by Ellis Ward
A pink-tinged, heavy-lashed eyelid slowly hitched upward, eventually revealing a single green eye, shot through with weariness and more than a hint of disgruntlement.
"Bloody hell!" The two words were launched upon an explosive whisper.
Hearing the near reverence in that soft voice, Doyle added a second malevolent onlooker to the first and glared across the interior of the van at his partner, who sat, rapt, before the television monitor. Displeasure was rapidly superseded by intense curiosity; never had he seen Bodie display such unfeigned astonishment.
"What's up?" he asked with a grimace, uncurling his spine from the cold, unupholstered frame of the vehicle against which he had been resting for over an hour.
Sealed off from ambient noise by the bulky headphones pillowing his ears, Bodie failed to notice that Doyle had awakened until a clutch of wiry fingers reached out and swung the small, portable television unit away from him.
"Jesus." Doyle could not have contained the exclamation had he tried.
"Here." Without asking permission, Bodie slipped the audio feed off and clapped it over Doyle's ears.
Anguine brows briefly writhed then stilled. "That's not...?"
"Yep. Seven inches, at a guess."
"Right in," Bodie breathed, pressed up close beside Doyle, eyes fixed on the screen. "And look at that-- God."
A hard swallow worked its way down Doyle's throat. "She's fucking her," he marveled huskily.
"Such powers of observation," Bodie remarked.
Assailed by the hoarse, panting moans which disconcertingly filled his ears, Doyle stripped the headphones away and thrust them back into Bodie's hands. "She's quite good, isn't she?" he murmured, compelled to watch the slow glide and thrust as rounded hips and thighs moved against the other woman's pelvis.
"Nobody could complain about her staying power," Bodie agreed. Flipping the audio unit to broadcast through the speakers, he made a wry face as loud, groaning sighs and murmured endearments echoed in the close confines of the van.
"My God," Doyle hissed. On the monitor, the pliant, latex dildo emerged from the recumbent woman's body. Slender fingers applied a coating of lubricant while attentive lips and teeth ensured that interest was not allowed to wane. The semi-rigid tip was guided back to the tender opening; soon a demanding, unfaltering rhythm was re-established.
"Now," Bodie said a little shakily, "I think I've seen everything." He cleared his throat; his voice had dropped two full octaves.
Heedless of his partner's growing discomfort, Doyle continued to stare at the screen, mesmerized. The two female images suddenly arched in opposite directions, their lower bodies pressed tightly together. The lush moans that vibrated over the speakers left no doubt that what had been sought had been found.
"Well." Bodie looked at Doyle, his expression encouraging Doyle's comments.
"Bloody well in fact," Doyle stated. Unselfconsciously, he ran a thumb over tight denim trousers that had become increasingly constricting over the last few minutes. Raking both hands through his hair, he asked, "Did you get anything useful out of all that?" He inclined his head toward Bodie's crotch. "Other than a damp patch, that is?"
"'Course not. Fiona's not a trai--"
Both men glanced back at the monitor. Darkness had befallen the bedroom; little more than two close-fitting mounds could be made out beneath the bedclothes.
"Hm. And you. That was lovely."
There was a lazy rustling of sheets as the lovers settled in for the night. Intimate words of affection and repletion came clearly over the high gain of the audio pick-up.
"What'd you call it once?" Doyle spoke very quietly, as though he could be overheard. "The unacceptable face of espionage--something like that?"
"Yeah." Bodie matched his hushed tone. "It's even worse when it's one of our own. Fiona's not divulging sensitive information--in bed or out."
"No. All the same, I'm a bit surprised Cowley hasn't given her the boot."
Snorting with eloquence, Bodie said, "She's too damn good. One of C15's best. With all the agent losses we've suffered this year, he'd be crazy to let her go.
"She is gay."
"And Her Majesty's Government doesn't care to have queers on staff, I do know."
"Hm." Moving across to the thin-cushioned seat he had abandoned only moments ago, Doyle rested back against the ungiving interior. "It's your turn to write the report."
