Guilty As Charged


At 6.45, Bodie was still yawning as he lounged in the basement carpark, watching Doyle slide the gold Capri into its slot between Murphy's Escort and the Cortina belonging to Jax. There seemed to have been one late night after another for the past three weeks, as if George Cowley had discovered a new vocation in life--to confine his 'lads' to a life of purity by practical means... So long as they were working half the night, they could not also be indulging in recreation of the more horizontal variety.

Horizontal? Bodie demanded silently, watching Doyle get out of the gold Capri and slam the door on it. Horizontal? At that moment he would have taken a vertical offer, if some statuesque blonde with an imagination had cared to wink at him... Cyndi had had one disappointment too many, and had taken off into the wild blue yonder with a male model from the West End... Her loss, Bodie thought cynically, welcoming his partner with a feinted punch and a ruffling of still slightly rumpled curls. It was small consolation that Doyle looked equally shagged out; he had gone home at 3.30 for a shower, meal and fresh clothes; if he had grabbed a few hours' sleep, he would have been fortunate.

"You look like something the cat dragged in," Bodie said with a spurious liveliness.

Ray accorded him a wide, green glare that was less than irritated, as if he had not the energy for irritation. "Oh, ta. And you look like Gregory Peck," he teased, breaking off to yawn in the middle of the mock accusation. "Seriously, mate, you look awful. Didn't you go home?"

"'Course I went home." Bodie rubbed at his eyes.

"For a bit of kip?" Doyle gave his partner a hard look. "You didn't proposition that bird from the launderette, did you? The one with the peroxide perm whose been after your--well, whatever it is they seem to want from you--since Christmas?"

"No, I did not," Bodie said indignantly. Lucy was what he termed a 'last resort' only. She had the IQ of a potted plant, the wit of a jar of jam, and the charm, the allure of a tin of sardines. Scratch that, Bodie corrected; his stomach, growling as it was, saw to it that the sardines pipped Lucy at the post in the charm stakes. "Besides," he added disconsolately, "even if I'd been in the mood, I'd have probably gone to sleep in the middle of it."

"You're getting old," Doyle quipped, leading him to the lifts. "Few weeks without a decent night's kip shouldn't bother an SAS bastard."

Bodie was still trying to think of a suitable retort when the lift deposited them on their level...a fortnight before he would have produced half a dozen smart one-liners, but his mind seemed to have stuck on 'automatic', dealing efficiently with the job and all manner of facts and figures, but refused to supply him with the kind of repartee he and Doyle had long delighted in.

They exchanged weary smiles instead, acknowledging that they were bushed and looking forward openly to the week's leave they had coming. Bodie slung one arm about Ray's bony shoulders as they headed for the squad room; a natural gesture of matey affection. Also, abruptly, an unwitting mistake.

"Wey-heyyy!" It was Murphy carolling the greeting, and the two field agents looked up to see their work mate nudging Jax in the ribs with his elbow and winking outrageously. "Look what finally arrived at work, ten minutes late--and don't they look worn out, poor little dears!"

Blue eyes fixed on Murphy; smelling a put-on, Bodie was in no mood this morning to play along. "What's the joke?"

"Joke?" Murphy guffawed. "No joke. Phew, look at the pair of you--must've been hard at it since you got home, eh, what?"

"Hard at what?" Doyle demanded, struggling to get a grasp on the confounding conversation.

Jax gave a loud snicker. "Come on, don't play the innocents, flowers. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but we've got eyes. Dumb place to go, I suppose--wouldn't let old George catch on to you. Your feet wouldn't touch the ground."

"Mm," Murphy agreed sagely. "You ought to save it for when you're behind closed doors." He choked on a chuckle. "Safe and tucked up in beddy-byes."

"That's enough of that," Bodie said loudly. "Come on, let's have the punchline. I'm tired and I'm not laughing, Murph. Get to the end and save us the story."

For a moment Murphy blinked at him. "Oooh, touchy, aren't we, precious? Oh, come off it, Bodie. We're just having a bit of fun. We don't give a toss what you and Ray do. Your private lives are your business. But it was a bit daft to go to the Black Kat Klub, wasn't it? I mean, really, what would George think about it?"

There was a short silence, and then Doyle said quietly, "The Black Kat is a gay club, Murph. What're you on about?"

