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Fruit of the Spirit

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'But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,

goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.'

GALATIONS 5:22, 23

CHAPTER ONE

 

It was antipathy at first sight. It could not be anything so strong as hate - they had only just seen each other and hadn't even exchanged names - but it was close. All it took was a slight curl of the upper lip, a disdainful look and a quirk of a crooked eyebrow, and Raymond Doyle knew he had gained an enemy.

It was rare for Doyle to feel such animosity and never so quickly on such little provocation. It was shaming that his temper could be so easily roused by a single sneer. He tried to quash the feeling but it bubbled up inside him, blind to reason. He didn't like the arrogant tilt of the man's head or the coldness in the blue eyes. Irritation prickled along his nerves when he saw conceit in the smooth, unmarred perfection of his face. Doyle's judgement was swift: smug bastard.

The man had to be a soldier - the dark cropped hair, the oh-so-elegant blazer and impossibly shiny shoes spoke of military neatness and precision. He probably even ironed his underwear. In Doyle's book this was as great an offence as putting ketchup all over his home-cooked Spaghetti Bolognese. For some things they really should bring back capital punishment.

As for William Bodie, it took him a few minutes to notice the lean curly-headed scruff staring at him as he was too busy eyeing up the competition - sod George Cowley's speech about teamwork, put a group of highly trained men under fifty in one room and they'd soon be trying to prove who was cock of the roost. A couple of the men looked like they were ex-army and might be useful in a fight - the tall, brown-haired bloke with the mild face could be worth getting to know - but he was sure he could take on any one of them. Then the tall man moved to one side and Bodie found himself pinned by an intense glare, one that seemed to burn right through his super-confident front, exposing the uncertainty and apprehension he had felt since accepting Cowley's offer to join CI5.

Resentment burst forth at such perceptiveness and Bodie swept searching eyes over his examiner, looking for flaws, determined to banish the ridiculous notion that here was someone who could see into his soul. Three seconds later Bodie realised that the intense look had more to do with weighing him up than uncanny abilities. Ten seconds after that, he had examined the man from the top of his curly head to the bottom of his trainer-clad feet. The ex-soldier's assessment was lightning quick: scruffy bugger.

An army 'barber' would soon restore order to those ridiculous curls. As for the clothes! He couldn't help but notice how the faded jeans outlined every curving muscle of the long legs, how the tight denim drew the eye to the parts of a bloke another red-blooded man wasn't supposed to notice. The tightness and smoothness of the denim over the area he was trying desperately not to look at could only mean one thing. The thought voiced itself in loud, outraged tones inside his head: Bloody hell, he's not wearing any underwear!

His groin twitched in sympathy.

Narrowed eyes returned to the over-long curly hair that looked about as natural as snowballs in the Sahara. Another follower of the Kevin Keegan school of fashion perhaps? He noted the cant of the hips, the half open shirt that revealed dark chest hair and the glitter of a silver chain from which dangled two rings. Or did the posing little sod just fancy himself?

Cranking up his sneer a couple of notches, Bodie felt a stab of satisfaction when he saw the other man's mouth thin in response. Now where, he thought to himself, did Cowley dig you up from? Not army, you wouldn't last five minutes. Yeah, you just keep looking at me. You know when you're outclassed, don't you, petal?

Macklin was talking. Bodie listened to the instructor but his eyes remained fastened on Curly Locks. The skinny little bastard wouldn't look away and Bodie was damned if he'd be the first to break eye contact. At that moment the tall agent he had noticed earlier moved in front of Doyle, enabling Bodie to shift his attention to Macklin without any loss of face.

Rather less grateful for Murphy's unwitting intervention, Doyle was tempted to shove the taller man aside so he could match glares again with Smug Bastard. He took a step to the left so that his view was unrestricted but, as he'd expected, the other man was no longer paying him any attention and instead was watching Brian Macklin intently.

Teacher's bloody pet, Doyle sneered to himself, ignoring the tiny inner voice that pointed out he'd left the school playground behind a long time ago.

Doyle was suddenly aware that the instructor was talking to him.

"Just to show you've been listening."

The words 'Oh shit' sprang to mind.

"Come on - Doyle, isn't it? - I'll be gentle."

Doyle gave a knowing smile. "Yeah, course you will. I believe in Father Christmas an' all."

Catching sight of disdainful blue eyes Doyle stepped forward, taking a few moments to warm up. Determined to prove himself he cast aside his usual caution and went straight for the throat. Twenty seconds later Doyle was on the mat seeing stars.

"I'm surprised you lasted long on the streets if that's your usual method of fighting. You're not Bruce Lee and we're not filming a thirty second fight sequence. In real life you use your head - you think you can do better?" Those latter words were directed at a smirking individual who Macklin had noticed taking great delight in Doyle's defeat. "Bodie, right? You're about Doyle's height, bit heavier but I'm sure he'll not complain. Doyle?"

Doyle smiled. A few of his fellow recruits saw that smile and shivered. "Fine by me. Wanna dance?"

"Warm up first, Bodie," Macklin warned when it looked as if the recruit was about to launch himself at Doyle. "Same goes for the rest of you. No, don't bother stripping off," he said as a couple of men unbuttoned their shirts or removed shoes. "I want you fully clothed, just as you'll be on the streets. I can't see some terrorist halting his escape so you can change into your best tracksuit and trainers your mummy bought you for Christmas. Let's pair you off, see if we can make anything other than punching bags out of you lot."

"Remember, this is just a practice bout, I'm not looking for blood. What I am looking for are strengths and weaknesses." Glaring at the men he threatened, "Get carried away and I'll take you apart personally. You watch your opponent, watch their moves, then we have a little chat and see if you've learnt anything."

Warmed up and ready to dismember, Bodie eyed his opponent measuringly. Close up, Doyle was taller and broader than he'd thought. The slim waist and hips and the long legs gave him a slender look, but now about to take him on he saw the breadth of the shoulders and the honed strength in the arms. He was pleased - perhaps Doyle would give him a decent fight.

Then he remembered the uncontrolled manner in which the other man had taken on Macklin.

Maybe not.

"Okay, Doyle, let's see what you're made of. Sugar and spice and all things nice, I'll bet." Keeping in mind how quick Doyle had been in his brief bout with Macklin, Bodie stalked him warily, wearing his most evil grin, knowing from past experience that it often unsettled opponents.

Doyle circled, equally wary, never stepping back but always keeping the other man directly in front of him.

Bodie attacked.

Barry Martin, the senior trainer, had just entered the gym when Macklin became aware of raised voices to his right. Correctly guessing a couple of recruits had got a bit keen, he signalled to Martin then shoved his way past half a dozen men who were either shouting encouragement or warnings. Making a mental note as to who was doing what, he reached the over-enthusiastic combatants and found them battered, bloody and about to kill each other.

"Bastard!" Doyle swore as a fist nearly caught him in the throat. "Wanna play rough, do you? Two can play at that game you know."

"That right? Go home to your Sindy doll. You might get hurt playin' with the big lads."

Managing to land a good solid blow to Bodie's mid-section, Doyle had to twist out of the way when he was almost butted. "Nice try, for a brainless, clockwork, bully boy." His leg came up, as if aiming for Bodie's groin. When the other man twisted back and aside to avoid the kick, head lowering with the move, Doyle lashed out, aiming to use the flat of his hand to break the perfect nose, aware that too much force could kill a man.

Bodie swung his head aside, barely evading the blow. Doyle's hand brushed against his cheek, like a brutal caress. He's fast, thought Bodie. And sneaky.

Eyes narrowed to slits, Bodie's accent thickened. The cool front he assumed slipped away to reveal the dangerous hunter that lay beneath the surface, the killer that circumstances had so often forced him to be. "Playtime's over, Doyle. I'm going to make you sorry you ever heard of CI5."

Training took over - gutter fighting, mercenary fighting, armed forces. The leash slipped and Bodie moved in for the kill.

Doyle knew the exact moment when the practice bout turned deadly, knew it when all expression was wiped from Bodie's face. His guts should have turned to water; instead he felt exhilarated.

Time, external movement, seemed to slow down. The noise around Doyle faded. Voices muted. Eyes locked on target. He was conscious only of himself and his opponent - the heat and scent of their perspiring bodies; the sound of their breathing, now a steady rhythmic pant; the dull thud and smack of flesh striking flesh and bone; strength meeting strength.

Instinct took over, the same instinct that had kept him safe as a kid fighting older kids on the streets, as a copper pounding the toughest, meanest beat the city could offer.

Doyle felt someone pulling on his arm. He was aware of a voice yelling close by. But it wasn't Bodie and nothing else mattered, every nerve, every atom was focussed on the man who aroused such irrational fury within him. Carelessly, casually, as though swatting a fly, he freed his arm and struck out, ridding himself of the obstructive presence.

Hoping to catch Bodie off balance, Doyle aimed for the eyes. As Bodie twisted his face aside, he landed a neat chop to the soft flesh of the exposed neck.

Bodie cried out, the sound choked off, hands coming up to cradle his throat.

Seeing the other man's distress and that his guard was down, Doyle darted forward, hands like blades ready to chop at the kidneys.

Too late he realised he'd been fooled into thinking Bodie was seriously hurt.

Doyle fell to the ground, the other man's weight landing on his stomach, driving the air out of him. He was intensely conscious of Bodie's face very close to his own, of the panting breaths gusting, hot and moist, against his neck, loud against his ear. Arching up, he fought to free himself of the powerful body that straddled him, his failure to do so making him acutely aware of his powerlessness and vulnerability. Then fingers were wrapped around his throat, digging into the flesh towards his windpipe, and for the first time he felt fear. Desperation lent Doyle strength and he managed to get his own hands around Bodie's throat.

Not strong enough.

Oh, Christ.

Striving to draw air into his starved lungs, he released Bodie and clawed at the hands around his throat. Even as he did so he knew it to be a futile effort. Lights sparked yet it was growing darker and there was a roaring in his ears, in his head ... and what a bloody stupid way to die.

Bodie was aware that someone was trying to pull him off Doyle but he resisted in an absent way, simply maintaining his hold and ignoring the interference. Doyle's eyes were green, he noticed, was unable not to notice at this distance, so close he could smell traces of the man's aftershave. The pulse in Doyle's throat was a frantic pounding beneath his fingers. Blood was pouring from Doyle's nose and Bodie watched intently as a thin stream reached the parted lips. Fierce triumph and heat exploded within him. Raising the other man's head a little, he leaned closer, eyes fixed on that thin crimson trail. It trickled off to the right, across the flushed face and the broken, now bruised, cheekbone. He had been lucky to land that blow, Doyle was as quick as anyone he'd ever fought. Stronger than he'd expected too, that slim body writhing beneath him was all honed steel - he was getting light-headed from the grip Doyle had around his throat. Then Doyle released him and he could breathe properly.

Taking a few deep breaths, Bodie was vaguely conscious of the hands clawing at his fingers. He became aware of Macklin and Martin shouting at him at the same time as he realised Doyle was about to pass out. His killing fury gone, he released Doyle just as steel fingers dug into the tendons of his wrist. He pulled away with an effort, shooting a murderous glare at Barry Martin.

In front of him, Macklin was helping Doyle to his feet. All around him recruits were eyeing him with varying degrees of awe and disgust. Meeting their stares with indifference, his attention returned to Doyle. Martin was saying something and he forced himself to concentrate on the words.

"You stupid bastard, Bodie."

Oh. Insults. Well he'd heard enough of them in his life-time, he really didn't need to hear any more, particularly from Martin who he suspected wouldn't have any new ones to offer.

Doyle was recovering now and being lectured by Macklin. Poor sod. Didn't seem fair, he'd almost been killed ...

Christ, he'd almost killed ...

You stupid bastard, he castigated himself. How to win friends and be successful at work the Bodie way. Well, that was it then. It was over. He would be out on his ear, deservedly so. And Macklin was still lecturing Doyle. "Give it a rest. If you want to give someone a bollockin', pick on me and have someone look at Doyle."

The look of outrage Macklin gave him and the accompanying choking sound almost made him laugh. Almost. Doyle looked up then and Bodie braced himself for anger.

Doyle's gaze was thoughtful, measuring.

Bodie frowned. What the hell - ?

Martin had finally shut up and Macklin was talking to the rest of the recruits. Bodie paid no attention. Doyle was rubbing his throat absently, still gazing at Bodie.

Feeling uncomfortable before that intense scrutiny but determined not to show it, Bodie muttered in reluctant enquiry, "You all right?"

Doyle shrugged, winced as the movement pulled bruised muscles. Then, unbelievably, he smiled.

Bodie wasn't quite sure why but he smiled back. Macklin was talking again, he realised distantly.

"Right you two, I'm to take you to the infirmary. If it was my choice I'd see you in the morgue but Barry's got a soft heart. Come on, stop glaring at each other and shift yourselves."

Wondering how Macklin could possibly interpret smiles as glares, Bodie and Doyle shifted.

 

Two hours later found them about to go into the lion's den, aka George Cowley's office.

Eyes fixed ahead, determined not to so much as glance at Doyle, Bodie knocked.

"Enter."

They obeyed, Doyle with a faintly challenging look in his eyes that disguised his nervousness, Bodie feeling like a naughty schoolboy about to face the wrath of his headmaster. The tough ex-mercenary had a sudden mental image of himself aged nine shoving a Maths text book down his pants prior to being caned, and hastily banished the thought. Now was not the time for showing signs of amusement - safer to dip your arse into a tankful of piranhas. He had George Cowley's measure.

Regarding the man seated behind the plain serviceable desk, Bodie saw the thinning sandy hair, the sharp, penetrating eyes that could see right through a lie or a bullshit facade, a lined intelligent face that could charm with a smile or slay with a frown. So serious was George Cowley, or so he seemed to Bodie. He had yet to have a smile directed at him, though stranger things had been known to happen. The Controller of CI5 must be at least fifty, possibly fifty-five though a care-worn face was no indication of age when the man in question had gone from army Major to MI5, from Head of MI5 to sole Controller of Criminal Intelligence Five.

The penetrating gaze was currently fixed on some papers Cowley had in his left hand; clearly of more importance than the two miscreants standing before him. Bodie stifled a grin. Cowley was using an old ploy to create discomfiture; he had expected better of him. Then again, maybe the old dog knew the best tricks were the proven ones. Though far from comfortable with the situation, Bodie assumed the 'at ease' position, eyes fixed at a point some four inches above Cowley's shoulder, waiting until his boss deigned to notice them.

Doyle knew he was scowling and he made a real effort to control his expression. Glancing over at Bodie to see how he was handling the prolonged silence, his scowl slipped free for a second before he could suppress it. Bloody tin soldier. He knew when Bodie would glance his way, though he didn't question the knowledge, and forced a smile onto his lips. He received a very slight smirk in exchange and against his will his smile became genuine. Then he shot a look at Cowley and noticed they were being observed.

"I see despite this morning's violence you both came off lightly. Undeserved luck, I'm sure. I trust the bruising around your throat hasn't affected your speech, Doyle?"

"No, sir." Stick to monosyllables, Doyle told himself.

"Good. Perhaps you can offer an explanation."

So much for plan A. "We got a bit carried away, sir."

"I see. I hear you got so 'carried away' that only the intervention of your trainers prevented murder." Cowley's glare switched to Bodie as that gentleman flinched. "Yes, murder. Unlawful killing. Perhaps you have an explanation since you are the one who inflicted the most damage."

"No excuse, sir."

The smooth tones acquired an edge. "I'm not asking for excuses, Mister Bodie. I'm demanding an explanation."

The perfect soldier mask slipped, expression and body stiffening when he realised there was no answer he could give. Examining his behaviour he saw his reaction to Doyle had been irrational. How could he explain that the moment he saw Doyle glaring at him, radiating aggression despite the casual pose, he'd wanted to smash his face in? He wasn't prone to extreme behaviour. For most of his adult life he had practised his cool assured facade after he'd had the natural self-confidence that comes with youth ripped out of him by the harsh realities of life. He prided himself on staying cool no matter what situation he found himself in. Yet one look from Doyle and he was going for the throat.

Very un-cool.

Cowley was waiting for an answer.

"No explanation, sir."

"That isn't good enough. All recruits are hand-picked by myself, but I'm only human and I make mistakes. It would appear you are one of them, Mister Bodie. Now how do you think I should rectify that mistake?"

There it was, the killer question - emphasis on the word killer. He would be grabbing the back of his own collar and kicking himself up the arse out of here, but in all honesty he couldn't say anything else: "Dismissal, sir." Deserved, too. They would send him back into the service, but the thought of being ... ah. He was forgetting, he no longer had that option. He had very few options if truth be told. He suspected CI5 had been his last chance at a legitimate life. He'd thought he was finished with Africa for good but ... No, that was over, he couldn't ... He realised Doyle was talking.

"...so if we're equally to blame, does that mean we're both dismissed?"

Bodie frowned. What the hell was the stupid sod on about?

"I've not said anything about dismissal. However I'm somewhat surprised to hear you defend Bodie after this morning."

"I'm not defending him, just stating facts. Anyway, it's like this, we've had a talk - "

Bodie's eyes opened very wide but his expression remained neutral.

" - and everything's okay with us now. You could call it temporary insanity."

"I hope to God it is temporary! I cannot have men acting like boys fighting over who is king of the playground. Save your posturing for Friday nights to impress your girlfriends, I'll not have it in CI5, d'ye hear?" Both men murmured affirmatives.

"Now get out of my sight, the pair of you, before I come to my senses and get rid of you both. You're in the lecture room, Doctor Rigby will be giving a talk on first aid out in the field, something that should be of use to you if you're usually so quick to lose your tempers." He glanced down at the papers he had placed on his desk then looked up again at the tense figures before him. "I thought I gave you an order."

Bodie snapped to attention, barely resisting the urge to salute. "Yes, sir. Thank you."

Doyle regarded his boss thoughtfully, knowing there was something other than luck or the milk of human kindness behind this mild reprimand. Cowley matched him look for look then turned up the intensity of his frown by a couple of degrees. Doyle refused to look away but gave a reluctant, "Yes, sir."

Together they left Cowley to his files then headed down the corridor towards the lecture theatre. No words were spoken but Doyle was aware of the puzzled looks Bodie kept flicking in his direction. Inwardly he was gleeful. He had Bodie thoroughly confused - the stupid cretin was taking his smiles at face value and thought he was forgiven. Not bloody likely. Doyle could still feel the imprint of the other man's hands around his throat, felt anew the thrill of fear when he thought he was about to die.

Oh, no. Bodie was far from forgiven, only Cowley kept him from pounding the bastard's head into the nearest wall. So violence was out. Well, that was fine, irritation was just as much fun and left no visible marks. And if he could get Bodie to lose his temper again then nothing would stop Cowley from giving Bodie his marching orders.

It was a pity his sense of justice and fair play had made him speak up for Bodie, but perhaps that was all to the good. No point having Bodie kicked off the training programme without Doyle being able to savour it. No, more fun to see Bodie sweat. A little goading was called for, just let him relax then catch him off his guard.

At least it would liven things up around here.

 

They arrived at the Lecture Theatre just ahead of Doctor Rigby. When they entered, Murphy signalled to Doyle and indicated the empty seat next to him. There was a slide projector on the desk at the front of the room and Doyle groaned - not another bloody slide show.

Bodie could not help but be aware of the cool looks several recruits sent his way. He feigned indifference and, resisting the temptation to take a seat alone on the back row, he deliberately chose a seat in the middle row, next to the recruit who had that morning introduced himself as Jax - though whether this was his first name or surname was unclear; very big on surnames was this lot. He waited for the man to say something or give him a look and was surprised at the relief he felt when Jax merely flicked a brief curious glance at him.

Lunch had been a hasty affair, a speedily gobbled sandwich after leaving the infirmary prior to seeing Cowley. Their boss had kept them waiting for nearly an hour before seeing them. Now his stomach was growling its discontent and he found himself counting the minutes until the lecture was over.

An hour later and Bodie was going cross-eyed from staring at the projector screen. His notepad remained untouched, Bodie having learned nothing new. Just as Doctor Rigby finally shut up about arterial bleeding, his stomach gave an extra loud rumble, and he flicked a self-conscious glance to his left to find Jax grinning sympathetically. He gave an answering grin, praying that the lecturer would run out of things to say and let them go.

Another two hours passed before Doctor Rigby finally ended his talk and the recruits were free to go. They were due to go out on the firing range in half an hour so there was just enough time to grab something to eat.

Bodie left the room ahead of the others, not wanting to be around when they paired off or formed their little groups, certainly not wanting to be there while they eyed him as though he were some new disgusting form of life. He didn't see it as running away, it was simply a waste of time to hang around when he had better things to do. Nor did he waste energy getting angry; what the other men thought of him was of no consequence, and if he'd been hoping to find friends amongst this group, well he'd always been something of a loner, he had a few mates from the Paras, and there was life outside CI5.

Busy watching Bodie, Doyle was surprised to find himself being herded towards the canteen. Wondering how Murphy had managed to lead him somewhere he hadn't intended to go without resorting to strong-arm tactics, Doyle seated himself at a table while the other man fetched coffee.

Absently he looked about him. Spotting Bodie eating a toasted sandwich at the far end of the canteen, he willed him to look up. He felt no surprise when Bodie looked his way. Doyle gave a slight smile and had the satisfaction of seeing Bodie's perplexed expression. At that moment Murphy arrived with the coffee. Doyle switched his attention to the mud-coloured liquid that tasted marginally better than that dispensed by the drinks machines located in the corridors. Having experienced CI5 coffee during their pre-training assessment, this was a prime example of desperation and determination winning over common sense.

He took a cautious sip, glancing up to give ironic thanks, when he noticed for the first time that Murphy's nose was swollen and had been bleeding. "How d'you do that, Murph? Not looking where you were going?"

Murphy touched his nose gingerly and looked pointedly at Doyle. "This is what happens when you try to stop a pair of idiots from nearly killing each other."

Doyle frowned, recalled the fight, then remembered someone trying to pull him away from Bodie. He'd lashed out. Guiltily, he made an apology. "Sorry about that, thought it was Macklin."

"I see. And that would have made it all right then?"

"I suppose not." Doyle grinned. "But I wouldn't be sitting here feeling guilty if it had been him, probably be celebrating or something."

Refusing to be charmed by that grin, Murphy asked, "Have you met Bodie before?"

"No, only lads I saw before today are you and Lawrence, when we had our assessment."

"So what was all that about this morning? You and Bodie hadn't spoken a single word to each other, yet the next thing I see is the two of you literally at each other's throats. What happened, you didn't like his taste in clothes?"

Doyle shrugged. "Something like that." Leaning closer to Murphy, right elbow propped on the table, his fingers idly rubbed his right temple and the curls that fell there. His eyes flicked back and forth, from the circular pattern he was making in some spilt water, to Murphy. "Have you ever seen somebody, someone you're sure you've never met before, and had such a strong reaction to them that you've wanted to - ?" Doyle broke off, frowning to himself.

"Smash their face in?"

"I suppose so. I dunno. It was just the way he was looking at me, like I was nothing, you know? Well, no, that's not it either, I was watching him before he spotted me. It was the way he looked, arrogant, so full of himself, like he thought he was better than everyone else."

"You wanted him to admit he wasn't, that he was as human as the rest of us?" Murphy asked.

"Yeah. And then he looked at me, like I was beneath his notice, like I wasn't worth noticing because he'd never have need of me, I mean my help or anyone else's. Like I was nothing."

"And that annoyed you."

"I just wanted to wipe that smug look off his face. I could feel the anger boiling up inside."

"Out of control."

"Yeah. You ever felt like that?"

"No."

"Oh." Taken aback, Doyle looked about him for a diversion, uncomfortable with the topic. He caught Bodie looking their way and gave him a beaming smile that made the other man blink.

"Doyle."

"Hmm?" Doyle recalled his attention to the man opposite him.

"What are you up to?"

"Don't know what you mean, mate."

Murphy fixed him with an impatient look. "You keep smiling at him."

"Just being friendly," Doyle said blandly.

"Bollocks."

Not having heard the other man swear, even mildly, Doyle was so taken aback that he had no smart reply ready.

"You don't like him just as much now as this morning, and I don't think you've forgiven him. Just what are you plotting, Ray?"

"Scared I'll hurt the big butch soldier?"

"Concerned you'll get yourself kicked off the course because you can't control your temper. And maybe I'm concerned you'll get a good man kicked off it as well. You know how picky CI5 is, nothing but the best for George Cowley. Like it or not, Bodie is good, and from what I've seen and heard about him maybe he is better than us - for now. Whether he'll still be the best at the end of training remains to be seen, we'll all get better if we can last the course. But we'll all be on the same side, working together, and there's no room for rivalry in this game."

Doyle's tone was mocking. "You sound just like Cowley. Introductory speech number three, right?"

Eyes narrowed, Murphy pushed his chair away from the table, about to leave.

Repentant, Doyle sighed and said, "Sorry. That was uncalled for." Waiting until Murphy sat back down, he added, "Look, thanks for the advice but I know what I'm doing. I won't do anything that will get Cowley riled, just a harmless little joke to get even with the Scouse Louse and I'll feel better about things. No blood. Scout's honour."

Smiling reluctantly, Murphy said, "Bet you were never in the Scouts."

"True, the Brownie's was much more interesting. You should've seen Brown Owl, first female without tissues stuffed down her bra I ever fell in love with ..." His eyes on Murphy's laughing face, he was very aware of Bodie approaching their table. When Bodie stopped at his side he waited a few seconds before looking up.

Bodie had been watching Doyle from the moment he'd entered the canteen. Try as he might he couldn't ignore him, watching his expressions though he couldn't hear what he and the tall man were talking about.

Doyle puzzled him, all glowering hostility one minute, all quick, warm smiles the next. Hot and cold. He could deal with one or the other, but this abrupt swing from aggression to apparent forgiveness threw him. He suspected Doyle was still angry about their fight in the gym, and he was a little aggrieved since it hadn't been entirely his fault though Doyle had, admittedly, got the worst of it. He regretted losing his temper as he had, still couldn't quite believe the violence of his response to Doyle; he found it disturbing.

Time to swallow his pride, he thought, show Doyle he was man enough to offer him an apology. Surely the man who had told Cowley he was equally to blame for the fight, had lied to Cowley saying they had sorted out their differences to smooth things with their boss, surely such a man would see that nothing could be gained by open hostility?

Having finished his tea, Bodie stood up to dispose of his empty cup and plate, then headed towards the other men. "Doyle."

Green eyes lifted and gazed at him enquiringly. Ignoring Murphy who was watching him closely, Bodie said, "I owe you an apology for this morning. Got too involved in the fight, forgot it was an exercise."

"You always try to kill your opponent?" Doyle's tone was bland, free of hostility as was his expression. To the casual observer they might have appeared to be talking about the football results or the weather.

"Not always. Not unless provoked," Bodie replied, his look pointed, remembering the kick to the groin that would have done more than take his breath away if it had connected.

Acknowledging the point, Doyle replied, "Yeah, we both went a little crazy."

Bodie nodded once, glanced at Murphy, then left them to drink their lukewarm coffee.

Men such as Doyle liked to work hard and play hard, taking the occasional risk if only to prove something to themselves. There was a distinct difference between taking chances and a death wish, and some things were simply not worth the risk. This was the case with the toxic substance known as CI5 canteen coffee. Doyle braved one final sip and gave up. "Come on, we'd better head for the firing range."

Still highly suspicious but reluctant to press Doyle further, Murphy nodded his agreement. He wrinkled his nose at his coffee but, in a grand show of bravado, gulped it down, to his own and Doyle's distaste.

It wasn't until they were halfway down the corridor that the faintly frowning Murphy realized what had been so wrong with the conversation between Doyle and Bodie. While Doyle had acknowledged a mutual loss of temper, he hadn't offered a reciprocal apology.

This did not bode well. Murphy knew the budget for CI5 must be reasonably substantial. Would it stretch to pay for the soon to be necessary earplugs and bomb shelters?

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

Bodie drove to CI5 headquarters in the barely serviceable Cortina he was having to make do with until training was completed and CI5 provided him with a vehicle. After an energetic evening with his current girlfriend, Caroline, and six hours sleep, he was ready to take on King Kong.

Unfortunately he got Brian Macklin instead.

The man was a sadist, Bodie concluded, after the trainer had put him through his paces. He had barely held his own against the older man, astonished at the former agent's skill and reflexes. Not for the first time Bodie wondered why Macklin wasn't out in the field - a minefield for preference.

Aching, tired but pleasantly so, feeling the satisfaction of one whose abilities have been stretched but not snapped, he entered the showers. Ignoring the horseplay going on around him, assuring himself that he really didn't care that he was excluded, he showered quickly before leaving to get dressed. His underpants felt uncomfortable when he pulled them on but he put it down to the detergent at the launderette and reached for his trousers. He resisted the growing urge to scratch at his groin, not wishing to do so in public. Of course, the more he tried to ignore it the worse the itch got, but a hard man like him could endure it. He pulled on his socks and shoes - and almost yelped. His feet, one of the most sensitive parts of his body, likely to have him squealing for mercy if tickled, started itching even worse than his groin.

Then he knew why.

Fierce blue eyes fastened on the curly-headed man smiling at him with malicious satisfaction.

And he knew who.

Itching powder, bloody itching powder, which that bastard Doyle must have sprinkled all over his underwear. The itchiness seemed to be getting worse by the second. It soon became unbearable. Flinging his shoes aside he hauled his socks off then spent a few seconds scratching his feet. The relief this gained was slight, overwhelmed by the suffering of his crotch. He scrambled out of his clothes with less than his usual finesse, his obvious haste attracting some attention. Snatching up his clothes he headed, once again, for the showers.

A single futile minute was spent shaking out his garments before he fell into the shower, his heartfelt groan of relief causing the listening men to exchange grins. He took his time, making sure all traces of the irritating powder were gone before he switched off the water and dried off. Regarding his briefs and socks warily, he threw them into his sports bag. Nose wrinkling, he put on the spare pair of sports socks that had been in his bag for a week and he still hadn't got round to washing. He quickly put on his trousers and shirt, his movements jerky, cursing long and loud at having to go without underwear.

Soft laughter greeted the more colourful of his curses and he looked up. The gym was empty save for Macklin. Amazed to discover that the trainer had a sense of humour, even if it was currently directed at him, Bodie gave his number three glare, the one designed to stop charging rhino and upset human bodily functions.

Macklin gave a grimace. It was a few seconds before Bodie recognised it as a smile.

Admitting defeat, consoling himself with the thought that Macklin was obviously a nutter, Bodie made for the door.

"You should watch yourself."

At his trainer's words Bodie halted but didn't turn round.

"I know Doyle's sort, he'll have a long memory."

Looking over his shoulder, Bodie was all cool self-assurance. "I can handle him." He left the gym and followed his nose to the canteen.

His thoughts occupied with how he was going to deal with Doyle, he could almost forget he wasn't wearing any briefs.

 

Apart from the urge to scratch every couple of minutes and the conviction that everybody was staring at his crotch, Bodie thought he carried off his role of calm insouciance rather well. He was most impressed by his ability to check his homicidal feelings towards Doyle.

Apparently several of the other men were also impressed. He had noticed one or two approving nods in his direction. It was soon made clear how his seemingly good-humoured reaction to Doyle's practical joke had started a thaw towards him. Two of his fellow recruits sat at his table in the canteen during lunch and struck up a conversation. While his cynical side wished to reject this overture, his more practical side insisted he had to work with these men and sulking about their initial treatment of him wasn't going to achieve anything. So he answered their questions about his army training, mutual acquaintances and a brother in the Paras that Bodie had known were discovered, and Bodie found himself agreeing to meet up at the Red Lion that evening.

Break over, recruits started heading for their next lecture. Doyle was one of the first to leave, walking past Bodie as if he didn't exist. Bodie quashed his immediate impulse which was to grab Doyle and make damn sure he did notice him. Instead he shrugged and smiled philosophically at the others at his table. With a certain dark satisfaction he saw he had done the right thing when he received sympathetic smiles and Doyle had at least three disapproving looks thrown in his direction.

About to stand up and join the exodus, Bodie felt a hand on his elbow. He tensed, then relaxed when he saw it was Murphy. Remembering his initial impression that here was a man worth having on his side he waited for Murphy to take a seat opposite him.

Murphy waited until the canteen was empty before speaking. He looked uncomfortable but was wearing the kind of look that said a man has to do what a man has to do. "I want to talk to you about Doyle."

Lip curling with distaste, Bodie complained mildly, "Do you mind? I've just eaten."

"Look, I know you and him don't like each other, though how you've managed to discover that without having held a conversation I don't know. Doyle's a good bloke."

Bodie snorted.

"No, he really is, even if you happen to be having problems with him."

"I don't have a problem with him," Bodie argued. Nothing a locked room and no witnesses couldn't fix, he added privately to himself.

"You mean apart from wanting to throttle him?"

Bodie scowled, but he saw little point in lying. "So he gets up my nose. Trying to kill the annoying little bastard once was enough."

"I happen to regard 'the annoying little bastard' as a friend," Murphy pointed out mildly.

Bodie looked uncomfortable, reluctant to alienate Murphy whom he had hoped to get to know better, perhaps with a view to teaming up with him if they proved compatible and Cowley agreed. Murphy saw the other man's discomfort and gave a smile to ease the situation. "There's a lot about Doyle to like."

Bodie frowned. "Have you ever met someone who - ?"

Murphy choked back a laugh. "Who you've never met before and have wanted to smash their face in? No, I'm glad to say, I haven't."

Bodie eyed him warily. "What's so funny?"

"I had this same conversation with Doyle. Thankfully murderous impulses are restricted to you and Doyle. God help us if the pair of you ever have to work on an op together. This building's pretty old and I doubt the structure could withstand warfare between you two. I'm not sure if my ears could either."

"Cowley would have to be crazy."

"True. Mind you, in a couple of months or so, once you've got to know him - "

"Only part of Doyle I want to know is his rear-view."

Seeing Murphy's eyebrows lifting and the tiniest of teasing smiles forming on his lips, Bodie added, "His back, you pillock, as he leaves CI5!"

Murphy's smile widened and there was approval in his expression as he watched Bodie relax. "Ah. I thought I'd have to keep my back to the wall around you."

"You should be so lucky."

Though Murphy's smile lingered his expression had turned serious. "About Doyle. Just give him time, he'll soon come round."

Bodie looked sceptical but he liked the tall, mild-mannered agent and knew he meant well. Doyle didn't know how lucky he was having this man as a friend. "Give him time, eh? All right, I promise not to murder Doyle, at least not this week, but only if I'm not provoked. Itching powder I can stand, but if he - "

"I'll have a word in his ear," Murphy interjected hastily. "Come on, we'll be late at this rate."

"And whose fault is that?" Bodie pointed out, matching Murphy's pace as they strode down the corridor.

They were arguing amicably as they entered the lecture theatre. Both men scanned the room for today's speaker and found Major Swallow was absent as yet. They also found themselves the recipients of the coldest glare it had ever been Murphy's misfortune to see. Icy green eyes swept over them, then Doyle looked away, and Murphy let out the breath he had unconsciously been holding.

"Oh, hell."

"It will be. Looks like you're in the dog-house, too, mate," Bodie murmured, finding it hard to hide his grin, so he didn't bother.

Murphy scowled at the amused man beside him. "One of these days - "

"Yeah?" asked Bodie as he found them a couple of seats on the middle row.

Murphy sat down heavily. " - I'll learn to keep my mouth shut and my nose out of other people's business."

Bodie smiled sympathetically. About to reply, he noticed the arrival of Major Swallow, so he settled for a playful nudge of his elbow in Murphy's ribs then hauled out his barely touched notebook.

 

The Red Lion was popular with CI5 personnel, though just that week a memo had been pinned to the notice board reminding agents of the dangers of being too predictable. Two months earlier there had been an attack on two agents in the Hare and Hounds pub, another CI5 haunt. Both men had been instrumental in the downfall of a powerful crime lord and one of them had killed the criminal's son when he had pulled a gun on them. Now one agent would be unfit for duty for another month. As for his partner, he was becoming more skilled at manoeuvring his wheelchair with each passing day and was a real asset in the computer section of Admin.

As a result, agents were careful to limit the number of their party and visits per month. So for the first time since starting their training (the second time for Murphy) four of Cowley's would-be finest entered the cosy traditional pub to find God was smiling on them - the place was wall-to-wall women.

Pete Bishop, red-haired, brown-eyed, thick-skinned and insatiable, whimpered once then went into action, offering a vague wave of farewell as he headed in the direction of black hair and big breasts.

"Damn. Was planning to con him into the first round. I'm a bit short this week," Jimmy Lawrence muttered dolefully. He turned hopeful blue eyes on Bodie.

Bodie took pity on him. "Go on, what are you having? And you, Murph. Place is packed so I'll get a couple of rounds in. Jimmy, you grab a table. Murphy, you're helping me with the drinks."

"Oh, Bodie, you're so masterful," Murphy fluted, making the other men laugh, and causing a couple of heads to turn sharply in their direction.

Leaving Jimmy to guard a miraculously free table and make a thorough inventory of the available talent, Bodie made his polite but inexorable way to the crowded bar. Flashing his most winning smile at the barmaid, he and Murphy were soon back at their table with the drinks. Jimmy was eyeing a petite blonde who was talking to some friends and indicating the watching man.

"Down, boy," Murphy commanded, slanting a sly, assessing look at the blonde and her friends. He looked around the crowded room, noting just how large a percentage was female. "Don't know what's so special about this place, never get this many women in one pub as a rule."

"Knew I was coming," Bodie suggested immodestly.

"What, in your trousers?" Murphy asked in a scandalised, and purposely loud, voice. The same heads that had turned earlier did so again, this time with company.

"Apparently some old lady does a spot of fortune telling," Jimmy informed them, valiantly ignoring the stares of the curious.

Bodie raised an eyebrow, managing to convey surprise, curiosity and scepticism, which was quite a feat. "Plays with her crystal ball does she?"

"I don't know about her personal habits but she does read cards and tea leaves. According to Carol," with a nod of his head Jimmy indicated the blonde he had continued to keep his eye on, "she's pretty good."

Murphy looked intrigued. "Who is? Carol? She'll be wasted on you then."

"I should get out of here," Bodie declared.

"Why's that? All these women make you nervous?" Murphy smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, we'll protect you."

"'s not that. You do realise Gypsy Rose Lee will be spouting the usual 'tall, dark 'n' handsome stranger' line, don't you? All these women will naturally think she means me." He examined Murphy from head to toe. "You'll be safe, mate."

Ignoring Murphy's indignant reply, Jimmy muttered, "Got to go, lads. Some toe-rag's eyeing up Carol." With a quick grin at the other two men, he left them and went over to stake his claim.

"I see it's not going to be the lads night out we had planned," Murphy sighed mournfully, his voice at odds with his expression as he spotted dark, long-lashed eyes looking his way.

"Go on, go for it. She doesn't look like she'll bite you but you can't have everything."

"In a minute, don't want to look too keen." He turned his attention to Bodie. "So, what do you think of this place? You haven't been here before, have you?"

"I missed that thrill. Seems popular enough. I take it you have?"

Murphy nodded. "Just the once with Doyle and Lawrence - we did our assessment together. It's all right here, nice and easy for the CI5 rabble to blend in. Just think, once training's over, we too can go into a place and spend half our time and attention on wondering whether it's safe, where the exits are, whether the shifty looking bloke in the white trench-coat and stupid hat really is a spy."

"Don't you do that already?" Bodie asked wryly. "Been spoilt, you have."

Murphy pulled a resigned face. "Be nice to go somewhere and not have your army training take over and turn a cosy restaurant into a potential deathtrap. Talk about a passion-killer."

"Wonder if it ever leaves - Will you look at that!" Bodie murmured with the kind of reverence usually reserved for the Turin Shroud.

She had just walked in and so, mercifully, hadn't been subjected to Pete Bishop's idea of flirtation. A voluptuous Amazon - breasts like that should have a Government Health Warning stamped on them, Bodie decided. She was easily the tallest woman in the place, with long legs - though he couldn't see much of them because of her long dress. A mane of golden curls framed her face like a halo - lovely. Pity the dress she was wearing was the most hideous shade of purple he'd ever seen. And orange platforms?

Behind the blonde he caught a glimpse of brown curls gleaming with reddish highlights - the blonde's friend perhaps? He couldn't see her face as she was hidden behind the statuesque woman. The blonde stepped aside just as the other woman turned to face the bar. Unlike the blonde she was dressed more casually in a silky looking green top and jeans that clung to every beautiful curve. The tight denim encased the most perfect rear he had ever seen, and those shapely legs were so long he didn't know whether he could scale them unaided, or if he should race home to fetch his ropes and pitons.

He'd always had a weakness for a great pair of legs and a gorgeous bum. The blonde temporarily forgotten, Bodie lusted happily from afar, oblivious of Murphy who had taken note of the blonde Bodie had pointed out and was following her progress with admiring comments. Several chat-up lines were considered then discarded. It didn't take long before Bodie had settled on one of his most tried and tested, and he was straightening his tie when the owner of the Most Perfect Arse in London (at the very least) turned round.

Bodie was lusting after Raymond Doyle.

Holy fucking shit.

Eyes were hastily averted as silent prayers went racing through his horrified, atheist mind that, please, God, don't let Doyle have caught him eyeing up his arse. Embarrassment didn't begin to describe it, he felt like he had when he was nine years old and his mum caught him giggling as he searched through a dictionary for rude words.

Of all people, Doyle!

He risked a quick glance in Doyle's direction to find he was once more facing the bar.

Safe, he permitted himself a quick glance, just to check his first impression hadn't been wrong. Christ, but he did have a nice arse. Pity it didn't have tits to match. Oh, yeah, and the other bits as well, of course. How the hell had he mistaken Doyle for a woman? So much for twenty-twenty vision.

Eyes still fixed on Doyle, he noticed he was looking at the tall blonde whom he'd been walking behind when he'd entered the pub. Doyle was practically salivating, which was hardly surprising as The Blonde Amazon was definitely the best looking woman in the place. And if Doyle wanted her, then naturally Bodie had to move in on her. His current girlfriend had been getting too possessive anyway.

As one they moved in on the target, Doyle unaware of Bodie or his intent, Bodie focussed on the woman but conscious of the other man's exact location. Doyle spotted him seconds before they both converged on the woman each man planned to seduce. His scowl was horrible to behold, but Bodie didn't flinch.

The woman looked startled at the abrupt appearance of the two men, but her rapid assessing gaze established several important facts - they were not about to attack her; they were not drunk; they were both very good-looking; and the dark-haired one was wearing an expensive suit, whilst the one with the curls was wearing the sort of tight jeans that had nuns weeping with regret and angels binning their halos.

And they were both gazing at her with lust in their eyes.

Thank God for Max Factor and birth control.

Both men smiled at her but instead of delivering their chat-up lines they locked eyes with each other.

"Doyle. Didn't expect to see you here. Thought you'd be home with the wife and kids."

"I suppose I'll have to tell my sister I saw you out on the prowl again. Least you could do is wait until after the baby's born, you know how upset she gets."

The Blonde was eyeing them both with rather less favour. Bodie concluded that he could either continue with this game or let the woman decide who she wanted. Did he really fear Doyle as competition?

"Sorry, love, we're always like this, teasing each other. Aren't we, mate?" Christ, saying 'mate' almost choked Bodie. Doyle had better play along or he'd bloody well swing for him.

"That's right. Can't resist. Just like I couldn't resist coming over here to find out your name. Not often we get someone as attractive as you in here."

Oh, God, he was going to be sick! The fact that Doyle had just used the very line he had planned to use was beside the point. Bodie viewed the other man's smile with distaste, knowing how calculated it was for all its apparent warmth. And the silly cow was falling for it. Time to move in.

Doyle had a chipped tooth, he observed absently.

"I think it's about time we introduced ourselves. That's Raymond Doyle," he said, casually flicking a finger - the middle one - in the other man's direction. "And I'm Bodie." He gave her his most charming smile and was gratified to see the warmth of her answering smile.

"I'm Clare. Clare Evans."

Determined to hold her attention, he took the hand she held out to him and raised it to his lips. He made it an elegant but casual gesture, ignoring Doyle's derisive snort, certain that Clare would find it charming. The look of delight on her face confirmed his assessment - she probably read Barbara Cartland novels. The quick all-over glance which put a gleam in her eyes was not due to the influence of flowery Romances, and was pleasing if not unexpected. After all, thought Bodie, he was wearing an expensive suit.

He was taking a risk but he chanced leaving her with Doyle anyway. "You must be thirsty. Can I get you a drink?"

"A Babycham would be lovely."

He just managed to prevent his nose from wrinkling in distaste. He almost said 'a lovely drink for a lovely lady' but some things you just can't lie about, and seeing Doyle's disgusted scowl made up his mind to keep his mouth shut. He saw the moment Doyle realised he was leaving them alone, the scowl replaced by a predatory smile.

Perhaps he was making a tactical error?

Bodie managed to get served in record time, earning several irate glares as he left the bar, then headed towards Doyle and Clare. He was annoyed to see the other man had managed to make her laugh, but consoled himself with the thought that maybe she was laughing herself sick at Curly Top's pathetic lines. Doyle couldn't be that accomplished if he hadn't managed to whisk Clare away in his absence.

Doyle was pleased to see Bodie's frown when he saw them laughing, and he moved a little closer to Clare to give an impression of intimacy. He watched as Bodie's lips tightened then thrust out in a pout that held Doyle's gaze. The peculiar eyebrows were drawn down, like birds wings, hovering over the stormy blue eyes.

Where the hell had that fanciful notion come from? wondered Doyle.

Doyle cast the thought aside, focussing on his current displeasure. He had tried to put Clare off Bodie by delicately hinting that gentleman was into S and M and bondage. Instead of shock and hoped for revulsion she had grinned hugely, then proceeded to relate the story of how she had handcuffed her boyfriend to the bed, and was in the middle of spanking him when his mother had walked in with a pot of tea she had made for them. What had happened next was a mystery as yet as Clare had broken into hysterical laughter, that veered from high-pitched squeals to donkey-like braying. It was annoying him intensely and prior to Bodie's return he'd been looking around for alternative talent and had spotted a petite, demure-looking brunette who probably thought S 'n' M was a small town in Northamptonshire.

"There you go." Bodie passed the Babycham to Clare then sipped at his scotch.

"Didn't you get your friend a drink?"

"Yeah. Where's mine, mate?"

Like taking sweets from a baby, Bodie thought gleefully. He assumed an embarrassed look, appearing to be uncomfortable with the question. "Ray, please."

Doyle looked wary. "What is it?"

Bodie sighed, careful not to overdo it. He edged nearer to Doyle, knowing full well that Clare would be straining to overhear their conversation. "You promised you'd limit yourself, gave your word. Please, Ray, don't spoil this evening. You know you don't need it, not really."

It didn't take Doyle long to realise what the other man was insinuating - Bodie was hardly being subtle. "I can handle my booze!" he snapped, then saw his mistake when the warmth faded from Clare's eyes. Alcoholics denied their addiction, he knew that, and apparently so did Clare. "He's just joking," Doyle explained, but he knew it was a lost cause. Sod it, he'd lost interest anyway.

Doyle threw a fierce glare in Bodie's direction, but not possessing Gorgon powers it was a wasted effort. "I'll leave you two to it. See you around, Clare. Bodie." With dignity he left, his chin tilted at a somewhat defiant angle. A minute or so later he heard braying laughter and he allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction. Without looking around he knew Bodie winced. Happy once more he headed for the brunette who had just cold-shouldered Pete Bishop.

Bodie had seen Clare laughing, but the noise of the pub crowd had drowned out the sound. Now he was hearing her laughter in all its equine glory.

Oh God, he thought hysterically, I'm chatting up Mister Ed!

Still, so long as he didn't make her laugh, it would be okay. After all, sex didn't have to include giggling and laughter. She seemed relaxed, had waved briefly at some friends he guessed she was supposed to be meeting. They were watching them intently - watching him he realised self-consciously, thankful he was past the age of blushing - and he felt it was time to move on to the next stage.

He proposed moving on to somewhere a little more intimate and she smiled her agreement. With Clare waving an enthusiastic farewell to her friends and himself feeling like a trophy - wasn't this supposed to work the other way around? - he avoided meeting the eyes of the group of laughing, teasing women who were bidding Clare goodbye and eased her towards the exit. He looked about for Murphy and the other lads but they were all fully occupied. Then he noticed Doyle was leaving a pretty brunette and heading for the bar, presumably to get her a drink.

It was irresistible.

"Excuse me, love, but I've just spotted my cousin. I'll only be a second."

He left Clare near the exit and walked over to the brunette, pasting a concerned look on his face. "Excuse me. I know you don't know me but I saw you talking to Ray just now."

"Are you a friend of his?" She smiled, leaving Bodie unsure as to whether he still preferred blondes.

"Not exactly. I'm his brother-in-law."

She nodded towards the tall blonde woman standing near the exit, whom she had seen Doyle talking to earlier. "Oh, is that his sister?"

"No. Oh, God, how can I say this?" He tried for a tortured look and saw she was looking concerned so he down-played it a little. "Ray is married to my sister."

"Married!"

"I swore I wouldn't interfere, Trish made me promise, but what would you do if your sister was pregnant and - ?"

"I don't want to hear anymore." There was pain and anger in her voice and Bodie felt the briefest stab of remorse. "He'll be back in a minute. If that bastard's going to cheat on his wife it won't be with me. You know, I noticed a couple of rings on a chain round his neck."

"Engagement rings."

"That's what he said. Said both had been a long time ago but he still carried them as a reminder of how beautiful love could be. I thought it was ever so romantic."

"Trophies of past girlfriends. He wears them to taunt my sister," Bodie bit out, his voice choking on the words in the most fetching manner.

"You'd better go, I don't want him to know you've spoken to me. I have some pride."

"All right. I'm so sorry. But I think it's wonderful of you, many women wouldn't have your principles. A pleasure meeting you."

Seeing Doyle was still occupied at the bar, he leaned forward and placed a chaste little peck on the brunette's cheek. Brimming with glee, he returned to an impatient Clare. He managed to wait until they were outside before he started laughing.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE

 

As Doyle, boneless from a good night's sleep, automatically reached for his morning erection, the events of last night came crashing back, ruining his ease.

Bastard, thought Doyle. Bastard! Yeah, even better with the exclamation mark.

Bloody Bastard Bodie!

The woman he'd had his eye on, Sarah, had liked Mozart, motorbikes and French wine, he'd managed to learn that much about her before he'd gone to fetch her a drink. Pretty and sweet and just what he needed after splitting up with Lisa.

