That Little Twinkle



In spite of what I'd said to Cowley I wasn't honestly thinking about Ray as I went down the steps after him, I was thinking more of my own needs. Selfish, I suppose, but we all are when it comes down to it. I'd been watching him take too many knocks ever since he met the bloody woman and I knew I couldn't take much more of it. I was praying she'd drive away for good, that she wouldn't come back -- ever!

My insides were churning as I went up to him, standing there looking lost. I didn't know what to say so I just put an arm on his shoulder. He shrugged me off at once but he must have known it was me because he didn't turn round, just walked away from me with his head down. I called out to him once I think and he turned, sort of shrugged, frowned and grinned all at once and said, "Come on, then, if you're coming," so I went with him, not really caring where.

We walked for about ten minutes in an aimless kind of way, neither of us saying anything. I tried to see his face but it wasn't giving anything away and when his eyes did meet mine they had a sort of cold and fishy look that wasn't exactly encouraging.

Eventually I couldn't stand it any longer and I stopped. "How about a drink? The pubs opened five minutes ago."

"Okay." He looked round him vaguely, as if he didn't know where he was, and then started off across the road, weaving through the traffic like a maniac and frightening me out of ten years growth.

"You bloody fool," I told him when we'd finally made it across. "You trying to get us killed or something?"

His eyes met mine with a sort of cool and appraising look. "What -- because Ann's gone? Do me a favour, mate."

Well, it was his suggestion, not mine. I've never thought Ray was the suicidal sort for all his guilt trips. I latched on to the one hopeful bit of news.


I guess it sounded dumb at that because he said, "Yes, gone," in an impatient tone. "Gone, as in left me, walked out of my life -- for good."

Because I couldn't think of anything to say -- none of the etiquette books ever seem to cover this sort of thing much -- I just looked at him for a minute and then tried to pull myself together before I cheered openly. "Let's have that drink."

I thought alcohol might loosen him up a bit, but he drank quickly, just leaning on the bar without saying a word and when he'd finished he put his glass down and made for the door.

"Going?" I asked stupidly, following him.

He sighed patiently. "What does it look like, mate?"

I didn't like this quietness. I still didn't really know how I expected him to be but it wasn't all silent and somehow contained. If he'd been in one of his 'I'm just a no-good, hooked-on-violence lout' moods I could have coped; lord knows I've done it often enough, but this dignified silence was almost unnerving.

"Where to now then?" I asked him, looking round us and wondering if there was somewhere else he wanted to go on to and what was open mid-morning except pubs.

"Home," he said shortly.

"D'you want to come back to my place?" I thought he might prefer that to his own -- fewer memories maybe.

He eyed me in a sneering sort of way, almost spitefully, and said, "What the hell for?"

Well, it seemed obvious what for to me if he didn't want to drink in the pub ... I didn't honestly think he'd want to go to the pictures for the afternoon!

I shrugged. "To have a drink."

"Is that your solution," he demanded scornfully. "Get blind drunk ... does that solve anything?"

I was starting to get annoyed with him, you can go on feeling sympathetic just so long with someone who's talking to you like dirt.

"Okay then," I said, holding on to my temper, "we'll have something to eat."

He turned away without a word, starting to walk back across the road, stepping off the pavement without looking.

I grabbed him just in time: he'd have had that cyclist off her bike and under a car if I hadn't hauled him back. The girl knew it too; she swung a furious look his way and uttered a couple of words no real lady would even know. I chuckled.

"If you're going to kill someone, Ray," I said casually, "keep it in the family."

He wrenched himself out of my hands saying savagely, "I might just do that if you don't get off my back."

By now I was really getting angry with him. I thought he'd forgiven me for having to pry into his private affairs but it looked as though I was still on his list of personal enemies. Well, I wasn't taking it, not any more. He knew it had had to be done, had proved it for himself when he'd seen that photo of Conroy. I held his elbows, taking advantage of every ounce of my greater weight so he couldn't pull away without making a fight of it.

"I'm trying to help," I told him furiously, "and if you think I'm leaving you alone in this sort of mood then you're wrong."

He blinked at me two or three times, holding himself rigid, then spoke very clearly, enunciating every word as though he thought I was some kind of idiot who wouldn't understand if he didn't speak slowly. "I'm going back to my place because if I don't, the cosy little dinner for two I put in the oven yesterday is going to get burnt and stink the place out."

I let go, my hands dropping. I hadn't meant to make it worse, damn it, hadn't wanted to hurt him.

I shook my head feeling more helpless than I'd done since this whole thing started. "I'm sorry, Ray," I muttered, not knowing what the hell else to say.

He gritted his teeth at me. "For god's sake ..." He broke off, pulled a face down at his feet and then said, "Oh, come on, you fool. People are starting to stare."

We crossed the road more carefully this time and walked back to HQ to pick up a car without saying a word. We used this -- I did spare a passing thought for how I was going to get home, but it didn't seem important, not so important as making sure he didn't do something bloody stupid anyhow. I still wasn't sure how he was taking this and wished he would talk. He did, but only about trivialities.

It wasn't going to do him any good to bottle it up and I told him so and got another of those sneering looks.

"God, you are a nosey bastard, Bodie."

He stopped the car with a jerk that nearly sent me through the windscreen.

I swallowed the insult, determined not to over-react to anything today and followed him into the house.

The meal smelled delicious and I was starving hungry but I felt kind of awkward about asking to eat something he'd been cooking for Ann.

"It doesn't smell burnt," I said hopefully.

"It was on very low," He'd gone all domestic now, just like the time I'd walked in on him, when I'd nearly given myself away with that stupid comment about Holly's wealth.

I frowned, suddenly realising how long it was since he could have last been in here. "How long's that been in the oven then?"

"Since yesterday lunchtime." He hauled the casserole out and took the lid off it. "Yes, it's gone horribly dry. Want some?"

"Yeah," I said frankly. "I'm starving. Thought you'd have been hungry too. We've not had anything all night except that bloody coffee first thing and we threw half of that away."

He got out a couple of plates, banging them down sharpish, slapped out a couple of portions and sat down, tilting his chair back to get at the opened bottle of red on the shelf.

"Seems a pity to waste it," he said sourly.

I wondered if it would choke me, drinking the wine he'd planned on using as a leg-opener for her. It didn't -- but then I've always had a resilient nature.

The stew was much too dry and after a few mouthfuls we both gave up on it.

"Bread'n cheese do you?"

"Yeah." When he'd fetched it and was sitting down again, I asked, "Why didn't you turn the oven off before you left, you great idiot?"

"Because I was comin' back in the evening, wasn't I? With Ann. I went to pick her up only she got out the album after she found me snooping through her drawers. Said I could have a good look at everything in her past." His voice trailed away.

"And you saw a picture of Conroy?"

"Yes. His name was written on the back luckily. I wouldn't have recognised him otherwise -- one of those service group photos ..." He sounded a bit odd.

I'd been adding two and two together. "Did you stand her up to come with us then?" I asked curiously.

"Yeah." His face was a picture; he looked angry, miserable and amused all at the same time. "She didn't think it was funny at the time -- got very mad at me when I walked out. I told her I had to go to work, that I was never really off duty. That's why she was out looking for me this morning I suppose."

It wasn't the time to say it, but I said it all the same. "Good job it happened before you married her, not after."

He flung his knife down on the table. "Stop rubbing it in, Bodie."

I eyed him warily, not liking the underlying tone of fury. "Just want you to realise you've had a lucky escape, sunshine."

"You said you liked her," he said accusingly.

I've always been a good liar -- he ought to have remembered that at the time. "So I did -- doesn't mean I think you should marry her. Can't marry every girl I like, can you?" I smirked. "That's polygamy, that is."

"More like a three-ring circus."

That was better, at least he was trying for a bit of levity at last, coming out of the doldrums. I finished the last mouthful of bread and cheese and reached out for an apple, polishing it up on my sweater. "Nice that," I said, pointing at the faint streakings of red in the green skin.

"English, are they?"

"Yes. One of the early ones."

I bit into it, enjoying the crispness of it between my teeth. "Nice things to eat, apples. Pity you haven't got any bananas, I could fancy one of them, too." He flicked a quick look at me and then away again and I wondered what I'd said wrong. Probably Ann'd hated them or something. I put it down, a bit annoyed. "Look, mate, I can't keep on waltzin' around every subject just in case it reminds you of bloody Ann."

He scowled at me. "What the hell are you on about?"

"You were lookin' at me."

"Who'd want to look at you?" He said it automatically, his heart not in it. I grinned smugly, picked up the half-eaten apple and toasted him with it. "Kirstie for one."


"Blonde girl ... back at HQ ..."

"Can't say I've noticed." He sounded indifferent: stupid bugger, she was better looking than ever Ann had been with her long, horse-face and prissy mouth and those beady little eyes hardly able to see out from under that heavy fringe. I sighed, heavily, getting up to clear the table and start the washing up. Well, I rather wanted to use his bathroom and help myself to some clean under-clothes -- I'd been up all night, sleeping in that damned car in my clothes and I felt sticky and not very nice to know. He probably felt the same.

I never can remember where things go in other people's kitchens -- have enough trouble with my own come to that. Comes from CI5 moving you around every five minutes 'for security reasons.' I'd lost more corkscrews that way.

After the third request for guidance he got pissed off with me and told me to leave everything on the draining board "Being awfully helpful, aren't we? What do you want?"

I tried to look hurt but it was no good. "A shower."

"I might have known it. Help yourself ... and leave some hot water for me."

I went up his spiral staircase, whistling happily, looking down at him. He was still sitting at the table, hunched over a glass of wine and looking moody.

God, Ray Doyle, you stupid prat. Snap out of it, she's only a girl, for christ's sake. But I didn't say it aloud.

