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Bodie and the Chief

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Bodie and the Chief

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. . . a Chief Constable spends most of his time addressing lectures, attending important dinners, travelling around. He gets involved in the actual "dirty work" of crime very rarely. -- Brenda Reid, executive producer of The Chief

Being here . . . doing this bloody, tedious . . . god awful . . .. This isn't me! This has got nothing to do with being a policeman! I still don't know what the job is. I still don't know whether I'm doing a halfway decent job or whether I'm making a pig's ear of it. If somebody was to offer me a national CID on a plate . . .. I don't know what I'd do.

-- Alan Cade at yet another 'important' dinner party (Episode 10, Series 4).


For the moment he dwelled in that twilight state that existed between a body saying, "it's time to get up," and a mind insisting, "shut up, I worked last night." Vaguely, he was aware of the softness of the sheets entwined with his legs and the tingling in his bum. The sensation woke him a bit more, and he shifted his weight, enjoying the push of his cock against the firm mattress.

Though shorter and lighter than him, his lover was well endowed between his legs, leaving him deliciously aware of the way the man had said, "Good-bye, some of us have to go to work." He clenched his buttocks, increasing the tingling, then gave another little thrust against the mattress. Or was he merely dreaming?

He floated in a fog that could be a dream of waking or slowly waking from a dream. Ah, but if it were truly a dream, he wouldn't be alone in the big bed, would he? No, his body would be pressed against that slender, furry torso, held tightly by the power of long, graceful limbs. He made a soft murmur of appreciation at the memory of warm strength, his body falling into a slow rhythm of gentle thrusts.

"Alan," he moaned his pleasure at the sweet, gentle climax.

"Oh, my God!"

The feminine voice destroyed the post-climax haze, and he grabbed his gun from the night stand, bolted from the bed to his feet and into a defensive crouch in one fast, smooth motion.

He looked into large, startled, brown eyes and felt his contentment turn to ashes.



One Month Earlier

William Andrew Phillip Bodie, or just Bodie to anyone who wanted to stay healthy, parked the silver Capri, then headed for the small restaurant halfway up the street. He was in a remarkably good mood in spite of the reason for this jaunt to Norwich. Stakeouts had never been one of his favourite things, but he approved of anything that let him eat well -- especially when on CI5 expenses.

He walked in the door and tried not to sigh at the decor. The place was modelled after what Americans referred to as a fern bar and seemed to have hundreds of hanging plants. He could swear he'd seen less greenery during his days in Africa.

Ah, well, at least the food should be better. He made his way over to a booth where a handsome black man sat. "Afternoon, partner," he said with a smile.

Jax returned the smile and the greeting. Technically, both men were classified as solo agents for Criminal Intelligence 5, but they worked together often enough that everyone, including themselves, considered them unofficial partners. Still, it had been three weeks since the last time they'd worked together, and sharing obbo duties didn't really constitute working together as far as Bodie was concerned.

"It's been very quiet," Jax told him, surrendering his seat in the booth and its view of the storefront across the street to Bodie. "Perhaps the Cow is wrong about this one."

Bodie slid into place, saying, "Tsk, tsk, old son. Don't you know Cowley is never wrong? Or so he keeps telling me."

"I've heard. But I've seen no sign of life, let alone Patrick Reegan or anyone else associated with the IRA," Jax said, sitting back down opposite him.

He had to agree that the building looked empty, its store front filled with nothing more than a ' for lease' sign, but the owner of this restaurant had insisted he'd seen someone over there whose photo occupied several stay alert boards in law enforcement agencies -- including CI5's. The local coppers had watched the place round the clock for over a week without any joy, but George Cowley was a bit more stubborn than the local Chief Constable, so round the clock obbo it was. At least during the day they only had to pull two hour shifts to keep from attracting attention. "Well, maybe we'll have better luck after closing time."

"I live in hope," Jax said, standing. "And, on that note, I think I'll catch a fast kip at the hotel."

Bodie nodded. "Oh, because you've been such a good boy, Cowley's sending along Susan to do night duties with us."

Jax brightened. He and CI5's resident agent/computer expert had been dating for months. Betting was strong that they'd be the first all-A Squad married couple. Maybe with both halves of the union on the firing line, they'd have a chance of still being married on their first anniversary. Job was damn hard on the matrimonial bliss front. Bodie didn't even consider marriage a part of his future and had happily settled for having fun playing the field.

"Cheers, Bodie," his friend and sometimes partner said, then took his leave.

A quick scan of the menu -- not an easy trick when he had to keep at least part of his attention on the other side of the street at all times -- and Bodie found something that sounded good. Not to mention expensive enough to make Cowley bellow for weeks. He gave his order to the waitress, then settled in for the next two hours.

He'd finished his main course and was considering a dessert or three when the front door opened and a tall, slender blond walked in. He was far from the first customer who had arrived since Bodie had taken his seat, but this one drew his attention. Bodie hadn't survived a stint as a mercenary, a tour of duty in the Paras, then the SAS, and finally two years in CI5 by not knowing trouble when he saw it -- and something about this young man made his neck itch.

Though Cowley would kill him if he found out, Bodie turned his full attention to the newcomer. He watched as the blond walked over to a table on the other side of a room where a couple sat gazing into each other's eyes. When the woman finally noticed the blond, her face lost all colour, her look one of horror. Her expression brought both Bodie and her date to their feet, but Bodie held his position, uncertain if he were really needed.

"I told you to stop following her!" her date bellowed.

"And I've told you to stay away from my wife!" came the answer that almost sent Bodie back to his seat and his job. Almost.

"Ex-wife," the date corrected.

"Well, you know how the marriage vows go," the blond answered.

Yeah, till death do us part. As the thought flashed through Bodie's mind, the blond pulled a gun.

Before he could bring it up and fire, Bodie had his own weapon out and aimed. "Freeze!" he shouted, a courtesy he didn't expect to be accepted.

The blond didn't even seem to hear him, his gun continuing on its path into firing position.

Bodie pulled the trigger, forced to keep his angle off for an instantaneous kill to prevent the bullet from passing through the nutter's body and into one of several innocent bystanders. Sometimes heavy calibers were a real bitch.

Dying, the man reeled back and got off one wild shot. Bodie heard a mild explosion, felt a blinding pain, then knew nothing more.



He opened his eyes to the worst fucking headache he'd ever had -- hangovers included -- and the sight of a pair of large, green eyes staring at him. His mind hurt as in the same moment it labelled the owner of those eyes ugly/gorgeous. To keep peace in his throbbing skull, he settled on exotic and tried to figure out where the hell he was.

Stupid question given the bed beneath him. Another bloody hospital. Disgusted and already planning his escape, he turned his attention back to those eyes. He realized they were flashing with anger and that he recognized their owner, both from his briefing on the Eastland area and a splashy article in a tabloid a few months ago. It seemed that Chief Constable Alan Cade had come to visit.

"What happened?" Bodie asked, wincing at the sound of his own voice. This headache had a hell of a lot in common with a hangover, and he felt quite aggrieved that he hadn't had the pleasure of the pure malt scotch to precede it.

Cade stared at him a moment longer, then answered. "Bullet shattered a light, which cut the supports on a hanging plant, which landed on your head."

Bodie blinked. "You're kidding."

"No."

"Sounds like something out of a bleeding Man from UNCLE episode," Bodie snorted, then immediately regretted it. He'd never live this down -- flattened by an overgrown potted plant.

"Yes, I believe I saw that episode as well," Cade conceded, then his eyes narrowed. "Now, what the hell was CI5 doing on my patch?"

His ask-Cowley response was blocked by a voice announcing, "I sent him."

George Cowley walked into the room, his own angry stare on Bodie. "I see you've forgotten the fine art of ducking, 3.7."

Bodie groaned. Just what he needed -- a chewing out by the boss in front of the local fuzz. "Snuck up on me, didn't it, sir? Never can trust those ferns," he tried to lighten things up before his head or the embarrassment could kill him.

"I see no reason for levity, 3.7. Your actions may have cost us a chance to nab a terrorist responsible for the deaths of at least twenty people," the Controller of CI5 snapped back.

Now it was Bodie's turn to stare. He knew that Cowley must have been informed about what had happened before he left London for Norwich; thus he had to know Bodie hadn't had any choice. So 3.7's usual 'no excuses, sir' wouldn't save him. Instead, Bodie reached out and caught hold of Cowley's hand. "I'm all right, Dad," he soothed, though he did have a few doubts about that.

Cowley seemed to almost shut down for a moment, then he squeezed Bodie's hand. "See that you are."

Bodie managed a smile. "Yes, sir. Jax back on the stakeout?"

"Aye, not that it will do us any good." Bodie had to agree on that point. The shooting would have attracted too much attention for Reegan to come back to that storefront. If he'd even been planning on it.

"George," the voice was low and dangerous as it reminded them that they were not alone.

George ? His father hadn't told him he knew Cade.

Cowley released Bodie's hand and moved back into pure Controller mode. "Yes, Alan?"

"Am I to understand that CI5 was on my patch without my knowledge on a matter that my office had deemed unworthy of further investigation?"

Ouch.

Renowned the world over for his tact, Cowley said, "I disagreed."

Double ouch. Bodie wondered if he feigned a heart attack or something, if some kindly nurse would come along and throw the two men out of his sickroom before this turned into a brawl. Being a master at sneaky tactics in general and avoiding the thunder of his boss/father in particular, he decided on a subtler approach and slowly shifted his hand to the call button.

Five minutes later he was alone in the room, still wearing the innocent look he'd put on when the nurse had arrived to clear the area of anyone upsetting her patient. Lovely girl, he thought as he slowly went back to sleep. Nice legs too.



Fuming and more than a little embarrassed, Cade glared at the man he held responsible for both conditions, plus the loss of a night's sleep. "My house, twenty minutes," he snapped at him, then stalked off, never doubting for a moment that the great Controller of CI5 knew exactly where he lived. He snorted at that. Odds were Cowley even knew what brand of toothpaste he preferred.

He got into his Range Rover, then started towards home and the coming confrontation. CI5 and its fucking by-any-means-necessary brief. God, he loathed the concept of any organization with that much power. And now they were on his patch. The worst of it was that there really wasn't a damned thing he could do about it. Any operative on the infamous A Squad theoretically outranked him in a crisis situation -- his only recourse being to lodge a protest with Whitehall. Humiliating and ineffective. Hell, rumour was that half the Ministers were as terrified of George Cowley as the criminals, since George had a nasty habit of uncovering government corruption.

Cade sighed. He'd worked with Cowley years ago, back when George was in MI5 and he was attached to the Met CID. It had been a drug case, theoretically pure Met jurisdiction, but the money acquired through the sale of drugs had been used to fund the IRA, giving MI5 an interest as well. Although they'd cracked the case in the end, it had taken almost a year to do it. By the time they'd wrapped things up, Cade had decided Cowley was one of the most moral men he had ever met. His opinion in that regard had not changed, even if he did think Cowley had more power than any one person should have.

Pulling into his drive, he told himself he was going to have to calm down if he didn't want CI5 operating in Eastland without keeping him informed. A shame really; he would have dearly loved to lose his temper -- have a nice long, loud tantrum. Ah, the burdens of command.

A very fast shower and a change of clothes made him feel almost human again by the time the doorbell sounded. He opened the door and asked, "Is it still pure malt scotch?"

"Aye."

Cade led the way into his front room, then poured them both a drink, smiling a little as he remembered he hadn't even liked scotch before his association with Cowley. Now it was his drink of choice.

He handed Cowley a glass and let them both enjoy a few sips before he said, "So you found him."

The other man nodded. "About three weeks after his eighteenth birthday. He's a good lad, and the best man on the A Squad."

Cade might have accused another man of false pride, but not Cowley. Not when he was speaking about the job of defending the Realm. "I have two people alive tonight who would agree."

"Aye, he's an excellent shot and the best I've ever seen with a rifle," Cowley answered with a smile that revealed equal parts parental pride and bone weariness. "Thank you for staying with him, Alan. An operation in London broke, and I had difficulty getting away."

He took another sip of his drink. "I woke up once in a hospital room to find myself alone. I didn't like it. No one injured in the performance of his duty is going to find himself in a similar situation if I can help it . . .. Even if he didn't have any business being here."

"I --"

"Disagreed with my conclusion that the IRA had gone," Cade cut him off. "So you said." He studied the levels of amber liquid in both their glasses, then got up to refresh the drinks. "It was a waste of your personnel, George. They've moved on."

Out of habit he stopped speaking, then mentally rolled his eyes at himself. Cooperation never guaranteed cooperation; but it was a start, he reminded himself, then gave his complete assessment of the situation, "However, I am convinced that Reegan and his group are still somewhere in Eastland, probably still in Norwich."

"On that at least we are in agreement."

"Any chance I can convince you to leave it to my people?"

Cowley smiled. "None."

"Thought not. I want to be kept informed about what your people are up to."

"Assigning a liaison is standard practice."

Cade snorted. "Yes, one of your junior grades, who'll know less about the situation than I can get from the morning papers. I want Bodie."

That brought a frown to Cowley's face. "He's been injured."

He could hear the father behind those words, the father who wanted to gather up his wounded chick and take him home. Briefly he thought of Elena, then hardened his heart to the matter. "Yes, but he should be fit for restricted duty when he comes out of hospital."

"After yesterday, I have two other members of the A Squad who fit that description," Cowley told him with a sigh, though Cade got the impression of a man moaning about having his organization under strength rather than someone arguing with him.

"I want Bodie," he said again, wanting to be clear on that point.

"Why?"

"He's your son. He won't like being kept out of the information loop any more than you would."

Laughter answered him. "Oh, you have that right. Very well, you may have Bodie for the duration. As long as we're clear on one thing. This is now a CI5 --"

"Operation. Yes, I imagined you'd see it that way." He considered his next words for a moment then said, "I won't pretend to like that, George, but I can tolerate it provided --"

"Your office is kept informed. Done." He stood up. "Now, I want to check in on my son again before I return to London."

Cade frowned. "You look tired. I have a spare room if you'd like it."

"I appreciate the offer, but no. I should not have left London at all, so I'd best be getting back." He offered his hand. "Look after him for me, Alan."

"Don't worry, I intend to keep a close eye on him," he answered, sealing the bargain with a firm handshake.



Two days later Bodie wondered precisely which deity he didn't really believe in he had ticked off enough to deserve this miserable life. The good news was that he was being released from hospital, but, and wasn't there always a but, instead of being ordered home to the comforts of his own flat and a few days off to recover, his rotten boss had posted him as liaison to Cade until this IRA mess was straightened out. That could take until the bloody turn of the next century, he thought darkly as he dressed.

He'd been injured, he'd wailed to his father. Wounded in the line of duty. Cut down in his prime. Cowley had merely looked at him. Miserable old bastard. He knew Bodie didn't work well with coppers. Jax not withstanding. Jax was an ex -copper. And just why the hell wasn't Jax drawing this duty, he'd demanded.

Cowley had said something ridiculous along the lines of Jax not being on restricted duty, but Bodie suspected it was because Jax hadn't pushed that call button. Vengeful bastard, his father was.

The door opened, and the nurse with the nice legs -- and, according to her, a nice husband -- walked in. "Your ride is here, Mr Bodie."

"My ride?" Bodie had thought he'd need to call a cab to take him to the hotel. Before he could question her, she stepped aside and a tall, black constable walked into the room.

"Mr Bodie, I'm PC Webb," the man said. "The Chief sent me to bring you to the station."

Bodie sighed. He'd hoped for a long hot shower and a kip in a decent bed before he had to face Cade again, but he couldn't see the point in taking it out on Webb. "Tell you what, Constable, I'll come quietly if you drop the Mr and just call me Bodie."

Webb smiled. "I'm Charlie."

"Okay, Charlie, let's go see the Chief," Bodie said, picking up his overnight case.

Fifteen minutes later, Bodie followed Webb into Cade's outer office, only to be told by Cade's secretary, Diane Lewis, that the Chief was on the shooting range and had requested that Bodie join him there.

Shooting range ? He remembered reading about Cade's stance on coppers with guns in the tabloid story and knew he wasn't going to like this. "Needs some tips, does he?" He gave the matronly woman his best smile. "Well, always a pleasure to be of service," he told her, then trotted along after Charlie like some obedient pup. Of course, this pup liked to bite.

They found Cade practising on the target range rather than working with the reaction simulations (a part of the shooting course that Bodie personally found hilarious -- that guy on the video screen making threats was ever so scary). While they watched, Cade finished off his clip, and Bodie wondered if the reason the man didn't like guns was that he was such a lousy shot. Well, to be fair, it was decent shooting for a copper -- but he'd never make it in CI5.

Cade put down his gun, then removed his ear defenders.

Bodie took the opportunity to say, "You wanted to see me, Chief?" Wanted to see me, when I should be all cozy in bed curled up with a bottle of painkillers.

"I assume you're armed."

Bodie managed not to snort. "Yes, sir."

"You'll have to pass the course if you intend to carry your sidearm while you work with me."

"You're kidding," Bodie said, though he'd expected exactly this sort of nonsense.

"Not in the least."

Bloody marvellous, but typical. Cowley ticked somebody off, and Bodie had to pay the price -- in this case an afternoon of shooting at villainous paper targets while he had a splitting headache. Bodie decided to decline the invitation and put a certain Chief Copper in his place, but having some sense of decorum -- despite what his father always said -- he opted to get rid of the witness first. "Be a bit boring for poor Charlie, won't it?"

To his credit, Cade also seemed to have a good sense of what was coming for he nodded his agreement and dismissed his personal driver with a nice thank you.

Once they were alone, Bodie slipped on the ear defenders, stepped into position then said, "Start the clock."

"You're supposed to draw your weapon first, . . . 4.8, wasn't it?"

Testosterone poisoning, Bodie decided. Classic case. "3.7, sir, and start the bloody clock."

Cade shrugged and obeyed.

Bodie drew the Browning 9mm from his shoulder holster, thumbed off the safety then fired with a smoothness that defied the speed of the manoeuvre. He kept at it until he'd emptied the clip, then replaced it, put a round up the spout, set the safety, then reholstered the weapon, all with the same casual, but swift efficiency. Removing his ear defenders, he surveyed the results of his shooting, then shook his head with a tsking sound. "Hmm, maybe I do need a refresher at that; my aim seems to have been off."

He glanced from the black silhouette that featured a large hole where its groin would have been to Cade. "Want me to have another go?"

Cade glowered at him, but before Bodie could launch into a speech about them both knowing damn well that Cade had no authority to demand Bodie do any of this and that if he didn't like it, he could take it up with Cowley, the man shook his head and smiled. "Point taken, 3.7. And I appreciate your suggestion to have Charlie leave before you made it."

Oh, hell, Cade wasn't a complete sod after all. Had a nice smile too. "My pleasure, and it's Bodie."

