The Ball Was Good


Another very early story. The exuberance, the delight, of being newly in love (me) shows. Obviously it was Wimbledon week at the time of writing.

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(J.P. McEnroe, 1978, '79, '80...)

Almost like guilty schoolboys, the two men crept out of the shrubbery in the late dawn and surveyed the long green planes of the private tennis court; in the early morning sun, it was a pleasant sight, redolent of strawberries-and-cream and gracious, English country life.

Beside the court the taller of the two off-loaded a pair of rackets, a box of balls, two towels, a tracksuit top, and an assortment of sweatbands, wristguards, and other essential tennis accessories. He sighed, theatrically. Why was it that he always got the job of lugging things around while his partner loped easily, and empty-handed, at his side? His eyes sought for and found the errant, who was squatting in the middle of the court attaching the centre net-tape to its ground linkage.

Bodie came up behind him, forgetting his minor grievance. "You sure the girls are still asleep?"

"Course they are," Doyle assured him, his fingers deftly fastening the screw. "Wouldn't you be?" And he gave a reminiscent, satisfied smile.

Bodie gave that cryptic comment some thought as he went back to the pile of things, throwing the two rackets to Doyle so he could check the height of the net, and positioning himself at the netpost to await instructions. "We're not asleep, are we?"

"Up," ordered Doyle, crouching with the rackets balanced side to end. "Bit more stop -- down a bit -- that's okay - " and the net arranged to his satisfaction he rose smoothly to the balls of his feet he was feeling very athletic this morning -- and resumed the former conversation. "Ah, but it's different for women, innit? Doesn't take it out of 'em so much at the time, but they're knackered longer after."

At this unusual logical twist, Bodie snorted, watching as Doyle stretched like a supple cat, turning his face to the sun, an expression of blissful well-being pervading his features. "Well, if it's all been taken out of you, sunshine, then I reckon I'm gonna thrash you into the ground this morning."

"That's not the object of the exercise though, is it?" Doyle pointed out, coming towards him and thrusting one of the rackets his way. "We're practisin' so we don't make prats of ourselves in this bloody tennis party, aren't we?"

The two CI5 men had been invited away to a weekend party at the home of Lord Nailsham; his daughter's intimate friend happened to be a pretty young concert violinist whose breathtaking arpeggios had been delighting Ray Doyle for some weeks now, and who had suggested, almost as an afterthought that he might like to bring that weird mate of his -- 'the one with the nice eyes' -- along to keep her younger sister company. Bodie had been quite happy to agree since he liked sponging off nobility, and since the sister was a very attractive young lady, who proved remarkably responsive to Bodie's best dashing-cavalier-with- a-hint-of-psychopath act. The first night had gone very well, dinner in the Great Hall followed by surreptitious rearrangement of the sleeping accommodation with satisfying results all round. The next day had been just as good, a lazy day by the poolside and on horseback, winding up in bed once more with their respective ladies, fully fed on venison and the lord's best vintage port. They had been warned in advance about the tennis since neither of them had picked up a racket in months.

"I am not," Doyle said now, for about the tenth time, "being beaten blot-and-blot by some chinless wimp who carries his balls in a string bag and his racket in a press."

Bodie made a derisive noise, on his own account. "No chance."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that, supershot," Doyle countered. "These are yer actual Upper Class 'ere, you know. They 'aven't anything better to do than bash balls around all day, in between fortifying themselves with top-grade protein and vitamins. No daily graft and a soggy 'amburger at the end of it for them, is there?" He sighed soulfully and looked up from beneath his lashes, the picture of noble suffering.

It was thus that the plan for this covert early morning practice had been conceived, Bodie being no keener than he to be shown up as two leaden-limbed provincials by the Upper Class Twits. True, Bodie was fairly confident that he and Doyle, being in far better physical lick than the artistic young men floating around Nailsham's estate, would give a reasonable account of themselves. But, obedient as he usually was to his partner's whims, despite the surface grumbling, he had dragged himself out of bed with one final, only semi-regretful glance at the sleeping angel next to him, hunted out his tennis gear, and come with Doyle to this deserted part of the extensive manor house grounds.

