "New boys always get walloped for an early one. My name's Randall, by the way - Les Randall."

Doyle nodded. "Mmm," he said somewhat grumpily, since he liked to do the asking. "Well, I hope I remembered everyone's. Oh...Bodie's..." Realising he'd forgotten what his partner had ordered, if any, he turned to look back at the table, and seeing Bodie's eyes upon him, mimed a drinking motion with one hand.

He understood Bodie's mime first time, but in case he hadn't, Bodie did a comic impersonation of a lunging bear, much to the consternation of two passing teenage girls, who gave him startled looks and giggled.

Doyle added the order to his mental list and surreptitiously checked the health of his wallet. Then he turned to Randall again. "As you're here," he said, hitching one foot on the bar's surrounding floor rail. "Maybe you can answer a question."

Randall nodded easily. "Yeah, if I can. 'Bout the game, is it?"

"Yeah, you could say that," came the thoughtful reply. "Just what did Bodie tell you about me?"

"Ah." Not exactly unprepared for the question, Randall studied his companion curiously but could only see determination in the watchful face and eyes.

"Quite a bit, actually. 'Course, I didn't believe it, meself," he assured hurriedly. "But you can't stop some of 'em from goin' over the top if they think someone's..." His voice trailed away as he started to wonder how he could have entertained those exact same thoughts himself, when up close this extraordinary man radiated a very subtle but very clear sense of danger, from the predatory gleam in the steady green eyes, to the ominously marked cheekbone and the serious though contradictory mouth. His stance, too, although relaxed, was faintly challenging.

"Yes?" Doyle encouraged quietly, accurately guessing what Randall was suddenly thinking and pleased at it. "If they think someone's...what, Les?"

"It wasn't our fault, mate. Bodie's always been good at tall stories."

"Yeah, I know. So, what did he say?"

"Well..." Randall was clearly reluctant to tell and Doyle's imagination was working overtime. What the hell had Bodie's fertile brain come up with this time?

"He said you'd got time off from your college - " Randall started off at the safest end of the story.

"Eh? What college?"

"Dunno where, just said that you'd travelled quite a long way to get down here." Randall selected a pint from the growing group in front of them and held it defensively against his chest. He was committed now.

"He said you teach dancin'. And that you used to be a dancer yourself, before you gave it up 'cos of your age." The words were accelerating into a bit of gabble. "To become a' a model - in your spare time," he qualified, as if that was an improvement.

Doyle nodded. "Anything else?" He was gonna wring Bodie's bloody neck...

"Uh...yeah. He said you're 'is cousin and the family look upon you very tolerantly - "

"Why, because I'm a teacher?" Doyle was sure there was a lot more. He wasn't wrong.

"No." Randall avoided the level gaze and took two hefty swallows of beer by way of fortification. Why the hell had he followed Doyle? "He. .uh. . said they - your...his family," Randall was getting confused, "try anything these days to keep you off the streets at weekends. Because you're...uh. ..well... queer." There, it was out, and without mincing too many words. "We don't believe it all, mind."

Not placated by the lame finish to this horrible story, Doyle closed his mouth with a snap. "Oh no, of course not," he said sarcastically. "Tha's why none of you could keep your bleedin' 'ands off me, isn't it?" I'll kill 'im, he promised himself silently and couldn't stop himself from glaring round at his partner's dark head. As he glowered, it lifted and Bodie's eyes met his. The too innocent face mimed a helpful query. Doyle's eyes narrowed. The joke he'd had in mind just wasn't enough anymore.

But Randall hadn't finished. Well, he might as well say the whole lot now.

"He.. .uh.. he also said..."

What more, for god's sake, Doyle wondered.

Wishing he'd never started, but eaten up with curiosity, Randall finished, "He says he's sure you fancy him, but since he's family, he ignores it."

Doyle turned quickly back to the bar so Bodie wouldn't see the half furious grimace, half appreciative grin that last revelation had provoked. Bodie had played right into his hands...

Bloody hell, but he'd made damn sure he was set up good and proper, by telling a tale to guarantee that at least some of them would be tempted to try their luck. Doyle didn't for a minute think any of them had been serious, but if they were - well, it was patently obvious that they wouldn't know what to do with him if they had him. And at the same time, Bodie had covered his and Doyle's closeness and kept himself clear of suspicion by claiming they were cousins.

Doyle shook his head in frustrated admiration but his sense of humour was gradually wearing away the outrage.

Randall watched his expression with ever-growing curiosity as Doyle extracted a note from his wallet and paid for the drinks, pocketing the change. Then the long fingers picked up several glasses.

"Bodie did get one thing right, you know," he murmured as he passed Randall, content his image was more than part way restored. He paused and looked back over his shoulder. "An' I'm not a teacher." And he gave Randall a teasing wink.

Wickedly leaving it at that, he carried the drinks back to their table trailing a very confused but still hopeful Randall trying to work out which of the three Doyle had tried.

Doyle put the glasses down but handed Bodie his pint personally, letting their fingers brush in passing.

Bodie didn't seem to notice. "Thanks, mate. Cheers." And the blue eyes locked with his own over the rim.

Doyle could see he was wondering what Randall had told him but revealing nothing of his thoughts, merely said, "Cheers," and held the dark gaze for a second longer than necessary.

Bodie didn't look away and Doyle sidled slowly round to park himself opposite from his mate on the long, padded bench, immediately hooking his heels on the rungs of the table.

They sank two pints each with keen appreciation, soothing dry throats with several fast gulps of the cold, biting liquid.

Slouched comfortably in the only armchair in that quarter of the bar, Bodie listened to the surrounding talk. Never very interested in a surgical, post-operative appraisal of a game - as long as he'd sustained no serious damage - he just wanted to wallow in good feelings and good company. And this bunch were some of the best.

He'd known most of them for years and although those days only saw them rarely, felt he knew them as well as if he billeted with them still, went out on exercises with them, night-watched with them - the sound of their voices, different accents, summoning with extraordinary clarity those early days with the Paras. His experiences with them had done much to restore his faith and trust in human nature, bitterness slowly giving way to an appreciation of what true teamwork could achieve, how much an emotional response - loyalty - could accomplish with a single helping hand and a sharing of determination to win through. Where he'd come from, the occasional lame and useless dog would have been left to rot with a singular lack of concern.

No, they were good lads - drawn together from all sorts of family backgrounds, different intellectual levels and varying views on life, but all had a commonsense and almost single-minded approach to their work, whatever it happened to be now.

That made them sound almost dull, too serious, he thought with amusement and looked round at their laughing, flushed faces. They knew when to play, all right, when to let the kid in them escape and right now seemed set on making a night of it here in the bar, putting it away like parched, desert-bound hippos, with the object of getting pissed out of their skulls and to hell with tomorrow.

Unlike he and Doyle, of course, Bodie thought smugly, and took an abstemious sip of his lightly spiked tomato juice. Corrupted to the point of actually enjoying the occasional (very occasional on his part, if he was honest) early morning run around the park, he and Doyle had taken the familiar though independent decision not to drink too heavily that night, neither of them wanting the relaxed, physical glow to degenerate into a full-bellied, drowsy, alcoholic haze.

They didn't need it. He felt good enough without it. Very good, in fact.

Whether he was on a high from the successful game, the enjoyable team spirit, good laughs, beer or a combination of all four, he didn't know, but he had a definite buzz.

He smiled around at them all again, content with his lot in life, and came to rest almost naturally on his partner's slim and elegantly sprawled form. His partner. That's where he differed from the others - he was still part of a team.

His head, resting on the back of the worn old vinyl chair, tilted sideways as he considered his life with Doyle. He chuckled quietly at the thoughts that conjured.

My Life with Mahatma Coat, Me and the Guru of Hackney Road. David and Jonathon, his mind wondered on. Hadrian and Antinous, Alexander and...

No, he amended carefully, frowning, let's not get into that right now.

He focussed on Doyle once more. His other half seemed in an odd mood, all shadowed eyes and pensive mouth. And too quiet by half - strangely so, in the middle of this loud, vulgar company. He hoped Doyle wasn't sulking, then dismissed the suspicion. Nah, more'n likely hatchin' some dastardly plot of his own. An' the way he's starin' you'd think he'd never seen me before -

Bodie's attention was suddenly diverted by a commotion to his right. Taff had inexplicably fallen backwards off his stool and was rolling on the floor, laughing his daft Welsh head off. His nearest companions picked him up and shushed him into giggles, having seen the stern face of the bar manager as he craned his neck to see between the crowd around the counter.

"Shut up, you bloody idiot," they hissed, barely controlling their own laughter. "We don't want to get chucked out yet." And Taff snorted loudly into his hand.

Pity he'd missed that particular joke, thought Bodie regretfully - must've been a good one. He looked at Doyle again to see if he'd heard it.

And what had been intended as a quick, sharing glance abruptly turned serious, intense, as his eyes were caught, perceptions narrowed down by a deadly, loaded stare from heavy, green eyes. They held Bodie with dark, sexual magnetism and the seconds ticked by until a slow, secret smile grew, briefly touched the incredibly sensual eyes and vanished, the strange compulsion dying as if it had never been as Doyle looked down into his drink, remote once more.

Knocked sideways, Bodie closed his mouth, rediscovered what his lungs were for and eventually tore his eyes away from the suddenly enthralling figure across the table. Puzzled, his gaze wandered dopily over the table top and studied the measure of vodka alongside his tomato juice. Still half full. He wasn't pie-eyed, then.

So what on earth had that look meant? That Doyle was trying to tell him something was in no doubt, but for once he had failed and Bodie didn't have a clue what to make of it.

As he was pondering on the strange incident and beginning to believe he'd imagined it, Taff, serious again, leant forward and placed his empty glass deliberately and with great care before Doyle.

Doyle absorbed the accompanying wink with equanimity. "No thanks, Taff," he said politely and hoisted his still half full glass of Perrier water into sight. "'M okay for the moment." A wicked twinkle was directed Bodie's way and Doyle shifted comfortable, making the vinyl groan in protest as he crossed one leg over the other, obviously content to stay right where he was for the time being.

"It's your round, Ray," Taff persisted and glanced around for confirmation. There were only two half-hearted nods of agreement among the others. No one else was prepared to push Doyle into anything.

"It is not my round, you little Welsh leak," Doyle said in amusement, knowing that was a bit much but liking his play on words nonetheless. "I'll say when it's my round. And anyway, you lot 'ave been putting it away faster than me - or Bodie," he added and shot another glance across the table. But Bodie was watching Taff, who'd gone a little pink around the ears at the diminutive.

"I'll get 'em in, lads," Bodie decided, realising all of a sudden that it was time he bought another round. "Same again?"

Everyone agreed except Doyle, who appeared to be thinking about it. Bodie waited patiently.

"Jus' top up me water, please, mate," he said at last. "An' that reminds me - shall 'ave to go for a pee to let some out."

"Aha," said Taff immediately. "The iron doesn't go that far down, then?"

"Me bladder's very well trained, I'll have you know, Doyle refuted, mildly indignant.

Acknowledging the truth of that with a reminiscent gleam, Bodie watched Doyle leave the bar. 'Course, he and Doyle had been taught in hard schools, but they'd had a private laugh together at the expense of one or two of the more genteelly educated young twerps Cowley had recruited, who'd come away from their first very live shoot-out with wet trouser legs.

Still grinning, Bodie carried the drinks back to the table, having to make several trips and noting fatalistically that no one had bothered to help him.

As he sat down again, he saw that a second chair was empty and scanned faces, trying to figure out who else was missing. At that moment, Doyle's exasperated voice floated in through the doors.

"Pack it in, Taff!"

