Never Let Me Down


Chapter 1

"Oi, Bodie!"

Bodie looked up from the notes he was writing to where his partner had the newspaper spread across the rest room table. Doyle grinned at him and shook the page he was holding. "Want to see a film tonight? The Lion in Winter's at that little cinema by King's Cross. Katherine Hepburn - you'll love it."

Bodie grinned back. "Sorry, things to do. Take yourself off to the pictures, like a good lad." He put his pen down and stretched his shoulders, knowing what would follow.

"C'mon, Bodie. It's no fun alone. It's a good film!" Doyle hated going to the cinema alone, and would rather spend hours cajoling his partner, his date, or a hapless workmate to join him. "Besides, what have you got to do? You've got to be done with those notes by now. Bastard didn't say more than a page's worth."

Bodie had to agree with that. Much of CI5's manpower had gone north, investigating four town councils with ties to drug money, and he and Doyle were stuck minding the store. Looked at one way, the assignment was a compliment; they were responsible for keeping in touch with nervous informants, watching over slow-developing cases, all the details of other agents' ops left on hold while the northern situation took priority. Bodie reminded himself of that, frequently. More often, the job was a ruddy pain. He was sick of spot-checking the surveillance op that had been a round-the-clock post last week, sick of trying to keep his temper in check while nursemaiding other peoples' grasses and the two newest agents who, with a handful of others, had also been left behind. He squared up his notes and shoved them into a folder marked "McCabe."

"Yeah. Mac can talk to him himself when he gets back. I'm fed up with the little git." He glanced at the clock; it was half past five. Cowley had told them in the morning briefing that most of the squad would be returning soon, and that he and Doyle should be prepared to spend the next day or two filling them in on what had happened during their absence. "That'll be quick," Bodie had muttered, and earned a kick from Doyle and a sour glare from his boss.

"So? We've done all our work and prepared our summaries like good lads, and I want to see a film tonight. What have you got on that's so important?"

"Shopping. Get some food in, hoover the flat..." Bodie grinned at his partner's scowl.

"Don't know why you bother, I'm always feeding you anyway. C'mon, Bodie."

"And why so insistent on my company, 4.5? None of the softer sex in view?"

Doyle's lips tightened, and he stared into his cup of lukewarm coffee. "Lisa's broken it off. And she wasn't any fun to see a film with, anyway. You are, when you're not too busy bein' sarcastic, and I think you'd like this one." He was about to go on when Bodie jerked around, listening to the babble of voices spilling down the hall.

"Hey, that's Jax! They're back!" Bodie shoved his chair back and came to his feet as a dozen agents clattered into the room, clearly fresh from Cowley's office and spilling over with adrenalin and high spirits. Jax was sporting a bandage on his right wrist which didn't keep him from slapping Doyle's back hard enough to make him spill his coffee, and the paper was knocked to the floor by McCabe and Susan Harrison in their dead heat for the last cup's worth in the pot.

"Hoi, you two! Come on and buy some real men a drink!" Murphy crowed, and the whole crowd of them swept the pair away and down the road to the nearest pub. Between the description of the final raid Murphy was trying to give them, jumbled with shouted arguments and contradictions from everyone else, and Jax's exaggerated pleas for sympathy for a wounded man, which he seemed to think should take the form only of prime single malt, it was only when he pulled out his wallet that Bodie managed to struggle free from the crowd, dragging Doyle by one arm, and give his order to the barman. Coming back with his arms, and Doyle's, laden with glasses and packets of crisps, they were besieged by grabbing hands. Doyle relieved Bodie of the last beer, hooked a foot around a chair, and settled in to join the conversation, making room for Bodie as he did so; the noisy chaos had moderated somewhat as the agents began talking, gesticulating, burning off tension, and drinking with almost equal ferocity. Bodie and Doyle listened, taking more kidding than they felt was strictly fair about 'people who spent the week lazing about,' but making all the right admiring noises. They knew what it was like.

Doyle bought the next round, to general cheers and his partner's exaggerated surprise, and Susan the third; after that, the drinking degenerated into something of a free-for-all. As Doyle began on another pint, wiping the froth of foam from his mouth, Murphy swaggered up behind them and dropped a heavy hand on his shoulder. "How about a game of darts, then?"

Doyle twisted around to look up at the tall agent. "Go 'way, mate, you're much better than me."

"Ah." Murphy nodded, raised one finger with awful solemnity. "Very true. But, my son, I am also much drunker than you, which evens the odds." He dramatically finished off his own drink, much stronger than Doyle's beer, in demonstration. "Shall we?"

Doyle shrugged and got up, punching Bodie's shoulder lightly. "Guard that for me with your life," he said, indicating his beer. "I'll be back." The two headed off together, and the noise abated somewhat as several others noticed the game. Bodie slouched back in his seat, watching as Murphy took the darts and fingered them, eyeing the dartboard speculatively.

Jax pulled up a stool, straddled it, and nodded a greeting, which Bodie returned. "'Lo, mate. Hear you'll lose that arm, eh?"

Jax agreed mournfully. "Infection for sure, unless it's sterilized. Alcohol's good for that," he added. Bodie smirked at him.

Laughing cheers sounded from the group that had gathered to watch the match, and Bodie turned to see his partner shaking his head ruefully as Murphy turned away from the throwing line with a broad grin on his face. He caught Doyle's eye and mimed heartfelt commiseration, then grinned as Doyle scowled at him.

"How about a bet, then?" Jax asked. "Five quid says Murphy beats him." He reached for Doyle's beer, which Bodie automatically defended.

"Not likely," answered Bodie genially. "Put a pistol in Ray's hand and I'd put an apple on my head and bet he could take it off. But not at darts." Hoots and whistles sounded from the crowd, and he heard Doyle curse; he shook his head at Jax. "See what I mean?"

Jax affected horror. "No loyalty to your partner, that's your problem! Won't stand up for him an' all." He stretched a hand for Bodie's beer; Bodie neatly moved it out of range.

"Buy your own, lazy sod. 'Sides, it's too late anyway; here they come back." Murphy and Doyle were threading their way past the others back toward Bodie's table, and a grin of muzzy satisfaction was spread across the taller man's face. Bodie made room for his partner, passed him back his drink.

"Here y'are, mate, no thanks to Jax. Lost, did you?"

Doyle scowled, drinking deeply. "No justice. He shouldn't be able to see straight with what he's drunk, let alone throw."

"But that's my secret," Murphy confided in a stage whisper. "Relaxes the fingers, don't you know."

"Ahhh," Jax said in mocking consolation. "Want to take me on, then?" He held up his splinted wrist. "Maybe you'll be able to beat a cripple."

"An' graduate to taking sweets from children. No thanks." Doyle pushed his chair back and got to his feet. "C'mon, Bodie, let's get out of here. It's gettin' late." Murphy pulled a face in mock sympathy, and Doyle scowled at him. "Leave off, Murph. Some of us haven't got the weekend off."

The tall Irishman cuffed his head as Doyle jerked away. "Some of us were working hard all week! You're a bad loser, that's all."

Doyle swigged the last of his beer without answering and set the glass down. "You coming, Bodie?"

Bodie followed him as he pushed his way through the groups of loudly talking men toward the door. Elbowing his way past Marriot's gesticulatory explanation of his part in the final raid, he caught up to his partner and called, "What's the rush, Doyle?"

Doyle stopped and looked at him briefly, then looked down. He seemed oddly quiet for a moment in the clamor of the pub. "Got a headache coming on, that's all. It's too late for the film. Want to grab some dinner?" His voice trailed off, a little.

"Right, then." Bodie prodded him between the shoulderblades and headed him out the door. He had no aversion to leaving, himself; the frustration built up in a week's inaction was only worsened by the gleeful atmosphere of the other agents' unwinding. Let them get on with their celebration of their survival. He walked with Doyle to his partner's car, waited for the door to be unlocked and slid in. "You cooking? I've got no food in, you know - never got my shopping done."

"I don't feel like cooking. We'll pick up a Chinese or something, take it back to your place." Doyle drove well but inattentively, fingers loose on the wheel. Bodie eyed him covertly; he seemed despondent. Drink sometimes had that effect on him, though, and he'd put away a few pints. Bodie decided it was nothing he need concern himself with.

The food bought, Doyle drove them to Bodie's flat. He followed his partner inside, then dropped onto the sitting room sofa as Bodie, paper bag of takeaway Chinese in hand, headed into the kitchen. The food was quickly dished out, and Bodie put the kettle on before carrying the loaded plates out to his partner. "Your dinner, m'lud."

Doyle had sprawled on the sofa, his boots and socks pulled off and tossed aside. He was flipping through the tv pages.

"Thanks. Liverpool's playing; want to put it on?" He tossed the paper aside and sat up, taking a plate from his partner.

"Okay," Bodie assented, then coughed pointedly. "Mind the sofa cushions with that, will you?" He pulled the armchair forward a bit and sat down himself, dinner balanced neatly on his knees. Doyle switched the television on.

The teams were evenly matched, but Doyle didn't seem interested, though it had been his suggestion. When the kettle begin to whistle, he got up and fetched them both steaming mugs, then returned to his place on the sofa, his dinner set aside and forgotten on the floor. He half- heartedly acknowledged Bodie's comments on a few shots, but each time lapsed back into silence, nursing his tea. After a while, Bodie let him alone, turning his attention to the flickering screen. But that too grew boring, his partner's morose silence inhibiting his enjoyment. Bodie slouched back in his chair, half dozing.

Doyle prodded him. "Got any beer?"

"Huh? Yeah, s'pose so. Want one?"

"No," said Doyle with exaggerated patience, "I was just wonderin', that's all."

"Get it yourself, if you want it," retorted Bodie, slightly irritated. Doyle only stared at him a moment, then shrugged and returned to his seat.

The match ended at a little past nine, and Bodie got up and shut the television off. Doyle remained on the sofa, not moving, until Bodie came and stood over him. He didn't like Doyle's odd quiet; his partner had remained still for nearly an hour, hardly speaking, except for things like that crack about the beer, which hardly counted as talking, anyway. What was bothering him? He looked down at the curly head, aware that under his lashes Doyle was watching him in return.

"C'mon, then," Bodie said finally, having failed to discover any clue to Doyle's odd mood. "You campin' out here all night?" He reached a hand down to pull the other man upright; Doyle's palm was sweaty, and instead of coming to his feet he pulled back, bringing Bodie down onto the couch beside him.

"What's up, mate? You sickening for something?" Bodie touched his partner's shoulder, and Doyle met his eyes.

"Bodie..." he said, then fell silent. He leant forward, put a hand on Bodie's arm and kissed him.

Bodie jerked back, astounded. "What the hell - Christ, mate, what're you doin'?" He pulled out of Doyle's grasp. "What the hell's that?"

Doyle looked down, hands twisting in his lap. "Okay. I was just wondering. Sorry."

"Wondering? Wondering what?" Bodie was on his feet now, shock pitching through him; his breath came quick and sharp, adrenalin spiking. "You queer or something?"

Doyle let out a puff of breath, not quite a sigh. "Or something. Look, forget it, Bodie. It doesn't matter."

"Like hell!" Bodie's hands twitched. "You were making a fucking pass at me!"

"Just forget it."


"Damn it, Bodie, what do you want me to say?" Doyle shouted, coming to his feet. "Yes, I made a pass at you. You've said no, now could we drop the subject?"

"But you're not gay. I know you, Doyle. You're not gay!"

"If you want a word for it, I'm bi. Look, it was a mistake. I'm sorry." He stooped and shoved his feet into his boots, then grabbed his jacket, struggling into it without looking at Bodie, who was rigid, hands jammed into his pockets, full of appalled surprise.

"Forget it, mate," Doyle said, forcing a smile. "It doesn't mean anything. I'll see you tomorrow." And he was out the door, Bodie still staring, wrestling great gasps of breath, wondering what had happened to the man he knew.

Bodie's car was still at headquarters, and he took the tube to work the next morning, not waiting to see if Doyle would come by to pick him up. He had avoided thinking about the previous night - had spent several hours in the dark not thinking about it - but he felt it better to see him again at work, first.

It didn't matter. If it had never mattered before, it didn't matter now. He'd answered no, and Doyle had accepted it.

Doyle had asked.

But whatever it was he'd been hoping to avoid, it made no appearance. Cowley saw them briefly and sent them off to update the returnees on what had happened to their grasses, their long-term surveillances, their slow-developing cases while they were gone; he and Doyle spent the time together, supplementing each other's reports to Harrison, Murphy, Jax, but always talking to another agent, never to each other. By the end of the day he told himself that he had forgotten about it; two weeks later it was even true. For a while.

But the memory surfaced, still, at odd moments: as Doyle turned from the shooting range to grin at him, ostentatiously blowing non-existent smoke from his gun barrel before holstering it; watching Doyle head off with a decidedly stacked blonde for a weekend of lewd enjoyment; and once in the car, going to meet some VIP at Gatwick, Bodie lost all sight of the road for a moment as his vision filled with the memory of Doyle's face, pale and close to his own. The car swerved slightly as his hands tightened on the wheel, and he grimly ignored the inquiring grunt from the passenger seat.

He could never settle with himself what it had meant. Doyle was no queer, he knew that as well as he knew himself. Ray Doyle a limp- wristed pansy? Ha.

But if Doyle had made a pass at him - and he had, he had admitted it - was it something about Bodie himself, then?

No. Absolutely not.

They were at the Rose and Thorn one evening, work having been so dull that Bodie had announced the need for some off-duty excitement and dragged his partner out. The pub was a new one, just opened and doing its best to pull in customers by hiring what Murphy had described as "the bustiest waitress this side of Page Three." Watching with a connoisseur's eye, Bodie had to agree. He pointed her out to Doyle in a stage whisper, and was surprised when Doyle only nodded and went back to his beer. Having done his best to give the woman business, Bodie was on his second double scotch, and in a mood to thoroughly enjoy the view.

"C'mon, mate, what's wrong with 'er?" He leered and prodded his partner in the ribs. Doyle flinched from the sharp jab and scowled, ineffectually.

"Not interested. Leave it alone, Bodie."

"Why not? Nice tits," Bodie eyed them appraisingly as the woman bent to hand a drink to someone further down the bar. "Wouldn't mind a grab at 'em myself."

"They are, aren't they?" Doyle nodded, smiling a little at Bodie's open admiration. "Why don't you make a move on her, then?"

"Nah." Bodie waved a hand expansively, indicating Doyle's freedom in the field. "Got Cindy, haven't I? Tits the size of footballs..." He leant back in his chair, a drunkenly muzzy expression of pleasure on his face, contemplating the memory. "Mmm, 'n' the way she likes to go at it - "

"Yeah?" Doyle prompted, grinning.

"Huh-uh, mate. Y'wanna hear the dirty stories, buy me another drink first." Bodie folded his hands and attempted to look prim, but failed to keep from snorting with laughter as Doyle eyed him and shook his head slowly.

"Sorry, Bodie. You're past the limit already, and I don't feel like springing for a taxi - and I'm damned if I'm going to buy you a drink while I sit here drinking ginger ale so I can chauffeur you home."

"Come home now, then?" Bodie suggested. "Plenty of booze at my place, and we won't get chucked out at closing time."

Doyle tilted his head, looking at him, then drained his glass and wiped his mouth with the back of one hand. "Okay," he said. His eyes remained on Bodie's face, and as Bodie pushed himself away from the table and up, a moment of queasiness roiled his stomach, as the unwelcome memory surged.

Leave it alone, damn it, he told his brain. Doyle's no queer.

Half of one? A bi -

Shut up!

But he couldn't get the thought out of his head, as Doyle took his keys and drove them, in Bodie's car, back to Bodie's flat. He undid the security locks with Doyle standing close by his shoulder, and headed for the drinks cabinet. The scotch was crisp and smooth along his throat, and he poured himself another while Doyle was still opening a bottle of beer for himself.

Ensconced in the sofa and Bodie's overstuffed armchair, they made a little small talk. Bodie tried to linger over the barmaid's ample charms, but his words fell flat, Doyle shaking his head with tolerant disinterest. Well on his way to being drunk, Bodie began to feel defensive. There was a short silence.

"You're bisexual, then?" he said abruptly.

Doyle looked over at him, startled. "Yeah." He said nothing more, only regarded Bodie with wary inquiry.

Bodie's fingers tightened on his glass. He swallowed the remains of his drink and set it down hard on the side table, looking only at it.

"You fuck men?" The image the question brought to his mind was unbearable.

Doyle's eyes narrowed. "Why do you want to know?" he asked with knife- edged humor.

Bodie jerked to his feet. "Dammit, how can you?" The neck of the bottle rattled against his glass as he poured himself another, needing the liquor's support. "You're no fairy!" Did you want to fuck me, he almost asked, and shied away from the words. The scotch was smooth and burning, and spread thickly from his stomach throughout his body. None of this made any sense...

"You're drunk, Bodie. Drop it," Doyle said evenly. He stood up. "I'm leaving. You can get pissed on your own."

"No, wait!" Blurred memories, faded by time and alcohol - a leather man in Soho who had groped at his crotch and then offered hoarsely to suck him off, a thin, smirking black guerrilla with a hip-shot pose and a wilting tropical flower behind his left ear, calling after him in a piercing soprano... He grabbed Doyle's arm, hard. "What d'you want that for? It's not you, it's - " He felt betrayed. How could Doyle be one of those?

"Christ, Bodie, leave it alone, can't you?" Doyle jerked away.

"But why men, Doyle? Dammit, why?" Bodie was persistent, fuzzily sure that if he could only understand, get some kind of reason, everything would be okay - somewhere in the back of his head was the idea that he could talk Doyle out of it, show him what an idiot he'd been and then everything would be safe again...

"Because I sometimes want to! Is that what you wanted to hear? I like men, sometimes."

"But why? Is it that - Christ, you can't - " He couldn't begin to imagine it...Doyle, racked and helpless under - no, never, not Ray... the other way, then? Doyle and - someone - face down, smothered, and Doyle looming over -

"Bodie, you're drunk." Doyle's voice was tired. "You don't know what you're saying. Get some sleep and forget about it."

"Forget? How can I forget when you - you wanted - " The memory slammed back, leaving him reeling. "You made a pass at me - you wanted - "

"Bodie, no." Doyle's voice was firm. Bodie found himself staring at Doyle's hands; he'd seen Doyle shoot, punch, kill a man with those hands... He was suddenly aware of his partner's body, close, too close, with his chest rising and falling and the pulse jumping in his throat. Bodie backed away, shaking his head. His face - muffled and choking - did Doyle want - ?

"What do you want?" he found himself asking.

"I don't want anything from you," Doyle answered, and Bodie shook his head violently.

"You're lying!" he shouted, and Doyle started in surprise. "You wanted me - you wanted to - " He didn't have words for it, for the vague images that were filling him with fear, with horror... Doyle had wanted something from him, to dominate, hold him down - he knew what those thin, wiry hands would feel like, biting into his flesh, he had felt them before. He stared at Doyle, shirt open, breathing heavily, before him, and knew just how Doyle would take him, off balance and thrown to the floor, and then - was that how Doyle saw him? Was that what he wanted, really? He couldn't have it - Bodie swore he wouldn't let him take it -

"I won't let you!" he shouted, and threw himself at Doyle, surprising both of them, bringing them tumbling to the floor with a jolt that left Doyle gasping for breath, half-stunned, and Bodie was flailing at his head, his chest, random wild blows that hurt him as much as they did Doyle, his head spinning, yelling strange jumbled threats and curses and promises - "I won't let you - I'll show you, I'm not - you'll see, you'll see - " knowing only that he had to stay on top, he had to keep Doyle from getting above him, and then his hands were ripping at Doyle's clothing, at his own. Doyle was shouting something now, beginning to fight him, and Bodie hauled at Doyle's belt, his jeans, fumbled for his own with the one thought of showing Doyle, proving that he, Bodie, wasn't like that, that Doyle couldn't do - what he'd been thinking -

Doyle's fist slammed his skull and he toppled sideways, clawing out through red-streaked vision at the other man, and then Doyle hit him in the stomach and he crumpled around the blow, sprawling half-conscious on the floor and retching helplessly.

When he could see again, Doyle was gone.

Bodie picked himself up slowly, his head exploding with pain and an acid soreness in his gut. The sour taste in his mouth echoed the smell. Oh, Christ... Moving carefully, carefully without thought, he fetched towels and a sponge, cleaned the floor. The towels went into the rubbish bin, along with his stained shirt. He turned his head too quickly getting into the shower, and for a moment thought he would pass out - the red haze at the edge of his vision turned black and surged in one great pulse until his sight was gone; he clung white-lipped to the towel bar until, grudgingly, it cleared. He was sick again, a little, but in the shower it didn't matter.

Two aspirins, with a full glass of water; if he could keep it down it would help the hangover. Pajamas - he rarely wore them, but he was cold, so cold, and he was reluctant as well to touch himself, to let flesh touch flesh...and shivering he crawled into bed, pulled the covers around himself and tried not to think some more. He woke several times during the night, from shallow half-remembered dreams in which he was pleading in anger, shouting in fear.

Mercifully the hangover held off, hovering sullenly over his head like the heavy air before a storm but not descending. He showered again, cleaned his teeth ferociously. It was Doyle's turn to pick him up for work.

He didn't know if he should wait, or go in on his own.

Christ, what a mess. He'd been drunk, of course, but that was hardly an excuse for trying to beat up his partner. Stupid thing to fight about, anyway; if Doyle would just stop - stop shoving it at him, he could ignore it and things would be fine. He didn't blame Doyle for walking out. Now maybe he'd drop it and they could get back to normal.

At six minutes to eight he cursed, grabbed his jacket and locked up hurriedly, then broke speed laws all the way to headquarters. He was fifteen minutes late nonetheless, and already planning what he'd do to Doyle for not picking him up.

Anson caught him on the way to the rest room in search of his delinquent partner. "Wrong direction, Bodie. The Cow wants you, first thing."

"Missed a briefing, did I? Where's Doyle?" He was reasonably sure the two questions sounded equally casual.

"No, and dunno. The Cow said right away." A shove from Anson, a wave through from Betty, and Bodie found himself in Cowley's office, quite unprepared. The Controller glanced up at him, squared the papers on his desk and set them aside. "Sit down, Bodie."

What the hell was this about? Bodie sat, and waited.

"Doyle has requested that the two of you be assigned new partners. Accordingly, from this morning you will be working with Murphy. He has your assignment."

Appalled, Bodie jerked forward. "Doyle what? Why the hell - " With stabbing suddenness he cut himself off, remembering things whose existence should never be admitted. Here, or anywhere... "What reasons did he give, sir?" The hangover loomed, and his stomach twisted uncomfortably.

"I consider his reasons sufficient, Bodie. That will be all. You'll find Murphy in the rest room, no doubt."

"Is this permanent?" Bodie demanded.

"All my decisions are permanent," Cowley said sharply, "until I decide otherwise."

"But what the hell - what did he tell you?" Bodie half-shouted in betrayal and fury, and guilt. "Did he tell you he's a fucking queer?" And, horrified, he clamped his mouth against his own outburst and froze rigid in the chair.

Cowley's eyes flicked up at him. He held the silence for a moment, while Bodie, sweating, could do nothing but curse himself, and Doyle, and wait while something clicked its way to completion behind the pale blue eyes.

"I consider his reasons sufficient," Cowley repeated, finally. "Dismissed."

Bodie fled from the room.

Murphy didn't ask the reasons for the reassignment, for which Bodie was pathetically grateful, until he thought to wonder what Murphy had been told that kept him from asking further. After that he had a hard time meeting his new partner's eyes. Murphy glanced sideways at him once or twice during that first day, perhaps wondering at Bodie's uncharacteristic silence; or perhaps it was something else.

They worked well together, as they had before on group ops or temporary reteamings. Murphy had a way of moving that seemed slow and lazy, generously lanky, but that was as deceptive as a snake's lassitude in a patch of sun; he was snake-fast, and canny in a way that complemented Bodie's straight-forward approach, if not as Byzantine as Doyle occasionally became.

Doyle had been teamed with Jax. Bodie found the fact out from the posted duty roster; everyone assumed he knew, and he couldn't bear to ask. The two of them had been sent west, to Devon, on an information- ferreting trip; a pack of Syrians that Harrison was trailing had been showing a suspicious interest in the area. They were already gone by the time Bodie and Murphy left the building that first morning. Under normal circumstances, Bodie would have expected word in a day or so; when working apart, except under deep cover, one of them would generally slope off to phone the other for a quick update or a few minutes' friendly chat. Now there was nothing, except a sickness in his stomach, partly the memory of sour alcohol, partly anger and guilt. He missed Doyle's slanted smile, his quick wit, his company. Murphy was a good bloke, but not his partner. His one invitation to lift a pint or two after work was moodily refused.

Doyle and Jax were back at the end of the week. Bodie had no warning; the first he knew of it was when he and Murphy ran into them on their way to the rest room for coffee, and the shock of seeing Doyle, for the first time since that ghastly night, mortified him. He stumbled to a halt, while Murphy shouted and went forward to pound first Doyle and then Jax on the shoulder, welcoming them back. Doyle was standing close to Jax, in his new partner's shadow, and as Murphy was asking about the connections they'd turned up he looked steadily past the taller man at Bodie, his face waiting and expressionless. Bodie forced himself to move, and walked forward woodenly, sweating inside.

"Welcome back."


Bodie swallowed. "How was it?"

"Fine." Doyle glanced at the other two agents, who were discoursing on terrorist cells and paying them no attention. "How's Murph?"

"Fine." Bodie hesitated a moment, then muttered, head down, "Are you staying with Jax?"

"Yes." And that seemed to settle that, as Jax and Murphy came back to them and Murphy dragged Bodie along to walk the other pair down the corridor to Cowley's office to deliver their report.

After that they saw each other as much as any two agents, except that Bodie found himself watching Doyle at odd moments, in a briefing or over a cup of coffee in the rest room. And sometimes he saw the green eyes flick furtively away from his. It warmed him, that Doyle was watching him as well. He wanted to invite him out for a drink, a film; but the choking memory of one night for which no apology could suffice, and still more the knowledge of Doyle's desire, Doyle's unspeakable secret, closed off his throat.

Somehow he got through the next week. On the Friday, he and Murphy were cruising aimlessly through Lambeth in the late afternoon when the car radio sounded and the dispatcher demanded their location. Murphy leant forward to glance at the street signs Bodie was passing at his habitually high speed, and read a cross street off.

"Get to Frazer Street at the corner of Murpy Street. 4.5 and 1.8 need backup. Alpha will meet you there."

Bodie was already wrenching the wheel around as Murphy acknowledged the order; they were only a few blocks from the corner named. Cowley was just emerging from his car as they slewed in behind him and leapt out, keeping low in the cover of the cars. There was no sign of Doyle or Jax; Bodie scoured the area with a quick, apprehensive glance, thinking of terrorists, and Doyle struck by a Syrian slug.

"Colburn," Cowley said without introduction, expecting them, as always, to have the status of all current CI5 operations memorized, and Bodie relaxed; they had cornered a two-bit drug dealer, not a death squad. Cowley gestured at the run-down house across the street, with waste ground to one side of it and a row of boarded-up storefronts the other, and continued, "He's holed up in there, with at least one other man, maybe two. They'll have small arms only, no rifles. Jax and Doyle were onto them when they bolted for cover, and they know the game's up; but they're terrified, and Colburn at least is high on something. You'll take the front; Jax and Doyle are already round the back. Clean them out. I want them alive - I want their supplier."

"Right, sir." Murphy was pulling out his gun, checking it as he scanned the approach. "They've been in there, what, ten, fifteen minutes?" Cowley nodded, and Bodie joined Murphy in squinting across at the building. The windows were bare, no curtains or shades, but none were broken for shootholes yet. The street was empty. "Bit of a dash. Cut left, Bodie; I'll go right."

Bodie nodded and braced himself for a sprint across the road, when Cowley's radio crackled with an RT signal.

"Sir?" Doyle's voice said. "You'd better get backup here fast. I think they - "

With a harsh squeal, the sound cut off. Bodie stood frozen, staring at the receiver. It was almost the first time he'd heard Doyle's voice in days. He took a jerky step directly toward the house.

"Oi, Bodie!" Murphy grabbed his arm. "Not that way. Around the side!"

Bodie spoke without turning. "I should - "

"He's got Jax backing him up. Come on, partner, let's go." He said the word without emphasis, already moving sideways behind the row of parked cars preparatory to dashing across. Bodie wanted to kill him.

The raid was technically perfect, Murphy and he bursting in simultaneously to meet Jax and Doyle in the front hallway, and sweeping two very out-of-their-depth drug pushers from their bolthole with little trouble. Colburn was hazy-eyed and hardly able to aim the pistol he was holding, and his partner, though clear-headed, was rigid with fright. Bodie scarcely saw them. Instead his eyes were fixed on Doyle, who glanced at him as the four of them took turns up the stairs, then looked away; but Bodie knew where he was at every moment, knew with an aching awareness. It was the same ache he had had every time in the past week when he had glanced over in the car and seen a partner of ten days, instead of four years.

Doyle was uninjured. As soon as it was all over, and the two had been cuffed, Bodie turned to ask, and Doyle laughed a little. "Would you believe it? Shot the RT out of my hand. One in a million." And he flexed his fingers, wincing. Two knuckles were red and swollen, where they had been twisted by the impact.

"Need a doctor?"

"Nah. Ice'll do it." Jax and Murphy were waiting for them, trading glances as their new partners talked. Suddenly embarrassed, Bodie headed them all down the stairs and outside, back to headquarters and a quick oral report to Cowley, until the phone rang and he sent the four of them away. Bodie made sure he was near Doyle as they left the office. "Come on," he said roughly. "I'll drive you home." Doyle glanced at him, then nodded.

In the car, Bodie was still, without looking, hyperaware of his partner's - ex-partner's - presence. Every shift he made in the seat, every time he breathed, Bodie knew. He straightened a little when Bodie passed the turn to Doyle's flat and kept on toward his own, but said nothing. Bodie was fiercely glad of that; he didn't know what he wanted Doyle to say. All he knew was that he desperately wanted his partner back. Back the way they used to be, before it had all gone wrong.

Letting them in, he was glad that it was daylight and not night, not anything like the last time Doyle had been in his flat. He tossed a clean dishtowel at the other man, and while Doyle was raiding his freezer for ice, Bodie went to the sideboard and poured them both drinks, automatically. Doyle stared at him when he handed him his glass, and, suddenly self-conscious, Bodie did not, after all, drain his own, as he had meant to do. He held the glass tightly in his hand, and did not look at it.

Doyle sat down in the armchair, his wounded hand cradled in the makeshift icepack and the scotch untouched on the floor beside him. He looked up at Bodie, waiting.

Christ. He had to say something. "Been a while."


Wonderful beginning. "Look," he tried, resenting the position he was in, "I'm sorry I hit you. Can we just forget about it?" Doyle said nothing, only watched him guardedly, and Bodie's ragged temper frayed still more. "For Christ's sake! You're not so fucking pure - "

"What, because I sleep with men?" Doyle snapped, and came to his feet. "Goddamn it, Bodie - "

"No, wait!" Bodie had been trying to push the sick twisting of guilt away, but stubbornly it stayed with him. "Look, I'm sorry. But I was drunk, and when you... Shit, mate!" He slammed his glass down on the sideboard. "You know I didn't mean it!"

"Do I?"

Bodie stood for a moment, breathing heavily, his nostrils flared. Then he slumped. Collapsing onto the sofa, he rested his head on his fist. "Christ. When I... I guess I did mean it. At the time. That's the hell of it."

"Yeah," Doyle said impassively.

"Look." Bodie turned his face away, toward the floor. "I just don't want to have anything to do with it, you know? I don't - I don't like it. I don't want to know about it."


Bodie looked up. "Okay? Is it that easy? Can we really just say 'fine, we'll never think about it again'?"

"You were the one who kept bringing it up, mate," Doyle said, in a low voice. "I wanted to drop it as soon as - as soon as I knew I'd made a mistake. Never mind that.

"Besides," and his voice was steady, "we have to. We have to put it behind us, or break the team permanently. You know that."

"Yeah," Bodie said shakily. "I know. And I don't - want that. I don't want to break the team. You're my partner." He looked up, and Doyle met his eyes, a little uncertain, a little wary, but with hope filtering around the edges.

"Me, too, mate," was all he said, but Bodie felt a great swell of relief. Safe...

"Right, then," he said, forcing the jauntiness, and stood up. "You want something to eat?"

"No, thanks. It's getting late; I ought to be going."

Once Bodie would have pressed him, tried to convince him to stay. Now he only asked, tentatively, "Pick me up tomorrow?"

Doyle grinned, and the relief was as clear on his face as Bodie felt it on his own. "Seven-thirty."

"I'll be here." Bodie walked him to the door, and the goodbyes were a little reluctant, a little awkward: "Night, mate" with their eyes half- meeting, and then Doyle was jogging down the stairs as Bodie closed the door behind him and set the locks, carefully.

The partnership was safe. Doyle was safe. Everything would be all right.

They worked together after that, after Doyle had spent twenty minutes closeted with Cowley while Bodie, abashed and sick at himself, made himself scarce and never asked what his partner had said. Fitting carefully together again, discussing cases, sleeping by turns on stakeout in a freezing warehouse, and finally able again to weave a conversation between them, each catching the thread tossed to him by the other, until Cowley rolled his eyes in annoyance at the famous double act, and the poor man under interrogation grew quite dizzy trying to follow the rapid-fire of questions, accusations, steel-cored cajoling from the men who bracketed him.

Chapter 2

It was then, nearly a month later when they had that old ability back, that Bodie knew, finally, that everything was as it should be. Doyle was his partner, his mate; they worked together, jogged or worked out on the odd morning off, and once or twice went for drinks of an evening. He kept to beer or lager, now, and knew that Doyle noticed.

Bodie relaxed.

He was lounging in the rest room, flipping idly through the sports pages, one afternoon when Doyle came in for a break between the reports he was writing. Bodie, smug at being for once up-to-date on his paperwork, waved the newspaper at him. "The Cow unshackled you yet?"

Doyle collected a cup of coffee and sat down on the arm of the sofa beside his partner. "Nah, but I've just about got the lock picked. Working hard, are you?"