The grass was pressed, rolled, mown, a velvety carpet in striped shades of green, its white lines freshly painted; the air was clear, the sky blue. Bodie felt a lift of pure, animal pleasure to be up and out this early on such a beautiful morning. Doyle was looking keen, too; fit and fresh in white tennis shirt, neat shorts, a white headband around the curls, blue-trimmed white socks and immaculate shoes. He was running on the spot, limbering up. He had improved on his tan this weekend, long lengths of his limbs were exposed, and from the top of his lean thighs to his ankles, from each lightly muscled arm to the slender wrists, he was an even shade of pale gold, the fine body hairs glinting fair in the sunlight. An expression of ferocious concentration on his face, he was trying out imaginary forehands and backhands as he jogged up and down. The corners of Bodie's mouth lifted irrepressibly as he watched him, freely admitting to himself that Doyle, masculine though he was, looked good enough to eat this morning.

He tossed some balls Doyle's way and took up position on his side of the court. "Come on then, Navratilova. Let's see what you're made of."

"Never-ad-it what?" I queried Doyle, being deliberately moronic; and he picked up the balls, stuffing one in his pocket -- Christ, these shorts were tight.

They knocked up for a while, and it must be admitted that Doyle's thoughts were not entirely concentrated on the serious business of striking ball over net; he had left the warmth of his bed and the drowsy curve of the girl next to him with definite reluctance, and the air was cool, felt good on his sensitive skin, even the light breeze stirring through the hair on his scalp arousing light, erotic tingles in him.

Should have stayed in bed a while longer...worked it out of my system first...

"Been a long time since I saw you in action," he called across the net, and winced. "The tennis, the tennis," he hurriedly added, though there was no indication that Bodie was sharing his super-sensitive reaction to the morning, and the ensuing one-track line of thought.

"No time," said Bodie disgustedly. "The Cow sees to that. It got so every time I was making serious on-court progress the fucking bleeper went -- I fed around this story about a jealous Scotsman who got twitchy if I was out of his clutches too long, but people were beginning to talk." He shot Doyle an arch look and camped his way to the back of the court.

They began to play in earnest. Doyle, while possessing flashier strokes, capable of mercurial bursts of speed around the court, and the occasional breath-taking shot, was gradually worn down by Bodie's heavier weight of shot and more solid play. A natural athlete, Bodie was, all strength and muscle and beautifully coordinated action -- the bloody ball didn't stand a chance, Doyle moodily reflected, as Bodie unleashed a powerful forehand drive that flashed past him at the speed of light to land an inch inside the baseline. Receiving Bodie's serve, time and again his fingers actually stung as he made a useless dab at it and the heavy ball pinged wildly off his flailing racket. But more unnerving than the struggle to win the occasional game was Bodie's new habit.

In common with some of the more notable players to be seen on TV it was Wimbledon fortnight -- Bodie had developed a grunt.

He grunted when he served, when he ran for a ball, when he jumped for a smash.That wouldn't have mattered, except that the wild corner of Doyle's mind that he never could quite control had translated the sound into something quite different, and wildly inappropriate. They were having some quite long rallies, since he never gave up on a ball and managed to scramble back all but the outright winners, and the punctuated rhythm of Bodie's earthy sighs had acquired a totally unintended significance.

"Uuhh..." panted Bodie as he thumped a serve, "aahh..." as he chased to the net to pick up a short ball, "ooohh..." as he stretched wide for a punching volley.

For all the world, Bodie sounded as if he were in the throes of mad, passionate love-making. It was doing the oddest things to Doyle.

He was acutely conscious of the rough cotton aertex scraping over his sensitive nipples; the tight pull of the shorts over his misbehaving groin -- every movement made it worse, or better, depending which way one looked at it -- the breeze caressing his naked skin. And every time Bodie made that tantalizing noise, it seemed to strike home in his guts...

"Aahhh..." Bodie ground out, a long, lush sound.

He had to do something. The shorts were getting unbearably tight.

"Bodie --"

His voice came out in a squeak, as it was sometimes wont to do. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Bodie -- why the hell do you keep making that noise?"

"What noise?" Bodie was genuinely surprised as they met up at the changeover; Doyle looked decidedly peevish.

"Urgh," Doyle tried. "Uumph." It didn't come out the same, and he scowled at Bodie. "Trying to be a McEnroe, are we?"

"It releases the tension," Bodie assured him, and peered closely into the cross face. "You ought to try it, mate, you're looking a bit hot and bothered," he said cheerfully. "Making you work up a sweat, am I?"

