The Chameleon's Dish


The pub was almost empty, a rainy Monday evening in February had kept most of the usual clientele at home. The barman, morosely wiping at a pint glass, laid bets with himself on which of the eight men sitting in the bar would be the first to make a move on one of the others, his money was firmly on the tough looking one sitting at the bar. Silent, brooding over a pint of Guinness, the stranger had watched the man curled into the window seat with single minded obsession since he walked in ten minutes ago. Not that he'd have any luck, the barman knew from personal experience that Ray Doyle didn't go home with anyone. Ever. God knew why he even came here to such a blatant pick up joint. Perhaps it was the exotic atmosphere. The barman laughed wryly to himself, seeing the tawdry, slightly shabby victorian bar with jaded eyes. Whatever the reason it was nice to have him here, easy on the eyes and pleasant to the staff, not like some. He sniffed, and hearing a shout from the other bar went to serve a customer.

Eight years, and you've changed, sweetheart. He watched the seated man, his mind cataloguing grey streaks in the ragged hair, a clipped beard flashed with white and gaunt shadows touching the sweater and jeans clad body. He looked enervated, a far cry from the Doyle of old who couldn't even sit still without sparking energy. Perhaps it really had been a tough few days, you certainly look knackered. Watching the slump of the lithe figure he unwillingly acknowledged its attraction, despite the exhaustion which made the well known features drawn and lined. Couldn't have been much of a rest cure, negotiating with the Libyans - four weeks of hell, more like. Grudgingly, with reluctant admiration, he mentally saluted the contrived release of the four Israeli hostages. Whatever else he had become, Doyle certainly could still talk the birds out of the trees, even if the birds were now of a different variety.

He spared a moment to think about Cowley, put out to grass. Bet he loved that the old bastard. Wonder if he ever saw Doyle? Doubtful. Not only had Doyle chucked in CI5, he'd become too left wing, too radical for Mr Establishment Cowley. Probably thought all the people Doyle had managed to get out of various situations deserved to be where they were in the first place.

Taking a sip of the bitter, dark liquid he wondered why he'd ordered it, he hadn't liked it much all those years ago. Frowning, he watched as in the window seat Doyle leant back, rested an Aran clad arm on the sill and rubbed, with forefinger and thumb, the bridge of his nose. Yeah, he must be knackered - only used to do that when he was. The drink suddenly too much, he remembered why he was here and pushing it away, walked silently over to the small table. He waited patiently. With closed eyes and lax muscles, Doyle looked almost asleep.

"Macklin would have had your guts for garters." Doyle's body tensed, eyes opening in a face suddenly drained of colour, skin stretched taut over bone. The reaction warmed Bodie's heart. "Aren't you even going to say hello?"

Swallowing a painful desire to swear volubly Doyle found his voice. "Hello, Bodie."

"Hello, Ray." Blue eyes met green and for a second, the eight years didn't exist, and they looked at each other without pain and loneliness separating them. But it was only for a second.

"Bodie, I'm sorry..."

"Don't!" Tightly banked down fury quickly flared and then was hidden. "Just don't, Ray. It's gone, finished with." He took a deep breath. "Do you want a drink?" The slow smile was exactly as Doyle remembered it. "I think I need one, anyway. Same again?"

Doyle nodded, handing over his glass and frowned as the other man went to catch the barman's attention. Bodie still looked good; tough, dangerous, his body only broadened by muscle, not age, skin tanned, hair longer. That it really was him and not just a fantasy conjured by imagination, took quite a bit of getting used to. Doyle took a shaky breath. After all the years he'd spent checking out every bar he walked into just in case Bodie was there, for him to be here now, seemed impossible. Doyle fought against the memories that threatened his judgement, knowing there was nothing but pain in trying to renew anything that had once been between them. Even this drink was madness; he should just say good-bye and leave. Maybe not say anything at all.

The moment when he tensed his muscles to stand up, Bodie turned around and slowly smiled; against such persuasion sanity and judgement stood no hope and without further thought he cast them to the devil. With a fluttering in his stomach that could only be nerves, Doyle relaxed into the cushions.

Leaning against the bar, Bodie smiled as he paid for the drinks, the flicker of response had been more than he'd hoped for. So Doyle still felt something, but what? Love? Lust? Pain? Certainly guilt. Not that the precise identification mattered - all or any of it would serve his purpose.

Doyle hadn't moved, his body graceful against the chair; thumb and finger of one hand gently rubbing together. He jumped slightly as two glasses were placed on the table.

"D'you use this pub often?" Bodie smiled as he said it, knowing it was true, amused by the complex game he was playing.

"Yeah, I come here quite a bit when I'm working in town. It's decent enough and at least the staff are friendly."

"Don't you get fed up with being hassled?" Bodie looked around. "This is a pick up joint isn't it?" Blue eyes flickered over the slender, very masculine body, "and you can't tell me you don't get offers."

"No, but I'm pretty well known here and people leave me alone. If I get desperate then Bertie's always prepared to protect my virtue." Doyle wondered how much Bodie knew about him; how much his coming out must have hurt.


"The barman; thinks he's my private champion."

"What does he do, poison their drinks?"

"No, just lets them know I'm not up for grabs. He's a good bloke, keeps an eye on what goes on."

"I was watching you and he didn't say anything to me."

"Well," Doyle finished his drink, placing the glass carefully in the centre of the beer mat, avoiding looking into the intent gaze, "perhaps he thought you were my type." Or then again, perhaps you scared the living daylights out of him.

"He must think you've got good taste then." Bodie's smile hid the bitter edge to his thoughts.

"Modest as ever, Bodie." Doyle allowed himself to stare at the strength of the near body. The years had made little difference; Bodie had no reason to be anything other than confident.

"Yeah, some things never change."

They sat in silence, the shadow play from the past so strong that neither of them was aware of not speaking.

"Come and have dinner with me." It was almost a question.

Doyle heard the touch of plaintiveness in the words and cursed his Achilles heel; Bodie as little boy lost had always got to him. He barely hesitated, "I'd like that very much, but I'll buy."

"No, I'll choose and I'll buy. You can pay next time."

"Next time?"

Bodie shrugged. "We've got a lot to catch up on."

A lot to catch up on. If only Bodie knew quite how much. Suddenly awkward, Doyle reached into the back pocket of his Levi's and extracted a packet of Silk Cut, lighting one with exaggerated care. The nicotine smoothed the rough edges to his nerves and he held it deep in his body for a long moment before breathing it out through his nose.

"When did you start that?"

"A few years ago." Right after you left, Bodie, but he didn't say so out loud. Ann had hated him smoking too, at the time he'd felt it made her equate him with an axe murderer. "Do you?"

"I don't intend on shortening my life in such a mundane way. Besides, it's revolting." He made a fastidious face.

"Ah. Do you mind?" Doyle gestured with his hand, the tendril of smoke inscribing patterns in the air.

"Not as long as you don't light up between courses."

"I think my will-power's a bit stronger than that." About some things, even if not others.

"Good, shall we go then?"

They left together, Bertie watched them and sniffed. The look on the dark stranger's face when he'd bought their drinks worried him. The features had smiled but somehow without any warmth at all, only what looked curiously like triumph. He wondered about them until they'd left the bar, then another shout for service distracted him and he thought no more about it.

Stepping into the bitterly cold night, they paused while Doyle shrugged into his overcoat, tucking the ends of his plaid scarf inside as he buttoned the heavy tweed. Bodie watched him draw long fingers through uncombed hair and look vaguely around, the cigarette burning unnoticed between his lips, the smoke clouding his face. He was obviously out of sync with the world. "Hey, come back."

Doyle shook his head, clearing the mists, and flicked the end of the filter into the gutter. "Sorry - just can't get used to the idea that it's you." He didn't dare ask if Bodie had been looking for him, or if he had found him by some savage twist of fate.

"In the flesh, large as life, and all that. Come on, I'm starving, there's a decent looking Italian place around the corner, d'you fancy that?"

"Yeah, pasta to insulate us against the cold."

"At least it should be nice and quiet on a night like this." Bodie shivered, his leather trench-coat inadequate in the depths of a British winter. The rain had stopped but the temperature had dropped down by at least ten degrees, he tried to burrow his nose into the warmth of his collar; after Florida this felt like the arctic. "Let's get a move on before we freeze to the spot. Come on - "

The restaurant was close, and it was quiet. Too quiet. The under-employed staff were over attentive, one of them in particular impinging his presence on them by the acrid smell of his body odour. It went perfectly with the over-cooked, over-sauced food, though amusement at the situation caught them both and as Bodie paid, they thankfully left the waiters to it, laughing as they went outside. But the cold air seemed to break the ease that had grown between them and Doyle's tension returned. Confused, he wondered how he could feel so close and yet so infinitely far away from the man at his side. Feeling inept and gauche, weighted by time, he still felt more akin to Bodie than to anyone else in his life. The unnerving sense of dislocation, so common now to his days, was missing. Strange that it could feel so right, that he could feel so at peace with a man he hadn't seen for eight years and who had every right to hate him.

Had hated him.

And now?

Sleek as a hunting cat, expensively dressed in soft wool and fine leather, Bodie looked calm, controlled, perfectly poised and at ease with the situation. Wherever he'd been it had agreed with him, even the light sun-tan only seemed to emphasise his good-looks. Changes were there, more in an intensification of Bodie's old demeanour, in wariness and distance rather than wrinkles. Yet for all that he was still Bodie, and that single fact made Doyle's heart beat erratically, and his throat tighten in anticipation.

"Do you need a lift anywhere?" It sounded stupid, but he had to say something other than a plain good-bye, just in case this was it.

"No thanks, but I'll walk you to your car, where is it?"

"Off Drury Lane."

"Doesn't it cost you a fortune, bringing it in?"

"Yes, but it's easier than the tube. I often stay late, working, and I like to be able to go home when I want to." He shrugged. "It's not that much of a hassle, besides, I don't have to come into town very much. And I may as well use my money for something; work keeps me so busy that I hardly have time to buy new socks."

"What did you do, sell your soul to them along with your body, sounds like you work a 24 hour day."

"Sometimes it feels like it too. Worse than CI5."

They both ignored this reference to their past and walked on.

The theatre crowds all gone they were almost alone in the back streets of Covent Garden. The street lights gleamed off the leather that stretched over Bodie's shoulders, emphasising their width. Doyle could feel acid eating away at his stomach and with a dry mouth said, "did you mean it?" He tried to sound casually interested. It almost worked.

"What about?"

"Another time. Dinner, whatever."

"Yeah, what about tomorrow?"

"Are you sure?"

"I'm on holiday, so I can do anything I want. And yes, I want to see you."

"Fine, where and what time?"

"I'll pick you up at your offices, you'd better give me the address. Around eight?"

"Make it nine, I should be finished by then." Doyle reached under his coat and extracted a pasteboard card from his Levi's. He handed it to Bodie without letting their fingers touch. "Are you sure I can't drop you somewhere?" Fishing the Toyota's keys out of his pocket he released the central locking. The car bleeped, flashed, then sat silently waiting.

"No. I want to walk around for a while; London was always better at night without the crowds. Anyway, it's been a long time and I want to see if it's still the same."

"In eight years you must be joking, half of its been pulled down and the rest's rotting."

"Ah, but I'll look at it with tourist's eyes and only see the good bits. Anyway, a brisk walk'll warm me up." Bodie stamped his feet.

"They say it's going to snow soon. It'll get warmer up if it does." Doyle hesitated, then went on, "well, have a good walk, I hope you find something interesting to look at."

"Oh, I already have." Reaching out Bodie ran his forefinger down the soft bearded line of Doyle's jaw, his lips quirking at the indrawn response. "I already have...See you tomorrow." And he was gone, turned away and pacing down the echoing streets.

Doyle watched him until he turned the corner; the flesh Bodie had touched a burning brand on his face. Bloody hell, he thought, bloody hell. Incapable of stirring his brain to greater heights of rhapsody he climbed into the car and drove numbly back to his flat.

Later that night Doyle lay in bed watching the patterns cast by the street light on to his bedroom ceiling, wondering how he'd come to make such a comprehensive mess not only of his own life, but the lives of most people he cared about as well. The sinking belief that he could only recognise the value of something once he'd lost it weighed heavily on him. Yet there was no other explanation. He damned himself for the pain he'd caused Bodie. And there was Ann, he'd hurt her just as badly. Quite a skill you've got there; messing up other peoples lives.

And your own.

The guilt that had swamped him the instant he married Ann hadn't helped. Nor had trying to expiate it by doing as she'd asked and leaving CI5. No, in fact it had only precipitated their divorce and hurled him headlong into a year of drink, drugs and casual sex; all in a not very subtle attempt at self destruction.

Then one day he'd woken up and for the first time in months really examined his own behaviour; an hour of scouring his soul left him feeling worthless and bitterly ashamed. He wasn't a coward, yet he'd been taking the coward's way out.

In the darkness, Doyle remembered, and felt washed anew by the shame. What a joke it had been telling Bodie that he couldn't consider loving a man. Yeah, he could laugh himself sick over that one. Even the Press knew all about him and at various times had tried to make copy out of his sexual preferences. Not that he gave a toss what the tabloids thought, or anybody else for that matter. The only one who mattered was Bodie, though it had been a bit late in the day to realise that. He'd felt less than nothing for any of the casual partners; giving his body but rarely even his mind, let alone anything approaching love. That was reserved for Bodie, the one person who if he knew of it would cheerfully grind the sentiment into the ground.

But the suave stranger was fascinating, the intriguing shadows of the old Bodie making him wish for far more than just friendship; though he wondered if even that was really on offer. Then he shivered at the remembered touch, surely that had hinted at more; hinted at Bodie's need as well as his own.

Eight years.

It was as if the time had passed without leaving any impression, almost as if someone else had lived the years for him with his own psyche, soul, self, whatever, in cold storage, waiting. But waiting for what?

That touch.

He shivered again. Perhaps it wasn't too late, after all.

Curling up, tucking his hand under his cheek he relaxed, and after a while, went to sleep.

Over the next week they saw each other every day. Still wound up in the problems caused by the Libyan situation Doyle spent long hours in Whitehall, and even longer hours chain-smoking over the telephone at his Covent Garden offices. This was the worst part of any operation, and there was none of it he enjoyed or wanted to do, but all of which was necessary. He was at his best working in the field, talking, negotiating; the political side bored him rigid. Unfortunately he was good at that as well.

The building he worked in was a converted victorian printers that had been donated by a philanthropic admirer of the organisation Doyle worked for, after a particularly spectacular success in Northern Ireland. Most of the Amnesty Outreach staff left before six, and the heating was timed to go off then. Doyle often worked until nine or ten, usually forgetting to re-adjust it, so that by the time Bodie picked him up he was usually freezing. That and the fact that he somehow managed to neglect feeding himself, always made him agreeable to any of Bodie's suggestions for where they ate. It was never at any of the high-profile restaurants around Covent Garden where Ray Doyle was well known, but small, tucked-away restaurants in the back streets of Camden or Kilburn. Doyle never questioned it: just presumed that Bodie wanted privacy for them. He did as well. He didn't want this time spoiled by any of his acquaintances wanting to know who the stranger was. This was too precious; the hours when he could believe that Bodie forgave him his stupidity and blindness, forgave him for the hurt he'd inflicted. Forgave him for everything.

For the sixth consecutive night Bodie escorted Doyle home after a pleasant evening through which they had talked easily, though neither man attempted to play the game old friends usually played of 'do you remember when'. The past was still too dangerous. On this night as on all the others, Bodie waited until Doyle had walked up to his front door and turned his key in the lock before driving off; just like a perfect gentleman.

Later, lying on the verge of sleep Doyle remembered and smiled at the notion; Bodie as the English gent. Well maybe it wasn't such a peculiar idea. The mores and morals that Bodie had brought back from the jungle had always been firmly stamped with his own mark; hardly your average mercenary was Bodie. That had always been an attraction; the fact that Doyle could never really anticipate any move that Bodie would make. And that of course had been the root of the problem; Doyle had misread his partner once too often.

There had been too many mistakes, too much stupidity, most of which had been his own. Remembering the months of depression that had followed that realisation, Doyle wondered how he could have ever thought otherwise.

In the years since Bodie had left, and after his own time of debauchery, Doyle had only very occasionally been tempted into sexual encounters and then only with people in whom he sensed the same sort of loneliness that was rooted in himself. Yet he let none of them last longer than a night, for closeness was to be flinched at, not embraced. Instead he put all his considerable energy into work, it's convoluted machinations tying up his thoughts quite adequately. Perhaps too much so, for it had only been in the last few months that he'd begun to realise that it was all pointless and that the work futile: a pathetic sop to his own humanity. He'd fought against it, as if by working harder the panic and frustration could be drowned in a sea of exhaustion. It hadn't worked. And now it had been a long time since he'd allowed himself the luxury of relaxation. Too long.