"Oh, absolutely," Bodie averred. "Look, if you've got the evening free, how about the cinema? Cindy dumped me, and that Olivier film you went on about is still playing." He knew Doyle wanted to see it; a few days before, his partner had tried to convince any of the off-duty agents to join him. Bodie, having a previous date with a bird of his own, had grinned lasciviously and vowed he would never give up an evening with the busty and enthusiastic Cindy. He'd had little choice, however; a late-night call-in had ended both the evening and the relationship, as it did them all, eventually. Now he grinned invitingly at his partner. "C'mon, mate, now's your chance."

"Nah," responded Doyle idly, astounding him. "Anything in the paper?"

"Why not?" Bodie asked, ignoring the question. "Last week you were begging for the chance."

"Seen it." Doyle swung to his feet and turned away.

"Who with?" Of the other agents on the squad, Doyle was probably closest to Jax; they had worked together a few times, even before the brief reteaming a month before. But Jax had told Doyle firmly that he would on no account be dragged to that film; he got enough of war films in real life, thank you kindly. "You got a new bird, then?"

Doyle stood quite still, his back to Bodie. There was the smallest pause, before he spoke, without inflection.

"You said you didn't want to know."

It took a moment to sink in; and then all the air seemed to vanish from Bodie's lungs. He stared, speechless, at the tense shoulders until Doyle, without turning, threw his crumpled styrofoam cup at the wastebasket and left the room.

Bodie set the paper down slowly, without seeing it. Unable to deny what he had heard, he caught himself trying to deny its implications. It was ridiculous. He was with Doyle every minute, practically, and if his partner had - well, he'd know.

But he knew, as his fingers tightened slowly into fists, that it wasn't so. Friends and partners they were, again, off duty as well as on, but still he spent less time with Doyle than before. He no longer showed up unannounced at midnight, half-drunk and looking for a place to sleep; Doyle had ceased leaning on the bell at six-fifteen to cheerily suggest an early-morning run before work.

He shut his eyes briefly, pressed his right fist hard against his thigh as he tried to sort through his conflicting reactions. With a man - he skimmed that part quickly. It didn't bother him, not any more, and anyway it was none of his business. But he'd wanted to see the film too, dammit! Not that he'd have told Doyle so; he'd been planning to let the little sod talk him into it. But he'd have liked to see it with Doyle, liked to discuss it afterward over dinner or a drink.

Jealous? he accused himself nastily. Hardly that; he just - he'd been used to knowing where Doyle was, what he'd been doing. It made him uneasy, having this shoved between them.

He couldn't get it out of his mind, the nagging reminder that he didn't know his partner as well as he'd thought. He was still thinking about it two days later, as they cruised more-or-less aimlessly through the middle of London after checking in with a couple of Bodie's grasses, and with an hour yet to kill before they were to relieve Lucas and McCabe on surveillance. Preoccupied, he looked up in mild surprise when Doyle parked in front of a small Italian restaurant Bodie hadn't seen before. "Lunch," he said economically, and disappeared inside.

Bodie followed more slowly, sobered. Food before a stake-out or long surveillance, or at the very least a take-away brought with them, was standard practice; with the time they had, he'd been thinking vaguely of a Chinese place they'd gone to once or twice before. This place - "Bellissima", it called itself on the menus - was new, just opened. How did Doyle know about it?

The waiter had taken their orders and gone again before Bodie worked up the nerve. "Ray," he asked, and his fingers were tight in his napkin, his head stiffly bent downward, "what's his name?"

Doyle didn't waste time misunderstanding. He flicked a glance at his partner. "Nothing to do with you," he said, and his voice was cool.

"I know." Bodie was sure his neck was red. "Want to know."


That was a good one. He didn't like it when Doyle kept secrets from him? He didn't know him as well as he ought? He managed to get a little of it out, stumbling over the words, and was unprepared for the taut- drawn rage that met him.

"You bastard," Doyle hissed. Weight on his elbows, he leant forward across the table. "Tell me you don't want to know, fine; now you change your mind? Well, it doesn't work like that. You can't have it both ways, Bodie!"

"I know. I'm sorry." The halting apology seemed to mollify Doyle a little, and he relaxed back as the waiter arrived again, setting plates down with brisk efficiency. "I just - " Bodie fumbled for the words. "I hate not knowing about you."

"You hate knowing, too."

"Not as much."


"Yes." He caught Doyle's right wrist as the other man reached for his drink, gripped it tightly. "Yes," he said again, and felt the tendons shift under his hand. Doyle watched him, eyes narrowed.

"All right, Bodie," he said finally. "All right." He let his arm fall to the table, covered Bodie's fingers with his left hand. Carefully Bodie let go of the sharp-boned wrist, and for a moment they were holding hands across the table, before Doyle brushed his thumb across the backs of Bodie's fingers and let him go. Slowly, Bodie drew his hand back, still feeling the warmth of Doyle's grasp.

They ate without talking much, but each was still vividly aware of the other. Bodie found himself watching Doyle's mouth, his shoulders, the backs of his hands. He tried to imagine Doyle kissing another man, tried to picture him naked, with a man's broad hands on his body. It made him uncomfortable. It didn't seem right, and once his mental image flipped alarmingly and he saw himself with another man, felt in his mind the flat solidity of chest muscle against his instead of familiar softness. He jerked away from the image, and threw his napkin down. "C'mon. Time to go."

Doyle followed him wordlessly back to the car, and still said nothing as he drove them to the seedy neighborhood on the south bank where Lucas and McCabe were waiting, keeping an eye on Rudolf Schussman alias Lenz, a German arms dealer who, with any luck, still didn't know that his false passport had been spotted. Three to eight p.m. in a second- story three-room flat, with a bottle of fruit juice and two stale sandwiches cheerily donated by the other agents, a handful of 50p pieces for the electric meter courtesy of the CI5 budget, and a telescope fixed in the window, aimed down and across at the door of an equally seedy semi-detached. And Doyle.

Doyle took the first shift, sitting concealed behind the net curtains and watching, alternating between the telescope and his own eyes. He had pulled off his jacket and holster and tossed them on one of the chairs. Bodie added his own jacket to the pile but kept his gun on, settled in another chair, every bit as rickety as it looked, and watched his partner. And thought, hard.

Doyle was bisexual, okay. If he was now, then he had been since Bodie had known him, and it hadn't stopped them being friends. Doyle was the same as he had always been.

Doyle had made a pass at him, though, and that wasn't the way it had always been, at all. Bodie shifted restlessly, eyeing the other man. He was able to think about it now. Doyle had made a pass at him. And since his partner was neither a leather stud nor a mincing limp-wristed poof, what did that mean?

Bodie thought about being wanted by another man. It was uncomfortable, almost humiliating; for a moment he was nineteen again, and the black guerrilla leered and smirked. He thought about Doyle, and the way they worked together, and he felt better. Then he thought about Doyle wanting him. It felt strange.

In an odd way it was almost a compliment, though. He hadn't been able to see it that way before, had been too afraid it meant Doyle saw him as gay, one of the pansy boys Bodie had always detested, or that it meant Doyle himself was like that. But watching Doyle now, his face in the thin shadow of the curtains and his body relaxed but alert, Bodie knew that that fear, at least, was absurd.

He tried to imagine kissing Doyle, and abruptly remembered Doyle kissing him, that once in his flat, and the intent look in his eyes just before he had done it. He couldn't remember the kiss itself, how it had felt; only the shock that had hit him.

And now Doyle was going off somewhere with another man, some stranger. Was he doing the things he had wanted to do with Bodie? Did he still want Bodie?

A rush of jealousy hit him, anger at the unknown faceless man who had diverted Doyle from him. Bodie seethed. I should've seen that bloody film with him. He's my partner. How'm I supposed to watch his back if you've got him off somewhere?

Bodie got up and, without looking at the other man, walked out of the room to shut himself in the tiny, mildewed bathroom off the flat's kitchen. He put the toilet seat cover down and sat on it, shut his eyes tightly, and tried to imagine having sex with Ray Doyle.

Part of it came easily. He'd seen Doyle naked often enough, could conjure that sight. He knew that Doyle was circumcised and, though he himself wasn't, he'd seen enough blue films to know what a circumcised cock looked like erect. Pretty much like his own, anyway.

He knew what Doyle felt like in his arms, had held him many times against pain or rage. Now he took the clothes away from the memory, and imagined himself naked, holding - being touched by - a naked and aroused Doyle. Remembered what kisses felt like along his throat and jaw, added the scrape of stubble. Doyle would be strong, his fingers digging into Bodie's arms. He tried to imagine taking Doyle's cock in his hand, and could only guess that it would be much like his own. Would Doyle like the same things he did, the same tight grip and short, hard strokes?

He was becoming aroused. His cock was half-hard in his pants, and Bodie shifted, startled. He hadn't expected that. He pressed a palm flat against his thigh, waiting for the partial erection to subside.

So. If he could get off on the idea, did that mean he could do it?

That'd be the day, he thought angrily. Doyle wouldn't come near him now, not a chance in hell, after the way he'd treated him. Besides, did he really want him to? What the hell was he thinking, anyway?

Doyle's voice sounded from the next room, murmuring into the tape recorder - name, time, description of whoever had walked through the door he was watching. Bodie flushed the toilet for appearances' sake and strolled back into the other room as Doyle finished and clicked the recorder off again. The muscular back flexed as Doyle pulled his arms back and up, rolling his head to alleviate the stiffness of sitting motionless.

"Want me to take over?" Bodie moved behind him and began massaging his partner's shoulders, digging in and working along the line of muscle.

"Nah. Don't think you could stand the excitement." Doyle leant back into the pressure of Bodie's hands. Bodie could smell him, his freshly laundered shirt and the faint tang of sweat, not unpleasant. The shirt was rough against his fingers; when he moved his hands up to work the tendons of Doyle's neck the bare skin was smooth and warm, the curls crisp. Bodie straightened the collar of his shirt and moved away.

"Ray." He was back in the wooden chair, watching the side of Doyle's face as the other man kept watch. "Ray, can I ask you something?"


Do you still want me, he almost blurted, then caught himself. He didn't want to ask that, not yet. Not here. Doyle was still, waiting.

"This - bloke you're..." Bodie trailed off, then took a breath. "Do you love him?"

Doyle's eyes never left the window. "Do you love your birds?"

Bodie was mute. Of course not. A bit of fun, no harm done, and a more- or-less friendly parting after a few nights or weeks. But Doyle...

The silence hung, until Doyle grimaced and rubbed a hand across his eyes. "Look, Bodie, I know it bothers you. I'm sorry. But I'm not gonna change, and I'm not gonna lie to you. If you want to know something, ask. But be bloody sure you want to know, first." He got up from the chair, glanced at his watch. "I'm going to see if there's any tea in the kitchen. Take over, will you?"

Bodie took his place on the chair, finding it still warm from Doyle's body, and listened to the sounds of rummaging coming from the next room. He recognized Doyle's retreat for what it was, but was glad of it. Doyle was on edge too.

His partner didn't return until the tea was made, and he brought in a mug for Bodie without being asked, steaming and dark. "No milk," he said laconically, handing it over, then leant against the wall, cradling his own. Bodie blew on his; it was too hot to drink, yet.

There were three hours left to their shift, and if they kept on like this, the tension would be unbearable. "You doing anything tonight?"


"Come back to my place. We need to talk."

Doyle nodded slowly. "Okay."

Bodie reapplied himself to the telescope. It was a good thing Schussman didn't have many visitors; his attention kept wandering. He sipped absently at his tea, and after a while Doyle made some comment on the case. He answered, and soon they were wrapped in a discussion of the arms trade through Britain. Schussman appeared to provide a connection between dealers in Germany and a splinter group of the IRA, but though Cowley seemed certain there was a link, Bodie found the proposition dubious. They argued the toss amiably enough for a while, then shifted to the latest squad gossip. Bodie maneuvered the topic, having a morsel he'd been waiting to drop when the moment was right.

"Heard about Macklin and Harrison?" he asked casually. "Quite the item lately."

Doyle choked in surprise. "Macklin and Susan? You're kidding."

Bodie grinned, glancing up to savour his partner's expression. "Murphy saw 'em the other night. Don't think training schedules are often discussed at half eleven in the carpark, do you?"

"And you took Murphy's word on it?" Doyle shook his head.

"Why not? Susan's a good agent, and good-looking as well. Can see why Brian'd be interested."

Doyle snorted. "What I can't see is why Susan would be." He picked up Bodie's empty mug from the floor and took it with his own into the kitchen. "Were you, then? Interested?"

"What, in Susan?" The question took Bodie by surprise. "Nah. Not my type."

"I know. You like them blond and dumb."

The acidity in the words took Bodie aback. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Doyle came back into the room, rolling down the sleeves he had pushed back to rinse the mugs. "Nothing. Sorry. It's the sitting around. You want me to take over again?" It was almost seven.

"Yeah." Bodie got up from the chair and, as Doyle took his place, began some stretching exercises to loosen his shoulders. He grunted as a vertebra popped.

By seven-thirty even the pasty cheese sandwiches left from the noon shift had begun to look good, but Bodie held out with several more cups of stale tea and the thought of a pizza as soon as they were off. Schussman was known to keep odd hours - in his field, anyone who refused to do business at night was odd - and when they left surveillance would end until morning. They straightened away the little clutter they had made, locked the flat up and took the tape recorder back to headquarters to file a brief report before being set at liberty until the next day.

Doyle had driven them to work that day, so Bodie expected that they would go back to his own flat, from which Doyle could drive himself home. But as they headed for the carpark, Doyle asked if he had any food in. Bodie admitted his usual scanty state, and suggested the pizza. Doyle shook his head.

"Might have known. The way you eat... C'mon. I've got a steak pie at home, if you want it."

"If I want it? Nutter." Bodie fell happily in beside his partner, and only when they were halfway to Doyle's did he remember that he had asked Doyle back to his place that afternoon, so they could talk. He felt a bit uncomfortable, bringing the subject up at the other man's flat, instead of on his own ground.

The pie was good, washed down with beer and with an apple each for afters. Finished, they left the dishes piled in the sink and headed for the sitting room. Doyle's flat, somewhat smaller than Bodie's, had none of the overstuffed armchairs his partner was so fond of; they each took an end of the sofa, half-facing each other. Bodie stuffed a cushion against the arm of the couch, propping himself against it.

He knew Doyle wouldn't bring it up. Since that first time, when he'd kissed him, he'd never brought it up, except when Bodie had. Always he'd left it up to Bodie.

"I need to ask you some things," he said finally.

Doyle looked at him, a little wary, but not, Bodie thought, of him specifically. A little nervous. He said, "I told you, mate. Ask what you want to know."

Bodie looked down, watching his hands knot themselves in his lap. Doyle had one arm over the sofa's back, the other resting on his leg.

"Do you still want me?" Bodie caught his breath, waiting.

Slowly Doyle shifted, pulling his legs up and hugging one knee to his chest. He dropped his chin onto his kneecap, and closed his eyes.

"I was afraid you'd ask that." He breathed once, deeply, in and out.

He had already answered Bodie's question. "Doyle - "

"Bodie, I said I wouldn't lie to you. Not even to make it easier on you, or me. Yes." He raised his head and met his partner's eyes. "Yes, I still want you."

Bodie licked his lips. "Why?"

"Why?" Doyle laughed a little, and turned to stare out across the room, away from him. "Christ, I don't know. Because you're my best friend, and I like being with you? Because you've got a great body, and an arse that could drive me crazy?" Bodie flinched, but Doyle didn't pause. "Because you're the best partner I've ever had, and I lie awake at night thinking about you? Christ, Bodie. Why does anyone want anyone?"

Tension was shivering through Bodie's neck and arms. "Are you saying you're in love with me?"

"No. You don't want any part of it, I know that. I'm not in love with you. But I could be." He turned back to Bodie. "I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Not for feeling this way. For - " He hesitated, then shrugged resignedly, his mouth twisting. "For telling you, maybe."

But otherwise he never would have known, and that prospect made Bodie even more uneasy. "The thing is - " he began awkwardly, then forced himself to meet Doyle's eyes and begin again. "I can't stop thinking about it." He swallowed. "I tried to - to avoid it, and, well, you know how well that worked. I tried to ignore it, and I can't. I'm - Christ, I know it's stupid - I'm jealous of this other bloke. And if I can't stop thinking about you, and I can't ignore it, maybe we should - maybe I want to - " try it. He couldn't say it.

"Do you want us to split up? Is that what you're saying?" Doyle's voice was tight.

"No!" Bodie leant forward, grabbed his partner's arm. The muscle was strung taut. He hitched himself closer. "I can't stop thinking about you." Doyle was frozen motionless, staring at him. Dammit, do something! Bodie didn't know who he was cursing. "Doyle..." His fingers bit into Doyle's arm. He couldn't do any more.

Then, very slowly, Doyle bent toward him. Eyes open, holding his fiercely, Doyle leant forward, and carefully touched his lips to Bodie's. Bodie caught his breath. Doyle's mouth pressed against him, dry and warm, his lips not moving, his breath warm on Bodie's cheek. Bodie didn't move, feeling the pressure hold steady, then decrease as Doyle moved back. His hands had not left his lap.

Bodie let go his grip on Doyle's arm. He straightened a little. "That the best you can do?"

"For the moment." Doyle's voice was ragged. "What do you want, Bodie?"

"I want you to show me what the hell's going on. I can't stop thinking about it; I might as well - try it."

Doyle's face tightened. "Mercy fuck, is it? Forget it, Bodie."

"That's not it!" He turned to lean against the sofa back, moving in the process a little closer to his partner. Doyle's leg pressed against his. "You said I was your best friend. Well, you're mine. You're the only partner I've ever had, and I don't want another one. And if you want this so badly, maybe - maybe I want it too. I'm willing to try."

"Oh, Christ." Doyle got up from the sofa and paced across the room, then turned to face Bodie, his arms folded across his chest. "Bodie, do you have any idea what you're talking about? I'm not going to be a curiosity fuck, another notch for you to carve in your cock. I won't. God damn it, I've been hurt enough."

Bodie heard the catch in his voice with some surprise. He hadn't really thought, before, about what Doyle must have felt. He'd wondered how long Doyle had wanted him, before that sudden kiss, but not how long it had taken him to work up the nerve.

"That's not it," he said again. "I've - been thinking about it. About sleeping with you." He looked down, staring at the floor. "Didn't know I could get turned on by it, did I?" Doyle breathed in, sharply, but said nothing. "Look, Ray. I never really thought about being with another bloke. What I've seen of it, I didn't like. But all that - that wasn't you. So now - yes, maybe some of it's curiosity, but it's also that - " he reached back for the words Doyle had given him, " - you're my best friend, and I like being with you." He looked up, and saw Doyle staring almost angrily at him, the reddish mark on his cheek livid against pale skin. "Christ, it was your idea. Now I'm saying yes, and all of a sudden you run a mile!"

"And what about afterwards, Bodie? Think you'll feel as good about it after you're as much of a poufter as I am?"

The acid fury was like a slap, and Bodie flung it back. "How the hell should I know?" he shouted, and, astonishingly, Doyle laughed sharply and relaxed a little.

"Well, that was honest, anyway." He came back to the sofa and crouched beside it, his face level with Bodie's and very close. "Listen, partner. I'm not going to go through all that shit again. I want you enough to try to make this work, if you mean it. But you go off the deep end again, and that's it. Partnership, friendship, and all. Understand?"

Bodie nodded. Doyle's breath, rapid and shallow, touched his face, and his hand rested on the arm of the sofa, very close to Bodie's side. "I promise, mate. Whatever happens." He lifted one hand to touch Doyle's shoulder, but Doyle jerked away.

"There's more. You're talking about sex, Bodie, getting turned on to me and wanting to try it out. But that's not what it's about. When I said I wanted you, I didn't just mean in bed. That's part of it, but it's not all. This isn't about getting your end away. This is about caring, and a commitment."

Something in Bodie's stomach, twisting with anticipation a few moments ago, had pulled into a knot. He wasn't sure what Doyle meant. Holding hands in the rest room? Calling it a date when they went to the cinema, or for a meal together?

"You're my partner," he said, the one thing he was sure of. "Nothing's more important than that." Doyle frowned a little, and inwardly Bodie scowled, remembering. "C'mon," he said, a little more loudly. "Going to show me you can do better, then?"

Doyle sighed almost inaudibly, and drew his right hand along the curve of Bodie's jaw. Bodie kept his eyes open, watching until Doyle's features grew blurred with nearness and lips touched his own again, a little harder this time, and opening slightly. He went with the movement, noticing with one part of his mind the roughness of Doyle's upper lip, and then the warm wetness of Doyle's tongue stroked his mouth and, as he gasped, slipped inside.

His hands lifted to cradle Doyle's head as they kissed, mouths wide and fluid against each other, the slick soft probe of Doyle's tongue in his mouth, licking him and letting itself be tasted. He hardly knew that he had hitched forward to the edge of the cushion, pulled into Doyle's arms and held tightly, solidly, against his body. But when Doyle's mouth slipped from his, moving over his jaw and throat, he could feel the other man's heart beating, through his jumper and Doyle's thin shirt.

He pulled back a little, enough to take Doyle's shoulders and pull him up onto the sofa. Doyle came up willingly, and they ended half-lying along its length, Doyle's weight pressing him down. His face was full of Doyle's hair, prickly and smelling faintly of sweat and Doyle's own scent, and Doyle's hands were passing over his chest, rubbing across his nipples and then dropping to pull his shirt free of his trousers and slide under it, against his skin.

It was a new thing, lying pinned under Doyle's determined weight. Oh, he'd had women before who liked to get on top, who stripped him and teased him, and sometimes he enjoyed lying back and letting them have fun. But this was different, Doyle's breath coming in little grunts and sighs, his weight, and shape, and bones, definitely not those of a woman. Flat on his back on the narrow sofa, Bodie began to feel almost trapped. He pushed at Doyle's shoulders, and kept pushing when Doyle raised his head to look inquiringly at him.

"I can't move."

Doyle sat up beside him and ran a hand through the curls Bodie's hands had tousled. He licked his lips, and Bodie, watching, found the sight suddenly, strongly erotic. He'd sucked that tongue...

Doyle stroked one hand along his arm. "Will you come to bed?"

Bodie caught it as it slid over his wrist, laced their fingers together. "C'mon."

He felt a moment of disorientation as they walked into Doyle's bedroom, and Doyle ignored the switch by the door to turn on only the low lamp on the night table. The double bed seemed to demand attention, shoving its way up to fill his vision. Doyle sat down on it and looked up at him, waiting. Slowly, he came forward and lowered himself beside the other man. The bed was softer than his own, and gave as it took his weight.

Doyle's hands slid under his shirt again, lifting purposefully this time, and obediently he raised his arms to let it be pulled off. He supposed he ought to return the favor, so he began unbuttoning Doyle's own shirt. As usual, the top three buttons were already undone. He was a little sorry for that; this was going faster than he had expected, and he wasn't feeling quite sure of himself. And that feeling, in bed, was also something entirely new, and not a feeling he liked.

Doyle shrugged out of his shirt the moment it hung loose and pulled them together again, skin pressed to skin. It felt odd, the flat hairy chest against his, and he had a faint sensation of something missing. After a minute he broke the embrace, and bent over to start undoing his shoes. Doyle chuckled and did the same, beside him, the dim light filling his face with shadows.

Bodie finished first, and pushed his shoes and socks a little under the bed, out of the way. He put his hand on Doyle's shoulder, and when the other man turned to look at him, he leant forward and kissed him, using his weight to press Doyle back against the pillows. He didn't want to be held down, the way Doyle had pressed him into the sofa. Doyle lay back willingly enough, swinging his legs, together with Bodie's, up onto the bed.

Bodie's heart was pounding. Lying as he was, almost on top of Doyle, he could feel the other man's penis pressing into his thigh, but he couldn't tell how big he was. He hadn't ever tried to guess at such a thing before, with only the line of pressure under his leg to go by. He knew Doyle could feel him as well, and wondered if Doyle could tell he wasn't hard yet. He kissed him deeply, as a distraction, but unsure for whom it was intended.

Doyle's mouth opened wetly under his own, and Bodie drank him in, submerging himself for the second time in the kiss. Doyle's mouth was bigger than a woman's, and met his openly and eagerly. He was making the little sounds again: not moaning, exactly, but a roughened breathing, occasionally catching in a low-voiced cry.

Bodie slid off him somewhat, to lie more on his left side against Doyle, with his thigh no longer pressed so blatantly against Doyle's crotch. Doyle's left hand stroked up his chest, and fingers rolled and stroked his nipple. It felt good, if a little unexpected. He copied the motion, taking Doyle's left nipple between his thumb and forefinger, and was startled when Doyle arched under him and gasped.


He squeezed the little nub, feeling it harden. "What?"

Doyle's free hand pressed the back of his neck, forcing his head toward Doyle's chest. He resisted only a moment, then bent, considering the prospect. Doyle's nipples were pinkish-brown, half-hidden among the curls. Hair caught in his lips as he took one in.

Doyle tensed, and fingers dug into the muscles of his neck. "Bite it," he whispered hoarsely.

Bite it? Bodie paused, uncertain. "You sure?"

The grip on his nape eased, and Doyle stroked his shoulders. "Yeah. Doesn't hurt. Just not too hard..."

Bodie shook his head mentally and set himself. It was harder to pull the nipple into his mouth than he was used to, with only the muscular chest wall beneath it. He clamped his teeth carefully on the little protrusion, and bit down. Doyle moaned and urged him wordlessly on.

More? Bodie's skin crawled a little as he forced himself to grind his teeth on Doyle's nipple. Doyle seemed to like it, more than like it, but Bodie's stomach was tight at the thought, and he had an almost irresistible urge to cover his own nipples with his palms against such an attack.

Finally, Doyle's hand fell away from his nape, and Bodie let go, dropping his head from off Doyle's shoulder and onto the pillow. Doyle massaged his abused nipple for a moment, and then rolled on his side to face him. Kisses fell on Bodie's forehead, his cheeks and eyes, and a longer one on his mouth. "What do you want?" The words were murmured against his skin. "What can I do?"

Doyle's skin felt hot, even through his jeans where their lower bodies touched - especially through his jeans, and Bodie knew that that was ridiculous. "You're the expert, you tell me," he answered shortly, intensely aware of the hand drifting down his torso.

It didn't continue past his belt, and Bodie didn't know if he was glad or sorry. He was still soft, though his groin felt heavy and hot. Doyle's fingers traced the waistband of his trousers briefly, and then his hand was taken and Doyle pressed a kiss into his palm, and then pressed his palm against Doyle's own crotch.

Doyle was hard. There was no doubt of that. Bodie was frozen motionless for a moment, absorbing what Doyle had done, and then let his fingers fold slowly around the shape he could feel within the worn denim. Doyle held absolutely still. Bodie traced the length of his cock, trying again to guess how big he was.

After a moment, Doyle's fingers went to the button of Bodie's trousers. Bodie supposed he should have expected that, and made no protest as his partner opened his belt and fly and slipped his hand inside. If Doyle hadn't already known he wasn't hard, he showed no surprise on discovering it.

Bodie's hand was still tracing lightly along the ridge of Doyle's erection. As Doyle began pushing his trousers down off his hips, however, Bodie discovered abruptly that if he was going to be naked, he did not want to be the only one. He sat up, pushing aside Doyle's hands at his crotch, and without giving himself time to think he pulled Doyle's zip down and his jeans and pants away and off.

Christ. Bodie had never been so close to another man's erect cock in his life. It lay there, as Doyle lay there, slanting up across the dark pubic hair to brush the skin below his navel. And it looked smooth, and hard, and about the size he'd guessed, and he was by no means sure he wanted to touch it. Doyle's balls were shadowed in the lamplight, hairy and wrinkled.

Doyle smiled, his right arm still laid across the bed where it had hugged Bodie to him, before, and his left hand playing again, gently, with Bodie's gaping trousers. "C'mon, mate. You too. Let me see you..." Stiffly, Bodie let him work the last of his clothing over his hips and down, and kicked the tangle away. Doyle's hand touched his cock, cradled his balls for a moment.

"Been a rough week," Bodie muttered. Had he imagined the question in Doyle's look, as his limpness was revealed?

Doyle didn't point out that they'd had the same week, together. "Yeah. I know." He rolled aside and pulled the duvet down, then brought Bodie with him under its warmth. Naked, lying length to length in each other's arms and indubitably in bed together, Bodie was feeling more aroused, and more nervous, and the nervousness was beginning to make him angry. At himself, and at Doyle. He took Doyle's mouth again. He liked the kissing, and he was beginning to get used to the lean hard body against his. He hoped.

Then Doyle slipped away, and began nuzzling his nipples, with little licks and bites. And kept moving down, dipping a tonguetip into Bodie's navel, which made him squirm, and pulling with his lips at the line of hair that led from there to the black thatch around his cock. Bodie lay back, one hand resting on Doyle's shoulder, waiting in breathless, and somewhat surprised, anticipation. He hadn't expected this. Well, he probably should have, he knew, but he'd been so busy trying to imagine himself with Doyle, he hadn't wondered what Doyle would want to do to him.

Except fuck him, maybe; and that thought had frightened him for weeks. He shivered a little, remembering, and Doyle murmured, taking it for a tremor of excitement. The wet tongue slipped around the head of his cock, and then all his softness was sucked in.

Bodie shifted, spreading his legs a little. God, Doyle was good. He could feel himself getting hard in slow swelling pulses, and Doyle rode with them, sucking hard to pull a low moan from him, and then slipping back, until only the tip of his tongue flicked Bodie's foreskin. Bodie gasped, and Doyle took him in, all at once, strongly, and cupped his balls in his hand at the same time, rolling them.

Like this, with just his hand stroking Doyle's hair, it could almost have been a woman going down on him, except for the contours of the body lying over his legs. Bodie shut his eyes. Doyle was good at this, better than almost anyone Bodie'd been with before. Now he took Bodie's shaft in a saliva-slick palm and kept only the head in his mouth, licking teasingly at Bodie's foreskin and then slipping it back to suck the sensitive glans in. Bodie moaned, and Doyle murmured around his flesh.

Well, it made sense that Doyle would be good at giving head, didn't it? After all, he knew what it felt like. Bodie knew how to please a woman, had taken pleasure in learning the intricate, tiny folds of cunt and clitoris; but however great the sex, his skill had always seemed a little alien: something learned, not something known. Doyle knew.

And besides, he got a lot of practice.

Christ. He didn't want to think about that. Not about the men Doyle must have gone down on before, and who sucked him in return. About the men he learned how to tease a foreskin from. Because he couldn't have known that, could he?

With a sick feeling, Bodie felt the swelling pulses in his cock hesitate, felt Doyle suck harder in response. It didn't work. His erection was wilting, past the point where either of them could ignore it. He threw an arm across his face as Doyle's movements changed from sucking to gentling, easing him down. How could his cock be so limp, when the rest of his body was so tense?

Doyle moved up and lay on his side next to him. Bodie couldn't tell if he was hard or not; they weren't touching there. "It's okay, mate." He put an arm across Bodie's chest and pulled himself against his partner's side.

"It's not you," Bodie muttered.

"Bullshit." But Doyle didn't sound angry. "Who else would it be? We're going too fast. My fault."

Bodie didn't want to argue that one. He pulled away; Doyle's arm tightened, holding him back. "Where're you going?"

Bodie succeeded in sitting up, only to find Doyle following him, close and very determined. Avoiding his partner's eyes, he bent over to look for his pants. "Look, it's not working. It was a bad idea, and I'm sorry. Forget it."

"No." The answer was fierce, and a strong hand caught his shoulder, yanking him back. "Damn it, Bodie, this is what I meant. I'm not going to let you go running off and pretend none of this ever happened!"

"Yeah, well, there's the little fact that I can't get it up," Bodie spat bitterly. "Blow to your ego, is it? Or are you going to try an' fuck me anyway?" He heard his voice rising almost with shock, and forced his fists to unclench, trying to shove away the anger. They'd never survive another fight...

"Damn you, Bodie," Doyle said evenly. "I told you, this is not about sex for me. Yes, I want you like that. Been thinking about it for weeks, and if you had the nerve to ask, I'd tell you. But if you leave now, you'll never come back. Because if you walk out, you've got to do it all the way. So tonight you're staying here, and if you want to go out after work tomorrow and fuck every air hostess in Heathrow to reassure yourself you're still normal, you go ahead!" His voice had risen.

Bodie's pulse was rapid. "What about you?" He had no idea what Doyle wanted from him, and knew only that he was desperate to get out, away from his partner's nearness.

"What about me? It's hardly a turn-on to have you bloody well limp with fright, is it?" And even as Bodie flinched from the deliberate cruelty, he managed for the first time to glance down, and saw that Doyle was as soft and small as he was.

He hadn't known the rigidity of his tension, until he felt it begin to leach out of him, then. He took a deep breath.

"Okay. Yeah, I was runnin' away. But if you're not going to let me do that," and he grinned a little, shamefacedly, "what are we goin' to do, then?"

Doyle sat back. His shoulders and arms visibly relaxed, and Bodie, watching, realised that Doyle had been nearly as taut-strung as he himself. He'd taken that anger for a threat, but it was nervousness, like his own. Doyle reached out and cradled his jaw, as he had done at the beginning, before their first real kiss. Bodie allowed it, but Doyle made no move to kiss him again. He only stroked him once, and then let his hand fall. "We're going to do the dishes, lock up, and go to sleep. Tomorrow, if you like, I'll give you a ride home from work, and we'll let it go. This - " he gestured around them, at the disordered bed, " - isn't what's important. Not as much."

Bodie glanced at Doyle's face, calm and a little sad, then looked away. He could feel his partner's eyes on him, but their gaze no longer made him quite so uncomfortable. In fact, Bodie realised, he was more at ease than he had been since before they had come into the bedroom. "Yeah, okay. Sorry, Ray. I - it's too much, right now."

Doyle nodded without answering, already moving across the room to toss him a robe from the wardrobe. Bodie shrugged into it; it was a warm flannel, falling just past his knees and colored a deep red. Doyle was pulling on another, a shorter white toweling robe. Bodie pulled his belt tight and knotted it at his hip. "Dishes," said Doyle, and chivvied him out the door.

Bodie washed while Doyle dried. He protested loudly at this division of labour, claiming a tendency toward chapped hands; if the clowning was a little forced at first, it eased. Doyle told him a joke he'd heard from McCabe, and Bodie told him what he'd heard Macklin muttering after he finished a session with the probationary recruits.

"Liar," Doyle said, grinning. "Macklin doesn't know Afrikaans."