After my shower I padded into his bedroom in the nude, rummaging around for some clean pants. I can never find things in bedrooms either! I was into the third drawer when I suddenly realised he was in the doorway, watching me, wearing only a bathrobe and a heavy scowl.

"Looking for those bugs you planted, are you?" he said nastily.

"You know bloody well I didn't bug your bedroom," I said with as much patience as I could muster.

"Do I?" He strolled a few steps into the room. "I'm not sure I know anything about anyone any more. You kept sniffin' around us, couldn't leave us alone, could you?"

Just at the moment I hated the sulky, bad-tempered little bastard. I said the nastiest thing I could think of. "I don't suppose it would have been much of a thrill if I had bugged your bedroom. She didn't strike me as being much of a raver in bed."

"That's all you think about," he said disgustedly. "Bed!"

I shook my head. "I don't need to think about it, I get enough of it ..." I broke off quickly, staring at him, sure my expression must be showing the ludicrous shock I was feeling as I watched his face. Ray was going red.

Oh, god, I'd really but my great foot in it now. I'd teased him unmercifully about Ann not coming across but I'd never really believed it. I'd back Ray to pull any bird he wanted -- even a cold-looking cow like her. No wonder he'd been so up-tight recently, damned, prick-teasing little bitch.

I stepped closer. "Ray?"

I didn't honestly know what to say to him. Whatever I said was going to be wrong, I could see that. Disastrously, I tried to keep it light.

"Never mind, perhaps you'll score tonight, sunshine."

He glared at me, furious and with that air of suppressed violence about him he'd often worn since he met Ann. "What d'you mean by that?"

I foundered a bit. "Nothing."

He took a couple of steps toward me, fists clenching. I'd taken one punch from him recently, I wasn't about to take another. He knows just how to time it for maximum effect does our Ray. I spread my hands, laughing. "I didn't mean anything. Why should I?"

"Because you're a filthy-minded son-of-a-bitch," he snarled at me. "You've done nothing lately but take an interest in my sex life. What's it to you whether I fuck anyone or not?"

I've seldom seen Ray so angry, I thought for a moment he was really going to go for me. I was all shaky with a combination of feelings. I couldn't have sorted them all out if you paid me. Ray can make you feel like that when he gets in a rage. I've seen witnesses almost wetting themselves when he gets that white- around-the-eyes look. Damned effective. I just never thought to see it staring right at me.

I wasn't scared of him, only of making things worse for him. "It doesn't matter," I protested, emitting a stupid sort of laugh out of pure nerves. "I don't care who you sleep with -- or not."

I'd said completely the wrong thing, bloody fool that I am. He went absolutely still, a dangerous, hunting-cat freezing, just staring at me -- and then he went berserk, picking things up and smashing them, chucking them about the room ...

Brave man, Bodie, tough guy, tackle anyone ...

God, but I was a fool ... I tried to stop him.

He didn't punch me, just tried to throw me to one side but I wouldn't let go, simply hung on hard, pleading with him to stop, yelling at him. We stumbled about a bit, hanging on to each other and ended up falling over into the bed. I'd got hold of his damned bathrobe and was nearly throttling myself, so I yanked it off him before we did us both an injury. He still wouldn't let up -- rolled around on the bed trying to gouge my eyes out I think, and I was fending him off as best I could without hurting him.

And then I found the little bugger was crying and that nearly finished me. Damn fool, Bodie.

I let go of him, knowing I wanted to pet him, hug him, help the hurt go away. I should have known better. He wasn't crying from self-pity, he was weeping with rage -- all the violence and anger and frustration he'd endured the past few days centering in what he was feeling now, a gut need for some sort of catharsis.

He lunged at me, pummelling at me, not really fighting me, just needing to hurt someone, to let out the anger. I reached over and pulled him to me -- there were better ways to get rid of too much emotion than having a fight with someone and I was past caring what he thought of me by now. So -- maybe he was in for a few shocks concerning me; if so, I could live with it. For the moment he needed something I could give him, wanted to give him, and that was all that mattered.

He was still thumping me when I kissed him, so engrossed in his own little world of fury that he didn't even see it coming. I put everything I could into that kiss, holding our bodies locked together -- silently blessing my inability to find his underwear or I wouldn't have been so 'over-ready' for him.

He felt wonderful, just as I've long thought he would, and now I'd actually got him in my arms I didn't want to let him go again, ever. I'd've loved to be gentle though, but sadly this wasn't the time for gentleness so I urged him on, making him fly higher and higher.

I'll bet he never knew just when all that anger turned into arousal, but I could feel the subtle change in the way he held me, all right. He was still gripping, still lunging, but now it was in a fierce response to everything I'd let loose on us by the blunt statement of my own sexuality.

I let him bring himself to fever pitch, close to ejaculation, before I held him off.

It was a rotten piece of timing but it had to be done. He looked at me out of those huge, boiled-gooseberry eyes and I've never seen anyone look so desperate and so livid all at once.

That bitch! I was willing to bet she'd never let him do any more than heavy petting; poor bastard had probably been living on a staple diet of lover's nuts for the last god knows how long and now he thought I was going to do it to him as well.

I brushed a finger over his lips, closing them over the angry words that were starting to emerge and I smiled at him, slow and very, very loving.

"It's all right, Ray, it's going to be all right. Got any vaseline?"

"Wha ...?"

I had to laugh at his bemused expression. "Yeah, vaseline. Don't you keep any for long runs?"

"In the top drawer over there."

He'd calmed down a bit now but he was still watching me in a wary, on-the-edge kind of way as I came back to the bed, unscrewing the top as I did so. I took a healthy dollop out on my finger, held it out and transferred it to one of his. He looked at it and then up at me again.

"What's this for?"

I lay down beside him on my front, grinning at his raised pinkie waving about in that uncertain way, with the vaseline on it like a soft lollipop. He knew damn well what it was for, he wasn't that naive and I knew it. I leant over and kissed him again, hungrily, than I took my mouth away just far enough to be able to talk and still touching, still with the beautiful taste of him filling my senses, I said, "That's to make it easier for you to fuck me, you fool. Go on, before you drop it in the bed."

I thought for a minute he was going to chicken out but I knew it would be stupid to let him carry straight on and do it without some sort of help. We'd have the biggest guilt trip ever if he hurt me and it's easily done when you're inexperienced. However, my mouth must have been convincing because he gave a huge, huge sigh and kissed me back, rubbing himself up against me and shoving his finger rather shakily where he thought it ought to go.

I handed him the pot again, quirking an eyebrow at him. "You missed, sunshine," I said agreeably. "Try again. When you hit the jackpot three lemons light up on me back!"

I gave the poor sod a bit of help this time, wriggling co-operatively and moaning rather a lot when he actually touched me on the right spot. Well, I wanted to moan a lot -- I liked it!

It seemed to excite him having me get all vocal and heaving about, so I did a lot more of it, telling him just what I wanted him to do to me, using all the right four-letter words and not being at all refined. He loved every minute of it, getting hotter and hotter for me, losing all the rest of his inhibitions.

I urged him on, making him take me fiercely because I knew he needed it. He must have been starving for it because he rammed into me really hard, doing a bit of moaning himself. God alone knows what his neighbours thought if they heard us -- all this at 2.30 in the afternoon. Course, they might have thought we were practisin' the latest dance craze but somehow I doubt it.

He came long before I was ready to, but that wasn't important. I let him lie on me for a bit until he was soft enough to slip out without hurting and then I heaved up with a bit of difficulty -- even a skinny rabbit like Ray is too damned heavy straight down your spine -- and I tipped him off so I could hold him close.

He was shivering with reaction and cold now that it was all over. The weather had turned suddenly chill after the lovely Indian summer we'd been having and there was no heating on so I pulled his duvet up over both of us and lay there frankly cuddling him and talking to him. God alone knows what I said, a lot of sentimental slush I expect, I can get like that sometimes even with comparative strangers.

After a bit I could feel him relaxing properly and going wonderfully limp against me, his breathing getting slower and slower. Well, he'd been living on an emotional high for a long time and we'd had a busy night one way and another and now this ... He needed to sleep and so did I, but there was one more thing I had to do before I joined him.

I had to say it.

I didn't care if he was too far gone to hear it, just at the moment I was too far gone to care about anything. I was on my own emotional high and it was wonderful, so I pushed the heavy tangle of curls over his ear away with my nose, nuzzled at his ear a bit and then whispered breathily into it.

"I love you, Ray."

And then I let myself slide into sleep as well.

It was nearly dark when we both woke up, warm and relaxed and comfortable and still clinging on to each other like a pair of orphans in a storm. I wondered what sort of reaction I was going to get and I lay very still, not wanting to precipitate any kind of row. We'd had enough of those lately.


It was a very tentative whisper.


A longish pause and then: "What happened?"

I couldn't help it, I gave a muffled snort and chuckled evilly into his hair which was climbing all over my face. "If you don't know by now ..."

He went very tense. "Don't laugh at me, Bodie."

No -- never that. I gathered him closer still, holding him lovingly and stroking my hands down him. "I'm not laughing at you, sunshine," I assured him soberly. "You needed it -- didn't you?"

He was honest enough not to deny it. "I was gonna pick someone up and spend the night just screwin' 'em."

"That's okay," I said easily. "No problem."

"Got someone lined up for me, have you," he said, yawning into my shoulder.

I flexed it against him, enjoying the feel of his stubbly face on my skin. "Yeah." I didn't say any more, just lay there quietly against him and let him work it out for himself. Ex CID man like Doyle shouldn't find that too difficult, I thought, not with the way my body was already reacting to the feel of his now it was awake and taking notice.

A startled eye was looking up at me out of that woolly mass he calls hair. "Bodie, I ..."