He turned over again, the familiar bed suddenly uncomfortable, the tiredness that seemed to have seeped into his bones contrarily making sleep elusive. Reaching over, he lit a cigarette, feeling the smoke burn as it trickled into his lungs, knotting them until he coughed.

Bodie didn't help. His return had brought back a host of unwanted memories, but also had revived the aching need his presence had always seemed to produce. Not that Doyle had ever admitted it to himself, that had been part of the trouble. That, and completely misreading Bodie's motives when, on Doyle announcing his engagement, Bodie had turned around and claimed him for himself. Doyle could play the game of 'if only' until the cows came home, but in his heart he wished that Bodie had been less demanding, acting less as if Doyle was his by right and had no say in the matter at all. Though in the end it would probably have made no difference.

What a mess. Even now Doyle felt sick at the remembered hurt and despair that had enveloped him and made him shy from the cold manipulation and possessiveness he saw behind Bodie's behaviour. That he'd failed to see the misery and fear behind the arrogant facade was typical. Bodie had always been his blind spot: brilliant at reading the motives and thoughts of strangers, his own unspoken needs blinded him where Bodie was concerned. Turning round and telling him that his offer of love was disgusting had been the last straw, they had fought, until turning on his heel Bodie had stalked out of the flat. The belief that his anger was righteous had sustained Doyle until the next day, when he'd seen an irate Cowley and found that his partner had gone, resigned, packed and as far as Doyle could find out, seemingly taken the first plane that took him away from English soil.

The ache of knowing that the last words between them had been so unforgiving had stayed for years, gnawing at his peace of mind. It was still there, an integral part of his person, as inseparable as the coaxing tongue that made him such a success at his job.

Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he ground the stub into the ashtray. He sighed, then giving up on sleep, stood up and pottered into the kitchen to make tea, topping it up with a little whisky. Moving to lean against the window he lit another cigarette and standing still, wreathed in smoke, gazed with sightless eyes at the neon-lit street. Bodie, what do you want of me? It can't be my bed, or you'd have taken me days ago. I know there's something; eight years ago you were never this patient unless courting a girl, or is that it, you're courting me? He pushed the thought from his mind, still wary and unsure where his emotions were concerned. If Bodie wanted him, then he must want his body, nothing else. The last drag on the filter, bitter in his mouth, Doyle stubbed it out and finishing his tea returned to an empty bed, completely failing to see the man watching him from the shadowed doorway across the empty street.

Bodie, watching the light go on, remembered from his previous days reconnaissance that the front window was the kitchen. Can't sleep then? Guilty conscience? Hope you rot with it. Face set in a hard mask, he pushed away from the wall and returned to his car, driving away with a screech of rubber that echoed the violence of his thoughts.

Despite the fact that sleep had eventually claimed him, Doyle woke early. Sunday; a day off. If I'm lucky even a day of rest. His thoughts were amused, this was probably the first Sunday in six months that he hadn't been working. Not that he was indispensable, he understood that, but as the voice of Amnesty Outreach, he was often the one people thought they wanted to speak to. Having his name and photograph in the papers still made him wince and he avoided it whenever possible, though Tim Davis always insisted it was good for business; gave the general public a face to put to the organisation. Doyle had often loudly wondered why Mr Davis didn't offer himself as sacrificial lamb for the British media, but Tim had only laughed and muttered about if the shoe fits.

The trouble was Doyle didn't think it did anymore. For years he had successfully managed to deceive himself into believing that he fought so hard for all the political prisoners and hostages out of altruism: in the last few weeks with the costly negotiations with four governments wearing away at his self deceptions, he had realised that his motives weren't so pure after all. Envy and hatred fuelled his ability. Envy that they could feel so strongly about something that they would willing sacrifice everything to try and achieve or protect it. Hatred of himself because he knew that there was nothing in the the world that could touch him that deeply. Nothing at all. He had felt despair and pain at the lost opportunity with Bodie, regret even for Ann, but no cause or belief seemed important enough to fire his soul. He did the job to prove to the world that Ray Doyle wasn't a hard unfeeling bastard. Not that anyone seemed to have noticed, perhaps after all he did it to prove it to himself.

Not for much longer though. Tim would take his resignation and like it. That the fiasco in Libya had worked out was due entirely to luck and certainly not to judgement; his concentration all over the place and his dedication at an all time low. Exhausted by the years of pretence he knew that the time had come to get out, before he managed to make some situation worse rather than better. He had enough trouble coping with guilt for the people he failed to save, let alone adding to that burden with ineptitude.

Naked, he slipped out of bed, pulling on a light towelling robe and padded through into the kitchen to make coffee and then sit at the table drinking it while reading the Sunday papers. Drivel. Didn't know why he bothered really, but catching up on the rest of the world was an ingrained habit. Leaving the home lives of the rich and not so famous, he made another pot of coffee - promising himself to cut out caffeine one day - and slicing some bread, put it in to toast.

Sunday stretched in front of him with nothing to do except think about Bodie. He realised that he'd avoided the name in his thoughts; skirted around it as if it was quicksand, ready to suck him in.


He sighed as he spread the marmalade; some things you just couldn't escape.

Eying with jaundiced vision the disorganised chaos of the kitchen, he realised it was like his life; a mess. What could he even offer Bodie, a string of one night stands to keep him occupied while he was on holiday? Oh wonderful, and even if he wanted to contact him he couldn't, somehow he'd never got around to finding out where Bodie was staying. Depression settled cloud-like around him, convincing him that a day off wasn't a good idea. Decision made he showered, dressed in jeans and olive jumper, and feeling slightly better, pottered around the flat, preparing to leave for the office. In the middle of straightening the cushions on the sofa the doorbell rang. His heart hammered against his ribs and cursing the reaction he paused for a moment to still his breathing before going to answer the door.

"Hi, I wondered if you got Sundays off." Bodie pushed past him, overwhelming in the life force he exuded.

Doyle felt the cloud magically disperse. "Sometimes, when I'm lucky."

"Great, I'm going away for a week and thought we could spend today together before I leave."

The cloud returned, though more on the horizon than overhead.

"Don't look so miserable sweetheart, I'll be back." Bodie prowled around the flat as if seeing it for the first time. "Great flat. Though unless you really fancy staying in I thought we could go down to Kew for the day - what do you think?"

Slightly dazed, Doyle could only see the classic lines of Bodie's face lit with warmth for him, and he would have readily agreed to anything, even walking around ornamental gardens in the freezing cold.

They drove down in almost silence that somehow wasn't awkward for either of them. Doyle enjoying Bodie's assured driving, his strong capable hands dealing with wheel and gear stick with casual efficiency. As Bodie changed gear, the cord covered thigh muscles flexed and it was with difficulty that Doyle looked away.

Bodie, aware of the glance, may possibly have changed gear more often than absolutely necessary. He wished, vaguely, that Doyle was still the way he used to be; happy to flirt casually and indiscriminately. But the years had changed him and Bodie wasn't going to be able to use his hard won invulnerability to Doyle's come-ons. Jesus, he had been a prick-tease. Then after all that, the body language and the jokes, to turn around, railing about how disgusting... He slammed the thought back into its box, his hands white-knuckled on the wheel. Later, he promised himself. Later.

Reaching over he flicked a switch, flooding the car with a tape provided by the hire company; Mozart. Still, anything was better than thinking.

Kew was beautiful even on an icy February day. The sun came out and they wandered in its unseasonable warmth. They went into one of the palm houses but the intense heat was too much of a contrast to the bitter cold, so instead of sweating under their multi layers of clothing, went back outside. The vast gardens still showed signs of the 'hurricane' damage; huge old trees still lying around, uprooted by the fierce wind, waiting to be chopped and taken away. Most of the branches had already been cut off and they walked around the denuded trunks of 300-year-old oaks, moved by the dead grandeur.

Walking along the farthest edge of the gardens where they could glimpse the Thames, they were for a while completely apart from the other visitors. Pausing at a curve in the path, Bodie put a hand to Doyle's neck, drawing him close, and with infinite tenderness kissed his lips.

Bodie's flesh brushed coldly against his, hands on his shoulders held him still and surrendering, Ray licked at the offered lips, feeling the warmth of Bodie's breath moist against his face. He shivered as Bodie licked back, once, then the hands released him and Bodie walked on as if nothing had happened. After a moment, Doyle followed and they made their way back to the car.

That evening they had dinner in a small Indian restaurant near the Heath, both of them amused by the decor and the music; a peculiar global mishmash threaded with Indian melodies, though neither of them used quite that term. Relaxed by wine and food, Doyle searched for a way to tell Bodie how sorry he was, but everything he ran through in his head sounded trite. Sorry I fucked up our lives, mate - wanna start again? Yeah, great. Have Bodie down on bended knee that would. The idea sent a frisson of excitement down to his groin. Bodie viewed through the smoky candlelight, elegant and saturnine, was the summation of his dreams; the real reason behind every sexual encounter he'd had over the past eight years. That he was here, that he had kissed him - Yes, it did happen, come on, you don't have daylight fantasies like that one - let him hope that something could be salvaged from the wreckage he'd made. But they needed to talk. Doyle was certain that Bodie disapproved of his work, and wasn't even aware of what Bodie had been doing for the last eight years. Very good at evading the issue was Bodie, had been then, still was now. He drank the last of his wine, carefully placing the glass on the pink damask cloth, his long fingers playing idly with its stem, and tried to be positive. Maybe they didn't need to talk it over; perhaps time had healed the wounds. He looked up, catching Bodie looking at him with intensity and his breath caught as dark eyes snared him.

"Come on, it's getting late, I'll take you home."

Doyle stilled. "I'm not sixteen and braving a father's wrath by not being in by midnight, you know."

"Yeah, but I'm Cinderella and don't want to turn into a pumpkin, so come on."

"Okay, but come back for coffee?" Doyle tried to hide his insecurity at myriad possibilities inherent in that phrase.

For a moment Bodie sat, twisting an unused knife round and round with his strong blunt fingers. Head bent, he looked up with his eyes, trapping Doyle in their light. "Do you really want me to?" His voice, dark and low, made goosebumps rise on Doyle's arms, his imagination in overdrive.

"Yeah, come on." They paid the bill and left, stepping out into the winter chilled streets to Bodie's car, which was parked a fair distance away. They walked in silence, enjoying the stillness of the Heath, their breath clouding in the night air, the only sounds their footsteps on the pavement and the rustle of dry branches overhead.

"Bodie, we need to talk."

"We talk all the time, Angelfish" The old nickname slid glibly off his tongue. It made Doyle wince.

"We don't talk about what happened; about us." He could feel Bodie withdrawing and cursed. "It's no good me just saying I'm sorry, it sounds too...I don't know...too trite. But I am. And I need you to know why I behaved like I did." He walked on a few paces, conscious of the tension between them, sighing. "Also, if you want to tell me, I'd like to know about you."

"Nothing to know," Bodie shrugged.

"I think there is."

"I left, went to the States, worked there and now I'm back on holiday, that's it."

Doyle sighed, this was going to be difficult. "Bodie, I need to know what you really thought." He stopped. "What you're thinking now."

"Jesus, Doyle, still don't let up do you. Well I was well and truly fucked off with you, and now," he smiled, "now - apart from the fact that I want to fuck you - I don't know, all right?"

For a moment Doyle stood, face startled in the neon street light. Then he smiled in return, a real smile that touched his eyes with warmth. "All right."

Despite Doyle's efforts the tension had returned before they got to his flat. Bodie drank his coffee and the momentary intimacy of the winter street was forgotten, and after all that had been said, he didn't stay long. At the door on his way out, he turned to Doyle, watching him, seeing the inner strain and sexual need that was too carefully disguised. "You know, I said I'm going away for a week, well it's only to a friend's cottage in Cornwall. Why don't you come? Just the two of us, perhaps we can do that talking you keep going on about." He smiled. "Can that agency you work for spare you for a while? I do want to talk too, you know."

Rapidly, Doyle thought over the work that would undoubtedly keep him occupied ten hours a day for the next week; nothing that Tim couldn't cope with. Besides, the idea of a week away with Bodie made all of it seem irrelevant. "I expect so. Are you sure though?"

"Yeah, tomorrow, I'll pick you up at two o'clock, okay?"

"Two o'clock."

"Don't worry about packing anything fancy. Jeans'll do fine."

"Just about all I've got, don't you read the papers? Anybody'd think it was the most interesting thing about what I do; the fact that I go to their bloody power meetings dressed like this." He gestured to what Whitehall would consider disreputable attire.

Bodie remembered the news items well. One of them had run a photo of Doyle wearing a pair of jeans he was sure he remembered from their CI5 days. The surge of lust he'd felt on seeing the tatty figure had disgusted him. Not one to take dismissal lightly, Bodie had worked hard to eradicate the part of himself that still clung tenaciously to Doyle's memory; the part of him that wanted Doyle submissive in his arms. He had almost succeeded.

"Yeah, I've seen them. High profile and all that, it must be quite an ego boost."

"Pain in the arse, more like." Sincerity rang like a bell.

"Anyway, bring what you want. You can impress the locals with your patched denim." He moved out of the light and into the frosted night air. "See you tomorrow then."

"Two o'clock."

"Yeah, 'night."

"Good-night Bodie."

Bodie walked away, the vitriol of his thoughts eating away at his sanity. Goodnight sweetheart, sleep well. We'll see if you're thanking me tomorrow.

The car was there, waiting for him when he looked out of the window at five to two. He smiled. Bodie always was on time. Must be all that army training. Picking up his bag, checking that everything was off, Doyle locked up and ran down the stairs, whistling for the first time in years.

"Punctual as ever. You been practising over in America?"

"Yeah. The Yanks are worse for timekeeping than Cowley was." Letting the clutch out Bodie pulled smoothly away from the curb, heading for the M3. "I didn't have time for lunch, how about you?"

"No, never eat much of it anyway."

"Can tell." The baggier clothes Doyle wore only served to accentuate his slightness, rather than disguise it. It was only since his return that Bodie realised he was bigger than the other man; height and muscle giving him a pleasing sense of power that bubbled with other emotions under the surface of what he actually said. "Even after all those meals out we've been having, reckon you haven't put on an ounce."

"You can talk; you can't weigh much more than you did before."

"American cut clothes can disguise anything. But I guess I'm not bad," Bodie grimaced, "considering how much I have to work at it; a month of laziness and all the muscle turns to flab. Not like you - you could always get away with murder."

"I wondered why you were eating all those salads last week."

"Yeah, though a couple of times I'd've killed for a bite of your dinner. What do you do, choose what you want by counting the calories and then choosing the dish with the highest total?"

"Well, I've had a lot of not eating to catch up on; my stomach seems to clam up on me when I'm in the middle of a negotiation. Besides, Arab food makes me feel sick; too greasy."

"I've got a picnic in the back." Doyle looked at him with amazement, making Bodie smile. "Well, two flasks of coffee and some sarnies from the deli."

Doyle laughed, "Glad some things never change. The idea of you making a real picnic almost gave me a heart attack." He looked sardonically at Bodie's aura of bemused innocence. "Bet you still make instant mashed potato rather than bother with the real thing." The powdery, slimy mess was another thing they had never agreed on.

"Guilty as charged, your honour, but its only because I can't get my delicate white hands wet peeling potatoes; they might wrinkle and then what'd I do."

Doyle snorted. "Wear rubber gloves, like good housewives everywhere."

"Can't do that, too much of a turn on, I always thought there was something very sexy about rubber." Bodie smiled lecherously.

"Give over," but Doyle laughed all the same.

Thirty miles later, Bodie pulled off the motorway and after a mile or so found them a track to park in. The sandwiches were good and the coffee excellent; real, strong and sweet. Doyle finished his flask, then realised that he'd need to empty his bladder before getting back to the journey. "Back in a sec." He got out of the car and as the road was empty, walked up to the trees and relieved himself. Comfortable, and rebuttoning his flies, he turned back to the car, only to be hit by a wave of giddiness as he pulled open the door. Leaning hard against the roof he felt nausea churning his guts; the countryside reeling around him.


Well remembered hands took firm hold, and unable to protest he was bundled into the the car. As vision dimmed Doyle finally became aware that Bodie had drugged him. He looked up at the face hovering so close, and his last conscious thought was to wonder why it had never occurred to him before, that Bodie's eyebrow made him look like the devil.

Sitting back in the driving seat, Bodie wiped his shaking hands on his cords. Stupid bastard, don't get in a state now, he'll be all right, it's only sleeping pills. You know you haven't killed him. He looked over at the comatose Doyle, a broken stringed puppet lying sprawled on the seat. They want him for a week, no more, and nothing nasty. Anyway, what would it matter to you if they did, after what the bastard did to you? He berated himself for his shaky reaction to Doyle's collapse. Come on Bodie, the pills only work for eight hours and you've got to get to Scotland before then. Reaching over to fasten the seat belt around the sleeping man, and to arrange his limbs so he looked merely asleep, Bodie started the car and headed back the way he'd come, before beginning the long haul to Scotland.