He'd left her for less than five minutes - five bloody minutes! - and when he'd returned she'd been eyeing him as if she'd just discovered walking, talking faecal matter. What had she said? Oh, yeah: 'Men like you make me sick. You think you can use women however you want to, that all you have to do is unzip your pants and we should be grateful'.

Then she'd said something about there being some decent men around. And he'd known what had happened.

Doyle stroked his palm along the underside of his erection, as if this could soothe the anger inside him.

He'd liked her, even if she was gullible, so he'd made an effort to explain, though when she'd asked him for the second time about the engagement rings he wore on a chain around his neck he'd known from the expression in her eyes he was sunk. Then to make matters worse two of her male friends had come over, asking if she was all right - as if he'd just molested her or something! So he'd asked them, politely of course, to mind their own business.

Luckily the glass had only emptied its contents all over his face and down his new shirt and hadn't smashed. Be nice trying to explain a second busted cheekbone to Cowley.

Something would have to be done about Bodie. Thinking of Bodie pulled the knot of tension in his belly tighter and he pulled more firmly on himself, focussing on the sensation. Oh, yeah. He'd teach the bugger a lesson. There were many ways you could humiliate someone. He'd have him on his knees, begging for forgiveness. Feeling a strong pulse of pleasure, Doyle went with the thought, playing with images. Yeah, on his knees and completely at the mercy of Ray Doyle. Bodie was such an arrogant prick. How bloody perfect it would be to wipe the sneer off his face. That mouth would do more than pout when Doyle shoved his cock between Bodie's lips.

A fierce throb of arousal took Doyle by surprise, making him groan out loud.

Bodie forced to suck him off, his mouth so warm and wet, forced to pleasure him but always that hint of threat, the occasional brush of teeth across sensitive flesh.

Pleasure grew stronger, Doyle's breathe quickening as he paused to lap at his palm, making it moist, enjoying the salt taste of his own skin. Taking himself in hand again, the slickness of saliva and the startlingly clear image of Bodie, moaning, as he deep-throated Doyle was too much. With a power that he had rarely experienced in his life he came, his shout of pleasure seeming to echo in the small bedroom.

Lazily smearing semen across his still twitching cock and lower belly, Doyle grinned to himself, a catlike quality to his expression. Oh yeah, that would teach Bodie, Doyle mused. Hard to look superior with a mouthful of cock. Pity he'd have to think of some other form of revenge but the idea alone had given great satisfaction.

Whistling to himself, Doyle headed for the shower.

 

From the sound of things Bodie was clearly in his element, no doubt making the rest of the men green with envy as he made Clare sound like a cross between Wonder Woman and Dolly Parton.

Doyle unclenched his fists but could only achieve partial success when schooling his features, managing to change a ferocious scowl to cold indifference before he entered the rest room.

Bodie saw him enter immediately, had probably been watching out for him.

"Hello, Doyle. I see you're looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, not like this bunch of reprobates. Had a good night's sleep did you?"

Doyle was going to kill him. Some dark alley on a rainy night, when the streets were silent and deserted, with no witnesses. Perhaps just enough light to see the corpse. Strangulation would be nice.

Then Doyle recalled his fantasy of this morning.

The glare slipped away, replaced by a strange glint in his eyes and the smallest of smiles. To Doyle's great glee he saw he was making Bodie uneasy.

Pushing the advantage, Doyle stepped closer, a little too close for Bodie's comfort, his breathe whispering against the other man's ear as he murmured, "A very good night's sleep. But the morning was fucking fantastic, thanks to you, you cunt."

Leaving behind a clearly startled Bodie, Doyle headed over to the kettle.

"What the 'ell's up with 'im?" Doyle heard Eddie Jackson mutter, and was surprised when Bodie gave no reply. He glanced around at the other men and was further surprised that not one face bore signs of amusement at his expense.

So, for reasons of his own, Bodie hadn't made his 'victory' over Doyle known. Which suggested that he wanted to keep their ... differences between themselves. Fine, he would prefer it that way, though it wasn't what he'd expected of Bodie. He drank tea, the memory of his morning fantasy warming him more than the weak brew.

Seeing Murphy heading towards him, wearing his purposeful face, Doyle groaned inwardly. Murphy was a good man, he knew that despite a mere three weeks acquaintance, and he was sorry he'd cold-shouldered him after he spoke to Bodie, but the last thing he wanted was the lecture on how they could all be best mates if only they would try. It would be impossible to explain to Murphy, who was so bloody nice he probably thought Jack the Ripper had some redeeming qualities, that something about Bodie made him feel defensive and want to lash out. A pity cat o' nine tails were illegal.

Still trying to make sense of what Doyle had said and the peculiar expression on the man's face, Bodie found himself distracted by, of all things, the memory of whatever scent he had picked up from Doyle. Cheap cologne, he told himself. Doyle was looking far too pleased with himself so the bastard had probably managed to score despite Bodie's best efforts. Seeing Murphy had a purposeful look on his face as he headed towards Doyle he stifled a grin. Clearly Doyle was about to get the 'let's all be friends' lecture.

Temporary salvation for Doyle came in the unprepossessing form of Pete Bishop: "Five to nine, ladies."

"Oh, joy. We've got Rigby this morning. More bloody bandaging," Leslie Howard grumbled, heading the mass exodus. He saw Doyle was striding along next to him and cleared his throat, hands thrusting inside his pants pockets. "Nearly fell asleep last time," he said, eyeing Doyle in a wary fashion as if uncertain what the man would do.

"Probably part of the training - see how long you can stay awake. Rigby's probably Cowley's secret weapon," Doyle offered, smiling. Though his gaze was on Howard, he was acutely aware of Bodie's eyes on him. His pulse quickened, senses heightening, almost as if he was about to go on a dangerous op.

Totally engrossed in watching Doyle, Bodie didn't notice Murphy coming up behind him.

"Bodie, wait up."

Feeling prickly and on edge and not fully understanding why, Bodie turned from his surreptitious study of Doyle to the man walking behind him. He waited for Murphy to draw level before continuing the short walk to the medical lab.

"What's the matter with Doyle?" Murphy asked.

"No idea."

"Don't give me that!" There was an impatient note in Murphy's voice. "I saw him last night at The Red Lion, heard he got into a bit of a scuffle. Did you two have a row?"

"I spoke to him briefly, that's all. Look, Murph, if Doyle doesn't want to play friends, that's his choice."

"If you two would - "

"Give it a rest, eh? Now how did it go with that girl last night?"

Reluctant to press when Bodie was so obviously not amenable, Murphy replied, "Jenny? She's a nice girl."

"Nice? Ah, you mean you didn't score." He smiled at Murphy's expression. "Don't pull that prudish face - the wind might change direction and make it stick like that. Then you won't be able to pull any girls, nice or otherwise."

"I take it you struck gold with the blonde then? Heard a lot about what she looked like ..."

"A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell. Just as well, would make your hair curl, and I wouldn't want you trying to kill me in a fit of jealousy."

Murphy shook his head. "I don't love you that much, mate." Hearing Bodie's snort of amusement, he mentally chalked up one-nil to himself.

By the end of the day Doyle had decided death wasn't enough for Bodie. Eternal damnation, burning in the fiery pits of Hell, harpies pecking at his liver (he'd request a front row seat) - that would do it. Possibly. Failing that he'd just have to settle for torturing the bastard. Until he screamed. Then jumping up and down on the still-warm corpse. In his heeled boots.

With spurs on.

Unfortunately society had rules forbidding that sort of thing (unless you paid enough for it and had connections) though Doyle was sure that if the judge had met Bodie he would get away with a few hours community service.

Sod that, he'd probably get a medal.

Doyle managed to keep his murderous impulses in check, which impressed the hell out of him and made him wonder whether he should pack in CI5 for sainthood. Slinging his jacket over his shoulder, he nodded farewell to the blessed individuals who happened to catch his eye, then headed for the car park.

His bike wouldn't start.

The blood-curdling cry made the man watching from the doorway smile. Then he patted the small but vital object resting in his breast pocket before heading for his Cortina.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR

 

The day dawned bright, the air amazingly clean(ish) and crisp considering it was the middle of London, and birdsong almost triumphed over the traffic noise - there were advantages to living next to a park. Doyle set off on his morning run, to clear his head, work his muscles, and unknowingly give the old dear who lived across the road her thrill for the day. He ran easily, enjoying the sunshine, feeling refreshed after seven hours unbroken sleep. A severe lecture from himself had convinced him that murdering Bodie was not worth his being kicked out of CI5 before he'd even fully got in.

After a quick look at his bike he'd located the problem. He suspected - no, he knew - that Bodie had a hand in it but he was not going to get riled. Oh no. In fact, he had bumped into a friend that he'd lost touch with, had mentioned the bike, and it turned out that the man was selling a Norton that was sorely in need of parts and a fair bit of tinkering. Doyle had made an offer and was soon to be its proud owner. He'd have it fixed up in no time, could work on it at weekends and during his spare time. Really, he should be grateful to Bodie ...

Then again maybe not.

But it was a beautiful morning. It made him feel mellow.

Time to let bygones be bygones and all that. Murphy and the other lads seemed to think Bodie was all right.

Even Ghengis Khan must have had his good points.

Giving a cheerful smile to the old lady watching him, who must be a keen gardener since she was always fiddling about with her privets even at this early hour, Doyle headed back to his bedsit. A shower, toast and muesli, a blast of Mozart and a quick look at the clean sock situation and he was ready to face anything, even the Tube and an annoying Bodie.

And so to work.

 

Despite his resolution, when faced with the reality that was Bodie, Doyle found it almost impossible to relax. He was acutely conscious of the man, aware that Bodie was reacting in the same way to his presence. It was as if they were two tomcats on the boundaries of their respective territories, ears back, tails twitching, waiting for the other to make the wrong move and cross the line.

What made Doyle particularly uncomfortable was the feeling that Bodie didn't think the score was even. Both the incident at the Red Lion and the bike had been private and he was sure that Bodie would want to exact a public revenge. And from the way the other men were watching them it was clear they were waiting for something to happen too.

He was gone a minute. One lousy minute to answer a call of nature and he had left his bag behind. Then they were in the gym changing room, the very one that had witnessed the itching powder incident. He pulled his shorts and T-shirt out of his bag ... and the bra and matching panties fell to the floor.

Evans spotted them before he could shove them back in his bag.

"Bloody 'ell! What you got there, Doyle?"

Naturally every head swivelled in Doyle's direction. And the whistles and catcalls started.

"Oh very nice. Go on, Doyle, stick 'em on an' give us a twirl!"

"Bra's a bit big but the knickers look about right."

"Pink's not your colour, love."

"Give us a kiss, darlin'!"

Doyle counted to ten before he headed towards Bodie, the offending garments hanging from one finger. As Doyle approached Bodie stood up, eyes wary despite his smug triumphant smile.

Doyle resisted the urge to smash Bodie's teeth in. "I believe these belong to you." His eyebrows raised, Bodie's expression was one of supreme hauteur and distaste. "Mine? Pink lace? Not my sort of thing. If you're sure you don't want them any more," he threw them at the closely watching, serious-faced Murphy, "I'm sure they'll look a treat on our Murph." He locked eyes with Doyle, seemingly oblivious as a loudly protesting Murphy was stripped of his shirt and his arms pulled through lacy bra straps.

Doyle saw satisfaction in the blue eyes. He saw wariness. And he saw the question, could almost swear he heard the words in his head, as Bodie asked if things were now even.

Doyle smiled. Not on your bloody life, he thought. And when he saw the other man's eyes narrow and the lips tighten, he was sure Bodie had received the message loud and clear.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

 

Over the next six days the men were split up. Each man was paired with a seasoned agent and sent on a variety of assignments including Embassy visits, court hearings, security at social functions, sorting files - in fact the sort of deadly dull routine jobs they would encounter after training was complete.

Bodie was paired with Tommy McKay. By the end of the first day, having discovered how alike they were in some respects, they had naturally formed a mutual dislike for one another. McKay thought Bodie a cocky bastard with too much self assurance, far too much confidence in his own abilities and too little in everyone else's. Bodie's feelings ran along similar lines with the added suspicion that Tommy was about as sane as a barrel full of March hares.

Apparently Tommy and his brother, Chris, had joined CI5 at the same time. Being the elder of the two, Chris was known as McKay and his younger brother, Thomas, was generally known as Tommy. After Chris and his parents were killed by a terrorist bomb, Tommy had gone off the rails.

Supposedly he was back on track. Yet now he was known as Shotgun Tommy, more for his hair trigger insanity than his marksmanship.

This was hardly reassuring.

As a trainee agent, Bodie was not permitted to carry a firearm in public. So it was that day two found an unarmed Bodie with a knife held at his throat, all because Shotgun Tommy's method of questioning lacked a certain something - tact for one thing. Then he had the gall to claim he knew the man they were questioning would react violently and he had wanted to see if Bodie could handle himself. If it had been almost anyone else, Bodie wouldn't have believed them and would have thought this a poor excuse for mishandling a situation. But Shotgun Tommy? The mad bastard was probably telling the truth.

Day three found Bodie deciding he rather liked the idea of working solo.

Day four found Bodie partnered with Taylor. The man ate pomegranates with a safety pin and had liver sausage sandwiches for lunch.

Bodie disliked him. A lot. He didn't bother to hide the fact.

Day five found a change of plan. Instead of a further two days with Taylor, who had suddenly and mysteriously taken ill, Bodie was placed with Lake, whose partner, Williams, was in hospital having his appendix out. Apart from an annoying tendency to pick his nose and comb his hair every five minutes, Lake was all right - for the first two hours. That was when Bodie discovered he hummed - off-key. Bodie developed an aversion to Abba, or what he took to be Abba. It could just as easily have been the William Tell Overture.

Sunday finally arrived, truly a day of rest as he'd gently given Clare the elbow. She was beautiful - but having sex with someone who put you in mind of Champion the Wonder Horse every time you got to a ticklish spot was affecting his performance. Monday signalled a return to work and more lectures. And more of Ray Doyle.

For the first time in a week Bodie's lips curved up in a genuine smile.

 

If Doyle never saw another Embassy again he would be a very happy man. Having to wear a penguin suit at a boring dinner hosted by some boring old fart for a load of other boring old farts did not make his top ten list of fun things to do. At least it had made a change from lectures. Still it was good to be back with the other trainees - it meant he didn't have to go around with Pembridge or Fielding, both men having struck him as being dull prats of the first degree. Being back also meant Bodie.

Doyle allowed himself an evil little smile. He was tempted to cackle.

If he'd had a moustache he'd have twirled it.

He checked his bag again just to make sure everything was there.

Time to carry out his plan.

 

Doyle was staring at him and there was the tiniest of smiles playing across his lips. Bodie knew not to trust that smile. It meant trouble.

Bodie smiled back. After McKay, Taylor and Lake, seeing Doyle was almost a pleasure. Almost. Obviously the little sod was planning something. There was a tiny and no doubt masochistic part of him that was actually looking forward to seeing what Doyle would come up with. Perhaps Shotgun Tommy's insanity was catching because in some strange way he was enjoying the conflict, as if he and Doyle were playing a game that excluded everyone else. He suspected Doyle felt the same.

The tiny smile grew into an evil grin. Bodie wasn't sure if this was an improvement but he liked to think so.

Then again some people like to think dogs can laugh - often just before they get bitten.

 

Doyle left the locker room feeling very pleased with himself. Obtaining the items had caused some small embarrassment but would ultimately be worth it. He ducked around a corner when he heard the others approaching, joining the group at the rear once they had passed. Within seconds someone noticed the strange sound that was coming from the direction of the lockers. Mitchell put his ear to each locker in turn; Doyle wanted to shove him in the right direction but managed to hide his impatience.

"It's coming from your locker, Bodie," Mitchell announced.

Bodie was glaring at him suspiciously but Doyle merely raised his eyebrows and tried to look innocent.

"Well aren't you going to open it then?" asked Howard, not unreasonably.

Murphy's eyes were in Wimbledon mode, switching back and forth between the two players.

"There's something in there. Maybe we should call security."

"Oh, for Christ's sake!" Bodie pushed his way forward and dealt with the lock, slamming the door back so the other men could see inside his locker. He had obviously had his suspicions but he was clearly unprepared for the sight that greeted him.

As Bodie had guessed, there was a large vibrator busily buzzing away. What he wasn't prepared for were the gay porn mags, posters of naked body-builders, flourescent inflated condoms and studded leather collar and chain.

Bodie could feel himself gaping and he shut his mouth with an audible snap. It was then he saw that Doyle had stuck a photo of Cowley onto the poster of the naked bodybuilder. He choked back a laugh and strove for a glare which he directed at Doyle.

Doyle gazed back and looked as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.

Bodie felt something spark between them, a flash of understanding and some strange emotion that flooded him with warmth. The air around him suddenly seemed thick, difficult to draw into his lungs. His skin prickled as beads of sweat sprung up and the pulse in his throat began to beat so strongly he thought it might choke him.

Startled, Bodie had to look away, the sudden current between himself and Doyle confusing him. Only then did he take in the comments directed at him, meant to embarrass him further but more remarkable for their unoriginality. He cast another glare in Doyle's direction.

Doyle had raised his eyebrows enquiringly.

Bodie denied the existence of the surprising and unwelcome connection between them whilst not questioning the certainty that Doyle would hear his unspoken message. The words dropped loud and clear in Doyle's mind: Just you wait!

Giving a nod in acknowledgement, Doyle hoped his smile didn't look as inane as it felt.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

 

As the end of training approached things started to get intense, but only so far as the programme was concerned. Feelings and relationships had to take a back seat, the men too busy moaning about the sadism of CI5 trainers to bicker amongst themselves.

Cowley himself made a rare appearance to give the men a pep talk and to outline their future role within the organisation. The majority would find themselves in the B Squad, particularly those who were married or had family responsibilities. Cowley emphasised there would be no shame in this, that each man had his job to do and that they were a team. A minority, those who showed exceptional promise, would be put in the A Squad, usually paired. The teams would be announced at the end of the week.

The emphasis now was on physical skills, with the men being run through practice situations known as 'raids' - parts of the training area were made to look like whatever was required, whether that be offices, a lab, or the interior of a house, inside of which life-size silhouettes representing targets or civilians were placed. The two-man teams had to agree on a plan of action then try to disable as many targets - and preferably as few civilians - as possible.

The men were paired at least once with each other. Twice Bodie was paired with Murphy, which he saw as a good sign since his original impression of Murphy as a good man had remained unchanged.

Twice Bodie was paired with Doyle, which he saw as a form of punishment, despite the temporary cessation of hostilities - he was sure it wouldn't last long and he had half convinced himself that the strange spark or warmth or whatever the hell it had been had never happened.

He was forced to revise his initial impression of Doyle - he was cool under pressure, deadly with small arms, had the speed, agility and reflexes of a cat and was a hell of a lot stronger than Bodie had imagined. Then the end was in sight, reports were sent to Cowley and, for the men, it was back to lectures.

Bodie started plotting.

 

***

 

The gym that had witnessed the itching powder and underwear incidents slowly emptied as the soon-to-be agents drifted off towards the showers. Doyle grabbed his towel and shampoo and claimed one of the few showers that ran a constant stream of hot water. He closed his eyes and delighted in the almost sensual feel of the water as it pattered against his head and shoulders, trickling down his neck, chest and groin. He took his time, knowing he had twenty minutes before the lecture started. He tuned out the noise around him and let his thoughts drift.

As usual he found himself pondering on the enigma that was Bodie. The locker joke had happened over a week ago yet Bodie had made no move to exact revenge. This puzzled him though he wasn't so complacent as to think the other man would decide to call it quits. He was also puzzled by Bodie's behaviour. There had been something, a feeling of ... he had felt ... What could he call that sense of knowing another's thoughts and feelings? Empathy? For a brief moment he had felt linked to the man he had detested on sight, and however unnatural or bizarre that sounded he had enjoyed it. He had seen a look on Bodie's face, in his eyes, that had made him think Bodie had felt that same spark too. Then the expression had become closed. Now, though Bodie seemed more relaxed when he was around, had even smiled at him when they had got top marks when teamed together on the 'raids', there was still the strangest feeling that Bodie was cutting him off.

Doyle wasn't certain but he suspected Bodie thought he was still holding a grudge. He could hardly blame him, he had been furious with Bodie after their fight, had believed he wanted Bodie kicked off the training programme. And now? While his feelings on the subject of Bodie were confusing, so confusing in fact that he preferred not to examine them too closely, he had passed through the stage of wanting revenge. He was aware that he rarely forgot a grievance but vindictiveness was not in his nature. He had enjoyed playing the jokes on Bodie but he found that he rather liked the idea of a truce. Indeed he liked the idea almost as much as he enjoyed that prickling awareness of Bodie that ...

What a peculiar thought. It was true though, it was that very awareness that had enabled them to get top marks when they were teamed together. As for the rest of the time, all this week when he had been awaiting Bodie's next move he had been on tenterhooks, constantly alert. Though it hadn't been the most relaxing of times, he had enjoyed it in the same way he delighted in the adrenaline rush he felt before a tough physical challenge, that rush that made him feel alive.

If he was entirely honest with himself it was precisely what he needed to get over Lisa. Five months he had gone out with her, four and a half of which he was convinced he was in love, three months of which she had lived with him. They had split up two weeks before his CI5 assessment, four weeks before he met Bodie on the training course. He had been down, a little depressed, yet since his fight with Bodie he had hardly given Lisa a thought. Perhaps some good had come out of his antipathy for Bodie? Perhaps more good was yet to come?

He made up his mind - there'd be a truce whether Bodie wanted one or not.

He found he was whistling as he opened his bottle of shampoo. He tried to put a name to the tune as he washed his hair then wondered why on earth he was thinking of Lisa again. He tried to think whether the song was connected to her and drew a blank. Then he realised there was a strange but familiar smell very close by. He lowered his hands, noisily sniffing at them. Picking up the bottle of shampoo he inhaled its scent. Puzzled, he examined the label - definitely his. He realised the smell reminded him of Lisa. But why? Her shampoo? The thought of hair certainly rang a bell.

Doyle's stomach lurched sickeningly, his throat closing up with terror. Oh, Christ, no.

No!

Cutting off the tiny sound of horror, he reached over to grab someone else's shampoo, ignoring their mild protest.

Ohchristohchristoh ... Christ!

Smell. Lisa. Legs. Hair. Hair remover.

He scrubbed at his hair frantically, choking on his anger and fear and desperation, his hands shaking as he poured yet more of Mitchell's shampoo on his precious curls. They were washed and carefully blow-dried every other day because he knew women loved them, loved to run their fingers through them and snuggle their faces into them after making love. Even when he hadn't had enough sleep and his face looked horrible to his own eyes, if he wore the right clothes and his hair looked good he could have his pick of any woman he wanted. And Bodie, the bastard, must have known his weakness. Oh shit, was it his imagination or was his hair loose?

He could hear laughter and he was certain it was Bodie, Bodie laughing at him because he knew what Doyle had always believed despite his seeming self-confidence, that without his hair he would just be a good though somewhat lean body topped by a battered face with an ugly broken cheekbone, too-big eyes, a chipped tooth and a girlish mouth.

Finally sure that his hair was thoroughly rid of the hair remover and not about to fall out in handfuls, Doyle raised his head and met curious blue eyes. The terror had passed, the sickness in his stomach replaced by a tight burning sensation as fury started coursing through him, making his muscles tense and almost blinding him. Still wet and covered with soap he let out a terrible inhuman howl and threw himself at Bodie.

Bodie had been prepared for attack but he had not reckoned on such fury or speed. Before he could raise a hand to defend himself he was borne down to the floor.

Doyle's fingers clawed at the cropped dark hair, vainly trying to gain purchase so he could smash Bodie's head through the tiled floor. Failing that, he rained punches across the too-handsome face, in his anger seeing mockery where in fact there was astonishment. He felt Bodie writhe beneath him, felt intense heat where bare flesh met bare flesh. Half crazed, he wrapped his fingers round the strong throat, feeling an animalistic need to brand that pale flesh with his teeth. Then hands were pulling at him, pulling him away from Bodie, and he roared out a protest, fighting to free himself of the restraining hands so he could once again cover that body with his own, feel that strength, that flesh, vulnerable and at his mercy.

Macklin was saying something but the words were very distant. A towel was shoved in his hands and he was pulled towards the changing room. He tugged his arm free, stalking off to get dried and put on his clothes, knowing that if he looked back at Bodie nothing would stop him from resuming his attack. He scrubbed at his body as if he could rid himself of the anger that continued to eat at his insides like acid. Wiping his chest, a clump of hair came away and he tensed. He brushed at his chest hair and was horrified when more fell away. Most of it had remained unscathed but there was now a circular patch where some of the hair remover had dripped down and had been shielded from the water by his down-bent head.

Almost, Doyle headed back to the showers but he had by now regained some degree of self-control and he knew giving in to his impulse would be incredibly stupid.

Macklin came over, his gaze taking in the hairless patch of skin on Doyle's chest. "Get yourself over to the rest room then outside Cowley's office in half an hour." Macklin walked off without waiting for a reply; not that Doyle had one.

Oh, shit. What the hell would Cowley say?

 

Bodie walked down the corridor towards the room that was currently Cowley's office, reflecting upon the fact that this third visit would mean it was twice he had been here to receive a reprimand. However, instead of worrying about Cowley's probable reaction he found his thoughts kept returning to the scene that had happened just forty minutes earlier. He was still in something of a state of shock. The intensity of Doyle's anger had taken him by surprise. Bodie was stunned to find that, having achieved his goal, which was to make Doyle lose his temper, the most prominent feeling he had was of regret; and, surprisingly, more a regret for what might have been than for what he had done.

He gave his neck an absent scratch and prodded the strips of surgical tape on his cheek. So much for victory and sweet revenge; it left a sour taste. And a headache. For the first time it occurred to him that the rewards might have been sweeter if he had declared a truce after Doyle had planted the stuff in his locker.

After the locker incident he had felt something akin to relief that they could go from trying to kill each other to playing harmless practical jokes. They had worked well together on the 'raids' and while Doyle would never make it into his Top Ten list of Favourite People, he had learned to respect the man. He had even thought there might be hope of them learning to get along. Judging by the look on Doyle's face in the showers that hope was in ashes.

He reached Cowley's office and knocked on the door, wincing at the amount of ice that could be held in a simple command to enter.

He gave his itching neck a final scratch and went inside.

Doyle was already there, the air of defiance suggesting he had been kept waiting and had yet to receive a reprimand. Cowley looked up at Bodie's arrival, immediately putting down the papers he was reading. This was not a good sign.

Cowley removed his glasses, all the better to direct the flaming arrows in his glare. "I have just been informed of your behaviour," he began, his voice low, each word spoken slowly and carefully but with an edge that suggested a terrible anger. He stood up, arms braced on the desk as though he needed that wooden barrier to prevent murder. "You were warned a month ago that I would not tolerate a repeat of your previous behaviour. Yet here you are. Again. You both appear to think you are somehow indispensable. Is that right, Bodie?"

He should say no, grovel a bit then shut up. He should. "It was my fault, sir."

"Was it indeed?" Cowley noted the angry glare Doyle threw at the other man. "And I suppose those bruises and that black eye were self-inflicted?"

"I hit him, first and last. Bodie didn't raise a fist."

"Only because I didn't have a chance to," Bodie shot back, unaware that Cowley was watching them closely, a keen look in his eye.

Doyle stepped towards the bigger man, practically nose to nose with the other trainee agent as he thrust his face into Bodie's and snarled, "Shut it. It was my fault."

"And you of course were the one who poured the shampoo down the sink and put the hair remover in the bottle."

"If I hadn't had my head in the clouds I'd've twigged what it was before I put the bloody stuff on my hair!"

"If - " Bodie began but was silenced by the hand that slammed down on the desk. Startled, he looked at Cowley.

"By God, you two are pushing your luck! It takes twice as long to train one of my men as one airline pilot. And look at you! The cream of the armed forces and police to choose from and I pick a pair of fools who act like squabbling children. I should let you go."

Cowley moved from behind his desk and came to a stand before the two men who were standing closely next to one another. Fixing his glare on first one man then the other, he continued in a quieter voice, "Oh, yes. I should let you go. But you'll not get off that easily. This department has put a lot of time, money and effort into you. It's time you made that money worthwhile. I said I'd be splitting the group up into pairs. Well you two hotheads will be the first. I'm teaming you up. With each other."

The Controller noticed Doyle's start of surprise. "Yes, Doyle, that's right. You and Bodie will be partners. You'll be a team. You'll work together as a unit. Or else." He directed a fierce glare in Bodie's direction. "And believe me you wouldn't like 'or else'. Now get out of my sight, the pair of you. You can ask one of your colleagues for notes from this afternoon's lecture later on. Right now I want you to think over what I've said and be back here in half an hour."

"Sir."

"Yes, sir."

Chastened and in a mild state of shock the two men left the office. By unspoken agreement they headed for the agents' rest room, which was mercifully empty of agents when they entered. Doyle went to stand by the window. Looking preoccupied, Bodie filled the kettle and switched it on then moved dirty mugs in an aimless fashion.

It was Bodie who broke the silence. "Teamed."

"Yeah." Doyle continued to stare out of the window.

Rubbing at his throat, Bodie sighed noisily. "Look, we have to work together whether we want to or not, right? Personally I'd rather have my back guarded by a rabid Alsatian."

Doyle bristled and his head whipped round to face Bodie. "You think I can't watch your back?"

"Let's just say I'd rather it was watched by someone who's not just as likely to stick a bullet in it as the people we're after."

"So you're sayin' I can't be trusted!" Doyle snapped.

"No!" Bodie took a calming breath. "Look, let's say we make an agreement. You watch out for me and I'll make sure nothing hurts so much as a single curl on - "

"Shut up about my hair!" Doyle snarled, turning from the window to face the other man. "Don't go thinkin' I'll forget about that bloody hair remover any time soon!"

"Look, I'm sorry, okay? It was meant as a joke an' I wish I hadn't done it. I thought you'd catch the stink of it and if I'd known how bleedin' touchy about - "

"You knew how I'd react!" Doyle left his position by the window and strode over towards Bodie, coming to a halt less than a foot away, fists clenched at his sides.

Bodie ignored the threat of Doyle's stance. "No I didn't. I wanted a little anger, yes. But do you honestly think I wanted my head used as a punching bag?"

"Probably counting on the chance to get a few punches in," Doyle argued.

"Yeah, right," Bodie said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "I really wanted to get into a fight with you after our first bollocking from Cowley."

There was silence for a moment, then Doyle asked in a calmer tone, "Why hair remover?"

Bodie seemed at a loss for an answer for a second or two. "I dunno. Seemed a good idea at the time. Honestly, Doyle, I thought you'd cotton on right away. I mean, the bloody stuff stinks. Was a bit surprised you took so long but it takes a while to work and you were under running water. Another few seconds and I'd've let you know. A joke's a joke, but making some poor sod bald for a laugh isn't funny."

Bodie was relieved to see Doyle's hands unclench and the taut body relax. "How about we call a truce?"

Doyle gave a slight smile. "That's what I was so busy thinkin' about in the shower."

"Well it sounds like a good idea. So how about it, at least for as long as we're teamed? Was talkin' to one of the CI5 lads and he said Cowley usually teams men up for four months then reviews them. Once the Cow sees we'll be better off with other partners, well we'll see what happens."

"It'll be the longest four months ever."

"Probably."

"Still, I'm sure I can tough it out till then," Doyle mused.

"What a hero!"

"All right, Bodie. You want a partner who'll watch your back? You got one. And since I don't do things by halves I'll be the best partner you could possibly have. And since I like living you'll do the same."

Bristling at that commanding tone, Bodie nodded nevertheless. "Of course. I protect what's mine."

"Yours?" Doyle snapped.

"You're my partner, right?" Bodie pointed out in a reasonable tone.

Still not comfortable with Bodie's choice of words, Doyle eyed him resentfully. "Just remember that goes both ways. Come on, we'd better get back to Cowley. We can always pray he'll see sense before the four months is up. Right?"

Silently but fervently agreeing, Bodie followed Doyle out of the rest room.

 

"Your code will be three-seven."

"Sir."

Doyle knew what was coming, wondered if it was to be further punishment from Cowley.

"Your code will be three-six."

He'd bloody known it. Beside him there was a muffled snort. He should keep quiet, maybe even smile sweetly. Which was why he said, "I'd rather not, sir."

Cold blue eyes speared Doyle. "Is that so? And what the devil's the matter with three-six?"

Again that muffled snort.

"That's just it. The devil. Three sixes. It's considered jinxed by the lads." And the old goat knows it, Doyle thought with resentment.

"I see. You don't strike me as a superstitious man, Doyle," Cowley remarked.

"Most of the time I'm not. But when you have every agent using three-six as a jinx, even if it's said as a joke - "

"Very well. How about one-three?"

Bodie choked.

Doyle nearly choked too. Who would have thought it? George Cowley had a sense of humour - ha bloody ha. He looked across at Bodie, preparing his best scowl but frowned instead. Bodie was busily scratching his neck. Great, just what he needed - a partner with fleas. His jaw dropped when busy fingers located the source of Bodie's itch - the clump of hair looked very familiar.

Frowning at the hair, Bodie wondered how it had got caught in his polo neck and let it fall to the ground. He caught Doyle's eye. It was then he remembered - the fight, being pinned down, Doyle astride him, leaning over him ... Bodie's gaze went to his partner's T-shirt covered chest.

"I trust you have no objections to four-five?" Cowley asked smoothly, having noticed the byplay but choosing to ignore it.

Doyle switched his attention from Bodie, who looked like he was about to laugh or asphyxiate - no prizes for guessing which of the two Doyle would prefer - to Cowley. "That'll be fine, sir"

"Well that's settled then. You will officially be a unit as of tomorrow." He permitted himself a thin-lipped smile. "Given your recent behaviour it seems rather appropriate that a pair of young fools should be teamed on April Fool's Day. Tomorrow at noon you're to make your way to the rest room where you'll find Matheson and King waiting for you."

He noticed Bodie's start of surprise and smiled thinly. "You didn't think I'd send you out on your own did you? I serve my country, three-seven, and have more care for civilian safety than to send you two tearing about London on your own. You'll work with senior agents, and if you're smart you'll observe and listen and learn. Now on your bikes." He indicated the clump of hair on the floor with a nod of his head. "And take that with you."

With great delicacy Bodie picked up the clump of curly chest hair then left the office. Doyle was striding down the corridor. For a second or so Bodie was tempted to shout after him but he kept his mouth shut - offering to lend Doyle some SuperGlue would not be a good idea.

Spotting a bin, he deposited the small load, then walked quickly after Ray Doyle. His partner.

His partner!

God help them both.

It was a pity he was an atheist.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

When men were teamed a number of factors were taken into consideration including background, skills, experience and temperament. Such care having been taken to find as close to a perfect match as possible, it was usual for initial pairings to remain a team throughout their CI5 career - barring serious injury, death, or a sudden and unaccountable dislike for a partner's dress sense, taste in music or eating habits. Despite the undeniable risks the job of CI5 agent entailed, the latter occurrence was most likely. Spending twelve, sometimes twenty-four hour working days in one person's company, whether that be a heart-stoppingly dangerous operation or a mundane assignment of the mind-numbing variety, tested the closest of units and sometimes the bond cracked.

The newly trained agents had been listed as active and in most cases paired for two months now. That evening the peculiar bonding ceremony known as the lads night out was taking place. Ten of the twelve men were in attendance, Jax absent because his eight months pregnant wife insisted she'd been feeling contraction-like pains, and Jimmy Lawrence was seeing a very demanding young lady named Carol who had dragged him off to her friend's engagement party.

There had been four suggested venues so they had decided to visit them all and were currently at venue number three. Four of the unattached men had hoped to score and succeeded, and they had split from the group after their victory. The remaining men claimed a booth, none of them showing an urgent desire to race onto the make-shift dance floor and throw their arms and legs about as Pete Bishop was doing.

Murphy and Howard arrived with the drinks, so putting a no doubt temporary end to the vital debate as to whether England stood a chance of winning the World Cup.

"About time. What kept you?" Mitchell grumbled, knowing his friend expected it of him.

Howard made as if to pour a pint of bitter over Mitchell's head, didn't realise just how much he'd had to drink, and managed to spill some down his neck.

"Waste of ale, that," Bodie observed.

"Was chatting up the barmaid. Pretty girl - name's Marion," Howard remarked which for some reason struck him as hilarious and he went off into peals of laughter.

Mitchell was glaring at him.

Sensing a private joke, Bodie nudged Mitchell. "What's so funny?"

Mitchell continued to glare.

"His mum was a John Wayne fan, ever since Stagecoach," Howard said with the air of someone revealing a secret.

"So?" Murphy didn't quite get it.

"My mum was a fan of Leslie Howard, that's how I got stuck with a poncy name like Leslie," Howard explained.

Murphy was none the wiser and Bodie was no better.

Doyle had been quiet for most of the evening but was now grinning. He recalled a piece of trivia he'd heard concerning John Wayne's real name. "John Marion Mitchell?" he guessed.

Mitchell's squirm of embarrassment was confirmation enough. "Least my mum didn't go round dressing me up as a girl," he muttered.

Howard turned an unbecoming shade of scarlet and gave his best friend a kick on the shin that had Mitchell swearing.

Murphy started to feel sorry for them both. "It's no worse than my name," he said sympathetically before the alcohol in his system could dissipate and common sense rear its head. Tipsy as he was, the probing stares fixed on him registered and he shut his mouth.

"Go on, Murph," Bodie said coaxingly, nudging Murphy with his elbow and fixing him with his most trustworthy gaze, "tell us."

"Can't leave it at that," Doyle added, for once in accord with his partner.

Shrugging in defeat, Murphy confessed, "My mum had me christened Sigismundus."

"You what?" asked Bodie while Mitchell, with the perverse satisfaction of one who has been previously embarrassed, laughed like a drain.

"My mum's from Holland. It's Dutch for Sigmund," Murphy explained.

Bodie sat back to enjoy his drink. "It's not that bad."

"My middle name's Nathaniel," Murphy added, now smiling himself at the seeming insanity of his mother.

"What's wrong with that?"

"She bought me a really expensive fountain pen when I went away to college. Wasn't until I'd lent it to someone in my class that I realised she'd gone and stuck my bloody initials all over it - S.N.M."

The penny having dropped, the others fell about laughing while Murphy looked long suffering. Having confessed this he further revealed, "People kept leaving whips and chains with my name on at the lost property office."

Bodie found himself speaking before he could stop himself. "I was called William after me dad. He was known as Big Willie Bodie and I was ..."

Howard choked on his drink.

Doyle was grinning and staring at Bodie in disbelief, amazed that his tough-guy partner with his precious macho image would reveal such a thing. His estimation of Bodie rose a notch.

Bodie wondered exactly how many drinks he'd had and how much stick he was going to get tomorrow. Then he remembered Mitchell's and Murphy's confessions and the muttered revelation about Howard and girls clothing. He looked over at Doyle, his partner of two months. Things had hardly been smooth between them and they were still treading round each other very carefully as if the slightest perceived insult could end in a resumption of fighting and animosity. This meant there had been no sharing of their respective pasts, no little details revealed, no confidences. He felt curiously regretful about this.

Well, no time like the present. "So what were you called as a kid?" he asked Doyle

Doyle shrugged. "Raymond."

There was a pause. "Oh."

Looking faintly apologetic, Doyle offered, "Same again for everyone?" Receiving confirmation he made his way to the bar.

Murphy took this opportunity to ignore the squabbling friends opposite him and turn to Bodie on his left. "How's things with you and Doyle now?" Not surprised by Murphy's choice of topic he shrugged. "We seem to be working together all right. The Old Man hasn't had cause to complain so far."

"What about on a personal level?"

Bodie looked amused. "I work with him, I'm not required to go out with him!"

Murphy sighed impatiently. "Is there any chance of you two being friends or what? I know you're no longer trying to kill each other but there's a big difference between being good partners and being good mates. It just seems a shame that you can't be both. If nothing else it gives you an edge."

"I take it you and Lawrence have achieved this wonderful state of being?" Bodie asked with just the faintest trace of sarcasm.

"Yes. We've been out a few times, have double-dated. My mum wanted to meet the bloke responsible for keeping me in one piece so he's even been round to dinner twice. It's nice."

"Lovely. Tell me Murphy, why's it so important to you that me and Doyle get on? You're acting like a bloody matchmaker!" Bodie snapped, comparing his partnership with Doyle to Murphy's with Lawrence and finding he was strangely resentful. The number of times Doyle had offered him a genuine smile could be counted on the fingers of one hand. It bothered him, which annoyed the hell out of him. This had made him sharper with Murphy than he'd intended. He was about to apologise when Murphy started to speak.

"I've already told you, you're both friends of mine. It worries me, seeing you so wound up around each other. You were complaining last week that Cowley has been giving you crap assignments. Has it occurred to you that Cowley has kept you doing the mundane stuff because he knows damn well that the pair of you would get yourselves hurt?"

"That's a load of crap, Murph! Me and Doyle work well together," Bodie protested, though there was a part of him that weighed Murphy's words and discovered there was a grain of truth in them. Why else was it that the other men, none of whom where anywhere near as good as himself and Doyle - to hell with modesty - had all been blooded?

Doyle was on his way back with a heavily sweating Pete Bishop helping him with the drinks.

"Think about what I've just said," Murphy murmured before pushing the empty glasses aside to make room for the next round of drinks.

Bodie sighed. It sometimes felt as if he did nothing but think about Doyle and their partnership. Doyle was a complex puzzle that fascinated and frustrated him in equal measure. He still hadn't reached any conclusions and rather suspected he never would.

 

***

 

Deciding to take a step towards learning more about Ray Doyle, Bodie invited his partner round to his flat after work for a drink and a bite to eat. To his relief Doyle agreed and they set off for the flat. Once there, Bodie grabbed a couple of beers, tossed one to Doyle, then went over to the phone. "D'you fancy Indian or Chinese?"

Doyle lowered the can he'd been about to open and stared at him. "I thought you were going to cook."

Bodie matched his partner's look of surprise. "You've got to be joking. It's eight-thirty, we've been at work since eight this morning, and you expect me to mess about in the kitchen?"

Doyle gave him a searching look. "You can't cook, can you?"

"I'm not about to try and prove otherwise," Bodie asserted. "Will Chinese do?"

Doyle shook his head in a pitying fashion designed to annoy. "I suppose being in the SAS it was all the beetles you could catch and anything you could kill with a well-aimed pebble. You must have starved."

"Of course I can cook," Bodie said with hard-won patience. "My beans on toast is legendary. Now do you want - ?"

"I'll cook."

Bodie thought he must have misheard. "What's that?"

"It's something complicated you do with food," Doyle replied, deliberately misunderstanding his partner. He put his can down and left the room.

Following Doyle into the kitchen, Bodie watched in disbelief as he proceeded to raid the cupboards. Listening to Doyle's running commentary on the bare state of Bodie's fridge and larder, the sad lack of herbs, and the wonderful things you could do with spices, Bodie felt as though he'd just been invaded by a sales representative from Marks and Spencers.

Seeing how busy Doyle was, he decided it wouldn't be in his best interest to inform Doyle that he had planned to do all his food shopping at the weekend, that this evening's plan had been very much a spur of the moment thing and that ordinarily he would have cooked a meal for his guest.

Still, Doyle looked as if he was enjoying himself. Bodie informed him that he was going to have a shower and went off quickly before he could be roped into chopping onions. Once out of the kitchen he slowed down, his conscience making him listen out for Doyle's shouted command to help him. No such summons was forthcoming.

Smiling with the glee of one who has not only managed to avoid a tiresome chore but has somehow managed to get someone else willing to do it for him, he headed for his bathroom.

Half an hour later and Bodie was showered, shaved, dressed and looking neat as a pin. Smelling something delicious in the vicinity of the kitchen, he headed that way. He found Doyle in the process of draining spaghetti and stirring what appeared to be a Bolognese sauce in a pan, all the while looking very efficient. Quiet as he was, he must have made some sound because Doyle glanced round at his approach.

The steam from the simmering pans had made Doyle's curls damp and he blew at his fringe to get it out of his eyes, all the better to direct at Bodie a quizzical look. "I see you've been busy. Didn't over-tire yourself, did you?"

Bodie bit back his immediate response which was to point out, loudly, that Doyle hadn't been press-ganged into cooking and could have asked for help. Instead he moved closer to Doyle and the stove and peered at the sauce.

"Looks good." He sniffed. "Smells good. If it tastes as good we'll forget the beers and crack open a decent bottle of wine."

Doyle oozed smugness. "Best spaghetti outside of Italy."

"Then I'd better fetch the wine glasses and set the table."

Bodie opted for a plain white tablecloth but left the candlesticks in the drawer, wanting to make a good impression but not to go overboard. He'd just finished arranging the cutlery when Doyle entered the small dining room carrying two plates piled high with pasta.

Doyle placed the plates on the table then looked about him. "Nice. Could do with a separate area for eating - hate eating in the kitchen, can't enjoy your food when you're staring at a sink full of dirty pans. Speaking of which, the washing up's all yours."

Busily chewing a mouthful of pasta, Bodie hoped his face didn't look as ecstatic as his taste buds and stomach felt or Doyle would think he was kinky for pans and Fairy Liquid. "Sounds fair. Here, try some of this." He poured wine into Doyle's glass. "Got a mate in the wine trade and he recommended it to me."

Doyle sipped at his wine, noting the pained look in Bodie's eyes when he made an unavoidable slurping noise. He slurped again, a little louder. "Very nice. Just got the one bottle or can he do you a deal on quantity?"

"Got four bottles for the price of two. You can take one home with you if you like," Bodie added generously.

"Thanks, I will do." Doyle continued to eat, clearly enjoying his own cooking. After a few minutes desultory conversation Doyle asked, "So why did you invite me round?"

Bodie looked up and met sharp green eyes. It occurred to him that there would be very few occasions when he could get away with bullshitting Ray Doyle. "Thought it was about time I found out a little more about my partner. Know you're good with a gun, know you're fast, sneaked a look at your career record so I know most of your background stuff. Don't know much about you."

Doyle gave a wry smile. "And there I was feeling a bit guilty because I managed to get a look at yours."

"Playing detective?"

"Making sure Cowley hadn't teamed me up with a nutcase." He noticed Bodie's mouth was forming what could only be called a pout and shrugged. "Got to admit, you hear some funny things about mercenaries."

Bodie acknowledged the truth of that statement with a shrug as eloquent as Doyle's.

"Read your medical reports as well - didn't want to find out about the wooden leg and colostomy bag when it was too late, did I?" Doyle said in a reasonable tone.

Bodie grinned. "I read it as well, confirmed what I already knew - slow heartbeat, slow metabolism. It's got to be cool. I sneaked a look at yours, too - very uncool. Hot temperament." His grin widened. "As if I didn't know! Didn't see any mention of flat feet and incontinence though. Must've been an oversight." Sipping his wine, his steady gaze fixed on Doyle who met it, unruffled. Finally he said, "Still, a good man. The tops. Worth knowing."

"That right?" Doyle said, his flat tone suggesting praise was his due and therefore not unexpected, the pleased look in his eyes belying this.

"Yeah. Good to have beside me if there's trouble. You won't fall if they push." Meal finished, Bodie sat back and was grateful he'd put on his roomiest cords. "Was good, that."

"I know," Doyle said immodestly. "So, what about you? Is that hard man bit just a front?"

"It's what I am."

"Thought you wanted us to know more about each other," Doyle pointed out.

"All right. Since you're the guest, you get first question. Say five questions with an option to pass on one question - sounds fair?"

"You're on," Doyle answered immediately. He ate the last mouthful of pasta then picked up his glass of wine. "It's not an inquisition so we might as well sit in comfort." Bodie led the way into the sitting room and took the armchair by the window.

Doyle slid his shoes off and lounged on the sofa, making himself at home.

"First question: why did you join the mercs?"

"Money," Bodie answered promptly.

Doyle gave an exasperated sigh. "I thought you'd at least be honest with me."

"I am!" Bodie protested.

"That's not the whole truth though, is it?"

Bodie shrugged. "What else should I say? Heard stories about mercs, sounded like it might be exciting." He was silent for a moment then added, "I was just a kid and wanted to be a hero - you know what it's like. You think you can make a difference. It's only when you're older, wiser, and have had the shit kicked out of you that you realise that most of the time there's sod all you can do. It's the sometimes that keeps you going." He looked a little self-conscious at his words so gave a cocky grin to hide the fact. "And like I said, the money was bloody brilliant. Okay, my turn - how d'you get that broken cheekbone?"

"I fell over."

"Doyle!"

"Onto someone's fist. Was feeling a bit pissed off, my dad had just buggered off with some tart, the art classes weren't going brilliantly, so when some crud started calling me a fairy because of my long hair and the sketchbook I was carrying, I laid into him. I didn't realise he had half a dozen mates nearby. Ended up in hospital and they did the implant."

"The what?"

"This." Doyle raised a hand to his face and poked his cheek. There was a strange movement beneath the skin.

Bodie watched, fascinated. A couple of questions were waiting to be voiced but Doyle was speaking.

"Why did you leave the SAS?"

"Money."

"Sod off! It can't always be for money."

"Okay, pass."

"You're only allowed one pass," Doyle warned.

"That's all it usually takes." Bodie grinned.

Groaning, Doyle hung his head in mock despair. "My partner, Mr. Modesty. You've used your pass option so no wriggling out of any more questions."

"My turn. Why do you perm your hair?"

"You cheeky bastard!" Clearly, Doyle was outraged. "This is bleedin' natural! Can you honestly see me with rollers in my hair?" he demanded.

Smiling, Bodie shook his head.

"Waste of a question that. How many people have you killed?"

For a second Bodie looked as though he'd had the breath knocked out of him before he managed to regain his composure. "I don't know."

"Bodie! Play fair."

His voice so soft Doyle had to strain to catch the words, Bodie added, "I honestly don't know, Ray. Too many."

Doyle's glare faded as he took in the other man's reaction. The mask was slipping, pain all too clearly revealed beneath the surface. Torn between wanting to know more about this man who was his partner and a strange desire to protect, Doyle said gently, "Okay, your turn."

While Bodie said nothing, his eyes spoke of gratitude for the change of subject. "What was that you said about art classes?"

Doyle's smile was rueful. "My mum's got talent. You should see her watercolours. My Gran was as well though she worked with oils. I should've inherited the gene or something but didn't. Oh, I was always pretty good with a pencil but never really bothered with it much. When I left school I didn't know what to do so I decided I was going to become an artist. Not just any old artist mind, but a famous one, world-renowned, stinking rich and all that.