In more ways than one, Doyle thought grimly, and used the time when Bodie had his back to him to arrange himself more comfortably inside the constricting clothing. That nearly turned out to be a disastrous mistake, since even the fleeting touch of his impatiently scrabbling fingers on himself sent a shivery thrill of anticipation through his urgent shaft of unruly flesh.

Things did not improve. He seemed unable to disentangle the wild, sensual images his mind was throwing up at him from clinical concentration on the game, his eyes unconsciously seeking images to feed his arousal even as his rational self fought to quell it. Hence, he was unusually conscious of the way Bodie looked, the lie of his cropped, dark hair, the muscular forearm flashing as he wielded his racket, the powerful thighs, a deeper shade of brown than his own, the strength and grace of him as he moved around the court bending and stretching with ease, and style, Doyle sighed in frustration, and dragged his eyes away. This was getting ridiculous. If he went on like this, he'd be leaping the net. and pushing Bodie to the ground for a frenetic coupling in the open air, the grass crushed beneath them, assuaging his burning need in Bodie's body, panting out his love and his hunger into Bodie's salty hair --

He had to slam the brakes on that line of thought and very quickly, excited little throbs jumping in his groin as his eager body responded amorally to the graphic images his inflamed mind was sending down. He took several deep breaths, forced himself to concentrate on the game. This was utterly mad.

But he ached with the wanting of -- something -- anything --

It was 4-1 to Bodie in the second set, which score surprised Doyle who couldn't remember winning a game -- couldn't have recalled a single point to save his life, in fact. As they met up beside the net again preparatory to changing ends, Bodie had another concerned glance at his opponent. Floppy-damp curls surrounded the round, heat-flushed face, which was only to be expected given the warmth of the day and the exertion. It was more Doyle's air of distraction that was bothering the other man; he didn't seem to have his mind on the game at all; looked half-asleep, in fact, eyelids drooping heavily over slitted feral green.

"4-1, eh?" he said, nudging him. Doyle stiffened. The touch of Bodie's warm skin on his own was unbearably sweet; it was all he could do not to give way to the seething urge to seize the man and press against him, seek blessed relief... He stared at Bodie with something akin to despair.

"Don't be like that," said Bodie, misunderstanding completely, putting his head very close to Doyle. "You won't be the first to succumb to me strokes."

Doyle visibly shuddered. Bodie couldn't be making things worse if he was trying to. Bodie pressed two balls intimately into his hands and winked before jogging off to the back of the court.

As Doyle threw up the ball and prepared to unleash his racket head at it, again the brush of rough cotton over his erect nipples sent little thrills of pleasure through him, right down to centre in his groin. As he chased after Bodie's return, the rhythmic shift and rub of his aroused flesh against the seam of his shorts was beginning to produce an unmistakable slickness he knew only too well heralded the approach of orgasm -- and soon, too. Things were getting desperate. Not here -- please -- Bodie'd never let him live it down if his cool, together partner suddenly sank to his knees, and, groaning, wrenched down his shorts to adorn the tennis court with something far less familiar to it than its usual dose of Fisons. He sank his teeth into his lower lip in the hope that the pain might distract him but even the small tang and the taste of blood only served to fuel his rising excitement. God, was he turning into a bloody masochist?

Just then, Bodie let out one of those damnable groans, one of those low, sexy rumbles deep in his throat that had started the whole problem off in the first place; and it was all too much.

"Goddammit!" The yell pierced the air. Doyle threw his racket forcefully to the ground and stood, shoulders hunched, fists tightly clenched.

Bodie was over the net in a single bound, running towards him. "What's the matter? You pull a muscle or something?" He put a hand on Doyle's arm; his partner had affected a strange, stooping posture.

"Nope. Just have to go back to the house for a moment, okay?" Doyle said between gritted teeth. Bodie stared, noting that Doyle was almost shivering, a fine tremor running through his limbs.

"Wha' for?"

Doyle's eyes came open, they were fever-bright. "Whaddya think!" he squawked.

Bodie's lips curved. "Caught short, eh? No need to do the long walk, though, mate; plenty of bushes around." He indicated the surrounding shrubbery.

Doyle only shook his head.

"Come on." Bodie urged; Doyle was not usually so shy. "It's all looking a bit dry, probably be glad of a nice, warm shower." Keen for victory, he was eager not to break into the game for longer than necessary, and the house was ten minutes' jog away. "I'll look out for you; wouldn't want to shock the ladies."

