The bed was empty, but Bodie knew where his lover was in the instant that he woke, for he could hear water running in the bathroom. The white leathers were still draped over the back of a chair, and when Doyle appeared, patting at his face, which was shaved and smooth, he was wearing his red silk robe. Just he way Bodie remembered him from the last time he had stayed over at Ray's flat, too squiffy to go home. He stretched, not even questioning the fact that Ray should have the robe, and smiled good morning at him, beckoning him back to bed.
"Got to get moving, lazy bones," Doyle chided, straddling his lover and tousling the rumpled, short dark hair. He let Bodie catch his head and pull him down into a kiss, then drew back to look down into the dark blue eyes; beautiful eyes, sad and wistful this morning. "What's wrong?"
"Last night," Bodie said regretfully. "I left you."
"You came back when it was over," Ray murmured. "And before that..." He flushed rosily and hid a grin. "The rest of it was fantastic."
"Want to do it again?" Bodie asked wickedly.
"Oh yeah. Won't hurt at all this time, will it?"
"Nah. Not sore, still, are you?"
"Just a bit, it's nothing. Honestly." Doyle forced the disquiet to the back of his mind, wanting to make Bodie feel better. "Too bad we have to be on the road so early; we could have lounged around in bed, and..."
Bodie made a bird's nest of Ray's hair, running his fingers through it. "We'll get the hotel to pack a picnic for us, and find somewhere nice along the road. Make love in the sunshine, how's that sound?"
"It's not legal," Doyle said quietly. "In a public place."
"What, making love?"
"Sodomy. Two men making love." Doyle's blush darkened another shade.
"This isn't England," Bodie told him, 'You've been in Rohan for the last twenty miles or so. Here, I could marry you if I wanted to - they don't make a big fuss about it. Men, women, no difference."
It was a charming idea even if Ray was quite well aware that it was all Bodie's fantasy. He laughed, delighted. The way Bodie's mind worked! "All right then, we'll do it."
"Make love in the sunshine?" Bodie grinned.
"Get married," Doyle corrected. "Now, this morning, before we leave. If this is Rohan, where you can, I want to. I'd chip in with you for the rings, but I'm skint, haven't a bean."
Bodie blinked, then laughed. "You mean it, don't you - you'd marry me!"
"Course I will - I love you, don't I?" Ray sounded exasperated. "You will
marry me, won't you? You're not going to jilt me, I hope!"
"Jilt you?" Bodie grabbed him, kissed him, then rolled, throwing him off. "Not on your life. Want a shower? Then breakfast, and we'll go down to the local magistrate and tie the knot. There's a shop - actually it's a gift shop, but it'll do - we can buy a couple of rings there that'll suffice till we can get some proper ones. Okay?"
"Peachy," Doyle smiled. He reached for the white leathers and had to laugh. "I shouldn't be wearing white, should I? White's for virgins."
"So what?" Bodie's arms slid about him and hugged, and a wet kiss devoured his left ear. "Who's going to know, besides us?"
There were kippers, croissants and scrambled eggs for breakfast and Doyle ate a lot, washing it all down with tea; and Bodie held his hand across the table. Last night it would have embarrassed him, but now... It wasn't real, he knew that. Bodie's fantasy, a labyrinth of imagination, a chaos of memory from which he had to find some egress before it all went sour. Rohan? Fine. If that's what Bodie wanted, why not? And if it was all right for men to marry here, then it was all right for them to hold hands.
They strolled down from the hotel after they had paid the bill - Bodie handed over the money in South African Rands, Doyle noticed; he peered at the money fascinated, never having seen this currency before. The details were all there, captivating, thorough. The street was, he guessed, the same as the street on which he had holidayed, down to the last brick, and the gift shop was a reproduction from memory too.
It was full of curiosities; African oddments, Toby jugs, plastic ponies, junk jewellery, a shrunken head, all lumped together in no particular order. Much as his memories were lumped together, Doyle guessed. Still, it was pleasant, and he enjoyed the fuss as the old woman who kept the shop helped them choose the rings and wished them all the best.
From there they strolled down to the magistrate's house, a corner cottage with roses around the door, absurd in this setting, for the grassland stretched out beyond the back garden, and beyond it, the mountains. Bodie handed Ray one of the gold plated rings, cheap but nice, and leaned on the magistrate's doorbell. Ray basked in the sunshine as they waited, trying to set aside the misgivings he felt; if he was a prisoner here, he might at least make the most of it. If nothing else, it had a few
good points, and marrying Bodie was one of them.
The magistrate was an ancient, venerable, heavy jowled, bald, a drop of perspiration sliding slowly down his ruddy nose, and he made nothing of the request to marry two men. The ceremony was brief, clinical, almost impersonal, and if Doyle had expected brass bands and flags he was vastly disappointed. Still, it was nice when they exchanged rings and pressed into an embrace, kissing for just a moment before the magistrate and his three witnesses - his wife, the housekeeper and her maid. The three women were choked up, and Ray hid a smile... Maybe he and Bodie did
make a handsome couple at that. Bodie looked wonderful, in his black slacks and black roll necked shirt, and his own white leathers were among the nicest clothes he had ever had. Trust Bodie to know how to dress him!
There was a paper to be signed, and they got the bottom copy to keep. Bodie handed it to him and he checked in surprise as he saw it: it was a marriage licence, signed and dated. And the dates were dead right. He put it, folded, into his back pocket, and followed his spouse out into the warmth of the early morning. It was still only nine.
"They ought to have sorted out our picnic by now," Bodie said, slipping an arm about him and kissing his temple as they headed back toward the inn.
"What about petrol?" Doyle asked. "She'll be sucking air soon."
"Pick it up on the way out," Bodie agreed. "So long as we make it as far as Anduku today we'll be on schedule. It's a bit rough and ready, and a hell of a lot higher than this. We'll be climbing all the time today... Take it in turns to drive, pet?"
"Take it in turns to do everything," Ray smiled. Inwardly, he heaved a sigh. God, if this was only real
. If Bodie was only sane, if... If...
Butterbur was waiting for them with the picnic basket, and ten minutes later, the Capri's eight gallon tank brimming, they pulled out of Sutton Westcliff and hit the Helway. Bodie was driving the first stint, for which Doyle was grateful; it allowed him the opportunity to sit back and observe his lover closely. How long, before he had one of his attacks?
It came over him just before ten; his hands whitened on the wheel and his profile became granite-hard. Bodie did not seem to be aware of the change, but Doyle could notice every minute shift in personality, from the soft, gentle man he had just married to the hard, angry, volatile character he had come to dread. To fear... To stop Bodie from doing something that was incongruous, something he would regret and grieve for when he was himself again, Ray would have to fight him. And when a small person went up against a big man, there were only ever the damaging blows; you hit to hurt
, even to cripple. Doyle knew that there was no way he could do that to Bodie, and what was left? Acquiescence. The alternative terrified him.
This time, the episode lasted longer, and when it was over Bodie was weary, aching. During the hour and a half in which he had been a stranger Ray had said nothing, for most of the time pretending sleep. Bodie cursed beneath his breath, punished the car, swore at the road, the heat, the wind, fighting everything. It was only Ray's good fortune, he guessed, that Bodie was single minded to the point of obsession with movement
. His whole life was geared to travel, and when he was driving the madness made him drive faster, kept his attention on the road and off his partner.
"Pull over," Doyle said softly, "I'll drive now. Head aching?"
Bodie was sweating, looking nauseous. "Christ, it was worse this time, wasn't it? Feels like I've been run over by a truck. Ray, I can't help it, it just happens, and I'm not me
. I can't help it."
"I know, I know," Doyle said soothingly. "We'll sort it out, love." Soothing, empty words, easily spoken, meaning nothing. They almost stuck in his throat, and as he drove his own mind was turning over at a feverish pace. He trawled through his memory, dredging for any snippet he could recall from cases of schizophrenia, madness, concussion, drug induced paranoia. Bodie could be having a terrible reaction to the drugs, that was always possible; and he was focused on the man who was codenamed Thorkill, which was probably a vital clue in his case. Doyle was only sure of one thing: when it came to a confrontation between his lover and Thorkill, it would be a make-or-break situation. One of the two men would go down, and if it was Bodie...
The though chilled him. If Bodie went down, it would be like losing in a confrontation with his own subconscious mind. Descent into madness or death. Christ, Ray thought bleakly, what does that do for me
? I'm stuck here with him, and if he goes over the edge, if he dies... He swallowed. In all probability, Bodie would take Doyle with him. To the asylum, or to the grave. The thought was enough to curl his toenails and he pushed it away, not wanting to meet it until there was no other choice.
The Helway was rising steeply now; the climate was growing cooler with each range of hills they put behind them, and they saw deciduous trees, aspen, alder, ash, beech. The hills were green and fertile, a welcome change after the sameness and the heat of the grasslands. Doyle no longer questioned what he saw; no, of course this was not Africa, irrespective of what Bodie thought. This
was England, and they were on their way to a place out of a Jack London book. The Klondike, or Alaska or somewhere.
As insane as it all was, there was also much about it that was nice; there was a peace and beauty about the landscape, so quiet and welcoming, and the wonderful, warm sensation left over from the morning, when he had married his lover legally. There was no way it could be true, and Ray knew that, but still the scene of his wedding was cherished, and he had his marriage licence in his back pocket.
At one he pulled the car off the road down a deeply rutted trail, looking for somewhere to park while they had their picnic. There was not a house to be seen, not a living soul for miles, not even any animals, though the trees were alive with birds. Bodie came awake as they left the road and rubbed his eyes, yawning. The wind was cooler here, and he knew they had climbed high above the burning grasslands.
Doyle parked the Capri in the shade of a stand of young alders and turned off the motor, stretching his arms and legs and tossing his green driving glasses onto the dash. "We've made good time."
"So I see," Bodie agreed, swinging open the door. "You get the rugs, I'll get the basket, and we'll see what they've packed for us."
The basket was loaded, heavy, and as he picked it up Bodie caught sight of the gold on his finger and smiled, looking up to watch Doyle, who by that time was shaking out one of the rugs. The white leathers hugged his every curve, and if there was ever anything or anyone else as desirable, Bodie had never seen her - or him. He carried the basket into the shade of the trees and put it down, reaching for his lover, wanting just to hold him for a while. "You know," he murmured as Ray stepped into his arms and put his head down on Bodie's shoulder, "I've never been married before."
"Neither have I," Ray admitted. "First time for everything, isn't there?" He nipped Bodie's ear. "How you feeling now? Better?"
"Much," Bodie affirmed. "Twice today, already... Early morning, and just now. And it lasts longer, doesn't it? Ray..." He averted his eyes. "It's getting worse, isn't it?"
"Maybe," Doyle shrugged. "I dunno, Bodie, haven't been watching you long enough to decide what's normal, or abnormal, yet. Just let it be; all we can do's wait and watch." It was no good lying; Bodie would not appreciate false comfort, he knew. "Come on, eat something. Then you can screw me again, if you like."
He felt the shiver run through Bodie's nerves. "You mean that?" The blue eyes were shades darker.
"Course. I've never felt anything like it, Bodie, ever. And this time it isn't even going to hurt a bit." He grinned, the spirit of mischief. "I married you this morning, didn't I? That makes this our honeymoon. Oh, come on, Bodie, enjoy it while you can. We'll be running into cold weather and snow soon!"
"Going to be nice laying you on a rug in front of a roaring fire," Bodie said, almost a growl, low in his chest. "Thought you might like to do me
And Doyle nodded. "Later, when I know what I'm doing. I've got a lot to learn yet; technique. What to do, what not to do. I want to do it right
for you, like you did it for me." He paused then, and frowned. "You're not, um, well, a virgin, are you?"
Bodie shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. That doesn't bother you, though, does it? I went with quite a few men, years ago."
"Lately?" Doyle asked. "I'm not trying to pry, but I'm wondering if I have to hurt you, the first time."
"'Fraid you will, yeah," Bodie grinned brashly. "I didn't have much to do with men after I got out of Africa, and after a while you get tight again. Then, I'll admit, even out here I didn't let many take me... Didn't like to surrender, and all that, I suppose. Oh, when it's done right it's great - as you well know. And when it's done wrong, well, you said it yourself. It can put you in the hospital, and you don't like to risk injury when you're in a place where the butcher of a medic's a drunken sod and your CO's bent as a hairpin!"
Doyle nodded gravely. "Yeah. So I'll be careful, when the time's right for it. Later, Bodie, when I've had a bit of education. Okay?"
In answer Bodie kissed his mouth softly. "Okay. Now let's eat, I'm ravenous. Could eat you alive... In fact, I may have you for desert."
The inn had put up a fantastic picnic and it was hard not to overeat; there was nothing like an overfilled stomach for putting the lid on one's libido, both of them knew, and they left enough in the basket to provide them with high tea, later. Then they lay on the blanket, looking up at the shifting leaves and listening to the larks. Bodie was quiet for a long time and Ray had begun to wonder if he had drifted off to sleep when he felt the tickle of fingers slipping into his shirt.
He turned his head on the rug, meeting heavy lidded blue eyes, and Bodie said huskily, "want you, Ray. I seem to want you all the time, but I have to have you now. S'okay?"
He was asking, Doyle realised: haunted by the harsh, egocentric person he became when the changes came over him. Asking. "Course it's okay," he smiled, and sat up to take off his shirt. Bodie drew him up to his feet and they undressed each other deftly, slowly, making it an exercise in artistry, savouring every little sensation, each scent, each caress. Naked, they pressed together, the heat and hardness of arousal aching between them, and Doyle caught his breath at the knee that slipped between his and lifted, rubbing where he was tenderest.
One of the most endearing things about Doyle was the way he responded, Bodie thought, smiling into the curly hair that was tickling his nose. He would melt with a caress, sag forward in search of support if he was stroked just right, and moan as if he was in agony if the stroking fingers found his genitals. Bodie took hold of him there, pulling gently, watching the colour flush up in his cheeks as he began to shake. Ray was such a sensual little animal, as if his nerves were that much more alive
than anyone else's, or as if he took more notice to what those nerves were saying. Bodie kissed him, sliding his tongue into the dark, sweet interior of Doyle's mouth, plotting the form of his teeth, the textures of his inner lips and the roughness behind his canines; Ray opened wide and held still, letting him explore all the territory anew until neither of them could breathe.
When they surfaced, they were on the rug again, and Bodie was lying almost on top of his lover while Ray's fingers ran up and down his flanks, making him shiver. The sun was hot on his back and Doyle's face was dappled by it, his eyes as green as the sea, his mouth swollen and his cheeks flushed. He could have been the subject of an oil-on-canvas rendering of Pan, a faun, one of the tall elves, Bodie thought, realising that he had never seen anything quite so beautiful as Ray Doyle, aroused, in a clinch. It was a pity the rest of the world would never be privy to the sight, but he knew as the thought occurred to him that no one else would see it again; every curve and hollow of Doyle's body and face belonged to him
now, and he would kill to keep what was his.
Floating on the tide of sensations, Doyle was only barely aware when his legs were pulled apart and his knees lifted; his shoulders took his weight easily and he wrapped his legs about Bodie's waist to help, his throat making a strange little whimper as he felt oily fingers making him ready. He craved the pleasures they brought this time, lifting his hips toward them, opening for them and clamping his muscles about them; from far away he heard Bodie chuckle, and didn't mind. Bodie knew what he was feeling, it was just an ironic chuckle, not at all mocking.
The fingers were gone then, and Bodie was inside of him once more, filling him without pain, sliding in and out slowly without making him hurt at all, and the pleasure swamped him, buffeted him like a boat loose in the wind. He heard his own voice, moaning and crying out, but couldn't have controlled what his throat was doing to save his life, even when Bodie's mouth came down on his. The rhythm became more urgent then and he managed to coax his eyes into focus to see Bodie's face as he came.
Intent, concentrated, the blue eyes slitted, mouth open, head thrown back as he tensed, trying to make it last. Beautiful, Ray thought, panting on the verge of his own release. One more touch, one more stirring of the cock within him, and he would come too. He took Bodie's right hand, carried it to his groin and wrapped it around his own aching shaft; Bodie gripped him reflexively, and it was more than enough. The explosion seemed to turn him inside out and his hot, thick essences splashed up onto his lover's smooth chest, clinging there.
Bodie collapsed onto him, heavy, hot, sticky, and they rolled onto their sides, wrapped in a desperate embrace. Bodie slipped out as they moved and they whooped for air, laughing at each other and at themselves. Ray tickled the other's ribs and Bodie came very close to giggling, catching the offending fingers. "Okay, mate? Was okay?"
"No it was not
," Doyle said, objecting strongly. "it was terrific
... Jees, I feel greasy, though. What did you use? To make me slippery?"
Now Bodie did giggle. "Don't ask."
"Bodie?" Ray demanded sternly. "Tell me, you clot! What did you do?"
"Well, I left the British Airways bag with all our stuff in it in the car," Bodie explained sheepishly. All there was, was... I used butter." He broke off as Doyle punched his shoulder. "It bloody worked, didn't it?"
"I object to being treated as a slice of toast!"
"Well, how about if I play the strawberry jam?" Bodie offered, and lay top of him again. "How's that?"
"You're sticky enough for jam," Ray observed, trying to be serious and hardly managing it. "God, I'm in a mess, though. Can't get dressed again like this
. Clean me up?"
Bodie kissed his nose. "Course. There's serviettes and some water left over from the picnic. Are you sore again? Want some ointment?"
But Ray shook his head. "No, I'm okay now. Just messy - Christ, it trickles out every time I move."
"So move," Bodie grinned, fetching the paper serviettes and a canteen of lukewarm water. "Sorry about the butter, sweetheart."