"I hadn't forgotten."
"Good." Doyle ignored the resentment in Bodie's voice without a prickle of conscience. "Wake me when Marriott and Allison get here, eh?"
"As you wish, effendi. Anything else his wooliness requires?" Bodie enquired sweetly.
"Oh, I'll let you know, my boy," Doyle replied with a disarming grin.
The brightness of Bodie's answering smile owed more to an abundance of teeth than to genuine humor. Recognizing that he was treading on dangerous ground, Doyle made a great show of trying to find a comfortable position--an impossibility in their cold, cramped accommodations. Hunched forward with arms folded across his chest, he squirmed a little to placate his already bruised spine.
Letting aching eyelids fall shut once more, Doyle concentrated on the scrape of Bodie's Biro committing their latest observations to paper. He found it a strangely soothing sound; easy to picture in his mind's eye, it provided a focus to ward off other, less agreeable images, and slight though it was, it gave evidence of Bodie's always welcome presence.
Drifting exhaustedly into a mental twilight, Doyle did not notice when his thoughts began to stray from the realm of conventional perception--not even when the oft-used Biro transformed into a thick, curving dildo. Proudly erect, it boasted a luxurious growth of coarse, coal-black hair round its broad base. More interesting still, the latex device was encircled by a square-cut hand that measured its considerable length with unhurried, pumping strokes. As Doyle looked on absorbedly, he was not surprised to see the distinctly familiar hand replaced by another less solidly built, but even better known to him--his own hand, in fact.
Pleasantly floating in this semi-dream state, Doyle murmured, "Bodie," and looked up to find indigo eyes riveted to his face, their intense blueness displacing all else. A tiny smile tugged at Doyle's mouth as he raised his head for Bodie's first kiss.
"Hm?" At the warm touch on his shoulder, Doyle came awake all at once.
"Marriott and Allison are outside. Let's go, eh?" Bodie removed his hand and turned aside, but not before Doyle had caught a glimpse of a curious, and to him hitherto unseen, expression on Bodie's face.
"Oh, right." He drew himself up, lip curling at the nagging complaint that issued from his back. Silently promising himself a long, hot bath before bed, he creakily climbed to his feet. "What's the time?"
"Nearly one." Bodie folded over a couple of sheets of paper and slid them into an inside pocket.
"One! They were due here an hour ago," Doyle protested.
"Marriott was delayed. Don't know what you're on about; you got an extra hour's kip."
"No wonder I'm so stiff." Doyle stretched to loosen the cold-locked muscles in his shoulders and lower back as the double doors to the van swung open. Bodie stepped out, turning sideways to allow Allison to take his place.
Exchanging desultory salutations, the two teams switched over quietly and unobtrusively so as not to disturb the neighborhood. Inhaling fresh, moist air with pleasure, Doyle sleepily oriented himself. He found Bodie standing on the pavement a few feet away, wordlessly waiting for him. Brimming with unaccountable ebullience, Doyle grinned widely.
In response, Bodie allowed the slightest twitch of amusement to lift his own lips, then shook his head. "Come along, Sleeping Beauty."
Doyle fell into step beside him, vaguely wondering about Bodie's mood, which he thought to be uncommonly distant; but he was too sleepy and untroubled to grant the matter much thought. "Y'know," he said on a note of discovery, "I'm hungry."
Bodie's sidelong look was not promising.
"Pizza?" Doyle pondered out loud. "Sandwiches? Bacon sandwiches, maybe. Or an omelet? I could always--"
"Omelet," Bodie decided. "With cheese and tomatoes. And toast. Orange juice. Tea--"
"Your place or mine?"
"Yours--so long as you have some food in. Last time you offered to make breakfast at my flat, I was washing up for days."
"What a memory," Doyle marveled.
"Four days isn't much of a stretch, even for me, mate." He pointed a finger at Doyle's gold Capri, which stood a few yards away. Accumulated moisture on the roof, bonnet and boot reflected lamp-light; narrow, gleaming rivulets dripped onto the street.
