On Heat


A story whose first line is still enough to make me blush. I wanted to write something that was purely and simply erotic and a pleasant, erm, release from all the churning turmoil and emotion of the longer works I was immersed in at the time. One little thing of note: among my group, there was a feeling that my stories were miserable, depressing, unpleasant affairs (though I always maintained that this was not so and that I simply had the wrong readers). Kindly, well-meant advice was given me to the effect that I should shape up and make it much, much clearer that an ending was happy, if it was, and if it wasn't, maybe it should be. With that in mind, with my permission one of my friends added the last three lines to this story for me, hoping to save me from the sort of backlash which I sometimes got over Siren. I believe the post-scripter was HG, a gifted and lyrical writer and a very good friend, and the story is the better for it.

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He knew he was going to jerk off that night. Idly watching TV, as he lounged on the settee, sleeves rolled up, shirt casually unbuttoned, there was a full, sweet ache in the pit of his stomach, and he was overly conscious of the press of tight denim over his groin. In this mood, failing some amenable feminine company, Doyle would contentedly make love to himself.

He didn't hurry. Tonight, he wanted it slow. Not that he didn't like it the other way -- a fast, hard beat in a tense, early morning sweat that would bring him off in seconds, send him out relaxed into the day -- but tonight, when there was no rush, no pressure, he wanted it slow.

And sweet. Oh, yeah, he knew how to make himself feel good. Better than anyone did. He had the advantage of years of careful exploration of his own body, experimenting with its response.

He switched off the telly, wandered around the flat checking locks, putting out lights, making sure the taps were turned off tight. The usual routine. His last visit was to the bathroom, and then he walked to the bedroom, bare feet padding on the thick carpet.

He stood before the mirror, rolling down the sleeves slowly, slipping free the last of the buttons. Then he pushed the shirt back off his shoulders, watching himself the whole time through dreamy, slitted eyes. His fingers moved to his belt, pulling the leather smoothly through the loop, unhitching the buckle, lifting the prong free of the hole so that the belt swung loose. He undid the stud of his jeans, then pushed the zip down, easing it over the gentle bulge of his sex, just far enough. He stayed that way for a while, eyes travelling over the dishevelled, half-dressed creature in the glass. He put one hand on his hip, running the fingers of the other through soft curls, posing languidly. Finally, with a lopsided grin at his own narcissism, he turned away and finished undressing.

Naked, he returned to the mirror, looking at the pleasing pale gold of his own skin, the changing shadows that shifted as he turned a little in the dim, glowing light. He stretched, thoroughly and luxuriously, so he could watch the taut clench and slow relaxation of every well-defined muscle. He stared into his own face, into the hazy, hungry green of his eyes, absorbed in himself; trailed soft fingertips down his cheek, making his nerves tingle with light, anticipatory thrills, drew them down his throat as he tipped up his chin. Down over the delicate bones of chest, sternum, to play in the soft dark hair there, gently at first, then pulling it up between finger and thumb, bringing twinges of pleasure/pain. His small, brown nipples stood out already, proud little peaks of flesh drawn tightly together in anticipation of his own touch. He slid his hand across his chest, over the ribs, into his armpit, palm gliding over the nipple, massaging gently, then withdrew his fingers from the warm dampness to touch it properly, the pads of his fingertips rubbing across the rough puckered skin. Felt good ... He drew in a little, sighing breath of pleasure, half shutting his eyes, raised a finger to his mouth, then drew it moistly around the other neglected breast. A fleeting regret that he could not mouth his own nipples touched him, but the idea itself excited him as his hand trailed on down over his belly, fingertip dipping in and out of his flat navel. Withdrawing, teasingly denying the upward arch of flesh, he rubbed a slow hand down each arm in turn, fingers curved to cup his shoulder, then sliding down over soft haired forearm, fingers closing around each wrist, gripping.

His gaze went down at last to the softly swelling penis between his thighs. Momentarily entranced by lewdness, he parted them wider, rolling his warm sex between his palms, but that suited his mood only briefly, and he returned to dreamy sensuality, slowing the pace, watching his spread fingers glide over the down of his inner thighs, the other hand rubbing over hip and sliding behind to move open palmed over the curve of his hard muscled buttocks, fingers parting to search for and find the secret place between.

It was not a caress he usually used in his autoeroticism, and he wasn't sure why he did it now, but the thrill of pleasure he felt as his fingertip touched the entrance to his body urged him to continue, to explore this almost untasted facet of his sexuality more thoroughly tonight. His heart was quickening, picking up speed, his cock arching upright now, pointing arrow-straight up his belly, demanding attention with an arrogance he could no longer ignore.

"I love you," he said to his drooping lashed reflection, softly.