"Don't tell me you can't," I said a bit acidly, "because you just did, remember?" I nodded pointedly towards the open pot of vaseline, half-hidden behind his clock/radio.

The eye closed, opened again and was joined by its partner, both of them staring at me gravely and a bit unhappily. "Why did you let me?"

"Let you?" I felt affronted and let it show. "I thought I encouraged you rather neatly myself."

He nodded as well as he could for having his chin rammed hard against my chest. "I had a feeling it wasn't entirely my fault."

Coming from Ray that was quite an admission and I said so.

"Yeah, well I've done a lot of thinkin' since I met Ann," he said, settling back down again.

It looked as though it was talk time so I did my best to tell my body to go back to sleep and wait its turn -- it would do Ray all the good in the world to talk it out now while it was still all fresh in his mind and before he'd had time to romanticise Ann into some kind of misunderstood heroine.

"What about?" I asked quietly, twisting so he wouldn't be too aware of my persistent erection nudging at him. There are times when a strong desire for sex can be a nuisance -- not many I grant you, but it does happen.

"About the job -- we're necessary, Bodie, whether people like it or not. Trouble is, people like Ann, they're idealists -- think everyone's as honest and open as they are." He knew all this of course, knew it from way back.

"She'll feel differently," I said comfortingly. "Once she finds out what her father's involved in she'll see why you can't take anyone on trust."

"Will she?" He didn't sound as though he believed it which was a good thing. Wasn't sure I did myself. Didn't want to.

"Bound to." At least I could sound confident. I genuinely thought she'd come crawling back to Ray anyway, full of apologies, begging him to take her back, and I wasn't having that, not now.

"You weren't together very long," I said cautiously. "D'you really think she'd have been able to cope with the life -- the way she'd always have to take second place. You remember Williams' girl -- she used to say she wasn't sure whether she was shacking up with him or his partner or if they were all shacking up together half the time. I can't see Ann liking the way you and I have to be close, for instance."

"I can't see her liking this, that's for sure." His arms tightened round me. "She'd blow her mind if she walked in now."

"She likely to?"

I didn't fancy that idea at all -- had the bloody fool gone and given her a key to his flat? You weren't supposed to do that to anyone, not even your partner: that way you had no unexpected visitors ...

He made a funny little noise in his throat, I wasn't sure if it was a laugh or a groan or a sob.

"Nah -- you wouldn't get her into a bedroom. It was against her principles."

I said nothing but I know I drew him closer to me because he sighed and hugged me back.

"I thought you were a bit edgy," I said tentatively. "Wanna talk about it?"

"Nothing to tell." A pause. "That's exactly it -- just a lot of nothing."

"She must have had something going for her, surely?" Off-hand I couldn't think of a lot but I knew I was prejudiced. And I certainly couldn't see Ray as a natural celibate -- not from some of the things the girls we've both dated have told me. Okay, so I'm a nosey bugger -- some of them used to look at me a bit oddly when I wanted to talk about Ray. I never let it bother me, they could think what they liked.

"She wanted to wait until ..." He paused.

"Bit quick to be talkin' about wedding-bells, wasn't she?" I asked cynically. It's one way to get a guy's interest, I suppose, if you're desperate.

"She didn't say that -- just until we knew each other better. She didn't like hoppin' straight into bed with every man she met. It was quite refreshin' -- at first!"

I was reading between the lines like crazy. "But she let you mess around plenty, didn't she?" I guessed.

"Yes." He gave a sort of little snuffle against my chest. "Christ, some evenings I thought I'd explode. She could take it for hours and still not lose control."

Poor bugger -- she'd really put him through it, held him on a string. Maybe it was time I tried a little of the same.

"I don't think I can take it for hours," I said plaintively. "You're driving me crazy, Ray."


He gave me a quick, flicking glance straight in the eye and away again, then he looked down at us both lying all wrapped up in each other and then back up to me.

I lifted an eyebrow at him and raised my hand to rub a finger across his face, touching him softly. "Don't tell me you're a prick-tease ..." I didn't say, 'As well.' I wanted to, but I didn't.

"You really want us to ...?"

"I really want us to," I agreed, progressing to a little moral blackmail. "Last time, I got a little left behind, if you remember."

He blinked guiltily. "I wasn't really thinkin' about you."

I know the feeling well, when you're that desperate any compatible body will do. I smiled. "Start now," I said invitingly.

Perhaps that was a mistake, I don't know, but it started him thinking, certainly, but not along the lines that I had privately mapped out for us.

All of a sudden he said, "That wasn't your first time, was it?"

I met his eyes. "No."

"Do you want to tell me?"

I shrugged. "What's there to tell? I'm bisexual, that's all. Always have been."

He let out that heavy little breath he often does when he's surprised or troubled -- a sort of physical manifestation of a mental 'oof,' if you know what I mean.

I turned towards him again, fed up with talking.

"Ray," I said plaintively, "Please ..." and I pulled his head down to mine. I know him pretty well by now. He's a sucker when he thinks somebody needs him: it was why he'd gone back to Ann's flat in the first place, to see if she was okay. And I sure as hell needed him now and I let him see it blatantly, giving him a heavy come-on with my eyes and mouth. If I let up for a minute I knew he'd start to have second thoughts and doubts and then we'd be up to our balls in deep and meaningful discussions about sex and its place in CI5! Then I remembered how turned on he'd been earlier when I got bit graphic with him, so I started talking again, telling him what I wanted him to do to me and a few of the things I was planning for him.

Ray has hidden depths: I'd often suspected he could swing both ways if encouraged but never dared to put it to the test before, wouldn't have dared now if I hadn't known I could do something to help sort him out. He was too important to me: not someone to fool around with but to get serious -- damned serious -- about.

Nothing I said seemed to shock him. I could feel him shivering while I talked but I knew with perfect certainty it wasn't fright! He was getting as hot for me as I was for him. I just can't explain the feeling of power that gave me -- a sort of exultation. Just for tonight, I didn't care about anything: I'd have my night of crazy passion with Ray and we'd try and sort out the problems in the morning. I was too far gone to have anything else but a sublime faith that everything was going to be okay.

We made love -- christ, I stopped counting how many times but every single way was beautiful. I was making the most of it, trying everything I dared so I'd have it all to remember in the days to come. In the end, desire was still there long after ability had finally thrown in the towel and we were still caressing each other intimately way past the time either of us could get it up.

I wanted to talk, make him say all the things I wanted to hear. God knows how I stopped myself -- mostly by using my mouth for other things, I think. You know he tastes absolutely fantastic everywhere. There isn't an inch of him that isn't beautiful.

Mushy Bodie! Still, he knows I have this marshmallow interior, and if he didn't he does now.

I don't recall settling down to sleep either, it just happened. It must have been bloody late because I think it had got light but I don't really remember.

When I finally surfaced I knew he was awake. I could feel him looking at me and I was scared out of my mind to open my eyes and see what I'd done. Damn fool, Bodie. You ought to have learnt to keep your urges to yourself a long time ago - - they got you into enough trouble in the past after all. Then his fingers started to drift over my face, rubbing at the stubble on my chin, tickling my nose till I nearly sneezed. Someone had shredded my nerve endings during the night because when he shifted up a bit, just the touch of his breath on my face was enough to make my cock respond hopefully. After a night like that, it was some optimist!

I couldn't help it; I just turned my mouth invitingly his way and hoped he hadn't forgotten how good kissing each other was.

He hadn't. Made a thorough job of it, too. Efficient, that's Ray.

At last I opened my eyes and found him smiling.

Had to smile back.

Jesus, I've never felt so incredibly happy.

"Where do we go from here?" he asked softly.

"Anywhere," I told him frankly. "Anywhere you want."

I'd have given him the moon that morning -- gift-wrapped.

"You needed me," I reminded him. "We don't have to make it any heavier than that. You needed something it was easy for me to give. Like you said, it wasn't my first time with another guy."

I thought he'd want to ask me about that. He was watching me very carefully, really studying my face, but his own was quite unreadable and I'd no idea what he was thinking.

Before I had time to worry too much he said, "I've hurt you a lot recently, haven't I?"

"What d'you mean?"

"I gave you a bloody hard time when you were only doin' your job. After all, I've done the same thing to you once before ... It's a dirty thing to do to your partner but better than letting anyone else mess in."

We never did talk out what happened between me and Marikka and I wasn't getting into that now. I wasn't sure yet what we were heading into: I knew what I wanted it to be but dammitall, it was only yesterday Ann had given him the push. It was much too soon to be talking about the future ... our future. Always supposing we had one.

"Right," I agreed. Then smugly, "I knew you'd come round to seeing it my way sooner or later."

He gave a little sigh and rested his chin on my chest again, so he could see me. It seemed to be a favourite position of his and it was rather fun, if a bit disconcerting, to have his face so close and be able to feel his chin and neck moving while he talked or swallowed. Very intimate. Very ... good.

"You're crazy, you know that?"

He didn't say it crossly or anything, but smiled at me rather cosily. I watched him warily. He's pulled a few fast ones on me in his time has Ray Doyle and I wouldn't put anything past him, anything at all. He can even be a bit hurtful sometimes when he gets the bit between his teeth but he's always remorseful when he knows what he's done.

"So?" I demanded lightly.

"So -- where do we go from here?"

"I told you -- anywhere you like."

He looked at me for a long time, thinking with almost painful obviousness but not saying or giving away anything.

Then he said, "D'you think Cowley ..."

I didn't hear the rest of the question, I was too busy gasping inside myself at the horrible, gut-wrenching realisation that had just hit me like a bucket of cold water.

Christ -- how was I going to tell him? He'd never forgive me for this one. Never!

I gulped once or twice and opened my mouth.

"Ray ..."

It took me two goes before my voice would work.