"I stuck it out for six months until I finally got it through my thick skull that while I could draw accurately there was no feeling to what I did, no talent." He regarded Bodie with searching eyes then said, "Question number four - do you wish Cowley hadn't teamed us?"

"No."

"What, that's it? That's your soddin' answer?" Doyle asked, annoyed.

Taking a sip of his now warm wine, Bodie paused for a moment to savour the taste and to consider his answer. "No, I'm glad that Cowley partnered us. The reasons are the same as I gave earlier - you're a good agent, even better when we're a team. And I like to live as much as the next person so it pays to have the best watching your back."

"Charmin'" Doyle said, not in the least bit charmed - well, perhaps a little, but not enough that he would acknowledge it. "So that's all I am, a bloody bodyguard?"

"No, that's not all," Bodie replied but refused to elaborate further. "Time for my fourth question - you ever had a threesome?"

"Nosy bastard aren't you? As a matter of fact I have, they were best mates, both gorgeous, both with perfect breasts, and that's all I'm saying!"

Doyle sipped his wine then asked, "You ever fucked a man?" Bodie choked on his wine and had a coughing fit.

Wondering how much the redness of Bodie's face was due to choking and how much to embarrassment, Doyle took a few seconds to get over his own surprise at his question. Deciding not to question the impulse, he waited for Bodie to tell him to mind his own business.

"Why d'you ask?" Bodie asked, in a surprisingly mild voice.

"Dunno." Doyle genuinely didn't. He searched about for a likely answer, pushing aside the one that immediately sprung to mind. That Bodie was a good-looking man was indisputable but not something he needed to consider. "Like I said before, you hear some strange stuff about mercenaries."

"Ah." Bodie placed his wine down on the floor with great care. "Actually I have."

"When?"

"That's six questions," Bodie pointed out.

"You passed on one."

"You agree we could."

"I lied."

Bodie had to grin at that. Keeping both expression and tone casual, Bodie admitted, "Was in the mercs, in Africa." He mimicked Doyle's answer of earlier, "And that's all I'm saying!"

"Adventurous sod," was Doyle's final word on the topic, voice as casual as Bodie's, though there was an intensity in his gaze that made his partner shift uncomfortably.

The room was too bloody hot, thought Bodie, feeling restless and on edge. Not sure if he was ready to hear the answer, he asked the obvious question. "Have you ever fucked a man?"

"Nearly did, in my wild and distant youth." Doyle started laughing and the tension in the room eased up a little. "I had too much to drink, couldn't aim it straight and fell asleep on top of him! Was too embarrassed when I woke up to hang about and try again. Didn't fancy it anyway once I was sober. Looked bloody uncomfortable."

"It doesn't have to be," Bodie said but he shook his head, smiling, when Doyle looked ready to ask for details. Needing to move around, go the bathroom, do anything to break the mood, Bodie stood up. "That's enough confessions for one night. You'd better make that your last glass of wine as well or you'll have the local fuzz pullin' you over." He took his glass and the empty wine bottle into the kitchen. Doyle finished his wine then went to fetch the dirty plates and cutlery.

Bodie was washing the pans when Doyle entered the kitchen. Dropping the plates into the sink, Doyle took care to splash the other man just enough to earn himself a glare. Doyle propped himself against the sink unit and watched his partner at work.

Bodie slid an enquiring look his partner's way. "You okay to take the car?"

"I'm stayin' here." There was more than a hint of a challenge in Doyle's expression.

"Only got one bed. Fancy kipping on the sofa do you?" Bodie asked as he pulled the plug to empty the sink and placed the last plate to dry on the draining board.

"Won't have to. I can share with you."

Eyebrows raising, Bodie looked mildly annoyed by this presumption.

Changing tactics, Doyle went from chirpy to worn out and pathetic in seconds. "Come on, mate, it's not like I don't bathe or anything."

Bodie was too tired to put up much of an argument. "All right. But if you start trying to nick all the covers you'll be sleeping on the floor."

"As if I would," Doyle said, the very picture of innocence.

"I'm beginning to know you Doyle - you would. And you'd probably take them home with you given half a chance. Come on, bathroom's this way. Surprised you haven't had to use it before now after all that wine you guzzled."

"Four glasses," Doyle said, following Bodie into the bathroom. "And don't forget that bottle you promised me."

"Memory like a bloody elephant. Goes with the ears," Bodie muttered to himself. He grabbed his toothbrush before Doyle could lay claim to it.

The stare Doyle fixed on his partner was incredulous. "Don't tell me you don't keep a spare for your guests!"

"Don't be daft, of course I do. Only they're usually women." Bodie opened the mirrored bathroom cabinet above the sink and took out a new pink toothbrush. He was a little startled when he turned round to find Doyle's face very close to his own. He was so busy trying to identify whatever it was that smelt so good on his partner, it was a moment before he realised Doyle was peering over his shoulder at the cabinet's contents. "Seen enough?" he enquired with feigned sweetness.

"Are those coloured condoms?"

The cabinet door was shut with a bang that made the mirror shake.

Teeth were brushed, faces washed, then Doyle decided to take a shower.

Bodie went to set the locks on the front door and check all the windows. He returned to the bedroom to find Doyle sitting on the bed drying his hair. While Doyle dealt with his tangled curls, Bodie managed to unearth two pairs of pyjamas. He tossed a blue striped pair to Doyle who had decided his hair was dry enough.

"What's this?"

"What's it look like?"

"Disguise of a zebra with hypothermia," Doyle guessed wildly. "I'm not wearing these, I'll look like an Everton mint." He watched Bodie donning a cream pair and snorted with amusement. Tossing the pyjamas at Bodie's head, he wandered back into the bathroom and hung the towel on the rail to dry then, clad only in his birthday suit and a friendly smile, Doyle got into bed and shut his eyes.

Bodie stared at his uninvited guest for a few seconds. Then, sighing loudly, he hauled off his pyjama top - though a combination of modesty and defiance made him wear the pyjama bottoms - and claimed his half of the bed. Disturbed by the rapid pounding of his heart, he resolved to take up running again and settled down beside Doyle. Now to discover even more about his partner - his snoring, his habit of stealing all of the bed covers and his terrible morning breath.

He discovered he'd got one out of three right next morning.

It took him fifteen minutes under the shower before he thawed out. But the blue lips and extremities went ever so well with his eyes.

***

 

Since the night Doyle had stayed over at Bodie's the odds of them killing each other had grown longer. There was little danger from outside forces, their time spent reading files, acting as back-up - but never being required - and learning to use more than one finger to type out reports detailing what that week's suspect had eaten for lunch. The first two weeks of their partnership were spent with other paired agents, all experienced men who made clear their resentment at having to show the new boys around. The third week found Bodie and Doyle assigned to observe and on occasion tail a suspected terrorist. By the third day Doyle had grown suspicious, some instinct screaming at him that there was something not quite right; the fact that Bodie's instincts were screaming similar messages convinced them to continue with their observation after their shift had ended. Their instinct proved correct - the man was a CI5 agent assigned to assess their skills.

Bodie had been complaining about 'crap assignments' since week two and Doyle had hardly kept a stoic silence either. Another month of standby and back-up detail and they rebelled. They descended upon Cowley and demanded to be given 'proper' assignments. Cowley informed them he was impressed by their patience - he had been expecting a revolt over a month ago.

Their current assignment was once again observation, but this time things looked likely to happen. An animal liberation group, known to be pro-violence, was believed to have links with a dealer in arms and explosives. An agent was all set to infiltrate the organisation, which was why Bodie and Doyle were sitting in a disco observing Carstairs as he attempted to chat up one of the group's key members.

Bodie, as usual, was not hesitant about voicing his opinion, this time about the chosen agent. "He's an annoying bastard."

Doyle slurped at his second pint of the hour, smiling inwardly when he saw Bodie wince at the sound. He slurped again, louder. "You said the same thing about me when I wouldn't eat fried grub for breakfast."

Bodie thought back to the time Doyle had decided to stay over. He recalled the incident his partner was referring to very well - the idea of someone turning down a beautifully cooked full English breakfast in favour of toast had shocked him to the core. Then Doyle had actually had the nerve to ask if he had any muesli - as if he'd keep any of that tasteless crap in his kitchen.

Seeing Bodie had, for once, decided to keep his opinion to himself, Doyle added, "So long as he can do the job, it doesn't matter how annoying he is."

"He has sardine and ketchup sandwiches for lunch."

"Nothing wrong with that."

"He goes trainspotting every weekend." Bodie's tone suggested this was on par with interfering with sheep.

Doyle shrugged. "No harm in that."

"He watches Crossroads."

Doyle shuddered. "Should be shot. Twice. Just to make sure." He took an extra long slurp of his pint. "You are joking, aren't you?"

"Only about Crossroads. He looks a bit like Benny, just needs the woolly hat."

Both men regarded the unfortunate agent.

"If you had to send someone in to chat up some bird would you send in Carstairs?"

"No. Probably send myself in or Murphy." Doyle slid a teasing look in his partner's direction. "Can't think of anyone else good-looking enough off-hand."

"Sod." Bodie smiled and took a pointedly silent sip of his pint.

"Perhaps we should give him a list, you know, handy tips, what to do, what to say," mused Doyle.

"Like leave the leather jacket at home, don't offer her a steak dinner, be kind to all animals," Bodie suggested.

"Actually do some reading on vivisection, don't wear leather shoes or belt, borrow a couple of cats plus accessories for a few days in case you need to take her home ... " Doyle continued.

Bodie gave him a look of mock admiration. "You're a natural at this, aren't you? Maybe if Carstairs blows it you should have a go yourself, show him how it's done."

"I think he has blown it. Look."

Carstairs was the unfortunate recipient of a feminine glare that should have turned him to stone. Instead it turned him an unflattering shade of red, mercifully hidden by the flashing strobe lights.

"Stupid sod," Bodie muttered with no trace of pity, then asked, "You don't think she's ... y'know?"

"A lesbian? Why? Because she advocates violence or because she's had the sense to give that pillock the brush off?"

Leaning across the table, Bodie asked provocatively, "Reckon you could score then?" Though a saner part of him demanded he be sensible and await further instructions, Doyle couldn't resist the challenge in that low-pitched voice and those startlingly blue eyes. Leaning forward until his face was so close to Bodie's their breath was mingling, Doyle said huskily, "I can always score. Anytime. Anyone." A ripple of power and pleasure ran through him when he saw Bodie's involuntary response. Startled by the strength of his own reaction he drew back, dragging his gaze from the parted lips and the velvet black of the pupils that threatened to swamp the blue of the iris. "Here, you better keep my leather jacket for me. Good thing I'm not armed, eh? I'll see you tomorrow."

Bodie automatically put his hand out for Doyle's jacket then watched in amazement as Doyle made his move. He had never seen anything so blatantly sexual outside of Soho. The jeans that he had thought so impossibly tight and scruffy he saw for what they really were - the male equivalent of stockings and suspenders. As for Doyle's approach, obviously the word subtle had never entered his vocabulary. But who needed subtlety when the subject of Doyle's intense scrutiny was practically drooling when she spotted him heading her way. Bodie thought of the care he put into seduction, the charm he used. If he used an approach like Doyle's he reckoned he'd get his face slapped. How the hell did Doyle get away with it?

Then he found his eyes were glued to Doyle's arse and knew exactly how he got away with it.

He looked away and found his breathing had quickened so he took a few moments to gather his scattered wits, deciding it was best not to examine his reaction. There was no need to. The fact was, Doyle was bloody good at seduction and he, Bodie, had just happened to catch a little of the fallout. Realising he was clasping Ray's jacket to his chest, he placed it on the still-warm chair beside him.

An hour later Doyle and the woman left.

Left wondering what he was going to tell Cowley, Bodie began to speculate who his new partner would be since Doyle, come tomorrow, would be hung, drawn and very likely quartered. He was surprised to feel some regret at the thought.

Then he realised Doyle had taken the car.

The selfish git deserved everything he had coming.

 

Fifteen minutes in Cowley's office and Doyle wasn't scattered about in tiny pieces. In fact, mused Bodie, The Cow was looking pleased - or at least that was what Bodie took the gleam in the pale blue eyes to mean. Maybe he was just thinking up a particularly nasty punishment.

"Very well four-five, you will be our man on the inside. According to your record you have considerable experience of undercover operations. I'll brief you in a moment." The sharp eyes then turned to Bodie.

Oh great. Files, thought Bodie.

"While your skills are considerable - "

Standby. Bloody obbos, Bodie grumbled silently to himself.

" - I think it might be better to put a more experienced man with Doyle."

"I'd rather you didn't."

Two pairs of blue eyes turned to Doyle, one looking speculative and with the merest hint of satisfaction, the other very surprised. "You are telling me how to run this operation four-five?" Cowley enquired smoothly.

"No. But Bodie's my partner, I'm used to him and we work well together." The look Doyle flashed at the Controller could only be described as challenging, as if he was daring him to disagree, but Cowley was silent. Doyle continued, "If I'm going undercover I'll need someone I have complete faith in." He added in what sounded as an afterthought, "Sir."

Bodie stared at Doyle but his partner kept his eyes locked on Cowley. It was true that he and Doyle had been working well lately, and if their conversation at times could be somewhat abrasive it never became abusive; but Bodie still found it incredible that Doyle was actually speaking up for him. Three months ago, perhaps even two months ago, Bodie would have felt patronised and would have resented Doyle's interference. Now he felt oddly warmed by it and had the peculiar desire to sling an arm round his partner and ruffle his curls.

He'd settle for buying him a drink.

After Cowley agreed to Doyle's demand (request was hardly the appropriate word) he decided to buy a whole bottle.

The tatty-headed, irritating, sharp-tongued little sod deserved it.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

The pub garden was popular and they were lucky to get a table.

Bodie regarded the disreputable looking figure that was Ray Doyle.

Four weeks they had been working on the People's Animal Liberation Front case and finally it looked like they were about to get a result. Doyle had discovered two sites were to be the first targets of a bomb campaign - a cancer research centre in Catford and a lab in Bromley.

The stress of working undercover was taking its toll but this was never discussed. Outside of details for the report, they spoke of anything else except how the op was personally affecting Doyle.

As usual Bodie started the ball rolling - another round of 'let's pretend'.

"You look shagged out, mate. Is that bird still demanding your services?"

Doyle's smile was tired but he tried to look smug. "All the time, won't let me sleep. The things I do for Cowley and country."

Bodie aimed for mock sympathy with just a trace of envy. To his chagrin he couldn't quite manage the envy. Maybe he was tired too. "Poor lad. It's a dirty job ..." He waited for Doyle to complete the sentence.

"Yeah," Doyle muttered listlessly.

This wasn't how the game was played.

"Very pretty girl for a would-be terrorist," Bodie prompted.

"Suppose so." The gaze Doyle locked on Bodie was searching, faintly questioning. Then he leaned forward to confess, "I'm sick of it, Bodie. There's a part of me that agrees with their arguments, but their methods, their ideas, the hate they have inside them for anyone who doesn't agree with them ... especially Susan bloody Reeves. And I'm supposed to smile sweetly at her and get her to drop her knickers. I'm sick of lying ... and I'm so bloody tired all the time." He pulled a face and lowered his gaze.

Bodie was momentarily at a loss, not familiar with the rules of this new game. He watched as Doyle slumped down in his chair again, the shoulders drooped, mouth down-turned; even his curls looked limp. Finally he said, "Not surprising is it? You've put a hell of a lot of work into this and it can't be fun having to play Romeo to some bird you don't have any feelings for."

The shoulders straightened. The mouth seemed to relax just a fraction. The eyes remained fixed on the table as though embarrassed to meet Bodie's.

"Tell you what, when it's all over I'll take you out for a meal or something, take the sour taste out your mouth."

Doyle actually managed a smile. He glanced up.

Heartened by this, Bodie added, "I know a couple of girls who - "

"Do we have to?" Doyle broke in, eyes down once more as if the table was the most fascinating object in the world.

Bodie frowned. "I thought you wanted to."

"Drink, yes. Can we leave women out of it?"

"If you like. Didn't think you'd just come along for my company, did I?"

"Why not?" Doyle asked, slurping his beer.

That was the problem and the charm of Ray Doyle, reflected Bodie; he was so bloody direct. "Well we haven't exactly been living in each other's pockets after work, have we? Didn't think you'd come to appreciate my sterling qualities yet," Bodie explained.

Doyle snorted, fortunately after he had ceased slurping and put his drink down. "Didn't say I had." He smiled. "You're all right, Bodie."

"Oh, thank you. Suppose you're expecting me to say something along similar lines?"

"Don't expect miracles, do I?" Doyle sighed tragically.

Bodie grinned and finally gave in to an impulse he had felt several times before - he reached over and ruffled Doyle's curls playfully. "Never mind, sunshine." He heard the person at the table next to them telling someone the time and checked his watch. Time to go.

Standing up, he found himself oddly reluctant to leave Doyle, knowing he would be returning to the clutches of Semtex Susie and her bomb-happy band. He had the strangest desire to grab Doyle and take him home with him, feed him up and tuck him into bed - he'd even provide that bloody awful muesli if it would make him happy. He'd even tell Cowley his partner was seriously ill, anything to get him out of this situation that was taking such a toll on his spirits. Doyle looked more cheerful than he had a few minutes ago but already he could see the light leaving the green eyes.

Subjecting his partner to a close scrutiny that had Doyle frowning at him in suspicion, Bodie unleashed one of his special smiles, the kind he saved for people he genuinely liked. "You're all right too, Ray. See you, mate." The smile Doyle gave in return gave him a warm feeling that lasted throughout the rest of the day.

 

***

 

The PALF operation ended successfully some two weeks later.

Called in to see the Controller, Bodie and Doyle naturally assumed that a few words of praise would be forthcoming, with well-deserved laurels going to Doyle. This was more or less the case. Then Cowley dropped the bombshell.

"When I teamed you four months ago you were, shall we say, a little reluctant. But you've done well the pair of you. Now you'll be happy to hear your trial period is over."

Cowley looked from one man to the other, waiting for a reaction.

Bodie looked at Doyle and received a blank look in reply. "Sir?"

"After I team new men there is a trial period of four months followed by a review. I like agents to have experience working with a number of others as there will be times when you need to work in a group. Murphy and Lawrence have finished their assignment so you'll be re-teamed. Doyle, you'll be paired with Lawrence. Bodie, I know you worked well with Murphy during your training so I'm sure you'll make a good team. This will be from Monday." He took off his glasses and frowned at both men. "The fact you are no longer teamed does not mean I expect a return to your former behaviour. I trust I have made myself clear gentlemen."

Bodie echoed Doyle's affirmation, taken completely by surprise by the sudden turn of events. He shot a glance at his soon-to-be ex-partner. Doyle didn't seem the least bit bothered by Cowley's decision and Bodie was disgusted to find he felt rather hurt by this. He had thought he was beginning to grow on Doyle in the same way he was getting used to having Doyle at his side.

Murphy was a good bloke but, though he would never admit it to anyone and could barely admit it to himself, there was something very challenging about Doyle that made him give his best. Not only that, he sensed it was mutual and that however much they could give as individuals, they could achieve a hell of a lot more as a team.

Judging from Doyle's silence he didn't agree.

Well, sod him. At least Murphy didn't slurp his tea. And it meant he could throw out that unopened box of muesli he'd bought just in case Doyle stayed over one night.

Then Cowley was dismissing them and they turned to leave. Bodie thought he saw a peculiar look of disappointment in the Controller's eyes but the next second it was gone and Cowley was glaring at him impatiently. Doyle headed for the rest room and Bodie followed, not knowing what else to do.

A kettle of water was boiled, tea was made and still nothing had been said. Finally Doyle broke the silence. "Murphy's a good man, he'll make a good partner."

Bodie nodded absently, getting up to add more sugar to his tea - he was sure Doyle knew he liked two sugars yet he continued to put in one and a half, as if hoping Bodie wouldn't notice. "You get on well with him, pair of you will be CI5's hotshots by Christmas."

Bodie gave a noncommital grunt in reply.

Doyle seemed unable to leave the subject alone. "And with both of you being ex-army and having some of the same hobbies, it'll give you something in common. I mean, it's not like we ever had anything in common apart from a mutual dislike, is it? And you and Murph got along okay from the beginning. Not like us."

Bodie wished his partner would shut up.

Doyle was drinking his tea, only the quietest of slurps accompanying this action confirming Bodie's belief that his partner - his ex-partner - provided sound effects to annoy Bodie and amuse himself. Murphy wouldn't do that. He'd probably sip and crook his little finger - Now why the hell had he thought that? It was hardly fair to Murphy, wasn't his fault he didn't want him as his partner, that he wanted ...

Bodie glanced over at Doyle. His partner - his ex-partner - no, his partner was glaring at the magazine he was pretending to read (Bodie was almost sure Good Housekeeping wasn't on Doyle's regular reading list). He replayed the last few minutes of the one-sided conversation and something clicked.

Bodie decided to test the waters. "Lawrence should make you a good partner. He's good with a rifle and you'll be able to beat him at squash."

Doyle's glare was directed at the other man for a couple of seconds then returned to the magazine which incredibly was not reduced to smouldering ashes.

"And Murphy's a good man."

Doyle snapped. Twisting round in his seat to face Bodie, he snarled, "Will you stop goin' on about bloody Murphy!" Slumping back into his chair, he seemed to realise for the first time what magazine he was reading and tossed it onto the table in disgust.

Bodie continued to watch his partner for a minute, taking in the hunched shoulders and clenched jaw before walking over to sit on the arm of Doyle's chair. He sighed softly when Doyle shifted away from him and in an oddly gentle voice asked, "Why didn't you say something to Cowley?"

Doyle's head snapped round at Bodie's words and he stared up at him. There was a moment of silent communication and perfect understanding. Then, his expression faintly challenging, he asked, "Why didn't you?"

Bodie shrugged. "I thought you were glad to get rid of me. You didn't say anything."

"Same here. Always knew you wanted to work with Murphy, so when Cowley said he was teaming you ... "

"Murph's okay but I've got used to the best." At Doyle's surprised look Bodie began to laugh. "Christ, Ray, don't start with the false modesty! You know as well as I do we were breaking records all over the place during training."

Doyle smiled. "You sneaked a look at those reports too."

"Of course. I like to know what people are saying about me, means there are less unpleasant surprises in store."

"What a suspicious mind you have."

"I just like to be prepared."

Propping his feet up on the stained coffee table in front of him, Doyle fixed his eyes on his trainers. "I want us to stay partnered. So what do we do?"

Bodie raised an eyebrow. "What do you think?"

"We tell Cowley where to stick his decision?" Doyle actually sounded serious.

Feeling a rush of affection for the other man, Bodie said dryly, "I bet your superiors loved you back at the Met."

"They hated my guts," Doyle confessed, glancing at Bodie, his expression rueful.

"You do surprise me."

Head tilted to gaze up at his partner, a look of absolute faith on his face, he asked, "So how do we handle Cowley?"

"With great care and respect - keep thinking nitroglycerine. We tug our forelocks, give him our sweetest smiles and ask him to let us stay teamed. I can't swear to it, but I reckon the Old Man doesn't really want to split us. There's only one way to find out."

"Sounds too much like sucking up to him for my taste," Doyle complained.

"Fine. If you don't think this is important enough - " Bodie began angrily.

Doyle was out of his chair and heading for the door before Bodie could draw breath. "Come on then, let's get this over with."

Heartened, Bodie left his tea and followed.

 

Cowley was frowning over a report when there was a knock on the door. His one constant in his life, the ever-efficient Betty, entered his office and announced that agents 4.5 and 3.7 would like a word with him and were waiting outside. Judging from her expression it was a meeting he would enjoy. Controlling his twitching mouth he informed her he would be ready to see them in ten minutes then slid the psyche evaluation on agents Bodie and Doyle into the top drawer of his desk. After Betty had left he spent the next ten minutes doing the Times crossword, was unaware of the satisfied smile that crept onto his lips.

The best of well-laid plans can go awry. It was nice when one went like clockwork - even if the cuckoos did need a shove in the right direction.

 

***

 

In the five months they had been a team, Doyle had found Bodie's company on a daily basis an enjoyable experience. In the early days of their ... well you couldn't call it relationship or friendship. Acquaintance. Okay, in the early days of their acquaintance he had been guilty firstly of judging by appearance, and secondly of assuming Bodie was an unthinking unfeeling killing machine with no finer feelings merely because he was known to have been a damn good soldier; a stupid thing to do if you considered that the police force hardly had a reputation for sweet reasonableness and the wearing of velvet gloves. The more he worked with Bodie, the more he learned about him, and if there were facets of him that he wasn't keen on, there were other traits, other beliefs that he echoed, that he liked very much. Already he was learning that there were two, if not several, versions of Bodie. There was Bodie the hard man who spoke of looking after number one and not being able to afford to give a damn, whom Doyle had found fighting tears after they had discovered a child had been caught in the latest IRA bombing. There was Bodie the joker who would be telling him daft stories just when he needed to laugh most, then who would fix his fighting mask into place, go into a dangerous situation with no hesitation and shoot a gunman without a flicker of regret or compassion.

There was another Bodie that Doyle had suspected was there but that he hadn't expected to see reveal itself for him, or at least not for a while.

After five months as partners this Bodie chose to reveal himself.

 

Doyle had been lucky so far - despite several occasions where he had been forced to use his gun, he had never killed anyone. His luck had just run out. He lowered his weapon and forced himself to take a good long look at the woman he had just killed. She had been one of three terrorists holed up in the house. Her colleagues had been injured trying to resist capture whilst she had remained in the study, hidden behind an armchair, first having opened a window to make it appear she had escaped through it; then she waited for the CI5 agents to come to her. Doyle had entered and, forgetting his training, went straight for the window. He had heard a small noise behind, turned, and saw the gun pointed at him. He had known she was going to kill him.

Desperately, Doyle had dived to the right, trying to roll in the confined space of the study, no room to manouevre and do some text book perfect move, and snapped off a couple of shots. He tried to study the corpse dispassionately, saw the woman's face blasted away, told himself that he had seen worse; but the fact that he was responsible, perhaps even the fact that she was a woman - though an armed terrorist was an armed terrorist - made his stomach churn. Pushing past the person standing behind him, he got out of the house as fast as he could. In the garden, hidden behind a tree, he threw up.

It was just his luck to have one of the more experienced agents spot him. He heard a disgusted sounding voice addressing him but he ignored it, too busy vomiting to respond to the man's demand that he pull himself together and not be such a weakling. The next thing he was aware of was the man falling to the ground beside him, right in the mess Doyle had made in a clump of scarlet pimpernels. Even through his brief moment of misery he felt a fierce satisfaction that put an end to his stomach's revolt and he looked up. Bodie was striding away, his fists still clenched.

He didn't have a chance to speak to Bodie as Cowley arrived a few minutes later. After giving his report he went to help with the clean up operation, determined to see the dead woman once more. He found he could view the body without wanting to pay another visit to the garden.

Doyle was talking to Lawrence when he heard what sounded like an argument round the front of the house. Picking out Bodie's voice, he went to investigate. He spotted Bodie driving off with Cowley and the agent Bodie had punched. Murphy was shaking his head, looking angry.

Doyle strode over to Murphy, already suspecting what had happened. "What's goin' on?"

Murphy was still glaring after Cowley's car. "Bodie's going to be put on suspension - for brawling! Carstairs made it sound like it was unprovoked and Bodie just stood there and let the little bastard say what he liked."

Doyle felt his face grow hot and his anger start to build. He joined Murphy in glaring after the car though it was no longer in sight. "Did Bodie tell you what happened?"

"No."

Doyle looked at him in surprise. "Then how did you know Carstairs wasn't telling the truth?"

"Because I know Bodie," Murphy replied, seeming puzzled that Doyle should feel it necessary to ask such an idiotic question.

"I'll see you later. Hopefully," Doyle muttered.

Murphy nodded. "You'll be going to have a word with Cowley then," he stated in a matter of fact way.

Doyle scowled. "Too bloody right." He strode over to the Cortina that he and Bodie had been driving since they were teamed up and which had been giving them problems. Well if he was going to confront Cowley he may as well get hung for the sheep as well as the lamb.

The Cortina started up after the second attempt and he drove off towards CI5 HQ.

 

They were both on report. Bodie was still reeling from the sight of Doyle verbally attacking Cowley for suspending him for doing what Doyle claimed was the role of a partner - to watch out for and protect your oppo. He had told Cowley exactly what had happened, something Bodie would not do for a variety of reasons, primarily because he would have had to reveal Doyle's temporary and understandable moment of weakness. He'd had Doyle's temper unleashed on him before but six months had softened the memory. Seeing Doyle in action against Cowley only made Bodie all the more determined never to have that anger focussed on him again (occasionally pushing Doyle was quite a different matter). At one point Doyle loomed so far over the Old Man's desk he thought his partner was about to head-butt the Controller. Then he had launched into a lengthy complaint about the condition of their vehicle, telling Cowley that a car that had to be sweet-talked into starting was a danger, and could cause a delay in response time to a situation.

Cowley had informed them that he was putting them on report for a week, a more preferable prospect than a week's suspension with no pay. Then he had written a note and told them to get themselves out of his office and down to the car pool - but not before giving Bodie an ear-bashing regarding withholding information and attacking fellow agents, whatever the provocation, and Doyle a blistering lecture on the correct procedure for complaints and the preferred manner of addressing his Controller.

When they arrived at the car pool they found Fred under a car, as was his wont - opinion was varied as to what he got up to under there. Few agents thought it had anything to do with fixing the cars.

"'lo, Fred. Got a note for you from Cowley."

Fred came into view and peered up at the two agents. What was it, six months on the job? And already it felt like they had been haunting the place for years. "If it's about the ignition on the Cortina - " he began.

Bodie shook his head, smiling.

Doyle looked mysterious.

Fred looked suspicious. "Give it here, then." Taking the note from Doyle he read it, glanced up at the waiting men, and read the note again. "It looks genuine. He must be mad. Come on then."

He led the way to the parking area, shaking his head. "It was you the other lads kept saying shouldn't be in charge of a tricycle after the driving course," Fred said, addressing Bodie.

Doyle snorted.

Bodie looked offended. "I got the highest score ever!" he protested.

"But it was you, wasn't it?" Fred persisted.

Bodie decided to ignore him and his grinning partner.

"You got the second highest score didn't you?" Fred asked Doyle.

Nodding, Doyle tried not to look too smug.

"The lads told us when we give you a car we should put a set of stabilizers on the rear wheels," Fred remarked.

Bodie's scowl lightened.

Doyle acquired an extra set of frown lines.

"Well here she is. She's brand new, only got a ton on the clock so for God's sake look after her," Fred entreated, indicating the vehicle in front of them. The sight of the car put the smile back on Doyle's face.

Bodie gave a whistle of appreciation. "Cowley's giving us this?" He stepped forward and slid a hand slowly down the car's sloping front in a manner that was almost caressing. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," he murmured, peering inside at the car's interior then walking round to view the silver Capri from all angles.

Doyle stared at him in disbelief. "It's just a Capri, Bodie."

"So? I like them. A mate of mine has one I've driven a few times. Feels like you're sitting on the road. Not everybody likes to drive them, you've got to know how to handle them. The front's so low, y'see. And I always liked the silver."

Groaning theatrically, Doyle muttered, "I've been partnered with a boy racer."

Bodie gave a beaming smile. "Shut up, Doyle." Taking the car key from Fred, he plucked at Doyle's sleeve, tugging him after him. "Come on, sunshine, I'll take you for a spin."

Doyle prayed the jokes about his partner and tricycles were untrue.

Half an hour later he decided to have a word with Cowley about increasing his health insurance premiums.

As Bodie pulled into a pub car park, Doyle gave him an enquiring look.

"Come on, I'll buy you a drink." At Doyle's look of disapproval he added, "Just a half. You can have an orange juice if you want."

The pub was one Doyle had been to before, though not in recent years. The decor was the same, mock Tudor, though the jukebox was a recent addition as was the snooker table.

Bodie got the drinks while Doyle got a table in a booth and gave the menu a cursory glance. He pointed at the menu and raised an eyebrow at Bodie when he arrived with the drinks.

"Go on, then, might as well have lunch now. My treat," Bodie offered.

Doyle feigned shock though by now he was used to buying lunch for, and having it paid by, Bodie.

Once their order had been taken Doyle settled back in his seat and sipped at his orange juice. "I forgot to say thanks for what you did this morning," Doyle remarked.

"You mean getting us put on report?" Bodie replied ruefully. "Sorry about that, just lost my temper."

"You know what I'm talking about."

Bodie looked a little uncomfortable. "Yeah, well Carstairs is a stupid prick and he was well out of order."

"He was right though, I was being weak. I mean, throwing up just because I killed someone who was about to kill me! It is a bit pathetic."

"Don't you dare think that!" Bodie snapped angrily. Lowering his voice he repeated, "Don't you dare. What happened was you killed someone, probably for the first time. Am I right?"

"Yeah, I haven't made a habit of it."

"First time I killed someone I threw up all over the corpse. I couldn't use a gun for two days after, which is a bit bloody dangerous when you consider I was in Angola about to go on another mission and there's people taking potshots at anything that moves that's not on their side," Bodie confessed.

"Yeah, but how old were you? Twenty-one?" Doyle asked, still unconvinced his weakness was excusable.

"Nineteen. But that's not the point, is it? Nineteen or ninety, I took a life, and it didn't matter that I would have been dead if I hadn't." He shrugged, his face a carefully casual mask. "You can't afford to give a damn. Just look after number one."

Doyle sighed. "Does it get any easier?"

Bodie gave a mirthless laugh. "Oh yeah, actually offing some piece of scum becomes a lot easier. But then you start worrying about the fact you're not throwing up anymore, in fact you're hardly feeling anything except relief that it's some terrorist or the enemy that's lying there dead and not you or your mate."

Bodie broke eye contact and looked down at his drink, taking a long swallow of his pint. His eyes down, he continued, "So I try not to think about it. You shoot because some bastard's shooting at you. And if you kill the bugger then it's regrettable because they can't be questioned. You have your orders, you follow them, but basically it's you with a gun against the bad guys and their guns. So you just keep hoping you're faster and better and luckier than they are. If you start analysing it, start questioning what you've done and what you will do, it'll mess up your mind. It'll scramble your brain, shatter your control, and if you don't get your act sorted you'll be the one in hospital or six feet under."

Locking eyes with the man opposite him, Bodie added intensely, "You can throw up and feel guilty every time you off some mad bastard who thinks blowing people up, blowing up women and kids, is a good idea. But save it for afterwards, deal with the fact, 'cause I can only watch your back, Ray, I can't watch what's going on inside your head, and I don't want to be putting flowers on your grave every Sunday because you were busy debating what's morally right and wrong."

Having finished what was the longest and most serious speech Doyle had ever heard Bodie utter, Doyle could only nod wordlessly when his partner asked him casually if he wanted another drink.

Doyle stared after his partner as he headed for the bar, his thoughts whirling.

Some days he didn't know who the real Bodie was.

He intended to find out.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE

 

Sat at a desk, ink staining his hands, Doyle frowned over his report which should have been done yesterday. He looked up as his partner entered the room and his eyes narrowed.

"What have you done to your hair?"

Bodie's hand smoothed over his head as he looked self-conscious, guilty, and about twelve years old.

"It looks the same as before." His tone was defensive and there was just a trace of a pout on his lips.

"It's been cut," Doyle said accusingly.

"Trimmed. It's the same style," Bodie insisted, looking everywhere but at his partner.

"It looks a right pig's ear. Who cut it?" When Bodie started to shift uneasily, comprehension dawned. "You cut it yourself."

Sighing heavily, Bodie admitted, "Yeah, all right. I hate going to the barber. It only needed a trim."

"What did you use? Shears?" Doyle left his seat and his unfinished report, strolling over to have a closer look at his partner's hair.

Bodie slid his hands into his pockets and looked resigned.

"Paper scissors," Doyle muttered. "I can't believe you used paper scissors."

"How do you know - Yeah, well, scissors are scissors." Though still on the defensive there was a small smile on his lips, amused by Doyle's air of quiet sorrow.

Doyle plucked something sticky from Bodie's hair. "Sellotape. Don't need to be a detective to figure it out." He shook his head in mock exasperation then turned back to the desk, searching through the crowded drawers until he found what he was looking for. "Come here."

"Bodie eyed the scissors in his partner's eyes with some trepidation. "You must be joking."

"I said come here."

"What are you going to do," Bodie asked even as he automatically obeyed the command.

"I'm going to even it up at the back. Sit."

Bodie sat with an alacrity that would have brought a happy tear to the eye of Barbara Woodhouse. "There'll be hair all over the place," Bodie warned with little hope of a reprieve.

"Not much hair left. Take your shirt off."

"Eh?"

"Don't want to get hair on it, do you? Come on, Bodie. I've seen it before."

Muttering to himself, Bodie found himself taking off his shirt, feeling self conscious and wondering why he didn't just to Ray to get stuffed. Placing his shirt out of harms way, he tilted his head up to find Doyle watching him with a glint in his eye.

"You just be careful with those scissors, mate. The Van Gogh look wouldn't suit me."

"Can tell you're not used to the hairdressers."

"Barbers. And no, I'm not. I've got better things to do."

"Try a perm some time. Now that's something to moan about." Doyle made the first cut with something of a flourish.

Bodie's head whipped round, causing Doyle to swear and lift the scissors out of harm's way. "Stay still!"

"You perm your hair!" Bodie's voice was full of outrage. Bright blue eyes gazed at Doyle, demanding answers.

Doyle shook his head in a pitying fashion. "Of course it's a perm."

"But you said it was natural!"

"I lied."

His mouth parted, clearly shocked by this revelation, Bodie continued to stare at his partner accusingly. "You little sod. All these years. You lied to me."

For a moment Doyle lost the thread of the conversation, caught up in Bodie's gaze. Gentle fingers reached out to stroke the single hair clipping from Bodie's shoulder. "Never about the important stuff."

The touch of those cool fingers made Bodie flinch in surprise; then he relaxed, turning his head to face front once more, his trust in Doyle absolute. Fingers on his nape made him twitch then he stilled the reaction, trying to remain motionless even as the sharp scissors snipped close to his ear. It took a minute or so of deep breathing but eventually the tension in Bodie's body began to ease.

While the snip-snip of the scissors sounded dangerously close it was the soft brush of fingertips and occasional slide of cold steel across his skin that made the most impression. Doyle's fingers were no longer cool, as if they had leeched heat from Bodie's flesh. His partner stopped cutting for a moment then Bodie felt warm palms across his shoulders as hair cuttings were brushed from his body. Startled, he shivered then turned his head to whisper sorry because Doyle had told him not to move.

Caught up in the silence of the room and the intimacy of the moment, Doyle took his time with his task, enjoying the warm sensations flooding him and the closeness between himself and his partner. He slid his fingers through the soft hair lying against Bodie's neck, checking for wayward strands. With no noise other than the metallic click of the scissors and the sound of slow, deep breathing, it felt as though he and Bodie were completely alone. There was a strange contentment to be found in such a concept.

Standing this close to the other man, Bodie seated before him, his bowed head level with Doyle's rib cage, Doyle began to relax. The muscles in his neck and shoulders that he hadn't realised were tensed began to unlock. Deciding the back of Bodie's hair was level he began to trim the sideburns and dark hair curving around Bodie's ears. Minuscule pieces of hair rained down onto the pink tips and intricate whorls of the ear. Doyle paused to brush the hair away, blowing at the tenacious little strands as the y clung. He noted Bodie's shiver and blew again, just to see the reaction.

 

The creak of unoiled hinges as the door was opened split the silence. Doyle jerked upright and Bodie swung to the side, nearly falling off the chair.

Pete Bishop stood in the doorway. The look on his face caused any traces of self consciousness to vanish.

"Pete?" Bodie pulled on his shirt then went over to the other man, concern in his eyes.

"Bishop swallowed convulsively. "It's Lawrence. He's dead."

 

They had known there were risks in the job that they did. But always there was that belief that death affected others, not themselves and never someone they had known and grown to like. It was always someone else.

Not today.

"Dead. Still can't believe it," Bodie said in a low bewildered tone, he who had faced death, had seen it happen to comrades. But that had been war and it made no difference what statistics were quoted or what warnings were given. Despite the fact they carried guns and were expected to use them against equal force there was always that belief that CI5 wasn't soldiering, didn't carry the same risks and was merely armed policing without the uniform. Twice this year he'd had news of the deaths of two ex-Paras lads who had been in his squad. It was the first time since his joining CI5 that death had touched this place.

Now Lawrence was dead and it affected all CI5 personnel for the very same reason death touched those in the same squad in the army, because they had known him, they had worked with him or knew of him, he was one of them, one of Cowley's Chosen. And next time it could be them.

Murphy was inside Doctor Sinclair's office, no doubt having the state of his mind examined and the results written down in yet another oh-so-necessary report. It was Bodie's suggestion that they wait for him. Doyle had doubted the wisdom of this, but it was undeniable that Bodie had more personal experience of such matters, so he kept silent and sat on the bench next to his subdued partner, equally subdued. He remained silent, finding he had no words to say except cliches. He tried not to think of Lawrence falling to the ground, blood pumping from his body ... He tried not to think of the girlfriend, Carol, for whom he had confessed he was planning to buy an engagement ring. He found he could not help but think of Murphy, the man who had seen his partner shot, who had held his partner while he died.

Doyle looked across at Bodie, the partner he hadn't really wanted, the man who puzzled him, irritated him, amused him. He tried to imagine it was Bodie who had died, tried to imagine how he would feel, to get some idea of how Murphy must feel right now. It was impossible, Bodie too vital and alive even in his current sombre mood, to picture him dead.

But Lawrence had been so vital and alive too.

Doyle shivered, feeling a sudden need to move closer to his partner. He resisted, still reluctant to show what he perceived as a weakness to Bodie, there still being an element of playing the macho hero. He stood up, paced for a bit, then sat down - closer than before but with the self-delusion that he hadn't revealed his need. The brush of his denim-clad thigh against Bodie's was all the comfort of physical contact he allowed himself.

Bodie looked at him, face serious and showing a distress he couldn't hide. Perhaps he saw the fear and need in Doyle's eyes; perhaps he needed to make some physical gesture. For whatever reason he put an arm along the back of the bench and gently ruffled Doyle's hair. Letting his arm rest there, his wrist was a warm reassuring pressure on the back of Doyle's neck, fingers brushing the recently cropped curls.

It was another hour before Murphy came out of the office. Both of the waiting men noticed the reddened eyes and pretended they hadn't. Doyle struggled to find the right words to say but it was Bodie who put an arm around the taller man and led him down the corridor without uttering a word.

Murphy still wore blood-stained clothes so they drove to his flat. He disappeared into his bedroom for forty minutes, the noise of the shower accounting for twenty of them. He came out dressed in a purple shirt that clashed horribly with his tan cords and mismatched socks.

Bodie fetched Murphy's jacket which he handed to him then headed for the front door, only to discover he was alone. He went back to find Murphy sprawled on the sofa and Doyle sat next to him, worried eyes fixed on the stunned agent. Deciding it was probably just as well they were staying here rather than putting Murphy and his grief on public display, Bodie looked around for something alcoholic, the stronger the better. Drink was, in his book, good for shock and one of the few things that gave a man a bloody good excuse to get emotional in front of other men. He tried to avoid such solutions for himself, the revealing of emotions not something he felt comfortable with - a good idea for others but not for him.

It took two large malts and some softly spoken words of sympathy before Murphy broke. Bodie put an arm around the shaking shoulders while Doyle went to refill the empty whisky tumblers. The words were slurred, Murphy never having had a head for alcohol despite his army background. He flayed himself for not keeping his partner safe, railed against the gunman who was still alive though injured, and cursed Lawrence for not seeing the gunman hiding in the room behind him, for not hearing the door open.

Less than an hour and a half later Murphy was exhausted. Doyle left the living room and searched Murphy's jacket pockets until he found an address book. He found the name he was looking for, was relieved to see it was a local address, and phoned Murphy's mum. It being only seven o'clock in the evening she was probably sitting at home waiting for Coronation Street to start. A short conversation followed then Mrs Murphy was thanking him for ringing and saying she and her husband would be round within twenty minutes.

Doyle returned to the living room to find Murphy asleep, slumped against Bodie, a frown on his face indicating his sleep was troubled.

Bodie raised an enquiring eyebrow, suspecting what Doyle had done.

"They'll be here in half an hour."

Bodie nodded. "We'd better tidy up a bit."

Doyle put the now empty whisky bottle in the bin and cleared away the glasses. Bodie eased Murphy's head off his shoulder and down onto the arm of the sofa then headed for the bedroom. Gathering up the bloodstained clothes, he found a carrier bag to put them in, and placed them near the front door, ready to take with him when they left.

Doyle sat down in the armchair, watching for Bodie's return. His eyes followed his partner as he took a seat next to the sleeping Murphy.

Bodie felt Doyle's gaze on him and looked up to meet troubled eyes.

"Think he'll be all right?"

"Sure. It'll take a while, you know what good mates he and Jimmy are - were. Did you know he asked him if he wanted to be best man when he got married?"

Doyle had to look away. "Yeah. Murphy was telling everyone, pleased as punch he was."

"Yeah. Poor sod."

Doyle looked up, eyes searching. "Have you thought what ..." he trailed off, losing the courage to continue.

Bodie knew what Doyle had wanted to ask, would have known from the expression in the green eyes, but was glad he had an excuse not to answer. He wasn't ready to examine his feelings about today's tragedy; he could barely take on the weight of Murphy's grief, let alone deal with how Lawrence's death had affected him, how Murphy's reaction had woken fears and nightmare visions he hadn't known he had. So Doyle wanted to know if Bodie had visualised Doyle suffering Lawrence's fate, of Bodie in Murphy's shoes.

Of course he bloody had, he was only human.

There was the brightness of car headlights outside moving across the curtains. Doyle went to the window, giving Bodie a nod to indicate Murphy's parents had arrived. The intercom buzzed, waking Murphy though it was Doyle who went to answer it. Seeing Murphy was awake Bodie put the main light on.

"That's your parents, mate. We thought it was for the best," Bodie said as he sat back down next to his friend, hoping they had done the right thing.

There was silence for a few seconds then: "Thanks, I could do with a bit of maternal sympathy. And Dad was always good at talking common sense." Murphy's voice was low and he was still a little drowsy from sleep and alcohol. Doyle went to open the front door then sat down on the sofa next to Bodie, face radiating sympathy.

Murphy looked from one man to the other, eyes haunted. As the distant footsteps of his parents drew nearer he whispered, "Look after each other." He swallowed and repeated in a stronger voice, "Look after each other, for God's sake. You don't know how much it hurts and I hope you never will." He lowered his gaze, staring down at his linked hands until he heard the soft accented voice of his mother. Then he was enveloped in plump comforting arms, endearments spoken in Dutch whispered against his ear, and he seemed to forget the presence of the silent men beside him.

Murphy didn't hear their goodbyes as his friends left.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN

 

"Bloody Cowley. Bloody paranoia. Bloody flat moves. I've just got used to this place." Doyle glared at a packing crate, resisting the urge to kick it. "Have only been in it a year." Doyle continued to grumble about the flat move, something every agent went through for security reasons, as he had been grumbling about it for the past three days.

Bodie ignored him, continuing to wrap glasses in newspaper, well aware that Doyle was more than a little happy at the prospect of changing flats. He had been after a place with a separate dining room for quite some time and his new flat not only had such a room but also a large kitchen and a spare bedroom.

Agent 3.7 hadn't been excluded. They had already packed Bodie's few belongings - mostly clothes as Doyle had been quick to point out - and taken them to Bodie's new flat, one identical to his old place, which meant Bodie was once again stuck with one bedroom. Bodie had only complained about the fact about a dozen times but was convinced he had actually kept a stoic silence on the subject - a misconception Doyle could have disabused him of with a snort and a few pithy comments, if asked.

They were now in the process of packing Doyle's things into what Bodie regarded as an obscene number of crates and cardboard boxes. They were doing well, only two cups and a picture frame had been broken (to Doyle's knowledge) and they only had one more box to fill. Unfortunately they had five boxes worth of stuff left to pack but Doyle was ignoring this minor detail and Bodie was, wisely, keeping quiet.

"I'll have to buy a picture to replace the one that got broken," Doyle mused for about the sixth time.

As before, Bodie ignored him, glad that his partner hadn't seen the kamikaze Chinese dragon figurine that had jumped out of Bodie's hands and smashed itself on the hearth twenty minutes ago. He glanced down at the floor, spotted a piece of the dragon's leg he'd missed earlier, and ever so casually pushed it under the rug with his foot. Doyle had so much stuff he probably wouldn't notice it was gone.

With seeming irrelevance and the subtlety of a frog during the mating season, Doyle remarked, "It's my birthday soon." He looked pointedly at the expensive watch on Bodie's wrist then gave Bodie his wide-eyed candid look, which Bodie quite rightly read as the following: I remembered your birthday, you tight-fisted bastard, because you're my partner, and as my partner whose life I have now saved several times, you should remember mine, an' if you don't bother gettin' me anything this year I will make your life a living hell.

Bodie wondered when he was supposed to find the time to go shopping for gifts and what the hell he was supposed to get.

As if reading his mind - which he probably was, they were so in sync these days - Doyle said, "Saw a nice abstract in the window of that shop I pointed out yesterday. Would look nice in the bathroom."

Bodie marvelled at such a display of barefaced cheek. Then he smiled. At least it solved the problem of what to get Doyle. Deciding that was worthy of a cup of tea, he headed for the kitchen to fill and switch on the kettle. When he returned he found Doyle frowning at the mantlepiece.

"Do you remember packing the dragon away?"

About to assume his innocent expression, Bodie recalled how suspicious that made his partner. Giving Doyle what he fervently hoped was a blank look, he wondered if there really were beads of sweat on his upper lip or if it was just his imagination conspiring with his guilty conscience.

"The Chinese dragon that was there." Doyle pointed at the middle of the mantlepiece but kept his eyes on Bodie. Bodie frowned at the spot indicated.

Doyle shook his head in a resigned fashion. "Never mind. I'm sure it'll turn up."

Bodie was sure it would turn up too. He could read Doyle at that moment like a book - fully illustrated with notes in the margins. The tale told was simple - Doyle knew.

Add one Chinese dragon to the birthday list. Some days it didn't pay to help a mate.

He grabbed yet another sheet of newspaper and wrapped yet another glass.

 

***

 

It wasn't often they had a day off as opposed to being on standby, and the fact it was unexpected and a reward for a dangerous job well done made it all the more precious. Doyle locked his gun in his bedside cabinet then collected his wallet and keys before leaving his flat and heading for his local supermarket.