"All right, Bodie. You still look tired. If I stop being a rotten bastard and let you get some sleep instead of putting you to work, can you stay out of mischief?"

"I expect I can."

"Fine. I'll have Charlie drive you to my place."

"Your place?"

"Best way I know to find out what CI5 is up to is to keep one of its own around at all times."

"Hmm, know the old man well, do you?"

"Long story. Can you cook?"

"If I have to," he answered, not caring to admit at this time that his definition of cooking was stopping off for takeout.

"Then I'll tell it to you over dinner."



Bodie flopped down on the bed in Cade's guest room and immediately discovered that flopping wasn't a good idea with his headache. He groaned loudly, clutching the duvet to ride out the stabbing pain. Finally the throb returned to a mere dull ache, and he relaxed a little. Knowing that stroke of poor judgment had made it impossible for him to sleep for awhile, he reached for the phone.

A few rings later and a voice answered, "Jax."

"Hello, mate, how's the other half living?"

"Other half?"

"Yeah, you poor gypsies with no home of your own."

Jax chuckled. "I take it that you've settled into Cade's house."

"Got the run of the place, I do. All very posh."

"Ah, but does it have room service?"

"Nah, but cooking it myself is better than trying to get the old man to sign off on my expense chits."

"I'd agree if it were anyone's cooking but yours."

"Bastard."

"Not according to my mum. So how are you feeling, mate?"

"Head hurts a bit," Bodie admitted, though 'a bit' wasn't exactly an accurate description of the tiny sledge hammer having a go at the insides of his head. "I expect I'll live."

"I had my doubts about that for a time. I've seen trees smaller than the planter that fell on you. I wasn't at all pleased when the Cow told me to stay on the stakeout, but Cade said he'd look after you."

"What?"

"He stayed with you until Cowley got to the hospital. Said he doesn't like seeing wounded men without company."

"Oh." Damn. He might actually end up liking Cade.



An hour later Bodie gave up on the notion of sleep. His head hurt too damned much, so he might as well get some work done. Jax had briefed him on what the CI5 side of the operation had turned up -- absolutely nothing -- so he decided to check on what the coppers were up to.

His Capri was parked in Cade's front drive, proving the Chief had no real intention of keeping him under wraps. Bodie suspected his current residence in the guest room had more to do with Cade agreeing to keep an eye on an old friend's injured son than with anything to do with the op. Not that he didn't have a real job to do. Once CI5's presence was known, a liaison was always established with the locals. Helped cut down on the trodding on each other's toes. Still, it was boring work -- Bodie hated being bored -- and was usually left to the junior grades.

A quick drive back into the city centre and good luck with finding a parking space saw him walking into Cade's outer office twenty-three minutes after leaving the man's home. Diane was nowhere in sight, which meant he should sit himself down and wait until she got back from the loo or wherever. Still, one never learned much by being polite . . ..

Cade was on the phone when Bodie entered his office, so he busied himself by studying the decor. Could learn a lot about a bloke by examining his office. Especially one like Cade who spent most of his waking hours here. It was tasteful, the furnishings functional, but comfortable. Very nice, but he didn't like the placement of Cade's large desk.

A photograph on a short bookcase drew his attention next. It sat where Cade could see it whenever he lifted his head, obviously a picture of someone very important to him. He studied the image of a pretty young woman with large, dark eyes and hair to match. Very nice.

He heard Cade hang up the phone, then the man said, "My daughter, Elena Belinsky"

He noted the different last name, but given his own situation, he didn't remark on it. "Attractive. She know her dad's got a death wish?" he asked, turning back towards Cade.

Anger flashed in jade green eyes. "What?"

"Your desk, sir. All nice and cozy in front of those windows. Sniper's dream that is."

Cade snorted. "Not everyone shares CI5's paranoia, Bodie."

"Not everyone is still alive," Bodie pointed out, then he smiled, "but I suppose a charming, easy going man like yourself doesn't have many enemies."

The corner of Cade's mouth twitched, and a sparkle of amusement replaced the anger in his eyes. "I like the light."

"Then shift it to the side. You'll still get the light, but the shot won't be an easy one."

"Sounds like the voice of experience."

"I was in the SAS, Chief. And I've a fair hand with a rifle."

Cade snorted again. "George says he's never seen a better man with a rife. High praise."

Bodie shrugged. "Fathers tend to exaggerate."

That earned him a dubious look. "Did he?"

Well . . .. "No."

"I didn't think so. Now what are you doing nosing around my office when you're supposed to be sleeping?"

Feeling all of two years old, Bodie settled into one of his world-famous pouts. "Couldn't sleep, could I?"

Cade shook his head. "George was right. You do need a keeper." He pointed to the chaise lounge that could have been a twin for the one in Cowley's office. "Lie down."

Tempting, but he hated being told what to do. "Got work to do."

"Bodie," Cade said (using the infamous tone of voice every parent mastered that translated any name into 'now, listen to me, young man'), "you can spy on me just as easily from there as from a chair."

Well, there was some sense to that. And his head did hurt less when he lay down. Conceding defeat, he gave Cade one last, fierce glower, then stalked over to the lounger. He was asleep within five minutes.



Well, this one is a handful. Cade carefully avoided looking in Bodie's direction until he was certain that the young man had fallen asleep, then he sat back in his chair and studied him. Sleep had transformed a very handsome man into a rather adorable looking child, making Cade's heart soften all that much more where it concerned his resident CI5 agent.

Though angry at Cowley, Cade had known he would like Bodie from the moment he'd come around and started talking about Man from UNCLE and untrustworthy ferns. Given precious few reasons to smile in his job, Cade always appreciated someone with a sense of humour. He'd also been impressed with how smoothly Bodie had fielded his attempt to prove who was in charge. There would be no intimidating this one. Not that he'd expected otherwise, but he always liked to make certain, even if it did mean he came off like a bastard from time to time.

It was, thankfully, a quiet afternoon, with neither disaster nor a Whitehall summons making demands on his attention by the time he could toy with the notion of calling it a day. He stood up and stretched, then glanced at the windows. He had an infamous terrorist on the loose somewhere on his patch and more than a few vantage points outside his office. There might be something to CI5 paranoia after all.

He touched the intercom button on his phone. "Diane?"

"Yes, sir."

"I need to have a few things in my office shifted around. See if you can fit it into my schedule tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."

He heard the chuckle when he switched off the connection and turned a glare on Bodie. "All right, Sleeping Beauty, on your feet," he told him.

Long, dark eyelashes swept open and the prettiest blue eyes he'd ever seen looked up at him. "Guess I dropped off for a few minutes."

Cade smiled, absurdly charmed by the drowsy young man. "Try a few hours."

"Hours?" Bodie glanced at his watch for confirmation, then looked disgusted. "Only meant to rest my eyes."

"You needed the sleep, and I was able to get all my top secret work finished, so no harm done."

Bodie smiled at that, then went through his own stand up and stretch routine.

Cade watched the muscles ripple on the powerful body and found himself remembering his time at university. He'd been wilder in those days, unconcerned with the sex of his partners. Though he hadn't been with another man since then, it had left him with an appreciation of the male form, and Bodie had a very, very nice one. "Come on," he said, "let's get you some dinner."

"Thought I was cooking it."

"You can amaze me some other night with your culinary skills,"Cade said, leading the way to the car park. "A quiet night deserves a dinner at my favourite restaurant."

"I'll follow you."

Cade studied his sleepy-eyed companion and decided he wasn't old enough to be in long trousers, let alone to drive. "You can pick up your car in the morning," he said, then forestalled any complaints by adding, "It can be difficult to find a spot to park."

Bodie gave him a sceptical look but got into Cade's Range Rover without further comment.



Cade's favourite restaurant turned out to be a cozy, little Italian place about halfway between the station and his home. Bodie noted that parking opportunities seemed plentiful, but he was never against a good-looking man making a fuss over him, so he let the observation pass.

The place was crowded, but they were seated almost immediately -- a perk of Cade's position, he imagined and wasn't certain whether or not he approved. Cowley certainly never used such perks -- if they were even offered. But, then again, his father's position was more tactical and less public relations oriented than Cade's. And of course, being subject to 24-hour call out himself, he could appreciate the luxury of not having to waste precious off-duty time waiting for a table. Missed a lot of meals when the inevitable crisis occurred, and life reminded him that a CI5 operative was never really off-duty.

While he was busy deciding if moving to the top of a few restaurant seating lists wasn't the same as the treatment Cowley got at his club, the waiter came over. "I'll have my usual scotch, Edward," Cade told the tall, thin blond. "My friend will have a soda water and lime."

Bodie opened his mouth to bellow a protest, but Cade silenced him with a glare, then reminded him, "You are recovering from a head injury."

He pushed his lip out a bit, settling into a pout -- forgetting that it hadn't worked earlier.

Cade laughed. "You look like Elena when you do that."

Remembering the photograph of the young woman, he didn't know which one of them had been insulted and staged a tactical retreat by disappearing behind his menu. He was still fuming when the sodding waiter set his miserable excuse for a drink in front of him.

"Are you ready to order or would you like some more time to decide?" Edward asked the first question everyone must be taught in waiting tables school.

Order ? He hadn't even really looked at the bloody menu yet. He glared at Cade, who, though his face was carefully neutral, was watching him with eyes full of laughter. He decided he rather liked those eyes.

"They make a fantastic lasagne here, Bodie," Cade told him.

"I like wine with my lasagne," he bargained.

"One glass. With dinner."

He smiled his triumph. "I'll have the lasagne."

"I'll have the same," Cade told the waiter, then took a rather long drink of his scotch.

"Rotten sod," Bodie muttered, glowering at his own fizzy drink. He hated fizzy drinks. Beer or lager not withstanding.

"Did you say something, Bodie?"

He shifted his glare to his host and decided the man was going to hurt himself if he didn't laugh soon. Serve him right, too. "No, sir," he answered with his best who-me? look.

Cade did laugh then. "My god, you are a brat. A delightful one, but a brat all the same. I guess I should have expected that of George's son."

George again. Which reminded him. "You said you'd tell me about knowing my father over dinner."

"So I did." The details of the old MI5/CID drug case filled the time until their dinners were set in front of them. It was over coffee that Cade picked up the subject again. "Your father and I didn't get to talk much after you had us removed from your room."

"I never," Bodie protested his innocence, but Cade grinned at him.

"Of course not," he said in the sort of tone that clearly indicated he didn't believe it for a second. "Anyway, I gathered from what little he said that he's very proud of you. And I was glad to learn that he'd finally found you."

That surprised Bodie and it must have showed on his face.

"No, you're right; he didn't tell many about the possibility of having a child somewhere. In fact, I got the impression that he hadn't told friends who were a lot closer than me, but it was something we had in common."

"Sir?"

"I knew I had a child, but her mother didn't let me raise her either. She moved to Canada a year after Elena was born. I suppose some men might have found that a relief, but for me it was a special kind of hell."

Bodie recognized the look on Cade's face -- he'd seen it often enough on his father's -- all sorrow and regret. He found himself having to fight the impulse to reach out to him.

"But at least I knew her mother loved her and would raise her well."

Not a comfort Bodie's father had enjoyed. Bodie's mother had been an IRA terrorist whom Cowley had romanced as part of an undercover operation. She'd just told him that she was pregnant when the SAS and MI5 had raided the terrorists' safehouse. She'd escaped knowing Cowley was responsible for the death or capture of her friends. It wasn't until she'd been killed in a motor accident years later that Cowley had located her and backtracked their son's whereabouts.

"I think what terrified George most was that one day he might find you working for the IRA."

Bodie shook his head. "She chose a different sort of revenge. Gave me the names of English aristocrats and treated me like the enemy."

"My God, how --?"

"She got married to help her hide from my father, but she chose her husband badly. He wouldn't let her hurt me, and I ran away the night he died."

"Bodie was his name?"

"James Bodie. Only name I have that I care for." The only one that had been given to him out of love.

"Then it couldn't have been easy for you to learn he wasn't really your father."

Bodie shook his head. "No, it wasn't. But Cowley picked the right emissary." He smiled at the memory of one of the few good people he had known in the past. "Was a nun attached to a mission we were camped near. She wasn't much older than me, but she liked to mother me. Gave me books." Talked to him like he was a human being. Sort of plain when he actually thought about her looks, but there was something about her that made Sister Bernadette one of the most beautiful women he'd ever known. "He convinced her who he was, then she came for me." . . .



. . . The gentleness of the touch and voice calling his name woke him with a start. Krivas usually woke him with a hard slap across his backside, unless he opted to fuck him instead. His eyes focused on the one person in Angola who the word gentle fit. He opened his mouth to speak, but a slender hand lightly covered his mouth. "Hush, my friend," Bernie told him. "You must come with me."

Trusting the nun completely, he nodded his agreement, and she turned her back so he could pull on his fatigues. Once dressed, he followed her out of the camp and along a winding road until they reached the broken down jeep that served as the mission's only form of transportation. "Bernie, what's this about?" he asked watching her climb in behind the wheel. He usually drove when they were together.

"I will tell you on the way," she answered. "Get in."

Utterly mystified, but not about to argue with one of the very few people who had ever been kind to him, he obeyed. "Is it Krivas?" The thought suddenly occurred to him. "Has something happened to him?"

"The world should be so lucky," she answered, hotly. Her sense of Christian charity had never extended to Krivas.

"He keeps me alive, Bernie," Bodie reminded her.

"Only so he can use you as a plaything."

Bodie blushed and looked away, never comfortable with discussing sexual things with her. It was an old argument between them, one he knew he'd never win. How could he get her to understand that it was better to be one man's 'plaything' than to be at the mercy of several? He was only a few weeks past his eighteenth birthday, still a boy in the eyes of men who had seen several tours of duty in armed services units all over the world before turning to mercenary work. Krivas kept the others away from him and had even taught him how to shoot, how to defend himself.

"Do you care for him?" she asked after a long silence.

Bodie sighed, wishing he'd mastered the art of lying to her. "No."

He felt some twinge of gratitude for the man, though everything Krivas had done had been for his own pleasure as the man allowed no useless baggage in his outfit. This bumboy could shoot better than any man in the group. And he knew he could fight better than most of them as well. He could see a time when he would not need a man like Krivas to keep the hounds at bay. "No, I hate him."

The only man he hated more was some nameless friend of his mother's who had raped him the night before James Bodie's funeral. Sometimes he didn't know whether he hated that man more for raping him or for making him run away before he could see his father laid to rest

"Then you'd leave him if you could?"

"If I could," he sighed. "But I'm not strong enough to leave him yet."

"What if someone helped you?"

Bodie shook his head. He adored Bernie -- had from almost the moment he'd met her -- but she could be hopelessly naive. "And hope that someone will be smart enough not to tear me apart?" Krivas used him whenever he pleased and was never gentle, but the man knew the dangers of the smallest wound in the jungle, so he never damaged Bodie. "No, thanks."

"And if your benefactor would not want you in that way?"

"Bernie, Krivas would kill you," he said, rejecting what he assumed was another of her offers to help him. Whatever her current scheme, Bodie was determined to be back at the camp before Krivas returned from a reconnaissance mission. "He'll kill anyone who tries to take me away from him."

"I am not speaking of myself, Bodie, but of the man I am taking you to see."

Bodie stiffened. "What man?"

"He says he is your father."

His jaw tightened. "My father is dead. He died two days after my fourteenth birthday."

"Yes, so you have told me. But this man says that James Bodie was not your real father, and I believe him."

"It's a trick, Bernie."

She chuckled. "You are a beautiful boy, Bodie, but the whole world does not seek your charms."

He blushed again. "I didn't mean . . ."

She touched his arm. "The past need not dictate the future, my sweet Bodie."

Perhaps not. "Who is this man?"

"His name is George Cowley." . . .

. . . "By the time we got to a little village to the north, she had me convinced Cowley was my father." Of course the tintype his father had shown him of Cowley's maternal grandparents had helped: Bodie was the image of his great grandmother.

Cade seemed to consider his next words carefully, then he asked, "Did you have trouble forgiving him for not being there when you were young?"

Because it seemed important to the man, he thought about it, making certain that time hadn't blurred his memories, before he answered, "No." Cade's question had told him something about the man's relationship with his daughter, and, not wanting him to think there was anything typical about how Bodie saw things, he added, "But I was a mercenary -- knew how easy it was for someone to disappear without a trace, didn't I?"

Cade nodded. "I take the point. And I appreciate it." He took a few sips of his coffee, then said, "So everything went smoothly after the sister took you to Cowley?"

Bodie shook his head. "No." Krivas hadn't let him go without a fight . . ..



. . . Bodie sat in the centre of the hut, his senses straining for the slightest out-of-place sound. Bernie and Cowley slept in bedrolls on either side of him, their slumber appearing untroubled. But neither of them knew Krivas like Bodie did. No one stole anything from that nutter, and Krivas considered Bodie his possession. That meant he would come for him.

His hand tightened on the butt of his.44 Magnum. Krivas had given him the pistol, but now he would use it against him. Bodie had not the slightest doubt that it would come to that. He'd reached the point of no return -- had done that when he'd followed Bernie out of the camp. Oh, he could go back now, had even considered it, but Krivas would still hunt down Bernie. Bodie could take whatever punishment Krivas cared to deal him, but he would not allow any harm to come to her. Or to Cowley. He wasn't even certain he liked this father of his, but he would not see him hurt or killed for the crime of coming for his son.

His decision made, he tensed when the screech owl call sounded a few hours before dawn. 'Come to me,' it meant. And Bodie rose to do so one last time.

He stopped at the edge of the village, waited and listened. Just over a year ago, he'd been a scared, frightened boy who'd never even seen a jungle. Now, he could identify every sound, could even hear Krivas approaching, and knew that he was not alone.

Benny and the others would never have come along on a recover-the-runaway mission, so Krivas must have brought his thugs. A group of four tribal outcasts, they were big, mean and willing to do anything Krivas wanted for the fun of it and for far less money than the mercenaries Krivas commanded. If Bodie were lucky, the fucking sociopaths would cut and run once he'd dealt with Krivas. If not . . . Bodie would die. Either way, he would be free.

Krivas emerged from the brush to Bodie's right. Tempting, so tempting, to simply shoot him, but Bodie knew Krivas would not have revealed himself until he'd checked out the area and his support was in position.

"You have caused me a great deal of trouble and embarrassment, Bodie," Krivas said, his voice low and dangerous. "I warned you never to do that."

Yes, he had. He'd promised that if Bodie ever defied him, he'd let his thugs have him. Bodie had never seen the sense in risking a gang rape to avoid Krivas alone taking him, but now other lives were at risk. "I'm sorry," he whispered, lowering his gaze, letting a mask of fear hide his determination to take the bastard to Hell with him.

"Not as sorry as you will be," Krivas promised him. "Now, where is the nun?"

"Gone. I sent her away," he lied.