He sat up, eyeing me with a sort of laughing frown on his face. "What the hell's up?" he asked. "You look as thought someone just coshed you with a wet fish!"

"Ray ..."

"Yes?" He was getting impatient.

"You're not going to like this ..."

I never spoke a truer word.


Oh god, to feel the power of him all leashed down and offered to me like that in an act of pure love -- it swept me completely off my feet. Not that I was on them at the time, of course, I was stretched out on top of him, lashing out in blind fury, taking it all out as usual on strong, comfortable, safe Bodie.

He had me in over my head before I had time to think, which was precisely what he intended, and I was rocketing up and up, right over the edge and beyond and it was fantastic. I'd never felt such physical and mental release, utter annihilation. I was totally lost in him -- in every sense!

When it was over I just lay on him, unable to think or move. If he hadn't taken over, tucked me up comfortably, wrapped me up in the warm security of his arms I think I'd still be lying there trying to work out just exactly where and how my world had turned upside down and blown apart.

Next thing I knew, it was dark and he was still there, comfortable and secure, and I hadn't said a word to him. There was a reason for that; I couldn't think of anything to say, ungrateful berk that I am, but somehow 'thank-you' was slightly inadequate. I still didn't really know what had hit me but when I found he'd got more of the same planned my heart was leapin' about clickin' heels in the air even though my head was shrieking at me to cool it.

Then he got me to start talking. Got a subtle way with witnesses, has Bodie, but I'll bet he never worked one over and softened 'em up quite like this before. Before I knew where I was, I was telling him all about Ann and the agonies I'd gone through trying to be a proper little gent and keep me evil hands off her pure body.

Was it so pure, I wondered suddenly, or was it really not very interested? I put the thought to the back of my mind -- I had other things on it right now.

Earlier in the afternoon I'd been too caught up in my own needs to pay any attention to Bodie except as the place and the person where I could get what I must have. Now, I'd had time to think and to realise something very, very unexpected about him.

That hadn't been his first time with a man.

But he didn't want to talk about it, I could tell that. He wasn't precisely subtle about his methods of distraction either; talk about putting it bluntly.

It can still melt me now, remembering that deep rumble near my ear and the way he breathes down his nose at you, and the things he said ...

I had a hard on before he'd got past describing what he wanted to do to my chest -- by the time he'd got lower down my anatomy I was practically begging him for it.

"Your tongue in my belly-button, eh? Sounds interesting. Go on."

"How much further?"

"All the way down to me toes if you want to -- but take the scenic route!"

"Any sort of root at all." He ran a finger along me, meaningly, and I was half afraid I'd come just from that with the state he'd got me into.

"What you got planned then?" I ran a hand down his back, relishing the strong feel of him.

"Suckin' you ... for starters."

Christ, the way he said it, right out, no modesty at all, my Bodie. I felt as if someone had just sent a bolt of something very sweet but aching right through me. He reached over and turned the lamp on beside the bed, then pushed the covers off me.

"I want to look at you." His voice was husky.

Feeling oddly shy considering how many times he's seen me in the nude, I lay back and let him, watching his face. He looked so serious, studying every inch of me as though I was some work of art; and then he ran his fingertips over me very lightly, in odd lines and circles, following the pattern of hair on my chest with such a beautiful smile on his face.

It sounds so daft and yet it wasn't. It was very right, so much so that I wasn't questioning it or worrying about it. It didn't even seem odd or out of the way that Bodie and I should be lying there together, making love. I didn't even stop to think about that aspect of it, I just knew I wanted it and a whole lot more of it if I could get it.

I got a bellyful of verbal description -- after a navel full of tongue! He's got a way with words, has Bodie, fine, four-letter ones just flow off his tongue and sound like Keats and Shelley and Whitman all rolled into one.

His tongue's not bad for other things as well. When he wasn't burning my ears with his evil plans he was licking at me in a way that had me squirming like fury and him looking all smug at the effect that had on me. He looked even smugger when I started begging him to stop talking and get on with some action.

Yes, he's got the busiest mouth. It was everywhere!

I never knew I could come so many times -- I've sometimes managed it three times with a girl when I've been ultra-fit but not very often. That night -- rabbits had nothing on us. There wasn't an inch of either of us left untouched when we'd done. I'd never experienced love-making like it before, not this uninhibited, open enjoyment of sexuality, the frank sharing of experience, giving and taking in equal ratio. Even then I had this odd certainty there were a lot more nights like this on offer if I wanted them.

If I wanted them! I'd have to be crazy to turn this down.

It wasn't just sex, I've had enough of that in my time to know when all of a sudden I'm offered love. Not the counterfeit coin Ann had given me but a sure, unquestioning, giving of himself into my hands.

He made me feel so bloody humble. He still didn't want to talk; every time I tried to, he'd distract me somehow. I'm not sure whether he was trying to get through the whole of his sexual repertoire -- with one notable exception -- in one night but there were moments when I thought he might succeed.

I know better than that nowadays: it'd take him a year at least, he has a wonderfully inventive mind!

In the end we went to sleep still stroking at each other. I began to think he'd suggest lashing us to toothbrushes he seemed so keen to carry on long past the time we'd exhausted ourselves.

I was planning a necessary breakfast of oysters and Guinness when all of a sudden it was morning and he was sleeping beside me like a baby -- and about as quietly -- snuffle, snuffle, and a huge, beatific smile spreading across his face like spilled paint.

God, but he was beautiful.

I leant over and kissed him -- well, what would you do when that mouth suddenly thrust itself so purposefully under your attention? -- savouring the sleepy taste of him. I've known girls who taste like a whore's handbag in the morning, he just seemed sort of concentrated. Essence of Bodie. I could take a lot of it and still come back for more.

But I still didn't know what he wanted or expected and that was important to me. I tried to find out but he was acting evasive and there were no straight answers.

I was beginning to panic a bit. I knew I'd hurt him the other day when I yelled at him so. Bloody unfair I'd been and I'd no excuse for it. I was doubly furious with him because Ann didn't like him, as if that was somehow his fault. She hadn't even bothered to be subtle and polite about him either, condemning him as an arrogant thug the minute he'd left us. She'd let me get a lot further with her that evening than she ever did before; I even got her bra off her and was beginning to think my luck was in when she got up quite calmly and announced she wanted to be taken home. For a blind second I'd wanted to kill her and then saw the look on her face -- a sort of mixture of contempt and fright -- and immediately felt like some kind of sex maniac who couldn't leave it alone for a minute and transferred my dissatisfaction to Bodie for making her out of sorts.

I couldn't get to sleep for ages that night for the pain in my balls and I suddenly had a horrified vision of spending the rest of my life like that -- which was daft. Once we were married and settled everything would be all right and I wouldn't be suffering agonies of frustration, I told myself. I could see problems all along the line and half of them seemed to be Bodie's doing -- so I really went for him when I found out I had a genuine cause for grievance.

And I crucified him.

All of a sudden I'd seen that. He was just sitting there, taking everything I said without reacting, opposite Cowley but never looking at him for the support I've no doubt Cowley would have given him, not saying a word and with his head on the heels of his hands, utterly still. Then when he finally looked up to remind me about the Christmas man, his face looked as if he'd been kicked in the guts.

I'd still been furious but I started taking it out on Cowley instead. Not so safe, but I wouldn't feel so bloody guilty afterwards.

I wished I hadn't thought about Cowley. I knew I was in for the mother and father of all rows from him. I started to ask Bodie something about him -- can't even remember what I wanted to know now -- when I found he wasn't listening to me at all but was just lying there with such a comical look on his face: panic and laughter and horror all rolled into one. I sat up and shook him, demanding an explanation but he didn't say a word for a minute or two and then at last he pulled himself together and croaked out my name.

"Ray, you're not going to like this ..."

I could see that. I know that look of Bodie's of old. It means he's done something totally outrageous but that his warped sense of humour thinks it's funny even though he knows you'll probably murder him for it.

"Try me," I said as patiently as I could.

He had three goes before he got another word out.

"Told you I was ... was bisexual, didn't I?"

I eyed him warily, wondering what sort of big, butch guy was going to wander out of his closet and take him away from me. "Yeah, you told me. So?"

"When ... when I joined CI5 I told Cowley."

I raised an eyebrow knowing I'd never have had the guts to broach such a topic with our George. A brave man, Bodie, brave or bloody stupid. Just at the moment, I wasn't sure which.

"What did he say, f'god'sake?

His eyes slid away from mine. "Turned out he already knew. You know Cowley; there isn't a lot he misses when he starts ferretin' around."

That was true. I took it calmly, wondering just what there was to know but sure that Bodie would tell me when he wanted me to know. I could wait. "So what did he do?"

I was surprised they took him on. Security's still got a funny attitude to anything except the missionary position. I sometimes wonder why they don't issue all personnel with those weird nightshirts with judiciously placed holes in 'em that some sect in America used to wear. I always had this engaging vision of 'em going out to the milkman wearing one!

He couldn't really be as panicky as he sounded, could he?

"I'm going to the bog since you seem so interested," I said politely. "Is that all right with you -- or do you want to tell Cowley about that one too?"

I looked back as I went out: I wished I hadn't.

I went very, very slowly across my small landing and into the bathroom, the picture of him unwillingly vivid in my mind.

He looked utterly defeated, sitting up in my bed with his knees drawn up and his head down on them, his face crumpling like a kid's.

Oh shit! I thought savagely, pulling the door shut behind me with a definite slam.

I hated Bodie. I hated Cowley. I hated CI5. I hated Ann and I hated myself. I had my pee and then perched on the edge of the bath in sullen misery. My whole world had fallen apart, shattered into little pieces.

What the hell was Cowley going to think of me? Me, Ray Doyle, sleeping with another guy. The Cow would have the best laugh he'd had in ...

I stopped short.

