The Right Words to Say


Doyle looked round at his partner in disgust.

"You have to be the softest touch in London," he said scathingly. "Babysitting a couple of dogs, fer god's sake!"

Bodie tried to look nonchalant. "They're very nice dogs."

"They're bloody great elephants," Doyle pointed out unfairly. "If it was a couple of nervous chihuahuas I could understand it, but these are golden retrievers. I'd've thought they could look after themselves for one night."

"Mandy said she didn't want to leave them alone," Bodie said obstinately.

"Aah!" Doyle eyed him sagely. "Playin' hard to get, is she?"

"I don't know what you can possibly mean," Bodie said with dignity, wandering into the kitchen and hauling a couple of cans of lager out of the fridge. "Here - catch!"

Doyle popped it, spraying his face with a fine layer of the contents.

"Anyway, it's cruel - keeping big dogs in a flat in London."

"It is a garden flat," Bodie pointed out. "'sides, there's Holland Park out there." He gestured largely. "Long, long walks in the early morning cool..."

Doyle sat down with something of a thump on the opulent settee. "I must be the biggest, bloody fool," he moaned. "It's not that they need looking after tonight, is it? You've promised to take them for a walk tomorrow, haven't you?"

Bodie grinned. "Thought you'd cotton on eventually. Anyway, it's not a bad place to spend the night. Mandy's got taste and money!"

"Or her father has," Doyle said cynically. "Has he met you?"

"I've not yet been privileged to spend a weekend at the country seat..." Bodie put on his posh voice.

Doyle chuckled crudely. "Wassamatter, ashamed of you, is she?"

Bodie said nothing, lowering himself to an armchair and patting lazily at a golden head that had somehow insinuated itself under his arm. It snuffled at him, jerking upwards as the beer can popped in its ear.

"Anyway," he said inconsequentially, "you're the one who likes to get up early - go out for runs - "

Doyle looked over his can. "Not on my own, mate."

"You wouldn't be on your own," Bodie said, trying not to smile at the mental picture of Doyle flying, track-suited round Holland Park with a couple of massive golden retrievers in hot pursuit. "Starsky 'n Hutch there'll keep you company."

"No way. Get enough trouble with dogs when you're out running without taking it with you."

"Rubbish - they don't bite friends, do you, mates?" Bodie said indulgently.

"Huh!" Doyle didn't sound convinced. "What did you say they were called?" The names had just registered.

"She used to be a fan of theirs," Bodie explained grinning. "Apparently she had a rabbit called Napoleon Solo when she was little."

"Good grief." Doyle did a passable imitation of Charlie Brown. "I dread to think what she calls you."

Bodie ignored him with care. "There's a meal in the oven - ready any time."

"I know." Doyle sniffed appreciatively. "It's the only thing that's been keeping me going, smelling that. What is it?"

"Lasagne, I think," Bodie said, not moving.

"Well, I'm gonna eat. I'm starving."


Doyle heaved himself upright and made for the large kitchen, eagerly followed by two bustling forms.

"'ere," he called back, "these two bin fed?"

"Yeah. They're just nosy," Bodie said. "Don't want to miss anything."

Having practically fallen over them three times already in his search for a plate, Doyle wasn't arguing with this and he watched with relief as the lighter-toned and smaller of the animals decided to give up on him and retired back to the living room and Bodie.

Plate, knife and fork found, he finally tracked down the oven gloves, removed the gently bubbling earthenware pot from the oven, set it on the top, ladled himself out a plateful and seated himself at the adjacent breakfast bar to eat it.

Some fifteen minutes later, while he was wondering if he could by any miracle manage the rest of the meal before his partner arrived for his share there was the sound of vehement protest from the living room and a rather ruffled looking Bodie arrived in the doorway.

"Bloody animal," he said, scrubbing his left ear vigorously.

Doyle sighed without looking up and abandoned the idea of trying to do Bodie out of his share. Superb though the lasagne was he knew he couldn't really manage another mouthful if he was ever to move again.

Bodie inspected the pot, quirked a pleased eyebrow and hooked Doyle's plate towards him.

"No thanks," Doyle said leaning back. "Couldn't eat any more..."

"Wasn't offering you any, was I?" Bodie picked up the fork and steered a healthy portion towards his mouth.

"Hey, that was my fork."


Doyle shrugged. If Bodie didn't care why should he make a fuss! He watched in silence for a while as his partner wrapped himseIf voraciously around the food.

"Use my toothbrush as well, would you?"


"Supposed to be a test of true love, that is."

"So that's why they say two can live as cheaply as one, is it? Share everything when you're married, do you?"

"How would I know - never been married, have I?"

"Who'd have you?" Bodie said unkindly, scraping the last little bits of pasta from the edge of the pot. "There we are - you can wash up."