"He's a remarkable man, our Brian. Can curse in seven languages."

"Learned it from you, did he?" and Doyle flicked the dish towel at him, and got a handful of suds in the face in return. By the time the dishes were finished, and the locks set and checked, Bodie was nursing a warm pocket of reassurance in his stomach. Things were all right. He hadn't fucked it up again.

"Got a spare toothbrush?" he asked, heading for the bathroom.

"Borrow mine," was the answer, and Bodie grinned. Bit late to get squeamish, after all. He brushed his teeth and rinsed his face, and went back in the bedroom while Doyle took his turn. The bed didn't loom nearly so much, and he hung the robe up and climbed under the covers.

Doyle came back in, and paused for a moment, seeing Bodie already in bed; he glanced over to the open wardrobe and Bodie saw him see the robe there. His eyes on Bodie again, he untied his belt and let his own robe slide off his shoulders. "I've got pajamas, if you'd - "

"No." Bodie wasn't afraid any more. Hell, he'd slept with Doyle - just slept - before. It had been too much, earlier, but this was going to be all right. It had to. "C'mon, Ray."

The bed was big enough for them to lie hardly touching each other, if they'd wanted; but they didn't, and after some shifting around they managed to settle down. It took a while; Doyle was bony in all the wrong places, and just when Bodie'd got comfortable he exclaimed, "Shit!" and sat up to turn on the alarm.

"Set it a little earlier, mate," suggested Bodie, watching him. "Got to allow for two showers tomorrow, don't forget."

Doyle flicked the alarm on and turned out the light. "On the other hand, I don't have to pick you up on the way in, do I?" An awkward embrace later, and after some pointed remarks from Doyle about Bodie's elbows, they ended up curled spoon-fashion, Bodie with an arm thrown over the other man, Doyle's back against his chest. His penis was tucked against the soft curve of Doyle's buttocks, and Bodie wryly admitted to himself that if their positions had been reversed, he might have been too panicky to sleep.

No. A few weeks ago that might have been true, or even earlier that evening; but no longer. Doyle was silent, asleep or very close, and Bodie rested his head against his shoulder, thinking. He wasn't afraid. Nervous, maybe, but not afraid. And hell, anyone was entitled to be nervous, in a situation like that. But he liked the solid feel of Doyle's body in his arms. He still hadn't touched Doyle's cock. Strange; that was the main thing he'd been thinking about that afternoon - was it only that afternoon? - in the grotty surveillance flat, and after all that had happened, he still didn't know what Doyle felt like.

Well, his hand was lying on Doyle's stomach, and the man was buck naked. He could always find out. No time like the present.

Bodie chuckled a little, and went to sleep.

Chapter 3

He woke before the alarm went off. They had moved apart during the night, and Doyle was behind him, not touching him, his breathing still the deep, slow rhythm of sleep. Bodie eased his way gingerly out of bed and wrapped the red robe around himself on his way to the bathroom It was a few minutes before seven.

He brushed his teeth again with Doyle's toothbrush, and as he stepped into the shower he heard the buzz of the alarm, and then Doyle's hand slapping it off. He wondered what Doyle would think, finding his partner not in the bed. He hadn't wanted to stay until Doyle woke up; he didn't want to be there when he did. He didn't know what Doyle would say to him: leaning over him in the bed, body close against him; or jerking away from a touch, disgusted at Bodie's futile nakedness

The shower was hot and pleasant, the water pressure better than at his flat. The feel of his own hands on his body reminded him of the previous night, and experimentally he pinched a nipple, hard. It hurt. He couldn't imagine asking someone to bite it. Laughing a little, he shook his head ruefully, and got soap in his eyes in the process.

The bed had been straightened when he returned to the bedroom, and his clothes picked up from the floor and piled on the duvet. Doyle was in the kitchen, judging from the sounds he was hearing. With only a twinge of guilt, Bodie rummaged through his partner's bureau until he found a pair of underpants and a clean shirt. He balled yesterday's underwear up inside yesterday's shirt and failed to find a laundry basket, so he chucked the bundle on the floor by the wardrobe and headed for the kitchen.

Doyle was standing at the stove, dressed in jeans and a loose sweater, minding a frying pan that Bodie liked the smell of. He looked up as Bodie came in, and Bodie grinned a little, wanting this to be okay, wanting it to be like any other morning they had had together.

Well, mostly like.

Doyle smiled back, and tipped his spatula at Bodie's chest. "I was going to say, borrow a shirt if you like." He went back to prodding at the eggs, then turned the bacon over.

"Pants too. Is that coffee?" It was, a mug left steaming for him on the table. He took it gratefully and drank a swallow. "Look, I'll finish that. Go and have a wash, if you like."

"After breakfast; it's just done." Doyle slid the eggs and bacon onto plates, added bread, and brought the food to the small table Bodie was standing beside. "C'mon, sit down. Never known you to hesitate at food before." He pulled a chair out and sat down himself, then muttered a curse and got up again for forks and his own coffee, left sitting by the stove.

He was moving too much. Bodie could tell the difference between Doyle's usual efficient grace and this nervous activity. As Doyle put a fork down for him and perched himself on the edge of his chair, Bodie set his coffee down and put a hand on his partner's shoulder. Doyle jumped, palpably, and looked up at him.

"What's wrong?" Bodie asked. Doyle was silent for a moment, opened his mouth and then shut it again. He glanced at the hand resting on his shoulder. Stiff-armed, feeling awkward, Bodie took it away again. Doyle seemed to settle minutely as Bodie moved away and sat down; he took his fork up, but made no move to start eating. Bodie picked up his bread, then paused as Doyle took a breath.

"I dreamed about you last night," he said.

Bodie put the bread down again. Doyle was not quite meeting his eyes, staring at Bodie's breakfast as if he expected to find something crawling in it.

"This morning..." Bodie said after a minute, jerkily - "I wasn't running out on you."

Doyle, he was astonished to see, was slowly flushing. "That's not what I dreamed," he said painfully, voice low.

He was practically sweating tension, and Bodie didn't want to think about it. He sat back in his chair, pulling away; picked up his coffee again and pressed the hot rim of the mug to his lips, without saying anything. After a long moment Doyle picked up his fork and broke the yolk of his eggs, so that the yellow liquid ran across his plate. He dipped his bread in the mess and bit into it, chewing slowly.

The first swallow of coffee was a hot stone in Bodie's stomach. This was too much, too tense. He wanted a normal morning with his partner, to show them both that they could still manage it, despite what had happened the previous night - or what hadn't happened. He hadn't been impotent in years.

If he had been able to keep it up, what would have happened? He didn't know.

Bodie attacked his breakfast with grim determination, ignoring Doyle picking at his soggy bacon across the table. Finished, he stood up and bunged his plate into the sink. It was nearly seven-thirty, and they were on duty at eight; if Doyle had any ideas about doing the dishes now, he could forget them.

"Let's go, then," he said, and winced to hear the false heartiness in his own voice. "Work, Doyle, remember?"

Doyle forced a smile, trying to match the light note. "Right. Half a mo'." He got up and headed for the bathroom, evidently brushing his teeth while Bodie dumped his plate, half-full as it was, in the sink with his own. He wiped his hands and almost ran into his partner in the sitting room, where Doyle was already pulling on his jacket. "C'mon," he said, a little too quickly, heading for the door, "I'll give you a lift home tonight." Bodie caught his own jacket as it was tossed to him, shrugged into his holster and followed, his lips clamped shut against what he had almost said. Nah, he had almost said, I'll catch the tube to Heathrow. Lot of air hostesses to get through.

They piled into Doyle's car and pulled out, Doyle driving a bit faster than usual to make up for their late start. They were less than halfway to headquarters, however, when the car radio shrilled. "Control to 4.5!"

Bodie picked up the mike and flicked it on as Doyle glanced over curiously. "3.7. 4.5's here, go ahead."

The dispatcher was Elliott, one of the new men, on a breaking-in job. "Both of you, good. 3.7 to join 6.2 on the Schussman surveillance, pronto. 4.5 to Waterloo station, contact 3.4 by RT and offer backup as needed."

Doyle was already spinning the car around, heading for the nearest bridge. "3.7, 4.5 acknowledged," Bodie said. "What's up?"

"Don't ask me," Elliott said mournfully. "Marriott called in; somebody showed up to see Schussman and he tailed him and called for backup."

"Right, out." Bodie clicked the radio off in disgust. "He's not going to make it past probation. Not even knowing who we're after!"

"Know soon enough," answered Doyle with equanimity, slipping through a traffic light with half a second to spare. "Besides, you'll be havin' a nice visit with Murph, while I chase after Mr. Mysterious. In the rain," he added, looking gloomily upward. The weak morning sun had almost disappeared again behind thick grey clouds.

The first drops were hitting the windshield heavily as Doyle pulled up in the alley behind the surveillance flat. He stopped the car only long enough for Bodie to get out, then pulled away again, and as Bodie ran for the battered door he was already turning into the street and gone. Bodie shoved his way in and climbed the dank stairs to where Murphy was waiting; he rapped on the door as he opened it to let the other agent know he was there, but did not risk calling his name until he had locked it behind himself. "Murph. What's happening?"

Murphy was at the surveillance post, of course, his back to Bodie as he kept watch out the window. "Oh, good, it's the tea lady," he said thickly, and rubbed a hand across his face. "I'll have a coffee, lots of sugar. Quick."

"Berk," answered Bodie in the same even tone, and sat down across from him. "What's up?" he asked again.

Murphy was slumped in the chair, his head propped on an arm held up in turn by the window frame. Bodie could almost hear the creaking as he looked up. "Five minutes we've been here, Bodie, five bloody minutes, and who walks out that front door but John Wells Hanrahan his very self. Out the door, mind you, not in; our Herr Schussman appears to have broken every known habit and had a guest in last night under cover of proverbial darkness. Do we know how long he was there? No. Do we know where he came from? No. Do we know how many cases of plastique he may have just bought on behalf of fair Eire's fanatics? No. Damn it." Both hands covered his face this time, fingers pressing against his eyes. "Be a lifesaver, mate, there's coffee in the kitchen. Marriott was supposed to take the first shift; I had a hell of a night."

"What's Hanrahan doing in the country?" Bodie asked, on his way into the kitchen. He found a carrier bag on the table, and dumped from it a few apples, milk, and instant coffee. "Thought he was hiding out in Galway or someplace."

"So," muttered Murphy, "did I."

Bodie filled the dented kettle with water and put it on to boil; the mugs he and Doyle had used the previous night were on the draining- board by the sink and he tipped some powder into each. "How long since he left?" he called to the other room.

"About half an hour," was the muffled response. "Mike was going to tail him far enough away to call for backup without risking Schussman's radio picking up the RT. I take it you're it. Your partner's with Mike, then?"

"Yeah." Bodie hunted through the kitchen, but aside from what Murphy and Marriott had brought with them, the only things the cupboards revealed were the tin of stale teabags Doyle must have found the day before, some crackers which showed evidence of mice, and a few more dusty mugs and plates. The kettle was whistling, so he shrugged and added a healthy slug of milk to each mug before bringing them into the sitting room.

"No sugar," he said, handing one over, and was reminded of Doyle, passing him his cup the day before with an equally curt comment.

Murphy scowled. "Remind me never to let 3.4 buy supplies again." He swallowed half of it anyway, then made another awful grimace. "Christ, I hate this stuff. Why do I drink it?"

"Cheaper than bennies, that's why." Bodie sat down again and glanced out the window. It was raining steadily now, and looked to be an unusually chilly day for April. Murphy grunted and subsided, peering blearily through the telescope.

Bodie knew he ought to offer to take the shift, let Murphy get some rest, but he was reluctant to do it. If he tried, he could almost feel Doyle's mouth on his, Doyle's hand on his cock, and the memory was at once arousing and disturbing.

They'd left things hanging, the previous night, and now he didn't know where they were. He'd expected to spend the day with Doyle, working, finding his feet again; and getting used to looking at him with that strange, secret knowledge: I know what you look like.

He hadn't been able to keep it up. Did that mean he wasn't queer? That he didn't want to sleep with Ray after all?

Would Ray let it go, now?

He remembered, again, how Doyle had looked, licking the tip of his cock. He'd been smiling, a little, his eyes half-closed. He'd looked as though he liked it. Hell, Bodie had known plenty of women who liked it, or at least put on a damn good act. So what if Ray liked it too? Didn't make him a pansy.

Cocksucker... whispered something in his head. He ignored it.

Murphy shifted in the chair and stretched his arms carefully above his head, and Bodie dragged his mind back to the job. He'd spent enough time sitting around mooning. He got up and punched the other man lightly on the shoulder.

"Go sack out, mate. He could have half the KGB in for a garden party before you'd see 'em, right now."

Murphy threw him a grateful look and unfolded himself painfully from the chair. "Thanks." The third room of the flat had been the bedroom when the place was inhabited, and still boasted a bare mattress abandoned on the floor. Bodie heard him fall heavily onto it, and then there was silence.

The problem with surveillance was that it was boring. Bodie resolutely kept his attention on Schussman's front door, which meant dragging his thoughts repeatedly away from other things. The time inched by. The rain stopped after a while, but it was still cloudy and grey. Once or twice he saw movement behind the half-drawn curtains across the way, but no one else showed up to visit the arms dealer, whether IRA agent or postman.

It was over an hour later when Murphy reappeared, his hair tousled and his shirt rumpled and half untucked, but looking in much better shape otherwise. "Mmph," he said, stretching until Bodie could hear his spine crack. "Let me take a leak, mate, and then I'll take over." He disappeared into the bathroom, emerging a few minutes later with his hair combed and his face rinsed. Bodie yielded the chair gladly and began some stretching exercises of his own, until the kinks were out of his back and his buttocks no longer felt numb. "Want some coffee?" he offered.

"Yech. Mind your mouth," was the spirited response. Bodie grinned and went to make himself some; he hadn't touched his first mug and he dumped the grayish, clammy liquid into the sink with a grimace.

"Anything happening?" Murphy called.

"Red Mini went by a bit slowly, quarter of an hour ago; was probably nothing. Not worth disturbing your beauty sleep."

"Oh, ta ever so."

Bodie used the bathroom while the water was heating, then made his coffee and wandered back into the main room with the mug in one hand and an apple in the other. He hooked a chair with a toe and settled in. "Wonder how Doyle and Marriott are doing."

"With any luck they'll nab Hanrahan and a nice big arms cache with Schussman's fingerprints all over it and we can close up this bloody job." Murphy rested his head against the telescope for a moment. "I hate this sitting around."

"You and me both." Bodie washed a bite of apple down with coffee, and decided that the flavours really didn't mix. "Why were you so ragged out this morning, anyway? Looked like something the cat'd be ashamed to drag in."

Murphy laughed sourly. "Felt it, too. Remember Andrea, the barmaid at the Rose and Thorn? The one with the knockers?"

Bodie jerked, involuntarily, and almost spilled his coffee. The Rose and Thorn, and the "bustiest barmaid this side of Page Three" - and the fight they'd had that night, when he was drunk, and he'd tried... He shook his head angrily, to clear it. Luckily, Murphy didn't notice.

"Finally got her home with me last night. Take it from me, 3.7, that is not a padded bra. Those tits are the real McCoy!" He wriggled his fingers, grinning. "So we're getting down to business, and she is a real little raver, and right in the middle of it the fuckin' phone rings!" He snorted. "The red phone, of course. Wouldn't have answered it, otherwise. Headquarters patched through one of my grasses, who is offering some priceless Irish tip if I can meet him in some godforsaken waste ground right away. So I have to put on my pants and turf Andrea out, who is not at all pleased, and drive halfway across the city in the middle of the bloody night, and the bugger never showed!" Murphy slapped a palm against the wall in remembered frustration. "Almost two hours I sat there, just in case. So I wound up with no sleep, no tip, and no chance at Andy after that. If I go back to the pub she'll probably throw a drink in my face. Christ, when I think what I missed out on..." He cupped imaginary breasts in the air. Big ones. "A bird like that owes it to the male population to be friendlier."

Bodie was remembering small nipples, flat against a bony chest, surrounded by hair. He shifted uncomfortably. "Go for that sort of thing, do you?"

"Christ, doesn't every man? Second best thing about a woman. And if you ask me what the best is, 3.7," and he pursed his lips, frowning sternly, "I shall begin to wonder about you."

Bodie wished he hadn't just used the loo, so he could do it now and shut a door on this conversation. Instead, he got up and stalked into the kitchen, dumping his half-finished coffee into the sink and wrenching the tap on to rinse out the mug. "What, you think I'm a poufter or something?" he muttered fiercely, carefully not loud enough for Murphy to hear.

This was what Doyle wanted from him. This - hiding, this secret perversion. Or worse, not hiding; there'd been all that guff about commitment. Caring. What if he really did start making it obvious? He tried to imagine Murphy's expression if Doyle did something blatant - held his hand, or something - and cringed. Murph, and the rest of the squad... Bodie went quite suddenly cold. He admired George Cowley, admired his iron will and his intricate grasp of the most twisted situations; he respected him as he had never respected a commanding officer. The thought of Major Cowley looking at him and seeing a pansy - the thought of standing in front of Cowley and being a pansy - made him very nearly nauseous.

But he wasn't. He wasn't queer. He'd been leering after whatever her name was - Andrea - that night, just as much as Murphy was now. He liked breasts as much as the next bloke; he'd missed them, with Doyle.

Okay. So it wasn't what he wanted. He could - Christ - explain to Doyle. Somehow. He'd been curious, no harm in that...but now he knew. He took a deep breath and set the mug down by the sink. There was a hollow, sinking feeling below his ribcage. What would he say to Ray...?

He forced away the memory of Ray's kiss, straightened his shoulders and went back into the other room. To his relief, Murphy didn't seem to have noticed anything odd about his abrupt departure, but was peering fixedly through the telescope.


Murphy sat back. "Nah. Schussman came to the door, checking the weather or something. Gone back in now." He glanced at his watch. "'S gone ten. Wish we knew what Marriott and Doyle turned up."

"Can't know 'til they tell us," Bodie answered airily, and grinned at the rude gesture Murphy flipped him. He leant back in his chair, balancing it on its rear legs. "Wish I'd brought a book." He needed something to occupy his thoughts, and he didn't want to talk to Murphy.

"Here." Murphy extracted a battered paperback from his jacket and tossed it to him. "Improve your mind." Bodie caught it and snorted; spy thrillers were good for a laugh around the squad room. It would do, though; he settled down and opened it, retaining only a peripheral awareness of the other man and the chill draft through the half-open window.

It was nearly noon, and he had long since relieved Murphy on watch, when they heard the tap at the front door. He traded glances with Murphy, who tossed his reclaimed book aside and went to answer it. Bodie, unable to turn and look, heard muffled voices at the door, and then Murphy was coming back into the main room with Jax and Filbert.

"Relief," crowed Murphy, and swatted his shoulder. "Rise, 3.7, we're free men again!"

"Spare me the fireworks," said Filbert in her broad Australian accent. "Get along with you two, back to headquarters. Cowley wants a report. We're to take over here."

Bodie gladly yielded the hard chair to Jax. "Any news?"

Jax only shook his head, but his partner answered. "Not that we know. Your partner called in just before we left; he and 3.4'll meet you there. Get along with you, now."

Murphy was already in his jacket, waiting by the door. Bodie thrust his hands into his pockets and fell in beside him. The last thing he heard as Filbert latched the door behind them was Jax's muffled plea, "Any coffee in this place?"

Murphy's car - Marriott's, actually - was parked several streets away, and Bodie was glad of the chance for a brisk few minutes' walk. The damp air cleared his head, gave him a chance to think before getting back to headquarters, seeing Ray again. Not that he could think of anything to say.

But Doyle met him at headquarters with no meaningful glance, no reference by word or look or subtlest tilt of eye to what had happened between them. It disoriented Bodie, this absolute lack of anything to react against, and he was unaccustomedly quiet as they went to report. Doyle and Marriott filled in Bodie and Murphy in Cowley's office, under the Controller's glum eye; they had followed Hanrahan most of the morning, learning nothing, and finally lost him in London traffic. "Aye, well. Can't be helped." Cowley sent Murphy and Marriott to the docks, following up another case, and packed Bodie and Doyle off to spend some time with the paperwork they were, as usual, several weeks behind on. They didn't talk much, other than confirming details of this or that with each other as they worked. Doyle gave him a ride home that evening, and was pulling away before Bodie had even gotten the front door unlocked.

All for the best, then, if Doyle wanted to let it go. They'd go back to normal, write the evening off as a bad experiment. But Bodie fell asleep with an obscure feeling that the ground had shifted under his feet, and he just hadn't realised it yet.

When he arrived at work the next morning, Murphy was waiting for him, waylaying him in the corridor as he headed for the rest room in search of coffee and the posted duty roster. "Hold up, mate. You're already assigned."

"What, to you?" For a moment Bodie felt his stomach freeze. Had Doyle gone to Cowley, broken their partnership again? But Murphy was already talking.

"Healey, my grass that never showed, night before last? Some dosser found him in an alley behind King's Cross last night; he got his throat cut about twenty minutes after he called me." Murphy grinned wryly. "The Old Man figures someone didn't want him talking. So you and Doyle get to spend the day with your - " he pursed his lips, mock-prim - "less salubrious acquaintances. Find out what was going on, Tuesday night."

Slowly, the tension in Bodie's midsection relaxed. "Where's Doyle?"

"Not in yet. And now that I've briefed you, I'm off; Healey had a few pals who might talk to me. I've left a file on him for you on my desk. Nose around your connections; he'd said he had something on the IRA." The taller man waved and sauntered away, leaving Bodie staring after him and feeling as though he'd just had a narrow escape; then he shook his head, got the file Murphy had left him and went into the tiny office he shared with Doyle, foregoing coffee to begin reading it and working up a list of potentially useful informants.

Doyle added a few names of his own to Bodie's list when he came in. They spent the day hunting down the ones with day jobs and semi- permanent addresses, but weren't surprised to learn nothing of use; the men most likely to know about something of this sort were easier to find at night. They were about to sign out for the afternoon and pick the search up again after dark, when the car radio shrilled.

"3.7, 4.5 to Highgate and move! Hostage situation, contact 2.1 by RT as soon as you're in range." Bodie was already flooring the accelerator as Doyle acknowledged the call. "Got anything more for us?" he asked, and raised an eyebrow when Cowley patched in.

"It's Harrison's Syrians, 4.5. They saw her trailing them and made a run for it, and they've snatched two children for cover."

"Christ," Bodie muttered, under his breath. If the terrorists were as vicious as Susan's reports at squad briefings had indicated, the children were probably as good as dead.


"They've gone into the cemetery. We've set the police to closing it off; we'll meet you at the entrance. Lucas and McCabe are covering the back. They won't get out, but that means - "

"We'll have to go in after them," finished Doyle disgustedly. He mouthed "On your bikes" silently as Cowley, predictably, said it, and snapped the radio off. "Bloody sodding gravestones for cover everywhere, and two kids... Shit."

"Och," said Bodie in a remarkably bad imitation of their boss, "it's what you're paid for, laddie." Doyle made a sour face at him; it was returned.

It was a mess. The three terrorists were holed up in a maze of leaning stones, and though the CI5 agents surrounding them could see them clearly at times, they were never far enough away from the children to risk a shot. Cowley had had gas canisters brought up, ready for firing, but in the open they wouldn't work fast enough. And the gunmen were demanding, not their own safety, but the release of political prisoners held by Israel, and seemed quite prepared to die for the cause if necessary. None of the CI5 agents would have minded if they had, except that they intended to take the children with them.

They spent hours sprawled on the grass watching distant figures through field glasses, and listening to Cowley shout through the loud hailer. Doyle was shifting restlessly behind a tree a few meters to Bodie's left; from time to time he shot Bodie a disgusted look that Bodie knew hid taut impatience matching his own. On his other side Susan Harrison's face was pale, and she chewed her lip as she kept watch. Cowley began to mutter to her, once, "How you could..." and then let it trail off.

Finally, when dusk had fallen, Cowley gave up on talking the gunmen out, and sent his agents in after them. Crawling and dodging, trying to get as close as possible before they were, inevitably, seen and the firing started; Doyle knelt on a stick and as the sharpest-eared terrorist's head snapped up, the agents abandoned cover and rushed them together. Bodie, coming up awkwardly from a crouch, slipped against a rock and wrenched his ankle; he caught himself and bit back a curse, forcing himself by sheer will not to slow or limp as he threw himself forward; his shot was lost in a roar of almost simultaneous blasts and the man he had aimed at spun and toppled, the gun he had aimed at Doyle flying from his hand. A child screamed, Lucas shouted his partner's name, and somehow he heard Susan cursing even as she fired again and the last of the villains slumped into the grass.

Breathing heavily, he reholstered his gun. Lucas was pressing both hands against his partner's bloody shoulder, and a police constable was taking charge of the screaming children. Putting as little weight as possible on his right leg he limped over to Doyle's side as he watched Harrison check the fallen men. Doyle's head came up at the sound of the uneven steps, and his gaze searched Bodie's body for damage before he met his eyes.

"Twisted it?"

"Yeah." It didn't surprise him that Doyle knew. He could have told off every tilting slab that Doyle had used for cover, without looking.


"Don't think so." Another deep breath, and the sight of Doyle unharmed. His pulse was slowing. "Should've watched those dry twigs, sunshine. Give you away every time."

"Can't all be jungle commandos, partner." And they turned, shoulder to shoulder, to face Cowley and start the interminable cleanup.

It was late before they were done. Bodie rode to hospital with McCabe, to have his ankle checked, and saw him settled before returning to headquarters for debriefing and the endless diplomatic muddle in a case like this. Doyle was waiting for him; the thin line of his lips softened slightly when Bodie came through the office door, and Bodie was glad to see it. At half past ten, finally, Cowley waved them away, and added almost as an afterthought that they might as well take the next day off. Bodie grinned exhaustedly at his partner, and gladly accepted Doyle's left arm slung around his back, taking some of his weight.

"You hungry?"

"No." He ignored Doyle's snort of mock disbelief. "Rather get home and get my feet up."


"Not so bad. Listen..." Though the adrenaline-fueled charge was hours past, the memory of his skin-tingling awareness of Doyle as they moved in together remained. "It's supposed to be gorgeous tomorrow, forecaster said. Want to - want to get out of the city, take our bikes, maybe?"

"Make a picnic of it? Okay." They had reached the CI5 car park; Doyle returned the keys he had appropriated when Bodie left for hospital, and hesitated a moment before turning away to his own car. "You all right to drive?"

"Yeah, it's fine." There was something else he wanted to say, but, strangely mute, he couldn't think of it; they looked at each other for a moment.

"What time tomorrow?" Doyle asked.

"Uh - ten? Gives us time to catch up on some sleep."

"I'll stop by at ten, then." He nodded once and walked away, and Bodie swung himself into his car. Doyle's back was glaringly lit by the headlamps as he switched them on, and abruptly, paralyzingly, he remembered Doyle's shoulderblades, shifting under his palms two nights before.

I don't want him. I'm not gay.

And his inner, mocking voice answered, Neither's he. And he wants you.

Chapter 4

Bodie was twisting in the uncomfortable twilight between sleep and waking when his alarm went. Shocked abruptly alert, he slapped at the clock to turn it off and was swinging his legs out of bed before his mind caught up to the last faint after-images still eddying through his head. He'd dreamed - something...

Oh, Jesus.

Aghast, Bodie sat slowly down again on the edge of the mattress, his back slumped. After a moment, he covered his face with his hands. Jesus.

After sixteen years, he'd dreamed about Billy Cruse.

Dressing, managing a few swallows of coffee, he was swamped in the memories. Billy's treasured six-inch knife, and the time they'd slashed old lady Hinckey's tyres with it and never got caught; the football posters in his room; and the one thing he kept circling around, kept prodding at and then shying away, even though he'd dreamed about it as if it had been yesterday... Somewhere he found a non-committal expression to plaster across his face when Doyle arrived, and his partner didn't seem to notice anything odd, only chivvied him onto his bike and led the way out of the city on the A20. Bodie stared at Doyle's back in front of him, anonymous like himself in riding gear and helmet, and tried to lose himself in the roar of the bike under him and the wind harsh in his ears. He couldn't. The bike throbbed between his legs.

They wound up in a small town somewhere; neither of them bothered to notice its name, but it was far enough from Canterbury that the tourists hadn't found it, and far enough from London that the stink of carbon fumes had been blown out of their lungs. Doyle found a pub that would put them up a couple of box lunches and they headed into the country a little ways, left the bikes by the side of the road and climbed a hill, looking out across the countryside: clouds, a few cars, a lot of other hills with placid sheep making dots of white against the green. Doyle pulled off his jacket and flopped down on the grass with a sigh of relief.

"This is more like it. Oh, yeah." His eyes were shut, soaking up the sun that shone liquid warmth above them.

Bodie lowered himself beside him, looking anywhere but at the other man. "Yeah."

Doyle opened his eyes, and Bodie realised that his carefully normal tone hadn't fooled his partner any more than his carefully normal expression apparently had. But Doyle only stared at him a moment, and then looked away as well, reaching for the food.

It was a strange day. Bodie tried to keep it normal, keep it light, tried to enjoy the time off with no work looming and no Cowley snapping out orders, the sun shining and the birds chirping placidly from time to time. But he kept sliding away, sliding into the dream. He felt as though he were tottering, swaying on the edge of a chasm that had quite suddenly opened up below him, except that it had been there all along, and he hadn't seen it - had forgotten all about it -

He jerked himself back and looked up to find Doyle watching him measuringly. Caught off-guard, he fumbled for something to say.

"Any lemonade left?"

"No." Doyle cocked his head. "You want to tell me what's on your mind?"

No. His first reaction was absolute denial, and he knew it showed on his face, knew Doyle saw it, saw his eyes going flat and hard. But then, forcing himself with painful candor to look at the question honestly, he knew he should. Christ, Doyle maybe had a right to know.

"Yeah. Okay." But, those words out, he fell mute again. After a few tense minutes, Doyle sighed.

"Shit. Never mind, Bodie. You don't wanna tell me, that's okay." He turned away and started packing up the debris of their lunch. Bodie, stricken, saw himself abandoned on the edge of the abyss.

"No! No, wait. We're mates, dammit." He laughed a little, awkwardly. "Mates're supposed to help each other with their problems."

Doyle stilled, looking down at the crumpled litter. "Some problems maybe I can't help you with."

"No," Bodie said again, and took a deep breath. Christ, sixteen years...

"I had a dream last night," he said.

"Well, not a dream, really. I mean, I remembered something..." His voice trailed off for a moment as he stared at his hands, knotting them in his lap, his head hanging. Then he took a deep breath and caught hold of the memory, planted it firmly in front of him where he could look at it. Carefully. A bit at a time...

"When I was a kid, I had this friend, Billy Cruse. His da worked with mine, when the old man wasn't soused, anyway. He was a couple years older than me, but we used to pal around all the time. Used to play pirates, secret hideout an' everything. He had this big old bowie knife that he never would let me touch. But he whittled with it, and he taught me how, after I nicked a knife for myself...

"The summer - I must have been fourteen. He was sixteen or seventeen then, and he was goin' away at the end of the summer. Don't even remember where: job, I suppose. Anyway, one night his people went away for some reason, left him behind to look after his kid sister. She was maybe seven. So I went over to his place, and after he put the kid to bed, we stayed up for hours, just talking. You know, the way kids do. We had some beers - " Bodie's voice trembled, and then he forced it steady again, " - some beers, an' we nicked some of his da's gin. We got pretty pissed...

"We started fooling around."

He risked a glance up. Doyle's expression hadn't changed.

"He sucked me off, and I - and I did him, and then we went to sleep. And in the middle of the night we woke up and did it again." Bodie swallowed. His heart felt like a knotted lump of muscle.

"What happened then?" The question's tone was even, revealing nothing.

"And in the morning I got up and went home. And we never talked about it again. Christ!" Bodie struck a fist against his leg. "We never fucking talked again. I idolized that kid, Ray. He could throw that knife up and catch it like he was juggling, and he never would let me try - " He was almost yelling, furious with an anger he was only slowly becoming aware of. "But after that we avoided each other like the fucking plague, and I didn't even think about why, I just stopped hanging about with him. He went away at the end of the summer, and I lit out the next year, and I forgot all about him. About all of it. For sixteen years!"

He stared at his partner, breathing heavily, waiting for Doyle to ask all the questions that he, fumbling awkwardly in a place shut and abandoned for years, had been trying to answer for himself: why did you do it, did you like it, why did you forget -

"Why did you remember it?" asked Doyle.

Bodie was speechless, stricken. Doyle shifted, crouching nearer and watching him intently.

"Why remember it now?"

"I think - I think..." He groped, searching...and found again the unease that had been in him for two days. The op of the day before seemed vividly bright, his awareness of Doyle throughout it easy and unstudied; but over it loomed the shadow of Tuesday night, unacknowledged and portentous.

"We haven't talked about it," he said, and saw Doyle's eyes widen. "I didn't remember for sixteen years, like I was lying to myself, and we - " he almost stammered it - "we've been ignoring what we did like it never happened, just like before, and I don't want to start lying to myself again!"

Doyle was very close now, his eyes bright and hard in the sunlight. "I thought that's what you wanted," he said, flatly. "I thought you wanted it never to have happened."

"Yeah. Maybe. But Christ, Ray, what I said about being attracted to you, that time - that was true." Bodie looked down, ripped up a handful of grass and shredded it. "I didn't handle it very well, I know, but now I - I don't want to ignore it! And I don't know how to - to - " Looking up again he saw, with astonishment, that Doyle's lifted hand was trembling.

"Oh, God, Bodie..." Briefly, Doyle touched his cheek, and Bodie found his skin supersensitized to the brush of the other man's hand, the callus on the palm and the different texture of the fingertips as Doyle trailed them along his temple.

His own voice was shaking. "What are we going to do?"

Doyle pulled his hand away, clutched it with its mate resolutely in his lap, and sat back a little. Bodie was almost sorry. Doyle took a deep breath.

"I thought you wanted to forget all about it. I was trying to make it easier for you."

"I thought I wanted to, too." Bodie clenched his fist against the ground. "But I don't."

He could hear his partner suck in breath. "What do you want?" Doyle's voice was almost steady - like his own.