"It's not that."

Doyle's voice was almost a mumble; he dropped his head. "What is it, then?" asked Bodie, moving closer, a puzzled frown on his face.

It was the smell of him that did it in the end, the fresh scent of cotton clothing, mingled with the irresistible animal lure of Bodie's clean, healthy sweat. Warm waves of Bodie washed over him --

Aroused into madness, Doyle grabbed him locked his arms behind Bodie's back and pressed himself into the other man's body from chest to groin, desperate. His eyes closed. Their warm knees touched, soft/hard contact. He waited, strung out on fire and ice.

Astounded, Bodie gazed down at the flushed face, read the signs of high sexual tension there, in the drooping eyelids, the silvery line of sweat that ran beside the full mouth -- as he watched, a tongue darted out and flicked it away -- the bitten lip, the expression of aching need...

A delighted smile spread across Bodie's face, and he hugged the thin figure unconsciously tight. "So that's it," he murmured, "a touch of the morning matrimonials, eh?"

Doyle could only nod, gasping. Bodie was squeezing him just the way he most needed it; warm hands were running up his flanks, and he didn't want to think.

"Can see why you didn't have your mind on the game --" Bodie slipped a hand between them, ran his hand over the front of Doyle's shorts, feeling the heat and hardness there give a convulsive throb -- "but I wouldn't advise going back to the house. Not in a state like this --" He pressed his hips forward to emphasize his point -- "you could be 'ad up, mate." Another little wriggle. He was enjoying himself. But at Doyle's indrawn gasp, his helpless pleasure, Bodie relented. "Bad, is it?" he asked softly, sympathetic.

Doyle nodded, mutely. He caught his bottom lip between his teeth, in anguish. He was so close...and yet he needed more. He was alive and warm and throbbing in Bodie's casual, knowing hands, and if Bodie let him go now he'd die... He waited, trembling, to follow Bodie's lead.

In fact, Bodie found him a very arousing sight; he had a kind of primeval beauty about him, bringing ancient fertility cults, the pagan worship of virility and healthy male lust to mind. I could do anything with him, Bodie thought, noting his own rising heat with surprise; anything, the way he is now...all mine... Doyle threw back his head and let out a long hissing sigh of need. "What shall we do?" he whispered fiercely, without opening his eyes. "Where...?"

In answer, with an urgency all his own, Bodie grabbed his hand and pulled him along, away from the calm, forgotten lawn-tennis scenario and into the outskirts of the shrubbery. It was cool in the thicket, and dense enough to preclude observation. Beside a bush, Doyle threw himself down to lie on the dusty earth, thighs falling apart, one hand rising to hold himself. Bodie watched the urgent clutch of the thin fingers, mesmerized. Did Doyle mean to -- ? If so, maybe he shouldn't be hanging around? The swift disappointment subsided quickly, under the unmistakably erotic influence Doyle's uninhibited behaviour was having on him. He would stay...and watch...

Then Doyle's eyes flashed open, hazy with desire. "Get me out of these bloody clothes for godssake," he hissed, and watched impatiently as Bodie, shaking, knelt beside him.

Was it a dream? he thought hazily as his clumsy fingers undid Doyle's shorts; it felt like a dream, a crazy, erotic nightride -- he pulled the shirt out and pushed it up to reveal the ribbed chest, sheened with damp tendrils of dark hair. Doyle seized his hand and pushed it onto his nipples; he was breathing very hard. Bodie stoked the small, brown buds with an unsure touch, hut he gained in confidence at the pleasure Doyle was obviously deriving from the gentle movements of his fingertips, the slender body arching to meet his touch, turning under his hands.

"You are in a bad way, aren't you?" he whispered, feeling a strange surge of tenderness and affection rise up behind the heady, sexual heat. He loved Ray, loved to see him like this. "What the hell am I gonna do with you?"

In answer, Doyle's bare arm shot out, crooked around his neck, pulling him down and close for a fleeting kiss; damp tongues touched. A hand touched his face, manoeuvring him over the warm, moist skin spiked with the faint scent of soap and sweat. Following his wanton's lead, Bodie pressed his mouth to Doyle's body, rubbing his tongue over the pointed nipples, fired up by Doyle's sighing response, the lean fingers twining distractedly in his hair offering a vague, reciprocal caress.