"She's your girlfriend. I don't care if she chucks you over for leaving her kitchen in a mess."

"God, but you're a hard-hearted bastard sometimes," said Bodie, stating the obvious.

Doyle just smirked at him and loped back into the sitting-room to bag the settee before Bodie could get it.

It was a basic nistake. Both dogs made a beeline for him, inspecting him carefully from tip to toe in the friendly, acutely personal way large dogs have.


Doyle pushed at the wetly twitching nose inspecting his groin in fine detail.

Bodie sniggered. "Embarrassed, are we?"

"Always makes me feel I've forgotten to wash for a month," Doyle admitted, abandoning the attempt to lie flat and kicking off his trainers and socks to sit cross-legged in one corner of it instead. "What's on the telly?"

"Two photos and an ashtray," Bodie said, bagging the other end of the settee.

"What's the matter with the chair?" Doyle demanded.

"Try it and see."

Doyle knew that little-boy innocent look. The briefest flash of it was enough to put him on his guard. He stared with suspicious intensity from his partner to the chair and, recalling what he could of his 'Young Detectives Manual', applied his deductive abilities to the known facts.

He was still puzzling over it when one of the dogs - he still hadn't straightened out which was Starsky and which was Hutch: cone to that, he'd had similar problems with the original television programme - crossed over to his companion and inserted about nine inches of a massive, pink tongue deep into the other dog's ear.

Unable to articulate for laughing, Doyle lay back against the arm of the settee, a glorious vision of Bodie, supine in that low-seated chair, on the receiving end of that energetic and determined mining operation.

Bodie was grinning also. "Gave me the shock of me life," he admitted. "I was practically asleep when the damn thing assaulted me."

"It was only trying to be helpful," Doyle said sapiently. "Thought you needed a wash... that or it was tryin' to look at something the other side of your head."

"Very funny."

Both men watched the vigorous ear-washing with a mild sense of awe: it was such an all-overish operation and the sound effects were unbelievable.

After a while the bigger dog tired of the attention and gave warning of the fact with a small growl and a toss of his head and then started to get up. His companion pounced on him in mock battle and then lunged at him somewhat more purposefully.

Doyle tut-tutted. "'n in the living-room too! Funny the bitch bein' the bigger, isn't it?"

"What bitch?" Bodie grinned.

"You mean they're both dogs? But he's humpin' him!"


Doyle felt a fool for being surprised but what did he know about dogs after all.

"I didn't know dogs were... um... that way inclined."

"You shocked? Didn't know you were prejudiced."

"I'm not - just don't know much about dogs," Doyle admitted. "Never knew tkey could be gay."

Bodie snickered. "They aren't - just thick and a bit frustrated. I'm sure you know the feeling."

"Me?" Doyle was affronted and showed it. "I'm not thick."

"Ah - thought she wasn't coming across quick enough," Bodie said, nodding his head. "Patience and a bit of finesse, that's what you want, mate. Birds just don't go for the quick Wimpey and the back seat of the car round behind the Gas Works, you know."

"Ah, tried it yourself, have you," Doyle said in instant sympathy.

"Listen, mate, birds just fall over themselves for my manly charms."

"Yeah." Doyle's heart wasn't really in the conversation. In any case, the dogs' excited heavings about and heavy panting noises were having the oddest effect upon him. "I'll bet... your looks... it isn't only the birds, sunshine."


Doyle hadn't expected such a startled grunt from the other end of the settee and he stared with ostentatious unblinkingness straight at his normally unflappable partner.

"Yeah." A slow grin widened the sensual mouth. "I can just see the fellas lickin' their lips over you, mate. Macho, arrogant, touch of the bully... you must get 'em goin' something chronic when you go into your butch routine."

Bodie had had time to pull himself together. "Natch:, a gay's fantasy, that's me. I look super in the leather gear, too, y'know, whip in one hand, belt in the other..."

"With studs, of course - "


"Better in nothing, though."

Doyle stared speculatively at the figure of his friend the other end of the settee, one detached part of his mind seeing with an odd thrill of surprise the slight tension in the broad body, surprise and something as yet unidentified but only because in this moment of enjoyable teasing he did not have time to track it down.

Lost in his own thoughts he was unaware of the impression his steady, half-smiling look gave, his heavy-lidded eyes astonishingly come-hitherish as they fixed on his partner.

Bodie shifted uncomfortably. "What would you know about it."

Doyle's smile grew lecherous. "Look, don't I? Hard 'n long! Every chance I get!"

Bodie pounced - metaphorically only. "Never took you for a closet gay."

The come-hither look, if anything, deepened, not at all fazed. "No - just thick 'n a bit frustrated. You're right - condition like that and anything looks good to you."

