Family Matters


Part One

The air was crisp and cold and the wind off the North Sea had an edge like a razor, slicing into Bodie as he slammed the Capri's door and locked it. Above the carpark, the Patterson Computers building towered like a fluoro-lit monolith, its thousand windows gazing out over the city. It was late already, and the day was not over yet. Bodie checked his watch; 10:45, and he and Doyle had gone on duty at nine that morning. Little wonder that his body felt like lead and his mind was a jumble of nonsense as he locked up the car and strode toward the double action glass doors.

The security system was deactivated, and the man doing guard duty in the foyer belonged to CI5. Bodie just gave him a wave, his boots soundless on the green pile of the carpet as he headed for the lifts. The whole building was more like an expensive hotel than the head office of a computer company; money, he thought wryly, trying to work out how much one of the fat cats who sat on the Board would be picking up every year... Enough to finance the average family for a decade, probably.

But still they had to play dirty. Trusted with military secrets of the most classified kind, they had to trot along to the market with them, hawk their wares like greengrocers or second hand dealers... SDI, Bodie thought bleakly as he stepped into the lift. The Star Wars Weapons system, satellites and lasers and missiles, end of the world. A dozen cartoons came to mind, cynical and painfully apt, poking fun at the whole concept. But there was nothing funny about it; war was war, and it stank - even the very thought of it stank, any kind of war, much less the wildfire missile exchange that would reduce the whole world to cinders.

And here were men making fortunes out of the technology of death. Bodie sighed, thinking back to his own days as a merc; Africa seemed a very long time ago, a million miles away, and although he had made a small fortune out of warring for pay, it was not the same. Bushfire conflicts, started and finished in a week, fought out with pilfered weapons and makeshift devices in the hands of half-trained idealists, affecting no more than a few hundred square miles of wasteland and wilderness. Christ, thirty miles away, the people in the next town had no idea anything was going on at all!

No, what the bosses here at Patterson were up to was almost obscene, and George Cowley had every right to be so furious he was nearly white with it. SDI technology in the hands of terrorists? He shuddered. It would have been less damaging if they had simply sold their secrets to the Soviets - there was every chance the Russians would sigh and chuck the lot in the bin because they had designed it all themselves years ago! But no, they sold to the international terrorist marketplace, and the consequences were frightening... This time, in the hostage siege, the victim with the gun at his head was the whole world, and if either side was on a short fuse...

Bodie stepped from the lift on the fifteenth floor, his eyes drawn to the cityscape below. Hard to imagine that lot dark and cold, wiped out by suborbital warheads, but if the harbingers of disaster were to be believed, it was all too possible. He was weary to the bone, and the whole idea of it made him ache tonight. On a sunny day, stretched out on a rug beside the car in the middle of nowhere, very full of food and wine with his eyes on the clouds and Ray asleep on his chest, Armageddon seemed an absurd notion; but when it was dark and cold and the tiredness was dragging at his limbs, it was uncomfortably close at hand and easy to believe.

Which is why, he thought bleakly, striding down the corridor toward an office door from which spilled a sheet of yellow light, the likes of us work twelve hours a day at a job we hate. Because if nobody did it there'd be nothing left. He felt his mouth twitch into a reluctant smile, remembering the old, old joke: stinking job, but somebody's got to do it! It was only half a joke; the other half was deadly accurate.

A large body stood at the open office door, blocking the light, and Bodie recognised Murphy's back as he drew closer. He dropped a hand on the taller man's shoulder. "Evening, Murph. Where's the boss?"

Murphy turned with a grin. "Where do you think? He's still in there -" nodding toward the inner door "- with Susan and the squad from Computers, trying to find out exactly what's been done and by whom. They took old man Patterson to hospital hours ago, shock or something. Looked like a mild heart attack to me. The old sod still can't believe what his son's been doing right under his nose. None so blind as a doting dad, is there?"

"Right," Bodie nodded. "Does Cowley want me?"

"Dunno," Murphy yawned. "I'm just waiting for my relief - Jax, God help him - then I'm off to bed. Sandra's chilling a bottle of bubbly, I'll collect some nosh on the way in, then it's horizontal holidays for me till at least nine in the morning." He yawned again for effect. "Speaking of which, what's wrong with your better half?"

"Something wrong with Ray?"Bodie blinked. "Whatcha talking about? He was off to access records or something last time I saw him."

"He went past me as if I was invisible," Murphy told him. "I called after him but it was as if he hadn't heard. I mean, I've heard about being preoccupied, but... I was wondering if he was hurt."

"Hurt?" Bodie's ears pricked. "We've been on bloody paper work for days, Murph!"

"Well, he's been fighting, hasn't he?" Murphy said defensively. "I didn't damn well imagine the bandages on his hands. He's split his knuckles on someone's teeth today! Didn't look like they'd laid a glove on him, though. He didn't look any more battered than he usually does."

Bodie's brows drew together in a deep frown. "Fighting? Who with?"

"With whom," Murphy corrected with a cheeky grin. "Look, ask him. He won't look right through you, will he?"

"Not if I can help it," Bodie muttered. "Where is he?"

"Went home, I think." Murphy looked at his watch. "Where the hell is Jax? Sandra's got patience, but nobody's a saint."

"You're on R/T," Bodie said sagely, "yell." He got his feet moving, pushing past Murphy into the office; it was big and plush, a vast oak desk commanding half of it, the carpets springy and wine red underfoot. On the other side of it was a door marked 'Private', and he pushed on through it without hesitation. Inside, the lights were dim, and Cowley's face was the first thing he saw.

The Scot was standing over a computer screen, his face lit by the green CRT, his tie loosened and jacket cast aside. Susan sat before the machine and keys were still tapping, and to one side two of the girls from Computers were puzzling over reams of printout. Cowley looked up at Bodie's abrupt appearance, and his brows rose. "You're off duty, aren't you?"

"That," Bodie said drily, "Is what I was coming to find out. If it's all the same to you, sir, I'll shove off home. Nine o'clock this morning seems like the turn of the century."

"Aye," Cowley agreed, straightening his tie and rubbing the back of his neck. "I'll be calling it a day myself as soon as we've some idea of what's been going on here."

"Which could take till three in the morning," Susan said, almost beneath her breath, with a quick glance up at Bodie through the insectoidal lenses of her glasses. Bodie flashed a look of sympathy at her and transferred his attention back to the boss. Susan had not gone on duty till two in the afternoon, so she had hours to work to catch up with him, Murphy and Doyle, who had made the final breakthrough and moved in late that morning.

"I'll want you and Doyle at eleven," Cowley said tersely. "Till then, get some rest, 3.7."

Bodie sketched the older man a salute. "Sounds like a great idea. Murph said 4.5 has already gone."

"Half an hour ago," Cowley told him, already returning to the computer, and Bodie counted himself dismissed.

The outer office was deserted, but he could hear voices in the corridor; Jax was laughing and Murphy was moaning disconsolately. Bodie heard the name of 'Liverpool Lil' and the phrase 'two thirty', and guessed accurately that some betting shop was getting rich at Murph's expense. He pinned on a pleasant expression, too tired for it to be really genuine, and offered a mixture of greeting and farewell to the coloured agent. "Hi, Jax, bye, Jax."

"Heading for home," Jax grinned. "Lucky you."

"Same here," Murphy added, getting his feet moving. "See you in the morning, chum. Have fun." He fell into step with Bodie and rode the lift down to the carpark before Murphy spoke. "Hey, Bodie, if I have rubbed Ray up the wrong way, tell me what I said, okay?"

"Hm?" Bodie seemed to come back to the present. "Oh, yeah. Don't sweat, Ray doesn't hold grudges. Well, not much... 'Night, Murph. Sweet dreams," he added wickedly, winking. Sandra was a tasty little bit of giggling femininity, all pink cheeks and blonde hair, laughing blue eyes and bad jokes.

For himself, laughing green eyes and husky chuckles were more to his taste,and he wanted nothing more than to get home, shut the front door, lock out the world and flop down with a beer and an armful of warm, affectionate Doyle. Not tonight, he thought with a sigh; if Ray had been so preoccupied that he had gone by one of his best friends as if Murph did not exist, and had his hands taped up to protect split knuckles, the chances of an evening of peace and gentle pleasure were about nil. With a groan he wondered if his lover was working himself up into one of his moods; Ray did not do that frequently, and when he did there was generally a bloody good reason - and that more than anything worried Bodie. There might actually be something to fight about.

There were times when he felt a thousand years old and wished the whole cosmos would go away and leave him alone. As he drove back to Chelsea he gave a thought to the life he could have had... A few more jobs with the mercenaries, salt away enough to escape to Rio, lie on a white beach in the sun, surrounded by gorgeous birds. There had been a time, when he was twenty-one, when he had been about to do that, but something had drawn him home. He had never been sure what it was; certainly it could not have been the British climate, or the terraced rabbit hutches, the smog and overcrowding in the city.

Kismet? He smiled at the nighttime streets as he turned into the avenue where home stood, a third story castle, a CI5 flat into which he had moved three short years ago after Cowley had grudgingly approved of a relationship he had no power to end. Security had checked them out, checked them again and rated them watertight - as if there had ever been any threat of the two top agents turning into Soviet informers just because love had caught up with them at last. The notion was an absurdity; even Cowley saw that. Yes, Kismet; if Bodie had never returned to England he would never have become a sergeant in the SAS, never have made a name for himself in the French Embassy siege, never have been recruited to George Cowley's mob -

Never met the skinny, beautiful little aggravation whose name was Ray Doyle. Bodie looked back over the eight years since he had met his partner and smiled. Ray had changed. He had gone from scruffy urchin to elegance personified, lean and graceful in sports jackets that cost a fortune and jeans, no longer ratty and old but new and expensive, denim that hugged his legs and rear; boots that made him just on six feet tall, while he let his hair grow long, so it framed a face which, battered as it was, was one of the most beautiful faces Bodie had ever seen.

But on the inside, Ray had not changed at all. He could still fly into a righteous fury if there was sufficient cause, still collapse into helpless giggles, still kill like the most cold-blooded and ruthless of assassins; still love like a man inspired. Bodie would not have changed him even had he the power to do so; he loved Doyle just the way he was, and had loved him for years, long before it all fell into place.

Still smiling, Bodie slid the Capri in to park at the kerb, nose-to nose with Ray's car, the gold Capri Ghia that was his favourite motor pool checkout now. As he locked the door he glanced up at the lights of home, beckoning from the third floor; the new wine red curtains were drawn. For a moment he saw a shadow cross them, the vague outline of a curly head, perhaps a little bowed. Bodie's skin pricked in the cold wind and he hurried for the door, keys jingling in the lock before he was inside out of the wind and jogging up the stairs. The lift was out of order - as usual, which was ridiculous, because there were two old ladies and a frail old man living a floor above the flat he and Ray called home. They were unable to make it up and down without the lift, and the building's other residents took it in turns to fetch their groceries.

"Home, Ray!" he called as he swung the door open. He could smell tomatoes, onions and wine on the tide of warm air from within and guessed: lasagne. As tired as he was, the promise of real food was enough to get the saliva going, and he smacked his lips as he stepped into the lounge, slipping off his black leather jacket and blinking in the sudden brightness of the lamps. Ray was standing by the hearth, leaning on the shelf above the gas heater, his right hand tucked behind him and a smile of welcome lifting his mouth; Bodie's attention was on the artfully concealed hand.

"Wondered when you were going to show up," Ray said, stepping into Bodie's embrace as the bigger man reached out for him. "Cowley have you running errands?"

"You guessed," Bodie agreed. "Murph too." He bent his head as Doyle lifted his mouth in search of a kiss; Ray had been eating already and tasted of chianti and some indeterminate mix of Italian food, apples and mint chocolate. Heady, Bodie decided, caressing the chipped tooth and exploring the haven of his lover's willing mouth with his tongue. Doyle's arms wound around him, and for a moment he forgot about the taped-up hand, the fighting when there should have been no such action.

When he was allowed to speak again Doyle said, muffled against Bodie's throat." I stuck your dinner in the oven, love; didn't know when you'd get there, so I ate mine. Should have waited for you... Plenty of wine left. Like some?"

"Mm," Bodie breathed into the tickling curls. "The Cow doesn't want us till eleven," he yawned. "A decent night's sleep for the first time in a fortnight - imagine it."

"Can't," Doyle said acidly. "My eyelids'll spring open by themselves about three hours after I close 'em. You realise we've been on call for two and a half weeks, twenty-four hours a day, since the Patterson thing started to break."

"Yeah. But now it's broken and we can put our feet up," Bodie said, hugging Doyle tightly for a moment then letting him go. "Has the nosh been in the oven long?" It would be tragic if the food had dried away to a cinder.

"I stuck foil on it; it'll be okay." Ray drew out of Bodie's arms and tried to conceal his hand again, but the odd little quirk of his mouth told its own story. Trying to hide the truth was an exercise in futility, he knew; he was trying to postpone the inevitable.

Bodie let him get away with it until he was half way through the lasagne. Doyle sat on the other side of the table, sipping at a glass of chianti and chewing absently on a shortbread. He looked up, the green eyes clouded - preoccupied - as Bodie said, "Want to talk about it?"

"Talk about what?"

"The fight. Whoever it was you punched out."

"Oh, that," Doyle shrugged, trying to dismiss it. "It's nothing - just me being bloody clumsy. Jammed me hand in the door."

"Oh yeah?" Bodie peered at the taped up knuckles and gave his lover a wry look. "Come off it, mate. I know split knuckles when I see them. You've knocked somebody's face off this afternoon - if you've been brawling, who cares? So long as they didn't bust you up, why should I give a damn?"

"Not you," Doyle muttered, frowning into the wine glass. "It's bloody Cowley I'm thinking about."

There was silence between them for a time while Bodie forked up the last of the lasagne, finished his wine and poured a fresh glass. "You mean," he said then, very quietly, "You got into some kind of a fight that hasn't anything to do with the job?"

Doyle nodded and sighed. "Oh, you couldn't call it a fight, not really. But Cowley might not care for a CI5 man busting teeth for pure, honest revenge." He gulped down the last of the wine and put the glass aside with a loud clink. "Look, I don't think it'll come to any more than it already has, and I didn't get hit, so it's over. I'm not sure I want to talk about it, okay?"

"Secrets?" Bodie prompted. "Between us?"

"Not secrets, exactly, but..."

"Revenge? Somebody insult your honour, so you let 'em have it? Or have you been titling at windmills?"

"Windmills?" Ray looked up and for a brief instant the green eyes lit with something very like anger; it cooled quickly, but Bodie had seen it and crooked a brow at him. "Got more brains than to tilt at windmills," Ray said tersely. "I grew up somewhere along the way, you know? And no, nobody insulted me. If they had, I'd have laughed it off - I can afford to. I don't owe the world, it doesn't owe me."

"But still you've got your knuckles taped up," Bodie observed, "and some bloke out there's picking his teeth out of the carpet. Oh, come on, Ray - this is me! It's my bloody business to know when something's wrong!"

"Nothing's -" Doyle began, and broke off. Bodie guessed that he had been about to claim that nothing was wrong at all, but very clearly something was amiss; and lying would not achieve anything. "Yeah, well, maybe I had a good reason to fight, and maybe Cowley would give me a pat on the back instead of the sack."

Bodie sank his teeth into the slab of apple pie, chewing in silence while he frowned at the man he had lived with for almost three years, and loved a great deal longer. "So..?"

"It's in the family," Ray muttered, little above a whisper, "and I don't think it'll go any further, anyway."

"In the family? You mean, in CI5? Somebody we work with is going to be walking around with a jaw the size of a football? Oh, great. Cowley'll certainly love you for that!"

"In my family, you prat!" Ray said quickly.