"I'll find her. As I did you."

He could hear two of Krivas' thugs coming up behind him. The other two and Krivas were in front of him. "Please, let her go."

"No."

He could feel the air stirring as hands reached out to grab his arms. Bodie threw himself to the left, slamming into and knocking over a powerful body, while drawing his Magnum. Freed by his love for Bernie, he ignored the immediate threat of the man on his right and swung the gun barrel towards Krivas. The mercenary moved with a fluid quickness that would have saved him from anyone else, but Bodie had watched him for over a year and knew in which direction he'd move. Bodie's shot hit him full in the chest, and he fell even as a second shot sounded.

To his surprise, the thug on Bodie's right joined Krivas on the ground, leaving him free to fire at the suspected position of another. A howl of pain told him where to place the second bullet, while another mysterious shot dealt with the final hidden goon. Only then did George Cowley step out of the shadows to join his son . . ..



. . . "We got Bernie back to the mission, then went on to London, but I was a mess underneath it all," Bodie admitted. A part of him didn't understand it. He was a very private person, keeping the horrors of his past hidden behind outrageous stories -- all true, mind, but outrageous all the same -- yet he found himself looking into those green eyes and talking. By the time they headed back to Cade's motor, he'd told him all about needing to see a shrink for a time, working with a tutor to take his A-Levels, entering the Paras, and how he'd finally got sick of the military after a few years with the SAS, then had returned to London to work for CI5 and his father.

When he'd finished Cade said, "George says you're the best he's got."

"Had to be, didn't I?"

"Just like Elena," Cade said with a shake of his head. "Always think we expect you to live up to some state of perfection. I'd love her if she were an empty-headed waitress in a transport cafe. Do you think George feels differently?"

"Probably not, but then your daughter doesn't have a past to live down, does she."

"We all have things in our past to live down."

When Cade didn't elaborate, Bodie glanced at him and found a man totally absorbed in his driving; in other words, a man who had no intention of saying another word on the subject. After all the secrets he'd admitted, it started to make him angry, then he it occurred to him that this matter was not Cade's secret, but Elena's, and thus not his secret to share. He liked that. "Do you? " he asked, wanting to find out if Cade would share the secrets that were his.

"Yes," he admitted, pulling up to his house. "But you look half-dead on your feet. Shall I save the sordid details for tomorrow night's dinner conversation?"

Bodie nodded, certain that he would hear all about it. He really did like this man.



Present

Cade tried to concentrate on the report in front of him, but his cock wouldn't cooperate. Remembering the tight, hot bliss that had surrounded it only hours earlier, the uncooperative organ kept trying to harden. He shifted in his chair for the hundredth time, his shirt brushing against nipples still tingling from rubbing against a smooth, muscular back. He groaned softly, then sighed, conceding defeat to a body that thought it was in bed with his beautiful young man.

Not trusting his office door to stay barred against angry MPs and the overwrought public, he stood up, then walked to the one haven even Whitehall had to respect. Blushing a little at the thought of a man of his years wanking in the loo, Cade locked the door behind him, then made himself as comfortable as possible on the toilet lid.

Having fought the fantasy of returning to his lover all morning, the image of Bodie sprawled on the bed in front of him enveloped his senses the moment he closed his eyes. He could even smell the musk of the warm, sleepy body, taste the salt of his skin.

Teasing himself, he ignored his throbbing groin for the moment and palmed his nipples through his shirt. Bodie liked to suck on them, torment them with his tongue as Cade now did with his own fingers. A twist, a rub, a pinch. Oh, God.

A soft moan escaped when he parted his lips, then he ran his tongue along his upper lip as his phantom Bodie silenced him with a deep, wet kiss. Bodie, my gorgeous Bodie, I want to fuck you. Need to fuck you.

Bodie smiled, his eyes glowing with his own hunger, then turned over onto his belly. The beautiful backside lifted up, begging for ravishment while Cade's hands clawed at his zipper, desperate to free himself.

Cupping his hands about his engorged cock, Cade felt nothing less than the paradise of thrusting into Bodie's body. Once, twice, then he exploded, his seed spurting over his hands in a release that left him dizzy for a few moments.

When he was once again a man who had locked himself in the loo, Cade stood up and went about setting himself to rights. He felt nine times a fool, even as he gloried in the sensation of being so enamoured that he couldn't even wait to get home to take his pleasures. It had been a very long time since he'd felt like this. He looked at himself in the mirror and saw a man utterly besotted. But he couldn't quite enjoy the image. His body satisfied, his mind once again reminded him of the cost of this bliss.



I want Bodie.

Look after him for me, Alan.

Don't worry, I intend to keep a close eye on him.

He winced at the memory, of how it all sounded in hindsight. He hadn't meant it that way; yet now he knew a part of him had wanted to fuck Bodie the moment those big, blue eyes had fluttered open in the hospital. It left him unable to deny completely the notion of ulterior motives when he'd convinced George to leave his son in Cade's keeping.

Christ, George. What was he going to do about him? Though far from his closest friend, George Cowley was one of his oldest friends and one of the few men Cade admired, yet he'd bedded the man's son. It all sounded so sordid, but the reality was so beautiful. If he could make George understand how much Bodie meant to him, how much he . . .. That was it then, there was nothing for it but to try and explain. Not something he looked forward to, but he headed straight for the phone when he emerged from the loo.

He picked it up, even started to punch in the number for Cowley's private line, before he came to his senses. This was hardly a matter to handle over the telephone. He hung up, then switched on the intercom. "Diane, clear my calender and send for Charlie. I have to go to London."



Two Weeks Earlier

On the fifth morning of what he called his 'exile to the north,' Bodie woke to a hand gently shaking his shoulder, then trusted his body's protest that it was too bloody early to get up enough to glare at the owner of said hand.

Not in the least intimidated, Cade smiled at him. "Time to get up, 3.7. It's a beautiful morning and you've lazed about enough."

Not considered CI5's finest for nothing, Bodie noted Cade's attire and annoyingly perky manner, then came swiftly to a horrifying conclusion -- the man was a jogger. "I'm convalescing," he protested, trying to hide beneath the covers.

Cade demolished his cozy bolt hole with one firm tug. "Which is why your Mr Macklin said you only had to do five miles this week."

"Macklin?" Bodie shuddered at Cade's casual use of the dreaded name. Even nutters like Tommy McKay had enough sense to practically wet themselves at the threat of one of Brian Macklin's refreshers. "You've talked to Macklin?"

"Yes, he stopped by my office yesterday to deliver these," Cade answered, dropping Bodie's running clothes on the bed. "He assured me that he would be most happy to assist you if I didn't have time to help you recuperate."

Bodie stared at Cade for a moment, then he fairly erupted from the bed, yanked on his gear, and hustled the older man out the door in a flurry of motion worthy of one desperate to escape a fate worse than death.

Once outside, Bodie did his level best to have a completely miserable run, but every time he managed to get close to a satisfying wallow in gloom ridden martyrdom, Cade would make him laugh with some anecdote about a neighbour or make a sarky quip about the latest nonsense coming out of Whitehall.

Finally, knowing he'd been beaten, Bodie surrendered and began to enjoy, if not the exercise, the company. And it was a very pretty morning.



Because it had the necessities of life -- a door that could be locked and reasonably fast room service -- Jax and Susan's hotel room (they had magnanimously decided to share a room to cut back on expenses) quickly became the unofficial headquarters of 'CI5 Eastland.' There were four teams operating in various parts of Eastland, but only his two companions were based in Norwich. It gave Bodie a place to touch base with them and collect the other teams' reports via a secured fax line. So he spent most mornings here, and it quickly became obvious that he was more than a liaison with the coppers. Cowley had all but withdrawn from the operation, leaving more and more of its coordination to him.

"Cow's got you on Calf duty again," Susan observed the sixth morning they all sat around indulging in coffee and donuts.

Bodie gave her a pained look. Though technically there was no rank in CI5, Bodie seemed to pull the designation of field commander more often than anyone else, and many, including Bodie, suspected that he was kept on solo agent status to give him a working relationship with everyone on the A Squad instead of an intense bond with a single partner. Still, he did have his favourites, and he was looking at both of them. Would have been happy to be assigned a permanent partnership with either of them, but had to settle for maneuvering things so he could work with both or either as often as possible.

"I never ask for it, sunshine," he reminded her, trying not to sound defensive. Given that Bodie had at least another week on restricted duty status, Jax should have got the nod as he was the next most senior agent assigned to the case.

"Better you than me," Jax was quick to assure him that no offense was taken. "Only thing that bothers me is that you'll get so good at playing Calf that he'll pull you off the streets and officially make you his deputy."

Bodie gave a dramatic shudder. "Bite your tongue, mate. I'm too young to be sentenced to administration."

"Not to mention that it would be a waste of resources," Susan agreed. "But it is the way things are shaping up."

He sighed. "I know." And much as he didn't want the job, at least not now, he knew the old man needed a deputy. CI5 had to keep expanding to combat the ever growing crime rate, and it was beginning to be more than a one-man job to run things. Worse, his father's health was beginning to suffer.

Over the years the bullet lodged in Cowley's leg had caused him more and more trouble until now he often suffered from chronic bouts of pain. Surgery had advanced enough since the time he'd suffered the war wound to remove the bullet without much fear of losing the leg, but he would need weeks, perhaps months, of rest and therapy afterwards. Yet the head of CI5 could not be spared for that long -- not when there was no second-level of command to take up the slack.

For that reason, Bodie had considered volunteering for the uncoveted job, but knew he was too young for Whitehall to approve his appointment. He figured both he and his father would have to hold out until Bodie had at least turned thirty, eliminating that damning '2' in front of the rest of his age. A man in his thirties might be given the nod, but never a 'boy' in his twenties

It would be pulling him from the streets a good five or seven years before he would be ready, but, for his father's sake, he would smile and do the job as best he could.

He practised that smile and said, "Sometimes being so much better than the rest of you lot is a right pain."

They both gave him a disgusted look, then threw doughnut scraps at him, the sombre mood broken by his outrageous comment. For he wasn't that much better than they were. Though it would have been pointless to deny that Bodie was known as the best field agent CI5 had, his skill was not the only reason his father had his eye on him as his successor.

The first agent Cowley had recruited, Barry Martin, had turned out to be on a few payrolls other than CI5's. The fact that Martin had also been a friend of Cowley's had compounded the offense and had left Cowley a trifle rattled in the trust department. But Bodie was not only an excellent agent, he was Cowley's son. And in the Cow's books that made him utterly trustworthy -- with everything but the secretarial pool.

His glance shifted to the pile of reports they'd been going through. Was all that worthless paper's fault that they had time to get so gloomy. He glowered at the stack, then had an absurd thought. "Do you think Reegan actually exists?"

Jax appeared to give the question serious consideration. "You mean he might be some sort of CI5 bogeyman?"

Susan jumped in, "Or an excuse to get bad lads and lasses like us out of the old man's hair for a few weeks?"

That notion caused Jax to glare at Bodie. "I told you to stop stealing pens from the office."

"Me? You two are the ones who keep inventing new uses for the supply closet!"

This led to a series of accusations and counter-accusations that culminated in Bodie's admission that he had committed the ultimate crime. "Well, the other day I did sneak a drink from his private stock."

Satisfied that their exile was all his fault, they ordered him from their presence. As there was nothing else for him to do here and the two lovers were giving each other significant looks, he hung his head and stood up to leave.

To show that there were no hard feelings, he gave them each a big smacking kiss on the lips to say goodbye.

"Idiot," Jax laughed, shoving him towards the door.

"Rejected again," Bodie sighed, and left. But he stopped in the hallway to give himself a moment. He'd been playing around, but his cock had got mildly interested in the situation. He'd dated Susan before Jax, and he still found her desirable. Jax also intrigued him, and, in the early days of Susan and Jax's relationship, he'd toyed with the notion of crawling into bed with the two of them. He was fairly certain Susan would have liked the notion, but Jax was as straight as they came, so Bodie had never suggested it. Now the two of them were in love and that left Bodie . . . out in the hallway with an itchy cock.

Damn. Well, maybe he'd get lucky and find out that Cade's people had broken the case while CI5's finest had been clowning around.



Cade made a few more notes, then glared at the paper in front of him with disgust. According to his morning briefing, his force was currently investigating three murders, a drug smuggling operation, and a case of industrial espionage, and was keeping a watchful eye on yet another protest rally at the nuclear plant. Not to mention the little matter CI5 was working on with an equal lack of results. And here he sat writing a speech for a dinner tonight. When he finished, he had tomorrow's press conference to prepare for.

Not for the first time, he found himself wondering why it was that the better you were at a job, the further you were promoted from it. Cade considered himself a policeman, and knew he was a damned good one. He wanted to help his head of CID track down the murderers or his Deputy Chief Constable monitor the drugs case. But there were relatively few instances where he could indulge such impulses and justify the Chief Constable taking a personal interest in a case. Nothing he'd heard on the morning's agenda qualified. Which left him to the joys of writing speeches and attending a lot of formal dinners with a bunch of self-important dullards.

A soft knock on his office door brought his head up as Bodie entered, and he couldn't help but smile at the dejected pout on the handsome face. "I take it Rose gave you the latest news."

Bodie dropped into a chair. "You mean the lack of it."

"And how is CI5 fairing?" he asked, though he could already tell from Bodie's manner. It was actually Rose Penfold's job to brief and debrief Bodie, but, while he trusted his head of CID and her instincts, he wanted to keep at least this much of a personal eye on things. So he'd insisted Bodie always check in with him after he'd talked to Rose. It was fast becoming the bright spot of each day.

"Becoming masters at coping with boredom," he said in a wistful tone of voice that Cade didn't quite understand, but let pass.

"I won't be able to justify committing my department's resources for much longer," he warned.

Bodie shrugged. "Surprised you held out for this long. We'll keep at it until Cowley calls us home."

He didn't sound like a man who expected that to be anytime soon. It must be nice to have an organization that could devote its attention to one of the boss' hunches. Cade would have been disgusted if he didn't share Cowley's feelings on the matter -- something was happening. They'd simply not been able to suss it yet. Or maybe too many years of scotch was rotting both their brains.

He sighed, then studied the bored, unhappy young man waiting for him to say something to change both conditions. He was about to open his mouth and disappoint him, but Bodie looked so sad, almost lonely.

"Come on," Cade said, making the decision even as he stood up.

"Where are we going?"

"Flying."

The way Bodie's face lit up made Cade feel absurdly happy, and he found himself fighting the urge to whistle a tune as they headed for his Range Rover.



Watching the man behind the single-engine plane's controls, Bodie decided he was looking at a very happy man. Didn't take a genius to know that Cade loved planes: flying paraphernalia littered his home, and he seemed to favour a tie tack featuring a vintage aircraft. But Bodie was delighted to discover that he was an excellent pilot; bad pilots gave him hives.

"Would you like to take her for awhile?" Cade asked, gesturing towards the controls in front of Bodie.

"No, I'd rather sit back and enjoy the ride."

Cade gave him a look. "Strange attitude for a fellow pilot."

Bodie smiled. He'd told Cade about flying around East Africa a few times during his SAS days. But, "I'm not very good. Only fly enough to keep my license valid. Don't have a real feel for it."

"Takes some work to become a pilot."

"Don't I know it," he answered. One of many grievances he had with his boss. Wouldn't allow him to let his bloody license lapse because it might come in handy one day. Chance would be a fine thing. "Became one out of self-defence. Didn't like depending on some of the nutters the military puts behind the stick."

"You like being in control."

For some reason Bodie felt a blush warm his cheeks. "Not always."



Bodie jogged alongside Cade and found himself enjoying the company despite the fact that it was definitely not a beautiful morning. Was grey and almost cold. Bodie didn't approve of cold. Lead to all sorts of discomforts. Still, he was doing better today. Cade had pushed him to ten miles yesterday; after all, he'd had one slack day of five, no sense in coddling the patient, he'd announced.

Still slightly aggrieved, Bodie noted the distance remaining to Cade's front door and the fact that the man beside him was slowing towards a cool down trot. Not today, Bodie decided. His body built for a short, fast sprint versus speed over any significant distance, Bodie let another few yards pass, then he broke into a run.

He knew Cade well enough by this time to know the man couldn't resist such a challenge, but the slap of trainers striking the ground behind him confirmed that the man was in hot pursuit. His youth and build counterbalancing the fact that he wasn't at full strength, Bodie beat Cade to the front door by a good three yards.

"Bastard," Cade gasped when he reached him, but they shared a grin.



Bodie arrived at police headquarters as Cade was beginning his weekly press briefing. Deciding he could do with another cup of coffee while he waited, he headed for the canteen instead of Penfold's or Cade's office. Cade had made him pay for a peaceful afternoon flying over the countryside by dragging him to a fancy dinner where he'd eaten so-so food and listened to yet another speech on Cade's drug program. Had made for a late night when he hadn't quite adjusted to them again. But he'd rather have been sitting there trying to keep his eyes open than try to defend the drug program.

Poor bugger was fighting hard to make it work, but Cade didn't have the support for it. Not even his officers seemed to be doing more than lip service to the program.

He shook his head. He remembered Cowley talking about it when Cade had first announced it. Never dropping so much as a hint that he knew Cade personally, his father had said he was a brave man, but that it would never work. Oh, it might have if other Chief Constables had followed Cade's lead, but they hadn't. As Cowley had predicted, Eastland was becoming a haven for drug users, a place they could indulge their habits without fear of arrest.

As a consequence, the drug using population had almost doubled in the last two-and-a-half years. So had the number of crimes typically committed to finance drug habits. A good plan, but one that had never had a chance. Another few months tops, and it would all be history. Worse, instead of revolutionizing the war against drugs, it would be used as evidence that such a solution would not work. A failed dream used to aid his enemies: a bitter thing for any man to face.

Bodie felt a flash of irritation as he sat at a back table in the canteen, listening to the press conference while he drank his coffee. Cade might have had a chance, or the defeat might have been less unpleasant if his men had supported him, but he could feel a near hostility radiating from the coppers who were also watching.

A couple of them cracked jokes about how nice Cade looked in the uniform. As Bodie had been thinking something along similar lines, he didn't understand the sarcasm. Neither did a blonde constable near the front. "Stop it, you clowns," she snapped. "He probably doesn't even know it bothers us."

"Yes, he does," a tall officer to Bodie's right answered. "Chief's all right, but I told him straight out how we felt."

He listened for a time, the background noise of the press conference no longer interesting. It seemed that the young woman was the officer Cade had saved the night his first driver, Jack something, had in turn saved Cade, getting himself killed in the process. The tall officer and his partner had been 'blessed' with the Chief's presence in their unit one night when Cade had decided to check out the morale of the troops. A few more of the coppers chimed in that Cade was a good man. None spoke of him being a good Chief, and all acted disenchanted by his refusal to wear his uniform for anything but press conferences. Ashamed to be our Chief, a man using Eastland for a stepping stone. He heard the accusations and got the feeling that it was a frequent topic of conversation.