A faintly relieved look appeared in the blue eyes.

"Even me?" Bodie asked, deliberately on the attack.

Doyle shook his head with a fervour that made his curls bounce. "You always look good to me, sunshine."

Bodie laughed, hoping like hell it sounded natural. "How about another beer?"

"Yeah." Doyle shifted his feet in a reflex movement, curling himself up against the back of the Dralon-covered, lushly-upholstered opulence. Accepting the can when it arrived he opened it, eyes steadily upon his partner as he reseated himself on the settee, wary of Ray but still reluctant to trust himself to the low seat of the armchair and the dogs' unwanted ministrations.

"So why did you change the subject then?"

"What? Who changed the subject?"

Doyle's eyes widened, impossibly innocent. "You did. Trying to distract me with strong drink when I want to talk about your gorgeous body."

"Gorgeous body!" Bodie repeated scathingly. "A heavy-weight like me..."

"Heavy!" Doyle looked outraged. "That's solid bone 'n muscle that is, 'n a face that... that's... classical - a standard for male beauty - even if the eyebrows do look to have been drawn in by a drunk!"

Bodie laughed, genuinely, but far too loud in his relief from tension. "Classical beauty, my arse."

"That too," Doyle agreed solemnly.

Certain now that he was being set up, Bodie relaxed and began to retaliate.

"Course, you can talk. Face like a dissolute leprechaun who's spent his crock of gold on loose living, and a body that never stops with the come-on even when it's asleep..."

"Doesn't it?" Doyle demanded, intrigued. He looked down at himself. "Gets you goin', does it?"

Bodie rolled his eyes. "Sometimes I c'n hardly keep me 'ands off yer."

"Noticed that." Doyle nodded owlishly. "Sometimes think if I have to go up another flight of stairs ahead of you I'll scream rape."

"Wha - ?" Bodie sank back; a hollow pit at the base of his stomach reminding him of the nunber of times he just hadn't been able to resist...

Doyle's eyes gleamed, devilish under raised eyebrows. "You think I didn't notice? It isn't everybody who gets to putting his sweaty little hands on my body without getting a mouthful of knuckle in exchange."

"Glad I'm one of the privileged." Bodie smirked. "How far do I get to go?"

"Far as you like," Doyle said solemnly.

"Wow!" Bodie grinned at him from safely behind his beer can. "Why didn't you ever tell me before, sunshine?"

"Dunno, really. Maybe because I've never been without a girl-friend long enough to get desperate before."

Bodie's teasing look faded. "Without a girl-friend! What happened to wassername?"

"Didn't like the hours I work," Doyle said gloomily, eyes idly searching out the dogs who were now lying in the abandonment of deep sleep in the doorways to kitchen and bedroom respectively.

"The story of my life," Bodie agreed. "You didn't tell me she'd given you the push though."

"Only happened two days ago and we've been a bit busy since then," Doyle reminded him.

"You get desperate quickly," Bodie said dryly.

Doyle leered. "Gotta get me passion-ration or I get all twitchy. Ain't it the same for everyone? Three times a night I need, 'n six on rest-days."

"And today's a rest day." Bodie shook his head. "Boy, are you in trouble."

Doyle knelt up to place his now-emptied can on the glass-topped coffee table. It was an entirely innocent movement and he was unprepared for Bodie's reflexive flinch away from him as he leaned across.

Did he really think...?

Doyle couldn't resist even while a part of him told him he'd regret this.

"Nah," he whispered throatily. "You're the one in trouble, mate." And instead of subsiding back down onto his own end of the settee he took hold of Bodie's shoulders and pressed him backwards, collapsing his whole body against him and temporarily pinning him in his corner.


Bodie's protest was smothered by the dry warmth of Doyle's closed mouth latching on to his.

It was only a fleeting kiss. Doyle was afraid he might giggle and spoil it if he tried to lengthen it into something more overtly sexual, and he did not expect the quick thrill of sensation that ran powerfully through him as their bodies touched. Unconsciously, he pressed even closer, wanting more of it, while the pair of arms that had been raised to thrust him away seemed to change direction in mid-movement and instead of rejecting, pulled him into an embrace.

Christ - Bodie was going to play along with this. How long could he keep his own end of things going, Doyle wondered a little dazedly as he looked straight into his partner's unreadable gaze, his head tilted back for a better view and offering unconscious provocation.


It was a whisper so low Doyle wouldn't even have been sure he'd heard it had he not seen the sensuous mouth move, felt the moist passage of Bodie's breath fan across his own mouth.

They'd never been this physically close before - he had to stop this, cool it before the whole thing got out of hand. Mildly panicked, Doyle schooled his face to neutrality and went to draw back, but this time it was Bodie on the attack and Doyle could not get the leverage he needed straight away, with the result that Bodie's mouth captured his again.