It wasn't a particularly arduous journey, and there were long stretches of motorway where he could just turn his brain off. Bodie spent most of the time trying to think about anything other than the loose limbed sprawl next to him. Even out cold, Doyle managed to exude sexuality. Head turned slightly away, the sensuous profile dragged Bodie's eyes away from the road again and again, as his errant body remembered the soft touch of sensual lips against his own, the brush of the silky beard that had almost had him forgetting his plans and taking Doyle to bed. Oh, he had spoken the truth, he did want to fuck Doyle, he wanted to see that perfect mouth swallow his cock, feel the beard softly abrading...

No! But he shivered nonetheless, the hairs on his neck rising in sympathy. No one had the right to be that goddamned attractive. A tight swelling at his groin proved his point. Too attractive, too fuckable. A long time ago, it had been the first thing he'd noticed about his new partner, and at the time he'd silently cursed Cowley for pairing him with the living embodiment of his wet-dreams. At first he'd made Doyle pay, treating him like a dumb copper, baiting him at every opportunity, denying his skill and professionalism, calling him an amateur - not that he ever was. But then even that had worn thin and he'd had to admit friendship, and later, something stronger. Trust his luck to wait too long, to let Doyle get involved with that ball-breaker. Made a compete mess of it didn't you, letting your balls speak rather than your brain. Didn't excuse Doyle's reaction though. The remembered words could still sear, and the pain that had sent him storming into Cowley's office hadn't softened with time.

Arousal fading, he ignored Doyle and tried to think about other things, like the rest-cure that Doyle was going for. He'd be back in London next week, a bit bruised maybe, mentally as much as physically. Then he'd just continue with his life as if nothing had happened. Bodie had no illusions that Doyle needed him. He might, through his guilt, think that he did. But he didn't. And Bodie certainly didn't need Doyle, he'd proved that over the last eight years. He'd taken this job to know finally that he was free. Of course the money helped, but more than that, he wanted to see Doyle again and to test beyond any doubt his own invulnerability.

Unfortunately, though he didn't know it, it hadn't worked; love can be disguised as many things, hatred not least amongst them. As the miles sped past he concentrated on that hatred, the prickles of lust he felt feeding on the strength of the emotion, whatever name he decided to call it.

It was dark and Doyle was stirring as he negotiated the long drive leading up to the old house. Bodie braked and turned off the ignition, stretching to ease the tension in his neck muscles after the long journey. He knew the house was empty, Doyle's hosts wouldn't be arriving until tomorrow. This was the final part of Bodie's task, to keep watch until they could get here in response to yesterday's telephone call.

It wouldn't be difficult, he'd seen the cellar that had been prepared with no expense spared to keep Doyle imprisoned; Houdini himself would have had second thoughts about it. He wondered again why it was so necessary to have Doyle incommunicado for a week, he hadn't been told, though he had asked. His employer had ignored the question, although he'd been adamant that they intended their visitor no lasting harm. They wanted to tuck him away for week and ask him a few simple questions. Bodie knew that Doyle had been bashed around by enough heavies in the past for a few more bruises not to matter much. The small matter of trust, Bodie pushed from his mind.

"Come on sunshine, time to wake up." He shook the arm nearest him, and Doyle opened his eyes. Their clearness a sure sign that he'd been waking for a while. "Don't give me any trouble, I'm armed and you're not. It'll only mean you getting hurt."

"Won't I anyway?" Doyle watched the distant face and cursed himself. There wasn't another person in the world he would have trusted to the extent of going away with like this.

"No, not unless you don't cooperate."

"I think I've heard that before."

"Yeah, same old record, same old tunes." Bodie got out of the car and opened Doyle's door. "Come on, out you get." He stood, gun drawn and poised, as Doyle uncurled from the seat. It was dark, but the moon cast easily enough light to see. "Turn around." Unwillingly Doyle complied, flinching as the gun was thrust into the nape of his neck, his feet kicked apart so that his weight pushed against the car. Without any undue force, Bodie took his hands and cuffed them at the small of his back. "I'll take them off as soon as we're inside. I don't want you running off, not that there's anywhere to run to, there's nothing within twenty miles, you'd be more likely to die of exposure than to escape." He pulled at the collar of Doyle's sweater, guiding him away from the car and into the house.

It wasn't until the cellar door was closed with Doyle inside, handcuffs removed, that Bodie relaxed, almost sighing with relief. Even with the gun in his hand he'd been wary, sure that Doyle would try something.

Bodie was faintly curious why Doyle had been so quiet. It wasn't like him to take capture so easily, he recalled past fights against overwhelming odds. Then he shrugged, Doyle had changed, he was so much more contained than before, that perhaps his courage had gone the same way as his temper. Prowling around the empty building he checked that all the doors and windows were locked and then returned to the living room. Nothing on TV. He sat for a while then went to make some coffee that he didn't drink; returning to pace the carpeted floor, unease niggling at his mind.

Perhaps there was something wrong, Doyle had been very quiet. Maybe the drugs didn't agree with him. Making up his mind he went to peer through the spy-hole that gave a panoramic view of the cell.

The large square room was bare except for table, bucket and bedding. He could see Doyle curled on the thin cotton mattress, knees tucked against his chin. Bodie knew it was damp and chilly in the cellar, but at least he'd left Doyle his thick woollen sweater. Eyes flicking around the rest of the floor he cursed; by the sink was evidence that Doyle had been sick. His instincts had been right; the man wasn't well. Maybe even so unwell that he needed medical attention. The thought of delivering a dead body to the Arabs wasn't very pleasant. So, wary of any tricks, Bodie unlocked the door, closing it loudly behind him.

Drawing his gun, Bodie moved cautiously down the stairs to stand at the prone man's side. He was lifting his foot to roll the body over when lightening fast hands grabbed hold of his ankle and pushed him off balance. He hit the floor hard and Doyle was on him. They scrambled together, the gun in Bodie's fist hampering his fight, but then he was on top, his arm free and he knocked the barrel across the side of Doyle's head, stunning him. Doyle made a soft sound as he went limp under Bodie's weight.

Breathing hard Bodie pulled himself to his feet and dragged Doyle back to the mattress. He got the handcuffs out of his pocket and replaced them around thin wrists, just managing to stop himself from fastening them tight, his temper directed at himself and his own carelessness. So much for Doyle seeming cowed.

Squatting by his side, Bodie turned Doyle over and found himself staring into fierce green eyes.

"Bastard!" The word was spat at him. "Was it for the money, or just the fun you could have making a fool of me?" Doyle was panting with fury, his temper making articulation difficult. "Good old Bodie," he snarled, "I should have remembered, shouldn't I, you never did have any scruples. Hope they gave you enough cash to make the inconvenience worth it. Wouldn't like to think of a week spent wining and dining me for nothing. God it must have been difficult, surprised you managed to stay awake, sunshine." The old word dripped venom. "Didn't even get to fuck me, did you? Didn't even get that reward for your services."

"Fucking you wouldn't be a reward you little bastard." Bodie's hatred and the years of bitterness were rising in him like bile, Doyle's vicious words destroying his carefully constructed restraint. "Fucking you would be nothing but a chore."

"Oh no, Bodie, don't delude yourself that much. I remember that kiss; you wanted me then and I think you still do." He paused, licking his dry lips. "And for my sin's I thought I loved you, you bastard, I wanted..." The words were lost as Bodie backhanded him across the mouth.

"Don't talk about love to me," Bodie hissed, "love doesn't even belong in your vocabulary. After how much I loved you then, for you to carp on about love now," Bodie watched in a red hazed fury as Doyle raised himself up awkwardly on an elbow, his mouth split and bleeding from the heavy blow. "I've spent the last eight years trying to forget how much I loved you and all you've done is forget me, and get fucked by half the men in London. Turn you on did it, rubbing my nose in it. Telling me you wouldn't soil your lily white body with another man's touch then rushing out to offer your arse to anyone who'd have it." He wove his fingers into the curling hair, pulling their faces close. "Made you feel like a man did it?" Spittle flecked across Doyle's face. "Made you feel really good to turn me down."

He released his hold and looked at Doyle's body, its sprawled abandon a hook that drove straight down into his groin. "Well you can't turn me down now." White faced and intent, he struggled to undo the buttons on Doyle's jeans as the other man fought to get away. "Keep still." Another blow enforced the order and Doyle, not believing that his own anger could have brought this on, felt the fastenings on his Levi's give and the soft cotton pull down until it snagged at his ankles. Dazed from another blow he tried to curl in on himself, but the cuffs holding his arms behind his back precluded any real resistance.

Doyle finally knew that he had to fear for his life as much as injury; this Bodie was quite capable of killing him by accident if not by design. He tried to speak, to reason, but his words were gagged when his face was pushed into the mattress. Bodie, please, don't do this - it's been too long... The litany of words was audible only to himself because Bodie was speaking his own; a string of blasphemy and obscenity that spewed forth the hatred that had festered for so long around his soul.

Above it all, Doyle heard the sound of Bodie's own clothing being ripped off without regard, and lying immobile, tried despite numbing fear to relax. The heavy weight of the other body moved to lie against him and between his buttocks felt the smooth, hard heat of Bodie's sex. Careless fingers caught his thighs, pushing them apart and when a finger probed inside, Doyle could stay still no longer and fought regardless of injury, breathing harshly. But a vicious hand at his neck restrained him, the touch a less than subtle warning of Bodie's darker skills. Doyle moaned, even the finger's entry seemed an intolerable intrusion. Bodie, please. Then the world turned scarlet as Bodie pushed into him and he arched, shuddering, breath ripped from him by the darkness of the pain.

For Bodie the rape didn't take long. When he had spent himself, oblivious to his own pain as well as Doyle's, he sagged, head bowed over the shivering body. He felt nothing; no triumph, no release, nothing at all.

He stood and clumsily replaced his trousers, ignoring the discomfort of his own flesh. There was nothing left. With rough care he pulled Doyle's jeans up, ignoring the groan as he was rolled over. Distant, he pulled the blanket over tense shoulders, numbed beyond grief by what he had done, resting a hand briefly on taut, clammy skin.

Doyle lay still, shivers racking his body as he lay where Bodie had left him. He didn't look up as Bodie opened the door. He didn't listen to the voice that might have whispered, "Sorry, sunshine," as the door was quietly closed between them.

The sound of a car crunching over the gravel drive roused Bodie from his abstraction. Pulling himself up off the sofa where he had sat for most of the night, he stretched painfully, trying to ease the kinks out of his spine, and moved to the window.

There were three men getting out of the car, Bodie knew them all by sight but only one of them by name; Ahmed Nayhoum the man who had set up the whole kidnapping. The strangeness of being contacted in the States by someone who wanted him for his old CI5 contacts had made him wary, but there had been nothing in the background information he'd found to suggest that Nayhoum was anything other than what he'd said. Cautiously Bodie had agreed to do the job for a very large sum of money, without Bodie's help they would have had to force him and kidnapping would certainly have alerted the police, something they did not want at all. This way, using Bodie as bait, they had got Doyle away and given themselves a week of breathing space.

Were Doyle's contacts in Libya so important, Bodie wondered, to make all this worthwhile? Obviously so to these men. Watching them scrunch over the gravel to the door he assessed them, while a distant part of his mind considered coldly whether or not Doyle would manage to hold out against their practised brutality. The rest of his conscious thoughts shied away from the idea. Doyle wouldn't be stupid, he'd save himself without indulging in false heroics. The contacts in Libya were only Arabs after all; even Doyle would see the logic of saving his own skin over theirs.

He walked to the door and unfastened the locks, soon be time to go, pick up the rest of the cash then out of it. Visions of the South of France were conjured by his brain, any warmth as an antidote to the last few weeks of freezing cold; maybe somewhere even warmer? He shivered as frosted air billowed into the warm hallway, the cold making him think of the unheated cellar. Doyle would be okay, he was a survivor and he hadn't been that rough, it was only something that Doyle enjoyed anyway. He blanked out the raw ache in his penis that had come from the too tight penetration. Just like Doyle to give him something to remember him by. He didn't think about the blood, or the picture of Doyle lying semi-conscious on the stone floor. The images were contained in his brain, but were remote from the part of him that functioned.

Nayhoum was at the door, staring at him strangely. "Good morning Mr Bodie, is everything as we arranged?"

"Of course, he's locked in the cellar."

"Good, my friends here want to start their conversation with him." He broke off to speak in Arabic and all three of them laughed and moved into the main room to put down their cases. "Our thanks," the Arab sketched a bow, "I expect you want your money and to be away." He extracted an envelope from his pocket. "It was well done, Mr Bodie, you came highly recommended and I have not been disappointed." He handed the package over. "Count it, please." He smiled graciously.

Bodie checked the cash; all there as agreed. He picked up his jacket and turned to leave, glancing at the equipment the Arab with the broken nose was unpacking from the bags. Its connotations made him pause, "I thought you only wanted to question him?"

Nayhoum looked surprised. "Yes, of course." He raised an amused eyebrow at the disapproval radiating from the Englishman. "What methods would you use?"

Bodie, eyes glued to the car battery couldn't think. "Dunno, drugs, intimidation..."

"You think such methods alone would work against him?" Nayhoum nodded in the direction of the cellar.

Silent, Bodie acknowledged to himself that however he tried to phrase it in his mind, it wasn't really the method, it was the fact that they intended to use it on Ray Doyle. Damn it, the man bewitched him even now. "You're right, he's a stubborn bastard." He summoned the semblance of a smile. "Though, I doubt if he'll stand out against that. Those names must be very important."

"Of course, why else would we go to all these elaborate preparations? I could inflict pain for the pleasure of it at home in warmth and comfort; he is the only reason we are in this benighted country. Good-bye, Mr Bodie." He looked amused again. "I didn't expect scruples from someone like you."

"No...well, it was just a surprise... Good-bye. You know who to contact if you ever need me again." Bodie stepped out into the still, icy air, letting Nayhoum close the door behind him. Slinging his bag onto the back seat of the hire-car, he sat for a moment, sounding himself for traces of any emotion. Nothing. Mildly pleased, he started the car and headed South towards London.

A few hours later, the drive back into England seeming to have taken longer so far than the whole outward journey, he realised that the previous night had taken its toll and that he was really too exhausted to be safe on the road. Pulling off the motorway he followed 'A' roads until he saw a sign for a country hotel. Drawing up outside the grey stone building he parked, and taking his bag, went in. Being February there was no problem and he registered immediately, going straight to his room.

He stood under the shower for so long that his skin began to wrinkle, though even then didn't really feel clean. Drying off, he tried lying down, but sleep was elusive, muscles strung tight with tension the instant he stretched out on the bed. After a while he went to the window and stared out at the winter landscape. Claustrophobia bit at his heels, so he tried going for a walk, keeping to the nearby footpaths rather than the roads. The countryside was lovely, the air sharp and clean. It was all so tranquil that for long minutes he managed to achieve a bland state of indifference, but insidious tendrils of thought would slither into the happy vacuum, making his mind lurch.


An ice cold weight settled in the pit of his stomach, stopping him in his tracks as imagination bleakly running free. Oh God, they'll kill him. Steadying himself, pushing the images away he let detachment take over. Breathing deeply of the chill air he reminded himself that Doyle would probably be hurt less in the long run than if they were using fists and boots to beat the shit out of him. Besides he'd tell them anyway. Doyle wasn't stupid. No, not stupid, he answered himself, stubborn.

Uncaring of the spectacular scenery that stretched in front of him, he tried to pull his mind away from Doyle but the thought of how determined the other man could be nagged him. Turning on his heel, he tramped back to the hotel, his mood foul. Eating an early dinner he returned to his room to curse himself, the world and Raymond Doyle, in no particular order.

Half dressed, he lay on the bed trying to make sense of what he felt. In the darkness he could recall every moment of seeing Doyle since returning from America. The meals, the day at Kew, the gentle sorrow that seemed to have touched Doyle making him unsure and unwary. Peeling back the layers of his own self-deception he berated himself - I should have come back years ago, or fought harder for him against that bitch. He realised that the blind fury he had felt had long gone, burned out, leaving something else to rise from its ashes.

Staring at the cracked ceiling he acknowledged his own fear; fear that he wasn't immune, that Doyle could still touch him; hurt him. It was well founded. At least he knew why he hadn't taken Doyle up on any of the implied offers and fucked him; because if he had, then all the deceptions would be in tatters and his love would have been obvious for Doyle's sharp eyes to see.