They had been tearing about London like Starsky and ... and the other one, the blond one. Obviously he was Starsky, by virtue of his curly hair, which made Bodie the other bloke. But he couldn't be the blond one because Doyle was sure he'd been into health stuff. Bodie ate all kinds of rubbish, it was him, Doyle, who ate the healthiest.

His mind occupied with such trivialities, he reached into the refrigerated compartment and checked the meat for fat content. It was then he realised what he had picked up. Since when had he ever eaten bacon? It must have been thinking about Bodie that made him pick it up. Putting it back, he recalled his partner complaining about Doyle having nothing but eggs or muesli to eat. Well it had been Bodie's own fault for staying late to help him pack then inviting himself to stay over for the night.

About to move on, he remembered the unopened box of muesli he'd spotted in Bodie's kitchen when he'd helped him move into his new flat.

He picked up the packet of bacon again. He put it down. This was ridiculous, he didn't eat the stuff, it would be a waste of money and Bodie hardly ever stayed over so it would end up being thrown out.

He kept picturing the box of muesli.

When had he gone from wanting to punch Bodie's teeth down his throat to wanting to put a smile on his face? Bodie was his partner, now Bodie was his friend. Bodie was his best friend - when had that happened?

Bodie had bought muesli. Bodie hated muesli.

Doyle suddenly noticed the old lady standing next to him. She was regarding him with knowing eyes and Doyle had the strangest feeling she knew of his stupid inner debate.

"Hard decision, isn't it dear? Life is full of hard decisions, and we waste so much time deciding what the right decision will be when all we have to do is follow our heart."

For a second Doyle thought she was about to burst into song. "My heart?"

"Hmm. It's obvious this is important to you."

Doyle wondered where she kept her crystal ball. "So what you must ask yourself - "

"Yes?"

" - is does your young lady like her bacon crispy, and does she like it on toast or with eggs and tomatoes, because you'll find the streaky bacon is very nice but the smoked back has a lovely taste and - "

"Lady?" He had a sudden mental picture of his macho Bodie in drag. "Thank you!" Doyle interposed hurriedly, grabbing a packet at random. "You've been a big help." He walked off quickly, turning to nod and wave his thanks as she listed the qualities of his selection.

He was nearly at the checkout when he caved in and headed for the meat section again. First checking the vicinity for little old ladies and finding it clear, he picked up the first packet of sausages he saw and headed once again for the checkout. He had purchased tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs earlier in the week. But no matter how fond he was getting of Bodie there were some things he would not do.

Come cajoling or heroic rescues or selfless gestures, he would never buy black pudding; he had to draw the line somewhere.

 

***

 

Doyle woke up to greet the day with a scowl. Today of all days he and Bodie had a training session lined up with Martin and Macklin. Phone calls to wish him happy birthday from his mother and his gran put a smile on his face, as did the delivery by the postman. The smile lasted up until they reached the building where the trainers were waiting for them.

Birthdays were the last thing on their minds after the session. They had done rather well, neither man really in need of the session that the rules demanded, but it had been tiring. Doyle would have liked to see the point when their trainers collapsed in an exhausted heap but they were sent on their way as soon as it was twelve o'clock, no agent being permitted to see that the sadistic monsters teaching them were only human.

Due to meet Cowley for a briefing, they jogged from the warehouse that had been converted into a training facility to the street where their boss had arranged to meet them. Tiredness was probably the reason why the normally graceful Doyle slipped on the wet pavement and ended up sitting in a puddle whilst his partner stood by and laughed. Doyle sat still in disbelief for a few seconds before jumping up to deal with his partner, who had very wisely retreated - at speed.

Reaching Cowley's battered Granada, seeing it as some sort of sanctuary, he discovered the car was unoccupied and there would be no one to rescue him from Doyle. His partner soon had him pinned to the bonnet and was clipping him round the head until an experimental prod of the ribs revealed Bodie's secret - he was ticklish. His second secret was soon discovered - he giggled.

After much wriggling - and unmanly giggling - Bodie managed to get his hands free to push himself up off the bonnet. Suddenly there was nothing behind him and he was falling, one hand reaching out to Doyle for support. Caught by surprise, Doyle was dragged down with him, and they fell to the ground. Bodie's head hit the concrete with a nasty thud, Doyle's weight landing on top of him, driving the air from his body.

Catching his chin on his partner's nose, Doyle bit his tongue.

Bodie groaned, one hand going to his head, the other hand going to his nose.

"Y'clumsy sod, what d'you do that for?"

Doyle rolled off his partner, his tongue sticking out. He spat blood. "Me! You pulled me down!" Getting to his feet, he turned to help Bodie to get up.

"Think you've broken me nose," Bodie grumbled with more pathos than truth, poking his bruised nose in a vain attempt to get a drop of blood out of it. He looked quite disappointed when none was forthcoming. Accepting Doyle's outstretched hand, he waited to be pulled up, shooting him an aggrieved look when assistance wasn't immediate. Turning round to see what had caught his partner's attention, he gave a long heartfelt groan.

"Not just your nose that's broken, mate," Doyle remarked in a hollow voice.

"Oh shit." Bodie followed this up with a bout of swearing that would have made a sailor blush.

Cowley's car had looked awful with its orange spray job. It looked even worse after rolling downhill, with its rear end crushed against somebody's garden wall. Either Bodie was a hell of a lot heavier and stronger than they thought, or something had been very wrong with the handbrake.

It was at that point that Cowley came strolling out of the newsagents across the road and saw what had happened. His first sentence was loud and lengthy. For some reason Bodie had never imagined George Cowley swearing. He could have won medals for it.

Hauling Bodie to his feet, Doyle waited for Cowley to draw breath. "Good thing that happened," he remarked calmly.

Bodie winced.

"Must have been something wrong with the handbrake. Could've been a nasty accident," Doyle continued.

Bodie pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and lowered his face, using his rapidly swelling nose as an excuse to muffle his choke of laughter.

Cowley took in the bruised state of his operatives, recalled Bodie had been lying on the ground where his car had been, and put two and two together. Not surprisingly he came up with four.

"We'd better go over, person who lives there has come out," Bodie observed in bright tones that made Doyle want to laugh and Cowley want to strangle him. Before Cowley could say anything he added, "Fred was saying a lot of the older cars are going to be replaced, including yours. Since that won't be happening for a few months, I've a mate in the car business, could get you fixed up with a motor within a day or so." Pocketing his handkerchief, Bodied headed for the crashed car and the householder, who was looking surprisingly calm and was, unbeknown to the three men, thinking it a stroke of luck that his crumbling wall looked set to be replaced at no cost to himself.

Doyle followed his partner closely - it was said there was safety in numbers.

Opening his mouth to speak, Cowley found for once in his life he had nothing to say. Painful though it might be to admit it, Doyle was right. His limp grew steadily worse as he followed his agents.

 

The car arrived the next day, a yellow Rover 2000. There was nothing about it to explain why most of CI5 personnel found an excuse to visit the car park and walked away laughing - unless of course you noticed the licence plate. Bodie dragged Doyle outside to see it the second it arrived.

They were still snorting about it an hour later when Cowley left HQ. Much to their disappointment Cowley gave the car a quick once over and got in without saying a word.

Being the mature, busy people that they were, it took ten minutes before someone, namely Pete Bishop, started taking bets as to how long the car would remain and what form of punishment would be given to 3.7 and 4.5. 'Disappearing' was a popular choice. Figuring he'd never won anything in his life outside of a fight, Bodie put his money on painful death and kept his fingers firmly crossed.

 

***

 

Having spent the third consecutive day searching through files, Bodie and Doyle headed for the car park. They gave MOO 229R a friendly pat on the bonnet despite their current assignment, then got in the Capri and headed for Bodie's flat. After a shower and a change of clothes, Bodie drove them to the Indian restaurant that Doyle had chosen, where Murphy and his partner of two months, Bishop, plus Howard and Mitchell had arranged to meet them.

Doyle had seen the rectangular bulk in the plain carrier bag Bodie had left in the car. Throughout the meal he congratulated himself on his powers of persuasion and on his luck in having someone as generous as Bodie as his partner. After saying their goodbyes to the other men they headed for Doyle's flat. Doyle spotted the Chinese dragon figurine, much nicer than his old one, that now graced his mantlepiece. He suppressed the urge to smile and decided he had waited long enough.

"So where's my pressie then?" he asked, returning from the kitchen after Bodie had gone to the loo.

"I suppose I have kept you waiting quite a while." Bodie took the present out of the bag and gave it to Doyle.

Doyle took it with a frown. The size wasn't right. Oh, Christ, there had been a nauseating picture of a teddy in a sunhat next to the abstract painting. Surely Bodie wouldn't ... couldn't ... Feelings of disappointment started rising but he hid them well.

Not well enough that Bodie didn't notice. He was grinning already, damn him.

Doyle tore off the wrapping paper then looked blankly at his gift. A smile spread across his face. "You bastard!"

"So me mum claimed. I thought it would look good in you lovely new en suite bathroom," Bodie said, smirking.

"How the hell did you get hold of this?" Doyle asked, laughing. "He's smiling. That's a smile."

"Can't tell you, national security and all that. If I told you I'd have to kill you afterwards," Bodie said, moving to stand next to his partner to join him in gazing at the framed photo of Cowley.

"I can't stick him in the toilet!"

"No, on a wall would be best," Bodie agreed.

"I'll end up with constipation if I have 'im glaring down at me."

"He's not glaring, he's smiling," Bodie felt obliged to point out.

"It'll still put me off," insisted Doyle. "And what about when I'm taking a bath?"

Bodie grinned at him and wisely put a few feet between himself and Doyle before he taunted, "You're chicken!"

"No I'm not, I'm just concerned about my health."

"Chicken."

The clucking noises were the last straw. Grinning, Doyle marched towards the bathroom. Surprised to find Bodie was not dogging his heels but had remained in the sitting room, he shrugged then propped the photo on the toilet cistern to his satisfaction. When he turned to leave the painting hanging up on the wall opposite immediately caught his eye.

The abstract he had wanted.

Well now he knew why Bodie hadn't followed him into the bathroom - got embarrassed about being thanked did Bodie. He figured his partner must have been pulling strings all morning to set this up, then remembered the hour this morning when he had disappeared and his insistence that they get ready to go out at Bodie's flat.

For that moment he was glad Bodie wasn't there, because it meant he couldn't see the stupid grin that Doyle could feel plastered across his face. Then he thought, what the hell, and went to thank his friend, stupid grin still firmly in place.

It was much later, after Bodie had set off for the spare bedroom, that Doyle remembered the small photo he had used so many months ago when playing the locker joke on Bodie. Doyle had cleared out the locker and binned everything except the picture of the bodybuilder wearing Cowley's face. It suddenly occurred to him that, being partners, it was only right that Bodie, too, should have a photo of the Old Man.

Then he remembered Bodie's phone was placed next to his bed. The centre of the dial looked a bit bare. He hoped Bodie would appreciate his thoughtfulness.

And it wasn't even Bodie's birthday.

 

Two days later the phone rang, waking Doyle. He rolled over and picked up the receiver, noting it was one-thirty in the morning. Knowing who it would be he lay back down, the receiver tucked cosily against his ear. Bodie's voice came blasting down the phone. "You rotten bastard!"

Doyle grinned, snuggling under the bedclothes.

"Was about to have it away when I spotted it!"

Doyle started to laugh.

"Then I lost the urge, you sod."

Doyle got hiccups.

Bodie recommended water - though jumping in the Thames wearing an anchor round the neck wasn't the usual cure.

Score one for the ex-copper. Maybe Cowley had the right idea teaming them after all. He was still smiling when he fell asleep again, Bodie's voice buzzing in his ear as he listed every one of Doyle's faults.

***

 

Doyle spent the weekend working on his current girlfriend and not the Norton as he had originally planned. Returning to his flat on Sunday morning, he heard his phone ringing and went into the living room to answer it.

"'lo, mate. Had a good night did you?" Bodie's voice, husky and very suggestive, sounded in his ear. Doyle shivered and made a mental note to draught-proof the windows.

"Mornin', Bodie. You're a nosy bastard."

"You didn't then," Bodie decided. "Told you to read up on the birds and bees, didn't I?"

"I did. Get a hard-on every time I see a flower bed. Been having wet dreams about Kew Gardens."

Bodie snorted noisily down the phone.

Doyle slipped off his shoes and made himself comfortable in his favourite armchair, one leg draped across the arm. "Matter of fact I had a very good night. Very athletic. Any more athletic and I'd have needed the oysters," Doyle declared with a lecherous smile, the same smile that had had fathers locking up their daughters since Raymond Doyle had entered puberty.

"Oysters? Most people use condoms."

Doyle groaned. "That was pathetic!"

"It's ten past nine and I haven't eaten breakfast yet!" Bodie said defensively.

"'ang on, I'll call the press."

"Sarky bugger."

Bodie sounded amused though there was something slightly odd about his voice. For a brief moment Doyle wondered if he had somehow offended him and was wondering how to find out without being obvious when Bodie continued speaking.

"Only rang to let you know I won't be in work tomorrow so there's no need to pick me up."

"Good - big lad like you, I might put my back out."

"And he called my attempt pathetic!" Bodie complained.

Doyle smiled reflexively but there was a faint frown between his brows. There was definitely something wrong with Bodie. "You sick?"

"So people claim."

"Seriously," Doyle said reprovingly.

"Fit as a fiddle."

"What, wooden and bent in the middle?"

"Only on Tuesdays."

Doyle knew from past experience that Bodie hated fussing and that nothing put his back up more than a barrage of questions. Keeping it light was often an effective way of getting answers. "So you've managed to con Cowley into giving you a day off. Don't tell me you're gettin' married!"

"Want to be bridesmaid, do you?" There was now a genuine note of amusement in Bodie's voice instead of that awful forced jovial tone that had aroused Doyle's concern and curiosity.

"Will I get to wear pink lace?" Doyle asked, playing the game.

"Afraid not. Will yellow satin do?"

Doyle's voice was full of mock regret. "Nah, wouldn't go with my complexion." He decided it was time to discover the truth. "So why are you off then?"

There was a pause that lasted a few seconds but seemed much longer. "Funeral," Bodie said at last, the strained quality in his voice back in force.

"Oh." There was little else Doyle could say.

The sound of a heavy sigh came gusting down the phone then to Doyle's surprise, Bodie told him, "Mate of mine from the Paras, only thirty-two. Got killed in a car crash." There was silence for a few seconds then Bodie added in a tired voice, "I've got to go. You'll pick me up usual time on Tuesday?"

"When you're wooden and bent in the middle? Yeah, sure. I'll see you then. Oh, and Bodie ... Sorry that ... you know." It wasn't often that Doyle felt inadequate.

"Yeah, I know," Bodie replied softly. "See you, mate."

"See you." Doyle waited until he heard the click indicating Bodie had ended the call before replacing the receiver. He sat back in the armchair, looking thoughtful. Bodie's feelings, for all his hard man act, ran a hell of a lot deeper than he let on. After Lawrence had been killed he had been subdued and quite unlike his normal self for days after the funeral. How much more deeply would he feel upon losing a friend he had probably spent years working with?

Doyle was still thinking about Bodie on Monday evening, as indeed he'd been thinking about him for most of the day. Both Murphy and his partner, Bishop, had noticed his distracted air and tried to get him to tell them what was bothering him but he had shrugged and claimed everything was fine. But Bodie's desperate attempt to sound like his usual self, the underlying weariness in his voice, had echoed in his mind. It was ten o'clock when he found himself dialling his partner's phone number. The phone was ringing out when he told himself that of course Bodie wouldn't be there, he would be with his ex-comrades drinking, talking of old times, getting -

"Hello?"

Doyle nearly dropped the phone in his surprise, having convinced himself that Bodie would not be at home.

"You alone?"

"Unless Miss World really is hiding under my bed, but I think that was just a dream." There was a yawn down the phone then Bodie explained, "I fell asleep on the sofa."

"At ten o'clock?" Doyle asked incredulously, then could have kicked himself.

Bodie didn't seem to notice any lack of tact. "It's old age catching up with me. Considering you're even older you'd better watch out, you'll be wearing false teeth by your next birthday."

"I'll just borrow yours. I figured you'd be out."

"Then why did you ring?" Bodie sounded puzzled though there was pleasure in his voice.

"Don't know. On the off chance or something. Didn't realise I'd dialled until I did." Doyle paused. "That sounds stupid." Feeling foolish he shifted restlessly in the armchair. Spotting a loose thread on the arm of the chair he pulled at it.

"No more stupid than my dream."

"What? Miss World?"

"Yeah. She turned into a bat and started chasing me."

"A bat? A proper bat, not Bat-Girl bat, 'cause the costume was a bit of all right," Doyle said, trying to pick up on what Bodie was not saying, as he twirled the loose thread around his forefinger.

"Proper bat. Fangs an' all. What a waste." There was sincere regret in Bodie's voice.

"Trust you. Never mind, you wouldn't have known what to do with her without an instruction manual anyway. So why are you at home?"

"I do live here you know!"

"Would've thought you'd be with your mates getting plastered," Doyle said, an unsubtle prompt for Bodie to reveal the details of the evening.

"Was for a bit. It's true what they say about never being able to go back."

"What happened?" Doyle asked, unable to prevent his voice from gentling.

"Nothing much."

"What happened?" Doyle repeated in a no-nonsense voice that fortunately seemed to amuse rather than annoy his partner.

"Curious as a cat and as tenacious as a bulldog with a bone in its jaws."

"Tenacious, eh? I must look that up. And I'm not curious. It's called concern and being a mate. Do I need to help you punch someone's teeth in?"

Bodie laughed at that. "My hero!"

"Your better half. So what was said?"

"How d'you know - ?"

"Come on, Bodie!" Doyle coaxed, daring to let a little of his impatience show. He wished he could see his partner so he could read his expression.

In a colourless voice Bodie told him, "We'd had a few drinks, toasted John an' that. Emotions were ... well you can imagine. One of the lads, John's best mate in fact, was well liquored up, had been at the doubles for hours. He started going on about me leaving the unit, said I couldn't cut it and had left because CI5 was the soft option. Obviously the stupid sod knows nothing about Cowley or CI5."

Doyle sighed. "When's he due out of hospital then?"

Bodie's voice blasted down the receiver. "Christ, give me some credit! They just fuckin' buried his best mate!"

"Sorry," Doyle muttered sincerely, his hand tightening its grip on the receiver. "Go on."

In a calmer voice Bodie continued, "Told him to have a word with someone who knows CI5 then left. I couldn't stay after that. I didn't belong there. Not any more."

"Look, mate, I'll talk to you in about twenty minutes, okay?" Doyle said abruptly.

"Oh. Okay, talk to you then. Bye, Ray." Bodie sounded surprised and perhaps there was even a note of disappointment.

"See you." Doyle put the phone down and stood up, something tugging on his finger. He looked down and saw the hole he had created in the arm of the chair, swore mildly, and unwound the thread that was wrapped around his finger then headed for the kitchen. He grabbed the eight cans of lager and the large bar of Dairy Milk that had been awaiting Bodie's next visit and threw them in a carrier bag. His keys, wallet, gun and r/t were located and packed in a sports bag along with a change of clothes, his shoes and jacket were pulled on and he had set the security locks and driven off in the Capri in the same time it took most people to brush their teeth.

He arrived at Bodie's flat in a quarter of an hour. Pressing the intercom he announced himself, feeling an immense satisfaction when he heard the surprise and pleasure in his partner's voice. Bodie was waiting at the door as Doyle reached the top of the second flight of stairs. "When you said you'd talk to me later - "

"Thought I'd surprise you. Here," he said and passed the bar of chocolate to Bodie. Catching sight of the wide-eyed look on his partner's face, Doyle headed for the living room before he did something stupid like hug the soft bugger. He put the cans on the coffee table before heeling off his trainers and taking up his favourite position on the sofa.

Bodie trailed in after him, still looking a little bemused though far from unhappy judging by the light in his eyes. His throat tightening, Doyle had to look away for a moment, feeling stupid for getting so emotional just because Bodie was staring at him as if he was the most wonderful person in the world. He wanted him to stop, even as he wondered if he would ever see that particular expression directed at him again.

Perhaps sensing he was embarrassing his friend, Bodie picked up one of the cans. Opening it, he passed it to Doyle before getting one for himself. Sitting down in the armchair opposite his partner, he unwrapped the Dairy Milk.

Doyle found himself staring at Bodie's hands, his throat tightening when he saw those normally agile fingers were fumbling with the purple foil and shaking ever so slightly. He looked away, pretending he hadn't noticed, while wondering if the deceased's tactless mate was responsible for Bodie's current state.

There was a silence which, while not exactly comfortable, was not so uncomfortable that either man felt the need to fill it with words; rather there was an air of expectancy.

"Want some?"

Seeing the proffered chocolate Doyle shook his head, trying to convey sympathy, encouragement and support in one brief smile without going overboard on the mushy stuff and thus scaring Bodie off.

Apparently the smile was a success. Bodie's lips quirked briefly before he dipped his head and got up to put the remainder of the chocolate in the fridge.

Doyle wriggled even further into the sofa, aiming for maximum comfort, his eyes closed. Hearing Bodie return and sit down, he sensed his partner watching him. Keeping his eyes closed, he waited.

As expected, Bodie broke the silence. "So how come you're here?"

Doyle opened his eyes and reached for his can. He took a long swallow of lager, remembering to slurp noisily. Noting with an inward smile that Bodie no longer noticed the noise, he realised seconds later that his partner was probably too wrapped up in the day's events to notice such trivialities. He suddenly wanted Bodie to notice he was slurping, wanted Bodie to notice he'd just heeled off his socks and was rubbing one foot on the arm of the sofa to relieve an itch. Most of all he wanted the happy expression he'd seen minutes ago to come back again, and for the pain in Bodie's eyes to go away.

"Doyle?"

He didn't want to answer. He didn't have an answer. What was he supposed to say? That Bodie had sounded upset, that he'd sounded lonely and in pain, and that Doyle didn't want him to feel alone, not so long as he was around? That he thought Bodie had needed a friend?

Instead he said something that had occurred to him that morning, when his thoughts had been plagued by images of Bodie standing beside a grave while listening to words he didn't believe. "It's our anniversary."

Bodie gave him a blank look.

"April First ring any bells?"

"Oh yeah." Bodie's mouth twitched. "Cowley's little joke has lasted a whole year. Can just picture him, rubbing his hands together, chuckling to himself and thinking 'I told you so'."

"Can't imagine the Cow chuckling."

"Cackling in a sinister way?"

"That sounds about right." Doyle's face was solemn as he regarded his partner, his steady gaze holding the other man captive as he considered all that was Bodie. A difficult man to get to know but surprisingly easy to love. It made all the hard work he had put into their relationship worthwhile. Bodie still held his gaze, clearly waiting for Doyle to say something profound. "I reckon neither of us wanted it, but it worked out okay, didn't it?" There was just the faintest hint of a question in his voice.

"We're the best Cowley's got," Bodie said with a smug smile.

"You're supposed to shrug modestly and say Cowley deserves all the credit," Doyle remarked, sounding equally smug, though his smile had more to do with the fact that Bodie was starting to look and sound like his old self.

"Am I? Never could get the hang of modesty. Bit difficult when you're as perfect as me."

Doyle laughed, nearly spilling his lager. "Oh yeah? Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford all rolled into one are you?" Doyle teased, glad to see humour and warmth had replaced the bleakness of earlier and made him very glad he had decided to see his friend.

"Why would I want to look like Redford when I can look like me? Bet he lies awake at night, crying his little heart out 'cause he doesn't possess my perfect looks."

Now Doyle did spill his drink. Placing the wet can on the coffee table, he got his laughter under control, managing to choke out, "Yeah, crying with relief."

Bodie was grinning at him, the gleam in his eyes teasing. "You're just jealous 'cause I'm too beautiful for this world and you look like something the cat brought up."

"Dragged in," Doyle corrected automatically. He had often wondered whether Bodie really did have a high opinion of his looks or whether it was all part of his act. Now he was suddenly quite positive that Bodie, while having a healthy opinion of his looks, really didn't have a clue how attractive he was. There were times he looked, well, beautiful was the only word Doyle could think of. Tempted to say something, just to see Bodie squirm with embarrassment, he resisted. It could wait for another day.

"I know what I mean," Bodie retorted, unaware of his partner's thoughts. "Must be terrible for you, being partnered with someone as flawless as me."

"It's a constant trial," Doyle said with meaning.

"You should ask Cowley for a new partner, before your inferiority complex reaches critical," Bodie remarked.

"No, it's all right, I'll suffer manfully - "

"That's the spirit!" Bodie said encouragingly.

" - and the birds seem to like my looks well enough," Doyle continued.

Bodie gave him a reassuring smile. "Don't worry, mate, there are plenty of birds out there who'll settle for second best."

"That's most of your girlfriends then?"

Bodie spluttered and choked on his lager in a most satisfying way.

Doyle decided he'd won that round and reached for another can. "I suppose we should be grateful to Cowley."

Bodie blew his nose, deciding alcohol was not a drug best snorted, and looked at Doyle with a scowl on his face and a smile in his eyes.

"He could've paired me with Anson and his smelly cigars or you with Shotgun Tommy," Doyle pointed out.

Bodie shivered and took a reviving and necessary mouthful of lager, careful not to inhale this time. "Don't even joke about it!"

"Who's joking?"

Bodie looked at his can as if wishing for something a little stronger. "I suppose we do owe the Old Man. Shall we send him a thank you card?"

"Box of chocolates?"

"Dancing girls in little tartan bikinis?"

"Nah, he's got Betty the Organ-grinder."

"Organ-grinder? Never heard that one. Does that make Cowley the monkey?"

"Not that kind of organ, mate. She'd sooner castrate you as look at you."

"She's fine with me. Probably 'cause she fancies me." Bodie ignored his partner's snort of amusement. "What we need is something a bit more ... personal."

"Haemorrhoid cream?" Doyle suggested slyly.

"Naughty, Ray. No, let's think about it."

"Got to buy it tomorrow though," Doyle said, slurping his lager. He noted Bodie's pained look and barely stopped himself from punching the air and giving a shout of victory.

"You serious?"

"Of course. You?"

"You're on. I've got a bottle of Glenfiddich at home," Doyle offered. "Somewhere."

"Bit boring. But we'll stop off at your place in the morning anyway when you pick up some clothes."

"Am I staying over then?" Doyle asked, hiding his pleasure at Bodie's easily given invitation. He could clearly remember the first time he'd stayed the night at his partner's flat - Bodie had looked as if he'd rather have his teeth extracted.

"You'd better be staying. That muesli has been cluttering up the cupboard long enough. I'm convinced the bloody stuff's going to put down roots any day. Still don't know how you can eat that rubbish when you've got bacon and sausage in your fridge."

Doyle tried not to look self-conscious.

"Makings of a decent breakfast that. Though what you're missing is some nice black pudding."

"I'm not missing it in the least," Doyle informed him, with a brave attempt at sticking to his principles.

"It's lovely with tomatoes and mushrooms and fried egg," Bodie said dreamily. "Marks and Spencers do a really tasty one, hardly any fat."

"I'm sure they do," Doyle said, scepticism in his voice, resignation in his heart, and the route to Marks and Spencers in his head. He plucked a can from the coffee table and tossed it to Bodie. "Here, have another one."

Bodie caught it but placed it back on the table. He stood up, stretching. "I'm calling it a night, mate. I'm wiped out. Look in the bathroom cabinet, there's a new toothbrush for you. Help yourself to the razor and stuff. G'night."

"Hang on, it's time I turned in myself." Collecting the cans, Doyle took them to the kitchen while Bodie set the security locks.

They moved around each other easily as they performed their usual night time routine. A minor scuffle broke out over the shaving foam which Doyle won by fighting dirty - he remembered Bodie's ticklish sides. Bodie was helpless in seconds. A good partner knows his oppo's weaknesses.

A good agent knows when to exploit them.

Cowley would have approved.

 

The next morning Bodie woke up to find himself deprived of the bed covers. Doyle's arm was across him and giving off a surprising amount of heat, as was the lean body which was glued to his side, so he left the covers as they were. A quick glance at the clock showed he had ten minutes before the alarm would go off so he gave a yawn and waited for his morning erection to subside, Doyle's proximity and good manners ruling out the usual solution to this not so little problem.

With two minutes to go until the alarm would sound he reached over to switch it off, taking care not to crush his still erect penis. Firmly resisting the ridiculous urge to cuddle up to his partner, he gently removed Doyle's arm which was draped across his chest. He started to remove his own hand, which had decided Doyle's hair would make a cosy resting place, but paused to give the soft hair a brief affectionate ruffle. His hand lingered there, fascinated by the way the curls seemed to coil about his fingers.

Doyle shifted beside him, disturbing the covers, and the air was abruptly filled with the scent of warm Ray, a surprisingly appealing scent that suggested cuddling up to him would be a very pleasant thing to do on a cold morning such as this. Green eyes popped open and focussed on him and Doyle gave him a sleepy smile so endearing that no one under the age of twelve should have the right to use it.

"'lo, Butch."

Bodie caught the reference to the previous night's conversation and gave an answering smile. "Makes you the Sunshine Kid, does it?"

Doyle gave a soft sound, a chuckle that seemed to catch in his throat. His voice husky, his face softened by sleep, he pushed back against the hand that was caught in his hair, sighing gently. "That's Sundance, you prat. Yeah, that's me, always quick on the draw."

Wondering if his morning erection was ever going to subside, Bodie shifted back until he was no longer in danger of his cock accidentally rubbing up against Doyle. The knowledge doing so would either amuse or alarm the hell out of Ray proved to be the magic cure. His inconvenient arousal receding, Bodie was able to settle comfortably and in a voice full of affection ask, "Is that right?" He gave Doyle's hair a final gentle ruffle - then hit his mate firmly on the head with a pillow.

Doyle yelled with surprise, yanking his own pillow from under his head to defend himself.

They were well-matched in this as in most things. Several times each man almost knocked the other off the bed. However Doyle made the mistake of trying to use a one-handed grip on his pillow so he could tickle Bodie with his other hand. A particularly fine sweep of Bodie's pillow, the kind that would have earned a six on the cricket field, sent Doyle tumbling off the bed to land safely on the rumpled bed clothes. Whooping with triumph and ignoring the irate hammering on the ceiling from his neighbour, Bodie raced for the safety of the bathroom. He had it locked before a vengeful Doyle could feed him his pillow.

It was five minutes later, when he was in the shower, that Bodie discovered Doyle's special gift - and not the one whispered about during tea-breaks in the Secretarial pool. While many people could testify to the magic of Ray Doyle's fingers, only a few knew what he could do with a pick-lock.

The freezing cold water was bad enough, but hiding the towels was downright cruel.

 

A tip-off led 3.7 and 4.5 to Hamley's toy store where one of Doyle's less willing but more reliable sources of information was supposed to be buying a present for his son. After half an hour of waiting there was still no sign of their quarry. Bodie pointed out that it was next to impossible for two grown men, without a child or a wife at their side, to just stand there not looking at the toys without appearing highly suspicious. Therefore Bodie volunteered to blend in - or so he called it. Doyle watched him playing with a huge racing car game that was set up in the middle of the electrical toys department. He shook his head, amused, and caught the eye of the woman on his right.

"Kids, eh?" the woman said, nodding her head towards the crowd of children now gathered around Bodie and two teenage boys as they raced the cars. He could only see the back of Bodie's head but from the way it was weaving about he seemed to be enjoying himself.

"I'm thinking of getting a camp bed - it'll be hours before he gets bored."

"My lad's the same. Loves anything he can race or crash so long as it has wheels and costs a fortune. He's at the thinking of nothing but his stomach, girls, and anything with a squillion horse power stage. Yours?"

"Yeah, that sounds like Bodie," Doyle said, grinning. He heard Bodie's shout of victory and his grin widened.

"Bodie? That's an unusual name," the woman observed, her eyes making no secret of her interest in Doyle.

"He doesn't like any of his other names," Doyle explained, unconsciously responding to the woman's interest by shifting his stance to show off what many considered his finest feature. When women spoke longingly of Raymond Doyle's rear view, they were not referring to the back of his head. It looked equally delectable in profile.

"Tell me about it! My lad's decided Terry doesn't suit him and he wants to change it when he's older. He's trying to decide between Ziggy and Rocky. So are you here to buy his birthday present?"

"Not really, just looking. Though he's got his eye on that racing car set," Doyle observed shrewdly. He also noted that the crowd around Bodie had grown to fifteen but he still hadn't relinquished the controls. His partner might find himself being turned on by the mob, though they looked friendly enough for the moment. Perhaps too friendly - Doyle's eyes fixed on the teenage Lolita slowly working her way towards his partner.

Too good-looking for his own good, was Bodie, thought Doyle with a peculiar pride in his partner's attributes. Poor kid must be wetting her knickers, too used to spotty teenage lads. She must be thinking her fantasy boyfriend had suddenly come to life. Her hormones would have been dancing about the second she clapped eyes on him, seeing how beautiful he was compared to the little oiks who -

"Bit pricey."

"Eh?" Doyle brought his attention back to the woman at his side. "Oh, I'll just tell him to pay for it himself."

"I'll have to try that with my Terry - I can hear the cries of cruelty already. Yours a good kid?"

Doyle grinned. "Most of the time." He watched as Bodie punched the air with triumph, clearly gloating over some victory. The crowd seemed to be taking it well, calling out their farewells as Bodie handed his car over to someone else and walked over to Doyle. Lolita was gazing after him, poor little girl. Another victim of Bodie charms. They never learned. The only person who truly had a claim on Bodie was Ray Doyle, which was how it should be, thought Doyle with satisfaction. Bodie was after all his partner. Even Cowley was only permitted glimpses of the Bodie beneath the surface. "He can get out of hand now and then."

"You don't look the type to let that last for long." Her assessing glance took in a lot more than his strength of character.

"I give him a free rein, there'd be murder otherwise. But I let him know when he's pushing too far." Doyle watched Bodie shaking his head, amused, when he saw the attractive older woman at his partner's side.

"They do like to push. Mine does it all the time, drives me round the bend. I suppose it's just them testing the barriers, sorting out the rules."

"Bodie's usually breaking them. And speak of the devil - 'ello, Bodie. You finished playing?"

Bodie gave the woman at Doyle's side a charming smile. "Has he been annoying you?"

Though startled to discover Bodie was not the curly-haired teenager she had thought him to be but instead fully grown, well-built and gorgeous, she recovered rapidly, quick enough to give him an answering smile. "We were discussing kids."

"We decided you were the biggest kid of all," Doyle said, stepping in front of Bodie with a casual and unthinking intimacy. One hand briefly touched Bodie's waist as that gentleman automatically checked out the woman Doyle had been talking to. Bodie's attention immediately snapped back to his partner, his smile for Ray, as Doyle leaned in close to ask, "You sure you don't want another go on the racing cars?"

"Quite sure. I just beat that red-headed kid twice, so my reputation and dignity remain untarnished."

"You never had any to begin with. Bodie, this is ...?" He smiled his inquiry at the woman who he saw was surreptitiously checking out the front of Bodie's pants. Doyle swallowed a snort of amusement, absurdly proud of the effect his partner had on people. It seemed right and proper that they should be equally matched at that as in almost everything else.

"Jean. That was my son you beat. Did he take it well?"

"Yeah, good kid that. But he doesn't slow for corners like he should."

Doyle smiled at that. "Wish you'd remember that when you're driving. Look, mate, we've had a no-show. We'd better head back."

"Yeah, okay. Let's eat first, I'm starved." Bodie directed a charming smile at the woman at Doyle's side. "Bye, Jean."

"Bye." The regret in her voice was a wonderful ego boost for both men.

"Bye, love. Remember, the loose rein can work wonders."

Jean laughed. "I will. I'll probably end up strangling him with it." She watched the two men as they walked away and decided tight jeans and snugly fitting trousers should be made mandatory.

"What was that about a loose rein?" Bodie enquired as they headed for the escalator.

"Riding." Doyle's expression was so innocent that Bodie's suspicions were immediately roused.

"Oh yeah? I know the only kind of mounts you know anything about."

"Mind like a sewer you have," Doyle complained, trying to look as pure of thought as possible. It was difficult when you had the sort of face that suggested all kinds of carnal knowledge. Doyle looked as if he knew a few things the Kama Sutra had missed out.

Bodie's wide-eyed innocent act was about as convincing as Doyle's. "I was talking about your art classes."

They were near the bottom of the escalator when Doyle spotted his quarry. It was at that moment that Bodie saw what he hadn't even realised he was looking for - the perfect gift for George Cowley.

 

It began like any other day for the Controller of CI5 and if he was aware of the significance of the date, whether that be for pranksters or his top team, then he gave no sign. He parked his car, gave the security man the same bare hint of a smile and a nod in greeting that he had been giving for years, then headed for his office.

Two hours later Cowley was interrogating a suspect, an hour after that he was on his way to Whitehall, all very ordinary and as usual.

After lunch he returned to his office to find things were no longer normal. There was a bottle of Glenfiddich on his desk - a quick glance confirmed that it was not from his own small stock. Most unusual of all was the mug filled with malt whisky. He moved a little closer and saw that the picture on the mug was of a cow wearing a hat with a flower in its mouth. Apparently the cow's name was Ermentrude. A step closer and Cowley saw it was wearing the sort of expression that would ordinarily indicate the use of certain illegal substances. He peered at it more closely just to confirm that it was indeed a harmless flower she was chewing.

Picking up the mug to sniff the contents, Cowley heard a faint clinking noise. With great care he carried the mug to the adjacent bathroom and slowly poured the spirit down the sink, not so involved in solving the mystery that he didn't feel a twinge of regret at wasting pure malt scotch.

Having poured away the majority of the whisky, Cowley discovered the mug contained a small amount of plastic it most certainly hadn't possessed when manufactured.

Baffled, Cowley picked up the small plastic cow. His sobriquet among the men was scarcely a secret, so the relevance of the mug and the cow was hardly a brain-teaser. What did puzzle him was why. And how had someone managed to gain access to his office when it was locked in his absence?

He left the bathroom and sat down at his desk - then stood up again abruptly. He picked up the second cow, a match for the first. Frowning, he looked about the room and spotted one attached to a paper parachute hanging from the ceiling near the door. Beginning to search in earnest, he found more cows, making a total of twelve. He lined them up on his desk, including the one that had been glued to the hatstand, and studied them intently. Picking up each of them in turn, he examined them more closely.

The lock on his door was next to suffer his scrutiny. It didn't look tampered with.

He reviewed the facts.

One bottle (opened) of Glenfiddich.

One mug bearing picture of cow with possible drug habit. Filled with liquid suspected to be aforementioned malt scotch.

One dozen small toy farm animals of the bovine persuasion. Hidden. Black and white. Plastic. Female.

One office, locked. No signs of forcible entry.

Cows. Why would anyone send him a dozen of the ridiculous things? It was April First, true, but it had never happened before. Why risk entering his office? His suspicions grew.

Was it a joke? He suspected it was and had a mental list of at least five possible culprits. However he had not lived so long and achieved so much by taking things at face value and not considering all possibilities. A plot disguised as a joke? Bugs were getting smaller and smaller. He picked up one of the cows. It looked harmless enough. He really should send the cows and the scotch down to the lab.

Then Cowley thought of the probable reaction if he was to deliver a dozen plastic cows to the lab for examination.

Sighing, his face resigned but determined, he took out his Swiss Army knife and began dissecting the cows.

 

***

 

It was nine months later when the cows reared their heads once again. The date of Cowley's birthday was not widely known, that information being possessed by a very select few. Quite how Bodie managed to discover this information was never revealed, though Doyle often wondered if Bodie's claim to have dated Cowley's secretary, Betty, may have contained some tiny grain of truth. Certainly the woman's smile lately had been downright conspiratorial

The first thing Cowley noticed was the unseemly number of balloons. One could hardly miss forty-five red, white and blue balloons in so small an office - indeed one could hardly move for them. Then there were the plastic cows. After almost an hour of searching he found twenty-six of them hidden in various parts of the office and bathroom. If he hadn't already guessed the reason for the balloon and bovine invasion, the 'Happy Birthday' banner and the birthday cake decorated with a red and green tartan ribbon and ten small cows seemingly doing a conga around one larger cow might have given him a tiny clue.

The first thought that crossed Cowley's mind was how on earth he was going to dispose of everything before the minister showed up for his appointment.

The second thought was who the culprits were. Having counted the balloons and cows he had more than a faint idea as to their identity. He tried to quell the grudging admiration he felt for their ability to get past the new locks he had installed nine months ago.

The third thought occurred after he had hidden the cake and banner in a cupboard in the bathroom. He had taken great care to pop the balloons quietly, piercing them at the knotted end so as not to alarm anyone nearby. He threw the burst balloons into the bin next to his desk and was about to add the cows and some concealing paper when he did something he rarely did.

He hesitated.

The third thought ran something like this: he didn't want to put the cows in his office bin because they might be seen. Better to take them home and dispose of them there. This was a perfectly valid reason.

So why was there a tiny voice in his head calling him a liar?

It was a fine state of affairs when George Cowley didn't even believe himself.

With a defiance that was purely for his own benefit he opened his briefcase and put the cows in a side compartment.

Now, how could he smuggle out a twelve inch by twelve inch birthday cake?

After a moment's thought he buzzed for the ever-faithful Betty.

 

***

 

Things went well over the next twelve months for Bodie and Doyle, if you could discount knife wounds, beatings, accusations of brutality and accidental murder and a rotten apple in the CI5 barrel - their own trainer, Barry Martin no less. All this and more they took in their stride. Most terrible of all, Bodie had ruined several good suits, blazers and expensive shirts. Cowley was unsurprisingly reluctant to pay for replacements, so it was small wonder Bodie had taken to wearing cords and polo necks.

The pasts of both men had reared up to tweak them on their noses and remind them that they could never put past actions behind them. For Doyle that resulted in his being hunted and taunted by an ex-colleague with a grudge and a very special gun. For Bodie it was the vision of what he might have been if he hadn't left Africa and Krivas.

At least it kept them busy, or as Cowley might have put it, out of mischief. Though they still found the time to plant further cows in the Controller's office and to glue one to the front of his car - a bovine Spirit of Ecstasy. Whether Cowley was amused or not remained unestablished.

Then all was back to what was considered normal in CI5, at least for a little while.

 

The building seemed remarkably quiet when Bodie and Doyle returned to headquarters after a fruitless search for an informer that had resulted in a date for Doyle, an ice cream for Bodie, a new pub to visit in the future and a vow to steer clear of Twin Dragons Chinese takeaway in Swiss Cottage.

They were heading for the rest room in search of either stimulating conversation or someone to torment, they couldn't decide which, when they spotted something female and attractive walking down the corridor towards them. Doyle, having recognised the woman, gave a friendly smile totally devoid of flirtation.

Bodie saw blonde hair and went into predator mode.

It was unfortunate for him that female personnel had, for some time, been including the undeniably tempting charms of agents 3.7 and 4.5 amongst its list of does and don'ts - to be found between (2) Bring your own toilet paper because the CI5 stuff will give you piles and (4) Always check your chair for whoopee cushions.

Bodie smiled and said hello.

The blonde walked straight past them, eyes front.

Stunned, Bodie put a hand out towards her without thinking, about to repeat his friendly greeting.

Three seconds later he was flat on his back but not in the manner he might have wished. He stared up at the blonde, shock mingling with admiration. "Hello to you, too. What else are they teaching you in the typing pool?"

The blonde drew herself up a little straighter. "This 'typist' happens to be - "

"An agent," Doyle finished for her, his grin clearly showing his delight.

Bodie spared a frown in Doyle's direction then turned incredulous eyes on the woman. "You what!"

"You know. One of us," Doyle explained in a slow, kindly voice, as though addressing an idiot.

Bodie shook his head. "Not one of us. For one thing she's got better legs."

The blonde gave him a disgusted look. "I was right, you two are Bodie and Doyle."

"Was told how incredibly good-looking we are, were you?" Bodie asked, still on the floor but with his head propped up to examine the female agent. The view was ... interesting.

She gave him a withering look and tugged her skirt down a decorous inch. "Yes. And how sexist."

Bodie looked offended. "Me? Sexist? Must've misheard, love."

"She probably means primitive form of swamp life, sounds the same when you mumble," Doyle said, prodding his partner's backside with a grubby trainer.

"Nah, must be thinking of you. Hey!" he added when the blonde made to leave. "Aren't you going to help me up?"

The woman made the mistake of looking him in the eye.

Cowley should have that look listed under dangerous devices. Bodie somehow managed to look teasing, endearing and rueful, and though she had been warned the woman found herself softening.

She put out a hand, vowing to castrate him if he pulled some macho stunt.

Bodie took the offered hand and got to his feet, releasing her hand the second he was upright. "Sorry if I seemed a bit pushy."

The searching look the woman directed at him had Bodie itching to straighten his tie, despite the fact he wasn't wearing one. Something seemed to satisfy her for she gave the tiniest of smiles.

"What's your name?" Bodie risked asking.

"Susie Fischer. Agent two-seven."

"Well that's some reflex you have there, but if you grip my arm a bit higher you'll find it easier to throw me."

Fischer eyed him measuringly for a moment then the tiny smile grew a little wider. "I'll remember that. Next time."

Bodie's answering smile was rueful. "There won't be a next time. I'm very delicate and this body can only take so much damage." Doyle gave an amused snort.

Fischer's eyes drifted down as she viewed Bodie. "I'll bet. Too many landings on your behind might give you brain damage." She acknowledged Doyle's crack of laughter with a nod of her head then turned to leave before her grin fought free and spoiled her exit.

Bodie watched her walk away, ignoring the finger that prodded his shoulder. The ungentle digit moved to his ribs and Bodie's attention returned to his partner.

Doyle moved in closer to say teasingly, "The famed Bodie charm has them running again!"

"Load of crap. It's obvious she's fallen in love with me," Bodie declared, gazing directly into the amused eyes six inches from his own

"Oh yeah? You said that about Betty. I bet you're the reason she left. She couldn't put up with you leering at her."

"I never leer. And Betty left because I told her that I could never belong to one woman. That would be cruel to all the other pining away for me. As for the beautiful Susie, she's just pretending not to be interested in me to get my attention."

Frowning with mock puzzlement, Doyle took a step back and swept his eyes over Bodie from head to toe. "Let me get this straight - "

"Said the actress to the bishop."

" - if a woman ignores you it means they fancy you?"

Bodie suppressed his grin and nodded gravely.

"So that means most of the girls in this place fancy you then?"

Trying to turn his growing smile into a scowl, Bodie failed miserably. He clapped a hand on Doyle's shoulder. "Come on, you sod, I'll buy you a cheese roll. I haven't decided where to stick it but it should give Casualty a thrill."

They reached the rest room to find it empty so they tossed a coin to decide who was going to write up their report. Doyle lost, having left his two-headed coin in his other jeans. Bodie left his partner to find something high in fat and calories for himself and the promised cheese roll for Doyle. The corridor took him past Cowley's office, a hazardous route for idle agents as the Controller was apt to open his door just as they were passing and give them something to do.

A voice was being raised in the office. It wasn't Cowley's, and not Doyle's as he was safely busy in the rest room. Apart from himself he knew of no-one else who dared risk annoying The Cow. He slowed down as he approached and listened closely. To his amazement he recognised the voice as Murphy's. Then it registered what was being said.

It was at that moment that Dr Kate Ross came walking down the corridor and caught him eavesdropping.

Ordinarily Bodie might have assumed an innocent expression. Having heard what he had, he gave her a defiant look.

Dr Ross met his look, her expression gentling a little but not in response to Bodie's charms. "You've heard then."

"When did it happen?" Bodie asked in a subdued voice.

"About an hour ago. All the others are out on assignment so no-one else knows, except for King and Matheson. It might be best if you keep it to yourself. Mister Cowley's going to announce it later when all the agents are back."

"I'll have to tell Doyle," Bodie stated firmly.

Dr Ross gave him a tired smile. "Of course. I wouldn't expect otherwise." The smile slipped, the composed mask she was so careful to wear crumbling. She looked close to tears.

"What happened?" Bodie asked gently.

Doctor Ross pulled her shoulders back and met the pain in his eyes unflinchingly. "Murphy and Bishop were on an operation in the Docklands. They had a tipoff and were supposed to be checking out one of the warehouses. They stumbled on an arms cache. It was being shifted so they radioed in, but then they were spotted and there was gunfire. The men had a dog with them and - " Her voice broke and she had to draw a calming breath.

It occurred to Bodie that in the few months she had been here she had never faced this situation before. For the first time he considered her position. Being a psychiatrist she was expected by everyone to deal with her emotions alone and privately, to be cool and clinical even in her own life. At all times she had to be the epitome of cool professionalism, there to analyse the personnel, to help them, never getting involved. He put a hand on her shoulder. "Are you all right?"

"Sorry." She drew in a shaky breath. "The dog went for Murphy, bit him on his arm. Bishop was killed saving Murphy. Then back up arrived. Matheson said Murphy was holding Bishop, trying to stop the blood, shouting at him. He was already dead but Murphy kept ... I'll have to talk to him."

Dr Ross took a step back and Bodie's hand slipped from her shoulder. The calm professional mask the men had come to know so well slipping into place, her voice level, unemotional, she repeated, "I'll have to talk to Murphy. I'd better wait in my office." With a final nod of farewell and the faintest look of embarrassment in her eyes, she left Bodie and continued the short walk along the corridor to her office.

The sudden silence from Cowley's office alerted Bodie that the interview was over but he made no move to leave. The door opened and Murphy came out, almost walking into Bodie. Haunted eyes fixed on him.

Murphy looked dreadful. The normally gentle, handsome face seemed to have aged ten years, the eyes were bloodshot with an emptiness about them that spoke of his grief. His jacket and shirt were covered in blood that Bodie knew instinctively was Bishop's.

Murphy rubbed a hand across his tired face and walked away, making no comment on Bodie's presence. Bodie followed him. They approached the rest room but upon hearing voices the tall agent turned on his heel and headed for the lift, Bodie right behind him.

Murphy went out into the car park and came to a stop by his blue Escort. He searched in his pocket for his keys, flinching when this action hurt his arm.

Bodie eyed the untreated dog bite. "You should get that seen to."

Murphy gave the wound a brief glance. "Hardly seems worth it."

"Might look like nothing but it could be serious," Bodie pointed out, wondering when the explosion would occur.

"True. After all, it did cost one man his life, didn't it?"

"Murph - "

"You were listening, weren't you?"

Bodie decided not to mention Dr Ross's presence. "Yeah, I heard. It could just as easily have happened the other way round. It was bad luck."