"Aw, come on, Ray, don't be unfriendly," came an aggrieved voice. "I know what I've seen."

"I know what you think you've seen - "

"Look, there's only you and me here now, you don't have to keep it up."

"An' I know what you'll get if you don't back off," continued Doyle with menace as if Taff hadn't spoken.

There was a brief silence then, "I'm warning you - "

Taff apparently hadn't backed off because from the sounds that followed next, Bodie could tell Doyle had followed up his verbal warning. There was a slither and a thud, a cut-off protest and then silence. After another pause, Doyle reappeared, unruffled, and sauntered back to his seat. Only Bodie could read the expression of combined anger and malicious pleasure. The snorts had long since died away and the smirks disappeared in record time, but everyone was waiting for the sheepish reappearance of Taff.

Ten minutes passed and there was still no sign of him.

Bodie cocked his head toward the door. "What y'do with'im, Ray?"

"Eh?" Doyle put down his replenished Perrier. "Oh...jus' gave 'im a taste of what he'd been trying to do to me." He frowned as if puzzled. "'E didn't seem to like it. 'S odd, innit? Maybe I was a bit rough."

There were several glances exchanged at this sublime unconcern but it evidently hadn't much altered the mood, for when Taff did come back in fingering his throat and swallowing carefully, rather more sober than when he'd gone out, several deep and fairly melodious voices struck up a chorus of "We'll keep a welcome in the hillsides..." which earned each singer a cuff round the ear from the broadly grinning Welshman.

Relieved himself that Taff had taken no lasting offence at being put in his place once and for all, Doyle joined in the conversation again. Taff contented himself with lighting up a pipe and apart from puffing the occasional smoke-ring Doyle's way, behaved for the rest of the evening.

It was a long time since Doyle had had this much fun from an all-male evening - for various reasons - and his sides had begun to ache from all the laughing.

The jokes seemed to have picked up where they'd left off in the bath, though of necessity, were considerably toned down. The tellers often got rather carried away with all the actions and an unwary Doyle found his arm jogged just as he was taking another drink.

Sticky orange juice slopped over his top lip and trickled down his chin. Unconcerned, he licked it off, using tongue and forefinger, then lapped up the side of the glass where it had also run. As he licked, he slanted another amused glance at Bodie and found the dark eyes fixed unblinkingly on him, watching intently as the pink tongue tip slid up the glass and round the rim. Doyle slowed the lapping provocatively, imbuing the movements with as much sinful implication as he dared.

Clean again, Doyle held the gaze while he took another sip and saw Bodie blink and visibly shake himself free.

Pleased at the success of that unplanned assault on his partner's senses, Doyle smiled slightly, secure in his own irresistibility and seeing no further, and sat quietly for a few minutes, conscious of the corridor of still, expectant air between himself and Bodie, in the midst of all the noise and humour around them.

Suddenly too warm, Bodie fumbled with the high zipper of his tracksuit jacket, at first pulling it down six inches, then feeling a trickle of sweat running ticklishly between his shoulderblades, opened the jacket fully and reached to rub the back of his cotton t-shirt.

Doyle allowed his eyes to wander idly over the broad, white-clad chest, the pointed nipple Bodie's movement had revealed, and waited insouciantly for those wide, midnight eyes to lift again, as he knew inevitably they would.

As soon as he stopped the all-absorbing rubbing and leaned back in his chair once more, Bodie could feel that scary, familiar stare on him again, telling him to look up.

Heart shifting gear, thumping uncomfortably in a flood of adrenalin, Bodie saw one white, trainer-clad foot propped indolently on the table, wrist resting on the upraised knee, and smokey eyes drifting slowly over his body, coming to rest at length at his groin.

The full, soft mouth parted, was moistened by a pink tongue, and stayed open as Doyle met his stunned eyes with a look of such pure carnality that a helpless, answering dart of arousal leapt through him.

Bodie's eyes dropped.

Sure now, beyond all doubt, that Doyle was sending him up, he tried to summon the hidden laughter that had been with him all evening, but it wouldn't come; there was only a small, inner quivering, as if something inside was being gradually stripped away.

Get yourself under control, Bodie told himself firmly, and bit down hard on his inner lip. It's Doyle's joke, his play, and can he be blamed for flaunting it, for offering what I most want? He doesn't know - it's just the big, pay-Bodie-back joke to him, a giggle to be carried on until we're both sick of it, then dropped, forgotten.

Bodie risked another look and caught a secret, self-satisfied smile lingering on the experienced mouth as Doyle studied his drink once more.

He knows.

At least, he knows some of it. He knows his attractions - every one of them - he used them every day, after all. And maybe I've been too impervious -

That didn't matter. The question was, just how far was Doyle prepared to go? Bodie knew it depended partly on his own reactions, knew that in this, as in certain other situations, Doyle was manipulative

Only by degrees, though. Bodie knew he couldn't stop Doyle once he was set on a certain objective, but he was able to influence him in the paths he trod to get there. He'd done it before, in a variety of ways, some subtle, some not so subtle.

Unfortunately, Bodie himself was being pulled in several different directions at once.

Prudence and self-preservation told him the risky, innuendo-loaded contact would have to stop before it grew too unbearable. But a second, stronger pull, dictated by the reckless, devil-may-care gambler, made him long to test Doyle, to egg him on to see just how far he'd take it. And maybe, just maybe, the third attraction whispered, he'd learn something else, see something that otherwise would stay hidden.

So...what was it to be?

Hearing a slither of movement, Bodie's eyes jerked up in time to see the green cotton covered legs arrange themselves more decorously as Doyle sat up and put down his empty glass.

For a split second, Bodie thought his partner was about to say it was time to go, but far from tiring of the put-on, Doyle was offering to get another round in. He stood up and collected the orders with a brief glance around the table.

"What about you, sunshine?" he asked, giving Bodie a direct, challenging stare. "Want some more, do you?" It was an innocuous enough question but to his audience of one, he made it ambiguous, heavily charged, and they both knew it had nothing to do with Bodie's almost untouched tomato juice. But it was part of the game.

"Yes, please," said Bodie, with his own unreadable look. He paused and let his own eyes slide downwards over his partner. "You can get a taste for it, you know."

"Really?" Doyle raised his eyebrows, eyes innocently wide. "Never seen the attraction myself - prefer fruit juices - but maybe you can give me a taste...later." And with an enigmatic, what-d'you-make-of-that look, he strolled to the bar.

"Oi." Randall had to nudge Bodie in the ribs to get his attention. "Does 'e do that very often?"

"What?" Bodie's mind was a studied blank.

"Come across." Randall nodded to the slim-hipped figure easing itself through the crowd. "Like 'e's been doing."

Badly needing time to think, Bodie thrust both hands in his jacket pockets, crossed one leg defensively over the other and belatedly remembered what he'd stuffed in the right pocket, his fingers finding and crushing soft material.

That was the answer. Play Doyle at his own game, keep him intrigued, return the joke...only the punchline wasn't going to be the one Doyle was expecting...

Suddenly cheered, a cheeky grin began to spread over the expressionless features and a startled delight filled him as Randall's words sank in and he knew Doyle had succeeded in getting himself noticed - again.

There was some mileage to be extracted yet.

"Oh, yeah," he drawled. "Bloke like him - like the women - always beggin' for it."

"And will he get it?" asked Taff, with interest, squinting though a cloud of smoke.

"He'll get something," muttered Bodie darkly.

Doyle made it to the bar at last and leaned into it, inordinately glad of the shadows, for here, among the clusters of drinking bodies, nothing much could be seen below chest level.

Christ, but the stupid bloody joke's getting to me, too, he thought with chagrin and couldn't stop a mental replay of that last, dark, raking glance, groaning silently at the second spark it sent through him.

Realising the barmaid was standing in front of him, wearing a puzzled expression, he lifted suddenly heavy eyes and started to order.

He needed some fresh air.

Fresh air - that was a laugh, he thought dazedly, watching the woman move from beer pump to spirit dispensers to ice bucket and back again as he coughed on an incautiously deep lungful of thick, smoke-clogged air.

Fresh air wouldn't make any difference, not if he had to come back in and sit looking at Bodie again. There was nothing for it - he'd just have to brazen it out. Trouble was, now that Bodie had recovered from his surprise, he was starting to give a bit back and the joke was in danger of overtaking Doyle; it was picking up speed and taking him with it in a headlong, irreversible rush. But the excitement of it -

Never one to deny himself pleasure easily, a fine, undisciplined wildness urged him on, spurring him to finish the game, and on his rules.

The jolt of anticipation that dangerous thought induced turned predictably to pleasure and he felt himself stirring again, and this time he didn't fight it.

He half turned, wanting to see what his partner in this hellbent game was doing.

A few of the standing drinkers had drifted away and the carpet between himself and Bodie was empty. It came as no surprise to find that he didn't even have to try to catch his eyes, for Bodie was watching him, lounging back, hands in pockets, one leg resting lazily over the other. With deep, inner laughter and a daredevil scorn of the consequences, Doyle turned to face Bodie fully, leaning both elbows back on the bar, one heel on the floor rail.

He didn't need to glance down to know what he looked like - he could feel it, throbbing softly, undemandingly, against his thigh, beautifully unrestricted.

Watching closely, he thought Bodie's expression hadn't changed, except, maybe, for his mouth. It had a slightly parted, hungry look to it, but knowing Bodie's acting ability, Doyle didn't place much importance on it.

Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he turned again, gave a last order and finally paid for the drinks.

Yeah, he thought with a profane curl of amusement, it was a good joke and it was about to get better. Sucking noisily on a cocktail cherry whipped from a side saucer as the barmaid attended to the till, he gathered up as many glasses as possible, keeping the firmest grip on Bodie's, and made his way carefully back to the table.

Bodie's chair was empty.

Cultivating an air of decorum, but not quite able to keep the gleam of unholy delight out of his eyes, Doyle passed the drinks around and sat down again, keeping a casual eye on the doors.

Ten minutes passed and he finally began to wonder if he's gone too far this time and Bodie had decided to teach him a lesson by stranding him here. That, as Bodie would have figured, would mean Doyle asking for a lift, and Doyle was sure he knew which two would step forward first. No, he decided that wasn't like his partner - Bodie liked to see his jokes through and would be back shortly to face the music. A wicked vision presented itself and Doyle rubbed his nose to hide his responsive grin. He knew he was getting to Bodie, knew he always did with this sort of behaviour, but he'd never gone this far before. Even so, surely Bodie wouldn't -

The picture was so strong he very nearly got up to check the gents to see whether Bodie was frustratedly jacking himself off in one of the cubicles.

Nah, he thought lazily, Bodie's got a higher threshold - not susceptible, like me - takes more to get 'im going. 'S fun finding out what does though.

Another five minutes passed and Doyle was just on the point of going to check the car park when the familiar, navy blue tracksuited figure reappeared.

Doyle watched the serious face, waiting for lowered eyes to lift and see -

Resuming his seat, Bodie looked up from the gigantic glass of horrific-looking, multi-various cocktails now sitting in fruity and parasolled splendour before him and mouthed a silent, "Bastard," to a widely grinning Doyle, a dark glint of humour back in his own eyes. Then aloud, "What the hell's this supposed to be?" And he twiddled the little paper sunshade. "Is there a drink under all this, or what?"

"Of a sort, yeah," Doyle said non-committally. "I thought you deserved it. It's known - " and he paused for effect, " - as a Green-Bottomed Lady."

There were hoots of derision all around the table.

Bodie studied the poofy-looking drink with a growing distaste. "Lime," he said in disgust, isolating one of the lower levels, "I hate lime."