Once more it was not an openly sexual kiss, Bodie made no attempt to do more than exert a gentle pressure but Doyle was unprepared for the shocking pleasure of it. Keeping a grip on his reactions by sheer determination alone he was about to pull back, beginning to think up a lightly teasing remark to ease the crackling tension sparking between them, when a sudden, dramatically unexpected and very wet tongue was applied to his bare instep.

Doyle gasped in surprise and protest and as he did so, Bodie's body shuddered against him and his mouth opened in automatic response.

For a moment the world stopped, the brief seconds stretching into a break between what had been and what could be from now on, and then they were kissing properly, unselfconsciously, without need to rush or hurry this act of simple confrontation of unadmitted feelings.

After a while Bodie became conscious of a greater response from his trapped partner and a series of soft groans, writhes and wriggles that seemed unrelated to their gentle exchanges. Amused, but filled with a huge tenderness he brought the kiss to an end for the moment.

"What's up, sunshine?" he asked lovingly, "gettin' to you, am I?"

"No...yes..." Doyle's head was spinning too fast for coherence. "Bloody dog's licking me bloody feet."

The mood had been broken Bodie realised with a slight pang even as, without in the least wanting to, he collapsed into giggles which increased in volume as his eye fell on the face of the light-golden retriever, its eyes closed in something very akin to ecstacy while it cleaned Doyle's protruding bare feet with insistent thoroughness.

Freed again, Doyle straightened up, drawing away from the ticklish yard of wet pinkness with a mild request to the animal to, "Piss off."

Bodie's amused snorts gradually died away and he said admiringly, "Dunno how you sat through that, mate. I'd've gone through the ceiling if it'd been me."

"Got ticklish feet, have you?" Doyle's eyes gleamed as he looked up, hardly knowing whether to be glad or sorry that the emotion-filled moment had ended in such bathos.

"No," Bodie lied airily. "I just don't like sudden surprises, that's all."

"Oh - sorry. I'd've warned you before I leapt on you if I'd known that."

"What makes you think I wasn't expecting, it? Been giving me the heavy come-on all evening you have. Thought you'd break sooner or later."

Bodie's tenderness-softened face had resumed the look of aloof mockery it wore to hide its feelings: Doyle's gut tightened, wanting that astounding closeness back but still not at all sure it had really been there for him, that it hadn't been just a product of wishful thinking...

Wishful thinking?

Christ, what was he thinking? What had he been thinking for months now?

He slumped back against the upholstery, mastering himself and covering what he guessed must be his stunned expression with a huge yawn.

"I'm tired."

"Me too, mate. Out on me feet."

So - Bodie wasn't pursuing the teasing challenge either... in case the whole thing got out of hand? What did his partner really want, Doyle wondered wearily, unable to think of any way of finding out without asking a direct question.

D'you fancy me as much as I fancy you?

The thought was so loud in his own head that he could almost believe he'd spoken it aloud. If only he wasn't a moral coward...

"I'm going to bed," he announced flatly, getting to his feet without looking at Bodie.

"Oh - OK."

He thought the voice sounded oddly strained but he didn't look back.

"Bathroom leads out of the bedroom," Bodie said.

"Oh, right. Thanks."

But in the bedroom doorway Doyle stopped, gulping down a moment of panic as he viewed the solitary, king-sized bed, knowing there was no other room and that he could think up no rational explanation for retiring to the over-stuffed settee.

It didn't last long. With all the clarity with which a drowning man's past was supposed to flash before him the whole of this evening's teasing conversation replayed itself in his mind. Up to now he'd been so darned self-centred he'd only been aware of his own half-truths and reservations, not seeing Bodie's half-admitted, half-covered revelations.

His teasing remark had been based on a truth after all - Bodie did touch him often and with an intimacy he wouldn't dream of taking from any other man - and in his turn, Doyle had ignored it, not wanting to react or comment in case it made Bodie self-conscious about it so that he stopped.

But Bodie had been all too conscious when it had been mentioned earlier; Doyle could see the restraint in him so clearly now as he thought back to the scene.

Turning without volition to straighten things out between them he cannoned right into Bodie who had come up behind him while he'd been stuck here working things out.

He grabbed at him - and not for support!

"Why don't we stop prattin' around and admit we want to do it, Bodie?"

Bodie stared into the open, guileless eyes. "Why don't we?" he agreed, outwardly unfazed, but his voice was satisfactorily husky to Doyle's ears.

Not knowing the words with which to approach another man, Doyle abandoned any idea of attempting to explain or excuse his apparently sudden descent into need. His body could speak for him - show Bodie the things he wanted so desperately.