"About you and Bodie, last night," Murphy shrugged. "In the corner, cuddling. Kissing in the shadows. Very romantic and all that. Not especially wise, when you think about the blackmail--"

"I wasn't at the Black Kat," Bodie erupted. "Neither of us was there--I've never been there, for chrissakes!"

That elicited another hoot of mirth. "Oh, come on, be reasonable--we saw you," Jax argued.

Doyle's green eyes had narrowed. "If you two saw us, that means you were there. What in blazes were you doing at a gay club?"

"Information drop on the Steward drug bust," Murphy said offhandedly. "We reported to Cowley this morning--wanted to know what the hell he'd sent you undercover on our job for." He watched the other agents frown and glance bleakly at one another, and for the first time a little honest concern threaded through him. "Hey, we've put our foot in it, haven't we? I'll bet Cowley didn't know about you two, right?"

"There is nothing," Bodie said very evenly, "to know."

Murphy's mouth drew tight. "Look, Bodie, get off your rocking horse. I'm sorry if we've mucked it up with the boss for you, but how the hell were we to know? All I can say is this: if you're trying to keep yourselves a secret, you shouldn't go kissing and cuddling in gay bars and clubs, because sooner or later you're going to be recognised." He turned away to get a cup of coffee and then offered a sheepish cough. "I, er, I was complaining about you moving in on us to Anson. I might have mentioned something about it to him--not on purpose, mind you..." Murphy took a sip at his coffee and chanced Bodie's face. The expression on it was simply blank.

"He always did have loose lips," Jax was chuckling. "Hey, Bodie, loosen up, old son. It's nice with you and Ray. He'll keep you off the streets for one thing."

The run of the conversation, so early in the morning, had made Doyle's already befuddled mind spin. "Keep him off--" he echoed, unsure if he should be outraged, put up his dukes, or just surrender to helpless giggles. His diaphragm seemed intent on the latter.

But Bodie was showing the signs of kindling anger, and he took a step toward Murphy. "Do I understand you correctly, Murph, old pal. You thought you saw Doyle and me at a gay club, kissing among the murk, so naturally, you came home and blabbed to Anson and Cowley?"

"Well, I mentioned it in the report to the boss," Murphy said defensively. "Christ, Bodie, I thought you were there at work, and I was angry--if you were undercover on the same job we could have got in each other's way and got ourselves killed! Then, with Anson, I was muttering while I typed the report up, that's all. He said something about talking to yourself being the first sign of madness, and I might have made some angry crack about you two and the Cow driving me bonkers between the three of you. Wasn't done maliciously."

"Loose lips," Jax said wisely.

"It's going to be fat lips," Bodie growled dangerously, "if trouble comes of this!"

"Hey, er, sorry, man," Murphy offered. "I mean, with me it's all nice, about you and Ray--"

"But there isn't anything between us!" Doyle wailed, his voice plaintive. "Just air."

This Murphy, for all his contrition, was not prepared to buy. "Oh, now enough's enough. I've got eyes, and I was trained to observe. Jax and I bloody well saw you. Your secret's out--if you don't like it, tough. More fool you for going at it like goldfish in bloody public. Come on, Jax, we're not wanted around here!"

3.7 and 4.5 stood in the middle of the squad room, gaping after the others, and it was a full half minute before they came to their senses. Bodie was seething behind a carefully blank face; Doyle was wearing an overtly bitter expression. "Well, how about those two?" Bodie breathed quietly. "They see two guys who look like us, and they're ready to believe like that!" He snapped his fingers. "What the hell do we look like?" He turned his hot gaze on his partner. What did Ray look like at that very moment? A waif, thin, pale, tired and disillusioned, with big, blue rings beneath eyes that were glittering, one slender hand on his head, fingers tugging the curls into disorganisation, his other hand pressed to his belly--a sure indication that he was fretting. Bodie eased back on the anger. "Hey, mate, it's a mistake; they'll see that in a few days. It'll be okay."

"Cowley," Doyle whispered. "He's going to think we were at a gay club hugging and kissing like--like--"

"Lovers," Bodie finished for him.

A peculiar thrill shivered through them both at the sound of the word and they locked eyes nervously. "You know what he's going to say," Doyle went on. "No smoke without a fire."