Applying a friendly punch to Bodie's shoulder, Doyle left the pavement and strode round the front of the car to the driver's side. Once they were both ensconced and belted in, he started the engine. Working the wipers to clear the windscreen of dew, Doyle raised a sigh, watching his breath swirl into ghostly vapors. When his warm exhalations began to adhere to the inside of the cold glass, he engaged the demister, shivering dramatically as brisk air poured forth from the vents.
Feeling Bodie's eyes upon him, Doyle pulled the car away from the curb onto the road. "What're you brooding about, mate?"
With an elaborate shrug that was clearly visible in Doyle's peripheral vision, Bodie said, "Not brooding, Doyle."
"So what're you thinking about, then?"
"C'mon, Bodie. It's this business with Fiona, isn't it."
Head tipped to one side, Bodie stared out into the darkness. "Yeah, 'spose so.
"Because we're spying on her?"
Bodie raised his hand dismissively. "That goes with the territory. She'd have to expect it, doing what she's doing."
"If not that, what then?"
Bottom lip slightly protruding, Bodie murmured pensively, "Why would she want to fuck another woman?"
The question blossomed in Doyle's gut with sudden, reminiscent arousal. ''She's gay.
"That hadn't slipped by me, Doyle. It's just-- Well, why would she? Doesn't seem quite.. . right, does it?"
Smirking, Doyle prodded, "It's that strap-on device that bothers you, isn't it? Not the fact that she's gay."
"Of course I don't care if she's gay." Taking an instant to reconsider, Bodie qualified, "Although it does seem a bit of a waste."
"Her preferring girls, you mean? Who, knows, maybe Fiona would rather have gone to bed with a man tonight. Complete with strap-on."
Grimacing theatrically, Bodie exclaimed in a low, prim voice, "The state of your mind, Doyle!"
A percolating chuckle rose from the depths of Doyle's chest. "Better still, mate--maybe she'd've preferred fucking you. "
Refusing to further rise to Doyle's bait, Bodie countered pithily, "Nah. She turned me down ages ago. But-- She does do it rather well, doesn't she?"
"My god," Doyle spluttered. "Listen to you."
"Yeah. Almost as bad as you."
Sniggering quietly to himself, Doyle mused, "What a picture that conjures,
Bodie! You with your bum in the air and Fiona stretched out on top of you, hammering away with that bloody great plastic prick."
Bodie smiled dreamily. "So long as it was Fiona doing the--" he waggled his brows suggestively "--rogering, the idea might actually appeal."
"Steady on, old son. Only joking." He clapped a hand on Doyle's shoulder. "Such rustic goings on," Bodie intoned reprovingly. "Makes one wonder what the world's coming to, doesn't it?"
Conceding the round to Bodie, Doyle countered, "Oh, hadn't you heard? A bad end, mate."
"What else." Bodie curled his upper lip with elegant disdain. "Just so long as it's not mine, eh?"
Plates and cutlery stained with egg and cheese and dotted with toast crumbs, leaned together in a drunken pile in the center of the coffee table. Bodie and Doyle sat a few feet apart on the wide, lushly cushioned sofa, staring blankly at the flickering screen of the television. The evening's roster of programming had ended some time before, but neither man had been willing to leave his comfortable position.
"Reckon you expect me to do the washing up anyway?"
Feet propped up on the edge of the coffee table, hands lying motionless in his lap, Doyle idly rocked his head from side to side. "It'll wait."
Questioning the soundness of his hearing, Bodie eyed his partner disbelievingly. "Yeah?"
Drowsily content, Doyle only smiled.
"You've been keeping very quiet, mate," Bodie remarked.
"Still thinking about Fiona?"
Doyle stared down at his stockinged feet, directing the tips of his toes in a minimalist ballet. "We've been tailing her for almost a week. Everyday, we've had nothing to report. We've checked out her girlfriend, we've investigated her girlfriend's friends. And yet nothing."