"Oh, it worked, I suppose," Doyle admitted, sitting up and stretching his back. "My lumbar region doesn't love me anymore." He stood up and stretched his back this way and that, chuckling as Bodie mopped at his legs. "Messy buggers, aren't we?"
"That's a fine thing to say," Doyle muttered in mock-irritation. "Okay, we won't bother again. Can't get you all mucky, can we?" He yelped as Bodie grabbed him and pulled him down into an embrace, wrapping both legs about his lover until Bodie, still on his knees, held his full weight.
"I married you," he observed, nose to nose. "Can demand me conjugal rights now, can't I?"
Ray groaned. "Yeah, I suppose you can. It's a good thing I like being screwed, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is," Bodie affirmed , "because the sight of your rump makes me come out in goose bumps now I know what it feels like to be in there. Can hardly keep my hands off it."
"So don't," Doyle grinned. "Keep your hands off it. It's nice when you stroke me, I like that too." As he spoke he released his legs' vice-grip about Bodie and slid to his own knees, pressing them together, skin on skin. "Been thinking about a bunch of different ways to do it, too."
"Active imagination," Bodie observed.
"Fertile mind," Doyle winked. "I can think of half a dozen ways, and I wouldn't mind trying them all, if you've no objections."
"Objections?" Bodie guffawed. "That'll be the day, my lad. When we get this Thorkill business finished with and get home to England, we'll go straight to bed and won't get up for a month, except to change the sheets when they get too
Bodie was in a great mood, but the mention of Thorkill reminded Ray forcibly of the horrible truth of affairs, and it was as if a bucket of icy water had been tipped over him. He forced a smile, nodding, and turned away toward his discarded clothes. Okay, so Bodie was flying at breakneck speed toward a confrontation with his nemesis, something buried deep in his mind. Ray could rationalise that and accept it, see the logic of it... But how was it possible for him
to be caught up in this, and how did he get out again?
Unless Doyle himself was nothing more than a figment of Bodie's imagination. The thought was numbing. I'm just an image, Ray thought feverishly, just an idea in Bodie's mind, and the real
me is standing by a hospital bed, or looking at a vegetable with Bodie's face, in an asylum... No love, no hope, no future. He shuddered and looked away to hide his horrified expression. No. Better this, better to be ensnared in Bodie's fantasy than that. At least here he could help
, help him find the way to his own cure - and the way out.
He dressed slowly, methodically, while Bodie threw the debris of the meal back into the basket, and by the time he had his boots on he had managed to straighten his face, force the more serious issues to the back of his mind. He watched Bodie slide in behind the wheel and got into the left side of the car, collecting a kiss on the lips before the gutsy little three litre motor was kicking into life, and they were moving again.
The sex had tired him more than he realised and he slept long into the afternoon; what woke him was Bodie swearing. He was cursing at the car, at the road, at the slanting sunlight that cast dust-devil images across the filthy windscreen; and he was a stranger. His mood was vile, and he jerked the car to a halt with an abruptness that woke Doyle fully. "Clean the bloody windscreen," he snapped. "Can hardly bloody see!"
"Sure," Doyle said quietly, fetching a rag out of the back. "Do you want me to drive for a while?"
It was the wrong question to ask, and for a moment he was sure Bodie was going to backhand him. "No I don't want you to drive! I want you to clean the windscreen. Get moving Doyle!"
"Okay, okay, I'm going." Ray swung the door open, got out and orbited the Capri's roasting bonnet to drag the cloth across the glass; it was not easy to scrub the road dirt away and he should have used water, but they had none with them, only a few tins of beer and wine.
Bodie gave him a minute to work, then leaned out of the car to snarl, "what the hell are you doing?"
"Doing as I was told," Doyle said levelly.
"Hurry up about it, then, we're losing time."
"We can't be in that much of a hurry," Ray murmured, "we can make it to the next village easily by dusk, and you said that's as far as we were going today."
A grunt was his reply, and there was silence until the windscreen was clean enough to suffice, then he slid back into the car and tossed the rag back into the back. Bodie's slitted eyes fixed on him, hot and angry, and he swallowed as one large hand reached out, cupping his chin. "Bodie?" Bodie said nothing, but the fingers squeezed, not quite hard enough to bruise; testing? Doyle sat absolutely still. Testing, to see if he was in charge? To see - it came to him in a flash of understanding - to see if he was in charge of the fantasy, or if it
was in charge of him.
You're not in charge of me, mate, Doyle thought bleakly, not when you're like this
! But he kept still while the hand went into his shirt, fingers pinching his nipples; a twist of pain shot through him and he let it show in the compression of his lips. It seemed to satisfy Bodie, and that frightened Doyle more than anything.
"You don't want to hurt me, Bodie, do you?" He whispered.
"Not if you do as you're bloody told, Doyle," Bodie growled. "You do as I say, when I say, and you'll do okay. Got it?"
"Yes." Ray closed his shirt, rubbing his right nipple. Which was a little sore now, and a moment later Bodie pulled away, foot to the floor, revving the motor hard. He closed his eyes, dread battling the optimism he had tried to cultivate. Every shred of common sense in his skull was telling him to get out, now, while he could, before it turned vicious and sour - but would Bodie let
him go? If this was Bodie's fantasy he was
in charge, he could make anything happen, not just with cruel hands and thoughtless treatment. He could make
things happen. "Why did you do that?" he asked, knowing he was pushing his luck. "Why did you pinch me? It hurt."
Bodie looked at him, stranger's face, stranger's eyes. "You can
be hurt, you know. Remember that."
"But I didn't do
anything! Why did you punish me for nothing?"
"A little lesson," Bodie said indifferently. "The way I was taught."
The way he
was taught? Doyle subsided, thinking hard on that. Taught - to do what, and by whom? There was the strongest impression that Bodie had just let slip one of the keys to the whole labyrinth. The way I was taught
. Taught with pain, to do... What? Ray passed both hands over his face. He had to find out. He thought back to some of the cases he had worked on as a young copper, cases of child and wife beating, molestation, domination: pain was a powerful teaching tool. Aversion therapy could be used, with skill, to make a sane, rational person do almost anything - or to make a maniac stop
doing almost anything. Rapists rendered impotent, murderers turned into timid, frightened people. There was a film about it - A Clockwork Orange. Ray thought back to the movie and felt sick.
He studied Bodie's savage profile and felt a wave of tenderness, real, genuine pity. "Christ, what happened to you, love?" His voice was rich with compassion, and even if it got him punished, he would have spoken.
Bodie's hands clenched on the wheel. "None of your goddamned business, Doyle. But remember, it could happen to you
"Yes," Doyle whispered. "I do as I'm told, I know." He watched Bodie nod, satisfied now that he was in charge of his world, and for a long time there was a painful silence in the car. Doyle was watching the time as the sun set in an ocean of blood before them. It was taking a long time to pass over this time, and he knew that the longer it took the more distressed Bodie would be when it was over at last.
It came as no surprise to Ray when Bodie passed out. The car slewed, losing speed as he want limp, and Doyle took the wheel with his right hand, keeping it on an even course while he leaned over and punched the brake. The Capri came to a shuddering halt on the grassy verge, the engine stalled out, and the silence of the twilight hillside flooded into the car. Ray put a hand on Bodie's forehead, finding him waxy, cold, then searched for a pulse. For Bodie it was fast, at sixty, but at least it was dead regular. For some time he waited, wondering if he would quickly come to, but Bodie was limp, and time was wasting.
Inert, he was heavy; it was difficult to manhandle him into the left seat but Doyle managed it, and strapped him in. The engine restarted at once and as he pulled away he flicked on the headlights and rolled the window up. The night was getting cold. Tomorrow they would climb into the snow, and neither of them had enough clothes. Bodie would have been planning to buy supplies in Anduku, he guessed. Where the hell was the village?
The quartz-halogen beams picked out the road and he drove with care; the world was one vast ocean of velvet blackness, relieved only here and there where the moonlight was cast back by the surface of a lake or river in the distance. And then he saw the lights of Anduku, beckoning like a beacon, and he cut speed, rolling into the wash of neon.
The settlement was rough; the building here were of timber construction, and there were many tents, pavilions, the kind of city-under-canvas he would have expected of an army. He could smell horses too; that made sense: this country was poorly suited to motor vehicles, and as often as not horses would prove the best way to get around. The only road he knew of was the Helway itself, everything else was just a dirt track that would see off a car in ten miles. As he changed down to look for a tavern Bodie woke.
"Ray?" The voice was husky, soft, and Doyle breathed a sigh of relief.
"Yeah, you're okay. We just ran into Anduku. Looks like the army's encamped here. You didn't tell me - are we bunking with your old army buddies or did you book ahead in a hotel?"
"There's a tavern called the White Wolf," Bodie murmured, rubbing his head hard, trying to get his thoughts into gear.
"Hang on, I just passed that." Doyle broke down, put the car into reverse and backed up the empty street until he saw the sign; the Capri described an arc and slid into the parking area, between a Transit and a British Leyland that had see better days. He killed the roasting, aromatic motor and put on the interior light. Bodie looked pale, blue about the lips. "Sweetheart, you look terrible."
"Feel terrible," Bodie admitted. "Ray, did I - "
didn't do anything," Doyle said firmly. "Doesn't matter. Come on, let's get some hot food into you, get you warmed up, you'll soon feel better." Until the next time it happens, he thought. And the next. And then, if you try to hurt me, I have a decision to make... Do I take it, or do I hurt you
to stop you? Christ, what a choice!
The White Wolf was crowded with drinkers; there was a darts tournament in progress, and he eyed the contestants with fascination. There were men dressed in jeans and shirts, London-standard; there were men in leathers, from the high country, bearded, with long hair and rifles; Africans, their black skin and tribal garb seeming odd in this place; and men on whom he saw chain mail, spurs, coats of arms. He took Bodie's elbow. "Who the hell are they
? The ones with the heraldry and the cloaks?
Bodie peered through the smoky bar. "They're the guard," he supplied. "You're in shrine country now. The Templars patrol the hill ways, keep the passes open for the pilgrims who go up and down to the temples and shrines. Otherwise they'd be easy prey for the bandits, these hills are full of 'em. They're good blokes, most of 'em - a bit religious, so it's just as well we're married. They take a dim view of just shacking up together."
Templars? As in, Knights Templar? Doyle bit his lip, thinking back to Bodie's book case, at his flat. There had been a battered copy of Ivanhoe there, obviously well read. He sighed, just accepting what he saw now... There were dog men, Alaskan Indians with furs to trade, the odd Jewish merchant, clad in a costume that looked like fancy dress in this day and age; and one man who drew his attention as none of the others did. He was tall, willowy in build, pale skinned, with long, wavy hair through which his pointed ears only just showed. An elf, Ray thought soberly; one of the tall elves. Lord Of The Rings. Christ, Bodie's mind was in a chaos just now! He gave his partner a glance of concern.
Pale and clearly miserable, Bodie was digging through his pockets for money; South African Rands appeared, a whole wallet full of them, and he handed them to Ray. "Best room they've got, we can afford it."
A tiny girl with bright red hair pushed a key at him, barely looking at them, her attention on the darts match, and a moment later Doyle shepherded Bodie toward the stairs, slipping one arm about his waist to urge him up onto the second floor where the rooms were over the bar. The noise faded down and vanished almost completely as he closed and locked the door and snapped on the light. A hearth was alight, warming the air, and the bed was a big, brass affair with a duck down quilt and stiff damask sheets. There was a bathroom attached, but it was plain to the point of being spartan, just basic facilities and olive drab towels. Army fashion.
A phone stood on the table by the bed, huge and clumsy, and he picked it up, calling for a meal and a bottle of brandy. Bodie looked as if he could do with a belt. He had sprawled on the foot of the bed, and he was still cold. Doyle closed the windows that looked out on the main street, jerked the curtains closed and poked at the fire with a black iron rod that stood in the corner of the spark guard with a pair of tongs, a bucket of brown coal and a supply of split logs. Soon he had the fire roaring in the chimney, and came to sit on the bed, stroking Bodie's face.
Blue eyes blinked up at him, almost blind, and one strong, square hand came up to touch his chest. "I hurt you," Bodie whispered.
"A stranger hurt me," Doyle corrected. "And not much, at that. I'm not made of porcelain, Bodie. I'm tougher than that
, for Chrissake!"
"But I hurt you and meant to do it," Bodie said sadly. "If you'd tried to argue, I'd have hit you, or worse."
"You'd have tried to," Ray remonstrated. "I'm not about to sit still for that, so stop worrying. You feeling bad? Want a doctor to look at you?"
Bodie shook his head. "No, it's not so bad now. I'm just... scared. Ray, when I'm like that, what do I say to you? It's all distorted, I can't remember clearly."
"You tell me to do as I'm told, when I'm told, not to answer back, that sort of thing." Doyle shrugged. "I stay out of your way, keep quiet, and - do as I'm told, and then it goes away, and you're ill." He sighed. "I want you to see a doctor before we leave here."
"No. Told you, I saw a quack on the Cape. He offered me a couch at the shrink's office, but - Ray, they'd lock me up, wouldn't they? I'm not the kind of bloke you let loose on the street."
He was not deluding himself at least, Ray thought bleakly: they would
lock him up. "Okay, no doctor. But you're not on the street anyway, are you? You're with me."
"My brother's keeper," Bodie murmured, rubbing Doyle's chest thoughtfully. "Except you're not my brother. I married you." He lifted Doyle's left hand and studied the ring there. "Ray, whatever happens, never forget. I love
you. I'm not myself, it isn't my fault, but whatever he
love you, and I always will. For Christ's sake, if you have to, put a gun to my head, and if I don't see sense, pull the bloody trigger!"
"I'll do no such thing," Doyle said huskily, bending to kiss him as there was knock at the door. "Shift closer to the fire, pet; I've got you a hot meal and a bottle of the hard, you'll soon feel better."
Cold to the bone, Bodie had his feet in the hearth by the time Ray had paid the man and taken the tray from him, and they sat on sheepskins by the fire to eat. Mutton and barley broth, blueberry pie with cream, flat, unleavened bread and black ale. There was plenty of food and even the fruit pie was still hot from the oven; Ray watched Bodie revive as they ate, and relaxed. He drank a lot, becoming a little squiffy and very affectionate, and as they pushed the remains of the meal away delicate fingers were undressing him.
"Want you, pet," Bodie murmured against his ear.
Doyle rubbed his bare back against the sheepskins, his toes roasting in the hearth. "No complaints out of me. Want to screw me properly?"
Bodie got one elbow under him and looked down at the length of Ray's body. Lit by the fire, it could have been cast from molten bronze, and the silky body hair was gold. "You're not sore from last time?"
The curious thing was that he was not
; Ray had expected to be very sore indeed, but it was nothing to speak of... Bodie's fantasy, he thought wryly. Bless him for the way his mind works - because if he wanted
me to be uncomfortable he could make that
happen too. It was a sobering thought and he pushed it away, not wanting to spoil the scene with it. "Nah, I'm fine," he said. "Go on, Bodie, you need it again. Loving makes you... I dunno, calmer, happier. I'm right, aren't I?"
"Yes," Bodie whispered. "You remind me who I am, what I am." He gathered Doyle into his arms and rocked him. "I'm using you, and I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Ray chided gently, licking down Bodie's neck. "I enjoy it too, you know. I'd pretty soon be complaining if I didn't, wouldn't I? I mean, you're taking me at every verse end!" He pulled away and kissed Bodie's chest. "Come on, make love to me. Here, let me start."
Bodie lay back and let Doyle do the work for a change, thrilling to the kisses that feathered over every square inch of shoulders, chest and belly, before Ray's hot, wet mouth closed over his cock and began to suck. Fingers cradled his balls, rolling them in their delicate sac, and he gave a sigh of utter content as the pleasure raced through him. No place he would rather be, no one he would rather be with. The loving was slow and infinitely gentle; slippery with Ray's pre-ejaculate, Bodie turned his lover over on the sheepskins, kissed down his spine and sheathed himself in the soft/hard welcome of his body. Perspiration glistened on them in the firelight as they worked at each other's pleasure, then Bodie broke his rhythm, withdrawing completely long before they were ready to come. A moan of protest left Doyle's throat, but in another moment he found himself on his back, his legs propped on Bodie's shoulders, and impaled again. This was better; this way, he could watch Bodie work, see his face as he came. No bloody wonder women liked it his way best... But you had to be in love, you had to care as much for your lover's pleasure as your own, to need to see his pleasure in his face this way. Casual sex just wasn't the same. Married, Doyle thought ruefully as Bodie's hand closed over his aching cock and squeezed, trying to give him the same feelings as if he was deep inside too.
For this, Doyle knew, he would endure whatever the stranger who now and then wore Bodie's face cared to do. Bodie was a victim, not a culprit; when the attack was over he was ill, and more ill each time; none of it was his doing. Ray gave himself up to his lover's needs without a second thought, being used and pleasured at the same time so that, as they came, one was as sated and overloaded with pleasure as the other. Bodie cried his love aloud as he collapsed heavily on the smaller man, and Doyle ran his hands up and down the sweat slick flanks, soothing him.
"Time to put you to bed, I think," he chuckled as the blue eyes grew heavy. "Come on, I'll mop myself up and bring the brandy. Off you go, sunshine, you're toasting now. Feel better?"
His reply was a kiss on each eye, his nose and his lips, and then Bodie went to slide into the big brass bed, and propped himself on the cool pillows to watch his love in the firelight. "You're so bloody beautiful," he murmured, little above a moan, making Doyle smile sunnily as he knelt on the sheepskins, blotting at his legs as the cool trickles escaped.
"Feeling's mutual," Ray said honestly. "Can't believe how lucky I am to get someone like you. A real looker, and a great lover into the bargain."
got the bargain," Bodie argued as Doyle brought the brandy bottle and two glasses. He gave the amber fluid a mock frown. "Trying to get me drunk?"