Yeah, faint but following, Bodie. You'll get there in the end. Bitter hurt, rejection, all the years apart, finally meant nothing. Destroying Doyle had been the catalyst that opened his eyes. His stomach churned at the memory of Doyle lying defeated beneath him. Wonder how you'll explain that? Drive up, rescue him and then conveniently suffer from amnesia? Bodie devoutly wished he could, but Ray Doyle wouldn't accept that easily. Probably wanted to kill him anyway. He tried to see how he would react if the situation were reversed and it was Doyle who had left him, raped and betrayed, to be tortured by strangers. It didn't ease his mind. He could only hope that Doyle could be more forgiving. Just enough to let me help you, sunshine, then I'll go. Having finally seen the truth he felt calmer, even the strong possibility that Doyle would spit in his face not upsetting his new found equilibrium. If he did, he did. At least he wouldn't be haunted forever by the image of Doyle dead in that freezing cellar.

As long as he was still alive.

The thought itself was a betrayal. He had to be. He was too tough and stubborn to have given the Arabs the information they wanted and he was safe until then.

He looked at his watch; 9pm. Time enough for three hours sleep. Finishing undressing he slipped under the covers, sleeping soundly, if briefly, for the first time in a week.

By the time he reached the vicinity of the isolated house it was almost light; the long grey dawn having grudgingly ceded to a sullenly cold day.

Thoughts focused and clear he parked the car about a mile away, approaching the house on foot. Unsure of what the Arabs would be doing he reconnoitred carefully. They shouldn't be expecting trouble, but there was no reason not to be sure.

Okay, so there were three of them, but on the plus side was Doyle, who if he was capable, would be counted as an ally - as long as he recognised Bodie as such. Hell, he was armed and they weren't expecting him - he'd fought tougher odds and won. Though in fewer situations, he admitted to himself, that meant quite so much.

Unzipping his jacket to give free access to his gun, he took a deep breath. Three to one was the only way to look at it, unless Doyle fought him as well. A surge of amusement broke over him, after all, he couldn't discount that possibility either. Steadying himself with the thought that if necessary he'd take Doyle with him even against his will, Bodie checked that the Arabs car was in the garage before silently entering through the kitchen window.

Drawing his gun, he quartered the house, it was empty. So they were all in the cellar and he wondered if they'd been there all night. He paused at the cellar door, listening intently. The thick door muffled sound, but he could tell that they were in there. There was no way that he wanted to wait, but he knew that he'd have to. If he burst into the cellar with all of them there the odds were high of Doyle getting killed.

So wait he did. It was the hardest thing he had ever done.

After half an hour his clothes were soaked with sweat, the agony of inaction enforced by muted sounds that his silence adapted ears picked up; shouts, and twice the top notes of a scream. Using all his training and experience to blank out the noises, he managed after the first time to barely flinch, his face just setting into a harsh mask of resolution.

Finally, after an eternity he was rewarded. The broken nosed Arab emerged out of the cellar and closed the door behind him. Bodie, silently and efficiently, stepped out from the concealment of the kitchen and broke his neck, then dragged the body away from the door.

Back on guard, adrenaline snapping at nerves, he prayed it wouldn't be long. After about five minutes the door opened. Perhaps prayer was of use after all; the last two men were together, laughing and chattering in Arabic. As they turned and locked the door, Bodie stepped out and shot them both dead before either of them had even registered that he was there.

It felt as if all his adult years he'd killed. From his first man at the age of fifteen, to these, the line stretched around his life, patterning it with darkness. Not that any of the deaths meant anything. It had always been Doyle who had kept their collective conscience, and after splitting with him, Bodie would have been hard pushed to name such an organ, let alone admit that he had one. He wasn't immoral or even amoral; merely resigned to doing his job. The games he'd played were always for real; kill or be killed. That left no room for fancy thinking, only pleasure in being alive. He did it, sometimes he had even enjoyed it, but he'd never become a slave to it. That was the reason he was good at his job; because it was just that.

Kneeling, Bodie searched the bodies and found the large cellar key and a small silver handcuff key in Nayhoum's inner pocket. Wiping them clean, he stood, his resolution fading now that he faced the hardest task of all; confronting Doyle.

Unlocking the door, hardening himself against whatever he might have to face, Bodie walked down the stairs.

In the farthest corner, leaning almost negligently against the supporting walls, stood Doyle. He was grey faced, and even even in the damp, chill air Bodie could see that sweat drenched his body. But he stared with calm self-possession at Bodie, showing no surprise. "Come back for your turn, have you? Oh, I forgot, you had that earlier on." The voice was low, its tenor harsh and roughened. Doyle blinked hard. "Well get on with it, you bastard, don't keep me in suspense. What's it going to be this time, more fun and games with that..." He couldn't name it, just gestured with hands that were handcuffed together towards Ahmed's equipment. "Or are we back to more basic methods. Feel like a bit more arse do you?" He broke off the stream of contempt to cough harshly, trying to wrap his arms around his body.

"No." Bodie tried to make his voice calm but the word came out as a plea. He took a deep breath. "No, I've come to get you out of here. You must've heard the shots. Weren't you curious?"

Doyle was visibly fading. "No, just thought it was thieves falling out." He spoke with difficulty, bending his arms to dab at the trickle of blood that seeped from a cut eyebrow. The movement sent a sharp pain deep into his chest and he held himself still as the brightly lit room began to spin.

"I suppose in a way you're right; I killed them. Come on, let's get out of here."

Doyle stayed where he was, taking no steps towards the door even though he appeared to be free to move. He shifted slightly against the supporting wall and Bodie saw that he was breathing shallowly; as if the slightest movement caused distress. Apart from deep weals circling bony wrists, there was little outward damage, and Bodie wondered where the pain was.

"Jesus, you lot think of everything." Doyle tried to laugh, but gave up as his knees began to buckle and he barely managed to stay upright. "Same old routine; good cop, bad cop. Well fuck off, Bodie, I've seen it before." Very gently he lowered himself to the floor, trying to make the movement seem unforced and casual, as if he was tired; dismissive of Bodie's presence. But a crest of pain caught him, and he felt the tilting room's clarity blur. He berated himself, too weak, don't let the bastard see. He knew beyond doubt that Bodie was the last straw. That if he tried, he could break him. In the distance, he was faintly aware of Bodie talking, but the ragged blackness was getting closer; can't talk when I'm out cold, sunshine. The thought warmed him, making him almost happy, as he willingly surrendered to the dark.

Bodie sighed with relief, at least unconscious he could get Doyle out of there without too much of a fight. Crouching at the crumpled figure's side, Bodie unlocked the handcuffs, easing metal from raw skin. Closer, he could see deep bruising that was beginning to show on the naked body, making him wonder which of the marks had been caused by his own hands. Pushing the thought away, he moved slightly, reaching for the blanket that lay on the thin mattress, pulling it towards him. It exposed a dark stain on the grey cotton.


Doyle's blood. He swallowed guilt and nausea in equal quantities.

Moving back, he reached out to touch the filthy scarecrow hair, but as he did so Doyle stirred, raising his head to look bleakly through red rimmed eyes. Despair closely followed by anger were reflected in their dull green depths, before they closed. "Go away, Bodie," he whispered, "just go away."

"I can't, you can't stay here. I told you, I've come to get you away."

Doyle's mouth twisted. "Oh yeah, I forgot. Where this time? Another holiday home with a different set of hosts?"

"No just away, back to London...wherever. I'm not lying, Ray."

"Do you really think I'll be gullible enough to believe you?"

"No, but you're coming with me anyway. I can't leave you here." He stood and bending down slid his hands under Doyle's arms, hoisting him to his feet. The sudden movement made Doyle grimace and bite back a groan, alarming Bodie who could feel the clammy chill of bare skin. "Put this around you until we get upstairs." He dragged the rough blanket around the shivering man, cursing fate that Doyle had regained consciousness. "Come on Doyle, we've got to go."

The only answer was a terse, "Fuck off."

"Come on, I'm telling you the truth. Nayhoum and his men are dead, you can see for yourself. Now let's get out of here."

Doyle looked at him blankly, then as if giving in, pushed away from the wall. He was too weakened for the attack to have any hope of success and it ended with him dazed, being carried up the stairs.

Once on the top floor, Bodie lay Doyle down on the bed, before going to run a bath. The tremors that ran through the long muscles of Doyle's body worried him. Shock, pain and cold could be a fatal combination and he knew he had to get Doyle warm quickly. He waited for the bath to fill, keeping the water just warm whilst removing his jacket and rolling up his sleeves.

The sting of water on abused skin brought Doyle hissing from his stupor. But after a while the warmth was wonderful, easing the deep cold that seemed to have taken permanent refuge in his bones. As the shivers calmed, Bodie gradually added more hot water until after a while Doyle lay clouded in steam.

Bodie watched his charge carefully, seeing the exhaustion that made staying awake a chore. We really put you through the wringer, sunshine. Ahmed and me; what a combination. Sighing, he picked up soap and sponge, preparing to wash the exhausted body, only to have them snatched from his hands by a glaring Doyle. He backed off and watched helplessly as Doyle clumsily persevered until he was soaped from head to toe, before sinking with a groan back into the water.

"You'd better get out, the water's getting cold."

Doyle grimaced in protest but acknowledged Bodie by trying to lever himself out of the bath. In the end, with ill grace, he allowed Bodie to help, cursing under his breath. Upright, he snatched the towel from offering hands and cursorily dried himself before ignoring Bodie and limping into the bedroom.

Bodie watched the over careful walk, trying to assess the damage. Time and the heat of the bath had brought more bruising to the surface and it was pretty obvious that the final session with Nayhoum's men had involved very little sophistication. The clear discomfort hurt Bodie almost as much as it did Doyle.

Sure that Doyle wasn't going anywhere, he slipped out of the house and brought his car up to the front door before quickly searching and finding most of Doyle's clothing scattered around the cellar. For a moment he stood, numbly surveying the empty room, cursing himself for being twenty different types of fool, before heading back to the bedroom.

Slumped on the bed, Doyle cradled his head in his hands; if only he could get his brain to work. It was all so confusing. So Bodie had come back for him and had killed the Arabs in order to do it. But why? The implications in what Bodie was doing made his head ache even more than it already did. He pressed the heels of his palms into his eye sockets, trying to obliterate the image of Bodie, incoherent with rage, fucking him. His mind and body still needed time to recover from that assault. He swallowed convulsively, cold sweat prickling on his body at the thought of Bodie taking him. He couldn't. The idea that Bodie had returned only to continue his revenge ate at him, black depression threatening to consume the last remaining rags of his self-possession. Bodie, why did you come back? He could feel tears trying to escape from his eyes, and horrified, pressed until he saw bright pinpricks of light in an effort to banish them.

Giving in, he lowered his hands and looked up to see Bodie watching with what looked hideously like pity in his eyes. Incensed, he said, "Enjoying yourself, are you?" His words, slurred by tiredness, sounded drugged. "Did you come back just so you could gloat, surprised you didn't come down and watch that bastard with his box of tricks. You'd have loved that, probably got off on it, he did..." Doyle stopped, breathing unevenly.

Bodie ignored him.

"Put these on." Bodie threw the jeans and sweater he had retrieved from the cellar onto the bed making the blanket wrapped figure flinch. When Doyle said nothing and made no effort to dress, Bodie picked up the Aran and tried to hurry things up.

But Doyle pushed him away, ignoring the clothes and the goose-bumps that textured his arms. "Go away, Bodie. Go and find someone else to play with."

Bodie wanted to go over Doyle's body carefully, to check the damage. He needed to know specifically what injuries had been inflicted and if Doyle needed hospitalisation, but realised that Doyle would fight rather than let himself be touched; his skin had almost crawled when Bodie's hand accidentally brushed against it. So moving to lean against the wall, trying to emanate calm and peaceful intent, he waited.

The years had taught patience, and in the end, by the simple expedient of waiting until Doyle was way past the end of his tether, Bodie merely took impersonal hold of the almost sleepwalking figure, dressed him, wrapped him in blankets and manoeuvred him out of the house, into the car, barely managing to hold the swaying body upright before curling it into the back seat. Tucking another blanket around unprotesting shoulders he slipped into the drivers seat and switched on, immediately starting the heater. Pausing to look behind him, he saw Doyle curled up, asleep or unconscious, lines of tension and pain etched around his eyes and narrowing the beard shadowed mouth. After a moment Bodie put the car into gear and headed off into the night.

Taking the westerly route down through England, about eight hours later he was an hour off the motorway, driving through villages that seemed deserted. Picking yet another sign-post at random he stopped at Kingham, drawing up outside the solitary shop. Doyle was still out cold on the back seat, and looked like his exhaustion would keep him asleep for a while yet. Again Bodie wondered about leaving him; if Doyle came round he'd probably run as far as possible. Still, he'd just have to risk it. Locking the car and shrugging into his padded jacket, Bodie pushed away his own tiredness and wandered into the village shop, attempting for the third time to find them somewhere to stay. Christ, this was February, not the August bank-holiday. There had to be someone who wanted to rent out their holiday home for a week.

The middle-aged blond who eyed him so appreciatively finally solved his problem. Yes, she knew of a holiday cottage available to rent; in fact she had one herself. Did it have central heating? Yes. Relieved, though slightly outraged at the out-of-season price, Bodie charmed her into handing over the keys and a set of directions, without the addition of her personal assistance in locating the place.

Buying a boxful of groceries, he smiled and chatted, promising faithfully to return and take her for a drink at the local, finally escaping before his tension became too noticeable. But Doyle was still out cold, and Bodie heaved a sigh of relief, his face softening as he checked on the dormouse-like figure curled on the back-seat.

Following the clear directions, it was only ten minutes to the cottage which stood in splendid isolation off the main Chipping Norton road.

Parking in the long drive, Bodie let himself in, and with quick efficiency prepared the rooms. He turned the heating on to maximum, found the bedding and made up the sofa into a bed for Doyle. Nodding in satisfaction at the presence of a real fire he unpacked the groceries before returning to the car. "Come on, Ray, you can wake up now." He gently pressed on a bony shoulder. "Ray, Wake up."

The curled body tensed before a wary green eye opened to stare doubtfully at him.

"We're here."

"Where?" Even after several hours sleep Doyle was still exhausted and the word came out strangled by fatigue.

"Somewhere nicely off the beaten track. Come on. Or I'll carry you."

This final inducement got Doyle moving, painfully uncurling cramped limbs to get out of the car. Moving tentatively, eyes narrowed, he tried to control the pain as he straightened.

"Take it easy." Bodie hovered at his side.

"Oh, thanks for the advice." Hampered by the ache that seemed to encompass his whole body Doyle let go of the car and slowly made his way into the house; his pride refusing to let him accept the discreet offer of help. Eight years ago his body wouldn't have been in this state. He knew he was getting old. The thought made him abrupt, "why are we here?"

"I thought it might be sensible to keep you away from town for a while."

"You could be right." Doyle rubbed a still grimy hand across his eyes. The cottage was old and comfortable in a chintzy sort of way and Doyle wanted to close the door and pretend that none of the last few days had happened; that Bodie was still only a bittersweet memory. "Is all this just for me, or are you staying here as well?" The bite in his voice gave no doubt as to the coolness of Bodie's welcome. "I can look after myself, mate."

"I'll go when you've proved it."

"Shame you came back isn't it, then I wouldn't have to be proving anything at all."

The light tan masking his pallor, Bodie ignored the comment. "I'm staying until I know that you aren't going to keel over the minute I turn my back. Now shut up and sit down before you fall down."

Doyle stared at him, about to argue, then nodded once before sitting down carefully on the sofa.

He watched as Bodie made a fire in the wide stone hearth and shivered slightly. The house felt chilly and damp even though the heating was beginning to work, and he looked longingly at the duvet, wanting to surround himself in it's warmth, but stupidly incapable with Bodie so close. He shivered.

Assiduously tending the fire Bodie waited until it's heat filled the room, carefully avoiding looking at the figure on the sofa. He knew that Doyle was sitting with his arms wrapped tightly around his ribs, his lank-curl frailty a magnet to his own long buried compassion. He'd have to make a move sooner or later, but aware of Doyle's probable - and far from frail - reaction, he waited.

"Do you want a cup of tea, or something to eat? I got some soup in case you fancied it."

"Just tea." Doyle pushed his hair out of his eyes, wincing as the movement jarred. He could feel that his hair was matted, almost straight with sweat and grime. He let his hand drop in disgust, wishing dearly that he could give his itching head a wash. Maybe later, he thought, when I've worked out how to do it one-handed. For the moment he sat where he was, and waited for the tea, his movements bounded by stupefying lassitude.

The kitchen was set up for holidaymakers, so was very spartan, but there were kettle and mugs which only needed a rinse out. He made them both tea, putting the mugs, sugar and a paper bag onto a tray to take into the other room.

"Wasn't sure if you'd want sugar," he put the tray down on a side table.

"No." Doyle took the offered mug, holding it tight, suspiciously wondering why Bodie was so edgy. He was prowling the room, closing curtains and examining ornaments, shoulders braced and muscles coiled with tension. Dry mouthed Doyle hoped that he'd done the right thing, if Bodie were waiting for more of his 'friends' to arrive - then, well, what could he do? Nothing at all in the state he was in now. Cursing, he resigned himself to waiting.