He liked to hear the words: words turned him on.

The pace of things had changed, grown more urgent. Voyeuristic still, he tilted the mirror slightly so he could continue to watch himself, and threw himself down on the bed.

Ah, yeah ... Christ, it felt so good. He sighed, head tossing to one side, open eyed, and the mirror slanted his reflection back at him. His hand slid down, took hold of himself with easy familiarity, squeezing the distended shaft of flesh -- so warm and good, so delightfully responsive to his own sure touch. He let his thighs fall apart so he could see his testes. Watching it always made it more exciting. He wished someone else was watching him, too -- Bodie, closest to his heart, flashed into his mind. If Doyle got so aroused watching this pleasuring of himself, maybe Bodie would, too. The sudden thought of Bodie excited him further. He half closed his eyes so he could watch the mental image as well as the real one, visualising Bodie naked, Bodie doing this. Maybe Bodie was doing this, now, lying on his own bed with his own knees apart, tossing himself off, rubbing his own heavy sex with the same self-knowing awareness of what made himself feel good ... maybe they could watch one another, do it together ...

Beyond now the inhibition and the automatic decency he would have retained had this not been a very solitary, private act, designed for himself alone, the wild image was exciting him beyond belief. He was panting quite hard, now, half lifting his head so he could watch the movement of his hand. He was getting -- oh, so close -- have to slow down ...

With a supreme act of will, eyes gritted shut, he took his hand away, slipping back immediately from the peak. He stretched his legs out, toes curling unconsciously, clenching the muscles in his thighs. He looked down at himself, the big, rosy headed cock resting, unfilled, on his belly, He ran a gentle finger over the moist tip, collected a trace of slippery dampness and brought it to his mouth to taste, touching it with the delicate point of his tongue, then rubbing the salty moisture the full curve of his lips in a sensuous, slow sweep, he liked his own taste. It aroused him, and again Bodie slid into his mind -- how would Bodie taste? Like this? They could try it, see if they could tell themselves apart, on each other's fingers, or lips ... Would Bodie dare? Oh, God, so bloody arousing ... Caught in an ecstatic, painful stasis where he dared not continue with the usual rhythmic caressings his body pleaded for, he held still, trembling, his mind racing with fevered images of Bodie's lips and tongue on him, while his fingertip traced an almost unbearable stimulation beneath his foreskin, barely touching, sliding over the slippery moisture, scraping so delicately the rich nerve ends of his glans, shockingly thrilling sensations coursing through him, sensations very close to pain...

"Oh, yeah," he whispered, head turning on the pillow, eyes shut now. "Suck me, Bodie ... Lick me there -- oh, yeah, just there..."

His flicking fingers masqueraded as Bodie's imaginary tongue, and this time he nearly lost control altogether, the tide rising in a seemingly unstoppable surge. But he was an expert at this, master of his own pleasure, and again he regained control, breathing hard.

Calm down, lover, you got all night.

Needing a slower, less direct touch, his other hand reached beneath to fondle his testicles, rolling them gently in the delicate rough/soft sac. Holding his breath, his middle finger probed further, stroking the sensitive skin there -- then he shifted, pushing it even further back to graze over the tight knot of flesh.

His heart was pounding, really racing. Uninhibited enough since childhood, when he had explored his own body thoroughly, without shame, learning freely what gave him pleasure, somehow he had never bothered much with this, not needing it, and it was quite awkward to do -- but tonight --

He still didn't need it. But somehow he wanted to try it, desperately intrigued by the idea, by the tingling thrill that had shot through him when he had touched himself tentatively this way...

Unalarmed by the picture he must present, for there was only the mirror to see, and that, too, became blind if he shut his own eyes, he drew his knees, up, lifted his hips a little, and pressed the finger to his sphincter, his balls pushing warmly against his wrist, a soft, sweet contact.

He just touched himself there, eyes tightly screwed up, trying to accept the sensation, fingertip barely brushing the sensitive, tightly clenched opening.

Come on, Doyle, don't be so bloody coy. Ease up...

Too tense -- tight--

Exciting, though -- forbidden, wicked -- he rocked gently against his probing finger, imagining it was --

Bodie --

Bodie, touching him with such intimacy, gently pushing into him --

As he was pushing gently into his own body, slowly gaining entrance, sliding through the tight ring of muscle closing tight on the intruder, expelling it, taking it in again, through to the smooth, soft walled channel -- oh, Jesus, yeah, it felt good --

"Fuck me, Bodie," he whispered, scarcely conscious of what he was saying, just knowing it was firing him on, giving him so much delight, so much sweetness. "Fuck me, screw me, do it to me ..."

