Carnal Interests


Carnal Interests Part 1: After Need to Know

"The saints engage in fierce contest
About their carnal interests."
--Samuel Butler

Ray Doyle sighed gustily and brushed the curls back from his forehead.

"Glad that's done." He glanced at his partner who was scowling over his report. Bodie looked pale to his eye, obviously still suffering the after-effects of the old man's trick with the stun gas.

"Your 'ead 'urt?" he queried gruffly. It would never do to let Bodie see his concern. He wouldn't like it that Doyle had recovered more quickly but the sod would manage somehow to turn it to his advantage if he sensed sympathy.

"Yeh," Bodie croaked, the sound harsh in the quiet room. "And me throat hurts, too." He coughed again, a little theatrically, Doyle thought.

"Bout finished here-and then I'm ready for the home-fires."

"Me too, mate," Doyle agreed. "You're stopping by, aren't you?"

Bodie glanced up and crooked an unruly eyebrow. "You cooking?"

Doyle dropped his head back and let the laugh slide out. He laughed a lot these days since Bodie had told him how much he liked that dirty cackle.

Said it gave him the shivers. "Yeh, I'm cooking. We'd go hungry if I didn't, wouldn't we now?"

Bodie's brief grin was the first indication of interest Doyle had seen in the man since they'd wrapped up the Manton thing earlier in the day.

"Plan to stay over.." Doyle caught his words back as Cowley appeared in the doorway. "3.7, I'd like a word with you before you go." Without sparing Doyle a glance, he continued. "4.5, this doesn't concern you. You can go."

"I've plans," Bodie protested automatically, but the withering eye of his chief over-rode his resistance. "Yes sir, right away."

Cowley glared once more for emphasis and removed himself.

Bodie shaking his exhaustion away to stand before his partner, looked a little worried. "What's this then? Did I go wrong today?"

The frown on Ray Doyle's full mouth mirrored his irritation. He'd been looking forward to spending what was left of the day with Bodie, but the scowl on his face further alarmed his opposite.

"Here, now, what is it? You think I'm in for it, don't you?"

Looking at Bodie, he forced a smile. "Nah, no problem I know of, mate.

As long as you don't mind a transfer?"

"Huh? What are on about now, you little sod?"

"Oh yeh, Cowley probably guessed how you fancy yourself in a copper's uni and figures you want to join that mob now."

Despite his general malaise, Bodie made a visible effort to meet Doyle's teasing and his tone lightened. "I don't know if I shall take you up on your offer to dine if you're going to insult me."

Doyle fixed him with a lazy smile and stretched out stiff muscles as best he could in the confines of the ungiving chair. Hips at a provocative tilt, arms still in mid-stretch, he tipped his head to one side.

"Left-over lasagna in the freezer." He held the position hoping to tempt Bodie into a reaction.

The other man stared silently at his abandoned pose, new life entering his expression. Bodie's lip curled in a suggestion of a smile and he moved closer. "If the entree is as promising dessert, you can count on a guest for dinner and for."


Doyle groaned as Cowley's voice reverberated through the quiet room, and Bodie detoured around him to head for Cowley's office. Rolling his eyes in irritated resignation, Bodie hissed, "Father's getting impatient. Go on, I'll see you in a bit."

Doyle's half-closed green gaze made a silent promise to the blue one still looking in his direction. Then Dole nodded unnecessary affirmation, and left, knowing Bodie was hooked for another evening.

Bodie found himself in the old man's office more dazzled by the memory of the green fire in Doyle's eyes than properly awed by the peremptory summons of his chief. The new relationship with Doyle had developed in the last months and was still a matter of wonder, something to be treated with a great deal of wariness and respect. He'd been sexually attracted to his partner for quite a while, but until Ray Doyle had made the first move, Bodie had never expected to act on his matter how fascinated he'd been by the idea.

Cowley straightened in his chair and Bodie mentally dragged himself into the immediate present. His superior was sitting behind neatly stacked piles of paperwork finished and ready for his secretary to file the next day. The ex-mercenary fell into parade rest as Cowley looked up wearily.

The day had taken its toll on the older man as well.

"None of that, lad. You're off duty." Cowley's demeanor subtly mutated from its almost habitual cold expression to one almost amiable as he got up to pour two scotches. "Not much need to ask if you'd like one; you still sound a little raw."

Grateful for both Cowley's words and hospitality for the second time in one day, Bodie accepted the glass and sank into the room's spare chair, puzzled but relieved not to be up for some reprimand.

Cowley hoisted his glass. "Here's to a job well-done."

The pure malt was appreciated and burned his throat less this time as he swallowed, and he settled back waiting for the Cow to explain why he'd been summoned. To his confusion, Cowley simply walked over and poured another dram into his glass. Bodie stared at the amber fluid in mild shock. The old man was seldom so generous with his private stock "Don't look so surprised, 3.7, just be grateful."

"Oh, I am sir, I am," Bodie replied before downing the second glass.

Already the smooth liquor was warming his spirits if not his throat.

"Thirsty work today, he?" Again Cowley refilled his glass, and Bodie looked at it with suspicion this time.

"Oh, go ahead, Bodie," Cowley chuckled. "Consider it penance for gassing you."

"Doyle was gassed, too, wasn't he? I don't notice him anywhere about." He tossed back the last drink viciously, wishing the old man would get to it.

He really didn't feel like trading pleasantries tonight. Not with Doyle waiting. Besides in Doyle's company he'd begun to feel better; now with only Cowley around he began to notice how his throat and chest still ached when he breathed too deeply.

Cowley ignored the harsh comment and grimaced with pain as he lowered himself into his desk chair.

Bodie noticed the old man's wince and felt a stab of conscience. He could spare Cowley a few minutes. "It's worse?" he sympathized.

"Aye, today and everyday it seems," Cowley grumbled.

"I dunno. You managed quite well today," the younger man observed.

The head of CI5 leaned back and straightened his leg. "I'll keep this short, Bodie, since we've all had a long day. I'd like you to join me for dinner tomorrow night. There are some things I'd like to discuss with you, alone and without danger of being interrupted."

Face frozen in an attempt to hide his amazement, all of Bodie's considerations faded at the unique invitation. As far as he knew, none of the agents had ever dined with the chief-the Head of CI5 didn't generally socialize with the help. The unmoving face across form him gave him no clues, and Bodie felt a frisson of excitement crawl up his backbone. He was sure the old fox must be up to something. Bodie cleared his still tender throat. "What time, sir?"

Cowley's voice gave nothing away. "We'll dine at my place at 8:00."

Bodie prodded gently. "Shall I dress, sir?"

Cowley was already back at work, his answer dry. "Yes, Bodie, the neighbors shock easily."