The Doyle clan, brawling amongst themselves? Bodie blinked. The Doyles werea big, happy, easy-going family with more than a few oddballs and misfits; they had taken months to get used to the fact that the youngest brother had 'married' a man, but after their initial surprise nothing had been said, and Bodie knew he was welcome at any clan gathering. "You and your brothers?"

"No." Ray watched Bodie finish the apple pie and wine, and dumped the dishes into a sink of cooling water; for a time he seemed to be trying to decide whether to wash up or not, but at last turned his back on them and trailed Bodie out of the kitchen, putting the light off behind them.

Yawning despite the gnawing curiosity, Bodie padded into the bathroom. The man in the mirror peered back with a jaundiced expression, heavy-eyed and blue-jawed. Bodie shuddered at the sight of himself, wondering how in God's name Ray could welcome the haunted-looking apparition with a smile and a kiss. He pasted Colgate onto his toothbrush, dipped it under the tap as the water started to run warm and scrubbed at his teeth, waiting for Doyle to speak. Ray was frowning at his toothbrush as if he could not really see it, as if he was gazing into some other dimension. It had been a long time since Bodie had seen that look on his partner's face, and it worried him.

Brushing his teeth absolved Doyle of talking for a minute, and Bodie locked up the flat, putting out the lights, trailing his lover into their bedroom where the heater had been on for a long time. The air was warm, the bed turned back, fresh linen and fluffed pillows beckoning his weary body. Bodie gave the bed a longing look, and turned back to see Ray leaning in the doorway, one arm holding his weight above his head, as he frowned at the carpet. That look of deep preoccupation had not lightened by one iota. Bodie pulled his black roll neck shirt off over his head and dumped it on the floor, ready for tomorrow's wash, and went to grab his lover bodily, hauling him into the room.

"Okay, mate, let's have it. Talk, and talk now."

Ray blinked up at him. "That sounded like an order."

"It was. If it has to be. I'm bushed, I'm not up to playing guessing games, and I was rather looking forward to a cuddle before we get to sleep. That's not going to happen, is it, if you're staring into the fourth dimension and ignoring me!"

"Sorry." Doyle's expression became sheepish, and he stood quite still, letting Bodie undress him. "It's just a bit, well, awkward. Don't really know how to..." He took a breath. "No, it wasn't my brother I punched out; it was my brother-in-law. It was Chrissie's husband, Mick. Mick The Moron, you know the one?"

"The desperado?" Bodie dropped Ray's white shirt on top of his own cast-off roll neck and sat on the bedside to work on the black jeans, unzipping them deftly. "The one with the cheesy 'tash and the pudding basin haircut, looks like he ought to be wearing a sombrero and a bandoleer?"

"That's the one," Ray nodded. "Mick Frazer. Bloody awful type, can't see what Chris ever saw in him, but they've been married for twelve years, so..."

"And you wound him up a crack in the choppers," Bodie concluded, sliding the black denim off as Ray stepped out of his boots. "He hasn't been treating Chris badly, has he? She's just about my sister-in-law, you know!"

"No." Ray managed a smile and tousled Bodie's dark hair, stooping to kiss his forehead. "No, it's not Chris; it wouldn't be so bad if it was. She's a big girl, she's quite capable of telling him to get lost." He swallowed, clearly searching for words and so preoccupied that he forgot to watch Bodie undress, which was normally a source of great pleasure.

Bodie let him take his time; whatever it was, it meant a lot to him. He drew Doyle into bed, pulled up the sheets and quilt and snapped off the light. It was often easier to talk in the dark, where emotions could not be read so clearly. Ray pressed against him, wanting to be held, and Bodie was glad to oblige. "So if itisn't Chris," Bodie prompted at last. "Who?"

"Steven." Ray's voice was no more than a whisper.

Bodie blinked in the darkness. Steven was Christine's and Mick's only son - they only had one child. "He's been beating the kid up?" Bodie felt the anger rise within him at the mere suggestion, but he felt a shudder run through his lover.

"You could say." Doyle heaved in a breath, and Bodie felt him flexing the hand he had damaged. "Chris called me this morning and asked me to meet her when she got off work at lunchtime. She was crying, red-eyed and bleary. Mick... he's a funny 'un, you know. Always did think there was something funny about him, never likedhim. Anyway, Chris has chucked him out, but it's too late."

"Ray, if you don't stop talking in circles, I'm going to tie you up and thump you till you tell me!" Bodie threatened, and in that moment honestly meant it. Steven was a lovely little kid, with Ray's eyes and curly hair that was as dark as Chris's, and very little of his father about him at all. If Mick had been treating the lad badly it would be Bodie splitting his knuckles, never mind 'Uncle Ray'!

Against his shoulder, Doyle heaved a vast sigh. "This is why I didn't want to tell you. Know you'd get into a fury and make a bloody three ring circus out of it. Chris made me promise that you promise me what I promised her - you don't make a big thing out of it."

"Can't," Bodie said gruffly, fingers laced into Ray's hair. "Not till I know what it's all about." Steven was like his own nephew; if there were ever times he felt paternal urges all he had to do was visit with Ray's kin, and there were children by the herd to fill the gaps in his life. Not that those particular urges surfaced very frequently.

"It's my sister's pride," Doyle whispered. "It's about the family honour. Clan pride - old Irish thing. We've only been in this country since 1904; my grandma wasn't born here. What's wrong in the family is fixed in the family. You're family too, so you abide by the rules. Okay?"

"You exact your own vengeance?" Bodie asked softly. "You make it sound like the Mafia."

"The laws goes out of the window when family honour enters the picture," Ray said. "Not that I wouldn't like to get Mick about six years hard!" The vehemence in his voice made the words into a serpentine hiss in the darkness.

Bodie bit his lip. "That bad?" he asked, holding the other man close. "He's really hurt Steven?"

There was a pause, and Doyle turned his face into Bodie's chest. "He's a ten year old kid, just a kid. Just old enough to know what it's all about. Mick had been drinking, came home well oiled up yesterday. Chris wasn't there, couldn't get between them - it's the first time it's come to this, and if Steven hadn't been such a little fool it wouldn't have happened anyway. Probably. I dunno. Doesn't take much, when it all comes down to basics, if you've got a monster hiding under a nerd's clothing. I mean, the potential's been there since the day she met him, and it's nothing new. Human nature."

It was on the tip of Bodie's tongue to demand the final detail, but Ray was shaking - with anger or emotion he could not tell. For a long moment he let Ray collect himself, then prompted very quietly, "So there was a donnybrook?"

"Yeah." Something in Doyle's tense form relaxed by an infinitesimal fraction as the words began to come. "Mick isn't one of your tolerant souls, you know? Strict upbringing or something. Anyway, that never stopped him being fond of his beer - Chris should have chucked him out years ago, but you're right back to family pride - throw him out and everyone will know what a stupid choice you made when you sent husband hunting, right? So Steven's been an idiot, but that was no reason to - how do you take your fist to a ten year old kid, no matter

Bodie felt a jolt through his own nerves, his hands tightening on Ray involuntarily for a moment. He forced his voice into steadiness. "What's Steven done to make him so furious?"

"It's fairly typical, actually. Got into some bad company out of school, older boys, bad habits. Started with cigarettes and wine, sniffing glue - thank Christ the kid wasn't that daft! Then came the day they got their hands on some grass. Steven must have been zonked outside somewhere, because it was one of Mick's boozing mates that told him he'd seen the kid and his friends... Passing a joint around, and a bottle of gin, and... Jesus. They were fooling around, like boys will." Bodie felt Doyle's face twist against his shoulder. "Somebody caught 'em at it, half a dozen lads having sex together after school. It sounds worse than it is. Probably. I'll be honest, I never did that, but most boys do at some time, don't they?"

"Most," Bodie whispered, thinking back to his own childhood, and the events that had led up to his big run - to sea and away. Liverpool was a tough place to grow up in, and after a boyfriend spent there, there was nothing much left to shock. "So Mick went off the deep end and whaled into the kid?"

"If he'd just belted him - well, that's a parent's right," Ray said bitterly. "You don't have to approve, but nobody's going to yell because a kid got leathered! Mick was too drunk and too angry." His voice fell away to a whisper. "He knocked him around. Threw him at a wall. Broke his shoulder. He's in hospital. They told the doctor he's been fighting..."

"They? They who?" Bodie demanded, his voice rising along with the anger.

"Chris and Jean and Mum," Ray said, wriggling away as he felt the anger stiffen Bodie, but Bodie tightened his grip and pulled him back. "Mick passed out, drunk, after he'd blacked Chrissie's eye when she tried to get between them, and she called Jean. They shoved himin the car, took him out and dumped him, calling Mum and Doctor Landers, and worked out a cover story that'll go through the wash without coming apart." He acknowledged the tightening of his muscles. "Then they called me - this was yesterday, but Cowley had us running about like chickens with their heads cut off and they couldn't reach me till this morning. I had lunch with Chris - you should see her eye, looks like mine did when the Empire Society were finished with me! I caught up with Mick later."

"And worked him over," Bodie concluded cynically. "You know, they should have called the police."

The jolt of denial went through Doyle like an electric shock. "Christ, no, Bodie! Are you out of your skull? The police? Think, love! Christine's a school teacher, in charge of kids every day, yet she let this happen to her own son. Frank has two sons of his own, imagine the looks he'll be getting, and Tim is in youngsters' fashions, the Sticky Fingers shop - imagine the looks he'll draw. Then there's me, Uncle Ray, sleeping with a man. And as far as the general public's concerned, there's no grey zone, just black and white: there's normal people and there's gays, no bis, just 'us' and 'them', and all gays are pervos who molest kids!" He shuddered. "Okay, Chris was a fool to get mixed up with the likes of Mick, but he took years and years to show his true colours, and had to be drunk to do it, so maybe she's not to blame. Then, Steven's been a little twerp; he's not exactly pure as the driven slush, is he? Drugs and booze and sex at his age. Any parent'd be hopping up and down. But, Bodie, get this into court and the rest of us would be in for the high jump, and us most of all. We'd have to run to Outer Mongolia to get away from the press, and think what that'd do to CI5! Look, Steven's going to be okay, and he'll never touch the dope again, I should think. I blacked both of Mick's eyes, knocked his front teeth out and put his right shoulder out - caught up with him in the backstreet behind the old furniture shop, you know the one? Then I called an ambulance and left him to it."

"An eye for an eye," Bodie observed bleakly.

"If you like," Ray sighed.

"I don't like," Bodie said acidly. "But I can see your point. Ex- copper, CI5 man, with a sister who's a school teacher - how can they let this happen to one of their own?" He paused, and had to ask the question that had been on his lips all along. "How

Ray heaved in a breath. "It wouldn't be the first time," he said, so softly that Bodie had to strain to hear him. "My Dad was a bit of a tearaway, too. Choosing loony men seems to be something Flynn women do frequently. Luckily the stupid men they marry have weak genes or something - not one of us takes after our fathers. You know my Mum, you've seen Aunt Jean, and Chris and Steven, and the rest of us. We all look like the Flynn line. It's as if the men never existed."

"Your Dad?" Bodie asked quietly. It was the first time Ray had ever mentioned his father in all the years he had known him. "You mean, he used to...?"

"Not often," Ray said, speaking honestly. "And not when I was very little, but when I started to grow up it was as if he thought he had to wallop the sins of the world out of me. And one time, when I'd really pushed him - I was half drunk, about fourteen - he hit me. Really hit me, in the face."

"Your right cheek?" Bodie whispered.

"Yeah," Ray said, his voice a little distant as he thought back over the years. "Took them about six goes to get it as good as it is - there's a bit of plastic in there, you know?"

"I know." Bodie kissed the bone in question, licking the shape of it, so familiar that he often wondered what Ray must have looked like before it happened. "If I'd been your brother, or your uncle, or your mother, I'd have killed him."

Ray somehow found a taut little laugh. "They did. They took a frying pan - Mum and Jean, this is - and they beat him from one end of the house to the other with it. Put him in hospital, got him sixteen stitches in his scalp!"

There was silence for a full minute, then Bodie said, "So exacting your own revenge is an old family tradition."

"Got it in one," Doyle said, feeling better now that it had been said, although the memories of the time he had been on the receiving end of a paternal outburst were raw and painful. "It works, Bodie, always has. There's never any trouble from family people, only the jerks who marry in."

"Oh, thanks," Bodie muttered, "that's me, I presume?"

Doyle levered himself up onto one elbow, looking down at his lover's half-seen face. "You're the exception to the rule. You could have been a Flynn."

"Flynn," Bodie echoed, cupping Ray's face between his hands. "Always thought of you as a Doyle - can't imagine why."

"Nah, Jack Doyle was an architect who married into the family, sired five kids and promptly died. Not before he was beaten to a pulp by his loving wife and sister-in-law, though!" He bent his head, kissing Bodie's open mouth deeply. "If I wasn't so strung- up and knackered, I'd ravish you."

Bodie smiled in the darkness. "So put your head down and get some sleep, and ravish me in the morning."

But sleep did not come easily; both of them were too overloaded with the day's troubles, at work and at home, and it was well into the small hours before they managed to sleep. It was daylight when Ray woke, and something about the frequency of the light told him that it was already gone nine. He felt lazy and comfortable, disinclined to spring out of bed, and Bodie was stroking his back with fingers that tickled. He rolled over with a smile, collecting a kiss, and then the stroking fingers were on his chest and belly, and he felt the familiar surge of desire. He hardened in moments, and Bodie was already hard. Had been for some time, Ray guessed, seeing his lover's flushed face and too bright eyes.

For a fortnight they had had little time to themselves, their loving snatched and quick. A glance at the clock, and Ray purred in appreciation. It was 9:04, and Cowley didn't need them for nearly two hours. Time to do it right at last. He wound his arms about Bodie's solid frame and drew him close, throwing one leg over the other's muscular thighs to hold him. The hand at his groin continued to tease and for a time Ray let it, until he was floating dreamily on a tide of pure sensation; then Bodie kissed his chest and rolled his weight over onto the smaller man.

Stretching and wriggling with the pleasure of it, Doyle gave Bodie's nose a sharp little nip, spreading his legs invitingly for his lover to lie between them, and lifting his knees to hug him tightly.Bodie shivered and laughed, nipping in revenge, his teeth closing on the lobe of Ray's left ear and tugging. For weeks they would find themselves at this point and make it quick, always fearing the jangle of the phone or the shrill beep of the R/T, but this morning there was time. Ray relaxed beneath his lover, sprawling out bonelessly as Bodie slid down to draw his morning whiskers over the sensitive little brown peaks of two erect nipples. The lush sigh that left Doyle's lips was all the encouragement Bodie needed, and he began to lick and kiss, exploring familiar territory, teasing and torturing for as long as Ray could bear it, then drawing away to let him get back his breath and control, and surrendering his body in turn.

The green eyes were smiling, smoky and dark as the sea on a stormy day, and Ray repaid the pampering in kind until Bodie made a suffocated plea for respite before it was over too soon. Doyle lay down beside him, panting with the desire that sent the blood hammering in his ears. Bodie's eyes cleared quickly and the big, square capable hands pulled Ray onto his side and drew him back into an embrace, back-to-chest. Both of them were sticky with enough pre-ejaculate to more than cover the situation, and as Bodie's fingers probed him, making him ready, Ray shivered and let his eyes close. He pressed against Bodie's silky chest, throwing his head back and feeling the throb of his own cock enclosed in a warm, slick hand.

Bodie was murmuring his name as he slid into the welcoming grip of his lover's body, but Ray was beyond hearing, moving like the sound of the sea, supple and smooth, his back flexing as he wove aslow, easy rhythm between the two sources of pleasure. For a time Bodie let him work alone, swamped with the purely animal delight of it, and with the love that seemed to grow stronger with each year that went by; then, murmuring a tiny protest, Doyle bumped back into him, hard. Bodie found a chuckle and began to match his lover's rhythm, his fist tightening about the furnace heat of Ray's cock.