"Aw, g 'wan, Bodie," Taff encouraged. "You'll look great drinkin' that', man."

"Yeah, 's what I thought," Doyle agreed promptly. "You deserved, I thought, something special, somethin' specially suited to your character, your scintillatin' humour, your razor sharp - "

"Yeah, yeah, I get the picture," Bodie interrupted sardonically. "And of course you haven't been able to match it all night. What else is in it... for interest's sake, that is, 'cos I'm not touchin' it."

"Oh, yes, you are, my friend." Doyle's eyes took on their own darkling humour, wicked under a satyr's brows. "It'll just finish off the evening for me. What else is in it?" His forehead creased in an over-obvious effort to remember. "I dunno, just asked the barmaid for it and didn't see what she put in."

"Yeah, I noticed your attention was elsewhere," Bodie murmured in suggestive undertone.

Doyle tried to ignore the accompanying flicker over his body, persevering, "But there is a cherry at the bottom...if you're a good boy an' drink it all up."

"A cherry? Well, that'll make it worthwhile." The sarcasm was replaced by a crooked grin as the penny dropped. "That's obscene, that is."

Doyle nodded happily.

"Is it a proper cocktail, or did you make it up?" Bodie could see he was committed to this somewhat childish charade - Doyle would permit nothing else, but it was an interesting change in pace -

"'Course it's a proper cocktail - taken from a book I happen to have, called A Thousand and One Things to Do To Your Worst Enemy. Get it down you."

"Thanks a bundle, mate," Bodie said ironically.

"A fiver says you won't drink it," piped a voice from the end of the bench.

"You win your bet," Bodie replied without hesitation.

"A fiver here says it, too," added Randall.

Despite himself, Bodie began to look interested. "Ten quid? That'd pay for our supper." He looked at Doyle then around the table. "Okay, my son, an' you lot - to prove you wrong, I'll drink' I won't be sick - just to spite you."

"Naturally," Doyle drawled, prepared to enjoy this.

Bodie's hand reached for the tall glass then veered at the last minute and picked up his neglected tomato juice. "I'll jus' drink this first," he said hopefully.

"Oh, no you won't." A narrow hand plucked it neatly from his grasp. "I'll 'ave that. Said I wanted a taste, didn't I?"

"That's nothing to what you're going to get a taste of later," Bodie assured him grimly.

"Is that a promise?" lisped Doyle and nodded towards the cocktail. "Get on with it."

Watching his partner swigging back his harmless tomato, Bodie approached the splendiforously striped glass with as much delicacy as if it contained poison. He gave it a tentative sniff first and jerked his head back from the fumes of combined creme de menthe and something that smelt suspiciously like cherry brandy.

"Strewth, you know how to make a man suffer, Doyle, an' that's a fact."

"Quit stallin'."

Resigned, Bodie prepared to take as much down in the first gulp as he could. He took two mouthfuls and froze his expression, an idea popping into his head. He held the glass away and peered at it, forcing a smile.

"Hmm. 'S not bad," he said in surprise and took another prolonged, seemingly pleasurable drink, flicking a glance at Doyle's suspicious face.

"You're kiddin'," his partner said in flat disbelief.

"No, really," Bodie assured him, taking another manful sip. "I know I like cocktails, but this is - " he paused savouringly, " - not half had."

"Gis a sip."

Bodie held the two-thirds full glass away from the long, reaching fingers.

"Will you keep your sticky mitts off my drinks," he protested indignantly.

Intrigued despite himself, for such an obnoxious-looking concoction couldn't really taste that good, but Bodie's expression was of genuine enjoyment, Doyle persisted. "Come on, Bodie, let me 'ave a drink."

"Okay, okay, wait a' minute." Bodie took another convincingly enjoyable gulp and licked a running drop from the side of the glass.

"'S a bit sticky," he said cheekily and licked some more, finally handing the glass over.

Conscious of all the eyes on him, Doyle resisted the temptation to turn the glass and drink from Bodie's place. He took a long pull at it and instantly knew his mistake.

He reached blindly for an empty beerglass and spat forcibly into it.

"Bodie - you evil, conniving, cretinous - " he spluttered.

"Ah-ah, naughty, naughty, Raymond," Bodie reproached, putting up his hands to ward his partner off. "You're the conniving bastard and anyway, I drank more than you did."


"You deserved it," Bodie finished neatly and chuckled as Doyle released his arms and subsided back onto the bench, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand for the third time.

"All right, I admit defeat," he grumbled. "Think I'm gonna be sick - "

"Better man, an' all that," Bodie said very smugly and watched with glee as Doyle swilled Perrier Water round his mouth in an effort to rid himself of the taste. This was all highly interesting, Bodie thought, and ignored the pang of regret that flashed through him. Ray had changed the mood totally, defusing at a stroke the intimate, seductive quality between them. And he'd done it for one of two reasons, Bodie was sure; either because now he was bored with it and this was a way of getting them safely away and home to their respective flats, or -

Doyle had made his intentions plain, had been given a few vague leaders in return, but had now tossed an experimental ball Bodie's way, to see what strokes he'd play.

Yeah, that was it and the score's about 4O-3O his way right now, Bodie thought, but the game's about to be evened up.

Doyle was snapping his fingers under Bodie's nose. "Wakey, wakey, sunshine," he said and rustled two crisp fivers in front of him. "Let's go and have our supper, shall we? We both deserve it."

"Yeah, okay. Why not?" Raising no arguments at this early departure, Bodie stood and zipped his jacket once more, picking up his kit bag.

Shrugging back into his own jacket, Doyle suddenly put a hand on his arm and leaned close. "Hey...I think you've got something of mine, haven't you? In your pocket?"

Bodie just looked at him, innocence personified. "As a matter of fact," he said, starting to pull the brightly coloured cotton out, "yes. Want them now, do you?"

"Nah, you keep them," Doyle told him softly. "As a memento. Who knows, maybe you'll be able to hang them on your wall with your other conquests... Shan't need 'em till tomorrow, anyway." The meaningful glint in his eyes went out like a light as he turned to the rest of the group. "Well, so long, lads. Thanks for an interesting afternoon. Can't say I'd be keen to repeat it too soon, but it's been an experience."

There were a few good natured laughs.

"Yeah, well it was good for a laugh, wasn't it?" One of them said. "Thanks for being a good sport, Ray."

Taff stood up and held out his hand. "No hard feelings, eh, Ray-boy?"

Doyle shook the hand. "'Course not, Taff. Part of the laugh." But he couldn't resist winking at him. "Chow."

Suddenly eager to get this softly spoken, teasing man on his own, for Ray was clearly making up his own rules as he went along, Bodie tugged at his sleeve. "Come on, mate. Let's go find a takeaway."

"Takeaway? Listen, with ten quid we can go to that new restaurant I told you about."

"With ten quid?" Bodie's tone was scathing. "Run by friend of yours, is it?"

As they made for the door, still arguing, Bodie gave in to temptation, turned briefly back to the table and gave a gleeful OK signal. Several pints were raised in silent salute and he followed his unsuspecting partner out through the doors.

They weren't the only ones leaving and as a number were just arriving, there was a crowd at the outer doors of the clubhouse. He and Doyle stood aside for a moment then slowly shuffled their way through.

Close behind Doyle, nostrils filled with the scent of clean hair and a light, fragrant body talc, and thoughts persistently full of a slumbering sensuality, Bodie just couldn't resist touching.

In the gloom, he ran his right hand unerringly over soft, plush cotton, filling his palm with warm buttock, letting his hand slip down as far inner thigh and then back up again.

"Ooh... more," Doyle camped, and as a couple turned to stare at them, Bodie steered him towards the car.

Whether they were back in the game or not, Bodie was glad he'd got in a grope of his own at last.

And god, but Doyle had felt as good as Bodie had always known he would - tight and firm and smooth, the lack of briefs making the jokey contact shockingly intimate - for both of them.

Standing waiting for Bodie to unlock the passenger door from inside, Doyle considered the outcome of his little experiment with the cocktail. The change in mood hadn't been sustained by either of them. He'd felt none of the expected relief at being out of an inherently dangerous situation - quite the reverse, in fact. And he'd known Bodie was thinking about it.

Doyle didn't know what those conclusions were, but Bodie wanted their fooling around to continue, Doyle knew he did. Why, was the next question. They'd just about broken even with their clowning around, so what more did Bodie want? Out of sight of anyone else, between just the two of them, it was liable to get out of hand, a little too serious as that caress in the foyer had just proved, despite his camping. But was that what Bodie wanted? Was he still experimenting, or was he seriously going to try it on?

Can he actually want to make it with me, wondered Doyle incredulously, and felt a hysterical giggle bubbling up. An involuntary shiver followed closely in its wake.

"You gonna stand there all night?"

Realising Bodie had opened the door for him, Doyle slung his bag into the back and slid into the passenger seat, clicking his belt on. Bodie gunned the engine, competent hands and feet easing the car away a second later.

With his foot in its usual resting place on the dashboard - Bodie had long ago become accustomed to the personalized, muddy print up there - and head resting back against the seat, Doyle watched his concentrating partner surreptitiously.

The smooth, cropped head was no more than a dim silhouette, in fact all he could see was deft, efficient hands and they fascinated him.

Used to seeing them wrapped round a gun, wielding a knife and fork, or occasionally streaked with grease as Bodie helped him with the innards of his motorbike, Doyle was starting to see them in another light. He resisted and tried to pursue a more generalised line of thinking.

Bodie was very good with his hands, a very practical person, able to turn to almost any practical puzzle. But he wasn't good at subtleties, Doyle reckoned, the kind of intricate brain and finger-teasers he favoured, and soon became impatient with them, throwing them down and calling them a waste of time.

Although...there was that time they'd played Mastermind -

No, he'd been right all along.

Sure that Bodie had quickly lined up the correct sequence by sheer fluke, Doyle hadn't let on and had waited until Bodie had worked it out properly.

Yeah, too cack-handed by half for me to believe that -

The car slowed to negotiate a junction and watching Bodie's movements with an absent, drowsy contentment, Doyle's mind drifted.

Lit by the eery glow of the dashboard lights, strong fingers clenched around the knob of the gearstick, grasping, easing, pushing it smoothly into position and releasing it, to return seconds later -

Doyle looked away, out through the windscreen.

Regardless of where they were heading right now, something was going to happen between them tonight - and he already knew, from the tension in his stomach, that he was going to let it.

Very conscious of what Doyle had been doing, Bodie kept his mind firmly off the open-legged sprawl beside him and on the road.

"Where's this restaurant, then?" he asked into the unusual silence between them.

Suddenly realising where they were, that Bodie had been driving automatically in the direction of home, Doyle drew a deep, recovering breath. There was no way he could handle yet another hour or so in a semi-public place with Bodie. Not tonight.

"Nah," he drawled unconcernedly. "I've changed me mind. Home, James - I've got some stuff in the fridge I really ought to use up."

Bodie didn't take his eyes off the road.

So, this was the brush-off. He nodded philosophically. Just as well he had no illusions about Doyle - wouldn't be allowed to keep them if he had.

"Okay," he said lightly, for after all, the evening wasn't over yet. He'd play it by ear. "Just don't forget one of those fivers is mine," he admonished.

"I'll think about it," Doyle allowed, then his head snapped round. "Though by rights, I deserve it -"

"You deserve it?" Bodie couldn't believe this piece of righteous self-pity. "You little sod - you never even swallowed any of that fuckin' cocktail."

"Lissen," Doyle talked him down with the one stressed word, "not only have I put up with too much this afternoon, but I've spent a packet. God, those old cronies of yours drink like fish," he said in a derogatory tone of compounded envy and annoyance.