Doyle shook his head, sliding between the sheets. "Trying to put you to sleep, Bodie," he said levelly. "If you drink enough you'll sleep the whole night through. If you jump your track, you'll never know about it, because you'll sleep through it. Make sense?"
"Yeah, it does." Bodie poured a brimming glass of the brandy and sipped at it. "Hey, drop of good stuff, this."
"We can afford it," Ray grinned. "Don't know where you got that much money, but there's a fortune in Rands. I put the money on the table there."
"You keep it," Bodie whispered. "And the keys to the car, too. And get yourself a weapon and enough ammo, all you can carry." He sipped at the brandy again. "I want you to have the means to get out
, love, just in case."
Doyle studied him mutely for a while. "I won't go, you know."
Bodie shrugged. "You don't know that. You might have to... You might be a fool to stay with me. I'm certifiable, Ray, be honest."
"You're...schizophrenic," Ray admitted quietly. "The other bloke who shows up now and again, I don't like him. I'm frightened of him. Terrified, if you must know. I won't lie to you, sweetheart. But he's not here for more than a few hours a day -"
"Six hours today," Bodie whispered. "Maybe longer tomorrow. Ray, there's going to come a time when he's here most of the time. Then all the time, and I'll be gone, and you'll be alone with a person who wants to control you, every move you make, every breath you draw." He paused and forced the words out. "Even in bed."
Doyle was silent, considering it. "Maybe. Probably, okay. But it won't get to that point before we're at Odinspeak, and we'll have it out with this Thorkill person between us. Let's see him take the two
of us on. I'm here to help you, Bodie. It's what I came here for..."
He let the sentiment trail away, focusing on the very rationalisation he had just, half unwittingly, offered up. Had
he done that? Had he wished himself into Bodie's nightmare to help him beat it? The thought was the first comforting, optimistic notion he had had in days, and it cheered him greatly. If he had
come here willingly, knowingly, then he was where he should
be, he was not lost at all. He was here to do a job, here for a purpose. And if there was no way out again?
He sighed heavily, watching Bodie drink the brandy. If he was to be a prisoner here forever, how bad could it be? There was a whole world inside Bodie's head; sometimes it was strange, at other times achingly familiar. At the very least Bodie could 'think' them back to London, back home - or 'think' them onto a Pacific island, paradise. They could have anything they wanted, and so long as Bodie was sane, and in control of the fantasy realm, it would be all right.
So long as Bodie was sane. Ray poured a nip of brandy for himself and topped up Bodie's glass. This Thorkill man was the key to it, he was sure. The man who had taught Bodie, with pain, to do something so bad that... That... Doyle fished for the meaning, groped after it, lost the thread of reasoning and surrendered the struggle. He could fit the pieces of the puzzle together later, when he was thinking more clearly. Only one impression was concrete in his mind.
Thorkill had hurt him. That night in Hammersmith, when Bodie vanished off the face of the earth, for days? The riders had grabbed him, he said, taken him somewhere, taken his soul or his Id, his heart. Taught him by hurting him. Doyle swallowed, feeling the prickling at his lids as his eyes filled with tears. "Oh love," he murmured, watching Bodie go back to the brandy bottle, methodically sinking the lot so as to sedate himself, to put himself under until the morning. He would have a hangover, Ray thought, and Bodie knew
he was drinking himself into a hangover, was doing it willingly.
Bodie looked up as his lover whispered the endearment, watched the tears spill from the green eyes and frowned. "Ray? Pet, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, I just love you," Doyle said, putting his own nip of brandy down untouched. He climbed up on top of Bodie, pressing him down into the pillows, and kissed him deeply for a long time. Bodie was too weary for desire to stir again; he just opened to the kiss and held still while Ray possessed his mouth until they were both suffocating and drowsy.
The brandy bottle was almost empty and Bodie was nearer drunk than sober, going out quickly as the alcohol got into his blood. He was asleep while Doyle watched, aware that he was standing a vigil. By the chrono on Bodie's left wrist it was still only eleven. How long before it happened again? He prayed that the brandy would be enough to see him though it, not only for Bodie's sake but for his own...
Sharing a bed with a violent, angry stranger was not a prospect he relished. The stranger did not love him; there would be no lovemaking, just sex, and even though he knew his body was not so virginal as to be really hurt now, the thought of a loveless, joyless coupling did not appeal to him. He hadn't married Bodie for that
He saw one o'clock slide around on Bodie's chrono, and then drifted into sleep himself, worn ragged by the fretting and cuddling his lover in a mute, vain attempt to protect him from himself. At four, Bodie began to thrash around, muttering, cursing, his hands clutching at Doyle, bruising, but he did not wake. He fought for an hour, tangling the bedding, drenching the sheets in perspiration, and by five, when he finally stilled, Ray was exhausted, ready to fall into a deep, oblivious sleep, sure that hours would go by before it happened again.
Sunlight streamed into the room through cracks between curtains and frame, waking Doyle a few moments before he would have woken to the sounds from the adjoining bathroom. He rolled over in the empty bed, aware that the air was cold, the hearth dead, and that Bodie was retching helplessly, paying the price for the brandy. Ray slid out of bed, pulling the quilt off it and wrapping himself in it as he padded into the bathroom. Bodie was on his knees by the plaster-white toilet bowl, flushed and feverish, and holding his head. He was shivering in the cold, and Doyle paused only to fetch a towel, the facecloth and a glass of water from the handbasin before kneeling beside him and twitching the quilt about them both.
"You should have woken me," he murmured as he held Bodie's head. "Don't martyr yourself, love!" For a while Bodie just emptied out the sour contents of his stomach, then he let Doyle bring the glass to his lips; he rinsed out his mouth, swallowed a few times and sat back, leaning heavily against his lover. He was trembling from head to foot from the sickness and Doyle cursed himself. "I should have had more sense. Should've got you some sleeping pills instead of the brandy. Problem is, I haven't a clue where there's a doctor here." He combed through Bodie's tousled hair with careful fingers. "We'll get some before we leave here, okay? Bodie?"
"Okay," Bodie muffled. It hurt to talk. It hurt just to breathe, and until Ray had arrived he'd wished he was dead. He still had the impression that he'd be far, far happier if he was
dead, but Doyle's warmth and solidarity made it bearable. He leaned back, closing his eyes, and felt the drowsiness rise again. He could go back to sleep right there without any difficulties.
"Want to go back to bed?" Ray asked softly. "It's only seven, you can sleep for a couple of hours. I'll go and see what I can find for you - Alkaseltzers or something. Reckon you can keep down some fruit juice?"
"No, not yet." Bodie gave Doyle his arm, grateful to be lifted to his feet and steered back to bed. He lay with eyes slitted, watching Doyle stir the fire back to life, adding kindling. When it was burning fiercely, he reached for his clothes, dressing quickly.
"Cold," Ray said, rubbing his arms. "I'd better get us some clothes too, we're going to freeze dressed like this." He stood at the foot of the bed, peering at Bodie in the firelight. "Christ, I'm so sorry. I'm scared of the stranger and you pay the penalties."
"Shurrup, Ray," Bodie slurred. "Doesn't matter a damn."
But it did, and Doyle was punishing himself as he left the room in search of the hotel staff. What was the worst that could happen, if he did
have to share a bed with the stranger who wore Bodie's face? He would be screwed, hard, quickly, perhaps repeatedly. Providing he made sure he was oily, slippery, Bodie wouldn't hurt him. He knew how to relax, all he had to do was lie there with his face in the pillows, try and stay on his knees to make it easier, and wait for Bodie to be so exhausted he knocked himself out. Perhaps he would be a little sore afterward, but surely that was all
that could happen. And better that than the torture Bodie was going though now.
The manger blinked at him owlishly over the rim of a coffee cup as he asked where he could find a doctor, and two minutes later he was out of the building and walking up the deserted street toward the pavilions where the Templars were encamped. He smelt food cooking there and realised how hungry he was. Time for breakfast later. He was hugging himself in the cold and as he passed a camping shop he checked, going back to look at the supplies hung up in the window, Bodie's imagination was through; there was every imaginable item, and he ducked into the shop to spend a lot of money. For himself, a brown leather jacket, a grey wool cap, and hiking boots, heavy socks and gloves. For Bodie, a fleecy-lined parka, boots, socks and a khaki wool cap. He watched the shopkeeper parcel most of the stuff up, pulling on the brown leather, and told him that he'd pick the rest up on his way back.
Warm, he hurried toward the encampment, his breath pluming in the air, and as he grew closer the smelt the horses. Big animals, dozens of them, stabled in an open-fronted structure, fetlock deep in straw, their noses buried in buckets of oats. A lad was working there, shovelling manure into a barrow, and Doyle hailed him.
"Morning, son, I'm looking for a doctor."
"That way, sir," the lad said, pointing to a red pavilion a little apart from the rest. "Doctor Germaine is in camp."
Doyle winked at the lad in thanks, stuffed his hands into the pockets of the new jacket, and headed for the red canvas enclosure. At the open flap he paused, peering into the dimness to see a burly, middle aged man sitting at a wooden table, eating eggs. "Doctor?" The man looked up at him and he pressed on, "my mate's sick, I need some pills and things, if you've got 'em."
"Sick? How sick?" Germine asked, getting to his feet and gathering his black robe about himself.
Sicker than you know, Doyle thought grimly. "Sick in the stomach," he said. "Something he ate, maybe. Or it could be gastric flu. It's not as bad as all that, just enough to make him feel like death warmed up. Have you got anything I give him?"
Germaine nodded indifferently. "I expect so. Seltzer, aspirin."
"Sleeping pills?" Doyle asked hopefully. "He's sleeping badly."
He collected a small carry bag, noting without humour that it was plastic, entirely incongruous in this place. He nodded his thanks to the doctor, left a few bills on the table and hurried out into the cold morning.
Bodie was awake as he shut the door, and he shook out the clothes he had bought. "That'll keep you warm, mate," he smiled, displaying the jacket. "It cost you a bloody fortune." Then he went into the bathroom for water and dropped the fizzing tablets into the glass. Bodie sat up, holding his head, and drank the bitter liquid before the powder could settle. He still looked pinched about the nose and mouth, but he was well enough to play at making faces at the taste of the medication, and to nod in agreement as Ray displayed the packet of prescription sleeping pills. "Barbiturates," Doyle warned. "Not to drink anything alcoholic while you're taking these; you could kill yourself. What about breakfast? No? Orange juice, then?" As Bodie nodded he reached for the phone, ordering orange juice and black coffee for his lover, and toast and cereal for himself.
As he ate and watched Bodie sip the cold fruit juice, he asked, "how far do we go today?"
"As far as Dawson," Bodie told him quietly, as if it hurt to talk. "We'll be there late this afternoon. We'll get into Whitehorse tomorrow."
"Up in the snow country." Doyle grinned. "The Helway goes straight up from here on. It's going to get bloody cold, mate."
"Yeah," Bodie agreed. "And dangerous. The snow will make the road a deathtrap. So you're driving. If I black out behind the wheel again, I could kill us."
"Okay," Doyle nodded. "But... Bodie, if I'm driving and you get an attack... You - he
won't like it. He'll want to drive."
The blue eyes met his very levelly. "Don't let him," Bodie said softly. "Do what you have to do to stop him. He's too dangerous."
Doyle swallowed. "I might have to hit you."
"So hit me."
"You don't understand. I might have to hurt you."
"So bloody well hurt me," Bodie said dismissively. "You put down that clown Sinclaire, you can put me away. Do as we said, tie me up till it's over. You... You might have to." He looked away. "Ray, it'll happen again this morning, so watch yourself."
"I will," Doyle whispered. "I'll do the best I can, I promise."
From somewhere Bodie found a smile, small, ragged, breaking Ray's heart. "I know you will. Look, we'll be in Whitehorse tomorrow, and if the weather holds we'll see Odinspeak three days after that. You said it, love: let's see Thorkill go up against the pair of us! Nobody
ever went up against the pair of us and won, Ray. We'll take him, then we shove off home."
"Right." Doyle forced a smile and checked the time. "You well enough to get moving now? If we're going to climb into the snow we're going to make slower time now."
It took an hour to get Bodie into the car, fill the tank at the last station in Anduku where a black mechanic with a reeking cigar went in under the bonnet, filled up the oil and added antifreeze to the radiator, and then Doyle was putting his foot to the floor and the black tarmac surface of the Helway was rushing by again.
It got cold quickly and they drove with the windows up and the heater on; the roasting motor heated the car to tolerable levels and Bodie slept for over and hour before the cursing and growling began in his sleep. Ray stiffened and the order, when it came, was no surprise. "Pull over, Doyle."
"Why?" he asked levelly, and held his breath.
"I said bloody pull over! Don't you dare argue with me!"
Was there any chance that he could reason with the stranger? It was worth a try. "You blacked out yesterday," he said carefully. "If you do that again you could crash the car."
"You little liar," Bodie snarled. "You aching for a strapping? S'what you'll get if you don't mind your bloody mouth! Now pull over!"
Doyle's heart sank. He put his foot on the brake and pulled in at the side of the road, cranked the handbrake on and turned off the motor. Very deliberately he slid out of the car and closed the door. How the hell did he take Bodie? He had wrestled and sparred with him in the gym often enough to know how deadly he could be. There was a way, but he had to be careful, and his heart thundered in his chest as he did it.
As Bodie approached he stepped back from the car door, just out of his partner's peripheral vision, and he dropped a measured, calculated blow on his jaw, right at the juncture of jaw and ear, just hard enough to knock him into unconsciousness, but not hard enough to keep him out for long. There was a rope in the back, attached to Bodie's haversack, and he searched it out quickly, tying him securely, hand and foot.
He should have gagged him too, he guessed, but could not bring himself to; as he manhandled Bodie back into the car, shoving him into the back out of harm's way, he came to, and the invective flowed freely from his lips. He called Ray everything he could lay tongue to, from imbecile to catamite, from whore to half wit, and Doyle tried to close his ears, hearing the fury, Bodie's voice getting huskier and huskier as the tirade went on. At last it stopped, the insults lapsing into quiet, and there was only ragged breathing and moaning for some time before Bodie
said quietly, "Ray, I'm hurting, help me."
Tyres whistled on the road as Doyle pulled up fast, and his fingers were clumsy on the rope as he released Bodie's numb limbs. The car was parked in alpine country, the sun struck arcs of brilliance off high snow all about them and the air was crisp and clean, stinging their sinuses as they got out for Bodie to stretch.
"Okay?" Ray asked hesitantly. "I've given you a lovely bruise. Got a headache, love? God, I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Bodie smiled, and caught Doyle against him to kiss his mouth. "Took me for longer," he said against the soft curls "Getting longer every time, isn't it?" Then he drew back. "Know what you're going to do?"
"What?" Ray asked, holding on tight.
"You're going to tie me up before it start this afternoon."
"But, Bodie - "
"Come on, Ray, be logical. You know
it's going to happen, why wait till it starts and then have to hit me? If you hit me much more I'm going to get concussion, and they're going to be accusing you of beating up your bondmate! Can't have that, can we?"
"I suppose not," Ray sighed. "I hate
this, Bodie; just so you know. And I'm going to love you twice as much tonight, promise."
Bodie looked like death, but he managed a smile. "Are you? That's worth getting tied up for an hour for, pet. Going to screw me
But Ray shook his head, watching Bodie massage his temples and wishing there was something he could do for him. "No, not yet. Later, when all this is sorted out, when it's safe... How about some pain killers? Or do you feel sick again?"
"S'just dizziness and a headache," Bodie said.
"And you're feverish," Doyle added. "Back in the car, before you catch cold. And a rug around you."
Swathed in one of the tartan rugs, head back against the rest, Bodie felt better and cast a sidelong glance at Doyle. "So what are
you going to do with me tonight?
The car started promptly, as the engine was still roasting under the silver bonnet. Doyle gave Bodie a smile that began as a cheeky expression and became tender as he saw how ill Bodie really was. "I'm going to eat you alive," he promised. "I haven't tasted you as you come yet, and I want to do that."
"Gorgeous, sexy little menace," Bodie murmured, and held out one hand; Ray took it, and he kissed the long, slender fingers. "You did well, love. Put me down without busting me in two. But you won't get the drop on him again, and..." He bit his lip. "He's going to have it in for you now, you realise that? Next time he could take it out on you."
"I know," Doyle said thoughtfully. "But we've got the barbiturates for tonight. It'll be okay."
Will it? Bodie thought, and a shudder ran through him as, just for a moment he pictured himself coming to after a blackout and finding Doyle's dead body on the ground, strangled, or shot, or knifed in a stranger's rage. He hugged himself for a moment, then reached into the glove box to bring out the loaded 9mm Browning automatic, handing it to Ray as the car got moving. "Here, take this."
Doyle took it without a word, putting it into his pocket, eyes on the road. "Running into bandit country, are we?" he asked mildly.
"Don't be thick, Ray," Bodie pleaded. "He could kill you." He held up his hands. "He could kill you with these."
"No," Ray said softly, "I don't believe that. He's still in your body, isn't he? That means you
control him the way he thinks
he controls everything in this place. That's what makes him angry, Bodie, when something happens that he doesn't
control. That's why he's wary of me, because he knows he's really only being... humoured." For a moment Ray frowned; the time was right for him to come straight out with it, tell Bodie the truth. 'This isn't real anyway, you know; it's just a fantasy, your fantasy, and everything that happens here, with the exception of what your stranger does, is all up to you.' He took a breath to say it and couldn't. Bodie's eyes had fallen shut, he looked ill and weak, and more confusion he could do without. Doyle sighed heavily, setting the time of the reckoning aside for later.