Bodie laughed uneasily and took his leave, obviously dismissed and already forgotten. On the way to Ray's he pondered the unusual occurrence. The old man has shared the casual drink wit him at the local pub on occasion, but that was all. But then with Cowley, who could understand his motives.

Thank the Christ, no one of them was expected to. Cowley had his own circle of posh friends, and besides he didn't get that pally with his men.

And why exclude Doyle? Bodie supposed he, and possibly Doyle, had spent more off time with their chief than any of the other operatives, and still didn't feel they knew the man. There did exist great trust and respect for him and he figured it worked both ways since Cowley did seem to favor him and Ray to a degree.

Pulling up in front of Ray's flat, he decided firmly that he favored the bionic golli rather too much himself. In face, he fancied him so much it scared him to death. If he didn't watch out one of these days he'd be blurting out all sorts if embarrassing things-had come uncomfortably close several time already. The renowned Bodie control seemed to desert him when he got near Ray. The tatty-haired operative had gained a hold over him in more ways than one-and ever since he'd realized Ray wanted more than a half-hearted liaison, he'd been even more frightened of that hold. So far he had resisted spilling his guts, but he'd been unable to cut off the affair.

Nevertheless, if Ray wouldn't see the dangers, Bodie knew it was up to him to keep control. Had, in fact, told Doyle that more than once. Lose that control and one of both of them would be dead. And there was another reason that Bodie wouldn't think about even though it was always there, forever in the back of his mind.

He was afraid. Loving Ray meant loss of independence, an increasing fear for his partner's safety, and the tearing pain that would come when it all ended. And it would end. Any thinking man knew love didn't last forever.

He'd learned that lesson long ago. Love Ray, and he became vulnerable to all he feared most.

Suddenly, he almost dreaded going up. Lately Ray had made it clear he wanted that final consummation, the last act of possession that to Doyle represented the breaking of all barriers. What they had would no longer be in he category of locker room sec, a casual venting of sexual frustration but the beginning of a committed relationship as far as Ray was concerned.

And if he allowed it, knowing how Doyle felt, it would mean he agreed to such a commitment. He shivered. He knew he wanted it, and the very thought of having Ray in that way made him break out in a sweat, but he'd resisted those demands so far and would continue to do so. At least, he'd try. His partner was a hard man to ignore. He took a deep breath and tried to lighten up.

With economic moves, Ray Doyle moved around his kitchen preparing a quick meal for himself and his partner. He was uneasy as he worked, as well as curious and piqued about Bodie's late meeting with Cowley. Then bemused by his own thoughts, he halted in the act of slicing bread, realizing why he was so uneasy. Today, out on the road, Cowley had..

The buzzer's abrupt sound silenced his thoughts, his anticipation of Bodie's company enough to drive the strangest memories underground.

"'Allo, thought the old man was having you for dinner."

"Nah, he only chewed off one leg," Bodie responded, limping dramatically past Doyle. "Got any beer in?"

"In the fridge."

Bodie removed two beers, opened them and handed one to Doyle "Since you're out here, you can help," Doyle informed him.

Bodie pulled at his beer before leering, "Help you what?"

Doyle walked toward Bodie then, drawn by the magnetism between them. The very act of movement made him acutely aware of his body, the friction of clothing against his skin, the growing tightness in his groin, and the pleasure he derived in seeing the dark eyes widen as they reaffirmed his desirability. He raised the bottle and drank deeply before closing his arms around his lover, their cold tongues battling before Doyle sucked Bodie into him. Too soon the kiss ignited fires he didn't want started just yet, but Bodie showed no signs of turning him loose willingly so he tipped the bottle he still gripped and some of the cold liquid spilled down his partner's neck.

Bodie yelped and jerked away, glowering. "Why'd you go and do that," he demanded, wiping futilely at his wet shirt collar.

"Go on, it was just a drop," Dole said, his laughter bubbling over.

"You've dribbled more than that bit down your chin."

Bodie's lip pulled back in mock disdain at the unjust accusation. "Me? Dribble? Must have me confused with some of your riff-raff friends."

"You do look a bit like Raff," was his sarky reply as he turned to rescue supper.

Muttering vague obscenities, Bodie banged two plates and cutlery on the table, then disappeared into the bedroom. When he reappeared wearing Doyle's robe, he hoisted his brow at his partner's appraising look and glanced down at himself. "Didn't know what else you might think to drop on me."

Doyle lifted his mouth in a small half-smile. Not only did he like the idea of this man wearing something of his, Bodie hadn't a clue how sexy he looked in the white toweling-but he'd find out before too much longer.

"The next thing I decide to drop on you won't be food." He nodded toward the table, anxious to have the eating over.

"C'mon, let's eat while it's hot and I'm still in the mood for it."

As they settled Doyle's thoughts returned to his earlier speculations.

Tucking in his napkin, he asked as casually as he could manage, "What did the old man want?"

Startled, Bodie looked up, a slight flush colouring his pale features.

"You'll never believe it, he invited me to dinner at his place tomorrow night. Surprising, innit?"

Doyle swallowed. For some reason, he didn't find it surprising at all. In fact, several things fell into place. Such as Cowley being more interested in his partner than he could ever have thought possible. He again recalled the little scene his gas-bleared eyes had taken in earlier that day.

Whilst trying to ease a coughing spasm he'd levered himself up and seen Cowley running a caressing finger across Bodie's face. Even then when he was all groggy it'd hit him wrong. The controller just didn't commit such indiscretions.and yet he had. As the result of the following action, Doyle had temporarily forgotten that little scenario.

Now it all flooded back, and again he wondered at the tenderness he'd witnessed in Cowley. He flushed slightly at this thought. Surely he was wrong. He was probably just seeing homosexual overtones in everything since he'd begun to fancy Bodie. In fact he found it too easy to believe everyone else felt as he did about his partner. After all, Cowley was human, a fact they all tended to forget. And there was that look, that touch to be accounted for.

He blinked owlishly as Bodie's voice penetrated his thoughts. "Hey, mate, come back.3.7 to 4.5.."

Focusing back in on his partner, he shook his head and picked up his fork again. "Sorry, just wondering what the old man could want." He couldn't think it out properly till he was alone. It was not difficult to drag his mind back to the man across from him, to devote all his attention to making Bodie want him.

He snaked his unshod foot under the small table and up Bodie's calf, digging his toes into the sensitive spot back of his partner's knee, smiling as the man squirmed. Sliding his foot higher, he touched the soft swelling between Bodie's legs. Bodie clamped his ankle between strong thighs, and Doyle's smile became evil as he wiggled his toes against tender flesh . The dark man's ensuing gasp sent a tingle up his spine.