They came just a few seconds apart, Doyle tumbling over the brink first, and Bodie not far behind him, spilling wet heat into him in long, languid waves until it was over and they lay in a sated, boneless embrace, unable to move.

For a while they dozed, and it was just before ten when Bodie stirred awake and kissed Ray's ear to rouse him. "Time to face the dawn, pet," he yawned. "Got to be at work in an hour. Share the shower?"

It was an offer too good to refuse and Doyle slid out of bed, standing under the hot water while he stretched awake. Though he had an honest smile for Bodie his mind was still on Steven, and his knuckles were itching under the soggy bandaids as he dried his hair.

Bodie watched him frowning over his Shredded Wheat but did not intrude on his thoughts. They were in the car on their way in to the office when Doyle said, "Chris is worried."

"That buggerlugs might come back and rough her up?" Bodie wondered. "Jeez, with the two of us within shouting distance, he'd be a mental case to come back for more!"

"No," Ray corrected, "she's worried about Steven. She was asking me yesterday if I thought bisexuality ran in families. I think she's talking about me," he added with exaggerated delicacy, and sniffed. "Problem is, I don't know if it does or not! There's Uncle Albert too, you know; he was never the same after the War. Never married, writes reams to a mate of his who owns a farm up in Yorkshire or somewhere, and every now and then he disappears off to stay with him. How the hell do I know what they do up there? Could be mustering sheep for all I know - or care! But Chrissie's worried that Steven's going to..."

"Turn out like us," Bodie groaned. "Yeah, I see the problem... Hey, she hasn't pegged us as limp-wrists, has she?"

Ray gave him a withering look. "She's worried, not thick. Course she hasn't; she had my boyhood to put up with, remember, and I had fifty different girls between thirteen and nineteen. No, I think she's worried that Steven'll settle down with a bloke and sort of follow our lead."

"That," Bodie said succinctly, "will be entirely his affair, if you pardon the word, in about eight or ten or twenty years' time, when he's old enough to know what he feels and wants."

"That," Doyle said just as succinctly, "is what I told her. But she wants me to talk to him when they let him out of hospital." He bit his lip. "Talk to a ten-year-old about sex? I thought that was a parent's job! I though if you avoided being a father you'd never get stuck doing the birds 'n bees routine!"

"Except his Dad just beat him up," Bodie growled. "And if Mick Frazer shows his horrible face around here one more time, I shall personally knock it off for him."

"You'd have to stand in line to do that," Ray said bleakly as Bodie turned into the CI5 garage and slid the Capri in to park beside Cowley's red Ford. "Kid won't be home for a few days anyway, so maybe I'll have figured out by then what the hell to say to him about... well. It. Us."

"Tell him the truth, as much as he's ready to hear," Bodie said levelly. "The kind of things we all wish people would tell us, but adults are too red in the face to say. Christine wants you to talk to him because you're family and you know the ropes. Don't you reckon the poor kid rates a bit of honesty?"

Ray had to agree. "Yeah, I reckon he does." He held up his hands as if at gunpoint. "Okay, I"ll do it, I'll do it."

They rode the lift up to the office, punched the clock and were dispatched to the holding cells. Betty was wearing a new hairdo and a bitter expression, and the atmosphere was bad. Ray gave his partner a speculative look. They could both feel the bitter, cynical blanket that lay over the office, and even Murphy was looking angry. He sat on the edge of the littered desk in the small guardroom beside the cells, drinking coffee and reading, and as he saw his colleagues he waved a sheaf of papers at them. "The first of the transcripts. Take the time to read them before you meet the boss. Cowley is not in a sweet temper today and won't appreciate briefing you."

Bodie poured coffee and came to read over Doyle's shoulder as they went through the night's transcripts, hastily typed into the computer and churned out on so many flimsies. The dialogue was an almost one-way affair - George Cowley talking to himself for most of the time; the rest of the time, Nigel Patterson was making glib, and often obscene comments, divulging nothing at all. Little wonder Cowley was fit to kill. The first page carried the information, 'Interrogation of Nigel Patterson, reel one, day one, 6:45 am, October 3rd, 1983'. Cowley could not have been home since yesterday, not that it would have been the first time he had stayed at the office.

As they finished both coffee and transcripts, Doyle stretched his back and smiled at the ceiling, quite unaware that Murphy was crooking a speculative brow at him. Ray had that relaxed, contented look that came from a night's sleep, a hot breakfast and a good loving in between. Murph sighed, acknowledging a moment's envy. His own night had not been so good. Sandra had been spitting blood over the length of time she had been made to wait for him, which was unfair, since it was hardly his choice to stand her up... The job, the bloody job, he thought for the thousandth time, thinking back to the brief fling he had had with Susan Phillips, at about the same time Bodie and Doyle got together andcaused Cowley and Kate Ross to rethink their non-fraternisation policy. If it had worked it would have been fine, but Susan's was a Catholic family. Murphy, a devout atheist, was too much a black sheep for her to invite him to be one of the family.

Meanwhile, the Doyles and Bodies of this world landed on their feet, Murphy observed, transferring his attention to the tall, dark agent who stood by the window, draining his coffee cup and smiling quietly at the stretching Doyle. No doubt about it; they could fall into a midden and come up smelling of roses, Murph thought with a twinge of pure disgust thoroughly shot through with envy. He was about to make some barbed remark when the door down the passage opened and Cowley barked, "Where are those blanks?"

He was talking about the blank tapes due to be fed into the recorders, and Murphy had them in his hand as he stood up. Doyle reached out for them. "'S okay, I'll take 'em. Does he want us?"

Yup. There's some running about to do," Murphy affirmed. "They got into the Patterson computers, but there was nothing to be seen; then Sue managed to get the access code to young Nigel Patterson's private bank account. Tippity-tap on the magic machine, and by the looks of it, money's coming in from overseas in exchange for copies of the SDI data. It's not important data, really, just bulk-run stuff, millions of numbers that tie up thousands of hours of computer time, so the US buys time on big computers of member companies of United Technologies, to process it all fast. So we can go to war with Russia and get wiped out three or four weeks ahead of schedule, I expect."

"Cynical, very cynical, Murph," Bodie grinned, following Doyle through the door. "Any idea where the lettuce is coming in from?"

"Well, they're not dumb enough to sign the cheques of course," Murphy said carefully, "but we've traced the money to Liberia, and we think it came from Germany originally."

Bodie groaned. "Baader Meinhoff? Christ almighty, that's all we need."

The look on Cowley's face was murderous, and behind the cell's single table, Nigel Patterson was looking bored, blank, studying his fingernails. Cowley took the blanks from Doyle and clicked a new cassette into the recorder, adjusting the mics and labelling the tapes he had just taken from the machine. "You've read the last transcripts?" he asked without preamble.

"Just now," Bodie nodded. "He's not saying much, is he?"

"But then," Ray added, "he doesn't have to. We've been watching him and his mates for months... Trip to Morocco -"

"On holiday," Patterson said in his clipped, Public School accent, looking daggers at the agent who stood before him.

"- and another one, to Paris. Seen on the Eiffel Tower with Kurt Hasn, known terrorist. Now, if we check with the airlines in Morocco, we can probably trace you to Liberia, Mr. Patterson. Or check with the telephone exchange, see how many calls have been going through between here and there, and to whom."

"Oh, one so applauds good grammar," Patterson said glibly.

"I'm so glad," Ray mimicked the Public School accent to perfection, and behind him, Bodie and Cowley stood back and let him have his head. Doyle was clad in green crushed velvet slacks and an oatmeal coloured sports jacket, a white silk shirt and a lot of gold, gold at his throat, his wrist, and his left ring finger. The big signet ring caught the cell's dim lights, a match for the one Bodie wore, red Russian gold. He looked like one of the aristocracy, and he knew it. When he spoke, he moulded his wayward accent to fit. At home, it was round and rough and affectionate, the way Bodie liked it; here, it was clipped and brittle and hostile, very upper crust. Ray should have been an actor, Bodie thought with honest amusement; he was a born mimic. "Mr. Patterson," he was saying quietly, "we feel you should know before we go any further that we have traced your financial dealings back to West Germany." It was a lie, they had yet to tie down the exact data, but it was a good guess, and it produced a flicker of response on Patterson's pale, bored face.

The moment's hesitation was quickly masked and Patterson's eyes were shuttered. "So what if you have? I have many dealings with industrialists all over the world."

"Then you won't mind releasing your records to us," Doyle said levelly. "We have, in any case, accessed most of them. In a matter of national security, we have authorisation to access almost anything, you understand."

"I understand," Patterson snarled. "You double as the KGB, do you? Secret police? You bastards should be closed down!"

Doyle looked up at Bodie and Cowley, one brow up in speculation - have we hit a raw nerve here? "And what about your association with Kurt Hasn? If you're so disapproving of security services such as CI5, what of known terrorists? Are you a politicalanimal, Mr. Patterson? Not a communist or socialist, certainly, not when you drive a Ferrari and own your own Lear jet. What, then? An anarchist?"

"A man's politics are his own affair," Patterson muttered.

"Then you are an anarchist?"


"Why did you meet Hasn?" Doyle pressed, but his luck had expired as surely as Cowley's had. He had gotten very little out of Patterson that Cowley had not already extracted - just the flicker of emotion, the momentary flare of real anger against an organisation he likened to the KGB. And then, there were volumes to be read in his sudden silence at the conclusion that he was an anarchist by politics. Doyle withdrew, going to join Cowley and Bodie near the door with a shrug.

"It's like talking to a wall," Cowley said sourly, "and I've been trying to make a crack in that wall since before seven. I'm going to turn him over to Murphy and - Kate Ross, I think, while I indulge in a little lunch. Meanwhile, there's a man named Himmel, Heinz Manfred Himmel. Do you know the name?"

"Baader Meinhoff affiliate?" Bodie asked, hazily recalling the name, and Cowley nodded.

"Aye. He was seen in England a week ago, and MI5 have a report that he was at a nightclub called Angel's last Saturday... Jax and Susan were tailing Mr. Patterson here last week, and it turns out he also was at Angel's."

"Snap," Bodie grunted. "Where's Himmel staying?"

"The Regency - but he's gone now," Cowley told him, "as you'd expect. He's not a fool. He won't find it easy to get out of England, since we're covering the airports, the (missing word), and so on. But we're an island, so much coastline we haven't a hope of covering all the angles. We're grasping at straws, but straws are better than nothing, especially if you're drowning, and there are several potential leads that need to be checked out. McCabe is on one of them, and I want you on the road now on the other promising item. Betty has the paperwork... Oh, and tell Murphy to come in here. Doctor Ross will be here shortly, and I'm already late for a luncheon appointment."

The paperwork was a nebulous report from MI5, backed up by a much more substantial one from the Met: Himmel was in London, and trying to get out. He was booked for speeding by a motorcycle cop, and less than half an hour later sideswiped a Morris Minor with hi rented BMW, ending up in a ditch on the road out to Kent. Without wheels, at nine o'clock at night, where could you go? Bodie was wondering as he threaded through the traffic, heading for the motorway and the lush British countryside.

It was already one o'clock, and they ate on the road, Ray balancing two cans of Coke and their salad rolls on his knee while Bodie drove and chewed in silence. "You realise, he'll be long gone," he said, reaching for his Coke to wash down the roll.

"Oh, yeah," Doyle agreed, "but maybe somebody knows where he went and - Christ, it's the same as police work. Person A sends you to Person B, and Person B sends you to Person C, and... if you're really lucky, you don't get sent back to Person A!"

"Thrilling," Bodie agreed. "Sometimes I think I'll die with all the excitement. Here, hang onto my Coke. Got a cake left there, or have you guzzled them all?"

"Haven't guzzled anything!" Doyle said indignantly. "I don't even like this glop you've bought."

"Aaaah," Bodie commiserated. "Have a bar of chocolate instead. Have two bars, rot you teeth for fun."

"Bodie," Doyle said threateningly, but the battle was mock.

They were finished by the time they ran into Little Broughton. Bodie pulled up at the tiny cop shop, switching off the roasting, aromatic motor and climbing out into the crisp, late autumn air. It wasnice here; the sun was bright and the sky clear, and the noise of the traffic was no more than a buzz in the distance, three miles away. Larks were singing up over the meadows, and there was the smell of mown hay. The breeze tossed Doyle's hair into his eyes as he got out of the car, and Bodie looked at his lover just for the pleasure of looking. Ray was honey brown after the summer, thin and graceful, fit as a fiddle. It was hard to think back now, to that day in 1980 when he had lain on the floor of his flat in a pool of his own blood, two bullets in him, milk souring on the rugs about him -

'Bittersweet,' Bodie thought. 'If it hadn't happened, maybe we'd still be friends and partners, but we wouldn't be lovers.' So maybe it had to happen, just as Bodie had had to come back to England, leaving behind him the career of a mercenary. Kismet. Feeling Bodie's eyes on him, Ray looked up, and the green eyes warmed. Bodie was looking good, tanned and leaner than usual, the white of his shirt making him look darker, his hair allowed to grow a little long on his collar, his Irish looks almost gypsyish. The Virgin and The Gypsy, Ray thought, hiding a grin, thinking back to the rainy afternoon when, not long out of hospital and feeling low, he had reached out to Bodie... Hungry for affection, starved for some kind of physical contact, knowing love when he felt it, and able to read the love in Bodie as if it had been printed out in words for him. There had been no fear of rejection that afternoon, and no disappointment as he lay in Bodie's arms that night, his aches massaged away, the lonely hunger for love banished at last. 'Three years,' Ray thought as he and Bodie fell into step, heading for the Police Station. 'Three years, and it feels like three weeks.'

The Constable on the desk was old enough to be their father, and he blinked when he saw their ID. "I wasn't out there at the crash myself," he said, "That was the lad, Jamison, but it was all straightforward. A continental idiot in a powerful car. He'd been taken earlier for speeding, you know!"

"We heard," Bodie said. "So, if he'd seen off his wheels, where did he go from here?"

Constable Sanderson guffawed. "Straight to the local pub, drank about a half a pint of whisky on an empty stomach, and threw up all over the men's room floor! He'd had a nasty shock on the road, and thought he'd treat it with a drop of the hard. Dumbest thing you can do, you know."

Bodie gave Ray a sidelong glance. "Then where did he go?"

"They carried him upstairs and put him to bed, and got old Doc Mason in tolook at him. Still be there, I reckon."

"Jackpot," Doyle murmured. "The pub - that'd be the Black Lion, would it, just up the road, past the vet's?"

"That's the one," Sanderson nodded. "And since he wasn't on this morning's bus, he'll still be there, 'less he's hoofed it to the train. That's four miles yonder, and with a head like he's going to have, I've got me doubts about that!"

"Thanks," Doyle said, already moving. "we'll see if we can find him. Morning."

Out in the early afternoon sun, they turned to the east. The Black Lion stood a few hundred yards away on the other side of the quaint little village green, and on the far side of a stream across which was an old stone bridge. Bodie let Ray walk on ahead, always liking to watch him walk, especially from the rear. If he thought Ray was oblivious to it he was wrong, and knew he was from the sultry glance thrown back over Doyle's shoulder. Bodie laughed and caught him up.

"Little monster," he accused. "You just wait till I get you home!"

"You'll do what?" Ray demanded. "Oh, that? You already did that this morning, or have you forgotten?"

"Forgotten?" Bodie guffawed as they climbed up the slope of the humpbacked bridge. "Not likely. You know, I used to keep count once. How many times we did it."