That was hardly fair, was it? He knew about Bodie and didn't apparently think any the worse of him: in fact he sometimes seemed downright fatherly to him. I'd always thought that odd. Now it seemed odder than ever.

Calmer, I stood up again, looking at myself in the shaving mirror. Christ, I needed a shave all right, same as Bodie did. We'd neither of us had a chance to freshen up since the day before yesterday what with one thing and another. Especially the other! I pulled a face at my reflection.

I couldn't see anything else odd about my appearance -- I looked much as usual, scruffy and half asleep. I didn't think anyone was going to start leaping to any conclusions about me just from the way I looked. I lifted a wrist and tested it -- no limper than before so far as I could tell, and it stiffened quite satisfactorily when requested.

So -- could I live with knowing Cowley knew.

Why not? Bodie did. Anything Bodie does, I can do. Sometimes not so well, sometimes better.

I went downstairs to make a cup of tea. I pottered around down there while I waited for the kettle to boil, only he'd done the washing up too damn' efficiently yesterday and there wasn't really much to do except proper cleaning, so in the end I just sat down at the table and gazed vacantly into nowhere.

So I could face Cowley, could I? What was I going to see when I did though? I couldn't picture him giving us his blessing though somehow; more like a surly nod and a look of disgust. No, somehow I didn't think the Cow was going to be best pleased with this latest development -- quite apart from it looking a little bit over-eager to be climbing in the sack with your partner the very day your bird walked out on you. He'd think I was some kind of sex maniac, and there was no way I was going to plead acute lack of success with Ann as an excuse for laying Bodie. Neither was I going to claim it was all Bodie's fault -- even if it had been I wouldn't say so to Cowley.

But it hadn't.

I'd wanted it. Been desperate for it. He hadn't needed to show me what I needed, I already knew that when I went upstairs after him to have my own shower when he'd finished. I'd been making plans for the night that had not included a certain cherubic, blue-eyed and very masculine CI5 agent. He'd changed all that by melting underneath me as I wrestled with him, his body going pliant and instantly desirable, his mouth warm and welcoming.

If I'd had any hang-ups about same-sex that had been the time to voice them. If I'd turned him down then we could have made the whole thing into a crazy joke, the sort of stupid put-on we're always trying on each other.

But I didn't. The minute I'd been offered it, I'd taken it without hesitation: taken him, dammit.

I felt my body shiver at the thought, a pure gut-reaction to the physical memory of pushing into the hot tightness of him, the firm clutch of muscle relieving the intolerable, aching need in my loins.

Oh, Bodie ...

I let my arms lie on the table, head down on them, and I made myself think on, recall the whole evening and the dark intimacies of the night.

He'd been so gentle with me in spite of all the raunchy, hot-arsed talk -- roused me further than anyone ever had before -- and it wasn't just the novelty of it either. Those impossible eyes had looked at me so candidly, without guile or self-interest, gauging my needs with a certainty and inherent kindness, goading me when I needed it, contentedly letting me find the right pace for each new experience.

If he hadn't known it was my first time with a man he'd quickly have found out by my ineptitude!

I could feel a smile pulling at my mouth in spite of my depression. I'd never feel quite the same about either vaseline or one-armed bandits again.

No, next time Bodie wanted to play the machines he could do it alone. If three lemons came up I'd make an exhibition of myself in public and disgrace us both.

He hadn't forced anything on me, not once during the long, luxurious night. He'd offered and given without reservation, taking whatever I would give him in return but never demanding.

And I'd done my bit in return, never doubt that.

Even early on ...

He'd worked his way up and down my body with his mouth, every inch of my chest explored and claimed, tugging at my nipples with exquisite delicacy, tonguing my ribs and my hipbones, down my thighs and then up until I was one, writhing heap of wanting, desperate to have him touch me on the one place he was avoiding with such deliberate intent: just then before I was going to beg, as my hand went towards his head in gentle encouragement, his hand covered me, making me arch up with a guttural moan, thrusting myself shamelessly at him.

He pushed me down, gently, lowering his head with a murmur of reassurance as if he knew he had goaded me almost too far for comfort, and his mouth closed softly over me, his tongue stroking patiently and perfectly.

I've had plenty of girls go down on me. There'd never been one who could do it like that, as if they knew my prick from the inside, as if they could understand what every twitch and shiver was begging for.

I thought I was going to come forever, just pouring and pouring down his throat in a smooth, ecstatic stream.

Then, having opened my eyes again when I was back inside my skull instead of lying there in my balls, and seeing his face pillowed on my thigh, a quietly happy, contented expression glowing all over it as though he'd been given the perfect gift, I wanted to hold him forever.

I ran my finger over his forehead, finding it damp with sweat. He shivered, looking up at me.

"Cold?" I whispered.


No, he wasn't cold: he was all banked-down need. My eyes slid down his body to the urgent thrust of his cock, its silent plea more eloquent than speech.

I shivered in my turn.

Could I?

I wanted to -- I didn't kid myself about that. I wanted it all right, but I was scared.

I wouldn't look at him as I twisted round, just concentrated on my objective, taking it one step at a time.

His hand touched my head, slowing me, and I looked up at him, faintly impatient.

"Ray, you don't have to ..."

"I know." I couldn't help a rueful smile. "I want to try ..."

His fingers slid round my cheek and dropped away, leaving me to make my own decisions.

Once I had taken the first step and had the silky feel of him under my tongue it was easy. All I had to do was remember what was still so vivid in my mind, the touches I had been given ...

Every bit of him is exquisite.

I swallowed hard, lifting my head from its uncomfortable resting place on my cramped forearms. I was half-aroused again, just remembering it all -- and after the night too ... No, whatever else I did, I couldn't blame Bodie.

In any case, why apportion blame for what had been so good?

Making it with Bodie was fantastic. Maybe that was why I shrank so much from having someone else know about it -- they'd never know just how right it was, to them it would be sordid, unnatural ... particularly to Cowley, I thought, with his Calvinistic background ...

There was the strangest smell in the room, one I couldn't place at first until I recollected why I was down there in the first place.

The kettle!

It had boiled quite dry but I thought it hadn't suffered permanent damage. Either way, I'd quite gone off the idea of tea and sitting down here in the nude wasn't doing anything except for my goosepimples and they were the finest crop I've ever seen.

I went back upstairs into the bedroom. I had to face him sometime. He was still sitting there, hunched up, but when I went in he lifted his head and looked at me, meeting my gaze. His eyes looked wistful but his mouth and chin jutted with determination.

He was going to tell him: I could see it written all over him. When Bodie thinks a thing has to be done, he does it, regardless of the consequences to himself or anyone else. I do the same thing myself: that's why we're both in CI5.

Now I was calmer I took a long hard breath and a long, hard look at myself and I didn't like what I saw.

Hadn't I crucified Bodie long enough already?

I closed my fat mouth over every word I'd been going to say, pushed it down inside myself hoping it would choke me. I'd had enough of rows, especially with Bodie.

"If you've got to tell him then I suppose you have to," I said dully. If I had to accept it then I would -- but I didn't have to like it and I wouldn't.

We stared at each other in silence, neither of us willing to give way. Eventually, I shrugged. "Why the hell couldn't you have told me earlier?" I said unreasonably.

He shrugged in his turn, watching me warily, a rueful smile on his face. "Come off it, Ray. 'f you think I was thinking that straight yesterday afternoon ..."

"Nah, 'spose not," I agreed dispiritedly. "Christ, Bodie, this has to be the most embarrassin' day of my life."

"Not exactly looking forward to it myself, sunshine."

"'s all right for you, you've been through it before," I said bitterly. "you must be used to it by now."

I said it without thinking.

Jesus, I have to be the biggest bastard unhung. Just one look at his face told me I'd said the cruellest thing I could have thought of, hurt him harder than ...

I knew what I'd been offered, damn it. I knew. I'm not a fool. Besides, I'd heard what he said just before I fell asleep yesterday afternoon, only being the selfish, egotistical, self-seeking prat that I am it had only just registered. Even without that, I knew.

Bodie loved me!

And if Bodie loved me, the Cow probably knew it. Oh not that Bodie would have told him but the head of CI5 has eyes in the back of his head and the seat of his gents' City suiting. He doesn't miss anything.

I wanted to shoot myself only that wouldn't solve anything. I had to start thinking straight, being a little honest with myself, using the brains that Bodie had obligingly put back into my skull for me with such devastating efficiency after their long sojourn in my balls.

I looked down at the crumpled bed. We'd made one hell of a mess of it, drying stains everywhere. It looked just like the aftermath of an orgy, which was a pretty fair description of what had been going on. I couldn't possibly deny what had happened between us, not without losing whatever self-respect I have.

Ashamed of hovering over him so threateningly, I got back into bed again. Typical Bodie, he'd gone on sitting there, quite defenceless, letting me take it all out on him.

"Why the hell don't you hit me?" I asked him.

"'Cos it wouldn't make me feel any better. If I thought it would I'd've done it ten minutes ago," he said candidly. "I'm sorry. I should have thought this out beforehand."

"Didn't give you much time, did I?" I said softly. "You don't have to apologize. I'm the one to be doing that."

I wanted to tell him that it was going to be all right, that I was coming to my senses, that I thought I was falling in love with him, but it was barely forty- eight hours since I'd last said that to Ann and I was afraid he wouldn't believe me. This time I was going to be sure, so sure, before I made any moves. I didn't want him thinking I went about telling everyone in London I love 'em; I wanted him to know I meant it ... if I did.

I wonder how thick you can be? or how much you can go on hurting people that love before they kick you out of their lives for good? I haven't found out yet with Bodie and I try him pretty hard at times.

He just grunted at me. "Let's take the apologies as read, shall we? I can do without a morning's breast-beating. I'm knackered."