Lifting his beer in a silent toast, he tantalized his partner further by drinking and then running his tongue over his lips to remove a trace of moisture.

Bodie's breath hissed, "Not half bad, mate. Deserves a bit of turnabout."

His hand disappeared under the table and Doyle wasn't surprised to feel questing fingers slide up his leg. Frustratingly, they stopped mid-thigh.

"Never thought I'd complain about the tightness of your jeans, Ray," Bodie whispered morosely, "but I can't get at you from here." Emphasizing his point, his hard fingers outlined Doyle's cock through its denim cover.

Ray Doyle knew he made more than a passable lasagna, but he hadn't tasted any of it, and he doubted if Bodie had really enjoyed it either. Dark hooded eyes regarded him, setting his blood hammering through his veins, glazing his senses with fiery desire. As always, the problem with coming on to his partner was that he himself was also infected with he same sweet sexual tension. Not that he minded, oh no. He stopped thinking then for Bodie, face all fierce and demanding, got up and came around to claim the teasing promise he'd been making all evening. He raised his hand and traced his knuckles down Bodie's cheek, unthinkingly copying Cowley's earlier gesture that day, before his hand locked behind the sleek head and drew it down and down.

Late sun crept through a crack in the draperies hitting Doyle in the face.

He cracked an eye, swore, and turned toward his companion. Bodie was huddled close in the chill room, his morning erection jabbing Doyle in the stomach, drawing his attention. He struggled to free a hand and poked the sleeping man none too gently Bodie snorted sleepily.

"Wakey, wakey. Time to get up. A whole day off is nothing to waste."

Bodie moaned piteously and flopped over, burrowing under the duvet.

"You playin' at bein' a tortoise," Doyle observed dispassionately. "Won't do you any good. I know how to bring you out, don't I?" Running his hands over the naked body, he reveled in its smooth silkiness, till finally they reached Bodie's ass and came to rest in the crease, seeking out the tight puckered muscle. The growing fire centered in his groin as his finger flicked the tiny aperture. Bodie pushed reflexively against the insinuating touch before gasping and flinching away.


That one-worded protest warned him of trespass. He let his hand rest a moment before moving it higher around Bodie's waist. "One of these days, Bodie. Soon," he growled softly.

"Maybe," Bodie replied, voice flat, emotionless. Doyle pulled him over and crawled on top, fitting their bodies precisely, and then kissed him.

Bodie responded eagerly and when they broke for air, the big agent murmured appeasingly, "We've plenty without that, don't you think?"

And then they were thrusting together, mouth devouring mouth , desperate with sudden heat. Bodie came first, arched body freezing against Doyle's still moving hips. His release triggered Doyle's, and they relaxed into a panting, sticky heap. When breath came normally, Bodie's hand crawled into his hair and carded the mass softly.

"Nice stuff, this."

Doyle opened an unbelieving eye. "My hair?"


He couldn't keep his amusement contained. "Christ, Bodie, you've such a way with words. No wonder the birds adore you."

Bodie smiled, too content to spar. "Can I come tonight?"

"You can come in bed, on the sofa, or in any place you want as long as you're with me."

Bodie scowled. "Tart. I'm serious."

"Me, too."

Bodie rolled quickly and pinned him. "Do you want me to come by?"

Doyle half-heartedly tried to displace him. "After your diner with our illustrious leader, you mean?"

"Who else?"

"Yeh, come by if you want," he conceded, "but if you're too late, you may find me asleep."

"I want.and I'll wake you up," Bodie smirked, dropping his lips to Doyle's unprotected ear. "Wouldn't want you to miss anything important."

"Arrogant sod," he muttered, helpless to the man's appeal.

They lazed a few minutes longer than Bodie struck his forehead with the flat of his hand. "Oh Christ-I'd forgotten my good suit needs pressing."

He jumped out of bed. "Stay put, goldilocks. No time for breakfast if I'm to arrive in sartorial splendour at Uncle George's tonight." He hared into the loo and Doyle heard the shower start a minute later.

Irritated, Doyle rolled his eyes at the ceiling. What made you think you'd been asked to breakfast anyway?" he asked the empty room. He rolled over looking for a spot that wasn't wet and thought about going back to sleep, but that was impossible now that he was awake and thinking. Why had Cowley asked Bodie to dinner?

Cowley was somewhat of a mystery to his men. But he had weaknesses like everyone; you just had to observe more carefully than with most men.

Mysteries cold be solved with patience and surveillance and Doyle was good at that with his copper's instincts. Now he thought about how Bodie was the only one he'd ever heard make their boss laugh and about how Bodie got away with insubordination that would have any other agent out on his ear. Any number of the stunts he had pulled would have had another agent pilloried.

He also thought about Marika and how Cowley had stalked off after Bodie when Doyle would have preferred to follow him; he remembered his partner telling him that Cowley had stopped him from following Ray after the Coogan case.

He didn't like what these small facts added up to, yet if he hadn't witnessed that small scene yesterday, he'd have dismissed them. For one thing, if he didn't like thinking such things about Cowley-knew Bodie would hate it. The old man was important to Bodie-he was important to Ray, also.

He didn't want to be in competition with him over Bodie. Most things in life Ray Doyle would relinquish to Cowley, since he'd never been one much for possessions; however, what he owned was irrevocably his. He meant to have his irritating berk of a partner for himself. Cowley and fate had given him Bodie and that was that. There were many variables in his life, but his partner was his one constant. He'd even been the one who'd taken the chance and risked that first contact.

His mind turned back to that day 3 months ago. They'd had the villains pinned down; Bodie working one direction and he the other. He'd had a jam just as Bodie's weapon had roared. The ensuing silence had told him one villain was out of commission but his was very much alive. Ray Doyle had faced death before, but this time he saw it reaching for him when the grinning ferret-faced man had risen triumphantly, weapon aimed at him.

He'd barely registered the metallic click of an empty chamber when Bodie fired. The man folded, dead, and he'd slumped in momentary relief.

They'd finished up with few words, doing what was necessary, willing the shakes away-but later in Dole's flat, they'd tried to wash the after shock away with a few drinks. It hadn't worked this time. He'd been standing by the window seeing nothing, barely hearing the stereo playing, but totally aware of Bodie standing behind him. Finally he'd had to mention it.

"Was close today. Thanks again."

There was an abrupt cessation of sound and movement and then Bodie'd heaved a harsh sigh. "You come any close, mate, and Cowley will be placing a departmental wreath on your grave."