"Not to mention that Cowley knew she was queer when he took her on."
"Did he? When'd you discover that little nugget?"
"This morning--yesterday morning, that is. Her file was lying on Betty's desk. I sneaked a peek."
"So why have we been wasting our time, then?"
"Wish I knew." Bodie succumbed to a whimsical smile. "Not that it's been boring."
Doyle's agreement came in the form of a salacious chortle. "On the contrary, that last bit was quite spectacular, wasn't it?" Dropping his head to one side and looking up from under heavy lashes, he said confidingly, "Y'know, that was a first for me, too. Better than a blue film any day."
"Saw that it had a most profound effect on you. In fact, for a moment there I thought you were going to do yourself an injury."
"Oh, and you weren't the least bit affected? Breathing so hard down my neck, you were, I was beginning to fear for me virtue."
"Small worry, then, wasn't it?"
Doyle turned his attention back to his toes. "Still, it's wrong. Especially since Cowley's known all along."
"Just a sham, that's all it is, Doyle. Things've been too slow lately. He's afraid we'll get into trouble if he doesn't keep us on the hop."
"In trouble like Fiona?" Doyle wondered ingenuously.
Bodie arched a speculative brow. "Maybe." He broke into a grin. "Been thinking, y'know, about Fiona and that silly rig."
"Didn't make sense to me at first, her wanting to fuck another bird. I mean, I can understand it with blokes--y'know, gay blokes--'cause fucking's what a man does, whether he's gay or straight."
"Unless you're the guy on the bottom," Doyle pointed out.
A little befuddled, Doyle hazarded, "Exactly what?"
"Guys on the bottom like a man's prick up their arse. So maybe it's not so strange for a gay bird to want to fuck another bird--even though that's not what birds normally do," he concluded reasonably.
"Now wait a minute," Doyle said. "You're telling me that you don't find it the least bit unusual for a bloke to do another bloke?"
"Don't know from unusual, but it's certainly not uncommon."
"Dead common, to read the papers," Doyle observed.
"Ah, c'mon, Ray--are you really going to sit there and tell me you've never thought about having it off with another fella?"
"Expect everybody's thought about it at some point or other. But thinking about it, and doing it, are two different things."
''That's certainly true.
For an instant the room fell totally silent. Favoring Bodie with a long, skeptical look, Doyle asked intently, "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
"Depends." Bodie unconcernedly plucked a microscopic nub of lint from the left leg of his trousers.
"You've been with a bloke?"
Bodie heaved his shoulders indifferently before glancing sharply across at his partner.
"You have, haven't you?"
"No big deal, Ray. Was a long time ago."
Bracing an arm on the back of the sofa, Doyle pulled himself completely upright, suddenly wide awake and bristling with curiosity. "So who did the fucking--you or him?"
"Well-- Didn't get that far, actually," Bodie admitted.
"How far did it get?"
"Bit nosy, aren't we?" With a tantalizing smile, Bodie revealed, "Let's just say that things came to a most satisfactory conclusion for both of us."
"How old were you?"
A shrewd look came into Doyle's eyes. "And you've only done it the once?"
"Why?" Doyle demanded.
"If it was so good, why stop at only once?"
"Why d'you think?" Some of the amusement had fled Bodie's face. "Safer that way, you idiot."
"Forgot I had to leave the car at the garage driving you home at this hour," Doyle informed him tartly.
Doyle dropped his chin onto his forearm. He said reflectively, "Reckon you're right. Especially in our jobs. Otherwise, you might look round to find Fiona Carrick surveilling you. "
"Wouldn't that be a turn up for the books?" Bodie languidly stretched, taking care to involve every inch of his body. "Guess I should be going."
Watching him with veiled intensity, Doyle asked, "What, you intending to walk all that way?"
"Oh, sod it!
"And I'm not
Scowling darkly, Bodie prompted, "Besides what?"
"Besides-- I've thought about it, too."
Bodie froze. "'Thought about it?'"
"Going to bed with another bloke." The implication of Doyle's statement was unmistakable. "So-- What d'you say?"