A lorry went by on the road at the hill's base, clanking and roaring, and Bodie was suddenly aware of how exposed they were, sunlit on the grassy mound. He wanted to touch Doyle but he couldn't, not here. "I want to go back to town. I need to talk to you."

Doyle got to his feet slowly. "Seems like we've done a lot of talking lately, mate. Hasn't always been such a good idea."

Bodie didn't know what to say to that, so he said nothing. In silence they packed up their trash, disposed of it on their way back through the little village and got on the motorway again. Bodie was leading, this time, and he imagined he could feel Doyle's eyes on him, pressing against the leather of his jacket, between his shoulderblades, the way the wind pressed against his chest and arms. His ribs were squeezed between the two, and it was hard to breathe.

He led them both back to his flat, leaving Doyle to chain their bikes in the back garden while he dug for his keys and let them in. "You want something to drink?"

"No." Doyle was behind him again on the stairs, and followed him in. Bodie took his partner's jacket and hung it with his own in the wardrobe, went into the sitting room to find Doyle perched in the armchair. He didn't have his arms wrapped around his knees; he didn't look tense. Much.

He sat down on the near end of the sofa and stared back. There was a short silence.

Finally Doyle sighed. "You didn't seem to like it much," he said quietly.

For a moment, Bodie felt his face grow hot. "It wasn't that," he answered after a moment, not sure what "that" was. "We were going too fast."

"I know." Doyle shifted in his seat. "I knew then, only - I wanted you. I was afraid I'd never get another chance." He looked up then, and Bodie found his stare impossible to break away from. "What do you want, Bodie? What did you mean by tellin' me about your friend? And what are you scared of?"

Bodie's heart began to pound. Scared?

"I'm not gay," he blurted, jerkily. "I don't want - "

"People thinkin' you are?"

Bodie nodded.

"Shit. Bodie, how long've we been partners - three, four years? Did you ever have the least notion that I was bi?"

He shook his head.

"Then that ought to tell you how good I am at stayin' in the closet. You think I'm going to drag you out?"

Bodie thought of something he should have thought of before. "Does Cowley know?"

"Not officially. So long as it stays that way, I'm okay."

"But you - "

"Go out with blokes? Yeah, sometimes. I can be discreet, you know."

Bodie stole a glance at the other man. Doyle was, to all appearances, slouched comfortably in the chair. His hair glinted brown and auburn in the sunlight from the window, and one hand rested lightly on his knee. Bodie stared at that hand, could almost feel it stroking along his face, the way Doyle had touched him before kissing him. His chest ached - not arousal, not yet.

"I'm..." scared... "I never thought of myself doin' this, you know. It takes getting used to."

"I know. Did for me too."

That surprised him. "I thought you were - y'know. Sure of yourself." Doyle didn't say anything.

"What did you mean, that time - commitment?"

Doyle twisted in the chair, looking away, and ran a hand through his hair. Bodie, watching, felt a sudden urge to do the same, to feel the curls thick against his palm.

"Not asking you to marry me, or anything. And I like the job as much as you do, Bodie; I'm not gonna jeopardize it. I don't... I just didn't want you running off afterward. Or getting disgusted." He looked back then, jaw tight, catching Bodie's eyes with a glare like a spike. "Some gays get their kicks off straight men. Bein' humiliated. I don't plan on getting into that."

Christ. Of all the... "Never thought it," Bodie promised, shocked to utter honesty. "For god's sake, Ray."

"For god's sake, what?" Doyle's voice was louder, shaking with something that wasn't, quite, anger. "I still don't know what you want, Bodie."

Ray lying against him, kissing him; Billy's cock in his mouth, and the way he couldn't remember ever seeing Billy's face again. Ray's tongue. The aching not-quite-pain in his chest was moving lower.

Doyle almost said something - Bodie heard him draw breath - then abruptly shut his mouth.

Bodie remembered something else from that night. "You're my best friend," he said slowly, feeling the words on his lips, "and I like being with you." He looked over at the other man, traced with his eyes the lines of bone and muscle. He knew Doyle in so many ways. "You're my partner," he said, rolling the word on his tongue, feeling its shape.

He got up and moved carefully to stand in front of where Doyle sat motionless, then crouched to face him. He wanted to touch him, but only put out a hand to balance himself on the padded arm of the chair. Their eyes met and held.

"Stay the night."

Doyle nodded fractionally. "All right."

For a long moment he couldn't breathe, and then the moment held so long it was abruptly ridiculous, and Bodie sat down hard on the floor with a snort of half-laughter. Doyle chuckled with him, that deep laugh that meant everything was back in place, and pushed himself up out of the chair. "Look, it's too nice a day to waste the afternoon inside. If your ankle's okay - " Bodie nodded - "then let's go for a run. All that time sittin' on the bike makes my legs seize up." He looked at Bodie.

Don't fuck it up. "Good idea. You can borrow a tracksuit if you like."

"Too hot to run in trousers. Got any shorts?"

Bodie gave him a speaking look and Doyle sighed exaggeratedly. "Might have known. All right, tracksuit it is." He followed Bodie into the bedroom and stripped off casually while Bodie, more slowly, changed his own clothes. He stole a glance, half-abashed, at his partner's body as he pulled on Bodie's dark blue spare running gear. It felt - it didn't feel strange, stripping down next to Ray. It shouldn't feel strange. For Christ's sake, he'd been in the Army, not to mention Africa; he'd probably seen more naked men than a ten-quid whore. He'd seen Ray before, for that matter. He didn't want it to feel strange; he didn't want it to change anything between them.

They ran several miles, through the parks and along the water, dodging occasional pedestrians and dogs, mostly leashed. One dolled-up poodle ran yapping after them for thirty yards, managing a vicious nip on Bodie's sore ankle before he got a toe under its ribs and lofted it away; Doyle laughed so hard he nearly lost his wind. "Just you wait," snarled Bodie, the effect of his carefully dramatic limp undercut by the grin he couldn't smother, but Doyle only rolled his eyes at him and jogged on ahead. Bodie chased him, and their run degenerated into a headlong sprint that ended only when they both toppled, spent and breathless, at the base of the Peter Pan statue. "I win," panted Doyle, chest heaving. "Like hell," managed Bodie between hoarse breaths, and they were both content to leave it at that.

Doyle pulled off his tracksuit top and mopped his face with it. "Phew. Dunno how you can run in so many clothes." He swabbed the sweat off his chest and flopped back against the cool metal of the statue.

Bodie eyed the discarded top balefully. "I'll expect that washed before you give it back."

"Trade it for that shirt you took, cleaned and pressed," Doyle retorted. It took Bodie a moment to recall the shirt he meant; then memory hit and he answered steadily, "No problem. It's in my wardrobe - give it to you tonight."

Doyle turned his head toward him. "Can wear it tomorrow, then." It was, somehow, a question.

"Yeah," Bodie said, and looked out at the ducks on the water.

Doyle got up and began stretching, and after a moment Bodie joined him, knowing that he'd pay the next day if he didn't. Afterward they sauntered back toward the tube, buying a peach at the park entrance and swapping bites from it on their way home. Bodie obsequiously bowed Doyle in to take the first shower; Doyle arched an eyebrow and declared that it was only that Bodie hoped to find dinner awaiting him when he'd finished his own. "Never thought it!" Bodie declared high-mindedly, "but now that you're offering to cook..." Laughing, Doyle flicked a towel at him and headed for the bath.

Clean, dressed, and only slightly damp, Bodie emerged from his room to find his partner rummaging through his refrigerator. "Toss me a beer, sunshine?" he called, having seen one already open on the counter, and a can was pitched over Doyle's shoulder at him. "Nice throw. Aim like that, you should go in for sharpshooting." Doyle, CI5's champion pistol for two of the previous three years, turned from pillaging Bodie's food supply to glare. Bodie popped the ring of his beer and saluted him with it, grinning.

They settled into a pattern they'd played out many times before: Doyle chopping and cooking, Bodie helping, laying the table and snitching bits of the rice and veg whenever Doyle put down the big-bladed knife. Only this time there was a difference, like an electric charge, so that whenever they touched, whenever they brushed past each other in the kitchen or their legs met under the table as they ate, Bodie felt the jolt, through his stomach and into his chest and his groin. Doyle's tongue, eating, endlessly drew his gaze, the way his throat worked when he swallowed. Would he swallow like that when...?

Tension, or apprehension, or anticipation: Bodie felt as though the whole day, the run, the dinner and all their talk were leading up to that implacable moment when he would be in bed again with Doyle, naked. And then...

He pushed his plate away. Doyle did the same, and after looking at him a moment, got up and began to clear the table. Bodie followed him into the kitchen.

"I'll do those," he said. "You cooked." Doyle leant against the counter and dried the plates as Bodie passed them to him; he knew where they went as well as Bodie did, having helped Bodie unpack them when he'd first moved into the flat. They talked as they worked, about nothing in particular: the newest recruits and the chewing out Cowley must have given Harrison for letting herself be seen the day before. Still, Bodie's stomach was tight as he dried his hands and went into the sitting room, aware with an itchy sensation down his back of Doyle following behind him. His partner went across the room to the television and began flipping through the tv pages.

"Anything on? 'S a good film on BBC Two, Olivier..."

"No." Bodie felt his throat constricting. He couldn't take any more of this oh-so-casual byplay, not when he was waiting so desperately for the end of it.

Doyle turned slowly to look at him, folding the paper absently in his hands. His eyes were serious, the casual tone dropped.

"D'you want me to go?"

"No," Bodie repeated. His heart was pounding, but he felt it in his groin as well as his chest. He rubbed a sweaty palm surreptitiously against his leg, watching the other man.

Doyle put the paper down and came to stand in front of him. He put one arm carefully around Bodie's waist, not pulling Bodie to him. "We don't have to do anything."

Bodie swallowed. "I want to." And after everything, it was the truth.

Doyle kissed him then, and Bodie felt the shock of contact shiver through him. The arm tightened around him, and he let it draw him forward, feeling the solid chest against his, the planes of the shoulderblades shifting under his hands. Doyle's mouth was as strong and heady as he had remembered.

He freed himself after a long minute, groping for mundane concerns. "The locks."

Doyle's mouth quirked slightly. "I won't run away." But obediently he let Bodie go, and went with him to set and check the security systems on the doors and make the duty round of the undisturbed windows. They finished in the bedroom, and Bodie pulled the curtains to with exacting care, and then turned to face his partner again. Waiting, a little nervously, for whatever Doyle would do next.

After a moment Doyle stroked his face, the gesture that was beginning to mean 'Ray' to him. "What do you want?"

"You're the - " Bodie began, and stopped himself short. "I don't know," he said, more quietly. "You."

Doyle smiled, and drew him to sit on the bed. Bodie reached for the lamp and turned it on, needing to see his face. His heart was pounding again, but he held fast to his partner's smile, to the arousal uncurling within him. Ray...this was Ray.

"Kiss me."

Doyle grinned again, brilliantly, and did. Bodie tried to lose himself in the sensation, in the hands stroking up his sides, the curls winding around his fingers; and though he couldn't, quite, manage it, the persistent awareness of just who he was with was less disorienting than he had expected. He stroked Doyle's tongue with his own, experimentally, and was mildly startled, and pleased, when Doyle murmured and pressed closer into their embrace. The flat chest still felt odd, but he was getting used to it.

Doyle pulled back, then, still smiling a little, and raised his hands to the buttons of Bodie's shirt. "Do you know how gorgeous you are?" he asked casually, and Bodie was too stunned by the question to think of stopping the fingers that were baring his chest.


"Mm. Used to look at you in those pullovers and jackets, all covered up, and wonder what your nipples would taste like. Always wondered. Gonna find out," he added, and ducked his head forward.

Bodie caught his breath as lips fastened on his flesh, a sucking pull that sent strange shooting sensations through his chest. He shivered, bracing himself on one arm as Doyle leant against him. "R-Ray?"

Fingers replaced the lips, and Bodie inhaled sharply as Doyle looked up and met his eyes again. "Whatever you want," he said a little breathlessly, rolling Bodie's nipple between his fingertips.

"Just don't bite it," Bodie managed, and Doyle laughed and promised, "I won't." He sat up and began to work Bodie's loosely-hanging shirt off his shoulders. Bodie decided he'd rather get the undressing over with than let it drag on, and drew back to free his arms from the cloth. Seeing his motion, Doyle stood up and pulled his own shirt off, tossing it to the floor; he stilled, watching Bodie, with his hands at his belt buckle.

Bodie nodded and began, slowly, to undo his own trousers, watching Doyle all the time as he kicked off his trainers and stepped out of trousers and pants in one go. Bodie stripped more slowly, made somewhat awkward by his half-kneeling position on the bed, watching Doyle's body coming into view. Doyle's cock was half-erect, swinging a little between his thighs as he peeled his socks off and straightened up.

Bodie knew he was staring. "Why are you circumcised?"

"Dunno. I think Mum had heard it was cleaner to be cut." Doyle looked briefly down at himself. "Does it bother you?"

Bother him? "No." Bodie glanced at his own cock. "Does it bother you that I'm not?" he asked, on impulse, and then flinched inwardly. Bloody stupid question,'s damn obvious it doesn't, isn't it?

Doyle grinned again and came onto the bed beside him, kneeling on the pale blue duvet. "No. It doesn't bother me." He was very close now, and Bodie found himself staring again at his slowly filling erection. Doyle followed his eyes, and waited.

"I kept wondering what you'd feel like," Bodie admitted after a minute.

"Can find out, if you like." But Doyle still held himself motionless.

Carefully, Bodie reached out one hand and laid it over his partner's penis. And for a moment he was absurdly startled; softness over hard, it felt so like his, except for the angle at which he held it, that Doyle's sucked-in breath at the contact might have been his own. The smoothness of the head was strange, though, and he ran his fingers over it, filled with a strange mixture of curiosity, tension, and arousal. When he squeezed it Doyle moaned, sharply exhaling, and Bodie felt an answering jolt in his own body.

"Does it feel different, cut?" he asked, and Doyle chuckled, a little short of breath, and said, "How would I know?" Well, he could have talked about it with some other - boyfriend, but Bodie wasn't about to press the point. He moved his hand down to the hairy scrotum, probing and feeling its weight, surprised to find that Doyle's balls seemed bigger than his, though Doyle's cock was a bit smaller than his own. He squeezed them experimentally, and Doyle flinched and warned, "Careful, mate."

Bodie filed that away. He liked having his balls squeezed, if not too tightly - but then, Doyle liked having his nipples bitten, so who could tell? He let go as a hand came under his chin, tilting his face up, and Doyle kissed him harder this time, turning to press him down against the bed. He was uncomfortably aware of Doyle's weight on him - he didn't feel as trapped as he had before, but it made it hard to breathe. Pushing up, he maneuvered until they were lying on their sides, facing each other. They were still kissing, and Bodie rubbed his free hand across Doyle's cheek, feeling the faint stubble on the jaw that worked with the wet, eager kisses they were exchanging.

Remembering, he slid his hand down to Doyle's left nipple and pinched it, rolling the nub of flesh and feeling it harden. Doyle moaned into his mouth, and Bodie smiled, incongruously pleased with himself. Then Doyle's hand moved over his side and hip, sliding around to rest on Bodie's half-erection. Bodie tensed.

"Shh." Doyle had freed his mouth now, and his right arm slid under Bodie's neck to hug him close even as his left hand folded itself around Bodie's cock. "Nothing you don't want. I promise." Then he pushed himself up a little, until Bodie was lying on his back and Doyle was half-propped over him. Kisses touched his chin, his throat. "Let me - let me do this," Doyle whispered.

Bodie's head fell back, his eyes closing as the hand at his groin began to move. Doyle pulled long strokes along his shaft that left him straining to follow as they trailed away, that made his cock lengthen and arch up after them. A hot mouth sealed his and he grabbed at the muscular shoulders above him, groaning as the pleasure built. Ray... Billy... He had a sudden vision of what he must look like, spread out beneath his partner, letting his partner kiss him and jerk him off. Unsettled, trying to clear his mind, he twisted his head away.

Doyle let go at once. Bodie opened his eyes to see Doyle staring wide- eyed at him, propped on one elbow, his other hand motionless on Bodie's hip. Bodie took a deep breath, and let himself gaze along the whole length of both their bodies, seeing his erection jerking slightly with his pulse, and his partner's cock nudging at his hip.

He took another breath, listening to the clamor in his body. Doyle was watching him, waiting: his partner, the man he worked with, traded jokes and trouble with, who covered his back in shoot-outs and who he shouted at when the tension of an op was too much. What were they doing here? For a moment he felt strangely disjointed, out of place. Ray was his partner, his mate; not a girlfriend, or some scrubber picked up in the pub of an evening. His friend. Not someone to screw.

But that was a strange thing to think. Couldn't he go to bed with a friend, then? There was Billy...and looking into Doyle's eyes, remembering the strong strokes of his hand and the way he had laughed that afternoon, Bodie knew he wanted him. He reached up and pulled Doyle's head down. "It's all right," he muttered, and kissed him again.

Doyle moaned and came onto him, lying across his body with his erection rubbing and pressing on Bodie's skin. The kisses were gasping now, and Bodie felt his balls beginning to tighten. It was really going to happen. He worked a hand down between their bodies, until he could wrap it around Doyle's erection, hard now and smooth, with a drop of wetness at the tip that was slippery between his fingers. Doyle grunted and began to thrust into the grip, his own hand groping for Bodie.

It was really going to happen. He lay back, his other hand loose on Doyle's back, feeling with a strange mixture of surprise and complacency Doyle pushing into him, his gasps muffled against Bodie's throat. His hand slipped from Bodie's cock to clutch at the flesh of his waist, fingers digging in; Bodie slicked his hand over the seeping wetness of his cockhead and down again, gripping more tightly and using shorter strokes, feeling Doyle jerk against him with each one. His partner's legs scissored his, and the fingers digging into him were almost painful, but he concentrated on the stifled moans against his skin, the trembling beginning in Doyle's shoulders...and on the cock, so like and yet unlike his own. Still, for all his concentration, he was taken by surprise when Doyle's shoulders hunched and he cried out, his voice catching in his throat, and a hot burst spilled over Bodie's fingers. Bodie froze for a moment, almost shocked; and then, remembering their similarities, he gave Doyle a few more strokes, milking the pulses from him, until his cock became too sensitive and Bodie slipped his hand down to cradle Doyle's balls instead, his other arm pulling them closer together. Doyle was still gasping into the join of Bodie's neck and shoulder and Bodie smiled, feeling very satisfied of a sudden.

"Mmph. Bodie..." Doyle groggily raised his head, and then let it fall again. "Bodie!" Arms locked around him and Bodie found himself hugged so tightly it was hard to breathe. Wriggling, he freed his trapped hand, sticky now with the semen that was smearing both their stomachs, and hugged back, not as hard. Doyle was shuddering.

"Hey. 'S okay."

"God, Bodie. You don't know..." Doyle's voice trailed off. He loosened his hold and leant up, looking down at Bodie, then bent to kiss him. As Bodie opened his mouth, Doyle's hand reached for his cock, and he felt his somewhat-diminished erection reawaken and pulse strongly. From the smile Bodie could feel against his lips, Doyle felt it too.

"What would you like?" was whispered against his cheek.

For a moment Bodie's head spun with wild, undefined possibilities. He remembered his worry that Doyle would want to fuck him. No fear of that, now, anyway; Doyle was demonstrably in no shape to try, even if he'd wanted to. The hand on his cock was stroking harder now, and Bodie found himself thrusting upward into its grip. Doyle was good at that, too. But he'd been asked a question... He tried to think of an answer and found himself unable to verbalize anything. He rolled his head vaguely. "Whatever..."

Doyle kissed him again. "I want to suck you," he said, low.

Bodie's cock jumped at the words. He remembered, vividly, how Doyle's mouth had felt, before. When he hadn't been able to keep it up. That problem, at least, seemed to be solved. Doyle was moving down his body, now, licking a trail along his chest and tangling his tongue in pubic hair, one hand steadying the arching curve of Bodie's cock. Bodie breathed in, hoarsely, and felt the wet lips close around his cockhead.

God. It was as good as he remembered. Doyle's tongue licked around his foreskin, his lips forming a tight ring around the shaft, and Bodie bucked as his balls were cupped and squeezed. And this time the knowledge that it was a man, that it was Ray going down on him, didn't unstring him. He fumbled for Doyle's other hand and interlaced their fingers, feeling Doyle's grip tighten forcefully on his own, hanging on as the wet sliding along his cock sent him higher and higher. His toes were curling, his buttocks tightening as he closed his eyes and let the sensations take him, until just one more pull would do it, just one more... He groaned as he came, sparks of light behind his eyelids and a burst of pulsing pleasure. Doyle stayed with him, all the way, and Bodie could feel him swallowing. So he did...

Lying still, eyes closed, Doyle's head resting on his shoulder. His left arm across the other man's back; his right hand, sticky, held out from his side. Bodie rested, listening to their breathing.

After a while Doyle stirred, and the movement pulled at their skin where their stomachs were sticky with semen. Wincing, Doyle rolled away, onto his back, and rubbed at the matted hair around his navel. "Ugh."

"You want a shower?" Bodie asked, watching him. He didn't know the proprieties for this situation.

"Nah. Wait a minute." Doyle heaved himself up and went into the bathroom, returning a moment later with a flannel, with which he swabbed himself off before sitting on the edge of the bed and doing the same for Bodie. The cloth was damp and warm. Bodie took it from him and wiped his hand, then tossed it over the side of the bed to join their clothes. Doyle pulled the duvet back and nudged Bodie under the covers, getting in beside him.

Arms around each other again, legs nestled together. Three times in his life, now, he'd lain like this: once with Billy, once before with Doyle. He could almost remember what Billy's cock had felt like, in his mouth, but he couldn't remember the taste of his come. He couldn't even remember if he'd swallowed, that time, but he thought so. Breathing in, smelling the faint tang of Doyle's semen, he fell asleep.

He woke in the night, needing to urinate. Doyle didn't wake when he came back to bed, but he grunted in his sleep and pressed his warmth against Bodie's chilled skin. Bodie put an arm around him and lay for a while, looking up at the night-dim ceiling, thinking. Trying on a new image for size.

Pansy. No.

Cocksucker. His lips quirked. Wrong man, mate - that's Ray.

Yeah? He had an unsettling suspicion that he'd be trying it again, after sixteen years.

So what if he did? Didn't seem to do Doyle any harm. He remembered the arching column of flesh in his hand, imagined taking it into his mouth, and shivered. Never mind; plenty of time for that yet.

He didn't know what he was to Ray, now. Partnership, friendship, had no place for this sort of thing.

Why not?

He snorted and pushed all the questions determinedly away. He and Ray were good together, on and off the job, and if they could make this work, fine. And if not, they'd deal with it. He wasn't queer, he was sure of that, but - well, being bisexual didn't seem to bother Doyle. He supposed he could live with it.

He'd forgotten to turn on the alarm, but when he woke again it was only a quarter to seven. Doyle was lying with his face to the wall, breathing shallowly. Bodie thought about getting up, and then thought of Doyle, waking for the second time to find his partner gone, and changed his mind. Rolling onto his side, he put a hand gently on Doyle's shoulder.

"Ray. Wake up."

Doyle stirred and turned over. "Mmph. Wha' time..." Then, as he came fully awake, his eyes focussed on Bodie's, and he smiled tentatively. Bodie felt his own expression mirror Doyle's, and almost shyly he leant over and kissed him, quickly, on the lips.

"Almost seven, mate. Rise and shine."

Doyle sat up and stretched, and easy happiness shone through his face as he echoed, gently mocking, "'Rise and shine'? What are you, my mum?"

"Definitely not," Bodie retorted, feeling contentment welling up in him to match his partner's shining eyes.

They made breakfast together, and sometimes during the meal and the cleaning up they found themselves touching, for no reason but the pleasure of it. Bodie's skin tingled.

Doyle went to fetch their jackets. "What are we doing today?" he asked, as he pulled his on, and for a moment Bodie misunderstood, until he remembered that they were on duty again.

"Well, unless Murphy's had a stroke of luck since day before yesterday, we still need to track down something on Healey for him."

"Mm. Not much we can do there until this evening, though. Maybe we can talk the Cow into giving us the afternoon off, since we'll likely be working 'til midnight."

"Worth a try," Bodie agreed, and laughed for no reason, seeing Doyle smiling at him.

Against all expectation Cowley was amenable, taking them with him to serve as bodyguards and not-so-subtle reminders of his power during some sensitive meetings with his opposite numbers in several other nations' intelligence services. The duty was untaxing without being dull, and provided an unexpected high point when the East German agent who met them under conditions of the strictest secrecy turned out to have a Glaswegian accent that put Cowley's own to shame. Bodie raised one eyebrow at his partner, and Doyle rolled his eyes in return. They had little chance to talk as they escorted their boss from rendezvous to rendezvous, but they were perfectly meshed, each the counterweight of the other, with Cowley at the pivot. After each terse conference was over they turned together as if synchronized.

Cowley dismissed them at one, and they ate lunch by the river before heading back to Bodie's, where Doyle had left his bike. Standing in Bodie's postage-stamp of a garden, then, they looked at each other.

"You doing anything this afternoon?"

Doyle turned his riding helmet in his hands. "Few errands. If I don't get some washing done I'll be wearing my swimming trunks to work tomorrow." Bodie chuckled. "Look, you've still got that list of likely grasses we worked up? I'll pick you up at eight and we can start checking them out. Okay?"

"Okay." Doyle put the helmet on, hiding his face, and for a moment Bodie wanted to hug him, but that was manifestly impossible; they were in full view of the road. Then Doyle, with the same unspoken sensitivity they had shared all day, put out his hand, and Bodie clasped it. They gripped each other's wrists tightly, and then Bodie stepped back and Doyle swung his leg over the bike and kicked the starter.

Bodie spent the afternoon at home, doing a few odd jobs around the flat - including making the bed, a task which took him much longer than usual. At six-thirty he made himself a light meal, and then sat nursing a cup of tea, thinking. He supposed he was bisexual, now. He certainly wasn't queer, after all, but he couldn't deny that he'd turned on to Ray like a teenager.

It hadn't been at all uncomfortable being with Doyle today, and that almost surprised him, now he came to think about it. It had been awful, Wednesday morning.

Go with it, he told himself. It was good. And I'm not any more of a fairy than I was last week. I'm still me, and Ray's still who he's always been. Of course, Ray had always been bisexual, and he hadn't. Had never imagined himself... At least it didn't show.

Wonder if there're any others on the squad? He thought about it, mildly amused, and remembered the way Mac had clutched his partner's arm, Wednesday night, while the ambulance attendants had been strapping his shoulder for the ride to hospital. Could they be...? He snorted at himself. That had been a nasty shot, and besides, he'd met Mac's steady girl at the last Christmas party.

On the other hand, he'd met any number of Ray's girlfriends, too. He laughed at himself, but nevertheless found himself trying to imagine Mac and Lucas in bed together. He managed some of it, but then cut off the train of thought. If he went on with this he wouldn't be able to say hello to either one of them with a straight face - or without blushing.

Doyle arrived at eight in a battered Morris from the motor pool. They had already drafted a list of pubs and less licit gathering places where they might find someone useful, and Doyle, like Bodie, had changed into old clothes and work boots, the better to blend into the places they were going, with a scuffed leather jacket zipped halfway up to hide his holster. Bodie settled into the passenger seat, picked a promising locale, and gave Doyle directions.

Third of the evening's stops, the Black Bull was dark and gloomy, stinking of stale beer and stale smoke, when they arrived. According to Murphy, Healey had spent an evening or two a week here when he had the money, and so did several of Doyle's less reliable informants. "Let me deal with it," Doyle said in the car, and so Bodie let him go in first, and hung back a little as his eyes adjusted to the gloom. Doyle nodded at the barman as he slung a leg across a stool. "Lager, Jim," he said, and turned with the glass in his hand to survey the noisy room. Bodie moved to stand beside him and collected a pint of the same. Doyle, he noticed, wasn't drinking his.

After perhaps ten minutes, a shortish black man sauntered over to lean on the bar beside Doyle, and remained there after Jim had handed him a drink. Bodie didn't know him; he catalogued his appearance quickly and then looked away, listening without seeming to. Doyle was talking with him about a football match - a local club, apparently - and about the black man's job. Slowly, the conversation was angled around to names Bodie gathered belonged to other regulars of the pub; casually, Doyle dropped Kevin Healey's in among them.

Keeping one ear cocked, Bodie shifted and eyed the other men in the room. He didn't really need to follow the conversation; Doyle was running this show, and he was playing backup. Jim was watching him, and he took a swig of lager for the sake of inconspicuousness; one swallow convinced him to leave it to its role as camouflage, and not to try drinking it.

Someone of medium height, brown hair and a thin mustache, had come up on his other side. "Don' seem to like your drink," the newcomer remarked. Bodie glanced over at him. "Nah, s'fine. Not that thirsty."

"Then maybe you don' wanna be in a pub." The stranger leant against a stool and regarded Bodie with narrowed eyes. "Been here before?"

"Nah," Bodie repeated, cursing inwardly. This sort of thing could put a quick end to Doyle's discreet pumping of his grass. "Came with him," he said briefly, and jerked his head toward his partner. Doyle and the black man had moved together into a corner, a couple of yards away, where they couldn't be overheard.

Thin Mustache stared balefully from Bodie to the oblivious Doyle and back. "Maybe he don' wanna be here neither."

"Look," Bodie said patiently. "He's just talking with a mate, and I'm keeping him company. Nothing to do with you."

"Don' count on it, pal." The other man's voice was angry now, and his eyes narrowed with suspicion. "Seen too much o' him already."

"Look," Bodie said again, and dug for his wallet. "Let me buy you a drink, eh? Have one on me, and we'll be gone in a few." The other man struck his arm, and his wallet skittered across the floor. Reflexively, Bodie jerked into a combat-ready posture as a knife materialized in the other's hand; the din of conversation in the pub abruptly stopped, and into the silence Doyle's level voice said, "Hell."

Bodie's eyes never left Thin Mustache's. "Don't blame me, sunshine," he answered airily; "it was Mr. Congeniality here who pulled the blade."

Doyle walked slowly around to where Bodie could see him, shaking his head resignedly. "Can't take you anywhere."

Now that wasn't fair. Bodie snorted, shifting a little on the balls of his feet.

Doyle was leaning coolly against the bar, all outward unconcern. "Jim," he said, "what happened here?" But he never took his eyes off Bodie.

"Beats me," the barman answered cheerily. "Hodge's been having a bad week."

"He'll have a worse 'un if I tell his parole officer about that blade," Doyle commented, and Thin Mustache - Hodge - jerked at the words and twisted around to stare at him. "What're you - " In that unguarded moment Bodie chopped at his wrist, and the knife clattered to the floor, leaving Hodge clutching his numbed arm. Bodie put a foot on the blade. In the same calm, half-smiling voice, Doyle said, "Now if you apologize nicely to my friend, here, he just might give it back to you."

Hodge scowled and muttered something nearly inaudible. After a glance at Doyle's face, Bodie moved his foot, and Hodge snatched his weapon back. Bodie turned to look for his wallet, and found the black man Doyle had been talking with holding it out to him.

"Well, Jim," Doyle said with heavy sarcasm, "it's been a pleasure as always. Coslow, buy yourself a drink." The note he passed to the black man was folded into his palm, but Bodie was willing to bet it would pay for several bottles. "C'mon, mate, let's go."

In the car, Bodie could finally demand, "What the hell was all that about?"

Doyle chuckled as he threaded his way through back streets, leaving the seamy neighborhood behind. "Oh, Hodge's had it in for me for years. Hasn't got the balls to do anything about it, so he picked on you, 's all."

"And your grass - Coslow?"

"I gave his kid a break six years ago, joyride in a stolen car. He passes on what he hears, but generally he doesn't hear much." He laughed aloud. "But this time, Bodie mate, we have hit the jackpot."

"What?" Doyle's face was full of glee, and Bodie couldn't help smiling as well.

"Hodge, that's what. Your pal with the knife came in Wednesday afternoon, already tanked, and spent ten minutes in Coslow's hearing pissing about how he didn't like doing the rough stuff, and how if the Kraut wanted the little git snuffed he should have left poor Hodge alone and sent in one of his own boys..." He laughed again as understanding washed across Bodie's face.

"Hodge killed Murphy's grass!" Bodie slapped his knee exuberantly.

"On Schussman's orders, and probably with that knife. We can pull them in any time, now, and probably Hanrahan too; I'd bet Healey was killed to stop him talking about an IRA buy. Looks like Cowley was right about that link." Doyle grinned with satisfaction, and Bodie reached out and ruffled his hair, pulling his fingers through the curls. "Regular Boy Detective, you are," he told him affectionately, and Doyle laughed and slanted a glance at him.

"Copper's training," he explained affably. "All we need is a lead on the armory itself, and we can wrap this one up like Christmas parcels." He patted Bodie's thigh, smiling. "Go on, call it in; we'll have it on Father's desk when he gets in tomorrow."

Bodie flicked the radio on and outlined Coslow's story to the night dispatcher while Doyle drove. When he hung up the mike Doyle was already pulling up in front of his flat, and instead of stopping and waiting for Bodie to get out, he nudged the car into a space and shut the engine off. They looked at each other for a moment, and then Doyle asked, "Can I come in?"

Bodie answered his smile with one of his own. "Wish you would."

In bed that night Bodie found that he wanted to do more, to explore the sorts of things Doyle was doing, so distractingly, to him. He pushed Doyle's hands away from his groin and slid down to look at his partner's cock, hard and slightly curving in his hand; Doyle lay flat on his back, motionless and waiting tensely.

Carefully, holding his breath, Bodie touched the tip of his tongue to the underside of Doyle's cockhead, right where he himself was most sensitive. The skin was a little loose, there, and it smelled...dank. He slid his tongue down the shaft. Doyle's fingers dug into his shoulders, and he felt a throbbing in his own cock, a ghostly echo of the caresses he was giving; "Please," he heard Doyle say.

He sat back a little. There was a drop of precome oozing from the tip of Doyle's prick; it was sweet when he tested it, hesitantly. Then he opened his mouth, carefully again, and closed his lips around the cockhead.

Doyle gasped as Bodie's mouth took him, and jerked under the hands on his hips. He was thrusting upward, and Bodie pulled away. "Christ, Bodie, please," he said again, hoarsely.