Knees turning to water he collapsed against his partner's sturdier frame, head dropping back, eyes closing as Bodie's mouth bent towards his throat, seeking with unerring accuracy for the most sensitive spots along the juncture of neck and shoulder and up under his ear.

He shuddered pleasurably. "Yes. Oh, yes, Bodie..."

He found that his hands were clutching almost desperately at Bodie's heavier shoulders and one part of his brain chided him for letting go, for giving Bodie the advantage, but another very deeply buried part of him wanted to see what it would be like not to be the initiator, to submit to Bodie without reservation... trusting his partner completely, knowing his own masculinity to be safe and unthreatened by Bodie's unleashed power, he moaned submissively, pressing closer, encountering a growing heat and hardness within the light, cream trousers.

He loved to see Bodie in the light-coloured clothing that emphasised the strength and power of his body and which nowadays he so rarely wore. Was it possible he'd let a few lecherous looks escape him unwittingly and his partner had seen them - it could account for why he'd adopted disguising black cords and poloneck almost as a uniform... and still looked just as sexy with the dark backgrounds of hair and clothes emphasising his cream-skinned good looks and drawing attention to the fantastic blue of his eyes...

Christ, but he was far gone: drooling over Bodie's looks like some teenager over a pop-star. No question though, if Bodie had been a member of a fashionable pop-group he'd have been happy to be a groupie...

The thought made him chuckle and Bodie paused in his minute exploration of the soft skin of his partner's neck.

"That funny, is it?"

Seeing his own insecurities mirrored in those blue eyes, Doyle rushed into reassurance.

"No - just what I was thinkin' about you. God, I feel about fourteen again not quite sure how you'll react... what I can do..."

Bodie's momentary tension eased. "You do anythin' I don't like, darlin'," he teased, "I'll soon let you know it. Incidentally, how'm I doing?"

"Pretty well - as far as it's gone," Doyle said meaningly.

"Want more, do you."


"The full works?"

"All the way," Doyle agreed solemnly. "Took me pill, didn't I?"

He saw the sudden gulping swallow and realised what Bodie had thought he meant, realised in the same instant that he did want it, wanted to know what if would be like, experience it with Bodie, show him in his turn...

Shaking just a bit he said, "I mean that. The whole hog if you want it."

Their gazes locked, both clear and unblinking, covering the inner fears but aware of the mutual trust stemming from years of inter-dependence on the other's nerve and efficiency.

Doyle was the first to melt, offering again. "Come on, Bodie. Take me to bed."

Reading his thought with the uncanny knack he had developed over the years, Bodie swung him up into his arms and carried him to the huge bed.

Doyle lay back, watching Bodie strip, eyes devouring the expanse of cream skin as it emerged from its concealing cocoon of clothes. He looked good enough to eat, every inch of him, and Doyle had every intention of putting that to the test before the night was over.

Seeing Bodie's eyes turn to him, Doyle began a leisurely assault on his own shirt buttons, tugging the garment free of his jeans, rolling himself around on the bed as he did so. He was unprepared for Bodie's quick pounce as the younger man abandoned the tidy habits of a lifetime and left his elegant clothing where it lay to launch himself upon the supine Doyle, knocking aside his slow-moving fingers to wrench at buckles, zips, resistant demin, in his eagerness to get at his partner.

All ideas of a slow and purposeful learning of Bodie's body and needs were lost as Doyle went completely under, drowning in the sensations of being taken in Bodie's urgent hands and mouth and he was writhing, crying out incoherently, stammering mild obscenities as he came to the peak and exploded - beyond control - into that furiously working mouth.

He was vaguely aware of other, half-choked cries, but his thundering heart and labouring breathing required time to adjust; when at last he could concentrate again on the returning world about him he could hear Bodie, panting like a long-distance runner somewhere down in the region of his groin.

Astounded and unbelieving he looked for the evidence and found it in the slackened organ and wetly shining patch on the edge of the navy sheet where Bodie lay, his eyes shut, one arm thrown up over his face shutting himself off.

Doyle lifted the arm away and kissed him.

God - to have that effect on the imperturbably, worldly-wise, self-sufficient Bodie! Awed and more than a little stunned, Doyle could find nothing to say, no words that he could formulate without embarrassment.

If it had all happened too quickly it didn't matter; they were both superbly fit and although no longer very young he would be surprised if they couldn't get it up again at least once more before they slept - possibly more the way he was feeling!

Bodie's eyes opened, uncertainty in their depths, and Doyle kissed them shut in silent reassurance. He didn't wonder at Bodie losing control like that, knew he had rocketed over the edge faster under Bodie's touch than he had done in years: he'd long prided himself on his ability to control, to bank down his own need until the girl was wooed and ready - and christ, had he met some slow ones in his time! - but tonight he could no more have controlled than he could have resisted and he was not ashamed of it, was only aware of a sweet, singing joy that he could be so overwhelmed by anyone.