"Oh?" Doyle smiled sunnily. "You stopped counting?"

"Lost count," Bodie admitted. "I dream a lot too, and sometimes it gets a bit hard telling what's dreamed from what's real... Lucky, aren't we? Most folks can always tell their dreams from what's real, because what's real's bloody disappointing by comparison." He paused. "I'm trying to tell you I love you, twit."

"Thanks, and I love you, and I resent being called a twit," Doyle said smoothly as they approached the hotel. He pushed in through the half-open door, Bodie on his heels, and before them was an ancient pub interior with walnut woodwork and red leather. There was a matron behind the bar, sixtyish and stout, polishing glasses. Ray pinned on a smile and watched the woman start to take notice; it was a talent he had acquired early, and he had not lost it in the years since he and Bodie had got together at last. "A man came in here last night, drank too much, made himself ill and had to be seen by Doctor - what's his name?"

"Mason," Bodie supplied. "Is the German still here?"

The landlady grunted in disgust. "I'll say he's still 'ere, and dead to the world. Damn bloody foreigners! More money than sense, they have. You the police, or what?"

"Yeah, something like that," Bodie nodded. "Which room?"

"Number nine, upstairs on your left. Room's not locked. Is he wanted for something?"

But the CI5 men were on their way. Doyle gave Bodie a wink and went ahead of him, knowing full well that one of Bodie's pleasures in life was to follow him upstairs, and in the seclusion of the stairwell he felt a light caress across his buttocks that brought a faint glow to his face.

Kurt Hasn's associate, Manfred Himmel, was dead to the world, and the room reeked of stale whisky. Bodie made a face as he and Doyle opened the door. Although they slapped the unconscious man's cheeks he refused to come to. Doyle sighed, producing a pair of cuffs. "Okay, so we shove him in the back like luggage and take him in. I love it when they make it easy for us!"

"Right," Bodie agreed as they took Himmel's weight between them, maneuvering him through the door. "God, he stinks of his booze. Lovely job, this."

"Never mind," Ray philosophised, "we worked a shift and a half yesterday so we knock off at four today. It'll be three by the time we get this twerp back to Central and wade through the paperwork, and unless the Cow sends us out somewhere we can probably lose ourselves and read the paper." He grinned up at Bodie, several stairs above him. "We're not on twenty-four hour call now, remember... And our leave comes up in ten days' time. Hey, where did we decide to go?"

"We didn't," Bodie puffed, taking Himmel's dead weight as they manhandled the man out to the Black Lion's lobby. "Look, you stay with him here on the doorstep and I'll bring the car. I'll be buggered if I'm carrying him all the way back to the cop shop - get a double hernia and ruin my holidays."

"Oh smart, very smart," Ray said approvingly, and they let Himmel's inert body fall to the doorstep; he landed heavily but did not so much as grunt. The Capri was rolling on the motorway before sounds of life issued from the back. There was a spill of German invective and a lot of groaning, and Doyle twisted about in his seat, waving his ID before Himmel's ashen face. "Hello, sunbeam, you're in big trouble. Read this... Oh, Christ, Bodie, I think he's going to throw up. You'd better pull over, quick."

The keys had only just turned in the cuffs' lock before the Baader Meinhoff affiliate was stumbling away, paying the price for his whisky. "Stupid, very stupid," Bodie said, leaning against the side of the car where it stood in the layby, Doyle sunning himself at his right hand, both ignoring the man. "Mind you, piling a car up can give you the shock of your life."

"And he's not a field agent," Ray added. "Just a small time courier, as far as we're aware. Look at him - flabby, out of condition, ripe for picking." He tipped his face back to catch the sun. "Where are we going on holidays?"

"France," Bodie suggested, "you and me and a hotel in Paris. Lots ofchampagne and a big four poster bed."

"Spain," Ray said. "You and me and a white beach... Tourists will have gone home by now."

"Scotland," Bodie chuckled, "making it on the hearthrug while it snows outside."

"Senegambia," Ray suggested. "Catch some sun... Here he comes. There's a can of Coke left. He might need it."

Himmel looked nearer dead than alive, and moaned disconsolately at each roll of the car, all the way back to CI5 Central. He was ashen grey, green around the nose and mouth, when they handed him over to Cowley, and the last they saw of him was a rear view as he was shepherded toward the infirmary. Bodie mouthed 'Good riddance!' after him, and he and Doyle wandered into the squad room to amble through a report and drink tea.

There was a red Mini parked outside their building as they arrived at home, and Ray gave Bodie a nudge with one elbow. "Hey, that's Chris's car. What's she doing here?"

"Wants to talk, I shouldn't wonder," Bodie said, turning off the ignition and sliding out. "Damn. Company we can do without!"

Christine Frazer was sporting a beautiful black eye, but she had painted enough panstick over it to be disguised, and with her hair done and her open eye brighter, Ray could see she felt much better as he handed her a small brandy and sank into an armchair to listen. "Actually," she said, avoiding Ray's eyes, "I came totalk to Bodie. Can't talk to you about his. Not my brother, if you know what I mean."

"No, I don't," Doyle said a little tartly, "but I'll push off and see about dinner. Will you stay, Chris? You're welcome."

"Can't," Chris said at once. "Jean's waiting for me; we're going over to see Steven in hospital. Wish I could stay."

Very glad that she could not, Bodie watched Ray depart and cracked the top off the can of Newcastle Brown Ale. "So, talk."

She was uncomfortable with what she was about to say, and he stiffened, expecting the worst. "I'm worried about Steven," Chris said bluntly. "Worried that he might be, you know."

"Like us," Bodie guessed.

"Yeah. Seems to run in families! Uncle Al, now Ray."

"That bothers you?" Bodie sipped at the beer. "There's nothing wrong with Ray, take it from me. He's a man, Christine, if that's what's worrying you. Open your eyes and take a good, long look."

"I know." Christine forced a smile. "And you're a man, too, no doubt about that. That really isn't what's bothering me. I..."

He made a guess. "You don't mind having a queer for a brother," he said brutally, "but you don't like having one for a son." There, it was out in the open. Now he held his breath.

Her reaction was one of astonishment. "Bodie, what an awful thing to say! I'm only glad Ray didn't hear that. I'd have thought you'd have been the last person to doubt Ray's - well, his masculinity. He's a man, you know that as well as I do!"

"I do," Bodie said, starting to relax. "And I'm sorry. I was assuming that's what you meant, and I was going to chew a chunk out of you for thinking Ray's a 'fairy', if I was right. So if that isn't the problem, what in God's name is?"

Christine gulped at the brandy. "There isn't one - so far. But I want you to tell me, right bloody now, before it starts. If Steven's going to prefer boys, how much danger is he in?"

"Danger?" Bodie frowned deeply, studying the beer can. "Well, a lot depends on him. If you don't go looking for trouble, nine times out of ten, it won't come looking for you. I'm not saying he's as safe as a row of houses, in this life no one is. But if he just lives his life intelligently, there's no reason why any harm should come to him. He'll just have to choose his friends with a little more care than most folks, because the consequences are a little bit more serious than those of a regular friendship. Okay so far?"

"Okay," she murmured. "God, he's so young."

"Too young," Bodie agreed, "and if I was his Dad I'd have had a few stern words with him, I'll tell you! Read him a lecture - not about sex, but about safety. And at his age, sex and safety are almost the same thing. Look, if it's any comfort to you, a lot of kids go through this phase and grow up the same as everyone else."

Christine blinked at him. "But you didn't."

Bodie felt his cheeks warm. "And a lot of kids don't," he added, hiding a smile. "Christine, does it matter that much to you?"

She shook her head animatedly. "It doesn't matter at all. I just want to know that Steven isn't going to be sent home in a box one day, or end up in a hospital, torn to shreds."

"He's got the same chance as everyone else," Bodie said very gently. "Nobody asks to be hurt, Chris, but little old ladies and twelve-year-old girls come to grief in their own homes. You do the best you can, that's all that's ever possible. Right?"

"Right." She smiled again, and this time it wasn't forced. "The doctors said he can come home tomorrow, and the day after is Saturday. Is Ray working that day?"

"Morning," Bodie told her, "but he's off in the afternoon, we both are. You want him to talk to Steven, don't you?"

"Yeah. Look, why don't you come over to our place? Have a late lunch, muck about in the garden if it's nice. Go fishing or something. Just so long as Ray gets an hour alone with Steve and gets it said." She got up, hugging her white rain mack about her. "I'll get out of here now, you've seen enough of me."

Bodie saw her to the door and closed it behind her, smiling after her. Christine was a lovely woman. She didn't have Ray's mouth, or his nose, but she had the wide, doe eyes, and they were green, and she had a heart-shaped face capped by auburn curls that gave her the definite Doyle-look. Flynn look, he reminded himself pointedly: Jack Doyle was an architect who had sired five kids, punched his youngest son in the face, been chased about the house with a frying pan and soon thereafter died. It was the Flynn genes that were breeding true. As he turned from the door Ray appeared, a glass of wine in his hand, and Bodie caught the first whiffs of cooking food, which reminded him of how hungry he was.

"So?" Ray prompted as Bodie took him in a determined embrace.

"Oh, she wanted to know how much danger Steven'll be in if he grows up liking boys," Bodie said, nibbling at the bridge of Ray's nose. "'Bout the same as anyone else, I told her. And he might grow out of it - probably will. Look at me; I went through the phase between eleven and fifteen, so I was fine in the Merchant and the mercs, and the Army didn't bother me a jot. But I'd grown out of it, in emotional terms, by the time I got to sixteen. I fancied girls! I had to meet you before I fell in love." He bent forward in search of a kiss. "What's for dinner?"

"Casserole, out of the freezer," Ray told him, surfacing from the kiss and finishing the wine he had been drinking. "Won't be long. Then we've got all evening. What d'you want to do? Go out?"

"Stay in," Bodie corrected. "Haven't been getting it much in the last couple of weeks, and I'm feeling deprived."

"Depraved, more like," Ray corrected glibly.

Bodie put on a wounded face. "But I've missed you."

"I've been here every day!" Ray said, exasperated. "What you've missed, you randy animal, is the sex."

"I'm a randy animal!" Bodie said, disbelieving. "And you're practising to be a monk, are you?"

"Oh, yeah, going to go off and join a monastery, gave Cowley my notice this morning, so -" He broke off with a yelp as Bodie grabbed him by the hips and drew him forward. "Okay, okay, I'll come quietly."

"You never come quietly," Bodie growled. "You ought to try listening to yourself sometimes. I'll put the cassette recorder on, and play you back to yourself later. You yell blue murder."

"Do I?" Doyle chuckled and pressed against his lover. "Well, why not? No law against making a noise, is there?"

And Bodie had to admit there was not. In fact, he took a delight in pushing Ray right to the edge of conscious control, then urging him over until he had no idea what his body was doing, and surrendered to an abandon that was bewildering. With the whole evening to themselves, he was determined to do just that.

Reginald Patterson was sixty plus, badger grey and seamed. He was, Bodie decided, in pretty bad physical condition, and prime heart attack material. Little wonder that he had gone down in a heap when the news reached him that his son had been selling SDI data to international terrorists. The old man recovered quickly, and on Saturday morning was in Cowley's office, pale and still very weak, but well enough to suffer the ordeal of an interview. Cowley had offered to go out to his home, a mansion on the river, but Patterson wanted only to get moving again, put it behind him.

He sat in Cowley's office, and Ray saw the look of real distress on his face. "It only goes to show," he said sadly, "that you never really know your own children, do you? I never realised a hand to him, as a boy... perhaps I should have."

"That isn't the answer," Doyle said quietly, as Cowley was still shuffling the pages of the transcripts. "You remember what Kipling said: give me a person's first six years and you can have the rest... Maybe you should have been there more, when Nigel was that age."

The Patterson Computers managing director heaved a sigh, and just for a moment Doyle saw the flash of guilt across his face. He was no older than George Cowley by the calendar, but he was old. Genes running away with him, or a stupid lifestyle exacting its vengeance, Doyle thought, glancing at Cowley and seeing ten years' difference between the two. Bodie stood beside the filing cabinet, hands in his pockets, studying the back of Patterson's balding head.

"So what is to be done?" the old man asked.

Cowley looked up from the transcripts. "There can be no doubt as to your son's guilt, Mr. Patterson, I'm afraid, and this is a matter of national security."

"Nigel will go to prison."

"Yes, he will. Also, he is making matters much worse for himself by being close-mouthed; if he would volunteer information, help to put right the damage for which he is responsible..."

But Patterson shook his head. "No chance of that, Mr. Cowley. I remember him as a lad; he would never admit to a mistake, and if he had done something wrong - silence. Like most boys, I suppose." His face hardened. "But most boys do not grow up into international terrorists!" He rubbed at his chest absently, perhaps remembering the crippling pain of the mild heart attack which had slammed into him with the news. "So, how bad is the damage?"

"Bad enough," Cowley said carefully, "but as yet your son had little to bargain with. We've nipped this in the bud, before the data entrusted to your company became too specific. We've plugged the leak; there will be no more dealings between your staff and the Baader Meinhoff, or any other terrorist group. And we suspect that Nigel was dealing with a German we know. Interpol and GSG-9 are currently searching for him. What's done is done, Mr. Patterson, but I don't think enough data has changed hands to date to do much real damage where it counts."

"For which, thank God." Patterson mopped at his florid face with a white handkerchief. "We shall lose the contract with the US Defence Department, of course."

"Aye, well, there are prices to be paid for - carelessness. Is that an accurate word?" Cowley spoke quite kindly, but it was clear that he blamed Patterson for his son's infidelities.

Patterson blinked at him and heaved himself to his feet. "It will suffice.If I was careless, Mr. Cowley, it was in trusting my own son. If one cannot trust his own son, whom can he trust?"

As the old man left the office Bodie stepped away from the filing cabinet, watching Cowley go over the transcripts one last time before shoving them back into their folder. "We're off duty in ten minutes, sir. Anything you want us to do before we sign out?"

There was a frown about Cowley's brow as he looked at Bodie. "If you can't trust your son, Bodie, who shall be trusted?"

"Search me, sir," Bodie grinned, "I've never had a son. Well, not that I know about."

The glib remark returned Cowley to the present and he waved at his two best field agents with the folder. "Och, be off with you. I'll want you on Monday morning, at eight - unless GSG-9 finds Hasn or his group. Or if Himmel breaks sooner than expected, in which case I'll want you earlier."

"Sir," Doyle responded, and went through the door with Bodie a pace behind him. They were in the gold Capri that day, Doyle driving, and as they wheeled out of the garage Ray turned right, heading not for Chelsea but the motorway and Christine's home. "Fraternal duties to be done - and a brother's lot is not a happy one," he said gloomily. "Got to talk to a ten-year-old about the birds and the bees. Christ, what do I say?"

"Told you - the truth," Bodie yawned. "Oh, cheer up. He's probably heard it all before. Kids these days know the lot - he'll ask you what you want to know, and you might even learn a thing of two."

"Oh, thanks a lot, Bodie," Ray grinned. "Anything you think I ought to know, you come right out with it."

"I will," Bodie promised, hand on his chest, and sat back to watch Doyle handle the car, thoughts of the previous night on his mind. Ray was a skilled, thoughtful lover, generous and unabashedly affectionate, and his technique was a mixture of mechanics and imagination. Last night had been a delight, and as the Capri hit the motorway, Bodie said so, collecting a sunny smile and a pat on the knee. Three years since they had become lovers, and eight years since he had first met Doyle. Ray was a little older, almost three years his senior, but neither of them were kids anymore and it was of no consequence. Often, he felt so wearied by the world and the fight to keep ahead of it that he felt much older than his thirty-two years, while just as frequently Ray gave the impression of one much younger - playing with the neighbourhood kids, soccer in the street; cavorting with Jean's dogs; playing 'silly buggers' with his lover in the bathroom until the whole place should have been rated a disaster zone. Bodie smiled at Doyle's chiselled profile and sat back to doze until they were crunching up the gravel drive at Christine's.