"You've got the gun," Bodie slurred, on the brink of sleep. "You bloody well use it. No sense in both of us taking the high dive - I'm done for anyway." He was asleep as he spoke the last words.
The automatic was solid in Doyle's pocket, never letting him forget it was there, and depression weighed heavily on him as he drove; the Helway was steep now, and by noon the first powdering of snow obscured the black tarmac. He cut speed, taking the bends carefully, and drove until Bodie began to stir naturally before looking at the time. It was after one, and the road was now deep under snow. Bodie stretched and yawned, looking better and clearly feeling better, because he leaned over to kiss Doyle's left cheek as he tossed the rug back over the seat. "We'll have to put the chains on soon," he said. "On the wheels, I mean, not on me
, though I'll admit, chains are starting to look like a viable proposition."
"Not to me," Ray said fiercely. "Don't make jokes like that, Bodie, it isn't funny. Looking for somewhere to get a meal, now. Anywhere up ahead? You've got the map?"
"Yeah, there's a transport caff somewhere up here," Bodie yawned. "The pilgrims use it a lot, so there'll be Templars; don't get too many trucks out this way, because the passes are so bad. Whitehorse gets its stuff brought by truck one a month, that's about the lot. You've made damned good time. We'll be in Dawson by dusk at this rate."
"Going to be slower from here on," Ray said doubtfully. "Christ, look at the snow. Good thing the sky's clear."
The sky was high and blue; under other circumstances it would have been wonderful cold-holiday weather... An afternoon trying not to get a broken leg on the ski slopes, then back to a four course meal, social drinking with the crowd in the club room, up to bed for a long, slow session on a down quilt, sleep late, eat an enormous breakfast, and repeat the whole pantomime ad infinitum, or as long as you could manage to stay off work. Doyle smiled at the image. It would be fun to do that, one day. He had his sunglasses on and was still squinting against the brightness of sun on snow as he saw the transport café appear around a bend. The sign over the big windows read 'Sixty Mile,' which he was certain was a place out of Jack London's book, but it no longer mattered. It was cold, he was hungry and they would need the chains on soon, or the car would be useless... Bodie's fantasies were nothing if not thorough. And could they be deadly? Doyle had the oddest impression that yes, they could. People died here; people got hurt.
A mechanic in red coveralls with a deerstalker cap pulled down over his ears fitted their chains while they ate greasy bacon and eggs and got warm; the café's windows were steamed up with the condensing breaths of its patrons. There were three groups beside Bodie and Doyle: a band of Templars and their pilgrims, dog men, in stained, reeking leathers, and three tall, slender men clad in white leathers and silver jewellery, whose pointed ears peeked from masses of curly hair.
Tall elves, Ray thought, and grinned; only now did he notice how much like them he was himself, and Bodie had dressed him in white leathers too. Slight and curly haired, he could pass as one of them, if he had to, and he kept that in mind, fingering the roundness of his own ears. Bodie saw what he was doing and laughed into his tea. "Yeah, you do look like one of their people, so watch yourself after we get into the killing fields. Tall elves are great warriors; if scouts from Hel see you, you'll be fighting, and I... I can't promise to be much use to you. They're always on the lookout for the likes of them. They fight well, and they're beautiful, and they're not very big, so you get a great fight but the elves always lose, and when they go down, they... Well. You know."
"Pit fighting, you told me," Doyle nodded, remembering what Bodie had said about the brother of his former lover, Mark Tessier, who had been taken by the riders and brought out of Hel raving. There was much in Bodie's subconscious that was dark and strange, he thought; there had to be some basis for that particular quirk of invention - an actual event. He thought back to the stories he'd heard, books he'd read, thinking of Wilbur Smith's Dark Of The Sun. Bodie had doubtlessly been in many an encounter that was like that. Dark, terrible, horrifying - hence, the way his subconscious worked. He finished his tea, looking at the elves.
beautiful; he recognised his own eyes on one of them, his nose on another, and their hands were very like his own. Looking at them, he saw what Bodie thought he
looked like and was fascinated. Slim, wide shouldered, narrow hipped, all bone and muscle, and honey brown with long hair curling about the fine, strong neck and eyes as green as emeralds. Is that what Bodie saw, what he liked, what he was in love with? Ray gave his spouse a smile, reached across the table for his hand and squeezed it.
"What's that for?" Bodie asked, surprised but pleased at the gesture.
"Nothing. Just trying to tell you I love you, and how gorgeous you are. Best looking bloke in this place, that's you."
"Thanks for the lie," Bodie laughed. "Got a kiss for me?"
?" Ray asked, a little high pitched.
"Nobody cares, I keep telling you," Bodie grinned, leaning across the table. "One for the road, then let's get going."
Fine by me, Doyle thought wryly, and leaned forward, opening his mouth to Bodie's searching tongue. Christ, it felt weird to do this. This truck stop could have been on a British motorway, right down to the battered plastic furniture, and here he was, kissing the man he had married across the table while a dozen others looked on indifferently. But it felt
wonderful, and he returned the kiss with gusto until Bodie drew back and laughed, sucking his lips.
"So let's get going," Ray said, winking at him as he got to his feet. "You've had your one for the road."
"And one like that's worth three ordinary ones," Bodie quipped, following his lover out into the sharp cold.
The Capri was filthy and looking battered, its wheels chained for traction in the high country, and looked incongruous parked between a dog sled with sleeping huskies and the Templar's horses. Ray gave the dogs a curious look: he had never done anything remotely like this before, and irrespective of what tricks Bodie's mind was playing on him, he was sure Bodie hadn't either. Still, how difficult could it be, with well trained dogs and a trustworthy map? Bodie had done the SAS course, and he had done survival courses first with the police and then with CI5, and if you could survive Brian Macklin's idea of a jaunt in the country you were ready to take on a rematch with the Argentine single handed.
Again, the Helway went up
, and the higher they climbed the colder it got, the more treacherous the conditions. Doyle drove with care and Bodie consulted the map often. He was chipper enough now, whistling and often reaching over to stroke or pat as he felt like it, but he had one eye on the time too, and just after three thirty he said, "time, Ray."
Lost in thought, Doyle did not at first catch on to the meaning. "Huh?"
"I said, it's time. It's getting late. Pull up and do it," Bodie said quietly. "Come on, pet, I don't want to get hurt, and I don't want to hurt you. Let's do this the logical way."
The care rolled to a halt and Doyle left it in gear, turning it off, to hold it on the slope. They looked levelly at one another for a few moments, and Bodie saw the tears that were glittering in his lover's eyes. Doyle was bursting to say something important, but as long as they were silent, and he had the opportunity to say it, he couldn't, or wouldn't. Bodie sighed, getting out of the car into the ferocious cold; when Ray wanted it said, he would say it, but Bodie thought he knew what it must be. He was going to go, he was sure. He was getting to the end of his tether and, although the love was absolutely genuine, he couldn't take much more. Bodie did not for a moment blame him; he stood quite still while Ray roped his wrists, then slid onto the back seat, made himself comfortable and watched Doyle's nimble fingers secure his ankles, then loop the rope between hands and feet and draw it tight enough to be safe.
"Are you comfortable?" Doyle asked, kneeling in the footwell, his fingers stroking Bodie's cheek.
"Yeah." Bodie wriggled reassuringly on the seat. "It's okay, and this way's much better. Don't fret, love."
"Okay," Doyle whispered, clearly hating this, and he bent to kiss Bodie's mouth long and gently. "Maybe you can sleep? I you want anything, just say so and I'll pull up."
"Pet, I'm all right," Bodie smiled. "I'm comfortable, I'm warm, and I'm looking forward to being sucked off by the most beautiful mouth I've ever seen. But we need to get to Dawson before that happens, and we never will unless you drive
. Skeedaddle, Ray, and get moving."
Doyle found a smile, kissed his nose and slid out of the back. A moment later the engine restarted, and he talked over his shoulder to Bodie, keeping an aimless conversation running for the sake of keeping contact between them. Gradually, Bodie's answers became shorter, sharper, his voice becoming hard and brittle; then, the demand to be let loose, the verbal punishment for the morning's well placed blow, the tying up. Foul mouthed and furious, he roasted Doyle within an inch of his life, ugly words that damned his ancestors, called his mother a tramp, called him an unlovely effeminate who thought with his balls and didn't know how to tell the truth.
It was frightening; and it was worse this time. Bodie was storing up grievances now, and Doyle shuddered as he imagined the reckoning, if Bodie ever came down with an attack and was loose to exact vengeance. So be careful, he told himself bleakly. He
won't thank you for being soft hearted and letting him black your eye or break your arm! The cursing went on into the dusk, while he watched for the lights of Dawson, and then he heard a sharp, indrawn breath and knew Bodie had passed out. It was dim as he pulled the Capri to a halt, ducked out and around and slid into the back to yank the ropes loose. Bodie was out cold, head lolling loosely; it was over. Ray looked at the time; it was almost six. Two hours. Each time it was longer, and worse. He sighed, counting the days until they would reach the mountain, the make-or-break confrontation. Death of glory - but, one way or the other, it would be over
The lights of the settlement stabbed through the gloom before seven, and he saw the only hotel; it was big, rambling, shabby, one neon sign alight, several letters on the blink. It was called the Yukon Kate, and he wondered vaguely if they would accept the South African Rands he was carrying, all the money they had. If not, he could find a money changer - perhaps the Templars would change the money. After all, it was their sole function to help travellers in these mountains.
Bodie came awake as the engine stopped, stretched, yawned and blinked owlishly at the neon overhead. "We're here," he said huskily.
"Nothing wrong with your eyesight," Doyle grinned. "Come on, let's get a room. You
may have slept like a log for ages but I'm tried. Also hungry and cold."
"Poor flower," Bodie said, half-mock, half-genuine. "Been tough on you, hasn't it?"
"Some of it," Doyle admitted. "It has its moments."
The service here was nothing special, but the food, rough and coarse as it was, was plentiful and hot. They ate at the bar, meat loaf, cabbage and jacket potatoes, suet pudding and beer, an unlikely mixture, but anything would have done to fill the hollows in their innards; then Doyle had a keyring in his hand and was motioning Bodie toward the stairs. At the bottom, a Templar barred their way. He was clad in white, a robe overlaying chain mail, a dark blue cloak on top of that, and he was looking at them warily.
"Problem?" Doyle asked tiredly. "We're travellers, you're here to serve, aren't you?"
"Not to serve profligates and wastrels," the man said. He was tall, dark, with low brows and intense brown eyes, his hair long, swept back off a high, corrugated forehead.
"Profligates and - " Doyle blinked. "Cut the crap, we're married. He's my bondmate, for God's sake. Want to see the licence?" He dug out the sheet of paper and waved it in the man's face. "Satisfied?"
The apology was forthcoming immediately, but Doyle waved it aside, shepherding his lover up the stairs. The Templar watched them go, trying one last time. "My name is Percival, sir. I am grieved to have insulted you, sir! I meant no disrespect. If I can be of assistance in future..."
"Yeah, yeah, thanks a whole bunch," Ray said, not looking back as he turned left at the top of the stairs. "That way, Bodie, best room in the house, for what it's worth. Won't be anything outstanding, going by the rest of the joint, but it's the best we can do."
There was a hot tub, at least, a big, timber thing with laid-in plumbing, and Bodie filled it as they prowled around the room. The walls were stained timber, the hearth polished black iron with jewel green tiles, the bed big and wide with a feather mattress and overstuffed pillows. The rest of the facilities were very basic, and they knew they had to be grateful for plumbing at all, and electricity.
They slid into the bath and let the hot water coax the aches from muscles that were sore and protesting, and Doyle gratefully let Bodie soap his back, wash his hair and kiss him until the water began to cool. The towels were army standard, and threadbare at that, but they scrubbed at each other, tickling and laughing, until they were dry and wrestling on the brown fur rug in front of the fire. Doyle propped himself on one elbow, looking down at Bodie and remembering the little scene with the Templar at the foot of the stairs... He had spoken without thinking, without a moment's selfconsciousness. We're married
, he's my bondmate, for God's sake
... For better or for worse, and all that gibberish. He leaned down to kiss Bodie's nose.
"All comfy, are you? You're toasting in front of the fire."
"Nice to be warm for a change," Bodie grinned, catching the smaller man's head and winding his fingers into the damp curls. "Going to let your hair grow for me, aren't you?"
"Why not?" Doyle smiled. "You're the one who's got to look at this bird's nest anyway, not me." He pushed Bodie's shoulders down onto the rug and lay on top of him, and as his weight settled down he felt Bodie's growing erection at his groin. "You're eager."
"Ready, willing and able," Bodie agreed. "I seem to remember something about being sucked. Or is memory playing tricks on me?"
Doyle bit his ear, none too gently. "Your memory's playing all sorts of circus tricks, mate, but not about that. I did promise." He paused and had to smile. "I've never done this before, you know, so be patient."
The blue eyes were very dark on him. "For you, I'd forgive a thousand sins. You know that. Look, if you don't want to, you don't have to. No law says you have to do that until you're good and ready."
"I'm good and ready," Ray said wickedly, "so bite your lip or hold your breath, or whatever it is you do, because I'm going to kiss you where you're tenderest, and keep on kissing you till you can't think straight. Ready?"
Bodie was already out of breath at the words, and just nodded. Doyle chuckled at the look on his face, a mixture of dread and delight, and then he put his head down and began to lick and kiss over his lover's chest. He had sucked Bodie before, but never until he came. He had felt the long gushes of hot liquid stream into his body just three times, now he wanted to know the sensations with his mouth, wanted to taste the thick life's essences as Bodie tumbled over the edge of control.
He took it very slow, avoiding the throbbing cock for as long as he could, until Bodie was whimpering for it; he had his head on Bodie's belly, looking at the dark, engorged shaft in fascination. When he blew on it, it gave an answering twitch, and when he flicked out his tongue, caressing the hot velvet of the head, Bodie groaned and writhed beneath him. Doyle came to his knees, pushing Bodie's legs apart and kneeling between his thighs. It would be like this if he was going to make love to him properly, and he took the time to look
, lifting his lover's knees to expose him, drawing a finger over the pucker of muscle. Ray knew well enough what that felt like, and smiled when Bodie bucked helplessly, wanting so much more.
"Keep still," he said breathlessly, and Bodie tried hard to obey as he watched through slitted eyes; Doyle lowered himself onto his elbows, propped on the white thighs, and cupped his hands, cradle fashion, about the straining genitals. There was the coarse brush of stubble from his chin, the draught of his breath, then a streamer of lighting as he licked along the shaft from base to head and back again. Bodie tried to lift his hips, fingers clenching in the still damp curls to urge Ray's head down, but Doyle would not be hurried. He licked his way through a thorough reconnaissance, satisfying every curiosity about taste, texture, form, until Bodie couldn't breathe to moan, and only then would he drop his lips over the head and slowly take the straining cock into his throat. Linda Lovelace aside, there was no was he could take Bodie in entirely without choking himself, but Bodie did not notice as that searching tongue was wriggling around the foreskin, doing unimaginable things to his nerves. He felt hot, felt cold, tingling, feverish, as his senses overloaded, and climax rushed over him like an avalanche as he yelped in surprise and delight as Doyle worked one hand under his left leg and slid a slick finger into him. Holding back one second longer was impossible.
As Bodie tensed, Doyle lifted his head, flickering his tongue over the blunt tip, lips locked about the pulsing head and pulling, urging. Blindly, with feather light fingers, he felt the drawing up of the balls beneath the tortured shaft and knew Bodie was about to come. He sucked in a breath and relaxed, waiting for it, and when it came the gush of scalding semen was shocking, filling his throat. He had just enough time to swallow before the second outpouring, and the taste of Bodie overwhelmed him, six long streams of heat, once tasted, never forgotten. Bodie's musk was strong in his nose and it was all he could do not to come himself as his lover bucked and writhed, slowly calming and dragging air into his lungs.
There was an ache in Doyle's groin that spread up into his chest and down into his knees, and he was panting like a broken winded horse as he rolled Bodie over onto his side and slid up behind him, nudging himself in between the shaking thighs. Bodie tensed, for a second sure Ray was going to enter him, but as far gone as he was, Doyle was not ready to do that yet. He slid in between the clenched buttocks, rubbing his own aching cock there and not needing very much to tumble right over the edge himself, arms clutching Bodie's trembling body convulsively.
They clung together for a long time, floating somewhere between sleeping and waking, hot and sticky, so close to the fire, oblivious to the trammels of this world, cocooned in exhausted contentment. Bodie turned over in Doyle's arms, wanting to kiss him, tasting himself there as Ray's swollen lips opened. There was no need to tell him how much he loved him, but he felt like it so said it anyway, and Doyle responded with a kittenish purr, pressing close.
"Sleep for a bit, Bodie," he whispered, close by Bodie's ear, "then I want you inside me again."
"If I can get it up at all," Bodie said drily.
"Oh, don't give me that," Doyle scoffed. "You're bloody insatiable, I know you."
"Maybe when I was a kid," Bodie sighed. "I grew up, Ray."
"Still, I want you in me," Doyle said firmly. "Trying to be logical, you see. If you do it twice now, maybe you won't be able to..." He let the thought trail into silence, unable to say it.
Bodie did not need to hear it to know what he meant. "Maybe I won't be able to do it later, when he
puts in an appearance," he finished. "You may be right. Logical little twerp."
Now that it had been said, Doyle felt better. "Also, if there's plenty of you in me I'll be slick as I don't know what, and even if he does
do me it won't matter much, really, will it?"