Suddenly eager to feast his eyes on the sight, he lifted his head, looked down the length of Doyle's body, from the pleasure-lit face, right down to the white-clad feet. Doyle, dishevelled in tennis gear and half-undressed was ridiculously attractive. He ran his hand up from knee to the warm, soft skin of the inner thigh, watching the big muscles there stiffen as Doyle clenched all over in another spasm of helpless delight; slipped questing fingers beneath the leg of the shorts, encountered damp, hard heat.

His heart nearly stopped, as his fingers brushed over the exciting, forbidden territory.

But it turned frustrating for both of them as his hand struggled to find greater access; the shorts were just too tight.

"Don't muck about, for chrissake," whispered Doyle into the tense, beating silence. "Please, oh god...waited too long already--"

Thus chastised, Bodie struggled with the shorts, wrenching them apart, and presently Doyle was released from the constricting fabric. God, but it felt wonderful, the cool air playing over his heated nakedness.

As he scrabbled the tangle of briefs and Fred Perry's down Doyle's firm, golden thighs, Bodie's eyes widened. He had viewed the erect male organ before in the course of the odd -- some of them very odd -- blue movies taken in during a misspent youth, but they had never seemed objects of beauty to him, before now. Doyle was quite skinny across the hips, and the engorged sex arching over the flat stomach looked the more impressive in comparison. As he watched, it gave a little jerk, and a throb, and Doyle's fists clenched by his side, his face screwed up with anguish.

"Bodie--" Too far gone for embarrassment, he grabbed his hand and folded Bodie's fingers around himself, moving his palm over them until he was satisfied Bodie knew the way he wanted to be touched, then his hand dropped away to lie at his side. It felt so good, every hissing breath he took seemed to draw pleasure through him, and he was filled with glory as the wonderful sensations peaked and he was coming at last, as Bodie's other hand gently curved around his balls, every nerve and organ and muscle overflowing with sweet, sweet pleasure as the other man gave him the blessing of beautiful release. At his wanton performance, no surprise: maybe those would come later, but he didn't think so. He heard Bodie half-whisper, "Hang on a minute," and heard him leave. A moment later, the crackle of undergrowth, and then a rough touch on his skin. He opened his eyes to see Bodie carefully cleaning off his bespattered chest and belly with one of the towels. He watched Bodie unblinkingly. Bodie finally met his eyes with a half-abashed grin.

"You been at the sheeps' eyeballs again, lover?"

Two syllables, to make him happy.

He leaned up on one elbow, captured Bodie's face with a hand, looking into it for a long moment. Then he kissed Bodie lightly on the mouth. "Thank you."

Bodie shrugged. "'S okay. You'd do the same for me. I suppose," he added, suddenly unsure.

Doyle gave a chuckle, lay back down. "Yeah. Any time. Now, if you like."

Bodie wasn't quite sure he meant it, and made no move.

"I'm not kidding," said Doyle, watching him, "--well?"

Bodie smiled at him, a funny, rueful little smile. "Yeah." He checked his watch, as if he'd only just thought of it. "Nearly time for breakfast."

Doyle disregarded this unsubtle, uncertain hint. "Bit tired of kedgeree, meself." He dropped his head back on the dirty, lumpy ground, the discomforts of the situation more apparent to him now than a few minutes ago, when he had been lost, oblivious to all but the urgent demands of his body; and held out a hand. "C'mere."

Bodie, who was inwardly terrified at the same time as being desperately eager, made one last bid for escape. "'S a bit public here, innit?"

Not fooled, Doyle shook his head. "Didn't bother you when it was me on the rack, did it? Look, mate. It's seven a.m., no-one got to bed till three last night, no-one knows we're 'ere, we're half a mile from the house and the gardener doesn't work Sundays. So stop prevaricatin'."

"Prevaricating," murmured Bodie desperately, "that's a good word."

Doyle was watching him, suddenly troubled. "'Course, if you don't want --"

Bodie shook his head. "No." He let out a long sigh. "No. I -- do --"

That was enough for Doyle. He put out a hand, grabbed a handful of shirt, and yanked. Bodie half fell on top of him.

With one hand, Doyle smoothed Bodie's hair with immense tenderness. He loved this man; no-one else had ever moved him in quite the same way. "You're a sexy thing, you know that?" he murmured, tracing a forefinger around Bodie's mouth, watching it quiver to his touch. "You're a very bad bit, gettin' me going like that."