"Yeah," Bodie agreed. "Christ, it wouldn't be so bad to be treated to the jokes if we had done that!"

But Doyle gave an involuntary shudder. "Don't say things like that!"

Inexplicably hurt, Bodie made a face. "Am I that repulsive, that you'd shoot yourself before kissing me?"

"Chump," Doyle retorted. "I mean, doin' it in public, in a club, so that news could get back to the Cow... God knows what he's going to say about it when he hears."

"But we didn't do anything!" Bodie said loudly.

Ray heaved a resigned sigh. "You know that, an' I know that. But if the rest of them are as quick to believe as Jax and Murph, we're in big trouble, sunshine. Christ, look at us! We look so tired we can hardly hold up, we've booked our holidays together, and we walked in here this morning with your arm 'round me. You can just about forgive 'em for thinking what they think."

"Yeah," Bodie admitted ruefully. "Well, I sort of like touching you, for what that's worth."

"And I sort of like being touched," Doyle added.

The silence that followed the admissions was long and very pregnant. In it, they just looked at one another, blue eyes and green eyes widening in a moment's almost petrified recognition of a truth...

"I'll bet I'd sort of like kissing you, too," Bodie thought, unable to prevent the thought from fluttering through his mind.

"I'll bet I'd sort of like being kissed, too," Doyle thought, helpless in the grip of unbidden imaginings, and had to make a quick gasp for breath.

The gasp did not escape Bodie's attention, and he smiled a little ruefully. "You, too? Holding your breath."

"Couldn't help it," Doyle whispered. "Us. You and me--doing it. Together."

"You know what they were thinking, don't you?" Bodie said, gesturing in Jax's and Murphy's wake. "We look so shagged out this morning, they're delighted to assume we fucked each other rigid all night."

The word brought another mutual shiver. "I know," Ray nodded. "And that's what they're all going to think. Anson'll tell the world about it--blabbermouth that he is."

"And Cowley," Bodie groaned. "What about Cowley?"

They were silent for some time, and then Doyle stirred. "Come hell or high water, we've got to face them. Cowley and all... He might give us the sack."

"He might," Bodie growled. "But I doubt it. We're the best he has; the fact I'm fucking you doesn't change that."

"You're--" Doyle echoed. "But you're not! And in any case, even if you were, it'd be even give and take, buster."

"Even give and take." Bodie's eyes crinkled at the corners as he looked at his partner. "You'd do it to me, too?" Much too flustered to reply, Doyle just blushed darkly. "You want to?" Bodie's voice was very soft now. "Ray?"

"Dunno," Doyle muttered. "I just know it's bloody unfair. Two other blokes had a wild night on the town, and we get to face this Morcambe and Wise show, and maybe get the sack too, and we didn't even get the satisfaction of--of--"

"Of screwing each other's brains out to earn the trouble," Bodie said succinctly. "No smoke without a fire, you said."

"'S what they'll all say," Ray said miserably.

"Right," Bodie nodded. "Well I don't know about you, but I for one am not going to take this standing up."

It sounded like a slip of the tongue and Doyle grinned. "You mean take it lying down," he corrected.

"Oh, no I don't," Bodie said darkly. "I wouldn't know how you like to do it, Raymond, but I like it flat on a bed." He paused and frowned. "Although it is easier if you get your knees under you. So they tell me."

"So who tells you?" Doyle demanded.

"The godless horde," Bodie grinned. "They-collective. Them. That lot out yonder. I've read about it."


"Gay sex." Bodie smiled at the look of utter confusion on his partner's face. "Come on, mate, don't play the innocent with me, I know you better than that."

"I'm not," Doyle said, not quite lucidly. "Innocent, I mean. I was a copper... I saw it all. Haven't done it, of course, but I reckon I saw almost everything."

"Same here," Bodie nodded sheepishly. "I've been around a bit." There was still an expression of bewilderment on Doyle's face and he sighed. "Hey, look, forget it. I was half joking in any case. It's just--it seems such a bloody waste to go through all the jokes, and get a lecture from the boss, and for doin' nothing. When I was nine I got blamed for breaking a window--did I ever tell you about it? No? Well, I hadn't busted the bloody thing, but I got my backside tanned good and proper, and I was smarting for a week. Know what I did?"