"Bad luck?" Pushing his face towards Bodie's until they were barely six inches apart, Murphy snarled, "Let me tell you about bad luck. I've had two partners die on me, Bodie! Well, no more."

Recalling what he had overheard, Bodie said, "Maybe the Old Man's right? Maybe it is too early to decide you want to work solo?"

The anger draining from his face, Murphy shook his head slowly. "I can't do it any more. I can't feel like this again. And it's not bloody fair to ask me to."

"You say that now but later - "

"No. If he makes me, I'll walk."

"But with a partner - "

"No, Bodie!" Murphy's gaze seared the other man until the concern on Bodie's face registered. Trying to convey what he was feeling, he searched for the right words. "Think about it, put yourself in my place. What if it was Doyle who was dead? Tell me, what would you do?"

Bodie considered it and was overwhelmed by the strength of his reaction to the thought.

"Well, Bodie? Doyle's just had his brains blown out and Cowley wants to give you a new partner. What do you tell him?"

"I'd tell him to go fuck himself," Bodie replied thickly, the horrifying image Murphy had conjured up causing his stomach to clench and churn.

Murphy regarded him with sad eyes. "Now you know." Patting Bodie on the shoulder, Murphy's voice was gentle as he coaxed, "Go back to your partner, Bodie."

"You'll have that arm seen to?"

"Later. Right now I have to tell Pete's mum and dad their son is dead. Cowley offered to do it but I said no, hero that I am." Murphy gave a laugh that was bitter and full of self-mockery. "The last duty of a partner, isn't it? I'll see you later."

Bodie watched the other agent drive out of the car park, no flashy squeal of brakes or turn of speed to herald his departure, his driving as subdued as the man himself right now.

It was a very sombre Bodie who went back to the rest room.

Doyle had obviously heard the news already. He was sitting on the sofa facing the door, clearly awaiting Bodie's return. One look at Bodie's face and he knew. "How did you find out about Pete?"

Bodie walked over and sat down next to his partner, very close, despite the space available to him. "I saw Murphy."

"Poor bastard." It was unclear whether Doyle was referring to Bodie, to Murphy, to Pete, or to all of them. "Where is he?"

"Gone to see Pete's mum and dad. Lucky there's no wife or girlfriend. Who told you?"

"Matheson and King were in here earlier. They were called in as backup for Murph and Bishop. They just got back from clean-up. They said Murph got attacked by a dog and was blamin' himself for not getting a few more shots off."

"I think he might be. Poor sod."

"Yeah." Doyle sighed heavily. "I hope someone shot that fuckin' dog."

"Be a waste. There's plenty of hungry people in Korea. Are any of the bastards still alive?"

"Yeah, two of 'em are in hospital. McCabe and Lucas are guarding their precious hides. Though Cowley says it's to stop them running." Doyle gave a hard satisfied smile. "King said the state they're in they'll not be going anywhere. Do you think Murph - ?"

Bodie considered the idea. "Nah, I don't think he'll try for revenge. But I bet he's not the only one to want to tear their fuckin' throats out."

"Would you?"

Bodie glanced at his partner, understanding the question but reluctant to answer. "What d'you mean?"

"If it was me?"

"Christ, Doyle, you don't half ask some questions! Never know what's cookin' under all those curls," Bodie prevaricated.

"Would you?"

Bodie shrugged. "I don't know. Probably." Unable to meet those knowing eyes he rubbed at his face. Feeling Doyle's gaze still fixed upon him, he looked across at his partner and admitted, "Yeah, okay, I would." His lips twisted in a bitter smile, remembering his conversation with Murphy. "Last duty of a partner - kill the fuckers who took your partner away."

Doyle watched him intently.

Deciding they should play fair, Bodie asked, "What about you? Would you be round that hospital right now?"

"No."

Bodie tried to hide his surprise then considered his partner's personality. He gave a small smile. "Course you wouldn't, you're a moral little bugger. You'd rather see 'em rot in prison."

"Yeah," Doyle agreed. "Then when they let them out I'd slit the bastards' throats."

Finding this to his satisfaction, Bodie gave his partner an approving pat on the arm. "Good."

Both men were silent for a few minutes, occupied with their own personal thoughts. Then Bodie revealed, "Murph wants to work solo."

"Don't blame him. How was he?

"Remember Jimmy Lawrence?"

"Oh, Christ. Still, it's only to be expected."

"I heard him talking to the Old Man. Cowley was saying it was too early to make a decision. I said maybe Cowley was right. He needs a partner."

Doyle looked at his friend as though he had just said something incredibly stupid. "Why did you say that?"

Bodie looked defensive. "Murphy would be safer with someone to watch his back."

Doyle twisted round to face him fully. "He let himself get close, despite what happened to Jimmy, and he's lost his partner. Pete's dead!"

"I know that, Doyle, but - "

"No. I know. Remember when I told you about Sid Parker? It hurt, Bodie, it fuckin' hurt. If it was you dead and Cowley tried to give me a new partner I'd tell the old bastard to go screw himself. And don't you dare deny that you'd do the same bloody thing!"

His conversation with Murphy very clear in his mind, Bodie flushed and looked away.

Infuriated by this, perhaps his feelings regarding Bishop's death intensifying his anger, Doyle grabbed Bodie by the jaw and jerked his head round so that the other man was looking at him. "Well?"

Doyle's breath, hot and strangely comforting, gusted gently across Bodie's face, the hand gripping his jaw helping to banish horrifying images of Doyle dying. Doyle was fine. Doyle was here, warm flesh and blood, angry yes, strong fingers digging into tender skin with force enough to bruise, but undeniably here and alive. Bodie met the angry green eyes inches from his own, his own resigned. He remained passive as Doyle retained the crushing grip on his face. "Maybe Cowley's wrong," he admitted softly.

Doyle relaxed his grip, still holding Bodie's face as their eyes remained locked for a long moment. The seconds stretched, the only sound that of Doyle's breathing and muted traffic noise. Then Doyle's anger and other confused emotions faded and he released his partner. This time Doyle was the one to look away, unable to meet Bodie's bemused gaze.

Bodie released the breath he hadn't realised he had been holding. Leaning forward, his head in his hands, he reflected that life had been a hell of a lot simpler when he had disliked Doyle. Then he recalled the confusion he had felt even then, and decided life would never be simple as long as he was partnered to the passionate individual that was Ray Doyle.

His hands curled into fists as an unwelcome thought insisted on being heard - he was getting involved.

Correction - he was involved. So much for not being able to afford to give a damn.

He stood up and walked over to the window, making no effort to peer through the grimy glass. He had lost so many ex-comrades over the past two years, men he had worked with, had been friends with even if it was on a superficial level. It was getting more and more difficult to mourn on the day of the funeral and push it aside the next.

He knew such tactics would never work if he lost Doyle. That was the problem with disliking someone from the first; when you started to like them it was a welcome change, and you didn't notice you were getting in too deep until it was too late.

It had been too late for quite a while now.

He heard the clink of cups then the sound of the kettle being filled. Looking over at his partner, he knew Doyle had been watching him despite his seeming to be engrossed in the pattern of tea stains inside the mugs.

Outside, Bodie could hear footsteps approaching and raised voices, and he remembered his unspoken promise to let Cowley tell the men what had happened; though knowing the CI5 grapevine he knew the news would quickly spread. The footsteps went past but Bodie had to get out. He pulled on his jacket and headed for the door, listening for the footsteps that would follow. At least he wouldn't be alone.

Doyle switched off the kettle, pulled on his jacket and followed his partner.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

Agents 3.7 and 4.5 sat in their Capri, watching a house that looked like it was in imminent danger of falling down. Bodie's eyes were fixed on the building so intently he appeared to be attempting telekinesis, and God help the residents. Doyle's eyes were also on the house but every minute or so his gaze would fix on Bodie.

Raymond Doyle wasn't used to being ignored. He most certainly wasn't used to being ignored by his partner. Twice Doyle had asked him if he was coming round for dinner that evening and twice he had received only silence. He tried again, raising his voice. "I said are you coming round to eat at my place tonight?"

Bodie looked at him blankly then his face cleared. "Sorry. Was miles away."

That was good. It meant he wasn't being deliberately ignored. "I noticed. Somewhere nice?"

"Not really."

"So?"

"So what?"

"So are you coming round?"

"Can't. Seeing Jennifer tonight."

"Nice girl," Doyle commented. "Don't know what she sees in you. Didn't notice if she needed glasses." He waited in vain for Bodie to pick up the gauntlet and respond to this slight as he had always done in the past. Not today.

"Hmm," Bodie murmured indistinctly, his eyes leaving Doyle's face and returning to keep watch on the house. There was something about the way he sat, the set of the shoulders, the stern profile, that made him seem very remote. He might be sitting next to Doyle but it was as if there was a solid wall several feet thick between them.

Doyle wanted to shake him till his teeth rattled. He considered the uses of an electric cattle prod but decided a sharp stick up the arse would be just as effective at getting the other man's attention.

Bodie's behaviour was really beginning to annoy him.

Worry and concern he pushed right to the back of his mind, along with all the other inappropriate stuff like doubt and fear.

Bodie had been acting slightly odd for the past month now, starting just after Bishop was killed but before all that business with Marikka Schuman. It was three weeks since Marikka had been shot, given the role of scapegoat that should have been Bodie's.

Was that it? Did Bodie feel guilty because he was alive and Marikka was dead? Or did he still resent Doyle's involvement in the affair?

Bodie had been furious after discovering that Doyle had been spying on him and Marikka. A few days later CI5 had been the target of a bombing campaign and, terrible though it had been, it had helped to escalate the thawing of Bodie's icy behaviour towards Doyle. Now Bodie was shutting him out again and he could only put it down to the Marikka business. For most of the time, Bodie was still ready to joke and indulge in verbal fencing. On the surface everything was as before. But the invisible wall that Bodie was erecting between them was definitely there, and it was hard to fight against, or break down, something that he couldn't see, that he could only sense.

He wasn't the only one who had noticed. Doctor Ross had picked up on the change too, had asked him if anything was wrong with Bodie. Like the good partner he was, he had said no.

He was beginning to wonder if that had been a mistake.

In the early days of their partnership, once they had learned that it was possible to be together without tearing each other to pieces, they had been close, if not emotionally then mentally in a way that was almost telepathic. Doyle would have said they were close emotionally, he had even admitted as much during his psyche interviews with Ross. It was not something he was ashamed of, that he had grown fond of Bodie in a way he would never have guessed could be possible, but of late that emotional closeness had been missing.

They would be talking normally, their usual banter, but the moment the topic turned to personal matters a shutter would come down on Bodie's face. It couldn't just be Marikka's death as Doyle had noticed it happening after Pete Bishop had been killed. It made Doyle wonder if his partner was considering his own mortality, especially seeing as how the two had been killed within a week of each other. They dealt with death all the time, it was true, but not usually on such a personal level.

He was absolutely sure Bodie had forgiven him and realised he had just been following orders. He frowned at the silent man at his side.

Well, he was almost sure.

It suddenly occurred to him to question whether Bodie still trusted him as he once had. He toyed with the thought briefly before pushing it aside. Surely if Bodie didn't trust him he would have requested a new partner? The thought was buried, left to fester unseen.

He discarded the other possibility, that he had in some way wronged or offended Bodie, as he had already asked Bodie and got a puzzled look in reply. When he had pressed him for the reason Bodie had got very annoyed and defensive, for once resisting all of Doyle's various interrogation strategies.

Doyle regarded his partner's profile, seeing the abstraction and not liking it. He knew Bodie was aware of his gaze but he didn't look at him, simply continued to stare out of the window. Doyle didn't like that either. He sighed heavily and loudly, his eyes fixed on his partner.

Bodie made no response.

Now Doyle was being ignored. He most certainly didn't enjoy the experience.

And he didn't have a clue how to stop it.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

Two months after Marikka Schuman's death and Doyle was no closer to discovering the reason for Bodie's changed behaviour. He had tried to ignore it, hoping it would pass and that Bodie would sort out whatever problem he had, but his partner's actions on the previous night's op had forced his hand. Which was why, that evening, Doyle turned up on his partner's doorstep uninvited.

Bodie did not look pleased to see him. "What are you doing here?"

"Thought I'd come round, have a drink." Doyle raised the carrier bag to indicate the eight cans of lager he had just bought. "Maybe order something to eat. Or I could cook if you like."

Bodie gave the cans an unenthusiastic glance then looked at his partner. Apparently he recognised from Doyle's face and body language his determination to remain.

"You'd better come in, but just for a minute, I have plans." He stepped aside to let Doyle enter the flat.

"Don't make me too welcome, I might never want to leave," Doyle muttered as he strode past Bodie and headed for the sitting room. Having put the lager on the table he stretched out on the sofa in his usual position, his drink resting on his stomach. Bodie came into the room and opened a can, taking a long draught before sitting down.

"So what plans have you got?" Doyle asked, convinced Bodie was making excuses.

"Meeting someone."

Doyle frowned. "Jennifer? You went out with her last night."

Bodie gave a twist of the lips that could have been a smile. He looked elusive. "Not Jennifer. Cheryl. But if I was seeing Jen, there's no law that says I can't go out with her two nights on the run, is there, constable?"

"Suppose not. But it wouldn't be normal for you. So I take it it's not serious between you and Jennifer?"

"Of course not!" Bodie seemed to find the whole idea shocking and ridiculous.

"You make it sound like a fate worse than death. She's a nice girl. Would it be so awful?"

"Would be bloody stupid for someone in CI5. You look after number one. It doesn't pay to get too involved." Bodie sounded very sure of this, as if he had reached this conclusion after years of intensive study.

"Jax is married. So is Williams, Cookie, Lucas. Mac is living with his girlfriend," Doyle pointed out.

Bodie looked nonplussed for a moment as if Doyle had uttered a non sequitur. His face cleared and he replied, "Well that's up to them. Wouldn't work for me."

"Suppose not. Can't see you as a pipe and slippers man."

Bodie shuddered.

Doyle swirled his lager in its can then his eyes lifted to regard his partner and he asked abruptly, "Why have you been acting funny?"

Bodie glanced away. "Don't know what you mean."

"Yes you do." Suddenly Doyle was very certain of that fact. He sat up, slamming down his can on the table, ignoring the widening pool of spilled lager. "Yes you bloody well do. So why, Bodie? I haven't done anything wrong. And last night you nearly screwed up. Hell, you did screw up!"

"And you didn't tell Cowley. My hero."

Doyle tried to keep a leash on his temper. He thought back to the previous night, the freezing horror he had felt when Bodie had gone forward to face four armed men without him. They had been incredibly lucky not to have been killed, Bodie having blown the element of surprise. "You went in too early. You should have waited for me." His voice hardened. "I don't want to be the one zipping up the body bag because you've gone off half-cocked."

"Mop up the mess before you go, mate," Bodie threw over his shoulder as he headed for the bedroom.

Doyle watched him go in disbelief. It took him half a minute before incredulity turned to an anger which sent him hurtling towards the bedroom. He found Bodie had changed his trousers and was pulling on a polo-necked sweater. Furious that Bodie had ignored his attempt to discuss his behaviour and his partner's concern, Doyle grabbed his arm and jerked him round to face him.

Blinded by the sweater which he hadn't quite pulled over his head, Bodie lost his balance and went crashing into Doyle. Both men fell to the floor. Bodie had the softer landing - right on top of his partner.

Having managed to push his head through the neck of his sweater, Bodie looked down at his partner with astonished eyes. "What the fuck did you do that for?"

Doyle drew in a painful breath, winded not only by Bodie's elbow which had caught him in the stomach, but also by the weight of the man lying on top of him.

"You okay?" Realising he was squashing his mate, Bodie sat up to give his partner the chance to breathe. He nodded to himself when he heard Doyle's low-voiced swearing. "Yeah, you're okay." Getting to his feet, he offered Doyle a helping hand.

Doyle glared up at him but accepted the assistance. He let go of it the second he was vertical and started to prowl about the room, rubbing his torso.

Taking a black leather jacket from his wardrobe, Bodie slipped it on, watching the other man warily.

"I was angry," Doyle spat out eventually, coming to stand a scant foot away from Bodie. In his tight jeans and green T-shirt, with his overlong curls like a lion's mane about his face and his green eyes spitting fire, he looked both angry and wild. If he'd had a tail he would have lashed it from side to side. Bodie had rarely seen him look more cat-like, though as close to a house cat as a wolf to a lapdog.

Bodie very wisely decided to tread softly and said, carefully, "I noticed."

"I was angry because you," Doyle jabbed Bodie's chest with a finger, "didn't answer my question."

"Maybe I don't have any answers to give?" Bodie replied. He turned away and began emptying the pockets of his check jacket, transferring the contents to the leather jacket. "I made a mistake. I went in too soon when I should have made sure you were behind me. End of story."

"You're blocking me out and I want to know why." Doyle ran a hand through his long curls, brushing them out of his eyes. He thought back over the past few months for some clue. "Is it that business with Marikka? Do you still resent me for spying on you?"

Bodie broke off from checking his wallet to give his partner a surprised look. "You still blaming yourself for that? Pillock. Look, I know you were worried and just following Cowley's orders, all right?"

"No, it's not all right. If it's not that then what is it?"

"You're starting to annoy me, Doyle," Bodie warned.

Doyle ignored the unspoken threat. "Something's wrong."

Bodie gave an exasperated sigh. "There's nothing wrong! I have to go now or I'll be late. I'll see you in work."

"Tomorrow's the weekend," Doyle pointed out.

"See you Monday then." Bodie left the bedroom.

Doyle followed his partner. "You're running away, Bodie," he taunted, hoping to get Bodie angry so he might let the truth slip out.

"You've got your own set of keys so lock up when you leave," Bodie threw over his shoulder before closing the front door.

Frustration boiling over, Doyle picked up a vase and threw it at the door, watching it smash into a dozen pieces with some small satisfaction. Since it was obviously CI5 property Bodie would be expected to pay for a replacement.

This increased his satisfaction, but only marginally. When it faded he was left feeling empty and defeated.

Fetching a plastic bag from the kitchen, he started picking up the pieces of the broken vase. Having deposited the bag in the bin he checked the windows then locked the front door.

During the drive home he wrestled with the problem of Bodie. So far noone had noticed Bodie's changed behaviour, with the possible exception of Doctor Ross. His greatest fear was that Cowley would see there was a problem and conclude that the partnership had burnt itself out. It happened. The solution was to give the agents involved new partners. Doyle would fight him tooth and nail but with Bodie behaving the way he was, he couldn't be certain that his partner would back him up.

There was also the rational, logical part of him whispering that if Bodie continued as he was, then it would be better for Doyle to have a new partner. It was a testament to his trust in, and friendship with, Bodie that he refused to listen to this argument.

It seemed there was nothing left to do except keep trying to get at the truth, and if confronted by Cowley to play the part of oblivious partner.

Considering how little he knew, that shouldn't prove much of a challenge.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

Doyle returned to work on Monday to find that Bodie had time off to go to another funeral.

"That's the third one from your old mob this year," Doyle remarked, surprise making him less than tactful. He frowned. "There were a couple last year."

"Yeah."

Doyle slid an assessing look at his partner, wondering if this latest death was why Bodie was so subdued this morning.

"I suppose there'll be a lot of lads from your mob going," Doyle added. He recalled what had happened the last time Bodie had attended a funeral. A surge of emotion, the need to protect, swept through him and he considered asking Bodie if he wanted him to attend the funeral with him. Telling himself Bodie would just point out he didn't need a nanny, Doyle bit back his words, though it pained him to do so. He needed some reassurance that Bodie wouldn't be alone. Frankly, he wouldn't trust Bodie's old mob to look after a goldfish let alone his Bodie.

"That's if there's any of them left by Thursday."

Doyle looked at his partner sharply. "What d'you mean?"

Bodie shrugged and gave a forced smile. "You know what military types are like, can't take things easy, not happy unless they're stuck halfway up a mountain or skydiving or something. Accidents happen."

"Will there be a wake or anything afterwards?" Doyle pressed.

"Probably."

At that point the R/T beeped and Doyle was forced to leave the topic for the moment.

He tried to raise the subject again later in the rest room.

"So this funeral. Someone from your unit then?"

Bodie lowered his cup of tea and gave his partner a look that stated, loud and clear, that the subject was off limits, and if Doyle had any sense he would back off.

Apparently, Doyle had left sense in his other pants' pocket that day. "Well?"

Bodie frowned at him, but when this had no visible effect he went back to drinking his tea. After a few seconds he nodded.

"Good mate, was he?"

"Not really. Used to go out with his sister, that really pissed him off."

"So it's got nothing to do with your mood lately?"

Bodie put his cup down on the table with great care. Slowly he sat back and raised his eyes to his partner's face.

"Just tell me one thing. Is it something to do with me?"

The other man gave a gusting sigh, a fond if rather tired smile tugging at his lips. "No, Doyle, it's not you."

"Is it something I can help with?"

Bodie shook his head. "It's something I have to work out for myself. Leave it now."

"We've got the tests starting next week."

Bodie was beginning to look irritated. "I know that."

"So what are you going to do?"

"Whatever I have to."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Look, Doyle - "

"What are you going to do? Would Cowley -?"

"Shut up!" Bodie jumped to his feet, striding across to tower over his partner. "Just shut the fuck up!"

Doyle remained prone on the sofa, regarding his friend with seeming calm. The fact his pulse had picked up its pace was not apparent.

Doyle's air of unruffled patience had an immediate effect. "Just pack it in with all the questions, Ray," Bodie said in a quieter voice, his hands relaxing, unclenching, at his sides.

Knowing when he was close to pushing Bodie too far, Doyle remained silent, simply nodding his assent.

For the rest of that day, and indeed that week, Doyle trod warily around Bodie, careful to keep conversation casual and non-threatening. As for his partner, he was growing more and more remote with each passing day, though to the casual observer they behaved in the same manner as before.

Doyle was at a loss. How was it possible for a person to be withdrawn and distant even when that person was with you every day, spoke to you in the same manner and behaved more or less the same? It was all surface level, superficial socialising; the depth was gone. He missed it, missed the old Bodie who ruffled his curls, called him sunshine or daft names and smiled at him with the light of real, honest warmth in his eyes.

Doyle wanted it back.

The day of the funeral arrived and without planning to, Doyle found himself outside the cemetery where the funeral was taking place. He could see Bodie standing with a small group of men, some wearing the uniform of the Paras, some in dark suits like Bodie. The coffin had been lowered already and a few words were said, then the men went one by one to have a few words with three women Doyle took to be the deceased's family. Bodie said something that made the older woman kiss his cheek, then he had his arms around one of the younger women and she looked to be crying on his shoulder. Another man, very broad and tall, said something to the women, putting his hands out to each in turn and kissing them; then he moved aside to let someone else speak. The big man turned to Bodie and put an arm around his shoulders, two more men joined the group, then they were leaving together.

It was the signal Doyle had been waiting for - the sign that Bodie would not be facing this alone. He started up the Capri but waited a moment longer, just to make sure. The big man still had an arm around Bodie and was guiding him towards a silver Volvo. He said something and Bodie nodded, whereupon he hugged Bodie to him, patted him on the back, then unlocked his car.

Doyle found himself assailed by a most peculiar feeling. He found he wanted to pull Bodie out of the Volvo and into the Capri. What right did that man, did anyone else have, to offer any form of comfort to his partner? They certainly hadn't been much use last time. In fact they seemed to offer nothing but grief. Bodie had worked with this group of men but that was over, his ties were to Doyle - and CI5, of course. Doyle tried to examine his feelings and came to a startling conclusion. He was being possessive.

Shock ran through him, heat flooding his face while his guts turned to ice. Mortified by his reaction Doyle slammed the car into gear and drove away though he had no destination in mind.

Possessive. Christ all-bloody-mighty.

He drove on automatic pilot, signalling, braking, instinctive responses while his mind raced. He could only come to one conclusion. He was getting too involved and it would be best if he backed off. Bodie was a grown man, he didn't need, nor would he appreciate, having his partner worrying over him and playing mother hen.

Bodie had his big bloody secret and wanted to sort it out by himself. Fine. Bully for him. They would be on standby from next week, so unless something major came up that required all available manpower, Bodie would be safely off the streets and no danger to himself or anyone else. Doyle need no longer concern himself. It would be up to their examiners to ascertain what his partner's problem was, since Bodie would not admit to Doyle there was one. Or maybe he could tell one of his who dares bloody wins SAS mates.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

Someone was trying to take Bodie away and there was nothing Ray Doyle could do to prevent it. Tree branches snatched at his clothes, clawing his face as he ran through the wood, the roar of motorbikes overwhelming any sounds of Bodie or his assailant. Panting, the smell of rotting vegetation and decaying flesh thick in his nostrils, he shouted for his friend, knowing that he could get Bodie back if only he could get him to talk.

He stumbled, falling, landing on something soft, his hands sinking into cold stickiness, the texture like raw meat. Looking down he saw his hands were sunk into rotten flesh and he stifled a cry, for a second thinking it was Bodie's corpse. Marrika Schumann's eyes stared up, sightless, dead, her face robbed of the beauty that had called to Bodie. Doyle sobbed with relief, unable to feel pity when the alternative was the death of his partner.

Bodie. He had to find him.

Movement to the right sent him rolling for cover in the opposite direction. Expecting to see an enemy he saw Bodie and stretched out his arms to him. They thinned, growing impossibly longer, a Dali-esque nightmare vision, but still they fell short of their goal.

The motorbikes drew nearer, forming a circle around the two men. There was absolute silence - then they converged on Bodie and he screamed.

Doyle echoed that scream as he woke up.

Bloody dream again, he thought, telling himself it was an annoying nuisance but acutely aware of the pounding of his pulse and his wet face.

Sitting up, he almost reached for the bedside lamp but told himself not to be such a wimp. Staring up at the ceiling, but able to make out very little in the faint moonlight, he tried to analyse the dream objectively.

Of course he knew why it plagued him with such regularity. The whole business with King Billy and the biker gang had happened barely a week ago. No wonder Bodie's mood had been swinging high and low; Williams' murder, the high rate of deaths in his old mob, Marikka shot before his eyes ... poor bastard. While there had been warning signs Doyle had ignored them, had done nothing constructive, so sure that his partner could handle whatever problem he had. At least, he'd told himself he was sure. There was a nasty little voice inside his head that called him a coward for not wanting to get too involved, that wondered whether the person he had tried to protect was Bodie or Ray Doyle.

There are times when denial and protecting yourself is equal to cowardice.

Doyle flung the bed covers aside, the cool air making his sweat-slick body shiver.

Be honest Doyle, he told himself.

Yes, he had feared he was getting too involved, too possessive. So while Bodie was going through a difficult time what had Doyle been doing? Backing away so bloody fast he should have had reverse lights glued to his arse.

So he was involved. So on occasion he could be a bit possessive of his partner - so what? Bodie could have been killed in those woods, no matter how certain Bodie had been that he could take on all the bikers at once. Or had he been sure? Was there a part of Bodie that was waiting for his turn to die, that had decided to tempt fate? Well Bodie had given the Fates a two-fingered salute; having survived had he shaken off any feelings of personal doom?

Doyle punched his pillow, striving for a more comfortable shape. For Christ's sake Doyle, he raged at himself, how can you be loyal and protective and not be involved?

He'd actually left him there, alone. Bodie could have been killed - by the bikers or by their own boss.

He still wasn't sure if Cowley would have pulled the trigger. He suspected not, even Cowley was subject to British law, but it would certainly have meant the end of Bodie in CI5. If it hadn't been for Ross and Cowley, Bodie would have been alone and heavily outnumbered in the woods. His partner liked to think he was Superman but even the Man of Steel could get hurt.

Bodie had been left alone. By his partner.

Deciding he had been macho for long enough Doyle switched on the lamp. The light helped to banish some of the shadows, making the images from his dream fade somewhat. It still wasn't enough.

He needed to see Bodie. His partner should be back from his week in Wales by now and if not, well Doyle could always use his key to Bodie's place and see to things, make sure there was fresh milk and stuff.

Glancing at his clock he saw it was just past midnight. That wasn't too late to visit, especially if he bought take away - the Chinese place on the High Street was open till 2am. His mind made up, Doyle began to dress.

 

Doyle managed to park the car within fifty yards of Bodie's apartment block. His arms overloaded, he pressed the buzzer with his elbow.

"Who is it?"

"It's me."

There was a pause. "What do you want?"

"Come on Bodie, stop messing about and let me in," Doyle ordered impatiently.

"Okay, keep your curls on. Push."

Doyle pushed the main door open then walked up the two flights of stairs to Bodie's flat.

Bodie was waiting at his front door. "What kept you?"

"Oh, that's funny." Dumping the carrier bag containing the bottles on the floor for Bodie to carry, Doyle walked past with the food, throwing over his shoulder, "You eaten?"

Picking up the bottles, Bodie caught scent of the delicious aroma coming from Doyle's bag and did his Bisto Kid impression, inhaling the smell of lemon chicken, chow mein and what he was sure was crispy aromatic duck. "This morning before I set off. I thought I wasn't hungry but this smells fantastic." Seeing Doyle's look of reproach he lied, "I was about to make an omelette.

"You can't cook," Doyle reminded him, voice mild.

"I'd better take the steak back to the butcher's then," Bodie said mournfully.

"I'll cook it for us tomorrow," Doyle promised, a sudden rush of warmth ambushing him. While the shadows had left Bodie's eyes, his week off having done him good, he looked as though he was in need of a good meal. While some might suit skinny, Bodie did not, and Doyle resolved to put a few pounds on his partner.

Bodie moved around the kitchen fetching forks and plates whilst Doyle grabbed a couple of glasses. The cartons of food were spread out on the coffee table in the living room then they sat together on the sofa, trying to outdo each other in the eating stakes.

Halfway through the lemon chicken and special fried rice, Doyle decided it was time to get Bodie talking. His famed interrogation technique had taken the day off.

"What the hell happened?"

"I wondered when you'd ask that," Bodie said calmly, munching on a prawn cracker. "I came back from Wales half expecting to find you camped here. Just wish I could give you a proper answer."

"According to Ross you had a death wish."

Bodie snorted. "Load of crap!" His expression stilled and he seemed to reconsider what Doyle had said and his instinctive answer. He elaborated, "I just wanted to get those bastards. They killed a mate and no one seemed able or willing to do a bloody thing about it. I wasn't thinking about my own safety, and I had this feeling that something was going to happen to me soon because it seemed to be happening to the rest of the lads. But that's not the same as a death wish." He paused. "Is it?"

"I'm not a shrink, mate. Just tell me this - d'you still have the same feeling now?"

"Not really. The fight and getting Cheryl to testify cleared my head. If anything is going to happen to me it won't be because my unit is jinxed but because I screwed up."

"I won't let you screw up."

Bodie was taken aback by the intensity of Doyle's words and he gave his partner a questioning look.

"You're my partner. I watch your back. The only way they'll get you is if they get me first."

Bodie gave a lopsided smile. "That cuts both ways. I guess the only way we'll go is together, or if we're separated."

Doyle gave an answering smile. "Where one is the other isn't far behind, so no chance of that."

There was a silence filled only with the sounds of their steady eating.

Doyle broke off from eating to watch his partner, his eyes reflecting his troubled state.

Bodie glanced up. "What's up?"

"I was scared." Doyle stilled, a look of comprehension crossing his face as though he had discovered some final piece of a jigsaw puzzle. "I thought I was losing you and everything we have - the friendship, being partners. And I was scared. So I tried to deny it was happening." Doyle's voice was level, controlled, but there was a thread of pain he couldn't eliminate as he asked, "Why wouldn't you tell me?"

Bodie put his fork down and sat back, frowning to himself. "I didn't want you to get involved."

Doyle gave a choke of laughter, reading another meaning into the words that had more to do with Doyle's confused feelings at the time. Inevitably, he thought of his recent dreams, which killed all desire to laugh. Flushing, he shook his head at Bodie when he looked at him in puzzled enquiry and waved at him to continue.

"I knew I'd be for the high jump and I didn't want to get you into trouble as well. Besides, it was something to do with my past."

Doyle ignored the latter half of this statement, pouncing on the former. "You had it planned. You were going to kill King Billy all along."

"They killed Williams, the girlfriend wouldn't testify, and they were going to get away with it. Yes, I think I was going to kill him."

Shocked, Doyle sat back, speechless.

Somewhat annoyed by Doyle's response, Bodie pointed out, "I seem to remember you sayin' you'd do the same for me."

"But that's for you! How close were you to Williams?"

Bodie shrugged. "He was a mate."

"So you set yourself up as judge, jury and executioner."

Bodie sighed heavily. "I suppose I did."

"That's not like you."

That made Bodie smile. "That sounds exactly like me."

"No. That sounds exactly like what you think you are. I know you, Bodie."

"I'd do precisely the same for you," Bodie told him, picking up his fork and helping himself to more noodles. "Except I'd make sure it took the bugger a lot longer to die."

"That's different. You're supposed to. I'm your partner," Doyle said, very matter-of-fact.

Bodie broke into laughter. "That makes no sense whatsoever."

Doyle gave an answering grin. "Sounds like par for the course for you. Why should you have the monopoly on it?"

Bodie choked on a noodle.

Doyle took the opportunity to thump his partner on the back. When Bodie had got his breath back, Doyle said softly, "I meant it when I said it wasn't like you."

Bodie toyed with his noodles, trying to find the words to express what had been happening to him for the past three months. Finally he announced baldly, "I didn't want to die." He waited until Doyle was looking at him then elaborated, "I was afraid I was going to be the next one to die. I never had much of a family and when I joined the Paras I suppose they became one to me. It's the same for a lot of soldiers. When I left ... I never did tell you about that, did I?"

"We've never really talked about that sort of thing," Doyle replied. "Always thought it was a shame we didn't."

"I didn't join CI5 voluntarily." He smiled at Doyle's surprised look. "I wasn't really press-ganged into it either. Cowley had been recruiting the year before I joined CI5 but I turned him down because - "

"You turned down George Cowley!" Doyle blurted out incredulously.

Bodie gave a sheepish grin. "Yeah. I thought CI5 would be like police work and I had all the excitement I could handle in the SAS. When I'd joined the Paras I told them I'd been a bouncer in a club in Africa."

"But you'd really been a merc?"

"I had been a bouncer, but only for a few months - got the manager to lie for me if they ever bothered to check. They must have thought they had super squaddie on their hands, bloody difficult pretending you don't have a clue when you're handed equipment you've been using for years. I got through training without being too obvious, but now you know how I managed to get into the SAS so quick.

"They found out?"

"We were posted somewhere we weren't officially supposed to be, you know the score. Some bastard from my merc days must have spotted me and landed me right in the shit."

"Did you find out who it was?"

"No idea. Was called in front of Major Nairn and asked outright if I'd ever been a mercenary. There was no point in lying, was pretty obvious someone had dobbed me in. Couple of days later the Major said he'd spoken to Cowley and said I could leave the service with a clean record if I accepted Cowley's offer. I suppose they didn't know what the hell to do with me - contrary to popular opinion Her Majesty's Armed Forces don't take just anyone. They must have thought I'd start shouting about the mission we'd been on, about dubious activities - which was a bit bloody stupid of them since I was well aware of the Official Secrets Act and the first thing a merc learns is when to keep his trap shut. Maybe they didn't want me going back into the mercs, especially after my training with the SAS. I dunno. Anyway they told me to accept Cowley's offer or else. I really didn't want to find out what 'or else' would be. Obviously Cowley isn't so picky, so long as you tell him the truth."

Doyle looked pensive. "It was your superiors who suggested CI5?"

"Yeah."

"Why Cowley?" Doyle wondered.

"He'd tried to recruit me before so I suppose it made sense to ask him."

"You're sure it wasn't the other way round?" asked Doyle, his mental gears turning.

Bodie gave him an enquiring look.

Doyle smiled faintly. He was well aware of George Cowley's cunning and resourcefulness. If he wanted something badly enough he could be quite ruthless. Ruthless enough to make certain enquiries? It wouldn't surprise him. Deciding to keep his suspicions to himself, he prompted, "So you joined CI5."

"Yeah. And got lumbered with you as a partner. Oi!" He threw back the cushion that Doyle had tossed at his head. "You'll make me spill my drink on my lovely CI5 sofa."

"Do you wish you were still in the SAS?" Doyle had to ask.

"Nah. CI5 is better pay, believe it or not. You get treated better. The SAS sounds quite exciting and there's a certain glamour to it, you know, best of the best and all that. But it was bloody tough and some of them are sadistic bastards. The ops could be shitty an' all."

"Sounds like CI5," Doyle smiled wryly.

Bodie shook his head, amused. "Believe it or not, CI5 is an improvement. A few years back I got stuck in some stinking prison in the bloody Congo, all because we needed some info from one of the prisoners but couldn't get him out without starting an international incident. Load of bollocks if you ask me.

"No, I can honestly say I don't miss the SAS. There's just as much excitement in CI5 sometimes, though not so much glory - you mention SAS to people and there's this gleam of respect in their eyes that The Squad doesn't get. I reckon there are people out there who think CI5 is a new T.V. channel - they're probably at home kicking hell out their telly wondering why they're not receiving it," Bodie mused.

"What about the sense of family you had in the army? Don't you miss it?"

Bodie looked at him as if he had said something incredibly stupid. "You're my family, you pillock."

Doyle was momentarily speechless.

"Oh that's charmin', that is. Here I am goin' on about feelings and stuff and you sit there with noodles hanging out your gob," Bodie complained.

Doyle shut his mouth with a snap and chewed hastily. The offending noodles now disposed of, he replied, "Well the same goes for me as well, you dumb crud!"

Having heard what he wanted to hear, Bodie smiled happily and handed a paper bag to his partner. "Here you go, mate. Have another prawn cracker."

"Ta." Doyle munched happily, thinking not about the excellence of The Golden Pagoda's cuisine but about his partner. For a long time now he had wanted to fill in the gaps of his knowledge about Bodie. Tonight he had learned a little more about his past. He had the feeling he was getting closer to discovering the real Bodie.

Doyle could think of only one person other than Cowley who could see past a bullshit facade to the real person beneath - his mother. Well he and Bodie had a long weekend free next month. He had intended working on the Norton, perhaps talk Bodie into going on a double date to the Lake District with whoever their girlfriends happened to be at the time, but some things were more important - such as seeing your best mate being treated like a five-year old.

He glanced up to find Bodie sucking his fingers clean. He was being very thorough, each finger slipping between his lips then popping out again, glistening with saliva.

"You know, hearing is one of the first things to go."

"Huh?" Doyle blinked, returning to the present. "Oh, was miles away." He squirmed on the sofa for a second, suddenly uncomfortable. Sitting further forward he reached for his drink. Having soothed his unaccountably dry throat he said, "I've been thinking about going up to Coventry next month for the weekend. Mum says she wants to meet you. How about it?"

Having already suggested going away somewhere to his wool-gathering friend, Bodie shook his head in a pitying fashion. He was about to begin a monologue on ancient friends with hearing difficulties and the attention span of a guppy when Doyle's words sank in. He went off into peals of laughter. "You're taking me home to meet your mother!"

Doyle regarded him with a baleful eye. "It's not my idea! It's my mum, she won't stop going on about it. Anyway, we've been partners for two and a half years, it's about time she met the daft sod I have to put up with every single day, month after month, year after year."

"You're on."

"You serious?" asked Doyle, suspicious of Bodie's quick agreement when he thought he would have to coax him into doing so for several hours.

"Of course. I'm looking forward to meeting her. D'you think she'll show me your baby photos?"

Doyle snorted at the wicked gleam in Bodie's eye. "No chance! She's not like that."

Other people's mothers might embarrass their children in such a way, but his mum was different. He also had every confidence in her to withstand Bodie's charm if he tried to persuade her to do otherwise.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

"And this is Raymond when he was two. He had such sweet little dimpled knees."

Bodie grinned when Doyle gave a disgusted snort and walked out of the room. Mrs Doyle was terrific, a great cook, good-looking, had a sense of humour that was surprisingly earthy until you learned she was a nurse, and she had taken to Bodie instantly. Bodie had planned to bring up the subject of photos, ready to turn on the charm, and had been immensely pleased when she hauled out three albums with no prompting. They were only a third of the way through the first album and Doyle had already had to leave the room. He had been squirming with embarrassment from page one.

Looking forward to seeing further material with which to tease Doyle, he was surprised when the photo album was closed. He looked up to see a pair of green eyes exactly like Doyle's regarding him.

"I thought Raymond would never leave. Tell me, Bodie, how has he been? He never tells me anything, just tells me stories about what you two have been up to. In fact I hear more about you than about my son!"

Bodie was momentarily at a loss, unsure what he should say and how much she knew.

Seeing his dilemma she told him, "I know about Ann Holly. Raymond rang me a few weeks ago, to tell me he'd met someone he was serious about, then less than a week later he rings to see how I am and not a word is said about the woman. I didn't know - and still don't know - how serious it was. I mean, he's said he's in love before and nothing came of it, was all over in a couple of months. How serious was he?"

Clearly uncomfortable Bodie began, "I'm not sure I should - "

"Sod that, love. He's my son. You'll only be telling me stuff I'd get out of him myself if I had enough time and a set of thumbscrews. Was he talking marriage?"

"He did say it was beautifully serious. I don't think I should be the one to give the details."

"I don't want them. So it went wrong - how is he taking it?"

Bodie frowned to himself as he considered Doyle's behaviour. "The first couple of days he was really down, drank a bit too much." He recalled Doyle's icy manner towards himself, the remark about Bodie supposedly bugging his bedroom that had cut through him like a knife. A few days later and Doyle was his usual self, though perhaps they were a little closer than before; they certainly spent more of their free time together - he'd gone through a whole box of muesli in a fortnight. "Now he's his normal self." It occurred to him for the first time that this rapid recovery from heartbreak might somehow be ominous. "D'you think he's hiding his feelings, that it'll hit him some time soon?"

Mrs Doyle shook her head. "No, love, it sounds par for the course. He was exactly the same about his previous 'serious' relationships. I sometimes think he's in love with the idea of being in love, of meeting the right person and being forever faithful, anything to prove he's not like his Dad. He's not a bit like him. My husband was a lying, irresponsible, possessive, philandering bastard." She gave a grin and added, "Though he was a good-looking and charming philandering bastard, I do have some taste.

"Did you ever see those rings he used to wear round his neck?" When Bodie nodded, she continued, "Don't know if it was him being a romantic or him being pretentious. I wonder if that was down to his dad's behaviour as well. I see he's stopped wearing them. You must be a good influence."

Having noticed Doyle had ceased wearing the rings following the incident at the Red Lion way back in the beginning of the relationship, Bodie lowered his head, somewhat abashed. Clearly Doyle hadn't told his mum about their early rocky start.

Her smile faded, her expression turning serious. "Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying my Raymond is shallow, because he's not, and when he meets the right person he'll give them everything, he'll not hold anything back. He wants that to happen so much but he just has to learn to be more patient and wait for a bit. The time isn't right, is it?"

Bodie gave a wry smile. "I suppose the line of work we're in isn't exactly conducive to pipe, slippers and screaming kids."

Mrs Doyle shuddered. "God, what a picture. I don't think that's for Raymond." She raised her eyebrows and asked curiously, "Is that what Ann wanted?"

Bodie shrugged. "Dunno. Probably."

"What was she like and is she likely to come back?"

"She was all right. Good looking, a lady. Bit idealistic. I can't see her coming back though."

"That's her loss. Did you like her?"

Bodie smiled. "The Cow should hear about you. We could do with you on Interrogation."

"Thanks, I'll consider it. So, did you like her?"

Looking resigned, Bodie told her, "She was all right though a bit prim and proper. Doyle's a sucker for posh bir - women. Of course after she walked out on Ray ..."

"Wanted to wring her neck, did you? I know my hands are itching."

Bodie smiled. "Something like that. She didn't even give him a second chance. Though that was a relief."

"Why was that?"

Since Bodie hadn't even acknowledged he'd felt that way, let alone planned to say so, he had to consider the thought before he could reply. "I went through a bit of a rough patch a short while ago, was keeping Ray at a distance. I got over that and I suppose I got used to having him there for me, you know? Everything was how it had always been, but better. Then Ann came along and things weren't back to normal any more. Now you know what a selfish pri- what a selfish person your son is partnered with."

"We can all be selfish when something is important to us," Doyle's mother said, her smile understanding. "Is everything all right between you now?"

"It got a bit tense for a bit but everything seems okay now."

"Good. From what Raymond has said your friendship means a lot to him." Mrs Doyle was silent for a moment, her eyes fixed on the photograph on top of the television - her son in his policeman's uniform. Her gaze returned to the man at her side.

Raymond had told her much about his partner, at first because of her constant questions, but for a while now he had needed no prompting. Bodie had been so smooth and charming when he had arrived that morning, the winning smile firmly in place. As the day wore on, after the boys had helped her to do the shopping and prepare the vegetables for dinner, the smoothness had disappeared though the charm had remained, and the smile had grown warmer, more natural.

She had wanted to like Bodie, knowing it was important that she do so. After all, this man was a vital part of her son's life. There was a twinkle in the blue eyes for her now, and she had the peculiar feeling of having passed a test; probably what Bodie was thinking after she had made it clear she liked him by calling him 'love' and handing him the potato peeler.

And she'd always been partial to a handsome face, dark hair and blue eyes.

Those eyes were regarding her a little warily, discomforted by her close scrutiny. This man was responsible for protecting her son. Some things a mother can guess, and her instincts had always been sharp. Some things a mother needs to hear. "What about work? He tells me the funny incidents, but the only time I hear about the danger is when he's in hospital or when you're hurt. He was worried sick about you that time you were stabbed."

Bodie met those concerned green eyes, so like Doyle's. She was an intelligent woman was Eileen Doyle, no way he could pull the wool over her eyes. "You know what we do can be dangerous. What you don't know is that a lot of the time the only danger is boredom, that's why we have to go through so many fitness checks and training sessions." Seeing she was looking impatient and knowing what she wanted to hear, he was quick to add, "But when we are in dangerous situations, all I can say is this - Ray is my partner and I'll do everything and anything to keep him safe. When he hurts, I hurt - and not just my pride in having failed. He's my best friend as well as my oppo, and I'll look after him for your sake, for Ray's sake and for my own sake. That's all I can promise."

Mrs Doyle's response was to lean across and kiss his cheek. "Thanks, love. That's all I need to know, that Raymond's got someone looking after him that really cares about him." She glanced towards the door as she heard the rattle of tea cups signalling her son's return. Giving Bodie a mischievous grin, she flicked through the album quickly until she came to a specially selected photograph.

Doyle put the tea tray on the coffee table and sat down next to Bodie.

"And this was taken on the beach at Brighton. We told him he'd get sand in his willie but he would insist on taking his trunks off."

There was a pained groan to the right of Bodie then Doyle was heading for the door, complaining loudly about invasions of privacy and mothers and partners in general. Even with the door closed, Doyle must have heard the laughter that followed his departure.

 

The rest of the weekend went very well, though too quickly for their liking. They arrived at HQ, refreshed and ready to face anything, including an irate Cowley. Their boss, far from being irate, was in a good mood though both men caught him watching them with a speculative gleam in his eye. Bodie was starting to get worried - thinking Cowley was planning to give them a rotten assignment, of course - until Doyle pointed out it was the Controller's birthday in two days time. The two men exchanged a grin.

Cowley's birthday dawned bright and sunny, for once matching his mood. He was whistling as he drove through early morning traffic, not even a near collision with a courier, who shouldn't have been in charge of a pogo stick let alone a motorcycle, dampening his good spirits. Only when he left his car in the secured car park did he cease whistling, assuming his serious but fair leader expression as he passed the security guard and headed for his office. He had arrived earlier than usual, which meant the birds outside were not even taking requests for the dawn chorus, let alone thinking about catching worms too stupid not to have a lie-in. The lock in his pocket rattled when he took off his coat. Taking it out he put it on his desk then opened his briefcase and located his screwdriver.

The sound that passed his lips couldn't possibly have been a chuckle, but it was close.

 

Bodie was looking frantic. "Come on, mate, get a move on!"

Doyle swore vividly.

"You don't usually have this trouble. Not losing your touch are you?"

"He's gone and changed the bloody lock! Must've done it this morning, the old scrote."

"You're joking. He wouldn't bother doing that."

"This is George Cowley we're talking about. Of course he would. Probably sees it as an initiative test," Doyle said, trying once more to unpick the lock.

Bodie groaned. "It'd be just like the cunning bastard to do that." He crouched down so he was level with Doyle then said encouragingly, "You can do it, mate. Pride of the team at stake an' all that. And I'll give you Veronica's phone number."

Doyle paused. "Could get that myself," he claimed.

"I'll treat you to dinner at that new Greek place."

"That would be nice. There's a Bunuel film on at the Classic cinema near there, be nice to see it with someone."

"Take your girlfriend."

"She thinks Bunuel is French for bunions."

"Isn't it?" Bodie's eyes locked with the expectant gaze of his partner. There was silence and the hands were still on the lock. Knowing defeat was inevitable Bodie warned his mate, "I'll probably fall asleep. And I won't discuss it afterwards."

"Don't expect miracles, do I?"

"All right. Just get that bloody lock - "

"It's open." Doyle looked across at Bodie with wide honest eyes. "Just this second did it."

"You rotten ..." Bodie tried to glare but started laughing instead.

"Come on, let's get inside before the Old Man gets back."

Bodie followed his partner, clutching the small carrier bag, and vowing to put pepper on his partner's popcorn that evening.

 

Cowley returned to his office several hours later than he'd planned. Two hours of talking to the stupid, smug, ignorant idiots who had decided to cut CI5's budget for next year, and who didn't have the good manners and taste to offer a man a decent malt scotch, had killed his good spirits of this morning. Succeeding in convincing them to actually increase it had merely taken the frown from his face. Peering at the lock on his door it seemed untouched so he tried the handle. Still secure. He unlocked the door and stepped into his office, his gaze fixing immediately on his desk for unusual desk ornaments - nothing.

Quickly checking the chair, the letter tray and the pot plant, he established there were no plastic animals present. He knew not to check the drawer - some things were sacred.

Pouring himself a scotch, having first checked the tumblers, he told himself he was an old fool for feeling disappointed. After all, it was one of the toughest locks on the market. He removed his tie, feeling hot, sticky and a lot older than the one year he had gained today warranted. Putting down his empty glass he headed for the bathroom.

The tartan banner with 'Happy Birthday' written across it caught his eye straight away. A smile spread across his face, wiping away not only the year he had gained but half a dozen more. How could he have doubted his boys? Still smiling he stripped off, knowing he had an hour to shower, change into fresh clothes and drive to the private gentleman's club to meet with the minister. Pulling back the shower curtain he stepped inside the shower stall.

