Hyperion to a Satyr


Part One


Unusual story from me: in this one, it's Bodie who calls the shots. About time, some said.

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The man was a predator, keen-eyed: he moved through the jungles of city or tropic with equal sureness, taking what he wanted. He always got away with it; born under an unblighted star he had beauty to match his cunning.

A new job brought with it a new challenge, one with greenwood eyes and a will very nearly as strong as his own; and he did not even guess that here lay the flaw in his destiny.



They were driving a souped-up Ford that week. Nippy, but battered. Doyle found it wryly amusing: the first encounter with George Cowley might extinguish the notion of CI5 as some kind of glamorous secret service, fast cars, fast guns, fast women; but the reality of day-to-day working rubbed it in with a vengeance.

The plastic interior of the car stank of sweat. Doyle wrinkled his nose, unaware that he was doing so, and thought yearningly of a hot shower, clean clothes. His armpits were damp.

"Could do with a bath."

He almost jumped in his seat; it wasn't the first time his partner of six weeks had thus surprised him with such an instance of seeming telepathy.

"Yeah, I noticed," he agreed with the casual back-biting that was their habit from the beginning.

The car moved on through familiar, unremarked streets: the ex- detec. had switched off for the day. His partner was driving him home.

His partner, he mused, without needing to look at the hard smooth profile beside him; the image seemed inburnt on his eyeballs. Tired, he thought inconsequentially, and passed a hand over his face; his skin felt gritty.

Never wanted a partner--especially not this one.

He had disliked the man introduced to him as Bodie on sight: from the polished dark hair and the smug expression to the double-breasted blazer and shiny court shoes. Bodie had tried the needle on straight away, too, setting him up as hot-blooded and impetuous (true) with a few well-placed words, pointing out his own coolness as enviable contrast, but adding the simultaneous sop--respect for his skills. That was the instant pattern between them: the knife of rivalry, the balm of respect. It seemed to work pretty well, as far as their duty partnership went.

They had no other relationship. All fast sombre quips, steady support or uncompromising leadership during the day, Bodie vanished straight after and led his life in determined mystery.

Doyle did not know what to make of him.

He didn't want friendship. Doyle could and did live perfectly well without amity. If he needed company, he found a girl. He was a lone wolf who ran in a pack of two and hunted with others like himself; camaraderie, he didn't want.

Still, Bodie intrigued him, for that very impenetrability Doyle himself sported, like a badge of honour.

Bodie stopped the car. Doyle, startled out of his reverie, looked around. They were outside his flat. The sparse motions of parting sprang unprepared into action.

"Right. Thanks. See you tomorrow."

He made as if to snap back the doorcatch, but Bodie's hand was there, darting in front of him, shocking in its speed and intention.

"'Ang on a moment."

"What?" he said, turning to find Bodie leaning towards him, blue eyes raised to assess, appraise.

"You doing anything tonight?"

"Not particularly," he said unwillingly, because now the invitation had finally come he was tired and not in the mood for a drinking bout and the effort required for the sharp interchange of competition they fed on during the day.

"Fancy coming round to my place for a drink?" Bodie suggested casually; and when Doyle wavered, he pounced with the weapon he had been waiting all these weeks to use.

He smiled.

Subtle in its effect, it crossed his mouth, twisting it into beauty unlit before; travelled on to his eyes, slanting them with warmth.

Lost, Doyle capitulated.

"I'll pick you up around nine."

The car roared off, and it was only when he shut the door to his flat and kicked off his shoes that the sensation of enticement fled forgotten and he wondered why the hell he had agreed.

Still, he had never seen inside Bodie's flat, nor anything of what the man was like. It seemed like a good enough reason to take up the chance. Maybe Bodie, like himself, needed, wanted to know more; to build up more behind the solid working partnership they had created.

Unconvinced by this optimistic interpretation of Bodie's motives, Doyle sighed to himself and began to peel off his clothes.

Showered, clean-shaven and clean-shirted, Doyle had regained freshness and vigour by the time the horn tooted a jaunty summons outside. He snatched up his jacket and flew down the stairs, whistling.

Bodie was waiting for him at the wheel; he leaned over and opened the door for him.

"I could have driven over," said Doyle, struck for the first time by the ridiculousness of the set-up as Bodie let in the clutch smoothly and gunned off from the kerb like a fledgling from hell.

Bodie flicked a measuring glance his way from beneath dark shadowy lashes. Irish eyes, thought Doyle inconsequentially. "Don't want you driving back over the limit," he said, rather sweetly, but with the edge of inscrutable contention Doyle knew all too well.

Odd thing to say. Did that mean he expected Doyle to get drunk while he himself stayed smugly sober? Typical, bloody typical. Doesn't trust the cop to hold his pints. Or which way up to point the Uzi. Or how to track a killer in the night--

"You're not in the bloody Grand Prix," he announced with belligerence, going for the grabstrap as Bodie rounded a corner perhaps on two wheels.

To his astonishment, another of those smiles was turned his way, half-rueful this time.

"Always wanted to be. Fancied myself going round the track at 160, edging in between Mansell and Lauda--" he caught Doyle's scathing eye and added sheepishly, "I know, I know. Not half good enough--" which, being the first time Bodie had allowed himself to be anything less than perfect, left Doyle speechless and edgy.

What the hell was wrong with Bodie tonight? What prompting this unusually open mood? Doyle was just deciding that if Bodie smiled at him once more he'd better scour his own medical records in case Bodie had gleaned terminally bad news there, when they arrived at Bodie's flat.

He went ahead of Bodie up the stairs, head whipping round with a snarl on his lips when he felt a hand cup his right buttock, propelling him upwards; but Bodie looked merely enigmatic and charming, one eyebrow uplifted in query.

"I thought someone--" said Doyle, and then stopped.

"Must have imagined it, Goldilocks," said Bodie with cheerful mendacity; and as Doyle turned his back again and continued to take the steps three at a time, now, unseen, Bodie smiled again.

The flat was a source of fascination to Doyle, who was still ruminating over 'Goldilocks'; it was Bodie unlocked, his casements thrown wide. Without waiting to be asked, he paced around it, taking everything in: the sporting trophies clearly on view but out of reach, the shelves of books lining one wall which revealed hitherto unsuspected facets to Bodie such as an apparent passion for 16th century history and literature, and marquetry- for-the-amateur. The furniture was modern; everything was spotlessly clean and neat. Army training; block-headed army conditioning, thought Doyle with a trace of disdain not entirely prompted by the guilty certainty that the cleanliness of his own flat would not stand up creditably to such inspection.

He was standing staring at a frieze of identical dancing girls when he heard Bodie enter behind him. It was not to that but an erotic carving in relief that he gestured as he said sarkily, "Oh, very tasteful."

"What did you expect? Socks over the bath and Mayfair centerfolds blu-tacked to the wall?"

He wasn't imagining it. Even Bodie's voice was different tonight. Not the sardonic, carping tone he used to offer advice watching Doyle at target practice, hands on his hips, that aggravating smooth-as-silk head tilted to one side, a sneer written inherent in his malicious, sharp blue eyes. Doyle had learnt to ignore it. At some cost to his love for human nature.

"Something like that," he agreed, turning.

Again, that sense of unreality.

Bodie was standing there, the light picking out mellow glints in his dark hair, his eyes compellingly unfathomable over the rim of a glass which he was holding to his mouth, in the act of taking a swallow from it; he held another glass which he was extending towards Doyle.

Doyle had only ever seen him dressed in army combat gear, or pseudo-smart blazer and tie style which always made Doyle's lip curl in a little, satisfying moment of certain one-upmanship.

Not tonight.

Tonight, Bodie was all in black which suited him; the faint air of devilish menace unchecked now by any misappropriate touches. It was direct, and devastatingly effective.

For the first time since he had met his partner, watching those dark-cast eyes, the elegant lines of Bodie's strong body, Doyle felt a chill of macho envy swoop in and take hold.

It made him feel shabby in his old jeans and scuffed boots; his own brand of puckish attraction overshadowed.

It was a shock. He had always before felt confident that between the two of them there was no contest, despite Bodie's assertions to the opposite. What if Bodie turned out to be right all along? He felt unsettled now; something about the evening making him ridiculously nervous.

"Come and sit down," said Bodie softly, making Doyle jump.

He berated himself for his daft edginess as he sat down in a chair with his drink; but his nerves were not helped when the chair turned out to be a rocker, giving way unexpectedly when he had been expecting solidity so that he tipped most of his drink down himself, yelping as the ice-studded scotch soaked through cotton onto warm skin.

Bodie was solicitous enough, but Doyle caught a flash of something like amusement in the eyes that were beginning to obsess him, which made him suspect that Bodie had almost been expecting such a thing to happen.

Stupid. Even Bodie was not so childish. And yet--

"Here," said Bodie, returning with a towel, "let's dry you off a bit." He looked seriously down at the dishevelled figure, taking in the stormy eyes huge in the almost-boyish face, the obstinate set of the round chin. Beautiful, no doubt about it, even in that nasty navy-checked bovver-boy's shirt.

"I can manage," snapped Doyle curtly as the towel was whisked around his throat; he snatched it from Bodie and glared up.