Doyle could guess. "You went out and broke a window." He found a shaky laugh at last.

"Damned right I did. I threw half a wall brick through the biggest sheet of plate glass I could find, the window of the wetfish shop. You never heard a sound like it--addictive. Could have gone on breaking windows all night, beautiful sound. And, oh, the sweet satisfaction. 'S what this makes me feel like, but--look, it's all a mistake. They'll see that soon. Forget it."

"Um," Doyle said noncommittally, following his partner from the room, far from knowing what he wanted.

The first face they saw belonged to Anson, and it was grinning at them like a Cheshire cat; the next was McCabe's, and the same grin was there, becoming almost routine as they progressed toward the briefing room. At the door was Cowley, there to hand out the day's jobs. Doyle and Bodie were done at noon, beginning a week's leave, sorely needed. Their morning's work consisted of tying up loose ends, paperwork--

The Scot's face was drawn into lines of well concealed anger as he saw them, and they shared a groan as he beckoned them into a vacant office and shut the door.

"Before you say anything," Doyle chipped in fast, "it wasn't us."

Icy blue eyes appraised him. "Outraged denials?"

"There's been a mistake," Bodie said levelly. "I don't know who the hell Jax and Murph saw at the club, but it wasn't us."

There was a peculiar expression on Cowley's face, as if he wanted to believe their story and yet couldn't dispel that final doubt. For some time he studied them, and they both knew they were flushing, which was as good as an admission of guilt. Bodie, who rarely blushed at all, was especially pink, for his skin showed the heightened colour more than Doyle's tanned face.

Cowley stepped silently to the door, turning back to them just before he opened it. "You may do as you like with one another," he said carefully, "be it play cards, watch television or whatever. But if I ever hear one word about this department being placed in jeopardy by any incriminating public display of any description, heads will roll. Is that understood?"

He did not wait for an answer, and the office door swung shut behind him. The two men were silent for a moment, and then Bodie managed a respectable snort of laughter. "You know what the old bastard just did? Gave us permission."

"Permission to go home and vandalise each other." Doyle sounded awed.

Bodie lifted one crooked brow at him. "We don't have to. He gave us permission to screw, not orders to." The green eyes met his and he saw them glitter with laughter. "It's tickled your funny bone, if nothing else in your anatomy."

"Well, it's funny," Doyle said honestly. "Here we are, as pure as the driven--"


"Right. Innocent as the day's long. And not only have we been laughed at and then congratulated, literally in a breath, by two old mates, but the boss has given his permission for me to take you to bed. If that's not hilarious, what is it?"

"Suggestive. Inspiring. Encouraging," Bodie suggested. "Oh, Ray, get that look off your face. We don't have to, if you don't want to, but--Christ, what a waste."

Again, silence, and then Doyle cleared his throat. "The way you're talking makes it sound like you might fancy me."

"You kidding? Gorgeous little bugger like you? All honey-tan and enormous eyes?" Bodie winked.

"Stop kidding around!"

"I'm not kidding," Bodie said with abrupt sobriety. "You always did look sort of...appealing. It's the hair, and the skin, and the way you walk. That skinny body, and that angel face." He shrugged. "So I'm impressionable. Always was."

Doyle bit off a chuckle. "If you want the truth, I've been admiring from afar for ages myself... Muscles, and all that white skin. Soft and nice... And I always did have a soft spot for big baby-blue eyes."

"Baby blue?" Bodie echoed, outraged. "I'll give you baby-blue!" Then he saw the laughter crinkling his partner's face and surrendered to the humour. "You want to?"

For just a moment longer Ray considered the gift they had been unexpectedly given. "It's so sudden," he shrugged. "I went to sleep last night dreaming about Candice Bergen and here I am being propositioned by a bloke."

Bodie blinked. "Candice Bergen?"

"I just saw The Wind and the Lion," Doyle explained without giving much thought to the lady anymore. "Look. I'll tell you what... I'd like to go home and try. I can't promise anything performance wise, but it's worth a bash... Like breaking a window after you've had your rump whacked..."

"Fair enough," Bodie agreed. "Your place or mine?"

"Yours," Doyle said at once. "Bigger bed... Come here often, do you?"

"Only to make pickups," Bodie said smoothly.

"Buy me a drink, sailor?" Doyle batted his eyelashes, camping it up and loving it.

