Flu


The second story I ever wrote, unsophisticated, uncomplex, hurt/comfort times-two. It was meant to have a sequel, but perhaps, after all, it's all there.

"I won't forget..."


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It had been a straight forward, run-'em-down case, and the two CI5 agents had laid their quarry to ground in a complex of pre-fab buildings used for the purpose of chemical research, pharmaceutical experimentation and the like. It had been shut up for the weekend, guarded by one man with an Alsatian, who was presently lying out cold, quite unaware that he was shortly to awaken to a thundering headache, a grilling from his boss, and a long tramp through the surrounding countryside looking for Rover, whom the unscrupulous villains had let off the leash.

The said villains had even worse prospects to keep in mind as they high-tailed it around the laboratories, in a crazy game of hide-and-seek, pursued by two grim-faced agents who were making it clear, very clear indeed, that they were not in this for fun and games. They finally burst into a locked laboratory, guns drawn on the two men cowering behind neat lines of Bunsen burners, test-tubes and acid flasks; they made a lot of mess. Glass flew everywhere, but not a drop of blood was spilt as they wore down the opposition, rounded them up and marched them out to handcuffs and the waiting car.

Behind them, a fallen test-tube lay on its side, its precious nurtured virus compound leaking out onto the floor. The air was richly full of invisible molecules, and had been for several minutes, quite long enough to ensure that anyone in the vicinity had a very nasty surprise coming up for the weekend...



Doyle had a bath, and shaved. It was Friday night, and he should be feeling full of the joys of life and the prospect of a wild, abandoned evening coming up; but it wasn't working out that way. He felt vaguely restless; there were tinglings in his nerve-ends like itches, and odd pains that came and went in his joints. He must be getting a cold... There was a deep, nauseous sensation in his stomach, too, slight but noticeable. Although he was all ready, spruce and clean, he began to realise that he didn't feel like an evening's drinking, that was for sure, let alone anything more strenuous later on; he was tired and wanted to go to bed. Bed? He noted with surprise that it was only 8, an hour yet before he was due to join up with Bodie and do the town together. A shudder went through him at the thought of it.

He'd have to call his partner, say he wasn't up to it and needed a good night's sleep. Bodie'd understand. Get on just as well on his own; in any case, the old smoothie. You couldn't imagine Bodie being turned down.

The phone rang, just as he was wearily considering how much time he could rest where he was before making the effort to call Bodie. He felt distinctly lightheaded as he automatically jumped to his feet to answer it.

"That you, mate?" Bodie, sounding strange.

"No, the Aga Khan, who you expecting? You dialled my number, didn't you?" He felt like being mean and sarky.

"Look, I don't feel too bright. You'll be on your own tonight, sorry, sunshine. Give 'em enough for both of us, okay?"

Doyle was momentarily diverted from his own aches and pains. "S'funny, I don't feel too hot, either. Was going to ring you to say the same."

A pause. Then Bodie's grim voice - "Stands to reason. Whatever you get, I get it too, right? After all, we suffer everything else together, why not the flu?"

"Flu? Is that what it is?"

"Guess so. S'not just a cold, I eat cold germs for breakfast. Looks like a weekend in bed."

"We got flu?" Doyle took it in. Oh god. Yes. that was why he felt shivery and yet hot at the same time. They had a great weekend coming up, that was for sure. "You got someone to look after you?" he found himself asking.

Bodie sounded gloomy. "Not bloody likely. Do you know anyone keen to catch a raging dose of flu? No, nor do I."

"Not even from you?"

"Nah, looks like I'll be getting my own aspirin. Look, call it a day. I'm not up to any more of your fast patter right now. See you on Monday. If I'm up to it. Might put my aim off; Cowley wouldn't like that."

"'Ang on a minute. Why don't we see it out together?" A spur of the moment idea.

"What?" Bodie, tetchy.

"Spend the weekend together." Neither was Doyle inclined to be joyous. "Got flu, right? So we have it together."

"What the hell for?" his partner demanded, suspicious.

"Two of us," explained Doyle, succinct. "Take it in turns to get up and make the tea. Halves the number of trips up."

Bodie said, after a pause, "S'pose it makes sense. Come on round, then,"

"You must be jokin', mate," snorted Doyle down the phone. "I'm a sick man. I'm not going anywhere. See you when you get here."

And he put down the phone.

Bodie looked like death, pale, dull-eyed and sweating as he handed in a small kitbag. He retained, however, the old sparky spirit as he glowered at his mate. "I must be mad. Bloody hell, Doyle. I should be in bed, not following up one of your crazy ideas and driving half over London in a daze. I nearly killed someone."

"Pedestrian?"

"No. traffic warden, Stopped me and said I was speeding."

Doyle grinned. "So you said you were on official business?"

Bodie's brows drew together in a mean scowl. "No, that's when I nearly killed him."

It felt good, to have Bodie here. Already Doyle felt a notch or two brighter. "Well, s'over now, isn't it?" he answered, locking and double locking the door. "That's that, till Monday morning. All R&R from now on, mate. Look at this."

He held open the door to the bedroom, waiting for Bodie's approval. A sickroom deluxe. In the half-hour before his partner's arrival, and before the incapacitating effects of influenza could take a strong grip, he'd moved the TV in, to the foot of the bed, shifted the hi-fi onto the dressing unit in case they should feel like some soft music to soothe their troubled breasts, there was a jug of fruit juice on each bedside cabinet. The bed itself, a luxurious kingsize object he recently bought in a fit of extravagance, he had carefully divided down the middle by the simple expedient of placing a pillow there.

"You wouldn't do better if you were covered by BUPA," he stated with satisfaction.

[text missing] Bodie was not in the swing of things. "This is a mad idea," he reiterated, looking around. "I'm not feeling in the mood for company, and especially not in bed."

"Ah, c'mon, mate. You'll see the logic of this in the morning, when I bring you in a nice cup of tea."

"Mmm," sniffed Bodie, disgruntled. He genuinely felt lousy, all aches and pains and fatigue. "Mind if I have a bath?" Without waiting for his host's permission he disappeared into the bathroom, and Doyle presently heard the sound of running water. His head was beginning to ache. He took two aspirin, left two out on Bodie's side of the bed. This weekend looked like being a long way from a barrel of laughs, with one thing and another.... He undressed, pulled on a pair of stretch cotton pyjamas and got into bed.

Bodie appeared in a borrowed bathrobe; he looked hot, his usually pale skin flushed and damp. He dropped the robe on the floor and prepared to climb into bed, naked.