The house was much too large for a couple with just one child, but Mick Frazer was an engineer and on good money. He was working for Shell, a job Ray's older brother Frank had secured for him. For one vindictive moment Bodie hoped he'd lose the job, but that wouldn't do Chris any good now she was filing for divorce. If Mick couldn't keep up the hefty mortgage payments, Chris and Steven would be out of a home. It was an old building, set in a vast garden and backing onto a stream. It was not really in the countryside, but was surrounded by an area of woodland which gave that impression. The drive wound around a rank of poplars, and Ray braked down, bringing the Capri to a halt at the front door, turning off the motor.

"It's after one," he said, swinging the door open. "I'm starved. Hope they've got something edible for lunch."

"Meat pie and mashed potatoes." Bodie rubbed his stomach. "Suet pud and custard."

Doyle made a face. "You and your cast-iron digestion!" After all the years they still could not agree on matters of food and politics, so had to disagree to end the arguments.

They climbed three brick steps to the front door, and before they could knock it was pulled open and they were looking down at Steven's pale, somewhat drawn face. The slanted eyes peered up at them from beneath the curly, tangled fringe, and Bodie had the distinct impression of a ten-year-old Ray, something like Dennis the Menace hiding a halo and wings under a crew cap and goalkeeper's shirt. He hid a smile as he followed his lover into the house.

But Steven was also sporting a cast on his left shoulder and upper arm, and there was a guilt-ridden look on his face at the sight of the two men, as if he knew intuitively why they were here, and suspected that he was for the high jump. Ray tousled the wild curls. "Hello, chum, where's your Mum?"

"Upstairs, turning out the wardrobe," Steven said. "She's getting all of Dad's stuff together, ready for chucking out."

"I see." Ray winked at Bodie, went to the bottom of the stairs and yelled, "Chris! We've arrived! When's lunch?"

"Saw the car pull in!" Christine's disembodied voice yelled back. "Get yourselves a drink and sit down, won't be a tick!"

A 'tick' turned into a quarter of an hour, but lunch came out of the microwave and there was plenty of it. Bodie ate too much and beamed infuriatingly at Doyle as Ray sat on the other side of the table, chin cupped in his palm, feigning disbelief as jacket potatoes and butter disappeared at a terrifying rate. Steven was chewing half-heartedly on a corn cob, and Ray had long since finished with the basket chicken and selected tangerines for dessert. Bodie's blue eyes were set on the chocolate cake, but it was only defiance that made him demolish a large slab of it... Better be too full of lunch than let Ray know he was beaten.

The effects of the food made him drowsy and slow, and he was happy to sprawl in an armchair beside the radio, listening to the BBC and reading the paper, looking up every so often to glance out through the open window at the figures, made tiny by distance, at the end of the enormous garden. Steven and Ray were very much alike in looks, and the cast on Steven's shoulder was forever a reminder of that the real problem was. It wasn't that a boozing mate of Mick's had seen the kid and his friends passing a joint and drinking and experimenting with sex; it was the fact that a bloody Johnny-come-lately had somehow found his way into this clan and proceeded to go off the deep end the first time he was really put to the test, beating up his family. And a Doyle family at that, Bodie felt the familiar surge of anger, and not for the first time longed to get his fingers on Mick Frazer.

The afternoon was warm and there was little breeze. Ray steered the smaller version of himself to the stone bench by the stream at the bottom of the garden, and wondered helplessly how he was going to get onto the proper subject. He gazed at the rings made in the still water by feeding sticklebacks, and for a while they said nothing. Then, typically, it was Steven who put his finger on it... 'Bright kid,' Ray thought wryly. 'Maybe too bright for his own good, growing up too fast - like someone else I know!'

"I know why you're here, Uncle Ray," Steven said gloomily, kicking his heels against the bench. "'Cause of what I done."

"Did," Ray corrected absently. "Your Mum asked me to talk to you. You don't mind that, do you?"

"S'pose not. Better than getting belted," Steven admitted. "Least I know you won't hit me." He made an enormous sigh. "I was silly, I know that. But I didn't want the others to think I was a little kid, you know?"

"I know," Ray smiled. "It never changes, Steven, even when you grow up. There's always people who'll want to compete with you. And people who'll want to use you. Got to choose your mates carefully. You know that now, don't you?"

"Yes," Steven whispered. "Won't be that dumb again. Got this -" he knocked on the plaster "- to remind me, haven't I?"

"So long as you've learned," Ray said quietly. "What have you learned, Steve? About yourself?"

"Meself?" Steven's smooth brow wrinkled up. "Didn't like the smoke much. Tasted awful, made us dizzy. Didn't like the booze either, tasted funny."

"I'll bet." Ray wiped the smile off his face and took a breath. "What else? Come on, Steven, I know you were fooling around with the other lads."

"You're gonna tell me not to do it again," the boy said, a hint of defiance in his voice.

'Am I?' Ray thought. 'Should I? Can I? How much notice will he take of me - how much notice would I have taken of my parents or uncles, if it'd been me? "Well, I'll tell you to be careful in future," he said with great care. "You do know

Steven gave him a withering glance that made Ray want to laugh. "Course I know. But it's bad, isn't it? You're supposed to... um, do it with girls."

"Most people do it with girls," Ray admitted, "but I don't suppose you'll find many girls your age who'll be willing." He put one hand on the lad's shoulder. "Do you like girls?"

For a moment Steven frowned in thought, then shook his head. "No. Not much.Uncle Ray, when you don't like girls, you're not right, are you? They say it's bad. Is it wrong, what I did?"

"Wrong?" Ray blinked. "Good Lord!"

"Well, I mean..." Steven coughed uncomfortably. "There's you and Uncle Bodie, isn't there. I heard Mum and Aunt Jean and Uncle Frank talking about you, once. You do it together. So is it wrong? Is it?"

"You don't think Bodie and I would do anything that was wrong, do you?" Ray asked gently. "Nah, it's not wrong, Steve, but it's not something kids are supposed to do. Not with girls, not with boys. You're supposed to wait till you grow up."

"Why?" Steven asked.

'Honest question,' Ray thought, 'deserved an honest answer.' "Because when you're very young you don't really know what you want, what you need, what's good, what's bad. Those are the things you learn as you get older. You can't make your own decisions till you know, and if you're not careful you'll be used. Exploited. You know what that word means?" Steven nodded. "It's for your own safety, really. That's why it's better to wait."

"Oh." It seemed to make sense to the boy, and Ray fell silent, wondering what the next question would be. It did not come as a surprise. "So I'm not bad for liking boys better?"

"Am I bad? Is Bodie?" Ray was not about to start lying to the kid; insulting his intelligence was the worst thing he could do. It was the adults' fault for being loose-mouthed about the family secrets, if it was anyone's fault, and Steven knew what he had heard.

"So, if I still like boys when I grow up, it's okay then?"

Ray took Steven's shoulder in a supportive grip. "When you grow up and you know what you want, and what you need out of life, it'll be your own business, no one else's. Lots of people won't be very happy about it, but then, you can't please all of the people all of the time, can you?"

A deep frown furrowed Steven's forehead ad he was clearly thinking it over carefully. "Mum says I'll grow out of it."

"She could be right."

"But what if I don't?" Steven sounded haunted. "Dad beat me up for it!"

"And he was wrong to," Ray said flatly. "That's not the answer to anything. You don't hit people because they disagree with you! Look, Steven, all I'm telling you is this: when two adults like each other, and they're both equals, and they both know what they want, it's their business. Understand?"

"Yeah." Steven nodded, and for a long time there was only the sound of the rising breeze stirring the branches before he said, "Um, Uncle Ray? One of the others was telling me that, um, well - when they do it, they do it inside you." The words were blurted out, and the boy's eyes were wide. "Do they?"

Ray felt colour rise in this cheeks and was grateful that the breeze was chilly, cooling his skin at once. "Sometimes." It was stupid to lie; he already knew, could find out from a thousand other sources soon enough and then would never trust his uncle ever again.


The question was guileless. Ray shrugged, trying to find an answer that would suffice. "Because they want to."

A long silence, then: "Does Uncle Bodie do it to you?"

The colour in his cheeks was rising again, but Ray smiled. "Yes, he does."

"And -" Steven was whispering. "Then you do it to him?"

"Of course. We're equals, you know that."

"Because you want to?" Steven repeated, and the look on his face demanded to know why anyone would want to do that.

Ray put one arm about the boy's shoulders. "It's one of the nicest ways to say 'I love you'. That's what makes all the difference, Steve, being in love. I'm not saying you can't have friendly affairs - everyone does, you see it on all the shows on telly, don't you? But one day you meet someone special, and you feel it in here." He rubbed his chest, seeking the scar left from the operation that took the bullet from his heart. "You want to be with that person for years and years, maybe even for the rest of your life, and then... Anything you want to do with each other that says 'I love you' is nice. It's why anyone does anything. Even that."

"But doesn't it hurt?" Steven asked incredulously.

"The first time, it hurts a bit," Ray admitted candidly, "but after that, no. Got to fall off your bike a few times while you're learning to ride, too! Oh, Stevie, grow up and then worry about it. Your Dad was a clot to go mad like that. I'd have given you a thick ear if I'd found you smoking pot and drinking, but the worst thing you did was let your stupid mates talk you into tryingit all out. As for fooling about with them... Well, you'll do it again, I know, because it feels good, doesn't it?"

The boy's face crimsoned. "Yeah."

Part Two

"But be careful when, and where, and who with. Think about what you feel, and what you want, and if you think there's a chance they're using you, run for it. I don't have to tell you not to go looking for trouble, do I? Because you can turn up dead in the river as easily as anyone else can these days. Steven?"

"I'll be careful," Steven said solemnly, still mulling over what his uncle had said. "Uncle Ray, you think I'll meet someone like Bodie?"

Ray chuckled and hugged him. "Oh, I expect so. Might take a few years, and you might despair of ever meeting the right person, but she - or he - will be out there somewhere, looking for you too. Okay now?" The boy smiled up at him and Ray gave him a last hug before letting him go. "Right, now that that's sorted out, I'll give you fair warning. If you upset your Mum by having anything to do with pot or booze ever again, I'll tan your rump with the palm of my hand till you can't sit down and I can't play the piano. And if I ever hear of you worrying your Mum about horsing about with boys, likewise. Be

He could have told Steven never to touch another boy again on pain of retribution, but he couldn't bring himself to do that. Guilt, the ruination of innocence, and in the end those tactics never worked. Better to be honest and lay the cards out for the kid, don't gloss it over, tell the truth. Bodie had been right.

They were in bed, late that night, and Bodie had been coaxing an account of the conversation out of him, joking about birds and bees, and Ray admitted just how right his lover had been. "So I told him the truth," he finished.

"What - the whole truth?" Bodie abruptly sounded aghast.

"Yup, everything he asked," Ray said, yawning. "He wanted to know if what they'd told him was true."

"And what was that?"

"That - his words - when they do it, they do it inside you."

"And you told him -"

"The truth. He already knew. Then he wanted to know if you do it to me."

"And you told him."

"Credit the kid with a brain," Doyle said drily. "Then he wanted to know if I did it to you. And why we do it."

Bodie groaned. "So what did you tell him?"

"That it was one of the nicest ways to say 'I love you'," Ray said huskily.

A whisper of air passed Bodie's lips as he sighed. "Nice. Trust you to make it sound almost decent..." He pressed his lips to Ray's temple. "Wouldn't like to, would you?"

"Like to what?"

"Tell me you love me that way?"

Doyle got both elbows under him, looking down into Bodie's dark blue eyes, which shone in the amber lamplight. "Why not?"

"Great." Bodie kissed him while he fished in the top drawer of the cabinet beside the bed for a plastic tube, and Doyle pushed the bedding out of the way, sitting back on his heels to admire the pale, muscular body that lay sprawled before him. Bodie was aroused already, as if talking about it was enough to get him going, and one look at the dark, pulsing shaft was more than enough to make Ray's blood quicken.

It was leisurely, long and sweet, and the bed was a disaster before Ray propped Bodie's legs on his shoulders and took the cap off the tube. Bodie wriggled and laughed breathlessly as he was tickled, made ready, but then there was a shaft of steel sliding into him slowly, with infinite care and a wonderful gentleness, and Ray was right... If there was one way to say 'I love you', and mean it, it was this way. He reached up, catching the wide, bony shoulders, bringing Doyle down onto his chest, holding him there. Ray lay perfectly still, sheathed to the hilt and not moving a muscle for a long time while Bodie held his head and kissed him. The coming was just as slow and went on forever, and Bodie was nearly asleep before Doyle climbed off him to straighten the bed.

(missing words)were curled around one another when the phone rang. Bodie scooped it up and held it to his ear, and, as expected, he heard Cowley's voice, "GSG-9 has located Kurt Hasn's group in Frankfurt. They haven't located Hasn yet, but we think Manfred Himmel knows where he is - and so does Nigel Patterson, I'm sure. We're comparing what data we've got out of Himmel and Patterson with the Germans, and you're on standby, you and Doyle, from this point. Clear, Bodie?"

"Perfectly, sir," Bodie yawned. "Is that all?"

"For the moment. Goodnight, 3.7."

"Sir." Bodie put the phone down and drew Doyle against him. "Cowley," he said, licking the dented cheekbone and kissing Ray's closed eyes. "We're on standby. GSG-9 located Hasn's mob and they're out after the man himself." His lips went back to the uneven cheek bone, and despite his best efforts he was imagining a day when a grown man had hit the fourteen-year- old in the face hard enough to do this. "I could thump your Dad, you know."

"He's dead," Doyle murmured, wriggling closer.

"If he was alive, I'd thump him," Bodie amended. "For hitting you like that. Mind you, if it wasn't for this dent of yours you'd be too bloody good to be true, so maybe he did the whole world a favour." He pulled up the quilt, adjusting the bedding, which released a waft of warm, musky air. He would have known that Doyle-scent anywhere, always strong when they were aroused, always making Bodie aroused in an instant. He wrinkled his nose appreciatively. "If you could bottle that you'd make a fortune. Pong de Raymond."

"And Pong de Bodie," Ray added drily. "Come here and hold me, I'm tired."

"Worn you out, have I?" Bodie pulled his lover up onto his chest and wrapped arms and legs around him. "Comfy now?"

"Yes, thanks." Doyle put his head down and wriggled once before going limp.

"Love you," Bodie said into the curly hair, and listened to the slurred echo of his words as Ray drifted into sleep. He smiled, remembering the picture of Doyle and Steven in the garden, sitting close together, heads bowed in conference, as if they were trying to figure out what went wrong with their Pools entry lastSaturday, when all the while they were talking about sex. Bodie honestly did not what to wish for Steven. If he grew up liking boys, his life would be less certain, unless he could somehow find his other half, as Bodie had found his. But waiting for the other half of yourself was a lonely, despair- ridden existence. 'Look at us,' Bodie thought, stroking Ray's back as he slept. 'We were thirty-plus before we made it all work out... Except that I'd loved him for years.' He closed his eyes, indulging in a favourite dream - the day it had begun.

Early December, 1980. It had been raining all day and Ray was not strong, his skin so pale, his body frail after the long climb back to even half fitness after the shooting. He had been stretched out on the couch while Bodie sat on the floor, his back against the edge of it, his feet in the hearth, drowsing. A breathy moan from Ray, and Bodie had turned, coming awake with a start, worried that he was hurting. No, he was just stretching his shoulders, and the green eyes, drowsy and bright, smiled at him, knowing.