Blowing on the tea, Doyle slurped it, glad of the internal warmth. Neither of them spoke, and finishing Doyle put the mug down, unprofitable speculation pushed to the back of his mind. More than anything he wanted to bathe again ,then sleep for about a year. But Bodie was still hovering. Doyle stared into the fire, mesmerised by the dancing flames and didn't hear Bodie speak softly.

"Ray." On the repetition Doyle glanced up to see with curiosity that Bodie looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I know that you're hurt, and that probably the last thing you want- or need - is for me to touch you," he gestured with his hands, taking a deep breath, "but, you could be badly hurt. When I left you the first time I know you were bleeding, and then what they did..." He stopped, confounded by the expression of almost amusement on Doyle's face. "Damn it, this is difficult." He went to kneel at Doyle's side. "When we were in the village I bought some antiseptic cream - I'll understand if you don't want me to do it, but it would be easier."

"Easier for what?" The amusement had disappeared, replaced by wary distance. "For you to get some more cheap thrills?"

Bodie shook his head, powerless to speak.

The anger he felt evaporating in the face of Bodie's obvious horror, Doyle wearily shook his head. "You're right; I'd need a periscope."

"I'll take you to casualty." Despite Doyle's words Bodie was starting to stand up, but a narrow boned hand reached out to stop him.

"No." The idea of strangers mauling him was abhorrent. Whatever Bodie was, he wasn't a stranger. "I couldn't. You do it."

The room was now very warm, and Doyle stood up to gingerly ease himself out of his clothing, the state of his gradually revealed body making Bodie's stomach tighten. He closed his eyes, it would be as much as he could do to touch the bruise shadowed skin, let alone deal with it's problems. All he wanted was to run away.

But then Doyle stretched himself out on the bed and without hesitation Bodie carefully tended every cut and bruise, rubbing antiseptic into the numerous abrasions and burns. He also added each mark to the tally of his own culpability.

Clearing his throat, he tried to distract Doyle. "He certainly knew where to hit." Bodie felt his way along the high curve of ribs. "I don't think any of these are broken, but a couple might be cracked." He felt carefully over a wide patch of mottled skin. Not just where to hit - the bastard - but how. The knowledge that he possessed the same skills himself and that in different circumstances had used them to just such effect, was like wormwood.

"Yeah, he had lots of practice from what they said. Glad you killed the bastard, he deserved it." Doyle's voice was tight with strain. "Really got his kicks out of pain." He talked to cover his embarrassment over the memories that Bodie's touch evoked. "Gloated over the women and kids he killed back home. Raped them and killed them. He was getting around to me, would have had me, except he thought that it might finish me off too quick and they didn't want that. All the blood probably put him off. Amazing how much blood can come from such a small place." He hissed as Bodie's cream slick finger touched his anus. Hands clutching at the duvet, tension rippling the muscles of his back, Doyle bit on his arm rather than cry out.

"I'm sorry." Bodie whispered, sweating from the discomfort he couldn't avoid causing. "It's not too bad, couple of tears and you're probably bruised inside; if there's anything else wrong I don't know. You should see a doctor." He took a shaky breath and pushed ointment inside. "There, I've put the cream on - yeah, I know , stupid comment, you know that already - and at least you're not bleeding anymore." Bodie smoothed more cream into the tender flesh, before wiping his hands on some paper tissues. He tried to replace the lid on the antiseptic cream, but his hands were shaking and he couldn't get them to coordinate.

He was cursing as long fingers took over and did the job for him. Doyle sighed. "It's all right Bodie you can't blame yourself. Not entirely, I didn't exactly make it easy for you."

"Don't." The word was forced through clenched teeth. "You didn't fucking ask for it did you. Didn't beg me to do it. No, just lay there and ..." Bodie jerked away and stood leaning over the fire, breathing unevenly.

Doyle spoke softly from where he sat propped on one elbow. "You're right, I didn't ask to be raped, but I was so furious because you betrayed me, that I wanted to hurt you." He shrugged. "Well, I did. Except I got hurt in the process."

Bodie turned to face him. "You'd blame yourself for anything wouldn't you, you cretin." He looked down at his hands, clenching them into fists. "Maybe you, with your ridiculous notions of morality can forget it, but its not something I can forgive myself for. Oh yeah, I really wanted to punish you, and I succeeded in spades, but underneath it all, this...this hurts more than anything, all I really wanted was for you to want me. I couldn't see it, but I did." He laughed without humour. "Seems a bloody stupid way of going about it, doesn't it?"

"Yes." Doyle bleakly recalled the days when he would have willingly gone into Bodie's arms and wondered at their stupidity. "Suppose we'll just have to admit that we're both to blame, though one thing puzzles me." He looked wearily at Bodie. "Did you know what they had planned for me?"

Bodie deliberately relaxed his hands. "Just before I left." He couldn't begin to describe the state that his mind had been in, or the motivations that had strangled his reasoning. "I almost didn't go."

"Oh great. Really makes me feel better that does." Doyle tucked the duvet around himself. "God we've made such a mess of things." Even under the soft down he shivered. "All those years ago, it was only when you'd actually gone that I realised that you'd told the truth; that it wasn't just to get me away from Ann, but that you really cared for me. Seems stupid but I wanted that more than anything and when I got it I threw it back in your face. I don't blame you for all this. Not really." His voice was dead, without inflection, his features pale and drawn. "Just wish I hadn't been so successful in making you hate me."

Bodie turned back to the fire. "I hated you more than I've ever felt anything. For a while I think I even went a bit crazy." He shrugged. "When I came back and I was pretending to seduce you I wanted you to suffer for all that I'd gone through. I left you with them because I wouldn't admit to myself, couldn't admit to myself that I still felt for you anything other than hatred. It took two days of walking around for me to work it all out; to see my own motives clearly. When I raped you," he breathed in through pinched nostrils, "I was trying to wipe you from my mind, to prove that all I wanted was to fuck you, so I could forget. Afterwards ...I don't know."

Words were so painfully inadequate that for a moment Bodie gave up, staring blindly into the fire's heat. When he continued his voice was low, "I left still managing to tell myself that it was only what you deserved, though at the same time I even deluded myself into thinking that they would only rough you up a bit; not really hurt you." He remembered the burn marks on Doyle's body and closed his eyes. "I came back because I realised it was all lies, everything that I told myself and what they told me. I knew then that they would probably kill you. I couldn't let you die".

They were silent, unable to see clearly around the barriers that soared between them. How do you thank someone for saving your life, who happened to be the one to jeopardise it in the first place? Doyle plucked at the duvet and was about to speak when Bodie broke the silence, "I'll get some food, you must be starving."

Doyle coughed, clearing his throat. "Tired more than hungry, and I bloody well ache all over."

"Tomato soup. Cures everything that does."

"I'll try and stay awake long enough to eat it." He smiled.

As Bodie reached the kitchen door Doyle spoke, "Bodie, thanks for coming back." He wanted to say that he hadn't meant all the things that he'd thrown at Bodie, but his vocal chords wouldn't form the right words.

After a moment Bodie just nodded, and said, "That's all right, sunshine - anytime." He was smiling faintly as he went to prepare their food.

Over the next two days, Doyle's mind finally began to accept that Bodie had rescued him. Really rescued him. After spending the first 12 hours jumping at the slightest sound he'd calmed down and was no longer expecting Libyan heavies to come leaping out of the woodwork. He had thought that once this had been explained to his subconscious then the dreams would stop as well. Not nightmares, not really, just slow-motion replays of what had happened. He always awoke, sweating out the terror, to lie staring at the faintly glowing embers of the fire until he could relax again and drift back to another hour of sleep.

He thought he managed to hide this sleeplessness from Bodie, not knowing that in his dreams he called out, often shouting Bodie's name, his distress painful to overhear. Or that Bodie sat on the stairs, listening, trying to find the courage to go and offer comfort.

During the day they pretended that, within reason, all was well. Doyle slept for hours trying to heal his body with the rest it was denied at night, bathing often and even managing to wash his hair. Bodie walked the countryside or took the car into Kingham, going there to buy food, cigarettes, books, newspapers, little things that he thought might interest Doyle without being too obviously bought specifically for him.

There was a TV in the cottage, and often they let it play rather than have to talk, watching endless aimless comedies that, if questioned afterwards, neither would have been able to remember the contents of. They hardly spoke at all, existing in a state of truce; both totally lost by their confused emotions, drained by the cathartic confessions of their first few hours alone.

By the third day, Doyle was walking more easily, the bruising getting to the mottled stage, and the burns healing. Having succeeded that morning in pissing without blood or discomfort, he was at least reassured that there were no internal injuries, despite aches and pains still nagging him. Always a survivor, he was successfully putting the ordeal behind him. All of it; including the rape. He saw his own role as instigator of that quite clearly, a fact that if Bodie had known of it would have shocked him to the core. Doyle knew that his success at hurting Bodie was quite phenomenal and he saw his own pain as a settling of accounts. If Bodie had left him with Nayhoum as had been planned, Doyle would not have been surprised. His surprise was that Bodie was here at all, offering neutral, if rather wary and remote, support.

Strangely, the trauma had made everything very clear in Doyle's mind and if Bodie had reached out to him, given any opening at all, Doyle would have gone to him. But consumed by guilt, haunted by a desperate need to avoid touching the convalescing man at all costs, Bodie stayed distanced, pulling further away the days went by and Doyle became more mobile.

Then it all became too much, and tempted by the anaesthetic effect of sex, Bodie walked into the village and smiled nicely at the blonde in the corner shop. She looked on him with all the rapacious pleasure of a carnivore coming off a diet of milk and honey, and took charge the moment she saw the determination in his eye. Her flat was upstairs from the shop, and she had only laughed when he had protested at her closing it up mid-afternoon. Generous and self possessed, almost beautiful without the irrelevancy of clothing, she made love without smudging her make-up. Choosing how they moved and where he could touch her without ever making it too obvious that he was a tool for her own satisfaction; his own merely a by-product of hers. It would have been easy for Bodie to fight, but somehow he couldn't gather the energy, finding it simple to lie and let what passion there was sweep over him. It was hardly what he'd expected when he set out looking for a fuck, but at least it took the edge off his hunger.

Returning to the house tired, wet, and mildly dispirited, Bodie looked for his charge. The living room was empty, the duvet and sheets folded neatly on the floor and for a second Bodie's stomach lurched in panic.

Then he heard Doyle call from the kitchen. "You should go and dry off - catch you're death like that." Doyle's head appeared around the open door. He blinked as Bodie stared at him, and was instantly defensive, "I felt better, so I decided to cook dinner."

Bodie, suddenly aware of the mouth watering smell that pervaded the house, gave up frowning and relaxed. "Great. It'll make a change from bread, cheese and soup."

"I thought you were the master of bachelor self-sufficiency, the food you've been cooking has been, how can I put this politely - boring."

"Yeah, boring just about sums it up, but you should see the choice of food in the village shop." He excused himself without letting Doyle know that his paranoia went so far as not wanting the car to be regularly seen in any large town. "Reckon all the locals shoot, fish and grow their own. Either that or they eat out a lot." He walked into the kitchen, rubbing his hands. "Smells good, what is it?"

"I rummaged around in the cupboards, full of bits of stuff left behind by the holidayers, found some pasta, made up some sauce. It'll be ready in about five minutes so go and dry off and wash your hands."

"Yes Mum," he leant over the bubbling saucepan, finger at the ready.

"Watch it, or I'll give this to the birds."

"You wouldn't be so cruel."

"Watch me. Go on, hurry up." Bodie disappeared at the double. Besides, he wanted to shower again, not absolutely certain that he'd rid himself of her scent. Why it should matter, he wasn't quite sure, but somehow sitting down to eat with Doyle stinking of heavy perfume seemed almost worse than what had gone before. It had been worthwhile though, because at least he could now contemplate being next to Doyle without the betrayal of a hard-on.

Over dinner, Doyle, feeling released by the healing of his body, drank the red wine Bodie had bought and fairly basked in well-being. A week. Not long for your life to be turned on its head. He watched Bodie appreciatively over his glass and wondered, had their roles been reversed, if he'd have had the guts to return and rescue Bodie. He wasn't sure, and his doubt made him highly appreciative of the sincerity of Bodie's story. Hate, love, love, hate. They had both done their fair share of each, though Doyle had hated himself for far longer than he had ever hated Bodie.

Bodie puzzled him. He flinched away whenever Doyle got anywhere near, disappeared to bed early in the evening, and scarcely ever looked him in the eye. Doyle understood guilt. Most of the decisions in his life had been motivated by it; but Bodie's was different, almost desperate. He saw the anomaly and it nagged him. Never one to leave a conundrum alone, he had pulled at it, trying to unravel the tangled skein of Bodie's motivations, and had come up with what he hoped was the right answer.

Putting down his glass, he accidentally brushed his fingers against Bodie's hand where it lay, relaxed by his empty plate. Bodie reacted as if he'd been shocked, pulling his hands back into his lap.

"D'you want to wash or dry?" Doyle spoke as if he hadn't noticed anything.

Bodie cleared his throat, watching Doyle covertly in the dim light. "I'll wash."

As they cleared the plates away, Bodie realised that Doyle must have unpacked his holdall for he was wearing threadbare jeans and a soft green jumper. The wool was so fine that it clung to every dip and dune of Doyle's anatomy, sculpting his body into long classic lines from the width of his shoulders to the narrowness of his hips. As he dried the dishes, moving to put each piece away as it was wiped, he brushed against Bodie in the small kitchen's confinement, reaching past him to put glasses away, humming softly under his breath.

Bodie didn't break anything, but it was touch and go. And he wondered how he could have ever thought that a one off fuck with a nameless woman could get even close to curing his need.

When they were finished Doyle made coffee and putting it and brandy on a tray, took it into the living room. He sat down, curling luxuriously into a deep corner of the sofa. Bodie looked at him like a fly staring into the spider's face. "Come and drink this before it goes cold." Doyle flicked a wrist at the drinks.

Every night, as there was only the sofa and Doyle was lying on it, Bodie had sat always had an excuse for sitting cross-legged on the floor. Tonight it was obvious he was going to have to sit next to Doyle.

Come on sweetheart, I hope I'm right, just sit down and we'll go from there. Come on Bodie, I won't bite, not yet anyway. He spoke to himself to calm the tension he daren't show as Bodie, visibly deciding to take the path of least resistance, sat down at the opposite end of the sofa.

Doyle felt shy, almost afraid, but the rewards of this plan if he was right, were worth the risk of undoubted ignominy if he was wrong. He turned on the television using the remote control. Then tipping the brandy into his coffee he ignored a protest from Bodie as he did the same for his before handing the mug over. "It's easier in one cup, saves you having to drink twice."


"Yeah." He let his eyes run over Bodie's body. "That's me alright, let's see what's on the other channels." The change of topic didn't even allow Bodie to react to the appraisal, although the heat in the flickering glance had been unmistakable.

Settling down to watch an old movie Bodie slowly relaxed, letting the easy warmth of Doyle and the effect of the wine and brandy buffer his memories. After a while, almost dozing off, he became aware that Doyle was shifting with discomfort. Instantly alert he said, "what's the matter, are you all right?"

", muscle keeps playing up in my back."

Bodie breathed deeply, he knew that with the bruising Doyle would be incapable of working out any knots on his own. "Want me to give it a massage?"

"Could you, mate? It's too high for me to reach." Doyle kept his voice normal, concentrating on keeping his body language neutral as he turned round to sit cross-legged next to Bodie. The touch was hesitant and light, but it was enough as there wasn't anything really wrong. He leant into the strong fingers, letting Bodie take his weight. God it was good; the insistent massage easing tension that had become so ingrained he hadn't realised it was there.

As he hoped, after a while, the touch slowly changed.

Bodie, from the first, surrounded by the reality of Ray Doyle, had been hard pressed, about to refuse, but Doyle needed the massage so he gave it. Yet the sensuality of soft wool over solid flesh tantalised him and without conscious volition his hands began to caress as the wide shoulders relaxed under his soothing touch.

Unconsciously he sighed, allowing himself to reach up under the heavy curls to rub at the nape of Doyle's neck. The body beneath his hands rippled with pleasure. "Bodie, thanks, that's really good."

Letting himself go Doyle relaxed, until lying back against the broad chest, cocooned in strong arms, he surprised them both by falling gently asleep.

Half lying on the sofa, arms full of Ray Doyle, Bodie let himself drift with the fantasy. He knew, Doyle had been anything but subtle, that the man lying so trustingly against him was on offer. Doyle obviously wanted everything to be all right; everything to be as Bodie himself had been pretending before Nayhoum had come along. But it wasn't, it couldn't be. Doyle, injuries healed might be prepared to forgive and forget, but Bodie couldn't. The word 'rape' stood in his mind in six-foot high flaming letters.