Finally, he didn't want to hear anymore, and he slipped out of the room.



Cade left the press conference satisfied that he wouldn't be defending his every breath to Whitehall after the morning papers hit the stands. Good thing it had been a slow week. Instead of the usual sharks circling, the press had seemed almost bored, their questions focusing on old issues. One had even asked him about Maria Romero. More accurately about whether or not her body had been found.

He sighed. It had been six months since the woman had disappeared. Brave, lovely, charming Maria had vanished off the face of the Earth. No one, including Cade, doubted she was dead, but it was hard to imagine such a spirit being extinguished.

His thoughts on such depressing matters, he almost cheered when he found Bodie waiting in his office. Any distraction would have been welcome, but he was always grateful for a pleasant one.

"You're here early," Cade said as he started to unfasten the jacket of his uniform.

"Only so many ways the teams can tell me they've got nothing to report," Bodie answered, rising.

Bodie walked over to him in time to help him off with the jacket. "This suits you," he said as he went to hang it up.

"Does it? I hate it." It represented the things he didn't like about authority: the clothing that pulled the eye instead of the face, making the wearer almost anonymous, all that less accountable; a symbol of the old guard who kept their minds closed to new ideas and fought to strip others of freedoms; and something that separated him from those he sought to protect. Yes, he hated it for all of that, but he smiled and said the least of it, "Bloody uncomfortable."

Bodie gave him a sceptical look as if he knew Cade hadn't told him the full story. "Your officers don't seem to mind. Got the impression that they wish you'd put it on more often."

So he'd heard. A public relations specialist he'd dated a couple of years ago had told him the populace shared that wish, but he found himself wearing it on fewer and fewer occasions. In fact, he couldn't remember the last time he'd worn it outside of a press conference. "I hate it."

A brief silence, then Bodie said, "Come on then. I'll buy you lunch and you can tell me about it."

He found himself wanting to talk to him, but Bodie was easy to talk to, easy to trust. He'd already told him all about his radical student days, his failed relationships, his pain over Elena's mother whisking their infant daughter off to Canada, and all the frustrations he'd silently endured since coming to Eastland. Talking wasn't Cade's style, but Bodie made it easy. So it was a very appealing idea. Except for one thing. "Bodie, it's ten in the morning."

The young man blinked, then grinned. "So, I'll buy you a late breakfast. Shall even put it on my expenses. Will make Cowley bellow for weeks."

Cade laughed. Definitely a pleasant distraction.



Another day, another lap around the park. Bodie sighed. Much as he liked being with Cade, this jogging business was bloody hell. He hated, hated, hated it. Then again, it did get him quality time with Cade. Even if it meant he had to drag himself out of a nice, warm bed before civilized man was meant to know the day had begun.

He was halfway through his usual morning tirade against the evils of jogging when Cade broke into a run. Bodie blinked, then charged after him. He passed him rather quickly, but they were still two miles from Cade's front door and with a half of a mile to go, his treacherous legs began to protest the rate of speed.

Suddenly, Cade flashed passed him. Man had a distance runner's body and he'd chosen his moment to start the race well. Bodie kept running, but he knew he'd been bested. He also noticed that Cade was almost poetry in motion as he ran. Long, graceful legs, neat little rump on top. Very nice view indeed. Made losing painless, he decided as he collapsed on the doorstep with Cade, and he grinned as hard as he had when he'd won.



When Cade arrived at headquarters, he was still wearing a good part of the smile he'd shared with Bodie, but it faded when he reached his office and Diane told him that Sam Lester was waiting to see him. Shit. Nothing like a visit from the head of the Police Authority to turn a great morning into a tedious one.

Ah, well, there was nothing for it but to get it over with. And since the nastiness over the tabloid article on Cade, Lester had been something of a dubious ally.

He entered the conference room, took one look at Lester's face and knew that the honeymoon, so to speak, was over. Or maybe the man was constipated. It was so hard to tell sometimes. "What can I do for you, Mr Lester?"

"You can tell me just what the hell you think you are doing!"

Cade blinked. Normally he'd have some notion of what Lester or those like him had come to complain about, but not this time. As far as Cade knew, he'd led the life of the pure and innocent during the last few weeks. "I beg your pardon?"

"Bringing that . . . that . . . boy to the dinner night before last?"

Boy? Given the reference to the dinner, he had to mean Bodie, but, "I hardly think 'boy' is a good description of Mr Bodie. And precisely what is wrong with my bringing him to a dinner?" Cade had thought it was a marvellous idea, and the sight of Bodie in evening dress had been one of the few highlights of the whole miserable night.

Lester's eyes widened, an expression that tended to make him look like a bug-eyed insect. "My God, man, Tom Brewster was there!"

For a moment Lester's meaning didn't sink in. Of course, Brewster was there. Most of those who sat on the Police Authority had attended. Though why Brewster still served on the committee after that mess . . .. Cade blinked as the penny dropped. For a time he stared at his 'guest.' Brewster's son had been an underage (just) homosexual involved in a liaison with a twenty-one year old boy. Everyone from Whitehall to the local dog catcher had been screaming for Cade to arrest them. He hadn't seen the sense. He still didn't. Destroy two young men's lives over a matter of the few months that had separated Jamie Brewster from his eighteenth birthday? The courts had better things to do, and he'd said as much. The boy's father had been enraged, unable to accept the fact of his son's homosexuality. Jamie had committed suicide, and}{\plain \b\lang2057 somehow more than a few members of the community and Whitehall had seen his inaction as the reason for it. A painful time for all. Now Lester was standing in front of him demanding to know why he'd brought his own young male lover to a function. He wanted to fly into a rage, but settled for laughing instead.

Lester's face reddened. "I fail to see --"

"That you do, Mr Lester. That you do. Bodie is not my lover. He is a CI5 agent working a case in the Eastland area and the son of a good friend. And even if he were something more to me, he is well over the age of consent."

The other man stared at him, then blustered, "That is hardly the point. You cannot --"

"'Cannot'?" Perhaps because Maria had been in his thoughts recently, her voice sounded in his mind. Life is nothing without freedom, Alan. Any kind of freedom: to move where you like; think what you like; love who you like. She'd told him that when she'd announced her decision to leave the safety of protective custody and England. Pursuit of it had cost her nothing less than her life.

He thought of that and of Archie Camfield, the art dealer young Jamie's lover had worked for. Witty, sophisticated and intelligent, he'd managed to get the best of Cade and publicly humiliate him. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, he'd often thought he and Camfield could have been friends. But the man was a known homosexual, not the sort the Chief Constable could be seen with without stirring things up. So he'd not seen Camfield since the night his officers had cut the noose that had strangled the life from Jamie Brewster. On the face of it, the forfeiture of a potential friendship was an easy sacrifice to make for the job, but Cade had no real friends in Eastland and a host of enemies.

It angered and shamed him that he had let the spectre of the press dragging his name through yet more mud turn him away from a friendship and a principle of freedom that a woman he could have loved had died for. His flash of contempt for himself saved Lester from the lash of his temper. Instead Cade turned on his heel and stalked from the room.



Present

Elena stared at Bodie. Or rather at his gun. Girl has a proper set of priorities, Bodie thought. She'd found a naked man in her father's bed, but she was more concerned with the fact that the naked man was armed. "Sorry," he muttered, feeling the heat of embarrassment flood through him as he re-engaged the safety, then set the gun down.

The threat of death dispelled, she fled.

"Wait!" Bodie shouted, bolting after her.

He caught hold of her arm before she reached the stairs, and she shrieked, a sound that had more to do with anger than fear. "Let go of me!" she demanded, fighting him.

All too aware of the disadvantages of grappling with someone when he wasn't wearing anything, Bodie tried desperately to stop her struggles -- without hurting her or sustaining a very unpleasant injury of his own. "Calm down!" he finally bellowed in his best imitation of Cowley on the warpath.

To his relief, Elena froze. "Now, I'll let go if you promise not to run."

She nodded, but he could feel the tension in the arms he held and knew she'd bolt the instant he released her.

"Pull the other one, sweetheart," he sighed, then opted for some strategy. "And here your dad was telling me you were this great open-minded champion of the oppressed."

She blinked. "What?"

"Course a father's pretty easy to fool." Right. "But you run along. I won't tell Daddy that his daughter's all talk."

Judging that the right amount of indignation had entered her expression, Bodie mentally crossed his fingers, let go of her, then went back to the bedroom. He didn't look back, but he kept his ears wide open, hoping against hope that he wouldn't hear the sounds of feet running down a flight of stairs and the slam of a door.

He yanked on one of Alan's silk robes, then belted it. Not much cover, but at least he wouldn't be displaying his assets any longer. His modesty somewhat guarded, he turned to deal with his lover's daughter and wondered why the hell he got all the rotten jobs.



Two Days Earlier

The smell of burnt something or other greeted Cade as he walked through his front door. He sighed. Either his house was on fire or Bodie was cooking again. Any day now he expected the young man to announce he had discovered the trick of burning water. And the things he pulled out of the microwave were enough to make a crazed terrorist flee in horror.

Feeling too cowardly to face another black, mysterious lump, he stalked into the front room, poured and downed a fast, fortifying drink, then called out for pizza. Strengthened by the thought of fresh, hot food (as opposed to ashes), he went to save his kitchen.

As expected, he found Bodie at the scene of the crime, the young man patiently explaining to the smoldering mess how it was all its fault that it had got into this condition.

Cade walked over to him and propped his chin on one of Bodie's broad shoulders so he could see what he'd done this time. Black, lumpy and still smoking, it looked a lot like some sort of new heavy ordinance. "I give up. What was it?"

Bodie was in full pout mode, but he graciously interrupted it long enough to answer, "That rice stuff you like."

Rice stuff? Oh, God, his rice steamer. One glance proved it had gone the way of his wok and the blender. He was tired, hungry and ripe for a temper tantrum, but he simply sighed again, then gave the warm, solid body he was resting against a quick squeeze. "Oh, well I wanted to get another one anyway."

The fact that he wasn't going to get yelled at seemed to penetrate the brain beneath all that silky, black hair, for Bodie brightened, then offered, "I could whip us up some eggs."

Cade shuddered. "Touch my frying pan and die," he growled, then pointed at the charred rice. "Go give that a proper burial while I open some wine. The pizza should be here by the time you finish."

Bodie trotted off to do as he was told, leaving Cade alone as he muttered about how a man smart enough to disarm a bomb should be intelligent enough to read the bloody instruction manual on how to work a kitchen gadget. The corkscrew a singularly uninterested audience, he poured himself a glass of wine, then returned to the front room, mentally cataloguing all the reasons why it would be a bad idea to murder an old friend's son.

It then occurred to him that Bodie was smart enough to read a manual, but that he hated to cook. Cade added this to the fact that half of Bodie's genes came from a devious old bastard and greeted Bodie with a highly suspicious look.

Bodie looked puzzled, then indignant. "I did not!" he insisted, then dropped down onto the sofa and sulked.

Hmmm, well, perhaps not. Willful property damage was going a bit far on the 'get out of kitchen duty' scale. But he'd obviously thought about doing something along those lines or he wouldn't have been so quick to pick up on what Cade was thinking, and the sulk alone had him wondering if there was a precedent for sending 27-year-old brats to bed without any supper. "Bodie --"

"I thought I could figure it out myself."

Okay, so he wasn't actually smart enough to read a manual. "Bodie --"

"How was I supposed to know you put the water in first?"

How could a grown man not know how to cook rice? "Bodie --"

"And I'll buy you a new one. As soon as Cowley signs off on my expense chit."

And he'd heard well and enough stories to know how soon that would be. "Bodie!"

"What?"

The doorbell rang and Cade sighed. "Go pay for the pizza."

They were halfway through their dinner when the phone rang. Cade cursed, knowing it was for him, because Bodie's people kept in contact via cell phones equipped with miniature scramblers that would have made James Bond squirm with envy.

"Cade," he answered.

"I'm sorry to bother you at home, sir," his deputy responded in the usual manner, "but we've received some information via Interpol and I thought you should be told."

"What is it, Wes?"

Wes Morton cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable being the bearer of the news. "I'm sorry, sir, but Maria Romero's body has been found a few miles outside of Amsterdam."

A cold shock swept through Cade. "No doubt?"

"As certain as they can be given the condition of the body. The identification had to be made through dental records."

Oh, God. "Give me the details, Wes," he instructed, needing to have it over and done with.

"I'm not certain that's a good idea, sir."

"It's all right. Tell me."

His voice halting, his desire to stop and say no more obvious with each word, Morton obeyed his instructions. It had not been an easy death. No quick bullet in the back of her head. Several of her bones had been broken, and her finger and toenails were all missing. "There was no one real cause of death, although the locals have put it down as cardiac arrest due to shock and trauma. That's all there is, sir. Do you want the report on your desk?"

"No." He'd needed to hear it, but he didn't want to see it in print, didn't want it to become so real that her death was all he could remember of her. He managed to thank Morton for calling him, then he hung up.

It was only then that he realized how close Bodie was standing to him. "What's happened?" the young man asked.

"They found Maria's body." His encounter with Maria one of the things he'd told Bodie, he knew there was no need to elaborate about who she was. "They tortured her to death."

Bodie's arms went around him, the warmth of him pushing back the cold creeping through his own body. "I'm so sorry."

"I feel . . . so foolish."

"Why?"

"I knew she was dead. I've known it for months. Already dealt with this."

Bodie's embrace tightened. "Hope never goes away when a body is missing. It's always there underneath things waiting to hurt you all over again when it's finally over. I know more than a few SAS wives waiting for their husbands to come home even years after they went missing. It's hard to let people we love go."

"I didn't really love her. I admired her, liked her, even desired her, but we didn't have enough time to fall in love." All so tragically romantic. He eased himself away from Bodie. "I think I'll take a walk."

A nod answered his silent plea for some time alone.

Cade let himself out the front door, then started walking with no particular destination in mind. Life is nothing without freedom, Alan.

He felt sad, angry, foolish, but there was a sense of relief that it was finally over beneath it all. They'd both known she was going to her death when she had left England. A few days, weeks, months, eventually her enemies would make their move, but she had insisted that the risk was worth her life. To move where you like . . . .

He'd known she was dead the moment the call had come saying she had disappeared. . . . to think what you like . . ..

He'd walked that night as well. He'd needed to escape the brief, but, oh, so sweet memory of her body beneath his. Needed to recover his sense of equilibrium, to accept that he was once again all alone. An isolated island trapped in the eye of a hurricane. That's who Alan Cade was. Every time he forgot it and tried to reach out, the other person either couldn't or wouldn't reach back. And if memories were a cold bed companion, at least he had that much.

. . . to love who you like. Ah, sweet, brave Maria. He would not have spared himself this pain by losing the memory of the few days they'd had as lovers. If he spent the rest of his life alone, the memories would always be there to warm the chill of his isolation. And the pain eased a little.

He looked up at the stars. Like many men who saw the violent ugliness of the world, he often had his doubts about afterlives and higher beings, but for one moment he chose to believe in something and said his goodbyes to a beautiful woman whose soul he hoped now danced amongst the stars.

When he'd finished, he felt at peace. He really had done his mourning months ago. He'd needed a little time to get over the shock, time to find a sense of closure. He stopped, noted that he'd absently followed the route he and Bodie jogged each morning, then started back the mile or so he'd walked from his home.

He couldn't help but feel grateful that the news had come on a night when his house was not empty. That he would not be alone. No, that wasn't right. He'd not felt this sense of gratitude the night he'd taken his first walk because of Maria. He'd been a guest in the home of a friend and mentor, but he'd not wanted or sought his company that night. He was grateful that this had happened when Bodie was in his home. Funny, aggravating Bodie.

In a few weeks he'd got to know Bodie well enough to know it would never occur to the young man to go to bed as Cade's friend had done. Bodie would wait up for him no matter how late he walked. No, more than that: if Cade stayed out too long, Bodie would come after him. Funny, aggravating, handsome Bodie.

. . . to love who you like. Funny, aggravating, handsome, sexy Bodie. Loveable Bodie. Cade stopped dead in his tracks. "Oh, my God." They were friends; Bodie was the son of a friend. He couldn't do this. He couldn't want --

Life is nothing without . . . nothing . . . to love who you like . . . nothing.

He reached his front door before he even realized he'd been running, and when he burst into the hallway, Bodie was there looking very much like a man about to set out after him.

Blue eyes studied him, and Cade began to drown in the warm depths of them. A most pleasant sensation. He reached out, pulled Bodie into his arms, then kissed him. A chaste touch at first that deepened as the young man began to kiss back. Then the delicious lips that grinned and pouted with equal ease parted to admit his tongue.

Cade pulled back when the small voice of reason in the back of his brain warned him that not to do so immediately would mean a coupling on the floor of his entry-way. And that would not do at all for this precious man in his arms. At least not for their first time. "Come to bed with me," he whispered in the nearest ear. "Please."

"Yes," came the answer, and Cade took Bodie's hand, then led him up the stairs.

When they reached Cade's bedroom, both stripped off their clothing, then Bodie settled down on the bed. "You'll need something," he answered the unspoken request Cade knew must be in his eyes.

Cade pulled a jar of Vaseline from the drawer in the nightstand, but he left it unopened, choosing instead to sink down on top of his lover for another long kiss, then another. His hands roomed freely over the powerful body beneath him, and it excited him to think of all that strength willingly surrendered to him.

He would have liked to explore and kiss for hours, but an urgency he'd not felt since adolescence burned in his veins, and all too quickly he reached for the jar. As he coated his cock, he looked into those beautiful eyes. "I want to see you."

Bodie smiled and lifted his legs up, offering himself. "Not a virgin," he assured him. "You won't hurt me."

Hurt him? God grant that he never do that. If his own life had been full of loneliness, Bodie's had been full of pain. And as his hardened flesh sank into Bodie, he hoped that perhaps together they could banish both the loneliness and the pain. At least for awhile.



The demands of his bladder woke Bodie a half hour before the alarm was scheduled to go off. Cursing about the lost sleep time, it took a moment for the difference in the alarm display and the slick, stickiness in his bum to register with his conscious mind. When it did, he swiftly bit back on a groan. Of all the idiotic, stupid, moronic things he had ever done, this one really took the biscuit. He'd let the Chief Constable of Eastland fuck him. And, bloody hell, that meant he had to inform Cowley.

He glanced at the gun on the nightstand and wondered if it were the answer. But who did he shoot? Himself? Cowley? Cade? Some combination? It all made his head hurt.

Before he could decide on his victim or victims, the man next to him stirred, signalling he, too, would soon wake up. Drawing on every stealthy skill he possessed, Bodie slipped from the bed, then fled to the loo.