"Yeh." He'd turned then and saw Bodie wearing a familiar savage expression that didn't altogether hide his feelings-feelings Ray'd seen once or twice before: confused, scared, but mostly hungry. It was a look he'd supposed he was wearing himself. Anyway it'd given him the necessary impetus to act.

Ignoring all logic, he'd approached Bodie, recognizing and responding to that fierce need reflected in his partner. The straining fabric on the front of the black cords settled it. Embarrassed, flushing at his scrutiny, the other man's lashes had dropped and hidden the sapphire eyes.

Without letting himself think about it, Doyle had leaned forward then and covered Bodie's mouth with his while cupping the taut crotch. Bodie had gone rigid, and then clutched him frantically.

From that point, instinct had guided them. It'd been a release of many suppressed emotions: tension, fear, desire, but Doyle didn't figure love had much to do with that first time. Yet, it'd been a shattering revelation, and after that storm of passion, they'd clung together trying to achieve some sense of balance. And ever since, they'd been tightrope balancing, neither able to commit to a relationship nor to disentangle themselves. Bodie had even admitted to him he didn't trust love, but did trust his partner.

Despite that lately Ray Doyle had been able to admit to himself he wanted more, and from the person who held him off.

The ex-merc was giving a good impression of a man scared to death of getting too close but too fascinated to leave. Doyle felt he was holding him with sex alone and it frightened him, and at times made him desperate with that fear. At best, sex was a novelty that wore off fast. With women so available to both of them, Bodie didn't really need him. Besides Doyle didn't like exploiting his innate sensuality in this way. He was beginning to feel like a whore. If it weren't for those moments when they made love, he'd almost give it up. But Bodie in bed was a man in love, and the tenderness of those moments drew him back again and again.

After he'd left Ray, Bodie had commenced the despised routine chores that attended single housekeeping. These activities kept him from spending much time considering his invitation until he was on his way that night. He'd already decided it useless to second guess Cowley, but for a time he indulged his curiosity. He also anticipated the menu since Cowley had mentioned an excellent part time cook/housekeeper. Finally since he couldn't imagine what Cowley wanted he gave up speculating. It didn't matter, he knew he could cope.

His arrival found Cowley alone in his Spartan but elegant flat where he was shown into the main room. Bodie relaxed on the settee and began to enjoy himself as the wily Scot acted the perfect host. At that point, Bodie decided if George was going to give him the royal treatment, he wasn't going to argue. If he knew his boss as well as he thought, the old man would get to the reason for this evening in his own time and nothing he could say would hurry the process. Besides, the aroma drifting in from the kitchen gave a most auspicious cast to the meal to come. When Cowley poured wine from his best stock, he knew his patience would last as long as the controller was pouring.

By the end of the meal, replete, with a snifter of brandy in hand, completely lulled in mind and body, he was ensconced in one of Cowley s comfortable arm chairs and prepared to continue with shop talk or any other topic his chief wanted.

He watched the older man shift about, trying to find a better position for his leg. "Perhaps you should consult your doctor, sir." As soon as he made the suggestion, Bodie knew he should have kept quiet. Cowley's head snapped up and the basilisk stare he fixed on Bodie made him squirm. "Just a suggestion. Of course, you know best."

Cowley relaxed slightly. "I have seen my physician, Bodie. Recently in fact. He's made some strong recommendation." The controller looked down at his hands. "He's told me to give some serious consideration to my retirement and, in turn, to my replacement."

"What!" Amazed repudiation sprang to Bodie's lips. "No one can replace you, sir."

"Anyone can be replace, 3.7, and don't you forget it. Even me."

Bodie didn't believe it for a minute. "But who..?"

The answer was in dead earnest. "How about Raymond Doyle?"

"Ray!" At first he was stunned by the threat to himself and to their partnership, the enormous implication of such a move almost paralyzing him.

Then gathering his wits, defenses snapping into place, he made himself attend Cowley.

"Why not?" Cowley replied stiffly. "He's canny enough, tough enough, and with my help, he would be ready to take over when I retire. Which, I hasten to add, won't be for awhile."

Bodie sorting through various responses was hampered by his preeminent emotion-fear that Cowley would and could take Doyle away from the partnership. He made no effort to still the angry protest that spilled over. "But Doyle already has a job, hasn't he? And he's good, we're good.

You'd be losing your best team."

Cowley allowed a frosty smile to overtake him at the younger man's attempt at persuasion. "Things change, Bodie. I don't need to tell you that."

"No sir." Truculent blue eyes met knowing ones.

"You do think Doyle could do the job, don't you?" Cowley demanded.

Bodie considered manufacturing some grave reason for not giving his partner the job, but loyalty forced the unhappy fact for him. "Of course he could.

Doyle's a smart 'un."

"And as ambitions as you are arrogant, I wager. I hardly think he'd turn down such an offer."

Bodie was openly defiant now that Cowley was pushing hard. "Wouldn't know. I mean you haven't put it to him yet, have you? Have you?" Alarmed he sat straighter in his chair, unable to believe Doyle would have left it to Cowley to break such news.

"No, not yet. I wanted to talk to you first. I wanted to ask you not to discourage Doyle. You could, you know." Cowley caught Bodie's hard gaze.

"So maybe I will anyway." Blue sparks struck from Bodie's eyes.

Cowley's voice held disdain now. "Don't act the spoiled child with me. This is one of the best opportunities he'll ever have, and you know it. Would you ruin it for him? No, I think not. Besides, I have a proposition for you as well." The burr became more pronounced. "What would you say to changing employers?"

"Me!" Explosive surprise brought Bodie up out of his chair. "You think I want to leave the mob?" Cowley's stare seemed to reach inside him, reading all his thoughts.

"Not if you didn't want to." He motioned Bodie to reseat himself, and leaned forward confidentially. "You see, I know I couldn't be idle. I'd want to keep my hand in, so to speak. To be available for consultation, to give advice, that sort of thing. Maybe even do some work on my own, if I had the right man, of course. That's where you'd come in-as my assistant. Perhaps, with what I'd pay you, you could even afford a small place near me. Having you close would facilitate matters. I'd be better assured of finding you. Does that interest you?

Bodie's mind whirled. None of this conversation seemed real. Surely Cowley didn't think he'd really leave CI5.and Ray. He ignored the pointless emotions and strove for some control. "I'd like to stay on, sir; not that working with you wouldn't be interesting. It's just that I like what I'm doing."

"Not that I mind, oh no. You see, I was thinking it would be best for Doyle." Cowley's knowing smile raised the hair on Bodie's neck. "I know how close you lads are, how hard it would be for Doyle to send you out on assignment alone. You wouldn't accept another partner, would you?" He proceeded at the stubborn look that crossed Bodie's face, "Ah, I thought no, and if he were to always be worried about you, well, that could affect his work, couldn't it? No, I'm thinking of Doyle, as you should, if he takes the job."