It was already occupied.

Big brown eyes and a big smile greeted Cowley. It sat on its haunches, a pink shower cap perched jauntily across the big ears and horns, a matching pink loofah and a bar of soap propped between its legs and udder. Cowley began to laugh. He was still inclined to chuckle when he headed for his meeting with the Minister, the furry Angus cow having pride of place on the back seat of his car.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

Bodie awoke to find his sheets soaked with sweat, his throat raw, and his neighbour in the flat below pounding on the ceiling. Still caught up in his nightmare of Ray bleeding to death in his flat, he scrubbed at his wet face with hands that shook.

Mayli Kuolo had a lot to answer for.

Dragging himself out of bed he went to make some tea, it being the cure of all ills. He was tempted to have a large glass of something high in alcohol but reached for the tea-bags instead. Previous experience had taught him that one drink wouldn't remove the terrifying images of Doyle dying from his mind.

Ridiculous that he was still having the same nightmare six weeks after the event.

He was adding sugar to his tea when the phone rang and he raced to pick it up, not wanting to give his usually understanding neighbour further cause to complain. Expecting the call to be from HQ he was surprised to hear Doyle's voice.

"'lo, Bodie. Haven't just woken you up have I?"

The tight knot inside his rib cage began to ease as warmth spread throughout Bodie, Ray's voice concrete proof that his mate was alive and well. He kept his tone casual, grateful that Doyle couldn't see his decidedly wobbly smile. "Nah, was up already. Just making tea. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, fine. I just needed ... just wanted to say hello, y'know."

"I know. I rang earlier but you were out."

"Was at the local swimming baths. Got to start getting fit again, can't have you running round by yourself, would be a hazard to the public," Doyle said teasingly.

"Cowley's got me paired with Evans."

"The new lad!" Doyle sounded outraged. "Is Cowley goin' mental!"

Bodie smiled wryly. "Thanks a bunch. I'm not that bad, I've been very patient with him."

Doyle's reply came blasting down the receiver before Bodie could finish. "I'm not worried about him I'm worried about you! I don't want you ending up in hospital like me because some snotty-nosed ... oh, hang on." The change of tone was clue enough that Doyle's mum was in the room. In a quieter voice he continued, "If he does anything stupid you're not to go in saving him, understand?"

"He's not that bad. In fact, of the new intake - "

Again Doyle interrupted him. "I mean it, don't go playing the hero." When Bodie remained silent he urged, "Promise me."

"Ray. You know I can't do that."

Bodie thought he heard Doyle gasp but he couldn't be sure. There was nothing but the sound of Doyle breathing then his voice came whispering down the phone. Bodie wasn't certain whether he really had heard him say sorry.

"Ray?"

"I've got to go. I'll see you this weekend?" Doyle sounded very subdued.

"Yeah, of course. Look, mate - "

"'bye."

Bodie stared at the receiver in disbelief. Doyle had cut him off. They'd had rows down the phone, real roof-raisers, but not once had Doyle ever put the phone down on him. He replaced the receiver then reached for his warm tea. By the time he had downed half of it his mind was made up. He swiftly packed a bag, got dressed then collected his wallet, R/T, gun and car keys. Fifteen minutes after Doyle's phone call he was on his way to Coventry.

 

The sound of the stones hitting Doyle's bedroom window sounded horribly loud. Bodie glanced around to check there were no anxious faces peering through the net curtains before stooping to pick up more stones. He was about to let fly when the curtains were pushed aside and Doyle's face appeared at the window. Then the face vanished and Bodie waited for Doyle to open the front door.

"What the 'ell are you doing here!"

"Freezing my bollocks off. Come on, Doyle, step aside and let me in." He moved Doyle gently aside and entered the house.

"It's three in the morning!"

Bodie frowned at his partner as he stood shivering in the open doorway, wearing nothing but a thin towelling robe. "Close the door, Ray, you're letting the cold in." Without waiting to see if Doyle obeyed him he slipped off his shoes and placed them on the shoe rack near the door then headed upstairs.

A quick look at the spare room revealed the bed was bare of sheets and pillows and the room stank of fresh paint. He turned to find Doyle behind him. "Looks like I'm sleeping on the sofa then."

"You can share with me," Doyle whispered, conscious of the fact his mother was fast asleep at the end of the corridor.

Bodie laughed softly. "I know you've lost a bit of weight, mate, but two in a single's a bit of a squeeze."

"Haven't got the single any more. Come on."

They reached Doyle's room, closing the door gently behind them, the only light that provided by the half moon visible through the open curtains.

Bodie felt cocooned in semi-darkness, the only sound Doyle's breathing close by.

Doyle's voice, sounding husky as he tried to keep the volume down, drifted across to Bodie. "Why are you here?"

Bodie shrugged and looked a little embarrassed, glad Ray couldn't see the fact. 'You put the phone down on me' would sound stupid. "You sounded a bit down. I've got the morning off, got to do a stake out tomorrow - I mean tonight. Thought I'd come and cheer you up."

His eyes adjusting to the darkness, Bodie saw that Doyle was shaking his head and smiling. "You're a daft sod sometimes."

"That's an improvement, you used to think I was a daft sod all of the time."

"No, never that," Doyle told him, moving closer.

Acutely conscious of Doyle's proximity, attuned to every sound that his friend made, Bodie heard the slight chatter of teeth. He gave the slight shivering figure before him a reproving frown despite the fact Doyle probably couldn't even see it. "Get into bed will you, you must be frozen."

Doyle was naked and burrowing beneath the burgundy duvet before Bodie could get his bag open.

Having found his toothbrush and pyjama bottoms, Bodie popped into the en suite bathroom. Five minutes later he was pulling the duvet up to his ears and sliding a little nearer to the human hot-water bottle that was Ray Doyle.

"Christ, your feet are cold," Doyle complained half-heartedly even as he slid nearer to provide his partner with a little body heat.

"It is the middle of November, mate. You all right?"

Knowing what Bodie was asking, aware of how needy he must have sounded on the phone, Doyle said, "I am now."

Lying on their backs, shoulders almost touching, they fell into a companionable silence, basking in the shared warmth and comfort of being together again. They had spent many stake outs like this, with the lights out and only the sound of each other's voices and breathing to break the silence, so intimate in the darkness. It was at such times that Bodie felt closer to Doyle, as though they were connected in some way not so apparent when there were the distractions of the day. Strangely, despite the silence, despite the absence of light, it was when he was linked to Doyle in this way that he felt least alone.

"So when did you get the double bed?"

"I think my mum finally realised that I'm all grown up and need a grown up bed. When she dragged me up here after I got out of hospital, kicking and screaming all the way of course - "

"Of course."

" - she'd thrown my old single out and got me this."

"Nice to be spoilt, innit?" Bodie was silent for a moment then turned to look at the other man, asking softly, "What's wrong, Ray?"

"Nothing much."

"You scared?"

Feeling Bodie's gaze boring into him, Doyle released a heavy gusting sigh. "Yeah. Been having bad dreams about it. Suppose it's because I'm not there."

Bodie reached across and squeezed Doyle on the shoulder, a brief, friendly touch. "Bound to be worried. But you will get fit again, mate."

"Eh?" Doyle was momentarily puzzled. When the penny dropped he gave a snort of amusement. "I know that. Not scared about that, you prat. I'm scared you'll get yourself hurt because I'm not there to watch your back."

The softly spoken admission left Bodie speechless. He could feel Doyle watching him despite the darkness and struggled for some way to voice his feelings.

Doyle apparently gave him up for a lost cause because he whispered, "Goodnight," and turned over onto his side, his back to his friend.

Bodie reached out once again and placed a hand on his partner's shoulder, his thumb stroking the soft skin in a soothing, if tentative, manner.

Doyle turned his head. As if sensing Bodie's need to reach out, he lay on his back once again but closer so that they lay with their sides pressed against each other. The hand stroking him moved to his other shoulder, Bodie's arm now lying across Doyle and hugging him to him.

"I know exactly how you feel," Bodie was able to say at last. "I nearly lost you, Ray. Was like someone sticking a knife in me when I found you lying there, when I watched them operating on you." Staring intently at the ceiling, his voice monotone, he added, "I nearly lost you."

"You never said anything like this at the time," Doyle said, sounding accusing.

Shooting an annoyed and more than slightly embarrassed look at the other man, Bodie asked, "What was I supposed to say? 'Oh, Ray, if you'd died I'd have lost a bloody great part of myself'?"

"Would you?"

Bodie turned onto his side, his words muffled against Doyle's biceps as he confessed, "You know I would."

Doyle's smile was tender; his eyes, now adjusted to the dim light, fixed on the dark head pressed against him. Grasping the fingers that had wound themselves in his hair, he murmured, "Ditto."

The dark head lifted and those eyes whose exact shade Doyle knew better than anyone else's met his. The pissed off tone sounded pretty familiar too.

"Ditto? Is that it, then? I'm sounding like a right - "

"I said I was having nightmares about you getting hurt, didn't I?" Doyle pointed out, managing to sound both defensive and aggressive. He yanked his arm out from under Bodie's head, shoved it under and around the other man, and hauled him close until the dark head was firmly tucked under his chin. "Touchy sod. I'm glad you're here. You tell Evans to look after you or I'll have his balls."

"Ray, I can - "

"Now go to sleep."

Bodie tried to raise his head only to have it pushed back down by a not so gentle hand. The hand remained there, brushing his hair smooth. "I'm squashing you," Bodie felt obliged to point out, though he was too comfortable and comforted to protest too much.

"Shut up. And goodnight."

"Goodnight, Ray. But you will shove me off if I get too heavy?"

The only answer was a firm slap on Bodie's head. Taking this as affirmation - this was after all Ray Doyle - Bodie fell asleep with a smile on his lips and no bad memories to trouble his dreams.

 

The sound of someone knocking on the door woke up Bodie. He watched sleepily as Doyle's mother walked in. Seeing her start of surprise Bodie smiled at her, receiving a smile of considerable affection in return.

"Hello, love, didn't hear you arriving."

He opened his mouth to reply when he suddenly identified the quiet pounding noise against his ear as Doyle's heartbeat. He awoke fully to find he was lying across his partner's chest, a hand curved up near Doyle's face, Doyle's arms around him holding him close. A little embarrassed at being found snuggled up to his friend, he tried to ease away but was held firmly in position by Doyle's arms tightening around him. Aiming for a casual, unflustered air he almost succeeded. "Morning Mrs Doyle. I got here pretty late last night," Bodie explained, politely raising a hand to cover his mouth when he felt a yawn building. He hadn't realised his fingers were threaded through Doyle's curls until he snagged his finger in a tangle.

Doyle made a soft sound of protest and opened his eyes.

Bodie raised his head and twisted it round to mutter an apology. The green eyes widened when they registered Bodie's proximity then a smile of sweetness and warmth curved the sculptured lips and Bodie was assailed by the most peculiar melting feeling. He smiled back. "Mornin', sunshine. Your mum's brought you a cup of tea."

A hand waved in the general direction of his mother though Doyle's greeting was lost in a jaw-cracking yawn. "You drink it, mate. I'm off to have a shower. Can I have my arm back?"

"Hmm? Oh!" Bodie sat up, releasing Doyle's arm that had been trapped by his body.

Still yawning and flexing his arm a few times, Doyle dragged himself out of bed, indifferent to his naked state. Padding over to give his mum a kiss, he took the tea from her and handed it to Bodie. Shivering as the cold air cooled his warm flesh he headed for the bathroom.

Bodie dragged his eyes from the departing figure, his appetite for tea or anything else abruptly gone. He leaned back against the headboard, eyes unseeing, the image of Doyle's scarred chest fixed in his mind. A slight movement reminded him of the presence of another in the room.

"You all right, love? You've gone white," Mrs Doyle said gently.

Bodie remained silent.

Something in the quality of that silence, something in his expression must have called to her. She sat on the bed beside him, a hand cupping the side of his face. She smelt of peaches and the same coconut shampoo that Doyle used, her gentle smile was warm and concerned and some memory stirred of his own mother. He opened his mouth but no words would come out. Instead he gazed at her helplessly and she pulled him to her, the second Doyle that morning to hold him in such a manner. His need for self-sufficiency and control was crying out for him to pull away but he was surrounded by pleasant smells, soft words and gentle slender arms.

He wouldn't cry. He couldn't. He was SAS trained.

"Is there something you want to tell me?"

"His chest ..." he managed to utter before his throat closed up.

"Ah. From your reaction I'm guessing that's the first proper look at it you've had since the hospital. Even expected it would miraculously vanish once he was home, eh? It'll fade soon, and most of the hair will grow back, and he'll look like his normal self."

"I should've been there for him."

Bodie felt her become very still. "Raymond told me what happened. You can't be blaming yourself for it," she said, half statement, half enquiry.

"I'm his partner. I'm supposed to keep him safe. I even made a promise to you to keep him safe." He drew in a shaky breath. "He died on that operating table."

"I know, love. Have you spoken to him?"

"Not about that."

"Perhaps you should." She gave him an extra firm squeeze. "He'll soon talk sense into you. Or beat it into you if necessary."

Bodie gave a snort of amusement that, to his horror, sounded more like a sob. Oh, Christ, not now. Taking a deep breath, he fought for self control and had just managed to achieve it when he heard the bathroom door open.

Bodie raised his head from Mrs Doyle's shoulder to look at his friend and was met by a searing hostile glare. Great, that was all he needed, Ray thinking he was coming on to his mother. He glared right back, his expression one of fierce reproof, then eased himself out of the so comforting embrace. A brief kiss was placed on his cheek then Mrs Doyle was leaving them and planning to make breakfast.

"What was all that about?" Doyle asked in a mild tone, pulling on clean jeans and a T-shirt.

Bodie watched his partner's movements, noting the lack of his usual grace. That and the blank expression informed Bodie his partner was pissed off about something. He could guess what the something was. "Ray, I'm not trying to seduce your mother."

Doyle looked up from putting his socks on, eyes wide. "I didn't think you were!"

Even Doyle couldn't fake such honest indignation. Trying to think of something he might have done to upset his partner, there was only one thing he could think of. "Is it because I was staring at the scars on your chest?"

Doyle's expression was elusive. "Does it bother you?"

"Of course it bothers me!" Bodie began in an exasperated voice then realised Doyle might misunderstand him. "I mean, the way it looks doesn't, but the fact it happened ..." he trailed off, wondering whether Ray's mother was right in saying he should talk about it. He shoved a pillow upright behind him then leaned back against the headboard, staring at his hands as if for inspiration. "I keep thinking I should have been there to prevent it. I knew the business with the kids getting themselves killed had upset you, I should've gone back to your flat, then you wouldn't have forgotten to set the locks."

"And then she would've waited for her chance, maybe killed me in some alley where I don't have security and window alarms and a partner who knows what to do to keep me alive long enough for the surgeons to do their stuff. You can be a right idiot sometimes, you know that?" He stepped closer to thump Bodie on the arm and ruffle the dark hair with rough affection. "Was that why Mum was holding you?"

"Yeah. Got a bit ... y'know."

Doyle plonked himself on the bed next to his partner, giving him a mock glare. "Have I convinced you the shooting wasn't your fault or do I have to thump you until you believe me?"

Bodie laughed, reaching out to pull his partner into a quick hug.

Doyle smiled at him, returning the hug briefly before standing up. He left the room, returning a minute later with towels which he threw at Bodie's head. "Here, go and have a shower. I'll go and help Mum with the breakfast. While you're in there, see if you can clear the cobwebs out your head - might be able to think a bit clearer." He managed to shut the door behind him before the pillow sailing towards him could reach its target.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

Glancing at his watch for the seventh time in twenty-two and a half minutes, Bodie shifted in the armchair he had staked a claim on then looked across at the rest room door. Doyle had said he would pop in to see him as soon as he had finished with the CI5 physiotherapist.

He was nineteen and a half minutes late.

Movement to the right caught his eye. Evans gave him a friendly smile and handed him an unasked for cup of tea. Smiling his thanks he gulped it down thirstily, telling himself firmly that he was not worried, that Doyle's physiotherapy had undoubtedly gone well. Any second now he would walk in, looking pleased as punch.

"Went well this afternoon, didn't it?"

Bodie looked blankly at the man perched on the arm of his chair. Gathering his thoughts, it was a moment before he realised what Evans was referring to. "Yeah, smooth as silk. Doesn't often happen like that."

"Cowley seemed pleased."

Suspecting what the new agent needed to hear, Bodie gave an approving smile. "Like a cat with a bucketful of cream. You earned yourself a gold star today, mate."

Evans' earnest young face was positively glowing, putting Bodie in mind of an anxious to please puppy. For one horrible second he felt as old as Methuselah. He'd have started reflecting on how young policemen were looking these days, until he reminded himself that he was only four years older than his temporary partner.

"So you think Cowley will let us stay teamed?"

"Until Doyle gets back? Probably. You don't annoy me, you're able to think for yourself, and we work well together." His grin was teasing, his tone gently mocking as he asked, "Is that what you wanted to hear?"

Evans looked so self-conscious that Bodie laughed and ruffled his hair with rough playfulness. A prickling sensation at the back of his neck alerted him and he swung his head round to face the door.

Doyle looked furious, eyes glittering in a too-pale face. Those eyes swept over Bodie, then Doyle turned on his heel and left.

Bodie stood up abruptly and went after his partner, leaving Evans mid-sentence. He found his friend waiting in the car park, looking embarrassed.

"What happened? Isn't it going well?"

Doyle regarded Bodie for several long seconds, his expression impossible to decipher. Finally he told him, "It's going okay. Not as well as I'd like. Still got to wait until January when I take the tests."

Bodie gave his partner a look that was equal parts affection and exasperation. "And, being you, that's not good enough. You're not Superman, Ray. It'll take time."

Doyle prodded a stone loose from the tarmac then kicked it, sending it skittering across the ground. "How's it going with you and Evans?"

There was an odd note in Doyle's voice and Bodie picked up on it, believing he knew what was bothering his friend. "I was looking after myself for years before I ever had you as a partner, you know. You get yourself fit and stop worrying something's going to happen while you're not watching my back."

"I'm not doubting your ability. It's just ... well, to be honest I'd rather you were on solo. Least then I wouldn't have to worry about the other bloke," he kicked a second stone, "doin' something stupid."

Bodie slung an arm across his friend's shoulders, hugging him to him briefly. "There's no need to worry about that, sunshine. Evans is good. We work well together, even the Cow thinks so."

Doyle tensed then moved away. Once again his expression was unfathomable.

For Bodie, used to reading his partner, this was unsettling.

Doyle met his friend's searching gaze for a brief moment before turning away. Walking over to Bodie's Capri Doyle asked with a forced smile on his lips, "Will you give me a lift to the station?"

Bodie clenched and unclenched his right hand, the arm that had slipped from Doyle's shoulders hanging loosely at his side, feeling strangely bereft. Deciding to take his cue from the other man he replied, "Yeah, sure," in a carefully casual voice. Some things, he concluded, had to be sorted out alone. He just hoped Doyle wouldn't push himself too far, too fast.

Bodie assumed a carefree mask but the shadows still lingered in his eyes.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

It was the first day of December, Christmas had been in the air (in the shops at any rate) since early November, and Doyle was making excellent progress. Cowley was still insisting that agent 4.5 was not fit enough to play action hero on the streets, but he was fit enough to sit at a desk when he wasn't in physio.

It was driving Doyle crazy.

After a restless night, his sleep broken by erotic dreams in which Bodie featured far too much for comfort, he had left his new flat had headed into work early. Sorting old files gave him too much time to think which was why his thoughts began to drift to that morning's dream. It wasn't the first time he'd dreamt of having sex with Bodie and it probably wouldn't be the last. Their relationship was very close, sex featured in many of their conversations, so he was aware of Bodie as not only a mate who was a good laugh but also as a sexual entity. It didn't necessarily mean something - he'd once dreamt he was Mae West and that certainly didn't mean he was a closet transvestite.

The dreams weren't the problem. It was the frequency of them; and the way he felt when he woke up.

He really didn't need this.

Pushing the problem to the back of his mind he gave his full attention back to his task.

Reading through a file, one of a large number of documents on his desk, he heard the sound of half a dozen or so agents returning from an op. Knowing Bodie would be among them he waited for his partner to enter Doyle's temporary office.

The men went straight past and the voices faded.

Doyle stared at the office door in disbelief. Bodie knew he was here. He knew.

Doyle glared at the door; it did not ignite, nor did an apologetic Bodie appear in the doorway.

Fixing his gaze on the file in his hands he flicked through the pages, eyes unseeing. Only when he almost tore a page did he take a deep breath, return to the beginning, and start reading.

He had almost finished with his second file when the door opened and Bodie entered. Sparing his partner a brief glance, Doyle went back to the file he was holding that had suddenly become as intelligible to him as Esperanto - vaguely familiar yet beyond his understanding.

Bodie didn't seem to notice Doyle's silence. Rubbing both hands across his face he yawned hugely. "'lo, sunshine. Mind if I crash out here for half an hour? I'm knackered." Without waiting for an answer he dropped down on the room's only concession to comfort, an ancient overstuffed armchair, and promptly fell asleep.

Only the thought of picking up and sorting out the papers stopped Doyle from throwing the pile of files at his partner's head.

There was a knock on the door. Knowing instinctively who it would be, Doyle didn't call out for his visitor to enter, but instead got up to open the door.

Tony Evans stood outside, positively exuding health and vitality. A polite smile was painted on his smoothly handsome face, though there was little warmth in the pale blue eyes that peered out from beneath his carefully 'windswept' blond fringe.

Doyle stood a little taller and decided Evans had a big nose and a weak chin.

"Is Bodie there? I have to go over the report with him," Evans asked in a carefully accent free voice that had the same affect on Doyle as chalk squeaking on a blackboard.

"You'll have to wait. He's asleep."

Evans grinned. "Can sleep anywhere, anytime, can Bodie."

"I know."

The polite smile slipped a little at Doyle's flat tone. "Anyway, I'll have to wake him up. Cowley wants to see us in an hour."

"Then you'll both have to wait. He's exhausted. Not surprised, the hours he's been putting in this week." Doyle's eyes shot accusation.

"I'm his partner, I've put in the same hours," Evans defended himself.

"You're his temporary partner."

"So? I'm still - "

"You're a self-centred, ambitious little prick who wants to make his mark and thinks being paired with CI5's best is going to get him noticed." Doyle glanced round to make sure they were alone before hauling Evans into the empty office across the corridor. Doyle shut the door, letting the other man pull his arm free.

"You thought the op was going to be something big, didn't you? Howard and Mitchell were supposed to be on it but I came in this morning to find they were sent on another op, that Bodie was called in at 4am because Cowley's shorthanded - "

"Tell it to Cowley," Evans said, shrugging.

" - and the tip-off Mitchell got on an explosives cache was a bust. Not only that, but his snitch denies ever phoning Control. Question is, who did?"

"It happens in this game," Evans said, his tone patronising.

Doyle's temper snapped. Grabbing fistfuls of the other man's shirt he pushed him up against the wall behind him.

"I know that better than you! I know what you're up to. And I know what you're hoping for."

Evans tried to pull himself free but this time Doyle did not let go. He cast a single frantic glance at the closed door then tried to match the older man glare for glare.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't play the fool. You're good, for a new lad. But Bodie's my partner. And I'm coming back."

"That's not what everyone else is saying. They reckon you're finished on the streets," Evans sneered, the charming, friendly mask he wore at all times finally slipping.

"You must be talking about the new lot then 'cause anyone who knows me knows how stubborn I can be. I'll be back in the New Year, with Bodie at my side. Me and him are a team, the best Cowley's got." He gave a brief, harsh laugh. "Did you honestly think he'd split us up? That you could? You think that Bodie would let that happen? That I would? Set your sights on Connery or Andrews, Bodie's out of your league."

Doyle released the other man and headed for the door. The defiant voice behind him made him pause.

"We work well together, everyone says so."

Doyle's smile was pitying. "'Work well'? Have you ever felt like you can read his mind? Like he can read yours? Do you sometimes know what he's going to do before he does it? Can you understand what he's telling you fifty feet away with just his body language to give you a clue? Have you ever been in a situation when you know the odds are against you and you think you're going to die, but instead you're standing there, alive, you've come out on top and you know it's because you're partners? Have you?"

Evans looked sullenly at him. "Not yet. But in time - "

"Fuck time. You could have all the time in the world and it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. Bodie and me, we've been like that from the beginning, even when we hated each other's guts. It's either there or it isn't." Doyle reached for the door handle, pausing to add, "I'll send Bodie along when he's had some sleep."

"But Cowley - "

"You deal with Cowley. You're Bodie's partner - for now. Which reminds me. Something I should have told you earlier. If you let Bodie get hurt, I'll hurt you worse. A lot worse. So you'd better watch his back." Upon that parting shot Doyle made his exit and returned to his own office to find Bodie still dead to the world.

Feeling a lot better after his talk with Evans, Doyle smiled with affection at his sleeping friend, feeling a certain warm possessiveness that he chose not to analyse. He remained standing, staring, thoughts floating back to the dreams he was having. Nightmares of being shot he could deal with. Wet dreams of Bodie he could really do without, though it had to be said, dreams of giving his mate a blow-job were a lot more entertaining than Mayli Kuolo blowing a hole in him and ruining his carpet.

Most of all he could do without the realisation he'd just been staring at Bodie's crotch for god knows how long.

Dragging his gaze from said area he went back to the files on his desk.

A quarter of the way through a fourth file he felt the usual prickling sensation across his neck and the top of his spine that alerted him to Bodie's scrutiny. He looked up to see his mate, all sleepy eyes and rumpled hair, smiling at him. Bodie really was an attractive sod, Doyle mused. If he was going to have kinky dreams about someone then at least he had the good taste to fix on Bodie. There was something sexy and cuddly about his partner when he had just woken up and it made any dreams about him seem perfectly reasonable.

Bodie offered an apologetic smile. "Sorry to crash out on you. Just about had the energy to do the report. Did you hear about last night?"

"Yeah. Going to make CI5 look stupid if the press hear about it."

"Couldn't believe it. Bloody water pistols!"

"But they could have been loaded water pistols. We live in dangerous times, mate."

Bodie added solemnly, "And there were cap-guns. Don't forget the cap-guns."

"Of course. Well then, makes it all worth it."

Their eyes met and they grinned at each other.

"Wish I could've seen the Old Man's face," Doyle said, sighing with regret.

Bodie shuddered. "No you don't. Somebody's in for a right bollocking. Just glad it won't be me."

"Whose tip-off was it?"

"Mitchell."

"And wasn't Carstairs -?"

"Doing the obbo," Bodie confirmed, smiling happily.

"Couldn't happen to a more deserving bloke," Doyle said with great relish.

Bodie gave the files on the desk a disgusted look. "Has Cowley still got you doin' that?"

"Yeah," Doyle replied in mournful tones.

"You poor sod. How's the physio going?"

"Okay." Doyle placed the file down carefully then smiled at Bodie, looking pleased with himself. "Better than good. So well in fact that I'm thinking of asking Cowley to list me active before Christmas. I know I - "

"Don't even think about it." There was an unmistakable warning in Bodie's voice and a distinct lack of warmth in his eyes.

Doyle's mouth tightened, annoyance replacing amusement. "Listen, I'm nearly A1 now. If I do the tests in a fortnight's time, I could be back within three weeks, then - "

"No."

"Who the hell made you my keeper!" Doyle snarled.

"George Cowley!" Bodie snapped back.

The wind taken out of his sails, Doyle was silent for a moment. Eventually he muttered, "The Cow's not always right."

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"

"Evans."

"Oh you're not going to start harpin' on about that again, are you? Look, I've told you, he's okay."

"What if okay isn't good enough?" Doyle glanced away. He began to flick idly through the files on his desk, muttering, "Besides, I don't like him."

"You don't have to. Or do you think you should have a say so? Shall we have you vet everyone I work with while you're laid up?"

"Might not be a bad idea."

"Talk sense, Ray."

Doyle's hand slammed down on top of the files and he shot up so quickly his chair toppled back. Leaning across the desk he glared at the man before him. "You can't see it, can you? You play the know-it-all hard man role so well but in some things you're a naive sod! Evans is a user, a manipulator. He's a cunning bastard who'll do whatever he has to in order to get what he wants. But you're so dazzled by the little prick you can't see the truth!"

Bodie shook his head in disbelief. "You're talking a load of bollocks, mate. You know what your problem is? You're jealous."

Doyle straightened up slowly, looking as though he had just been slapped across the face. He opened his mouth to refute the accusation but the words caught in his throat. A hand went back to grasp the chair that was no longer there. Looking dazed, he turned to pick up the chair and set it, carefully, at his desk, before lowering himself onto it.

His expression uncompromising, Bodie continued to watch his partner.

After several long seconds of silence, Doyle managed to ask in a hollow voice, "Of what? Who?"

"Evans. Me. Of anyone who's fit for street duty. While we're out there doing the job, you're stuck in here pushing papers around, and you don't like that, do you, Ray?" Bodie got up from the armchair and went to sit on the desk, his eyes softened by compassion and understanding. "You don't like it and I don't blame you." He reached out to put his hand on Doyle's shoulder.

Wondering what Bodie would do if he just walked over and kissed him, Doyle was so distracted by this thought that Bodie's sudden touch made him react more strongly than he might otherwise have done. Slapping aside Bodie's hand Doyle stood up abruptly, the chair crashing to the ground again.

Watching as Doyle backed over to the window behind the desk, Bodie hid his hurt reaction and got to his feet. Pausing to straighten the pile of documents he had almost sat on, he said softly, "I'd better go and see Cowley. I'll see you later, mate."

"Yeah. Later."

Bodie waited to see if Doyle would turn around to face him but he continued to stare out of the window, his back to Bodie a clear dismissal. Without another word, Bodie left.

Doyle remained by the window, looking out, until he heard the closing of the office door. Only then did he slump against the glass, cheek pressed against its relative coolness, eyes closing as if to block out a reality too painful to bear.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINETEEN

 

The weeks leading up to Christmas were a difficult time for the men and women of CI5. While the IRA usually suspended hostilities for Christmas Day, the runup to it was fair game, and with the number of hoaxes and threats from other terrorist groups, manpower was stretched very thin indeed.

Doyle continued to read more files than he would have wished, became a regular whizz kid with the computers, and even attended the occasional interrogation - this being the highlight of his week.

Sitting at a desk he had grown to hate he tried to remember the last time he'd had Bodie to himself. Too bloody long. Bodie had been pulling a lot of night shifts lately, stakeouts with Evans where little happened but where there were lots of opportunities to talk. The cynical and highly suspicious part of Doyle wondered whether it was a deliberate ploy of Cowley's to knit Bodie and Evans together in case Doyle couldn't make the grade.

Contact between 3.7 and 4.5 was limited to half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening, when Bodie would drop by at Doyle's flat prior to starting his shift. Thankfully, since telling Bodie he did not like Evans, Bodie had ceased to include his temporary partner in their brief conversations or make the mistake of bringing him along.

After spending an average of fourteen hours a day in each other's company, to be reduced to an hour was a shock to the system. And one that neither man appreciated. Especially Doyle. Sitting at his desk thinking about it didn't help.

He was missing Bodie. He didn't like to think how much he was missing Bodie. Maybe that explained the dreams. After all, sex was the ultimate act of possession. It was probably perfectly normal.

Probably.

 

Doyle knew he was in a wood, though the only sound he could hear were motorcycles. Spinning round he looked for Bodie only to fall as Bodie began hitting him. Doyle fought back viciously, managing to pin the other man beneath him.

The wood disappeared. He was in the shower area of the old CI5 HQ, his hands slick with hair remover. Straddled over Bodie, Doyle could feel the body beneath him exactly as he had felt it that day, hot, wet, hard, twisting beneath him. His mouth latched onto Bodie's, sucking air and sanity from Bodie, while his hands probed and rubbed, readying the man trapped beneath him. A fierce thrust and then he was inside, filling Bodie completely, claiming him, orgasm rising up like a flash flood.

Doyle's fierce cry split the silence, his hips thrusting blindly as they sought the dream Bodie. Semen jetted onto the soft sheets that were tangled around him, binding him to the bed. His heart pounding, his sheets and himself a sticky mess, it was a while before the images faded.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY

 

"But you have to go!"

Hunched over his desk and trying to give the impression of a man swamped by work, Doyle gave Bodie a brief flick of the eyes that managed to combine annoyance with a little dash of impatience. Since the Christmas party had been cancelled the whole of CI5 had been making plans for a New Year's party. He was in two minds whether to go.

Bodie was trying to bully and cajole both minds into saying yes.

Giving the file in his hand far more scrutiny than it merited, Doyle kept his gaze away from the restlessly pacing figure of his partner. Bodie was in 'big cat' mode, prowling from one end of the room to the other, a scowl on his face. It was practically impossible to ignore him, the constant movement a distraction, almost as distracting as the black crotch-hugging trousers, black polo-neck jumper and black leather jacket that Bodie was wearing. Bodie suited black. Matt black, glossy black, relieved only by blue eyes, pink-tinged lips and creamy skin. A lethal combination.

Doyle made the mistake of glancing up and found his partner had stopped moving and was standing in front of the desk, gazing at him hopefully. Ah. No longer playing the panther role, Bodie was now going for the playing puppy look. Putting down the paperwork he had been pretending to read, Doyle said in a mild tone that held just the faintest trace of warning, "I don't have to do anything."

Getting up from the armchair, a coaxing look on his face, Bodie went and sat on the edge of Doyle's desk, heedless of the files he was crushing. "So why don't you want to go?"

Doyle tugged the files free from beneath Bodie, smoothing the creased paper instead of the creased black cotton that covered Bodie's groin and upper thighs and was a damn sight more interesting than a ten year old report. Paper was safer, Doyle told himself. You only stood to get a paper cut instead of a broken jaw. "I just don't want to go. Stop nagging, you're making me feel henpecked. You've been doing it all week."

"That was for the Christmas party. This is for the New Year's do."

Doyle gave him an exasperated look. "Why's it so important for me to go?"

"Is it so wrong of me to want my partner to be there?"

"So ask Evans."

There was a pause then Bodie asked, frowning, "And what's that supposed to mean?"

"What I said," Doyle replied, picking up a file.

Snatching the file out of Doyle's hand, Bodie slapped it down on the desk, covering it with one hand. "In case you've forgotten you're my partner."

"Not until January, if then."

Catching the faint trace of bitterness in his partner's voice, something most other people would have missed, Bodie shot a keen look at the other man. Gently he asked, "Is that what's bothering you? The tests?"

Sitting back in his chair, Doyle shrugged, his eyes fixed on his wrist watch which he tugged at and readjusted. Bloody thing had never fitted properly; he only wore it because it had been a Christmas present from Bodie.

"A party might be just what you need, take your mind off it."

Doyle gave a reluctant grin, acknowledging his friend's persistence.

"Besides," continued Bodie, "it'll give you a chance to have a night with the lads."

"That's partly the problem," Doyle admitted. "Everyone's been so busy and I've been stuck in this bloody office. The last time I was one of the lads was September. Three months, Bodie!"

"Icebreaker. Perfect opportunity.

"I don't have a date."

"You want one?" Bodie's tone made it clear that whoever - or indeed whatever - Doyle wanted, Bodie would make the necessary arrangements.

"Not really. Not one of your rejects anyway. So who are you taking?"

"I finished with Louise. I asked the delectable Susie but she turned me down flat."

Doyle gave a snort of amusement.

Ever since Susie had put Bodie in his place, agents 2.7 and 3.7 had been on friendly terms. He took great pleasure in playing the rejected suitor, always in front of a large number of people, asking Susie to elope with him in the sure knowledge that she would turn him down. Doyle had pointed out to her that if she agreed it would put a stop to Bodie's attentions; whereupon she pointed out that there would be no fun in that. It had made her the envy of ninety percent of the female personnel and the darling of CI5 as far as the men were concerned. She received huge bouquets of flowers sent anonymously (from Bodie) on her birthday and at Christmas, and knew that if she ever needed someone to turn to she would have a friend in Bodie.

Some women had all the luck.

"Susie's got better taste than to go out with you," Doyle told his partner, playing along.

"Susie has her eye on someone else."

"Who?" Doyle asked, annoyed that his detective's instincts hadn't picked up any signs.

"Not my secret to tell, mate. But it means I'm doomed to admire from afar. Tragic, isn't it? You'll have to come with me to the party to cheer me up."

Doyle laughed, slanting an affectionate look at Bodie who grinned and looked pleased with himself. "You don't give up, do you?"

"You should know that by now."

"All right, I'll come," Doyle began, and was enveloped in an enthusiastic one-armed hug. The smell of leather and warm Bodie swamped him. He flinched.

Releasing Doyle instantly, Bodie stared at his partner with some concern. "Did I hurt you?"

Doyle could have kicked himself. It was getting ridiculous, that stupid erotic dreams, when he was asleep or otherwise, were interfering with his normal behaviour. He avoided lying or further questions by replying, "I get the odd twinge now and then, nothing to worry about, the doctors said."

"You sure?"

"Course I'm sure." Doyle glanced down at his watch. "You'd better get a move on, Batman, the Boy Wonder'll be waiting for you."

"You'll always be my Boy Wonder," Bodie cooed, batting his eyelashes. "You look so much better in the tights."

Doyle shoved him in the direction of the door. "Go on, go and play nicely. Some of us have work to do."

Grinning, Bodie patted Doyle on the rear. "Better watch it, mate. You could ruin your finest asset sitting down all day."

"Cheeky bastard," Doyle said in outraged tones, but Bodie was already halfway down the corridor, still laughing.

Doyle closed the door and picked up a file. After a few seconds he gave a rueful sigh, put the papers down, and began a series of knee-bends and other exercises.

He concentrated on keeping count and tried to ignore the tingling warmth across his buttocks.

 

***

 

Having put on his green moleskins and white silk shirt, Doyle checked his appearance in the full-length mirror. He had regained the weight he had lost during recovery, his clothes no longer hanging loosely on him, and the haggard, drawn look was gone from his face. Exercise had toned his muscles and he hoped he wasn't fooling himself when he believed his body was almost as fit as it had been before the shooting. At least now he could do his usual run in the mornings without having to pull up or collapsing into a pain-wracked exhausted heap. Having an octogenarian jogger pull up to ask if you were all right must be one of life's ultimate humiliations.

Running a hand through his curls then smoothing the material of his trousers, he checked his appearance again.

Should he undo another button or would it look as if he was trying too hard?

Trying too hard to what?

The fourth button remained fastened.

He heard the sound of a key being inserted into a lock, then the door to his flat opening. Grabbing his new black jacket, he left the bedroom.

"'lo, mate." Bodie looked his partner up and down, a teasing smile on his lips. "Ah! A new jacket and the moleskins. I see you mean business, hmm?" He peered closer and raised an eyebrow. "Oh, Raymond, I do hope I'm wrong and you are wearing underwear?" He put out a hand as if to check.

Doyle grinned and fended him off, trying not to look self-conscious. "Gerroff!"

"It's cold out there y'know. I thought you older fellows liked to wear longjohns?"

"You're a fine one to talk," Doyle retorted, leading the way out of his flat and locking up once Bodie was beside him. "Not me who wears ten layers in the middle of summer." Hands on hips, he paused to take in the glory of Bodie's appearance and had to swallow a sigh of appreciation. "My God, he's not wearing a jumper!"

Bodie elbowed him aside and ran for the stairs.

Doyle ran down after him. When they reached the bottom he grabbed Bodie by the arm and turned him round to have another look at his friend's garments. Cream trousers encased firm thighs and clung, with the intimacy of a lover, to a fine example of Mother Nature's gifts when in a generous mood. A hip-length black wool jacket covered a black shirt that looked to be silk. Doyle caught the material between forefinger and thumb and rubbed it to check. Seeing only the top button was open, he unfastened the button below it. It was then he caught sight of the black T-shirt Bodie was wearing beneath the shirt. Doyle cackled.

Slapping Doyle's hand away, Bodie's smile was both amused and embarrassed. "Shurrup. Not everyone likes to go out half dressed." He gave Doyle's shirt with its three unfastened buttons a meaningful look, then reached out to fasten the lower button, remarking, "You'll catch a cold like that." The freshly washed reddish curls received an affectionate ruffle then the two men left the building, heading for Bodie's car, Doyle's inactive status and CI5's stretched resources meaning Doyle had to travel by bus or tube to work or rely on Bodie.

Doyle paused to unfasten the third button on his shirt once again before getting into the silver Capri.

"I'll drive us home tonight. I won't be drinking."

"You sure? Can always call a cab if you change your mind and pick the car up tomorrow. Can't see you sticking to orange juice all night."

Doyle pulled a face. "Haven't had much of a choice, have I? Not with the assessment starting Monday." He found himself watching Bodie changing gears and looked away, searching for something to occupy his mind before he found himself thinking about the dreams again. Fiddling with the radio, he tried to find something other than children's choirs and 'novelty' Christmas releases.

When they arrived it was to find the party in full swing. Cowley had already put in an appearance and left to have what he called 'a civilised celebration' with a female friend and her family, the controller having no family of his own. Bets were being laid as to the identity of the mystery woman. Margaret Thatcher was the 2:1 favourite.

Those unfortunate souls on standby were holding their glasses of orange juice, desperately trying to look as if they didn't mind that their colleagues were slowly getting the worse for drink.

The function room was often used by personnel for birthday's and engagement parties, it being considerably safer than having the cream of CI5 in public, providing the perfect target for an attack. Someone had made up for the lack of a Christmas party with an excess of balloons, tartan decorations, and mistletoe. Any minute now someone, somewhere, was going to start singing the 'Da, da, dadadadada' version of 'Scotland the Brave' and attempt a reel; which just goes to show you don't have to be within three hundred miles of Edinburgh to make a complete prat of yourself on Hogmanay.

Greetings were called out as they headed for the bar. They had just finished their second drinks when Murphy spotted them. He was obviously nearly at his limit of four doubles as, instead of beginning a conversation, he launched himself at Bodie, hugging the startled man to him. Bodie rolled his eyes at Susie Fischer who stood nearby, grinning.

Doyle was laughing but that was cut off, along with his air supply, when Murphy decided to hug him as well.

"Eh, Murph, can you let go now, mate?" Doyle gasped, patting the other man on the back.

"Happy New Year, Ray," Murphy said, before turning to hug Bodie again. "And you, Bodie."

Bodie returned the hug, looking self-conscious. "Yeah, you too, mate."

Stepping forward to take Murphy by the arm, Susie promised, "I'll see you two later at midnight," before hauling Murphy over to the makeshift dance floor.

McCabe and Lucas, both on standby for the evening, came wandering over to watch enviously as Bodie downed a double whisky. Smacking his lips together in appreciation, Bodie made a great show of enjoying his drink - so much so that Lucas made threatening gestures with his sausage-on-a-stick.

Grabbing the sausage Bodie ate it then handed back the cocktail stick to Lucas. His appetite thus sparked, he headed for the buffet, tugging Doyle by the arm to follow him, leaving Lucas and McCabe to drown their sorrows in shandy.

Having located the food, Bodie was soon munching on a chicken and mushroom filled vol-au-vent. One arm draped across Doyle's shoulder, Bodie's other arm waved about, flakes of pastry scattering as he began a debate with Stuart, Mitchell and a somewhat tipsy Howard as to whether any of the many 'soft' Southern football teams stood a hope in hell against the might of Liverpool FC The vol-au-vent soon disappeared, some of it in Bodie's mouth, most of it decorating the floor, but rather than fetch more food Bodie continued to playfully provoke Mitchell (Arsenal) and Stuart (Tottenham Hotspur), aided by Howard who was a fellow Liverpudlian.

Doyle debated whether the cheese dip was edible. Deciding to live dangerously he slipped away from the laughing group of men, mentally shaking his head at the regret he felt at losing physical contact with his partner. He had this lust thing bad. Selecting a reasonably fresh-looking stick of celery he scooped up dip and began to chew absently, his attention on Bodie and his friends. Feeling a little sleepy he propped himself up against the wall behind him and let his thoughts drift as aimlessly as his gaze.

Mitchell looked like he had put on a bit of weight - no doubt married life and a great cook for a wife were making him contented. There was the same self-satisfied look about Howard - he'd been living with his current girlfriend for over a year now. Doyle wondered what the girlfriend would have to say when Howard got home as too many doubles had finally caught up with him and he was now unashamedly slumped against Bodie, fighting a hopeless battle to keep his eyes open. Bodie was peering down at the man he unexpectedly found himself holding in his arms while the other men laughed. Bodie's smile was wry, affectionate.

Quite suddenly, Doyle found himself wanting to shove Howard away from Bodie and take his place. Bodie was his.

The celery fell from nerveless fingers and landed in the punch bowl.

Oh fuck.

The warmth that was ever-present whenever Bodie was around or in his thoughts burst forth, flooding him with heat. There was a peculiar tightness, almost painful, in his heart region, and for one horrible second Doyle thought he was about to have a heart attack. Then the heat and the tightness made itself felt in his stomach and groin and he knew what it was even while he was screaming denial in his head.

He knew.

That it came as no surprise, despite his internal protest, said a lot about his subconscious and the power of self-delusion.

Dreams. Guilty little fantasies. Possessiveness. Jealousy. Fearing yet wanting to be touched.

The clues were all there, Sherlock. Some bloody detective he had made. Or was it just a simple case of cowardice?

He closed his eyes to block out his surroundings, needing to examine this not-so-shocking revelation. And that was galling, wasn't it? That there he was, a lusty, red-blooded, heterosexual male; yet there was a part of him that nodded its head knowingly, raised its eyebrows and told him 'but of course'. What exactly did that suggest? That he'd always secretly wanted to shag Bodie?

Oh, bloody wonderful. What next? Fantasies of Cowley in drag?

Get a grip, Doyle.

Oh, yeah, and now he knew what he wanted to grip, didn't he?

But that wasn't it, was it? No wonder the dreams had bothered him so much. If it had just been fancying Bodie, he could have dealt with it.

How had it happened? When? What had sparked this peculiar feeling? Why, of all the people on this planet, did he have to fall in love with William Bodie?

Someone Up There not only didn't like him, but had a warped sense of humour to boot, and the first chance he got he was going to cut Their bollocks off. With a blunt razor.

Might turn out to be a woman though. Probably with PMS. Scratch the razor idea, he had no desire to sing soprano.

Oh, god, he was babbling.

Was it possible to babble without uttering a word? Brooks babbled. Come to think of it, it sounded stupid. How could brooks babble? It wasn't -

He was in love with Bodie.

Doyle took a calming breath, trying to blank his mind as it was easier to do that than make sense of his thoughts. Then he tried to deal with the concept of his loving his partner - his straight partner.

He glanced across at Bodie, making no effort to hide his scrutiny. Why had he fallen for him? If Doyle had been sexually attracted to men in the past then he could have understood why he would be drawn to Bodie. The face alone would appeal to anyone with the inclination, sense and good taste. The face was perfect, full stop. Try to find fault by examining each feature individually and you were doomed to failure. Take the eyes for instance, an incredible shade of blue fringed by dark lashes so long and thick they could sweep chimneys. The nose was perfectly shaped and with a suggestion of an upward tilt that gave the face a boyish charm. The mouth, so often thrust out in a seductive pout, was ... Well now he would say it was begging to be kissed. But before? It had always drawn his eye, even when he wasn't imagining it pressed to his own. The only imperfection were the eyebrows, but they were so quirky, so Bodie, that they were appealing.

He was lusting after his partner's eyebrows. There was no hope for him.

Okay, what about the more obvious physical charms?

Christ, those trousers were tight.

Bodie had a good body, solid, trim, not overly muscular, the kind of body that was strong but not so heavy that it would slow him down.

Those trousers really were tight. And the cheeky bastard had the nerve to tease him about his jeans!

The shoulders and chest were quite broad, and the clothing he favoured made him seem bulkier than he was, until you caught him on a hot day in just a T-shirt; then you saw just how trim around the hips and waist Bodie really was. And other things.

Okay Doyle, don't be coy. What other things? Well, there was Bodie's arse for one. Beautiful shape, would be firm to the touch. That was galling too; finding he knew the exact curve of it, even though he couldn't see it right now because Bodie was facing him.

Ah, but that meant other 'things' could be seen; the trousers didn't exactly disguise them. Clearly Bodie had nothing to be ashamed of - far from it.

Doyle looked up to see if Bodie had caught him staring, and was relieved to see Stuart had his attention.

Right, time to deal with this.

Fact: he was in love with his partner.

Action: behave as normal.

Fact: he wanted to shove Bodie against the nearest wall and fuck him, hard and fast.

Action: think of cold showers and castration.

Fact: he wanted Bodie to shove him against the nearest wall and fuck him till he screamed.

Action: see above.

Fact: he was standing here like a complete idiot, mooning over his partner, and for all he knew his face was being read by half of CI5. Taking a quick look round he was relieved to find himself unobserved.

Action: pull himself together. Simple.

Yeah, right.

He jumped when an arm was slung about his shoulders, inner elbow fitting the curve of Doyle's neck as though it belonged there. A gust of warm air teased his ear and along his jaw. Bodie was leaning close to make himself heard above the noise of the party.

"You okay, mate?"

Doyle took a steadying breath and turned his head to meet concerned blue eyes. "I'm fine."

"Good. You just seemed a bit quiet. Y'know, miles away."

Doyle forced a smile. "Got a bit of a headache. Just not up to talkin' at the moment."

Bodie nodded, trying to look wise, or at least vaguely intelligent.

It was then Doyle realised Bodie had drunk more than he had thought. "How many have you had?"

Bodie gave him a rueful smile. "Let's just say I'm glad you're driving."

"I hope you've got plenty of aspirin. We're going to Mum's tomorrow in case it had slipped your mind."

"Course not. Glad it's only as far as Coventry though. Hey, did you hear the first drinks were on Cowley? And we bloody missed it!"

"Explains why the Old Man was here so early." When Bodie just blinked and looked puzzled Doyle added, "Less people," then glanced down at his watch. "It's five to twelve!" He summoned up unknown reserves of control and gave Bodie a teasing smile. "You'd better get a move on, all the best birds'll be snapped up soon. I know of at least three typists who'll be missing you right now."

"Happy where I am," Bodie told his partner, glancing round.

Doyle looked about at the revellers.

Ruth Pettifer was having her ear bent by Lewis and was, surreptitiously, casting worried glances at her watch. Susie Fischer was being staked out by Murphy and Charlie Wingrove. In fact, every fanciable female in the room had been put under close obbo. A quick searching glance confirmed that Kate Ross had wisely made herself scarce.