He lifted his hands and lightly stroked the thick mass of hair, absorbing the vulnerability of the sleeping man. Moving his arm he cradled the body more securely, wincing as Doyle moved unconsciously closer, snuggling into the offered warmth.

Make the most of this Bodie, let him sleep, pretend its all as you want it to be. He closed burning eyes. I love you, he admitted it in his thoughts. I love you, I want you, I need you, you stupid bastard. He remembered the agony that had racked the prostrated body as he fucked it and bile rose in his throat. Suddenly, the scent and touch too much to bear, unable to control his arousal, he pushed Doyle roughly away and stood up, knuckles clenched to his mouth, afraid he might actually be sick.

Rudely woken, Doyle lay back and dazedly wondered what had happened, "Bodie?"

"Don't say anything." The voice was harsh and tight with tension. "Just don't say anything."


"Shut up! You disgust me. What are you? Some sort of pervert who gets his kicks out of pain?" He turned to face the shock on Doyle's face. "Remember me? I'm the one who fucked you till you bled." He moved to kneel by the side of the sofa, reaching out to hold Doyle's chin, forcing eye contact. His voice thickened as bile rose to his throat. "I raped you, not a pretty word, is it. I hate it, but I did it and now you come on like a whore on heat, touching me, letting me know you're available. Jesus you haven't even bothered to find out if I'm HIV positive. Christ, you must be desperate. Well it won't work." He took a steadying breath, relaxing the bruising hold. "I'm getting out of here."

He turned to stand but strong fingers held him back. "Stop it, just stop it." Doyle was white with shock but his voice was gentle; he pulled on Bodie's wrist until the overwrought man gave in and knelt. "Do you really believe I'm into pain, and that's the reason I tried to turn you on today?" Mute with misery Bodie shook his head. Easing his grip Doyle knew they had to talk or Bodie would be lost to him for good. "What happened was terrible. I can't say otherwise. I hated it, but I've never hated you." He smiled wryly to himself. "Well, not for long anyway." Pushing off the sofa he came to rest at Bodie's side. "If I can forget, why can't you? Look at me Bodie." He shook the broad shoulders. "What they did was infinitely worse; they tried to use you against me. When they saw the state you'd left me in, realised what you'd done, they used it, told me all sorts of lies. That's why when you came back I didn't believe you. If you had come back to..." he hesitated, searching for a less emotive word, "...hurt me again, I think I would have gone crazy, because I always believed that whatever they said, you would have left me alone if I hadn't taunted you, made you do it." Bodie groaned in protest. "It's true, don't deny it."

Doyle continued after a moment, willing Bodie to understand. "When you came to fetch me, I was torn between despair and relief, and felt so ill I could hardly understand what was happening. What they said and what I believed got twisted in my mind so you had to prove yourself to me again and again. In the last couple of days while my body's been healing, I think my mind has as well. I finally got it all sorted out." He took a deep breath. This was it, now or never. "I think that I've got a lot more to regret than you have. I caused you so much pain. Bodie, I know it sounds ridiculous and I won't be surprised if you don't believe me," he closed his eyes, holding on to Bodie's shoulders with thin fingers bone-white with stress. "But, I love you." He felt muscles flinch under his touch. "I've always loved you, just managed to delude myself otherwise. Bodie, I'm sorry. I couldn't blame you if you want to go."

Stoically prepared for the other man to stand up and leave he sighed as hesitant hands covered his and held them. Awkwardly their arms went around each other, offering gentle comfort. Doyle was weak with released tension and he could feel answering tremors in the depths of Bodie's body. As they touched they embraced each other, whispering words with form but without content. Stroking and soothing to ease over-strung nerves. For a long time while they just sat, completely attuned to each other, alone in their brief moment of peace, until cramp made Doyle squirm and Bodie, instantly contrite, helped him off the floor.

"Just as well I didn't leap on your bones, Angel, I don't think you're up to gymnastics yet." Bodie paused, looking into clear green eyes that saw so much. He felt fragile, new born. When he spoke again it was without the protective shield of humour. "Ray, about everything I said, I'm sorry. And in case you're worried, I was tested negative last month."

"So was I. So that's all right then." Doyle nodded serenely, blithely unconcerned anyway. He ruined the effect by yawning widely. "What time is it?"

"Bedtime." Bodie cupped the tired face in his hands, bringing their mouths together for a gentle kiss. He sighed as a hand came to rest hesitantly in the small of his back. Forehead to forehead, Bodie rubbed his nose against Doyle's, his thumbs brushing through the short beard to massage his jaw-line. Doyle's weight was heavy against him, "I should've said, sleep time, come on."

Waking together they ascended the stairs, unwilling to lose even the slightest contact. Undressing, they touched in the moonlit darkness, curling against each other in the wide bed to hold onto the assurance of bone and muscle. After a while, they slept.

It was late the next morning when Doyle, beginning to awake, shifted slightly to ease the numbness in his arm and realised that he wasn't alone, and that Bodie slept peacefully beside him. Raising himself up on an elbow, he stared intently at the sleeping man. So much wasted time. He didn't waste any time wondering what Bodie had been doing for the past years, that was pretty obvious. He hadn't said anything, but it was probable that the little job for Nayhoum had been one of a long line. Guess I'm just lucky they didn't put a contract out on me. He pushed the thought away, knowing beyond doubt that the Bodie of a week ago would have gone through with it. Reaching out his hand he traced lightly over Bodie's stubbled cheek. No grey there, sunshine, or in your hair. The dark hair was longer than before, though still short enough for anything but the army. Doyle frowned and scratched his own beard, knowing it to be more salt than pepper. It had never bothered him before; the signs of age being only another part of a life that he had little interest in. Now he wondered what Bodie thought.

Pulling the cover away, he looked down and examined their bodies, trying to see any difference in Bodie from how he remembered. Naked it was easier to see that the solid body was heavier, but Bodie had kept in shape and the weight was muscle rather than fat. Doyle looked at his own body; not quite as long as Bodie's, and probably half the size, well maybe not quite half, but next to the tanned health of his companion he felt skinny and pale. Shame I couldn't fit in some sun-bathing over in Libya, he laughed to himself, once upon a time he'd have been the one with the tan, Bodie milk-white even by September. Times change. Lowering the duvet he relaxed back, frowning. He'd always been slim, but after CI5 and the fiasco of his marriage to Ann he'd more or less given up. Insecure, he wondered if Bodie would really, in the cold light of day, find him attractive.

As Doyle started to ease out of the bed, Bodie awoke and turning his head on the pillow, smiled. It was enough to bury any doubt and pulling the covers over them both Doyle blocked out the world. Leaning over to place an enquiring kiss on the side of Bodie's mouth he watched as in the dim rosy light created by the cotton, Bodie slid onto his side and drew Doyle closer to him. Face to face in the confines of their kingdom, they kissed. Heads slightly angled they conducted a gentle searching of lips and tongues that quickened their breath and sent arousal strumming through their veins. Squirming closer, Bodie hissed as his erection rubbed against the answering length of Doyle; satin against satin, the sensation shocking in intensity, driving them closer together until they touched from lips to toes, each fighting to absorb the other, to merge flesh and soul. Catastrophically aroused, made awkward by their passion they held tight until, pressed together, overwhelmed, they fell into release.

Limp and sweaty, welded together by the salt evidence of their love, they held each other, too exhausted to move. "You're beautiful." Bodie entwined his fingers in sweat darkened hair, "and that was amazing."

Face buried in Bodie's throat, Doyle nodded, "Yeah, me too."

"Modest with it." he was stroking Doyle's neck and winced theatrically as his bottom was pinched. "Not me, cretin. You. And yeah, it was pretty good." Doyle looked up, eyes glinting mischievously. "For a first time."

"Well, they say practice makes perfect."

Bodie's smile was uncomplicated and open, it's simplicity taking Doyle's breath away. "Should be fun, but I don't really care. All I want is you, any way I can and perfection be damned."

"You've got me, sunshine." Bodie's lips twisted and he was suddenly intense. "All of me; imperfection personified."

"Come off it. If either of us is beautiful, its you. How many hours a week did this take?" He stroked the flat stomach, feeling heavy muscle under sleek, well fed flesh.

"Too many. But I'm not beautiful inside Ray, even if the outside isn't that bad." For the first time he wished he'd become something normal when he left CI5, like a bank clerk. "No, I'm not beautiful at all."

Doyle poked him in the ribs, impatient with such maudlin self pity. "Well, you'll do for me. And what about this?" He ruffled the long hair that framed his own face, the curls springing less softly where the once reddish highlights had turned to grey.

"Ray, when I saw you sitting in that pub I thought you looked fantastic, older, yeah, but somehow more interesting, less, I don't know...brash." He touched the greying tendrils at Doyle's temples, then smoothed his palm into the tantalisingly soft beard. Ray sighed, rubbing against him like a cat. "I like this, it suits you; makes you mysterious." He ignored the splutter of laughter and stared intently at the man in his arms. He spoke seriously, "I love you, if I wanted an eighteen year old model I'd go out and find one."

"If you could."

He ignored the muffled interruption. "But I don't, I've screwed too many women not to know the difference. None of them touched me the way you do, and I don't mean physically, though I do...Oh damn. I'm no good with words. Guess I've never had to say anything like this."

"Bodie, as far as I'm concerned, you've got a silver tongue." He leant forward and gave him a slobbery kiss. "Breakfast?"

"Thought we'd just had that."

"Mmmm, very nice too, but I was thinking more along the lines of bacon and toast, so come on." He disentangled himself and stood up, unable to disguise the twinge of pain that shot through his side. Instantly, Bodie was at his side.


"Yeah..." Doyle answered the silent concern and gingerly tried moving. "That bastard really got me." Grimacing as he straightened, he pressed a hand cautiously to his side and let out a breath with relief. "There, it's easing."

"Mmmm." Bodie was doubtful, Doyle's face was still pale. "Just be careful." He summoned a smile, "I know I'm worrying, but I just don't want anything to go wrong. After you've showered I'll put on some more cream, and see if I can find something to strap your ribs up with. Damn, I should have done it days ago."

"Hey, stop it! I'll be fine. I have got a tongue you know, if I'd wanted them bandaged I could have said so, and everything else is fine, thank-you very much."


Bodie looked so stricken that Doyle relented, "Look, if you really want to, you can play doctor to your hearts content, but can you do it after breakfast? I need to keep my strength up."

"What about mine?" Bodie asked. Doyle just looked pointedly at the solid strength of the figure in front of him. Giving in, Bodie pulled on a robe and muttering, went down to burn the toast.

But time couldn't stand still forever, and perfect as their retreat was, they both knew that the world would have to be faced at some point. Alone together it was easy to forget the past. Though they didn't speak of it, they were both afraid of what reality could do to them. They needed time, but that was a precious commodity that was running out. For all they knew, the police could be hunting for them both, and the uncertainty of it all was beginning to edge out their contentment.

A week almost to the hour that Bodie had collected Doyle from his London flat, they loaded the car with their belongings and headed reluctantly back to face whatever waited for them.

En route to the M11 they stopped off in Kingham to return the key at the corner shop. He looked at the blonde behind the counter and wondered if in fact he'd only dreamt fucking her, it meant so little. The feeling was obviously reciprocal, for she treated him with friendly distance, and he left happier about the whole affair. Over lunch in a small pub, Bodie quietly admitted his mistake to Doyle.

"Daft idiot. Fancy getting so wound up that you did that. Did you enjoy it?"

A reaction that stunned Bodie to say the least. "Aren't you pissed off with me?"

"Do you want me to be? Don't be stupid. I only wish that you'd waited a few more hours and then you wouldn't have had to smell of Opium for two days."

"You knew!"

"Yeah, sort of. You came back with lipstick on your neck, and the sheep around here aren't that sophisticated."

"Good grief. I could be all angst ridden over it."

"Are you?"


They both grinned and in celebration ordered another round, which delayed the moment of return by another hour. Behind the cover of his glass, Bodie observed the ease now so apparent in his companion. The dark shadows were there under his eyes, but were no longer the first thing you noticed about the striking face. Bodie tried to place the difference, but it eluded him until he realised that Doyle's features now looked as if they might smile at any moment. He remembered the sight of Doyle in that London pub, and was overwhelmed by the change. Under the cover of the table he placed his hand on a bony knee; the warmth he felt too strong, too overflowing, to be content without some physical contact.

Casually, Doyle twisted his fingers through those resting heavily on the denim of his jeans, and raised his eyebrow in enquiry.

"I'm just being happy." Bodie explained.

Doyle leant forward, a wicked gleam in his eye, "I think you're ruining the barmaid's day though."

Turning to catch her scandalised blue eyes, Bodie nodded cheerfully, raising his glass in salute. Faintly scarlet around the cheeks she turned away. He shrugged. "I think we've just disillusioned her."

"Especially as she had her eye on you from the moment we walked in."

"Did she?"

"Yeah, the word must have got round from your other conquest." His words could have been meant to knife through Bodie, but he smiled and went on, "Have to keep an eye on you, I will, or they'll be lining up in the street."

"What about you, can't see you ever being lonely."

"Not when you're around."

"I don't want to appear thick, but are we talking monogamy here?"


"Good." Bodie nodded; the matter settled.

On the way back to London and perhaps for the first time in his life, Bodie drove willingly in the slow lane, cruising along at a steady 55 miles per hour, his hand all the while resting on the warmth of Doyle's thigh. The journey was far too short

London was bleak, the icy winter day emphasising it's grime and decay. Travelling along the road-work ridden North Circular, Bodie felt depression settle around him; the brief halcyon reprieve of the cottage lost in the rotting urban landscape. But seemingly empathic, Doyle curled warm fingers around his, and though nothing was said, Bodie felt immeasurably better.

It was late afternoon when they arrived. Doyle got out of the car and stretched, feeling only a slight twinge from his side. "Home again." He peered into the car, "You are coming in, aren't you?" Bodie was still seated behind the wheel, and he looked up in surprise. Doyle sounded insecure. "You can stay here, you know, with me, if you want." The doubt touched Bodie and he turned to catch the hurriedly hidden fear on Doyle's face.

"Don't be stupid, of course I want to. We should have talked about this before. I was only worried that it might not be the best thing for you, me staying."

"How did you come to that daft conclusion?"

"By thinking about what's happened. Even if the Libyans aren't after you any more then they're probably after me. Then there's the police, and your job, not to mention your neighbours."

"Okay, okay! I get the picture." Doyle was laughing. "Would you like the long answer to all that or the short one?"

Bodie considered for a moment, his head tilted to one side. "Um, the short one I think."

"The answer is, I don't give a flying fuck about any of it. Now get inside before I beat your stupid head in." he smiled encouragingly.

"Well," Bodie drew the word out, "when you put it like that..." He turned away, suddenly overwhelmed. "I'm sorry, I can't believe that you love me."

Doyle nodded. "More than anything."

Bodie smiled in return and reaching across, gently touched Doyle's face. "That's all right then." And he got out of the car as if nothing had ever been wrong.

Bodie liked the flat. Even when he'd been here alone, before Doyle knew that he was back, he'd grudgingly admitted it's comfort. Nothing had been bought to match with anything else, only because for some reason or another Doyle fancied it. The hotch-potch of old and new was muddled together with heaps of books and papers, the chaos wildly different from the succession of hotel rooms Bodie had lived in for too many years.

Dumping his bags by the door, Bodie gestured with his arm. "You've made it very comfortable."

"Well, I never had a real home as a kid, at least not where I stayed for long, so I thought I might as well make this the way I wanted. I'm not very good at housework though; so don't mind the mess."

"Ray, I've been living out of hotel rooms, so let me tell you that this looks great." He paused, before deciding that the truth would be less painful if admitted to now. "I've been here before."

Sitting cross-legged on the sofa, examining his mail, Doyle scarcely glanced up. "Yeah, the day we went to Kew."

"No, before that." He had Doyle's attention. "I broke in and had a reconnoitre. I didn't really need to, looking back on it I suppose I just wanted to see where you lived. Sorry."

"For God's sake, stop apologising. Think of it this way, if you hadn't taken that assignment we wouldn't be here at all, and to be quite frank - and to inflate your ego even further - I'd go through the whole thing again to get where we are now." Wide spaced eyes seared Bodie with their intensity. "What I'm trying to say is; that if you're staying, then it was all worth while." He dropped his glance back to his letters. "There, how's that for stupidity."

"It rivals mine for the idiot of the year award." Bodie pushed Doyle's mail out of the way and sat beside him, "you can't be ashamed, surely? The idea of you even thinking about going through that again makes me queasy. All I feel sorry for is that I was so selfish eight years ago, then you would have been spared all of this, and the two of us would probably be running a nice respectable business by now."

"Or alternately, if we had stayed on as Cowley's blue eyed boys, we might be dead. And then where'd we be?"

"Don't get all existentialist on me. Come here and give us a kiss instead." He puckered up, crossing his eyes.

"Watch it, or you'll stay like that." Doyle warned, then slipped his tongue into the circle of Bodie's lips, making him wriggle as it tickled.