"'Ey. Pick it up." Doyle pointed to the heap of towelling. "Nothing worse than an untidy sickroom. And won't you be cold like that?" he added as Bodie bent muttering to do as he was bid.

"Cold," Bodie said ironically as he slid gratefully between the cool cotton sheets. "You must be jokin', you could fry an egg on me."

He did look hot and uncomfortable. Doyle reached out and felt his mate's forehead, half in jest, half serious. "Jesus, Bodie!" he exclaimed.

Bodie turned his head away from the hand. "I know, I know."

"You sure it's just flu you got?" Doyle was really worried: Bodie's skin was burning.

"Yeah, had it before. Two days of hell, then you're okay. Virus; no point in calling out the quack. You seem pretty perky. Sure you got it?" He touched Doyle's temples with the back of his hand, pushing the heavy curls aside with the other.

"Yeah," he said, letting go and leaning back wearily. "You got it."

Doyle half got into a thriller on TV, trying to ignore the pounding in his head. Bodie had said nothing for a long time, just lying back against his pillow, but the silence was not uncomfortable. They were too close for that; the time when they had needed to fill every silence with words lest it become awkward was years past. S'funny, reflected Doyle, it seems right to have him here when I'm ill, or when he is. Him, not anyone else. As if he was a child again, and Bodie - no, that was wrong, nothing maternal about Bodie, and he cancelled it instantly. What, then? As if Bodie were like - like a brother, maybe? But that was even further from what he was feeling, and he considered it for a while, baffled. Bodie was a friend, the best friend he had. Yeah, true but it was more than that: he only knew that if he were feeling ill, even mildly so like now, or if he knew that Bodie was, it was right for them to be together. After all, who else did they have?

A couple, his mind finally supplied, contented to have solved the problem; that's what they were.

Like a bolt from the blue he realised what he'd been thinking, and he choked happily on his orange juice.

Bodie flicked a dark eye his way. "Something funny?"

"Yeah," spluttered Doyle. He wanted to share the joke. "I was thinkin' - you an' me, we're like Darby and Joan. We share the hot water bottles and the aspirin and the flu... You better watch out, mate, " he warned. We'll get a name for ourselves." He flashed Bodie a wicked green-eyed look.

Bodies answer was one of his best sarkily disdainful stares, from below eyelids fluttering with exasperated hauteur. It was fun to have Bodie here; the two of them close and secure in a tidy, comfortable room with everything to hand, and sleep not far away.

Bodie was also half-watching the thriller, a frown of irritation on his face. "Why," he demanded, "are these people speaking with French accents?"

"They're French," Doyle explained gently.

Bodie gave it a pause. Then, "Okay. They're French. In France. So why aren't they talking in French?"

"Because," said Doyle, patient, "we couldn't understand them if they were.

Bodie thought it over. "So why the French accents? If we're supposed to believe they're really speaking French, why accents, for godsake?" The actors exchanged another impassioned bit of dialogue, heavily laced with 'verrees' and 'e sinks zat eet ees'.

"So we don't forget they're French."

"I see." A pause.

Bodie, querulous: "If they sell this series to France - "

"Yeah?"

Giving up, Bodie waved a hand in dismissal. "Nah, it's too complicated." He lay down. "I'm for an early night."

"Don't drop off. I'll make us a nightcap." Doyle pushed himself out of bed, surprised to find that his legs were definitely staggery. Remembering long-ago childhood cures, he warmed up milk, added brown sugar and a dash of brandy, dropped in some soluble aspirin and a vitamin pill for good measure, and took the two mugs back to bed. Bodie was lying just as Doyle had left him, eyes closed. "Sit up and drink this."

Bodie opened an eye. "What is it?" He sounded distinctly unenthusiastic.

"Nourishment, panacea and relaxant all in one go," said Doyle, with a flourish.

Mildly interested, Bodie heaved himself up, and took a cautious sip. "Christ, Ray!" he spluttered, through a grimace. "If I drink this I'll be sick."

"If you are, you know the way," replied Doyle, unimpressed, and drank his own.

Wincing horribly, Bodie managed most of it and lay down again. "Night."

"Light out?"

"Yeah."

Bodie appeared to drop off almost at once. Doyle lay awake longer, wishing the nagging pain in his head would subside. He pressed his hot forehead into the pillow and eventually he too fell into a restless sleep.

He awoke to blackness, and a sense of something wrong. His head felt thick and dull and his throat was sore; but it wasn't just that. The bed was shaking; a low, violent tremor that halted abruptly and then began again. He lifted his head. "Bodie?" he whispered.

The tremors stopped. "Cold," muttered Bodie through chattering teeth.

Doyle reached a hand out over the coolness of the intervening pillow; met hot skin. Bodie was shivering violently again, as another helpless fit of chills went through him. "Put a sweater on," instructed Doyle. He felt cool himself, now he came to think about it; deep-down cold inside.

"Too cold to move."

Doyle didn't feel like getting out either. There was only one thing for it. "Told you you should have worn pyjamas," he murmured resignedly, leaning over and throwing the pillow out onto the floor. Then he shunted over in the bed and pulled Bodie roughly into his arms.

Bodie didn't resist; in fact he attached himself to his partner with a sigh of relief, wriggling until he was satisfied that the warmth of Doyle was soaking into him in as many places as possible. Then he relaxed, and stopped shivering.

Doyle looked down at the dark hair beneath his chin, felt Bodie's arms wrapped around him, an ironic thread of laughter running through his mind. Bodie and Doyle, 3.7 and 4.5, Cowley's rough-tough ace team who put the wind up the heaviest of heavies - lying in bed, cuddling. No point in deluding himself, they were cuddling. Even though his head was painful and his inflamed throat hurt him, he allowed himself a little chuckle, into Bodie's apple-scented hair.

It disturbed Bodie, who, warm and comforted, had been drifting in to sleep. He dozily felt an immense, grateful relief for the warm presence holding him, keeping the chills at bay. He reached up one drowsy hand, stroked the smooth skin just beside Doyle's mouth with his thumb. "Love you," he mumbled.

"What did you say?" asked Doyle, incredulous, and more awake.

The other man sighed, warm breath on Doyle's throat. "I love you."

Doyle grinned to himself. Bodie was just going to love hearing about this in the morning, wasn't he? Bless him, though. A twinge of rueful tenderness went through Doyle. He hugged Bodie even tighter.

"Yeah, mate; love you too."

He fell asleep smiling.