Someone, probably the same person who had fallen flat on their arse after attempting a Highland Fling, started a premature rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

Doyle was pretty much oblivious to anything that did not possess blue eyes, kissable lips and obscenely tight cream trousers. He was intensely aware of the man at his side, of the arm that still lay across his shoulders. Bodie was smiling to himself and the smile and the sparkle in the eyes told Doyle that he had spotted prey. Glancing round, Doyle noticed that Ruth had shaken off Lewis and was heading in their direction. Looking back at Bodie he found he was grinning at him and Doyle forced an encouraging smile upon his lips, wishing Ruth, wishing everyone except himself and Bodie, would just disappear and that some miracle would happen and he could turn to Bodie and ...

And what? Grow up, Doyle. There are no miracles, there is no Tooth Fairy, and love doesn't conquer all, it just makes you go stupid.

Oh, and there they were, the obligatory twelve strokes of midnight, as some clever dick turned a portable radio up full volume. It was unnecessary, there were three church clocks within a five mile radius, Big Ben was within hearing distance, there were fireworks being set off outside, and it was all too, too depressing for words.

The arm around him was pulling him closer. Doyle gave up to the pressure, to the sheer bloody painfulness of it all, his smile wavering and, for all he knew, his eyes shining brightly with a love he didn't want to feel. He brought his arms up and around Bodie, embracing that craved flesh for a brief moment, and finally knowing what the word bittersweet truly meant.

Doyle leaned closer, head angled to rest fleetingly against Bodie's cheek. Christ, it felt so good. A hand cupped his face, bringing it back round. Then Bodie's face was coming closer, so near, and the eyes were brighter and bluer than he had ever seen them. They were drawing him forward, he was helpless against the current, drowning ...

Warm lips met his own, a light, almost teasing pressure that stunned him into immobility. He felt the mouth, that was curved into a smile, still. Bodie's entire body froze against him. Then the mouth was moving once again, firmer, demanding. There was the barest flicker of a tongue against his lips.

Dimly, Doyle was aware of muted voices, of whistling and clapping, then of Bodie lowering him back so he was curved over his partner's arm. Bodie's mouth was no longer moving against his but was clamped across his lips in a parody of a kiss.

Doyle began to struggle, the whistling and cheering no longer muted but horribly loud in his ears.

Bodie pulled him upright and released him, turning aside to bow to the audience who were voicing noisy approval.

Doyle wiped his hand across his mouth, fire smouldering in his eyes, fists clenching at his sides.

Bodie slid a glance at him, his expression hard to read. Certainly defiance and mischief were visible, but there was something else. Regret?

Before Doyle could utter a word Bodie was gone, heading for Ruth Pettifer. A long kiss later and he was after Susie Fischer, then any woman who would stay still long enough.

His face a smooth mask to anyone who cared to look, Doyle slipped away from the room and tried to find a temporary refuge.

The offices were all locked so he made for the men's toilets, praying they would be empty. Luck was with him and he made for the nearest cubicle, locking himself in with his pain. He flipped the toilet seat down and straddled it, forehead pressed against the grubby tiled wall, the smell of cleaning fluid thick in his nostrils. Mercifully it disguised other smells.

It did nothing to diminish the swollen flesh straining against the moleskin fabric of his trousers.

He tried to ignore his arousal. It was disgusting, unwanted. It made him feel like he was some filthy pervert. Gays could do what they wanted; good luck to them, it was nothing to do with him. He couldn't be feeling like this.

Oh, for fuck's sake, he was feeling like this.

Standing up, his fingers fumbling as he unfastened his trousers, he brought himself to a joyless orgasm then reached for a handful of toilet paper, scrubbing viciously at his semen-covered hand. After disposing of the evidence of his body's betrayal, he pushed his lax organ back into his trousers, tugging the zip closed with a decisive finality that he wished he could echo in more troublesome aspects of his life. Allowing himself a minute to recover and compose himself, he left the toilets, left the building, left behind him the unattainable temptation that was William Bodie.

An hour later he had packed a sports bag with clothes and a toothbrush and was heading ... who knew where? Certainly not Raymond Doyle.

It was too early, and the pain was too raw, for him to realise that universal truth: no matter how far and how fast you run, it is impossible to run away from yourself.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

There are days when everything is perfect, the air smells clean, the birds are singing and the clouds are fluffy and white.

Today was not such a day.

Today found Bodie sitting outside Cowley's office waiting for Doyle, waiting to find out if he still had a partner.

He had been thinking a lot about Ray over the past week. The tests and a full workload had meant Bodie hadn't seen very much of his mate. When he had, Doyle's behaviour had annoyed the hell out of him. Despite disappearing for three days Doyle seemed to be holding a grudge against him. He was being an irritating, intensely annoying, sharp-tongued little bastard and initially Bodie had reacted to that by snapping back.

Fortunately for the sake of the team and Doyle's continued existence, Bodie came to the conclusion that Ray Doyle, fire-eater and action man, was scared.

For the past few days Doyle had undergone thorough examinations. Now he was being told by Cowley whether he was of any further use as a field agent to CI5. Of course he was scared.

So was Bodie.

Always a believer in non-involvement, the fear, the anxiousness and the pain he had felt when he thought he was about to lose Doyle had rammed home exactly why he had tried to follow that creed. Yet he wouldn't have wished away the depth of his feelings for Doyle. Any pain was worth enduring if it meant having the closeness, the affection and the loyalty that came from having a friendship such as theirs. Having no living relatives, his partner was the closest thing to family he had, and his near-death made him realise exactly how deeply he would be affected if he ever lost Ray.

Great. He was standing here getting soppy about his partner. The lads would have a field day with that.

What was keeping Doyle and the Old Man? Surely it didn't take that long to say 'welcome back, here's your gun'.

Cowley had asked him once if he'd ever thought of leaving CI5. If Doyle had died ... could he bear working with another partner? He'd got used to working with the best, having someone he trusted absolutely guarding his back. There was little chance of him having that same level of trust, of loyalty, no matter how good the agent. Working with Evans had been possible only because he knew it was a temporary arrangement.

Could he work solo? Perhaps. Then again, how long had it been since he'd had to work alone, excluding the occasional undercover op? He'd done a few solo jobs while Doyle was recovering after the shooting and he'd hated it. No shadow to watch his back, no terrible jokes or messing about to brighten an otherwise rotten day. He was one half of the entity that was Bodie-and-Doyle and he liked it that way. He needed Ray.

Bodie had two great fears in his life. One was that he would die alone. The other and probably his greatest fear was that one day he would let his partner down, that he would not be quick enough to prevent his being killed. The former he had learned to face; the latter brought him out in a cold sweat and set his stomach churning. Losing not only his partner but also his best friend might break him.

Oh, god, now he was getting morbid.

Why the hell was Ray still in there?

Doyle looked fit enough, but what if he had pushed himself too far, too fast, and it had shown up in the test results? Perhaps he hadn't passed some of the tests and that was why the Cow was taking so long?

Oh, Christ, they couldn't fail Ray. He wouldn't let them.

Another twenty minutes passed. With nothing to do but sit, pace, think and worry, Bodie was beginning to wish he'd watched his partner more closely. Doyle had been happy and confident until after the party, so something must have happened after Bodie had left him to go hunting. Had someone said something? After Doyle had warned him that Evans was a manipulator he'd started watching his temporary partner more closely. An overheard remark of Evans about Doyle's fitness made him wonder if the young agent had made Doyle doubt his own abilities. After all, it couldn't have been good for Doyle's ego to see his partner working well with someone else. He'd wring Evans' neck if that was the case.

Even if the stupid bugger had pushed himself too far, trying to reach that elusive one hundred percent, he felt that Doyle below par was better than any other fully fit CI5 agent - better for Bodie anyway. Bodie would not accept anyone else as his partner; if Doyle had failed the tests they would just have to give him a little extra time to build up his strength and do the tests again, and again if necessary until they got the correct result and passed Ray. Cowley must know that, so what the hell was keeping them?

He was dying for a cuppa but didn't dare move, wanting to hear the news as soon as possible, wanting to be ready to burst into Cowley's office if the news was bad and throttle the old goat until he got his partner back where he belonged, at his side.

Half an hour had passed when a horrible thought occurred - maybe Doyle had decided it was too much effort and decided to resign? God, he hated waiting. If Ray had decided to quit ... he'd murder the little bastard.

Unbeknown to Bodie, the Head of CI5 was busy suppressing the same bloodthirsty impulse. In his younger days, George Cowley had not been known for his patience. Age and responsibility had taught him that it was a virtue worth cultivating, so he had learned to take a deep breath and count to twenty (in Cantonese). Now that he was dealing with an insolent and uncommunicative Doyle, he resisted the urge to shake that young man until what passed for sense was knocked back into place. Instead, Cowley coaxed and encouraged until he was heartily sick of the sound of his own voice. Nothing. Doyle denied anything was bothering him, claimed he couldn't see the point of the constant questioning, and did he have permission to leave ... sir.

It was unsettling to have one half of his top team so surly and belligerent - though Doyle was rarely deferential and sunny-tempered and seldom simultaneously - and if there had been the slightest indication in Doyle's test results that he was not ready to return to the field Cowley would have confined him to light duties and disregarded the no doubt loud protests of 4.5 and 3.7. But Doyle had passed with flying colours, and Cowley was anxious to get his best team back on the streets. Bodie was an excellent agent, as was Doyle, but together they were unbeatable, the pride of CI5 (though it would have taken a case of the finest pure malt scotch for him to admit as much).

More pressing matters required his attention, and eventually he ceased grilling 4.5 - that is, he ceased his gentle inquiry - and let Doyle go. Defeat was a bitter dish to taste. A cow looks after its young, even when the calf deserves a swift kick up the rump, so he made a mental note to keep an eye on the laddie, and wished the man he knew would be waiting outside for this bundle of joy the best of luck - after all, good teams were in short supply.

 

Doyle left the office with an inward sigh of relief, his face aching from the effort of keeping it perfectly blank. Resisting Cowley's softly-softly interrogation technique was more exhausting than dealing with the heavy, angry approach. His expression remained a careful neutral until he saw the man waiting for him, when it twisted with annoyance. Bloody Bodie! If there was one person he didn't want to deal with at that moment it was his partner, especially when said partner was obviously worried about him. He really couldn't handle Bodie's concern right now.

He would have marched straight past but Bodie grabbed his arm. Doyle considered resistance, but Bodie's grip was vice-like, and he didn't fancy the idea of losing a limb whilst trying to free himself.

Once they had reached the agents rest and recreation room - a lumpy sofa and battered dartboard lent scant credibility to this designation - and after a quick glance round to check they were alone Bodie swung him about to face him, finally releasing his arm.

"What is it? Did you pass? What did Cowley say? Are you still my partner or what?"

Christ, Bodie looked scared. Had he been out there worrying all that time while Cowley was doing his Spanish Inquisition bit? Despite his resolve to remain detached, Doyle couldn't stop his expression and tone from softening.

"Of course I passed. Can't afford to let me go, can they?"

"I was sitting out there for hours, afraid that ..." Bodie broke off, looking a little self-conscious.

Seeing this, Doyle felt a familiar melting tenderness, a loving warmth that arose within him whenever Bodie revealed the soft inner core he kept hidden beneath his hard man exterior. Bodie's gentler side was usually brought forth by old ladies, young children, and injured innocents; then it would reveal itself in the kindness of his voice and face, the reassurance offered in a casual touch. Sometimes that gentleness was offered to Doyle. Best of all were moments like this, bittersweet but treasured, when Bodie did or said something that revealed his affection for his partner.

Bodie quickly recovered his aplomb. "Well, let's just say I'm glad I turned down Susie's pleas to become her partner - on her knees begging, she was. To tell you the truth, it got quite embarrassing. But how could I cast aside my favourite golly after all these years?"

Bodie's eyes looked so blue when filled with that playful teasing light, his expression so fond. Doyle felt defenceless, so drained from parrying Cowley's questions; not strong enough to put up the barriers yet.

"Can't imagine working round this place without Robin by my side," Bodie continued, blithely unaware of Doyle's inner turmoil. "Lucky you're back now, I felt daft wearing a cape on me own, and Evans looks terrible in tights."

"Who said you could be Batman?" The response was instinctive and Doyle saw immediately that he'd made a mistake.

Bodie, obviously thinking things were back to normal, slung an arm round his friend's shoulders.

Doyle froze.

Slowly, Bodie removed his arm, staring at his partner searchingly.

Doyle's cursed silently, knowing his clear rebuff had hurt him. Part of him regretted his reaction, just as another part wanted to shout at Bodie not to be so vulnerable, to be aloof and indifferent like he had been in the beginning. Perhaps then Doyle too could forget about caring and closeness, could start getting his life back on track.

Yeah, right. Who was he kidding? This love he had for Bodie was for keeps. He'd blamed the shooting, his near-death for making him see things differently, for making him see Bodie differently. Just an excuse. He'd been lying to himself. Fact was, he'd fallen in love with his best mate.

"Doyle, I'm sick of being frozen out. If I've done something wrong, tell me."

"Eh?" Doyle snapped back to the present to find Bodie glaring at him.

"You haven't heard a bloody word I've said, have you? Should I take it your silence means yes?"

"What did you say? I was miles away."

Bodie looked ready to ignite. Instead he turned his back on Doyle then walked over to the window. His voice was subdued as he asked, "Do you want to break up the team? Is that what this is all about?"

"No! Christ, Bodie, why would I - ?" Doyle's voice lowered to a whisper as a frightening thought entered his mind: "Is that what you want?"

"To go solo? No. And it would be solo, no way I could deal with another partner, least not regularly. The occasional assignment would be fine but ... shit, I had this conversation with meself when I was waiting for you outside Cowley's office."

The view outside apparently did little to lift Bodie's spirits. Eventually he turned round to fix questioning eyes on his friend. "I wondered why you were taking so long. Thought maybe you wanted to pack the job in. It was a close shave you had."

He was hurting him again, Doyle knew that, felt the pain of that knowledge lancing through his own body. Bodie looked so tired, so worried. All that concern for him, his undeserving mate. Never-get-involved Bodie was afraid of losing him, even if it was only as a partner. The thought warmed him. It wouldn't do any harm to give him some sort of explanation, if not the full truth.

"Cowley wanted to know if I was having any problems. Wanted to know why I was snapping people's heads off for daring to ask how I'm doing."

"And did you tell him?" Bodie enquired, and there was a certain note in his voice that warned Doyle that if Cowley had been told, then Doyle had damn well better tell him, and soon.

"Told him nothing was bothering me."

"And he accepted that?" Bodie shook his head in disbelief. "The Cow must be slipping. It explains why you were in there so long. But now I want to know what's going on inside that head of yours."

"I was just worried I'd fail the tests." There, that sounded plausible.

"Don't bullshit me, Ray. If that was it then why are you still being an unpleasant little prick?"

"Oh, ta very much." Doyle assumed a look of mock gratitude.

"It's not a fuckin' joke!" Bodie shouted furiously, taking several quick strides in Doyle's direction before he drew to an abrupt halt. A few seconds and a deep breath later, he managed to regain control. In a considerably softer tone he pleaded, "Tell me the truth, Doyle, because I can't stand things the way they are. It ... I feel sick when we argue and if it's going to be like that then I'm better off working solo or packing the job in. Time was, I thought we could work together and I could stay distanced. But you can't do that and ... be friends." Bodie glanced away, looking acutely uncomfortable. He tugged at his collar and gave a little cough. "I want us to be friends for, well, forever, you know? You're a good mate and I care about you, care about what's happening to you, to us." He looked up again, a playing look in his eyes. "So tell me the truth, okay? Or I'll knock you so far into the ground you'll need a shovel to get back up."

Doyle was tempted to respond with a smart comeback, but the look on Bodie's face persuaded him to swallow the flippant words. He cast about for a way of telling some part of the truth without letting Bodie know about his deeper feelings for him. Desperately, he parried, "Some things are best left unsaid."

"Ray ..."

"It's personal." Please just accept that and stop bloody digging!

Bodie opened his mouth, about to argue, when a look of understanding lightened the frown on his face. "Is it a woman? Is that why you disappeared for three days?"

The rush of relief made Doyle lightheaded. "Yes."

His relief was short-lived. "So why are you being a nasty - "

"Little prick?" Doyle finished for him. He conjured up his best repentant look and hoped Bodie wouldn't question its authenticity; knowing he had been a complete bastard gave his smile the sincere gloss it needed to convince Bodie. "I'm sorry I've been such a bloody pain to be around, dunno how many people I've alienated this fortnight. Should never bring your problems to work, I should know that by now." A flash of devious inspiration made him add, "I suppose I'm just out of practise. Three months being stuck behind a desk with nothing but files to keep you company makes you forget things like that."

As Doyle had hoped, Bodie's mind immediately switched to the events of the shooting and the months that had followed. Doyle knew his Bodie.

"Look, don't worry about it, Ray. Let's just get things back to normal, okay? You want me to have a word with the lads?"

"Nah, don't bother, just let me sort things out myself and let's get ready to beat hell out of the other teams. You know Lucas and Mac have been gettin' the top jobs?" He willed Bodie to let the matter drop, so that they could get back to the way they had been best mates, partners; no longing, no secret desires to be hidden away lest they tear the team apart.

"Can't be having that, can we? Don't want the lads getting swelled heads or anything." Bodie patted him on the shoulder and headed for the door. "C'mon, four-five, I'll show you around the place. I know how you old fellas get forgetful at your advanced age."

Bodie flashed him a grin and went racing off.

Doyle knew his cue. Time to get things back to the way they had been or as near as he could manage. "Oi! Get 'ere, you sod! I'll teach you to respect your elders. Bodie!"

Denial could work, love could be smothered, a little sublimation and a lot of cold showers would make things all right. All this Doyle told himself as he ran.

A pity the human heart so rarely listens to the more rational human mind.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

 

The day was fine, the air was breathable, and no doubt the birds were singing, though the noise of the traffic outside would have drowned out a rocket launch. Still, Bodie felt like he was trapped inside 'The Twilight Zone'.

Doyle was being ... what the hell was he being? He certainly wasn't being himself. Bodie was used to a Doyle who could be ready to explode with temper one minute, then the next minute be as sunny as Doris Day. Bodie liked his Doyle mercurial, enjoyed his dramatics, his tantrums. He even liked it when Doyle was complaining, because it was usually spiked and often humorous. What Bodie wasn't used to was a complaisant, equable partner twenty-four hours a day; and if he didn't get the real Ray back soon he'd be searching the man's flat for a Doyle-sized pod.

It would have been all right in small doses - in case of acid indigestion take one Doris Doyle - but the new Doyle was nice to everybody, even Evans, which had that young man watching him with wary eyes. He was especially nice to Bodie. Actually he was downright affectionate; though sometimes Bodie caught a look in his eye he couldn't identify, something between fear and desperation.

He was polite and uncomplaining and people were remarking on the change. It was Murphy who jokingly suggested Doyle was in love. Bodie remembered Ann Holly and felt ill. He couldn't go through a mess like that again. If Cowley wanted the bloody woman checked out then he could do it himself.

Two weeks later Doris Doyle cracked.

"Liverpool."

"No chance!" Doyle's voice was full of what passed for scorn these days.

"You're just a poor loser." Bodie was at his most smug.

"We haven't lost. Just you wait until the big day, you'll be in tears."

"Big day?" Anson interrupted, entering the rest room which was empty save for CI5's recently reunited hotshots. "You finally getting hitched then? We had wondered."

Doyle's gaze was friendly but wary. "You had, had you?"

"Been so nice lately we thought you were either sick or in love. Course, I can see why Bodie would be in tears."

"Oh, yeah?" Bodie inquired, clearly waiting for the punch line.

"He'll be heartbroken you've spurned him for some bird, especially after the way you two were goin' at it on New Year's Eve ..." Anson smirked, then grinned broadly at Bodie's exaggerated look of sorrow.

The sleeping volcano that was Raymond Doyle erupted. "Fuck off, Anson! Can't keep your trap shut or your nose out of other people's business. You got nothin' better to do?"

"Doyle!" Bodie protested while Anson gaped.

"An' you can piss off as well! Not me bleedin' keeper - "

"Ray, will you shut the fuck up!" Seeing Doyle had finally got the message, Bodie smiled apologetically at Anson, who looked like he'd been flashed by the Queen Mother. "Could you leave us for a minute?"

"Yeah, sure, got things to do anyway. Uh, see you later."

"See you, Smoky." Bodie watched him leave, waiting until the door had closed before turning to fix scornful eyes on his partner. Something of the old Doyle had returned, his expression one of glaring defiance. Bodie didn't know whether to be grateful or not. "Well you handled that nicely, didn't you, sunshine?"

"None of your business, is it?" Doyle pointed out, still tense with anger.

"You're my friend and my partner, that makes it my business. So what did Anson do to deserve that little outburst, hmm? Made a joke? Terrible that, could cause the downfall of the Empire. Why stop at words? Could have him prodded with sharp sticks - shall I go an' fetch me pen-knife?"

"Just leave it, will you. I'll see Anson later, apologise."

"And what happens when you've had a go at everyone on the squad? Think your apologies will help you keep your friends?"

"You can't talk! Got a reputation for being difficult to work with, did you know that?"

"So I can't work well with everyone. We're not talking about me, are we?" Bodie countered. He stepped closer to Doyle, unconsciously using his greater size to try to intimidate Doyle into talking. "We're discussing your attitude problem."

"The only problem I have, mate, is you!"

"The only problem you have is that you've lost your sense of humour. What's the matter?" Bodie goaded, "Did Anson cast a slur on your macho image?"

Doyle looked ready to hit him. "Bastard! I've had to put up with the others making their so-called bloody jokes all week. If you hadn't pulled that stupid stunt at the party ... But that's all you're good for, isn't it? Idiot jokes and brainless pranks that'd shame a five-year-old. I'm sick of it, sick of bein' partnered with a thoughtless, self-centred moron!"

"Christ, talk about the pot and the kettle! Listen, you nasty little prick, you want a new partner then say so. I don't have to take this crap from you, Doyle." Bodie took a deep breath, striving to rein back his temper. After a few seconds the anger left his face; his voice lowered, grew softer. There was bewilderment in his eyes. "What's happening, Ray? Snapping at everyone, can't take a joke - it's not like you. I don't want us to fight. There's too much of that on the streets. You say you're sick of me, you know the solution. So what's it to be?"

Without being conscious of doing so, Doyle responded to that tone. Bodie's words impacted on his mind making his anger drain away, leaving him ashamed and vulnerable. He had tried so hard to behave as if every second in Bodie's presence wasn't tearing him up inside; tried to behave like his old self, to get the balance right. But if he was hurting inside, he fought to hide it with cheerful bonhomie, and since his feelings were a constant nagging ache for something more, the balance wasn't there. It wasn't fair to Bodie, it wasn't fair to himself. The time for the truth was fast approaching if he wanted to salvage anything of their friendship. Perhaps if he could explain how much he'd fought it, Bodie might accept it, make allowances. Surely they were close enough that his partner would forgive, if not forget, his transgression?

Mind made up, Doyle felt giddy with relief that he was finally going to do something, was taking control of his life. The giddiness didn't mix too well with the churning sickness in the pit of his stomach, but a decision had been made, for good or ill.

"Do you fancy coming over to the flat? I'll cook Italian. How about lasagna? With ... I think I've got some ice cream, chocolate chip, for dessert."

Doyle tried not to flinch when Bodie reached out and grasped his shoulder. It was a soothing little gesture, Doyle realising it was meant to reassure, but not knowing that Bodie was reacting to the bleak hopelessness in his eyes.

"Will a little honest discussion be on the menu?"

"Yeah. But you won't like it. Probably give you indigestion," Doyle warned him, unaware that his wobbling, pathetic attempt at a smile made Bodie want to cuddle him.

"So I'll bring some 'Andrews'. What time should I arrive?"

"Eight. An' Andrew can get his own dinner."

"Eight it is then."

"And Bodie, whatever is said, I just want you to know you've been the best mate a bloke could have."

Bodie frowned. "Sounds serious."

"It is. Let's forget about it until tonight, eh?" He gave the hand resting on his shoulder a slight squeeze then stepped back. "I'll meet you down in files. I've got to find Anson. Who knows, if I grovel enough he might still be willing to talk to me."

"Course he will, too scared not to." He paused, eyed Doyle measuringly, then continued, "Uh, mate, about the lasagna."

"Yeah?" Doyle prompted warily, wondering if Bodie was about to change his mind.

"You going to put some meat in it this time?"

Doyle relaxed and gave a relieved smile. "You said you liked the vegetarian."

"I'd eat squirrels if I was hungry enough."

"Which is all the time. Bottomless pit you are. Okay, you want squirrels, I can get squirrels. Nice bit of Chip 'n' Dale to sink your teeth in to."

"They're chipmunks."

"What's the difference?"

"Squirrels have them long bushy tails you can floss your teeth with afterwards."

"You're disgusting. All right, I'll go an' shoot Tufty. How about a nice bit of hedgehog for added flavour? I could go and peel one off the road for you. Anything for a mate."

"Ahh! That's my Raymond, give the shirt off your back for a friend."

Bodie's smile was warm, full of affection, and Doyle felt its potency right down to his toes.

Ray gulped. "I'd better find Anson."

"Don't be too long, might get a fatal paper cut if you're not watching my back," Bodie grumbled.

"That's what partners are for. See you later." Doyle managed to hold his cheerful grin until he was out of sight. Then he headed for the gents, to try to control the sick fear that made him want to throw up, to splash cold water on his face, and to berate himself in private for his weakness. Then he headed off to find Anson, and to repair at least one friendship. After telling Bodie tonight, he might need all the friends he could get.

 

Doyle was quiet that evening as he pottered about the kitchen preparing their meal. Bodie wasn't sure if he liked this subdued version of his best mate; it was as if all the energy had been drained out of him. In fact, he wasn't entirely sure if he didn't prefer Doyle as a hostile, abusive spitfire.

While his friend served up the lasagna and salad, Bodie watched the football highlights, sat through the agony of Liverpool's defeat, and hoped it wasn't a portent of how the rest of the evening would go.

"Dinner's ready."

Bodie was ravenous no surprise there. He half expected Ray to start talking whilst they ate, since having his mouth occupied meant Bodie was less likely to interrupt. He pointed this out to Doyle.

"Don't want to spoil your appetite."

If Bodie had been less hungry, those words would undoubtedly have had that very effect. But the food was delicious, and whatever Doyle had done couldn't be that bad - certainly nothing illegal - and he didn't have any medical problems as they would have been picked up during the tests. Could it be financial problems? Unlikely, but surely Ray knew he could come to him for help? He'd give the silly sod his last penny if necessary.

Bodie continued eating, keeping a concerned eye on his partner in between mouthfuls of lettuce and pasta.

The somewhat unnerving silence stretched as they ate ice cream, and it was a struggle for Bodie to remain silent, but he sensed that Doyle needed time to gather his thoughts and perhaps his courage, and that pushing him, demanding explanations, would have Ray closing him out. He could take anger but being shut out hurt more than any number of harsh words spoken in the heat of the moment. Strange to think of himself as being vulnerable; stranger still to see his best friend so ... timid? Yes, that was the word he'd been searching for, little wonder he'd had trouble pinning down Ray's exact mood. A timid Ray Doyle came along as often as your average blue moon.

Finally, Doyle ran out of things to do to delay the moment of his confession. This morning he'd been relieved that he was going to tell Bodie everything; mercifully, the churning sick fear had been suppressed by the need to get on with the job. Now a clearly curious Bodie was waiting for explanations, and the butterflies were back with a vengeance. His mind had played out various possible reactions to his confession, and he kept telling himself that Bodie was his friend, his partner, that he'd understand. Still the butterflies danced, and still a part of his mind screamed at him that he was about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

It was Bodie who broke the lengthy silence. "Put the telly on, Ray, and come and sit down."

Doyle did as requested, about to sit in the armchair next to the electric fire, opposite his partner.

"Not there. Over here, next to me."

Ray steeled himself to comply, telling himself he'd been sitting next to Bodie in a car all afternoon, and was quite capable of sharing a sofa without leaping on top of him.

"That's better. Now relax, mate. Watch telly for a bit if you like. You can tell me what's bothering you when you're ready. Whatever your problem is, it can't be so bad." Bodie frowned at the tense figure huddled in the opposite end of the sofa, as far away from him as possible. Did the silly bugger think he was going to belt him one? Shifting closer, he draped his right arm across the back of the sofa, fingers ready to ruffle Ray's fluffy curls if such a gesture seemed necessary.

"We can talk now. It'll be best to get it over with."

Caught by the misery in Doyle's voice, Bodie probed, "Is it money problems? Have you been seeing Susie behind my back?"

"No, nothing like that," Doyle answered miserably. "Wish it was that simple."

"You've decided to leave CI5?" Bodie was proud of the fact he managed to keep his voice steady.

"No, that's the last thing I want to do. And before you ask, no I don't want another partner."

Bodie couldn't keep the relief from shining in his eyes. The resulting ease of tension prompted him to ask, "You're not pregnant are you, Ray?"

Expecting Doyle to smile, he was taken aback by the sudden fire that sparked in Ray's eyes.

Furious that Bodie was making jokes when he himself felt as if he was being shredded internally, Doyle snarled, "Can't you be serious for five minutes!"

"Well perhaps if you told me what was wrong instead of me having to play twenty questions, we could do something about solving your problem!" Bodie snapped back.

Doyle took a deep, calming breath. "It's nothing that can be solved."

Equally calm now, Bodie leaned closer to stare directly into wide, troubled green eyes. "Tell me and let me decide that for myself."

"I've done something really stupid."

"You can tell me, Ray."

Gentle voice, full of concern, coaxing him to spill his secrets.

"Surely it won't hurt to tell me. After all, I am your best mate, aren't I?"

Best mate: sweetest fantasy. Doyle smiled, a slight curving of his lips that held no humour but was an expression of his pain and self-contempt. Not hurt? He was hurting now, how much more would it hurt when he'd made his confession, destroyed their comfortable, steadfast friendship, and seen it reduced to ashes?

And what had Doyle been reduced to? Christ, he despised this pathetic individual he had become, this emotional, lovesick idiot mooning after his partner, full of hopeless longing.

"Doyle?"

Just the faintest trace of impatience. He'd wondered how long Bodie would put up with his pathos. He was heartily sick of it himself. Unable to sit still any longer he jumped to his feet, wandering about the room aimlessly, prodding the coffee table with a bare foot. Glancing up from pink toes to Bodie's face, he felt a surge of resentment when his partner continued to watch him, concern on his face. For fuck's sake, why couldn't Bodie instantly know what was bothering him? Where was their famed near-telepathic understanding when he needed it? Surely what Doyle was feeling was written all over his face?

Stifling his impatience, he asked, "Remember when I got shot?"

"Yeah, course I remember."

"I could hear you talking to me on the way to the hospital. You kept telling me I had to live 'cause you didn't want to lose me."

Bodie's eyes slid to his friend's chest, unable to see the scars but painfully aware that they were there. "You died, Ray. Don't ever want to - You're a good mate, of course I wouldn't want to lose you."

"I know that, feel the same way myself. It meant a lot to me, knowing you were there. I kept dreaming, weird stuff. Was in a cemetery with Cowley at one point. Another time you were encouraging me, telling me not to let myself be beaten. Had other dreams, too, different dreams." Doyle broke off to kick the coffee table, forgot he wasn't wearing shoes and bit back a yelp of pain. He dragged a hand through tangled curls, resisting the urge to tug when he saw Bodie's expression was still that of total incomprehension. "When they finally let me out, you spent most of your time off driving up to Coventry to cheer me up."

"So? You're me mate."

"Yeah, but a lot of mates would send a 'get well' card an' a bunch of grapes, maybe make the odd phone call. I know all about Louise givin' you the push because she thought you were spending too much time with me, and too little time romancing her."

"Who ...! Like I said, you're a mate. Louise was too clingy anyway." Bodie was looking increasingly uncomfortable.

"Yeah. Then at the New Year's Eve party - "

"Doyle - "

" - you kissed me."

"Are you trying to say that I bloody fancy you?" Bodie released Doyle's arm as though burnt. "Is that why you've been acting so weird? Because you think - "

"No, you stupid bastard, I'm the one who bloody well fancies you!" Doyle shouted.

His words seemed to echo in the abrupt silence.

The flush on Bodie's cheeks faded away, leaving him terribly pale. "This is a joke, right?" he whispered and there was a faint playing note in his voice. "Right?"

"No joke. I wish it was."

"I only kissed you. Nothing else."

"Wasn't just that night, I've been confused by what I was feelin' for you for months, ever since I got shot. Been dreaming a lot, about us. And sex. Told myself it was normal. I mean, I couldn't believe I was startin' to fancy you after all these years.

"But you never - There was no sign. I mean - I don't know what the fuck I mean." Fighting confusion, all Bodie could manage was a faintly accusing, "I should have seen it. Shouldn't I?"

"Why? I didn't. Was at the party I realised what it was I was feeling. Or admitted it. Then you pulled that daft stunt. Suddenly found myself in what you might call an uncomfortable position."

"What did you do?" Bodie asked, his mouth apparently working on auto pilot since he had made no conscious decision to speak.

"Oh, come on, Bodie! You really want to know the details? How I felt like some dirty little pervert when I ran off to the 'Gents' to have a wank while I thought about you?"

"I didn't mean - " Bodie squirmed in his seat, his colour heightened. Snapping out of his daze, he explained, "Didn't mean that. You disappeared. Where did you go?"

"Went home. Dreamt about you." Narrowed green eyes locked on Bodie's face, watching his expression as he added with deliberate provocation, "Had another wank and thought about fucking you over Cowley's desk." He gave a smile of darkest satisfaction when he saw Bodie's head jerk up, eyes wide. He sat down on the table directly opposite Bodie, determined not to look away. "Then I packed a bag and left early in the morning, drove about for a bit. Decided I needed to spend some time with a bird, so I rang Claire - you remember her? She'd given me the push just before I got shot - the usual reason, couldn't take the demands of the job. She wasn't seein' anyone so I gave her the sob story, how I'd meant to get in touch to change her mind but ended up in hospital."

"Not nice, Doyle." There was reproof in Bodie's voice.

Bristling, Doyle snapped, "I'm not a nice person."

"But she's a nice girl."

Doyle shrugged, accepting this admonition as warranted. "And she deserved better. I know. Knew I was being a selfish bastard but it didn't stop me. Sex with Claire had been great and I wanted to prove I was still normal. I ended up stayin' at her flat. Till we both admitted defeat. Couldn't get it up, could I? Was so fuckin' furious with you - felt it was all your fault. I know that's not true now, but at the time I could've throttled you. I kept remembering how you'd been with your girls, kept wonderin' what it'd be like."

Bodie's frantic hope that Doyle was joking had been short-lived, killed by the misery he could see in his partner's eyes despite Doyle's prickly manner. Despite knowing it was no joke, Bodie still found it impossible to believe that Doyle could be serious. So Ray had probably had a couple of kinky dreams about the pair of them gettin' it together - who hadn't? Now he was clearly terrified he was turning gay.

"Y'know, I reckon all this is perfectly normal, just you bein' a bit curious."

"Wanting to fuck you is normal, is it?" Doyle goaded, wanting a reaction, anything other than Bodie's calm understanding. Which was ridiculous since that had been precisely what he'd been hoping for. "I liked kissing you. I wanted to find out how I'd feel about the rest of it."

"You wouldn't like it," Bodie stated confidently.

Carefully casual, Bodie stood up and walked over to the television, gaining little satisfaction from silencing the boring politician droning on about Argentina. Determined to show how unruffled he was, he sat down on the table next to Doyle, his face a perfect, bland mask.

"How would you -? Oh, yeah. Africa." Doyle had noted his partner's studied nonchalance and found it extremely annoying; being Doyle, he decided to crack the facade. "Actually, mate, a bit of mutual five-knuckle-shufflin' behind some bloody bush isn't quite what I had in mind. I was thinking more along the lines of clean sheets and somethin' a bit more lubricating than gun oil and spit." He broke off to examine his partner's suddenly averted face. "Not embarrassin' you, am I?"

A little of Doyle's savoir-faire returned at this sign of weakness, giving him the feeling of having the upper hand and of being more in control, instead of being helpless and at the mercy of his friend's reactions.

Bodie quickly regained his composure, forcing himself to meet Doyle's gaze. "Was a long time ago."

"Yeah, I know. And I know you enjoyed some of it. But I'm not just after a bit of sweaty groping, am I?"

"So you've got an itch and you want me to scratch it for you, is that it?" Bodie inquired, maintaining a polite insouciance that masked his increasing dismay.

"An itch? You think I should go out, find myself a dark-haired, blue-eyed fella, get myself screwed through the mattress, and get it out of my system?"

"No!"

The horror in Bodie's voice was intensely gratifying to Doyle.

"Neither do I. It's not just curiosity, so get it into your head that a few horror stories out of your past and Uncle Bodie's words of wisdom aren't going to make it go away. If it was just sex I wanted, well it might be simpler. But it's not like that."

"Are you saying you're in love with me?" Bodie asked incredulously.

"Yes." It took a lot of guts to admit it and keep a steady voice; Doyle admired his own courage, even if his mate was in too much of a state of shock to admire it too.

"Don't be daft. Put up with me - yes. Come to like me - that's a foregone conclusion, nothing to dislike, been telling you that for years. But you're not queer. You've never had a man, have you?"

"No, but - "

"And so what if you did enjoy it when I kissed you? I should think you would, I've had enough experience. You - "

Doyle cut across his words impatiently. "Have you been listening to me? Stop treatin' me like I'm a twelve year old with a crush on George Michael! I'm in love with you, you dumb crud, though Christ knows why. I must be bloody mental. So what are you going to do about it?"

"Me?" Bodie floundered.

"Yes, you. Why else d'you think I'm telling you all this? I can't deal with it on my own. I tried to and it didn't work." The pressure now on his partner, Doyle was his usual belligerent self. He moved to the sofa, stretching himself along its length, looking supremely at ease. Unblinking eyes fastened on Bodie.

Trying to gather his scattered thoughts and formulate a sensible answer, all that went through Bodie's mind was 'you selfish, crafty sod'. Doyle was the one in love, yet somehow the onus was on Bodie to find a solution to the problem. He felt a stirring of resentment that he quickly quashed. If his independent partner was so desperate for his help that he would risk abuse and animosity, then surely he deserved it?

There were few options open to them. He knew an offer to forget all about this evening would not be favourably received - it would make Doyle's confession meaningless, and unless Doyle belted him over the head and he wound up with amnesia, there was no way he would forget. How could he when he kept seeing an image of himself bent over Cowley's desk while Doyle -

Fuck, fuck, fuck! He didn't need this. Doyle was family and security and the only person he could call his own. They were a matched set, everyone on the squad knew that, even Cowley. Something like this could muck things up permanently. Sex would ruin everything. How could he deal with not having Ray Doyle in his life?

Doyle had wanted him to know, clearly wanted his understanding, but he wouldn't want pity. So, their second alternative was to agree that, while it was acknowledged that Doyle fancied - loved - him, they would carry on as normal, with Doyle keeping his hands to himself, and Bodie forgiving the occasional lapse. There probably would be lapses, moments when they were so connected to each other and you just wanted to reach out and -

Fuck, fu - Bad choice of words, that. Bloody, bloody hell and bloody, bloody Doyle. Hadn't the stupid sod read Plato? He kicked the sofa and stared at it moodily. Did Doyle think he was the only one who had fantasies?

Acknowledgement and self-denial - Doyle might go for it if no other choice was offered, but he himself didn't like it as it didn't resolve the situation, merely ignored it to a certain extent.

Alternatively, they could ask to be split up, or one of them could resign, but Bodie wasn't prepared to entertain either option; he was sure Doyle wouldn't either, and if he did then he could bloody well think again. He wasn't about to lose his partner just because the over-sexed little sod couldn't sublimate.

Then there was one final option, though it made his stomach clench just thinking about it. Doyle seemed to think he could jump into bed with a fella, despite his never having had previous experience of sex with a man, and that everything would be wonderful. He was fairly certain that Doyle was experiencing some ridiculous early mid-life crisis triggered off by the shooting, and that all this nonsense was a combination of curiosity and regret that he hadn't experimented in his past. Well Bodie wasn't about to let himself be the guinea pig - too bloody dangerous by half. And he wasn't about to leave his partner thinking that screwing around with some other bloke would be a good idea - that crack about finding someone to screw him through the mattress had made Bodie want to belt him.

Ray didn't have a queer bone in his body, he was simply mistaking affection for hearts and bloody roses, and the second he was on the floor with his face pushed into the carpet he'd realise that fact and forget all this love crap. A short, sharp shock and Ray would soon come to his senses, wondering what the hell he'd been thinking of. Then they could get back to normal, to the way things used to be. Safe. Comfortable.

His course decided, Bodie moved in.

Doyle eyed him uneasily, still wary of his apparent calm acceptance, all too aware that the cool exterior could be disguising a terrible fury. His eyes narrowed when his partner straddled him, putting an arm on either side of him then leaned in close. It occurred to Doyle that lying on the sofa had put him in a highly vulnerable position.

"Bodie?"

"Shut up, Ray. Trust me, I know exactly what to do." Bodie's fingers slid into springy curls. The softness of that brown hair caught him by surprise as it always did, the curls seeming to wind themselves around his fingers. He felt Ray relax beneath him, little gusts of air tickling his throat as Doyle's breathing deepened.

Christ, Doyle really did have the most incredible green eyes.

Bodie lowered himself along the length of the lean, muscled body trapped beneath him, his breath quickening as Doyle's heat burned through the layers of clothing that separated them. He could feel the hard press of hip-bone and the slowly swelling flesh that pushed against worn denim to rub against his own gently stirring cock.

It was nice to hold Ray this close, Bodie thought with regret, but too dangerous. And it wouldn't help his friend.

Oh, Christ, Doyle was putting his arms around him to pull him closer, cuddling up to him like some big friendly cat. Bodie rubbed his cheek against the springy curls, noting their softness and the faint pleasant scent of coconut.

I'm sorry, Ray.

Doyle gasped as the fingers gently coiling his hair closed on a cluster of curls, and pulled his head back painfully. He was still gathering his wits when the bruising pressure of Bodie's mouth on his cut off his protest. He was pinned down by Bodie's greater weight and strength, his arms wrenched from their comfortable hold around Bodie's broad back and shoved beneath his own frantically twisting body, further immobilising him.

The bastard was trying to suffocate him, Doyle thought, panic-stricken. Then the hard mouth was gone and he could breath, drawing precious air into his starved lungs. He became aware of the blood in his mouth at the same moment he realized Bodie was tugging at his T-shirt.

Doyle's efforts to free himself grew even more desperate. "No!"

"You're right, no need to take your clothes off, I can work around them to get to the important bits."

Believe me, I'll hate myself more than you ever ... Oh, shit, don't look at me like that, sunshine.

"I said no, Bodie! What the hell d'you think you're ... mmph!" The crushing force of teeth and lips was back, forcing his mouth open but Bodie apparently had the sense to keep his tongue away from Doyle's teeth. Tears of fury and frustration slid down his face. To be so helpless was bad enough, but to endure such treatment from the man he trusted and risked his life for was unbearable. Bastard! The same bastard who had saved his life on numerous occasions, had always been there for him when needed, was loyal and brave and was loved so much ... What the hell was happening? Was this what the great clown thought he wanted?

Bodie's hands were tugging at his jeans belt. Doyle let himself lie limp, breathless from his struggles but not so winded that if Bodie let down his guard he couldn't damage the insensitive sod.

Bodie felt Ray grow slack in his arms - he'd wondered when he'd try that ploy. Wise to his partner's ruse, he maintained his hold. Then he felt wetness against his cheek. Oh, no. Not that. He eased the pressure of his mouth on Doyle's and it was then he tasted blood, Doyle's blood, on his lips.

He'd known it would come to this, but he'd thought himself so hardened that he could go through with it. Surely 'hard man' Bodie could do this one small thing for his friend? He was disgusted by his weakness, his inability to follow through with his plan.

Oh, Ray ...

The poor sod didn't know he wasn't going to hurt him. Christ, maybe it was enough. Perhaps he'd managed to revolt Doyle; he himself felt sufficiently sickened for the pair of them.

Bodie lifted his mouth away from the bruised lips, but was loathe to break all contact. Doyle would be furious with him, it would be a long time before Ray would let him touch him. Bodie needed to touch. Ray's eyes were closed but there were wet trails down his face. Knowing any tears would have been shed in anger didn't make him feel any better. A desire to make atonement for his savagery prompted him to brush his lips softly against the wet cheeks, even as he condemned the gesture as unnecessary and sentimental. He had intended to disgust Doyle and had succeeded, no point in recriminations and regrets. But still he refused to relinquish his hold on his partner and get the inevitable row over with.

Not yet.

One hand released its grip on Ray's belt and came up to stroke the broken cheekbone. Doyle's eyes flew open but, reluctant to meet the angry accusation and revulsion he knew he would see, Bodie closed his own eyes and lowered his lips to meet the swollen mouth once more, this time with gentleness, a sweet meeting of lips that sent a melting warmth throughout his body.

Doyle tensed beneath Bodie then pushed up against him. Trying to deepen the kiss, he flinched when his split lip pulled back against his teeth. Then he felt Bodie begin to withdraw and it was unthinkable that he should stop when things were starting to look promising.

Ruthlessly, Doyle grabbed the dark head and pulled it down, taking the now very welcome mouth with desperate urgency, uncaring of the slight irritation of his cut lip. He felt Bodie tense, then relax against him, returning the kiss; felt fingers threading through his hair, a thumb caressing the line of jaw and throat, and other fingers sliding under his T-shirt and sweeping across his chest in slow, arousing strokes.

Bodie heard Doyle moan beneath him and instead of bringing him to his senses it sent him closer to the edge, to that forbidden place where insanity lay. To continue would be madness, a small rational part of him acknowledged that; but it felt so good to hold him like this, to feel that playful tongue teasing and tracing his lips. He found his friend was sensitive to the most delicate contact, and it was thrilling to have that strong body respond to his every touch. He tried to lift Ray's T-shirt out of the way, wanting to feel more of that smooth skin and soft chest hair, but the material was trapped beneath Doyle.

Doyle found himself shifted onto his side then hauled on top of his partner. His T-shirt was pushed up, uncomfortably rucked up under his armpits, so he raised himself to take it off. Unfortunately, his hand brushed along Bodie's ribs. There was a muffled sound that sounded suspiciously like a giggle, a protesting wriggle of the body beneath him, and suddenly Doyle found himself on the floor.

Amused blue eyes peered down at him. Bodie looked ready to deliver some smart one liner; face lit with mischief, lips twitching, fighting to hold back his laughter. And suddenly Doyle wanted him with an intensity that was terrifying. He rose to his knees and knelt beside the sofa, a fine tremor running through his body, hands slightly shaking as they reached for Bodie.

Bodie had seen that look once before. He'd been entertaining a lady friend and they'd just got to the final stage when he was called in on an alert. Ignoring his girlfriend's furious screeching he had stumbled to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face. Catching sight of his face in the mirror his reflection had startled him, wild eyes and flushed face, and he'd realized he was trembling. All he'd wanted to do was tell Cowley to go to hell, get back into bed, and plunge his aching cock back into hot, welcoming flesh.

An answering need was building up inside him which he was in no state to analyse. Grabbing Ray's wrists before his partner could get a grip on him he stood up, raising Doyle as he did so. Then he set off for the bedroom, Doyle stumbling behind him.

Somehow they managed to reach the bedroom without falling over, clothes discarded along the way, marking their trail. Finally, blissfully naked, they landed on the bed, mouths locked together.

Bodie had believed he knew his partner completely, had let the years spent in each other's company, their empathy, their perfect coordination as a team, fool him into thinking he knew the real Ray Doyle. Now, sprawled on top of him, hard cock sliding along his own, he discovered a new Ray Doyle, one that he had only caught glimpses of. All thought of being selfless had long since vanished. His brain had ceased all unnecessary functions such as thought and his ever-hardening cock was insisting sex with Doyle was a very good idea. He fought the urge to drive them both over the edge as quickly as possible. He had some experience of sex with men in the past, but those fleeting flashes of hunger and satiation had not touched him, had merely satisfied an itch. To hear his rough, tough partner moan with delight at his touch was to experience a gathering, a coalescing, of every ounce of affection, of love, he had ever felt for Ray; he was so full of it he thought his heart might burst. His whole being was focussed entirely on his friend, and instead of feeling fear at this discovery, he wanted more, wanted to lavish all that emotion on Ray.

As for Doyle, he was running on pure sensation. This was Bodie. This felt so good. His immediate impulse was to swoop down on that so-desired body, to possess that pouting mouth, to take, take, take. With great difficulty he fought the hunger. Who knew when such an opportunity would arise again? He had to make it sweet, make it so incredible that his partner would have no regrets; in fact, make this night so unforgettable that Bodie would want to repeat it, would never want to let him go.

Doyle's hands and lips drifted across quivering flesh, exploring and delighting in the many tastes and textures waiting to be discovered. His tongue thrust in erotic rhythm within the sweetness of Bodie's mouth, his hands sliding around taut buttocks. All his senses were filled with the proof of his friend's arousal - the delicious combination of salt and musk; the gasps of delight when he found yet another sensitive spot; the beauty of the man as roving fingers sent him soaring to the peak of excitement; the hard length that jabbed insistently against his thigh.

Bodie felt as if his entire body had become a conduit for pleasure - a probing kiss sent shock waves to every extremity, so sensitive had he become. And then Doyle's fingers brushed against his erection and it was nearly over. Bodie cried out at the exquisite sensation gathering like a fireball in his stomach and groin, ready to burst forth. He bit his lip, a swift hand reaching at his throbbing flesh, desperately squeezing to avert disaster. Almost sobbing with frustration, he ached for release but was determined to prolong the excitement.

Doyle viewed Bodie's frantic movements with a wild excitement. Mouth fastened on Bodie's, he thrust his swollen cock against equally hard flesh, forced to tear his mouth away, fighting for breath as contact sent electricity coursing through his whole body. Wanting to be closer, to heighten the sensation if that was possible, he rolled onto his back, pulling Bodie on top of him, the delicious weight of him making it hard to breathe.

Bodie thought he heard Ray crying out his name but the roaring in his ears, the thunder of his pulse pounding in his head, made it difficult to hear extraneous sounds.

Then pleasure peaked and he heard a hoarse voice gasping Doyle's name, insane promises and a dozen endearments - he barely recognised it as his own. Ray surged beneath him, fingers like talons dug into his hips. Then they both plunged over the edge, mouths crashing together fiercely, cutting off their cries.