Impotent rage compounded by frustration filled Bodie, and it had no real outlet. Cowley was threatening his world, not with guns and bullets, but with words. He never liked fighting with words, but against this man he had no other weapon. He grasped for any reason, "But then he might not want the position. He likes his job."

"Bodie," Cowley administered a gentle reprimand, "it's hard to go forward in life, especially when people we care for try to hold us back."

"I wouldn't.." Bodie's rage folded in on itself as he acknowledged the truth of that statement. He wanted things to stay the same, but he could not hurt Doyle or keep him from accepting the job. Cowley's offer was even reasonable if he could just get past the pain of not working with or for Ray.

I suggest you spend more time considering my offer. You'd be doing much the same thing as now-after all, you work for me, take my orders; that won't change." Cowley stood and walked over to Bodie and gripped his shoulder. "3.76, you know this is the best solution. Besides, man, you act as if you'll never see Doyle again. You'll both be in the same country."

Jerked from his miser, Bodie looked up startled. "Same country?"

"I thought we might seek lodgings out of the city bustle. Nothing pastoral," he hastened to add, seeing Bodie's resistance, "just a bit removed."

"How removed, sir?" Bodie choked, anxious with apprehension, tight with fear, and knew he had to remove himself from the flat before he lashed out at Cowley in his pain. Even though he wouldn't know it, the controller was not just offering to change his working relationship with Doyle, he was proposing a life-style that would mean the end of their personal relationship.

"Oh, not much more than an hour or so away. Just a nice drive. It'll work, lad, just think about it. You and I have always got on; I know what you like best-I'll see you're kept busy. The Minister won't let me off that easily." He returned tot his chair and sat awkwardly. "Of course, you and Doyle will still see something of each other. After all, Doyle will have to move in higher circles, but as my aide, you'll move in some of those same circles with me." He sighed gently. "And who knows, Bodie you might just be a comfort in my old age."

Cowley's words whirled in on Bodie, smothering him. He had to get away, think things out. It all seemed so reasonable. If Ray was capable of the job, and Cowley seemed to think so, then he should do it if he wanted. And while it would mean the end of what they had, maybe that would be for the best, too. Their brief affair would be given the chop before either of them could be hurt any worse. But if it was such a good idea why did he feel like killing someone? It was definitely time to leave. "Is there more, sir, or can I go now? I have a good bit to think over." He hoped Cowley was through. More he could not bear this evening.

"Go then, I've kept you long enough. And Bodie, I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell Doyle just yet. Let me do it."

The slamming door was Cowley's answer.

Thin-lipped with pain and rage Bodie drove to Doyle's flat. So he was to somehow face his partner without betraying the Cow's plans. Even the old man should have known better than to ask that. There was no way he could act like nothing was wrong without Ray sussing it immediately. How cold he when he'd just realized the bleak emptiness that would be his life if it meant a future without his partner. Accepting how much he loved the gorgeous bastard, and knowing the power it gave the other man didn't frighten him as much as the possibility of losing him. There was even the looming fear he'd held him off one time too many. The fear that said perhaps Doyle would welcome the offer, could accept a future without Bodie.

For just a moment he was tempted to give it all up and run, but, defeated, he accepted there was no place far enough to erase Doyle from his heart and mind. He was well and truly hooked. Savagely, he wheeled the car around the corner and braked in front of Ray's building. For awhile he gazed up at the lighted windows, knowing who awaited him and contemplating the loss and what it would mean. They would have been able to survive the dissolution of their partnership. After all he could have worked for Ray as an agent, but no personal relationship as precarious as theirs could survive the burden of time and distance.

His painful conclusion was that it would have to be Doyle's decision, not his or Cowley's. And Despite the old man's request, he knew he would have to tell Ray everything. Besides not being able to hide the facts well, he was too scared not to tell him. What it came down to was the knowledge that he was a coward if it meant an existence without Doyle. And terrified of what such dependence meant.

Ray Doyle paced the room nervously. The whole day and particularly the evening had been almost unbearable. His imagination had played out one scene after another-the most ludicrous being one in which Cowley had seduced a dim

Bodie. No matter how he'd ridiculed himself for that one, he still suspected Cowley's motives for the dinner invitation. the more he thought about it, the more he recalled the latitude Cowley had so often allowed Bodie; and he kept returning to the scene he'd witnessed when the older man had stroked Bodie's cheek with such loving concern-and it made him sick.

He was almost sure the controller wouldn't reveal such feelings to Bodie.

He didn't operate that way. And only if Cowley put it to the hard ex-merc in the bluntest terms, would Bodie ever believe it. For a man of experience, Bodie did have his blind spots. Attributing such feelings to Cowley would never occur to him. In fact, Doyle still doubted his own conviction, not to mention his sanity just considering it.

A key in the lock alerted him to Bodie's presence, one look told him there was trouble.

Worry harshened his voice. "Well, what is it then? You took long enough."

Bodie shrugged. "The old man had some things on his mind. It took some saying."

"No, way it innit so," Doyle snapped, sarcasm dripping.

Bodie's face tightened. "Stuff yourself. I need a shower."

Doyle's mouth dropped as a very clean and splendidly dressed Bodie shot past him into the bedroom. His partner was running scared, and Doyle was shocked. Nerves thrumming, he went to the kitchen and put the kettle on to heat, waiting there until he heard the water shut off long minutes later.

Unable to stay away, he went into the bedroom and watched a damp Bodie burrowing his way through the cupboards.

"Where'd you hide the robe?" Bodie sounded much calmer, but his erratic scrabbling for the sought after garment betrayed his real state of nerves.

The absence of Bodie's usual confidence shook Doyle. "In the wash, but there's another in there. Hang on, I'll find it before you destroy everything, you great clod. Before you practically moved in with me, I had neat cupboards. It was easier living without you than with you, I can tell you that."

Bodie paled, his face closing down. "'Ere, what's the matter?" he demanded, handing Bodie an old blue robe.

"Nothing." The soft mutter did nothing to reassure Doyle "Nothing doesn't make you go all white, does it?"

"I said nothing," Bodie repeated with more force. "Look, I'm going to tell you everything. Just give me half a mo, all right?"

Doyle trailed Bodie back to the sitting room and watched him sink down on the settee, and decided he'd kill the sod on the spot except he wanted desperately to know what had happened with Cowley. Deceptively casual, he leaned on the door frame. "Bodie, I'm going to give you 5 seconds to tell me what's the matter, or I'm going to beat the shit out of you." As the dark head snapped up in surprise, he continued, "And I'm already counting."