"Dumb, dumb, dumb!" he growled at his image in the mirror. He'd known the rules for years before he'd spread his legs for Cade: a CI5 operative could fuck with whomever or whatever he or she pleased, but it had to go in the security files. A very enlightened approach that was, but somehow he had the feeling that Cowley would be less enlightened about this particular agent's 'whomever.' Stepped in it this time, didn't you, sunshine? Bleedin' idiot, that's what you are.

He glowered at himself, then snatched up his toothbrush. As he concentrated on getting his mouth all minty fresh, a glimmer of hope stirred in the back of his miserable excuse for a brain. Last night had been a one-off. Cade had needed him for physical solace. Probably lying in bed right now doing his own version of how-could-I-have-been-so-stupid?, which meant no repeat performances. And one-night stands didn't need to be reported. Of course, that overlooked the fact that sort of loophole usually applied to encounters with the opposite sex. And it certainly didn't apply when the other man involved was in a prominent position, but Bodie clamped down on such inconvenient thoughts. He'd keep his mouth shut and lead a virtuous life from this moment on. Anything to avoid telling his father he'd let one of his old buddies fuck him. Nothing was worth that aggro.

And it would all be for the best. If the wrong people found out about it, a simple kiss with a man could be enough to get Cade blackmailed, let alone a night of . . ..

Bodie tried to ignore the erotic images that thoughts of last night inspired, but his cock twitched. Oh, no. You've caused enough trouble, he scolded the unrepentant organ. Just forget it.

The miserable thing ignored him completely, growing hard as the door opened. Deciding the acute embarrassment of listening to The Last Night Was a Mistake Speech while dealing with a mild hard-on was his rightful punishment, Bodie sighed in resignation and waited for it. He bit back a rather undignified yelp as it took the form of a pair of arms encircling his waist.

"Good morning," Cade murmured, his lips nuzzling Bodie's neck.

Oh. All right, so he had to be the sensible one. Bodie opened his mouth to launch into The Speech, but moaned instead as the hairs on Cade's chest brushed against his back, sending little sparks of pleasure all through his body. He called up the image of the form he was going to have to fill out if this went any further, but it vanished as Cade's cock nudged his bum.

"Oh, Christ," Bodie groaned, reaching back to part his own buttocks.

His anus still slick with Vaseline, it only took a slight push for Cade to enter him, then Bodie sagged forward, his hands gripping the sides of the sink to brace himself against each powerful thrust. Was heaven. Absolute paradise. Damn, he was such a slut for this.

He arched his back, deepening the next thrust and pushing his head against Cade's shoulder. He told himself it was a coincidence that he came when their lips brushed, then sighed happily as Cade's seed flooded into him.

Relaxing back into Cade's . . . his lover's arms, he was rewarded with another neck nuzzle. "Next time, come back to bed," Cade whispered in his ear.

"Yes, sir," Bodie answered automatically, then wrinkled his nose at how that sounded, given the circumstances.

Cade chuckled, drawing Bodie with him to the shower. "I think you'd better call me Alan when we're alone."

"Alan," Bodie tried it out and decided he liked it. "We showering together, Alan?"

"It'll save time," he assured Bodie, herding him into the stall.

Bodie gave him a sceptical look, and Cade laughed. Bodie decided he liked the sound of that as well. Feeling absurdly happy, Bodie snatched up the soap and set about getting his showermate all squeaky clean.

Had a gorgeous body, Alan did. It wasn't CI5 hard, but it was fit without a sign of flab. And it was furry. Being all smooth muscle himself, Bodie loved playing with chest fur and indulged himself shamelessly, swirling the hairs about into all sorts of interesting soapy patterns. Still, mindful of the time and the limits on available hot water, he moved downward with what he thought was remarkable speed . . . until he reached Cade's legs. Now these he liked almost as much as the fur. Long, graceful and muscular, built for speed they were, and he had the sudden desire to see Cade run again. Was so beautiful when he moved.

He leaned his head against Cade's thigh and sighed. Christ, he had it bad. He was already randy as hell again, and he hadn't even got to the obviously sexy parts. Like that perfect arse and the cock that had given him such pleasure. He sighed again. Sexy bastard that Cade was, he was past the years when that cock could harden again so quickly, but Bodie ached to have it inside him.

Almost reverently, he reached out, then carefully washed the beautiful cock and balls. Telling himself not to be such a prat, he finished up the job with a thorough scrubbing of Cade's feet, then stood up and surrendered the soap.

Cade did not linger on any part of Bodie's body as he gave him a thorough washing. But though his touch was practical, as if Bodie were a child too young to wash himself, Bodie's cock hardened until he whimpered at the pain and pleasure of it.

"You're quite the wanton, aren't you, Bodie?" Cade said, when he'd finished everything but Bodie's arse.

Blushing furiously, Bodie tried to turn away, but the older man caught hold of his head and pulled him into a long, deep kiss. "Stay still," Cade said when he released him. "I have to get all of that Vaseline out of your bum."

Bodie groaned loudly as two soapy fingers slipped inside him, then he leaned against the smaller man as Cade gave him a sound finger fucking under the guise of cleaning him out. He came with a shout, then collapsed to the shower floor, Cade easing his descent.

Vaguely he was aware of Cade turning the water off, of being abandoned for a few moments, then of a towel descending towards him. His skin still hypersensitive, he tried to swat the cloth away, but the hands holding it were persistent and soon had him dried off and on his feet. Sort of. He felt weak enough in the knees that he let Cade help him back into the bedroom, then collapsed gratefully onto the bed.

He lay there in a sprawl while he watched his lover dress. It wasn't the spectacular orgasm that made him feel so shaky, though that had been more than enough, but that he'd come without any stimulation beyond two fingers up his arse. Hell, having bent to hang on to the man, Bodie's position hadn't even allowed his cock to lightly brush against Cade. And had he really got that turned on by washing the man's legs?

"Bodie?" Cade's hand brushed the fringe back from his forehead, then he kissed the uncovered skin. "Are you all right?"

No. Dunno. "I have to go to London."



A good twenty minutes after he should have, Cade walked out his front door to find Charlie patiently waiting for him. His driver had rung the doorbell right on time, but, too busy snuggling Bodie, Cade had ignored it. He sighed, knowing he always paid for a late start, but he couldn't find it within himself to be properly repentant.

In fact, he had to admit he was in quite a good mood. "Good morning, Charlie," he said, getting in the passenger side of the front seat.

"Good morning, sir," Charlie answered, closing the door after Cade.

Unless he was so pushed for time that he needed to work as they drove, Cade preferred to drive himself, but he always used his official car and driver on a day, like this one, when he had to make official appearances. It was part of the image, and, as he shunned the uniform, he was careful at least to announce his arrival with the proper vehicle.

He sighed again, his mood darkening. He had a radio interview and the Police Authority to face today. Nothing but a schedule full of headaches and boredom. He shook his head. Another fucking typical day in the life of a Chief Constable. But -- he glanced at his house in the rear view mirror as the car drove away and thought of who would be waiting for him when he got home -- it did occasionally have its benefits. And he smiled.



Bodie set the pen down and looked at the form he'd completed. Form 2235-B, Disclosure of Same-Sex Relationship. The laughter, the growing friendship, the sex: all of it reduced down to black and white entries on a form. That had never bothered him before, but this time it felt wrong, almost obscene. He shook his head. Utter pillock, that's what you are, he told himself as he got to his feet. Though he'd only had to use this form a few times since joining CI5, he'd completed enough of the opposite-sex version, Form 2235-A, to fill, well, almost fill a filing cabinet drawer. And a good half of those forms had been about people he'd known better than Alan Cade. So what was the problem? No problem at all, that's what.

Irritated that he'd allowed himself to get maudlin about some sex -- okay, a bit of spectacular sex -- he snatched up the form and stalked off to Cowley's office.

Betty looked up when he entered the outer office. "Having a bad day, 3.7?"

Bodie switched on his best smile. "Now, how could any day I see you be bad?"

She rolled her eyes, her usual reaction to his nonsense, then she noticed the rather distinct sheet of paper in his hand. "Another one, Bodie? Is no woman safe?"

He blushed. "'s form B," he muttered, handing it over.

That information didn't make her bat an eye, but she whistled after studying it for a second. "A Chief Constable?" She glanced towards the door leading to the inner sanctum. "He's on the phone with the PM; I'll call you when he's finished."

"You couldn't sort of slip it into my file and let it go at that?" he asked, already knowing the answer.

She gave him a scathing don't-be-ridiculous look. "I'll call you when he's finished."

"Right," he muttered, then retreated back into the hall. Stroppy chit. He'd kill her on of principle if she weren't one of his best friends and the closest thing he had to an ex-wife.

He stopped in the loo to rid himself of an earlier cup of tea, then found himself fighting against images of a different sink as he washed his hands. Christ, all he needed was to develop a porcelain fetish. Disgusted with the whole situation in general, and his libido in particular, he stormed into the rest room, dropped onto the sofa, then sulked until the phone rang. All too quickly, he found himself admitted into George Cowley's presence.

"Well, what is it, Bodie?" Cowley demanded.

A half a dozen plans for evasion flashed through Bodie's mind, but he rejected each one of them. Betty was right: Cowley had to be told. "I've filed a 2235-B, sir."

His boss gave him an impatient look. "Betty takes care of those, as you well know."

He nodded. "Gave it to her, but she said, and I agree, that I needed to inform you." He sighed. "The subject is Alan Cade."

Bodie seldom saw his father angry enough to even get red in the face, but now he watched him grow white with rage. At a loss to know how to handle this, Bodie's gaze dropped to the carpet. He'd expected Cowley to get angry, but not like this. What did he say to fix this? What could he do?

"Very well, 3.7," the quiet calm of Cowley's voice added to his alarm, and Bodie looked up to see the anger simmering in his father's eyes. Christ. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."

Bodie started to get up and leave, figuring Cowley would calm down after awhile, then they could talk about it, but another glance at the man convinced him otherwise. "Don't even think about it," he said, his own anger flaring.

"What?"

"Know that crafty look, don't I? You're all 'fine, get to work' now, but as soon as I turn my back, Alan will wake up with a hangover and find photos of him being intimate with farm animals along with a note telling him to stay clear of me or The Times gets them."

"3.7 --"

That brought Bodie out of his chair. "Don't you, 3.7, me!" he snapped. "This hasn't got anything to do with my being in CI5! And don't you pretend otherwise!"

For a moment it looked to be a grand shouting match, but Cowley finally sighed instead of lashing back. "He's practically my age, Bodie."

The sadness in his father's voice quashed his own anger, and Bodie answered, "Dad, it's just sex." Christ, this had to be the daftest conversation he'd ever had with Cowley, and that was saying quite a lot.

"Is it?" He studied him for a moment. "You are glowing, Bodie."

"Am not."

Cowley looked at him.

Bodie plopped back down into his chair. "Okay, so I like him more than I should. I'll get over it."

"He'll hurt you."

"Maybe." Bodie considered that for a moment, then amended it to, "Probably, but I can stand the cost."

Another long look. "Aye, maybe you can, but I don't like it."

"Didn't expect you to, but I'm a big boy now. Gives me the right to make my own mistakes." He turned his own assessing look on his father. "You going to let me?"

Cowley considered the question, and Bodie could tell he was sorely tempted to say no, but in the end his father nodded. "I'll not pretend to approve, but I'll take no action against him."

"Good enough." Bodie got to his feet and headed for the door. He paused before opening it and said, "Thanks, and . . . I love you, Dad."

"I love you, too, son. Now off with you." The voice held some affection, but Cowley did not look up at him as he said the words.



Cade got out of the car as soon as Charlie pulled up in front of the building, but he made no move to go inside. From the morning's promising start, things had rapidly deteriorated down to a classic bad day.

Lingering with Bodie had made him late for work, which had put a push on his morning meetings. He'd had to field five calls from irate members of the local gentry about what he considered utter nonsense, then the radio interviewer had forced him to defend his drugs policy yet again. Now he had to deal with monthly meeting of the Police Authority.

It would be the usual waste-of-time nonsense. They would demand he right all the wrongs of the world with a wave of his hand all while ignoring his pleas for more officers and equipment. He shook his head. A battle of two hours that he could sum up before even engaging the enemy. What a fucking useless way to spend an afternoon.

"Something wrong, sir?" Charlie asked.

Cade sighed. "I'm tired, Charlie." Bloody, sick and tired. Ah, well, better to get it over with.

As soon as he walked into the conference room, Cade knew he'd been wrong about the meeting's agenda. The members of the Police Authority had obviously arrived well before the appointed time and from the look of indignation and rage on Tom Brewster's face, Cade had a good notion what the subject of this little pre-meeting gathering had been. Apparently, his own righteous indignation hadn't been enough to satisfy Lester's suspicions about Bodie. Now that those suspicions were true it was going to be all the harder to deal with the problem.

He sighed, feeling very old and quite tempted to walk out. Instead he merely sat down in his usual chair and waited. Cade estimated at least five minutes slipped by as they all glared at one another, then Mani Shankar cleared his throat.

Cade glanced at him with interest. Though far from friends, he and Shankar had developed a reasonable working relationship, and Cade considered the man the closest thing he had to an ally on the board.

"There have been . . . some allegations of . . . improper behaviour on your --"

"Improper!" Tom Brewster roared. "The man's nothing but a faggot using his office to help all his queer friends!"

It rapidly deteriorated from there. Cade listened as everyone started shouting. It quickly became obvious to him that no one gave a damn that a homosexual liaison between two consenting adults was not only legal, but that to call him here for this inquisition was a violation of his civil liberties. Not even Shankar, who so passionately demanded the full protection and liberties of the civil rights laws for his largely Pakistani constituents, defended him.

It always surprised Cade that someone who had felt the sting of prejudice had no qualms about denying rights to other groups, and it disappointed him that Shankar would number among such hypocrites. Not that he'd expected anything less. He'd come to think the worst about people. Perhaps that was why he preferred to deal with issues.

The accusations began to get more specific if no less loud. It seemed that Brewster had decided that Cade was one of Archie Camfield's 'chums' and that was what had caused Cade to opt against charging Jamie Brewster's lover.

While Cade tried to decide whether or not he should dignify such an outrageous suggestion with a response, Brewster let fly with his final insinuation, "My God, you probably had eyes on my boy, as well!"

"That's enough!" Cade shouted, out bellowing them all, either the volume of his words or his sudden entrance into the 'debate' silencing the room. He glowered at Brewster, then said, "It might surprise you, Mr Brewster, but homosexuality is not synonymous with child molestation. And, in point of fact, most child molesters are heterosexuals.

"As to this bullshit about my misusing my position to protect a protege of my lover, it is exactly that -- bullshit. What you, Mr Lester, and the rest of your colleagues seem to have forgotten is the fact that if I had arrested and charged Jamie's lover, I would have been forced to do the same thing to Jamie." It was one of the more absurd points of British law -- the age of homosexual consent was above the age of criminal responsibility, so that a boy of Jamie's age was considered to be criminally liable for having homosexual sex because he was legally too young to decide to do so. Cade never had nor ever would agree with or enforce that piece of legal rubbish.

Brewster, as always, remained unimpressed. "You could have arrested him after Jamie . . . died."

Cade shook his head. "Rules of evidence. We had no proof."

Brewster snorted. "They confessed the fact they were lovers to me!"

He rolled his eyes. They'd had this argument before. Except for the 'alleged' confession to Brewster, everything was hearsay and inadmissible. The confession wouldn't hold up in court either, because of the man's obvious poisonous hatred towards homosexuals. Cade wasn't even certain himself if it had really happened. "So you have said."

His face went red with rage. "Goddamn you, Cade! It was moral deviants like you who seduced my boy -- seduced him, then killed him."

It was so fucking pathetic. The man would say or do anything to keep from accepting any responsibility for his son's fate. Angry as he was, Cade couldn't bring himself to launch that attack. Instead, he got up and glared at the others. "I have been informed in the past that there are vehicles for removing a Chief Constable from office. If you are so certain that I'm an immoral, unethical Chief, I suggest that you use them. But I warn you that if any of you makes a single accusation without proof, I will bury your own careers with mine."

He then turned on his heel and walked out the door, his exit spoiled only by the fact that Charlie would not return with the car for at least another hour. Unwilling to stand around and wait or to risk further encounters with those fools, he headed for a pub down the street. From there he used his cell phone to summon Charlie, then ordered something greasy for lunch. He spent the rest of the afternoon with a sour stomach.



It was mid-afternoon before Bodie reached the outskirts of Eastland. After destroying his relationship with his father over an affair that he knew couldn't last, he'd opted to catch up the paperwork on the case. Like most, he hated paperwork, but tended to take a sooner-started-sooner-finished attitude about it and avoided having the bloody stuff pile up until the end of the case. He'd seen smaller mountains than the stacks of paper that kind of delaying tactic netted him. A few weeks of nothing to report had translated into an impressive enough pile, thank you very much, so he'd dealt with every sodding scrap of it before leaving.

When he arrived in Norwich, he thought briefly about reporting to police headquarters, but decided against it. The confrontation with Cowley had left him off balance, and he wasn't ready to see Cade again. A glance at his watch assured him Jax should be up and about by now, so he turned the Capri towards the hotel.

It won't work, he thought darkly, his mind too stubborn to leave the problem of Alan Cade alone. No matter how he looked at it, it would not work. CI5's liberal attitude towards sexual liaisons allowed Bodie a degree of freedom unheard of for someone in a security organization, but that freedom carried a price. A member of the A Squad was simply never off duty. Days off, whole vacations, even desperately needed sick days could be and were cancelled if the proverbial brown stuff hit the fan. That happened rather frequently, and Bodie was almost always the first one called in -- the best of the best. It tended to make relationships difficult and out-of-town relationships out of the question. Though he could leave town on those mythical off-duty days, he couldn't live outside of London. When he was on duty 'get here now' meant five minutes ago, not at the end of an almost ninety minute drive.

No, his only chance of a long-term relationship with someone living in the heart of Eastland was to resign from CI5. And that was something he'd never do. Even if he overlooked his father's feelings about Cade -- time, he hoped, would ease that problem -- CI5 was important to Bodie. It was good, vital work, and he could do it armed. He imagined Cade could get him into one of the Eastland constabularies, but he'd end up either doing the investigating or the shooting. Neither option pleased him. But even if one did, even if he jacked it all for Cade, it still wouldn't work.

The Chief Constable could not have a male lover. Neither Whitehall nor the community he served would stand for it. With a great deal of effort, they might be able to hide his visits and/or Cade's trips to London from the press and the town gossips -- for a few months. But eventually they would be discovered, and all the D-Notices in the world wouldn't be able to protect them. Alan's career would be ruined, and, though the man seemed to be having doubts about what that career meant to him, Bodie would never ask Cade to give up his work for him. Cade might do it, and if it turned out to be the wrong decision . . .. Nothing but angry words and simmering resentments down that path.