"Fuck me --"

Bodie, taking him, pressing that heavy cock deep inside him, as far as he could reach ... so good he was helpless, delirious with flooding pleasure. Make it last? No way, and as Bodie joined them, made them one, his free hand grasped himself and, pressing down, he spurted milky bouts of ecstasy over his gripping, unconscious fingers as his mouth turned and searched blindly for the lips that were not there, never had been, never could be...

He lay without thought, chest rising and falling, one hand flung up over his eyes, heartbeat pounding in his ears. The receding ecstasy fled like a dream.

For that was all it was.

Doyle was prosaic about his sexual fantasies. They didn't trouble him with guilt, nor soul searching. He'd tried it all in his secret world, and forgot it after. That particular fantasy was among those he wasn't sure he wanted to come true. One could summon perfection more reliably in one's daydreams, while reality had an immutable will of its own. He simply lay there for a while, idly dreaming, one hand propped behind his head, the other playing lazily in the stickiness on his belly, finding his own moisture pleasing to every sense, drawing fingertip circles in it, twining a slippery curl of damp pubic hair around one forefinger. Yeah, that had been good. Something else. Totally relaxed, all the tension drained from him, he felt too lazy to get up and wash. In a moment ...

He could see himself in the mirror, an abandoned, wanton sight, lazily sprawled across the bed. His eyes rose to his face, and caught a dreamy, cat-like languor there, which dissolved into a cynical, white-toothed grin, amused at his own sensuality. You're a little animal, Doyle ... no holds barred when it comes to making it with yourself, are there? Never guess it to look at you...Imagine Cowley if he could see you now. Or a woman. Or his partner. Change their whole view of you, it would. Never look you in the eye again.

But maybe everyone had the same, secret lives, did the same things in the privacy of their own beds. Yeah, course they did. Even Bodie?

Bodie, again ... Bodie kept intruding into his thoughts, tonight. No, intruding was the wrong word. Doyle welcomed him there. He had a lot to be grateful to Bodie for. Bodie stayed constant; and he was, Doyle knew, loyal to his partner above all else. That little lonely corner in his mind -- the one he supposed everyone had -- had been filled for good when Bodie came along. Something about himself -- Doyle didn't know what -- appealed to the big ex-army man, brought out his protective instincts; his admiration, too. Bodie was an accepted part of his life, now, and if Doyle were in trouble, Bodie'd be the person he'd turn to; they were very close. Nice, that.

He smiled to himself, hand sliding up and down his shaft; without having realised it, he was hardening again. Demanding little monster, he thought, looking down at himself with some fondness; so it's twice tonight you want it, is it? Not had enough yet, eh?

His hand made slow, rhythmic movements, the urgency gone, but the desire for pleasure rising anew under the subtle, slick rubbing; his mind wandering.

There was a sudden noise.

His brows narrowed into a frown, Doyle listened, his hand stilling.

The click of a door. Only one person had a key to his flat.

"Doyle?"

A far-off shout, in a familiar voice.

Panic arrived; then inexplicably, passed, unmourned.

Doyle slid into a crazy overdrive. He didn't move.

"Doyle? You in 'ere? Shout if you've got someone with you --"

Oh, very subtle, Bodie. Doyle smiled. Something had taken him over, sent him into a state of devilish unconcern. He simply lay, and waited.

The bedroom door was flung wide. Bodie appeared. He looked annoyed.

"Why the bloody hell didn't you answer? Or were you asleep?"

Then he looked at Doyle. Really looked at him.

Doyle enjoyed the dawning bolt of comprehension that froze Bodie's face. He tipped his head back, naked, unashamed, one hand lazily stroking himself.

"What are you doing?" Bodie said, eyes wide with disbelief, voice strange.

"What's it look like?" answered Doyle. "'S fun. Come and join in."

Bodie was really in shock. Doyle's world had been dreamy and sensual for an hour now; Bodie was still mentally way behind, having only just come in from the streets, his thoughts on routine things.

Bodie was very still, his face frozen, his eyes dark in the dim light of the bedroom. Doyle watched the quick rise and fall of his blackclad chest beneath the ochre leather jacket. He was hardly breathing, himself. Something had begun to stir in him, quite unrelated to the musky cloud of heat still dazing his senses; a dim awareness of something horrific, but he ignored it for now, still on a rising high.

"Bodie?" he said, very low, husky, and held out a hand. "Please ..."

With an unexpected movement, Bodie whirled, and was gone, slamming the door behind him with vehement force.

Doyle shut his eyes, for no more than the barest second. A quick, neat roll, feet touched the ground, and he was off after his partner like a lick of lightening, wrenching the bathrobe off the door on the way with such violence that the cotton loop ripped with a tearing, jagged sound. He didn't notice.