"Yeah, an' they'll be there till about four tomorrow morning," Bodie put in, smiling in fond memory of one or two nights like that himself. "Blotto, completely blotto."

"So - if they had that in mind all along, why were they trying it on with me? Well, I know why, you bastard," Doyle admitted with a certain lack of malice. "You set me up, but what a crowd to do it with. I honestly think some of 'em would've taken it further."

"One or two would have, you can believe it," Bodie said perfectly seriously, then with a mocking glance, "though I'm sure old Williams considers himself lucky to've got away with his hand intact. But the rest were just having a giggle. Would you play again?"

"You must be bloody joking!"

Bodie turned his head at the indignant voice and was given a sly grin.

"Why risk life and limb and not get paid for it?" Doyle asked, reasonably. "And anyway, imagine Cowley's reaction if we broke an arm or a leg. Nah, I'm not doin' it again for no money. Nor for indecent assault and rude company!"

"Rude? You loved every minute of it," Bodie accused. "And you weren't beyond a bit of vulgarity yourself."

"Well, yes, we did do pretty well with Eskimo Nell, didn't we?" Doyle's memory took him straight back to the highlight of that peculiar afternoon. "'Specially you."

Bodie chuckled. "Yeah.. .Was good, that."

Turning down Doyle's street and manoeuvring easily into a space, he spared Doyle another smirk.

"You didn't do too badly, either. I knew what you'd been doing - an' they appreciated it, as well."

"Eh?" Bodie had lost him.

Bodie tugged the handbrake on, leaving the engine running. "Underwater," he reminded succinctly, grinning. "Like me."

Doyle's face cleared. One hand on the door handle, he turned to look at Bodie. "Oh, no," he said earnestly. "'S not what you're thinking -" he shook his head at Bodie's disbelieving protest. "No, it wasn't, because, you see... I wasn't touching myself at all - " Limpid eyes dropped briefly into Bodie's lap then back up again, " - only looking at you." And he slid out of the car.

Bodie sat stock still and gulped, wishing he'd known that at the time. Jesus, what a turn-on.

A thump on the roof brought him out of his fantasy.

"Oi, turn the engine off," Doyle called, then leaned in through the open door. "You comin' up? I've got enough for two - in the fridge," he qualified loudly at Bodie's lopsided grin and slammed the door shut on the expected, ribald comment.

Following in Doyle's wake up the steps, Bodie had the distinct feeling he'd had an enjoyable date - which wasn't quite over - and that he had confidence the girl was going to come across. He grinned unashamedly at the comparison.

Various domestic noises issued from the kitchen as he entered the flat, so he bypassed it and went into Doyle's lounge. As usual, it gave off a warm, opulent atmosphere, oozing seductive luxury, with its deep-pile carpet and inviting sofa. So fitting for its occupant, Bodie acknowledged, pulling his jacket zip undone again.

He walked to the window, drawn as usual by the view of the night-time city with its orange street lamps, bright office blocks and winking traffic lights.

"Are you very hungry?"

Bodie turned from his contemplation of the busy outside world to see Doyle posed with artistic negligence in the doorway, jacket off, sleeves rolled up and an extra button unfastened, one elbow high on the doorframe, his whole body leaning into it, haloed brightly by the fluorescent light behind him.

Bodie let several heartbeats pass before he answered, knowing Doyle wouldn't be able to see him very clearly.

"Oh, yeah...I'm hungry, all right."

Doyle swallowed nervously at the low, husky tones of the shadowy figure standing by his window, and straightened up. "I'll...uh...make us some coffee first," he said and vanished back into the business-like environs of the kitchen.

He busied himself with jug and filters, sugar and milk and it wasn't until he realised he'd spooned coffee into the kettle that he took a firm grip on himself, venting a few choice words under his breath.

"'S that bloody cocktail - ruined me equilibrium," he muttered as he rinsed the expensively sticky grains from around the element.

He carried on muttering as he worked, telling himself it was no good whatsoever getting himself worked up at thoughts of what his partner was or was not going to do to him.

Having formed an early and lasting impression of an eight-legged elephant whenever he imagined Bodie making love to some girl, with hands and trunk travelling with somewhat unrefined zest over silky skin, eager to get to the best bits in the least time...well, Doyle was positive his sensually unpolished alter ego could do nothing for him at all.

Yes, having seen Bodie in action with his girls in the past - certainly not recently, Doyle admitted fairly - he knew his sidekick could come on a little heavy-handed - not lacking in skill, exactly, just a little - well, uncouth might not be too strong a word. And if Bodie tried any of that with his mate, Doyle knew he was liable to burst out laughing and be capable of very little else. Treatment like that did absolutely nothing for him - worse, apart from making him laugh, it turned him right off.

Highly sensuous by nature, Doyle had long recognised his need for careful handling and took it seriously, knowing from experience how much a correspondingly sensual partner could do for him. He craved that sort of gentle, thorough loving, but rarely did he find it. Women were often too wrapped up in their own needs, especially the younger ones. Briefly, the memory of his friend of the past returned to him. Older by l5 years, she'd known how to touch him, to love him...

Amazed at what he was considering with Bodie, he finished off the coffee, carrying the mugs without more ado through to the lounge.

There was a light on now - not the bright, central lights, but the standard lamp in the corner and it spread a warmer glow, leaving pools of shadow around the room.

Bodie was lounging on the sofa, arm resting along the cushioned back, legs crossed, one foot waving nonchalantly in the air.

Doyle felt the dark gaze following him as he walked in and set the mugs down on his low coffee table.

"We're having a vegetable rissotto - okay?" he said without looking at Bodie.

"Fine. How long will it be?"

"Half an hour - if we start preparing it in a minute." Doyle sat down beside his partner.

"I thought you had it all ready in the fridge." Bodie didn't like the idea of waiting; he wasn't too keen on the casual 'we' Doyle had thrown in, either. It felt like hours - in fact it was hours - since he'd last eaten and his stomach had been giving him sharp reminders.

Doyle cradled his coffee, taking small, enjoyable sips, "I never said that - only that I had stuff in the fridge. 'S all fresh veg, which I don't want to go to waste. I've put the rice on already."

"Oh, yeah..." Bodie sighed in rapture, immediately converted. "Mounds of white, fluffy... Wha's up?" Doyle was shaking his head in a very no-nonsense, take-it-or-leave-it manner.

"Not white. Brown."

Bodie groaned. "I think I'd've enjoyed a MacDonald's better," he complained. "Would've been a sight quicker, too."

"You'll like it okay, don't worry," Doyle assured him, well familiar with Bodie's digestive fads and fancies. "But if you're in such a hurry, come an' help me with it now. Come on, I'm starving, too," he urged at Bodie's second groan.

He got Bodie out to the kitchen, gave him the huge chopping board and a sharp knife and began absorbedly weighing and mixing other ingredients while Bodie chopped.

There was a fair amount of crisp munching and crunching going on behind him as Bodie sampled a bit of everything in his usual fashion, and by the time it was all simmering gently together, he knew he'd won his fast-food loving partner over to the idea of a healthy, lightly flavoured vegetable dish.

Doyle stood at the cooker, watching and stirring and felt Bodie come up behind him. A prickle of awareness ran up his back but Bodie simply leaned forward and sniffed appreciatively.

"Mm, that smells okay," he said and dropped his chin to rest on Doyle's shoulder, one hand resting lightly on the other. "How'd you like this job permanently?"

"Cooking for you? Thought I did anyway."

"Huh." Content with the way things were going, Bodie refused to be provoked. "Did you know you smell of onions and peppers now?" he asked intimately into one less than shell-like ear, and moved away.

"Well, it's 'ardly surprising', is it?" But Doyle put the lid firmly on the pan and went in search of wine bottle and glasses.

"'Ere, try this." Back in the lounge, Doyle handed a glass to his partner.

Absorbed in a study of Doyle's ever-expanding record collection, Bodie took it absently and sipped. His face brightened. "Hey, this is better than your usual-"

Doyle stared down his nose at the kneeling figure, wishing rather despotically that he could bring Bodie to his knees with more than simply his record collection. But there was time -

"Well, I'm not usually privileged to be given the nectar, am I?" Bodie had read the superior expression without any trouble. "That's normally reserved for the.. .uh. . more important people in your life, shall we say?"

Doyle's brow smoothed out. " mean the ones I'm hopin' will..." He let the question tail away but his head inclined tastefully towards his bedroom, eyes never leaving Bodie's.

"Yeah..." Bodie's voice was sinking lower, a small appreciative smile on lips. "Archetypal seducer, that's you. Use everything at your disposal."

"Hmm." Doyle considered the pleasing idea with another savouring sip of the expensive wine. "'S'pose I do. Years of practice, y'see...combined with natural talent, of course." He stared absently into rising, golden bubbles, mind ticking on. "One thing's always disappointed me, though - "

"Yeah?" Bodie s voice was soft, eyes concealing mischief.

"Yeah... Always givin' it out - hunter, see - " he explained economically, " - but there 's never been anyone - yet - with enough guts to try it with me."

Bodie rose smoothly to his feet. "Try...what, exactly?" He was curious to see how Doyle would try to explain this, having a fair idea what it was disguising.

"Well..." The contents of Doyle's glass seemed suddenly fascinating. "I 'ave 'ad birds take a fancy to me before I noticed them... but before they could really put the moves on, I always took the first step myself."

"Yeah...? Well, nothing wrong in that, old son."

"I know." Doyle was getting impatient again. "I just wanna try it the other way for once."

"What, let the birds do the hunting, you mean?"

"Yes, but more than that - Haven't you ever fantasized what it would be like?"

Bodie's eyes narrowed. "Women in studded leather, whips and chains, an' me in restraints? Oh, yeah.. all the time." And he let his voice sink to a lustful growl.

"Be serious," Doyle admonished. "Haven't you ever wondered -"

"Too vivid an imagination isn't always a good thing."

"Come on, Bodie, sexual fantasizing doesn't hurt anyone and anyway, you're usually the one eager to discuss this sort of thing."

Bodie ignored the reminder. "Fantasies are all very well - if they stay fantasies - in your head. sounds like yours are about to be brought to light."

"Chance'd be a fine thing," Doyle grinned at him but there was a speculative gleam in his eye. "But I'm hopin'. C'mon, Bodie, you haven't answered my question - have you ever wanted to try it?"

"I presume we're still talking about - " Bodie thought better of that query as Doyle's eyes narrowed. "Okay, ok - yeah, 'course I have - briefly. I like it too much the other way, myself."

Doyle raked him from head to foot with a jaundiced gaze. "That figures. You need a bit more imagination, mate."

"Nah, you've got enough for both of us." Bodie's mouth twitched when he saw Doyle either hadn't noticed or had ignored that double entendre.

"So... Let me get this straight," he said in persnickety fashion, hard put to keep the laughter out of his voice. "What you're saying is...that you fancy takin' the passive role for once. That it?"

Doyle considered the matter, head on one side.

"Uh...yeah..." That wasn't quite what Doyle had in mind, but how to explain it - He stood to get his fingers burned as it was.

"You wanna lie back, keep all that...experience - " Bodie was doing his best to be diplomatic, " - under wraps, to see how your lover comes across?"

"Yeah...that's it."

One eyebrow rose questioningly. "Isn't that a bit like takin' coal to - No," a more wicked smile sprang to mind, diplomacy promptly forgotten, "more like trying' to teach the whole of the Kama Sutra to Krishna. Got anyone in mind?"