"Optimist," Bodie accused, not sharing Ray's feelings. But he was right, and an hour later, when they woke again he pulled his bondmate onto his left side, cuddled into his back and, with wonderful control afforded by their earlier loving, made it last a long time. They dozed again, and it was midnight when they woke, stiff and ready to transfer to the feather mattress. Bodie watched Ray mop sketchily at his legs, not doing much of a clean up job at all, as intended, and went through the pockets of the brown leather jacket, finding the plastic bottle of barbiturates. "Two?" he wondered aloud. "Or three, to be on the safe side?"
"Two," Doyle said. "Those things are dangerous."
dangerous," Bodie said ruefully. "Okay, two. Can always take three tomorrow night if..." He averted his eyes, unable to say it. He had swallowed the tablets when Doyle orbited the bed and came to embrace him.
"Hey," the low, husky voice told him, "It'll be okay. I know it will."
"Will it?" Bodie murmured, and slid into bed as the covers were held open in invitation. Doyle's trust terrified him, and if he had known how to pray he would have entreated whatever god would listen for aid. As it was, the barbiturates hit his system and he went out quickly, not even dreaming.
As the larger, warmer body went limp beside him, Doyle weighed his choices. The most intelligent thing to do was to slip out of bed right then, and disappear, and not come back until at least five in the morning, when, if the rhythm of the insanities held true to form, it would be over, and Bodie would be ill. Twice, he was on the point of leaving, and twice, love and foolishness stopped him. Bodie whimpered in his sleep, his face crumpling like a child about to cry, and he looked, sounded so lost and hurt that sentiment and foolishness won out, and Doyle stayed, hoping for the best.
At four, he knew he'd made a big mistake. He had slept for a few hours himself and was dead asleep when he felt the vise-grip of careless hands on him. He struggled up out of the dream, threshing about, but had not fully wakened when a blow cuffed his ear, stunning him. His head was ringing and he went down in a heap on the pillows, vaguely aware that the quilt and blankets were being wrenched off him, and he fought his swimming senses, coming to with a jerk as teeth fastened onto his left nipple and bit down. He yelped a protest and squirmed, but the teeth tightened, pain ripped through him, and he lay still in a cold sweat.
Fingers wound into his hair, too tight for comfort, jerking his head around toward a kiss, and he sealed his lips, trying to keep the stranger out. Bites parted them, he tasted blood and moaned as he opened to a ravishing of his mouth that was hard and endless. His breast hurt, he guessed that he was bleeding there too, and bitter tears scalded his eyes as he pushed against the larger, stronger man. "No! Please God, Bodie, no
He was rewarded by another cuff, harder this time, and when he swung his own fist at Bodie's head his wrist was caught and held in steely fingers. "Little bitch," Bodie's voice hissed. "Keep still or I'll feed your balls to you!" An open handed smack stung his cheek, and Doyle froze. It was fight or comply now, and to stop him he'd have to hurt him. Badly. If
he could. Suddenly, it did not seem very likely that he could
. Bodie seemed bigger, stronger, as if the madness gave him an edge he did not normally possess.
Genitals still sensitive from the evening's loving were handled roughly and he moaned at the pulling, feeling himself squeezed into a hard on he tried to resist. If he squirmed, the hand tightened, hurting, so he kept still, and a moment later he was lifted and thrown down on his face. He fought up to his knees, desperate to make it easy for himself, legs spreading to help, and winced as Bodie's open hand smacked into his buttocks. "Wanton little whore," the stranger accused, assuming that he was hot for it, craving the rough treatment. He left the imprint of his hand, slapped into the white softness, and Doyle shuddered, trying to keep still. When it was over he would pass out, eventually, and he could get out
Every sense he possessed said run
, but if he tried to wrestle his way out it would go badly, he knew, so he took his weight on his knees and held his breath. There was no similarities between the stranger and his lover. This man hammered into him without a moment's preamble, and if Doyle had been dry he would have been torn. As it was, Bodie was still helping him, even now, for he was still slick and moist, and although the pounding set up a dull, steady ache in his abdomen and back there was no tearing pain. Each thrust shoved him into the pillows, almost knocking him off his knees, and he was sobbing for relief before the cock that filled him exploded at last and the stranger who wore a travesty of Bodie's face wrenched away and sprawled onto his back.
Doyle collapsed, shaking like a leaf and not commanding the strength he needed to get out while Bodie's body was sated and useless. By the time he could order his limbs again and try to slide out of bed it was too late; steel hard fingers had him by the arms and he squeezed his eyes shut, knowing it was going to happen again, not knowing if he could take it.
It was quicker this time, frenzied, brutal, and the stranger went out in a dead faint as soon as he had withdrawn from Doyle's aching body. For a long time Ray just lay there on the wet, crumpled bedding, and wept. He hated himself for the tears but guessed that they were the only safety valve he had - shock. He hurt from head to foot and knew he had to take care of himself. Bodie's body was like a corpse in the other side of the bed and slid out of the mess of sheets and blankets, feeling the cooling gush down his legs. Blood? He didn't think so, but had to check. He limped into the bathroom and flicked on the light, closing the door. There was just the faintest trace of pinkness among the sticky emissions, and for that he was grateful. He ran a little cold water into the bath and cleaned himself slowly, sniffing on swollen sinuses. His head ached with the cuffs, his backside stung from the slaps, and his whole abdomen and back throbbed while his genitals felt bruised and his anus was so sore he wondered how in hell he was ever going to drive tomorrow.
A doctor, he thought miserably. Got to get something to put on it, could get an infection, get really sick. He limped out of the bathroom and dressed stiffly, feeling sick and ill as he looked at the bed, looked at Bodie, whose face was still hard and cruel, even in sleep. He padded to the bedside, his boots in his hands, and looked down at his lover through a mist of tears. "S'not your fault," he murmured. "I know
it isn't your fault, s'not you, it's him
. But Christ, Bodie, this is your fantasy, why did you make him do that to me? Why did you want him to rape me? What have I ever done to you to make you want that?"
There was no answer that he could think of and he pulled on the boots, leaving the room blindly, with little idea of where he was going. He limped down the stairs into the friendly warmth of the silent, nearly empty lounge, moving like an old man and oblivious to his company until a familiar voice said, "sir? Sir, are you ill? Let me help, sir."
He looked up, knowing how red his eyes were; it was Percival, the Templar who had been so sorry to have insulted him. "I'm ill," he lied, "I need a doctor. Healer, physician. One round here?"
Percival shook his head. "No, sir, not in this town. But one of the travellers whom we are escorting is an alchemist of sorts, clever with the herbs and talismans, he might be able to help. Sir, what's your ailment? Can I help?"
Oh, nothing much, I've just been raped, Doyle thought foggily, but he shook his head. "Gut trouble. Something I ate. Where's the healer?"
"This way, sir." Percival slipped one strong arm about Doyle's sagging shoulders, propping him up. "Sir, you're hurting."
"A lot," Ray admitted, grateful for the assistance as the Templar propelled him toward the back of the inn, to one of the cheap rooms, dark and smoky and hot with a blazing fire. Feverish, he felt nausea come up into his chest and fought it down.
"We're here." Percival's knuckles rapped sharply on a black wood door, and there were the sounds of footsteps from within. "Shall I stay with you, sir? What about your bondmate, shall I fetch him?"
"He's sicker than I am," Doyle said honestly. "He needs his rest... Thanks, Percival, I appreciate it. I'll be okay now, really." As he spoke the door opened and he saw two bright eyes glittering at him from beneath a busy white fringe, the rest of the face obscured by an even bushier white beard. "You're a healer?" he asked as Percival drew away.
The old man pulled at his beard. "In a manner of speaking. And you are ill, aren't you? Come in, boy, and rest. Tell me what ails you."
"Gut trouble," Doyle lied, shepherded into the room and sinking down into an old fashioned winged chair by the hearth. Instinctively, he trusted the old man implicitly - with his health, with his life, and he peered at him, recognising what he saw with a groan. He wore a long black robe that swirled about his limbs, and for all his age he was tall and still strong. "You're..." He reached for the name, found it. "You're Gandalf," he whispered.
"Ah, you know me." The magician sat down on the arm of the chair, one palm on Doyle's feverish brown. "Tell me the truth, boy."
So Doyle told him. Everything. When he started it was not easy to talk, but after he had stumbled awkwardly over the rape the rest came easily and he rambled on about Bodie, about the drugs that had been shot into him, his madness, the fact that this whole world was a composite from books he had read. Gandalf smiled benignly and shrugged. "All worlds are composed from someone's memory, my boy. Even the real one," he said cryptically. "It is of no matter... You wish to escape from your mate?"
"I want to make him well
," Doyle said wearily, closing his eyes to disguise the tears that glistened on his lashes. "I just don't know how. I think I'll have to leave him, soon. I... I can't take it, in bed." He flushed darkly, grateful for the firelight that covered the blush. "I know it's only simple rape, really, but... I can't take it. If he rapes me again I'll run, I know I will. And I'll hate myself and worry for him, but I'll still run. Too weak to face it." He shifted about in the chair, trying to find some ease from the aches and soreness.
Very gently, the old man stroked his hair. "No, you won't. You'll stay, like a loving fool. You'll take everything he gives you, hurt and love alike, until he kills you, and you'll die blaming yourself for not being able to help him."
The tears leaked from beneath Doyle's closed lashes and he whispered under the crackling of the fire, "help me."
"I will," Gandalf crooned. "I am one of the few who could. You're lucky I am here. Yesterday, you would have missed me."
He got to his feet, leaving the chair, and Doyle watched, blotting at his eyes with his cuff, feeling like a fool for the selfcentered grief. Bless Bodie. Even now, this was his
sent the old man here, to help when he knew his mate was near to the end of his wits. Despite the discomfort and the spectres of the rape, Doyle acknowledged a surge of tenderness as he watched the old man go to his pack, which lay across the foot of an unused bed, and bring back several items.
"Here." Gandalf looped a gold chain about his neck, and suspended from it was an amulet. "It is very old, very precious, very powerful, forged by the elves, your kin, in the time when the rings were abroad and there was danger everywhere. While you wear it, no one can harm you unless your own heart betrays you. Act in savagery, out of greed, and it will turn against you. Such is the elven magic."
Doyle turned the amulet over in his hands; it was engraved with runes, so old that the characters were worn thin. "What else, or will this do?"
"This will keep you safe, even from your mate's stranger," Gandalf said, "but we must help him too. Here." He placed into Ray's palm a tiny object wrapped in a fold of velvet. "It is a Auduin thorn. One prick from its tip, and a man will sleep his rage away. In peace, my boy, trust me."
"I trust you," Doyle murmured, wrapping up the thorn and pocketing it.
"Take care with it, it is a powerful weapon," Gandalf warned. "And lastly, to your own hurts. I have a salve that will heal you by morning, and a draught to ease your pains. Mix the herb with water; it tastes foul but it is a sound tincture... Then sleep. Wear your amulet, keep the thorn to ease your mate's ills, and rest." He stroked Doyle's hair softly. "You will win through, in the end. I am sure of it."
"Sure of it?" Ray repeated, getting his feet under him and swaying with the pain in his head and guts. "We're going to a place called Odinspeak, to fight a man called Thorkill."
The old man frowned deeply. "A dark place, evil, filled with bad airs. Your mate is ill indeed, to send you there in his nightmare."
"Hasn't been a nightmare," Doyle corrected. "It's been nice mostly."
"Aye, mayhap it has," Gandalf sighed, "but the way gets harder from here, and you must take care. Off to bed with you, lad, let the salve and the herbs make you well enough to go on. He needs you, you know."
"I know." Doyle smiled and limped toward the door. He looked back at the tall figure in its black robe, the white hair lit gold by the firelight. "And thanks. I know he sent you to help. He's scared that I'll run out on him, but you're right, I wouldn't." With that admission he fled, wondering whatever Gandalf would think of a man who stayed willingly with someone who had sexually abused him once, and would again if he got the chance.
But he wouldn't get the chance, not now. He let himself into the room quietly; Bodie was dead asleep, and his face was just troubled now - it was over and he would sleep through the illness. Oh, Bodie, why couldn't you send me to Gandalf yesterday? Ray thought sadly, but the answer was obvious... It hadn't come to blows yesterday, the desperation had yet to replace the fretting. He went to the bathroom, undressed and used the salve, feeling the relief almost at once, mixed the tincture and held his breath as he swallowed it. It tasted vile, but as it hit his stomach the aches began to recede and he padded back to the bed, pulling the bedding straight before he slid in between the messy sheets.
The gold of the amulet was warm on his chest; he rubbed at the nipple Bodie had bitten, feeling the crusting of blood, but it no longer hurt and he felt comfortably tired rather than miserably weary, sliding down into the bed and wrapping up in himself, legs folded up into his middle, resting at last.
There was a deep, sound sleep, dreamless and rejuvenating, and when he stirred awake there was no pain at all, just the tickles of feathery caresses on his back and shoulders, and the sound of quiet grief. Bodie was sobbing so softly that he barely heard the ragged breaths, and Ray unfolded from his hibernating-squirrel ball, turning over and finding that the little daylight that got into the room between the closed shutters lit the spilling tears like icicles on Bodie's long, dark lashes.
There was nothing to say for a long time, and they just lay, heads on the same pillow, looking at each other, until Bodie drew away and tried to get out of the bed. Doyle caught him by the arm, pulling him back. "Where are you going, love?"
"Away. Anywhere," Bodie whispered. "You can have the car, half the money. Got to go, Ray. Got to."
Doyle grabbed him bodily and tumbled him down onto the feather mattress, straddling him. "You lovely berk," he said fondly. "I met an old man called Gandalf a few hours ago. Look at his." He fingered the amulet. "Forged by elves as protection when the rings were on the loose, and he gave it to me. There's nothing to worry about now, he
can't hurt me. Only you can, running away from me like this."
"Ray?" Bodie reached up to stroke the old, Doyle-warm gold. "Love?"
"You heard me," Ray said gruffly. "He gave me some stuff, took the pain away. I'm not hurt anymore. See here?" He took Bodie's hesitant fingers to the nipple that had been bitten. "Healed, see?"
Bodie cupped both hands about Doyle's neck and drew him down, licking the little peak he had bitten, felt the shudder run through his lover's nerves, felt his own body stir in response. "You're okay," he said, choked. "You're okay, really. You're not hurt." He closed his eyes as Ray stoked his chest and neck. "Christ, I don't know how you can stand to touch me."
"Wasn't you, was him
," Ray murmured. "I hate
him, Bodie. If I could kill him without hurting you I'd blow his brains across the room. I'm frightened of him, but Gandalf's given me what we both need. All we need, now, is each other, we'll sort it all out." He wriggled as he felt Bodie's hardening cock. "God, you are
insatiable. Come on, then. Let's have you."
The blue eyes looked up at him blindly, then Bodie stirred, just turning onto his side and drawing Doyle in close, not surprised to find that he was also as hard; they just rocked together, slowly and gently, a long, slow reaffirmation of love and trust, and then fell asleep in the same sweaty, sticky tangle of arms and legs, sleeping until after nine.
The cold woke them; the hearth was dead and the window was covered with a tracery of ice crystals, beautiful patterns, faerie and elusive. It was too cold to take a bath, but there was hot water, and they washed and shaved together, dressed quickly and shared a kiss before going down the bar in search of breakfast.
"We'll be in Whitehorse by tonight," Bodie said softly as he picked up a bacon sandwich that was going cold while he looked at it. "Perrault might be there already, if he found Van Hise's M-16s fast. The rebels haven't a brain between them, so he might have got lucky." He washed the sandwich down with a draught of tea and made a face.
"Feeling bad?" Ray asked quietly.
"Yeah. Last night was enough to make me blow my own brains across the room." His voice dropped to a whisper only Doyle could possibly hear. "The worst thing is, I can remember everything he does, but at the time there's nothing I can do about him. Christ, Ray, it isn't me
"I know, I know." Doyle crooned softly, murmuring meaningless words to comfort and reassure as they went out to the car. Bodie dragged his feet, loaded down with depression, remorse, and there was nothing Ray could say to him to make it better. It had happened, and that was that, and but for Gandalf, Doyle would be in pain, and looking forward to being mauled again. And again. He shuddered, wondering what he would have done if Bodie had not sent Gandalf to this backwater tavern last night. But the fact was, Bodie had
sent him the means of making it tolerable, and that, Ray was sure, boded fine for he future.
Slowly, as they ploughed on into the frozen wilderness, approaching the timberline, Bodie subsided into sleep, and Doyle let him rest. He was bone weary from the fretting, the illness and the sex. A night like last night would wear any bloke to a nub, Ray thought, managing a smile as he banished the stranger from his memory and thought back to their own lovemaking. There was a need for it now, a hunger for Bodie that was almost painful, and the best part about it was that he knew Bodie felt the same.
At eleven, Bodie began to growl in his sleep, and Ray dug through his pocket for the Anduin thorn; he palmed it, drawing a fond caress down Bodie's cheek, leaving a minute scratch behind, and saw at once that the old man had told the truth: the growling stopped, the cursing never began, and Bodie simply slept on, in peace.
But he slept for a long time, so long that Ray began to worry. He had parked the Capri at a wayside garage with a diner at half past one, and still Bodie was asleep; if Gandalf was right, and he would sleep until the fury was past, then it was taking him for a long time indeed today. Ray's blood chilled as he calculated the time. Eight or nine hours yesterday. Longer today. Longer yet tomorrow. Finally, he would sleep all the time, sleep himself away, unless Doyle let the demon loose and ran for his life.
He topped up the tank, checked the tyres and bought a takeaway lunch, and pushed on, making slow time now, as the snow was banked deeply on the road. Just after two, Bodie stirred awake, pale and pinched about the nose, but rested and brighter eyed as he came to, blinking at his lover's profile in the bright sunlight.
"Hi," Ray said softly. "You've slept a long time, mate. Hungry?"