Pleased to have so completely captured his partner's attention, Doyle nodded. "You. Just tonight, of course--a one-off. No strings."
Dark eyes roamed over Doyle's rangy figure. "And who's going to do the fucking?" Bodie asked, very quietly.
"Maybe we both will." Doyle swallowed loudly. "Take turns, like."
Vastly tempted, but determinedly bridling his lust, Bodie insisted, "No strings?"
Bodie shook his head. "You're a fool, Raymond, if you seriously believe that."
Supremely confident, Doyle said bluffly, "Maybe. But I don't see what harm a one-off can do. Do you?"
Ignoring the question, Bodie said, "You are sure about this? Once we step into that bedroom, there'll be no turning back."
"I won't be the one to change my mind, mate." Doyle's enticing smile only enhanced the invitation in his eyes. "C'mon, Bodie, it'll be fun." He wrinkled his nose engagingly. "I'll be ever so gentle with you."
With very little compunction, Bodie conceded the unequal battle to his Id. "Promise?" he asked silkily.
"On my honor, sunshine."
"It's probably a very good thing that I'm not going to hold you to that, Doyle."
In the bedroom they undressed without ceremony, standing on opposite sides of the mattress. All weariness had vanished, as though swept away on a brisk, invigorating breeze.
Doyle straightened up, holding his last, just removed sock, and looked over at his partner.
Bodie met his searching gaze, questioning in turn with the twitch of a brow. Stepping out of his pants, his arousal advanced and very evident, Bodie waited until Doyle responded with a quick shrug.
They reached for the coverlet at the same time. Affecting an insouciance that was almost totally fabricated, Doyle climbed onto the mattress. He extended a faintly trembling hand to the bedside lamp.
"No," Bodie commanded. "Leave it on."
Licking his lips, Doyle nodded in agreement. Then he lay back, propped up by a small pile of pillows.
Sliding in beside him, Bodie realized that his own heart rate was rocketing. Not only' that, but his palms were slick and his breathing was shallow and abrupt. Honeymoon nerves, he thought. The notion would have been laughable had he not sensed the same uneasy apprehension mingled with unbearable anticipation emanating from his too-still partner.
While aware that this was not perhaps the best moment to indulge a longstanding fantasy, Bodie also feared that if he did not seize the opportunity now, it might be lost to him forever. Nevertheless he wished that the stage could have been properly set. For the seduction of Ray Doyle there should have been hours of foreplay, most of which would have been non-sexual: a sumptuous meal, relaxing wine, a languid bath--and then on to the commencement of close physical contact. Once it had begun, every inch of Doyle's body would have been worshipped with gentle caresses and soft, wet kisses. And then, and only then--when Doyle was beyond rational thought and desperate for release--would Bodie have swept his partner to the pinnacle of pleasure.
Gazing into sultry green eyes that bore no hint of fear or doubt, Bodie decided that if tonight was all they would ever have, then it was up to him to make it a night that neither would ever forget--even if the fantasy he had nurtured for so long would never be made real.
Engrossed in his ruminations, Bodie failed to notice that Doyle was already on the boil, however, so that it was Doyle who made the first move. Reaching out and curving his hand round Bodie's cheek, a thumb trailing lingeringly over the petulant swell of Bodie's lower lip, he said, "One condition, mate--or all of this is off right now."
Biting back a surge of disappointment, Bodie said evenly, "Say it."
Deliberately softening his expression, Doyle said reassuringly, "Don't worry, sunshine. It might not be as bad as you think." The ball of his thumb traveled from one corner of Bodie's mouth to the other. "I want to kiss you." He raised his head and stared challengingly into deep blue eyes. "Would that be too awful?"
Relief was dizzying. In reply, Bodie leaned nearer, a forefinger curled under Doyle's chin. He slowly pressed his mouth to Doyle's. The touch was deliberately light, almost more imagined than tangible. But the immediate effect was cataclysmic: In an instant the two men were clinging to each other, their mutual hunger deep, unbridled, and exquisitely wanton.