Doyle's face was thunderous. "Sex-mad. You're bloody sex-mad!" he said furiously, dismissing the fact that their whole conversation up to that point had been on that very subject. "Always got to bring everything and everyone down to your level. Trust you to see it like that - somethin' to laugh at -"

"Ray," Bodie interrupted quietly. Word games could go on for too long and the truth was finally, unsurprisingly clear to him. "I know exactly what you're trying to say. It's not just the passive role that you want most." He paused, studying the averted, scowling face. "You actually want someone to take over...from start to finish...with all that it entails. Don't you?"


"Yes, you do. That's what all this had been about, hasn't it? You want... you actually want to be seduced...don't you?"

Bodie wondered whether he was imagining the defiant expression because if it was there, Doyle's wineglass was the recipient, because those green eyes were refusing to look up.

"Don't you?" he repeated, determined to get the admission out of Doyle.

"Sod off,Bodie. It's no big production," Doyle said defensively.

About to take the next step, Bodie caught himself up and took a mental pace backwards. Too heavy, too soon, he told himself. The mood's all wrong, and he ordered his stupid heart to slow down. Angry defiance wasn't what he wanted at all.

He tried for a lighter tone. "Well, well...never 'ad you pegged as the kinky sort."

"Who's kinky?" demanded Doyle irritably.

"Come on, Doyle." Bodie didn't really believe they were having this conversation. "It's not the seduced who wields the power, you know," he said meaningfully. "That thought turn you on, does it?"

"Oh, yeah." It was defiance, all right. "Always after new experiences, me. Didn't y'know that?"

"Would you like it arranged?" Bodie countered in casual question.

Scenting more than a challenge, the curly head lifted then, wide eyes meeting Bodie's. The silence in the flat seemed to press in around them.

"No, thanks," he said after a moment. "If I decide l want it, I'm quite capable of managing by myself."

Ah-ha...cold feet, Bodie noted. Either he's changed his mind or - or he really wasn't saying that I thought he was. But I'll still take the risk...

"Hope your partner knows that," he murmured, then without giving Doyle a chance to reply he went on, "Reminds me of D. H. Lawrence."

"Eh? Wha's 'e got to do with it? No, I know, don't tell me - you see me as Lady Chatterly."

"No," Bodie replied quietly. "That wasn't the book I was thinking of. More along the lines of the Virgin and the Gypsy. Only, you're not the gypsy..."

There was a silence for a second then, "'Course I'm not the bloody gypsy," Doyle flared at him. "I'm no virgin, either. Jus' like I'm not a queer dancer. You've got some bloody funny ideas about me, mate.''

Bodie drained his glass. "Always had sympathy with that gypsy," he continued, as if Doyle hadn't spoken. "He was provoked..."

The word 'too' hung heavily between them.

Seething, Doyle stalked abruptly out to the kitchen to check on the rissotto.

Bodie heard plates being banged down on the worktop, and grinned again. It was really very easy to get to Doyle. Strange he'd never tried it before. But they were always either in a joke equally or Bodie was calming him down - never the opposite. And even stranger, Doyle wasn't sure of himself in this situation. Not at all like he made himself out to be.

He left Doyle to it, needing this breathing space, and ten minutes later two steaming plates were carried in and set down on the coffee table.

Bodie leaned forward. "Yummy," he said. "More wine - where's the bottle?" He tucked in while Doyle went to fetch it. "This is bloody good - how about puttin' the telly on?" he suggested round a mouthful of savoury rice. "There's a good old-fashioned swashbucklin' film about to start."

Doyle sighed. "Is there anything else sire would like before I sit down?" He went to plug in the set and switch on.

"I'll let you know," came the mumbled reply.

"Where's the remote control?" Doyle wanted to know and scanned tabletop and carpet while Bodie looked blank and disinclined to move. "I usually leave it on the sofa. C'mon, mate - Oh, for god's sake - " and he dropped to his knees to fiddle with the televisions's control panel.

"Here, I've found it." Suspiciously straight-faced at this sudden lack of patience, Bodie held up the slim black slab of plastic. "I was sitting on it," he explained helpfully.

Temper leashed again, Doyle took it and aimed at the TV, ignoring the murmured observation behind him that it was 'all warm now', just as he ignored the gentle heat the little black box was passing to his hand. Body heat -

The screen gave a soft fizzle and came to life and Doyle sat down beside his partner.

"Hey, look, I like this advert - "

"'S on the wrong side," said Doyle and immediately pressed a button. There was a click of annoyance beside him and Bodie grabbed for the remote control.

"Look, it hasn't started yet and I like the adverts." The plaintive tone was calculated to exasperate, as was the quick flicking through the channels on screen several times over.

Doyle made a determined grab of his own. ''It is not a toy,'' he ground out. Give it back."

"Wait - a - minute." Bodie held the control out of Doyle's reach and swapped channels again. The adverts had finished. "Typical," he grumbled and pressed more buttons. Doyle was on his knees on the sofa by now, leaning over Bodie's precariously balanced but half-empty plate.

"You'll push me too far," he warned grimly.

"Gerraway," Bodie mocked, but let his arm be caught and the box snatched out of his grip.

Doyle flounced back to his end of the sofa, sorted the television out to his liking and began to eat, fork making annoyed little jabs into tie rice. Bodie just grinned some more and polished off his own helping.

More coffee was called for after that, which Bodie got up to make - of the instant variety - and they sat almost in silence, watching sword fights, plundering and broadsides of cannonfire blasting away onscreen.

Bodie had settled himself back in his corner of the sofa, half turned from the set so he could divide his attention between pirates and Doyle whenever he chose.

Doyle had curled up cross-legged, his whole attention seemingly given to the film.

Hands behind his head, Bodie forgot the noisy story and watched his partner's relaxed face. In profile, he could see fine lashes moving as Doyle blinked, a stubborn nose and the mouth - relaxed too, it looked slightly parted. Bodie loved that expressive, mobile mouth, loved to see it half smiling as now, or the bottom lip caught between white teeth as Doyle worried over a problem, trying to work it out. Then the round, unmarked cheek, almost but not quite boyish, the faint, blue shadow of growing stubble on his cheek and around his mouth lending it a strikingly immoral, experienced quality. A total contradiction in terms, Bodie decided - that face and what went on behind it.

Doyle was becoming aware of his scrutiny.

"What're you starin' at?" he demanded belligerently with a brief glare.

Bodie shrugged. "Bored with the film."

"Too bad. I'm enjoyin' it." There was almost relish in that tone, Bodie decided. "Why don't you go home, then?"

"You want me to go?" Bodie was almost sure of the answer, although Doyle's disinterested tone seemed to deny it.

"Not bothered."

"Well, I'm not going," Bodie said firmly. "Too early yet." And he made himself more comfortable, stretching one arm along the back of the sofa so that it lay partially behind Doyle's head, seeing from the flicker of shadowed eyes that Doyle was aware of it.

Bodie continued with his study of Doyle, unable to keep his mind off him, but trying hard to make it less noticeable - mainly because he wanted to look at more than just the face. That was compelling enough, though, and his fingers almost ached with the longing to reach out and touch the surrounding, tangled curls, to feel their warm silkiness. He wanted to touch the warmth of temple, to run his thumbs over the soft, tender skin behind the ears and down his neck, lean close and touch his lips to that teasing, sensual mouth, stroke it with his tongue, feel it open for him -

Bodie was powerless to stop the shafts of pleasure coursing through him with ever increasing strength at his thoughts and the tantalizing proximity of their cause. But much of the pain was gone, leaving a tremulous apprehension in the pit of his stomach.

The slight, supple figure sat blithely unaware of most of this and Bodie travelled further in his mind's eye, skimming overt shoulders, down sinewy arms and across the lightly muscled, delectably furred chest and belly, lingering at the dusky hollow of navel and on down around the slimness of waist and hip.

Another stab of pleasure caught at him as the memory of his own stealthy handling of that teasing body flooded back and his mind ran instantly on to what was to be found in the front of those soft, green trousers, something that had been flaunted cheekily, unconsidered, in the bath, before everyone -

Bodie just about held back a groan, remembering how Ray had told him the reason for that half-swollen excitement - He, Bodie, had aroused him to that, just by Ray looking at him. Bodie still didn't really believe it. And again, in the bar, a more intimate, one to one flaunting, and all the more heady for it.

He wished he could see Doyle's body now, but it was hidden from view by a knee and leaning elbow.

Hunger gnawing at him, Bodie turned his head slowly back to the television, flashing colours and figures making little impression as he fought for the control of his betraying body, the expanding hospitality of stretchy fabric doing nothing to hinder the growing, prickly heat within.

There was a slow, sliding movement beside him and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Doyle straighten himself out, casually assuming the same, easy-going posture he had in the bar, one leg relaxed, the other foot up on the sofa, in Bodie's favour - an almost symbolic use of his body, a tenuous, shallow dream of sexual promise, threatening insubstantiality.

Doyle was laughing at him. Bodie knew it.

Half convinced that he was in fact playing with fire, Doyle's teasing had been by turns laughing then serious, the slow breakup of Bodie's impenetrable facade with glimpses of a forbidden, banked down need providing the stimulus, a nice bit of titillation, goading him into pushing Bodie as far as he dared.

But what lay behind all this and had he thought beyond it? Bodie still didn't know. Doyle liked him, Bodie had known that for a long while - was even attracted to him in a strangely unadmitted, almost abstract way, but that was probably as far as the feelings went. Of course. . . Bodie knew he could be wrong - after all, that was why he was still there, that, plus his own wicked urge to show Doyle that his graceless lout of a partner had more skill and feeling than he was credited with.

It was time to stop fooling around, to call the tempter's bluff, put a stop to a sorcerer's spellbinding. Time to cast a spell or two of his own...

Doyle himself provided the opening. With a suddenness that made Bodie start, he uncoiled himself and walked across the room. Bodie watched him, thinking he would draw the curtains and shut out the night, but he didn't - Doyle simply stood with his back to the sofa, gazing out of the window, hands on hips.

Now or never, Bodie thought fatalistically, and rose without a sound, undercover of more gunfire from the TV.

Unable to sit still any longer, every nerve jumping from Bodie's prolonged contemplation, Doyle drew a silent, shaky breath as a dark, half-serious face appeared behind his shoulder, the ghostly reflection in the glass combined with his ever-present psychic and now physical awareness of Bodie actually making his flesh creep.

They stared wordlessly at each other for long seconds, then, the silence too intense to bear, Doyle unglued his feet from the floor, took a step, forward, drew the curtains closed at last and turned around.

He stared into mocking eyes now a navy blue in the shadows away from the lamp.

"Time to go, is it?" he asked flippantly, more from the need of something to say than any belief to that effect.

Bodie just gave him a long, slow smile.

"You're such a tantalising bugger, Doyle."

Doyle grinned back, half relieved it was all going to come out into the open at last. "Can't take it, huh?"

"Oh, yeah... I can take it - "

"But you can't give it back - is that what bothers you?" Head on one side again, he gave Bodie the impression of a curious, impertinent sparrow, or a friendly, cheeky terrier, and giving in to one of his strongest, probably least offensive urges, Bodie reached out and untidied the rumpled curls even more with an affectionate, if hard-handed ruffle.

To his surprise, Doyle jerked back, the light of fury suddenly in his eyes.

"For god's sake!" he almost yelled. "Will you leave my bloody hair alone! Why does everyone do that? It irks the hell out of me, puts me in mind to 'ave it all cut off - completely." He stood glowering in front of a surprised but recovering Bodie, hands indignantly on hips. He'd surprised himself by the sudden outburst of temper, but then he'd walked an emotional knife edge all evening and it was getting sharper. "It bloody hurts sometimes. Doesn't anyone - don't you - realise that?"