"I did?" queried Bodie with genuine innocence; and as Doyle's warm hand slid under his shirt he closed his eyes.

"All that groaning. Sounded like the best bits of a blue movie, you did... An' the way you moved -- like a bloody fantasy..."

Bodie like to hear this; he wanted more. His eyes fixed on Doyle with hungry concentration. Doyle tipped him onto his back, leaned over to slide away more clothing, continuing: "Lovely thighs ... you've got beautiful thighs, know that?" He ran a slow, caressing hand over the powerful curve. "All the time I was runnin' around out there, I kept watching them, wondering what it'd be like to be gripped between 'em, just couldn't get it out of my head... God you looked beautiful -- are beautiful --"

He undid Bodie's shorts, one-handed, not hurrying. He traced a finger along the lower belly, hen slipped it inside to gently stroke soft skin, making a little sound of pleasure deep in his throat when his hand closed around the warm, hard curve of Bodie's cock -- "Oh yeah, you like this," he whispered, looking up at Bodie's tense face. "It's a naughty game we're playin', Bodie, but you like it, don't you?"

"Mmmm," was all Bodie could manage; the subtle movements of Doyle's hand searching him was making it difficult to think. And Doyle was right, the illicitness of the act, allowing another man, his mate, to touch him this way was making it all the more exciting. The lure of the forbidden...not to mention Doyle's husky, wicked voice whispering vaguely dirty things to him....

"Well-made, aren't you?" said Doyle with admirable delicacy, as his careful fingers freed Bodie to spring forth uncramped, parting the shorts and pulling the pants down. He stroked up and down the solid length of Bodie, rubbed his thumb over the slippery tip. Snatching a glance at Bodie's face, he smiled to himself as he took in Bodie's expression.

His eyes were screwed tightly shut and he was breathing fast and shallow. Blindly, he reached out a hand, encountered Doyle's bare arm and stroked him clumsily, wanting to give something in return, show Doyle how much he was loving the attentions, the sensations aroused in him by Doyle's sure touch.

Without letting go of him, Doyle dropped his head to lick Bodie's nipples, whispering, rather muffled between sucks, "An' this? D'you like this, Bodie?"

"Not as much as you do," Bodie admitted jerkily; he found the sensation more ticklish than arousing, remembering Doyle's leap of frantic response when he had done this to him.

Doyle smiled, pleased by the honesty; he slid his mouth regretfully away to tongue Bodie's ear instead. "I'll teach you to like it," he promised. "It feels good, Bodie; god, it felt good when you did it to me... You're gonna learn to love it, you'll beg me for it --"

He kissed Bodie's mouth, parting his lips with a gentle tongue, closing his eyes as he drank in the other man's response, the sweet taste of him. He broke the kiss with reluctance and one final, valedictory lick, when the hardness under his gently working hand began to throb more urgently; he wanted to make this good for Bodie, the best ever...

Half sitting up, he slipped his other hand between Bodie's rigid, straining thighs, cradled the soft balls, gently stroking. Bodie gasped and thrashed, head tossing from side to side.

"Christ, you feel good," Doyle breathed. "You know what I'd like to do to you, Bodie?" His voice dropped to a low, intense murmur as he squeezed and released him, squeezed again, a faster rhythm now -- "I want to -- kiss it --" Bodie's arching response to that made him grin shakily and continue. "Yeah, you look -- lickable. I'd like to suck you, you'd love that, wouldn't you, me sucking you off -- fuck my mouth --"

He was about to suit his actions to his words, when Bodie gave a long, low groan. "Ray," his voice was almost a sob, "gonna come you're making me come -- oh Christ -- love you --"

Maybe next time, Doyle thought ruefully as his hand clenched tight on him and Bodie spasmed beneath him, filling his palm with warm stickiness as Bodie had the sweetest, most intense orgasm of his life as Doyle watched intently.

Reality came slowly to Bodie; the sound of the birds, the hardness of the ground pressing into him, he opened his eyes after what felt like aeons, squinting against the sun filtering through the overhead trees, to see Ray Doyle licking his hand, eyes slitted fiercely, an expression of dreamy languor on his face. He met Bodie's eyes for one intense look, then bent his head to lap at Bodie's belly. When he finally sat up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Bodie was still coming down to earth, feeling dazed, unreal...