He caught up with Bodie in the hall, his mate about to powerhouse it through the front door, rigid shouldered. "Wait," said Doyle through gritted teeth. "Just wait."

Instinctively, he grabbed Bodie's arm. Slowly, Bodie looked down at it. Doyle was horribly conscious of his own nakedness, bare feet planted apart, the hopeful, awkward erection still protruding upward in a ridiculous attitude of selfseeking amorality, totally behind the run of things. Doyle shuddered and dropped his hand, began to shrug the white towelling robe on. He held Bodie's gaze steadily all the while, though he had flushed, high colour staining his skin, the heat coursing through him now of a very different tenor. Fingers that shook a little sought deftness as he tied his belt firmly, covering himself with finality.

"Stay and talk."

Bodie just looked at him, not quite meeting his eyes now, remote and very pale.

"Just talk," repeated Doyle, and when there was no reply, his own patience snapped. "For godsake, Bodie! You're not the only one embarrassed around 'ere, or 'adn't you noticed!" He slammed a fist into the wall and, turning, buried his head on his arm.

After a moment of watching the slouched, dejected figure propped against the wall, Bodie's hand left the door. He crossed to Doyle and took his shoulder, turned him.

Doyle met his eyes, mutinous, angry, and embarrassed.

Bodie's lips quirked into a little smile. "What a relief."

"What is?"

"Thought you were bloody cryin'."

Belying the forced levity, hard nails dug into off white toweling, into the thinly fleshed bone beneath. Then, slowly, Bodie let him go.

Doyle didn't smile in return, though he was conscious of relief. Now, Bodie would stay. "Go and pour us a drink, eh, sunshine? Reckon we need one. Just give me a minute, okay?" he said awkwardly, one hand rising to brush through his hair in a nervous gesture, until Bodie dropped his eyes, and nodded.

In the bathroom, breathing hard, Doyle shut the door and leaned against it for a moment. Then, opening his eyes, he stared into the mirror, saw his own slightly flushed face, wide, darkly pupilled eyes -- and was hit by a shocking rush of recognition. It seemed to far off, now, that wanton self-flaunting, that uninhibited flung-limbed performance reflected back to his greedy eyes.

It had seemed so natural, so delightful to give into his body's every whim, at the time.

Now, Doyle actually winced in self-disgust, watching his face twist into an involuntary attitude of embarrassed disbelief. He shivered, too, feeling his insides curl into a nervous knot of shame and near hysteria -- whatever mad devilment had taken him over, to behave so in Bodie's presence?

In a sudden orgy of self-dislike, he wrenched on the taps in a flood and swathed his hot face and sticky genitals in a rush of freezing cold water, submerging himself in a flurry of icy reality.

Whatever had he done ...?

So unfair to Bodie ...

Bodie, who had asked no part in his fantasies, let alone been prepared to be involved in them for real.

Christ almighty, what a thing to do to someone.

He dried himself angrily, dragging a rough spiked towel over tender flesh in unconscious, vicious self-castigation for the needs he had not even tried to control, not even when sheer moral expediency, not to mention courtesy, should have intervened and imposed its own limits.

Pulling on fresh clothes in haste, his lips curled as he bitterly recalled his earlier, smug musings on his own lack of inhibition. Then he had been almost proud -- 'Look, Freud, no hangups' -- but now, he saw it as it truly was: an amoral, self-willed, self-centred determination to be good to himself, at the expense of anything, to have what he must have at all costs.

And Bodie had had to be caught up in the middle of it.

Raymond Doyle faced himself in the mirror of his own soul, and disliked what he saw.

He set his teeth, because Bodie had stayed, and if Bodie had that courage then he, too, must find it and equal it. Dressed in clean, fresh clothing from head to toe, he went out to face the results of his own callous selfishness without default.

Bodie tensed at his entry, but didn't look up.

"Drink's there, mate," he said, in a voice one would have called normal. "You're runnin' a bit low, looks about time for the trolley run to Oddbins."

It took Doyle a moment even to take in what Bodie meant, but Bodie indicated the nearly empty bottle, and he latched suddenly on to comprehension.

"Hmmm ..." Doyle dropped to his haunches, grateful for something to do, and for Bodie's graceful beginning. He began looking through the dusty cupboard. "'Nother bottle, see," he said, extracting one from behind the ranks of Drambuie, cherry brandy, creme de menthe -- squat relics with lopsided labels from foreign holidays, rarely touched, the screw lid of each thickly encrusted with a crystalline sugary deposit. Not knowing what to do with the Johnny Walker now he'd got it, he held it awkwardly, weighing it in his hand, then he set it down on the table.