Well, I know it's a fault of mine -- he's mentioned it often enough, god knows. I managed to smile at him, genuinely enjoying the sight of him there in my bed.

"When does Cowley want to see us again, any idea?"

"On duty usual time, I suppose," he said, not sounding particularly keen. "He didn't say anything when I walked out yesterday -- I didn't exactly give him time to."

"Well, we're going to be late whatever we do," I pointed out, nodding at the clock. "If he was screaming for us we'd have heard by now. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb."

"What's that mean? You goin' back to sleep?"

"No," I said, rolling over and wrapping myself round him. "It means I'm gonna kiss you like it was goin' out of fashion, see if by some miracle we can get it together again, have a bath and a shave and some breakfast and then go and see Cowley. I need fortifyin' before we face him."

"You honestly think we can get it up again?" he asked, latching on to the one item in the list other than breakfast that really caught his interest and attention.

"I dunno," I said frankly, "but it'll be fun tryin'!"

Amazingly, we did, but it wasn't exactly the encounter of the century; in fact if we hadn't been both of us gutsily determined not to lose face in front of each other I reckon we'd have both given up a lot sooner. It could have been a disaster.

While I was lying back on the pillow feeling weaker than a new-hatched chick and knowing that my body really had given up on me this time, Bodie started to laugh.

"Wassa matter?" I demanded peevishly.

"All that fuss and bother," Bodie choked, "and what I produced needs lookin' for with a magnifyin' glass."

"Coarse bugger," I said, aware that my contribution had been less than copious. I moved a lazy hand on his balls, slack and heavy under my touch.

"Have I worn you out then?"

"Smug bastard." He did a bit of retaliatory groping of his own which was rather nice. "Yes, you have. I don't think I'll need sex again for a month." I snorted.

"'s true," he protested. "Course, that's not to say I won't have it, just I won't need it."

"Me neither." I licked at his face, just for the pleasure of tasting him. "How about breakfast?"

He groaned without moving. "Had me oats, sunshine, what more do I need? I'll take you over muesli any morning."

I got out of bed with dignity. It was a pity I fell over the belt of my bathrobe on my way to the door of course, but the sound of Bodie's snorts and giggles was enough to keep my failing knees together until I could lie down in the bath. I didn't feel fit enough for a shower. I lay back in the water and listened to him back in the bedroom, alternately singing and quoting lewd jokes. He's such a kid to be around, and so much bloody fun.

I kept my mind resolutely off Cowley while we had breakfast, not letting the thought of the forthcoming interview spoil what we'd managed to salvage. There was still a lot to be said but no time for it all this morning. Better to leave it until later on, I thought.

We were royally late arriving at HQ. Cowley had left a sarcastic message for us which meant that he wasn't too angry -- but he wanted to see Bodie -- alone.

I made a face. "Wants to see how you think I'm takin' it, I suppose."

"Yeah." Bodie was noncommittal.

"D'you want me to come in with you?" I'd have done it if he had and to hell with Cowley.

"No." Bodie looked appalled for a second and then smiled at me.

"And no good askin' you to wait until I'm there, either?"

He shook his head. "No sense in both of us getting our balls chewed off."

I leant closer. "You tell 'im that any ball-chewin' nowadays, I do, d'you hear?"

Bless him: he was all pink around the ears when he went through that door.

I seemed to be outside there for hours but it was only about ten minutes in fact before I started to feel an utter fool propping myself up against the wall in the corridor waiting for him; I felt as though everything that had happened to me was somehow visible while I stood there and I wasn't sure the world was ready for these things just yet -- it was still a bit too young.

I went off to scrounge a cup of coffee somewhere and found myself looking at a blonde girl I vaguely recalled having seen around recently. Bodie's Kirstie probably.

Pretty, I thought approvingly, but a bit gushy for Bodie, surely. I got her to introduce herself and chatted her up for a while, wondering about the two of them. There were a lot of things he and I were going to have to sort out ... women for one. I shoved the thought aside. If we didn't take this one step at a time we'd find ourselves in all sorts of trouble.

I didn't even hear him come in: all of a sudden there he was, looking from Kirstie to me and back and I cursed myself yet again. Couldn't I do anything right this morning? I gave him the biggest, most reassuring smile I could.

"Fancy a coffee?"

"Yeah." He looked at Kirstie a bit uncertainly but she was looking at me.

"So you're Bodie's partner."

"That's me," I agreed brightly, "the famous Ray Doyle. Ignore anything he's told you about me, it's all lies."

She smiled at Bodie while she answered me. "He hasn't told me anything bad."

I glanced at Bodie who shrugged. "Didn't talk about you at all, in fact, mate."

"Bodie!" She was laughing at him, protesting. "Last time you took me out you spent all evening ..."

He interrupted her ruthlessly. "Did I mention Cowley wants to see you, Ray?"

"No, you didn't. Of course, you would tend to forget an unimportant little item like that, wouldn't you?"

We went out, wrangling amicably, but out in the corridor he paused and looked at me.

"I'm sorry, Ray. He insisted ..."

"That's okay," I said with a lot more ease than I was feeling. "She's a nice girl your Kirstie. You go and enjoy a coffee with her while I beard the lion."

"Not 'my' Kirstie ..." He looked uncomfortable.

If anyone had walked down that corridor then they must have known that I was thinking about him because I couldn't stop everything I was feeling spreading across my face for everyone to read.

"It's okay," I persisted, trying to school my expression into something like its normal idiocy. "Bodie, it is -- really. Everything's goin' to be all right. Trust me."

He mumbled something at me in a shamefaced sort of way and pushed past but I grabbed at his shoulder, grinning fatuously.

"What did you say?" I was pretty sure I'd heard all right, but I wanted to hear it again.

His face lit up with one of his rare, blindingly sweet smiles. "I said 'with everything,' sunshine," he said very loudly and disappeared back into the office. I wandered down the corridor in a happy haze, wondering what I'd done to deserve him. This was all happening so fast it was bewildering and I could surely feel myself going down for the third time, drowning in new-born love, but I put it out of my mind for the moment. I had an interview with Cowley to concentrate on and it never did any good to go into one of those with half your mind somewhere else. I'd no idea what he might want to say to me, it could be pretty well anything -- Cowley is never predictable.

Bodie hadn't looked upset but then the Cow often lets him get away with blue murder when he sits on me very promptly.

Odd that, I've often thought so.

I knocked on his door, hoping my knees weren't providing too loud an echo. He looked up at me over his glasses then waved me into a chair -- it might be a good sign, quite often when he wants to bawl you out he leaves you standing there like a fool -- then he sat swinging his glasses the way he does and looked me up and down until I felt about three inches high.

"A bit soon, wasn't it, Doyle?"

I wriggled my toes in my trainers, determined not to let him rile me. There wasn't really anything I could say in our defence without discussing things that were none of his damned business.

I said politely, "Perhaps, you're right, sir."

He grunted at that. "Well, it's no affair of mine. I just want to be sure you know the same rules apply to you as they do to Bodie."

I gaped at him, frankly flummoxed. What the hell was the old buzzard talking about?

He sighed impatiently. "I need to know what's happening and when for security reasons, you know that, Doyle. Don't sit there with your mouth at half cock."

I gaped even harder. "You mean every time Bodie and I ...?"

I stopped, aghast and on the verge of hysteria. The Cow was going red. Honest! Bodie was never going to believe this.

"Don't be impertinent, Doyle," he snapped. "You know perfectly well what I mean."

Yes, I had finally sussed it out. He thought I was about to start sleeping around with all and sundry now I'd started with Bodie: No man was going to be safe from me. I drew myself up with dignity.

"I hadn't planned on sleeping with anyone else except Bodie," I told him firmly.

He eyed me with a cynical expression. I wasn't going to have him looking at me like that. Besides, I needed to have someone know where we stood, someone whom Bodie would believe if I ever wanted to tell him how early I'd made my commitment.

"Maybe it isn't your business, sir, but I think you ought to know all the same - - I'm serious about this. I love the guy."

I'd succeeded in taking him aback and I felt that was one up to me. I thought I'd press my advantage while I had it.

"I don't intend going into details, sir. You don't want to hear 'em and I'm not prepared to give 'em, but I've got a lot to be grateful to Bodie for and the last twenty-four hours isn't the least of it."

"But what about this young woman, Ann Holly?"

"That's all over. She never did like what I do for a livin' and yesterday was the last straw."

"But ..."

"An' I was havin' a few doubt before that."

"I see."

I'll give Cowley his due, he isn't nosey except in the line of business. He'd visibly relaxed now, giving me a sort of fish-eyed look as if weighing me up, then he said abruptly, "Did Bodie ever tell you about his girl out in Africa?"

"I think so. The one Krivas shot?"

"Aye. They shot Marikka too if you recall," he added sourly. "Bodie started thinking he was bad medicine around women after that."

I could sympathise -- I could also have kicked myself for not seeing it before. I'd known about both of them after all. I'd also known that Bodie had quite a thing going for Marikka -- she and I had had time to talk about him. If circumstances had been different I thing he might well have married her and she'd have been damned good for him.

I'm bloody glad she didn't.

I looked down at my feet.

"After that," Cowley said dryly, "he told me he intended never to get serious over a girl again. You've been somewhat less than perceptive, haven't you, Doyle? I've been wondering for some time how long you were going to live in blinkers."

"Me, sir?" I blinked. "Forever probably, if Bodie hadn't taken me in hand."

"Aye, you're probably right," he said even more dryly.

There was a long pause then but I could see he hadn't finished with me, that he was thinking something out. I waited with considerable patience, not rushing him. No one rushes Cowley.

Suddenly he said, "Has he ever told you why he ran away from home?"

"No, sir. Bodie hardly ever talks about his past and I don't push. He'll tell me if he wants to."