"Tender skin, eh?" Bodie asked gently of his volatile partner, and reached out again, smiling as Doyle stiffened angrily. "No, don't have it cut... wouldn't be you at all." Unaware of his suddenly tender expression, his voice dropped lower. "How does this feel, instead?" Gentle fingertips ran over Doyle's left temple and on into his hair, brushing the tip of his ear and curving round his skull, threading softly through silky-stranded warmth.

Doyle's eyes widened, staring at Bodie, and for a second there was no other response, then he gasped, mouth parting a little, darkened eyes drifting closed as he rubbed his head slowly against Bodie's hand, seeking the touch, asking wordlessly for more.

It was much more than Bodie had hoped for and before the shakes could take a proper hold and travel down his arms, he brought his other hand to rest on Doyle's shoulder.

The curly head jerked upright then, eyes snapping open, staring brilliantly into his.

Bodie's gaze was serious, intense, in the dim light. Doyle felt the caressing, lacing fingers slip to cup the back of his head, and Bodie's intent didn't inspire him to laugh one little bit.

Now that the moment was here, he didn't want it, any of it, and pressed his mouth closed in instant denial, ready to negate anything Bodie might try.

Feeling the tension live in sinews of neck and shoulder, Bodie's eyes wandered over suddenly rigid features, coming to rest on the compressed lips. He leaned closer, hands preventing Doyle's instinctive recoil. Bodie didn't touch - he hovered, a hair's breadth away from the alluring mouth.

Play Doyle at his own game.

"Open your mouth," he murmured, still hovering, and Doyle felt warm breath brush his skin.

There was a quick swallow but no other reaction and so Bodie touched, a butterfly-soft brushing and away again.

"Open your mouth," he repeated softly and still Doyle denied the command, bringing his hands up to grip Bodie's arms.

Thinking he would be summarily thrust away, and determined to get a reaction, Bodie ran his tongue tip lightly over the hard pressed lips, in the same instant grazing Doyle's groin with the aching evidence of his own need.

A shuddering jolt went through the captured body, and the lips parted on another gasp, quick, warm breaths touching Bodie's mouth. Savouring the moment, he moved the last, bare millimetre and covered the soft, touchingly hesitant mouth with his own, rewarding the sudden, almost-sweet capitulation with another, more lingering press of groin on groin, the searing contact sending live sparks through them both.

There was a soft, throaty sound from Doyle and wide eyes blinked slowly and then stayed closed, and in Bodie's fevered imagination, the open mouth seemed to be begging for the touch of his tongue, and he tested by letting it flicker lightly against the soft, inner lip and away again. There was a tiny catch in the erratic breathing but that was all.

Bodie drew back and waited for Doyle to look at him.

There was an audible swallow. "Bloody hell," Doyle breathed at last and stared amazed into Bodie's face. "Bodie -"

Without giving him chance to say more, Bodie kissed him again, inviting Doyle's tongue with tiny, light forays of his own, but immediately he felt a warm, moist probe touching back, he drew away again.

The soft lips stayed parted but there was puzzlement in the green-hazed stare.

Backed now against the nearest wall, feeling hard fingers gripping his shoulder, Doyle looked at the softened arrogance of Bodie's mouth, staggered at what it was doing to him. It was persuading him, coaxing him into...something...with a gentleness that nonetheless held a hint of 'there's-no-choice' and which, more than anything else, was calling to him to give in.

Dark lashes veiled heavy blue eyes and the damn-you mouth descended again.

And again, Doyle followed his own urgings and reached out, yearning for the taste of Bodie's mouth, for the feel of inner silk and roughened tongue against his. And as before, the mouth drew back, denying him at the first touch.

Senses fast disappearing in a dizzy spiral, groin throbbing with heat and unfulfilled need, also denied the touch of the so-close body, Doyle's knees felt strangely weak, and with his shoulders pressed back against a cold, unyielding wall, he was less than comfortable.

"Bodie..." he started, "I think we -"

Before he could get another word out his mouth was taken again. Hands slid to cradle his head, holding it steady as the firm mouth clamped hard down on his, not gentle, demanding but not taking.

Doyle's heart turned over. If he couldn't have Bodie's mouth for himself, Bodie had surely earned his. His lips parted, asking, giving for the first time, and he was immediately rewarded by Bodie's tongue searching softly, thoroughly over inner lip, teeth and tongue, taking the tiny, growing pools of Doyle's saliva for himself.

At that final capitulation, and the second throaty murmur of pleasure welcoming his invasion, Bodie pressed his lower body against Doyle's, joining twin heat and hardness, accepting the responsive groan and gripping fingers as his long sought-for prize, heart hammering fit to break his ribs.

This kiss seemed to last forever, breaking with reluctance only when Doyle gave a soft protest and Bodie drew back to let them both breathe properly, watching with half-dazed tenderness the closed eyes and pink tongue that emerged to touch full, bruised lips.

He waited for the heavy eyes to lift and meet his own, ready for the expected, flippant comment.

It wasn't forthcoming.

Huge, black pupils stared into his for a long moment then dropped to his mouth. The clinging hands relaxed and slid upwards, one curving behind Bodie's neck, fingers slipping into the short, dark silk, pulling down.


Submitting to the husky demand, Bodie let himself be taken this time, tasted and explored for every texture and sensation.

And this time it was Doyle who broke the kiss on a muffled exclamation, head dropping back against the wall. Bodie had unfastened his shirt with stealthy precision, sliding beneath silky fabric to find and play with a nipple, rubbing softly over its tiny tumescence.

Within seconds, Doyle's shirt was pushed back off his shoulders, and insistent lips fastened in the exposed flesh of under-jaw as roving, searching fingers stroked the soft pelt of hair, following its line to warm, twitching navel, fingertips fanning out over ribs, caressing in lingering pleasure.

Gathering wayward senses for an attempted return of assault, Doyle arched helplessly as thumbs rubbed lightly over his nipples, making them spring into prominence, splintering every nerve in his body between chest and groin, weaving them rapidly into a web of intoxicating pleasure, calling for more, more, moremoremore -

On the edge of total surrender, Doyle found the strength to push at Bodie.

"No... Wait... Wait. I don't -" He pushed at the heavy shoulder, muscles oddly weak, and finally succeeded in prising Bodie's teeth from his earlobe. Tender flesh throbbed from the bite, adding another voluptuous ripple to the expanding sensations.

He stared into sleepy blue, arrested by the weighted eyelids, the faint flush over velvet skin of temple and cheek and moist fullness of shapely mouth, desire softening its classic strength into open abandonment.

Shaken to the roots of his being by the depth of arousal Bodie's handling had induced and stunned by the speed of his own drowning, Doyle wanted more, wanted to lie with Bodie, to discover what further heights the dominating strength and oh-so-skillful touch could take him to. A million miles from what he expected -

With an effort, Doyle clamped down on the rising pleasure. "If you don't back off, right now," he murmured in subdued threat and waited a second for that to sink in, "I'm gonna come...all over your favourite jeans."

Lips twitching, unrepentant, Bodie ran a fast hand down over the burgeoning front of plush cotton, answering the resultant moan and quick thrust of hips with a cupped palm and gentle massaging pressure.

"Bodie...I'm warning you..." Doyle breathed unsteadily. "It'll all be over any second...if you don't...leave off."

"Over?" Bodie murmured questioningly. "Oh, wouldn't be over by a long way.'re not gonna come...yet."

" that a threat...or a promise?" Mouth and brain were so lethargic Doyle could scarcely form the words.

Bodie leaned close, mouth brushing a round cheek. "It's both...or haven't you learnt that yet?"

Doyle gave a soft chuckle. "We'll see." And he pulled reluctantly away and walked towards the sofa.

"What're you doing?" Bodie enquired.

"Turnin' the light out," Doyle tried to say matter of factly, and reached for the standard lamp. "An' then I'm goin' to bed. You can do what - mmph - "

In the sudden dark, as he turned into the centre of the room again, he failed to see a stalking Bodie and was pounced on, held close against the firm body and soundly kissed again, mouth taken with unerring accuracy in the inky blackness.

A tentative push at the surrounding arms had no discernible effect and so, half scared at what an interruption might do to them, to their mood, Doyle relaxed and allowed himself to be held and possessed anew by a dozen tiny, nibbling kisses.

"Mmm..." Bodie sucked gently on a soft lower lip. "Most gorgeous mouth of anyone I've ever met." He drew in a much needed breath; sensitive down every inch of him of the angular, half naked figure that had moulded itself against him so closely. "Knew it'd feel like this... Ray...can we.. Please...?"

Caught achingly unaware by the uncertain plea, Doyle said nothing but slid his right hand down Bodie's arm and laced their fingers together. A gentle tug set them moving out into the hallway and towards Doyle's bedroom.

Whether that defenceless hesitancy had been mere ploy, Doyle didn't know, but as soon as they'd stepped into the bedroom and switched on the small bedside lamp, Bodie took him by the shoulders and trapped him against the nearest wall, holding him there on a thrust of his hips.

"Bodie - "

Firm, authoritative fingers drew his gaping shirt off and away, then with one restraining arm across his collarbone, the free hand unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans.

Doyle rolled his eyes. "Gonna do it against the wall, are we?" he asked with mild sarcasm, knowing his partner enough to be sure that nothing would stop him now.

Bodie's gaze slid up to meet his own. "No," he replied softly, "but we would if I wanted to...wouldn't we?"

Any answer Doyle might have given was burned away as the shockingly clear definition of fingertips outlined his sweltering organ through the partially opened zip. He'd forgotten he was wearing nothing beneath.


"I don't bloody know," Doyle breathed, fast approaching the end of his tether and pushed helplessly against the tormenting, light-fingered touch as it brushed along a bare inch or two of swollen, exquisitely sensitive skin.

"Bodie - Please..."

"Wouldn't we?" Bodie persisted in tender domination, refusing a harder contact.

"God... Kill you... Yes."

Satisfied, the fingers pushed aside soft cotton and curled close around the fully erect cock.

Nearly orgasming right there and then at the sensation and the sight of his still fully dressed partner holding his hot flesh in a gentle palm, Doyle bit hard on his inner lip, determined not to give in and thrust as this body was demanding.

Panting slightly with the effort, and not fully aware of what he was doing, he dropped his hand from where it lay on Bodie's shoulder and let it slip down over the muscled chest, feeling hard warmth beneath the thin t-shirt. He skimmed over the tiny bump of a nipple and returned to tease it through the cotton, seeing Bodie's head lift to study his face.

Curious to see the reaction to his next move, remembering the brief surrender in his kiss, Doyle dropped his hand and brushed the back of it over the bulge at Bodie's crotch.

Immediately, Bodie gave a tight groan, eyes closed, teeth almost clenched as he fought to keep the pleasure inside.

Interest focussed now, wanting to see that pleasure released instead of held back, Doyle tried to wriggle his hand down inside the tracksuit's elasticated waistband.

And immediately, his wrist was seized in an iron grip, held with the other, high against the wall, the movement so quick he couldn't struggle.

"Ahh, no... Bodie, let me..."

Head lowered slightly, Bodie stared at him from heavy-lidded eyes. "No," he said simply at last, his voice a low, magnetic purr. "For once, Ray, I'm going to give you what you're always askin' for an' never expecting. going to take you to bed...with everything that means. An' I'm going to lay you." Dark eyes spearing Doyle, this last was said with such soft-voiced emphasis, Doyle knew he'd do it, the implacable, steel-backed seductiveness reminding him oddly of an interrogation of Bodie's he'd once sat in on, an experience that had given him more awareness, more respect, for his partner's technique and the underplayed, threatening manner than the joker Bodie had ever inspired. It had caught his interest strangely then, this new, hard core to the familiar man, just as it was quietly sending him wild with nervous frustration right now. It was the strangest aphrodisiac he'd ever known.