Their first kiss led to another and still another, each more searching and needful than the last. Soon they were grappling like combatants, hands rough and demanding, each man shamelessly employing brute strength and ruthless cunning to achieve the same, inevitable goal. It was Bodie who yielded first, pinned face-down to the mattress with the weight of Doyle on his back. He felt the intrusion of prying fingers, then the application of something slick and viscous: saliva? semen? There was, after all, nothing else to hand. Shocked into immobility, he ceased struggling as Doyle spread his buttocks, and positioned himself. Given no chance to prepare, Bodie smothered a harsh sound as Doyle mounted him. Stunned by the sudden intense pressure, he dug his fingers into the sheets and held on tightly.
"Sorry, mate," Doyle gasped raggedly. "Can't stop. Can't-- Ah- Bodie!"
It was a glorious sensation, despite the pain and unavoidable sense of subjugation, to experience Doyle's orgasm from such a uniquely intimate perspective. In fact, with his partner buried deep within him, shuddering violently at each inexorable pulse, while throatily exclaiming his pleasure, Bodie recognized that this was a moment he would cherish for the remainder of his life.
"Jesus, sunshine, are you okay? I didn't mean to--"
"Shut up, Ray. You're going to find out what it's like in about two minutes--so save your breath, eh? You're going to need it for what I have in mind."
They lay side by side, untouching. Neither spoke. What had occurred between them was not yet to be shared aloud, nor subject to close scrutiny. Yet the very reality of what they had done could not be denied, although so far they had tried to treat it as though it were a common everyday event. Following a sketchy, shared wash-up in the bathroom, they had returned to the bed, crawled under the duvet, and turned out the light.
"So what was it you heard?" Doyle asked suddenly.
Recognizing the diversionary tactic for what it was, Bodie smiled bleakly to himself. "Dunno. Probably imagined it. Had my mind on other things just then."
"Yeah. I noticed."
Bodie's ears pricked up at the note of smug self-satisfaction in Doyle's voice. Had he been wrong? Perhaps Doyle wasn't ready to start building walls between them? "That was all right with you? I--"
"All right?" Doyle interrupted. "Put it this way, mate--"
"Yeah?" Bodie held his breath.
"About this being a one-off: You can forget it, eh?"
For a moment, Bodie did not dare speak. The bedclothes made a smooth, whispering sound as Doyle shifted onto his side, facing him.
Exhaling softly, Bodie said simply, "You won't get any arguments from me, sunshine."
A fingertip traced the curve of his nose down to his upper lip. "Lucky for you," Doyle declared, and replaced the finger with his mouth.
Morning dawned far too early, finding Bodie and Doyle rushing from Doyle's flat to Bodie's, so Bodie could acquire a fresh change of clothing for the day. In the car on the way to HQ, they spoke of inconsequential matters, neither avoiding nor compelled to discuss the subject of their new relationship.
To Doyle's mind, there was little that needed hashing out. The step they had taken last night had been a logical one--at least for him. He could only hope that Bodie would be satisfied with what he had to offer. A fierce and intimidating lover, Bodie had nevertheless employed a tenderness in his lovemaking that had melted Doyle's savagely guarded heart once and for all. Having long been aware of Bodie's devotion, he now knew without question that he also had something else very special--Bodie's love.
Bodie, on the other hand, remained quietly exultant. Doyle had played a major part in his dreams for years--and last night one of those dreams had become reality. If Doyle would let him, he would happily love him for the rest of his life. But Bodie understood Doyle's changeable personality too well, and accepted that this newfound happiness could be shattered in a moment. Until that moment came, however, he intended to do everything in his power to defend their nascent love affair--and simply hope for the best.
"Wake up, Bodie, we're here."
Peeling open his eyes, Bodie found his partner smiling across at him.
"You look bloody well shagged out," Doyle observed.
"Feel it." Bodie shifted delicately on the car seat. "You?"