Bodie took a breath and bent his head again. This time he took it all in, feeling Doyle's cock fill his mouth until he nearly gagged, his jaw stretched wide; but at the same time the knowledge of what Doyle must be feeling, the smell of him pressed into Bodie's face, was incredibly arousing. He tried to do to Doyle the sorts of things he liked himself; he slipped his lips along the shaft, pressing hard against it with his tongue, and found himself almost as turned on as if it were being done to him. He had to use one hand to keep from going down too far, finally understanding why girls had sometimes complained and pulled away, coughing; he gagged again, taking him too deeply, but it didn't matter. A few more strokes and he found a rhythm, sucking hard as Doyle's hands convulsively kneaded his shoulders; "Bodie," he heard Doyle moan, and then a gasp as Bodie fingered his balls. "Bodie, I'm - I'm gonna come...oh, Christ - " Quickly, Bodie sat back, wrapping both hands around Doyle's wet shaft and pumping them hard; he watched as Doyle arched up and pushed into his grip, and spurted over his own heaving chest and stomach. He slowed his hands, feeling the pulses weaken under his fingers, and looked at Doyle's face. Doyle's eyes were screwed shut, his teeth gritted. If Bodie hadn't known better, he might have thought he was in pain; but he did know better. He trailed a finger through the spatters of white in Doyle's chest hair.

Slowly, Doyle relaxed. He opened his eyes and smiled up at Bodie. "Hi."

"Hi, yourself." Bodie looked at his finger, then touched it to his lips. The semen was sharp on his tongue, but not unpleasant.

"What's it taste like?"

"Don't you know?"

"Not my own," Doyle answered, and then flushed slightly.

"Kind of bitter. 'S okay." Bodie wiped his finger on his leg. "You want a towel?"

Doyle shook his head. "I'd rather - if you don't mind it," he said disjointedly, and held out an arm. Understanding, Bodie lay down beside him and pulled him close. "Messy bugger," he told him affectionately.

"Not my fault, is it?" Doyle was silent for a moment, and when he spoke again his words were hesitant. "I thought I should tell you - you mightn't want - "

"Not yet," said Bodie quietly, knowing what he meant. "Later, Ray." He kissed him lightly. "Oi, how come it's always you that gets off first? Bit quick off the mark, aren't you?"

"Shouldn't be so sexy, then," Doyle told him, which gave him an odd feeling. "Never been a problem before. Besides, you'll get yours."

"Yeah? You look a bit wiped, mate. How do I know there's anything left for me?"

"Anything, Bodie." Doyle was abruptly intent, his words emphatic. "Anything you want."

"Anything?" Bodie licked his lips, watching Doyle's face. The implications of that were - disturbing. "What if I wanted to fuck you?"

"Do you?"

Jesus, no. But Bodie didn't say it. "Would you let me?"

"Yes." Doyle's voice was level.


"What do you mean, why?" Doyle moved back a little, to see him better.

"Do you like it?" The questions were boiling up inside him all of a sudden, and he had to ask. "You've fucked men, haven't you?"

Doyle sighed. "Yes," he said flatly.

"You like doing it?"


Something Doyle had said, nearly a week ago... If you had the guts to ask, I'd tell you. "Do you want to fuck me?" he asked sharply, and Doyle met his eyes and slowly shook his head.

"Not yet."

"What the hell does that mean? You do want to!" Doyle didn't say anything. "You've been fucked, too, haven't you?" Reluctantly, it seemed, Doyle nodded. "D'you like it? Do you?"

Doyle took a deep breath and sat up, his arms wrapped around his knees. "Not especially."

"But you'd let me, would you? Why? So you can get to do it to me, is that it?" He might have said more, but Doyle suddenly exploded, grabbing him, wrestling him flat on the bed before Bodie could react.

"Shut up! Just shut the fuck up, Bodie!" He was yelling, and his arms shook as he pinned Bodie's shoulders to the mattress. "Just shut up, you don't know a fuckin' thing about it, you..." He shuddered to a halt, breathing roughly; then he let go and pushed himself off his partner, slumping back against the wall. "Shit," he muttered, and pressed his fingers against his eyes.

Bodie reached out hesitantly, but let his hand fall before it touched. "Ray?"

Doyle lowered his hands and glared at him. "You just don't get it, do you?"

"Then tell me," Bodie retorted, still a little sharply.

"I'd've let you do it, mate, because I want you to have what you want. If you want to, you can, because it turns me on when you're turned on. And I don't want to fuck you, because I don't think you want me to. Or are you going to try and tell me you do?"

"No," Bodie admitted, and got a rueful smile from his partner.

"Bodie, I told you before, this isn't about getting my end away. I'm not going to bed with you just for that. You're my friend, dammit!"

Behind the anger, it sounded almost like a plea. Bodie took a deep breath and forced himself to relax; slowly, the clangorous tension between them quieted. He touched Doyle's shoulder, gently. "I know. You're mine, too. C'mere." He pulled Doyle away from the wall, into his arms. "I'm sorry," he added after a moment, into Doyle's hair.

"I can't take you freaking out like this, Bodie," Doyle said against his neck.

"I know. I'm sorry." Now, afterwards, he knew where the demanding questions had come from. "I just - I dunno. Got scared, I suppose."

"Of what?"

"Don't know. Leave it for now, can't we?"

In response Doyle pushed him down again, on his stomach this time. "Relax, lie down. You're too tense. We're both too tense." Strong fingers dug into Bodie's shoulders, and he groaned as Doyle began to massage him, expertly, kneading the tension along his spine until he wrung it out. Bodie shut his eyes as Doyle worked his way down to his hips, and then blinked in surprise as the fingers continued down, working the flesh of his buttocks. He made an inquiring sound, and Doyle hushed him; there was a quick kiss on one cheek before the massage continued, kneading and pulling the muscles of his arse and then his thighs, moving down his legs until each foot was taken in turn and a thumb rubbed along its arch. His sore ankle was gently rolled, and then Doyle let him go. Nearly boneless, Bodie turned over to see Doyle smiling at him; he opened his arms and Doyle lay down on top of him and kissed him. Sighing, Bodie cradled his head and shoulders as they moved over him, licking at the warm wet refuge of Doyle's mouth; and soon Doyle was sliding down his body, tonguing his nipples and his navel and finally, wonderfully, sucking his cock in as Bodie groaned and stroked his hair. He thought fleetingly of sixty-nine; he would have liked to have been able to reach Doyle at the same time, but he didn't want him to stop and move, so he shut his eyes and remembered how Doyle's cock had felt in his mouth when he had done to Doyle what Doyle was doing to him, and when he came he called his partner's name.

Chapter 5

The next few weeks went by so smoothly that Bodie hardly noticed the time passing. The IRA case fell together as neatly as they'd hoped; Murphy turned up a lead on how the guns were being shipped, and with that they pulled in Hodge and leant on him until he spilled. It didn't take long; Bodie and Doyle bracketed him, silent and looming while Cowley snapped questions, and at odd moments one of them would casually toss the confiscated blade across Hodge's face to the other. His shirt was rank with sweat when he broke and gave them the details they needed to arrest the others. Within ten days they had them all; German authorities had seized the weapons at the shipping dock, and the various men involved were on their way to prison or, in Schussman's case, extradition. Cowley took the two of them, with Murphy and Marriott, out for a drink when it was all over.

Sleeping with Doyle didn't seem to strain the friendship. They didn't do it too often, spending the night together once a week or so; it was more than they had been used to, but not unheard of, for them, so they didn't fear anyone figuring out what was going on. Once Bodie was called in in the middle of the night from Doyle's, but neither the night dispatcher nor Cowley, hurriedly collecting information on an old SAS acquaintance of Bodie's, seemed to give it any thought.

They didn't discuss fucking again, although sometimes, feeling the muscles of Doyle's buttocks flex under his hands, Bodie thought about it. Once, masturbating, he worked an experimental finger up his arse, awkward and half-embarrassed even in total privacy. He supposed that with enough grease it would feel good to the bloke on top. On the bottom end, though - the probing was not unpleasant, a strange internal pressure that wasn't, quite, arousal; but when he tried to stretch the constricted muscle he felt a spasm inside and pulled his finger out hurriedly.

He grew slowly used to looking at Doyle in a new way, a sexual way. He had always noticed, more or less automatically, the better-looking girls he passed, especially in the low-cut summer blouses that were beginning to appear; now he found himself watching Doyle in something of the same way. At the routine six-monthly reviews he watched Doyle and Harrison wrestle, both in shorts, comparing the smooth strength of her leg to the hairy bulk of muscle in Doyle's thigh, and was disconcerted to realise that both appealed to him; still, although he could summon a purely physical response to either, there was a difference in its quality that he couldn't quite put into words.

He was more startled when Jax stripped off his shirt and moved onto the mat. The smooth dark skin rippled with muscle, sweat highlighting his chest in a way that Doyle's body hair prevented, and he stared, not quite believing the way his heart was pounding. When Macklin paired him with Jax for the next bout he forced his thoughts back to the business at hand, but still at each throw he was extraordinarily aware of the other man's body pressing against his, his heat and smell.

He and Doyle spent more time together off-duty than they had since February, when things had first gone bad. Doyle dragged him, only mildly protesting, to several films; one was surprisingly good, and another they snickered at together until the people behind them complained. The yearly unofficial marksmanship tournaments among the various service branches were in May; Bodie badgered his partner into extra range practice, and then got sopping drunk with him when a veteran from SIS walked away with the pistol trophy anyway.

He began to ask Doyle, a little at a time, about other men he'd been with. It wasn't jealousy, exactly, though to be honest with himself he had to admit that that was part of it. But Doyle had kept a whole part of his life secret from him, and Bodie was curious. Slowly feeling his way into a self-image that still shocked him from time to time, he wanted to know how Doyle had managed it. Nothing he could do, however, would get Doyle to tell him about the men he had been involved with before: who he'd seen the film with that time, or who he'd been with the times he had, he now admitted, misled Bodie into thinking he was on a date with a bird. If Bodie persisted in asking he would get curt, then irritated, and change the subject.

They spent a beautiful Saturday morning in early June knocking on doors in Hampstead, trying to locate someone who had noticed the sudden decamping of a fence and suspected drug dealer; Cowley, in a rare miscalculation, hadn't thought he bore close watching until too late. They had no luck at all, but they hadn't expected any, and so were not particularly disheartened as they cut back toward their car through the grassy open spaces of the Heath. They passed a group of boys knocking a football around, and with a wink Bodie dodged into their midst and kicked it deftly to Doyle; cries of "hey, that's ours" erupted, and Doyle found himself inundated by eleven angry bodies. He managed to slip past them and return the ball to Bodie, and the scene degenerated into a free-for-all that left the two of them panting and grinning, and the boys jeering as they ran away across the grass with their reclaimed ball.

"Dunno what we're comin' to, sunshine," Bodie said, punching him lightly on the shoulder; "only five to one, after all. Macklin'd have us for breakfast if he knew."

"Well, I'm not going to tell him." Doyle glared at the trainer print outlined on the instep of his boot and bent over to brush it away. "I swear the kid that landed on me weighed more than you do. Maniac."

"Yeah," agreed Bodie, uninsulted. "You want to grab some lunch? Saw a chippy down by the Tube when we came in that didn't look bad."

"You and your stomach," sighed Doyle, predictably. "Amount of fried food you eat, it's a wonder you haven't got spots." He looked out across the grass for a moment, silent, and then seemed to reach a decision, turning back to Bodie. "Forget the chippy. I know a place."

"No chips?"

"No chips." Doyle was leading the way, out of the Heath and into the city streets. Bodie followed behind. "Well, what is it, then? Indian? Could go for a curry too..."

"Oh, shut up, Bodie. It's a pub, all right?" But Bodie had just figured that out for himself, since they were heading straight for a building on the corner of the High Street that said "pub" as clearly as if it had been painted on the sign, or on the brick face of the building that read, instead, "King William IV."

"Didn't know you knew Hampstead. This your beat too, copper?" Doyle ignored him, leading Bodie through the door and into a small bar area.

The barman nodded as they came up, and Doyle returned the gesture. "'Lo, Sean. Lager, please - what'll you have to drink, mate?" He looked inquiringly at Bodie, who was still recovering from the easy way Doyle had greeted the man.

"Lager's fine." The small room was mostly empty; a couple of men were talking in one of the dark booths around its edges, and there might have been a lounge on the other side of the door as they came in. Bodie wasn't sure. It didn't particularly look like Doyle's sort of place.

"Two pints of lager, then. 'N' a ploughman's for me. You?"

Taken by surprise, Bodie squinted at the hand-lettered board above the bar. "The cheese and mushroom pie's on special today," offered Sean helpfully.

"That'll be fine." Sean had pulled their pints, and Doyle pushed the brimming glasses toward Bodie and pointed him toward a door in the far wall. "Go on into the garden, find us some seats. I'll bring the food in a minute." Obediently, Bodie took a glass in each hand, sucked the dripping foam off each in turn - earning himself a sour look from his partner - and turned away.

Shouldering through the door Doyle had indicated, he found himself in a small garden, bounded with wooden fencing behind and a high ironwork rail shutting it off from the street. The fifteen or so people scattered at tables and picnic benches nearly filled it to capacity, but Bodie found a tiny table in a sunny corner and hooked a spare chair toward it to join the one already there, setting the glasses down and looking around. It was pleasant outside, much more so than in the dim interior, and a few people nodded and smiled amicably as his gaze passed over them.

After a few minutes Doyle showed up, with a plate in each hand. He sat down and pushed one of them toward Bodie. "You owe me just over three quid. This one mine?" he added, picking up a glass.

"Doesn't matter, I've had some of both of them." Doyle snorted and took a long drink.

Bodie started on his pie, which was steaming hot and smelled homemade. A sparrow landed on the table's rim, cocking its head fearlessly at him, and he grinned and tossed it a bit of crust. It snatched the tidbit out of the air and flew away with it to the top of the railing, where all its cousins chittered in jealousy and tried to steal it. Bodie chuckled, watching, and Doyle touched his arm.

"Shouldn't do that. Encourage them, and they'll be stealing it right off your fork." He pointed to a hand-lettered sign tacked on the fence, and Bodie shaded his eyes to read it. "Please don't feed the sparrows," it said; "they're more than capable of helping themselves."

"Let 'em try. May have been trounced by schoolboys, but I'm damned if I'll let a bird get the best of me." Doyle rolled his eyes, and Bodie took another mouthful of pie. "This is good. Why'd you never mention this place before?"

Doyle looked at him steadily, but didn't say anything. Bodie's smile faltered as the silence lengthened. Looking around again, he realised with an uneasy jolt that there were only two women in the garden, and although they were sitting with a couple of blokes, all four of them talking and laughing, somehow he had failed to notice that it was the women who were holding hands across the table. Everywhere else it was men, mostly in pairs like himself and Doyle.

Like himself and Doyle... He turned back to his partner with a spreading sense of shock. "This is a - "

"Gay pub," finished Doyle, quietly. "Eat your lunch."

"But..." If he'd ever thought about what a gay hangout would be like, it had been to picture something sordid: leather and poofs in a dark room and blowjobs in the loo. Not this sunny garden, with the best pie he'd had in months and a barman Ray knew by name. "How'd you know about this place?"

"How d'you think?" Doyle sighed, and then smiled, a little apologetically. "Came here with someone a couple of times, that's all." He looked at the pickled onion on his plate, then offered it to Bodie. "Never liked these things. You want it?"

"Not with pie. Who'd you come here with? A - a boyfriend?"

"If you like."

"Not much," Bodie muttered.

"Well, you would keep askin'. And I like this place; I thought you might too." Doyle grinned wickedly. "They do a Hallowe'en night that's not to be believed."

"I'll bet." He looked around again at the other men in the garden. One or two of them, now he looked, did seem a bit - well, fruity. Two in the far corner were even staring soppily into each other's eyes. But most of them looked like regular blokes. Even the women holding hands were ones he might easily have tried to pick up, under other circumstances.

And he was sitting here with Doyle, which meant that they all presumably assumed...and they were right, too, he reminded himself. Still, it made him uncomfortable, that anyone here could look at him and know that he and Doyle screwed each other.

Though they didn't. Not literally.

"The place is a couple hundred years old," Doyle was saying. "They claim Oscar Wilde used to come here."

"You go to places like this a lot?" he asked dryly.

"No. Not often. Too dangerous to get in the habit, anyway; if it got back to the Cow, I could be for the high jump. But sometimes I like to. Besides, they're friendly here, and the food's good."

They're friendly here... Bodie felt the words congeal in his stomach, and decided he had to ask. "Do you - pick up blokes, then? At places like this?"

"'S not a pick-up joint. For half these people, it's their local."

"But - other places? Do you, Ray?"

Doyle flinched a little when Bodie said his name. "Keep it down, mate. Safe enough to have lunch here, but don't get reckless."

"Do you?"

"Look." Doyle pushed his plate away and sat forward, running a distracted hand through his hair. "I brought you here because it's got good food, and I thought you'd like it...and because I - I wanted to show it to you. I know you've got questions I haven't answered. We can talk tonight, if you like, but - not here, all right? Besides," he glanced at his watch, "we ought to call in. We'll probably have to dig through the phone records; we're not going to get anything useful out here."

"Yeah." Bodie knew he was right, and reluctantly let the subject drop. They finished their lunch, and on their way out through the bar Sean nodded and smiled as they went by. Bodie made himself return the gesture, although it embarrassed him. Two queers simpering at each other - except that anyone watching was queer too, of course.

As expected, they spent the rest of the day in the GPO's file room wading though records, trying to trace the man's calls in the days before he vanished and link them with anyone who might have been a connection or a cohort. Most of them turned out to have been made to pay phones, nearly all to only two: one on a streetcorner off Leicester Square, and the other in a shared tenancy in Clapham. "I see a stakeout in our future," Bodie predicted gloomily. Doyle concurred.

"Rather have the house than the other, though. If he sends us to Leicester Square ten to one we'll have to pass as tramps to sit and watch the phone all day, and I hate the smell of cheap wine."

Bodie shuddered theatrically. "Don't even mention it. Besides, it drives me batty, not shavin' for a week."

"Might as well go and tell 'im what we've got." Doyle pushed himself up from the table piled with computer printout, and Bodie, resignedly, followed.

To their relief, they did indeed draw the house, trading off with Harrison and Jax and then Murphy and Marriott, their first shift from noon to eight the next day. At liberty until then, they headed back to Doyle's flat, since Doyle had laid in a stock of food a few days before and now announced his intention of spending the evening cooking. Bodie, predictably, offered to help dispose of the result, and Doyle flipped two fingers at him, grinning. "You'll dispose of the dishes, mate, or it's bread and water for you."

"Rubbish bin or window?" asked Bodie placidly, and failed to dodge in time.

Dinner turned out to be sort of a pasta and sort of a casserole; Doyle admitted that it had been an experiment, but Bodie assured him that it was fine, and ate two helpings to prove it. They finished off a bottle of wine they had opened a few days before, and then moved with coffee into the sitting room. "Dishes," reminded Doyle warningly, and Bodie nodded.

"I'll do 'em, settle down. Plenty of time yet before they get all crusty." He pulled the curtains shut and settled himself on the couch, holding one arm out for Doyle, who came in under it, leaning against him. They sipped in companionable silence for a while, until Doyle spoke, a little hesitantly.

"Bodie? Did you, um, mind my takin' you there this morning? I did spring it on you, rather."

Bodie tightened the arm across his partner's shoulders. "No, I didn't mind. Was a nice place. It just gave me a bit of a shock, that's all."

"Not what you expected, was it?"

"Nope." He thought for a moment, rubbing Doyle's neck absently; then his hand stilled. "So do you pick up blokes, then?"

"I did, a few times," Doyle enunciated carefully. "I don't now."

That was as near as they'd come to any kind of definite statement about what they were doing, but Bodie had other things on his mind at the moment. The image of Doyle with some stranger he'd met in a bar, a disco, brought back the images he'd been thinking of that afternoon, even as the sunny garden refuted them.

"Not the cottages, I hope?" he said with forced nonchalance.

Doyle twisted around to stare at him. "For fuck's sake, Bodie! Tell me the last time you hired a whore, and I'll tell you I do the cottages! What d'you think I am?"

"Nineteen-seventy-three," said Bodie evenly.

Doyle gaped for a moment, and then relaxed. "Jesus. Never figure you out, mate. No, I don't do the cottages. Look, Bodie, picking up a bloke in a pub's no different from picking up a girl, and you and I've done that any number of times. Meet someone, get to talking, get friendly, and - take it from there." He moved back into the circle of Bodie's arm.

Get friendly. Bodie had a smooth technique for moving in on an unattached bird, if she was attractive and he was in the mood. He'd seen Doyle do it too. But - would you buy a bloke a drink, for Christ's sake? Flirt with him? What a picture.

"And you fucked them."

"Sometimes. If we wanted to."

"How come I never knew?"

"Because I was bloody careful to keep it from you, you idiot. Figured you'd lose your rag. And you did, too."

"Yeah, well, you didn't exactly break it gently. Never mind that." Unsettling images were tumbling through his mind: Doyle laughing with someone, heads together at a little table in the pub garden; Doyle's face - what would it look like? - as he hunched over another man's back, thrusting. Bodie shifted in his seat, feeling a heat grow in his groin.

They'd done just about everything else. And his finger hadn't been unpleasant, that time. Maybe... "Do you want to fuck?" he asked quietly.

Doyle startled against him. "What, tonight?" And, weakly grabbing for a light response, lisped falsetto, "this is so sudden..."

The joke fell like a dead weight, and they were both silent for a minute. When Doyle did speak again, he didn't answer the question. "You probably shouldn't stay tonight," he pointed out quietly. "Be twice in four days."

"Never mind that. It'll be all right. Do you?"

They were both looking straight ahead, not at each other, but Bodie's arm was heavy across Doyle's shoulders. "Which way?" Doyle asked tonelessly.

Both. There was a shooting surge in Bodie's groin, and he was intensely aware of his buttocks pressing against the sofa cushion, of the curve of Doyle's hips as he leant against him. But one thing at a time. "Which do you think?" he answered, as if there couldn't be any doubt. "At least I know something about that end of it."

"Okay," said Doyle, and after a moment turned and kissed him, a rarity between them outside of bed. They looked at each other for a moment, and then Doyle added prosaically, "But you'd better get to the washing- up first, because you're not getting anything else until you do."

Obediently, Bodie pushed himself up and went into the kitchen, turning on the taps to fill the sink. Doyle was moving around the sitting room; he put a record on, slow jazz, and Bodie heard him humming along with it as he tidied up. When he brought their coffee cups in and added them to the pile of crockery to be washed, Bodie met his eyes and then looked him over from head to toe, lingering along the way; there was a tension of anticipation rising in him even as he was elbow-deep in suds, and he shivered a little when Doyle touched his face lightly before wandering out again.

In the routine of getting ready for bed, brushing their teeth and using the toilet, checking the locks and alarms, they moved around each other, slipping past each other in the hallway with an awareness that might have been heightened by their not touching. But when they met in Doyle's bedroom, standing by the side of the broad bed with the lamp spilling light over them in the night-dark room, they moved into each other's arms with an ease that was still startling to Bodie after all these weeks.

"God, Bodie," Doyle said against his cheek. "Still can't believe this."

Me neither. Bodie smiled, and said aloud, "Believe it, mate." He began to unbutton Doyle's shirt, until Doyle stopped him, moving away to do it himself. Side by side they stripped, and came together under the covers.

Kissing, rubbing together, Bodie gave his hands free rein over his partner's buttocks, squeezing and rolling the flesh, feeling the muscles flex as Doyle pushed against him. He was hard already when Doyle worked a hand between their bellies to feel him, and Doyle wasn't far behind. The sensitivity of his partner's nipples still impressed Bodie, and he sucked on them for a long time, wringing gasps and moans from Doyle, until strong hands finally pulled him away and up. "Stop - stop. It's too much." They kissed again, deeply, and Bodie's cock throbbed against the rough thatch of Doyle's groin. He gripped Doyle's buttocks again, grinding Doyle against himself.

Then his fingers slipped inward, and Doyle raised his head to look solemnly at him. Panting with arousal, Bodie stared back. "Still want to?" Doyle asked after a moment, and Bodie nodded. "Okay, then."

Doyle rolled off him, and Bodie, suddenly self-conscious, reached over to the nightstand for the bottle of baby oil they had taken to keeping close, occasionally using it to slick hands and bellies. But Doyle caught his wrist, shaking his head. "No, um - oil's not so good. We need something..." For a moment he looked almost as embarrassed as Bodie. "There's Vaseline in the loo."

Bodie got up and went into the bathroom, rummaging through the medicine chest until he found the little pot of jelly. He took a towel as well, coming back into the bedroom to find Doyle lying on his stomach, head on his arms, watching him. Bodie opened the jar and sat down on the edge of the bed. He put a hand on his partner's shoulder.

"Use a lot," Doyle said. "Inside, too."

Bodie's stomach tightened. He dipped one finger into the jar and leant over, pulling Doyle's buttocks apart with the other hand until he saw his anus. Doyle drew one knee up slightly, giving Bodie better access. Carefully, Bodie touched a laden finger to the clenched muscle. Doyle's skin was warm, a little sweaty under the curve of his arse but dry between his cheeks. Bodie spread the jelly over him, feeling the little hole twitch as his fingertip slid over it; remembering what Doyle had said, he swallowed and pressed in.

Inside Doyle's body it was hot and tight, the sphincter gripping his finger. He withdrew and added more jelly, then slid back in and twisted his finger experimentally, trying to cover the walls of Doyle's rectum with lubricant. Doyle murmured at the motion and pulled his leg up higher. "Ray?"

"It's okay. Two fingers now. Then three. It takes a while to loosen up, but it'll hurt otherwise."

Bodie didn't want to hurt him. At the moment he wasn't sure that he wanted to go through with it at all; but he couldn't back out now. Besides, it had to have something going for it. Blokes had been doing it for centuries, after all. He greased his middle finger and slid it in beside the first, flexing them inside Doyle's arse. When Doyle sighed and seemed to relax, he added another.

Finally, when he could feel the muscles no longer clenching on his knuckles, he drew his fingers out and wiped them on the towel. He couldn't help checking, and was relieved to find nothing untoward smeared on the terrycloth; he hadn't wanted to ask, but he had wondered about that side of it.

"Go on," said Doyle. "It's okay."

Bodie chuckled sheepishly. "I can't." He had lost his erection.

Doyle half-turned over and stared at him, then belatedly realised. "It's okay," he said again. "C'mere." He pulled Bodie into his arms, and after a moment began lick-kissing the side of his face. "Y'know," he said, between caresses, "the first time I slept with a girl, I couldn't get it up? I was fifteen, and I'd put away about four pints just to get up the nerve, and there I was, limp as a noodle..."

Bodie laughed. "Hell, my first time I came before I was even inside her. Didn't even have time to get the rubber on, and she started accusin' me of gettin' her preggers."

"Well, that's one thing we don't have to worry about." Doyle captured his mouth then, and Bodie returned the kiss hungrily, pressing Doyle's body close to his. He shivered as teeth nipped along his neck, and then Doyle leant away and fumbled for the jar, and a slick hand closed over Bodie's penis. The jelly was thicker than the oil they had used before, less slippery but wetter, somehow. Bodie shuddered as slow caresses were pulled along his shaft. Retaliating, he pinched Doyle's nipple, then wrapped his own hand, still slightly greasy, around the other man's half-erection. They were both getting hard again.

Finally, when he was breathing heavily and Doyle was groaning, Bodie stilled his hand. "Ray? You, um - "

"Yeah." Doyle kissed him again, then rolled onto his stomach, bringing his knees under to lift his backside. Bodie moved behind him, kneeling between his legs, rubbing his own cock with one hand as he hesitantly reached out with the other and touched the fleshy buttock. "Anything I should know?"

Doyle laughed tautly. "You'll work it out. Just, go slow at first."

Bodie leant forward, supporting himself with one hand, and with the other began to guide himself into Doyle's arse. It was tight, almost painfully so, and when he was only a little way in Doyle grunted sharply and he felt the muscles spasm. Bodie froze, waiting. After what seemed a long moment Doyle relaxed, and at a word from him Bodie pushed in further. Buried to the hilt, he held still, intensely aware of Doyle's thighs where they pressed against his, and the curve of flesh against his crotch.

Doyle shifted under him, twisting his hips slightly, and Bodie cut off a gasp. His cock was throbbing, Doyle's body so close around it; carefully, he pulled out and thrust in again, and the shock of sensation lit fires through his groin. "You okay?" he managed, and Doyle told him yes, only go on...

He was kneeling, his balance a little precarious, pulling Doyle to him at each stroke with his hands at his waist. Doyle grunted and pushed back at him, and Bodie let himself fall forward, until his weight was supported by Doyle's back and one hand flat on the bed, and he could reach around and finger his partner's nipples with the other, fire surging through him when the caress made Doyle groan and shiver. Reaching down then, he found Doyle's cock curving away from his belly and wrapped his hand around it, unable to jerk him off and still keep his rhythm, but holding him as Doyle humped back to meet his thrusts and forward into his fingers as Bodie pulled away.

Strangely enough, it wasn't the fucking itself that was strange. Except for the tightness, his cock couldn't feel much difference from a woman - although Bodie could tell that more jelly might not have gone amiss. It was the rest of it that was disconcerting. Ray's buttocks were round and firm against him, where he was used to a woman's long thighs and pubic bone; and where there should have been breasts, and arms around him, he saw only the hard planes of Doyle's shoulders, tense and muscular, and the back of his head. Bodie rubbed his cheek against the skin, smelling Doyle's sweat, hearing his labored breathing.

"What does it feel like for you?" he asked suddenly. Another thrust made Doyle's breath catch, and Bodie did it again, trying for the reaction. "What does that feel like?"

"Hard to say. Hurts a little...kind of a turn-on, too. Full. It's hard to describe."

"It hurts?" He slowed his motions.

"Not so much. Don't worry about it. Mostly it's just...full."

Well, that made sense. Doyle pushed back against him and he thrust again, feeling his balls swinging with the movement. His cock was throbbing, sparks lit from it with every tight-held motion, and he hugged Ray to himself, pressed his face into his neck. Ray... He wanted to kiss, wished for kissing, but it wasn't possible in this position. Even so, and although they had come in each other's arms before, rubbing hard against oiled bellies, this was unlike anything they'd ever done. Pressed against Doyle from nipple to knee, moving inside him, burying his cock in warm slick heaven, again and again... He cried out, his mouth open against Doyle's skin as he came, arms locked around his chest, pumping hard into the recesses of his lover's body, as deep as he could get and still straining, his weight grinding them together as if their skins could burn away and let them merge.

Coming back to awareness, he found himself lying full length on Doyle's back, Doyle flat on the mattress. He rubbed a cheek against the side of Doyle's face. "Wow." After a moment, he added, "You okay?"

"Umph." There was a stifled heave upward. "Yeah. Can I breathe now?" Obediently, Bodie rolled off him, feeling the tug on his cock as their bodies pulled apart. He didn't let go, however, and Doyle made no demur, snuggling in against him as they turned on their sides, hugging chest to chest.

"How was it?"

"You need to ask?" Bodie looked down, then diffidently laid his hand on Doyle's half-erection. "You didn't come."

"Nah. Not from that."

Bodie remembered something, from what seemed a long time ago. "You said once you didn't like it."

"It's okay. It's...just..." One hand waved with vague inarticulacy.

There was a desire growing in Bodie that was less than half abstract curiosity. He curled his fingers around Doyle's penis and licked his lips.

"Ray? Will, do it to me?"

Without the flicker of a muscle, Doyle's vagueness evaporated.

"You sure?"

"Yeah." He hoped. Doyle leant up and over to kiss him then, and Bodie put his arms around him.

"I want to, Bodie. You must know I do. But only if you want it."

Bodie laughed a little. "Known it for a while, mate. Go on, then." He rubbed his thigh against Doyle's cock, and Doyle murmured, and eased him over onto his stomach.

The first penetration was slow and careful, the jelly cool on his skin and strangely greasy. He lifted up to make it easier for Doyle, and after a moment the finger in him was joined by another, moving in a way that his own had never done. He inhaled sharply, and Doyle shushed him, whispering reassurance. "It's okay, relax. I'm sorry, it'll hurt for a minute, but it'll be better soon..." It hadn't hurt, but he didn't say so, just held still and concentrated on the stretching pull at his sphincter. The fingers twisted inside him, and he gasped again.

Then they were removed, and hands at his hips pulled him up onto his knees, as Doyle moved into position behind him. Involuntarily he held his breath, and felt the nudge of the snub head of Doyle's cock. "Easy, now..." Doyle whispered, and pressed in.

It hurt. Pain flared bright and sharp; Bodie bit his lip as he was stretched wide, wider, and then he felt his insides spasm against the intruder. Doyle's hands pressed hard against his back, as he held himself motionless. But after a little the pain eased, receded into an aching throb that was little different from any strained muscle, as his sphincter tried to accommodate itself to the hot bulk of Doyle blocking it. Bodie shut his eyes, concentrating all his attention on his arse. "Go on."

Doyle leant forward again, and Bodie felt himself filled to bursting, until he could hardly breathe, and with the entirely disconcerting and unwelcome sensation of being about to empty his bowels. But Doyle moved again, sliding out a little and back in, and Bodie grunted as the motion sent a wave of pressure rippling from his arse up the length of his spine, making him shiver. Then Doyle shifted behind him and Bodie caught his breath as the pressure shifted sideways into a strange almost-pleasure, different from anything he'd ever felt, a surge that grew from somewhere deep inside him and ran, not just in his cock, but through his whole body. He grunted again in surprise, and pushed experimentally back against Doyle's crotch.

Doyle thrust again, beginning to find a rhythm. The sharp ache in Bodie's arse was still there, but he ignored it, feeling Doyle push against him, feeling Doyle's hands tighten on his waist. His eyes were still shut, but he remembered what Doyle had looked like, while he was fucking him; did he look like that? Head bowed, back taut... He remembered a girl he had fucked from behind once; she had had long blonde hair that spilled over her shoulders and hid her face. Abruptly he was glad for his short hair, and turned his head to the side, hoping for a touch, a kiss; but Doyle didn't see, or at least didn't stop what he was doing. Briefly, Bodie opened his eyes, but, unable to see Doyle except by squinting painfully upward and back, he shut them again.