Quick amusement quirked Bodie's mouth. "No-one could accuse you," he murmured, "of having a sunny temper." He stayed where he was, on one knee beside Doyle's feet. He was wearing a strange expression which Doyle, already annoyed and now beginning to be apprehensive, shied off from classifying.

"How long we been partners?" Bodie was continuing.

"Six weeks," muttered Doyle; he pulled at his shirt and squinted down at damp-matted chest hair.

"We ought to get to know each other better," said Bodie musingly.

"Oh, great idea. Whaddyou suggest--? Little word games? Reminiscing about our childhood?" queried Doyle mockingly; but he was already sure he did not want to /wanted desperately to/ know the answer to that.

Bodie rested one hand on his knee, squeezed it. Neither of them watched it, Doyle staring down into lazy midnight eyes with dawning horror.

Knew I'd be set up. Knew I shouldn't have come.

But it was too late. It had begun.

"You're a very attractive man, Ray," murmured Bodie, eyes gleaming, inexorable, and instead of hitting him Doyle just watched, hypnotised, the discomforts of his clammy shirt forgotten as Bodie's hand travelled up his front leaving a caress in its wake to take hold of the open collar of his checked shirt, rubbing it between finger and thumb.

"This doesn't suit you," Bodie told him, and then his warm fingers slid into the drop of the silver rope chain lying on Doyle's throat.

"This does."

And he pulled Doyle close with a hand curving around the nape of his neck, fingers gripping tightly in the chain, staring with predatory amusement into Doyle's wide-startled eyes; then his mouth descended to the wilful pouting one that had made him determined to possess it the instant he had laid eyes on it.

I'm being kissed by a man, Doyle thought with fine detachment as the warm lips touched his own, a moist tongue flicking there, seeking to part his mouth; ought to do something here Ray.

But he did nothing at all, not even when Bodie's lips left him and kissed beside his mouth, moving on over heated skin to nuzzle his earlobe softly, rousing shivers in him. He felt weak, heavy- limbed, as if he had no control over what was happening; it was out of his hands.

Still kneeling beside his unstable chair, Bodie was slipping free the buttons of his shirt, laying bare his shoulders, parting it down to his navel.

"Don't suit you, check shirts don't," he murmured again, frowningly intent on the chest revealed to him, the geography of its planes and dips, the swirling of hair between the small brown nipples. "Make you look like an off-duty dustman, and you don't suit that style, no, you're more of a--a dirty little angel." He smiled to himself, pleased by the picture. "If you were mine, I'd dress you in--" His fingertips skated lightly, slowly over nipples that betrayed Doyle's arousal traitorously, rising excitedly to his touch, "T-shirts, maybe. To show these off--so sexy, that, getting a glimpse of these all hard under somethin' thin an' soft--oh, yeah... or maybe I'd dress you all in leather. Yeah, you look good in leather," Bodie's eyes crinkled with irresistible humour, "tough and mean but innocent-- but you're not innocent, are you Ray? You're a flirt. I've met your type before. Big look-what-I-got eyes."

He lowered his head, touched a nipple with his tongue.

I just can't believe I'm hearing this, thought Doyle in disbelief, listening to the echoes of the rough purr of Bodie's matter-of-fact voice; his body ringing with little thrills of pleasure. His cock, as wanton as his nipples, was pulsing, straining at the opening to his jeans, but that was soon taken care of as Bodie ran a finger lightly down the zip of his fly, then pulled it down.

That brought him to his senses.

"Get off me," he snarled, panicking; but Bodie held him down with one arm across his chest, soothing as he undressed him swiftly--

"Ssh..."

And then his cock lay bare in Bodie's curled palm, Bodie's thumb stroking along its achingly hard length, and Doyle was lost. He looked down at himself and found even the humiliation erotic.

"Oh that's beautiful," Bodie whispered, his fair smooth skin flushed a little now. "Knew you'd turn on fast, you got that heated kind of look about you, like you're always ready for it, always ten seconds away from coming... so bloody beautiful--"

And with a gesture as graceful as it was careful, and more touching than Doyle could find last fast-slipping defences to fight, he laid his cheek on Doyle's cock as he held it, rubbing his face over it.

Oh christ I'm gonna come

Doyle's fingers dug into the arms of the chair, whitening with the strain. Shocked to realise himself so close to ejaculation, spurt it out on Bodie's cheek--"I want to go to bed with you," Bodie said, warm breath stirring through Doyle's dark body hair, and again it nearly finished him, "I want it so much Ray, don't say no."

Against that quiet appeal, even if his body hadn't decided for him already, Doyle had no argument.

Shivering a little at the strangeness of it all, he allowed Bodie to take him to the bedroom, Bodie's hand twining reassuringly with his, as if they were children exploring a mystery.

It was the sweetest, most passionately thrilling seduction he had ever known; he could not remember ever having been so excited, so much so that he would have agreed to anything, done anything. And Bodie led him into delight over and over, skilled sure fingers knowing just how to play on his sensitive body, to probe its darkest secrets, to make the pleasure surge up in waves; Bodie the hard suave know-it-all gone, submerged into this clever, gentle lover who knew nevertheless when not to be gentle.

By morning, Ray Doyle was hopelessly in love.

And he had said it, for the first time in his life, let it burst out of the closely-guarded, secret place inside himself, told Bodie in the night--

"I love you."

but when he awoke, sticky, hot and rank in Bodie's arms, he could not remember how Bodie had replied.

Bodie was staring at him from very close, still half-awake only, looking at him as if he couldn't quite remember who he was.

Doyle smiled at him, a wide slow smile which lit up his so- often stormy face; he reached out to rumple the silky dark hair, looking into the wide blue eyes.

Immediately, Bodie resisted, turning his head away from Doyle's hand as if irritated.

A little of the well-being seeped away, imperceptibly; but he could see there was something wrong.

"What's the matter?"

Bodie evaded that with the ease of one chillingly long- practised at coping with the morning after. He swung his legs out of bed, walked naked to the window. "Time you went, mate. You'll be late for Cowley as it is."

"Was a great night," Doyle said, testing, but meaning it too. His eyes travelled over the strong clean lines of the body which had held and loved his own over and over, and whose gentleness had led him to believe--

"Yeah," Bodie agreed, but without his mind on it as he knotted his hands behind his head, stretching so that all the well- defined muscles bunched, and then, slowly, relaxed.

"One night stand, I take it?" Beginning to be conscious of anger, and bitter hurt, he nevertheless still could not believe it; but Bodie's next words sank him.

"Not bloody likely, I don't let anyone who fucks like you do get away in a hurry."

He was grinning; pure hunter.

Defeated, feeling sick, Doyle scrambled out of bed and hunted for his clothes, suddenly uncomfortable naked under that mocking blue stare awarding him ten out of ten for being a terrific lay.

"And there was me thinking it was true love," he said, his head of dogged curls lowered as he dragged up the zip of his jeans in a hurry. He had intended to match Bodie for sarcasm and mockery, but it didn't come out that way.

"Oh, c'mon Ray," said Bodie impatiently, sharp ears picking up the tone, sharper eyes travelling over the disconsolate figure turned away from him, "don't let's make anything heavy of it. I wanted to get off with you, you agreed, and it was great. We'll do it again some time, but for chrissake don't let's get it out of proportion, like we were goin' for the big romance or something..." he stepped closer, unselfconsciously naked, heavy genitals swinging. "You were jokin', weren't you?"

"Yeah," agreed Doyle in a voice devoid of all emotion, folding back the cuffs of his shirt which smelled like a distillery rag, "I was jokin'. Christ, Bodie, I'm sore in places I didn't know I had--" he winced as he turned too quickly.

Bodie whispered in his ear, a wicked smile curving his lips, "Olive oil." He was pleased that Doyle was going to be reasonable; for a moment there he'd thought he might be tricky.

Doyle gave him a hard stare. "Do I drink it? Or rub it in?"

And was rewarded by Bodie's amusement.

Yes, he mused as he left, he could cry about it later; for now, all that mattered was that out of unexpected despair he had managed to salvage Bodie's respect.

His natural resilience was beginning to reassert itself by the time he had hitched a lift home; he was thinking with wry bitterness that he had lost his last innocence. Virgin nowhere, no longer; even his heart had been plundered now.

Well, we'll play your game, Bodie, since I failed to sweep you away the way you did me.

And we'll see, we'll see just how tough you are.



Part II

"This is boring, innit?"

After the long silence, Bodie pronounced this with measured judgement, but a hint of uncertainty, as if he had long been weighing up whether it was boring, or not--and even now might be convinced otherwise.

Doyle turned from his contemplation of the rows of cars amid which they were parked. He had one denim-clad knee up, leather- booted foot propped on the map-shelf, and his fingers were tapping idly on the dashboard to the rhythm of the song which had been haunting him all morning.

"Nah," he said scathingly, "nah, it's not, is it?" He added, turning his head to gaze out of the window again at the gleaming silent hunks of metal, "Underground carparks, y'know, they got real tourist appeal."

"It's not underground," Bodie felt restrained to point out since they were actually on the fifth floor; he removed his elbow from its perch on the steering wheel and reached out to stroke the nape of his partner's neck, an appealing, unexpectedly tender spot adorned with floating curls.