No, it wouldn't work, but that was assuming they'd even want it to. They might take one look at each other tonight and laugh about the whole sex thing, then get back to the business of becoming friends. Be nice that. He did enjoy Cade's company.

He found a parking spot near the hotel, then slipped in the back way. No need to advertise his presence, was there? He took the stairs up to the fifth floor, then knocked. A moment later Jax's voice asked, "Who is it?"

"Hotel security. I hear you've got a woman in there."

Jax opened the door. "You're just jealous."

"Too true, mate," Bodie answered, going into the room. "Don't know how she can settle for second best."

Susan gave him her sweetest smile. Always meant trouble, that did. "Well, not everyone can be as good as I am."

He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Guess I'll have to be content with being the good looking member of this tatty team."

Jax and Susan snorted, providing a lovely stereo effect.

He dropped into the nearest chair. "Uncle George is not pleased, children. If you don't find someone to play with soon, he's going to take this little honeymoon out of your leave time."

"Fortunately, we may have something," Susan said, then stretched hard. "It's about time, too. I was getting bloody tired of doing my street walker act." She wrinkled her nose. "Centuries of law enforcement, and we can't come up with a better cover than a hooker."

"Plumbers don't tend to walk about at 3 in the morning, sunshine," Bodie reminded her. "Anyway, done my time in tight jeans, too, haven't I?"

"And looked a treat doing it," she agreed. "Be still my heart."

Jax shook his head. "I could have sworn I joined CI5, and here I find myself in the middle of some tawdry comedy act."

Bodie chuckled. "So what have you got?"

"The lower west area is looking very promising," Susan said. "I spotted a few out of place faces, even if they aren't exactly what we're looking for."

"We just got an ID on one of the faces meeting those faces," Jax said, pulling a fax from a pile of papers. "That's --"

"Thomas Wentworth," Bodie finished, recognizing the almost too pretty face.

"You know him?"

He nodded. "Was assigned to my SAS unit for a time. A very brief time."

"Show any political inclinations at the time?"

"Only thing he was interested in was my arse."

"Aren't we all."

"Ha bloody ha. What makes you think he's gone IRA?"

"I'm beginning to think we aren't dealing with them," Jax said, then started handing him other faxes. "Except for Reegan, no one remotely connected to the IRA has been sighted in the entire Eastland area for months, let alone Norwich. But an interesting little group is beginning to gather." He tapped one of the faxes. "This one for instance."

"Douglas Rankin," Bodie read the name on the bottom of the photo.

"Never met him personally, but I remember hearing about him when I was in the Met. Top notch wheel man." He pointed to another murky photo, this one marked Angela Thomas. "That little beauty favours con games and does them quite well."

"Wentworth was nearly a magician with explosives," Bodie mused, noting from the file that he was suspected of using that talent on a bank vault or two. "I see what you mean: some major talent gathering. You're thinking a criminal job versus a terrorist action."

Jax nodded. "Money for the Cause or Reegan branching out on his own. Wouldn't be the first time a terrorist decided to pack it in for the good life."

"That leaves the question of the target."

"It would have to be something big to pay off this many players."

"And Norwich is close enough to London for the job to be there. I'll get Cowley to put somebody on the other end, see what Cade's people can turn up here. Until then, it looks like more street walking for Susan."

"Maybe not," she answered. "You said Wentworth fancied your arse. Did he get it?"

"No, Keller didn't like sharing." Not that Bodie had wanted to stray. For all his faults, Jimmy Keller had kept him well satisfied when it came to male sex, and birds hadn't counted as far as Keller had been concerned.

"You've kept your girlish figure; think he might still be interested?"

It was tempting -- play the boyfriend and get some inside information -- but he shook his head. "It won't work. He knows me, and, though I may not have advertised it, it was common knowledge in the SAS who my father is. He'd know it was a set up."

She frowned, then brightened. "Yes, but a set up for what? If he mars that pretty face of yours, we'll have probable cause to whisk him off for a chat with Father."

Bodie groaned. He hated grievous bodily harm set ups. It meant letting the pigeon do some recordable damage, while not being able to return the favour. He glowered at her. "I am not spending the night in hospital."

"Don't worry, baby. We'll save you before it comes to that."

"All right, I'll break out the tight jeans," he said with a dramatic sigh.

Susan shook her head. "Wear the cream cords. The ones that are so nice and snug right here," she said, cheerfully groping his groin.

He yelped, then muttered, "'s got so a boy's not safe anymore."

Jax gave him a sympathetic pat on the head. "And leave your pants in the dresser drawer."

Bodie felt the heat of a blush steal across his face. "Christ, you're as bad as she is!"

"We're not the ones who bought the trousers," Susan reminded him with a significant leer.

"As I recall, you got them for the benefit of Claire Number 10," Jax said, making a show of searching his memory. "Or was it Kathy Number 6?"

"Wrong on both counts, lover," Susan answered. "Ann Number 3."

"Ah, yes. The brunette with the exceptionally large . . .."

"That's the one."

Bodie glared at both of them. "Are you two finished? Some of us would like to get back to work."

Susan smiled at him. "Wentworth has made an appearance twice this week at a pub called the Yellow Griffin. If you get there at 9.30, you should catch him. We'll take care of the rest."

"Oh, marvellous," he said, standing. "On that cheery thought, I shall take my leave of your charming company."

He was to the door before he stopped. "Jax?"

"Yes?"

"Walk me to my car, mate?" He could almost hear the two agents exchange glances, then Jax was beside him.

"Sure thing, Bodie. Be right back, love," he said, opening the door. He waited until they reached the stairwell before asking, "What's up?"

"How . . . how did you know you'd fallen in love with Susan?"

Jax groaned. "Damn, I was afraid that was the reason you were is such a good mood. You've gone and fallen for Cade, haven't you?"

Christ, is it that obvious ? "How did you know that?"

"Hell, Bodie, if I played both sides of the fence, I'd want him, and I've got to know your taste in men. Bit older, more exotic, but he fits."

Funny, he hadn't noticed that, but it was true. Humour, strength, compassion; Cade was everything that attracted him. And more. He shook his head. "I didn't see it coming, Jax. One minute I'm enjoying the company of one of my father's old mates; the next, I'm in bed with him."

"Can't imagine that the Cow is too pleased about it."

"To put it mildly." Bodie sighed. "Shit, Jax, what the hell am I doing?"

"Falling in love, mate." Jax gripped his shoulder. "How does Cade feel about all of this?"

Bodie looked at his friend. "Doesn't matter, does it?"

"No. I'm sorry."

I can stand the cost. And he could. Knowing that let him smile. "Don't be. Some truth to the saying about it being better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." A great deal of truth.

Cade glanced at the clock on his desk. 7.45. Not a single complaint, minor crisis or new aggravation for fifteen whole minutes. He breathed a sigh of relief, declared the miserable day officially over and made for the door.

In his outer office, Diane, who was trying not to look as frazzled as he felt, and Charlie, who was trying not to look too bored, looked up as he emerged. A common enough sight on a late night. He managed a smile. "Let's get out of here before the government falls, and someone decides we have to fix it."

Diane gave him a 'hallelujah' look and grabbed for her purse, then the three of them headed for the car park. He didn't know whom he felt sorrier for on nights like this. Couldn't be a great deal of fun for Charlie to hang around waiting to drive him home until all hours of the night, but Diane tended to catch the fallout of a day like this. "My secretary will handle it," often was the only way to deal with a lot of the nonsense. Bored out of his mind or overworked? He'd opt to be overworked any day, but . . ..

He settled into the passenger seat of his official car, worn out and more than content to let Charlie do the driving. At one time, he'd seen his posting to Eastland as a stepping stone for his career. Now he knew it for the end that it was. A part of him wanted out, but another part knew that the only real way to fight the system was from the inside.

He sighed. Every once in awhile, to keep him in line, someone in Whitehall hinted that he was on the short list as a possible head of the 'it will happen one day' national CID. On the face of it, he knew he should jump at it -- if it ever came about and if the post were offered to him -- but he had his doubts that it was the solution he sought. He really had more authority as a Chief Constable, and he couldn't see the post as putting an end to days like today. In the past, he'd always thought that he might turn it down, but now? . . . Whatever else the post would entail, it would mean living in London. And that brought his thoughts back to one of the reasons today had grated so badly on his nerves.

He hadn't seen Bodie all day. His gorgeous, funny, sexy, wonderful Bodie. If he lived in London, the end of the case might not mean the end of what was now an impossible affair. He sighed again. Why did he do this to himself? He always seemed to fall for someone . . .. inappropriate. Marie-Pierre Arnoux had lacked the temperament to tolerate life in Norwich: "Paris is a city; London is a city; this is not a city!" she'd informed him the day before she had told him she'd been offered a job in Tokyo. He'd loved her -- or at least he'd thought he had -- but he'd never for an instant considered going with her or finding another posting that would make her happier about staying with him. Then there was Alison Dell. Alison had been lovely, charming and stimulating company, but they had never managed to be more than two people using each other to keep the loneliness at bay. Gemma Marshall had entered his life when Alison had left. Though well suited for him in age, intelligence and personality, Gemma was also a fairly famous defence barrister, and a relationship with her could have often resulted in a legal conflict of interest. At least they'd had the sense not to go beyond mutual flirting. And finally there had been Maria. A lot of bittersweet ifs would always accompany her place in his memories, but time had not allowed them much reality.

Now he was falling in love with a young man while in a job that had absolutely no room for such open mindedness. He shuddered, thinking what the newspapers would do to him if his relationship with Bodie were discovered, especially after the uproar over Jamie Brewster. Like all the other storms, he'd weathered that incident, but it would return to haunt him if he tried to keep Bodie in his life. If he'd had any doubts on that score, today's 'meeting' with the Police Authority had put an end to them. And what of Bodie?

God, in a frenzy to destroy Cade's career, no one would care what happened to Bodie. Could even Cowley and all the D-Notices in the world keep Bodie's name and face out of the papers? He thought he could easily reach the point where he might opt for Bodie over his miserable career, but he would not risk Bodie's job or his life. Undercover work was relatively common for the members of CI5's A Squad, and one photo at the wrong time could get his lover killed. No, when the case ended, so must the affair. And not even for Bodie would he hope for a less than swift resolution. Reegan and his ilk put too cheap a value on human life for that.

Thoughts of the case reminded him that he had one last call to make, and he picked up his cell phone.

"Cowley," a voice responded after the second ring. Judging from the tone, Cade wasn't the only one having one-of-those days. And at least his was all but over.

"It's Alan, George."

"Alan." Was it his imagination or had the temperature abruptly dropped twenty degrees?

"My people haven't turned up anything on the IRA, but some interesting talent seems to be gathering on my patch. I'm beginning to think the two things might be connected." Or at least he hoped so. He hated to think he had two major disasters looming.

"Impressive," Cowley responded, his tone somewhat condescending in Cade's opinion. "Jax and his team have reached a similar conclusion."

Cade gritted his teeth, told himself not to overreact because of a bad day, then rather sweetly asked, "And when were they planning on sharing this little brainstorm?"

"You would have been notified in due course."

"Dammit, George, we had an agreement!"

"Yes, but then we all have our little secrets, don't we, Alan?"

I have to go to London. Bodie's words flashed into his mind to combine with Cowley's attitude, and Cade suddenly knew why Bodie hadn't been around to brighten this miserable day. "He told you."

"As per CI5 regulations, 3.7 filed form 2235-B with my office at precisely 10.12 this morning."

"'2235-B'?"

"I'm certain 3.7 will be happy to tell you all about CI5's forms. Was there anything else, Alan?"

Oh, God. Here he'd been busy falling in love, and the object of his affections had been off reducing all of it to entries on a government form. There was a great deal he had to say, but most of it was to Bodie, not to the shit's father. And they were on a cell phone. "Not at this time," he answered and broke the connection.



Memories of his morning shower hanging heavily around the bathroom, Bodie washed quickly, then retreated to the bedroom. He didn't want to think of Alan's hands on his body, of Alan making love to him when he was getting ready to go out and seduce someone else. Christ, this job gets me into the daftest situations, he thought reaching for the bureau drawer and a fresh pair of pants, then he remembered Jax's advice. Well, it had worked a treat with Ann.

With a sigh, he pulled on the cream cords without benefit of pants, arranged himself to his best advantage, then very, very carefully zipped up the snug trousers. Snug, but not so tight that he couldn't put on his socks and short boots with ease. The black poloneck came next -- he'd had enough suitors, male and female, tell him he looked good in it to know that it enhanced his looks without detracting from his assets further south. He cast a longing look in the direction of his shoulder holster, but tonight he needed to leave it behind. He had to be defenseless, a helpless little lamb offered up for slaughter. Damn, he hated GBH set ups.

"Why do I get the feeling that you aren't dressing for my benefit?"

He wasn't startled at the sound of Cade's voice -- his subconscious having registered the sound of the front door opening, then closing -- but, when Bodie turned to look at him, the anger on his lover's face did surprise him. "I . . . I'm still your liaison officer, Ala -- Chief, but I'm off restricted duty, and Jax needs my help on a job tonight."

Cade leaned against the door frame, the casual posture denied by the tension that seemed to radiate from him. "Bodie, what is form 2235-B?"

Oh, Christ. "I take it, you've spoken with Cowley."

A nod answered him, then Cade added, "All in all, I think he took it rather well. If he'd bedded my daughter, I doubt I'd have been anything less than homicidal."

He started to say that was different, started to point out that Elena was seven years younger than Bodie, while Cowley was six years older than Cade. But it wasn't really the ages that made the difference; it was the people. He was certain there must be something he could say to fix this, but for once instinct and a quick mind failed him, and silence became his answer.

"What is form 2235-B?" Cade repeated the damning question.

"It's the number for the Disclosure of Same-Sex Relationship form."

"And how many of those have you filed?"

"More than one."

Cade shook his head. "I've got to hand it to you CI5 people; you've certainly come up with a novel way of keeping track of your conquests. I imagine it's much tidier than notches on a bedpost."

He wished Cade had hit him; it would have hurt less. "It wasn't like that," he tried to explain.

"Wasn't it? You took something private between us and reduced it to a form anyone can look at."

"Betty and Cowley are the only --" No, it was pointless. Must all be some big cosmic joke. He couldn't have continued his affair with Cade without reporting it, but by reporting it he'd ended the affair, which meant he hadn't really needed to report it, except he'd still be having the affair if he hadn't reported it, so he'd needed to report it . . .. It all made his head hurt, and he was out of time.

"I have to go," he said, picking up his short leather jacket, the one that wouldn't cover up what he'd tried so hard to put on display. "I'll collect my things in the morning, get another liaison assigned."

"Then file another 2235-B?"

Bodie stared at him for a long moment, then left.



Cade heard the door close. Close, not slam, but that fit. He'd seen pain in Bodie's eyes, not anger. He was beginning to regret his words, but before he could travel too great a distance down the path of guilt, his glance fell on the gun and shoulder holster hanging on the dresser door. For one horrified instant, he thought he'd upset Bodie too much for the young man to remember to take his side arm, then reason returned. The Browning was not something Bodie would ever forget to take along on a job. It had been deliberately left behind, and Cade could think of only one reason for that. Wondering if CI5 had a form for fucking someone in the line of duty, he went to get himself a scotch. A large one.

Bodie entered the Yellow Griffin right on schedule. A quick glance took the measure of the room and confirmed that Wentworth had already arrived. He was sitting near the back with two other men; the driver Jax had IDed -- Rankin -- and a new face. That one seemed vaguely familiar and something in the back of Bodie's mind whispered IRA. Perhaps it was money for the Cause after all. Jax and Susan were sitting near the door, busy gazing into each other's eyes. Alan had looked at him like that for a few precious minutes, he thought, then got angry with himself.

Mope on your own time, my son. He headed for the bar, then leaned against it and ordered a lager. He drank it at a reasonable pace for a man alone, then deciding the pub was too crowded for Wentworth to make his move, he headed for the loo. When he came out into the small hallway separating the pub from the facilities, Wentworth was waiting for him.

"Hello, Bodie."

He'd worked undercover often enough to know exactly how many seconds to take before recognizing someone he wasn't supposed to be expecting to meet. "Tom. Been a long time."

The ex-soldier nodded. "You waiting for Keller?"

It was almost humorous. There were three conversations going on. The first, the 'I know why you're really here, but I'll play along' bit, would have started the instant Wentworth spotted him. The second was hidden in the actual words of the third. By mentioning the man Wentworth had seen as his rival for Bodie, he was asking if Bodie were available and interested in a tumble.

Bodie answered yes by saying, "I haven't seen him in years."

"In that case . . .." Wentworth grabbed him, pulling him into a painfully hard embrace while his hands roamed freely over Bodie's body, and his tongue ravaged Bodie's mouth. When he was released, Bodie had several bruises and no secrets left, including the fact that he was wearing neither sidearm nor wire. "You still like it up your arse, beautiful?"

Bodie nodded, clinging to him, but he pulled away when the man tried to steer him back towards the loo. If he could help it, he wasn't going to get fucked at all, and certainly not leaning up against the bog wall. "No, you want my arse, you take me someplace where we can have a proper lie down, and there's something better than spit or liquid soap to ease your way."

Wentworth seemed on the point of rejecting those conditions, when a soft cough startled them both.

"Pardon me, gents," Jax mumbled, moving past them and into Wentworth's intended love nest. Nice save, mate.

For a moment the man looked angry, then he chuckled. "All right, beautiful, I'll take you back to my hotel . . . after I have another drink," he said, then led the way back to the table and his companions.

Five, instead of the suggested one round of drinks followed, while Bodie spun a fairly plausible 'down on me luck, and I'm beautiful so take care of me' tale about moving from job to job after leaving the SAS. All while he kept his legs parted to allow some serious under-the-table groping, and he knew that Wentworth's hand wasn't the only one touching him up. Looked like the lads were planning a gang bang.

"So what are you doing here?" Wentworth asked.

He sighed. "Sad story that. Thought I'd found myself a rich woman to keep me in the style I'd like to grow accustomed to, but she was less than discreet with her husband. 'm lucky I still have some important bits." All in all, it was a stellar performance. In his humble opinion, it would have fooled anyone who didn't already have a good idea what he did for a living.

"Hmmm, poor lamb," Wentworth murmured.

"Tom, can we go now?" he asked, giving a suggestive push against the hand fondling his groin. Been in here for almost two hours now; Jax and Susan had to be getting bored waiting for him to take his lumps.

"Sure thing, Bodie," he answered, swallowing the last of his lager, then he stood. "See you later, mates."

Christ, why don't you all nudge each other and wink? Act wouldn't fool a lad still in nappies. Feeling aggrieved that he had to pretend not to know their plans for him, Bodie let Wentworth escort him out of the pub.

"Motor's on the next block," the man said, and Bodie barely managed to suppress a snort.