A wild, crazy start to the day...it still had the air of a fiercely erotic dream, strangeness pervading the air...

Then Doyle smiled at him, and everything was back to normal, the strangeness gone.

"Why do I get the feeling you've done this before?" he muttered, throwing a hand over his eyes.

Doyle chuckled. Bodie slanted up the hand so he could look at him.

"Well?" he demanded. "Have you?"

Doyle winked at him, then looked inscrutable.

Bodie felt a surge of jealousy, which he knew was irrational, but he felt it just the same. He said nothing, long lashes falling to shade his eyes.

"C'mon, Bodie," said Doyle, sensing an opportunity to be wicked. "How d'you think I got into CI5?"

Bodie's eyes met his, not understanding.

"You've 'eard of the casting couch, 'aven't you?" pursued Doyle, suggestively.

Bodie stared, the image of the black leather and chrome object that adorned one corner of Cowley's office coming instantly to mind. Suspicion, doubt, fleeting revulsion flickered across his face.

Doyle couldn't keep his face straight any longer. He howled with laughter, thumping the ground with one hand. Bodie suddenly twigged.

"You little sod," he growled, and lunged for him. They wrestled, laughing, for a while and when they tired of it they lay silent, holding each other very close, very secure. Bodie breathed in the scent of Doyle's dusty-fresh hair. He still wanted to know.

"Seriously --," he began.

Doyle turned his face up, eyes very wide. "Oh, I'm serious. Very. If you are?"

It was a heart-stopping moment. It wasn't easy to say the words, but he wanted to, before the moment slipped away as he sensed it easily could, this might become a lost, isolated encounter of midsummer madness, and he didn't think he could bear it if they put it behind them. Ray had given him the opening --

"Yeah... Love you. Ray, I do love you," he mumbled, and buried his face against Doyle's shoulder.

Doyle's face creased with affectionate amusement. He stroked his hand through Bodie's hair, then down his arm. "Will you marry me, then?"

Bodie was, after the tension, flooded with a rush of unexpected happiness. He forced his face to behave; only the soft, dark blue eyes giving away his helpless, loving feelings.

"Oh, I dunno about that," he said seriously. "I dunno if you could give me the lifestyle I'd like to become accustomed to." He waved an explanatory hand in the vague direction of the unseen mansion.

Doyle looked pensive. "My first proposal -- and you're turning me down?" He sounded wistful, eyelashes wavering, mouth set in an unhappy little droop.

Bodie couldn't bear to see him like that, whether he was joking or not. He hugged him fiercely, kissed the pout away. "Daft idiot. I'm yours and you bloody well know it," he said shortly.

Doyle's assumed misery vanished in a flash. He grinned, rolled, and bounced gently on Bodie's belly. "That's settled then," he said cheerfully. "Love each other forever." He said it lightly, but he knew it was true. They were destined to be together; some fate had ordained it."Shall we go back and make the announcement now, or spring it on 'em just before the match?"

"Oof," said Bodie, winded as Doyle's rear thudded into his stomach. "Get up, you little animal. We've been rolling around in the dirt long enough." But he pulled him down for one last kiss before they hauled themselves to their feet. Bodie didn't quite know what had hit them, but he knew he liked it. He wasn't even surprised by it; it just seemed perfectly natural that they should have slipped so easily into a declaration of mutual love. He'd think about it later. Maybe. For now, he was just happy.

"You never did answer my question," he said as he rearranged his clothing.

Doyle, engaged in the same task, turned an enquiring eye on him. "What?"

"That wasn't your first time with a bloke, was it? It's not new to you."

"The love is..." and seeing that Bodie was not to be put off, he admitted: "The sex, no."

"Who?" pursued Bodie, intensely jealous.

Doyle looked distant, lifting one knee to dust it off, gazing back to the past. Bodie deserved honesty. "Was a time when I couldn't make up my mind which way I wanted to go. Tried it all, with anyone who looked okay, didn't care what sex, colour, race... God, I was a wild kid." He shook his head, remembering. "Had to cool down when I got into the police, mind you. It's been mostly women since -- mostly, but not all," he added, scrupulously fair. He slid a glance at Bodie to see how he was taking all this. His heart dropped at the expression on Bodie's face. He went to him, slipped his arms around him and hugged him.