He awoke to trouble. Everything was wrong. His head ached, his mouth was dry and sticky, his throat and chest hurt. He moved, restless, and his arms and legs grumbled more discomfort at him. He felt sick. For a second, he panicked: he had to get up, it was time for work, had to get up...and then the mound beside him in the bed stirred and said something incoherent, and Doyle woke up properly.

"Bodie..." he said, and his voice came out as a croak.

"Mmm."

"I don't feel - "

"That's flu for you, sunshine." Bodie sounded odd too, hoarse and strange.

"Oh god," croaked Doyle with feeling, and he turned and thumped his pillow with a weirdly feeble fist.

Bodie gave a wheezy chuckle, then coughed. "Did you think it was gonna be all fun and games?"

"Yeah," panted Doyle over the rising nausea. "Day or two in bed - nice and' warm - watch Match of the Day, that's what I - "

The wave of sickness caught him by surprise, his mouth filling urgently with salty saliva - oh christ, too late - He sat up, swallowing hard, but it didn't do any good.

Bodie, watching his mate's expression, had moved fast despite his inclined-to-be-sluggish limbs. He was there with a towel, which had been the first and only thing to hand, and he supported Doyle over it with a hand beneath his armpit as his whitefaced partner gasped and vomited.

Then he took the towel into the bathroom, left it under a cold running tap in the bath, and returned to mop Doyle's still-trembling mouth and chin with another damp towel. "Wanna drink?" he asked, calm and practical. Doyle nodded. He was shivering, his eyes closed. Bodie punched the rumpled pillow behind him back into shape, pushed him back against it, not ungently, and pulled the covers up to keep him warm. Then he went off to get some fresh water and a bucket, just in case.

Doyle took the glass from his hand, drank thirstily. "Thanks," was all he said.

Bodie, feeling like hell, decided it would be better to do what he had to do now he was already up, rather than face it all over again. So he went to shower and shave, pulling on a clean shirt and one of Doyle's numerous dressing gowns. He checked the locks on the door, rinsed the mugs of the night before and got a jug of fresh water before he finally got to bed, sinking into it with a sigh of relief. Christ, he'd only been awake half an hour and already he felt shot-out. He cast a glance over at Doyle. His partner was still pale-faced, but his eyes were open, staring bleakly ahead.

"All right?"

"Yeah."

Doyle's silence after that spoke volumes. He looked decidedly fragile, both in health and mood. Bodie felt a sudden ache for him as he sniffed miserably and gave a little husky cough. "Told you it wasn't all fun," Bodie commented, and reached to brush the sweat-damp curls aside with a brusque hand, peering concernedly into the cloudy green eyes. "You get out now and shower. You'll feel better after that."

"Yeah? Did you?" But he complied and it was true; he felt, if not more human, at least more refreshed, in clean pyjamas, even managing to stay upright long enough to make a pot of coffee. He carried it into the bedroom and surveyed the tangled bedding. "I think we ought to make the bed."

Bodie groaned, his head turning to one side. "Look, mate," said Doyle, trying to be reasonable though he felt tired and grumpy. "You've been sweating in there all night. What's the point of us gettin' all clean and then going back in that pit?"

"Feels all right," muttered Bodie. "Come in for now, you look terrible. We'll change it this afternoon before we get settled down for the night; that suit you?"

Doyle agreed, too weary to press the point. He straightened out the sheets and toppled into bed. He poured some coffee and passed it over, noting that Bodie looked terrible too; his eyes were heavy lidded and red-rimmed, his skin paler, and he looked more listless and apathetic than Doyle had ever seen him.

"Aspirins." He nudged him.

"Don't help." But he took them just the same, swallowed down the coffee and then lay down, pulling the covers over his shoulders.

"Not going to sleep again, are you?" said Doyle, watching him. "Got the newspaper here, you can have a look at the sport." He began to detach the pages but Bodie didn't move.

"Nah, s'okay."

"What's the matter?" Doyle leant over him, concerned. He put his hand on Bodie's forehead but Bodie pushed it off irritably.

"Don't keep mauling me around."

"Oh, sorry," sniffed Doyle, moving away, annoyed at the reception of his genuine desire to help.

Bodie rolled over to face him in one quick movement. "Sorry," he countered. He put out a hand and mock-punched Doyle's cheek.

"Well, 'mauling me around'," mocked Doyle. "That's rich, after you in the night."

"I said I was sorry." Bodie lowered his eyes, sucked in a breath, his mouth set into a pose Doyle knew well.

"Okay, okay." He lay back against the pillows, opened the paper once more and lost himself in the leader.

Beside him, Bodie closed heavy eyes and slept: but it was a fitful, restless sleep. He twitched and muttered, his fingers moving spasmodically in the sheet, his head tossing from side to side, feet kicking. After a while Doyle couldn't concentrate on the newspaper any more; he switched on the bedside radio, low, and lay back. His head was beginning to ache again and he still felt vaguely queasy. He felt very sorry for himself and wallowed in it for a while. His mouth was permanently dry, so he drank some more orange juice but it was raw on his inflamed throat and it hurt when he swallowed. He reached for a book, couldn't concentrate, threw it aside and looked down at his sleeping partner. Christ, Bodie looked ill. His dark hair was damply curling; Doyle touched it idly and realised with a shock that it was wet with sweat; beads of it running over his temples and into his screwed up eyes. Urgently, Doyle pulled away the covers. Bodie's shirt was darkly clinging to him in patches. He reached out and touched it - soaked. The bed beneath him was wet too, shiny puddles on the crisp mercerised material.

It couldn't be normal, to sweat that much. A moment of tenuous panic hit Doyle; what if Bodie had something worse, much worse? He felt ill, but not ill enough to sleep all morning and all night, and he wasn't sweating like this. He reached out to grip the hot, damp cotton of Bodie's shoulder, suddenly desperate to have Bodie awake.

"Bodie."

Slowly, long, dark lashes wavered, lifted to reveal sleepy, dark-blue eyes.

"You all right?" Doyle asked, his voice rough with concern.

Startlingly, Bodie coughed, a harsh noise; he pushed himself up off the bed with both palms until the spasm ended. Then he sank down again and just lay still for a moment. He looked horribly vulnerable to Doyle, who was not used to thinking of Bodie as vulnerable. "Bodie?" he asked again. He'd have to call a doctor.

Bodie became aware of the discomfort of the cool, wet shirt clinging to him, the damp sheets, and his eyelids pressed down for a moment in weary irritation. "Yeah, I'm okay," he said in answer to Doyle, and began to pull himself up.