"C'mon, lover," he whispered, "come on over here out of the sticky patch."

As he hauled at the sated body his eyes met a pair of huge brown ones staring at them both in unabashed curiosity and he chuckled. Good job dogs couldn't talk - or cats come to that - the things they must see one way or another. Anyway, it was all the animals' own ruddy fault, humpin' away together like there was no tomorrow, givin' a fellow ideas with all that heavy breathing and low, growling noises.

He made a few low, growling noises of his own, disconcerting Bodie who had just about summoned the strength to crawl further onto the bed, though insufficient to avoid smearing the sticky patch of semen, this time onto the matching duvet cover.

Calmed just a little by the first, annihilating climax they were able to take things slower now, caressing each other almost idly for a while, neither of them speaking but each aware through meeting the other's eyes speculatively upon him that they were trying to gauge reactions, see just how far they could go, what the barriers might be.

Aware that his own barriers were virtually non-existent, Doyle had no way of knowing whether Bodie would want the same openness and did not know how to find out. He was scared, more scared than he'd ever been of blowing the whole thing through ineptitude. He had nothing to say that didn't sound stupid, the banal things you said to girls, things you both knew meant nothing. He couldn't say those to Bodie - didn't even want to say them - but what was there to replace them? Other cliches? He lifted his head again, looking down at his partner, wanting to speak of his beauty but knowing Bodie would crack up if he tried to do it seriously. Doyle looked away again and cursed himself for his unaccustomed inability to articulate. Part of the problem was that they rarely talked seriously outside the needs of the job. They could talk about anything to each other, and did, but most of their personal conversations were joky; light-hearted, flip repartee that covered a lot of other feelings.

How the hell did you tell a man you loved him? What were the right words to say?

Doyle shook his head, not even wanting to try it, and abandoned himself to pure sensation, wallowing in the joy of being at least physically close to Bodie, of learning more about him in a few, short hours than he had ever known before.

Like the way his belly twitched all over when you dived your tongue into his belly-button; the way he had hair in a fine, almost invisible down triangle just above his waist at the back when even his chest was virtually hairless; the way he giggled and squirmed like a child when you fingered his ribs; the way he gasped and stretched out, hands digging into you while you licked your way sensuously around his ear...

Making his way round and up to the second ear he was abruptly checked and at once moved back dismayed.

Bodie saw the look and grinned sheepishly. "'s all right. It's just - that's the one Hutch had a go at earlier. I didn't think you'd want to play second fiddle to a dog!"

"Should've had a shower really," Doyle said regretfully.

"You're quite clean enough for me, sunshine," Bodie reassured him. " 'specially about the feet."

Doyle's smile broadened slowly. "Got a lot to thank that dog for," he said sunnily.

Recalling the sudden opening of that almost impersonal mouth, Bodie nodded in silent agreement, ignoring the sound of a dog's impatient whine in the doorway.

Doyle was remembering also. "You're damn' good at kissing," he said reflectively. "'s anyone ever told you?"

"Plenty of 'em." Bodie grinned. "Got written testimonials, I 'ave. Wanna come round and see 'em sometime?"

"Make a change from etchings," Doyle agreed, absently running his palm up soft inner thigh to the softness of testicles in their furred sac. He probed, handling them with deft delicacy, curious... so many women he'd touched intimately - it was strange to think it was another man who was alien, unknown... impossible to talk to...

Gratified by the soft, pleasured sounds Bodie was emitting he went on with his intimate search, knowing how he himself liked to be caressed and finding out how his partner reacted to similar stimuli. As his hand slid gradually down and back, he bent his head to lick at a small, brown nipple, loving the hardness of the tiny nub under his tongue, absorbing the mildly salty taste of Bodie. Then he moved upwards slightly to get at the hard thrust of a collar bone, nibbling along that with his lips and diving his tongue into the hollow at the base of the throat and at the same time probed further back still with his right hand. He felt Bodie give a sigh and turn his head his way to plant a kiss on his forehead and then his thighs relaxed allowing access.

His own heart pounding, Doyle wormed one finger towards his goal, hardly able to believe in the acquiescent relaxation and trust he was offered...

An insistent whine assaulted their ears and this time an urgent paw scraped itself across Doyle's calf.

He bucked, swearing.

"Bloody dog - I'll kill it!"

"Oh, shit!"

Bodie heaved himself upright and off the bed, his semi-tumescent organ slackening again. Doyle gazed up at him, exasperated.

"That's right, shut the ruddy door on 'em."

"I can't - they always have the run of the place. They'll wake the neighbourhood barking if we do. Thing is," Bodie threw him an apologetic look, "I forgot to let 'em out in the garden before we came to bed."