"Feels like it is," came Doyle's morose reply, ending that line of discussion with finality. He leaned back into the caress, arching a little; his rump wriggled on the damp sheepskin. Doyle was an endearing sexual partner for the very reason of his intense responsiveness to such gentle stimulation. In fact, Bodie had learnt over the years of their liaison to go very slow with him: Doyle lit up like flashfire and had to be carefully handled if it wasn't all to be over too soon.

Yes, Bodie had devoted a lot of delightful time and care to pleasuring Doyle over the years. And, he bet privately to himself, no one else of Doyle's many affaires succeeded the way he did. Where Doyle was concerned, Bodie had flair.

Still fancy him just as much, he mused, cupping his hand over delicate skin, stroking the tip of his ear with two fingertips; did a good day's work here when I decided to make a play for you Raymond, didn't I.

Doyle shifted a little; the springs of the Capri creaked.

"You in the mood or something?" he queried with resignation, dropping his head back against the rest.

"Can't help it," Bodie owned with rare humility. "It's the way you sit. Incurable flirt, you are."

It was true: only the PM, being made of iron as she had recently informed the nation, could resist Doyle now, an open- legged sprawl in his faded blue jeans, tender manhood flaunted there: head tipped back, eyes closed, lashes dropping onto the round cheek, mouth just parted to show a glimpse of flawed white teeth--

"Thing about you is," Bodie said suddenly, "you always look like you've either just had it, or you're just about to."

--and then there was the adam's apple moving as he swallowed, the cream open-necked shirt with its poppers dragged open to show off the fine hair: that was his appeal, casual sensuality, intensely attractive, but laid-back about it.

Suddenly all the way there into sexual tension, Bodie pounced and nipped him on the ear, one hand sliding down his belly to settle over the warm contours of his groin.

Doyle jerked. "Bloody hell, Bodie--this is a fucking carpark," he said, turning his head restlessly to survey the unchanged scene.

"Multi," agreed Bodie, "storey." And the dark lilting implication of that was emphasised as his thumb stroked down over the warm denim bulge, defining the genitalia with no difficulty of geography.

Doyle shivered, hand clenching on the grabstrap. "We're on stakeout. Can't--"

But then, it wouldn't be the first time. Early on, desperate so many times, they had turned to each other and grappled hungrily in the cramped confines of the car, striving for release, riding high on the sweet furious urgency of it, the snatched, risky secrecy--

"Gotta better idea," Doyle said, eyes closing again, taking a deep slow breath in as Bodie flicked open poppers with a swift finger and thumb, crept in to touch his nipples, graze them with fingernails. "Take a raincheck on it--" Bodie winced: Doyle was having a brief flirtation with American slang, which he delivered in the twang of the Bronx, lip curled-- "you doin' anything tonight?"

There was a moment of silence.

"Ah," Bodie said evenly. "Tonight could be awkward."

Doyle took this quietly; he had proved, Bodie reflected with satisfaction, to be far too sensitive to push in where he wasn't wanted. At the beginning he had had moments of doubt as to the wisdom of seducing Doyle, wantonly beautiful creature that he was, because he sensed there was a fiery streak of possessiveness beneath that casual air; it had made Bodie edgy because heavy scenes he did not want. Luckily, Doyle had turned out sensible, and had settled into a pattern of acceptance with only the occasional hiccup of resentment. Which, given Doyle's remarkably violent temper, was only to be expected.

"What about tomorrow then?" asked Doyle, and answered himself, "don't tell me, tomorrow you have your weekly heart-to-heart with Karen, I remember."

His tone, although acerbic, failed to sting.

"There's Saturday--" Bodie began, flicking through a mental list, and Doyle assented with a grunt.

"And for now--" Bodie said, pleased, and began to move in: but Doyle stopped him, pushing his hand aside, pressing shut a popper or two, disregarding Bodie's disappointed noise. "Look, mate, if you can't fit me in till Saturday owing to your heavy social commitment, you're not bloody well 'avin' me now for a quick bit on the side in the car."

He was grinning, a curiously engaging expression that, strangely, turned Bodie's hardened guts fluttery; it was so rare to see Ray smile that way, eyes under the heavy fringe of curls screwed up a little so you could see his laughter lines, the warmth in them unconscious and unfeigned, cheek creased, mouth wide with those white teeth showing over his bottom lip--

"Playing hard to get?" Bodie said, zooming in with a leer; but he had already accepted the rejection because he deserved it and because Doyle had as strong a will as his own: yes, he stood up to Bodie, didn't let himself be pushed around, and Bodie liked that.

For some reason, the comment sobered Doyle; the smile remained but it had turned reflective, as he remembered.

"That doesn't work, with you," he said, looking away.

"Uh?"

"I tried it. Used to think, if I backed off you'd chase harder," and Bodie didn't want to hear any more, shut up Ray, don't, please don't, but Doyle continued, "Didn't work though--you didn't even seem to notice."

This was followed by a silence; Doyle abruptly snapped out of his past and thumped Bodie on the knee. "Sorry, mate, wasn't trying to lay anything heavy on you. 'Ave a polo."

The pink tip of his tongue appeared through the circumference of white mint, flickered provocatively, and was gone. He peeled back the wrapper, extracted another and hung it from the dashboard.

Bodie took it and crunched it up absentmindedly. He had half an eye on the job, but he was also thinking over what Doyle had revealed.

"Trust you," said Doyle disgustedly. "I make mine last, see how thin I can get 'em, see?" The polo appeared again, much reduced in depth, almost transparent--

Abruptly, Bodie leaned over and kissed his mint-sweet partner, swiping the small circlet with a sweep of his tongue and swallowing as much of Doyle's saliva as he could steal away in that one devouring moment.

"I did notice," he told him against his ear.

"Oh yeah?" mocked Doyle gently; he as much as Bodie was wary of discussing their relationship, having learnt at cost that Bodie could hurt him without even meaning to, or seeming to know what he'd done.

"Yeah." Bodie wrapped an arm around his shoulders, gave him a squeeze. Had Doyle but known it, it was as close as Bodie ever came to committing himself; though it still fell very short of what Doyle had learnt he must want without hope. "But I thought you were just tired of playing queer, that's all. See--you were too subtle for me."

"Wouldn't have made any difference, any case," said Doyle; and that truth was accepted, by both; but it made the atmosphere a little wistful, an autumn day with summer lost and all the dying leaves yet to fall into mud.

Breaking it consciously, Doyle pulled free, drew his gun and began to check it over. "And not only do you keep resistin' my charms, you nicked my bloody peppermint." He glowered up at Bodie from beneath scowling brows. "Rejection, I can take. Theft is something else."

"'Ave another," said Bodie, accepting the change of tempo with relief. He ruffled Doyle's curls, trying vaguely to communicate affection.

"Was the last one," Doyle muttered, but he didn't move away from the caress as he sometimes did.

"I'll buy you a whole new packet," Bodie promised rashly; and he kissed his partner's amazed, upturned face. Stupid, he was telling himself, to take this sort of risk with him out here, like this, but it was dark in the car and--

And, Doyle tasted sweet, mouth opening to drink from him.

Over Doyle's head he saw something move.

Doyle picked up instantly on the tiny change of atmosphere. His head whipped round, his gun up fast and steady, all softness wiped from his face.

"Over there," Bodie told him tightly, checking his Browning swiftly. They counted time silently, and burst out of the car simultaneously in a ready-to-fire stance, narrowed eyes checking, scanning, moving on.

Nothing.

Doyle relaxed, curly head ducking as he reached under his armpit to put the gun away. "Shopper, probably. I'll go that way, you cover." Casual heroism, peculiar to those unfamiliar with danger, or to whom it is routine.

Bodie moved fast to block his way. Surprised green eyes locked with hazed blue steel. "Together," was all Bodie said.

"Wha--?" Doyle only stared at him, astounded.

"Stick together," Bodie repeated, conscious of faint embarrassment but that was secondary to the immutable resolve. After all, it wasn't as if he were fussing over Doyle or being overly protective or anything like that; standard procedure, really, to keep close until--well, even if it wasn't standard procedure, who the hell said they had to follow rules? He was doing his job the best he knew and part of that job happened to include making sure his partner kept in one piece--

He shook the thoughts off, aware of over-justification.

"Be wasting time," Doyle warned, but he had already decided to go it Bodie's way; Bodie usually had good reason for what he decided.

The reason for this particular decision nearly stopped him some seconds later when it hit him.

"S'matter?" Bodie asked, loping along at his side, dodging cars.

"Nothing," Doyle said; and an odd, perverse little smile twisted his mouth: he had to look down to conceal the look in his eyes.

They'd come a long way.



Part III

"That's because you haven't met a girl like Ann--yet," said Doyle with heavy meaning, and Bodie chuckled.

"If it addles me the way it's done you, mate, believe me, I don't need it."

He ambled around the small living room, his manner easy and relaxed. He knew Doyle was embarrassed and it amused him--but not to the extent of being tempted to jeer. He was genuinely fond of Doyle: something about him had just eased its way into Bodie's life and fitted there. As he stood there, that realisation for once very clear in his mind, he experienced the strong urge to communicate it to Doyle; he hesitated, looking for the right words....