"Where you going?"

"Where d'you think?" Bodie picked up the dressing-gown he'd borrowed before and disappeared into the bathroom. The sound of running water followed. Doyle got out of bed and began to strip the soaked sheets. By the time he'd finished that and was laying on fresh ones from the airing cupboard he felt exhausted. His head was beginning to pound sickeningly as he tucked in the sides precisely. He liked a well-made bed.

"I'd've done that."

He looked up. Bodie, wearing his dressing-gown, which rather suited him, Doyle decided, bent to tuck in his side.

"You're in no fit state to do anything. Get in, I'll finish," said Doyle, and then he swore, viciously. "This is all we needed!"

Bodie gave him a little, tired smile. "Soon be over, sunshine. You get in. You look all washed up."

"Feel it," muttered Doyle. His head was killing him; he was having to take short, careful breaths to avoid making it worse. He sank between the cool sheets without protest and let Bodie finish off, pressing a hand to his aching temples, trying to ease the pain.

A heavy weight sank down beside his legs. "What's up?" A low murmur.

"Headache."

"Shall I rub it for you?"

"Don't be filthy," said Doyle with grim, muffled humour.

Bodie didn't comment. Strong hands took his shoulders, eased him over; a warm palm smelling faintly of Doyle's soap descended gently on his throbbing brow. Even the weight of it helped, and Bodie began to ease the knotted muscles at the back of his neck with the other hand. The pain didn't magically go, but it subsided to manageable levels beneath the other, more pleasurable sensations in the area, competing for the attention of his nerves. He felt himself relax, and let Bodie do what he would.

Bodie changed the pattern of his movements, began to stroke his temples with slow, practised sweeps of his thumbs. "Help any?"

"Yeah. Don't stop." He was pricked with alarm, that Bodie might stop and let the pain come back, and his eyes flew open.

"Wasn't going to," Bodie assured him, and he closed Doyle's eyes with thumb and forefinger trailing lightly downwards. "Keep 'em shut, sunshine. Just relax."

He kept his hands moving gently over his partner's face and neck, rubbing his fingers on his scalp through the mass of soft hair. Doyle decided, rather dreamily, that he was enjoying this: the light tingle of sensitive stimulated skin seeming to drew out the pain, release it into nothingness...

He realised with a jolt that he was falling asleep and he opened his eyes wide, to see Bodie looking down at him, the smooth, hard face the one he knew better than any other, the days of Bodie at his side merging effortlessly into years. He reached up to still Bodie's hand. "Better stop. You're not fit yourself. Don't want you passing out on me."

Bodie took his hands away. "Any better?"

"Yeah. Thanks." It was brief, but he meant it, and the recollection of the morning came into his mind, himself being sick, Bodie dealing with it with no fuss and no comment. He chuckled. "The things you do for me..."

Bodie's face was quite unreadable, his voice devoid of emotion as he said, "I'd do anything for you."

Doyle stared. "Oh yeah?" He grinned, sure that Bodie was sending him up, but Bodie wasn't smiling and his own grin faded quickly.

"Yeah." Bodie turned away, rearranging his pillow.

Doyle, flat on his back, examined this surprising idea.

"Why?"

"Dunno. Just would."

Doyle decided not to press it. "Yeah, well, we been mates a long time," was his only comment. Bodie seemed to be settling down again. Doyle thumped him on the shoulder. "Oi. Don't go to sleep. Some company you turn out to be. You've been asleep about nine hours out of ten since you got 'ere."

"Yeah. Well, nothing about the way I feel when I wake up persuades me it's such a bad idea. C'mon. Take a nap. We can wake up for Grandstand; there's boxing on. Need lots of sleep, with flu."

Bodie had a point there. The more time one could manage asleep and thus oblivious to the symptoms, the better. Doyle's head still gently rang with the echoes of pain, and it was all hell down his throat. He was also developing a runny nose.

He blew it on a tissue before sliding down in the bed. Outside, the rain beat on the window, the wind blew. It was a grey, dismal day out there, but he, Ray Doyle, was warm and snug and safe. Safe and protected... He shut his eyes. This was better than being out in that cold, driving rain, the high wind cutting through your clothes. A little tingly shiver ran through him at the thought of it and he moved closer to Bodie, who accepted him sleepily, shifting so their bodies curved comfortably together. But Doyle didn't go straight off to sleep; he just lay there, drowsily relaxing for a while.

Bodie was a warm and solid presence close against him, familiar, trusted - 'do anything for you'...the words floated into his mind and he smiled - idiot - and put his arm over Bodie's side, letting himself drift, on pleasurable sensations...

...Almost too pleasurable - no, nothing could be too pleasurable, but this was strange; he felt a terrible gathering tide of sweetness, deep inside, and it was happening very fast. It made him need to push, press himself forward mindlessly against the answering heat and hardness - too late to stop - and as he did so, muscles taut and straining, he was coming, in gentle, throbbing bursts of warm honey and sweet fire...

He lay there, gasping and dazed. Against him Bodie shifted, sighing, then he moved his hands from Doyle's hips to slide behind him and hold him reassuringly close. Oh, my god, I've come all over Bodie...

Not just cuddling, thought Doyle in hazy amazement, very conscious of the warm stickiness inside his pyjamas, the other, external moisture on his belly beginning to seep through onto his skin; not just cuddling...making love...

Why worry?

No thunderbolts; no fist in his face. And he was too sleepy and relaxed to move. His head in the warm curve of Bodie's neck and shoulder, he fell asleep.

When he awoke, it was to the sound of the TV. He opened sticky, groggy eyes and found himself alone; horses were galloping endlessly along the screen with jockeys crouched grimly on their necks. He groaned and put a hand over his eyes, then rolled wearily out of bed. 4.30. He felt lightheaded and nauseous again; nothing to eat since last night's milk and he'd probably lost that this morning anyway.

He walked on shaky legs to the kitchen, surveying Bodie from the doorway. Bodie looked just the same - and why shouldn't he? Doyle asked himself. Nevertheless, he felt awkward, almost shy. Then Bodie turned and saw him. He was unsmiling, but not cold as he said, "Making tea. Want some?"

"Yeah."

"Missed the boxing." Bodie turned back to the cooker. "Football results in a few minutes. Fancy anything to eat?"

"Yeah, I feel empty," Doyle announced, and went to the fridge. He checked over the shelves; cheese, butter, eggs. From nowhere, a vision of the runny globular white of an egg swimming in a greasy pool of warm butter assailed him and he closed his eyes, feeling -

A low voice at his side, "You okay?"