"Not really, but I'd better eat," Bodie yawned. "I feel strange, but... I dunno. Not so bad as when he comes into me when I'm awake. Not so sick."
"Good." Doyle pulled the car into a snow drifted parking bay and turned off the motor. "Bought some lunch. Ham rolls and a thermos of tea, and some Greek looking pastries. Probably give us terrific indigestion, but they look good."
Bodie relaxed back into the seat, taking a few brown paper bags from Doyle, and rubbed his cheek. "Got a scratch."
"Gandalf's thorn," Ray told him, chewing methodically on a brown roll filled with ham and pickles. "The old man was as good as his word, it worked like a charm. I guess it is
a charm, right?" He took a swig of tea and was about to go back to his lunch when he saw the frown gathering between Bodie's eyes. "What's up love?" Bodie said nothing but the frown deepened and the blue eyes began to glitter in some state between terror and dread. "Bodie?" Ray shoved the food aside and reached for Bodie's hand. "What is it? Tell me!"
"I'm..." Bodie gasped in a breath and began again. "I'm mad, aren't I? Tell me the truth, Ray - I'm stone mad, and this is an asylum!" He gripped Doyle's protesting fingers hard. "Gandalf? Gandalf
"The old man at the tavern," Ray said levelly, trying to sound calm when he was fretting his way up to fever pitch.
Bodie voice rose half an octave. "Don't humour me, Ray, for pity's sake! Gandalf is a character from a book
!" His eyes were wild, feral, and he was pouring with a cold sweat. "Ray, tell me!"
The curly head bowed over Bodie's clutching fingers, and then Doyle had his thoughts under control again, an effort of will. He forced his expression to blandness and nodded. "Yes, he is. Bodie, for what it's worth, I don't think you're mad; I think you've been
mad, and I think you've just started to get your sanity back. If you know where Gandalf comes from, and Rohan, and the riders, and the tall elves - Perrault and Buck, and the Templars... The Helway, and Hel and the rest of it... you've got a grip on what your mind's doing again."
The hands that held Doyle's were shaking; Bodie was fighting, trying to sift through his mind, sort items into categories, sort what was real from what imaginary. He cleared his throat and spoke huskily. "Books... Van Hise is dead, Ray. He died back in '74, I read about it in the paper. Sutton Westcliff... Sixty Mile... Christ, none of it's real. None of it!" He closed his eyes tightly, trying to banish the terror. "You're not here, and you're not my lover, and they've got me tied down in a madhouse somewhere."
"No," Doyle said fiercely. "I'm real, Bodie. I'm here, and I do
love you. I woke up here a few ago, screaming, remember? I'd been dreaming you were trying to kill me. Bodie, remember! Think back!" He squeezed Bodie's fingers. "You were on a case, you went out to Hammersmith to follow up a lead, and someone grabbed you. Back there, in London, in the real world, it was the man we were after, had to be. Don't know who, but it had to be something to do with a man called Schwerin, remember?"
"Schwerin," Bodie repeated. "Hammersmith. They grabbed me, the riders, took me somewhere... Darkness. I don't remember much, just pain, hurting, while they told me... Taught me... Can't remember. Just know I have to get to the man called Thorkill. Terminate with extreme prejudice."
"Okay," Ray said levelly, "okay so far. But we got you back, Bodie. I took you home, remember? Then you took a phonecall, and two seconds later you had your hands on my throat and were trying to strangle me to death."
"No," Bodie murmured. "No."
"Yes you did," Ray whispered relentlessly. "I blacked out and came to here. Back there in the jungle. I was screaming for help, so you said, and you heard me; you told me I'd dreamed the strangling, and you made love to me right there, the first time. You must
." Bodie nodded mutely and he pressed on, "I don't know where the hell we are, love, but I do know you made this place. I think it's your fantasy. I think... I think we're both thrashing around in your memory. I'm real, Bodie. I'm the one facet of this world you don't
control, which is why your stranger wants to hurt me. He can control everything else, but not me, because I'm the only thing here that isn't out of your imagination. If you're mad, so am I, bloody raving; but look, pet, we know
it's a fantasy, don't we? And madmen never know. So, if we know -"
"We're not mad," Bodie finished.
"Not anymore," Doyle said, and found a smile as he saw the brightness begin to return to Bodie's eyes. "Welcome back, Bodie." He chafed the cold hands in his, thinking constructively. "Now for the big question... Can you control what happens here? Or does it just happen?"
"I dunno," Bodie frowned. "Never tired."
"So try," Doyle shrugged. "Go on, do
something. Make something happen."
The blue eyes closed again and Bodie frowned in concentration, but nothing happened. "It's hard. I don't know how
. I think of something happening, do I?"
"Try something small," Doyle suggested. "Something you'd like to... Hey," Doyle murmured a moment later, "it's getting warmer in here."
"Was cold," Bodie murmured. "Thought about how nice it would be to be warm again. It is
getting warmer, isn't it?" He smiled faintly. "What else? Something to eat?"
"Roll could do with some mustard instead of the pickled onions," Ray said, waving the half eaten sandwich in Bodie's line of vision. He watched his lover close his eyes again, waited, then sniffed at the roll. There was a faint, familiar tang and he bit into it. "Hey, mustard!"
"I'm not mad," Bodie said hesitantly. "This is a fantasy..."
"And you're in charge of it," Ray nodded. "Consciously, for the first time. You've been in charge of it all along, but not consciously."
"Have I?" Bodie's face twisted. "So why have I been hurting you? Why
would I do that
to you last night?"
didn't," Doyle hissed, trying to get through to him. "He
did, and you're not in charge of him
, Bodie, or he'd be nice to me. He'd be you
, wouldn't he, if you were in charge?"
"So he's going to come back again," Bodie whispered.
Ray nodded gloomily. "Yeah, I'm afraid he is; but I've got Gandalf's thorn, and the amulet. Doesn't matter how unlikely it sounds, these are the ground rules this place works by. You've got a logical mind, sunshine - gravity, climate, mechanics, food, drugs, it all works the right way. It's just the details that are all scrambled up to hell. You can fix the details now, though."
Bewilderment twisted Bodie's face and he looked ill again, weak and dispirited, hanging onto Ray's hand with a tenacious grip. "You're going to have to help me."
"That," Doyle said seriously, "is what I came here for. I'm sure of it. You nearly killed me, I blacked out, and - here I was. Don't ask me how, I don't know, but whatever we did we can un
do, when the job's finished." He squeezed Bodie's fingers. "And that means getting to Odinspeak and sorting out a man called Thorkill. He's your goblin, Bodie. Your nemesis, the worm that's down there in your subconscious, wriggling around making all this happen. I've got a feeling that when we sort him
out, it'll all come right. All our questions will have been answered, that sort of thing. Can't promise it, of course; we might be stuck here forever for all I know but, look, it isn't that bad, is it? You're in charge now, you can make it nice for us, and as soon as we can sort out Thorkill, your stranger will do his vanishing act."
"Will he?" Bodie did not sound so sure.
"I reckon. Gandalf as good as told me that the do with Thorkill will straighten things out - I don't know how, or why, but I think he's right. I believe him."
"He's a character out of a book!" Bodie shouted.
"He's a character out of your subconscious," Doyle remonstrated, "and he says what your mind knows instinctively as the truth. Jesus, I'm not a psychiatrist but I've got eyes, I can see
what's happening! You love me so bloody much that even when your goblin was loose and raping me you wished up Gandalf to put it right again. You know
what's happening, Bodie, but it's buried under the pain they put you through the night they grabbed you in Hammersmith. We're digging through the mire right now, getting closer all the time. We can sort it out and get out of here. Even if we get stuck here
for good and all, if you're in charge you can make it nice for us. A whole world to play in, never grow old, never get hurt - sounds like bloody Paradise to me! Or you could send us back. It's your
The words wormed into Bodie's thinking mind and took root. "Send us back to the real world," he sighed. "Back there, what about us
? All we've had here, Ray... Do you even love me, back there? Will you remember what's happened to us here?"
Doyle frowned; he had not thought of that. "I don't know," he said honestly. "Can't say whether I'll remember threshing about in your evil little mind or not, but... Do I love you, back there?" He cupped Bodie's cheek. "I'm here, aren't I? You tried to kill me and instead of running away from you I jumped into your nightmare with you. And I'd do it again. Isn't your memory working, love? Don't you remember what we did while Murph went out to get the nosh? They didn't give us time to fall into bed, but we didn't do badly in the time we had." He leaned forward and kissed Bodie's mouth deeply. "Remember?"
Long, black lashes fluttered open slowly, and Bodie was smiling. "I do remember," he said, husky and breathless. He managed a chuckle. "Back there, you're still a virgin. Got it all to do again, haven't you?"
"If I remember what we've shared here," Doyle snorted, "my body may be a virgin but it'll catch up in about five minutes. You've screwed me right into the ground, chum - and I'm damned if I'm going to forget!"
Bodie's mouth twitched into a smile. "I've been using you."
"Nah," Doyle said with an affectionate wrinkling of his nose. "You've been loving me. He
used me. I... Didn't like it. I'd like to forget it, if I can, but if I have to remember it, it's okay too." He kissed Bodie's nose. "Right, now all that's sorted out, eat
. Then do a trick for me."
"If I can," Bodie said dubiously. "What?"
"Wish us to Whitehorse, without an afternoon's slogging through the snow," Doyle said promptly. "You can do it, it's your goddamned dream."
"I'll try," Bodie sighed, returning to his lunch. "No promises, but I'll try."
It took a great effort; half an hour went by, and Doyle had begun to give up on the idea of Bodie ever getting that much control over what was happening in this place. He managed to turn the sun out, induce a storm, turn aspens into palm trees, and shadowy images, formless and strange, shimmered in the middle distance. Then, as Ray was about to start the car and tell him to forget it, suddenly they were parked in a street outside of an enormous timber structure called The Emperor Of The North, and Bodie was sagging, exhausted.
Doyle whistled. "Fantastic. Like being shoved through a matter transmitter, or something. Reckon you could do this to take us to the mountain? Save us some backbreaking effort."
"Speak for yourself," Bodie panted. "I'm
shagged out. It isn't easy." He paused, thinking hard. "Also, I don't know if I can. I know where Odinspeak is
, Ray, but I can't visualise it. It's like I've never seen it, and I sure as hell don't know who this Thorkill bloke is." He shook his head to clear it. "Mind you, I might be able to dream us up a chopper, save us the bother of dog sleds."
"Van Hise's chopper," Ray suggested. "The pilot, Bell, didn't want to know about flying out that way - the riders out of Hel have got SAMs... You like to make your dreams deadly, don't you?"
"I always did," Bodie said softly. "Sometimes, the things I dream - I wake up shouting, the girl I'm with panics. Bad things from the past, things I was sure I'd forgotten long since." He averted his eyes. "I can't help it, Ray. It isn't something I do on purpose."
"I didn't say you did
," Ray told him. "Come on, cheer up. You're the man I married, I can stand a few nightmares for you."
A rosy blush coloured Bodie's cheeks. "Christ, I'd forgotten that... Married. You're never going to let me live this down, are you?"
"Never," Ray promised gleefully. "Oh, relax, I happen to like the way your mind works. If I could marry you in London, I would, but they're stuffy and silly back there. If I kissed you in public we'd get run in, but here? For my money it's better." He planted a smacking kiss full on Bodie's lips as a group of dog men and elves ambled by the car; no one took the slightest bit of notice. "Make the most of it, pet, because when we get back we won't be able to do that
They slid out of the car and strolled into the lobby of the hotel, collecting a key that was waiting for them. Bodie had wished up a lift, and although this was a frontier hotel their suite made Doyle blink. Red velvet on a four poster bed, jewel green carpets, white silk drapes, a sunken bath with aquamarine tiles and gold taps. He gave Bodie a grin that was cheeky. "You're playing
now, aren't you?
The old, smug Bodie grin was back. "Yeah. Wanted to see if I could do it. S'my bloody dream, like you keep telling me. But I'm so tired, Ray. Mind if I sleep some more?"
"Crawl into bed," Ray told him. "Here, let me..." He undressed Bodie slowly but deftly, folded his clothes and watched him slide into the enormous bed; he was asleep in moments, and Doyle went to avail himself of the unbelievable facilities.
The shower was over the sunken bath; there was body lotion, shower gel, talc, aftershave, shampoo, anything and everything, and he used the lot, pampering himself. He found his own Gillette hairdryer in the cabinet, his own red robe hanging on the back of the door, his own towels on the heated rail. There was his Ronson electric razor, his own comb. Bodie had not missed a trick. Doyle lingered under the shower, resisting the impulse to sing in case he woke Bodie, and he had forgotten about the time.
Late in the afternoon, they fought. It was brief, because he had the thorn yanked out of his pocket before Bodie could do more than grab him, and the bigger man sagged in his arms immediately, face pressed into Ray's bare chest. Again he slept, and Doyle curled upon the foot of the bed, watching him, dozing for a while himself, ears alert for the sounds of yawning and stretching, but he had sent out for food before Bodie surfaced once more. He had asked for Lobster and Cherries Jubilee, and pink champagne, and that was exactly what arrived on a trolley under a big silver cover, and he was serving the food when Bodie yawned deeply and shoved up onto the pillows.
"Hope you're hungry," Ray grinned. "They've sent enough to feed an army. Look at this stuff. Make the most of it, we won't be able to afford this kind of thing when we're back in London!"
Bodie gazed at the food indifferently, his attention on Doyle. Barefoot, bare chested and happy, Ray looked wonderful; the white leather hugged his legs and his hair was soft as a halo from the shower, and he smelt of talc and shampoo. So much like a dream of him Bodie had had so often that for a while it was impossible to believe he was real. The thought that he was not
, just a figment of the imagination, hurt, and, a little wilfully, Bodie set out to test it. Ray's attention was on the Pink Lady and crystalware, and he didn't see his lover's frown for some time, only looking up as he passed a glass across. Bodie was obviously concentrating hard on something.
"Oi, whatcha doing?" Doyle demanded suspiciously.
Coming to proper awareness with a start, Bodie cracked a sheepish grin. "Trying to... Well, trying to control you like I control everything else. Don't take it the wrong way, love, but you look like something out of a dream and I was thinking that maybe you're not... Maybe you're just my goddamned imagination."
"I'm not," Doyle retorted tartly. "And you can't control me, can you? Anyway, what were you trying to make me do? Chickens, dogs?"
"Not trying to hypnotise you, you silly sod," Bodie chuckled. "Was trying to see if I could turn you on, make you hard by wishing it."
The green eyes darkened by shades. "You want me hard for you?" Ray purred. Bodie swallowed, nodded and tried a sheepish smile. Doyle put down his glass and gave the food a look of resignation. "It'll go cold."
"I'll wish it hot again," Bodie murmured. "I can
. I know I can. I can control everything but you, and the stranger, and Thorkill." He heaved a deep sigh. "I know you're real, Ray. You'd have been panting to have me by now if you hadn't been."
Their eyes met, laughing, and Doyle let his lids fall shut, one hand stroking over his chest, touching nipples, ribs, sliding down to his groin and stoking there. Bodie's eyes fixed on the contours within the soft white leathers; it took only moments - Ray always had
turned on as fast as a kid. His breathing became short and uneven, and when the green eyes opened again they were a little glazed and very dark. "Satisfied now?" he asked throatily.
Feeling oddly at peace, Bodie let his head loll back on the pillows and held out one arm. "Come to bed. Please?"
Still, even now, he was asking
, and Ray would not have refused if he had wanted to. Bodie was as much, or more, a victim as he was himself, and any anger he had stored up was for the man called Thorkill. He slid the white leather pants off and a moment later was sandwiched between cool silk sheets and a hot, solid body, purring in hedonistic delight as kisses fell all over him. Rested and stronger, Bodie lavished every tender gesture on him until Ray rolled over and bent his knees.
Skin like velvet, Bodie thought, licking his way down the fluid length of Ray's spine. A rump like a ripe peach, legs like a racehorse. Images flooded his mind and he revelled in them... Bowling while on stakeout at the alley intended as Ground Zero in the atomic protest... Ray, eyes glittering like a cat's in anger as he lashed out at Bodie, splitting his lip during the Ann Holly case... A liver sausage sandwich, in the car one winter's day... Driving the German girl around Kent to jog her memory... Squirming around trying to get the grating loose, to get out of the cellar while Cowley was suspected of misappropriating nerve gas... drinking champagne with him at the art gallery before they went under cover as cop and agricultural machinery salesman... Wanting him fiercely when Ann walked away, again when Cookie was killed... The agony of fear and desire, both denied, when he had been shot in the Lin Fo affair...
Ray was rocking his hips gently, just rubbing himself on the warm silk on which he lay, waiting, and Bodie stooped to kiss the small of his back and said, "turn over, pet."
"Uh?" Ray sighed, but rolled onto his back. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Bodie purred, "I just don't want to do it the way he
took you. Not so soon."
"Doesn't matter," Doyle murmured. "Just do me, will you."
"You..." Bodie hesitated and began again. "You sure you want me inside you? I can do it another way, if you - "
"Bodie, don't be daft," Doyle said, reaching down to grasp Bodie's aching length firmly. "I can tell the difference between you and him
, and I'm not hurt, you know. Not at all. Come on, love." He wriggled, one knee hooking up over Bodie's left shoulder, the other around his waist, and rubbed his back on the sheet, murmuring with pleasure.
Unleashed desire swept Bodie's sanity clean away, but it was a sweet kind of madness, rapturous, delicate and selfless. Ray was howling like a wild thing before they finished, and his lover's delight buried the self-loathing Bodie had been nursing all day. The coming was incredible, it was enough to knock them both out, and Doyle was half asleep before Bodie took his weight on his knees and withdrew. Ray's throat made sleepy murmurs of protest at the separation and arms snaked about Bodie, hauling him down into a tangled embrace and holding him there.