"What d'you think? You'll have to wait a day or two before trying that again, y'know?"
"That's okay," Bodie said reassuringly, having spotted the faint question in Doyle's searching gaze. "Expect we can find other ways to amuse ourselves."
"Expect you're right," Doyle said wryly, allowing himself a quick head to toe inspection of his partner's solid frame. Grinning with secret knowledge, he joined Bodie on the pavement; they strolled side by side into the building that housed C15.
A few minutes later, in the Rest Room, Bodie murmured, "We're wanted in Cowley's office. Pronto, mate."
Studying the roster board, Doyle frowned thoughtfully. "Wonder what he wants? You don't suppose he's finally decided to give us a decent assignment?"
"One can only hope," Bodie said sincerely.
They took the lift up one floor to Cowley's offices. Manfully, Bodie restrained himself from touching his partner; he realized with a pang that he would have to be absolutely scrupulous in future. As they started down the corridor, Bodie nonetheless fell a step behind, enjoying the bounce of his lover's abundant curls; the fluid lines of his lean torso and the long, denim-clad legs; and the beguiling swing of his compact bottom. All of that had been his to caress, to kiss, to explore without restraint only very few hours ago. Soon--
Bodie came out of his maunderings with a slight start. Following behind Doyle, he had not seen the woman waiting in Cowley's antechamber until Doyle had spoken.
She looked up coolly. "Doyle. Bodie."
"You here to see Cowley?" Doyle asked bluntly.
"Uh-- Yeah." Glancing acutely at his partner, Doyle chose a chair against the opposite wall.
Before he could sit down, Betty stepped into the small office. "Oh, you're all here. I'll let Mr. Cowley know."
Not relishing the coming interview, Bodie listened with half an ear as the woman announced their arrival. Cowley did not delay their entry; they were ordered in at once.
"Come in and sit down," the controller of C15 said by way of greeting.
Neither Bodie nor Doyle missed the significance of the television monitor and bulky video unit standing beside the great desk. Wincing inwardly, Bodie sat next to his partner, reluctant to look at the woman who took the chair on the other side of Doyle.
Cowley raised a rectangular plastic casing in one hand for all to see. "Do you recognize this, gentlemen?"
Mouth set in a hard line, Bodie replied, "Certainly, sir. It's a video tape."
"Aye, that it is." Cowley's voice was as brittle as newly shattered glass. "I'd like you and Doyle to watch this--and tell me your opinions afterward."
"Sir," Doyle began uncomfortably, "d'you think it's fair to--" Giving his nose a hard rub, he flicked his head in the direction of the female agent.
Cowley's expression was not pleasant. "Miss Carrick will be allowed to make her own observations, Doyle. Kindly watch the screen."
Resigned, the two men obeyed, waiting patiently as the pick-up wheel engaged and the audio speaker crackled.
"Can't stop. Can't-- Ah-- Bodie!"
Two hearts stilled at the same instant. Impossibly, the naked, writhing figures on the screen were theirs. The unflinching camera lens had picked up every thrust and twitch, the microphone every groan and unguarded endearment. Their private passion of the previous night was mercilessly exposed to the light of day. Stupefied, neither man could utter the outrage that welled up like over-ripe bile, nor tear his eyes away from the likenesses that betrayed them.
With a loud click the unit was switched off. As righteous as an avenging angel, Cowley glared down at them.
Coming alive all at once, Bodie stabbed an accusing finger at the woman seated a few feet away, snarling, "It was you I heard last night."
Fiona merely inclined her head and gazed back at him.
"Leave it, Bodie." Doyle rose to his feet.
Grinning ruefully, Doyle winked broadly at him then began to strip off his ID and weaponry. Just as Bodie moved to join him, Cowley demanded, "What precisely do you think you are doing, Doyle?"
"Saving you a lecture and us time," he replied honestly.
"Sit down, Doyle." Cowley's voice was coldly imposing. He shoved Doyle's ID back across the desk. When Doyle had resettled--with notable reluctance-Cowley said, "You've been detailing Miss Carrick's activities for four days. It may surprise you to know that she had sussed you out before the end of your first day."