Good job Keller never sent you on an undercover op, Tommy, my boy. You wouldn't have lasted two minutes. He glanced at Wentworth out of the corner of his eye as they walked up the street. He was taller than Bodie by several inches, was broader in the shoulder and theoretically had the same training as him. Shouldn't be too hard to convince even the most liberal activist that Bodie had been overmatched. Of course, if Wentworth had kept in fighting trim, there might even have been some truth in that, but the man had gone soft around the edges. At least soft enough that Bodie could have taken him down easily when Wentworth caught hold of him.

Instead, he did nothing more than raise his arm to protect his head when Wentworth slammed him up against the side of the building. Shit, he thought, 'failing' to block the punch sailing towards his jaw. A last moment shift of his head saved the bone, but he didn't have to totally fake the slump towards the alley floor.

Before he could finish falling, Wentworth yanked him to his feet, then pulled him up to discover -- surprise, surprise -- that Rankin and IRA had joined them. "Tom, what --?"

An open-handed slap split his lip. "Shut up!" Wentworth hissed, pulling him into the shadows of the alley. "Don't know which I'm gonna enjoy more, Bodie. Taking turns with your arse or sending you back to your daddy a piece at a time."

"Know what I'm gonna like," IRA smirked, producing a flickblade.

Uh oh. The blade snapped into place with an audible click, then the other two held Bodie's arms as IRA sliced open his poloneck in one long, quick motion.

"That's enough!" Jax announced an end to the fun and games.

"CI5!" Susan called from the other end of the alley. "You're all under arrest."

The hands on him begin to loosen in the face of the two armed agents; a little GBH charge was hardly worth getting killed over. But IRA seemed to realize what CI5 versus police meant, or maybe he was just a bleeding nutter, for he suddenly lunged at Bodie.

Bodie scrambled to get clear of the bodies still weighing him down, while Jax and Susan fired. Momentum carried the dead terrorist forward and the blade sliced across Bodie's lower right rib.

Bodie blinked in surprise. He'd had paper cuts that hurt worse, but a warm trickle put to rest any notion of such a simple wound. He heard the snap of cuffs, then Jax was easing him down to sit on the ground. Blood and a filthy alley floor. His cream cords wouldn't be charming anything but the rubbish bin after tonight.

"Doesn't look too bad, mate," Jax said, pressing a handkerchief against the oozing wound.

Keep the victim calm, do what first aid you can: it was all standard procedure for anything from a glass sliver in the thumb to a few missing limbs, but this time Bodie had to agree. Nothing more than a few stitches, he thought, then groaned as the next thing went wrong.

"Shit!" Susan spat at the sound of police sirens approaching.

Typical. Just when you don't want someone to call the coppers, they go and get civic minded on you. "Take those two and get out of here!" he snapped, and, in what seemed like a blink of an eye, he found himself alone with the body, blood dribbling from his side and the remains of his poloneck draped around him like something out of a bad bodice ripper. Cade was gonna love this.



The prisoner has sustained minor injuries. Cade repeated those words over and over in his head as he drove to hospital. 'The prisoner' had refused to give his name to the arresting officer and had instead insisted that Cade be called. From that -- and the fact that the constable had actually been persuaded to make the call -- he had known it was Bodie, but the description had confirmed it. A part of him was angry at the games, but only a small part. The rest of his mind felt consumed by the 'sustained minor injuries.'

Bodie injured. A few bruises, a cut lip and a gash in his side according to his officer. Nothing a few stitches and an ice pack wouldn't fix, nothing to get upset about, but Cade was upset. With himself. How could he have let his lover go off on a job with angry words between them? He'd comforted more than a few grieving survivors who were all but consumed with guilt about angry scenes that had turned out to be the last time they'd seen their loved ones. Yet he'd let Bodie walk out his door without stopping him, without telling him that he was angry; but he expected Bodie to come back; without telling him . . ..

He parked his Range Rover, then did not allow himself the luxury of running to the casualty entrance. Instead he walked and thought of the things he had not told Bodie. He'd been hurt and angry that he had been reduced to an entry in Bodie's file; still was for that matter. But a scotch and some peace had let him put the matter in perspective. CI5 dealt with high security matters almost daily. Operatives couldn't afford secrets that could be used against them. And hadn't he spent most of his precious free time considering what the exposure of their affair could do to Bodie? So he understood, and fate had even given him a chance to tell Bodie that. As he walked through the hospital doors, he swore he'd never take such a gift for granted again.

A nurse told him where to find his officer and the prisoner. Cade arrived as another nurse was putting a bandage over Bodie's side wound. "Wait," he said, before she taped it into place. He needed to see the actual wound, needed to reassure himself.

The young woman seemed to recognize that need, or perhaps she simply did not wish to alienate the Chief Constable. In either case, she stepped back, letting him see the ugly thing -- a long, vivid red line along the side of the pale torso -- but, as he'd been promised, the knife had not bit too deeply and only a row of tiny stitches had been required to close it. Wouldn't even leave an impressive scar. Most of the queasiness left his stomach, and he got out of the nurse's way, letting her finish the job.

Bodie really was all right. At least physically. The blue eyes that didn't quite manage not to look at him held pain that had nothing to do with what had brought him here. Pain and a small amount of anger. The anger worried him the most. There had been enough stormy exits today, but Bodie looked inclined to run the moment the cuffs anchoring him to the examination table were released. Ah, well, there was an obvious solution to that threat.

When the nurse finished, Cade turned his attention to the young constable standing guard over his prisoner. Instead of ordering that prisoner's release, he said, "See that we're not disturbed. By anyone."

The constable looked puzzled, but nodded, then left, Cade catching a glimpse of him taking up a position outside the door before it closed. Satisfied that they had a measure of privacy, he moved close to Bodie, gently took hold of his head with both hands, then kissed his forehead. "I'm sorry," he said, letting his own forehead come to rest against Bodie's. "I had a lousy day and took it out on you."

There was a moment's silence, then Bodie answered, "I had to file the disclosure. I had to."

"I understand. I don't like it, but I do understand."

"Don't like it either," Bodie admitted. "Felt wrong lumping your name in with the others."

Cade resisted the impulse to ask how many others. Bodie was young, handsome and obviously enjoyed sex, so he knew the number would be annoyingly high. But then, if he'd had to keep track, his own past would have included some fairly impressive totals. He kissed Bodie again, this time on the tip of his nose. "You know we can't last."

"Yes."

"It would be easier on both of us if we ended it now." And Cowley would appreciate it. Damn, what was he going to do about George?

"I know."

"Then tell me what you want to do," he said, stepping back a pace so he could see Bodie's face.

Bodie smiled, not much of one, but definitely a smile. "I love you, and I want the time we've got."

It wasn't smart, probably bordered on insane, but Cade sighed with relief. "So do I -- love you and want the time we have left," he whispered his agreement, then sealed it with a long, deep kiss.

When Cade released him, Bodie took a shuddering breath, then he fixed his lover with the glower Cade found both adorable and irritating. "So get me out of these soddin' cuffs," Bodie demanded. "Unless you were planning on having your wicked way with me here?"

That notion was tempting enough that Cade all but fled from the room.



Present

Two hours after he'd discovered a 'guest' in his bedroom, Bodie was vowing to punch Cade in the nose. 'Just like Elena' indeed, he thought with a disgusted snort. All the dozy girl did was whine and pout. At least, she'd taken one look at him in her father's robe and told him to take the time to shower and dress; she'd wait.

Not really thrilled with the notion of talking to her while her father's dried semen adorned his backside, Bodie had risked taking her at her word and set a record for the world's fastest clean up. Now he sat at the kitchen table with her and two cooling cups of tea while she pouted.

By the time Bodie had finished dressing Elena had seemed to come to terms with the fact that her father had a male lover. Either she really was liberal minded, or it was a clue to the state of the girl's love life. Bodie had no intention of finding out which. Any relief he'd felt over not having to go into all the mushy, sordid details about his relationship with Cade vanished as Elena had proceeded to throw a fit over the fact that her father never told her anything.

He'd tried to tell her that the affair was all of two nights old, but she wasn't having any of it. No, if her father had those tendencies, he'd had them for a long time, and he hadn't trusted her enough to tell her about them.

As Bodie watched her bottom lip quiver -- he never allowed himself to stoop to quivering -- he tried to picture his father telling him about having such tendencies. He didn't know if he should shudder or laugh. The only reason he discussed his own sex life with Cowley was because of the security aspect involved. Well . . . he had wanted to know his father would still love him if he found out about his occasional male lovers. But that was absolutely it. Sex and fathers belonged firmly behind that American concept of Don't Ask/Don't Tell.

He sighed. "Oh, pack it in, why don't you? It's not like he's had any other male lovers since you popped back into his life." Cade had told him that the last time had been during his university days, and Bodie had no reason to disbelieve him.

Elena glared at him. "And I suppose you think he was planning to tell me all about you?"

"Dunno. Probably not. Wouldn't have been much point to it."

"No point? You don't think I have the right to know my father is having an affair with a guy my age?"

Her age. He's practically my age, Bodie. Why did he keep getting the distinct feeling everyone was in an uproar because of his age versus his sex? "I'm six years older than you," he informed her in a haughty tone he hoped made six years sound longer than they were. "And there isn't . . . well, wasn't any point in him telling you about us, because we won't last much longer."

He watched her shift gears from full-pout to protective-daughter mode. "Why? What's wrong with my father?"

"Nothing, but I live in London. Have to go home soon." Have to walk out the door and never see Alan again. Have to go back to filling out the relevant 2235 form-of-the-week, when all he wanted to do was . . ..

Her hand touched his. "Do you love my father?"

He nodded.

"Does he love you?"

"Said he did."

"Then he does. Why can't --?"

The phone interrupted. He glanced at her, then picked it up. "Alan Cade's residence."

"Bodie," Jax's voice responded. "We think your friend, Wentworth, might be ready to talk. Cowley's sending the chopper to pick you up. Be ready in twenty minutes."

Ready to talk. A week ago Bodie might have cheered. Now he fought to keep the pain from his voice as he answered, "Right."

He hung up the phone. It was almost over.



Cade manoeuvred his Range Rover into a parking spot not far from CI5 Headquarters, then sat back to consider his options. He'd given Charlie the day off and had taken his own vehicle, not wanting to use Charlie for something that wasn't even remotely connected to official business. Now he was regretting that decision. For when he was over halfway to London, he'd realized that CI5 HQ was a secure building and not just anyone could walk in.

He might have been able to bluff his way at least past the front guard if he'd arrived in the proper car. Then again, probably not. He sighed and looked at his cell phone. It seemed he was going to have to beg for admittance before he could argue for acceptance. Shit.

Gritting his teeth against what could result in a heart-felt rejection, he punched in the dreaded number.

"Cowley,' came the answer after a single ring.

"George, it's Alan. I'd like to have a word with you."

"This isn't something I care to discuss over the phone. Especially an unscrambled cellular."

"I agree. That's why I'm sitting outside the front door of your fortress. May I come in?"

There was a long pause, Cowley making no sign of whether it was calculated to make Cade sweat or if he were merely thinking things over. Cade spent the time trying to decide whether he should drive straight back to Norwich or stop off at a pub for lunch to keep the trip from being a total waste of time.

"As you are already here, you might as well come up."

Cade blinked in surprise. A tiny part of him even suspected some sinister plot to rid Cowley and the world of the problem of Alan Cade. Well, there were more than a few folks back in Eastland who would thank him for it. "Thank you," he said, disconnected the line, then headed for his appointment with the near-all-powerful head of CI5. He sighed; with his luck, Cowley would have him killed and purgatory would turn out to be a never-ending series of useless dinner parties.



Bodie's ride touched down on the helipad atop the CI5 garage. He thanked the pilot with a nod, then headed for the entrance to the building. Susan was waiting for him inside the door. "You look tired, sunshine," he told her with a kiss on her cheek.

"Up all night," she informed him. "Our guests haven't been terribly cooperative."

"Jax said they were ready to cop."

"Sometimes I think the little darling is a tad too optimistic for this line of work," she muttered as they walked. "Rankin won't say anything other than to ask for his barrister. Wentworth has opted to treat us to a colourful selection of expletives and profanities."

So the polite way hadn't worked. Not that any of them had really expected it to. "I guess it's time to get creative."

She nodded. "You want to work on Rankin or your old chum?"

He considered that. Theoretically Rankin was a better target -- a criminal with a desire to stay out of the nick -- while Wentworth was ex-SAS, and to say that lot had a course in resisting interrogation was a tad of an understatement. On the other hand, Cowley had taught Bodie a thing or two the SAS hadn't. "Susan, my lovely, I think it's time we hoisted Wentworth on his own petard."



To his surprise, Cade found himself ushered into Cowley's office the moment he arrived. He'd expected to be kept waiting by some emergency or other for a least a token few minutes. Instead, Cowley's secretary told him to go right in, while George himself motioned for him to take a seat.

A little off balance mentally, he sat down in a reasonably comfortable chair. He'd half expected to be set upon by CI5 toughs and gelded before he reached the office, but he soon realized his fate was far worse as the silence between them stretched from a few seconds into minutes. Cowley was going to make him talk first. He sighed. Guess a nice, crazed accusation to break the ice had been too much to ask for. "There are a lot of things I could say to you, George. Most of them would sound like something out of a bad melodrama." Things like 'I never meant for this to happen' and 'I love him more than I thought it was possible to love anyone.' "I'll say them if you want to hear them."

Cowley shook his head. "Your presence here tells me most of what I wanted to know."

Yes, of course. A man who had planned to seduce a friend's son would not have put himself in this bloody awkward position, nor would a man who did not love Bodie have bothered to try and smooth things over. Cade indulged in yet another sigh. "God, how I envy you, George."

"And why would you do that?"

"He's part of your life." But not part of Cade's. . . . to love who he liked. Freedom always carried a price. Cade wished it wasn't always so high.



Bodie walked into the interrogation room where a very exasperated Jax sat glaring at Wentworth. Of course, to someone who didn't know him, Jax merely looked disinterested. "How's it going, mate?"

"Well, we've gone through the entire encyclopaedia of crude sayings and physically impossible acts. Other than that things have been positively peaceful."

Bodie made a tsking sound as he turned his attention to Wentworth. "Not too bright, Tommy-boy. We've got you dead to rights on a GBH. A little cooperation could make your life a lot easier."

"So I spend a few months in the fucking nick. 's no skin off my nose."

"Ah, but there are nicks and there are nicks. A whisper in the right ear could make a big difference in where you stay courtesy of the government."

"Fuck you."

Bodie smiled and purred his answer. "Mmmm, you weren't wrong about me, you know. I do like it up my arse." He stretched, the movement emphasising his various physical charms. "A nice big cock moving in and out, 's paradise, that is. But then you must know all about that, don't you, Tom?"

Wentworth gave him a look of utter contempt. "I'm not a fucking nancy-boy like you."

Bodie feigned surprise, leaving Susan's entrance into the room unacknowledged. "Oh, well, that is a problem. Been easier on you if you liked it the other way." He sat down on the edge of the table, his thigh only inches from Wentworth's arm. "See, my father's a very practical man, Tom. Give him some help, and he can be reasonable, but if you keep refusing to cooperate . . .. Well, you did do your best to get his blue-eyed boy gang raped. Can be right vindictive about things like that, my dad can."

"He can't touch me, none of the sodding bastards can."

"Ah, but there's that matter of which nick you end up in. A lot of hard men in some of Her Majesty's prisons. And you are a pretty one." Bodie shook his head. "Such a shame you don't like it up your arse, because you're going to spend a lot of time over the next year or so with your bum in the air."

He ran a finger along Wentworth's jaw in a parody of a lover's caress. As he expected, the nutter slapped his hand away. Or rather he tried to.

Bodie grabbed the man's wrist, then twisted it around and behind the man's back. No marks, no bruises, nothing but a lot of pressure on a joint to keep the man effectively under his control as he pushed him up, then bent his torso down against the table. "You like this position, Tom?" he whispered in the nearest ear. "You like feeling another man's weight pressed against yours?"

"Get your fucking hands off me!"

"There's that word again, and with a lady present, too," Bodie sighed. "I think someone should teach you some manners. Even do you a favour at the same time." He gave a thrust with his hips, pushing his groin into a brief contact with Wentworth's backside. "Be a shame if your first time wasn't conducted with the right amount of care. Could put a bloke off sex for life, that could."

"You aren't man enough to do it!" Wentworth snarled at him, jerking backwards enough to give his own push against the soft, uninterested flesh beneath Bodie's zipper.

"Wouldn't dream of putting important bits of myself inside you, Tommy-boy," Bodie informed him. "Besides, if we tried to do it that way, Susan wouldn't get her turn No, we've got something better in mind for someone special like you."

Susan stepped forward, then pulled out an object she'd been hiding behind her back. "With all my love, baby," she purred, rubbing the huge, gold-plated dildo against Wentworth's cheek.

It had the battered look of something well used, and indeed it had been. For Susan held in her hand the most uncoveted item in the entire building: the Golden Cock Up Award. Reserved for those occasions when not even a session with Macklin was enough to tell an operative or team that they had screwed up in grand style, it had been tossed around, thrown into drawers, stuffed into cabinets and generally treated with the scorn it deserved. But Wentworth didn't know any of that, and from the way his eyes widened, Bodie figured the man's imagination was investing each nick and scratch with a very interesting origin.

Still, stubborn bastard that he was, Wentworth held out until they had his trousers and pants pushed out of the way, and Bodie deliberately missed that first thrust, slamming the almost sharp head into the flesh near his anus. Then . . . he talked.



Bodie looked up when his father walked into the briefing room, then blinked in surprise when Cade followed him. Then again, he probabably shouldn't have been at all surprised, for where else should Cade be? What they had done had hurt an old friend of Cade's, and had upset Bodie because it had upset his father. Cade was not the type to let that sort of problem fester.

He gave his lover a smile, then turned his attention to the business at hand and the map of Eastland he'd spread on the table. "A gold shipment is the target."

A nice, fat armoured car full of the stuff would skirt Norwich day after tomorrow. Estimated worth: 1.5 billion pounds. "That's more than enough to pay off the help and net Reegan a tidy sum for the Cause."

He pointed to a section of the highway he'd already blocked out. "The plan was to blow the road on either side of the car, trapping the vehicle. Another group of his merry band is in charge of stealing a cargo chopper." They'd air lift the armoured car out of the area and deal with the poor bastards inside at their leisure.

Cowley shook his head. "It wouldn't have worked. The men inside the car would radio for help as soon as the charges went off. We'd have RAF fighters in the air before their make-shift airlift was ready."

"But it is the sort of thing Reegan might tell his people if he were afraid they'd be caught and talk prior to the real heist," Jax pointed out.

"It would also make a damned good diversion," Cade said. "Is there anything else going on around that time?"