Relief made Bodie's head ring and he collapsed willingly against Doyle. Christ, it's going to be all right, he thought helplessly, it's going to be okay! Then he was asleep again, calm, whole, content, buffeted by exhaustion and, perhaps not so oddly, by optimism.
For all the nagging doubts and worries, the chopper turned out to be simple, a parlour trick Bodie wished ruefully he could do in the real
world. He had only to remember that Van Hise's pilot, Mick Bell, had the avaricious heart of a miser, and offer him three million Swiss Francs, in thought alone, and he knew
the Jet Ranger that had been parked on the pad at the mercenary encampment on the fringe of the rainforest would soon be beating into the freezing skies of Whitehorse. He had forgotten about the Frenchman, Perrault, and the dog man never arrived in the frontier town while they waited for Bell. The Capri was carrying an FN machine rifle, a twelve gauge, several sidearms and more ammunition than they could use, and Bodie went through the weapons with a small tooth comb, still not trusting the final detail to his ability to control the dream... A dream could turn into a nightmare at the drop of a hat, and there was the haunting suspicion that once on Odinspeak, his powers of wishing would be like feathers in the wind.
Doyle lounged on the sill of the open window, sunning himself in a sheltered nook, the breeze tossing his hair, and Bodie smiled at him, in that moment wishing he could turn his mate into one of the elves, give him pointed ears and mystic abilities... No, Doyle was perfect the way he was: irritating, idealistic, hot tempered, affectionate, randy, loyal. A bag full of contradictions wrapped up in a skinny little body that should have been a liability as a partner, and instead was an incalculable asset. Bodie could still barely believe his luck; Ray loved him, and not just in this crazy place. Ray loved
him, would stay with him, for years, maybe even forever.
"Listen," Doyle's voice said suddenly, breaking into his reverie as he reassembled the FN and shoved a 'banana lip' into the receiver. "The chopper." He let himself down from the window nook and reached for his jacket. "Get your gear, sweetheart, it's time to push off."
They were travelling light; Bodie was almost certain of his ability to 'wish up' anything they might need, so each of them had just a survival pack. Thermal blankets, hiker's rations, flares - standard gear. They left the hotel by the rear way and jogged the length of the alley to the common land, an area set aside for playing team sports when the weather cleared and the snow could be scrapped aside.
Heat plumed about the chopper's manifolds, distorting the air, and the pilot was wearing a thunderous expression. He shoved green pilot's glasses onto his nose as they appeared and motioned them into the back.
"Hope you appreciate what I'm doing for you, Bodie!" He roared over the din of the engine, feathering the pitch from rough to fine to lift the Jet Ranger. "Shit, we could get into trouble!"
"Just fly the bloody thing," Bodie muttered, strapping in, "leave the rest to me, why don't you?"
"Bodie?" Ray asked, pensive. "You okay?" He had his eye on the time. It was early afternoon then. A scratch from Gandalf's thorn, and Bodie had slept till one, and he calculated that they had a few hours before the stranger would be back. When he did appear, Bodie would be comatose for hours, so it was essential that they find shelter before it happened.
"I'm okay," Bodie told him, squeezing his gloved hand. "Just a bit nervy. Like taking a final minute penalty kick - and I'm the goalie!"
"How far?" Ray wondered. "Going to take long getting there?" He was squinting on the brilliant sheet of the sunlight-on-snow, the chopper was beating its way into the north west, and up ahead he could see the pall of an overcast, miles deep and flickering with lightning. "Wouldn't like to wish us some good weather, would you? We're going to fly right into the middle of that, by the looks of it."
For a while Bodie fell silent, eyes closed, brow creased as he tried hard, and Ray's mouth tightened: it wasn't going to work this time. "I... I can't," Bodie said, voice betraying effort. "That's over Odinspeak. I don't think it's going to work when we get there. I can't control Thorkill either, Ray. You know that, don't you?"
"I know," Ray said darkly, watching the thunderheads billow up. He remembered Gandalf's words and suppressed a shiver... From here on, it gets harder. The old man was never wrong, it seemed - a personification of Bodie's intuitive knowledge, the things he knew
, without knowing how
he knew them. Butterflies skittered in Doyle's own stomach as the Jet Ranger whisked them toward the storm, and soon the sunlight was gone and he saw the mountain. Tall, as black as night, it looked over the lower peaks like the patriarch of a family of giants; foreboding crawled along his nerves, and up front, the pilot was getting twitchy.
"Can't take you no closer than the plateau," he shouted over the roar of the engine. "That'll give you a hike - two, maybe three klicks. That okay with you, Bodie?"
"You can't drop us in the forecourt?" Bodie demanded drily.
"Too bloody right," Bell said hotly. "Going in there is for shit, man, and I am not
"Then I guess we walk a mile or two," Bodie shrugged. "Make it quick, Bell, and shove off." He gave Doyle a glance of silent conference. "Ray, you don't have to go in with me."
"There's a lie," Doyle said with strained geniality. "You want the shotgun or the FN?"
Bodie took the twelve gauge, and Doyle checked the Fabrique National assault rifle, loading it and stashing a dozen clips in his pockets. If they had a hike ahead of them, in bad weather, it all increased the danger. Down below he saw a flat area bisected by a weather-worn trail, and Bell seemed to be making for it. The chopper did not quite touch down, its skids just hovering half an inch above the deep snow, and when they jumped out they sank in up to their knees. Bodie waved up at the pilot and turned his back on the machine.
The wind was freezing, blasting across the plateau and on into the void over the crag; they fought their way toward the trail and as they got onto the easier going Doyle frowned. "This trail's been beaten down by someone," he muttered into the wind. "Somebody lives 'round here."
"The riders," Bodie told him. "So you keep that rifle where you can reach it in a hurry. They see you, you're marked. You'll be in a pit in Hel, fighting for your life if not your virtue faster than it takes to tell - and I don't think I control anything
on the other side of the passes. That isn't my 'dream,' or my nightmare. It's ... I dunno. I don't think I want
to know what it is."
The basement of his mind, Doyle guessed, the cellar where all the dark nastiness was stored, all the emotional garbage that could not be borne but had to be carted around, stacked up in the basement of his subconscious, there to plague him in quiet moments... He shuddered, knowing very well that he could be hurt in this world. When he was hit, it drew blood just as surely as lovemaking felt good and food took away hunger. Maybe this realm wasn't real, but it obeyed the laws of the real world. It obeyed those laws almost too
well; his feet were freezing and the cold made his teeth ache as they plodded toward the stronghold that commanded the mountain slope a hundred feet above them, and a mile away long the winding trackway.
Outlined against the storm sky, lit now and then by brilliant flashes of lightning, the fortress looked little more than shaped stone. Bluestone, granite, rough hewn, impenetrable. "Hey, Bodie, how are we going to get in there?"
"Been meaning to ask you that," Bodie said drily. "Ideas?"
he asks," Doyle groaned, shifting the weight of the pack on his shoulders. "I suppose we'll improvise when we get to - " He broke off as his keen ears picked up the sounds from behind them, turning to look back down the trail. "Someone's coming, fast. Horses, about a dozen."
"Riders." Bodie drew both hands across his face. "Sweet Jesus, this is all we needed." He cast about for concealment, but only an outcropping of bluestone boulders offered them cover. "Duck down here, maybe they'll just ride on by."
But it was already too late for that. Doyle saw arms waving, pointing, as he grazed his knees on the shale in the lee of the boulders. "Fat chance," he muttered. "They saw us from miles away... These the riders who took you, Bodie?" In Hammersmith? It sounded absurd. Bodie's mind was substituting symbols for real events. These riders were the symbols of his terror, a mortal fear instilled into him by Thorkill during the days between his capture and his discovery, stoned on the Thames embankment. Rationalised in those terms, Doyle could readily accept it.
Bodie was nodding. "Yeah. The same ones... You've got the machine gun, pet. Use it. Drop the bloody lot of 'em."
"Okay, duck your head down." Doyle pulled the safety to 'off' and flattened out against the boulder, waiting, waiting, holding his breath - then he was out in the open, finger down on the trigger, barrel shroud heating up as he burned off a whole clip, changed it in seconds for a full reload, and smoked that off too.
Oh yes, people died here, and blood was just as scarlet on the snow in this place as in any world. He cut down twelve riders before they had the chance to scatter, and several of their big, black horses, and only when there was silence, and the air reeking with cordite, did he beckon Bodie out into the open.
"Horses," Bodie muttered. "And their cloaks, too. We can get right into the fortress if we're cloaked like them, and on their animals."
Skittish, the horses led them a merry dance, but Doyle was fast enough on his feet to catch the trailing reigns of one, and Bodie grabbed a fistful of wild, matted mane, securing another. The horses were steaming in the cold air, clouds of vapor rising from their foam flecked coats; Ray held them while Bodie fetched two cloaks from a pair of bodies. The cloaks were black and scarlet, voluminous, fastened at the throat by gold clasps. They went on over the backpacks, and, from a distance, would buy them the safety of anonymity.
But was the fortress guarded - and if so, by how many? There was no sign of life along the walls, and the gates stood open to the howling wind, as if inviting them to their downfall. Hooves clattering and slipping on the cobbles, the steaming black horses trotted in under the raised portcullis, and the insurgents slid quickly to the ground.
The courtyard was wide, and empty. Dark stone, echoing walls, tall, blind windows surrounded them, and Doyle shivered, casting off the cloak and reloading the FN. "There's nobody around, no guards."
"We may have killed them on the trail," Bodie whispered. "Let's get inside, we're a bit exposed here."
There was a doorway to their right, and once through it they were in almost pitch darkness. The passages echoed their footfalls back at them; murmurs, unidentifiable and strange, reached their ears from blind side ways, and in fifty yards they knew they were lost. "It's a maze," Ray said softly. "He doesn't need guards - you could get lost in here for years." He looked at Bodie in the glimmer of light of a flickering torch in the wall bracket twenty yards behind. "Your nightmare, Bodie. Which way."
"I don't know," Bodie hissed. "I wish I did. Christ, which way?"
"Intuition," Ray said, little above a whisper. "Sixth sense... Follow your nose. Use the Force and all that gibberish."
"Remind me to tell you how much I love you," Bodie muttered. "This way, then, and cross your fingers. I could be off by a mile."
The deeper into the night dark maze they walked, the more labyrinthine it became, the stranger the sounds from far off, the more oppressive the feeling of foreboding. Doyle's flesh was crawling and his cold fingers cramped on the FN, but his eyesight had adjusted to the dimness and he could see quite well.
Well enough to see the towering, arched doorway, looming down a passage on their left. "There's the first real door we've seen," he said softly. "And we've walked miles. How much d'you want to bet it's the only real doorway in this place? That's it, Bodie. That's the gateway to your nightmare. It has to be."
Even in the faint light of the guttering torches, Bodie's face looked bloodless. Real fear drew it tight, and his hands were clenched around the twelve gauge like claws. "It's getting late," he hissed. "Too late, Ray. Too late now."
"Bodie?" Doyle took a step closer.
"Look at the time! He's
going to be here soon, and if you let him loose in this place you'll be taking on the pair of them, my maniac, and Thorkill. They'll take you, Ray, and Christ help you if they do."
Ray swallowed. "I've got the amulet," he said quietly.
But Bodie shook his head. "Won't work here. Nothing works here. Can't you feel it? This place is evil, as bad as Hel, part
His own private hell, Doyle thought bleakly, from which he was trying desperately to escape, alive and sane. "We can't wait," he murmured, "every minute we hang about it gets more dangerous."
"Out," Bodie growled. "Get out now. Run for it, Ray, I'll do this."
"I got lost a mile back," Ray said scornfully. "Get out? How? This is a maze, Bodie, and black as the pit." It's your own web of terror, mate, he thought sadly. You've been threshing about down here for days, trying to pluck up the courage to make it to this gateway and face up to whatever it is that's been torturing you. Now and again the madness gets loose, and the stranger appears; I shouldn't hate him, he is
you, the you that was tipped over the edge. "Bodie, you can't let him take over," he hissed. "You can't!"
"I can't help it," Bodie groaned, "not here, not anywhere. Christ, if I could stop him, do you think I'd let him do the things he does? You've got to get out - or put me down before I can start. Do it now."
Doyle had the Anduin thorn in the palm of his hand, but Bodie shook his head. It wouldn't work. "I'll have to hit you," Ray whispered. "I don't want to, Bodie."
"And if you don't I'll probably kill you," Bodie said sadly. "You can't take on two of us, sweetheart. Two madmen. Ray, there's things you haven't even heard of, terrible things you don't want to know about. Don't let it happen to you. Put me down, and find yourself a hole, crawl into it and wait till I come to."
"But you're ill when you come out of it, and I'll probably belt you into concussion," Doyle argued. "It's no good, Bodie, this is suicide!"
"I know." Bodie's eyes fell shut and his face twisted. "You were mad to come here, Ray. Raving mad."
"Maybe," Doyle conceded. "I'm in love with you; what's that make me but absolutely bloody insane?"
And then he hit Bodie, just once, a conservative blow that snuffed out the light of consciousness in an instant. It was calculated not to injure, but having to deliver it at all was unpleasant. Doyle silently thanks the hours of instruction he had had at the hands of his Karate masters, learning how to do the least possible damage. Bodie sagged in his arms and he began to draw his partner's dead weight toward a shadowed nook, an alcove off the main passage.
Before he had made a dozen steps, a freezing wind blasted out of the darkness, furious and malevolent, and the force of it stirred the tall, arched gateway. Ray let Bodie go down to the flagstones underfoot and spun, throwing off his pack and cocking the FN as he watched the door swing inward. Damn, he should have known! Now that Bodie was unconscious his wilful, wayward mind was free to do as it liked, free to wreak havoc, create and destroy as the fancy took it.
A faint red light shone from beyond the door, seeping like blood across the stone floor, and he stepped into the darkness, approaching the aperture with caution. Fear raked its claws over his heart and he felt his throat tightening to pain. "Bodie, don't do this to me," he whispered, knowing that at any moment anything
could happen. The machine rifle in his hands could evaporate, the whole mountain could go up, anything
In fact, there was just silence, red illumination spilling from a shaded lamp, and the shadowed bulk of a man, half seen, seated in an elaborately upholstered armchair. Doyle stepped into the chamber, and as he did the door slammed behind him, effectively sealing him in. He peered at the man in the chair: it had to be Thorkill, there was no one else Bodie would wish up in this place.
"Thorkill?" he asked levelly, bringing up the FN. "There's a contract on your life. I'm here to kill you, but I want answers first."
There was no response for the man in the chair for some time, and then he leaned forward, his face entering the spill of the lamplight, and Doyle's nerves gave a twist as he recognised that face. Schwerin. This was the man they had been after, in London, when it had all started. So Thorkill was Schwerin. Bodie's torturer. He was a big man, tall and bulky, with brown hair silvering at the temples, worn long on the collar. Big shoulders strained at the expensive suit he wore, and gold glittered among his fingers. When he spoke the German accent was thick.
"Your name is Doyle," he said slowly.
"Right. And you're the man who took Bodie that night." Doyle levelled the FN. "You're going to tell me why
, before I kill you. I want answers; if I get them, you die easily. If not... There are many ways to die, Schwerin. You could be begging me to finish it an hour from now. Now you tell me what you did to Bodie!"
Slate grey eyes blinked at him, then Schwerin was laughing. "Save your threats, you have nothing to threaten me with
"What d'you call this?" Doyle gestured with the FN. "A slingshot?"
Schwerin shrugged indifferently. "Pull the trigger, it won't work. Not here. This is my
place, Doyle. Here, I make the rules. See?" he crooked a finger in Doyle's direction, and Ray felt the strength go out of his knees. He fell heavily and rolled, managing to keep the FN on target, and as he went down squeezing the trigger. He should have burned off the whole clip, but there was dead silence. "Ah, you see?"
Bodie, don't do this to me! Doyle prayed, teeth clenched as he got his weight back onto his knees and threw the gun away. His fingers clawed the hunting knife from its sheath at his belt. "Let's see you wreck the mechanism on this
, then," he snarled.
"On what?" Schwerin smiled quite benignly. "It has the edge of a butter knife, does it not? See for yourself."
The strength seeped out of Doyle's wrist, and his eyes widened as he watched the knife turn about, snaking up toward his throat, drawing harmlessly across his own jugular. There was the chill kiss of steel, but no pain, no gush of blood. Then his arm fell limply to his side and the German was chuckling. "Now, stop being absurd and do as you're told. Come here, sit at my feet and I shall tell you what I'm going to do with you."
No amount of willpower would order Doyle's limbs, and his feet dragged him toward Schwerin's chair, depositing him in a heap beside it. He felt fingers stroking his hair and took a deep breath, trying to think
. Bodie swore that he was not in charge here, that he did not control the man whose codename was Thorkill. But this was the hate and fear filled basement of Bodie's mind; if he
did not run the show here, no one else did. So how was it possible for Schwerin to do these things? How
And if it was possible for Schwerin to run the show, why not Doyle? Ray looked up at the man in the chair, meeting the grey eyes levelly. "So what did you do with Bodie? He said you taught him to do something by hurting him. What was it?"
"Oh, nothing special. A little education... Drugs helped. He imagined most of the pain... Imagined pain is the best kind, because it does not damage the body. Broken tools are worthless, yes? I gave him his set of instructions, and a key word. I phoned him when he got out of hospital, said the word. Ravenfeeder." Schwerin grinned. "Don't know your Germanic folk tales, I suppose! No matter. When he heard the word, Bodie knew what to do. Kill. It was quite simple."