Doyle's movements were strong now, sliding into his body with an urgent need that communicated itself to Bodie. Concentrating again on the sensations, hearing Doyle panting behind him, Bodie felt a strange arousal building that was at least as centered on his arse as his cock, that surged through the small of his back with every thrust into him. It was hard to breathe. "Ray - " he managed, and Doyle leant forward over him until he could feel the coarse chest hair pressing against his back, and Ray's mouth was on his shoulder, his arms were wrapped around Bodie's chest, Bodie holding Ray inside of him, supporting his weight on his back... "Ray, touch me - "

"Am," Doyle answered hoarsely, distractedly, and his cock pressed in, again, and again, dizzying Bodie with each stroke, the throb of arousal like a pulse washing over him. "Am, gonna touch you everywhere, fuck you...Bodie..."

"No - Ray, pull me, please..." Weight on his right arm and shoulder and the side of his face, he freed his left hand and dragged Doyle's down with it to his semi-hard cock, wrapping their fingers around it. For a moment Doyle's rhythm faltered, and they both groaned, and then their hands moved shockingly on him, making him gasp and press back against the next penetration, twisting his hips to meet it. "Christ, Bodie," Doyle growled, and then he was lost, clinging to Bodie desperately as he thrust and thrust, Bodie's name a tangled gasp of breath, Bodie clutching Doyle's palm against his own cock as Doyle gasped and said, as if surprised, "I love you," and came, groaning, his voice harsh in Bodie's ear. Bodie felt him come, felt the surge of the cock inside him and Ray's weight pressed hard against him, Ray surrounding and covering him even as he took his partner deep inside, holding him there.

Doyle didn't topple heavily onto his partner as Bodie had; after a few minutes he raised himself up again and pulled carefully out. Bodie winced as his gut spasmed at the relief. Doyle lay down beside him and, almost hesitantly, touched Bodie's arm. "You okay?" he asked quietly.

Bodie took a deep breath. "Yeah." He stretched his legs and, experimentally, clenched his arse, testing the soreness. Then he saw the expression in Doyle's eyes, and put his arms around him. "You?"

Doyle buried his face against Bodie's neck, hugging him. "Oh, yeah..." Bodie tightened his arms, and felt a kiss on his shoulder.

But of course they had to separate eventually, and deal with the aftermath. The towel was retrieved and put to use; there was a seeping ooze between Bodie's buttocks that irritated and embarrassed him, and he wiped himself off, making a face. "Are you okay?" Doyle asked again.

"Yeah. Fine. Don't worry about it." He handed the towel to Doyle, who dropped it on the floor and pulled Bodie into his arms.

"It wasn't too bad?" he asked after a moment.

Bodie was silent for a moment. Bad? Strange, and painful, but not bad. Feeling Doyle pushing into him, straining to get deeper... The bulk and movement inside him had been different from anything he'd felt before, leaving him now feeling pithed and hollow, drained. He thought about it, remembering, and only then realised what Doyle had said, inadvertently, just as he came.

"It was different," he answered aloud, and left it at that. Doyle didn't ask anything else. Bodie reached up and turned out the light.

I'm not in love with you, but I could be, Doyle had told him, once.

I love you.

Bodie wasn't sure he understood how a man could be in love with another man. It didn't fit with anything he'd ever thought of. Doyle and he were fine together; they were friends, partners - lovers, too, he supposed. But what he felt for Doyle was completely different from what he'd felt for a few women here and there, the passion for Marikka and the aching tenderness he'd had for Azande. He'd thought, once, he'd like to marry her; she'd been pregnant when Krivas killed her, and he'd had crazy dreams of taking her and the kid away, finding somewhere safe.

Doyle didn't seem to fit in there at all. But he seemed to think that he could. Bodie remembered the two queers staring into each others' eyes, that afternoon in the pub. A few women had looked at him like that, though usually only very early on in the relationship. He couldn't imagine Doyle looking at him like that, and didn't want to try.

Through all the next morning, reporting in and filching biscuits and coffee from the rest room, Bodie had a nagging sensation that what they had done must be somehow visible; he was self-conscious in a way that made him acutely uncomfortable. He remembered whispered playground jokes from decades before, that you could tell a girl who wasn't a virgin by the way she walked, and feeling the faint ache in his arse and the small of his back he was sharply aware of his movements around headquarters. He ran into Murphy in the hall, the other man on his way home to sleep through the day before reporting for the Clapham surveillance that night, and remembered with a jolt the stakeout they'd been on together in April - "I shall begin to wonder about you," Murphy had warned, jokingly. Only now it wasn't a joke, was it?

In the car on the way to their post at quarter of noon, he remembered something else. "It takes getting used to," he'd told Doyle, and Doyle had answered, "It did for me, too." He glanced over at Doyle, who didn't notice. What did he do, anyway, being...bisexual? Did he go to places like the pub they'd been to the day before? Other places? He'd said he picked up men. He tried again to imagine Doyle with another man, fucking him, and this time it was alarmingly easy to see. He knew what it would look like, now. Bodie pressed his lips together, and grimly maneuvered the car into a discreet spot before killing the engine. Eight hours of watching.

The second time he shifted in his seat, Bodie realised what he was doing, and flushed angrily. The residual tenderness in his arse was only marginally noticeable, but that meant he was continually forgetting about it and being reminded, as he grew tired and stiff despite the short walks they allowed themselves in turn. Beside him, Doyle seemed oblivious, staring out at the unprepossessing house.

Bodie balanced his weight carefully on one buttock. "'S it always sore the next day?" he asked, with forced casualness.

Doyle flicked a glance at him and away, without answering.

"C'mon, Doyle. Give us the benefit of your experience."

Doyle's look would have pierced armour, that time. "Shut up, Bodie. No, it's not always sore. You get used to it."

"Then I suppose you're not hurting at all," Bodie said sarcastically.

"A little. I told you, I don't do it much."

"Should I be flattered?" Fortunately, Doyle didn't answer that, and with a tinge of guilty relief Bodie let the subject drop. After a while, they found something else to talk about, something innocuous. Stakeout chats had to walk a thin line between interesting enough to keep them alert, and not so interesting as to be the least bit distracting. It made it easy to avoid anything that needed avoiding.

A few people went in and out of the house, and they noted descriptions, but didn't recognize any of them. At eight o'clock Murphy and Marriott showed up, Murphy still yawning, and Bodie drove them home. There was no question of spending the night together again; twice in a week was pushing their luck already, and they both knew it. He dropped Doyle off in front of his block, and they said goodnight through the open car window, without touching. He pulled away while Doyle was still getting his key out.

The Clapham surveillance went nowhere. If the fence's contact was still living in the house - if he ever had, and hadn't just used it as a phone drop - he wasn't anyone CI5 had a file on. All the tenants and visitors checked out clean. For most of a week they sat and watched, at first in the car but later, thanks to an opportune flit by a man behind on his rent across the road, in the comfort of his hastily-abandoned first-floor flat. After that Cowley gave up and cancelled the watch, sending them on various short jobs of minor importance.

They didn't talk, not really. Bodie had suspected - had feared - that their fucking each other would mark some kind of change, would make it impossible for them to continue the relationship they'd had. He hadn't known what would replace it. But nothing seemed to have changed, despite the bizarre intimacy of what they had done, and despite what Doyle had said. He didn't know, even, if Doyle knew he'd said it. But the expectation of some momentous shift stayed with him, leaving him on the knife edge of tension and, somehow, faintly disappointed, without being sure what with.

They did it again, a couple of weeks later, with Bodie once more on top. Doyle didn't particularly enjoy it, as far as Bodie could tell, but he seemed willing enough. Bodie sucked him, afterward.

Not talking about it - that there didn't seem to be anything to talk about, despite what they'd done - made Bodie itchy. Restless and irritated, one night after a long and frustrating day, he tried again to ask Doyle about the men he'd been with before. But only Doyle brushed the question aside, and Bodie, nettled, repeated it.

"What's the big deal, Doyle? I know all about your girlfriends. All I'm asking is where you meet the boyfriends..." He knew as the word left his mouth that it was the wrong one.

Doyle scowled at him. "And I'm telling you it's none of your business," he snapped. "I don't feel like layin' my personal life out on a slab for you to pick over. Understand?"

They came close to an argument before Bodie backed off, angry and baffled. He wasn't even sure why he was asking, except that Doyle wouldn't tell him, and it left him with a nagging uncertainty. He tried again a few weeks later, picking his time better, and was met with weary brusqueness. How did Doyle meet them? Around. What kind of blokes? Just regular blokes, Bodie. Did you think I went for drag queens or something? Stung, Bodie withdrew, left again with his solitary uneasiness.

Chapter 6

In early August Cowley told them he was sending them up to the Lake District for a while. He'd been wary for some time of what seemed an inexplicable source of income enjoyed by an MP from the area; now MI6 had turned up a boyfriend and various suspicious connections in a holiday cottage, and Cowley was beginning to suspect a male prostitution ring. Hugh Cholmley, Member for Carlisle, had returned to London a few days before, unaware of having been trailed to his secret hideaway; armed with his department's brief, Cowley was sending 3.7 and 4.5 north to take over the investigation from Six's agent on the spot. They spent an afternoon together in Bodie's flat reading the file on what Cowley and MI6 had put together so far, before Doyle left, due to pick him up the next morning for the drive north. But at ten past seven Bodie answered his buzzer to find in the doorway not Doyle, but Murphy, an overnight case in one hand, looking decidedly unhappy.

"Murph! What're you doing here?"

"Yes, I'd love a cuppa," answered Murphy ungraciously, and pushed inside. "Your partner decided to take a stroll early this morning, and cleverly managed to get knocked down by some fool on a motorbike and sprain his wrist. He is in the infirmary, having it wrapped. I am substituting for him, on exactly seventeen minutes' notice." He dropped the case and blew his nose messily on a handkerchief that had obviously seen use already. "Where's the kettle?"

"Doyle's hurt?" Bodie followed the taller man into the kitchen. "Teabags in the cupboard. How bad?"

"Sprain, that's all I know. But he won't be using it for a while. Plus a few bruises, nothing serious. Nothing," he added, "like the 'flu I'm headed for." He blew his nose again.

"Well, you can breathe the other way in the car. You been briefed?"

"Nope. En route, says Cowley. You've got a file or something, right?"

"Yeah. I'll drive, you read." He waited as Murphy fiddled with the tea things, and thought about calling in to headquarters before they left, just to check up on Doyle. He squelched the idea, though, and pulled a mug for himself down from the cupboard, dumping a spoonful of instant coffee into it and ignoring Murphy's predictable grimace at the sight.

Nevertheless, they were on the road by half past, Murphy folded up in the passenger seat of the pool-issue car with the file while Bodie navigated them through early-morning city traffic and onto the M1. Mind entirely on the job, the information needed from the MI6 agent Cluthe and what they'd do when they got it, Bodie had forgotten the more salacious aspect of the case, and was taken by surprise when Murphy snorted with surprised delight. "Cholmley's a poof!" He chuckled disbelievingly. "Christ, that takes it. They turn up everywhere, don't they?"

Bodie kept his eyes rigidly on the road. What was he supposed to say to that? "Guess so."

"Stupid, too," added Murphy, scanning the next page. "If he wants some kid's arse so bad, you'd think he'd find another line of work..." Then he got to Cowley's suspicions of prostitution and fell silent, to Bodie's bitter relief.

They'd been on the road for an hour or so when the radio sounded. Murphy answered, glancing at Bodie; both their eyes widened when Cowley's clipped voice came on the line.

"There's a new twist in the case, 6.2. Willis just called me. He's turned up information suggesting that your target is in Soviet pay."

Bodie and Murphy stared at each other. Murphy thumbed the mike. "Could you repeat that, sir?"

"Not on this line, 6.2," Cowley said sharply. "You heard me the first time. A honey trap is their guess, with the obvious variation; and he'll have been on their payroll since."

"Since when?" Bodie asked, loud enough to be heard over the link.

"That's what you've got to find out, isn't it? You two meet your opposite number as instructed, get whatever he's got for you, and stay in touch. This one's moving fast." He signed off over Murphy's acknowledgement. Murphy hung the mike back up again and turned to meet Bodie's eyes.


"Yeah," Bodie agreed. Cholmley was a young man as politicians went, wasn't in any of the really sensitive branches of government - but still.

"Just goes to show," Murphy said shortly, slapping the file against his leg. "Queers in government're a bad idea. Too open to this sort of thing."

"Oh, come on," Bodie answered angrily. "How many straight men've been caught in a honey trap? A quick one with a willing bird, figure the wife'll never know - and then there they are with pictures if you won't help them and money if you will. So they got Cholmley the same way." He pulled over into a layby, braking sharply. "You take over for a while. I want to stretch my legs."

By the time he climbed back into the car, buckling the seat belt as Murphy pulled them onto the road again, he had managed to calm himself down, to smother the raw sensitivity he felt, and didn't dare show so clearly, on the subject - and the odd hurt at what Murphy was saying, as if he and Doyle couldn't be trusted. As if Doyle, straight or gay, weren't one of the staunchest agents Cowley had. Murphy seemed quieter too, as if he had sensed the tension in the car. When they spoke again, it was focussed on the job - what they'd do in Windermere, where they could find Cluthe. The way he and Doyle had talked about it the previous night, as if none of it were directly relevant to them.

They arrived in the bustling tourist town of Windermere in midafternoon. Reservations had been made for them in a small hotel on the edge of the town: a sunny room with two beds and a battered but serviceable sink in the corner. Murphy collapsed on the near bed and blew his nose; Bodie dumped his bag on the one by the window and headed down the hall to the toilet. The car had been hot and stuffy; he rinsed his hands in cold water and splashed some on his face with relief.

They didn't know where the MI6 agent was staying, but Cowley had arranged with Willis for them to meet him that evening in a park near the lake. They had an early dinner and sat casually on the grass for over an hour, waiting in the summer twilight, but he never showed. When they finally gave up and went in search of a reasonably secure phone to call in, Cowley didn't even sound surprised.

"Ach, it's another of Willis's games, 3.7. He doesna' want to turn jurisdiction in this case over to me, now that this new angle's appeared. I've an appointment with him shortly, to read him the fine print of our brief - if he keeps it." There was a dry chuckle. "Cluthe's at the Brendan Guest House. See what you can get out of him."

"Right, sir. How's 4.5?"

"Working in Records, and a proper temper he's showing about it." Bodie laughed, automatically, and rang off. He wondered momentarily what the Cow had thought when he assigned Doyle and him to the case, knowing Doyle was as queer as Cholmley. But he did know, so that meant Doyle wasn't a blackmail risk, which was how the other side had presumably turned Cholmley in the first place.

Except that Cowley didn't know about Doyle, not officially. So long as it stays that way, I'm okay, Doyle had said. So he was a risk. Technically. And so was Bodie.

Murphy was waiting, and Bodie forcefully recollected himself to the job at hand. They located the guest house with the help of a phone book and a map they'd picked up that afternoon and went round, to find Cluthe as much a credit to his service as 3.7 and 6.2 were to theirs. Smoothly polite, he turned aside every inquiry, hazel eyes innocently wide as he delicately pumped them for whatever CI5 might have up its own sleeve. At another time Bodie might have enjoyed the challenge; now it only irritated him.

"Look, Cluthe. We've got jurisdiction here now, so you may as well cough it up," he finally said, bluntly. "We know everything else. Where's the little love-nest your boys found?"

Cluthe met his eyes, running his fingers through brown hair nearly long enough to tie back; he looked like an aging hippie, thought Bodie disparagingly. His voice remained mild as ever. "I wish I could help, really," he offered, and Bodie groaned silently. "But until my own superiors inform me that you do, in fact, have jurisdiction, I'm not at liberty to say anything. After all, would you, in my position?" That the point was valid didn't make it any more pleasant. "But do stay in touch," Cluthe went on; "I may need to reach you quickly." His tone was comforting, holding a promise that they all knew would never willingly be fulfilled. Bodie and Murphy shared a frustrated look and turned on their heels.

And that was where matters stuck, for the next week. Cowley kept them on site, using their visits to Cluthe each morning to put pressure on Willis, who was wriggling like a hooked fish and clutching his department's prerogatives tightly to his chest; Cluthe met them each morning with smiling politeness and earnest-sounding excuses, and twice, when they tried to trail him, slipped easily away. After that there was nothing to do but loiter in the park or along the lakeside, evading as well as they could the crowds of camera-armed tourists and the relentless souvenir shills. They spent the evenings sitting around, bored and frustrated, but under Cowley's orders to stay put.

After a few days they gave up on the hotel lounge and went to a disco for the evening. It was full and loud, jammed with tourists and what might even have been a scattering of locals. They danced with a few women, and Bodie found himself eyeing one of them, svelte and redheaded, with some interest. He watched her dancing with Murphy, while he sat the song out to finish his drink, and idly ran his eyes along her muscular body as it gyrated along with Murph's. Not bad - especially the way she matched Murphy's movements, bent herself to his height and swinging hips... Bodie realised abruptly that he wasn't watching the girl any more, and almost choked on his beer. Christ. He stared at Murphy again, self-conscious even in the crowd that made everyone anonymous, and licked his lips. Bloody hell, was he turning on to Murphy?

No. No more than he was to the girl sitting next to him, who had been clearly hoping to be asked to dance since his friend had headed for the floor with her friend. She was decent-looking, but her thick lipstick and thicker waist left him uninterested. He could imagine screwing her, supposed that if he did - and he was pretty sure she would if he wanted - it would be fine; but he felt no urge of desire to. Looking at Murphy again, he thought about it. He could imagine - not that he wanted to imagine it, he added hastily. He could imagine it, but he didn't want to do it.

Maybe he was just learning a new way to look at blokes, then. Bisexuality doubles your chance of a date, he remembered from somewhere, and grinned wryly, slouching back in his chair. Then he remembered Ray, picking up men, and stiffened.

Murphy came back to the table, redhead in tow, looking tired. "Let's head back," he said into Bodie's ear, the surrounding clamour making their conversation as secure as any scrambled line. "Christ, if our RTs went off in here we'd never even hear 'em." He mopped his face and grimaced. "I want some air."

Bodie pushed himself up as Murphy handed the girl back to her friend, and both men ignored the disappointed looks they were getting. "Okay. You look beat, mate."

"Feel it." He let Bodie drive back to the hotel, sniffling, and as they were getting ready for bed he blew his nose twice, copiously. Bodie scowled. "Pack it in, can't you?"

"So sorry," Murphy said sourly. "Thought I'd fought it off, but it's comin' back." He pulled his trousers off and climbed into bed, while Bodie was itchingly aware of not looking away, of behaving exactly as he always did. Murphy turned on his side, away from him, as he undressed in turn, and although it was ridiculous to feel it - after all, they were both blokes, and he'd stripped in front of practically all the men on the squad at one time or another, in the showers or the gym - he was faintly relieved.

Murphy's cold was much worse the next day; after their perfunctory and meaningless, but dutifully performed, morning visit to Cluthe, Bodie remarked that Murphy should have threatened to breathe on him. "He'd have sung like a canary in a second, mate." The rest of the day was filled, like the others, with meaningless time-wasting, while they waited for something to happen, or for their regular five o'clock check-in to come due and bring the news that, unsurprisingly, nothing had. By the time they'd finished the hotel's prefab supper Bodie was restless with unspent energy, and Murphy was a soggy mess of tissues and misery. When Bodie suggested going back to the disco, he just groaned.

"You're on your own, mate. And if you get lucky, don't bring her back here. I want to get some sleep." He coughed and waved Bodie away.

Bodie had meant to go back to the place he and Murphy had been before. He had. But parking in front of it, settling his RT securely in the inner pocket of his jacket, his hand brushed a torn bit of newsprint that he had almost managed to forget about.

He'd found the paper in the park one afternoon, when he and Murphy had gone for a walk. Murph had gone over to feed the ducks, and he'd seen it blowing across the grass and picked it up to toss it in a bin. About to wad it up, he'd seen the small, discreet listing. For a disco. For men.

He took the scrap out of his pocket and flattened it on his leg, considering. He was curious, that was all. Wanted to know what these places were like, what Doyle saw in them. Who Doyle saw in them. Besides, what could it hurt? The worst that could happen would be some ponce making a pass at him, and Bodie was in no doubt of his ability to fend off any queer who might try it on.

He'd thought, once or twice, about going back to the pub Doyle had taken him to that time, but he'd decided against it. For one thing, it was too closely associated with his partner in his mind. He wanted to get away from Doyle, get a chance to figure things out for himself - and here he was in the north country with nothing else to do but lie awake listening to Murphy's sniffling. And for another thing, that pub wasn't the sort of place he was looking for. He didn't want some back- room bar; the thought made his skin crawl. Christ, he might as well start cruising the cottages as that. But the King William had been a neighborhood pub, a local; it had taken him a while even to realise what it was. He wanted a place where there would be no doubt that it was gay. He looked at the listing again, then at the innocuous disco he and Murph had been to. Carefully, he tore the paper into tiny, anonymous scraps before starting the engine again and heading for the address he had memorized.

It was about twenty miles away, and it was a little past nine o'clock when he arrived. He paid the cover charge without demur, but eyed the doorkeeper warily as he handed his money over: he looked queer. Leather jacket hanging open, black leather cap; for a moment Bodie wondered if he'd made a mistake in coming.

But once inside he was reassured; if there were hardcases like that in the club, they were a minority. The place was about half full, most of the men gathered at the bar that ran along one side of the room; the floor was cleared for dancing except for some tables scattered along its edge, but there were only a few people gyrating under the dim lights. Men, dancing together. Bodie pushed his way through the crowd and collected a lager, then sat at one of the tables and watched the dancers.

The music was loud, and it got louder as the night went on. A lot of the singers were women, which mildly surprised Bodie; if he'd thought about it at all, he'd assumed that gay men would want to listen to men, and would have little interest in women. He watched the men dancing, some seeming completely self-absorbed and others wrapped in their partners' arms. One couple was kissing as they moved together - they were pressed close and swaying, hardly dancing, and Bodie stared with both fascination and disquiet as their mouths worked on each other. Did he and Doyle look like that, kissing? He couldn't imagine doing it in public, as the couple on the floor were doing.

Well, it wasn't quite in public, was it? All fairies together, after all.

He glanced up as a shadow fell over him, a heavy-set man with a reddish beard shadow and hair as short as his own. "Want to dance?"

"No, thanks," Bodie said shortly.

The man moved closer. "Buy you a drink?"

"No," repeated Bodie, more firmly, and the other man shrugged and sauntered away, heading for the bar. Bodie watched him ease in next to a kid who couldn't be more than twenty, who laughed up at him and accepted a drink when the barman was waved over.

Bodie shuddered. What did he want with this place? It had nothing to do with him. He finished his drink in two quick swallows and pushed himself up, heading for the door. There were two men just coming in, holding hands and smiling into each others' eyes as the doorkeeper counted out their change; they hardly noticed Bodie as he muttered apologies and pushed by.

He finished the night, ultimately, back in the first disco, in Windermere. He had a few more drinks, and danced with several women, none more than twice, though he could tell that one, at least, was interested. He considered, briefly, accompanying her home; he admitted to himself that he could use a good fuck. But that was all it would be, and he didn't feel up to dealing with the morning after.

Besides, there was Doyle. Bodie had never had qualms about seeing more than one bird at a time, although it often saved trouble if they didn't know about each other. But Doyle - it wasn't the same thing, but the thought of fucking some bint while his partner wasn't around made him uncomfortable nonetheless. Besides, the women bored him. On the whole, it was less trouble just to go back to the hotel.

But the gay place was a different matter. Drawn by strange curiosity, an uncertain fascination and a very real confusion, he went back two nights later, paid the cover, and immediately collected a lager, half- emptying the bottle in a few swigs before finding a seat as before to watch the dancers. He turned the bottle in his hands absently, drinking from it every now and then.

It was a Friday night, and the place was much more crowded than it had been on Wednesday. There seemed to be more tables jammed into the same small space between the bar and the dance floor, and colored lights flashed across the dancers in total disregard of the music's pounding beat. He had been lucky to catch a seat as three men were leaving, and within a few minutes the two other chairs at the small table had been appropriated by groups of people nearby, who stopped chattering to each other barely long enough to glance a brief question at Bodie's solitary posture before pulling them away to accommodate friends of their own. Bodie drank, and watched the dancers; listening to others' conversations was interesting but mostly futile, in the din.

People were continually milling about, getting up to dance, pushing through the crowd to catch a vacant seat before it vanished, shouting to friends. The five or six men to Bodie's left had headed en masse to the dance floor, where they seemed to be trying to start a conga line. Two, at least, were too drunk to be anywhere near the music's rhythm; Bodie smiled sardonically as he watched. It was a moment before he realised that the voice behind him was trying to get his attention.

"Is this seat free?" The voice belonged to a blond man in a dark red shirt, with a glass in one hand, looking at him inquisitively. Bodie glanced over and saw that one of the chairs had been pushed back to its original place across from him when its borrower left, the other table having been claimed by a smaller group with no need of it. There were, indeed, no other available seats in sight.

"All yours." Bodie waved a hand dismissively, and the other man sat down, sipping his drink and then putting it on the table. Bodie went back to watching the dancers, trying to imagine what the men on the floor saw in each other, and wondering if Doyle had ever danced like that, holding another man in his arms. He was marginally aware of the other man shifting his chair slightly, and then tapping the table in time to the music.

He had almost forgotten him, though, when the voice spoke again. "Hey, I'm going for another drink. Want anything?" Bodie looked around, a little startled. The man grinned straightforwardly, getting up and nodding at the same time in the direction of the bar. "It's a madhouse up there. I'll fetch you another - " he glanced at the empty bottle in front of Bodie, " - lager, or whatever, and you save the chair for me, hm? Otherwise one of this lot'll have it by the time I'm halfway there."

Bodie stared at him, considering. Blue eyes met his honestly, no hidden message in them. And he did want another drink; it gave him something to do with his hands, something to look at that wasn't all the men. He eyed the crowd now pressed three and four deep at the bar, and acquiesced.

"Okay. Thanks," he added, and fished a crumpled pound note out of his pocket. Only as he handed it over did it occur to him that the other man might have meant to buy him the drink; he stiffened, but the note was plucked from his fingers readily enough. "Same again?" he was asked cheerily, and at his nod the blond turned away and began forcing his way between the packed tables. If Bodie had been a safety inspector, he'd have long since cited the place for crowding. God help them all if there was a fire.

It was a while before the other man reappeared, a bottle of lager in one hand and a glass of what looked like gin in the other. He pulled the chair out with one foot and sank gratefully into it, passing the bottle across the table. "Here. Thanks for holding the seat."

"No problem," Bodie said. He took the drink, but the other man spoke again before he could look away.

"I'm Henry, by the way." He looked at Bodie, friendly and expectant, and Bodie reminded himself that the man had just done him a favor, after all. He had no reason not to be polite.


"Bodie," Henry repeated. "Last name?" When Bodie nodded, he cocked his head. "Should I have said Castleton, then?"

"Don't like my first name, that's all," Bodie said. "Never use it."

"Then I won't ask," Henry Castleton told him with an air of finality.

Bodie eyed him. "Henry," he repeated thoughtfully. "Do they call you Harry?"

Castleton glowered. "Not twice," he answered darkly, and Bodie found himself smiling. Castleton lifted his glass half-mockingly. "To names better left unspoken," he said, and Bodie joined in the toast with a long drink himself.

After that, it seemed natural to start talking. They had to raise their voices a little to be heard over the music and general din, but no more than in any number of places Bodie had been in before, and after a while, as always, the noise ceased to be a bother. Castleton asked him what he did, and Bodie gave him the usual "civil servant" answer. "Pushing papers, you know the sort of thing. Boring as hell." It was, actually, at the moment, although that was the only near-truth in his description.

"Mm. I'm a draftsman with an architectural firm. Tedious, sometimes, but not boring."

"No?" Bodie couldn't imagine that sitting at a desk drawing all day would be anything but.

"I'm a perfectionist. Tidying up all the details keeps me busy. Besides, I like designing buildings. The only thing that makes it dull is that the firm does almost all office blocks, high-rises. I'd like to design houses - mansions, complete with secret doors and priests' holes. Maybe ships, but I don't really know much about them."

"I spent a couple of years in the merchant marine. They're designed like rats' nests."

Castleton grinned. "Then I'd really like to do one!"

It turned out that they both followed Liverpool when they could, and they argued the team's chances for a while. Then the conversation trailed off just as the music shifted into a new number, a fast disco beat. Castleton finished his drink. "Want to dance?"

Bodie started. He'd - Christ, he'd almost forgotten what kind of place he was in. He remembered Doyle, talking about going to places like this. Get to talking...get friendly. Castleton was looking at him, waiting; he met his eyes for a moment, then glanced at the crowded dance floor.

One wouldn't hurt. "All right." He finished the last of his lager and got up; behind them, the chairs were immediately hustled away.

It was hard, dancing with a man. His instinct was to lead his partner, touch her and flirt with her, spin her around maybe, if she seemed the sort. Castleton and he were dancing without touching, occasionally mirroring each others' movements; but when they did, that felt strange as well. Castleton was perhaps an inch taller than he was. He hadn't had a dancing partner taller than himself since he'd left home. Castleton smiled at him, apparently having a great time. He was a good dancer, at least. Bodie concentrated on his own dancing, always aware of the blue eyes on him.

Then the music changed, becoming marginally quieter and much slower. Around them, most of the dancers were leaving the floor, but a few couples were moving closer together, swaying to the singer's lilting voice. Bodie hesitated, and Castleton took his arm. "C'mon. Dance."

Bodie didn't resist as he was drawn into a loose embrace, Castleton's hands resting on his waist. After a moment, he matched their light hold on the other man. He felt acutely self-conscious, despite the fact that no one was paying them the slightest attention.

At the distance they were maintaining, they could either pull back and look at each other, or lean forward and look past each other. Bodie was more comfortable with the latter, except that that put them in something disconcertingly close to a hug. One hand slid gently along his back. "For a civil servant, you're in awfully good shape," Castleton said quietly.

"I work out."

"Mm. I run sometimes. But my real sport is shooting, and that's not exactly aerobic."

"You shoot?" Bodie pulled back to look at him, surprised.

"Yeah. Bit of target shooting, mostly rapid-fire. Not half bad, if I say so myself." Castleton grinned. "You look shocked."

"Wouldn't have thought an architect would be interested in guns. What do you use?"

"Wouldn't have thought a desk-bound civil servant would be, either. Do you shoot?"

"Occasionally," said Bodie with a private, wry grin. "What d'you use?"

"A Hammerli International for competition," said Castleton eagerly, "but I've got a Browning as well..." His enthusiasm was contagious, and they began arguing the finer points of the Browning against various Walther models until Bodie almost forgot again that he was pressed close against a strange man in a gay disco, dancing with him in full view of anyone who cared to look. Absorbed in the conversation, Bodie once or twice had to shut his teeth on a comment that would have made it abundantly clear that his experience with shooting involved targets that shot back; he had little interest in the .22s that were used for skilled target work, lacking as they did any real stopping power. But Castleton was interested in the heavier weaponry as well, and claimed an accuracy with the Browning that, in the controlled environment of a shooting range, could have given Bodie and even Doyle stiff competition.

"'Course, that's nothing to what a real target pistol can get. I mean, I'm not exactly Olympic level, though I did have hopes once..." He saw Bodie smiling, and grinned sheepishly. "Okay, I'll stop bragging. Sorry."

Bodie laughed. "Jesus, you're really nuts for it, aren't you? You should meet my partner; he could give you a run for your money on the range."

Castleton's face changed. "Your partner? You didn't tell me you were..." Bodie saw his expression, and realised with a shock the interpretation Castleton had put on the word. He shook his head.

"We work together. That's all." It wasn't all, not by a long shot, but that was none of Castleton's business, and anyway it was far more complicated than Bodie wanted to think about right now.

"Oh." Castleton fell silent, and after a moment he pulled Bodie a little closer, resting his head on Bodie's shoulder. Bodie had to look up slightly to do the same. He was used to masses of fragrant female hair under his chin, not a man taller than he was. Even Doyle was a couple of inches shorter, and besides, he'd never held Doyle like this, dancing.

Billy had been taller than he was, of course; he'd been sixteen, and Bodie two years younger. And he'd certainly never danced with Billy.

Castleton was holding him now in what was definitely an embrace. Abruptly, Bodie realised just what he might have let himself in for. They swayed to the music, and he felt the unmistakable pressure of Castleton's groin against him. But Castleton wasn't doing anything but holding him, dancing with him. Bodie ran a hand tentatively along the other's back. Not as muscular as Doyle, he could tell, but solidly built, more like Bodie's own build than Doyle's more wiry frame.

He had to decide, and quickly, what the hell he was going to do. He liked Castleton well enough, but any minute now the man was likely to kiss him, or something. And one thing Bodie knew absolutely was that he would not do anything of the sort in a crowded pub.

He'd already had a better time with Castleton than with half the birds he'd chatted up in places like this. A hand tightened on his waist, and Bodie felt himself respond, a tentative warmth spreading from his stomach and groin. Slowly, as if waiting to see if he would let it grow.

Well, why the fuck not? He'd come here wanting to see what the scene was all about. Doyle had picked up men in bars, after all. And he'd been horny for days now, if he was going to admit it. He met the pressure, shifting subtly so that he was holding Castleton as much as being held, and tightening his arms.

Hair brushed his cheek as Castleton turned his head into Bodie's neck, and Bodie started as lips touched him there, warm and dry. Then he started again as something warm and wet - the man's tongue, for Christ's sake! - trailed lightly across his skin. He pulled back. Castleton met his eyes, watching him with a light in his own. "Yes?"

Bodie stared at the lips before him, their color lost in the flashing disco lights. "Not here," he managed.

Castleton leant forward and kissed him then, and Bodie felt a leap in his pulse before he could pull away. His hands tightened involuntarily on the broad back.

"Somewhere else?" Castleton was not even pretending to dance now, only brushing his crotch lightly against Bodie's hip with sublime disregard for the music. "My place isn't far. Or we could go to yours."

"Yours." Murphy thought he was out picking up scrubbers, and wouldn't bat an eye even if he was gone all night. He followed Castleton to the door and into the dark street. The sudden silence when the door shut behind them was unnerving, after the pounding noise he'd been in for two hours or more. Castleton smiled at him.

"I'm a half-mile or so down the way. Walked here... Do you have a car?"