"Hey!" Bodie rubbed his hand hurriedly over his mouth to take away the feathery irritation. "Bloody hell, never knew I had ticklish lips before."

"Stick with me, sweetheart, and you'll discover all sorts of things." Doyle's Bogart impersonation left a lot to the imagination. He smiled as Bodie's eyes closed, "hey, you want a cup of tea?"

"Yeah," that woke Bodie up, "you got any biscuits?"

"God knows, you can look while I put the kettle on."

Over tea but no biscuits, Doyle made his decision and firmly setting his mug down on the table spoke to Bodie. "Tomorrow morning I'm going to ring Tim and tell him that I've had enough. He can find some other smooth talker to do his dirty work for him."

"Ray, I thought you loved your work." He paused at the splutter of laughter. "You know, vocation and all that sort of thing. Why else do it? Besides, you're famous."

"Famous. Oh, great. Bodie, I've been doing that job for too long, and for most of the years that I've done it, it was for all the wrong reasons. If I go on, I'm going to get people killed. Bodie, I'm burnt out, let someone younger take over. Jesus I feel as if I've been doing it forever anyway."

The statement was obviously from the heart and Bodie nodded; he knew what it felt like to be trapped by circumstance. But there were still doubts. "Are you sure it's not just a reaction to what Nayhoum did to you."

"No, I'd made my mind up a long time ago, just never got around to doing anything about it. Christ Bodie, you can't believe what it's like, everyone lies to you. Every government, every official, even the people you're trying to save. After a while you don't care what truth is anymore, or even if there is such a thing, because words are only a means to an end." He noticed that his hands were curled tight, tension making them ache and with deliberation he relaxed. "Do you know what Nayhoum and his pals wanted?"

"No." Bodie wasn't sure if he wanted to either.

"The names of four students who between them probably have less real importance to their government than the brand of toilet paper Ghadaffi uses. But these people are all insane. Terrorists are two a penny and the only reason we got involved with this lot in the first place was because the hostages were Israeli. If they'd stuck to their own kind the world would have let them all rot. Anyway, I met two of the students years ago, they felt they owed me a favour and I called it in, that's the way I got the information needed about who to talk to. Well, Nayhoum wanted their names. Jesus, all this for four young men who in a few years will have given up politics in order to get married. As for the hostages; they've all been on the other side of the fence. I had to negotiate with two of them a couple of years ago." He paused and lifting his head looked serenely at Bodie. "I've had enough. Besides, how'll I see you if I'm off gallivanting around half the world chasing dragons?" His eyes were slanted with amusement.

Bodie tried to top the grin from splitting his face with little success. "Is that a question?"

"No. It's a fait accompli."


"Right then. You can live here, can't you? I mean you're not wanted or anything?"

"No." Bodie laughed at the drama while wryly admitting to himself that it was only luck that stopped it being true. "There might be a couple of South American countries where I'm not very welcome, but I've got a clean record wherever it counts. In America they don't differentiate that clearly between the mob and the government; I've done work for both of them."

"England's no different," Doyle sniffed. He fiddled with his spoon, trying to assess Bodie's attitude to the future and in the end decided that the only way to find out was to ask. "Are you going to continue with what you do now?"

"No." Bodie shook his head in emphatic denial. "Besides the fact that I don't want anything more to do with guns and mayhem, do you really want to live with an assassin?"

"Very dramatic."

"Not really." Bodie shrugged, ignoring the sarcasm. "Like you, I lost the taste for my chosen profession years ago. Perhaps we should take up market gardening?"

"Or something, I only have to look at a plant and it withers on me." Doyle peered into his mug, but divination by tea-bag was an art form that eluded him. "Are you sure about quitting?"

"As sure as you are."

Doyle nodded, the matter settled. "So what do we do first - go on holiday or pay Scotland Yard a visit?"

Bodie made a face that expressed perhaps more than he meant. "The police I suppose, I don't want to get arrested going through Heathrow."

"They might not know you had anything to do with it."

"And pigs might fly. I made no effort to cover my tracks at the house in Scotland. For all I know, Nayhoum was walking around with my name tattooed above his heart. No, I'll have to face it at some point."

"Shame about the holiday; I could have done with some sea and sand." Scraping his chair back, Doyle went to rinse out their mugs. Setting them to drain he turned and leant against the sink. He was quiet. Bodie watched him, aware that there were shadows contained within his face that hadn't been there before.

"What's the matter?"

"My finger prints are there as well."

"And..." Bodie prompted.

"They'll want to know." Doyle suppressed a shudder. "I've only just realised. Do you think we'll have to tell them everything, do you think they have to know?" He looked appalled.

Bodie met his eyes squarely. "No, not about everything." Though he wondered how little they could really get away with saying.

"But certainly more than either of us would like." The idea alone of recounting it all, even without the worst part concerning Bodie, was humiliating. Doyle was shaken by the depth of revulsion it induced.

"We could always look on the bright side; you are at least my witness that I didn't shoot them for the fun of it."

Doyle pushed away from the sink and folded himself neatly into the chair beside Bodie. "Ah ha! I knew there was a reason you wanted me." He sniffed, and pulled a slightly unsteady hand through his tangled hair. If Bodie could cope with all this, then he could as well.

Bodie tapped him on the wrist. "Hey, are you fishing for compliments?"

"Nope, you've given me enough of those." He sounded genuinely surprised. "I think I was just teasing you. You know, I'd forgotten what fun it can be."

Bodie glowered in mock reproach, "Some people get their fun in very strange ways." His face cleared. "Come here."

Amused and obedient, a touch of expectancy in his face, Doyle stood on the spot indicated by Bodie; between his outstretched knees. Hips slanted, green eyes challenging, he said, "Okay, I'm here, what now?"

"You forgot to wash up this spoon." Bodie held it suspended between finger and thumb.


Bodie spoke as if he'd just discovered one of the laws of physics, "Yeah, you were right; teasing is fun." They smiled in conspiracy. Then Bodie said, "If this all works out all right - and I don't end up spending the next ten years in prison - we can do more or less what we want. There's one difference between here and the US, they pay well whichever side of the fence you're sitting on."

"I've always wanted to be a kept man." He shrugged, "though I've managed to put by a reasonable amount, enough to retire on, if we're careful. The combined amounts should have us living in the lap of luxury." He shivered even though the heating was going full blast in an effort to combat the sub-zero temperature. "God, then there's the friends of Nayhoum to worry about. Do you think they'll want their money back? Or just neatly dispose of us when the police aren't looking. What a choice. Still, it won't come to you going inside. If necessary we'll make a run for it, go where the neither the police or the Arabs can't find us."

"Is there somewhere?"

"Oh, I should think so. I've learnt a lot about the best places to hide in the last few years. It sort of goes with the job, like knowing where not to get put in jail."

"I'm sorry."

"Again? I hope you're not going to make eating humble pie a habit?"

"Can't help it. The thought of spending the rest of our lives jumping at every shadow doesn't exactly make me feel brilliant."

"But at least we'll have the rest of it together." Doyle stood back and held out a hand to Bodie. "Come on then."

"Where?" Bodie had dizzying visions of Cuba or Brazil.


"What, again?"

"Stop complaining, you'll enjoy it when you get there." And though Bodie complained all the way to the bedroom about the early hour, his partner was right, he did enjoy it after all.

The cold touch of metal against his skin woke Bodie in a vertigo of sudden fear. Careful not to move a muscle, he licked dry lips and felt the jolt as Doyle came awake with a strangled gasp.

"Please, gentlemen, do nothing rash and you will both be quite safe."

The voice spoke as the overhead light flooded the room.

The gun was moved away and turning cautiously over, Bodie sat up, automatically registering the placement of their captors and dismissing any idea of resistance. By his side, Doyle was still flat on the bed, as he had been in sleep, but he was kept there by a .45 pressed hard into the nape of his neck.

"Let him up." Bodie spoke sharply, careless that two other guns were pointed unswervingly at himself.

"Be patient Mr Bodie. First of all I want you to stand up and move over to the wall, then Mr Doyle will be allowed to do the same." The speaker was dark skinned, his accent lightly Arabic. Bodie had never seen him before in his life, and the fact that none of the men bothered to disguise their features was a cold fear in the pit of his stomach. Careful not to make any move that could in any way be threatening, Bodie stood up, and naked, walked to the wall.

"Is this close enough?" His nose brushed the plaster work, and Bodie wondered if the Arab had a sense of humour.

"That will do perfectly." The voice went on in rapid Arabic, and Bodie felt the gun muzzle abandon him as handcuffs were snapped onto his wrists. "You may turn around."

"Very civil of you. Now what about my friend."

The dark overcoated one, who was so obviously in charge, nodded and the gun was removed from the prone man's neck. Doyle came off the bed in one swift movement, his face tight with fury, his intention uncertain. The guard, caught off balance reacted instinctively and Doyle went down with a cry, as the gun crashed into his side.

"No!" Bodie hurled himself in front of the gasping figure, clumsily shielding the smaller body from the gunman's anger. "He wasn't going to do anything. Please." He didn't care that he was pleading. From the touch of Doyle's bare skin against his back, Bodie could feel painful tension. He cursed, hardly daring breath in the face of three levelled guns. His only hope was that if they were wanted dead, then it would all have been over before they woke up. He stared hard at their leader, who was speaking again in Arabic, prepared to do God alone knew what if the men attacked. But the guards stood back, the one who had hit Doyle muttering what could only be a curse as he spat on the floor.

Moving slowly, Bodie swiveled around to support Doyle with his shoulder. The other man was conscious and after a moment, leant his head back against the wall. His face was sheened with sweat. "'S'all right." Ray took a cautious breath and releasing one hand from around his rib-cage, gripped Bodie's arm. "Sorry." Shakily wiping his face, and with a glance at Bodie, Doyle very warily stood up.

Turning to face their captor, Bodie stood in front of a white faced Doyle. There was curiosity, and a certain sympathy, expressed in the Arab's eyes. "Have you both finished?" He didn't wait for an answer. "I regret that one of you has been hurt, it was not our intention to harm either of you in any way. You may call me Ali, you do not need to know even my colleagues first names. We came like this, I believe your expression is, like thieves in the night," he smiled at his own wit, "because we knew that you would not believe that we only want to speak to you. This is true, yes? You would have thought we intended either one, or both of your deaths."

"You mean you don't?" Bodie jumped as Doyle spoke from behind his back. A hand gripped his shoulder, and Doyle was at his side.

"No. We are here to thank you."

The two prisoners glanced at each other, neither man believed what was being said. Ali laughed. "You still do not believe me, even though I could have taken your lives while you slept. Believe me."

"Why?" Again it was Doyle who spoke.

"Because you saved us from having to kill our own kind. Ahmed Nayhoum was a traitor, we traced him to that house in Scotland only to find, not as we expected, Mr Doyle here in extremis, but three neatly dead bodies. I am a messenger from my government to tell you that we thank you both, though we are not quite sure how you, Mr Bodie, came to change sides," he smiled benevolently, "and we are not interested." His manners, Bodie thought, would have been at home at a vicarage tea-party. "We thought you should know that all the loose ends that you so carelessly left behind have been tidied up."

"You mean the dead bodies?" Doyle was numb with surprise.

"And the blood, and the tell-tale signs of untoward goings on." He enunciated the words clearly, as if using them for the first time. "Including your finger prints."

"Why? You might be as grateful as shit, but we're not even Muslim, so why bother?" Bodie winced at Doyle's words; and this man was supposed to be a negotiator?

"Because one of the young men whose names you so carefully kept secret, is very important to us. Nayhoum was plotting a coup, this one name would have helped him beyond any measure you might know."

"What about the police?"

The arab looked reproachful, "I have told you; we settle these things ourselves." He smiled at them both. "That is all I came to say. Once again I apologise for my companion's hasty action, I hope you were not too severely inconvenienced, Mr Doyle."

"No," Doyle felt laughter welling up inside him, this whole conversation had the quality of a dream. Thinking about it he hoped fervently that it wasn't. "I'm fine." Actually, he felt light headed with a mixture of amazement and relief that made him smile blindingly at Ali.

"Good, that is all then. Thank you for your time, gentlemen. Perhaps you should both consider putting some clothes on, it is quite chilly in here. Oh, and I almost forgot, here's the key for the cuffs - I'll leave it by the door. And you might like to know, there will be no request for the return of your fee." And nodding to them both, he preceded his men out of the room, calling to them as he went out of the front door.

It was thirty seconds after the sound of the door closing reached them, before either Bodie or Doyle moved. Then Bodie ran to the living room and shoved the bolts across. When he turned, Doyle was leaning on the end of the sofa.

"Hey, I thought he told you to get dressed."

"So he did." Doyle shook his head. "Was that real? Did we really have four gunmen in here, one of whom read us a lecture?" He was unlocking the handcuffs as he spoke.

"I wouldn't call it a lecture, more a reprieve."

"I don't care what you call it, it sounded sweet enough to me."

"Yeah. Jesus, I really thought we'd had it."

"Sunshine, you weren't the only one."

Bodie moved to Doyle's side. "How're the ribs?"

"No worse, though I thought he'd stove them in when he did it. Bloody typical; getting hit there." He rested his head on Bodie's shoulder, sighing as warm arms wrapped him in a gentle embrace. His voice was muffled, "it's my own fault, I never could keep still at the right moment."

"Daft idiot. God, I can't believe it's true. Who do you think your contact really is?"

"Ghadaffi's secret son and heir? Fuck knows. And quite frankly I don't care." Doyle straightened, his lips quirking. "Do you think it's safe to go back to bed?"

"There's only one way to find out. Come on."

They went into the bedroom, and Bodie helped Doyle under the covers. The bruise on his side was already darkening, the whole area hot and painful to the touch, but he thought that Doyle was right and that the bones weren't damaged any further than they had been. Finding a comfortable position they relaxed, allowing their proximity to warm chilled skin.

"Where do you think he learned to speak English?" Sleep was an impossibility, the last half an hour repeating itself in Doyle's brain. He wanted a cigarette, but it seemed unfair on Bodie to smoke in bed and he was too warm and comfortable to get up.

"From a 1930's linguaphone, by the sound of it." Bodie found that he was smiling inanely into the air. "Ray, I think it's just beginning to sink in."


"Yeah. Christ almighty, who'd've thought it. Saved by the Libyans themselves." Bodie was quiet for a while, then he chortled into the pillow. "And it means that you've saved my life."

Doyle turned so that he could see Bodie's profile, "How do you work that out?"

"Because if I'd completed Nayhoum's job, then the real government people would now be after me." The sense of release was incredible, and it was only now that the oppression was gone that Bodie realised how bad it had been. "It must mean that they had the flat staked out, Christ, I must be slipping if I didn't spot them. Just as well that we're on the side of their angels."

"You can say that again." Doyle found Bodie's hand and linked their fingers. "It's not everyone who get's a chance at a new beginning," he spoke in almost a whisper, as if afraid to tempt fate by speaking too loudly. "Let's make sure we make the most of it."

Bodie brought the cool fingers to his lips and without embarrassment, kissed them. "Oh, I intend to, I intend to."

They were quiet for a while, but sleep came no closer and in the end, with dawn making the room light, they got up and with a sigh Doyle lit a Silk Cut, ignoring Bodie's pointed sniff. After a cup of tea, they shared a shower, Bodie washed Doyle's hair, soaping his body with a gentle massage that left them relaxed and in firmer control of reality.

They debated going to the police, just to make sure that they were in the clear, but decided against it, settling for reading the last weeks' papers from cover to cover instead. Bodie went to the corner news-agents to buy what they had, while Doyle cooked breakfast, and over eggs and toast they combed through the pages. There was no mention in any of them of dead terrorists found in remote Scottish houses.

The whole day was dream-like. They discussed what had happened and even visited the shops, but it was as if Ali had gifted them with a state of grace, leaving them both untouched, momentarily, by reality. Doyle put off speaking to his boss, and pretended quite happily that all their problems were solved.

Of course it couldn't last, and on Tuesday morning the telephone rang before either of them was awake. It was only because the strident clamour awoke him, that Bodie realised that Ray was curled tight into a nightmare. Ignoring the insistent ringing, he pressed himself around his lover, whispering, reassuring, soothing with hands and voice. After a moment, Doyle stiffened, fear holding him still, then he relaxed with a groan against the sheets.

"Jesus," he shuddered convulsively, and despite the sharp pain in his ribs, twisted into Bodie's arms. "Don't let go."

"No, I won't."

The telephone stopped.

Bodie stroked the disordered hair, his face strained and pale in the early morning light. When Doyle had stopped shivering, he pushed him far enough away so that he could see into the darkened eyes. "Ray, what were you dreaming about?"

Doyle didn't answer, but the pain in his eyes spoke as clearly as words. "Sweet Jesus, how can you bear me to touch you?" Bodie tried to pull away, but was held fast. Every muscle was tight with revulsion.