"I don't think he'll tell you this but I think you ought to know. Bodie's mother died when he was small and his father married again. His stepmother was ... not a very stable woman and when he was fourteen she took a fancy to him."

I could believe that. Bodie must have been devastating when he was fourteen. I wished I'd known him then -- on the other hand, I wouldn't have appreciated it of course so perhaps it was just as well I didn't.

"She ... er ... seduced him," Cowley said primly, "on a number of occasions, but when her husband come home unexpectedly one afternoon she became hysterical and accused Bodie of raping her. I understand his father was not very gentle with him."

I was feeling sick. Poor bastard. No wonder he never talked about his bloody family.

"Was that when he ran away to sea?"

"No, not immediately. He found himself a -- protector. He won't talk about him but I gather he was good to him. Then about a year later he died: There was a Somalian ship in port and he talked himself aboard her ... he was rather too pretty for his own good, but he learned to look after himself I understand, but after a year or so, things finally got too difficult and he jumped ship. I think you know the bare bones of the rest of it."

I just nodded, feeling too up-tight to want to say much. I wanted to go out to Bodie and hug him tight, wrap him up and keep him safe. Fat chance I'd get with that independent devil but it'd be fun trying. At least I could feed him properly.

I smiled secretly at my feet, looked up and saw Cowley watching me. This time I was the one to go red.

"I'll look after him, sir," I promised rather solemnly; somehow it felt a rather solemn moment. At least now I knew why Cowley was so fatherly to him some of the time. As big a bloody softie as Bodie under that granite exterior.

"Just see you do. And remember, I'll have no scandals in CI5 or you're out, both of you!"

"We'll be discreet."

He made a noise like a stepped-on cat. "Och, you don't know the meaning of the word -- either of you," he said unfairly. "Get out. I don't want to see the pair of you for a couple of days."

I beamed at him. A honeymoon to boot. He'd be sending us a pop-up toaster. I floated out of his office about two feet off the ground and went smack into Bodie who was lurking outside.

Cowley's head came round the door, making acerbic enquiries as to the source of the noise.

Releasing Bodie quickly -- well, I had to hold him up or he'd have fallen when I rammed him amidships -- I put on my best innocent expression.

"Just going, sir. Come on, Bodie."

I hurried him off along the corridor. "Race you down the stairs."

Bodie picked up my mood quickly in spite of not knowing what was going on and we clattered down there like a pair of schoolboys. Out in the courtyard he stopped, grinning like crazy.

"Where are we going, you fool?"

"Home -- Cowley's given us two days off."

"Two days off?" He looked suitably awed. "Whatever did you say to the old devil?"

"Promised to look after you," I beamed. "He seemed to think it was a good idea I should take you off his hands."

"Ray ..."

I wasn't going to let him talk here. "Your place or mine," I demanded softly. "We need to talk, Bodie."

"Your place." There was a shy look in his eyes that nearly broke my heart. "It was kinda cosy there yesterday."

"Yeah. Come on, we'll take my car."

Back indoors we pottered around a little, tidying things up, behavin' normally. Then, when I couldn't think of anything else that needed doing downstairs and I couldn't and didn't want to put the moment off any longer, I went and stood in front of him and put my arms on his shoulders and told him.

"I love you, Bodie."

He wasn't expecting it and I felt a little guilty when he let out a tiny grunt as if he'd been winded. He stood very still, just looking at me.

I smiled. "You don't have to say anythin'. I heard what you whispered in my pink and shell-like lug'ole yesterday afternoon, only bein' the thick lunk I am it didn't register for a while."

"But ... Ann ..." His voice was a whisper of sound -- so unlike him.

"Was just a hiccup." I chewed at my lip, puzzled myself as to how to explain it. "Bodie, she was different, d'you understand? She'd got a mind of her own, thought things out, didn't just accept everything that other people thought was right. She was independent and had her mind on things other than bed and a good time. She was ... stimulating ..."

I was making her sound like some sort of paragon which she wasn't. "I liked her a lot," I told him lamely. "I even thought I loved her for a while but she was never ... perfect. I never thought that. I just thought I could live without the things that were missing. But I couldn't, you know -- and I'm not talking about the sex side of it either. She was so damned ... serious. I couldn't laugh with her except about the 'ladylike' sort of things she approved of. I think she thought of men as some kind of odd animal that had to be humoured. I'd have gone crazy sooner or later keeping a watch over my tongue: she thought I was awfully crude sometimes."

He couldn't stop a smile at that and I chuckled with him. "Yeah, okay, so she might have been right about that. The worst thing of all though -- she'd have come between us, broken our partnership if she could. I knew that -- and I already knew I'd never let her do it. You're too important to me, Bodie, more important than anyone else. It's so damned thick of me not to have seen why that is before. I do love you, must have done for some time I think."

He made a funny little sound and finally let his arms go around me, pulling me close.

We just stood like that for ages: I was unashamedly revelling in the feel of him. Then we made a cup of coffee, went out and did some shopping as I was short on basic foods, went to the pub for a drink and stayed for a meal and talked as if we'd never stop. About anything and nothing -- not the important things.

He's always been good to be with but that day had a magic quality. We were so correct and well-mannered in public, behaving ourselves like sober and well- adjusted citizens, upright pillars of society, and then our eyes would meet and the whole of our well-constructed facade would crumble and we'd have to look away rather quickly. We started having some very disjointed conversations in the end because both of us had our minds on other things -- mostly each other -- and pretty early we decided it was all too much effort and we went home to my place.

"You're gonna sleep here." I knew I didn't need to say it but I did, just for the pleasure of seeing that little, conscious smile.

"Wherever you are," he agreed.

"Come on, then -- but if you think either of us are capable of doing anything other than sleep ..."

"I know." He pulled a face. "Nuisance, isn't it? But I'm not going to sleep alone."

There was a challenging look in his eye, daring me to deny him. I grinned. "Okay by me," I said jauntily.

I was halfway up the stairs ahead of him when the phone rang. I groaned. "If that's Cowley ..."

He was picking up the receiver. I saw his face lose expression, his lips tighten into that macho look of his. "Hey, hold on, this isn't Ray you're talking to. I'll call him for you." A pause. "No, it's Bodie. Bodie! Here he is."

He held the receiver out mouthing at me. "Ann."

He tried to get past me but I wouldn't let him go. I wanted him to hear this so he knew she wasn't a factor to trouble him any more. I held the earpiece away from me, motioning him to come closer so we could both hear her. He looked embarrassed and I grinned at him and kissed the tip of his nose.

"'lo, Ann." I found I could sound naturally cheerful. "What can I do for you?"

"I'm sorry I ran out on you yesterday. I've been doing a lot of thinking since then, Ray, and I ..."

"So have I," I interrupted her ruthlessly. "You were right, Ann, it wouldn't have worked. You did the sensible thing."

"But I ..."

"Didn't you tell me you were due to go to the States anyway?" I reminded her. I picked up Bodie's hand, crossed two of his fingers and kissed them.

"Keep them like that," I whispered.

"What? What did you say?"

"Nothing. Just talkin' to Bodie. When are you off then?"

"To the States?"

"Yes. Not plannin' on goin' somewhere else as well, are you, you young gadabout."

I was hating myself pretty fervently for being so flip with her, but I'd got to know Ann fairly well during the short time of our acquaintance. She'd quickly get cross if she thought I wasn't taking her seriously enough.

"Next week some time. Thursday I think it is now."

"Well, perhaps it's all for the best."

"Perhaps it is." I don't think I'd convinced her though. "I shall come back next year."

"Oh yeah?" Next year was a long time away; Bodie and I should be comfortably settled by then and able to cope with it. "What for?"

"Really, Ray, you are the limit ..." I'd got her genuinely angry and I honestly didn't know why.

Bodie was shaking his head at me. "Dumb idiot," he muttered. "Her bleedin' father, you fool. He'll be up for trial."

"Of course." I tried to sound contrite but I couldn't. The Holly seniors of this world make me sick to my stomach, the drug smugglers who deal in death and misery for personal gain.

"You'll be coming back for that will you?"

"Of course. He is my father."

"But you hadn't seen him since you were small ..."

"What difference does that make?" she asked sharply.

"You hardly know him ..." I made myself shut up. Well, I could scarcely tell her Bodie and I would be major witnesses at his trial -- she wasn't going to like that one bit, I could see.

She was furious again. "Perhaps it's as well I'm going away."

"Yes," I agreed tiredly. "Perhaps it is. Look, love, I'm out on my feet. I've had very little sleep for the last two nights and I was just going to bed ..."

"So it's goodbye then." She sounded disconsolate.

"Yes, it's goodbye," I agreed, as gently as I could. "It would never have worked, Ann. We're just too different and I wouldn't change, not the way you thought I might. I can't. I'm not a nine-to-five man and never will be, we'd only be kidding ourselves to believe anything else. Have a good time in the States and meet some nice millionaire who'll appreciate you."

I heard her hang up and put the phone down myself with a sigh of relief, looking up at Bodie and not a little ashamed of myself.

"Not very nice," I said.

"No, but then you're not," he agreed.

Disconcerted, I stared at him and I guess my mouth was open. He bent forward and kissed me.

"I don't have any illusions about you, Ray Doyle. You're a scheming, ruthless, ill-tempered little bastard with an evil and vulgar sense of humour and a penchant for trying to sound educated, but I can live with all that without wanting to change you and now can we go to bed before I fall asleep on the stairs?"

I followed him up meekly, not saying a word. I didn't dare after that. Upstairs, I surveyed the bed guiltily.

"We ought to have changed these sheets this morning."

"Yeah, very domesticated," he agreed, pulling his sweater off over his head. "Then we could have added a visit to the laundrette to all the other time wasting things we've done today."