"Feel sick. It'll go off," he said between gritted teeth.

Bodie, worried and studying him, said absently, "Go on like this and I'll begin to think you're pregnant."

It was intended lightly, but it fell between them like a plate of blancmange. Doyle stared at the carpet, his hand still pressed to his stomach. Had it really happened? He glanced down quickly at the front of his pyjamas, then he risked looking at Bodie. Unbelievably, he saw the faint pinkness of a flush staining the smooth skin, and Bodie did not meet his eyes.

Doyle made a decision. Whatever happened, and he didn't let himself think about what had - and what might - they were mates, good friends, and very close; nothing must be allowed to spoil that closeness, because he couldn't afford to lose it.

"Nah," he said deliberately, "pregnant, no way. It takes more than that, you know." And was rewarded by an abashed, relieved grin curling Bodie's lips.

"Cup of tea. Fix you up all right. And a biscuit."

"Fine," said Doyle, moving away. "You have whatever you want, okay?" Not that he needed to say it - Bodie was no stranger to his kitchen and not at all bashful about helping himself.

"Can't eat," said Bodie, making a face.

Doyle snorted. "Never thought the day would come I'd hear you say that."

He showered - again - and found fresh pyjamas - the second pair that day, and got back into bed, smoothing it over first, though it was scarcely rumpled; this time they must have slept deep and peaceful. He watched the teleprinter chattering out the football results. Bodie came in with the tea.

"My team win? Silly question," he answered himself as he saw Doyle's face. "'Course they did. How many?"

"Six," said Doyle, deadpan, and let Bodie's delighted smile begin. Then, "The other five were sent off," he added, chuckling, as Bodie threw a packet of Rich Tea at him.

When the sports programme ended, Bodie picked up the newspaper he'd eschewed that morning while Doyle struggled on with a Life of Byron he'd picked up in the library the previous week. It was too deep for his state of mind, however, and he glanced over at Bodie to see him throw the paper aside and lie back, an arm flung over his eyes.

"You okay?"

"Yeah."

Dark, curled hair, pale skin, faint blue shadows under the lie of his long, dark lashes, white knuckled fists -

"You're not," said Doyle with conviction. Bodie coughed; he sounded hoarse and chesty. "I reckon I'd better call in a doctor," he said decisively.

"Don't fuss, Doyle. For god's sake."

Bodie sounded exhausted, and stroppy. Even Doyle, who was on the receiving end of the major part of Bodie's liking and respect, knew better than to tangle with the unpredictable ex-SAS trooper when he turned stroppy.

On the other hand, that meant nothing if Bodie was really ill.

"Shove it, mate," he snapped, throwing back the covers. "If you've got something nasty, Cowley'd never forgive me if you're a hospital case by Monday and I'd just sat back and watched."

Bodie's hand shot out and closed on his wrist. His eyes snapped open, deep, sharp blue, and fixed on Doyle. He was about to turn nasty, very nasty indeed. Doyle's own expression chilled over, ready for the fight.

Then Bodie's face changed; he dropped Doyle's wrist and looked away. "Don't," he said wearily.

"Don't what?"

"Don't let's fight. I don't need a doctor. Hate 'em. I've had this before, just the same. Tomorrow I'll be a new person."

"You've had it just the same?" demanded Doyle suspiciously.

"Yeah."

"Then why don't I feel as rough as you?"

"You probably do. I just look worse."

Doyle was partly reassured. "You are a sight, that's for sure," he asserted. "Like a bloody lily, wiltin' all over the place. If your bird walked in here now she'd change her mind."

Bodie had a clogged nose, chapped lips, and was emitting harsh, chesty coughs every few minutes. It was true, thought Doyle, watching him, only your partner could love you now, mate...

...He'd spent years in the man's company, learning first to trust him then to like him, gradually realising that it was more than that; they were quite simply very compatible, their likenesses and differences fitted together well, and of course they loved each other. Not in the way they loved women, the way Doyle had loved Ann, but he did love Bodie. It wasn't a surprising thought, but it was a new one.

"Ray," muttered the object of his speculation, head on his pillow.

"Yeah?" he said softly, touched with a new gentleness.

"Let's go to sleep."

"You've slept all day, mate. You'll never sleep tonight if you go off again now."

Bodie didn't answer, but Doyle felt the sudden withdrawal, the off-note. He knew, with sudden clarity, what Bodie wanted and couldn't ask for.

"Okay," he capitulated, sliding down in the bed and reaching for the light switch. "Do feel like gettin' my head down, come to think of it."

It was dark outside now; he was once more conscious of the rain pattering down on the roof, and the warmth and the enclosed security within. Bodie hadn't said anything, was a foot away. Waiting...?

Doyle reached out, slid his arms around Bodie and snuggled against him, from chest to thigh. "This is what you want, isn't it?" he murmured, low and amused and vastly protective. Bodie - hard, strong Bodie - needed to be cuddled when he was feeling low.

He liked it, too.

He hadn't expected to sleep, and he just lay there quietly, enjoying the feeling of returning well-being. Bodie was making little chokes and grunts as he dozed, one hand clutching convulsively at Doyle's shoulder, and he had buried his face into Doyle's throat. Because of the blocked nose, he was breathing through his mouth, and Doyle felt a trickle of wetness on his neck. Bodie was dribbling. Like nursing a big bloody baby, he thought in amused exasperation, and shunted Bodie's weight onto his right arm so he could reach for a tissue and dry himself off. He squinted down at Bodie and dabbed his mouth, too, then he chucked the tissue aside and lay back down. He still didn't feel remotely sleepy.

After a while he eased himself away from his somnolent partner and sat up, switching on the bedside light. He kept one hand on Bodie's shoulder, pressing lightly when Bodie stirred and muttered, rubbing him gently until he went quiet. He read, turning pages one-handed, and drank a lot of orange juice and water. He thought he was definitely beginning to feel rather better, though he still lacked energy. They symptoms were definitely receding. Thank god... Even a day off work wasn't worth this misery going on any longer than it had to. Bodie, though...

He looked down again, at the sleeping, well-known figure lying beside him. Good job he's here where I can keep an eye on him. Wouldn't trust anyone else to look after him properly - those hard bitches he picks up, bet they believe all there is to Bodie is the image he gives out - tough and hard and brutish; they don't see, thought Doyle, who knew him, what a softy he is deep down.