"You think that's what I want, do you?" he countered in somewhat strained tones.

"That's what you're going to get," Bodie confirmed.

Doyle thought about it, still spread-eagled on the wall. "What about you?" he asked at last. "Why aren't you strippin' off?" And he sighed heavily, needing to give the truth. "I wanna touch you..."

"I'm not stoppin' you," Bodie told him, "if you think you can do it..."

"You are stoppin' me. What the hell d'you think those are doing?" And he slanted a glance up at one of Bodie's hands. The thumb was caressing his wrist. "An' anyway, there's no think about it."

"Okay..." Bodie eyed him measuringly. "Which bit d'you wanna touch?"

"Which bit?" Doyle was outraged. "Not giving me much, are you?"

"C'mon, choose," And he hid his amusement as Doyle openly assessed him, eyes running slowly up and down, tongue moistening his lips.

"All're the boss," he said slowly, " - for now - Chest... Yeah, let's start at the top and work down. Take the t-shirt off...or shall I do it?"

Bodie shook his head. "Nope. T-shirt stays on."

"What?" Doyle couldn't believe this. "Don't you want it?" There was no reply. "Why?"

"Because...because I say so, that's why."

Doyle blinked and studied the serious face, unable to read its expression. Well, it didn't really matter, he supposed.

"Okay," he agreed, as if he had a choice in the matter. "Let me go?" He was released and rubbed his wrists ostentatiously then reached out and laid a hand on Bodie's shirt.

"Do I have to - God, this is stupid - Can I really touch you?"

Bodie almost gave in at the sound of that restrained request, but then hardened himself. He was sure one key to the success of this lay in keeping Doyle intrigued, guessing, unsure of Bodie's motives and next moves.

"Yeah. I think you can find your own way there?"

"Oh, yeah...I think so." Hazy again, Doyle encircled Bodie with his arms, liking the surprised drag of air as both hands burrowed under cotton and skimmed lightly up Bodie's back.

Bodie sighed in his ear. "That was not part of the bargain."

"You like it, though."

Unable to stop himself, Bodie hugged the slight figure close, the feel of it in his arms one of the most emotionally satisfying things he'd ever known.

Doyle was enjoying the hug in his own way. Being held close against another warm body was always an enjoyable experience, but this - this was somehow so soothing, like balm, calming and healing a thousand raw nerve-endings he hadn't even realised were there. And Bodie's skin was satin...

Bodie came back to earth with the realisation that Doyle's hips were sliding gently back and forth against his own, the circular pressure sending fan spread waves of exquisite pleasure into his chest and down his thighs.

There was nothing Bodie wanted more than to weld the long-desired body to his, skin on skin, and the unbearable frustration made him push it away, holding Doyle off with his hands.

Feeling himself being pushed back, Doyle's head lifted from its resting place on Bodie's shoulder and there was a shadowed reflection of Bodie's own torment in their greenness.

"Bodie..." he whispered, and felt firm hands slip from his arms, down his flanks, pushing off his opened jeans. He stepped out of them, self-conscious of his aroused body as never before because of the dark fabric hiding his partner's.

Bodie enhanced the coursing sweetness by simply looking at him for a moment, heavily sweeping the length of him, then he steered Doyle towards the bed.

At its side, Doyle turned to him and tried again, one hand at Bodie's waist. "Bodie, let me take these off you. It'll feel good..." he promised jerkily. "Want to..."

But Bodie denied him again. "No," he said softly. "Later."

Doyle's breathing was deepening, one hand on Bodie's shoulder for support. "'Nother kiss, then," he asked and didn't expect to get it.

Bodie didn't make a move, simply watched the parted mouth lean in towards his own.

And to Doyle's surprise, it opened for him, taking his thrusting tongue, sucking avidly on his moisture, small, pleasured murmurs sounding from deep in his throat.

But any thoughts Doyle might have had that their loving would take a more equal path were smothered when Bodie toppled him onto the mattress. The bounce broke the kiss and Bodie immediately took the lead, bearing Doyle down onto his back and fastening lips and teeth into his neck.

He wasn't gentle.

Doyle drew a sharp breath, panting and pushing at the heavy shoulders as Bodie bit into the soft flesh over his jugular. His broken protest was ignored and Doyle felt the stinging, localised pain slowly become part of his pleasure, sharpening it, shifting to a desired sensation, and he relaxed, turning his head a little to further bare his neck.

Bodie felt the submission and softened the bite, gentling it into an insistent, passionate suction.

He could feel the beat of Doyle's heart against his chest - like the breathing, it was fast and heavy, and he licked a gleam of sweat from the sharp collarbone before lifting his head to look at Doyle.

"You're branded," he said softly and ran a fingertip over the still damp, reddening mark.

"Deed of ownership, is it?" Doyle asked breathlessly and touched a finger to the rosy, lower lip above him, promptly getting it bitten. "Ouch," he complained.

"You're very oral, aren't you?" And knew it for a mistake almost before he'd said it.

Bodie leaned back on one elbow and scanned the length of Doyle's body. Glowing pale gold in the lamplight against the dark backdrop of bottlegreen duvet, the clean line of limb and torso broken by the soft down of body hair and the wide-awake cock curving gently over the join of thigh and groin, Doyle looked good enough to eat - a supposition Bodie fully intended to investigate.

Blue eyes returned to Doyle's, a sparkle of delight growing in them at the sight of the faint flush lingering along both cheekbones.

"Oh, yes..." he agreed teasingly, "very oral. But we'll get down there later. For now..." And he lowered his head and pressed his lips into the little hollow at the base of Doyle's throat, moving on down over the chest, discovering new textures, new tastes, the tickling pelt of brown hair - charting its most luxuriant spots and also where it thinned to either side, fine whorls of it guiding his mouth out to the nipples, which he sucked and bit with gentle, epicurean pleasure.

His body played like a musical instrument, singing anew with each lick, stroke and bite, Doyle could hardly lie still. But every time he tried to reach out to Bodie or move into a new position, he was restrained by hands and mouth, and once, when he tried to get leverage with his legs, by Bodie's knee across his thighs and a growled command to lie still. The knee grazed his tightened testicles and base of his upthrusting cock, making him groan and arch in helpless delight.

Seeing that one more pressure touch in that area would make Doyle come, Bodie eased back, shushing the string of muttered profanities with a determined mouth and deliberately slowed down, giving only the lightest of reassuring strokes, waiting for Doyle's tightrope-strung body to relax again.

Calmer but still trembling, Doyle ran his hands up and down the broad back, pushing the t-shirt out of the way. But Bodie wouldn't co-operate; he slid further away from him, down his body, mouth everywhere and hands skimming over any missed bits.

Bodie couldn't get enough of this delicious body and the thought of the taste still to be experienced almost made his mouth water. He spun a fingertip in light circles around the navel, enjoying the responsive twitching, then pressed his mouth over it with gentle suction, thrusting his tongue into the shadowy hollow, feeling Doyle surge up in ticklish protest.

Thin-fleshed ribs heaving under the stroking hands, Doyle was finding it increasingly difficult to submit, his body urging him to join in and take over the action. It was a powerless vulnerability that both attracted and repelled and he lay panting, craving yet dreading the hot, sweet fulfillment of that skilful mouth.

But there ought to be more sharing -

Nearly over the edge himself, organ throbbing painfully as he moved, Bodie felt reaching hands pulling at him, urging him back up. On the point of shaking the clinging fingers off, he looked up and met inflamed eyes set in a face rosy with sexual heat and an open, hungry mouth.

He gave the heavy cock a regretful look, promising it a return visit, and let himself be tugged upwards.

Demanding his own submission, Doyle pressed him back into the pillows, pushing the infuriating t-shirt out of the way to get at the tender brown nipples, and taking the giving mouth in a violent assault. In case Bodie should try to throw him off again, he slid a hand around his neck, holding him firmly, simultaneously curving one knee over the thighs.

It brushed Bodie's straining cock, still held within tracksuit and briefs, and a groan rippled through the imprisoned body.

Won't hurt to make Mister Macho sweat a little, Doyle thought fierily and drew his knee back over the bulging organ.

He wasn't prepared for the result, and barely had time to withdraw his tongue before sharp teeth clenched together, the whole body stiffening under him as Bodie came in shuddering spurts of contained, hidden ecstasy.

Doyle echoed his groans, but with acute disappointment. He hadn't meant that to happen, hadn't thought Bodie was so ready for it. He hadn't even seen Bodie yet, let alone touched -

He sighed against the parted mouth, feeling the hard grip on his arms slacken as Bodie relaxed.

"What d'you go an' do that for?" Doyle asked softly and saw the lips pull into a lazy smile at the manifest unfairness. Blue eyes locked sleepily with his and he drew back a few inches so he could study the other sensuality. "'S all right for some people," he complained.

"You," Bodie drawled slowly, "are going to get what you deserve for that...later. Can't manage it now. "S y'own fault."

"God, Bodie..." Doyle wondered how much longer he'd have to walk his knife-edge. "Is that all you've got? What about me for godssake? You can't leave me - " He groaned. "l should've done you in earlier when I -" And was abruptly cut off by a hand over his mouth.

"If you'll shut up for a minute," Bodie told him more firmly, "I might be able to do something about it." He removed his hand, smiling when he was obeyed, and looked down Doyle's body to the heavy, swollen cock. He'd only touched it once, so briefly.

Stroking a possessive hand over downy chest and belly, he pushed one knee between Doyle's and lifted, readying the yearning genitals for his touch. Relaxed now, senses still humming from the unexpected force of his own coming, Bodie took time out to look up into Doyle's face. It was agonised.

"Do you want me to beg?" came the painful whisper. "Because I will."

Bodie shook his head tenderly. "No," he murmured and cupped his hand around tightening, fuzzy balls, squeezing lightly before surrounding the pulsing cock.

Doyle rolled his head into Bodie's shoulder with a moan and bit the nearest patch of soft skin, trying to thrust into the tight fingers.

Knowing he was going to burst at the seams under that insistent, sliding pressure, he threw back his head, breathing hard and fast. Fingers squeezing harder near the head of his cock, a thumb detached itself and ran across the tip, focussing every pleasured nerve in his body to that one point, sending him shooting up and out on a cry of release, soaring over the cliff and floating, floating.. .down for miles and miles...

He came to with the sound of Bodie's chuckles in his ear. Stunned by the force of that orgasm, not believing the pressure of mere fingers could do so much for him, he lay heavy and lax, recovering. He'd never come like that under his own steam. But then Bodie had built him up, firing him higher and higher with an effortless, knowing skill.

He felt too good to question it.

The flush of heat ebbing now, he shivered, half with a final shudder of pleasure as he felt Bodie's fingers still curled around him, unwilling to let go.

"Mmm... 's good..." he mumbled, and cuddled against the warm body, curling his leg further over his partner's. "Do that to you next time... Never...even... touched you..." The pauses grew longer and finally Bodie realised his energetic mate, this self-confessed fountain of sexual activity, had fallen asleep.

I've worn him out, Bodie thought with delight. He's absolutely knackered, and after so little. Won't let him forget this.

But underneath the giggly delight lay a quiet, utterly fulfilled happiness. He'd given Ray a loving Bodie would swear he'd never experienced before, and now his exhausted mate lay trustingly asleep in his arms.