"Time-waster," I said indignantly. "What would you rather have been doin'. then?"

"Fuckin' you."

No finesse, that's my Bodie.

Even so I was amazed at the effect the words had on me, like a lift dropping inside me it was. And after exhausting ourselves the way we had. I stared at him, faintly shocked that he could affect me this way, kicking the ground out from under my feet and making me want him when I knew damn' well I couldn't possibly act upon the desire even if I tried. "Christ, Bodie ..." I tried to keep my voice from shaking -- suddenly it had that uncertain feeling it does when it's breaking and you're never quite sure what's going to come out when you start to talk -- "... what the hell do you do to me? What's happening?"

"Dunno." He looked equally bewildered for a moment before his face cleared. "But I like it, whatever it is."

Oh, Bodie.

I swallowed. "You do love me, don't you?" I wanted to hear him say it but he looked away.

"Isn't it a bit soon ..."

I'd been afraid of this. "Perhaps," I said steadily, "but I've already told Cowley and I think he believed me."

He looked at me, poleaxed. "You did what?"

"I told Cowley," I repeated, grinning at the look on his face. His mouth opened a couple of times like a fish's and then he blurted out, "Bloody hell, Ray, are you crazy?"

"Only about you."

"But why?" He still looked as though he'd been stunned.

"Didn't want him to think I was a slag who'd sleep around with any old queen," I said campily, moving in on him. "Wanted him to know it was a case of love and honour even if not obey."

He was regaining his equilibrium, slowly (for Bodie) but surely. "What the hell did he say?"

"Told me he wondered how long I could go on walking around with my eyes shut," I told him fondly.

That did finish him I think, because he sank down onto the side of the bed as though his knees just wouldn't hold him up any more.

"You mean he knew that ... that ..."

"That you love me," I said matter-of-factly. "Only I'm still waiting to hear you say it again -- or will you feel safer waiting until I'm practically asleep like you did last time?"

He looked up, his eyes huge and impossibly blue. "I love you, Ray."

My eyelids were hot. "Good, I'm glad about that. Makes it kinda neat and tidy doesn't it?"

"And this is crazy," he added as though I hadn't spoken.

"Yeah, I know." I got on with my undressing at last. "We're going to have to talk about things you know," I said as I chucked my shirt in the general direction of my laundry basket. "Otherwise we'll neither of us know how to handle this."

"Yeah," he agreed, getting up as well and finishing his own stripping off. "Silly details to work out like who does the cooking and who irons the shirts."

I don't rise that easily and he knows it.

"Girls, too."

I sometimes wonder about my tongue and think it has a will of its own: I'd blurted that out quite without meaning to, just because I could see we might have a real problem there and it was on my mind. I hadn't actually meant us to talk about it for ages.

He stared at me, his face totally unreadable and my heart went scooting down somewhere near my lower intestine. Why the hell couldn't I learn to take this slowly and not rush him? No one holds Bodie -- I'd learned that over the years. If he stayed anywhere it was because he wanted to. He'd only enlisted in the Army for the shortest possible term ... why the hell should I think he might want to stay with me forever?


I gazed back at Ray, trying to make some kind of sense of my thoughts. Knowing what an idealist he could be I was afraid he might think I was less than 'honourable' in my attitude to women. I've tried, lord knows I've tried, but when it comes down to it there's no way I'll ever let another one get close to me. Into my bed, yes, into my life, no. I came to a decision. He'd better know the worst of me now, I thought wearily, otherwise it's going to be disillusionment all along the line.

"Girls are okay for a while," I said slowly. "Told you I'm bi -- well, maybe I'd better tell you why ..."

He shook his head at me and came and put his arms around me, almost too tightly for comfort.

"You don't need to," he said, very low. "Cowley told me why you left home - I hope the guy who looked after you was good to you."

I clung on to him, needing him. "Very good," I said, remembering those old days for the first time in years. "He kept me from chucking meself in the Mersey along with all the other rubbish ... put my head back together again. It was ages before I found out he was gay --" I shrugged. "It seemed the least I could do."

God, how banal! But I'd never be able to explain just what old Geoff had done for me and how reluctant he'd been to let me into his bed, going full of idealistic scruples about seducing minors -- nor how damned good it had been to find I could make it with someone after my beloved step-mama had torn my ego and my trust into dirty little pieces and chucked 'em to the four winds. He'd made me get it together with girls, too, helped me to accept my own sexuality, the way I am, without constantly searching my soul or looking for trouble unnecessarily. I'm not sure I'd have survived without him. I owe him a lot and one day I'll tell Ray more about him. They'd have liked each other.

"When he died I just ran -- and kept on running," I said lamely.

He held me even tighter. "You can stop now if you want to."


I really thought I could too -- but I hadn't answered his unspoken question. "I don't think I'm the jealous sort," I said as lightly as I could. "'f you want us to have a girl now and again, well that's probably all right but --" I paused suddenly realising what a huge and insuperable 'but' this was as far as I was concerned, "-- but if you want another fella I'll scratch his bloody eyes out."

I can be camp too when I want to but I was really deadly serious. No: beautifully serious!

"Another fella!" His eyes suddenly looked twice as huge as usual as he stared at me. "Another fella! Bloody hell, I can hardly cope with the one I've got."

I smirked. "You're a bit of a rattlesnake yourself," I said smugly. "I can't see either of us makin' anyone else for a while, so we've lots of time to talk this over."

"I'll be a bugger to live with you know," he told me seriously.

"Is that a warning ... or a promise?"

He chuckled filthily then yawned enormously without covering his mouth.

"Good god," I said shutting my eyes, "I've got vertigo! Close your mouth, Doyle, or I'll abseil down to your tonsils."

He grinned lopsidedly. "Let's go to bed."

It was a great shame such a heartfelt plea was only for a good night's sleep -- such a waste of talent -- but even I didn't think it was worth trying anything till after we'd rested.

I woke often during the night, reaching out to reassure myself he was still there if I couldn't feel him close to me. Sometimes he'd give a sleepy little murmur and snuggle closer, others he'd just lie there like a log, breathing heavily all over to me. I had to smile: we'd really worn each other out and it felt wonderful.

I thought a lot about Ray, too. I do love him, have done for ages, but I know just what he is and how cruel he can be sometimes. I'm no way perfect myself come to that, but that phone call with Ann had been pretty typical. It was rather nice to know he'd use that ruthlessness for me as well as against me. I've known that for a long time too. Since the early days of being his partner in fact. I was quite contented to have him the way he is, just as I'd told him. Warts and all!

I woke late next morning, panicked by finding the bed empty beside me.


I sat up, looking round me. Where had he gone? Bathroom? Downstairs? Mogadishu? I got out of bed.

"Yeah -- you call?"

There was a rattle outside on the landing and a thud against the door. I opened it.

I've never seen a tray packed so solid nor piled so high.

"You invitin' the Coldstream Guards to breakfast?" I demanded.

"Nah. No other men you said, remember? Get back into bed, I'll hand yours to you."

"Don't like makin' love on crumbs," I said thoughtfully, starting on my third piece of toast. Up to now there hadn't been a sound except the rattle of knives and the dainty, bilge-pump sound of Ray drinking coffee.

"I'll brush 'em out."

I glanced at him. "Great minds think alike, eh?"

"I'm feelin' a lot better," he said meaningly. "Don't eat too much or you'll be too bloated for action."

"You made the toast, it'd be ungrateful not to eat it," I said virtuously. We got marmalade all over the pillow when he tried to argue and I couldn't convince him it was all his fault. Some people just don't want to admit they're in the wrong.

"This bed," he said with great emphasis, scraping the marmalade off with his knife and getting butter on instead, "used to be a respectable place."

"But dull," I suggested.

He chuckled. That laugh would clog a sewer if you tried to do the decent thing and dispose of it discreetly.

"I wouldn't say that exactly."

He had a sort of roguish twinkle in his eye that was rather appealing -- well, it appealed to me, I don't know if everyone's got such innate good taste as I have of course. Come to think of it, they can't have, or they'd all be in love with Ray.

"Had some good times in it, have you?" I asked with lazy interest.

"Mmmm," he slid down in it a bit, gazing up at me, "but I think the best could be still to come." His gaze had gone past me, focussing on something on the bedside table. I began to turn my head, wondering what he was looking at but he stopped me, holding firmly onto my ear so I couldn't move, then he leaned over, squashing me ruthlessly.

"You've got your bloody elbow in my stomach," I said plaintively.

"Shouldn't have such a large stomach," he said unkindly. "I told you not to eat so much toast."

He rolled back again, handing me what he'd picked up. It was the jar of vaseline from where I'd left it, lying half behind his radio alarm.

I looked at it, knowing what he meant, and I was terrified. He was watching my face, looking quite calm. When I finally plucked up the courage to look back he smiled, a genuine, warm, unselfconscious, Doyle stunner and said, "If I can, you can."

"Do you really want ...?"

"Don't question everything, Bodie. You've got to take some things on trust. Me for one. Anyway, if I know us this isn't going to be a ... um ... a one sided encounter. I shall get my turn sooner or later."

He did of course.

Christ, how he did.

Afterwards I looked at him very hard and very long, studying every inch of his face until I thought I had him really worried.

"What is it?" He reached out, cradling my shoulder with his hand in a comforting way. I decided I liked it and rubbed my cheek around on it for a while.

"I was quite right," I mumbled into the back of his hand, tickling in between his fingers with my tongue and giving a sharp nip to the one he stuck in my mouth.

"Ouch, cannibal!" He pulled his hand back and inspected the end of his finger dubiously. "'spect I'll get hydrophobia," he said gloomily. "What were you right about?"

I gazed limpidly into his eyes.

"You do get that little twinkle in 'em when you score!"

-- THE END --

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