Doyle was checking his watch. "Look, Bodie--"

Bodie threw his hands up. "Okay, okay. I get the message. Not wanted." His lip acquired a droop. Hands on his hips, his unusually elegant partner merely regarded him, waiting for him to go; he looked good enough to eat. Or anything else you cared to name. Recklessly, Bodie stepped forward and swept him into a hug. Staring down into the odd, dear face, he murmured, in his best deep romantic-hero's voice:

"If you were a girl--"

"Yeah?" prompted Doyle; he nipped Bodie's chin with sharp teeth, his breath warm against Bodie's throat.

Unsure it was wise, Bodie said it anyway.

"I'd have married you."

After a frozen second Doyle snorted. He pushed Bodie away. "Piss off, Bodie. You're an idiot," he added, resignedly affectionate.

"But you love me anyway," Bodie carolled, immeasurably relieved. He shadow-boxed his way across the room to the door. "Cheers, curlytop. 'Ave a great night."

" 'Ang on a moment." Doyle glanced around, plucked a single red rose from the bunch waiting for Ann and presented him with it. "There, mate."

Bodie, overwhelmed, kissed Doyle just beside his mouth and exited, holding the rose dramatically to his chest.

Doyle looked after him, shaking his head; his smile soon faded and he forgot Bodie entirely because he was unaccountably nervous about the evening to come, a flicker in his guts as if he were an unkissed maiden faced by a starved cavalier. Stupid. Nothing to be afraid of. What's so different from taking out any bird--? and I usually do all right there....

But it was different, and he knew why. Why it was so important.

He was falling in love.



Bodie had been unworried about Doyle's latest fancy until Doyle's behaviour became erratic: his temper, always prone to turn vicious, ran freely these days and he seemed liable to long introspection, lapsing into silence often. They had completely lost the old double-act; Doyle simply wasn't playing. And he was as touchy as hell. Particularly if Bodie dared to mention Ann.

He'll get over it, Bodie reasoned; but he was a little bothered that Doyle had made no move to introduce him to the elusive Ann who was worthy of roses and a tie. Recalling that porcelain perfection he'd glimpsed just twice, he'd already resigned himself to the fact that this was not going to be one of the girlfriends they shared--not that he much fancied getting his end away there, anyway, from what he'd seen. Be more fun fucking a frozen chicken, Bodie reckoned. But he was used to a carefree regime, wherein he and Doyle moved in and out of each other's sexuality with freedom, introducing the more liberal of their girls to sex in company with each other; there had been some wild, wanton nights best not thought about in the light of day. Then there were a few girls, interestingly, who'd been so turned on by it all that he and Doyle had felt free enough to be open about their own strong sexual tie: he remembered several who'd loved to watch him going down on Ray or vice versa, oh yes, good nights those, riding high on sexual heat, a rich feast of decadence to feed every nerve, every sense; and then sometimes there were nights just for the two of them alone and they were in some ways the best of all, because--

Bodie didn't want to go into just why that should be so--and in any case, it was irrelevant because there were none of those nights now; Doyle spent all of his free time with Ann and seemed to need nothing more. Jealous? Bodie asked himself; and yes, of course he was jealous, if only because it seemed he had lost, with no warning, the source of the best sexual highs he'd ever experienced, and then he was jealous of Doyle's company, too; he missed him. From being something special to Ray, now there was just Ray, and Ann; Bodie had been backbenched, lumped into a general grey mass of 'outsiders' along with everyone else. That hurt. But never mind, he reasoned, Doyle'd soon get over it. Novelty worn off, he'd be back.

Having thus succeeded in reassuring himself, it was therefore something of a shock for Bodie to hear from Doyle that he was intending to marry her.

This was serious.

"--you'll be telling me next you're going to marry her--"

"--yeah, well I might just do that--"

He kept his reactions cool, careful; not showing by a flicker the internal turmoil set off in him like rocketflight by Doyle's backlashed statement.

It was time he met her.

But before he did, Bodie made a bad mistake.

Because the news was buzzing around in his head, and because in some strange way he needed to tell someone, he let it out to Cowley, thereby unleashing a Pandora's box of horrors set in motion by six flat words:

"You'll have to check her out."



"Sherry, Bodie?"

He would have liked to assume his best drunk-Irish accent and mumble "Yeah, but sh'not as hairy as me legs," because from the moment he had looked over that disdainful cool exterior he had had the urge to disrupt it. Clearly she thought Bodie was a bit of a slob anyway, a bit non-U...he played up to that quite happily.

"Not for me thanks; sherry's a drink for ladies and clergymen," he said, a bold blue-eyed stare unleashing itself onto her, "I'll 'ave a pint of Ray's home-brew, ta all the same." He smacked his lips and rubbed his belly in appreciative anticipation, and sauntered out to the fridge. Who the hell did she think she was--? Offering him a drink as if she owned the place, when it was his and Doyle's haunt; standing beside the bar like the Hostess...Bodie, shamelessly proprietary, always assumed he had a half-share in Doyle's flat and helped himself to alcohol, or anything else he fancied, without waiting to be asked.

Doyle was hard at work in oven gloves and an apron; he was leaning to peer into the oven. Bodie patted him on the rump as the curly head disappeared into the dark confines; and left his hand there in a lingering caress.

"Be'ave yourself," came a stern, slightly strained voice from inside the oven. Bodie grinned to himself. All not well with the casserole, eh?

"How'd you know it wasn't Ann?" he asked, perching on the corner of the breakfast bar.

Doyle came out of the oven backwards, shut the door quickly and uncurled to his full height. There was a smudge of what looked like tomato paste beside his mouth. "I did think it was A--" he began, grinning, but had the line stopped when Bodie pulled him close, and, very thoroughly, licked it off. Then he moved to his mouth, kissing him deeply. Doyle tasted of warm wine and onions. Been testing out the sauce, obviously.

"Bodie," hissed Doyle, and dragged himself free. "For chrissake." He wasn't amused any more. Bodie noted all this carefully, ignoring the small hurting pit that yawned open inside him.

"What you doin' out 'ere then?" Doyle asked, beginning to chop a tomato at machinegun speed. "Thought you were entertainin' Ann."

"I don't think she'd like my act," said Bodie with truth; but he took the point, got the beer he had come for out of the fridge and trailed back to join her.

"Does Ray need any help?" she asked. Probably be as glad as he was to escape to the kitchen: the atmosphere in here was about as heartening as inside Cowley's sock.

"Nah, the Master Chef's getting on just fine." Deciding at random to be perverse, Bodie sat down beside her, too close, and swooped in on her with his most seductive grin. "Well, it's nice to meet you at last. Raymond's been hiding you from me; very naughty of him."

Her move, now that Bodie had insinuated proprietorship of Ray; and she rose to the challenge with no trouble as she said sweetly: "Funny he's never mentioned you to me. First I heard of you was this morning, when I heard that this mysterious friend called Bodie was coming to dinner and I had to look my best." She smiled, ostensibly to soften this although it was a hard, brittle smile, and Bodie felt a flicker of respect: no milksop, this. It was war, and no weapons to be withheld.

"So you work with Ray, do you?" she was continuing, taking a tiny noiseless sip of pale sherry. Without answering Bodie bounced to his feet before her startled gaze and smoothly refilled her glass, right to the brim, with a flourish.

"Thanks, but actually I didn't want any more," she said directly, her eyes hard and unflinching beneath her unappealing fringe.

"Sorry," apologised Bodie, and taking it from her, took a healthy swallow from the delicate-stemmed glass. Then he handed it back: waiting, like a keen-eyed professor with a rat in a maze, to see which way she would turn next.

This, he could see, had scored.

Already she had left it too late, either to comment or to reject it; the best she would do now would be to abandon it, a feeble gesture which would earn her no points in the needle game that Bodie, an expert, was thoroughly enjoying by now.

Doyle popped his head round the door at that moment, quizzical. "Bit quiet in 'ere innit? You two getting on all right?"

"Yeah, just fine," avowed Bodie. "You get back to your cuisine, Escoffier and leave to me the task of persuadin' Ann she's made the wrong choice."

Doyle nodded and disappeared once more, giving Ann a wink and a curiously warm look before he left.

It curled Bodie's guts.

For he know quite well what that look had meant: okay, I know he's being difficult, but bear with it; making a conspiracy between them that both excluded Bodie and relegated him to his place.

Bodie found he had lost all his taste for the needle game.

Conscious of victory, Ann graciously investigated again the question of his working life with Ray, and from somewhere he found the vigour to answer.

He was very thoughtful. He watched Ann now through professional eyes since he was supposed to be checking her out--oh christ Ray was going to hate that, let's hope nothing comes of it and then he'll never have to know; and he watched her with Doyle, because up till now he had not quite believed, not deep down inside, that Doyle could carry this through, not once the first madness was over.

Now he saw them together, he was--frightened.

There was something, about Ray, that spoke of sincerity; his eyes followed her wherever she was, he was gentle with her as if she were fragile; he was entranced in a way Bodie had never seen him before. He remembered the roses, with sick dread.