Bodie released the limp softness, tucking it back into its nest of curls, and wriggled closer. He pulled a face as the cold, damp tracksuit crotch clung stickily to him. It would have to come off. It was going to be pretty horrible to put on in the morning as it was, without sleeping in it. Besides, now Doyle was temporarily dead to the world, Bodie wanted the pleasure of holding him clue to his own nakedness.

He slid out of the light embrace and off the bed.

"Come on, roll over," he urged the sleeper quietly and gently tugged him over to his side of the bed where he'd pulled back the duvet. Doyle mumbled at the disturbance but rolled without waking and snuggled down under the feathery folds Bodie drew over him.

Bodie tiptoed to the bathroom, stripped and showered, cleaned his teeth, getting a surprising amount of pleasure out of using the one toothbrush standing in the glass and went back into the bedroom.

There was only a spread of curls to be seen on the pillow, and Bodie lowered himself slowly into the vacant side, inching across the mattress.

As he pushed a fold of duvet out of the way, a little surge of warmed, Doyle-scented air reached him and he inhaled the muskiness, reaching out and pulling the sleep- heavy body towards him.

It mumbled another complaint which faded as bare, welcoming skin registered deep in his consciousness, and he wriggled closer, ending up head on Bodie's shoulder, arm around his middle and one leg thrown untidily over for good measure.

Sleep held no attraction for Bodie - not yet, anyway. There was too much to be treasured and savoured. He stroked a soft line down the bumps of Doyle's spine, as far as the small buttocks and held his breath as the body wiggled in vague, sleepy pleasure then drifted off again. Bodie restrained his caresses to the silk-skinned shoulder. He had a lot to think about and would rather Doyle remained asleep for a while.

Not having been really convinced from the start that Doyle would allow him to go all the way and take him to bed, Bodie couldn't remember the moment when hope had turned to surety. He'd always known he was capable of giving Doyle great pleasure, knowing his sensual skills and firm hand coupled with a hint of ruthlessness would turn Doyle on so far he'd be unable to refuse him. What he hadn't expected was the open, unabashed cuddling, and the expressed need to touch Bodie in return. It spoke of more than a selfish desire for physical satisfaction.

That was in the heat of the moment, though, Bodie told himself, when Doyle was warm and sated from a good loving.

Loving... Bodie felt a tinge of sadness colour his contented cloud and tried to push it away. Now who was being selfish? How could he ask for more at this moment?

But would Doyle return to his game when he awoke, the question persisted. Commitment was frightening, needing was dangerous - Bodie had always known it. Yet he did need, and acknowledged now that they - both of them - needed more than most. In their work, where nothing was durable, least of all their own lives, they needed security, a life-line, a loving, understanding companion to cling to in moments of anger, despair, sadness...or happiness. Yes...

It was gradually becoming clear to Bodie, simple, soul-lighteningly easy. They already had all of this, had turned to each other in the past to share each of these emotions. And they had loved each other for a long time, unconsciously camouflaging the depth of feeling and commitment beneath a respectable blanket of partners-in-a-dangerous-killing-world, where it was actually accepted they'd grow closer than most friends.

This, and Bodie stroked lovingly along Doyle's body, this was merely another step in that direction - no tangents, no false move into minefield or swamp, simply natural progression.

Now all he had to do was get Doyle to admit it.

Easier said than done, perhaps? Bodie didn't think so. He knew his mate... lover, his mind insisted on supplying...better than anyone, even Doyle's own mother, and knew he thirsted for a relationship such as this - a lasting, loving, understanding one, with understanding coming high on the list of requirements, because it was everything his past loves had lacked.

Bodie knew he'd stunned his partner with his ability to give him pleasure, knew he'd succeeded in making a wavering Doyle take a good look at what was on offer if he but reached out for it. His offered tenderness had already invoked a response that probably hid a longing for much more.

Yes, after tonight, Bodie reckoned he just had to keep going with the caring, a little bit of mystery, the offered love and occasional denial and he'd soon have his quicksilver mate eating right out of his hand. A kind of wooing, he thought with a grin and knew he had the patience to see it through. This was too important to even consider any other treatment of his emotionally ethereal partner.

Their future settled to his liking, Bodie considered sleep. No way. Got to make the most of this. Can't waste a case it doesn't happen again.

He eased the sleeper away from him, pressed his mouth to the faintly damp temple, travelling on down and around the jawline, careful of growing stubble, kissing his way all over the relaxed face, ending up poised over the smiling mouth.

Coming out of a dream in which Bodie was kissing him, to find it reality, and still only half awake, Doyle ran light, long-fingered hands down the solid form he found alongside him.

Warm, smooth, bare skin registered - bare as far far as he could reach at that moment.

Doyle's eyes opened. "Mmm... that's better..." he murmured approvingly and threw the duvet back to continue his tactile search without hindrance, kneeling up and adding sight to the pleasurable discovery of a naked Bodie in his bed.

Bodie's hair was ruffled, dark against the pillow, and Doyle reached up to tousle it further, grin revealing the pleasure in repaying Bodie's touch on his curls.

Lingering on the handsome face, Doyle noticed the wide-awake eyes.

"You haven't been to sleep, have you?" he accused, still blinking sleepily himself. "What have you been doing?" White teeth gleamed. "Been thinking, have you? About me?" And he pushed the duvet back a bit more to look.

Already roused, Bodie felt himself throb under the gaze and steeled himself for a touch. But Doyle just gave another 'mm ' of satisfaction and returned to studying his face.

"Get down there later," he said meaningfully, liking his own teasing. "For now..." And hands on Bodie's shoulders, he bent to kiss him.

Mind and heart bowled over by this confident happiness, Bodie allowed him access, opening to him and saw Doyle draw back for a look of confirmation.

"I'll make the most of this," he said with a quirky grin, and skimmed featherlight fingers and palms over the smooth planes of Bodie's chest. "'S lovely...dunno why you cover it up so much." He circled both palms over pointed nipples and looked Bodie in the eye sternly. "Tomorrow you wear an open-necked shirt... an' I mean open, at least down to here, not buttoned up to here." And a forefinger made emphasising little jabs up and down Bodie's sternum. "If I let you, out of my bed, that is..."

Bodie swallowed hard. "Why?"

"Why what?" Doyle's tone was absent.

"Why open-necked?"

The reply was muffled, pressed as he was into Bodie's neck. "So I can see more of you, of course." And he punctuated the simple statement with a bite, settling into a hard sucking, wanting to see a lovebite on the pale skin in the morning.

"Yes, sir," Bodie mocked desperately, as Doyle moved on. "Any other requests?"

Doyle lifted his mouth from an experimental survey of a nipple and gave him a sultry stare. "Yeah...I'll tell you when I get there..."

Bodie gave full rein to the heat rising in him from Doyle's mouth as it kissed its way down his body. He just wished Doyle would get on with it. He was talking too much in Bodie's view, giving his opinion of every facet of the desired body in a drugged, love-thickened voice, lingering in the most ridiculous places - he seemed to find the inside of Bodie's elbow especially interesting and licked ticklishly until Bodie pulled it away from him. And he hovered so long over the hungry cock that Bodie leant up to see what he was doing. He was just looking at it, bending to give it the lightest of teasing licks every now and then, stroking the surrounding springy curls with a tender hand.

"Got me going something chronic, you did, with this," he told Bodie thickly. "In the bath with it standing almost to attention."

Bodie couldn't reply, but that didn't seem to bother Doyle. Narrow hands wriggled under Bodie, clenching on his buttocks. He looked up and sighed heavily. "You know what I wanna do?" Bodie shook his head helplessly, then jumped as a fingertip grazed over tight, puckered flesh. "That's what I wanna do." Bodie groaned, falling back on the pillow, lifting his hips towards the beckoning mouth, the touch making him even more aware of those soft, temptingly moist lips so close.


"In a minute," he was told. "I want you.. .Bodie, let me." He hardly knew what he was asking, only knew through the blood pounding in his ears that he had to have this vibrant, living body sprawled beneath him, and touched the exciting knot of flesh again, feeling the response in his own body.

Badly wanting it himself, Bodie forced himself to hold back, not quite sure why he had to in the frantic heat of the moment. "No," he gasped. "Too soon."

Abruptly, a hot, wet mouth took his cock, sucked on it twice and let go. Bodie almost sobbed in frustration. "I know how to relax you for it," promised the siren's voice, learning fast, swamped by an overwhelming sensory vision of how that hidden, muscular channel would feel.

"No, Ray...not yet," Bodie managed.

"You're not telling me you don't want it?" marvelled Doyle. "I know you do."

Bodie felt a moistened fingertip begin to probe him, and knew if he didn't do something soon it'd be too late. He summoned strength back into weakened muscles and pushed Doyle off and back onto the bed. "I said no, dammit," he growled and as hands came up to push him back, he forestalled the fight by going down on the heaving body and taking Doyle with shocking abruptness into his mouth. There was a cry and then a moan as he followed the heavy pulsing in his mouth and sucked harder.

Burrowing his own hands under Doyle and fingering his body, he heard Doyle cry out his name and tense himself.

"You taste as good as I thought you would," Bodie murmured seconds later, head resting on a trembling thigh, and didn't realize how flippant he sounded.

There followed a long, splintered silence and it took Bodie a while to recognize what the suspicious catches in the broken breathing above him really meant. He looked up.

Lying with one arm thrown over his eyes, Doyle felt his stare and was furious with himself, furious that it should mean so much to him and so little to Bodie.

"Bastard.... You did it again," he accused bitterly. "Why? Why couldn't you let me--?"

Not liking himself very much at that moment, but still knowing it had been necessary, Bodie crawled up beside him, pulled the arm away with a struggle and offered a gentle, conciliatory kiss, not looking at the betraying wetness around the green eyes.

What came next left him nearly speechless.

"Bodie ... listen--" Doyle had to wait until his trembling mouth was released again. "I don't understand you, but ... you can have me....if you want. And I know you do, really. Jus' don't understand--"

"No, Ray. I meant what I said. Wasn't trying to hurt you. It's too soon. We're just not ready for it."

Doyle thought it over, not knowing whether it was the truth, but having to believe it. He stroked a hesitant hand down over Bodie, found his still tumescent cock and tried to convince him again. "Come on, Bodie. I'm ready for it. You wouldn't hurt me. Well," he amended honestly, "I haven't minded so far, have I?"

Bodie just looked at him, torn in his own mind.

"Why don't you want me?"

"I do," Bodie said, agonized against his mouth. "It's just too soon, Ray. Too soon."

He took the frustrated moan into himself and didn't stop Doyle when he pulled out of his embrace, slithered down and solved the outstanding problem for himself.

Doyle was subdued after that and had to be pulled back up the bed and into Bodie's arms. It hurt Bodie to see him like that and he tried to reassure.

"It's all right, Ray. Nothing's wrong." Wide, troubled eyes stared into his, making him very unwary. "Ray ... believe me, because I--" He caught himself up just in time, biting back the damning commitment neither of them were ready for. "I don't regret a thing and it'll be okay, you'll see."

Suddenly very, very weary, Doyle didn't want to think any more and his head drooped to rest on Bodie's chest.

Chin buried in undisciplined curls, Bodie kept quite still, expecting Doyle to suddenly surge up and bend his ear with a freshly thought-out argument or complaint.

But several minutes passed and apart from the small, sleepy snuggle and a rub of his nose against Bodie's chest, his love didn't move again.

Bodie gave a soft sigh, accepting his miscalculation as part of their learning, and hooked the duvet higher with a foot until he could pull it in around them both.

It was a strange end to a strange day, a day where a promise had been fulfilled and replaced by a hope that maybe they'd be lucky and be given enough time and patience with each other to work out their new relationship.

One thing Bodie knew for sure -- this wasn't the end of the story...

-- THE END --

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