A small smile creased Bodie's face. "You would, too, wouldn't you?" The smile disappeared. "I'm sorry for acting a right pratt, but the Cow really dropped on me. I still haven't gotten my head straight." He picked at a raveled cuff. "He asked me not to tell you 'cos he wants to." Bodie looked up then and saw his partner's alarmed expression. "Don't worry, I said I'm going to tell, and I will."

"Now, before I die of old age?" Doyle's voice was hard with suppressed tension.

"Now," He sighed. "Bloody hell, Ray, this isn't easy. I'm not the one with the words, you know?"

Doyle took some pity and joined him on the settee. "Sure, I know, it's Bodie, the Neanderthal, isn't it?" At the flash of blue, a smile touched his mouth if not his eyes. "Why not start at the beginning, mate, that should do it."

Bodie crossed his arms over his chest and let his head skin back against the cushions. "You've got cobwebs in the corner." The deceptively elegant hand gripped his let just above the knee with a strength that would bring bruises, and Bodie yelped in surprised pain before he blurted in a rush.

"Cowley is planning to take early retirement and offer you the position of Controller, and he wants me to leave the mob and come work for him.out of the city. It would mean that you and I, that we.." He stopped, took a deep breath, and continued. "He.we both think you'd be quite successful."

He took another breath and finished. "Any more persuading will have to come from him."

Doyle watched as if from a distance as Bodie simply stopped and stared at his dusty ceiling. Cowley was capable of anything but this surpassed all Doyle's expectations. For seconds he thought he had no reaction, but slowly he realized it was there. It was just that the emotion was an extension of the feeling he'd had all day. It was fury, and it was growing in proportion to his ability to take in all that Bodie had said.

He didn't realize the silence had grown so long until he heard Bodie clear his throat. "Well, aren't you going to say anything? You haven't turned to stone, have you? What d'you think?"

The question released his anger in a sputter. "You really have to ask? I think it fucking stinks. Who the hell does the old sod think he's fooling?

He really thinks I'd trade you for the bloody job! He is ready for retirement if he thinks that. I've a mind to tell him, the bloody old pervert, that he's gone round the bend.."

Bodie snapped out of his shock and grabbed him so firmly he halted in mid-sentence. He read happy relief fade to alarm in rapid succession on the suddenly vulnerable face.

He couldn't respond to Bodie's apprehension he was so rigid with anger, and Bodie gave him a little shake.

"Come on, mate, what are you talking about? A trade? I don't like the idea either but it's no use blaming the old man. He's doing his job like always-and it's a compliment to you, now isn't it? I mean it's not everyone old George would be willing to trust with his bloody job. It speaks very highly of you, wanting to train you. All it needs now is a nice refusal." The following hesitation was painful even to Doyle. "That is unless you change your mind and decide to take him up? It is an awfully good move for your career, you know?"

"Are you doing Cowley's recruiting now?" Doyle rasped.

Bodie flinched. "No. He said I."

Full of derision for Cowley's words, Doyle cut him off. "Oh, I can just guess what he said. Really tied you in knots, didn't he? The cunning old bastard!"

"Ray, why are you mad? All you have to say is 'no' and that's it."

He was still too angry to think straight. "Bodie, you great idiot, you sound like you don't realize a move like that would separate us? Is that what you want?"

Bodie swallowed convulsively. "Christ no," he whispered, voice breaking.

"You know better. I just don't want to influence you to make a bad decision."

Doyle evaded the hand that reached for his hair, too agitated to be touched, even by Bodie. "Bad decision for him, you mean, when I refuse.

We stay together."

"Huh. You act like the Cow wants to separate us. That's not it. His leg is killing him, and he had to look out for the organization if it's to survive his leaving."

Bodie's obtuseness maddened him. "You thick crud, this whole plan is just one big plot to separate us and put you under his.his bloody perverted thumb."

At the thunderstruck look his words engendered, Doyle stopped his mouth and sought some control. It occurred to him quite suddenly that Bodie cold never continue to work for Cowley if he knew how the man really felt about him, and neither of them wanted to leave CI5. And Bodie would be horribly embarrassed, not to mention that his partner was really fond of Cowley and it would hurt him to know he caused the older man pain.

"I didn't mean that. Just upset and taking it out on Cowley." Relief flooded him as Bodie's expression cleared.

"Christ, sunshine, for a minute I thought the shock had driven you daft."

"Just over you." Doyle forced himself to relax, and dredging up a lazy grin, he leaned into Bodie's shoulder, offering his mouth. He knew Bodie couldn't resist sex; he was wonderfully predictable in some things.

Looking lightly bewildered yet by his partner's abrupt change of mood, Bodie automatically turned toward him as Doyle had known he would. "That's better. It's all settled now, isn't it?" Bodie murmured against his lips.

Doyle nodded. "As far as I'm concerned it is." He stopped a moment to consider how to tell Bodie what he'd figured out earlier today. He eased his arms around his lover. "Bodie, there is one other thing. I think Cowley's on to us."

"Nah, how could he be?" Bodie's whole attitude was easier now that he knew Doyle wasn't to be taken away.

"Think about it, mate. It was him that sent McKay to your place, and you know the bastard snooped about. There was plenty of clues as to what we'd been up to, wasn't there? We hadn't exactly picked up or aired the linen since we didn't know we were going to have company. And McKay's snide little message? the flower? he was letting you know he knew we were sleeping together. And he'd make sure Cowley knew, wouldn't he?"

Bodie's face darkened ominously. "Bloody bastard."

"Well, wouldn't he?"

"He didn't let on tonight." Bodie's forehead creased. "You think he offered you the job to break us up? He answered his own question. "Nah, that's not why. If he didn't like it, just kick us out." The smile he turned on Doyle was blinding. "So if he knows, he must not mind. At least so long as we don't rub his nose in it."

"You don't mind Cowley knowing?"

"I'm not crazy about it, and I'll kill bloody McKay the next time I see him. But Cowley was bound to find out sooner or late. McKay just beat us to it. The old man is okay. He knows we're his best. Well, look what he offered you."

"Yeh. Well, I don't want it. And I'll tell him so tomorrow. If it wasn't so late, I'd tell him tonight."

"Tonight! We've better things to do tonight," Bodie responded.

Doyle studied his mate with some calculation. Bodie had been openly distressed when he thought he might lose his partner, and was still on edge. Doyle was not beyond using that recent fear to achieve his aim.

"Yeh, I believe we do." He elbowed Bodie roughly to make him let go and stood up. "Get up, you big crud. The time has come."


"That's my Bodie, always eloquent. Just get up," Doyle repeated.

Bodie's eyes widened in surprise at the command tone, but stood obediently.