"Watch it," Bodie cautioned. "Just watch it."

Following his partner through the door, Ray found his eyes drawn irresistibly to the rounded swell of buttocks. "I am," he said bemusedly. "God help me, I am."

Bodie glanced back suspiciously. "You are what?"

"Watching it," Doyle said absently.

It was one o'clock when they got to Bodie's flat, but neither of them was hungry. They were nervous and prone to giggling. All morning the slightest suggestion of humour had been enough to solicit mild hysteria, and they had drawn some peculiar looks indeed.

Alone again, starting their well earned holiday, they poured drinks and flopped onto the couch. They sipped at the scotch, and Bodie began to overtly study his partner of five years. Doyle had the kind of looks that would have got him into films, no doubt about it. Thousands of fourteen year old girls gushing over him, getting him to sign autograph books. And their mothers, too, no doubt.

The long moment of silent scrutiny began to make Ray nervy. "Whatcha doing?"

"Looking," Bodie said simply. "Taking a good look at what I'm getting."

"Oh." Ray swallowed. "Well, do you, uh, like it?"

"Yeah. But then again, I always did," Bodie shrugged. "You mind--me liking what I see?"'

"Chump," Doyle accused for the second time that day. "It's nice to be appreciated."

They finished the drinks in silence, put the glasses aside and acknowledged a mutual tension. Bodie was sure he could feel the other man's muscles tightening, and heaved a sigh. "Okay, so it's a mistake. I'll go and make us a bite of lunch--forget about it."

He had made to get up when Ray's hand on his arm held him back. "Bodie...I want to try."

The blue eyes darkened by shades. "Do you?"

Doyle licked his lips. "I'm sure. Want to have a bash at kissing you for a start."

"Well, in that case--" Bodie turned about on the settee, making himself comfortable. "You're talking to a Master Kisser, so pucker up, sunshine."

"Will you stop kidding around!" Doyle wailed. "One more joke and I'm walking, Bodie. It isn't funny!"

Abruptly Bodie realised that he had misinterpreted Doyle's tension and unpredictable laughter that morning. The little bugger was on tenterhooks, worrying about it, anticipating it, and--damn!--more than half turned on, without a single kiss or caress. Bodie's humour died away unmourned.

"Hey, I'm sorry," he murmured. "You're serious about this, and so am I. Just a bit scared, that's all. I do want to kiss you. I've wanted to kiss you for ages. Please?"

There was an exasperated smile on Ray's face as he licked his lips again to moisten them and leaned forward, making his mouth very much available. Lips parted, Bodie saw; little pink tonguetip flicking out, as if to taste--

Arousal was there at once, and the kiss that should have been soft was hard and hungry. Ray gave a moan of sheer disbelief as he felt the surge of electricity go coursing the length of his body, and suddenly they were on the floor, loosening shirts with eager, clumsy fingers, desperate for the touch of skin on skin. Bodie's eyes were a little glassy as he lifted his head from a thorough examination of the furry chest he had absently admired for so long.

"Never expected you to taste so good," he said breathlessly.

"What did you expect?" Doyle was making no attempt at coherence, wriggling uncomfortably, jeans much too tight.

"Dunno," Bodie admitted, looking down at the wanton sprawl of his partner's lean frame. "Skin's so soft, too. And these..." He stooped to bestow a kiss on each puckered nipple; Ray shivered. "You like that, don't you? Never sucked a bloke's before." He bent again, fastening onto Ray's right nipple and lavishing on it a care and attention Doyle had never experienced before.

At length he caught Bodie's dark, silky head and lifted it away. "Oh, Bodie, if you don't stop I'm going to come."

The blue eyes widened. "Could I do that? Make you come just by--by--"

In answer Doyle wrestled his mate onto the rug and returned the pampering with interest until Bodie was moaning disjointedly. Breathless and uncomfortable, they shared a rueful chuckle.

"Come to bed?" Bodie whispered, fingers threading into Ray's hair, tugging in a moment's insistence.

"Sometimes," Doyle admitted, "you get the occasional good idea... Christ, if I can stand up without doing myself a mischief!"

Deft fingers drew the offending zip down and Bodie's hand slipped into the too-tight denim. "You're like--like a rock," he said, half disbelieving. "For me?"