Unexpectedly, Bodie's curly, dark lashes wavered, his eyes darting from side to side; he didn't seem to know where he was. Doyle squeezed his shoulder, the one he'd never let go of since Bodie fell asleep an hour ago, and Bodie flinched like a startled horse, his whole body going rigid.

"Hey, whoa there, mate. Where'd you think you were, back trenching in the bloody SAS?"

Bodie gave a sneeze, then another, and groped to sit up, one hand blindly going out. Discerning the need, Doyle stuffed a tissue into it. "I'm gonna get you a nice hot drink," he said, swinging his legs out of bed.

Through a noseful of tissue, Bodie had just enough spirit left to wheeze, "Playing nurses and doctors now, are we?"

Doyle said, without turning, "Yeah, why not. You take your clothes off and I'll warm me hands." And grinned to himself with sudden glee as he envisioned the staggered expression behind him.

Sadly, his vegetable rack proved to be lacking a lemon. There were oranges though, and he squeezed several, adding sugar and hot water. He put together a speedy sandwich, too, and carried the tray back to the bedroom. Bodie had put the TV on, was at least sitting up, and was watching a Western with a lacklustre eye. He took the glass Doyle handed to him with a succinct "Vitamin C," and looked at it.

"How're you feeling?"

"I'll survive."

"Sandwich." Doyle indicated the plate.

"What's in 'em?"

"Marmite. Keep your strength up."

Bodie groaned. "Back to the nursery..." But he ate one, and then another and drank his orange juice while Doyle tidied up. When Bodie was done eating and drinking, Doyle sat on the edge rubbing his hands together, grinning evilly. Bodie watched him with disdainful irritation. "Convalescing with you is about as restful as a day springing mines, mate. What are you doing?" "Playing doctors," Doyle reminded him. "Loved it, when I was a kid." He reached out and pulled gingerly at the bottom of the polo-neck sweater the other man was wearing.

Bodie grabbed his hand, threw it off. "Cut it out," he snapped, not amused.

"Look," said Doyle, suddenly serious. "I just genuinely think I ought to look you over, okay?"

"What the hell for?" Bodie stared, resisting Doyle's attempts to pull up his sweater.

Doyle stopped trying, resting his hands there lightly. "You were in a chemical lab yesterday, remember? And you've had this worse than me. Maybe you picked something up. You might have a rash. C'mon mate, I did me CI5 first-aid course, same as you."

Bodie made a face of absolute, screwed-up irritation. "All those vitamins turned your brain or something?"

"Just let me look," Doyle winked at Bodie's wavering resolution. "You're tempted, aren't you?"

And before Bodie could further protest, he had whisked the sweater up and was examining his chest intently. Despite the light approach, he was quite serious about this. Unhealthy places, experimentation labs. There was a mark near Bodie's right nipple: he made an exclamation and leant to examine it closer. Bodie, alarmed, sat up and peered at it. Then:

"Freckle," he announced laconically, and lay back again, meeting Doyle's relieved eye, amused. "Not plague this time, Doyle..."

"A freckle?" said Doyle, half disappointed. He swept his eye over the rest of Bodie and saw nothing else out of place.

"All right, Dr. Doyle? Can I cover up now?"

But Doyle wasn't listening; he had gone, possibly, slightly mad. He was watching the rise and fall of Bodie's chest, and wondering what would happen if -

With a fingertip, he traced the full outline of Bodie's right nipple. It had an interesting result; flesh rising and hardening to his touch. He fingered it gently, absorbed, and then he trailed his hand across to the other.

Bodie caught it. "Don't."

Doyle felt strange; the lightheadedness, the tingle of air on his suddenly sensitive skin, the tiny hairs pricking up all over him not entirely due to the shivery effect of flu. What the hell was he doing? Drowsy cuddles, unforeseen, unspoken pleasures snatched half-aware on the brink of sleep were one thing. What he had been about to do was something else again, and quite impossible, quite mad... Bodie was watching him, wary and cautious, completely unreadable.

Doyle took his hand way without comment. He picked up his book. Beside him Bodie coughed and reached for a drink. Doyle stared unseeingly at the printed pages for several moments, then threw the book aside and tried to concentrate on the Western, idly picking up a Rubik's cube he'd been given and twiddling it without looking as he watched the screen.

Bodie nudged him "Fancy that? For us?"

The cool, leather-chapped hero flashed a silver pistol from his hip, unleashed a single bullet with a twirl of his fingers.

As Bodie had meant him to be, his partner was diverted. "You an' me? Cowley's cowboys?" "Yeah - roamin' the range." Bodie chuckled and assumed a mean, cowboy's stare. "Howdy, pardner..."

"Be fun," Doyle decided. "Get saddlesore, though."

"Nah, you develop tough, leathery buttocks in a matter of weeks," Bodie assured him.

"Oh, terrific."

The statutory female appeared, a freshfaced girl with a ponytail, whom the hero hugged one-handed to his manly bosom, staring over her head to the mighty, rolling plains. Bodie made a face. "Dunno, though, Doyle. Maybe it wouldn't suit us after all. Look at the women. Gingham turns me right off."

"Yeah?" sympathised Doyle, concentrating on his cube.

"Yeah."

"And what turns you on?" He lifted his eyes unexpectedly, because he wanted to catch the look on Bodie's face, suppressing an inner smile.

"Use your imagination," muttered Bodie curtly; Doyle had taken him by surprise. "The usual things."

Doyle smiled. A promising line of white squares appeared on one face of the cube; he felt sure he was close to cracking it. "Ah, c'mon. You can do better than that. What gets you going, Bodie?"

It wasn't the first time they'd talked about sex; not by a long way. Telling each other larger-than-life stories to amuse, or impress, those conversations always left Doyle vaguely restless. As he waited for Bodie to answer, his hands, working the puzzle, arrested suddenly as another memory came to him - one deep-buried because he'd never wanted, never dared to take it out of the dark recess of fantasy and examine it more closely; now it came to him with blindly clarity.

It was a memory of Bodie; his face, his hands and mouth and strong-muscled body, electric with arousal; not as Doyle had ever seen it in reality, but as he had imagined it, some nights in bed with a girl - or alone...after some uninhibited sexual backchat with the man such as he was trying to instigate now; imagined it, seen it in his mind, used the illicit fantasy to fire himself on, make himself feel good...dark, forbidden fire...

And forgot it after. Until now. Bodie was peering at him closely. "You've gone red," he accused, cheerfully. "Don't think I had better tell you, mate. Wouldn't want to embarrass you, Raymond, my son."