Grudging admiration flicked across Bodie's face. "If that's true, it wasn't our fault. We weren't obvious; in fact, seeing as she's one of ours, we were extra cautious."
"So Miss Carrick has reported," Cowley acknowledged fairly. "Given that information, perhaps you can then explain why she found you out so quickly."
"Because she's very good at watching her back, obviously," Doyle snapped; he hated being shown up for a fool.
"And why do you suppose that is, Doyle?"
Pushing his resentment to the side, Doyle forced himself to consider the question fully. "Because she's gay?"
"Because she's gay, aye."
"You knew that! So we were tailing her only because you--" Bodie began to exclaim angrily.
"--were checking to see that I stayed on my toes," the woman interposed tautly.
Cowley granted her a slight, approving smile. "In part. Also, there were some questions regarding a previous romantic liaison involving your lady friend. Bodie and Doyle have assured me that she presents no possible threat to you or this organization."
"I'm so relieved," Fiona Carrick said with a trace of bitterness. "Sir."
Blithely ignoring her, Cowley turned back to Bodie and Doyle. "It is to be hoped that you have learned something from this. I have been exceedingly tolerant of your sexual excesses in the past; however, if you intend to exploit your homosexual inclinations in the same.. .exuberant. . .fashion, you may as well tender your resignations now. As Miss Carrick knows, the average sexual peccadillo assumes major proportions if homosexuals are implicated. You will not be allowed to jeopardize this department through irresponsible behavior. Do I make myself clear?"
"As crystal," Bodie said promptly.
"But what about--" Doyle broke off before the insistent ring of Cowley's phone.
Cowley waved a hand to indicate that he was not yet through with them, and picked up the handset.
Keeping her voice very low, Carrick said with a provocative smile, "I'd be happy to explain how it works, Ray. Especially since I'm bi, myself."
Allowing Doyle no opportunity to answer, Bodie said quickly, "Thanks, Fiona. But I'll see to that."
Fixing his partner with a cynical look, Doyle said knowingly, "You're just worried because her prick is bigger than yours. "
As Bodie's face mottled bright pink and red, Cowley rang off and returned the receiver to its cradle. His unamused expression informed them all that he had overheard their by-play. "You were saying, Doyle?"
"Nothing, sir. Bodie's promised to ex--"
"Right. If that's all, I suggest you finish off your reports. Briefing in the conference room at 0900. Good morning, gentlemen, Miss Carrick."
Bodie strode into the narrow room carrying two beakers of tea. He sat down at the tiny table opposite his partner, who was swiftly scribbling out their final remarks on the Carrick assignment.
"There you go, sunshine." Bodie shoved one of the beakers across the table and left it beside Doyle's elbow. Wryly staring into his own tea, he announced, "Y'know, I think that's what's called a 'shotgun wedding.'"
Doyle chuckled shortly. "Nine Mil Parabellum wedding, more like."
The rim of Bodie's cup hovered before his mouth. "Not too late to back out, y'know."
Green eyes flicked up at him with surprise. "You're wrong. It's way too late." He picked up his plastic beaker. "You?"
Relaxing all at once, Bodie said, "Nah. I've got used to you, haven't I."
Taking a slurp of his vending-machine drink, Doyle announced grimly, "There is one thing we have to do, Bodie."
"Get that bloody, tape back from Cowley."
Resting his chin on his hand, Bodie sighed, "That is a hell of a thing to have stored in a bloke's file. Still--" He brightened visibly.
"If nothing else, d'you think maybe we could talk the Cow into making a copy for us?"
Staring speechlessly at his earnest partner, Doyle calmly reached out and flipped a finger against Bodie's still half-filled cup.
In the melee that ensued, it was eventually agreed that the disposition of their filmic debut would be left to Cowley's discretion--until they could find a way to wrest it from his control.
After all, a copy would lack the clarity and definition of the original.
-- THE END --