Because Doyle might well think himself in love, clearly had kidded himself into believing he was anyway, but Bodie was quite certain Ann Holly worked out love on a calculator. Fragile--? No way.

He disliked her intensely. Everything about her irritated him, her brittle manner, her Sindy-doll looks and grooming, but worse than any of that, he could not conceive of a woman less suited to Ray, whose weaknesses and strengths Bodie knew better than anyone in the world.

In their natures, their attitudes, their social class and style of behaviour they were totally apart. And she had a hard look to her, an ungiving inflexibility--

No, oh no, she wasn't right for Ray. Bodie knew Doyle to be a loving creature, oh yes, loving, once his loyalty was won over; deeply affectionate without being sentimental, he needed and deserved warmth in return. The thought of all Doyle's love being dashed on the cool rocks of Ann's passionless reserve was hard to bear. Bodie's only hope, which he clung to grittily all through the awkward and desultory conversation at dinner, was that surely Ann would not want to tie herself to Doyle permanently. In Bodie's opinion she wasn't fit to wash his socks; but in Ann's, now, almost certainly Doyle would not be good enough for her, not by a long way.

The optimism of that wavered when Bodie's flatly realistic nature prevailed--why not? Marriages were made and unmade in moments these days. Doyle earned good money, had a nice flat; he was brave, dashing and courteous to his ladies; probably just about scraped a pass in literary taste and table manners; and he was undeniably attractive. Even a cool bitch of the Ann Holly type couldn't miss that.

And if he'd slept with her yet--and Bodie was certain that he had, there was that unmistakeable air of casual physical intimacy between them--she must surely have rated him a pass plus in bed, because Bodie knew all too well, Doyle was beautiful, in bed as everywhere; he had the kind of delicacy that robbed even the most intimate of sexual acts of crudity. Had a good way with women too, Ray did; liked to take his time, give them pleasure.

Not that you could imagine Ann feeling much of that.

Bodie could see it all with drenching clarity: the wedding, Doyle alight, excited, dancing past Bodie and out of his reach forever; disillusionment dawning too gradually to shock. The kids nannied; Ann giving dinner parties for Sloane Rangers (she would hire caterers), the perfect hostess, good with the chat. Doyle brought out and displayed to her lilyflower friends like some kind of untamed, exotic pet; only Doyle would not like that, nor the cool kiss at bedtime and the laden reminder that they had to be up early--and so, finally, the split: nice settlement on Ann while she was freed to hunt around for a new catch--

Ray, can't you see how it would be--?

Doyle was too idealistic over such things--idealistic, or just not looking far enough ahead. Look at them now, Bodie mused, playing idly with the glass of VSOP balanced on one knee; Ann with Doyle's arm around her there on the settee, and even in the low light not relaxed enough to rest close against him; still maintaining the poise of a lady, and the artificial social conversation that Doyle was, for her sake, responding to in kind while Bodie, less motivated, had long since ceased to pretend attention....

"You're quiet," Doyle said in a slightly raised voice, to inform Bodie the comment had been intended for him.

Bodie knew he had let Doyle down tonight; the hostility between himself and Ann had been instant, mutual, and probably inevitable, but that was no excuse for his poor performance since. Apart from a dogged dinnertable social effort, in the course of which he had been able to drop in a few questions about her family, for Cowley, he had made little contribution to the evening.

"Sorry, sunshine," he responded; he met Doyle's eyes and for an instant Ann Holly had gone as if she had never existed, for there was no way Bodie was going to conceal the warmth he felt for Doyle in that moment. "Tired, that's all."

And as he said it, the thought flashed into his head, she's going to hurt him. Oh christ I hope to god she doesn't hurt him--

"Have you two got to be at work in the morning?" Ann's unmellow tones crashed in, offering, perhaps, a conciliation; but like Bodie's own sense of failure, far too late to do any good.

"Yeah. Up bright and early." Bodie rose with the comment; set down his glass, still a third full. "Must be off."

Everyone was perfectly, self-consciously aware that the evening had been a disaster; but, now it was over, anxious to prove it had not been. The lovers rose too, there was a flurried exchange of awkward chat, given life by everyone's relief that it was over.

With some sensitivity, Ann stayed where she was while Doyle saw Bodie to the door.

"All right, mate?" Doyle asked, a little quiet, a little worried; he was on edge wondering if Bodie, not known for his delicate sensibilities, might bluntly put into words what he did not want to hear.

In answer, Bodie's fist flew out and caught Doyle in the belly--but gently, so that his instinctive wince and recoil was unnecessary. "Yeah. Great meal, mate. Thanks--see you in the morning." His eyes, gleaming dark in the low light, lifted sharply to Doyle's; and he gave him a brief smile.

"Okay," said Doyle, and Bodie could feel the eyes on him until he turned the corner and heard, a long way off, the door shut firmly with a click.

Okay.

No, everything wasn't okay, and Bodie was no longer sure he knew why not, although puzzlingly, he thought it had all seemed quite clear earlier. Fighting down the images of that closed door, and what would now be going on behind it--

Thank god that's over

Sorry, I'm sorry he was difficult, sorry it was awkward for you

--and the warm compensation Doyle would now be laying on her as if she, sinless, had come through a terrible ordeal fighting off the wolf. Bodie moved to his car as if through deep water.

The tyres squealed in protest as he exacted every rev of acceleration from the Capri and shot off into the night.

He didn't take the roads home but simply drove on and on, making split-second decisions at junctions, until he came to open country. It was here that he spotted twin blazing headlights in the rearview mirror. Oh, fuck it.

Fuck the whole bloody world.

He pulled in to the side of the road, wound down the window.

A traffic cop, malicious with delight at having made a catch in the long watches of the night, stuck his head in. "Mind showing me your licence, sir?"

A slow buildup; he was winding up to much much more, easing off the layers of courtesy like snakeskin.

Instead Bodie had his ID ready in his hand. He stared up. Thoroughly thwarted, and having trailed miles down this deserted route for his prey, the cop was about to enquire nastily whether this was official business.

Something in the man's eyes stopped him.

Muttering an apology, he went back to his car and the reassuring company of Ches, who had bad breath but was otherwise okay--

"Whassup, Sambo?" said his partner, intent on rolling another cigarette. "Wife in labour on the back seat was it then?"

The traffic cop wasn't listening.

"CI5. You 'eard of CI5, Ches?"

"Them the ones what crawl out to do the dirty work and then vanish back underground?"

"Screwballs," muttered his partner, "they're screwballs. You can tell by the look in their eyes." And with a sudden rush of impatience he thumped the dashboard. "Get this fuckin' wagon back to town, we've wasted enough bloody time."

Bodie stayed where he was, the car pulled into the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere. He killed the lights.

He know now what was wrong with him.

Jealousy--that was to be expected. Anyone'd be sick at the thought of losing such a sexual prize as Doyle, especially to someone who wouldn't appreciate him. But Bodie was resigned to such things; eventually the games stopped, as one by one they peeled themselves off the carefree sexual rotas and settled down. If you were yourself unsuited or unwilling to do the same, you had to accept the changing faces.

But this--this was more than that.

He couldn't hide from it any longer.

Jealousy--oh yes, he was sick with it, Doyle even now lying at peace, trusting, naked in the warmth of his bed, Ann, privileged Ann to whom Doyle had given not just his body but his love, beside him; and Bodie out here in this dark unknown world, alone. Bodie had been used for so long to being first for Doyle then no wonder it hurt his pride and his sense of order in his world to find it was no longer so.

If only that was all.

But that cosy little notion had been destroyed at one pass with the damning, too-revealing thought--

Oh christ I hope she doesn't hurt him.

It was quite clear.

Rather than bear Doyle's hurt if Ann should leave him, Bodie would beg her on his knees to stay and be kind; and that, oh that was not jealousy. Chilled, stricken, Bodie wound up the open window in a hurry and leaned his head on his forearm.

Too late, too late; it had happened.



Part IV

Ann had gone.

Only Bodie was left for him, sharing the pain.

"I wanted her to love me. I thought she did. But no one ever does, I'd forgotten that." He whirled, fist raised, and punched the wall in a blow that must have bruised, aimless. "You know, that's what kills me, Bodie. However hard I try, however much I love someone, I never--get there for them. Never gonna try again, Bodie," he said with a kind of fierce courage. "Never again."

He paced around, frenzied, barely leashed. Bodie had never seen him like this before. Doyle, turbulently emotional, occasionally worked himself up to be melodramatic, but this--

It was real.

The pain of it whipped Bodie through to the bone; his stomach was aching with it. His throat was choked; it wouldn't be long before he was in tears. Crying, he thought distractedly; so this is what it does to you to love someone. I should be jealous because he's so sad he's lost her; I should be triumphant because now he's all mine. And instead all I can fuckin' well feel is this terrible tearing inside because he's sick with hurt, and so help me if I could get her back for him I'd do it and shut the door on them and walk away--

But he couldn't do that, Ann was gone, reneged on shallow promises; now the time to face up to it. Moving on slow feet, as if he was wading through sludge, he went over to where Doyle stood leaning on the mantlepiece with his cheek on his arm, knuckles pressed to his mouth; and slid his arms around the tense figure, pushing his face onto Doyle's shirtclad shoulder.