Doyle experienced a little shock of delight as he realized that in his boots he had a slight edge in height over the barefoot Bodie. For a change he actually looked down on the other man. Who looked a little puzzled by it.

"I'm taller than you, that's what's different."

"What?" Bodie blustered as the fact registered. "I never noticed."


Excited, Doyle grasped the nonplused man with hard hands. Bodie was strangely pliant under his grip and his heart kicked into high. It was going to be easy. Bodie's earlier fear would work to his advantage. A grin covered his face then as he realized what else was throwing Bodie.

For once, he had the psychological advantage of height-and it did add a certain spice to be able to look down on his partner. But his reaction was slight in comparison to Bodie's. The look on Bodie's face almost made him resolve to stand on a bloody box hereafter, or even consider getting lifts installed in his sodding trainers. Bodie seemed bewildered by his unexpected loss in stature and Doyle gleefully seized the opportunity for control without the usual struggle. He didn't need an edge, but he wasn't such a fool to pass up the opportunity, and before Bodie regained his equilibrium. Besides power was heady stuff.

"Like to think you're always in control don't you; well, not tonight, you aren't." He smiled at Bodie's small frown. "Poor sod, thought you'd be first, didn't you?" He lowered his mouth to Bodie's then, and excitement centered in his groin as the man opened to him. Fire-fed sensations fanned the curl of desire, sharp and intense, just knowing Bodie was his, was yielding control to him. And he knew what he wanted and had every intention of demanding that final commitment.

"Bedroom's in the same place," he suggested throatily, breaking the kiss, and they moved as one. He nudged Bodie onto the bed before stripping, wanting him prone before he removed his boots.

Tense, quivering with need, Bodie watched him undress. "Coming on a bit strong, aren't we?"

"You noticed? Well, it's about time you learned who's in control of this unit. There's no tracks up my back and never will be."

Bodie choked in amazement. "You cheeky devil. Chance'd be a fine thing, wouldn't it?" Bodie raised his arms and cradled the back of his head as he stretched out in a provocative pose. "Well, come on and show me, then, if you've a mind to."

He leaned over and without preliminaries, removed the borrowed robe and the smirk from Bodie's face. Lowering himself on the smooth, warm body, he whispered," Shirrup, Bodie. You'll love it." Any further comments he muffled with his mouth.

Doyle knew it wasn't going to be an easy loving. They were still on an adrenaline high from their previous emotions. Both hands reached for short tufts of black silk, forcing Bodie's head back into the pillow, tongue plundering the willing mouth. Then in some instinctive bid for dominance, Bodie surged up, fighting for freedom. Doyle forced a leg between corded thighs to meet soft flesh and his forearm quickly pressed against Bodie's exposed throat. Desire leaped at the resistance, and he rammed his suddenly heavy cock into Bodie's groin. His partner responded with a thickened moan of desire and pressed his own hardened shaft against him, further encouraging the engorgement of his sex. Bodie's hands explored his backside, kneading lean flesh, completing his arousal.

Ignoring the pleasure of Bodie's touch, he slid downward, giving brief attention to ivory skin and pebble-hard nipples, to the pulsing length that was his goal. He trapped it between his chin and neck, sliding up and down the shaft several times before beginning a leisurely lapping. Once he looked up and found dark, thick-lashed eyes, glazed with desire riveted on him. He shivered as Bodie's fingers caressed his flank, teasing his cock with avoidance. Then Bodie's other hand buried itself in his hair and pushed him back to business. He sucked the rigid flesh into his mouth and Bodie's cry was echoed by his own jumping cock. Bodie was his tonight.

They both knew it was going to happen; he was going to own that pale body, make Bodie admit they belonged together.

Suddenly impatient he rose to his knees and flipped the quivering body.

Nibbling down the strong back, he announced his intention, wanting to vocalize his dominance. "I'm gonna fuck you, Bodie."

A thickened rasp goaded him, "Do it then."

Doyle reached for lubricant, smeared them liberally. Wiping nervous sweat from his forehead first, he centered himself on Bodie, pushed past the tight anal pucker, waiting until he felt the muscle spasm pass before thrusting home.

Bodie moaned and pushed back before tensing. "Ray, dammit, it hurts."

Doyle bit his lip. "Don't think I can stop, sunshine," he said clutching the sweat drenched body.

"Don't want you to, do I? Just don't move for a bit."

Doyle fought with his need to thrust, the sensations engendered by Bodie's tight arse pushing him almost beyond endurance. He leaned forward and buried his face in Bodie's neck, willing the man to relax. Taut muscles seemed to tremble beneath him forever before suddenly relaxing.

"Okay, now," Bodie whispered.

Doyle's relief was so intense, he cried out as he began to move his hips frantically he was so close to bursting. And Bodie was arching back now, keeping the rhythm. Somehow, Doyle managed to slip a hand under Bodie to grip his erection. Time spun out as they moved toward release, nothing else existing for them but the need in their straining bodies. Attuned in this, as they were in everything else, orgasm ripped through them at the same moment, dropping them into a pit of pleasure.

Bodie recovered first, twisting under him to dislodge his collapsed form.

Doyle felt arms encircle him, warm breath in his ear. He couldn't be bothered to move.

"Sunshine?' "Mmm."

"You happy now?"

Doyle opened one eye, jarred by the sadness in the voice. "'Kinda question is that?"

"You won."

Both eyes opened. "Did I? Thought maybe we both did."

Bodie nodded bleakly. "Too early to know that. Only know one thing. I love you.

The lost look on Bodie's face almost defeated Doyle. "Ah, Bodie, it's not s'posed to hurt." Bodie began to stroke aimless patterns in his chest hair and the gesture comforted him almost as much as the words had discomfited.

"Look you do trust me, right?"

"Course I do. I just don't trust this." Bodie made a vague gesture encompassing them and the bed.


The hand on him stilled. "Won't last, this. Just a pretty dream. Oh, I want it to, but it won't. One of us will die, or find someone, something else. You know 'time will come and take my love away' sort of thing." He shook his head to forestall Doyle. "Think about it, mate. Best not to get involved so deeply."

"Too late," Doyle whispered.

"Probably is at that," Bodie agreed. "Look, let's leave it till tomorrow, all right, I'm knackered."

"I love you, too." He considered for a moment before continuing under his breath. "Despite your monumental faults."

His declaration won no response, but Bodie drew him close and soon sleep claimed one of them.