"Yeah... Bit new and astounding, innit?" Ray was flushed and confused, which Bodie found immensely endearing. The green eyes were too bright, wide with excitement and disquiet, and the red-brown curls were tangled. "Bodie... The slender fingers found their way to the crotch of expensive cream slacks, and Ray blinked. "Oh. You too."

"Bed?" Bodie tightened his fingers within the warm, blue denim, felt an answering throb, watched Doyle shudder. "Bed." This time it was not a question.

Ray did not remember reaching the bedroom, but he was hazily aware of being stripped, of the coolness of a duckdown quilt under his back, and the kisses that feathered over his abdomen. Christ, he's going to suck me-- Then everything was a confusion of nearly painful pleasure and the desperate self-absorption as he tried not to come, somehow holding back until Bodie released him and lay down with him. Breathing was a skill he seemed to have lost.

"Ray?" Bodie's voice was husky, betraying concern. "Ray, you okay, you're shakin' like a leaf!"

It was all too new, too desperate. Thinly muscled arms went about Bodie's broad frame, tugging him over, and long, slender legs clenched about him, and after that sanity and reason were absent and hardly missed.

They were tangled in the quilt; one of the pillows was under Ray's left leg, and Bodie was half over the edge of the bed. The room returned to normal a fraction at a time, and two pairs of heavy eyes blinked open... The kids next door were fighting, as usual; reggae music was blaring out of the flat upstairs; the lad across the road was tuning his bike; a dog was barking its head off... Same old world.

Yet different. Bodie hauled himself onto the bed, rescued the pillow and put his head down on it. Ray still had not moved, and he manhandled him around until the tousled curly head was pillowed on his chest, snuffling breaths tickling him. The fine, tawny body was limp.

And beautiful. Bodie was seeing his partner almost as if he had never seen him before, and he was speechless. "How the hell did I walk around you with my eyes closed all these years?" he demanded, his voice still husky.

"Ungh," Ray said lucidly, but his fingers traced over the smooth, hairless chest in a sweeping, tender caress.

"Knocked out?" Bodie smiled. "Was good, wasn't it?"

"Was fantastic," Ray murmured. "Christ, I never thought--I mean, us! You an' me!"

"That's the usual meaning of 'we'," Bodie said sagely. "Oh, Ray, us!" A surge of familiar affection assaulted him, but this time the deep fondness Doyle had inspired in him since the very early days was spiced with something else... Lust?


The thought was frightening for half a second, and then the warmth dispelled the fear and Bodie hugged his skinny, lovesome partner closer. "Ray? Say something!"

"Whaa--" Doyle lifted his head, blinking like a startled turtle. "You're beautiful," he said, slurred and barely aware of what his tongue was getting up to, "an' when we've kipped for a bit, you're gonna fuck me."

"I'm gonna--fuck you?" Bodie echoed, startled.

"Rigid," Ray affirmed, putting his head down again.

The invitation made Bodie shiver. "Christ. You want me to?"

"No, I just said that for fun. 'Course I want you to!" Ray gave one nipple a reproving tweak. "Don't you want to?"

"Want to?" Bodie breathed into the disorganised curls. "God, it's like I'll die if you don't let me!"

"Let you do anythin'," Doyle murmured, almost asleep.

"Anything," Bodie groaned. "Possibilities are endless... Even give and take, you said before. Remember, Ray? Ray?"

Doyle was asleep, and Bodie let him rest; he needed an hour's kip, both to recuperate from round one and relax for round two. It was round three that had Bodie a little apprehensive, but he steeled himself; anything Ray could do, he could do, even--or especially--that. He palmed the small, round, inviting buttocks, fingertips exploring hitherto forbidden territory. Doyle gave a drowsy wriggle and a lick kiss to Bodie's chest.

Love, Bodie wondered, still more than a little shell-shocked; could it be? Time would tell, he told himself, trying to be logical about an illogical subject...

He already knew the answer. The idiotic proof of it was his smile of sweet, fatuous adoration when Ray, trying to turn over, dug one sharp elbow into his ribs: even the pain was beautiful.

"Got to make an appointment, get my head checked," Bodie told the comatose Ray Doyle, and surrendered to sleep himself.