"I love you," he said, very quietly.

He knew--oh he knew so well it was the wrong time, the bittersweetness of that singing defeat through his blood, but he had to say it. For a moment they were close, Doyle stilled within the circle of his arms; Bodie shut his eyes, cheek rubbing gently on the hardboned upthrust of Doyle's shoulder, offering useless comfort. And as he had expected, Doyle pulled away from him, running a hand through his hair; he walked to the window and leaned against the wall, his back to Bodie. He had the back of his wrist pressed to his mouth, to try and stop the quiver that would keep threatening; his voice was very low.

"Don't give me that, Bodie."

Bodie stayed silent in his own pain, accepting the failure.

"I know you 'ad to say it. Thanks for that. But--that's enough. I just--I just can't take any more, tonight." Quietly spoken, no emphasis.

Yes, of course that's what Doyle would think. All that pain he just could not hide; 'no one loves me'; what more natural than to step in unthinking and contradict it with a lie?

No, Ray, he wanted to cry out, it's not like that, would I lie about it for chrissake?--but then Doyle turned blindly to face him, taking a deep, tearing breath, and all thoughts of any kind fled him because he could see that Doyle had spoken the perfect truth; oh yes, he'd had enough, all right.

He got to him just in time, supporting him while the violence of misery, frustration and grief ripped through him, just holding him, his own skin wet as he stared grimly, silently over Doyle's ravaged face and called forth every curse he could think of to settle on Ann Holly and the entire female sex and anyone else who had hurt Ray, ever. Including himself.

Doyle had been quiet for some time now, the thin chest still heaving hugely, expanding, shuddering from time to time. Bodie thought he might have fallen, exhausted, into a doze where he knelt, head cradled close to Bodie's shoulder; he could feel cramp setting in from the awkwardness of the crouching position he had been forced to hold. Cautiously he uncurled stiff wet fingers from the side of Doyle's cheek and regretted it instantly--

"I want you to go now, Bodie."

He couldn't see Doyle's face. "If you think I'd leave you tonight then you're off your head," returned Bodie shortly; he let Doyle go and rose to his feet.

Doyle followed suit, knees cracking as he did so, brushing his sleeve over his face. "I said, I want you to go." His voice was still strange, hoarse with crying; a catch in it making his words jerky.

"I'm not goin', Ray."

Doyle looked terrible, red-eyed; unshaven face smeared with tears and worse. He concentrated on Bodie when he did not want to, when he wanted to have his own misery out, and spoke with low intensity: "I wanna be on my own Bodie, don't you understand that?"

"Yeah, just like Garbo. The answer's still no."

"Bodie--" Doyle was beginning to be angry--"Can't you get it into your bloody head--?" His voice dropped, as he surveyed the stooping, palefaced figure before him; something about Bodie's bleakness got through and made him soften what he had been going to slam into him, intending to hurt. "I don't want you, I don't want it I mean, tonight, don't you see that?" He tried to be kind, tried for a moment to see Bodie's problems past his own. "Look, I'm not sayin' it's over with us, with you and me, but tonight--" His voice caught again, but he didn't heed it, battled on, "It's her I want, I know I can't have her but that's how it is tonight, and I'd be better alone, honest, Bodie." He tried to smile, to make it all better. "I'm not in the mood, mate. Go out and pick up some bird from the pub, eh, you can tell me all about it in the morning?"

The knife slid under skin and twisted.

"You make me so angry sometimes," said Bodie in a low voice; and he crossed the room and pulled Doyle into a fierce, desperate hug, his voice raw. "I'm not in the mood either, mate, it may surprise you to know; I doubt I'll ever bloody be in the mood again the way I feel tonight. I'm as sick as you are over all this you dumbheaded little idiot, in case you hadn't noticed, and there's no way I'm leaving you alone--you don't 'ave to see me, dunnave to talk to me, but I'm staying, and if I 'ave to lay you out cold to prove it I will so just shuddup."

Whether Doyle took it in or not he didn't know, but he seemed to concede to the vigour of it at least. Bodie let him drink, then, and when the inflow of whisky had relaxed him enough to make him drowsy he took him to bed; got in beside him, draped an arm over him and, eventually, slept.



When Bodie awoke, jolted out of dreamless sleep by something unknown, as his eyes came open his guts twisted straight away in a knot of depression and dread to face the day; not one, not even one blessed minute of lying there in the awakening half-doze, bathed with oblivion. He reached out, to share his sudden misery, but Doyle was not there. He was in the bathroom when Bodie pushed open the door, seated, his head in his hands.

"Whassa time?" Bodie asked, wandering to the mirror and looking, wincing at his own blurry expression, his chin shaded with stubble, his hair going all different ways.

Doyle's fingers were steepled, threaded through curls beside his ears, pressing the throbbing nerve there that was making his head pound. He didn't look up. "About seven or something."

"Sleep okay?"

"Yeah, I slept okay."

Clearly Doyle was not in the mood to appreciate idle chat. Watching himself in the mirror, Bodie saw his mouth twist in humourless irony; oh yes, ironic all this, more love in him than ever before in his life, and, what was more, for someone who for years had hoped for just that: only it was too late, too bloody late, Bodie's day was gone, never even sampled, vanished like a dream the day Ann Holly came into Ray's life and fucked it up....

If only, if only. If only he'd taken more notice of his own feelings rather than shoving them under the carpet the way he usually did, then maybe that day when Conroy died, when Benny died, it would have been Bodie he turned to, not that wheyfaced bitch--

Pointless.

And yet--

Suddenly desperate, he glanced down at the downcast figure beside him. Oh christ, however could he have missed it? He knew every inch of that body there, he could pick Doyle out blindfold in a crowd by the creases behind his knees, as Doyle could him; they were very close, as close, perhaps as two people ever could be. Take now, this very moment: it was so usual, so accepted a thing for them to be together that Doyle hardly knew Bodie was there, would not disturb his own morning routine by a fraction to accommodate Bodie's presence. And that was the truest test: hold that up, against the presence of guests, friends, in the house. They belonged. It was so much more than friendship Bodie could not define it as other than love. How many years had he had to think about this, and shrugged away the chance as if it hardly mattered? He had been blind; and a fool.

On impulse he dropped to crouch in front of Doyle, elbows perching on Doyle's bare thighs, hands flying to grip Doyle's skinny upper arms, knotted with fine muscle; gazing intently into wide-open seasprite eyes that had flashed up to meet him.

"We'll make it, sunshine," he promised, tightly, grittily. "We'll be okay."

Serious, forced out of his innerfocussed detachment, Doyle studied his face for a moment as if curious to know what had prompted all this; it was as if he was swiftly checking, backtracking on Bodie's line of thought to disinter the original idea. After a minute he said:

"Yeah." And Bodie knew then that in a way the worst was over, that Doyle would not close him off again. False prophecy, the depression of waking. He rose to his feet, even managed a little chuckle. Doyle's bathroom needed a clean; dropped talcum powder flew in grey clouds wherever one laid a foot, there was a greasy ring around the washbasin and, given what Doyle was in there for, anyway, it seemed all in all an odd place for a revelation.

"What you laughin' at?" Doyle said at last, raising his head and watching as Bodie, with firm brisk strokes, swivelled the shower taps so that water splattered down into the bath. His eyes looked brighter; more sharp.

"Just thinkin'," Bodie answered, "after all these years you'd think I could have picked a better place to propose." He slid a speedy finger along the cistern, collecting powdery dust; this he dabbed on Doyle's nose, swooping in before Doyle could turn his head away.

"Bastard," said Doyle without heat, dignified even positioned as he was, nose delicately flared. He added: "What you proposin', anyway?" He watched as Bodie put one leg over the side of the bath, his eyes automatically dwelling on the parting of Bodie's buttocks in unconscious erotic pursuit. "Marriage?" with gentle derision. Bodie's head flew round at that; his eyes were warm, gentled with promise: Doyle stared. "Somethin' like that." And before Doyle could respond, Bodie leaned down, one hand on his shoulder, and kissed him on the mouth, very gentle, a sweet touch of delicate lips on velvet skin; taking his time.

Then he vaulted the side of the bath and doused himself beneath the cascading water.

"I wouldn't kiss everyone before they cleaned their teeth in the morning," he shouted over the rush of the downpour.

"No," agreed Doyle. Bodie was exuberant this morning. He wondered why; and why he should be feeling a little that way himself; for when he had awoken less than an hour before, he had seriously wondered if the day was worth making the effort for.

"You got gut trouble, Doyle, you bin on there so long?" Bodie began to lather himself with brisk efficiency. "Only takes me two minutes. That's army trainin', that is."

Disregarding the insufferable smugness, Doyle made a face. "Too much booze," he explained and shivered, his face twisting as another twinge cramped his belly.

"You better get on with it, mate, or I'll be throwing you off in a second."

"I'll make room for you, don't worry," Doyle shot back at him.

He'd never have said that to Ann, Bodie thought, and threw his head back under the cleansing needles of spray.



The long silence of locked-in misery broken, in the car Doyle talked about her, fingers fiddling with an odd piece of string, head down. Bodie listened, let him get it all out, though he hated to hear it; didn't want to know one more thing about her.