Bodie raised an eyebrow ... "if we get through that lot, there's gonna be two Cowleys glarin' out at us from over his desk tomorrow morning." That was Bodie, all right. Doyle felt a slight backing off in the tension between them.

It returned with equal force when he moved toward Bodie, who was sitting in his usual place at one end of Doyle's corduroy and chrome couch, the usual space beside him left for Doyle.

He couldn't do it. Not now, not tonight. Maybe never again. He was conscious of Bodie's quizzical eye on him as he swerved off at the last moment, dropped to occupy one of the armchairs. Not exactly subtle. But then, Bodie could hardly be surprised by unsubtlety, not any more.

Damn, damn, damn. One moment of idiocy measurable in seconds, to ruin five years of carefully worked on friendship? He shut his eyes, took a long swallow of his drink, knowing that Bodie, curious, was still studying him, but needing the time to think. Now everything between them would be altered by constraint. It would leap into being every time they were alone together, like now, so that he was afraid to sit near him lest the chance touch of thigh on thigh should lead Bodie to remember. In the car, on stakeout, he would have to be wary of every fleeting physical contact -- Bodie always polite, always reserved, always awkward -- His eyes flashed open, stared straight ahead, past Bodie's unreadable face.

No. It needn't be like that. They'd get over it. He was over reacting; it was still too close, the pounding symptoms of anxiety still with him, his skin burning. That would fade, and surely, with it his constraint.

Looking at those wide open, considering eyes, robbed of all their lucid colour by the dim light, Bodie wondered what to do. His eyes drifted over Doyle, recording the off note in his dress: dark shirt with pale green trousers. That, alone, convinced Bodie that Doyle was severely off key. His style of clothes might look casual, but was in fact carefully planned. Lapses in couture such as this one were unknown. In short, he might be embarrassed, but Doyle must be mortified. And Doyle mattered too much to be lost, left behind. It had happened too often to Bodie before. This one, this mate of all those he had ever had, male or female -- this one, Bodie was concerned to keep.

Coming to a decision, Bodie jumped to his feet and went for the hi-fi. The unwavering, distant line of Doyle's gaze jumped, startled, and followed him.

"Got anything new?" asked Bodie, deliberately casual, with his back to him as he crouched by the smoky plastic cabinet.

"Turandot," said Doyle, and grinned, unexpectedly and unseen. The gulped whisky was settling down well, coiling warm, soothing fronds of fire around his nervy guts.

Bodie made a sound of displeasure. "Can't stick that Paraguayan stuff."

"It's not --" began Doyle, and subsided. Bodie knew that as well as he did. Liked to play the fool, did Bodie. Act stupider than he was.

But Bodie wasn't stupid, not at all.

Doyle's gaze dwelt on the broad shoulders, the dark head awkwardly twisted, a squint of concentration screwing up his face as he scanned the record sleeve.

"Dire Straits," Doyle said.

"Ah, c'mon, it's not that bad," came the deliberately cross purposed reply, sending shivers down Doyle's spine. Bodie found the requested disc, then, and flipped it out of its sleeve, flicking it one handed onto the turntable and setting the needle.

It was low and melodic enough to ignore.

"Why did you come here tonight?" asked Doyle suddenly, as Bodie meticulously propped dust sleeve and cover together against the wall.

Bodie looked up, then, and met his eyes unafraid. Now, as never before, they needed trust.

"Dunno," he admitted. "At a loose end ... Thought you might wanna go for a drink, something like that."

Doyle checked his watch. "'S after closing hours, for godsake."

Bodie shrugged. "Okay, then, so I came to raid your personal bar."

The tension was back again. It showed in the way they watched each other, and in the things they did not say.

Finally, Doyle gave a rueful smile, looked away. Bodie was not being honest with him. Maybe it was up to him to make the first move. "Wish you'd knocked first ..."

And there it was out in the open, up for discussion. He waited.

"I'll know better," Bodie said expressionlessly, "next time, won't I?"

Head whipping around, Doyle's gaze transfixed him. "I meant for your sake. Not mine," he said, very low, very steady.

The reply was unexpected.

"I know that."

Doyle stared at him. Bodie rose to his feet. Amazingly, he extended a hand. "C'mon."

Doyle looked up at him; saw his mate standing there, head cocked to one side, a half smile on his lips and one hand held out, open palmed. "C'mon," Bodie said, again, reasonable, lightly affectionate, "you don't sit there." He took Doyle's arm and pulled him up. "Not your place." He led them to the settee and settled them together.

"This is," he said, and slung his arm around Doyle's shoulders in the careless, sexfree embrace that was the hallmark of Bodie's attitude toward him. "Here's your drink," he said, leaning forward without releasing him. "Get it down you; tense as a tickflea, you are."