Must have been telegraphing it, Bodie thought sleepily; he must have been seeing it for weeks, months... His cheek gave a twitch as he remembered the feel of stroking fingers there, the first time Doyle had ever touched him with a caress. A moment later, as the stunned reaction wore off, he'd lifted himself onto the sofa and taken Ray in his arms. There were kisses then, long and exploratory, and that night a kind of harmony Bodie had dreamed of for years.

Ray stirred in his sleep, trying to turn over and giving Bodie an unconscious dig with his elbow, but Bodie just laughed silently and laced his fingers into the curly hair to hold him. "Settle down, my lad," he murmured. "You're not going anywhere. Not now, not ever. At least not without me... Get your beauty sleep." Responding to the soothing without waking, Doyle settled again, and minutes later Bodie followed him into sleep.

The data produced by West Germany's anti-terrorist squad, GSG-9, surprised everyone. Kurt Hasn had left the Republic ten days before, and had been sighted by the Mossad, the Israeli secret service, two days before the Patterson Computers case broke. George Cowley's face drew into a carefully sculptured blank as he read the news off the telex printer, and Bodie and Doyle shared a speculative glance. If Hasn had disappeared into thin air, he would have taken the SDI data, such as it was, with him. Cowley's eyes were glittering with suppressed anger, and old man Patterson had been sent back to hospital, his health rapidly declining.

"The young sod will outlive him," Bodie said quietly as Murphy arrived back at the office with some unlucky suspect in cuffs. "Nigel Patterson won't see the light of day for donkey's years, but his old man'll be in a hole in the ground. Bet on it."

"Cheerful," Murphy said drily as he shepherded his charge past the other two field agents toward the lifts, on his way to the holding cells. "Hey, is the Queen of Cybernetics still going at Himmel with an icepick?"

"Yup," Doyle nodded. "And I reckon it qualifies as torture. Mind you, she'll get results. She'll get the guy so confused he won't know if he'd babbled his shoe size, his laundry list or the location of their base."

"S'the general idea," Bodie grinned. "There was a time when we thought we had the Baader Meinhoff beaten. They just ran for it, went to ground, and now they're as strong as ever."

"Stronger," Doyle corrected, lobbing an empty plastic cup at the waste bin in the corner of the squad room. "If they ran for it, and hid themselves away, where d'you reckon they'd go?"

"Who knows?" Bodie checked his watch; it was three thirty on Monday afternoon. "Wales, Scotland, the Congo. Anyone's guess. Terrorist looks like a tourist most of the time. They don't exactly wear badges saying, 'I'm armed and dangerous, shoot me!"

Doyle laughed. "Christ, I wish they did." He broke off as Cowley appeared. "Any news, sir?"

"Hasn left Egypt," Cowley said tersely, "and flew south. The Mossad place him on a flight to the Cape, last Friday. Now we talk to the South African Police."

Doyle made a face. "Nice. They're not the friendliest of people. Co-operation?"

"They'll co-operate when they want something," Cowley said, a sour tome in his voice. And they want weapons. We supply them with high-tech weapons. 'We' as in Great Britain."

"So they can grind their black population underfoot," Doyle said quietly.

"Business is business." Bodie shrugged. "To the arms dealers it's just supply and demand. Money, numbers on a bit of paper. Or in a computer," he added pointedly. "Speaking of which, is Ross getting anywhere with Himmel and Patterson?"

At last Cowley's expression lightened. "Aye. From some sort of syllable stress analysis - God alone knows what it's about - she thinks Himmel knows the whereabouts of some group hideaway... If we're lucky, it'll be rendezvous point, somewhere they run to to get out of the limelight when things break up."

"Like a safehouse," Doyle mused. "It'd have to be somewhere far out, wouldn't it? We've got security in the city sewn up so tightly a fly couldn't buzz through."

Cowley shrugged. "How often is it that they're sitting right under our noses?" He lifted his glasses and massaged eyes that were tired. "You're on standby, of course, but it's going to be a 'hurry up and wait' situation, I think."

There was nothing a field agent hated more than that kind of status, and Bodie bit back a groan. They hung around the office till five, wandering through a labyrinth of paperwork, and were yawning more from boredom than genuine tiredness by the time their shift was over. The worse of it was that although they were free to leave, they were not entirely off duty; at any moment the phone or R/T could interrupt them, no matter what they were doing, and that made planning any activity impossible. "Back to quick, furtive gropes," Doyle muttered as Bodie drove out of the big, cold garage. "God, I get sick of this. Like to take my time - I'm not a fan of quickies! One day this job is going to tie our balls up in knots so tight we'll never unravel 'em!"

"Goes with the territory," Bodie philosophised. "Look on the bright side. They might not yell for us while we're doing... whatever we're doing."

"Look on the dark side," Doyle said gloomily, "they could scream for us when you're so far gone you can't even hear the R/T."

"If I can't hear it, I can't answer it," Bodie said smugly.

"No, but I can!"

"You and your damned sense of duty. Loyalty to the Cow, is it? You see him as a father figure?"

Doyle frowned, wondering if Bodie was closer to the truth than he had imagined. "Dunno," he admitted. "I am kind of fond of the old bastard. Used to have a framed photo of him, once."

"Yeah, I remember that," Bodie said, braking down and shifting into second to go around a laden truck. "What happened to it?"

"Can't remember. I moved house four times in ten months, once, and I lost a lot of things."

"So what did you have it for anyway?"

Doyle laughed. "I got it from an old mate of mine, Sid Johnson. He was a photo-journalist with the Times for years, and did a story about Cowley when he was setting up the department. He was sorting through his prints one day, I was drinking beer and looking over his shoulder, and there it was. "Want it, keep it," he said. He'd had the rough side of the old man's tongue... Couldn't tell you why I kept it."

"Much less framed it," Bodie added, then gave Doyle a sidelong look. "You know, he's just the right age."

"Right age for what?"

"Wake up, Raymond. Right age to be your Dad. I mean, if he was ever on holiday in the Midlands, about thirty-five years ago... And there was this gorgeous young thing called Mrs. Doyle, having a tough time with a hubby she detested... All sympathetic, the charming Army officer makes her days bright and sunny for a while before he goes back to his career, but by that time the lovely lady's... what's the saying? Just a little bit pregnant. Nine months later, it's a bouncing baby Raymond."

Doyle gave a guffaw. "Oh, nice one! Now explain how come we don't look even the slightest bit alike!"

"You said it yourself. It's the Flynn genes that breed true, and all Jack Doyle bequeathed to you was his name." Bodie gave Ray a frown of consideration. "You know, I can see you with the name of Flynn. Like the sound of it. Errol." he added as an afterthought, and chortled in glee.

"Oh, sure," Doyle grinned. "Cowley must've got around a bit when he was young, I suppose... Could have been on holiday in England a few years later, too, up in Liverpool, you know. And there was this blue-eyed scrap of a girl called Norma Bodie, who wasn't happy at home. Dashing Army type is captivated by those deep, blue eyes -"

"Ray," Bodie remonstrated.

"- and Bob's your uncle. Ever seen the film Lost Weekend?"

"I've seen A Walk In The Spring Rain too," Bodie said glibly, and surrendered. "Okay, so now explain to me how come I don't look a bit like Cowley!"

"Maybe Cowley's got weak genes," Doyle grinned. "He's never had any legitimate kids to know."

"Okay, so he could be our..." Bodie stopped and guffawed until Doyle feared for the windscreen. "Jesus, Ray, you know what it makes us?"

"Brothers," Ray laughed. "Oh, no... It's worse than that. What's your position on incest?"

"Preferably flat on my back. It's better that way," Bodie said, parking the Capri at the kerb outside their building. "What's incest anyway but a family affair." He chuckled richly at his own joke. "Family affair. Affair! Come, come, my love, be honest. If it's a sin, we're sinners, and if there's a price to be paid, we'll pay it sooner or later."

"Later," Doyle said emphatically, and slammed the car door. He watched Bodie juggling with the keys and hid a smile... If Bodie was his brother, and it was incest, would they stop? The idea was so absurd that he was laughing audibly in the lift.

"You sound like leaky plumbing," Bodie observed as they shut the front door. "Care to share the joke?"

"No joke. Just thinking about Cowley being our father... Oh Christ, I forgot, we've Christine coming for dinner." He looked at the time. "It's going to be Chinese takeaway, or a tin of beans, because the shops are shut."

"Peking Duck," Bodie decided. "I saw enough beans in the Army to last me the rest of my life... Come here and kiss me, if we've got to behave till she decides to push off at midnight." He collected his kiss and made a disapproving pout. "You need a shave."

"Makes two of us," Ray retorted. "Got time to share the shower, if you like, since it's takeaway nosh...?"

The offer was much too good to be refused. They made a game of it, almost getting around to making love under the water, but there was always the worry that the R/T would interrupt, and that concern spoiled it. Bodie grunted in displeasure as he towelled dry. "This job could ruin your love life."

"Tell me something I don't know," Doyle sighed. "Anyway, we've got company. Reckon I can survive without it until she's gone." He pulled on clean underwear and the crushed velvet slacks, and turned his attention to his hair, which was a tangle of wet ringlets. "She'll be here in an hour."

Christine was ten minutes late. The bruising was starting to pale out and her eye was several shades of green and blue, but it was open and she could see out of it. She was waving a letter from her solicitor as she came through the door, greeting her brother with a peck on the cheek and Bodie with a hug. "The divorce is going through now. Hooray! I had Mick on the phone this morning and he was a bloody twerp about it." Bodie took her coat and she flopped down into an armchair. "Wanted me to 'rethink the whole thing'. Ha! How does any man think he can take his fists to his wife and kid, and then be forgiven? I ask you, Ray, in all sincerity - if Bodie took his fist to you, would you take him back?"

There was an astonished silence in which Doyle and Bodie considered each other gravely. There was a time, just once, when Ray had hit Bodie and had meant to do it. Bodie had been on the Ann Holly case, and Ray was swamped by anger, resentment, sheer emotional turmoil. "I... don't know," he admitted. "It would depend on what it was about. And besides, it isn't the same. If Bodie hit me, or I hit him, we're two men. I'm not a kid, neither is he, and neither of us qualifies as a girl."

Christine made a face. "Women's lib works both ways, you know. You lot don't open doors for us anymore, we don't wash your socks as if our lives depended on it, and when it comes to getting knocked about, I don't think the gender of the punchbag has anything to do with it."

Bodie crooked a brow at Ray. "She's got a point. Not that I

"Oh, forget it," Ray said dismissively. "It would depend, like I said. If I gave you a bloody good reason to hit me - like two- timing you, or distrusting you, or something, maybe I'd reckon it was my own damned fault." He stopped and frowned. "Mind you, if you were drunk I'd probably blame you no matter what I'd done. There's something disgusting about blokes who're drunk coming home and throwing their weight about, punching people out, even if the punchee's asked for it."

There was a long, bitter silence. Christine was thinking about the confrontation between Mick and Steven. Bodie was thinking about Ray, his eyes fixed on the broken cheekbone, his imagination supplying images he did not like, of his lover in a heap on the floor, half unconscious with a fractured skull, and his mother and Jean reaching for a frying pan to knock the head off the man who had done it. Ray's expression was less neutral than blank, and Bodie would have paid a month's wages to know what he was thinking.

As Christine made herself at home with gin and the hi-fi, Bodie trailed Ray into the kitchen and took hold of him. For a moment Ray resisted the embrace, accepting it reluctantly. "Hey," Bodie whispered, "what's the matter all of a sudden?"

"Just remembering," Doyle admitted. "Thinking about Steven. Remember getting hurt that way myself. I was on a guilt trip for a year, you know."

"You were on a guilt trip?" Bodie blinked. "But it was you who got punched in the face, and got this." He kissed the dented cheekbone pointedly.

Doyle nodded. "And it was me, a fourteen-year-old half-wit, who was drinking, and annoyed the man into it. If I hadn't been such a fool... I broke the home up with it. None of the others had got Jack into that kind of a temper, just me. It was like he couldn't stand me, Bodie: Frank was his favourite, the eldest. He loved Christine and Mary. Not so keen on Peter. Then there was me, an afterthought, after they thought they'd finished the family. I came along and got in everybody's way." He shrugged. "Twobrothers, two sisters, a Mum and four assorted aunts and uncles babied me until I was eight or nine, then I got too big to be babied and started to go my own way. That was when he got it in for me. I was okay as a little kid, but when I started to grow up I couldn't do anything right. After a while, I stopped even trying to please. Ran wild, I suppose. And one day, wham. Right in the kisser. I probably deserved it."

Bodie shook his head. "No fourteen-year-old child deserves to have a man take his fist to him. Next thing you'll be saying is that Steven deserved to get bounced off a wall because his father doesn't like the idea of having a son who's not 'normal'. Christ, you don't think that, do you?"

The green eyes cleared and Ray gave him a look that would have withered a sequoia. "You're on for the clot of the year award! I told you what I told Steven. Between adults, anything they both want is peachy, even that." He drew both hands over Bodie's rounded buttocks, squeezing a little. "Now, if you're going to kiss me, kiss me, and then shove off and get the food. Don't know about you, but I'm starving."

"You and me both," Bodie agreed, suppressing a shiver at the caress. He grabbed Ray's head and kissed him thoroughly, only discovering Christine standing at the kitchen doorway with eyes the size of hubcaps as he released his lover. "Um, haven't given you a shock, have we?"

She shook her head mutely, and Bodie fled. Ray watched him run for his life, and crooked one brow at his sister. "You bloody old prude, you are shocked at the sight of two men kissing!"

"Nah," Christine said wistfully. "No, Ray, I'm just green to the gills with envy. You're so... so... happy. He looks at you and the love shines in his eyes. You look at him, and it's shining in yours, and he basks the way you bask in it. When he's got hold of you, well, you can just about feel the electricity in the air. God, I envy you." Her eyes were swimming with tears by the time she had gotten the words out, and Ray went to her, taking her by the shoulders. "No, there's nothing you can say to 'make it better'. Don't want you to try. Some of us have all the luck!"

"You've got your freedom now," Ray said softly. "Time you got out, made a life, tried to find somebody who's deserving of all that love you've got locked away inside you."

She sniffed noisily, pulling away from him and putting the kettle on the gas. "You're right. Know something?" She looked up from the copper kettle with an odd, half-sheepish smile. "There hasn't been much love between Mick and me for years. Years and years. Hasn't made love to me in months."

"He what?" Doyle blinked, trying to imagine living with Bodie and not making love almost every day, and sometimes twice a day. Christ, it'd be enough to have him out of his skin!

"He lost interest," Christine shrugged. "And I can't say I was sorry, honestly. I've been thinking in circles for ages... Trying to think of a way to get rid of him."

"All you had to do was show him the door," Ray said flatly.

"Oh, yeah. And then you hear all these cases on the telly, where the husband who's been chucked out comes back with a gun and kills the wife, the kids, and himself." She laughed, a bark of sound that was unpleasant. "Mick's a bit strange, I'll admit that. Didn't want to take the risk of upsetting him, I expect, so I kept my mouth shut."

"And wrecked your life." Doyle shook his head over her. "You loon. You've got me and Bodie, even though Frank's miles away on the job. We'd have knocked him into the middle of next week for you."

"Oh, right," Christine retorted. "All I have to do is go running to my little brother. Ray, Ray, he won't make love to me, and when he does I don't really care for it. Flatten him for me, will you?" Again, the brittle, dry bark of a laugh. "No thanks. I've got my pride, and all that."

"And Steven's got a cast on his shoulder." Doyle knew that his voice was much more acid than he had intended.

Christine shot him a look that was barbed. "Oh, thanks a lot, Ray. I needed that. I needed that like a kick in the teeth."