Bodie smiled and nodded to Susan.

"I ran an all-jurisdictions search and came up with some hush-hush IRA prisoner transport. The SAS will be moving six men via train. It's due to move through Norwich at about the time that first bomb would have blown."

Cade stared at them. "You have access to that kind of information?"

Susan smiled. "Well, I did have to do some mucking around to get it -- few organizations want to cooperate with us -- but the limited access they pretend to give us, gives me a place to start."

"The SAS will protest about the breach of security to the PM," Cowley informed him, "who will then want to know why our access was blocked in the first place. No-jurisdiction and every-jurisdiction, Alan. This time it might save the lives of anyone who would have been on that highway or that train."

"That all depends on how we use the information, doesn't it?" Cade turned his attention to Bodie. "So what's the plan?"



It was late the next day when Cade pulled up in front of his house. For a moment he opted to sit in his Range Rover, enjoying the sight of the handsome young man sleeping in his passenger seat.

He was acutely conscious of the fact that he was spending his last few hours with Bodie, that he would never again be charmed by how vulnerable he looked all curled up for a kip. It made him reluctant to wake him, even though they would head straight for Cade's bed. Nothing more than a few precious hours left, and they would have to spend most of them sleeping.

Cade had gone to London to soothe things over with Cowley and had ended up in the middle of a CI5 planning session. To his pride, he'd had a great deal to offer the proceedings, his time making speeches and attending dinners yet to have dulled his instincts for tactics. Two CI5 teams would handle both operations, with a squad of Eastland's armed police ready to assist each. Bodie's team would handle the train, while Jax and Susan dealt with the gold shipment.

A few other potential, but less promising targets would also be covered by at least one CI5 operative and armed police.

Every care had been taken to eliminate as much of the danger as possible to the populace, the police and CI5. In that order. 'And keep yourself alive' seemed to be the last line in the CI5 brief, the last line and almost an afterthought. Tomorrow, Bodie and his teams would face terrorists armed with automatic weapons and explosives. A chilling prospect, yet the prevailing attitude had been 'all in a day's work.'

Professionally, he approved, but emotionally . . .. In the midst of all the planning, it had occurred to him that it had been pointless for anyone to worry about how much older than Bodie Cade was. Odds were, Cade would outlive him by decades.

He shuddered and reached out, caressing Bodie's cheek.

The gentle touch made Bodie stir, then blue eyes opened. "We going to fight some more?" he asked, his voice rough with exhaustion, his cheek nuzzling Cade's open hand.

"No." When they'd left CI5 HQ to return to Eastland, Cade had asked Bodie how he'd got Wentworth to talk. Bodie had been vague with the details, muttering something about applying a few of the things he'd learned from his father and the SAS.

One didn't have to be a genius to know that combination added up to a violation of a prisoner's civil rights and perhaps some bodily harm. Cade had been furious, snapping about Wentworth having rights and stooping to such methods making them no better than Reegan's lot.

Bodie had shook his head and said, "We almost didn't crack this one in time, Alan. Wouldn't have done if we'd played nice. Wentworth was going to help gang rape and murder me, then go around blowing things up, never mind who might be standing around at the time. When it comes down to being rough with a piece of shit like him or zipping up body bags . . . it seems an easy choice to me."

He'd curled up and gone to sleep after that, leaving Cade alone with the road and his thoughts. He did not approve of heavy-handed interrogations, yet how could he deny the value of the information forced from the man?

Almost two hours later, he was no closer to reconciling the means and the end. All he knew was that he didn't want to waste any more time. "No, we're not going to argue. We're going to go inside, make love and get some sleep all wrapped up in each other's arms."

Bodie smiled. "Be nice that."

"Yes, it will," Cade agreed, "so get moving before I forget myself and give the neighbours a thrill."

Exhaustion the third party in their bed, their lovemaking was a gentle coupling that led swiftly to a deep sleep. When the alarm went off five hours later, Bodie got up, showered, then left to put his team through their final paces.

Cade kissed him goodbye, then watched the Capri drive away and knew that, though he would undoubtedly encounter 3.7 during the next few hours, he would never see his lover again.



Three weeks later

Metre maid. Just like Lovely Rita. Cade watched a young woman writing out a parking citation and added her profession to his list of future career options. In the twenty-one days, nine hours and fifteen minutes since he'd last seen one William Andrew Philip Bodie, Alan Cade had come to two conclusions: he had well and truly had enough of being a bloody Chief Constable; and he had absolutely no intention of living another twenty-one days, etc., without the aforementioned Bodie in his life.

Towards that end, he had helped get Rose Penfold appointed Deputy Chief Constable in another district, pushed through several commendations and promotions of other personnel and begun grooming Wes Morton in the fine art of speech making. Satisfied that the dinner parties of Eastland's gentry would not go to hell in a hand basket, he had made a few subtle inquiries of old Met chums about how to get his backside back to London and some real police work.

Yesterday, he'd discovered that his inquires had not been subtle enough for his office had received a call from the Home Secretary's office requesting Cade's presence at a 10.00 a.m. meeting the next day. The Home Secretary. Not his bureaucratic lackey, Nigel Crimmond. Cade was hard pressed to remember a time he had dealt with the HM personally. The HM or Crimmond, it made no real difference to him. They were both ruddy pains in the arse and either could accept the resignation he had in his suit jacket's inner pocket.

Of course, resigning now would leave him unemployed for the time being and could mean the end of any police work. He shook his head. He hadn't wanted it to go this far, but if the HM wanted to force the issue, there was little else he could do. And it might all be for the best. A complete change of careers might do him a world of good. He thought he might fancy working for at least a time as a flight instructor. After that, well, if he could no longer enforce the laws, perhaps he would go into politics and try to change things from that end.

He got out of his vehicle, entered Whitehall, then made his way to the Home Secretary's office, timing his arrival for precisely 10.00. A middle-aged black woman ushered him immediately into the inner office, where he found, not the Home Secretary, but George Cowley waiting for him.

Cade froze in the doorway, startled by both Cowley's presence and his appearance. The man looked haggard, the lines around his eyes and mouth far deeper than they'd been a few weeks earlier. A surge of fear brought a single word to Cade's lips, "Bodie?"

A puzzled look crossed Cowley's face, then he seemed to understand. "Is alive and uninjured."

Cade sagged in relief, almost collapsing into the nearest chair. He'd not seen Bodie since a quick briefing during the mop up of the Reegan operation. Reegan and his cohorts had all been captured or killed without any loss of civilian life and only a few minor injuries among CI5 and Cade's officers. Reports had been filed, congratulations handed out, then CI5 had packed up en masse and returned to London. Going home to his empty house that first night had been one of the hardest things Cade had ever done.

"What's this all about, George?" he asked once he'd recovered from the mental image of his Bodie lying broken and bleeding in some hospital bed or worse.

"I though it would be less awkward for us to meet outside of CI5 Headquarters, and, as Charles has gone off on his annual fishing trip, he was kind enough to allow us the use of his office."

"And why did we need to meet?"

"I want to offer you a job."

"A job . . .."

"I understand you are looking for one, preferably based in London."

Cade stared at him. He had decided any demotion would be worth ridding himself of Eastland, but he'd not considered becoming one of Cowley's operatives as an option. "I'm . . . flattered, but I believe I'm beyond the days when I could have served on your squad."

Cowley nodded, "But you do have the qualifications to be my Deputy."

He couldn't have been more thunderstruck if the Queen Mum had walked in, stripped off all her clothes and shouted, "Take me, Alan!"

Deputy Controller of CI5? "But I don't even approve of CI5," he protested.

"And you think I do?" Cowley shook his head. "CI5 is necessary, Alan. But its potential for abuse is tremendous. No man who wants the job should ever be offered it."

"But --"

"I report directly to the Home Secretary on most matters, but it is not rare for me to deal with the Prime Minister with no lower level contact. My Deputy would report to me, or to that chain of command in my absence."

No Crimmond, no Police Authority, no gentry. Cade's mouth began to water at the mere thought of such paradise.

"Since CI5's inception I have given precisely three speeches. Such public relations tasks, as well as press conferences, are handled by the Home Secretary's office."

Cowley had obviously done his homework about precisely what got up Cade's nose.

"I am a tactician, a civil servant paid to keep . . . this island smelling, if ever so faintly, of roses and lavender."

That had the ring of an oft-repeated line to it.

"As my Deputy, you will, of course, be expected to follow my rules and procedures, though I give you my word to listen when you have objections. In time, when you become Controller, you can make any changes you see fit."

When he became Controller . . .. Cowley was fifty-five, which meant, in the normal course of things, Cade would assume the post in ten years time and serve in it for six years before his own mandatory retirement. He smiled suddenly, understanding Cowley's train of thought. "In sixteen years, Bodie will be ready to take over."

"Aye. If he survives."

Cade's smile vanished.

"You understand that is part of the job. Bodie is the best agent I have. Neither conscience nor Bodie's temper allows for him to be assigned with anything less than that in mind." Cowley fell silent for a moment, his own pain over such an arrangement with his son evident. Then he sighed and said, "I'll not ask you if you can live with sending him to his death. That is something I pray neither of us must do, but, if you accept the post, you must be able to issue orders you know might result in his loss."

He felt fairly certain he knew the answer to the first question -- he could not live with ordering Bodie to his death -- but could he make the assignment? One thing was certain, whether he, Cowley or someone else was in command, Bodie would always be on the firing line.

Unarmed and not a member of CI5, during the joint operation, Cade had been forced to stay miles away when Bodie and his team had confronted Reegan's lot. He'd lived on second hand relays from the scene. If he were Deputy Controller, there would have been nothing secondary about it. Success or failure would have been instantly reported to him. "My God, George . . .."

"There are few days that go by when I don't wish my son were in a nice, boring line of work, but when I assign the roster he's not my son, he's 3.7 and the best I have." Cowley looked at him. "Do you understand what that means, Alan? A case that seems like almost certain suicide for Bodie, often would be a death sentence for any of the others. He's just that much better."

"Yes, I understand."

"Can you do it?"

Could he? The not-knowing element would vanish for the most part, and he'd certainly had friends under his command before, assigning them based on skill, not on personal feelings. But he was in love with Bodie. Every instinct he had screamed to protect him, to take the first opportunity he could to chain him to a desk and never let him out of his sight. No one, least of all Bodie, would thank him for that. "I don't know, but it really isn't important whether I can or not, is it? If I try to do otherwise, he'll notice and call me on it before I've realized what I was trying to do."

"Aye, I can attest to the fact that you can be certain of that."

"Then, there's one last issue to deal with: my relationship with him. If he'll have me, I intend to live with him; I'll not change that plan for any job."

"I should hope not."

Being half convinced that never laying a hand on Bodie again would be the condition of the appointment, he didn't bother to hide his surprise. "What?"

Cowley sighed. "Bodie is sulking."

"Sulking?"

"Aye. Everyday since he left Eastland, all day."

A smile tugged at the corners of Cade's mouth. "Did you try sending him to bed without his dinner?"

"Believe me, if I thought it would work . . .. If something isn't done soon, I'm certain one of his co-workers will shoot him to put him out of all our misery."

Having witnessed a few, brief Bodie-sulks, Cade had little difficulty in believing that. "Be a shame to let that happen."

"Yes, bullets are expensive," Cowley muttered. "I swear, Alan, if you don't want this job, I'll pull every string I can to get you one you do want, as long as you get him to cheer up."

Cade couldn't help but laugh. "All right, George, let's give it a whirl," he said. He really would be crazy to turn down the opportunity off-hand. "I hear that leg of yours is bothering you. Give me a few months to settle in, then you can get it taken care of. When you're back on your feet again, we'll talk about making my posting permanent."

"Good enough," Cowley answered, then slid a key and a piece of paper across the desk.

"What's this?"

"The key to Bodie's flat and instructions on disabling the alarms. Tell 3.7 he has the rest of the week off, and that I expect to see you both at 7.00 Monday morning. Oh, and if he's not smiling, tell him I'll shoot him myself."



Bodie pulled up in front of his flat, then shut the engine down. In other times, he would have been celebrating being sent home early, but facing an empty flat held utterly no appeal. However, it did rank above going to a pub by himself. Not that he had to do any such thing.

It had been three weeks. Twenty-one days, fourteen hours and, he checked his watch, forty-fucking-five minutes since he'd last seen Alan. Not since the day he had discovered sex could be one hell of a lot of fun had he spent such a span of time without at least working on a likely prospect. Now the thought of chatting up anyone -- male or female -- depressed him.

Damn, what had Cade done to him? He couldn't manage a smile to save his life, and the only time he didn't hurt was when work occupied his attention. Bringing him back to his displeasure at being sent home like an errant schoolboy. Be better if he were a schoolboy: he'd have homework. With his bloody luck, there wouldn't even be anything decent on the box.

Sighing, he got out of his car. He turned to lock the door and spotted the Range Rover. Just like Cade's. Neither had actually said anything about never contacting the other one again. Both had known a clean break had been the only way to do it. That hadn't stopped Bodie from contemplating phoning him every night. He'd punched in all but the final number last night. Maybe Cade had got even more impatient. But he couldn't see any sign of the other man.

Of course, Cade would have had no idea what time Bodie would be home or even if he would come home. Might be wandering around the neighbourhood killing time. Or it might be someone else's Range Rover.

He sighed, knowing the latter was the more likely explanation. Another one of those nasty jokes fate liked to play on him from time to time. In any case, he had a clear view of the street from the window in his front room. Stupidity that it might be, he'd pour himself a drink and keep watch.

He let himself through the security door, went up the stairs separating the first and second floors, then froze halfway up the next flight. The door of his flat stood open, and draped in the doorway was Alan Cade.

"I wanted you to know I was here," Cade said. "I hate getting shot." With that he turned and went back into the flat.

Bodie stared at the empty doorway for a heartbeat, then erupted up the remaining stairs.

Cade stood in the middle of his front room, but when Bodie started towards him, the older man shook his head. "Set your alarms, 3.7," he told him. "Then I think you can figure out where to find me."

His hands shook as he obeyed, setting the locks and alarms as quickly as he could. That taken care of, he headed for his bedroom, shedding his clothes along the way.

A gloriously naked Cade waited for him on the bed, and Bodie wasted no time falling into his arms. The beautiful lips claimed his, then the tongue possessed his mouth. Like a starving man at a banquet table he feasted with a desperate hunger, his senses unable to take it all in fast enough.

Strung out on weeks of need, he felt a gel slick finger slip inside him and came with a shout. For a second he didn't understand what had happened, then he blushed hotly. "I'm sorry, I --"

"Shhh, it's all right," Cade told him, gathering him close. "I can wait until you get interested again." He kissed Bodie's forehead. "One of the advantages of being an old man."

"Not old, mature," Bodie murmured the languor of his climax settling in. "Not to mention gorgeous."

"Charming as ever, I see. I missed you."

"Missed you more."

"Did not."

"Did too."

"Not."

"Too."

Cade laughed and hugged him tightly. "That's my Bodie."

"Yours am I?" Christ, he liked the sound of that.

"Now and for always . . . if you'll have me."

"But --"

"I've got an offer for a job in London. It's an excellent opportunity, but I'd just as soon not go apartment hunting."

The Halleluiah Chorus began to sing in Bodie's mind, but he kept most of the joyful squeak out of his voice when he said, "Can live with me then."

"You certain? I promise you, I'll be very difficult to get rid of once I move in."

"'Certain'? You try living anywhere else, and I'll hunt you down." Which reminded him, "How did you get into my flat?" Allocations wouldn't be best pleased.

"Your dad gave me the key and the codes."

"He what?"

"You heard me."

"My father?"

"Yes."

"George Cowley?"

Cade chuckled. "That's the one."

"Why?" He knew his father had got over the shock of his relationship with Cade, had even done his best to comfort Bodie when they'd had to separate, but . . .. "Isn't that taking accepting things a bit too bloody far?"

"Perhaps, but I wouldn't take the job as his Deputy if he didn't let me play with you when we were off-duty, so I suspect it was a gesture of good faith."

Bodie listened to this, then carefully repeated each word in his mind to make certain he'd got it right. Job, Cowley's Deputy. It all sunk in, and, if Bodie had ever bothered to wonder what it felt like to have a brain aneurysm, he suspected he now had a good idea. His body and mind seemed to freeze up, and he fancied he was well on the way to a state of non-existence. Fortunately, Cade came to his rescue, proving that neck nuzzling was very effective at treating brain aneurisms.

"Soooooo, you're my boss, too?"

"Mmmm." The sound had an affirmative tone to it, but Cade was too busy dining on Bodie's neck to give him a proper answer.

"Hmph. My father's the Controller and the Deputy Controller my lover, and I bet I still won't get a proper pay rise."

Cade snorted, then lifted up on one elbow and studied Bodie's face. "You're all right with it then? If it bothers you, I can always tell George I've changed my mind."

"No, you'll be good at it. And he can get his leg fixed. 's been hurting him something awful recently. Have to teach you how to shoot properly though."

"Bastard."

"Give you private lessons. Give you a kiss every time you manage to hit the target."

Cade glowered at Bodie. "You will, I trust, at least pretend to respect me when we're at work?"

"Of course. Treat you exactly like my dad, I will."

"Why do I not find that reassuring?"

Bodie gave him his best innocent smile, and Cade pounced on him. A few touches, a nuzzle of each nipple and Bodie hardened again. Hands turned him onto his side, and Cade returned his attentions to Bodie's neck, this time dining on the back of it, while his hands did excruciatingly wonderful things to Bodie's cock and chest.

"Oh, Christ, fuck me already," he begged, and little more than a shift of Cade's weight granted Bodie's wish.

He moaned loudly both in pleasure and welcome at the feel of the thick flesh impaling him. Just a short while ago, he'd thought he'd never know this bliss again; now it was his for the rest of his life. That thought pushed him over the edge again, and his seed spilled over Cade's hand.

Alan gave him a moment to recover, then resumed his thrusting, taking Bodie with long, slow strokes that seemed to go on for a delicious eternity. When Bodie felt the spurt of his love's own cum filling him, he felt well and truly possessed: something he approved of whole heartedly.

"Mine," Cade whispered into his ear. "You're mine."

"'til death do us part," Bodie agreed.

He felt Cade stiffen and had no difficulty figuring out the problem. "I'm good, Alan. I'll make it through. I promise." It was an absurd thing to say, but some of the tension left Cade's body.

He turned Bodie to face him, then curled up with him. "I'll need help with that you know. I give you my word I'll never deliberately assign you based on my feelings for you, but . . .."

Bodie kissed him. "'s okay. I have to remind Dad every once in awhile. Can keep you honest, too."

Cade gave him a look of pure affection. "I love you."

"Love you, too. So bloody much."

A mischievous gleam entered jade green eyes. "Love you more."

Bodie laughed. "Do not."

"Do so."

And so it went.

-- THE END --