"Easily." Doyle was intent, his force of will making Bodie listen to what he was saying. "In fact, I think the only way I'm going to get rid of these dreams is for you to fuck me." Bodie flinched as if he'd been hit. "Look." Doyle gripped tense shoulders. "Look at me."

Reluctantly Bodie complied, his horrified mind prepared to see mockery, or even worse, fear. But instead, when he finally forced his eyes up, all that met him was understanding.

"Bodie, I don't want to have these dreams, they aren't any fun at all. They also aren't you. Do you understand? They're Nahoum, and pain, and bitterness and everything that I ever did to you visited back on me. I need you to help me get rid of them. To, I don't know, exorcise the memory if you like. Listen. If we don't, then everything we ever do in this bed that skirts around the issue will remind us of what you're trying so hard to forget."

"And you're not?"

"Not in the same way."

Bodie took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. If they were to make any success of their life, he knew Doyle was right. But knowing logically was one thing, getting his body to go through with it would be another. He shivered as Doyle leant forward and brushed a gently undemanding kiss across his mouth. "I'm just a coward, sorry." Bodie spoke softly, and threaded his fingers through soft hair. He sighed again.

"I never said it was going to be easy for either of us. But it's essential, important, all that. Tonight, Bodie. We'll do it tonight. I'm going to see Tim this morning to tell him that I'm not going back. On the way home I'll get some wine..."

"No. No wine. For this I need to be stone cold sober." Bodie then thought that it might not have been for him, "unless you...?"

"No, I don't think I'll need it. Besides, they say brandy's good for shock, and I've got some of that in the kitchen." He smiled.

"No wonder they made you a negotiator. What do you do, smile them into doing what you want?"

"Sometimes. If bribery and corruption haven't worked. Do you want the shower first?"

"No, I'm staying here for a while."

Doyle frowned. "Don't lie around getting second thoughts, or I'll get very cross!"

"I'm terrified. No, I promise to be here, in this bed, ready as I'm able and twice as willing. That do?"

"Idiot." Doyle kissed him in passing and an hour later was gone, leaving Bodie to his own devices.

Bodie understood why Ray had insisted on a deadline. Without it they would find excuses and ways to wriggle out of what was to both of them a difficult prospect. Difficult, what a joke. Impossible, was the word that floated in Bodie's mind. But it couldn't be impossible, if for no other reason than to rid Doyle of the recurring nightmare. Throughout the day, Bodie's mood swung radically from elation at their freedom, to despair at the prospect of letting Doyle down. But he refused to give in; telling himself that Doyle would never speak to him if he tried to back out.

At six o'clock the doorbell rang, and Bodie's stomach twisted. On opening the door he almost closed it again. "Ray?" He stepped back as Doyle swept past to dump a Sainsbury's bag on the table. "Ray!"

"Ah, you noticed." Doyle turned around and managed to look shame-faced and amused at the same time. "It seemed a good idea at the time." He swallowed hard, his face falling at the dumb reception from Bodie. "I can always grow it again, you know."

Bodie stepped up to him as if approaching a tiger. With narrowed eyes he inspected the newly bare chin. "Bloody hell."

"Is that good or bad?"

"Both I think. I loved you with the beard, but," he shook his head, "you look bloody gorgeous without it."

Doyle grinned in relief. "I thought for a moment there that you were going off me."

"Impossible. It was just the shock." Experimentally he ran a finger over the smoothness, it must have been just shaved for the skin was like silk. Without the concealment of the beard, Doyle's face was fine boned, the old disfigurement of his cheek-bone more of a pull to the eye. It made him more vulnerable. Bodie blinked. "You look," his voice cracked and he tried again, clearing his throat, "you look like the most desirable thing I have ever seen in my life."

"That's all right then." Doyle gasped as as exploring mouth settled on his neck. It had been a risk, shaving off the beard, but the fewer reminders Bodie had of the past, the better. A sharp jolt of expectancy fired his nerves, and suddenly there wasn't enough oxygen. Now all he had to fight was his own memories. "Shall we go to bed?" His voice sounded strange.

"D'you want to shower or anything? If I have another one I'll wash away."

"Yeah, I won't be long. You get the bed warmed up."

In the bedroom, Bodie slowly stripped and sliding under the duvet, shivered. For all his cool, calm demeanour it was obvious that Doyle must be as fraught by the prospect of penetrative sex as he was himself. It was only this knowledge that prevented Bodie from leaping out of bed and heading for the nearest pub and a drunken spree. He'd let his companion down too much before, now was the time to make it all right. In the distance he could hear the sound of water running and then small noises that meant that it wouldn't be long until Doyle was lying beside him. He tried to look upon the next hour as a task, as a bridge that had to be crossed, that way he thought he might relax enough to make it physically possible. Damn it, he hadn't felt this catastrophically unaroused since the last time someone kicked him in the balls. He kept himself still only by the expedient of telling his body again and again that this was for Doyle. God, I didn't even ask how things went with his boss. The though vanished as the overhead light clicked off.

Bodie had seen Doyle naked before, but never with such a sense of overpowering awe. After all that had happened, for this moment to be possible almost hurt, the pain sharp and localised around his heart.

Silhouetted in the doorway, the rapid rise and fall of ribs the only outward expression of unease, Doyle seemed to hesitate.

His own fear lost in his need to allay Doyle's, Bodie reached out a hand, and when it was taken, pulled gently. "Think of this as therapy."

The smells of soap and toothpaste, skin and smoke enveloped Bodie as the other body settled against him in a flurry of bony knees and damp hair. The fact the Doyle had obviously had a last minute cigarette to settle his nerves was curiously endearing. The hall-light was on, and in it's oblique illumination, Doyle smiled, "Therapy? You been taking a course in being a Yank?" His voice was slightly breathless, higher pitched than normal.

"I don't think so. But after eight years something was bound to rub off."

"I suppose I should be thankful that you didn't go to Australia; God knows what you'd be comparing this to then."

Propped on one elbow Doyle looked incredibly young, his profile so unchanged that Bodie felt a moment of dizziness as the years concertinaed together. But as he turned the light was less illusory, and Bodie was swung back to the present when he saw the reality of fear in his lover's face.

Doyle was staring at him, "Hey, what's the matter? Have I suddenly turned into a crocodile?" He grinned to show sharp white teeth.

"Ray, I... I guess this is going to be a little bit more difficult than I'd hoped." The admission made him feel better.

"We won't know until we try. You were the one who brought up the idea of therapy. Well, remember that it's for both of us."

"I know." Bodie stared solemnly into silvered eyes, then pushed back the bed-clothes. The room was warm enough; it ought to be , he'd had the heating on all day. Gently coming together they kissed; light and easy. Neither of them wanted to push this too quickly and for a long time they stroked and comforted, content to take their time. Whispering softly of nothing but reassurance, the glide of skin on skin wound them in it's spell, binding them and weaving them tightly together. Doyle was hard with arousal almost from the first touch of Bodie's mouth on the hopefulness of his cock, though he pulled away with a moan rather than let his flesh grow too fond of the heat and silk of Bodie's throat. After a while he used the same caress himself, letting the strength bloom in his mouth; giving the gift of his trust to the recalcitrant flesh, taking in return the sweet salt taste that had Bodie pushing off the sheet to meet him.

Bodie pulled with shaky fingers until Ray's mouth slipped off him with a wet sound of indescribable intimacy. Much further and it would be too far. Doyle was at his side again, and this time the kiss tasted of them both, and the smells that they breathed were indistinguishable, as if they were one self, though the animal scent aroused them both in the way that their own alone could never do.

When he could delay no further, Bodie pushed back and with a desperate plea into the depths of beautiful sorcerers eyes, asked silently for reprieve. Doyle shook his head, and with a flicker of thumbnail over nipple made the heavier body gasp, arching in need. No reprieve, and perhaps he had never asked for one. Doyle turned and pressed his face into the pillow. The thin fleshed body was no longer remotely boyish, it's strength and sinew making it as desirable as it had ever been. Maybe more so. Stretching out on the sheet, Doyle was seemingly oblivious to the watcher, and while the trust implicit in this ease constricted Bodie's throat, the sensuality of the gesture sent a fire of eroticism down into his groin.

The realisation was release. Bodie felt fulfilled, as if like the chameleon of legend, he had lived for years solely on air, and was now feeding on the most wholesome food. The past no longer seemed to have any right to control their future, how could it when this was a new life?

For a moment he rested with his face pressed to the full softness of Doyle's flesh, and as if by an effort of his own will, the last tension in the still body eased. His own arousal was an afterthought, an insignificant, if necessary, part of the moment, and it was with a few skilful strokes that he brought himself to full erection. Reaching over for the cream, he hesitated, but Doyle was whispering to him, encouraging him and Bodie knew that he had to begin before his courage failed.

The cream was cool against the heat of Doyle's skin, though it warmed immediately as Bodie smoothed around and then into the opening to his lover's body. When a finger slipped inside, Doyle gasped, and Bodie held himself so still he hardly dared to breath.

"No, it's good." Doyle moved hesitantly. "I'd forgotten. It doesn't hurt, I promise."

A drop of sweat trickled off the end of Bodie's nose to mingle with the fine, damp sheen that covered Doyle's skin. Finally remembering what his lungs were for, bodie breathed, and after a moment went back to easing deep into the tight heat, this time adding a second finger. By the time he had finished Doyle was murmuring with arousal, and with the final squeeze of the tube, Bodie anointed himself.

Even if the intrusion had torn him in half, Doyle would have tried to remain silent, but Bodie had been so patient, and he was so drugged with sensuality, that the entry was done almost before he realised it. After the joining, a flashfire of pain. Bodie was still while Doyle fought with the suddenness of hurt that surprised even though he'd awaited it. Quite still, apart from shivers that shook them both. The memories were close, wings beating loudly, driving out the closeness. Gulped breaths gusted past Doyle's ear and he knew that Bodie was fighting every impulse that shrieked at him to run. The cock inside his body was softening. No. I won't let you get away, Bodie. Not now, not ever. And gritting his teeth, he moved back and met with a gasp of shocked surprise, the sweetness of pleasure, that was echoed through the length of flesh inside him. It was joy, and understanding, and union. Sanity and the world fled away leaving them alone, joined by more than the solidity of sinew and muscle; joined by blissful happiness that took the past, burnt it in a flaming pyre, and left them victorious in it's ashes.

Later, sweat soaked and replete, Doyle lay with Bodie cradled in his arms and wanted to shout out loud with joy. He stared into the smooth dark hair and was touched by a rare contentment. He wanted the sleeper to wake so that he could share this, but after kissing him Bodie had curled into his shoulder and dozed off. Or had he? After a moment that hurled his heart into his throat, Doyle identified the chill dampness trickling down his chest. Silent and alone, Bodie wept.

Doyle's breath caught in his throat and holding tight to short hair he pulled Bodie's face up to stare into glistening blue eyes. They were wet, but they smiled and kissing him gently, Doyle released him, saying nothing, and he too was smiling as they fell asleep.

They slept for twelve hours, and would probably have lain curled together for longer, but the strident sound of the telephone was too insistent to ignore.

Doyle grunted as he picked up the receiver. "Hello."

Bodie could only hear on side of the conversation, but he closed his eyes in frustration. The world was looking for them already. He wondered what Doyle had said to Tim Davis yesterday that made him think he'd change his mind this quickly.

"No. I really don't care about it." Doyle sounded impatient. "For God's sake, Tim, it's eight-thirty, I was quite happily asleep with my lover, and when I put this 'phone down that's what I'm going back to." There was a short silence. "Fuck them all. Jesus, Tim, for the last time, I told you. And not even that'll make me change my mind."

Bodie groaned, the last thing he wanted was Doyle pressurised into a job he didn't want to do. Especially something like this which sounded dangerous as well. He'd hated anything to do with Northern Ireland ever since his tour there with the Para's.

Doyle was getting annoyed. "Yesterday, Tim, you were all sweetness and understanding, telling me to go away, never mind working out my notice, and enjoy myself. Now, with the first crisis that slithers under your nose you're ringing me up and virtually using blackmail. Tim, listen properly this time; I won't do it, I can't do it. I am no longer available for bookings. Got it?"

Bodie smiled in relief. Perhaps they'd get a holiday in the sun after all.

The conversation was increasingly one sided and to Bodie it seemed as if Tim Davis was making a good job of apology, at least Doyle was beginning to calm down.

"Yes, I understand, Tim. But as you pointed out yesterday I'm not the only negotiator in the business. Can I take it that you won't be bothering me again? At least until the next time?" He sounded plaintive, but spoiled the effect by laughing. "Yeah, I know. But good luck. Though the bastards should be left to rot; might stop them poking their fingers in where they're not wanted. See you in a couple of months. Bye."

"IRA?" Bodie queried.

"What? Oh, no, SAS." Doyle turned. "Your old lot up to their tricks. God, I'm glad I don't have to get involved. The Irish make the Libyans look like pussycats."

It would be interesting to see how long this disinterest in his old occupation lasted. It might, or it might not, be enough for Doyle to cut off from his life with such abrupt severity. Whichever way, Bodie hoped that Doyle would be content, though perhaps that was a state of mind that they would both have to work at. Not that he had doubts about his own choice as such. But a life of relaxation would be fascinating to try and adjust to.

"What are you thinking about in there?" Doyle wiggled his finger in Bodie's ear.

"You and me and the price of tea." He batted at the intruder.


"That's me."

"Come on; tell me?"

Bodie drew the looming body down towards him, holding the wide shoulders between his hands. "What do I tell you? That I'm worried? That I woke up and couldn't believe that you'd want to stay with me? That I was almost ready to pack? It all sounds stupid. Well I don't think I care. Where you are concerned I've lost all right to any pride." He chewed his lip, and met Doyle's wide spaced eyes.

"Tim was only trying it on; he didn't really think that I'd go back. And even if he had it wouldn't have got him anywhere."

"I love you."

Doyle showed no surprise at the abrupt statement. "Good. I'd hate to be alone in my idiocy."

Bodie looked at him properly for the first time that morning. He seemed very alive. "You look better."

"I am. I feel," the shoulders shrugged within Bodie's grip, "I feel very happy. Very content."

"How's your arse?"

Bodie wondered why Doyle was howling with laughter. After a moment he poked Doyle in the belly. "Oy. That was a serious enquiry."

"I know. Sorry." But he was spluttering with giggles that in the end stopped as he had to clutch his ribs. "Ow. God, that serves me right."

"Idiot. Come on, sit up."

"Oh, Bodie," he was breathless, "I can't believe any of this is real. I want to sing and shout with glee whenever I look at you; I think it's making me a little mad." He sat back and beamed.

"Okay. So now would you mind answering my question?" Torn between sympathy and irritation at the smug look on Doyle's face, Bodie gave up and smiled. "Inquisition over. Let me try again - how are you?"

"I'm fine. Can't you tell?"

"Yeah." Doyle's clear skin was stubbled with an overnight growth of beard; he looked dissolute, unconcerned and remarkably sweet tempered. Bodie suddenly wanted to take him away and love him senseless. Take him somewhere hot, get him a sun-tan, and lie around until his own brain had caught up with reality. "After breakfast, let's go to a travel agent's, get a couple of tickets to somewhere where it isn't winter."

"As long as you don't have a yearning to visit North Africa."

"No, we'll go a bit further afield than that. You choose and I'll pay."

The words made Doyle smile, touching as they did on almost the first thing Bodie had said those few weeks ago. Surprisingly, the reminder didn't hurt at all. "No. We'll choose, and we'll pay, between us. It might take us a while, but I'm sure we can agree on something eventually."

"Optimistic to the end, you are."

"I think I must be. Come here, I want a cuddle."

"Is that all you want?" Bodie said, wondering how he'd ever thought Doyle quiet.

"No, but I thought I'd break the rest of the list to you gently. Maybe over a month," he sighed ecstatically as Bodie wrapped long arms around him, "or a year," he wriggled, getting comfy, "or maybe a lifetime."

"Take your pick. I'll be here for all of them."

"Good. Wake me up when it's time for breakfast."

"I certainly will; it's your turn to make it." Bodie had a sudden thought. "And anyway, you never did tell me if it worked about the nightmares."

"Oh, they finished ages ago."


"You heard."

"What about yesterday?"

"I almost awarded myself an Oscar for that. Took you long enough to wake up though."

"Bloody cheek." But Bodie smiled, Doyle always had used devious means to get what he wanted and besides, he felt too content to make a fuss over something that had worked out so well. His smile turned into a grin. "For that, you can grow your beard back as punishment."

A sleepy voice answered, "Good, I was wondering how to break it to you that I hate shaving."

"Do you always get your own way?"

"Very rarely, so I'm making the most of it."

Bodie groaned, "God, I must be getting soft."

"Is that a challenge?" Doyle's hand went exploring, and it was quite a time before they thought of either breakfast or travel-agents again.

-- THE END --

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