"Kill - me?" Doyle wondered. "I'm small fry, you didn't have a bone to pick with me."
"You flatter yourself." Schwerin's lip curled. "Kill the lot of you, Doyle. Cowley in particular, yes, but Bodie should have been able to go scything through half of CI5 before he was stopped, like Clint Eastwood on a vengeance spree. But I was unfortunate, it seems... The first person he was confronted with and asked to kill was... You." The fingers in Doyle's hair tightened. "And he loves you. He loves you so much, he sent himself to hell for you... And took you with him." Schwerin leaned down to take a closer look at the man at his feet. "You are quite a prize, aren't you? I must compliment his taste. Leonardo and Bellini would have painted you; what does Bodie do? Ah yes. I expect he fucks you, frequently, yes?"
Doyle's lip curled in an accurate imitation of Schwerin's own expression. "Trying to insult me? Don't bother. Trying to frighten me? You don't know how. This is Bodie's fantasy, even this, and he wouldn't let you hurt me."
"You think not?" Schwerin grinned, teeth catching the red lighting. "You're a fool, Doyle. This is Bodie's dark place, I'm his bogie. Here, he's a gibbering wreck, surrounded by his terrors. You? You still have to learn how
to be afraid. Bodie learned years ago."
Doyle frowned. "You're not in charge here any more than I am. Control me? You can't, just as Bodie can't. I'm the only thing that doesn't belong in this place, and I know
"True, so true," Schwerin sighed, "and yet you're still dependent on this place for the stuff of life... Behold." He snapped his fingers in an indifferent, offhand manner, and laughed at the result.
The FN was gone, and the knife, the clothes that Doyle had worn, and the air that he had been breathing. Naked, cold and suffocating, he clutched at his throat, his vision swimming. Bodie, don't, please God, don't do this to me! But there was no air to breathe and he was going down into the darkness as he reached numbly for Schwerin's gullet, trying to squeeze the life from it. Schwerin tossed him aside like a rag doll, and as he hit the floor he gasped in a grateful breath. There was air to breathe, but no more than that was given back, and the German was frowning at him in interest.
"You've courage and tenacity, I'll give you that much, Doyle. What is to become of you? I have six elves to sell in Hel soon; shall I sell you with them? In the pits you would provide great entertainment. A good fight, I'm sure, pitted against others bigger and stronger than yourself, a graceful defeat, and then... The surrender of your body, in exchange for your life, until next time? Or would you fight?"
Doyle squeezed his eyes shut, shutting out Schwerin, the room, the voice, the threats trying to think
. None of this was real, and if it wasn't real, someone was controlling it. Bodie? No - not his conscious mind. So this was his sub-conscious, malicious and oppressive, hurtful, ugly. He took a breath, counting the time. How long until Bodie woke? He would be ill for a while, and - much as he hated to admit it, Schwerin was right, in this place he was tormented by his old memories, and would be at a grave disadvantage. Christ, Doyle thought feverishly, how did I get into this lunatic asylum? How was it even possible? Think! He told himself, for pity's sake get a grip on yourself and think
Once before he had been in the gravest of circumstances, and there had been help. Gandalf. How did he get Bodie to help again? The stranger had been raping him, and some part of Bodie's mind, or heart, that was still Bodie
was aware, helping. Cold sweat broke out on Doyle's face... Fight, he thought. Fight it, it's the fighting that gets through to Bodie.
He pulled himself back up to his knees and glared at Schwerin. "You're not the lord and master of this place," he snarled. "Whatever you can do here, I
can do. Maybe I have to find out how
, but when I've learned, I'm going to take you apart. You listening to me?"
Think. How did Bodie do it? He wished
, so he said; he imagined an event, or an object. Concentration was a commodity that was scarce in Ray's overstressed mind, but hatred took its place. He wished, yearned
to see Schwerin writhing on the floor - a heart attack, a coronary would do nicely, he thought, face twisting with effort, fury and the hatred. Then his ears picked up the sharp indrawn breath of discomfort, distress, and his eyes flicked open to see the man grabbing at his chest.
For a moment he was sure it was going to work, but Schwerin was just as quick on the uptake and took back control an instant later. Doyle got his feet under him, wishing back clothes to keep out the cold. Jeans, yellow tee shirt, white woollen jacket, boots. There was a Lugar in Schwerin's hand, he saw it and dived aside, not daring to see how far his wishing would take him. He stared at his own hand, aching for his Browning 9mm, and it was there, but Schwerin jammed the trigger again and it was all he could do to keep out of the way of the rounds spitting out of the Lugar while he summoned a knife, throwing it with all the strength in his right arm.
It sank deeply into the German's right shoulder and he sagged back against the lamp, pitching it onto the stone floor; the red shade rolled off and the naked bulb threw grotesque shadows onto the walls. Formless objects writhed there; Ray could barely make them out - a woman, dying with a bayonet in her, an old man, crippled by a mortar shell, shrapnel still in him, a young man with his legs blown off by a land mine, a couple, boy and girl, dead, raped and shot, captives in chains, the injured, the dying the insane -
Bodie's cellar full of horrors, the place where he hid all he could not live with. And he had hidden Schwerin here rather than kill his partner. Doyle blinked his vision clear as he watched Schwerin pull at the knife, dragging it loose. But he was bleeding, crimson rivers pouring down his chest and onto the floor. He could be hurt, Doyle realised, and what could be hurt could be killed.
Again, he tried the Browning, but it was no more responsive, and he wished for a knife, a machete, something to fight with. A saw backed hunting knife filled his right hand and he took a step toward the German, face twisted into a savage mask, intent on finishing it. He underestimated Bodie's powers of composition.
Schwerin roared inarticulately, weakened and enraged, and the air seemed to coalesce before him, drawing together into the shape of a tall, heavy man Doyle did not recognise. He was clad in cammo fatigues, a black headband holding down long fair hair, blue eyes glittering icily. Merc, Doyle thought. Someone Bodie knew, someone he hated. Someone who belongs in this festering place because of what he did...
Jesus, Bodie, don't! He pleaded, knowing full well how he could be hurt in this place. Bodie, help me, goddamn you! The man before him was unarmed, and Doyle had the knife, scant advantage; if the mercenary was six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier, that was the smallest he could have been, and Ray's mouth dried as he shifted his grip on the knife.
Make or break, kill or cure, he thought bitterly. Well, Macklin, you're about to get your money's worth. Let's see how good you really are, Raymond, my boy. Good as you think you are? Never know till you try.
He had been fighting with knives for twenty years, and he was as fast on his feet as a dancer; the speed and dexterity saved his life a dozen times in as many seconds, because if the mercenary from Bodie's tortured past had hit him or caught him, he would have surely been dead. The man was built like bull, contemptuous of the smaller man, his voice snarling insults, threats and promises. He was going to fillet the kitten with its own knife, he said, geld it and screw it while it lived, then sell the dead meat to a cannery. There was the impression, strong in Doyle's mind, that these were words Bodie had heard
from this man's lips, that this particular nightmare was the one filed away in this place, too terrible to be remembered, too hideous to be forgotten.
Well, you've picked the wrong one this time, Doyle thought with a snarl, and for the first time drew blood with the tip of the knife. The bigger man cursed and sprang back, fists flailing. It was impossible to concentrate on 'wishing' him into a bleeding heap; if Doyle tried to spare enough of his mind for that he'd be in a bleeding heap himself, he guessed; he was fighting for his life, and he knew it.
It was like a strange dance form, arcane and deadly; a quadrille, back and forth, striking and feinting, a blooding here, there, pain in the joints as an elbow was wrenched, tightness in the lungs as weariness set in, a fever of anger in his chest at the taunts and threats thrown at him as the big mercenary grew angry. The anger was Doyle's best weapon, but the fatigue was dragging him down. Too many days and nights spent fretting, he knew. Too much worry, too much sex, taking the edge off his physical performance. He was doing well, holding his own, and most of the blood that was spattered on his clothes was the other man's, until he ducked late and felt his arms wrenched in a tackle.
Wrestling with a man the size of a gorilla was suicide, and he fought like a demon, flinging his weight against the mercenary's joints, trying to wrench his elbows, his wrists, but, always small boned and built like a boy, Doyle did not weigh enough. Bones snapped in his right forearm and the big hunting knife rang on the stone at his feet as he heard his own voice crying out, high and thin. An open handed swipe contracted with the back of his head and his senses dulled. The next he knew he was on the floor, slipping in and out of consciousness while the cold seeped into his bones. Shock. He struggled up to his knees, casting about for the big man who was one of Bodie's phantoms; he was dabbing at his wounds with his ruined shirt, slitted eyes following every move of the smaller man's battered form. The hunting knife was in his boot.
Nausea lapped around Doyle's chest and he fought it down, closing his eyes in this moment of respite and aching
for a throwing knife, some weapon that would give him a long-range ability, keep the gorilla off
him. The broken arm was numb, and would be numb for some time, but soon it would begin to hurt, and could be the death of him. There was a flick knife in his left hand when he opened his eyes and he thanked heaven that he was ambidextrous. Wrenching up off the floor into a half crouch, he flung it, watched it sink into the mercenary's leg; he had been aiming higher, but his senses were swimming - a hit of any description was not bad. He wished for another knife, but just as he felt
it, he saw the cudgel in the mercenary's fist and, diverted from the knife he needed, the image, and the object, never found their way into this warped reality.
Blows rained down on him; he knew full well that the big man was pulling everyone of them, or the first would have knocked his head off; he felt a rib break, but the rest was just bruising, he was sure; he was half way into the blessed refuge of unconsciousness when he felt the cold caress of a knife going through his clothes, and he was wide awake again in an instant, knowing exactly what this monstrosity out of Bodie's past was planning to do.
"Bodie, for Christ's sake, don't, don't," he murmured, but it was useless, to ask. Bodie was out cold, in the passage beyond the towering gateway, and he was on his own, lost in a wilderness of pain and desperation, pitted against the phantoms and goblins that haunted Bodie's dreams. Anger rekindled, like a fist under his heart, and he marshalled his thoughts. To fight with his failing body was not the way - he had nothing left to fight with. No, he had to fight this man with his own armoury, the stuff of which nightmares are made.
Doyle closed his eyes, ignoring the hands that were stripping him, concentrating on a deep, aching desire for vengeance, not merely for himself but for poor, tortured Bodie. Oddly, it was the vengeance-wish for his lover that generated the greater power; it surged up along his veins, wringing him out as he shaped the image in his mind. He was naked, kneeling, buttocks and genitals screaming their own protests at him, when the wish took form.
Nothing worked here expect the ill-formed mechanics of dreams; there was no gun in Doyle's hand, he was pushed into the stone floor and a scant second away from a violation that would have torn him apart, when it happened. Two bullets from a nonexistent .44 magnum, ripped through the mercenary's ribcage, hollow nosed, exploding from his back and blowing a bucket-sized hole out of him. He was picked up and flung away across the shadow bound room, and Doyle was rolled over, knees curling up into his middle, his slitted eyes watching the monstrosity Bodie so reviled die at last. That, he thought feverishly, was one for Bodie.
Schwerin was still there, standing behind his chair, the lamp still knocked over and throwing its own formless images onto the walls, and as Doyle fought his way up to his feet, voice whistling in his throat with effort, the German moved out into the open. In his right hand was a hypodermic, preloaded with a charge Doyle could guess at.
PCB, mescaline, barbiturates. The same shot that had driven Bodie to the edge of his sanity while they taught him to be a killer; drug induced hypnosis. Doyle's mind was on Quinn, primed by the KGB to do the same job. Kill. He shook his head to clear it and hugged the broken arm against the abused ribs. The weakness was like a sickness threading through his body, and his senses were too dim to be trustworthy. He felt his concentration slipping as he stumbled toward the German. He wanted to do the same to him as he had done to the mercenary, but the image would come apart as fast as it formed. Schwerin was fighting him on it, he knew, undoing the work as he did it; and Doyle was fading fast.
He sagged to his knees, denying the nausea by an effort of will. "Bodie, Bodie, please don't. Bodie, love, help me. Help me, or it's over." He dragged in a breath, watching the German approach with the hypodermic, knowing instinctively that he was seeing exactly what Bodie saw the night they had caught him in Hammersmith. He tried to fight up out of the stupor but his arms were like lead, his legs dead, and the last thing he felt was the sharp pain at the base of his neck as the needle picked up the artery, and an immense, deep, aching sadness, that it was over, that he was dead, that he had failed, and that this was the time of parting. The last word on his lips was Bodie's name.
It was a cry that woke Bodie, but he knew that his ears could not have heard it. Ray's voice often sounded like that, husky, tender, filled with a lot of love, in the early morning after they had shared each other's joy and relaxed at last. But as Bodie jerked awake, sick and ill, cold and trembling, he had the immediate and numbing impression that it was a farewell. Christ, how long had he been out? He peered at his watch. An hour. Where the hell was
Ray - where had he been?
"Ray? Ray!" He struggled up to his feet, the shotgun in both hands, used as a prop as he swayed against the wall. He knew where Doyle had gone. That towering doorway beckoned like an invitation to doom, and the whole answer was in there. He rubbed at his head, trying to cast the ache aside, trying to think
. Ray had called it the gateway to his nightmare, and Bodie knew instinctively that he was right. Whatever was wrong, it was on the other side of that door. The riders, the pain, the re-education, drugs, terror, his desperation. Bodie's insides quivered as every nerve in him rebelled against the notion of going in there.
But Doyle had gone through that door, and if that cry he had heard, so tender, husky with love, was a farewell - "Oh, no, sweet Jesus, no," Bodie murmured, scalding tars prickling at his eyes. "Not Ray, not in my
bloody fantasy! Me
, take me
, I'm mad as a hatter, stone crazy, take me, not Ray..." He shoved away from the wall and approached the door on cat-like feet, grasping its iron rings and putting his weight behind it.
It swung inward, grinding on the stone flags, and a red light spilled from within. Accustomed to the gloom, his eyes saw clearly. There was a chair, a man sitting in it, a lamp with a red shade beside it. There were two bodies on the flag stones. One was big, bulky, clad in the remains of cammo fatigues, and there was blood all over it. Vaguely, he recognised the twisted face: Gelbart. So Gelbart was dead at last. Satisfaction thrilled through Bodie, and then it occurred to him that the only person who could have killed him, in this terrible place, was Ray. Skinny little Ray had managed to kill that
? Bodie blinked, realising that here must have been one hell of a fight.
Then his eyes went on to the second body, half obscured by the chair. He stepped around to see it properly and his heart leapt in his chest like a frightened doe. Naked and bloody, Ray lay curled up into a foetal ball; there were bruises all over him, trickles of blood, purpling finger prints on his buttocks, his hair matted and disarranged. And he was dead.
Ignoring the motionless figure in the chair for the moment, Bodie fell to his knees, lifting the cold, still form into the arms, cradling it. Even in death Ray felt smooth and light and sweet, and Bodie brushed the blood from his lips, bending to kiss him. The kiss was cool, brief, just a gesture of parting; there was no pain yet. Bodie knew the agony would begin later, when there was time to think. No... No later. There was
no later without Ray in it, no point to it, no reason for going on. He nuzzled the still, cold neck very gently and lay him down again.
In the chair, the man did not stir, and Bodie pushed up to his feet, taking the shotgun in his right hand and turning to face him. The shadowed face looked back, and he saw the glitter of the red light on the hypo in his hand. The same hypo he had seen again and again after the night they had taken him in Hammersmith. Riders -
Yes, motorcycle riders. Three of them, helmeted, faceless. It all came back as he faced the man; memory sluiced back into his mind and the light came up in the room, dazzling him. Now
he remembered it all. The capture, being hit on the head, taken to a house with drawn blinds and darkened rooms. Needles. Hurting as he tried to refuse what they were telling him - kill on command, kill them all. Ray, Murph, Anson, Jax, Susan, Cowley - all of them, one at a time, quickly.
He had struggled against the programming and the more he fought the more it hurt. Slowly, he learned to obey; and then, as programmed, he forgot, waited for the code word. "Ravenfeeder," he whispered.
The man in the chair leaned forward and he saw the face he had come to loathe and fear. "Yes," Schwerin smiled. "You know, don't you?"
Bodie nodded. "I know it all now. I know you. Ravenfeeder... kill on command." He paused, looking down at Ray's body. "Why did you have to kill him
? It wasn't his fight." He sounded tired, felt weary, empty. "I'm going to kill you, now. Watch how I do it... I know
now, everything, and I'm pulling the strings here." He reached down, taking the German by the throat and lifting him to his feet, vaguely amused to find that Schwerin was much taller. The German did not move a muscle, standing in his grasp like a puppet. "Fight, damn you!" Slowly, inexorably, he closed his fingers, and still Schwerin did not make a move in protest, as if it was
over. "Fight!" Bodie repeated, needing the struggle, needing the release of catharsis; but the gullet beneath his fingers simply crushed, the German's body sagged to his feet and lay as still as Gelbart's. As Ray's.
Robbed of the struggle he had needed to rationalise the killing, Bodie turned back to Ray's still form and sat down beside him, pulling him into his arms and pillowing his head on his shoulder. "Ah, love, you shouldn't have," he crooned softly. "Look what you've done... How the hell did you take Gelbart? Christ, how he hurt you." He squeezed his eyes shut against the tears. "This is where it ends, Ray. There's no way back for me. Don't want to go back, not without you. Why would I want to?" He took the shotgun in his right hand and very gently put Ray's body onto the floor, lying beside it. Oddly, Ray's lovely, battered face was serene, peaceful, as if he was merely asleep.
Bodie kissed his nose one last time, tucking the barrel of the twelve gauge into the nook behind his own right ear.
A moment later there was peace.
...Continued in Part 4...