Unresisting at last, because Bodie seemed to know what to do, Doyle let his head fall sideways onto Bodie's offered shoulder, inhaling the scent of warm leather and Bodie. He could pick Bodie out in a crowd by scent alone. Nothing to do with the strength of it, just that it was a familiar part of his life. It gave him, in an odd way, a sense of security from day to day.

"You've forgiven me, then," he said, eyes shut.

"Nothing to forgive, sunshine, unless you're dribbling on me jacket," Bodie amended with severity.

"Don't dribble," said Doyle, affronted, feeling something very warm, very comforting beginning to sweep through him that had nothing at all to do with the whisky. He gazed up at the side of Bodie's face.

"Fell asleep on me once. Still got the marks to prove it," said Bodie, and ducked Doyle's blow of indignation, laughing. At Doyle's insistence, they searched for the mark without success, up and down Bodie's sleeve, on his lapels, using the ridiculous excuse to regain the intimacy that looked casual, but which was, in fact, the precious byproduct of five years' partnership. Finally, Bodie pushed him away, breathless and chuckling. "Geddoff, Doyle, now I come to think of it, I reckon I 'ad it cleaned since." He threw a hand to his chest and declaimed, dramatically, "Out! damned spot --"

Doyle's deep, earthy chuckles slowly subsided. He sat there quietly for a moment, turning his glass in his fingers.

"Bodie," he said, turning his head to stare unseeing at the window.

"Yeah." Bode ran a hand through his dark hair, restoring it to something like smoothness with a brisk stroking movement of his fingers.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't keep saying that. I told you, nothing to forgive," said Bodie with determined calm.

Doyle's hand shot out, gripped his wrist. "No. I embarrassed you," he said tightly. He was glad the lights were dim.

"I can take worse things than a red face, Doyle."

"You didn't take it. You took off like a bloody sole on an oilslick, and I don't fuckin' well blame you," Doyle said bitterly, pulling away from the diffuse comfort of Bodie's arm. "It was disgusting. Just, I dunno, a hell of a shock."

There was a little silence. Doyle had his eyes open, staring at nothing, the glass forgotten in his hand tilted a little to one side. Bodie watched the aloof, unflawed profile, the down curling lashes wavering slightly as Doyle breathed, too quietly.

"Why didn't you call out?" he asked curiously, since it seemed Doyle wanted the penance of flaying honesty, "or get into bed?"

There was no reply for a moment. Then, Doyle said, face still averted, "I didn't want to."

The softly spoken phrase slunk into the near darkness like danger stealing on sleepers unaware. Stricken, Bodie said nothing.

Doyle gazed angrily down into his lap. He set the glass down on the table with a nerve jumping clink. "You know how it is. You get hot, all in a haze, and you, you know, it's like you lose the sense of what's right an' what isn't, and I was thinking about you, and --"

Bodie's sudden sharp enquiry drew Doyle's gaze. "You were what?"

Oh, fuck it. Bloody wonderful thing to say.

He could read nothing in Bodie's face, its proud lines unsoftened now, like staring at the Sphinx through sunglasses, eyes under dark brows unlit.

"Okay," he conceded belligerently, "so I was thinkin' about you. S'not a crime, is it?" He sat hunched up, elbows pressing painfully into his knees, chin sunk into his cupped hands as he stared mulishly ahead.

"Why were you thinking of me?"

Doyle shrugged. "I dunno. Just was."

He felt a hand on his shoulder, but he wouldn't turn.

"Fancy me, then, do you?" Bodie, trying for lightness -- failing.

"Yeah," he said. "Yeah, maybe I do." Then he did turn, a hint of challenge in his eyes as he stared at Bodie.

Bodie let out a long breath, curious eyes searching Doyle's face. Doyle lifted his head with a kind of defiant pride.

"Learned a lot about me tonight, 'aven't you? Shocked, eh, Bodie?" He grinned, perfectly humourless.

Abruptly, Bodie looked away. "You should have told me before."

"Why?" said Doyle harshly, unaccountably annoyed by this. "Don't feel you have to tell me all your secret turnons, do you?"

"No," said Bodie, "but maybe I would have done if you had." His eyes met Doyle's again.

Irritated and uncomprehending, Doyle just glared at him.

Until it struck home.

Comprehension dawned, widening his eyes, picking up the speed of his heart.

"You --"

Bodie just looked at him, his face totally closed.

"Then, why didn't you --"

"The same reason you didn't," Bodie interrupted, "I suppose."

It was very late at night. Too much to take in. It was as if it wasn't happening, not to him: viewed on screen, perhaps, or in the limitless vision of one's own mind, prompted by wild what-ifs. Lightheaded, he turned to Bodie, to see what Bodie would do next. Thus, with no preconception, he waited.