"--said it couldn't win if the rest fell down," Murphy was saying disconsolately, the Wednesday paper open in his hands, "so what has to happen? Look at this photograph! 'French Kiss' falls over its own silly-looking hooves on the home turn, brings the rest down with it, and--"

"And the hundred-to-one rank outsider, 'Black-n-Tan' comes home to the money," Bodie's voice purred, insufferably smug, in the door behind Murphy and Jax. The two agents spun, startled by 3.7's cat-quiet approach; Bodie was wearing a cat-at-the-cream smile that matched his stealth, and a faint suntan. "I know; we had a pound on it. Going to buy a sheepskin rug with the winnings."

"Sheepskin rug?" Murphy demanded. "Sounds like a waste of a hundred quid to me."

"You wouldn't say that if you'd ever been laid on one," Jax said shrewdly. "You're looking smug, Bodie, old son. Watcha been up to?"

"Oh, nothing much," Bodie said, but his smile widened. "We went hiking. Peace and quiet, wide open spaces. Lots of time to do... Oh, anything that occurred to us."

"We who?" Murphy demanded. "You and who else?"

Before Bodie could reply, Doyle's voice interrupted. "Hey, Bodie, the Cow wants us in his office in two seconds."

The curly head appeared around the squad room door, its face suntanned and smiling, and one green eye winked conspiratorially at Bodie before Ray was gone again.

"That," Jax said acidly, "answers the question." He gave Bodie a wry look. "You and Goldilocks. Hiking, eh? 'What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.'"

"Except we didn't do much standing," Bodie said airily. "If you take my meaning." At the expressions of mild outrage from the other two he gave a ribald chuckle. "You blokes have got a lot to answer for... And there's a lot I ought to thank you for."

"Pardon?" Jax said blankly. "In English, Bodie."

"Forget it," Bodie grinned. "I'll buy you a beer one day... The Cow awaits, so I'll catch you later."

Cowley was already speaking when Bodie knocked and entered the boss' office, and Doyle was perusing a file. "The Steward case--coming to a boil," Ray told him as he glanced at the pages. "There's going to be a man there tonight, an American, a buyer; all we need is a photograph, a positive indent, and we've got 'em... Murph and Jax again, sir?"

But Cowley shook his head. "Not this time. They've been there on three occasions and it isn't wise for their faces to become too well known. You two look thoroughly rested after your holiday. You can take their place... The Black Kat Klub, gentlemen."

With Cowley's office door closed behind them, Bodie stifled a guffaw. "This is where we came in."

"Yeah." Ray smiled nostalgically. "One of the best mistakes that ever happened, I reckon... We're going there under cover, are we? Have dinner, dance a bit--"

"Cuddle in the shadows," Bodie suggested innocently.

A rosy blush stained Doyle's cheeks. "I dunno if I'm up to public performances yet, love," he whispered, for Bodie's ears alone. "'S too new, still."

"Right." Bodie abandoned the levity, wishing fervently that they were at home, wanting very much to hold his lover, kiss him. "Never mind. We'll have all kinds of fun in private."

His reward was a sunny smile, and Doyle led the way to the computer facility where they set about the day's work.

They were off the premises at 4:30, sharing the bath, eating pizza while the news was on and dressing leisurely for the evening undercover. Ray chose a loose white silk shirt, sports jacket and the velvet slacks that were Bodie's favourites; Bodie dressed in black, black slacks, black jacket, svelte and sleek, an open-necked evening shirt displaying his newly acquired tan... A tan gathered under the sun, sleeping off sensual excess as only Ray Doyle understood such pursuit. Bodie had never had a lover who could match him and outstrip him, and Ray was endlessly fascinating.

"You look good enough to gobble up whole," he told the curly-headed menace as they finished dressing.

"Yeah?" Ray looked up with a wink. "Feeling's mutual. We'll be home by ten, with a bit of luck. Plenty of time for all the gobbling we can manage."

"I never gulp my food," Bodie said primly, and licked his lips lasciviously. From six feet away he saw Ray shiver.

"Out!" Doyle said loudly, pointing at the door. "Get going, before we're--sidetracked. Go on!"

"Spoilsport," Bodie said sullenly, but he was already moving.