"I'm sorry." Ray sighed deeply. "Go and sit down; I'll make the tea. Bodie won't be long, and then we'll eat. How late will you be staying?"

Her eyes narrowed on him. "Not too late. You want to be alone, I expect."

"It's crossed my mind," Ray admitted. "That doesn't bother you, does it? That I want to be alone with him, so we can make love? Christ, I can't be responsible for your love life!"

"I never shad you should be," Christine said wearily. "Oh, take no notice, Ray. I'm just tired and jealous and sad. Jean's got Steven, and in the morning I'm out pounding the pavement, looking for a proper full time job."

She looked so weary that he felt an honest pang of sympathy. "I'll askaround. Any kind of establishment in particular?"

"I'd like to work with girls," Christine said softly.

Ray's brows went upward. "Had enough of boys? Any reason you can think of, in particular?"

"Bastard," she said quietly. "No, it isn't what you're thinking. I'm not turning into a militant feminist. I don't give a toss that so many men like to make love together, that my favourite brother's one of them, and my son. It's just... I never had a daughter, always hoped for one. It's been men, men and more men in my life since I was a kid. You, Frank, Steven, Mick. All I want is a bit of female company for a while before I start to think and act like a man." She drew herself upright. "Not that there's anything wrong with thinking and acting like a man, I suppose. Doesn't seem to do you and Bodie any harm."

"It doesn't," Doyle said evenly. "Look, don't fret about Steven; he'll grow up fine. And if Mick comes the old soldier, you yell good and loud and Bodie or I will see to him."

Christine nodded, relaxing again, and smiled ruefully. "I'm glad you said that, Ray, because he's making noises about you. He's out of hospital, ribs taped up, squinting out of half an eye, lisping without his front teeth. You made a lovely job of him! He's not exactly a fan of yours just now. I'd go warily."

"Go warily?" Ray blinked. "Because of that ferret? Two drops of alcohol in him, and he turns into an animal. A hamster."

She laughed, a genuine laugh. "Right, you can joke about it, but Mick has it in him to be a vindictive sod, so watch yourself. Hey, did I tell you, I'm going back to our name. You're talking to Christine Doyle. Got a nice sound to it, hasn't it?"

As the door opened to admit Bodie, Ray gave his sister a congratulatory hug. "Bloody nice sound. And 'Steven Doyle' sounds just as nice. Have a nice time, Chris, you deserve it."

Bodie appeared, shaking raindrops from his hair, and dumped the hot waxed boxes on the kitchen table. "There. Grub's up."

Christine stayed until ten-thirty and then bowed out with a smile, clearly feeling better. As she put on her coat, going through her pockets for her keys, she said, "Steven's a thousand times happier since you talked to him, Ray. I haven't a clue what you said to him, but you seem to have sorted him out. He isn't on the defensive anymore, and he's relaxed." She smiled. "Told me he wished you were his Dad instead of his uncle, because then he'd have two fathers - you and Bodie."

Bodie was still blinking in astonishment as the woman left, and Ray waved a glass of brandy under his nose to draw his attention back to the present. "You fly-catching, Bodie? Or begging to get yourself kissed?"

Taking the glass, Bodie sipped at the fiery amber liquid. "I just never thought Steven would feel that way."

"He's a good kid," Ray said seriously. "And he's at an age when he needs a father... Great time to lose the only one you've got! Christine's going to be yelling for us at every verse end, you know. Do you mind?"

"Mind?" Bodie slid his arm about Ray's waist and kissed his neck. "Don't be daft. Your family is the nearest thing to a real family I've ever had. Nice of them to accept me, all things considered."

"All what things considered?" Ray demanded.

"Well, I seduced their youngest son off the straight and narrow, didn't I?"

Ray chuckled. "I suppose you did. Well, never mind, what's done's done. Want to clear the dishes tonight or in the morning?"

"Want to go to bed," Bodie decided, yawning. He made a face, brows tugging together, mouth thinning. "Damn. I just remembered we're on standby. And I want you."

"That," Ray sighed, "is life. So we'll make it quick."

"I'm fed up with making it quick," Bodie growled. "You wait till we get out of here on holiday, sunshine; you'll think you've never been laid before!"

"Promise?" Doyle purred, expression becoming sultry.

"Threat," Bodie corrected. "But I suppose we'll make it quick tonight anyway. Maybe we could lose the R/T under a pillow?"

"Bugger the R/T," Ray said succinctly.

"Must I?" Bodie palmed Doyle's small, round buttocks in both hands. "Surely there have to be alternatives - doesn't sound much fun, doin' it with a radio."

Ray tousled his hair. "Moron. Go on, hop into bed, I'll lock up. Want a cup of cocoa or something?"

"Already told you what I want," Bodie said, winking, and padded away toward the bedroom.

There was a lot to be said for the bygone age, Doyle thought as he locked up; no radios, no telephones - and if George Cowley wanted to call them he would have to climb on a horse and ride half way across London to find them. It was not often that they found themselves on twenty-four hour standby, but when it did happen it was like an exercise in controlled sadism. He had learned to sleep with one ear open, never relaxing, never making plans to eat properly or seek out entertainment that ran longer than a few minutes. As a bachelor, he had lost dozens of girlfriends this way, and so had Bodie. If he had married, it would have ended badly. What woman would, or could endure the life?

Together he and Bodie made it work, and work well. There were times when they longed for freedom, times when the job was a nuisance or a bore, but they were bored together, and that, Ray decided as he followed his life's partner to the bedroom, was the important thing.

Kate Ross, not-so-affectionately known as 'the Queen of Cybernetics', broke Kurt Hasn's affiliate at 12:04 exactly on the Wednesday after she was assigned to the task. Bodie, Doyle, Murphy, Jax and Lucas were sitting in the squad room, betting on a darts match which Bodie and Jax were winning when Doyle's R/T shrilled his name. As he answered, Cowley's dry voice said,"3.7 and 4.5, report to armoury. You're operational as of now."

"4.5 out," Doyle responded automatically, stuffing the R/T back into his pocket. "Bodie, we're on the road."

"Eh?" Bodie was going for the final double top that would have won him the match, and the call made a ruin of his concentration.

"I said, we're on the road. Cowley wants us to check weapons out of the armoury in a bloody hurry, mate. Come on."

Bodie lined the throw a second time, but the magic was gone and the dart struck the board a millimetre outside the wire. "Oh, damn. See what you've done?" He gave Doyle an accusing glare. "That just cost me a fiver!"

"And you call me tight-fisted," Doyle objected, leading him out of the smoky squad room. "What's a fiver?"

"Half a tenner," Bodie grumbled. "Five ones." As they stepped into the empty lift to ride down to the security level where the armoury was hidden away he wound his fingers into the chain about Ray's neck, giving it a yank. "That's going to cost you, angel."

"Oh yeah?" Ray squirmed, trying to get out of the potential choke hold, but the only way out was to break the chain or... He tickled Bodie's only ticklish spot, his ribs, and the grip released at once. "Going to cost me how much, and in what tender?"

"I'll think of something," Bodie growled ominously, giving Doyle a narrow-eyed look, something like a Clint Eastwood impression.

"I've no doubt you will," Ray said, trying to sound resigned, but a fiver's worth of petting and cuddling were hardly an imposition.

George Cowley was at the armoury ahead of them, signing his name to the triplicate form as he took an Ingram machine pistol from Harry, the man in charge. The old man's nickname was 'Dirty Harry', and it was not entirely a joke. He had been a field agent in the very early days of the department, but with his left hip splintered in so many places it was never properly repaired, he would never walk without a limp now, and field agent 1.7 found his way into the nether regions of CI5, working with, and on, the guns that were his love. He was one of Cowley's generation, silver about the temples, his eyes bedded in nests of wrinkles, perfect dentures gleaming in the fluorescent light as he grinned at the younger men, clearly envying them.

"Ross has broken Himmel," Cowley said briefly. "The group has a bolt hole, a safe-place out in Wales. It's just a house, nothing sinister, the kind of place you'd drive by a thousand times and never suspect it of being a terrorist safehouse. We're connecting by helicopter. You two, me, McCabe and Anson, and a squad from 3 Para. They're on exercises in Wales at this time, so they might as well make themselves useful, eh, Bodie?"

"Why not?" Bodie agreed. "Good lads, 3 Para. Had some great times with them."

Doyle gave him a look a patent disbelief. "How in God's name could anyone have a 'great time' in Belfast, rotting in a surveillance sewer and getting sniped at by the IRA?"

"You had to be there," Bodie explained. "At the time, all we wanted to do was get out, get away from there. It's prettier in retrospect than it was. Looking back, you remember the company. The faces... We were all kids, anywhere between nineteen and, oh, twenty-five. I was twenty-three or so, Corporal, in charge of a piston in the Falls Road district."

Not for the first time, Doyle shook his head over Bodie. The Falls Road district was one of the worst, a hell hole. Years before in the early years of their relationship as lovers, Bodie would often dream, waking in a cold sweat, needing the comfort of another man, someone who understood, was not frightened by the muttered oaths and threshing. Girls ran a mile from it, and Ray had wondered if that was one of the reasons why Bodie had never been able to keep any girlfriend for very long... Sleeping with him could be a rare experience. Slowly, the dreaming had finished - or perhaps the panicky reaction to the dreams had gone; he would still wake suddenly, panting, but he simply cuddled up and went back to sleep again. Sleeping with a man, it was so much easier to relegate the memories to their proper perspective... All too often, women just did not understand. Ray had bought Captain A.F.N. Clarke's book, picturing Bodie in the situations Clarke described. It was, in all technical ways, an awful book, foul-mouthed and depressing, but it had helped him understand who and what Bodie was, and he had read it twice before hiding it where Bodie would not find it. To read it would be to stir up the old mud, and Bodie could do without that.

McCabe and Anson were already out in the car, waiting for the Controller and the two senior agents. As a rule, Anson was a loner and McCabe worked with Lucas, but Lucas was still under par after an injury sustained in a fall from a ladder, and there were some jobs for which Macklin had not yet cleared him. In the back of the red Ford, Anson was fondling a cigar, and as they slid in beside him, both Bodie and Doyle gave him a blistering look: light that, mate and you're for the chop! Anson made an obscene gesture, but put the cigar away.

The big red Ford powered out of the garage, Cowley driving fast forward the heliport, a mile and a half away up the river. On the pad, the yellow and white Bell Jet Ranger was already kicking up a storm, its pilot preflighting his systems. They transferred to the machine, their combined weight loading it almost to its tolerance, making takeoff slow and lumbering. The machine banked out over the Thames and the pilot jinked its blunt nose about for the northwest.

Wales. A wilderness, even in the late twentieth century, of valleys and mountains, forests and high moors. Bodie had trained here with the SAS, and Doyle had come here again and again to climb the cliffs and luxuriate in the clean, revitalising air. It was difficult to think of any place out here being a haven for Baader Meinhoff fugitives, but in reality, what place could have been safer? The security services of any nation were at their strongest within the cities; once outside of the metropolitan region, there was precious little to stop international terrorists doing as they chose.

"It's a cottage," Cowley's voice said over their headsets, "just outside of the village of Abercraf, high in the mountains. We could have searched for a hundred years and never spotted it... Kate Ross got it out of Himmel by trickery, ran him in circles until he thought he had already betrayed himself, then watched him break down in tears and confess the lot. The squad from 3 Para are staking the house out already; they were only twenty miles away, on maneuvers. I want the Hasn group alive. You hear me, Bodie, Doyle?"

"Why us?" Bodie demanded. "McCabe and Anson here can be just as itchy on the trigger fingers!"

Cowley simply ignored the remark, transferring his eyes back to the vista ahead of the chopper. Cityscape, blue sky marred by a veil of smog. "Get some rest; it'll be a long flight."

A long flight and a short operation. The Jet Ranger limped up into the mountains after refueling twice, and plunged down into a picture postcard valley, touching down for the last time five miles out from Abercraf. A car was waiting for them, and Doyle took the wheel, drifting through the curves in the unpredictable road through the villages of Craig-y-Nos and Pen-y-Cae. Fifteen minutes after they left the chopper, their bones still 'feeling' the machine's vibrations, Ray was breaking down as a sergeant in Parachute Regiment uniform flagged him down.

Cowley rolled down the left hand window and looked out, producing his ID.

"Oh, Major Cowley. It's all over, sir, five minutes ago. We were trying to raise you, but the mountains are a pest, sir."

"All over!" Cowley demanded. "What happened?"

"They must have seen us, Major. They tried to shoot their way out... There was a civilian bicycling party in the way, which they tried to use as cover."

"Tried to? My God," Cowley pocketed his ID. "Casualties?"

"Three out of the five terrorists are dead, I'm afraid," the sergeant told him. "The other two are wounded, and we have two wounded cyclists, also. The ambulances are at the cottage now."

As the NCO stood aside Doyle dropped the car into gear and rolled on about the last bend in the road. There were two ambulances in attendance, spinners still on as a hazard warning, and Cowley was wearing a thunderous expression as he slid out of the car. Doyle parked it, turned off the motor, and joined Bodie at the rear of the crush of Paras and ambulance men. There were three body bags on the kerbside, and blood on the road.

"The Cow's going to be rotten about this," Bodie observed. "Probably cancel our leave and give us double duty."

"Wasn't anything to do with us," Doyle protested.

"Never is," Bodie sighed, "but he's got to have somebody to kick when things go wrong."

Ray gave a scornful sniff. "I prefer to give the old bastard the benefit of the doubt. We're going to Majorca on holiday unless one of us breaks a let, and that's that."

"Hope you're right," Bodie said fervently. "At least this takes the heat off for the time being. If Hasn't group is cut to bits, they can't have us on standby, can they?"

"Still haven't got Hasn himself," Ray reminded him. "He's on the Cape, and the South Africans have lost him." He gave Bodie a nudge. "Wake up, here comes the boss."

The Scot's limp was a little more pronounced than usual, emphasising his anger, as he walked out through the crush of Paras and medics, fixing his man with a look of displeasure. "As Sergeant Davis so aptly said, it's over. A wasted trip, gentlemen."

"We can go over the cottage, take it apart," Doyle suggested. "Never know what we might find."

"Do that," Cowley said tersely. "Though what we wanted was the Hasn group alive. Och, it's irretrievable, I suppose. No point crying over spilt malt."

It took hours to go over the cottage, but the CI5 men turned up a wealth of half-disposed material. The terrorists had been panicky, forgetting the basic rules by which they operated. Guns, letters, phone numbers, all would have their stories to tell when examined by the forensics department. The items were sealed into plastic and given into Cowley's care, appeasing him a little, and Bodie took the wheel as evening began to grow dim, shuttling them back to the chopper.

"The hospital in Cardiff says one of the Baader Meinhoff women might live," the Scot said as they left the car, his ice- blue eyes watching the pilot's industries as he fueled the machine. "With luck, this won't be a total waste of time and effort."

Yet nine out of ten jobs performed by any security service ran true to form: exercises in utter futility. CI5 had a better track record than most. In the chopper, working by a pen torch on a clipboard on his knee, Doyle set about drafting the report, a task alloted to him and McCabe. Before the Jet Ranger touched down, it was finished. At the office he handed the scrawled sheets to the young night shift typist, Paula, to be rendered into something actually readable.

"Pity we don't get overtime," Bodie said as Ray pulled the gold Capri out of the garage at ten to seven. "If we did, we'd be making a fortune."

"You got a day trip to Wales," Doyle shrugged. "That's more than you'd get if you were working in a shoe shop. All the other day trippers have to go by bus and pay through the nose."

"True," Bodie yawned. Then he reached out and gave Ray's left knee a squeeze. "And you owe me a fiver."