"But that's just sex, Bodie, and it's over now. You've done the same, you know you have, even if it wasn't with men. 'S not important. We've got each other now; we won't need anyone else."

The conviction in his voice, the sincerity in his eyes swept Bodie's doubts away as if they had never existed. He held him close, trailed his hand through tangled curls, and lifted his face to kiss him.

When their mouths slid apart, Doyle was gasping. He tipped his head back, eyes falling shut. "Wanna do it all over again," he murmured. "Oh, god, look what you've done to me..." He pressed his hips against Bodie, grinding them round in a slow, sensuous sweep.

Bodie released him in a hurry, not without an appreciative glance at his handiwork; served the poor sod right for wearing such tight shorts, probably deliberately chosen to show off his neat little rump. "I am not," he said with firmness, "getting down on that mucky patch again just because you're insatiable. We have a tournament coming up in a few hours, and we'll be worn out --" his voice tailed off as he took in certain things about his partner he hadn't noticed before, lost in the attraction of the man himself, the wonder and newness of it all.

"Doyle," he croaked.

Doyle stretched luxuriously, arms locking behind his head, accepting the inevitable. His eyes came sleepily open and he smiled at Bodie, then noticed his expression. "Whassamatter? Anyone'd think no-one loved you," he said, supremely innocent of the picture he presented, too happy with the way things had gone.

Bodie swallowed. "Did you bring a change of tennis gear?" he said sweetly. He knew full well that neither of them had.

Doyle's mouth fell open. He surveyed first Bodie, who stood the inspection grimly, then looked over himself. Filthy was not the word for it. The spotless perfection of gleaming, pressed white tennis gear was gone, probably forever since it seemed unlikely that washing powder would have the necessary power to wipe out the smears, stains, dust-streaks with which they were both freely adorned.

"Oh, shit," Doyle swore unrepentantly. He ran his fingers through riotously tangled curls.The back of his neck felt gritty.

"Make our excuses and leave?" suggested Bodie primly.

They made their way out into the open air, wincing against the sudden blaze of sunlight, to collect their things from the courtside. They were quiet now, needing time to think, to adapt to the new turn their lives seemed to have taken. Bodie was the first to break the silence as he shouldered all the gear, from habit.

"What about Valerie?" he asked, referring to Doyle's girlfriend who was, presumably, still fast asleep and unaware that her bloke had spent the morning making wild love with her sister's.

Doyle shrugged. "She'll live. Was gettin' fed up with sitting through all those concerts, too," he added.

"Christ, you can be callous at times," Bodie said, a little tingle of foreboding sliding through him.

Doyle picked up on it instantly. "Never with you," he said steadily, holding Bodie's eyes. "That's a promise."

Bodie found, surprisingly, that he believed him. Doyle was continuing, thoughtfully: "It's totally different. Girls... What does she know about me? I just happen to fit the type she gets hot for, good for a few evenings out till you get fed up, time to move on. You know how itgoes... She doesn't know the first thing about me," he said again.

"Yeah, know what you mean," Bodie said, repentant of his mistrust. He and Doyle had five years of solid friendship as the foundation of their relationship.

Doyle was remembering something, his face pensive. "Ann -- she was different --"

Bodie watched him, a little wary. Doyle seemed to collect his thoughts, looked at him. "Tell you about Ann, some day. Whatever you want to know... That's over. From now on," he growled, the shadow that had crossed his face lifting, "'S just you an' me, big boy, an' you better believe it." He mock-punched Bodie's midriff, scowling ferociously.

There was suddenly perfect understanding between them; there would be time now for the sharing of past sorrows, as well as the celebration of the present happiness.

Suddenly breaking the mood, Doyle slid a glance of fleeting concern at Bodie. "You look a bit loaded, mate. Sure I can't carry anything for you?" he asked, with enchanting courtesy. Bodie had towels slung around his neck, clothing draped over one arm, two rackets in onehand and the box of balls precariously balanced on top. Doyle frowned, head worriedly on one side.

"Don't want to tax you, flower," said Bodie with a seraphic beam, " 'cause I've got a heavy programme scheduled for you later on tonight--"

And they began to jog, off towards the house. Two contented voices floated back toward the deserted tennis court --

"-- who won, anyway --"

"-- think we both did --"

Game, set. And match.

-- THE END --