"Bit big for a sandbox, I s'pose," Doyle agreed, hunched gloomily up with his knees-under his chin. "Still, it's not a bad idea. I think I'll join 'em."

"In the garden? That'll give the neighbours a cheap thrill."

Doyle shot him a withering look. "And I may even have a shower while I'm in there," he said with considerable dignity.

"Good-oh. I'll teach you to play Hunt the Soap when I get back," leered Bodie.

In his state of semi-arousal, Doyle could not hurry over using the loo and the simple relief when he was finally finished was so great that when he heard movement in the doorway he was moved to say feelingly, "Ah - the simple pleasures of life," as he then leant over to adjust the taps from 'bath' to 'shower'. The noise of the water drowned any other sound behind him and the first indication he had that the presence in the bathroom was not his partner was being goosed by a very cold, wet nose.

The yell he let out brought Bodie back indoors at the gallop, volubly cursing his abandoned gun in its holster on the back of the bedroom chair. By the time he made it into the bathroom, Doyle had picked himself up out of the bath and was sitting on its edge addressing a by-no-means chastened retriever in language that would have brought a blush to the cheeks of a trooper.

On being regaled with a potted version of the story, Bodie could not withold the huge smile that threatened to split his face although his only comment was a lecherous, "What a waste!"

Doyle stood up and got under the still-running shower. "Join me?"

"I - uh - left the door open. Came in in a bit of a hurry... well, I thought you were being raped at the very least."

"So did I!"

"Nah," Bodie shook his head, eyes alight with laughter. "I couldn't rape you, you're too cooperative!" And he went straight out to lock up without waiting to hear what indignant refutation Doyle would think up.

As they settled themselves back into bed again, Doyle said reflectively, "I wonder what the record for being interrupted is."

"Who bothers to keep count?" Bodie retorted. "Putting you off, is it?"

"Nope." Doyle was quite sure of that. "You?"

A slow headshake answered him and a lingering smile, a Bodie special not often seen by anyone the outwardly tough agent was not genuinely fond of: Doyle had always found it irresistible and he pulled Bodie to him with a murmur of pleasure.

Waking to the frenzied sounds of dogs barking apparently right in his ear, Doyle groaned aloud.

"What the hell's the matter now?"

"Morning paper just arrived I expect."

Bodie crawled out of bed looking less than half awake, adding his own mite to the racket in the way of yelled and ineffective instructions at the dogs to, "Shuddup!"

"Dead common, you are," Doyle said, relaxing back onto the pillow and closing his eyes against the light as Bodie opened the curtains.

Ten minutes later something hard thumped down beside him. Without looking he reached out a hand, feeling his way down the plaited, leather thongs.

"Into bondage, are we?" he enquired gloomily.

"Walkies!" Bodie tried to infuse some Woodhouseian brightness into his voice without success.

"Oh, no!" Doyle threw the lead back, not caring where it landed. "Not me, mate, you're on your own."

He turned over and buried his face with determination.

Wanting to argue, Bodie could tell from the dogs' steady crescendo that he'd get no peace until he took them out, and in any case he didn't feel up to bullying Ray into anything. The original immoveable object, that was Ray Doyle when he'd made up his mind. Shame really, they ought to talk - neither of them had said anything last night apart from the usual light-hearted banter. They had made love in a silence that had grown more difficult to break by the minute and a quiet walk around the park in the morning freshness would have been the ideal opportunity for talking out what they had shared, coming to decisions - always supposing there were any to be made.

Bodie looked down at the firmly averted profile, grateful not to have to suppress the smile trembling on his lips, still poleaxed by the effect that skinny, wholly masculine body had on him. He'd have liked to kiss him before he left but wasn't at all sure he'd have the self-control not to strip off and climb back in there with him so he contented himself with a non-too-gentle swat on the upturned backside instead.

"Have my breakfast ready when I get back," he said, exiting hurriedly.

Doyle mumbled something very vulgar into the pillow.

In spite of his intention to garner another hour's sleep though, he couldn't do it; the dogs had seen to it that he was wide awake and eventually he stretched until his nuscles cracked and then sat up slowly, taking in his surroundings through sensually slitted eyes. The morning sun was streaming in through the net curtains directly onto the bed and Doyle stared at the plain navy bedding in horrified fascination.

Christ, anyone'd think there'd been a dozen of us at it in here, was his final, awed thought.

Whitish stains seemed to smear over half the surface: it was hardly surprising it had been quite difficult to find a place to lie down that wasn't wet and cold. At first Doyle's mouth curved into contented lines but then narrowed again in dismay.

What the hell was Mandy going to think when she saw this little lot - and how was Bodie going to explain it away?