"What is it with you and money?" Doyle demanded, pulling up at a red light and giving Bodie a stern look.

"Who gives a cuss about money?" Bodie said wickedly. "I want a fiver's worth out of you."

"A fiver's worth of what, exactly?"

"Slap and tickle," Bodie said succinctly.

"In which case, a fiver won't go far," Ray said, nose in the air. "I come bloody expensive."

"You come frequently, every chance you can get," Bodie corrected. "Oh, all right, forget the money. Why don't you love me to death for the sake of it?"

For a while, before the red light changed to green, Doyle frowned, giving the proposal his serious consideration. "That doesn't sound like too bad an idea at that," he conceded, pulling away again and turning right into their road. "Think of it, all evening to ourselves, and Cowley doesn't want us at the office before ten. Oh, forbidden bliss."

"Forbidden bliss?" Bodie raised one saturnine eyebrow. "Why, Raymond, whatever have you got in mind?"

Doyle gave a rather filthy chuckle. "Just you wait and see."

They ate fish and chips out of the papers at the kitchen table, washing them down with lager and following them with iced doughnuts, all of which made Doyle cringe though, Bodie observed, he ate them anyway, and with relish. Ray muttered vaguely about being hungry as he headed for the bathroom, and as Bodie heard the shower he abandoned the day's Times and joined him... Raymond Doyle was irresistable at the worst of times, and wet, he was the answer to a prayer.

Pleasantly tired by the day's exertions, Bodie found the stream of hot water making him drowsy, and leaned against the tiles at the rear of the shower stall, rapt in his task of soaping Doyle's furry chest. The soap worked up among the hair, silky and tantalising, and he studies his fingertips in delighted fascination, only realising Ray was becoming desperately aroused when he heard a husky moan and the warm, wet body fell forward to press against him. Bodie smiled, feeling the demanding nudge of hot, erect flesh. "Like that, do you?"

His answer was a wriggle that drew a velvety caress across his body, and he felt the arousal echoed by his own nerves. Bodie leaned back into the tiles and held Ray against him, holding his breath as they moved together, gentled by the water, saturated with the simple pleasure of it. The water was cooling before they could see and hear again, and Ray reached to turn it off. "Nice," he said appreciatively, surrendering to the coddling as Bodie wrapped a towel about him.

"You and your gift of understatement," Bodie teased, scrubbing at Doyle's back and rubbing the fluffy fabric down across his hips and buttocks. The feel of the muscular little rear was like a ripe peach, and desire sparked again. He let the towel fall as Ray stretched his arms above his head, and hugged the thin, brown body, kissing the nape of his neck, just under his damp hair. "Let's go to bed."

The huskiness in Bodie's tone made Doyle turn into his arms. "Going to be insatiable tonight, are you?"

"You promised to love me to death," Bodie said, feigning indignation. "So how about it? A little horsing around under the shower's just enough to get me going." He looked down into the green eyes, a few inches below his own, and saw them darken. "Let's go to bed, Ray, okay? I'll lock up while you get your hair dry."

Refusing Bodie would have been impossible even if Doyle had wanted to, but there was no wish to decline. He towelled his hair thoroughly and ran his fingers through it to take out the tangles, and was turning back the bed when Bodie appeared, padding up behind him, naked and still glowing from the shower, a pink flush on his pale, perfect skin. Doyle looked at his own skin, which was brown as a gypsy by comparison, and wondered again why it was that Bodie would never show his body a little sun. No matter where they went on holiday, Bodie would dress, enduring all the teasing Ray chose to inflict on him. Modesty? Doyle wondered. It couldn't be - Bodie was too arrogant a sod for that.

Still, the porcelain look suited him, made him seem less like a creature of the twentieth century and more like a fantasy out of the past, smouldering. Celtic and wild. Ray let his lover tumble him onto the bed and relaxed, letting Bodie have his own way, accepting the tender, tormenting games for a long time until the rest of the world seemed to fade out of existence and all that remained was the two of them. The cherishing mouth that was sucking him up toward climax was the only shred of reality left, until Bodie lifted his head and blew, making Ray's overheated cock ache and his balls throb pitifully. Taut with the need to come, Ray arched up off the bed, crying Bodie's name, but Bodie drew away from him, letting him come down off the tortured high.

As Doyle's eyes cleared at last he blinked up at Bodie, who was hitching himself up on the pillows, half-sitting, half-lying on them,smiling in gentle invitation, his own erection neglected and obviously in need. He patted his lap and held out one arm. "Come and sit on me, Ray," he whispered. "When you're okay. Take your time, pet." There did not seem to be a bone left in Doyle's wholebody, but he rolled over onto his knees, watching Bodie collect the drops of pearly pre-ejaculate and use them to make himself slick and moist. Strong arms drew him close, depositing him in Bodie's lap, and Bodie half-lifted him to help. Ray took a quick breath, shivering as he felt the snub press at his anus, and the shaft of lightning that thrilled upward through him as he let his weight settle him on Bodie, wriggling until the impalement was complete. Then Bodie's arms went around him, drawing him down until he lay full length along his lover's body, Bodie's chest like warm velvet against his back.

Poised on that fine line between agony and ecstasy, Ray closed his eyes, not moving so much as an eyelid, while Bodie's loving hands cradled his balls and lavished swirling caresses on him until climax burst out of him, racking him, exhausting him. As Ray's muscles tightened, Bodie lifted his hips once, as if life and sanity depended on movement, and followed him into the rapturous exhaustion.

Limp and helpless, Doyle felt himself pulled onto the tangled sheets, then tissues were tickling him as Bodie mopped away the cooling stickiness. He caught the broad muscular shoulders and lifted his lips, wanting Bodie's mouth and not disappointed. "Happy now?" he murmured when he was permitted to speak again.

"Yeah." Bodie smiled at the flushed, drowsy, sated features, beautiful, elfin, even wicked in an angelic sort of way. "You too, by the looks of you. Love you, Ray." He twitched the quilt up around Doyle's brown, slender limbs. One of the most endearing things about Doyle was his absolute innocence of the way he looked and moved. There was about him a classical, timeless beauty; he belonged to the world of art, rendered in marble or on a canvas from some era long forgotten, and in the twentieth century he was an anachronism, ill at ease and more at home with dream than the harsh realities with which he had schooled himself to deal.

The light clicked out and Bodie put his head down on the pillow, nose buried in thick, still slightly damp curls. Ray was worn out, sound asleep, and Bodie was not far behind him.

"I suppose we ought to be grateful for small mercies," Cowley said, keeping a rain on his temper as he read the typed transcript of the phonecall from the hospital in Cardiff. Of the two Baader Meinhoff patients, one was dead on arrival, the other hanging on to life by a thread but looking good. The Scot sighed, looking up over the paper at his two top field agents. "And what are you two doing, standing around here? You're due at Heathrow to meet Sheik Kemiani's flight at two. And for heaven's sake smarten yourselves up; you look like a pair of ragamuffins! A haircut would not go amiss, 4.5."

"Sir," Doyle said dutifully, turning away from the boss's office door and preceding Bodie to the lifts. "Haircut!"

"You cut your hair and I'll sulk for a week," Bodie promised. "You don't live with bloody Cowley, you live with me."

"You mean, I don't bed with Cowley, don't you?" Doyle asked pointedly. "Okay, relax, I'm not heading for a barber. I can still see daylight through my fringe. Just."

Bodie laughed aloud as they stepped into the lift. "And you watch yourself around these Arabs. I've heard some funny stories about them."

"Oh? What kind of stories?" Ray asked, half-fascinated and half-suspicious.

"Very lascivious ones," Bodie said drily. "About sheiks and their, um, appetites. And their tastes for lads like you."

Doyle gave a guffaw. "I'll just bellow, and you can duff 'em up in righteous outrage. How's that?"

"Don't think I wouldn't," Bodie said honestly. "I can be a son of a bitch when I feel threatened. Christ, I hate these bodyguarding jobs. Collar and tie, spit and polish. Worse than being in the Army - except the perks. Good hotels, booze and nosh fit for a prince. Smarten ourselves up?"

"Shave, and wave a comb around in the general direction of your head," Doyle grinned. "We do look a bit windblown -"

"We've been at work since half past five this morning," Bodie muttered,"what the hell does he expect?"

"Perfection," Doyle said acidly. "Who's driving?"

The silver Capri rolled into the crescent on which their building stood, Bodie at the wheel, ten minutes later, but just as the engine stilled the R/T in Doyle's jacket shrilled for attention. He pulled it out and held it to his lips. "4.5."

"Doyle, be careful," the dispatcher's voice said, distorted by the speaker and blasted by white noise. "There's an intruder, forced the locks on your balcony window about three minutes ago."

Ray gave Bodie a hard look. "Okay, Kevin, we'll see to it. Better have a squad stand by, just in case."

"You can wait for them," Kevin offered.

But Bodie had the big Smith & Wesson in his hand and was shaking his head. "No, it's okay, Kevin, we'll go in. 4.5 out." Doyle shut off the radio and reached for his Browning 9mm automatic, cocking it in one smooth movement as he and Bodie left the car. Bodie had his keys in his hand and a finger to his lips as they left the lift and approached their own front door. Before the key turned in the lock they had worked out their strategy - whose turn it was to go in first, and which way to sweep first once through the door, all standard procedures, practised a thousand times before.

It was odd to be doing it in their own home, and Bodie was gripped by a terrible chill as he remembered the last time he had gone into a flat of Doyle's under similar conditions... The smell of blood and souring milk, the breeze from an open window, expensive boots stretched out on the carpet, blood everywhere, a wild, glassy look in the green eyes as they fluttered open and shut. He swallowed, trying to force the memory out of his mind as he went through the door, and they swept their home as they would have swept any other building, taking it in turns to clear one room after another.

In the corner of the bedroom they both saw the shadow against the wall, and it was only some sixth sense that made them pull up their guns without firing, or there would have been blood in the air and a body sprawled across the foot of their bed. For a long moment they just stood and stared, and then Ray mouthed the name, at first a whisper, then a roar: "Mick!"

Mick Frazer had been drinking; they could smell the whisky on him as he stepped away from the wall. "Hello, Doyle. Satisfied, are you? Having a good laugh, are you?"

The two black eyes were purpling as the bruising began to lighten, and neither of them was open fully. "What in Christ's name are you doing in here?" Bodie shouted. "You so drunk you've lost your brain? This place is secured by CI5!"

Frazer blinked stupidly at the larger man. "Shut it, Bodie. Came here to have it out with your better half."

"Not while you're drunk,"Ray said, his lip curling in disgust. "Push off and get yourself sobered up, then if you've got anything halfway intelligent to say, maybe I'll listen."

"Smart mouth on you, Doyle," Mick said, slurring the words a little. "Never liked me, did you?"

"Never," Doyle affirmed. "Now get out of here. And the next time you want to talk to me, use the bloody telephone!"

The anger came surging to the surface, whitening Frazer's face, and before he threw the first punch both Doyle and Bodie could see it coming. It was wide of Ray's head by a foot, and Frazer was none too steady on his legs, but that did not stop him taking a second swing at his brother-in-law. Doyle simply ducked that too, and it was Bodie's patience that snapped. He put Frazer down with one punch that might have separated his head from his neck, and Doyle watched the body hit the rug, muttering an oath.

"He's a bloody fool to come here like this."

"He's drunk," Bodie said, as if it explained everything, which perhaps it did. He stepped up to look at the unconscious intruder. "Take a good look, Ray; this is what's been making Chris's life a misery. This is what broke Steven's shoulder. He doesn't care for us, does he? You and me. Doesn't like us being together, I expect - could be why he went spare when Steven started up with his friends."

Ray nodded. "Could be. He's going to be a bother. Chris said he was being a nuisance on the phone to her, too. What do you want to do about him?"

The sound that passed Bodie's lips qualified as a chuckle if one stretched a point. "Give him fair warning, same as we'd do for anyone else. Give him a line to stay behind, and if he crosses it, deliver on our promises. Beat him senseless. Again." He grinned at his lover. "You made a hell of a job of him, Ray, last time."

"I was annoyed," Ray said moodily. "Here, give me a hand. Let's get him out of the bedroom - don't want him in here."

They dumped him on the kitchen floor, propped between the bin and the cooker. Frazer came to slowly to find the two CI5 men watching him quite blandly, cups of tea in their hands, a packet of chocolate biscuits open on the side of the sink unit. Bodie stood back to watch, arms folded on his chest, as Ray went to one knee beside his brother-in-law, and spoke in a tone like candy-coated cyanide.

"Now, you listen carefully, Mick, because I'm going to say this just once. If you ever - ever - come anywhere near me, Christine, Steven or any other Doyle ever again, for any reason, I'm going to take these two hands -" he held up the fine, slender and deadly artist's hands "- and use them to make such a mess of you that those doctors won't know where to start to put it right. And if I miss any bits that should have been attended to, Bodie will very likely see to them himself. If you fancy six months in a body cast, keep on the way you're going, Mick. Now drag your carcass out through that door, and keep your horrible face out of my life. Got it?"

It was the last time they ever saw Mick Frazer, drunk or sober, and Bodie had to admit that when Doyle used that tome of voice, better than him had backed off fast and far, and kept going. As the front door slammed into place behind him Bodie glanced at the time and stirred, running water into his empty cup. "Time to move, sunshine. Sheik what's-his-name will be here in half a jiff, and we still have to 'smarten ourselves up'." He recognised a self-satisfied smirk when he saw one, and chuckled. "You look like the cat that ate the canary. You enjoyed frightening the willies out of Mick, didn't you?"

"What if I did?" Doyle demanded. "It's only half of what he deserved - knocking Steven around that way! And Chris, too. Drunken half-wit - Jesus, why do the women in our family always have to marry such idiots?" He added his cup to the sink's load of plates and cutlery, topping it up with cold water to be washed later. "Out of the whole lot, I reckon I'm the only one that did okay... And I hope Steven's got half the luck. And if anybody doesn't like him choosing a bloke, they can take a running jump."

Bodie laughed aloud. "Love you too!"

"Eh?" Doyle came back to the present from whatever reverie, blinking in surprise. "What did I say?"

"I think you just said in thirty words what could be said better in three," Bodie said, dropping a wet kiss on Doyle's mobile mouth as he headed for the bedroom, and a change of clothes.

"Three words." Doyle trailed after him, scratching his chin. "Go drown yourself? Take a powder? Drop dead, chum?"

"Ray," Bodie said, in his tone of mock-threat.

The green eyes were glittering with fun; with Mick Frazer finally dispatched, Ray was feeling at one with creation again, and he relented as Bodie threw a not-so-random selection of clothes at him. "Three words, then... Oh, lovely," he added, examining the garments Bodie had chosen. The black jeans that were new and, even by Doyle's standards, very tight; the new red tee shirt, youngest in a dynasty of them. "Thought you said I had to watch it around these kinky Arab types!"

"Ah," Bodie said gravely, "but I'll be there to duff 'em up, won't I? Better move yourself, pet, the Concorde lands in an hour, and you know what Heathrow's like any day of the week."

They were out of the flat in ten minutes and present to see the drop-snooted airliner touch down. Although the job in hand was that of professional minding, Bodie's thoughts were on his family, mundane recollections and daydreams that passed the time during a boring assignment. He had stopped thinking of the Doyles and Flynns as Ray's family years before; the clan had opened ranks to admit one more member with an unspoken agreement, and it was as if Bodie had always been one of them. It was the first time in his life that he had any family to speak of, and it was still a little strange for all its appeal.

Bodie laughed at his own reactions as he chauffeured the Arabs between Heathrow and the Hilton. Strange? That did not say the half of it, but neither did it suggest how good it felt, as if, at long last, he had come home.

-- THE END --

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