Fool, he thought, as Bodie's hands seized his shoulders, I should have guessed. Should have known he wanted this, if I did.

But it was not all like his fantasies.

For if it was all happening to someone else, then no wonder Bodie, too, was a different person (the affectionate mate he knew lost behind what was happening to them). Bodie was hard, solid against him, breathing roughly and heavily, eyes jet hard as his mouth descended savagely on Doyle's. He seemed driven by some inner frenzy, uncommunicated to Doyle. Dazed by the assault and even, strangely, aroused by it, he lay passively under the demands of Bodie's hunger.

Not like this ... couldn't be happening ... must be dreaming ...

Reality slammed life through his limp form when Bodie, having torn away clothes, woke Doyle to the unequivocal realisation that this was his partner, his best friend, that they were both half naked, and that he was within half an inch of being raped.

Lightening reflexes sprang into force. He rolled, and Bodie was gone, thumping to the floor beside him. Doyle jumped him, straddled his thighs, pinioned his wrists with bruising strength, and stared down into unfathomable eyes.

"Oh, Jesus Christ, Bodie," he hissed between clenched teeth. "Not like that."

Bodie was as shaken and confused as Doyle, but none of that showed on his face. He even managed a twisted travesty of a smile. "Changed your mind? Desperate for it, you were, an hour ago."

Doyle flushed, but did not look away. "Yeah, that's more like it," he said evenly, coldly, staring down. "I thought it'd all start coming out soon, knew you were taking it too bloody well. Get it out of your system, Bodie, go on. Tell me how disgustin' I looked. Really let fly, Bodie. I wannit all now, don't wannit flung back at me when you've 'ad time to chew on it a while, let it fester a bit. Knew the sweet understanding wouldn't last for long. And you --" he let his voice bite, emphasizing the word, 'You think rape's a fair comeback, do you? Pay off for the crime?" Bodie was tensing, trying to throw him off. Doyle merely squeezed his thighs tighter around Bodie's thighs pressed between his own, skin sliding smoothly on soft skin. His cock was standing hard and erect as he stared down into Bodie's shuttered face with angry, slitted eyes.

His voice, however, was gentle, the voice of a lover whispering mysterious magic in the dead of night as he murmured, "How's it feel now, Bodie? Now it's your turn to wonder what it's like getting fucked. Feel good, does it? Making you hard, yet?"

Bodie's voice was hoarse with fury, shame, disgust -- all those things.

"Fuckin' bastard. Goin' to plan, is it? A quick screw, that's what you want. Go on, you do that. Fuck me through the gut, lover. Make yourself happy. I won't fight."

All Doyle's anger left him.

He was left with only weariness, and a terrible compressed feeling of sorrow, and defeat. Later, he knew, it would rise and overwhelm him.

For this time they had blown it. Being what they were, they walked a fine edge of friendship and trust and could fall only too easily, to watch it all shatter, unfulfilled. They had lost their way; facing disaster. Troubled, unsure, he looked down into Bodie's face, not really seeing the defiant, rebellious expression, seeing instead the years of dependence, begun on a cool, impersonal level necessary for the teaming Cowley had ordained, widening to a tentative liking, to a genuine interest and care that the other should be safe and happy.

"What do you want, Bodie?" he asked softly. Regardless, heedless of anything, the question laid bare to its essential, knuckle white, devoid of complexity. "I don't think you even know."

Bodie watched him, frowning now, seeing the stark ribbed chest perfectly still. Whether he knew it or not, Doyle was holding his breath, waiting for his answer. That touched him, and so, too, the suddenly gentle slant of Doyle's voice. What were they doing? Learning to hate one another?

Once begun, that would be too easy.

So, it could not be allowed.

He smiled, a little shakily, flipped the hand of Doyle's that was resting on his shoulder. "Didn't know you cared too much about what I wanted."

Confession made, he felt calm. He watched the expressions flicker through the strange eyes, and saw Doyle arrive, at last, at the conclusion.

"Thought I wanted a quick fuck, didn't you?" Doyle asked.

The smile of the crocodile. Bodie forced lightness. "Randy old toad, you are. 'Spect you run through us all in your head, looking for something new and kinky to try out -- tonight was my night, eh? And when I walked in you thought you'd struck it lucky -- try it on, why not?" The bitterness was showing through despite himself. He had been badly hurt earlier, almost as if Doyle had dragged something private, precious to Bodie himself, through the dirt. He would have got over that, only Doyle would call him back, make him stay, go over and over it when Bodie only wanted to forget ...

Doyle, stopped in his tracks by Bodie's startling opinion of him, stared into the distance. He said slowly, "That really what you think of me?"