"Yeah." He headed for the gray pool issue, noticing Castleton looking it over. Of course; he thought Bodie owned it. It didn't clash with his being a paper-pushing civil servant, anyway; certainly it didn't make him look overpaid at the public's expense. He unlocked it and got in, reaching over to open the passenger door for Castleton, and aware as he did it that if he'd been with a woman, he'd have opened her door first, automatically. He wondered if Castleton had expected him to. He didn't know what gays did, except what little he'd gleaned from Doyle.

And Doyle wouldn't tell him much, which was at least partly why he was here.

Castleton directed him a few streets down to a brown three-story house with only a few lights lit in scattered windows. "I've a flat here," he said, and Bodie pulled the car in to the curb and cut the engine. "Hope you're not allergic to cats," Castleton added as he opened his door. "Cathy's pretty friendly." Bodie shrugged. Cats he could take or leave.

Castleton let them into a flat on the house's first floor; a quick glance showed Bodie a tiny kitchen to one side of the sitting room the door opened on, and a bedroom to the other; a third door, closed, was either a cupboard or the bath. A slender tortoiseshell hurried out of the bedroom to meet them, mewing, and Castleton knelt and scratched her under the chin. "Hush, you," he said affectionately. "Cathy, this is Bodie. Let her sniff you," he added to Bodie, and took his hand, pulling Bodie down to where the cat - Cathy - could reach him. She nosed his thumb delicately, licked it once, and then turned away. "She likes to know who's here," Castleton said. He stood up, but didn't let go of Bodie's hand. "Want a drink?"

"No." The hand tightened around his fingers, and Castleton took a step closer, until they were pressed against each other again, this time without even the excuse of dancing.

"You're really something," Castleton whispered, and kissed him. Bodie put his arms around him and kissed back, some part of his mind trying to decide if it felt different, somehow, from kissing Doyle. It didn't, really; Castleton had perhaps more beard stubble than Doyle usually let himself accumulate, but that was nothing.

Then Castleton's mouth opened, and Bodie knew a difference. Doyle had never thrust inside his mouth like that, forcefully and strong, filling Bodie's mouth with his tongue until Bodie felt he could nearly swallow it. He jerked in surprise but held on, and after a moment pushed back with his own, licking at the other and then slipping deeply into Castleton's mouth when he could. Castleton sucked on his tongue, and then pulled back a little, raking his teeth lightly along the sensitive skin. One of his hands came up between them, rubbing at Bodie's chest, then plucking at his shirt buttons. "Bed's this way." He nodded toward the half-open door.

Bodie followed him into the bedroom. The bath opened off of it, and the sight made him realise that not all the pressure in his groin was incipient arousal. "Um - gimme a minute," he muttered. "All that beer..." As he turned away, he heard Castleton chuckling behind him.

He used the toilet quickly, avoiding looking at the litter box on the floor. At least it didn't smell. Coming out again into the bedroom, he found Castleton sitting on the bed, his shirt off and Cathy purring in his lap. He stopped, looking at them. "I thought you might be waiting in bed for me, but I expected you'd be alone." He took off his jacket and dropped it, hearing the muffled clunk of the RT hitting the floor. Castleton didn't notice.

"She can be pretty demanding. But then," and he lifted the cat and set her firmly on the floor, "so can I." He stood up and came over to Bodie, not smiling now, but serious. "Right now, for instance. C'mere." He pulled Bodie with him back to the bed and tumbled them both onto it. "Shouldn't have bothered to do them up again," he muttered, fumbling at Bodie's fly. "Waste of effort..."

This was a hell of a lot faster that Bodie had expected - but, after all, it wasn't anything he hadn't expected eventually. He rolled over and sat up, kicking off his shoes and unbuttoning his shirt as Castleton worked on his trousers. Once Bodie was naked, he helped Castleton strip and the two of them came into a tight embrace again, rubbing hardening cocks against each other. The bedclothes were pulled down and away.

It wasn't so different from Doyle, after all. Threading his fingers through straight hair was a change, though, and Castleton's chest was as hairless as Bodie's own. His nipples were large, and Bodie leant down and sucked one, but got no answering gasp. That was different. Castleton chuckled and stroked his hair. "You like that?" And before Bodie could say anything, Castleton had slipped down in turn and was tonguing his nipples with little licks and nips. They had gotten more sensitive since he'd started sleeping with Doyle, from Doyle sucking them; Bodie murmured and arched a little.

But the blunt nudge of penis against his leg was the same, and the hard muscle of the arms around him. One thigh slid up to rub at his erection, and Bodie arched again and slid a hand down the other's body, feeling the hair on the leg, and then up again to grasp his cock. Something was strange there, and Bodie's grip faltered before he realised what it was, and almost laughed. Castleton wasn't circumcised. The foreskin slid over the head of his cock, looser than Bodie's; and of course without thinking about it he'd been half-expecting Doyle's own smooth crown.

Castleton had felt the muffled chuckle. "Something funny?"

"Um - " How to phrase this? "Last man I slept with was circumcised." There, that made it sound as though there had been more than one. Well, two. "Took me by surprise for a minute, that's all."

"Hmph." The sound was almost a snort. "Met a fellow a couple months ago who was cut. Looks ugly, if you ask me."

Doyle, ugly? Bodie remembered the hard curve of his cock and shook his head silently. Castleton didn't notice, but reached down and wrapped his own hand around Bodie. "This is what I like," he said, and slipped the foreskin back and forth over the head. Bodie inhaled sharply. "You like it too, don't you?" Castleton chuckled and pumped him hard, twice.

Then he slid down the bed until his face was on a level with Bodie's crotch. He grinned up at Bodie, blowing warm breath over his erection. It tickled, and Bodie squirmed. "I'm gonna suck you," Castleton told him, voice full of erotic promise. He bent and licked once at the slit of the head, and Bodie jerked. "I'm gonna suck you so hard you'll think you're coming bone marrow."

That wasn't a particularly erotic image, actually; but Bodie forgot about it as the blond head bent again and he was sucked in. Castleton took him all the way in, deeper than anyone ever had, until his lips were pressed to the root of Bodie's cock and Bodie felt that he must be shoving himself halfway down the other man's throat. It felt as though the whole length of Castleton's tongue was moving on him, and Bodie groaned and squirmed, feeling hands come under his buttocks to hold him as incredible pleasure swirled around his cock.

When a saliva-wet finger probed his anus, it was a moment before he even realised what it was; his mind had been spun out in dizzying sweeps that matched the movements of Castleton's mouth. But the thin intruder working its way into his body recalled him somewhat, and he tensed a little, wondering if Castleton had anything else in mind. Blow jobs were one thing, but he hadn't agreed to let a man he barely knew fuck him. But Castleton didn't stop sucking, even as the finger wormed its way in and twisted slightly.

Bodie felt the movement inside him, and then a wash of almost-pleasure swept over him from inside, as the finger stroked. He grunted in surprise. It was a little like the feeling when Doyle had fucked him, but sharper, closer to pleasure. "What - ?" he managed, and broke off when Castleton did it again, whatever it was.

There was another finger pressing at him now, he could tell, but his anus was clenching involuntarily. The movement inside him paused, and then Castleton lifted his head, Bodie's cock slipping from his mouth into the cool air of the room with a shock that made Bodie's breath catch. "Jesus, man, you're tight," Castleton said; he sounded hoarse himself. "There's some lube in the drawer; toss it down here, will you?" The finger was withdrawn from his body.

Bodie found that he had, just barely, the coordination to sit half up and reach the bedstand. In the single drawer underneath, along with a clutter of papers, was a tube of KY, not new. He took it and pushed the drawer shut, then opened the tube and squeezed a little of the clear gel out onto a finger, testing its consistency.

"Something wrong?" Castleton asked.

Bodie handed him the tube and wiped his hand on his stomach. "No. Just hadn't seen it before."

"What, KY? You're kidding. What do you use?"

This was definitely not a conversation Bodie had ever in his life imagined having. "Vaseline."

Castleton made a face. "Tastes terrible."

Bodie flatly refused to think about the implications of that. Fortunately he wasn't given much of a chance to, as Castleton had finished with the jelly and now tongued the length of Bodie's erection before taking it in again, if possible even more deeply than before. Bodie arched, and felt a finger slip inside him, almost easily this time, and then another.

When he came he was almost yelling, clawing helplessly at the sheets - fingers up his arse, his balls squeezed not quite to the point of pain, and his cock damn near swallowed. The strange stroking inside him sent the orgasm surging all through his body; he seemed to feel heat in his nipples, his legs, and the come bursting from him was draining his belly hollow. He shouted hoarsely with each pulse, and when he thought it was over the fingers moved and he stiffened again, gasping in disbelieving pleasure.

Finally it ended, and he collapsed, panting. His muscles felt limp as rags. He couldn't move as Castleton eased out of him and gave his relaxing cock a parting caress before crawling back up the bed to lie half on top of him. He was hard, pressing against Bodie's thigh.

"Jesus. You are a wild man, man." Castleton laid a hand over Bodie's left nipple, feeling his heart beat.

"What..." Bodie took a breath and tried again. "What were you doing to me?"

Castleton laughed. "What are you, a virgin? I gave you a blow job, Bodie."

If Bodie hadn't already been so flushed, he might have reddened. "No, I mean - inside." He flexed his buttocks, feeling the ghostly after-image of the sensation. "I never felt anything like that before." He had, actually, with Doyle inside him, but nothing nearly so intense.

"Never? You never had your prostate played with?" Castleton grinned. "No wonder you went orbital. It's a gland, inside, that's all. I don't know what it does, but I know what it's good for!"

Bodie didn't think he'd ever forget. "Yeah."

Castleton was moving on him again, his erection hard and insistent. Bodie collected himself and slid his hands down to hold him, and Castleton murmured in pleasure. "That's it. C'mon, you got me so hot, listening to you. Pull me, yeah..." He went on talking quietly, almost to himself, as Bodie rolled them over, propping himself on one elbow while the other hand kept working at Castleton's groin. He folded a hand around the cock, feeling its shape, unable to keep from comparing it with Doyle's. The foreskin slipped back, and on an impulse he leant down and took the head into his mouth, trying to duplicate the sorts of things Doyle did to him in playing with his uncut cockhead; Castleton's voice caught and he arched up, pushing deeper into Bodie's mouth. Bodie couldn't deep-throat the way the other man could; he pulled back, using a hand to take most of his length while he sucked lightly at the head, teasing it with his tongue.

He went on for a while, with Castleton alternately muttering and gasping above him. The continual talking was strange, but the instant feedback was encouraging. A hand stroked his hair, and on a sudden inspiration he reached his free hand under the other man and felt for the puckered opening. His finger slipped in much more readily than it had with Doyle, and he probed experimentally, remembering what had been done to him. Finding the slight roundedness, he rubbed it and was rewarded when Castleton stiffened. "Quick learner," he managed on a breath, and Bodie grinned around the hot flesh in his mouth.

He was about to start sucking in earnest, wanting to drive Castleton to the edge and over it, when he felt the other man raise himself on one elbow, and a hand touched his cheek, pulling his face up to meet the blue eyes. Bodie paused, looking an inquiry. Castleton pulled him up until they were face to face and kissed him, deeply. His breathing was fast and shallow.

"Bodie, listen. You're great at that, but it's not what I'm in the mood for, right now. Watching you, the way you looked when I had my fingers up you...let's fuck, Bodie. It'll be great." He squeezed one of Bodie's buttocks, rolling the flesh. "You were so tight - let me in that gorgeous arse."

Bodie went still for a moment. Letting Castleton fuck him - but he'd been about to suck him off, and he supposed that that was nearly as personal. He was still uncomfortable with the idea of being fucked - it still said pansy to him, a little - but hell, he'd picked the man up in a gay bar, and if that didn't make him a pansy nothing could. It had hurt, with Doyle, but there was pleasure behind the pain. And the way Castleton's fingers had felt in him, before, was something he still wasn't certain he believed. He took a breath, then met Castleton's waiting gaze, excitement lashed down in the blue eyes. He nodded, and watched the excitement come loose, spilling over into the mouth that descended on his, the hands that gripped him.

"Okay," said Castleton a few minutes later, between breaths, "okay. Let me get you ready, here. You're tight as hell, you know. Been a while, has it?" He rolled Bodie onto his back.

"Don't do it very often." And that was certainly true.

There was jelly being spread on him, fingers inside him again, stroking the walls of his rectum. Castleton pushed his legs apart and up, burrowing between them, nipping at his scrotum as his fingers moved. Then they withdrew and Castleton sat up between his thighs. He stroked Bodie's slowly-returning erection with one hand, the other moving on himself. Bodie watched the picture, their two cocks almost side by side, finding it captivating.

"You ready?"

"Yeah," Bodie said. "Let me roll over."

"Oh, no," answered Castleton, surprising him. "I want to be able to see you while I'm fucking you." He was kneeling, sitting on his heels; now he pulled at Bodie's hips, bringing his buttocks almost up onto his lap, Bodie's legs falling on either side of his hips. Castleton took his cock in one hand and pushed at Bodie's thigh with the other. "C'mon," he said, and licked his lips. "Come here. Open yourself up for me..."

Slowly, Bodie reached under himself. Now that it was on the point of happening, he was beginning to wish he'd said no; but it was rather too late to be getting cold feet. He pulled his buttocks apart, feeling absurdly self-conscious, like a virgin trying to pretend she knew what she was doing, and felt the first prod against his anus. Castleton leant forward, and pushed into him.

The choking sensation of being filled was the same. Castleton shoved himself inside, too fast, and despite the preparation and the residual limpness from his orgasm Bodie bit off a yelp of pain. Castleton seemed to take it for pleasure, however, and only forced in the last inch, hands gripping Bodie's waist. Bodie was off-balance; with his hips on Castleton's thighs, a fair amount of his weight was on his shoulders. He gripped the sheets and hooked his legs around Castleton's back for purchase.

Once in, Castleton hadn't begun really thrusting - Bodie wasn't even sure he could, in the position they were in - but was rolling his hips, little pushes forward that were more teasing than anything else. Bodie shivered. Even beyond the pain he still felt, the internal cramping, he could feel the pressure inside spreading, reminding him what it had felt like before. And then, as Bodie watched, Castleton bent down and licked at Bodie's cock, holding it upright with one hand. Bodie jerked as the two sensations seemed to redouble on each other, familiar pleasure at his cockhead, unfamiliar inside him.

Somehow they found a rhythm, of shallow thrusts that were partly Bodie's own doing, squirming down onto Castleton's lap, pulling himself onto him with his legs, and then arching upward into his mouth. Bodie found himself torn, caught between growing pleasure and acute discomfort with the situation. He couldn't meet Castleton's eyes when the other man looked up at him; he found himself shutting his own, and then trying to pretend that it was Doyle inside him, not this mostly- stranger. Laid out on his back, feeling the other man's eyes on him with every gasp that was wrung from him, he felt skinned bare, flayed open in a way he didn't like, even as he began to grow frantic for more. It was too intimate, Castleton's hands rubbing his stomach, pressing over the flesh that his cock moved within. Bodie twisted his head aside and wished for Doyle.

His cock slipped from Castleton's mouth as the other man got closer, and Bodie felt his own arousal recede even as Castleton's back began to arch, his hands moving to Bodie's hips to pull Bodie onto him harder with each thrust. He was coming up on his knees now, a little, and Bodie's weight was even more thrown onto his shoulders; the cock was deep in him, and beginning to hurt again. But Castleton's eyes were closed, his jaw clenched; he gasped out a curse and came, slamming into Bodie with each pulse, while Bodie held on to the sheets and braced himself against the thrusts, and bore it.

One last deep shove, and Castleton hung a moment, breathing hoarsely, then pulled out and fell on top of him. Awkwardly, Bodie patted his back, then let his hands fall to his sides. There was a sharp soreness inside him, a raw scraped feeling, and his back was stiff. Castleton nuzzled at his throat. "Mm. Y'r fantastic..."

If he'd been with a woman, Bodie would have preened, automatically. Only the best, sweetheart... But he didn't feel like preening. He wasn't at all sure that gay fucking was something he necessarily wanted to be good at. If it had been Doyle... He remembered the fingers inside him again, and shivered privately.

Castleton was pulling the covers up around them, tucking them both into bed. "Stay the night. It's nearly midnight anyway."

Bodie glanced at the clock on the bedstand, surprised. He'd been in the disco longer than he'd thought. Castleton was waiting, his bare body close to Bodie in the bed, their shared warmth pooling under the quilt.

Murphy would be waiting for him, back at the hotel. No - more likely he'd be asleep by now, and get ratty when Bodie woke him up, coming in. And they didn't have to be anywhere until ten tomorrow, anyway. And he was tired.

"All right," he said. But when, the light out, Castleton reached for him, Bodie turned away, curling up on his side, knowing even with his eyes shut the strangeness of the room.

He jolted awake at what felt like a blow to his chest, barely aborting a reflexive grab for the gun he didn't have with him. Then his head cleared and he saw the cat - Cathy - perched atop him and about to bat his nose with an imperious paw. His eyes nearly crossed in recognizing her, and he swatted at her with one hand. "Gerrof!"

"Huh?" A heave beside him, and Castleton emerged from the tumbled bedclothes. "Oh. Bloody hell, Cathy, can't you wait?" He picked the cat up and set her on the floor, much more gently than Bodie would have done. "Sorry, Bodie. She wants her breakfast. I'm up early on weekdays, see, so she's used to having it by now..."

"Well, she's not going to get it from me," Bodie informed them both grumpily. He rubbed his eyes, trying to finish waking up. "Wha' time is it, anyway?"

Castleton leant over to check the clock. "Nearly eight. Do you have to be somewhere?"

"Yeah." If he left soon he'd have time to shower and change before they had to go confront Cluthe again. Castleton was still leaning over him, not looking at the clock any more, but at Bodie. Bodie shifted, uncomfortable under the stare. Castleton seemed about to lean down and kiss him or something, and Bodie tried to look forbidding. It seemed to work; Castleton pulled back and sat up. "Um...want some breakfast? A shower?"

"No, thanks. I should be going." Now that he'd actually spent the night, Bodie was wishing he hadn't; as he stood up a residual soreness twinged through the small of his back and he winced, not from the pain. He got out of bed, trying to keep his back unobtrusively turned while he hunted for his underwear and pulled it on.

What was he going to say to Murphy?

Behind him Castleton was getting up as well. He wrapped a dressing gown around himself and then, when Bodie firmly ignored an inquisitive glance to continue dressing, left the bedroom. Cathy followed him hurriedly, and Bodie heard the sounds of a can being opened, and then water being run in the kitchen.

Bodie pulled his fingers through his hair. He needed a shower, still sweaty from the previous night, but he'd wait. Till the evening, if he had to. He didn't fancy getting undressed in this flat again. Castleton was a decent enough bloke, he supposed, but...

They'd fucked. More precisely, Castleton had fucked him. Sucked him off, too. And Bodie still couldn't believe, not just that he'd done it, but that he'd enjoyed it as much as he had.

How will you feel when you're as much of a poufter as I am? Doyle had hurled at him, once. Well, if this didn't make him a poufter, nothing could. He nearly dangled a wrist in experimental self-parody, but changed his mind at the last minute.

How do I feel, Ray? I feel confused...

Castleton came out of the kitchen as Bodie finished dressing and left the bedroom with relief, so that they met in the sitting room, almost in front of the door that Bodie very much wanted to get through. Castleton looked at him, and Bodie tensed.

"Look," said Castleton, and licked his lips. He moved closer, and Bodie was suddenly aware, again, that the other man was taller than he was. "You've got to get somewhere, I can see that. But - " He turned away, scrabbling for a notepad on the side cabinet. "Look, let me give you my number, can I have yours? I enjoyed last night. I'd like to see you again."

Bodie had enjoyed the last night, too, but he wasn't sure he ever wanted to see Castleton again. "Not a good idea," he said shortly.

Castleton's face fell. "I see." He turned away, and Bodie felt a pang of totally unexpected regret. Damn it, Castleton was a decent bloke. Under other circumstances, they might have been friends. He'd have liked to watch Castleton and Doyle outjabber each other about shooting, maybe face off on the range...but he'd be just as happy if the two of them never met in their lives. He avoided the other man's eyes as he ducked out the door and away.

He pushed the speed limit on the road south, back into Windermere, and arrived in the hotel room just as Murphy was returning bathrobe-wrapped from the shower down the corridor. The other man threw him an amused glance and went to stand in front of the mirror, combing his hair. "Good night?"

"Yeah," Bodie said shortly, and changed the subject. "You sound better."

"Steam. Clears the sinuses. Who was she - one of the ones from the other night? They weren't half sorry to see us go, before."

"No," said Bodie, even more shortly, and grabbing a towel he stalked from the room, ignoring Murphy's wounded call after him: "Well, you needn't bite my head off!"

In the shower he soaped himself viciously, trying to wash away the tactile memory. He was sore, sorer than the time with Doyle; Castleton hadn't been nearly as careful or as slow as his partner had. But he couldn't find it in himself to be angry with the man. Castleton had clearly thought him experienced, and Doyle had said that after a while it didn't hurt, that you got used to it.

Remembering how Castleton's fingers had felt, and his cock once or twice, before he'd gotten carried away, Bodie was disquietingly aware of how easy it might be to get used to it.

He'd forgotten to bring a robe with him, and didn't fancy putting on his old clothes again; so he had to walk back to their room wrapped in the towel, and then drop it to Murphy's grinning appraisal. "Well, you don't look too shagged out. Least one of us enjoyed himself last night. You want some breakfast?"

"Just coffee." He dressed rapidly for the second time that morning, avoiding Murphy's eyes.

Cluthe met them, as he had taken to doing, on the bench outside his hotel; their meetings were a regular date, by now. But this morning he was grinning. "Morning, boys. Not off home yet?"

"Should we be?" asked Murphy blandly. "Don't see you leaving. Any word from Mr. Willis?"

"As a matter of fact, I have had new instructions. This case is closed."

"What?" Bodie, not at top form, allowed his surprise to show.

"Mr. Cholmley resigned this morning. Of course, it's not been publicly announced yet; perhaps your lot hasn't heard." He favored them with a condescending look.

"Did he," said Murphy slowly.

"Mm. Something to do with a conflict of interest scandal in some construction contract, I believe. At least," and he cocked his head slyly, "that's what they're saying."

"Bloody hell," Bodie spat ungraciously. "So your lot went in and scared him off, did they? Don't suppose you thought to track him back, see what else he was tied to..."

Cluthe's smile was gone. "This is a counterintelligence matter. That makes it MI5's responsibility. The ties to organized crime your Cowley thought he'd found - " "Mr. Cowley," hissed Bodie under his breath, " - led nowhere. The Minister has concurred, and if you'll call in, gentlemen, I believe you'll find you've been instructed to return." He showed his teeth, delicately. "Don't let me detain you."

"Rancid little weasel," Bodie muttered as they were heading away, and hoped that they weren't quite out of Cluthe's earshot. "Suppose it's true?"

"He wouldn't tell us a story like that if it weren't; he knows the first thing we'll do is check with headquarters." Murphy shook his head. "The Cow must be going spare."

Perhaps fortunately, Cowley wasn't in when they called. Betty confirmed that yes, the case was over and they were to return to London. She volunteered that Doyle was out of the building too, serving as go- between for some undercover op of Susan's. "Tell him I'll be back this evening, love," Bodie managed, knowing it was expected, and hung up with a sick, heavy feeling in his gut.

It took them less than twenty minutes to pack up and settle their bill at the hotel, and they were on the road again by half past eleven, Bodie driving while Murphy stared out the window and drummed his fingers against the glass morosely. Bodie kept his eyes straight ahead, driving with a vicious speed that hardly noticed the other cars on the road except as obstructions. He wanted, fiercely, to run something down.

Beside him Murphy shifted restlessly, and Bodie felt in his buttocks the strain of sitting motionless. It was ridiculous to be so self- conscious. If Murphy could sprawl like that, squirming to settle his long-legged frame in the car seat, it was hardly going to look suspicious if Bodie shifted his weight to relieve the tenderness in his arse. But he couldn't.

"Cowley's not going to be pleased," the other man said, finally.

"Not our fault," Bodie answered shortly. "We did fuck all; he can't blame us if Willis's people cocked it up."

"Construction contract..." Murphy snorted. "Wonder where they manufactured that one." He laughed briefly. "I suppose 'conflict of interest' is as good a way as any to say 'spy.'"

"He's gone, anyway. No more damage to be done." Bodie wanted the subject dropped, the whole trip wiped from memory; but the other man was not accommodating him.

"Better that way. Queers in government - it's not safe. This just goes to show."

Bodie's knuckles whitened briefly on the wheel, but his face, rigidly controlled, did not falter. "You don't like them much, do you?"

"Who? Queers?"

Bodie had been unable to think of a better word, himself. "Yeah."

"I don't hate 'em. Hell, Bodie, my sister's a what-do-you-call-it, a lesbian. Doesn't bother me; it's her life. But - you know. That kind of situation, an MP and all, or in the Army - you can't trust it. It's not safe."

"You can't trust them, you mean." His sister?

"Yeah. This whole thing with Cholmley proves it. And you were in the Army, you must know what it's like."

Murphy had joined from university and MI5. Bodie grunted noncommittally, thinking. After a moment: "Your sister..." He trailed off, unable to find a word that didn't sound either insulting or clinical.

Murphy shifted again, and glanced at him. "Yeah."

"Doesn't bother you?"

"No." Murphy paused, and added, "I mean, I don't go around telling people..."

"What about your parents?"

"Pa turfed her out. Me and Ma kept in touch with her until Pa died, three years ago; now she comes over for Christmas, birthdays, you know. Ma's okay."

Bodie remembered the two women holding hands in the pub. He wanted to ask if Murphy's sister had a girlfriend, how Murphy had found out about her, how he felt - but the conversation was already too dangerous, and he shied away. "Just curious," he said after a moment, excusing himself. Murphy only nodded, and they fell silent again.

CI5 headquarters was nearly deserted when they arrived late in the afternoon, stiff and tired from their hours in the car. Murphy had been glancing at his watch for the last thirty miles, hoping aloud that Cowley wouldn't want a debriefing; there was a more-or-less regular Saturday darts match he joined in with, when he could, at his local. Bodie didn't object when Murphy, having taken over the driving, began to inch ever farther over the speed limit. Slouched in the passenger seat he could covertly work some of the stiffness out of his back, but the angry whistle of the wind past the car still matched his mood.

Saturday evening or no, Major Cowley was in his office, waiting for them. They came more-or-less to attention in front of his desk; he tossed a question at them while scarcely looking up from the paperwork that, as usual, was stacked before him. "Well?"

"Nothing we could do, sir," said Murphy shortly. "Waste of time from the beginning."

Cowley put his papers down and eyed them measuringly. Still fogged with the memory of the previous night, and Castleton's face that morning, in his bathrobe at the door, Bodie didn't register the look for a moment. Then, coming back to himself, he saw the lined face watching him; and abruptly he flushed with a horrifying self-consciousness. His body was balanced on feet an automatic, military twenty inches apart, hands loosely clasped behind his back - and his skin where Castleton had touched him burned as if he'd been struck. As if Cowley would be able to tell, merely by looking, what Bodie had done. What he was.

"Waste of time, 6.2?" Cowley echoed, and then, unexpectedly, cracked a wry grin. "No. No, it wasn't that." He waved a hand at them. "Don't just stand there like lumps, you two, sit down."

Bemused, Bodie obeyed, awkwardly dragging up a chair to join the one already positioned before the desk, claimed by Murphy. It let him look away, and regain some composure. "I don't understand, sir. MI6 claimed jurisdiction..."

"Aye. I knew they'd get it in the end. But Willis has been forcefully reminded of just what our fine print says, as has the Minister. I could have made a much bigger stink over this than I did, and they know it. Next time, they'll listen."

Canny bastard. Bodie shut his eyes briefly. Beside him, Murphy let out a long breath. "So we were just window dressing? For a week?"

"No, 6.2. You and Bodie were very useful. Once they turned up the Soviet connection, MI6 was considering leaving Cholmley in place, you see, hoping to turn him again. But with my boys sniffing at their heels..."

"You canny bastard." This time, he said it aloud. Murphy threw him a startled look, but Cowley didn't seem to take it amiss. "You decided having him as a double agent was too big a risk. So you got rid of him. And you reminded the Home Office of how much muscle CI5 has, when you want to use it..." His stomach was cramping.


"Nicely done, sir." Murphy's voice was admiring. "Cholmley couldn't have been trusted, not in his position."

"Why, thank you, 6.2," their boss said dryly. Murphy glanced at his watch again.

"Sir, if that's all... I've got something I'd like to get to, and I can just make it - "

Cowley waved a hand dismissively. "Off with you, then." Bodie got up as well, as Murphy made his goodbyes, but though he followed Murphy to the door of the outer office he stopped in the doorway, watching the other man's retreating back, and glanced quickly up and down the corridor before ducking back into Cowley's office and pulling the door closed. His heart was pounding, but there was something he had to say, or do. He wished he knew exactly what it was.

Cowley glanced up inquiringly. "Was there something else, 3.7?"

Bodie took a breath, and let it out. Standing before the Major's desk, he felt the way he had the first time he'd jumped out of a plane, dizzy with the anticipation of the drop, his stomach hollow as if it had already gone. He remembered sitting on the hillside, with Ray watching him, ripping up handfuls of grass.

Something had to be said. After a moment, he offered, "Murphy and I were talking, in the car. He doesn't think queers should be in government, because of this sort of thing." A half-hearted opening, that, but all he had the courage for. "What do you think? Sir?"

"It is, of course, a clear danger. Cholmley wasn't the first man to be used this way, and he won't be the last." He looked at Bodie, as if expecting something. "Was that all?"

He had to bring it closer, then. His palms were sweaty. "Was wondering what you think, yourself, sir. In CI5."

Cowley looked at him, then pushed his chair back a little and steepled his fingers. His eyes narrowed, the satisfied look replaced by careful inquiry, and his gaze travelled over Bodie from head to foot. "As far as this organization is concerned, we operate on the same principle as the military. Homosexuality is considered prejudicial to the security and safety of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, as you well know, and is grounds for immediate discharge. I think both you and your partner understand my position." He laid his hands flat on the desk. "If I knew that one of my agents was homosexual, I would terminate his contract at once."

There had been the faintest stress on the word "knew." Bodie's gut was churning, and he couldn't meet his boss's eyes. Groping desperately for his best militarily-blank expression, he stared blindly at the far wall. "Yes, sir. Only wondering." He knows. About both of us, now. All those nights together... He can look at me, and know - Shuddering, he tried to take a silent, deep breath, ordering his pulse to slow. Another breath, and he could look at Cowley again.

The older man was watching him impassively; Bodie could read nothing in his face. He clutched for his ragged composure, and Cowley nodded slowly, once. "Was there anything else, 3.7?"

"No, sir. Thank you." Bodie pivoted on his heel and made for the door. When Cowley called his name sharply he froze, one hand on the knob. "Sir?" He didn't turn around.

There was a small sound, as of Cowley shifting in his seat. "You did well on this one, 3.7," the voice behind him said. "You've made your share of mistakes, but you're a damned good agent."

And if what Cowley was really saying had anything to do with Hugh Cholmley, then Bodie was the King of Siam. "Thank you, sir," he said again, and, white-knuckled, opened the door.

He rode the clattering, rumbling Underground home, and headed straight for the shower. The sweat that had broken out on his skin as he stood in front of Cowley's desk was clammy on his back and under his arms, and he scrubbed himself for the second time that day, burying his face under the spray and letting the water run into his ears and his mouth. He even washed his hair again, and dug his fingers hard into his scalp as he worked the lather through.

Sketchily dried, he pulled on an old bathrobe, knotted the belt at his waist and sorted through his bag, dumping most of the clothes into the laundry basket and chucking his travel kit back into the bathroom cabinet. The bag went into the cabinet, and then he had nothing else to do. It was suppertime, and he hadn't eaten since a sandwich and coffee on the road; he wasn't hungry, but he supposed he should eat something. If, God forbid, there was a call-out that night, he'd be glad of it. But after a week away anything left in his fridge would be inedible, and he didn't want to get dressed and go out.

There was a Chinese place up the road, not very good, but they delivered. He was hauling himself out of his armchair to look up their number when the door signal went, in a familiar vigorous peal.

Doyle. Christ, not tonight...

Numbly, he pressed the intercom button, and his partner's voice assailed him, tinny through the cheap speaker but full of cheer. "Brought your dinner, lazy sod. Knew you wouldn't have anything in. Let me up?"

He pushed the button without answering and held the door open, hearing Doyle's feet on the stairs well before his partner came through the doorway, carrying a six-pack in one hand and a foil-covered pan in the other. Bodie shut the door after him.

Doyle put the pan and the beer down on the sideboard and turned to look at him, eyeing the bathrobe amusedly. "Just out of the shower?" Bodie nodded. "Go and get dressed, then; I'll heat this up. You haven't eaten yet, right?"

"Right," Bodie echoed. Doyle was already halfway to the kitchen; Bodie, feeling dizzy, headed for his bedroom.

He pulled on trousers and a white t-shirt and was combing his hair in the bathroom when Doyle came up behind him. He saw the hand reflected in the mirror only just before it touched his shoulder, and Doyle turned him gently around. "No windows in here. Let's say hello properly." His arms went around Bodie's back, and his mouth found Bodie's.

Bodie kissed back, automatically. Christ, less than twenty-four hours before he'd been kissing Castleton, and now he couldn't stop remembering their differences even as Doyle was in his arms...and when he'd been with Castleton he'd kept thinking of Ray. Ray's shoulderblades were comfortingly familiar under his hands, and he clutched at them.

The kiss ended and Doyle stepped back. "Grub's ready when you are," he said, smiling, and left the bathroom.

It was lasagna; he could smell it as he came into the sitting room, and abruptly his stomach awoke and reminded him that he'd scarcely eaten all day. Doyle had the filled plates on his kitchen table, and was already sitting down; Bodie took the other chair and began eating.

After a moment, Doyle poked him imperiously in the arm. "The wrist is fine, Bodie, thanks for asking," he announced.

Bodie jerked. "Oh,'d sprained it. How is - " and he caught himself, while Doyle snickered.

"It's fine, Bodie. Never mind." Doyle eyed him measuringly, then put his fork down. "You're awfully quiet, mate. Something wrong?"

"No," said Bodie, automatically. Doyle waited. "You hear how this one ended?" he asked after a moment.