Doyle looked over at him. Bodie was grinning smugly; he'd got himself off the hook and embarrassed Doyle all at one go, though he wasn't quite sure how he'd managed it.

How would he take it, Doyle wondered, if I told him...?

Decision recklessly made, he looked Bodie straight in the eye and said deliberately, "I have sexual fantasies about you. Sometimes."

Bodie's eyes widened, then fell into the usual bored droop as he struggled to conceal the staggering impact Doyle's quiet challenge had had. He didn't let a muscle of his face quiver as he said, "Straight up?"

Doyle nodded, his green eyes very intense as he watched Bodie. "Very straight up," he emphasised.

Bodie took a deep breath, striving for normality. He looked into candid, wide eyes. "Shouldn't worry about it if I were you. The human mind - "

"Oh, I wasn't worrying," Doyle assured him. "Never consciously thought about it before."

Bodie shot him a curious look. "So why now?"

To Doyle, it was obvious 'why now'. Had Bodie forgotten, or genuinely been asleep? But he remembered the faint flush, Bodie's awkwardness in the kitchen earlier, and knew that Bodie had not forgotten. Apparently then, in Bodie's book they weren't going to talk about it, must pretend it never happened... If that's what he wants...

So he shrugged. "No reason. Forget it. Fancy a game of Scrabble?"

Bodie gathered his own tattered nerves. "Bath first. Baths are good, with flu. Relaxes the joints." He got out of bed.

Baths, bullshit. You just want to get away from me, thought Doyle, watching him. He repressed a sigh. He didn't really know what he wanted himself. And he was beginning to feel tired, and achy again. When Bodie left the bathroom he took it himself, languishing in warm, scented water until it grew cool; then he made supper - porridge - for himself and his partner. They watched the football, and read, mostly in silence, each lost in his own thoughts.

Doyle couldn't get his earlier musings out of his head. He berated himself, telling himself he was crazy, that he was thinking along dangerous lines. Suppose he did get Bodie going, what then? Playing with fire, to invite Bodie to unleash all that burning inner sensuality on him. Leave it to his women, mate; better equipped to deal with it. You'd be asking for trouble...

But Bodie had said 'I love you'. Half-asleep he might have been, but he had meant it, Doyle knew his Bodie well enough for that. Imagine Bodie, then, loving him... holding him close and loving him, like this afternoon... A shiver of anticipation ran hopefully through him; yes, maybe later tonight, when they'd settled down, maybe they would let it happen again -

Bodie glanced over, saw Doyle's troubled face as he propped himself on one elbow, staring at him. "What's up?" he asked, puzzled.

- On the other hand, why wait? -

He didn't answer Bodie; just reached out one-handed and began to slip loose the buttons of Bodie's shirt. "What the hell - ?" Bodie started to ask, watching his partner with a kind of stupefaction, but Doyle silenced him with a look. Come on, Bodie, don't play the innocent... As he laid bare Bodie's chest, for the second time that evening, the look of bewilderment on the dark man's face changed, into dawning understanding. Doyle didn't give him a chance to react.

He surveyed the smooth-planed chest he'd examined earlier, and did what he had wanted to do then: dropped his head to one nipple and tasted the smooth nub of skin with the point of his tongue. As before, the response was immediate and exciting: lazily, the tiny bud gathered itself into a hard puckered peak of arousal as Doyle licked it lightly, over and over.

Beneath him, stunned and helpless, Bodie lay still, his hands coming up to Doyle's shoulders, but he made no move to pull away, letting the small shocks of pleasure reach him where they would. He glanced down, saw the full mouth widen, fastening on the wonderfully, terribly sensitive area, the long lashes lying luxuriously on the smooth cheek of his partner; and a little sound escaped him. He leant over, dislodging Doyle's lips, and put out the light.

Doyle was temporarily fazed by the sudden darkness, but there were reassuring strong arms there to gather him close, pull his head down again. Last chance to back out... Instead, his searching, hungry mouth found smooth skin, moved softly over it, until he came to the moist roughness once more and fixed on it, nursing at Bodie with lips and tongue, his cheek moving against Bodie's chest.

Bodie groaned - too much, or not enough - and rolled over, pushing Doyle onto his back and leaning over him, palms either side of his partner's shoulders, looking down at the shadowed face, waiting, asking...

But there were no more doubts. Doyle caught him, and pulled him down with desperate strength, holding Bodie tight on top of him, all along the length of his own warm, needing body, pressing the other man into himself with hard fingers. Until Bodie took over and thrust himself urgently against the smaller man beneath, careful even in the egocentricity of arousal not to hurt him, to be gentle.

Better than fantasy, Doyle thought dazedly, responding to the slow thrust and taut-held trembling - Bodie's, or his own? He didn't know, didn't care, but he was trapped inside warm, damp cotton and couldn't find freedom. Drowning in sensation, he felt hot, the flush of sensual heat crowding his senses to the limit, and he arched upwards on a gasp, pressing the other man down fiercely at the same time, grinding himself against the hardness there with near desperation. He badly needed to feel skin against skin, wildly and wantonly to rip off the hampering clothing and rub himself thoroughly into warm, hard/soft flesh; but it was already too late, as Bodie's questing tongue found his ear and flickered inside, the glorious sensations peaking into overload, too fast... Hands desperately gripping, digging into Bodie's buttocks, he was lifting and coming, warm, involuntary pulses of delightful, extreme pleasure leaving him as the glow spread through every part of him, and he was flushed, and damp everywhere as they faded and passed... Beautiful. Oh, beautiful...

He came slowly back to awareness, breathing slowing. Bodie was still, resting on him heavily, heart thundering against Doyle's chest. Left him behind, Doyle realised; then ruefully: I'd've left anyone behind, I went up so fast...

He was hot, and sweaty, and suddenly crushed by Bodie's weight. He pushed him off, and rolled on his side to face him. Squinting in the darkness, he could just make out that Bodie's eyes were closed. For a moment, Doyle hesitated, not knowing what -

Bodie reached out, solemn, unhurried; he searched for and took Doyle's hand in his, squeezed it once. Then he pulled it toward him and placed it on himself, stroking the curled fingers gently before he let him go; undemanding, patient. Doyle, surprised, didn't move for a moment, feeling his hand cool on Bodie's heat.

It seemed a far more intimate touch than had so far passed between them. No going back. If we do this - there'd be no forgetting, no passing this off lightly as a spur of the moment, crazy thing easily put behind them.