Not wanting to hurt him, Bodie felt uncomfortable, but Doyle's clear searching gaze demanded truth. "You mainly think about yourself, yeah," he mumbled, and patted him on the arm to soften it. "Get what you want."

Doyle inclined his head slightly, looking far away. He hadn't moved. Bodie was beginning to feel ridiculous now the sexual heat had fled, lying here half bare with his partner sitting astride him, naked thighs gripping his own, the soft intriguing weight of Doyle's genitals resting on his belly. He moved restlessly, but nothing happened.

Suddenly, Doyle removed his gaze from distant introspection, looked down. He traced a finger from Bodie's throat downward, watching it all the way. "I confess," he said. "Guilty as charged."

Bodie had lost the thread of this. "Come on, Ray, let me up now, okay?" he urged gently. "We went a bit wild, but it's over now."

"Is it?" Doyle asked, and answered himself. "It'll never be over."

Bodie was mystified. He studied Doyle's face. It wore the cool, still look he had noticed at various times before, an expression that lent him an unaware, precarious beauty. Ray Doyle was an attractive man whose appeal lay in his sensuality rather than his looks, which were imperfect and unusual, but at times he did acquire something rare, that pulled at your heart.

Doyle's palms, flat, touched Bodie's chest, circled his nipples, slowly. "You were wrong, about what I wanted," he said abruptly, continuing. "I didn't even know it myself, but I know what it is now."

Bodie started to say something, but changed it. His mouth was dry. It was pleasant, the way Doyle was touching him like this, the soft, sure movements of his hands producing sweet, strange feelings.

"Oh, yeah?" he said with rough, quiet affection, "had you all wrong, did I?"

"Not entirely," said Doyle, and gave him a direct, unreadable look. "Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you?"

"No," said Bodie flatly, but it was strange. He felt peculiar, light headed, as if he were about to laugh from sheer joy at some good news he wasn't even sure he'd received.

Again, that strange, searching look. "You'll get the drift," said Doyle. He was very near, and suddenly Bodie knew without a doubt that, for better or worse, they were going to make love.

"I'm still one behind."

"What?" Doyle, who had been dreaming, lifted his head off Bodie's stomach and stared up at Bodie's face. Bodie still had his eyes closed.



"I'm one behind," Bodie mused. "You had a start on me, remember?"

Doyle smiled. He folded both hands across Bodie's belly and propped his chin on them. "'S not a race, mate. And you didn't miss much. Was better with you, than without you."

Opening his eyes, Bodie extended a hand and cupped the side of Doyle's face, gingerly threading through tousled hair. Doyle turned his cheek and nuzzled Bodie's palm, their eyes never leaving one another.

"Ray."

"Yeah?"

"What were you thinking about?" Bodie asked curiously, after a long silence. To his surprise and dawning delight, Doyle actually flushed, looking away, a little abashed grin curling across his lips.

Bodie's own mirrored it, amused and incredulous. He reached out, caught Doyle's chin, trying to turn him, but Doyle wouldn't look, fending him off, laughing. "Come on, give, mate."

"Don't keep remindin' me of it," Doyle said, ducking his head and burying his hot face on Bodie's stomach. "Don't Bodie. Please, 's a very embarrassing memory."

"Even after what we've just done?" said Bodie, lowering his tone to one deep and intimate, but although Doyle, who was actually as overwhelmed and cheerful as Bodie himself, warmed to it, he still shook his head.

"Why, worse than that, was it?" Bodie gave a chuckle, ruffling the damp curls under his hand. "You randy little bugger. You sure it was about me? All this reticence, mate, I'm beginning to wonder."

Doyle raised his head, gave him an intense catlike stare. "Yeah, it was about you," he confirmed quietly, "and, no, it wasn't worse than what we did just now. It was just -- different, and one day I'll tell you. But not right now."

"Okay," said Bodie, suddenly soft, because Doyle had said 'one day' and maybe that meant there would be a future for them. Hands under Doyle's wet armpits, he hauled him up to lie on top of him, searching his face. So well known to him -- yet oddly unfamiliar. Long established in the old relationship, easy with it, they were now only at the beginning of the new, and they were essentially, strangers here.

Then Doyle smiled at him, revealing absurd, tiny dimples, and Bodie found he did not miss what they no longer had.

"You stayin' the night?"

"You want me to?"

"Yeah."

"We gonna do what you were gettin' off to?"

"You're never gonna let me live that down, are you? For the rest of my life?"

Caught on an upsurge of emotion, Bodie hugged him exuberantly close, released him. "Rest of our lives."

Not strangers at all, he found himself realising as Doyle smiled again.

"Sounds fine to me."

-- THE END --