When Doyle woke the next morning, he was alone. At first he was irritated at the desertion, but the fact that he was not surprised told him he must have expected it. Last night he'd lain awake for hours trying to understand where he'd misfigured and what his next move would be. He knew he'd hoped by forcing Bodie into a deeper physical commitment than an inner one would follow. Apparently his mate's defense system was stronger than he'd believed. No matter. Bodie was caught securely; he just didn't know it yet. Only time would solve their problem, he now realized, no shortcuts would do. They both lived in the present but in different ways. His infuriating partner thought that meant strong barriers and no emotional entanglements, whereas his philosophy was to accept those entanglements and everything they implied before it was too late. One was too cautious with his emotional life, and one willing to throw caution to the winds for the right person.

As he got ready for work, he thought about the coming confrontation with Cowley. The man posed a very real and dangerous threat to this plans. Not because he feared losing Bodie to the old man, but because he was sure Cowley would immediately be scheming to drive a wedge between him and Bodie. Since their relationship had not been strengthened by last night's lovemaking, Cowley would have to be neutralized. If the old man suspected a problem, he'd figure a way to cause trouble. It had also occurred to him if Cowley thought his and Bodie's affair was just that and not serious-just a by-product of working too closely-he might be able to defuse the old man's sense of urgency. And if Cowley could be persuaded, then Ray Doyle would have the necessary time to bind Bodie close.

Piling his dirty cup in the sink, he pulled on his jacket. Today he would deal with Cowley. The terrible anger of last night was gone and in its place was purpose. Use your anger, Cowley had said, let it work for you.

He must, because if he failed, the controller of CI5 would have him for breakfast.

Thirty minutes later when he arrived at HQ there was no sign of Bodie for which he was grateful; their meeting could be postponed for awhile. When he requested an interview he was directed to go right in, and he found the Scotsman waiting for him.

"I take it this early morning visit means Master Bodie couldn't wait to tell you?"

Doyle rested his weight on one foot and leaned against the door jamb, his eyes meeting Cowley's, knowing it was critical to act as if his only concern was the splitting of the partnership. "Yeh, he told me. I'm here to turn it down."

If Cowley felt anything, he didn't show it. "Why? You could at least hear me out."

Voice, flat, noncommittal, revealing nothing. "I could, but I still wouldn't be interested."

Cowley's gaze was relentless. "Is that wise? This is an excellent move for you, and you're not getting any younger."

He moved into the office for a more direct confrontation. "Doesn't matter; I still have a few years and I'm not ready to break up the team yet. Bodie and I like working together, playing cowboys together. We do a good job, you can't deny it." He injected increasing enthusiasm into his expression, waving his arms a bit for emphasis.

The hawk like probe didn't falter. "I'm not denying it. But you could do an even more important job."

"Maybe someday I'll be interested if I live that long." He shrugged, trying to convey his disinterest in the future.

"You may not receive a second offer," Cowley supplied quickly.

"That's it then, innit?" he said bored by it all.

Cowley's composure slipped briefly. "For God's sake, 4.5, why?" Then his eyes narrowed. "Is it Bodie? Did he dissuade you? I know you two are very close."

Anger flared momentarily and he didn't hide it. "Yeh, I know you know."

"You want to explain that remark." Cowley's voice dropped the temperature in the room ten degrees.

Doyle hesitated a moment, dredged up convincing embarrassment.

Cowley continued to dig, the chill note intensifying. "Consider that an order if you must."

It came out as an accusation and he didn't care. "McKay must have talked to you, told you his suspicions."

Cowley flushed slightly, expression openly hostile. "I listened to McKay.

I wasn't surprised by what he told me either." He glanced away with a grimace of distaste.

Ducking his head, Doyle tried to give the impression of schoolboy defiance.

"We don't care that you know. We just weren't keen to have McKay to know or be the one to tell you fuck each other every so often."

Cowley's head snapped up, his reprimand automatic. "Keep your guttersnipe language in the streets where it belongs, Doyle, and not in my office."

He shrugged helplessly. "Sorry. I just wanted to make it clear we're only having it off when we need to work off the adrenaline. It's not the love affair of the century."

Cowley raised skeptical eyebrows.

Doyle continued. "We're mates; you should know. You as good as gave him to me, same as bleedin' holy wedlock, that. I s'pose the emotions just run over sometimes. But don't get the idea we've given up birds; Christ, we're not queers."

Cowley's relief was just perceptible, and he was aware of it. "Well, as long as you both do your jobs, and I don't have to worry about your prancing about, it's your business. I suppose I should report such behaviour to Dr. Ross, though."

"Dr. Ross!" Doyle managed to sound horrified without trying. "It's not worth having her mess about in my head; I'll drop it sooner than see a trick cyclist."

Cowley relaxed visibly. "Well, no need to worry, lad. You and Bodie are save for now."

Doyle shifted weight, anxious now to be gone; Cowley however, was inclined to talk. "I really thought you ad more ambition, would jump at the opportunity to be boss."

"Maybe I do," he admitted, "but I also like the direct involvement, knowing and seeing I make a difference in what's happening."

For the first time, Cowley smiled. "An idealistic pragmatist. Quite rare, I believe."

"I am sorry for one thing though. Bodie said your leg was giving you gyp, that you would have to retire." If he had thought to take pleasure in seeing Cowley squirm, he was disappointed.

"True, but since there's no one else I'd consider at present, 4.5, I'll just have to stay on, doing my best." He leaned back. "Besides, you know doctors, they're such pessimists."

"Yeh." He ran a hand through his hair, filled with admiration for the old fox. "If that's all, sir, I'd better find Bodie. He'll be thinking I overslept."

"One minute, Doyle. As long as you're here, there's an assignment I want to discuss with you."

Forty-five minutes later and a little numb he stood outside the controller's office, knowing he should have realized Cowley wouldn't be convinced so easily. Not now certainly, when he felt so strongly about Bodie that he'd rushed into a risky move like the job offer. Future plans must be carefully laid as Cowley would be alert to any strife. Already he was facing his first test. His new assignment was to set up housekeeping with a Hong Kong agent-a female copper. Bodie would have his own undercover assignment-solo.

This Chinese bird he was to be partnered with would undoubtedly have orders to report everything he did to Cowley, possibly even ordered to test him.

Not that it mattered if he was or wasn't Cowley's grass, The old man had his own methods, devious every one. At least now, his course was clear.

Chase the birds to fool Cowley till he caught Bodie. And it might not hurt to let Bodie see him with girls, or to encourage him to see them. It might make the nutter think a little about the difference between love and sex.

The situation was even self-explanatory; Bodie'd just think he'd convinced Doyle of the need to back off.

He shivered even though the day was warm. Cowley was more than a match for any man, but Doyle'd straighten out Bodie before long. He had to, didn't he? And Cowley had better watch out then, or he'd have his job as well-triple-think was catching.

-- THE END --

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