"--I never thought, just didn't believe she'd do that to me."

He lifted his head, stared out of the side window. "That's what's so 'ard to take."

"You don't really get to know someone," Bodie said distantly. "Not in a few days."

If that stung, it was nevertheless the truth and although Doyle winced he didn't try to deny it. "Well, you certainly didn't know her," he said with a little edge of heat. "You only met her once, for chrissake."

"I saw enough," said Bodie grimly. When Doyle didn't reply to that, he flared, his face screwed up in pent anger, "Oh for godsake, Ray, if you'd married her I'd have sat bloody hard on what I felt about her for your sake, and that alone, but now she's run out on you there's no fuckin' way in the world I'll pretend anything. She was a bitch. A cold bitch, and if you can't see that now believe me you soon will." His lips stretched in a savage smile as his hand swung the wheel; the car flashed out to overtake a lorry.

Doyle's brow creased; absently he put one hand to his belly, pressing slightly. "I know you didn't like her. You made that very clear. But do you know why? You were jealous, that's all. Jealous as hell. But I bet you're not going to admit that, are you?"

It was out. He'd never meant to say it, but there it was. And he knew it didn't matter: for all they were quarrelling now, they were in some odd way very close today. They would not hurt each other, not today, perhaps never again.

"Yeah, I'll admit that," said Bodie tightly. "No sweat, sunshine. Of course I was bloody jealous. I wanted to put up a fight for you but I could see it was too late. But that's not why I hated her. I--" He stopped, aghast at the rank sentimentality of the words that had flashed into his mind ready to use.

Doyle was looking at him, the haunting slant of his troubled eyes attentive, his fists clenched up tight as if to fend off physically the knowledge he didn't want.

Bodie said it anyway.

"You were loving her and I knew, so help me I knew, sooner or later she was going to throw all that love back in your face like so much shit. That's why I hated her, Ray. I'm not makin' any apology for that."

For a moment there was intense silence in the car; stillness before the storm? Without knowing it Bodie was strung up on tension waiting for Doyle's reply.

Then Doyle expelled a long breath, slowly. His eyes dropped to the piece of string he still held; he had knotted and unknotted it already countless times, thin fingers working ceaselessly. Now they were stilled. "Was it that obvious? That she didn't love me?"

Funny, he was thinking to himself numbly, how you can so deceive yourself; see what you want to see.

It was written all over his face.

For all the world it was as much as Bodie could do not to hurtle the car into a stop and wrap this bruised Doyle up in himself, hold him tight and safe and in a place where no one could get at him to hurt him ever again--

There was much to say today and they would have to be honest; this was one of the times when the brutal truth was not necessary.

"Maybe she did love you, in her way," he said roughly, looking straight at the road ahead. "How would I know--? Like you said, I only met her once. She probably did love you, I'm not saying she didn't. What I'm saying is, she wasn't right for you." He reached out, gave the thin knee a meant-to-be-reassuring squeeze; never to know that the unconscious, desperate grip of his fingers gave Doyle a deep black bruise: "Sunshine, believe me. You need a certain sort of-- toughness...to cope with a lady like Ann and not go under, and you just haven't got it, not the sort of toughness I'm talking about," he added, because in fact Doyle could be hard; so hard Ann would look Poppinsish by comparison. Bodie had seen heavies twice his size unnerved into immobility by the chilling force of Doyle at his most dangerous. But on the other hand, a deep, close relationship with someone was necessary for him; he gave a lot to it and couldn't thrive without a lot being given to him in return. Ann would have trampled that kind of vulnerability into the ground.

He hardly dared look at Doyle to see how he was taking all this. But Doyle merely nodded, and put another question to him.

"So you were glad when she left then?"

So casual-sounding; but Bodie wasn't a fool. He hesitated, and this time snapped straight into the truth.

"Of course I bloody well was. She was poison for you and the quicker it ended the better."

"You really believe that, don't you."

Doyle still had his head down. Impossible to gauge his reaction.

"Yeah. And you'll make it a whole lot easier on yourself if you start believing it too," growled Bodie. He changed gear, savagely; wrenched the car out past two cyclists riding abreast. A horn blared; startled, he checked his wing mirror to see a motorcyclist dropping back too close behind; jesus christ, must have been overtaking and I pulled out in his path, stupid trying to drive and carry on this kind of conversation--

Doyle had not even noticed. Because he trusted Bodie he was feeling around it all; but the hurt was still all too close to him, his head was in a whirl. Let it rest. Maybe Bodie was right; and maybe, too, one day he'd be able to see it from afar. For now, he didn't want to think about it; it was over.

He scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand and looked up, with a ragged little smile that tore at Bodie's heart. "Good job I've still got you," he said, and added automatically, qualifying it as he always did lest Bodie sense entrapment and back off, "Sometimes."

It was stuffy in the car. He wound his window down a fraction. Abruptly, Bodie pulled the car into a layby, jerked on the handbrake. "Ray--"

There was a strange sensation in his chest, a choking feeling of constriction.

Doyle turned his head to look at him; the wind danced in his hair. "What?"

"I've gotta tell you this, I know it's not a very good time," Bodie said all in a rush, staring straight ahead, one hand clenched whitely on the steering wheel; "I tried to tell you last night, but-- Listen, Ray. If you want it that way, it doesn't have to be--sometimes any more." He listened to his own heart pounding the beat of blood through tight veins. Thunderous.

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," said Doyle after a minute. Risking a glance at him Bodie tried to smile. "It's okay, I know it's too soon after Ann. But--I wanted you to know, if nothing else I wanted you to know that you--that you got there for me," he said, wanting, needing to wipe out Doyle's words of the night before.

"When did you decide--this?" Doyle said.

Bodie shrugged, feeling both better and worse now it was out. "Didn't decide anything, mate; just realised it was true. Few days ago."

"When you thought I was going to drop you for Ann."

Doyle's voice had a hint of dangerous disquiet. "No," said Bodie, and he turned to face his partner, reaching for his hands, holding his wrists gently when Doyle did not return the grasp. "Not then. When I realised that if she ever let you down I'd run after her and drag her screaming all the way back to you. If that's what you needed."

Doyle was quiet then, sensing honesty; with his thumbs, he idly stroked Bodie's palms as he gazed out of the window and assimilated the shock.

"You gotta admit it," Bodie said to the silence, "Whoever's up there in charge of Fate really screwed this one up, didn't he?"

"I dunno," said Doyle reflectively, and his wide clear eyes scanned Bodie's face. "It helps."

Bodie took a deep breath. "Look, you don't have to feel I'm putting any pressure on you. I swear I'm not, Ray. I know it's all the wrong time and everything, what with Ann and all. I'm not so thick I can't see you'd trade me in for her right now if you got the chance." He gave a quick, ironic smile: but, nervous, he didn't meet Doyle's eyes. "Talk about on the rebound. Or, second-best. But--"

"No," interrupted Doyle, "you're not that. Don't put yourself down, Bodie; you know perfectly well what you mean to me. I'm not 'aving any of this noble martyr stuff."

Bodie had to grin. "I'm not noble. Just out for my own good--and yours."

"It won't last," said Doyle with conviction. "Like a kid, you are. Toy in the cupboard you 'aven't looked at in months, all of a sudden someone comes to play, takes a fancy to it, that's it, they can't have it."

Bodie clenched his fists, his guts twisting. "Don't be hard. Don't be..."

"I'm not," said Doyle, suddenly repentant. He slid an arm around Bodie's shoulders, hugged the rigidity out of them. "But let's be realistic, mate. It'll all be over in a week--just as long as it takes for you to fall for that new blonde in computers." He grinned, to soften it.

"Christ, Doyle. It's not some bloody crush I've got on you, y'know. I've known you five years and been layin' you for all but a few days of 'em, so I think you can say I'm past the risk of infatuation."

"Well, what is it then? The grande passion of your life?" Doyle, mocking.

"Yes," said Bodie steadily, "that if you like." He wasn't meeting Doyle's eyes; unused to sentiment, he was finding all of this very embarrassing. His fingers, twitchy, tapped the wheel. Without warning, his hand dived for the keys dangling in the ignition, wrenched it around. The well-oiled engine sprang into life.

"Sod this Doyle, I've had enough. Let's go home."

0 - 60 in ten seconds.

Cowley'd kill them but he'd call them in sick. They weren't much use to anyone today in any case; Cowley, foreseeing that, had sent them off on a minus-points-priority job which could wait. Would have to.

"Grande passion, eh?" murmured Doyle at his side.

Bodie didn't take his eyes off the road. "Yeh. And also--"

"What?" Doyle prompted, when the silence stretched.

"I wanna be with you for all my life," said Bodie gritting his teeth to get it all out before his nerve failed, "It might be bloody illogical and I know it isn't possible but I wanna nail you down, right now. You dunnave to say anything, I know that's not what you want at the moment. But that's what I want; reckon it's best that you know."

Doyle was silent. Risking it, Bodie darted a sidelong glance at him. Catching the look and sensing its uncertainty--knowing Bodie as he did he was aware of how bloody awful all this must be for him; all the things he most hated in one go--Doyle said, answering something Bodie had not asked,

"I love you, you know that."