"Bits of it. Cholmley'd been turned, and Cowley forced MI6 to force him out..."

"Yeah." Bodie turned his glass in his hands. "Was talking with Murphy. He doesn't think...queers should be in government. Because of this sort of thing."

"Well, he's got a point," responded Doyle easily. "Look at Philby, after all."

Bodie's eyes jerked up. "You kidding? For god's sake, Doyle, you're queer, and you're no security risk!" He hesitated a moment, than added, "And neither am I."

Doyle waved a hand dismissively. "That's different, Bodie. We're not politicals. And anyway, we are security risks. Technically."

Bodie set his glass down with a click. He said, abruptly, "Cowley knows, you know. About...both of us. About us - "

Doyle had gone very still. "He what?"

"He knows," Bodie repeated stiffly.

"How do you know?"

"He told me." Bodie snorted. "Or I told him. I'm not even sure... He wants us to keep it quiet. So he doesn't have to - "

"So he doesn't have to know," Doyle finished for him. "Yeah. That's what he told me."

"He'd fire us, you know. In a minute."

"I know," Doyle said levelly. "That's the way it is."

"Shit." Bodie pushed his plate away and got up from the table, stalking to the window and glaring at his reflection, his fists planted on the sill. "I hate this, Doyle."

Doyle had followed him, was standing very close, not touching him. "Me too, mate. But there's no way around it." He paused. "Unless you want to - call it off, between us. Go back to - "

Bodie turned around and caught Doyle's shoulders in his hands. Doyle stilled, waiting. Bodie had begun to bend toward him when he felt Doyle's body tense, and he said levelly, "The window, Bodie."

Bodie's hands dropped as if he'd been stung, and he turned away. "Shit."

Doyle's voice, behind him, was flat. "Is that what you want, Bodie? To go back to just-good-mates?"

Bodie spun back. "No." A week without him, and he was suddenly desperate for the smell and feel of him, for Ray Doyle plastered along his length. To kiss him, and crush the memory of Castleton. "No."

Doyle essayed a smile. "Good. Me neither." And he held out a hand, and Bodie took it, clasped it the way they did sometimes after a good bike race, or a particularly hair-raising op. Just gripped it, feeling Doyle's strong fingers in his, muscle and tendon and bone.

Back at the table, Doyle was still watching him as they began eating again. The thick anger in Bodie's gut had begun to dissolve, and when Doyle put his fork down again and asked, not entirely casually, "So what's bugging you, then?" he sighed and met his partner's eyes.

"Just the week. Eight days useless as a lump, and then Cowley chortles and says 'good job'... And listening to Murphy sniffling all night. If he's given me the 'flu I'll bloody kill him."

"You and me both. You've probably given it to me already, you realise." They smiled at each other, and then Bodie remembered and his smile grew wider. Doyle cocked his head curiously. "What's so funny?"

Bodie chuckled. "Our Murph's got hidden depths. He's down on queers, but his sister's a lesbian."

Doyle's eyes rounded. "He told you that?"

"Yep. Says it doesn't bother him."

"Hmph." Doyle shook his head. "He's made too many sarky comments for my taste."

That dampened Bodie's mood again, reminding him of how they had to play it. He'd laughed at Murphy's fairy jokes himself, camped it up now and then with Doyle or the lads. He hadn't felt able to, these last couple of months.

Doyle got up and put his plate in the sink, running the water over it for a moment, then wandered into the sitting room. Bodie heard him flipping through last week's paper. "You doing anything tonight?" he called.

"Like what?" Bodie called back.

"Dunno. Pictures, pub, dancing..."

"Wasn't planning on it. You want to?" Bodie finished the last bit on his plate, stacked it on top of Doyle's, and went into the sitting room. Doyle was sitting on the sofa, the paper discarded on the table.

"Just...wanted to spend the evening with you. 'S been a while."

Ten days Bodie had been gone. Two weeks and more since they'd spent the night together. Bodie drew the curtains, flicked on the telly and settled himself next to his partner, pulling Doyle roughly close with an arm around his shoulders. "C'mon. Let's take a chance on the late film." Doyle leant into him, and they sat together, content.

They both knew that Doyle would spend the night; he had long since left a spare toothbrush and change of clothes at Bodie's flat, and Bodie had done the same at his. The night grew dark, and they relaxed, pressed against each other in the sofa and not speaking much, quiet with each other's presence and with the mild babble of the television. An old film, something French that Doyle had seen before; he told Bodie bits about its background from time to time. Bodie was content to listen.

As the film drew to a close, however, he began to anticipate the night. He had slipped to lying against Doyle's side, not quite actually with his head in Doyle's lap, and Doyle's hand was trailing absently and smoothly over his arm, fingertips stroking his skin. Ten days since he'd seen him; nearly twice that since he'd held him. Bodie wanted to hold him, wanted to kiss and stroke and make Doyle feel the explosive pleasure that he himself had known. Bodie wanted to fuck him, and feel him groan and clench around his thrust. He put a hand on Doyle's forearm, feeling the faint shifting of muscle as he moved, and then pulled him down and kissed him. He was home.

He took the initiative that night, with the echo of what Castleton had made him feel trembling through his body; he wanted to make Doyle cry out with the pleasure of it. Naked together in Bodie's wide bed, they kicked the sheet away in the August heat and fell gladly into each other's arms. Bodie sucked at his lover's nipples, biting gently and then harder, and exulted as Doyle gasped and arched violently under his weight, clawing at him. "God, Bodie... 's wonderful..." Doyle's cock was hard against him, and his own throbbed heavily.

He slipped lower, Doyle panting beneath him, and took Doyle's smooth- headed cock in his hand. He liked the smoothness, he decided, and stroked it with his tongue, tasting the salty drop there. Doyle tensed, shuddering a little, and Bodie remembered not being able to remember his own name, spread out on Castleton's bed the night before. He hadn't wanted to find that much pleasure with a stranger. He wanted to give it to Ray, make Ray mad and blind with it, under his hands... He sat up, leaning over to reach the bottle of oil. Doyle watched him with wide, half-glazed eyes, his cock jerking with his pulse. "Bodie? Don't - don't stop..."

"Not going to." He greased his hands and slid them over Doyle's balls, then pulled a slick tight caress the length of his erection. Doyle pushed helplessly into it, and Bodie grinned. Yeah, like that...but more. He pushed Doyle's legs apart.

Doyle obviously thought Bodie wanted to fuck him; he took a deep breath as Bodie's finger slid into him, tilting his hips to make the angle easier. But Bodie wanted something else. Instead of a quick, efficient lubrication, hurrying to get on with it, he probed now with new knowledge, searching. Doyle's body was hot and tight around his finger; he found the firm lump that he was looking for and pressed against it, then stroked the tip of his finger along it. Above him, Doyle murmured wordlessly; Bodie withdrew, added more oil and slipped two fingers in. With his other hand, he steadied Doyle's erection while he licked gently at its tip.

He flexed his fingers inside, trying to caress Doyle the way Castleton had done him, and closed his eyes, intent. With every motion of his fingers he remembered what the touch felt like; sometimes when he was sucking Doyle, both of them close to coming, it was as though he were sucking himself, and now too he was rapt, almost lost in it. Doyle's buttocks tensed again as his fingers twisted, and Bodie smiled to himself.

Then a hand found his shoulder, catching it. "Bodie," said Doyle's voice above him, a little hoarse, "what are you doing?"

Startled, Bodie looked up. Doyle was propped on one elbow, looking quizzically at him. "Ray?"

"What are you doing?"

Bodie sat up a little, feeling awkward. It had never occurred to him that he'd be called on to explain this. "It's - your prostate. It's a gland - "

"I know," said Doyle. He looked at Bodie, crouched between his legs with two fingers up his arse. "You like that?"

"Uh - yeah." Bodie flexed his fingers again, and this time he saw the brief wince that creased Doyle's face as he twitched in reaction. "You don't?"

"No. Not much." Doyle was still looking at him, expression quite flat, and Bodie flushed, embarrassed, and pulled his fingers out. He fumbled for a towel before he realised he'd forgotten to get one, and wiped them diffidently on the sheet.

Doyle had drawn his legs in, to sit tailor-fashion; Bodie looked up and found the other man's eyes on him, watching him with some wariness. "Ray?"

"You didn't know that when you left," Doyle said.

It hit Bodie like ice water crashing shockingly into his face. Oh, fuck. Two months he'd been the innocent one - he remembered Doyle, their first few weeks together, keeping tight rein on his desires - and then he showed up after a week away full of brand-new ideas and eager to try them out... Bodie bit his lip, cursing himself.

Doyle reached over and turned on the lamp. In the sudden light his face was cut with shadows. "Murphy?" he asked tonelessly.

"No!" The suggestion nearly appalled him. "Jesus, Ray..."

"I think you'd better tell me," Doyle said. He pulled his knees up and rested his arms on them, chin on the backs of his hands, watching the other man.

"Ray..." Bodie felt sick. What in the hell had he gone and done such a stupid thing for, anyway? He leant back against the wall, feeling it chill against his skin, and shut his eyes again.

"Well, I just hope you were discreet," Doyle's voice went on, after a moment. "Otherwise Cowley'll have your hide."

"You mean you won't?"

There was a little pause. "I don't know yet."

"Damn it, Ray, it hasn't got anything to do with you! So I went out one night, picked somebody going to tell me you've never done that? That you sat at home all last week pretending you were my wife?"

"I'm not your wife, Bodie," Doyle snapped. "Damn right you're not," Bodie retorted, but Doyle wasn't finished. "I'm your lover, and your partner, and I didn't fuck anybody else because I didn't want to!" He snorted. "'Flu, hell. You could've given me the clap."

"Oh, for Christ's sake." Bodie glared at him.

Doyle glared back. "I want to know why, Bodie. I think I deserve that."

And the hell of it was, Bodie agreed with him, had done so since waking up in a stranger's bed that morning. He squirmed, spiked by anger and guilt and Doyle's glower, and took a deep breath.

"I told you, once, months ago, that - that I never thought of myself like this. Queer. That it took getting used to. And you said yeah, it did for you, too."

Doyle made a brief, wordless sound of assent, and waited. Bodie swallowed.

"I was...I was curious. Never seen men dancing together before." He looked up with sudden curiosity. "Do you dance? When you...go to places like that?"

Doyle shifted, but his gaze was steady. "Sometimes. Depends on the place."

"And you pick up men. Guess we're not so different." I'm as much of a poufter as you...

"Planning on doing it again?" Doyle's voice was still level, but sharp, now.

"You telling me you haven't slept with anybody else in four months?" Bodie muttered defensively.

"Yeah, that's what I'm telling you." Anger flared. "Look, Bodie, you put me through the shit last March, and now you tell me it's nothing? Nothing to do with me? Try again, pal, because that's fucking pathetic." The last word was almost spat at him.

Bodie shoved himself away from the wall, off the bed, and stood up. There was a tight ache under his ribs, but the storm was building between them, and he was afraid of what might happen if he tried to touch his partner now. Naked, he clenched his fists at his side, then deliberately uncurled them.

"You're right, Doyle. It had everything to do with you. But it's not like you think." He took a breath, trying to steady himself; felt the tension in his arms and his gut and suddenly he was swamped by the memory of that terrible fight they'd had, back at the beginning...Doyle's fist in his stomach, and later his voice, so fierce: fuck up again, Bodie, and that's it: partnership, friendship, and all.

He couldn't let that happen. Shuddering, he took a deep breath and began again, trying to put into words the strange combination of recklessness and trepidation, of need, that had sent him to the disco, and then to Castleton's bed.

"I was - I wanted to know what it was like. Places like that. People like that." He risked a quick glance over at his partner. "You wouldn't ever tell me. So I found out for myself."

"Found out what? That I'm not enough for you?"

"Fuck it, Doyle, will you listen to me? I don't - I'm not queer. Except - " He remembered staring around the pub garden, so ridiculously surprised. "Except that if you're queer, then I obviously don't know what queer is, because it sure as hell isn't you!" He rubbed a hand across his face, grimacing.

"You told me once about picking up blokes. I couldn't see it. Murph was sick in bed, and I went to this place... I think I stared for an hour, the first time." He looked around, and saw Doyle watching him. He was a good dancer. Bodie had seen him, on double dates and at the squad Christmas party, when he'd dipped Christy Filbert so far that she'd yelped, and then when he let her up she'd retaliated by kicking his feet neatly out from under him. He wondered what it would be like, to dance with Ray.

"Is it - " Unexpectedly, Bodie found himself almost stammering. "Was it strange, for you?"

Doyle stared at him for a moment. He seemed surprised. Then he sighed. "Come back to bed, Bodie. I can't talk to you when you're standing there like Nelson's Column."

Bodie climbed back onto the bed. He was chilled, a little, but the cover he pulled over his legs didn't seem to help. The tension between them shimmered, in brief abeyance. He waited, but Doyle didn't say anything else, and after a long moment he repeated the question.

Doyle picked at the sheet. "Was what strange?"

"Oh, for Christ's sake," Bodie snapped, exasperated. "Being gay, dammit. What did you think I meant?"

"I'm not gay."

"Fine, neither am I. Bisexual, then." Bodie felt the anger seeping back, and he was no longer certain he wanted to push it away. "Christ, you won't even tell me how many men you've fucked in the last five years. Partner. No wonder so many of your birds had names like Adrian, and Lee. Sam - antha." He snorted.

"What's it to you, then?" Doyle snapped back, temper flaring to match Bodie's. "Why're you so fucking curious about my sex life, eh? Right from that first time we fucked, after I took you to the William the Fourth, you've been on my back about it. Who were they, Doyle, where'd you meet them, Doyle, what'd you do... maybe it's none of your damn business!"

"Well, if you're not going to tell me anything, I'll bloody well go and find out for myself! And that's what I sodding did!"

They glared at each other, breathing heavily, the air ratcheting through their throats. Bodie heard his words echoing between them; they had almost surprised him, coming out like that. He gritted his teeth. "Every time I tried to ask you about the scene, you clammed up. Well, maybe this is old hat to you, Doyle, but buggery's a new twist for me."

"And did you like what you learned?"

With a conscious effort, Bodie answered the words of the question, and not Doyle's mocking tone. "Some of it. Yeah, I went home with a pick- up, and the sex was - " He felt heat rising in his face, and ducked his head, anger warring with embarrassment. "It was good."

"You fucked him."

Startled, Bodie looked up. "No. The thing with - with the prostate, he did that to me. I - actually, it was the other way around." And seeing Doyle's face tighten, he realized his mistake.

"Well, I hope you and your pick-up will be very happy together." Doyle's voice was knifing. "If you remembered to get his name, that is. You'll forgive me if I don't find sloppy seconds appealing." He was shoving the covers away, swinging his legs out, and was almost off the bed when Bodie's desperate hand clamped around his wrist, and Bodie said, urgently, "Ray. It wasn't like that."

Doyle stilled, balanced on the edge of the mattress, his face turned away. With a despairing effort, the hard set of Doyle's shoulders all he could see, Bodie told him, "It was good, the sex. Better than I expected. Tonight, earlier, I wanted - I wanted to make it better than that. What I was doing to you..." He laughed, shortly, feeling sick. "I wanted to make you hot, make it good for you. Just my luck you hate it."

Imperceptibly, marginally, Doyle had relaxed. He didn't move, sitting stiffly with his back to Bodie, but he was no longer one convulsive wrench from abandoning the bed. Neither of them acknowledged Bodie's white-nailed grip on his arm.

"I never thought of myself like this," Bodie told him, more quietly. It was what he had said when they'd started this. "I went there, danced with him, because I didn't know how else to find out... You've had years to get used to the idea. I've just started."

At that, Doyle looked around. His mouth quirked slightly. "Hell, no, Bodie. You started ages before me."

"What?" He didn't think he'd pulled on Doyle's wrist, but his partner was turning, facing him now, cross-legged on the bed. Carefully, Bodie relaxed his grip, and their hands brushed hesitantly against each other.

Doyle grimaced. "First time I danced with a bloke, I kept thinking someone was about to show up and slap me in a dress..."

Bodie remembered the disorienting feel of Castleton's shoulder, an inch higher than his own, and nodded. "Who was he - somebody at school?"

Doyle gave a little puff of breath. "Not likely. It was my second year on the Force. I told you, you started ages before me."

Bodie nearly protested, but then he remembered with a jolt. Fourteen, that summer with Billy, and Doyle must have been nearly ten years older... After a moment, he said, "It's not the same."

When Doyle didn't answer, Bodie risked pushing him. "So who was he, then?"

A shake of the head, an exasperated look from under brows drawn together. "Just somebody I met. Why does it matter?"

Hesitantly, Bodie reached out to brush the tips of his fingers against Doyle's cheek. When Doyle shifted under the touch, he quickly moved his hand to the other man's shoulder, but left it there, resting gently at the join of muscle and bone. "It matters because - because all of a sudden I don't know you. When you talk about things like that...when you won't talk." His fingers tightened. "I thought I knew you, and then I find out I don't, at all. You've had a whole life you kept hidden from me."

"It's not that big a deal, Bodie."

"It is to me."

"Hmph." Doyle shifted, resettling his legs. "You haven't exactly told me all about your dark and mysterious past, you know. Before you came home and joined the service."

That was unarguable, and it stopped Bodie's mouth. They looked at each other. Bodie licked his lips, and said, "Thought you didn't want to hear about it. Besides - " Usually he passed this sort of thing off with a joke. "It's not all that interesting, mate. Depressing, really." Doyle was still waiting. "Not pleasant, Doyle. Mostly I don't like to think about it."

"I know," Doyle told him, and smiled a little. "That's why I don't ask. But I do wonder."

Bodie chilled abruptly, struck by realization. "Doyle - was it bad? Is that why you won't tell me? Was - did someone - "

Doyle put his hand over Bodie's, still resting on his shoulder, and pressed it. "No. Nothing like that. Just - I was pretty young, and I did some stupid things, and..." He smiled ruefully. "And mostly I don't like to think about it."

They looked at each other, Doyle sitting on his heels and Bodie cross-legged under the sheet, their hands warm against each other. In a sudden, frozen intimacy, Bodie felt his chest ache with each beat of his heart; he could feel the burst of his pulse in his fingers where they were lacing themselves with Doyle's. Eyes locked, feeling dizzy, he didn't know which of them first leant ever so slightly forward, except that it must have been Doyle because he was transfixed with fear and hope and quite incapable of moving, until Doyle's mouth touched his, brushed and pressed and clung; and he was clutching Doyle's hand, their lips teeth bruised as they kissed with a shocking desperation that left them gasping and a little sheepish when they parted and had to look at each other again.

Bodie's heart was slowing, changing from its tattoo of panic to a deep, strong beat. He lifted his free hand and carded his fingers through Doyle's hair. They were still watching each other.

"It was strange, dancing with him," Bodie told him. "Kept feeling off- balance. He was taller than me... I wished it was you," he finished quietly.

He felt his stomach unknot as Doyle's eyes softened. "We can do that sometime," Doyle offered. "If you like."

Sitting in a pub, a disco, with Ray, watching the strangers with his partner at his side. Dancing with him...holding him. "I'd like that," he said, and this time Doyle's smile was not hesitant, and was met with his own. They leant toward each other, pulling close, and this time when their mouths met they opened, tongues sliding together with a sweetness that Bodie revelled in, the taste and feel of his partner, his lover...

They began slowly, this time, not with the rush that had catapulted them together at the beginning of the night, and then thrown them so far apart. Lying against each other, they kissed long and deep, and Bodie felt his cock slowly filling out, languidly rising to press against his partner's thigh. Doyle's was still soft when he slipped a hand down, and he cradled it, stroking his thumb over the head as it swelled and nudged against his fingers. Doyle murmured against his lips at the touch, and Bodie kissed him again.

Doyle slid down, then, licking and mouthing at his throat and nipples, while Bodie pinched his into hard nubs. The pinches soon had Doyle thrusting against Bodie's legs in rhythm, groaning; he pushed himself up and fastened his mouth onto Bodie's again with a hunger that Bodie met and returned, fingers digging into Doyle's back, his buttocks, as his partner ground down on him.

Now Bodie was hard, and aching; when Doyle pushed away again he lay still, watching wide-eyed as Doyle reached for the bottle of oil that Bodie had used before, pouring it over his hands and onto Bodie's cock. His fingers, hot and slick and busy, roamed lightly over Bodie's stomach, thighs, cock, as Bodie watched, panting. Doyle encircled his balls and tugged gently; he looked up and, holding Bodie's gaze, pushed at his thighs.

Bodie allowed his legs to fall open. Doyle was propped above him, gazing down; one greased finger trailed from his balls to his anus and lingered there, teasing it. Bodie concentrated on breathing, and on not looking away from the green eyes.

"You like it," said Doyle.

It wasn't a question, but Bodie admitted it, anyway. "Yeah."

"You liked what he did to you," Doyle elaborated. "Why?"

"Why?" Bodie repeated, and Doyle nodded. The fingertip circled, lightly.

"I'm - not sure. My prostate's sensitive, I suppose. Touching it..."

"You never had a bird do that to you?" asked Doyle suddenly, as if it had only just occurred to him.

It had certainly never occurred to Bodie, or to any woman he'd slept with. "No."

"Hm." Doyle considered. "Makes me kind of queasy, actually. Something moving around inside me."

"Even when - " Bodie scrabbled briefly, and fruitlessly, for a gentler word. "Even when I'm fucking you?"

"That's different." The finger slipped inside, a little, and stroked the wall of his rectum. "'S a different kind of motion. Just in-out, not..." The finger pushed further, twisting in mute explanation. Bodie's breath caught, and he tensed a little, reflexively. "You do like it."

"Yeah," Bodie managed. Then Doyle put his head down, and as his lips enveloped Bodie's cockhead another finger eased its way into him, and Bodie was groaning now, Doyle's tongue flickering across him and the deep, strange, urgent feel of gentle strokes inside. He hooked one leg over Doyle's arm and shoulder, bracing himself; the other was outflung, splaying him open to his lover's hands and mouth.

Doyle took him deep, swallowing him, then eased off, touching his tongue to the oozing slit and looking up again. Bodie shoved a pillow under his head, propping himself up to meet the intent eyes on him. Inside, the fingers pressed against him, and Bodie twisted slightly, trying to bring them to the right spot.

"Like that?" asked Doyle.

"Uh - " Bodie wasn't even sure what, exactly, Doyle was doing; he couldn't quite translate the wash of feeling into a particular motion of the fingers inside him. "More like...right on it."

"There?" They moved again, and suddenly Bodie gasped, his cock jerking as urgent pleasure fountained from the spot under Doyle's fingers through his groin, coursing along his spine and legs. "God! Ray..."

A warm palm covered his balls, squeezing them, and his cock burned with helpless need, pushing against empty air. As he watched, Doyle bent down again, licking deliberately at the underside of the head, and pulling away when Bodie thrust up toward him. "Ray!"

Doyle sat up a little, both hands still pressing against him and into him in a slow, unbearable rhythm. Bodie panted, chest heaving.

"Do you know what you look like?" Doyle's voice was rough. Bodie couldn't answer, but he looked down at himself, thinking of Doyle's view of him: on his back, legs apart, erection quivering, one arm wedging the pillow under his neck. He was sprawled nearly limp, although tension trembled through him with every breath; but remembering the previous night, he knew a difference. He had wanted to curl away, to turn his back on Castleton instead of lying splayed open before the stranger arching over him, into him; but now he ached to pull Doyle to him, to press them belly to belly and cock to cock, feel him against every inch of stinging, hypersensitive skin... He tried to say something, but Doyle was already bending again, and the words were lost in a choking cry as he was sucked in, Doyle's tongue strong on him now and imperative.

It was incredible, unbearable. He was nearly coming, was desperate to come, needed it more with every stroke pulled wetly along his cock and ached for it with every burst of fire from the fingers inside him. Every rub across his prostate redoubled the urgency; his back was arching, his heels digging into the bed, and he was shuddering, gasping...but some part of him wanted more. His chest was hollow, even as his balls seemed to be knotting. Flailing, wild, he clutched at Doyle's shoulder with his free hand, clawing at him, pulling at his head to stop him before it was too late. When Doyle's mouth opened, releasing him, the night air on his heat was almost painful, and he gritted his teeth, using the sudden shock to beat the orgasm down, force it away. "Ray..." he managed, hoarsely.


"No...I want..." He hauled at him, hands in Doyle's armpits, dragging him up to lie atop him, body pressed to body. That was better. He couldn't stop touching him, running his palms over Doyle's sides and back, down along his buttocks and the tops of his thighs.

"What, Bodie?" Doyle was kissing his cheek, his throat. "What do you want?"

Not to be alone. Not to be splayed out embarrassingly, all of him bare to the eyes of a stranger. "I want...more than your fingers." Doyle was silent. "Ray." He licked at Doyle's ear, bit the earlobe gently. "Fuck me."

Doyle raised his head then and wound his fingers into Bodie's hair, holding him still as he stared down with eyes hot and dark. "Try to stop me," he whispered. Then he kissed him, hard, his tongue thrusting, and Bodie met it gladly, sucked it in, sent his own into the sweet wet depths of Doyle's mouth.

Doyle rolled over, bringing Bodie half on top of him; he took Bodie's hand and pressed it to his cock. "Get me hard," he said. "Get me hard for you..." He was half-erect still, but not enough, and Bodie trailed his fingers along his length, then evaded the hand that held his shoulder to slip down and swallow the warm bulk, caressing it with his tongue, feeling it pulse and swell in his mouth. Doyle murmured, and Bodie sucked harder, using his hand to help as the cock lengthened beyond his ability to take it all in. He was working to arouse, not tease, his head bobbing with a smooth, fast rhythm, savoring the salty drops leaking from Doyle as he grew excited. With his free hand Bodie rubbed Doyle's stomach, then felt for a nipple; Doyle guided him to one and caught his breath as Bodie pinched, then rolled it between his fingers. He was nearly fully hard now, soft tip and ridge of flesh pressing against the roof of Bodie's mouth, solid curve between his lips.

Bodie pulled away with a last sucking kiss, and flattened his palm on Doyle's chest. They looked at each other, slightly hesitant about the next step. Finally Bodie grinned, a little sheepishly, breaking the tension. "I'll get it," he said.

When he came back with the jar of Vaseline, Doyle was sitting up, waiting for him, and took it from his hand. Bodie dropped the towel he had brought by the bed and lay down next to him, on his back. When Doyle moved between his legs, he spread them, lifting his knees, and felt the first laden finger probe him.

"Maybe we should keep this in here from now on."

"Maybe," Bodie echoed, not really listening. Sucking Doyle had allowed his own urgency to recede; now the stroking inside him hinted at its return, although Doyle was concentrating on lubricating him, not specifically on his prostate. Two fingers stretched the ring of muscle, and he breathed deeply, helping Doyle relax him. Reaching for the oil on the bedstand, he poured some into his palm, spilling a little, and stretched down to massage it onto Doyle's cock. Doyle murmured, and responded by scooping up more jelly and pushing it deep into him.

Then he pulled out, smearing what was left on his fingers around Bodie's anus. Bodie hitched himself up a little on the bed, and spread his legs, knees high. "C'mon." Doyle looked a question at him, and Bodie shook his head. "Like this. So I can see you."

"All right." Doyle reached for a pillow and pushed it under Bodie's hips, then knelt in front of him, one hand on Bodie's thigh, the other holding his cock at the entrance to Bodie's body. "Are you sure? It's pretty deep this way..."

"Go on, Ray. Do it." And Bodie held his breath, than forced an exhalation as Doyle pressed against him and into him, opening him. It burned a little; he realised with some surprise that he was sore still from the night before. Doyle was halfway in, hot bulk splitting him, when sudden pain stabbed through his gut; he yelped and Doyle froze.


"Wait a minute." Bodie took a shallow breath, and tried pressing down to meet him; pain again, bright and hard. "That hurts."

Doyle rubbed his thigh. "Let me shift a bit. Sometimes, if the angle's wrong, it hurts..." He moved one knee marginally, resettling himself, then lifted Bodie's legs, encouraging him to rest them over his shoulders. Bodie's weight was thrown onto his upper back, but Doyle was gripping his thighs, anchoring him, and this time when he pushed forward tentatively Bodie felt only the sliding thrust, and the gasping sense of being full to bursting with him; and then, as Doyle pulled partially out and did it again, the head of his cock grazed that exquisitely-sensitive spot and Bodie gasped in pure startled pleasure. "Yes! Ray..."

Doyle leant forward, his hands now flat on the bed next to Bodie's shoulders. Bodie dug his fingers into Doyle's forearms as they fucked, watching Doyle's face, flushed and tense above his own; he clenched deliberately around Doyle's shaft as he withdrew and saw Doyle gasp and throw his head back, then refocus and grin shakily down at him. "Evil, Bodie..."


"You wait..." and Doyle thrust into him again, hard and deep, rubbing along his prostate and Bodie cried out and clutched at his wrists, then freed one hand and grabbed his own cock, rubbing it as Doyle pounded him, jerking himself off; with every thrust his cock surged until he felt he was being fucked both inside and out. Doyle was groaning now, muttering something, and sweat was dripping off his face. Bodie fisted himself, feeling his balls drawing to the base of his cock, his arse split and filled with Doyle clear up to his guts; another pull, another, and Doyle touched the trigger inside him and his cock stretched tight, tight, and with a yell he let go, bursting out, Doyle ramming thick inside him as he shot high and hard into the air, splattering himself and Doyle, ropy spatters in the curly chest hair. Panting, he squeezed the last drops out and relaxed slightly, and realised that Doyle was locked rigid above him, arms trembling, teeth gritted, his hips jerking in tiny helpless movements. Bodie smiled. "C'mon, Ray. Let it go. Come, love..." and he reached down, stretching to brush his fingers across Doyle's balls. The touch shattered his control and he cried out; one hard surge, then another, and he was shuddering and gasping as Bodie held him, taking his ejaculation deep inside him.

When he could, Bodie unhooked his legs and stretched them out; Doyle, still shaking, managed to withdraw from Bodie's body before his elbows gave way and he collapsed onto his partner's chest. Semen smeared between them, but Bodie didn't care. His legs and back were stiff, his arse sore and still echoing with phantom bulk; but he wrapped his arms around Doyle's sweaty body and hugged him, kissing the side of his face until Doyle returned to himself enough to turn and meet his lips. Each still catching his breath, they couldn't kiss for long, and Doyle tucked his face into the hollow of Bodie's neck.

They lay, breathing together, not needing to speak. Bodie stroked one hand absently across Doyle's back, and after a little while he groped for the sheet and pulled it up over them; Doyle wrapped it around their shoulders and settled more comfortably against him. Bodie dozed briefly, but woke when Doyle shifted his weight; the change in position awoke his bladder. He sighed, touched the sharp-boned shoulder. "Ray," he murmured. "Let me up."

"Why?" Doyle's voice was muffled.

"I have to pee."

Doyle grumbled, but the words were softened by the easy smile Bodie heard in his voice. "Just like you to go and spoil the mood..." He sat up and made room for Bodie to get out of bed.

Bodie used the toilet and washed his hands, then his groin thoroughly; the oil and jelly had felt good at the time, but they'd used a lot and he was uncomfortably messy now. When he returned he found Doyle swabbing at himself with the towel; he put up a hand and caught it as it was thrown, tossing it in turn into the laundry basket. He turned off the light and climbed back into bed, curling up around Doyle, front to back. His face was full of curls, tickling his nose and redolent of his partner's perspiration; he nuzzled into them and Doyle chuckled. Bodie wrapped an arm around his waist, and Doyle covered his hand with his own.

"Don't forget the alarm, Bodie."

Bodie had, quite completely; in the last twenty minutes he had forgotten any other world outside their bed. Doyle's quiet reminder was an unpleasant jolt. He pulled his arm away again and sat up. "Same as usual?" And, remembering, "What are you doing these days, anyway?"

"Seven is fine. I've been all over for the last week, but as of tomorrow we're back together. Dunno what he'll put us on, though; not much happening." He had set the alarm, and Doyle drew him back into shared warmth. "I was working night shift for four days; Fallon was sick. Glad to be done with it."

"Ray..." Reality, once having intruded, would not go away. Bodie didn't know how to say it, wasn't even sure that it was necessary; but they'd come too close, too many times, to screwing everything up. He squeezed Doyle's ribs. "Are we okay?"

Doyle's hand touched his again. "How do you mean?"

"You know what I mean. Us."

Doyle didn't answer. Bodie, apprehensive, began to say something more, but Doyle pressed his hand. "Hush. I'm thinking." Obediently, Bodie waited, with a small hollow forming under his heart.

Then Doyle sighed, and turned over to face him. "I'm sorry for blowing my top at you like that."

An apology from him was the last thing Bodie had expected. "Christ, Ray, it's me should be apologizing."

"That too," Doyle told him equably, and Bodie said, meaning it, "I'm sorry."

Doyle touched his cheek, brushed a hand through his hair. "I love you, Bodie."

And hearing Doyle say it, so simply, was in some strange way a relief. "I know," he said, because he did. And because he owed it to Doyle, and to himself, to be honest, he went on. "I know." Doyle's hand was warm. "I love you too." He didn't know what it would mean for them, but it was true.

Doyle pulled him close, hugging him; then turned on his back and put an arm around Bodie's shoulders. Bodie settled his head on the plane of Doyle's chest, listening to his heart beat. After a moment, he asked, "So where do we go from here?"

"What do you mean?"

"Do we just go on like this?"

Doyle's hand stroked his shoulder. "Like to change a few things, Bodie." The hand slid under his chin, lifting his face. "Like us to stop hurting each other."

Bodie's heart ached. "I never meant to hurt you, Doyle. You know that."

"Yeah," Doyle acknowledged. "Me neither. But it didn't stop either of us doing it." He looked soberly down at Bodie.

Bodie knew what to say to that. He remembered it from what seemed like years before, although he could have told Doyle the day and hour if he'd asked. He met Doyle's shadowed eyes, then dipped his head to kiss the hand that cradled him. "You're my best friend," he said, "and I like being with you." Almost reluctantly, Doyle chuckled. "That's got to be worth something," Bodie told him.

"It is, Bodie. It's worth almost everything."

Bodie laid his head down again on Doyle's chest. He could hear his partner's heartbeat, the rush of air through his lungs. "We'll work it out," he promised, certain in that moment that it was true.

A gentle hand stroked his cheek. "I know we will."

-- THE END --


Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home