A cold pit was opening in Doyle's stomach. Last night he'd been so caught up in the expression of long-repressed needs that he'd not given a thought to their surroundings.

Jesus - how could they have done it in Bodie's girl-friend's bed of all places! Tasteless, tactless and everything-else-less...

No good sitting here castigating himself, get up and do something about it; they could aways say they'd spilt beer in the bed and been obliged to wash everything.

He stripped the whole lot off and went into the kitchen to see if it contained a washing machine among its many other gadgets. To his relief it did - and a tumble drier as well. All mod: cons: in fact. He stuffed the lot in, found washing powder and filled the soap drawer, crossed his fingers before selecting a number on the dial and set it going.

Several minutes rummaging in the bedroom cupboards produced clean linen and he remade the bed as quickly as he could, cursing as usual at the problems of inserting a king-sized duvet into its cover single-handed. It was definitely a job that needed two, he'd always thought so. It was the strongest argument he'd ever met in favour of marriage!

Back in the kitchen he tangled with the idiosyncracies of the coffee-maker and got it going: finding the washing machine had stopped, he opened it and hauled the lot out to stuff it in the tumble drier.

A draught of cold air hit his still nude body, followed seconds later by the hot breaths of two panting dogs.

He swung round saying breathlessly, "You dare - you just dare...!" Then, seeing the animals' interested looks, dropped his arms and held the bundle of washing defensively in front of that portion of his anatomy.

Bodie leant against the door frame, shaking with laughter. "Oh, very domesticated," he managed at last, interrupting Doyle's opinion of his parentage, habits, morals and taste. "What the hell are you up to?" He looked Doyle up and down in open appreciation.

"Washing the bedding," Doyle snapped, acutely aware that he was reddening uncomfortably. "Couldn't leave it on like that..."

"What was the matter with it? Mandy has a cleaner, she'd have done it for her when she comes in."

"But it was... you know..." Doyle reddened still further under Bodie's open grin. "She'd've been able to see..." He floundered helplessly. "You'd have to be thick as shit not to know what we've been doing."

Bodie shrugged happily. "Mandy wouldn't care." He came closer, his eyes raking lecherously over Doyle. Thank god they had today off... "She's 'bi' herself, didn't I tell you? We had a friend of hers with us the other night, cute little natural redhead... They were quite fascinatin' to watch. Improved my education no end, I can tell you."

Doyle's heart lurched in his chest making him feel sick.

Just part of Bodie's education...

Damn him!

Damn him, damn him!

He turned, stuffing the sheets into the machine and slamming it shut.

A snuffling, wet nose on the back of his knee was the final straw.

"Call that fuckin' dog off," he yelled.

"Tut-tut. Language!" Bodie said.

"I mean it. I've had enough," Doyle said dangerously.

Bodie could see he meant it: once roused, Doyle's temper was formidable and unpredictable. He shouldn't have laughed at him like that, not while he was actually going red with embarrassment. A great tenderness filled him, just knowing that Doyle could be embarrassed by what they'd done together: perhaps it had even meant as much as it had to him...

Let him get over it, that was the best thing. He was always remorseful afterwards and they'd have a smashing reconciliation scene...

He bent and grabbed at the dogs' collars.

"I've got 'em.

"Good," Doyle said shortly and went out, slamming the kitchen door shut behind him.

Bodie smiled to himself and filled the dogs' water bowls for them, then he searched around in the fridge for breakfast items. Walking a couple of massive dogs around the park gave you one hell of an appetite and he helped himself to bacon, eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms, disappointed not to find sausages and deciding on at least two slices of fried bread for himself and wondering how many Doyle would like.

He was even tempted to sing while he cooked but he restrained himself.

Ladling the last items onto the warmed plates he called out, "Breakfast's ready, Ray."

Getting no answer and by no means sure whether Ray had heard or not he went to the door and opened it.

"Breakfast's ready."

Still no answer.

Sighing, Bodie went through the living room to the bedroom: was the daft bugger still in the bathroom? He'd wash himself away one of these days.

He wasn't.

Startled, Bodie looked about him.

All signs of Ray's occupation had gone, no clothes spread around untidily, no razor on the shelf other than Mandy's Ladyshave. Nothing in the bedroom, not even the small holdall he'd brought a change of clothing in.

The bugger had gone!

Unbelieving, Bodie wandered around the whole flat once more, checking.

But he must have been able to smell the breakfast cooking. In any case they'd made plans for today - a game of squash later.

He opened the front door in time to see Doyle's slim figure disappear round the end of the road towards the nearest bus route. They'd arrived in Bodie's car which was still parked in the road.

Empty inside, Bodie went back in and closed the door.

He managed to eat most of what he'd cooked but he didn't enjoy any of it.

-- THE END --

SEQUEL: "Even Tough Guys Like Us"

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