And the simplicity of it made Bodie catch his breath.

"We'll sort it out," Doyle only said; and the miles passed on by.



The balance had subtly changed; now it was Doyle in charge, Doyle the practical one offering comfort. He made coffee while Bodie rang them in sick; it was always safest to let Bodie deal with the Cow. As his partner emerged from the lounge Doyle handed him a steaming mug, one eyebrow uplifted in query.

"Said we'd fallen prey to the runs and didn't dare stray far from the bog," Bodie said with a sheepish grin at him.

Doyle nodded slowly and winced as his stomach protested the arrival of the coffee. "'S only half a lie." He put down the mug; walked over to Bodie, took his away too, setting it on the side. Then he slipped his arms around Bodie, pulling his shirt out of his waistband, watching his face through slitted eyes.

"But you," he murmured, "you're okay, aren't you? Aren't you, Bodie?" His fingers slipped in to palm the warm mounds, stroking with his thumb.

When Bodie understood, his heart jolted. He nodded, holding Doyle's gaze all the while. "Yeah, sunshine," he said in a husky whisper, "Just fine," and Doyle began to push him backwards, guiding him until they were in the bedroom.

Hastily unclothed, Bodie threw himself down on the bed and Doyle stripped for him, making a sensuous game of it, bare limbs sliding free from cotton, posing briefly, yet casually, only a covert glance from beneath curled lashes giving any sign that he was aware of Bodie's attention. Naked, he padded over to the bed and stood looking down at Bodie. It was a very intense, curious look they exchanged; when at last it ended Bodie had the strange, almost breathless feeling that some contract had passed between them. That if all went well, now, with Doyle's return to him then there would be no doubt of the future for them.

Doyle's lean thighs were close beside him; Doyle was still sitting up, leaning against the headboard. Bodie turned his head to nuzzle the salt-sweetness there; he threw an arm over his thighs, his fingers pinching a fold of skin. With the other hand he found himself, closing his eyes as he touched his own excitement.

Doyle murmured, "Oh, yeah, do that: I like to watch you do that." And he dived over Bodie to lie propped up on one elbow, eyes absorbed, drifting from Bodie's face to his nipples to his fingers.

"Enough," he said into Bodie's ear, and Bodie desisted with a sigh, hungry. He brought his hand up to cup Doyle's chin without looking; Doyle turned his face, brushing new stubble over Bodie's fingers, kissing them briefly.

"I love you," Bodie said without opening his eyes, without moving; and felt Doyle's shift of response as he heard, and took it into his heart.

Then he was kneeling, between Bodie's legs, thumbs stroking the smooth inner thighs. It was all Doyle today, Bodie letting him do it all, do whatever he wanted, sharp eyes measuring, making decisions, holding the mastery of both of them; Bodie's only will engaged to accede to his. It suited him; imperiousness sat well on Doyle. It was not always like this. Sometimes it was Bodie in command, Doyle his to play with. Sometimes powergames didn't appeal; and they would rock together gently, mouths and bodies tender, flying unrushed to a sweet slow climax. At others they would battle sweatily, each trying to fight the other into submission. However it was, it was all the same anyway; in bed, they were equals and it had been that way right from the start.

But today, today it was Doyle's field; he held Bodie in his hands, poised above him, his desiredark eyes slitted gleamingly. A chill of sexual tension ran down Bodie's spine. He arched, presenting himself, needing to be touched there; but Doyle merely ran his thumbs up into the join of thigh and groin, brushing in the crisp hair there, barely touching the sensitive skin beneath. Without needing to look Bodie knew how his cock would be, lifting and searching, desperate to find that touch and be melted beneath it.

"Don't tease," he said, but it was an appeal without hope; Doyle would keep him this way as long as it suited him, knowing how it heightened the feeling.

"Don't tease," Doyle repeated with an edge of amazement in his voice; he slipped his hands under Bodie and dug his nails into his buttocks. Bodie clenched against it; another urgent throb of arousal pierced him.

"Please," he begged, and Doyle leant nearer him, breath drifting across Bodie's chest as he blew coolly on a nipple, making his way leisurely to Bodie's ear. "You can't escape," he whispered there, and grazed his teeth lightly over the ultra-sensitive lobe of Bodie's ear. Bodie shivered in anguish and delight; so bloody erotic: Doyle his master here, as skilled a fighter as Bodie himself, and once he was on top there was no trick Bodie could play to turn things around. Yes, now it would be all the way to the end....

Testing, he bunched his muscles as if to throw him off, but Doyle was ready for him, flying at him, mouth fastening on a nipple, tweaking a twinge of pain through him as punishment, shooting sheer lust right to the centre of Bodie: and then his tongue, soft in its wake, soothing, rubbing the tiny hurt away. "Wicked," he murmured against Bodie's cheek, warning: "Don't do it again."

"Please," Bodie said again, tensed up with the pain/pleasure in his loins; Doyle could make him come, sometimes, without even touching him, erotic suggestion enough, and he was close, even now, but he wanted so badly to be touched--

The sweatstreaked forehead, desire-shivery skin, told their own story to Doyle; and so he ended that game and began another.

"All right. All right, lie still," he soothed, brushing a quick fingertip reassurance down Bodie's cheek. Eyes shut, Bodie felt velvetsoft lips nuzzle him from nipple to groin. It was sweet. He drifted, hazy with gentle pleasure.

And then, with no warning he was taken in, engulfed in a warm moist haven; it made him arch up. He moaned. And as Doyle's flicking tongue searched him out, exploring every line, every crease and fold, a terrible/wonderful surging began at his very centre, and he clenched his hands tight in Doyle's unseen curls, all thought fled as he concentrated on his coming.

It was snatched away from him.

Doyle dragged his head away, gasping: "Jesus Christ, Bodie!" And as Bodie's dazed blue eyes met his, explained, "Too fast," coming up to hold him, the lean warm weight of him friendly, his tone soft, appeasing: "Too fast, fella. We gotta slow down. So keen today, aren't you?" His eyes ran over Bodie with lazy affection. "I love you. Just gotta calm down a while, hold on--" He stroked the short fringe of hair, combing it through his fingers as he talked. Bodie had one arm flung up over his eyes, his breath was coming hard, and Doyle wondered just how far he could take him; he hadn't intended cruelty, nor to tease, but today was--special, he wanted it to mean more than a quick tumble, a fast release soon forgotten. "Okay now?" and after a moment Bodie nodded.

"Turn over," Doyle whispered; and when Bodie was there he stroked a finger down his spine right to its very tip. Bodie breathed carefully, forcing himself to stay calm. Gentle hands parted him; a warm damp tongue trailed over terribly, beautifully sensitive skin.

"Oh yes," he said, head turning to one side on the pillow, scarcely conscious of speaking at all, "Please do that Ray, please," and the tongue probed him with tender knowledge, making him melt outwards, his whole body lush with soft soft pleasure until there was no resistance in him anywhere; lapped luxuriously with Doyle's saliva he opened to the warm snub hardness of Doyle's cock, accepting it easily.

"I'll fuck you, lover," Doyle whispered into his ear, making a caress of the words, "lay you till we come--"

Deep inside Bodie, held snug and safe, he knew they were both very close. He moved slowly, sure and unhurried; he kissed Bodie's shoulder, nuzzling there openmouthed.

"I love you, Ray," Bodie whispered, the first thing he had said for a long time. "I love you. Come in me."

Hands kneading Bodie's shoulders, Doyle arched up, his head dropping back; he thrust home all the way, the tip of himself reaching out to the very centre of Bodie. Beneath him Bodie cried out, but there was no pain as Doyle came inside him, shooting sweet streaming fire to explode Bodie's own: together, they tumbled into orgasm, mindless and beautiful, absorbing every sense, each nerve shrieking its own pleasure, too unbearable to last however they tried to hold on to it, stop it ebbing away.

That was on Doyle's mind as he rolled off Bodie at last, leaving one hand on his rump, patting him every now and then to remind him he was loved. Ann was gone, but Bodie was here. Bodie would always be here.

"Why is it over so fast," he muttered, looking down at himself. He sighed, let his head drop back. Shower. In a minute.

Bodie had to laugh. Looking him over, Doyle reached out a lazy hand to play with the white pearls adorning Bodie's belly, rubbing it softly into Bodie's skin. "'Course, there is that religion that promises you eternity as one perpetual orgasm."

Bodie liked what Doyle was doing; he shut his eyes. "Sounds great, why haven't we signed on?"

"The snag is, you have to die first."

"Forget that then," Bodie said sleepily, and he reached out and took Doyle in his arms, pulling him comfortably close, "because I'm feeling like I've got a lot to fill life with, right now."

Doyle offered him his finger; Bodie sucked it clean and held onto it. "You fuck like a pro, sweetheart," he said into one ear.

Doyle winced, a grimace crossing his face. "Oh, tender words."

Bodie gripped him by the upper arms.

"Those if you want them," he said steadily; and gave them to him without stint, until Doyle was laughing at him, and crying, and loving him all at the same time.

Hungry for love, they rolled together and took it slow.

And that was the beginning.

-- THE END --