But even as he thought it, his wayward hand was moving on Bodie, intrigued despite rationality with the warm, expectant contours of the other man's aroused body. Like - but different, and Bodie, as clearly as if he had spoken aloud, had asked him to do this. He cast caution and tomorrow to the winds, bringing his other hand up to join the first in its exploration of Bodie, cupping him and sliding the edges of his palms around him in a swift, upward movement, pressing the other man's hardness between them...

The effect was immediate, and not entirely unexpected - after all, this was what he'd been trying to bring about, wasn't it? - so he did not move away when Bodie moaned on an indrawn note, and thrust himself into Doyle's hands, entrusting him with all his vulnerability; and for the second time Ray Doyle felt the spurt and pulse of Bodie's coming falling like rain on his chest and belly.

They lay very close, face to face, Bodie's erratic breathing gradually slowing, Doyle's heart still pounding away as he tried to deal with all the turbulent emotions that were rushing him from everywhere. Someone had to say something.

He said, into Bodie's ear, "Wish we didn't both keep coming over my pyjamas. 'M running out of fresh ones."

He felt Bodie's breathing halt, and a moment of tension hit him too - however were they going to cope with this?

The Bodie said softly, against his face, "Wish you didn't have 'em on. I'd've liked to - touch you - " And everything was all right after all as Bodie's hands slid underneath the stretchy cotton to stroke him, run up his sides, warm touch on warm skin in one too-brief caress.

A promise? A valediction?

They fell asleep, the smaller man cuddled into the curve of Bodie's arm, Bodie's lips in his hair; at peace with each other and the world.

When Doyle awoke, he felt good. Instantly wide awake; no hangover, no desire to groan, shut his eyes and burrow down again for a few snatched, precious minutes. He sat up and took stock.

No Bodie. And it was after ten o'clock, he noted with surprise. The Sunday paper was at the foot of the bed, untouched. He felt much better, the sore throat that had plagued him almost gone, his head clear. There was a tantalising smell floating around, and he wrinkled his nostrils, his stomach giving a little, anticipatory twinge. He was ravenous.

Bodie, bathrobed, poked his head around the door. "Sleeping Beauty awakes," he commented drily, adding, "Breakfast's ready."

Doyle tucked into bacon, eggs, half a sausage - the other half was on Bodie's plate, meticulously shared - toast, jam and coffee. It was good. "I think I'll marry you," he announced around a mouthful.

Bodie said, "Already spoken for," and as Doyle, arrested, stared at him, he elaborated with a faint shrug, "To the job..."

Doyle acknowledged it, slowly, with a tinge of sadness. That was the way it was. For both of them.

Bodie showered first, and emerged fully dressed. Doyle lounged on the bed, still in his pyjamas, reading the newspaper. He glanced up at Bodie and his eyes widened. "Where you off to?"

"Home."

There was a silence. "Why?" was all Doyle could think of to say. He felt winded, as if Bodie had given him an unexpected punch, for real.

Bodie's reply was brusque and to the point. "Don't live here, do I? Gotta go sometime."

Doyle turned cool to match it. "Up to you." The silence lengthened as Bodie went around the room collecting his things and stuffing them into his bag. Doyle broke it at last, exasperated and worried. "I thought you were staying the weekend."

"Have done, haven't I? Fri to Sun, inc."

"Yeah, but I thought... We could go in to work tomorrow from here. What's the point of you going home now?"

"Oh, c'mon, Doyle," said Bodie impatiently. "Use your head. I haven't any of my things here; don't suppose it'd go down well with Cowley if I turned up in a shirt I slept in. I'll have to go home for a change of clothes and it's hardly worth coming back. That all right with you, is it?" he said with exaggerated enquiry.

Doyle's comfortable little fantasy of the cosy day remaining, just him and Bodie away from the world in easy companionship - which had been beginning to lace itself with unconscious anticipation of something more - burst and vanished, leaving only coldness.

"Suit yourself, mate. I don't own you. Don't want to," he added as an afterthought in case Bodie should think he was fishing; and then he buried himself in the colour supplement. Bodie frowned, watching him, then he went to the livingroom to pick up his jacket. Doyle didn't stir, nor did he look up from the bed. Bodie, car keys in hand, reappeared at the bedroom door.

"You all right to be left? Feeling all right, are you?"

"On top of the world, compared with yesterday," he answered briefly, flicking over a page.

Bodie lingered. "Sure?"

"Yeah." Then he snapped, looking up, "For godsake, go, if you're going. Just sod off out of here, will you?"

And all the puzzled hurt he felt was too starkly revealed, brought out into the open. He looked down again, angrily scanning unseen pages, willing Bodie to go. He'd had his fun, now he was walking out. Well, that was pretty typical, for Bodie. Par for the course. And he, Doyle, had made a right bloody fool of himself.

Bodie watched him, not knowing what to do or say, seeing the disconsolate, downcast head, the rigid lines of anger tensing the sprawled form. He was pushing it a bit. Any minute now Doyle would be releasing that anger in one of his violent outbursts, and Bodie didn't want to fight with him. No, he wanted...

Making a decision, he dropped his bag, held out an arm. "Ray - c'mere a minute."

"Wha'for?" growled Doyle, looking up, suspicious.

"Just come here," Bodie repeated, but Doyle didn't move. So Bodie crossed the room and dropped beside the bed, putting one hand on his partner's shoulder, shaking him a little until Doyle grudgingly met his eyes.

"Flu's over, sunshine," he told him, gently.

"Yeah." Doyle was scowling, green eyes narrowed feline slits.

Bodie cupped his face in the other hand, eyes on the full mouth. I never even kissed him... "Wasn't all bad - was it?" he murmured.

And Doyle, startled, read in Bodie's unshielded blue eyes the same confusion, the same ambivalent feelings towards what had happened between them, saw that Bodie knew no more than he did whether it would change things for better or worse, and that there was no arrogance, no triumph in the little, tentative smile curving Bodie's lips. A rueful smile tugged at his own mouth.

"No, not all bad," he conceded.

"Maybe we'll get it again some day."

"Maybe."

Bodie hesitated, then leant forward and kissed him, carefully, just beside his mouth. "I won't forget," he whispered against his cheek; and then he was gone.

Doyle heard the door slamming, and a little later the sound of a car starting up. He didn't move.

He was left alone with the Sunday papers, the imprint of Bodie's gentle mouth on his cheek, and a handful of memories and unsteady longings.

Flu was over. Time to resume normal function.

-- THE END --