The Black Kat Klub was crowded when they arrived, but the American buyer had yet to show. They took a corner table and sat over drinks, wreathed in shadows, not enjoying the cigarette smoke much, or the music, which was too loud to be tolerated for long unless one was smashed. Or stoned. Or dancing. Bodie finished a second Campari and grabbed his lover by the elbow, ushering him to the floor as Rod Stewart posed the pertinent question, "What Are Friends For?"

Ray was tense, feeling the oddity of it, dancing with Bodie in a public place; but nobody batted an eyelash, the Black Kat being the kind of establishment it was, and in moments he began to relax, enjoying himself... They were undercover in any case, so the whole exercise had a bloody good excuse.

The song was almost finished when Bodie drew away a little and said, "Hey... Well, I'll be damned! Look. Look at them."

"The Yank?" Doyle followed the line of Bodie's sight and did a small double-take. Seated in the shadows, well away from the hi-fi gear, were two men. A couple. They occupied the same bench, the same space, sitting very close together, occasionally kissing. One was big, dark, his hair cropped short, his dress undeniably elegant in a severe kind of way; the other was slight and smaller, his head capped by curls, his skin brown, his dress casual and softer than that of his companion.

"The couple Jax and Murph saw," Bodie whispered. "Christ, no wonder they thought..." He let the words fade, watching the curly-headed man look up. The effect, when one saw his face, was disappointing. "Huh. Nice, I guess, but he ain't you, sweetheart..."

"Meaning?" Doyle demanded.

"Well, he's got enough curls--"

"It's a perm," Doyle observed acidly.

"You don't say. And he's not... Jesus, what am I trying to say to you? D'you mind being called beautiful?"

Doyle drew back, startlement widening his eyes. "Not so long as it's you saying it," he admitted. "Anybody else, I might consider throwing up. And the other one, the tall, dark one mind being called adorable?"

"So long as you leave 'baby-blue eyes' out of it," Bodie said vehemently, as Rod Stewart completed his number and was succeeded by Abba. "Oh-oh, don't look now, but the Yank just got in. Got the camera, have you?"

It was a palm-camera, running microfilm, incredibly fast, with a wide-angle lens. Doyle had snapped a dozen shots before the American got to his table. The last of them showed the man shaking hands with the manager of the Black Kat, Niall Steward himself... And a package changed hands during the shake.

"Jackpot," Ray said, satisfied. "Job done."

Bodie watched him put away the tiny camera. "Want to stick around and dance some more? Might never get the chance to dance together again."

For a moment Doyle considered the proposition but shook his head with a smile of honest affection. "Dancing is all very well, but what I feel like doing, you can only do legally in private."

"Oh?" Bodie's brows ascended. "Whatever could that be?"

"You mean you've forgotten already?" Doyle shook his head. "Tsk, tsk. Failing memory--getting old, aren't you. Poor old sod. Come on, I'll oil your wheelchair before we go beddy-bye."

Bodie landed a stinging swat on the velvet-clad buttocks.

"Into spanking, are you?" Doyle demanded, looking back with a sultry expression.

"Don't tempt me," Bodie said with feeling. "I haven't spanked anyone's backside since I whaled into my nephew for shoplifting, but there's a second time for everything, Raymond."

In the foyer of the Black Kat, Doyle paused, frowning, and then shook his head in resignation. "You know, it must be love. Why else would I seriously consider letting you play out a fantasy with the flat of your hand?"

To his utter consternation, Bodie blushed.

"I'll have you know, I've got no such fantasies!" Bodie manfully ignored the flush, steering his partner out into the cool night air. "Any fantasies I may entertain for your fanny are strictly--"

"Normal?" Ray gave a snort of laughter. "Like to hear you convince Mary Whitehouse of that!"

"Mary who?" Bodie asked innocently. "Ah yes, Miss Whitewash. Or is it Lighthouse? The lady with the crusade." He took a deep breath of tainted London air. "Home, eh?"

"Home," Ray agreed. "Your place or mine?"

"Mine," Bodie decided. "Bigger bed... And that's another thing I want to talk to you about, Ray. It's getting pointless living in two flats, when we could be livin' together, so--"

It was still only nine and the Black Kat Klub had just started to gear up for the night's activities. Music, dance, drink and fine food... A bloody great waste of time, Bodie thought cheerfully, shepherding the most unexpected and the most welcome love of his life toward the sanctuary and security of home.

-- THE END --

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