 

It was a gentle fall back down to Earth and Doyle floated mindlessly in that place between slumber and wakefulness, Bodie's lax body sprawled across his the only thing keeping him awake. He crash-landed into full consciousness when he heard his friend whisper, "Oh shit!"

Doyle kept his eyes firmly shut as Bodie shifted onto his side, knowing the other man was staring at him with horrified eyes. After-glow turned to ashes and he felt sick. Silently he willed Bodie to leave him alone with his misery.

As if in answer to Doyle's prayer, the bed dipped with Bodie's departure, and a small despairing part of Ray wanted to call him back.

Eyes still closed, as if shutting out his surroundings would shut out the pain, he listened to the rustling sounds indicating Bodie was gathering his clothes. There was the soft click of the bedroom door as it was shut, a minute or two of silence, then the distant sound of the front door closing.

Tension easing, Ray breathed deeply to dispel the knot in his stomach and the tightness of his throat.

He was still trying to decide whether he should suffer manfully or bawl like a baby when exhaustion had its way and he fell into unhappy slumber.

Passion spent, Bodie found the well of emotion he had for Ray was still full to the brim. Usually he found that, once he'd had his wicked way with his girl-of-the-moment, there was very little feeling left, as though the act of sex drained it all away. Of course, he felt gratitude if the sex had been good - his Mum had taught him to always say thank you - but it was difficult feeling anything deeper when you weren't emotionally ...

Oh. Of course. Stupid not to see it sooner. No wonder he was lying here - oops! He was squashing Ray. Better shift a bit and let the golly breathe. To continue, no wonder he was lying here wanting to cuddle up, he was more emotionally involved with Raymond Doyle than any other person, living or dead. He'd always known that, had accepted his feelings as part and parcel of a close partnership. But he'd never considered how deep those feelings ran.

Now sex had been added to the mix.

Once wouldn't be enough. He wanted more. Ridiculous. One bite of the forbidden fruit and he was addicted to Ray Doyle?

But then he'd known, hadn't he? Known it would be dangerous. Had always known.

Fear decided to put in an appearance.

"Oh shit!"

He started at the sound of his own voice and peered down at Doyle anxiously. He seemed to be asleep; better he remain that way. As silently as possible he eased away from Ray and out of the bed, then looked about for his clothes. Dressed, he left the bedroom, pausing at the door to gaze at the sleeping man. Doyle really was incredible looking. Quite unique. How had he managed to remain so blind for so long to Doyle's charms?

Christ, who was he trying to fool now? Of course he'd bloody noticed! How could you miss that much concentrated sensuality? From the first moment he'd seen Ray Doyle he had known him for what he was - a threat. Something dangerous with his lean, undeniably masculine body and his Janus-like face, which could look so beautiful yet so ugly with a turn of the head and a change of light. And how had he reacted back then? By trying to beat the crap out of him. If he was honest with himself it was either that or screw him through the floor. Far safer to opt for violence.

Now he wanted to kiss him again, to cuddle up to him, to discover all of his ticklish spots and hear him giggle.

Insanity.

Go.

It took him a minute to find his shoes and put on his jacket. Okay, time to leave. He'd see Doyle in a couple of days, they could sort things out then, it was too late to do so now and they needed their rest; couldn't really sort it out tonight. It was practically morning and he needed to get back to his own place and ...

He was behaving like a complete bastard.

That's right, creep out of his flat like he's some cheap little one night stand. You're pathetic, haven't got the guts to face him, have you? What about Ray? Isn't he worth more than that? Do you really want to treat your best mate like shit?

With a sigh he pushed the front door closed. He couldn't do it, couldn't sneak off and look Doyle in the eye on Monday morning. There was no need to leave, he could easily borrow a clean shirt and underwear. He knew where the drinks cabinet was, knew which was the most comfortable chair, and if he kept the volume low he could even play some soothing music. No, he didn't have to leave; that was the coward's option.

So, what to do? Well first of all he needed a drink. Having poured himself a small whisky he settled himself in the armchair nearest the gas fire which he didn't bother to switch on. Music? No, the silence in the flat was soothing enough.

Wonder if Ray's still lying on top of the covers? Might get cold, should I ...? Concentrate!

What to do, what to do? What was the protocol in this sort of situation? What did a man do, or say, or feel after a romp in the sack with his male best friend?

Bet those uppity boarding school types would know: "Oh, I say, Ginger, that little romp of ours was a lark. Quite like old times, old chap." Right, he could just see Doyle swallowing that.

Christ, I wonder if he would swallow?

Concentrate!

It had been easier in Africa. Heat. Flies. Crouching behind a bush with a fellow merc's prick in his hand. Then that same man returning the favour - Doyle's crack had been spot on. Doyle knew he had fucked a man, could remember telling him years ago. But Ray didn't know about the week in Luanda, the clean room, the clean bed, and himself agreeing to be fucked. How long had he known Jerry? A year? Long enough to respect him, to like and trust him - up to a point. How long had he known Ray? Over four years, and he trusted him absolutely.

Being screwed by Jerry hadn't hurt that much, in fact the third and final time, two days before leaving Luanda, had been quite pleasant, and he was a more attractive prospect than the other men - Bodie was sick of having to fight off some of the older mercs. He'd counted himself lucky that Jerry had taken a shine to him and looked after him, seeing to it that he didn't end up being jumped and having an unwanted cock up his arse. Bodie made the decision to serve out his contract and leave before his luck ran out.

Later he'd joined a unit where the commander didn't look too favourably on rape - or whatever the Courts would call it - though Bodie had never figured out whether it was a moral decision or a case of being practical: injury and infection cost time and money as well as being an inconvenience, which was probably why Jerry had only ever asked to fuck him that one week.

He hadn't missed Jerry, hadn't missed the sex. What was there to miss? He'd let himself be buggered because he was grateful to the other man for keeping him alive, because, to give him his due, Jerry had believed in turn and turn about, and Bodie was full of curiosity and as randy as a rabbit. And that was all.

But what of sex with Doyle? He'd never flown so high - any higher and he'd have needed a bloody parachute. This wasn't Africa revisited. What he'd shared with Ray was as far removed from Africa as vintage champagne was from a bottle of el cheapo vino.

Already he wanted to wrap himself around Doyle and absorb the delicious scented heat of him, rediscover the taste of him; and if Ray woke up and they ended up having sex again, so much the better.

He really was an addict.

There was no hope of passing it off as a once only bit of meaningless fun. Bodie couldn't let it end there, and Doyle had been very serious when he told him he loved him. He didn't want an angry or hurt Doyle. He wanted the Doyle of half an hour ago, moaning with delight at his touch, or the happy, contented Doyle who had looked so lovable on new year's eve that he had wanted to cuddle him and tell him how glad he was to have him back.

Doyle had been relaxed at the party, almost mellow, seemingly without a care in the world; now it seemed that he'd been trying to deal with some very confusing emotions. Bodie had been happy because Ray was happy, and he'd ignored his pointed remarks about some of the women pining for him - he'd been reluctant to leave him, content to be at Doyle's side.

It had felt unnatural to go about CI5 business without 4.5 at his side, he'd felt vulnerable without Doyle to watch his back. Having his partner back had banished the fear and discontent he had felt since Doyle had been shot.

Missing him so much he didn't feel complete. Happy when Ray was happy. Terrified of losing him. Was that love?

It was bloody close.

He'd kissed him. Sure, it had been for a laugh. But had there been another reason? Bodie hadn't been drunk when he'd kissed Ray, but he'd certainly been high on something when he'd done it. His heart had been pounding like mad, he'd felt a little breathless, but he'd put it down to knowing Doyle might be furious, and that what he was planning was a little dangerous and forbidden. And after it was over? Doyle had looked stunned, all wide green eyes and soft parted lips ... and ...

Admit it, he'd looked bloody desirable!

He'd wanted to kiss him again, to see if Ray really did taste so good. It had frightened him; confused him. And he'd told himself he was drunk and thinking like an idiot, that he couldn't possibly be considering kissing Doyle because he wanted to and not for a joke. So he'd ruffled Ray's curls in a matey fashion then gone off chasing every woman in the room, to discover the sweetness of their kisses, to reaffirm his masculinity.

He'd convinced himself that it had simply been a joke, had pushed his confusing reactions so far into the back of his mind that they lay there in his subconscious, secret and forgotten.

Until now.

Was he in love with Ray? He considered the thought for at least half a second. Christ, no! He was getting as daft as Doyle. Neither of them were queer, the idea was laughable. Ridiculous. So, what then? Affection? Okay, that was acceptable. Lust? Why not, Ray wasn't exactly ugly. And it wasn't like they were lusting after other men, was it? Right, so affection with a bit of lust thrown in he could deal with that. If he could convince Doyle to comply, to tone done the love bit and see it as just a sharing of fun and pleasure between two very close friends, why shouldn't they sleep together? Wasn't like they were getting hitched or anything.

Or in love.

Ray could call it love if he wanted to, in a way it was love, it just wasn't that kind of love. That kind of love would be a bloody stupid idea in their line of work and far too dangerous. Besides, what did Doyle know of love? His history as far as love was concerned was hardly that of a Romeo or Heathcliffe - far from having one great love the silly sod had been engaged twice while he was with the Met. More recently, he had fallen head over heels for Ann Holly - and look how quickly he had recovered! It almost him pity the woman. 'Beautifully serious' Doyle had called his relationship with her yet he hadn't even told his mother about her. Bodie suspected beneath the tough exterior beat the heart of a would-be romantic - and lust wasn't romantic. So randy Raymond dignified a bit of common garden variety lust with the name 'love'. Everyday life tended to get in the way of Barbara Cartland type notions, and after a few weeks of mundane reality Doyle would realise he had mistaken his feelings.

It was really a good thing he wasn't in love with Doyle. It would be the height of stupidity to fall in love with someone with the golly's track record.

In the meantime, why shouldn't they both have a good time between the sheets as well as on the streets?

Him and Ray, lovers. Would it be so terrible?

He'd hardly known Jerry. He felt as if Doyle had always been a part of his life, and hoped he always would be. The only way they could be split up would be if Doyle had Bodie surgically removed.

Ray Doyle - his best friend, his partner. His lover.

Ah, fuck it. The time for thinking and rationalising was over It was time to listen to his instincts, they hadn't let him down yet, and his instincts were screaming at him to go back to the bedroom, back to Doyle.

So why the bloody hell was he sitting all alone in this freezing cold lounge?

 

Ephemeral images shifted, intrusive reality disrupting the haven of his dreams. Doyle knew he didn't want to return to the real world just yet, but something disturbed him, impinged on his consciousness. He was aware of a familiar voice saying something about having left the lamp on but he was too tired to fully awaken.

There was a sudden increased darkness beyond his closed lids and a hard warmth pressed along his back. It was a welcome presence and he pushed back to increase contact. Ray felt arms encircle him then a cool weight, a quilt, was drawn over him. A feeling of security and well-being suffused him, just as the heat from the body pressed against him warmed his cool flesh.

The frown left his face, lines of misery smoothed away, replaced by a drowsy contented smile. Happy, Ray drifted back to his dreams.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

 

Doyle awoke rested and content, two feelings that had been missing from his early morning ritual for several months. Reluctantly he opened his eyes, relieved to find the light was subdued by the thickness of carefully drawn curtains. Though the air was cool against his bare flesh, making him want to bury himself beneath the quilt, warm gusts of air swept over the left side of his face.

Memory and awareness brought him snapping to full attention and, warily, he turned his head to view his sleeping companion.

Bodie.

But Bodie had ...

As if sensing he was under scrutiny, Bodie's eyes shot open. Seeing Doyle, he gave a sleepy smile and let his lids half close, watching his partner from beneath indecently long lashes. Clearly ready to slip back into sleep mode, he managed to mumble, "Mornin', Goldilocks."

Doyle's wary look was edged by a frown. "Feel more like Baby Bear."

"Eh?" Instinctive alertness not deemed necessary, Bodie was half asleep and not up to word games, or indeed anything that required the use of more than one brain cell.

"Someone's been sleepin' in my bed. And he's still here," Doyle remarked pithily.

"Oh. I see. You thought I'd done a runner?" Bodie asked, voice understanding and, he hoped, soothing.

"You did." Doyle was not about to be soothed.

The chance of a lie-in now well and truly out of the window, Bodie sat up, trying to look alert and attentive. "I only went as far as the lounge. Had a drink, had a think."

"Come up with the meaning of life, did you?" Doyle enquired sarcastically, annoyed with Bodie but more annoyed with the fact that what he had thought was Bodie's departure last night had hurt so much. He was also having to fight the pathetic surge of hope currently making itself felt.

"Came up with something just as important," Bodie revealed, ready to put up with Doyle's mood - particularly as he almost had left last night. Judging from Doyle's reaction it was just as well he had stayed, Christ only knew what he would have been doing on Monday morning - probably busily heating up the boiling oil and deciding where to shove the sharpened sticks.

Doyle wriggled lower under the covers and closed his eyes, wanting to show Bodie how little he cared about his presence or his ruminations. He faked a yawn. "Something important? And what's that then?" he asked, aiming for a bored tone but wincing when he heard the acid in his voice.

"What we're going to do."

"Oh?" The amount of acid controlled, he had the degree of disdain just right. Then Bodie's words registered fully. "'We'?"

Bodie didn't squirm under Doyle's suspicious scrutiny only because of years of practice. He gave a decisive nod. "Don't see why we can't carry on with ..." his voice faltered momentarily, then he indicated themselves and the bed in a quick and, what was meant to be, an all-encompassing gesture but looked more like he was describing Dolly Parton's most prominent features, "... with this."

Ray brushed his fingers against his still swollen mouth meaningfully, voice acerbic as he asked, "Does that include this?"

Viewing Doyle's bruised lips guiltily, Bodie snapped, "No it bloody doesn't!" He took a calming breath, realising the foolishness of verbally lashing out at Doyle when Bodie himself had been to blame. Regret in his voice, he explained, "Sorry about that, was a mistake."

"Was almost your last!" Doyle snarled, pushing himself upright in a sudden abrupt movement. His arm brushed Bodie's and Bodie flinched. Doyle's eyes spat fire.

Trying to ignore the jolt of desire that had shot through him upon contact with Doyle, Bodie searched for the right words, trying to explain his actions of the night before. "I thought I could put you off, make you see you don't really ... fancy me."

The anger abated a little though the green eyes still bore into Bodie. "Stupid bastard. Of course I really love you. It's not like a grazed elbow, can't stick a bit of TCP on it, grit your teeth and hope it'll be better in the morning." He sighed. "Christ, Bodie, you honestly thought a bit of rough stuff would change how I feel about you?"

"I suppose I did. Didn't have much time to think things out."

"No. Just went in, bull in a china shop, as usual. And what if I'd belted you and refused to have anything to do with you?"

"Was hopin' you thought too much of our friendship and the team to do that."

"You don't know how far you pushed your luck!"

Bodie nodded, his eyes on the pattern of the dark green duvet. "Yeah. To be honest I was waiting for you to belt me one, was planning on a row."

"You what?"

Bodie's head rose and he made himself meet Doyle's incredulous gaze. "I was ready to take a black eye or two if it meant you stopped fancyin' me."

"So when was this row then? I must have missed it. Asleep, was I?"

"It was supposed to happen when I tried to get your trousers off. I thought I'd got you angry enough and disgusted enough and ... your face was wet," Bodie finished in a soft voice.

Doyle's jaw tensed, a pulse fluttering beneath one stubbled cheek. "I was angry!"

Bodie sighed. "I knew that. Still couldn't stand it though. I just wanted to put the row off a bit longer, hated the idea of you thinking I was a complete bastard. A bit selfish of me I suppose. Must be going soft."

"Only in the head. I was ready to tear you apart." Doyle glared at Bodie's down-bent head, cursing the way the vulnerability of it made his insides melt. His voice softened as his anger trickled away. "Then you went all gentle on me. I couldn't understand the change, thought maybe you'd only known it rough in Africa." There was a question in those gently spoken words.

"Nah, Africa wasn't that bad all things considered. Really. Some of it was all right. I just wanted to ..." he trailed off uncertainly.

"Put me off," Doyle finished for him.

"Yeah." Deciding on complete honesty, Bodie lifted his head to meet Doyle's gaze, attempting to analyse his thoughts and feelings of then and now. "And I wanted to get any ideas of you trying it with any other men out of your head as well."

Doyle's eyes had been fixed on Bodie's fingers as they pleated the quilt but his attention whipped back to his partner's face at his words. "You what!"

Bodie shifted uncomfortably beneath that piercing green stare. His chin went up a fraction as he slipped into defence mode. "Well I didn't want you hauled up before the Old Man did I?"

His earlier anger returning full force, Doyle snapped, "I'm not that stupid or sloppy, Bodie, give me some credit!" His eyes narrowed. "What else?"

"What d'you mean 'what else'?" Bodie prevaricated. If he had been a horse his head would have been tossing, his eyes rolling and his ears laid back. He looked ready to bolt.

Sensing this, Doyle pressed his advantage. He slid nearer, one arm reaching across Bodie so that the other man was trapped beneath him though there was very little physical contact, merely the brushing of legs beneath the quilt. Seeing Bodie's hunted expression, his vague suspicion that there was something more became a certainty. "There's more to it, isn't there?"

"I don't like the idea," Bodie muttered, not the least bit comfortable with Doyle's close proximity. Not only did he feel threatened but there was something strangely erotic and thrilling about having Doyle loom over him like this. Not entirely sure he liked the feeling he tried to move away.

Lowering himself a couple of inches so that he was resting on his elbow, Doyle brought his torso into contact with Bodie's.

Bodie sank back against the pillow. The not unpleasant churning sensation in his stomach intensified. Christ, it was too bloody hot for a duvet.

"Why don't you like the idea?" Doyle asked, determined to dig until the full truth was revealed.

"Like the bloody Spanish Inquisition you are," Bodie tried to grumble, unsettled by how breathless he sounded.

"Why?"

"I don't know! Maybe I just don't like the idea of you shoving your prick up some mincing little puff!"

"Might be the other way round if I got lucky," Doyle replied mildly, wondering at the possessiveness he had just heard in Bodie's voice. He was unprepared for the explosion.

Rearing up, Bodie gripped Doyle by the shoulders and shoved him down on the bed. Lightning quick he straddled Doyle and leaned forward, so close that the startled green eyes had trouble focussing on the furious face just inches away. "Don't you fuckin' dare joke about this!"

"Who's joking?" Doyle snapped back.

Bodie shook him, no mean feat since Doyle despite his slender looks was no light weight. "I won't have it!"

"You wouldn't have to. Would be none of your business," Doyle pointed out sharply. Despite the vulnerability of his position he lay passive, trusting Bodie not to let slip the leash on his temper, yet filled with a need to push and keep pushing at that control.

"You are my business, you stupid sod, and you'll always be my business. Get this clear, Doyle, no one is going to fucking well come between us, or I'll ..." He broke off, suddenly registering how close his face was to Doyle's, the force of his grip on the wide shoulders, the avid gaze that was fixed on him. He pulled back, control now restored; but he could still feel the heat of his anger, making his hands tremble slightly when he released Doyle.

"Or you'll what?" Doyle pressed, aware that Bodie had been on the verge of revealing some truth that Bodie himself probably wasn't even aware of. He grabbed at Bodie as he moved away but was shaken off.

Bodie slid out of the bed, cursing his shaking hands as he reached for his clothes. Ignoring Doyle's repeated question, he didn't bother to look for his underwear as he hadn't been able to find it last night. Only when he was dressed did he feel ready to face Doyle. He took a deep breath and turned round.

Doyle sat back against the pillows twirling Bodie's underpants from one finger.

Bodie laughed. He knew he did so louder and longer than the situation warranted but he simply couldn't help it.

Doyle smiled back, relieved he had been able to stop Bodie's departure without resorting to violence. As Bodie put a hand out for his underwear, Doyle popped them under his pillow. "Come and get them," he challenged softly.

Bodie walked back to the bed but instead of reaching under the pillow he sat down on the edge. Hesitantly he put out his hand, gently smoothing back the tousled curls away from Doyle's face. His face very serious, he let his hand slide down, brushing a finger against the curve of one perfect cheek, sweeping it up then down again to stroke the damaged cheekbone that strangely added to Doyle's physical appeal. Eyes, nose, chin, lips, all were softly traced by the single exploratory finger.

Doyle found he was holding his breath and he forced himself to take several deep, if shaky, gulps for air.

Bodie was gazing at him as if he had never seen him before, had never known him.

At that moment, Doyle wasn't sure if he knew either of them. He could see the truth in Bodie's eyes even if Bodie himself didn't know it yet. His voice was husky as he murmured, "You daft clown, you don't know what you want, do you?"

Bodie dragged his eyes away from his study of the perfection of Doyle's lips. "I know I don't want to lose you," he managed to answer softly.

"You won't lose me. We can stop right here if you want," Doyle offered, unsure whether he would have the strength to keep such a promise.

"Last night you wanted my help. You said you couldn't deal with it on your own."

Doyle reached up and brought the hand that still cupped his face to his lips, brushing a tender kiss across the hard knuckles and work-toughened fingertips before reaching for the other hand that lay lax on Bodie's thigh. Holding both hands captive in his, he stroked the captured fingers idly as he considered his feelings for his partner and the needs of them both. "I do need your help. You're not the only one afraid of losing his partner. You've always been there for me. You're part of me, Bodie, and the thought of driving you away because of how I feel has been killing me. Even before, when you were just a mate, not having you in my life would have torn me apart."

Doyle's grip tightened, a determined almost fierce light in his eyes. "Promise me it'll be the same and we'll pretend it never happened. I'll be able to control it in time, and now you know I won't be so terrified of slipping up. Just promise me."

Bodie shook his head helplessly. "I can't promise that." Seeing Doyle sudden stillness he added, "I'm not entirely sure what I want, but I don't want to pretend this didn't happen. What I was thinking earlier was that we could carry on like this, y'know. I mean, I can't promise to love you in the same way, so you won't be getting a Valentine card off me this year. But if you want us to be, well - "

"Lovers," Doyle supplied, ever helpful.

"Sounds daft. I can't believe I'm having this conversation with me best mate ..." Bodie muttered.

"You're doing better than I'd've thought," Doyle said with a wry smile.

Bodie's lips twitched in response. "Trust you to start with back-handed compliments."

"They're the only kind you ever let me make," Doyle murmured. "Go on, so if I want us to be lovers, and you know I do - "

"Well I reckon we'll be good together. It'll just be like being partners but with sex as a bonus."

Doyle frowned. The look he gave Bodie was a mixture of worry and defiance. "While we're together, like this, I won't hide how I feel. So if you don't want me getting soppy with you, well you'll like it or lump it. And that includes compliments that aren't back-handed."

"It'll be nice having you singing my praises for a change," mused Bodie, hoping to make Doyle smile. He succeeded.

"I didn't say I'd go that far," riposted Doyle with a grin.

"Sod."

"Hope so."

The room seemed very quiet suddenly. It was Bodie who broke the silence. "Do you want that?"

"By 'that' I assume you mean do I want you to fuck me? Yes."

Slightly annoyed that Doyle could be so matter of fact when he felt as if his tongue was tying itself in knots, Bodie strove for an equal straight forwardness. "And you'll want to fuck me?"

"I'd rather ask if you'll want me to fuck you," Doyle replied.

"There's a difference?" Bodie asked, feeling strangely lightheaded.

"Of course there's a bloody difference!" Doyle snarled, hands tightening convulsively around Bodie's.

"Careful, mate, that's my gun hand," Bodie rebuked mildly. He looked down pointedly at the hands holding his.

"Sorry," Doyle muttered, easing his grasp but not letting go.

Barely hearing his friend, Bodie's attention was caught by Doyle's hands, the strength of them, the thought of them clutching his hips as Doyle thrust into him ...

Bloody hell.

Bodie was able to answer with complete truth, "Yes, I'll want you to fuck me." Perhaps realising one of Doyle's fears he added, "We'll be complete equals in this, like we are in everything else. I can promise you that much."

"Not quite. I love you, remember," Doyle pointed out, fixing on Bodie the direct gaze the other man come to know so well.

"I won't abuse it or try to take advantage of it, Ray," Bodie vowed, freeing one hand so he could curve it around Doyle's neck to gently rub the soft curls and softer skin.

"I know. Trust you with my life every day, don't I? It's the only reason I had the guts to tell you in the first place."

"I'm glad you did you know. It felt like you were slipping away from me and I couldn't do a thing to stop you."

"I'm not going anywhere. Except maybe the bathroom for a shower," Doyle answered.

"You're not making breakfast first?" Bodie asked, scandalised. Unless he had a trip planned a shower was one of the last things to do in the morning routine on a day off.

"I suppose you're expecting me to cook your breakfast," Doyle said with a tender smile.

Bodie smiled back. "That would be nice."

Doyle's voice was low-pitched and loving as he murmured, "I'm hopelessly in love not hopelessly stupid. You know where the food is. I'm off to have a shower." He planted a wet kiss on Bodie's nose and headed for the bathroom, whistling.

Bodie watched his departure open-mouthed until he realised how gormless he must look. So that was how it was going to be, he thought. Still the same unobliging little toad unless the mood took him to be otherwise.

Bodie grinned to himself, filled with an overwhelming sense of relief.

Ray Doyle was still very much Ray Doyle and for that he was enormously grateful.

He headed for the kitchen and began to prepare breakfast for two.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

 

Prepared to be distracted by having their former-partner-now-lover at their side constantly, ready to hide the truth of their relationship and their feelings from the rest of CI5, both Bodie and Doyle found themselves too busy to think of anything but their assignment. Halfway through the day it occurred to Bodie that he finally had his partner back and an inane grin was still plastered on his face as they raced off in pursuit of their elusive suspect. That grin was probably responsible for the man's frantic efforts to escape.

It was while they were writing their reports that a certain tension began to fill the air, a near-tangible thing. Trying to remember if the suspects name was McDonald or MacDonald, and wondering if it made any difference, Bodie looked up to find Doyle watching him. Heat and desire flooded through him so fast it made him dizzy. The memory of last night filled his mind, the image of aroused Ray Doyle startlingly clear. Remembering the feel and incredible scent of his partner, Bodie had to tear his attention back to his report before he did something insane like haul Doyle over the desk and fuck him raw.

Doyle managed to suck a little air into his lungs, temporarily winded by the intense heat in Bodie's eyes. Trying to ignore the tightness of his jeans as the denim fought the growing hardness it confined, Doyle tore up the mess he had made of his report and began again.

Telling himself that the sooner the report was finished the sooner they could leave, Doyle applied himself to his task - then couldn't resist looking up.

A trickle of heat flowed across Bodie's nerve endings, seeping through his flesh, and he glanced across at Doyle. Their gazes locked, each man caught by the fire and hunger in their lover's eyes.

It was with a peculiar mixture of disappointment and relief that they heard the voices and footsteps of other agents approaching. There was the sound of two simultaneous gasps for air then two heads dipped as 3.7 and 4.5 tore their attention from each other and back to their work.

 

Football and chicken kiev were on the menu at Doyle's flat that evening. Bodie tasted little of the food, though he was sure it was delicious. Acutely aware of Ray and the fact there was big bed in the next room, less than fifteen feet away, he tried to play it cool. It was somewhat disconcerting to find himself panting after Ray when he had been perfectly fine around his partner two days ago. Then again, he'd always known Ray Doyle was a potent sexual force. He'd caught the fallout a couple of times when they had double dated, and there had been moments when Doyle hadn't even been turning it on for some bird's benefit. Ray was naturally a sexy little bugger.

Seemingly busy switching on the television and fetching beers, Doyle was in a similar state. While his hormones were jumping up and down telling him to grab Bodie and stick his tongue down his throat, the more civilised part of him was opening cans and making him sit six inches away from his partner. While he had no doubts about Bodie's commitment to their relationship, he didn't want to push things too fast. As Bodie stared at the television Doyle slid a glance at him and had to look away when he found himself staring at Bodie's mouth.

Neither man seemed to have noticed that the volume on the television was on mute.

As usual Bodie was the one to break the silence.

"We going to have sex?"

Green light - go.

Turning to face Doyle, hoping the other man hadn't caught the uncertainty in his voice, Bodie saw the flushed face and burning eyes - and his brain shut down. Aware only of his own and Ray's arousal, he automatically complied with the hand that hauled him to his feet and dragged him towards the bedroom.

The room was in darkness as they stumbled inside. Turning to switch on the light, Bodie found himself shoved against the wall then Doyle's mouth latched onto his, stealing all breath and any remaining mental faculties. Tongue slid across tongue, strong and agile as it slipped between lips and teeth, delving and exploring. Open to everything and anything that was Ray Doyle, Bodie sucked greedily on the hot, slick probe as he ground his groin against Doyle, feeling the hardening length that pushed against fabric, wanting more.

Making their unsteady way to the bed, neither man was willing to break contact. There was a frantic scrabbling at buttons and zips, the sound of tearing cloth as clothes gave way to force and impatience. Finally naked, Bodie fell back onto the bed, Ray attached to him like a second skin, determined to meld their bodies as closely as possible. Grinding against one another in a mindless frenzy, hands gripping with near-brutal strength, it wasn't long before orgasm came crashing through them both.

Dazed by the force of his climax, Bodie could only gasp for breath and stare up at his lover with reverence in his eyes.

"Bloody hell, Ray. That was - was - " Bodie struggled for words, still impaired by an insufficient supply of oxygenated blood to his brain. Catching sight of the clock on the bedside cabinet Bodie gave a rueful smile. "That was ten minutes."

"That was just starters." Clearly trying to sound seductive, Doyle merely sounded out of breath.

Shattered by the experience and fighting a growing need to shut his eyes, Bodie watched as Doyle slid off him and settled alongside, long fingers drifting over Bodie's chest. He fought tiredness and began to count.

Twenty seconds later Ray was asleep.

Basking in the heat of his partner and the inner warmth that was filling his chest cavity, Bodie snuggled up to Doyle and drifted off to sleep, still cuddling his lover.

 

The birds were still battling outside to see which of the noisy little beggars was king of the dawn chorus when Bodie opened his eyes. Stifling a groan when he saw the time he pushed his face into the brown curls currently tickling his shoulder and tried to go back to sleep.

"You awake?"

Bodie tried to answer but was ambushed by a jaw-cracking yawn.

"Got a couple of hours yet. Can go back to sleep."

Sniffing contentedly at Doyle's hair, Bodie mumbled an agreement.

"Course, we could fuck our brains out instead," Doyle added.

It wasn't just the husky voice that sent the blood rushing to Bodie's groin. The hand that began fondling his cock had something to do with it.

"I can still taste the dust from last night's race," Bodie said, though he sounded far from reluctant.

"No race. Meant to do it properly yesterday."

"Properly?" Hearing the eager note in his voice, Bodie decided playing it cool wasn't really an option.

"Make love, Bodie." Doyle raised up on his elbow to gaze down at his bedmate. "Any objections?"

Without waiting for an answer Doyle brushed his mouth against Bodie's, drawing out the pouting lower lip, teeth grazing it lightly. The long upper lip was next, lapped by the tip of Doyle's tongue and traced until it was glistening. He lifted his head to gaze at the man beneath him.

"You know what I want to do?"

"What?" Bodie asked, words being forced by the sudden constriction in his throat.

"Everything."

"What, now?"

Beneath the mock scandalised tone, Doyle heard the faint apprehension in his lover's voice, and he gave a throaty laugh. "Don't have the time or the energy to do it all now, do I? Got plenty of time later. Rest of our lives. You do know that, don't you."

Bodie's voice was muffled against Doyle's neck. "Hope so." Thinking he understood why Bodie had hidden his face, Doyle assured him, "I'll make sure of it. I won't lose you, Bodie. I've spent too fucking long waiting for this, I won't lose you." Brushing his lips across the dark hair, enjoying its softness and the way it caught against his stubble, he began to work his way down the other man. Kissing, lapping, he went lower, past the tempting mouth to the strong throat. Lazily he dipped his tongue into the hollow, tasting salt and essence of Bodie, finding pleasure in the feel of his tongue on the contours of tendon and bone as they pushed against the fragile barrier of skin. Hearing a gasp, he realised his stubbled jaw was rubbing against the puckered flesh of Bodie's nipples. Deliberately he repeated the action then latched onto one rosy nub, pushing his tongue tip against it, suckling and lapping until he felt Bodie tug on his hair. Making a mental note how sensitive Bodie was there - not an area he had considered as a potential hotspot since it did little for him - he moved lower, down the flat belly which twitched as he passed by, lower still until it met the trail of dark hair that signalled the closeness of his goal.

Doyle rubbed the tip of his nose against the pale skin contrasting so sharply with the black hair, aware that Bodie was holding his breath. Unable to wait any longer, Doyle settled himself between Bodie's legs and licked the rosy head of the erect cock.

There was a gasp as Bodie choked then struggled for air, his body rigid as he fought to keep still.

Knowing the effort Bodie was making, Doyle placed an arm across the shifting hips. Cupping Bodie's hard length in his palm, Doyle marvelled at its delicate strength and beauty as if it was something unique. He sucked gently at its head and had to smile when it pushed against his mouth, as arrogant and demanding as its owner. Even the smell of it was wonderful, like concentrated Bodie, filling his senses. Pausing only to lick his lips, his mouth watering at the knowledge of what he was about to do, Doyle took his lover into his mouth.

It felt as though Doyle couldn't breathe, though it had less to do with the bulk of the wonderful cock in his mouth and more to do with the intensity of what he was feeling. Stupidly he felt his eyes prickle so he closed them, losing himself in the taste and texture of Bodie's cock, using lips and tongue and the occasional scrape of teeth to bring himself and Bodie maximum pleasure.

Bodie was almost beyond controlling himself, hips fighting the barrier of Ray's arm as they tried to thrust into the incredible heat of Doyle's mouth, striving to push deeper even as he clutched at the headboard behind him so he wouldn't grab Ray by the hair.

Doyle knew the second Bodie was about to climax and he pulled back a little to accommodate the man's pulsing length as Bodie's semen jetted into his mouth. Savouring the taste, Doyle held the slowly softening cock in his mouth until he felt hands tugging at him. Careful not to bump his own almost painful erection as he allowed himself to be pulled further up the bed, he looked up to find Bodie smiling at him.

"Come here."

Finding himself encouraged to kneel over his lover's chest, Doyle realised what Bodie was about to do.

His eyes full of love, he murmured, "You don't have to - oh fuck!" Doyle grasped at the headboard as Bodie swallowed him whole, the sudden heat and slickness too much. Thrusting mindlessly he came with a shout that seemed to echo in the stillness of the room.

 

"I suppose I should go to my flat," Bodie muttered to himself as he tried to burrow closer to his lover, his face tucked under Ray's armpit.

"Why? You have clothes here."

"Clean ones?"

"Yeah."

"Good." There was silence for a moment then Bodie asked, with uncharacteristic hesitancy, "You going to tell your mum about us?"

"There's no need - " Doyle broke off to yawn noisily.

It was a sign of how tired Doyle was that he didn't pick up on Bodie's subsequent silence.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

 

Distracted by thoughts of Doyle as he had looked that morning, Bodie didn't notice Murphy was sitting next to him until he felt a nudge between his ribs.

"Oh, hello. Didn't think you were due back until tomorrow."

"I decided to drive back today. There didn't seem much point stopping over. I heard you had your hands full this week. Some daughter of an old friend of Cowley's?"

"Ah, yes. The beautiful Susan."

"Susan? There must be something about that name," Murphy said with a smile on his face. "You know Cowley had Susie and I teamed up - temporarily of course."

Hiding his reaction to that - the Cow was a devious bugger - Bodie said encouragingly, "Yeah?"

"Well ... " Seeming as if he was about to say more, Murphy hesitated then shrugged. "You managed to get Susie on a date yet?" he asked, changing the subject.

Playing his chosen role, Bodie sighed mournfully. "Not me she's got eyes for is it?" Seeing the sudden sharpening of Murphy's gaze Bodie had to fight a grin.

"I heard she fancied Tommy Jones in Accounting."

"You heard wrong. No, our Susie is still available for someone with the balls to risk a rejection." Wondering if he had overplayed things he saw Murphy was frowning to himself, clearly on a different plane.

"How did Doyle take it?" Murphy asked, sounding distracted.

"What do you mean?" Bodie eyed the other man, caught somewhere between wariness and puzzlement.

Murphy blinked, apparently now of this world rather than lost in his own thoughts. "You and this Susan. You haven't been back together long and Cowley's got you on separate assignments."

"Oh, that. We've got the old magic back in the team so working apart won't change that."

"I'm sure Evans will be heartbroken." Seeing Bodie's lack of comprehension Murphy gave a snort of affectionate amusement. "Come on, Bodie. You must have been the only one who didn't see the little scrote was trying to replace Doyle."

"No one can replace Ray," Bodie told the other man absently, thinking back to something Doyle had told him months ago.

"Glad to hear it," Doyle said as he came strolling towards them. Draping an arm over Bodie's shoulder he leaned against his partner, hips canted, raising a hand in greeting to Murphy before sliding it into his back pocket. "'lo, Murph. Thought you had the day off."

"I did. I'm a glutton for punishment. See you later. I've got something to do." Murphy had taken several strides down the corridor when he paused. Gazing back at the two men standing so comfortably and so closely together, there was a faint frown on Murphy's face. "Do you think I'd be suited to having a partner?"

Startled by the question, Bodie couldn't stop his sidelong glance at Doyle to see how his mate reacted. Their eyes caught, perfect understanding passing between them. Both men aware of something significant happening with Murphy to make him even consider a new partner after his history, they nodded in unison.

Bodie added, "You'd make a brilliant partner."

A smile blossomed on Murphy's gentle, handsome face. "I think I'll have a word with the Cow. Be good, lads."

 

"You on for Chinese take away?" Doyle asked as he opened the door to his flat.

The only reply he got was a slammed front door, a hand round his wrist and Bodie's tongue pushing past his lips to claim the slick velvet of his mouth. Several long moist moments later Doyle was allowed to breathe.

"Hello, Ray."

"Hello, Bodie. Tell me. How is it possible for me to miss you when I'm seeing you every day?"

"Dunno. You've been in a funny mood all week."

Seeing Doyle's withdrawal on his face and in the tension in his body, Bodie slid his fingers into brown curls and gently tugged Ray's head back until they were eye to eye. "You were jealous of Susan Grant."

Doyle held back for all of three seconds.

"Of course I was jealous. Christ, Bodie. I had to sit there while you flirted with the silly little tart."

"Oi. Be nice."

Sighing noisily and casting a look of resentment at his partner, Doyle admitted, "Okay, she wasn't. She was all right. But I wish she'd - " He broke off, recalling Bodie's words on the matter. "I wish she'd been fifteen stone with a moustache."

"She described you as 'the good-looking one'."

Ruffled though he was, Doyle caught, and was amused by, the pride in Bodie's voice.

Determinedly nonchalant, Doyle shrugged. "Of course. You deserve the best, don't you?"

Bodie's lips twitched though he was clearly trying to keep a serious face. "You know what else she said to me? I said her being orphaned explained her being alone and she said 'like you'."

Gently disengaging himself from Bodie's grasp Doyle asked, "What did you say?"

"Possibly." Bodie followed his partner into the living room. Sensing Doyle's disappointment and selfishly, and shamefully, pleased by it Bodie added, "I could hardly tell her I was living in blissful sodomy with my best mate."

"But you're not," Doyle pointed out, sitting down on the sofa. He was still somewhat embarrassed, not at having been jealous but of being found out. He'd known Susan Grant wasn't a threat, secure in his own ability to hold onto Bodie. That knowledge hadn't stopped him resenting like hell the fact his lover was having to charm the knickers off - figuratively speaking - a beautiful woman. It hadn't helped that Doyle had got little more than a lick and a promise since Bodie had been on the case. Not that Doyle was over-sexed or anything. It was just that ...

Doyle was over-sexed.

Bodie tucked himself against his lover, lifting his arm until Doyle had settled against him, an automatic manoeuvre that felt as natural as breathing. "I'm not what? Living together or in blissful sodomy?"

"The latter can wait till were both ready. What about living together? Do you want to?"

They locked gazes, faces solemn - then broke into laughter.

"Be worth it just to see the Cow's face," Bodie mused, the smile on his face indicating he was visualising exactly that. Mental images shifted for a moment. Doyle would like a garden, Bodie thought to himself. A big bathroom would be nice.

Living together could wait a few years, mused Doyle. Neither of them were temperamentally suited to sharing a place. Probably. Still, in a couple of years who knew? Since he had every intention of holding onto Bodie until he drew his final breath they had plenty of time to adjust to the idea. "Yeah. I like things the way they are. Keeps it discreet and means we have a bit of space if we need it. You could do with keeping more of your clothes here."

"Got the space?"

"I'll make some. You're practically living here anyway."

Bodie grinned happily. "I know."

"So are we going to eat then?"

"I'm not really hungry." Ignoring Doyle's incredulous look Bodie added, "We can always order later."

"In that case make yourself useful."

"Eh?"

In the most appalling approximation of a Cockney accent ever, Doyle drawled, "Give us a kiss, darlin'."

Bodie's snort of laughter was soon smothered. As was Bodie.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

 

Having asked half of CI5 personnel if they wished to adopt a dog - namely the black Labrador that had belonged to recently deceased agent Cook - Doyle went off to canvas the other half, a number of secretaries who he knew to be soft on animals high on his list. Bodie had generously given permission for Doyle to use whatever charm was necessary, short of flashing his arse.

As for Bodie himself, he was dozing on the sofa when he heard someone enter the rest room. Thinking it was Doyle returning from a successful mission he raised his head to beam a smile in his lover's direction only to find it was agent 6.2.

Murphy caught the disappointed look on Bodie's face and grinned. "Expecting someone else?"

"Thought it might be Susie," Bodie said mournfully, eyes twinkling.

"You were never serious about her, were you?" Murphy said musingly. Without giving Bodie a chance to respond he added, "I've got a bit of a problem."

Suddenly alert, Bodie sat up, exuding helpfulness and the desire to lend an ear along with a shoulder to cry on and a powerful right hook, if necessary.

"I might have to go to Cowley about it."

"Must be serious," Bodie said carefully, wondering what a decent bloke like Murphy had to worry about.

"Could be. You're a good mate, Bodie. I wanted to talk to you first before I went to the Old Man." Murphy paused, coughed, poked a finger in his ear then asked in a carefully casual tone, "How do you feel about sexual relationships between partners?"

Bodie felt as though his heart had just slammed into his ribs. He stared at Murphy's serious face, saw the hint of a smile on the lips and the warmth in his eyes, and closed his own as Murphy's words sank in.

"How long have you known?" Bodie managed to croak.

"I thought there might be something about a year ago. I knew for definite two weeks ago."

Two weeks. He and Doyle had been involved for less than a month. Christ. They'd kept their cover less than a fortnight.

"I think it's serious." Murphy paused, a faint frown on his face. "I know it's serious."

"Beautifully serious," Bodie said, the beginnings of a bashful smile creeping onto his lips, encouraged by the warmth in Murphy's eyes. A rush of warmth swamped him as he thought about Doyle and suddenly telling Murphy was all so easy. "Ray's everything. I could lose my job today - probably will if you tell Cowley though I do understand, mate - and I wouldn't give a toss so long as I still had Ray." His smile tender, Bodie said in tones of great revelation, "I love him."

Murphy nodded, clearly aiming for an unruffled air, despite the fact his eyes were very wide in a rose-tinged face. "I'm sure you do, mate. But actually I was talking about me and Susie." Tugging his earlobe, Murphy watched with some amusement as the colour rushed into Bodie's face until the ex-SAS hard case was as pink-cheeked as Murphy himself. A grin spreading across his face as certain mental images started popping up - so to speak - Murphy asked lightly, "Can I be your best man?"

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

 

"Murphy must be buying half the shop - he's been gone at least ten minutes."

Bodie stared moodily through the driver's side window at the tatty little newsagents into which agent 6.2 had disappeared. "Probably slipped out the back door. Doesn't want to be seen with us. Might ruin his reputation."

Doyle shrugged and contorted himself into a position of relative comfort with his feet in their usual position on the dashboard. "Deal with it, sunshine."

"This is too weird."

"You've said that five times already!" Clearly Doyle's patience was nearing its limit.

"Well it is. Everyone's looking."

"No they're not, you're just paranoid."

"They are. Look! That bloke's laughing!"

Doyle glanced over at the man thus indicated and had to admit there was a definite smirk on his face.

"Does it matter what everyone else thinks?"

"Course it does! I'll have no reputation left after this. Why the hell would Cowley get a Lada for the car pool anyway?"

"You're the one who asked for a new car. That's what you got." Doyle tried to smother a smile when his mate began swearing to himself in some foreign dialect that probably sounded a lot ruder than it was. The word 'fuck' suddenly popped up mid-stream.

"I recognise that at least."

"Some words are universal." Bodie gave a sudden grin. "Some concepts an' all." He raked his eyes over his partner, lingering over the substantial bulge at Doyle's crotch that was only partly due to creased denim. His eyes became faintly glazed, a vacant expression on his face as thought processes began to shut down under the influence of hormones.

Doyle shifted restlessly in his seat, responding to the sudden hunger in Bodie's eyes. Hoarsely he asked, "Is that your subtle way of asking if you can come round tonight?"

Bodie blinked, focussing on Doyle instead of the images in his mind that were causing him to pant softly. "Since you're asking ... "

"Like you need an invite after five weeks." Doyle forced a laugh, trying to lighten the atmosphere before he did something stupid like leap on Bodie and stick his tongue down his throat.

Bodie, bless him, took his cue, sensing Doyle's very real problem. "Ah, you remembered!"

"Should do. My laundry bill has rocketed. You'll have to start bringing your own sheets or I'll be broke by the end of the year. Oh, and bring some beer this time. You drank me dry last night." Doyle broke off as Bodie gave a crack of laughter which rapidly degenerated into snorts. Arousal having faded to a more manageable level, Doyle prodded Bodie with his elbow, between the ribs where the man was most sensitive. "Didn't mean that. You've got a mind like a sewer, you have."

Something outside the car caught Doyle's attention and he glared at a pedestrian. "Bloody cheek! People are laughing. Right, that's it, take us back. I'll have a word with Cowley about getting us a decent motor."

"I want the Capri back. I miss my Capri."

There was enough genuine longing in Bodie's voice for Doyle to take him seriously, despite the over-dramatic tone and heavy sigh.

"Daft sod. All right, then. Soon as Murph gets back Uncle Ray will see if he can get your toy back."

"Or a Porsche. I could fancy a Porsche."

"Like a big soft kid, you are."

"That's why you love me." Bodie grinned and reached across to ruffle his partner's curls.

Doyle gave a mock growl then admitted with seeming reluctance, "Probably."

Bodie grinned, looking very pleased with himself, with Doyle and life in general. "One of the many reasons anyway." There was immense satisfaction in his voice.

"Has Murphy said anything else to you since you dropped us in it?" Doyle asked, not bothering to hide the fact that he was changing the subject. A smug Bodie always made him want to clip him round the ear or kiss him, sometimes both, and neither was an option in public.

"Not a word. I think he's too wrapped up in him and Susie to notice us. Fiver says he's buying chocolates for her."

"No bet," Doyle said with a smile. "That's a certainty. He's a soppy bugger. Be grateful I'm not. Oh, that reminds me. There's a bar of Whole Nut for you in the bag on the back seat."

"Cadbury's?" Bodie asked as he reached for the bag with eager hands.

"Of course." Doyle watched his partner, allowing himself the luxury of sweeping a long lingering look over Bodie, from the broad shoulders, down the strong back and lower to the curve of his beautiful rear. A perfect handful was his Bodie. Doyle smothered a soft groan. As Bodie sat back down Doyle assumed a look of innocence that was unnecessary since his partner's attention was fixed on the large bar of chocolate.

"It's gone soft," Bodie said, only the slightest hint of reproof in his voice. Sliding a teasing look at his partner, Bodie asked, "Want to nibble me nuts?"

Doyle snorted.

"'ey up, here's Murph. Let's get you back to HQ so you can face the lion in his den and get us a decent motor. You give him hell, mate. Tenner says you get the Capri back."

Doyle frowned. "Shouldn't you bet on me to lose?"

"Nah. I have faith in your abilities, sunshine."

"You seriously think anyone could manipulate Cowley?"

"Not talking manipulation. All you have to do is wiggle your arse. Known fact the Cow fancies you."

For a split second Doyle actually believed him.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

"I don't like this, Ray."

"I'm not exactly thrilled about it myself."

"Bloody Cowley. Why couldn't he send us in as a team?"

"You think those terrorists will believe Michael O'Brien is two people? Or are you going to go in and tell them I can't make bombs unless you're there to hold my hand?"

"Still don't like it. How am I supposed to watch your back if I'm miles away?"

"You're in the next building, hardly miles," Doyle pointed out, affection mixing with exasperation, this a conversation they'd had before about other assailments.

Since beginning their relationship they had made a conscious effort not to get overprotective. Doyle had been taken aback to realise just how protective of each other they were and had always been. They had to keep the instinct within reason - which did not mean a refusal to let your partner out of your sight. It didn't stop Bodie complaining about it. It was only fair - Doyle did his own share of moaning when Bodie was doing the Action Man bit and Doyle was doing the waiting.

"Still don't like it." Bodie glanced around to make sure the room was empty then caught Doyle by his sleeve and pulled him over to the closed door. His back to the solid wood, Bodie drew his partner closer, arms slipping around the lean body with an easy familiarity. In their seven weeks, three days together Bodie had discovered two things - that he enjoyed kissing Doyle, stubble and all, and that Raymond Doyle's mouth really was made for kissing.

And oral sex.

Bodie's body reacted to that thought immediately, heat flaring up inside him. His arms tightened around Doyle and he kissed him with more urgency than he'd intended. Doyle's lips parted for him instantly, welcoming the forceful tongue that slid inside to explore and arouse. Doyle gave a deep-throated groan and Bodie's head hit the back of the door with a thud as, abruptly, his mouth was full of Ray Doyle.

Approaching footsteps sent them scattering to opposite ends of the room. As Anson entered the room, Bodie was still trying to steady his breathing. Doyle looked serene, a magazine in his lap.

Anson peered at them both with a jaundiced look in his eyes then proceeded with a bout of coughing that looked set to bring him to his knees.

Bodie raised an eyebrow. "I see you're still trying to give up smoking."

Anson drew breath, gave a final phlegm-filled cough and sniffed. "I've got flu as well. That's why the cough's so bad."

Bodie exchanged a smile with Doyle. "Of course you have."

"You'll feel better for packing it in," Doyle said with the smugness of one who has lead a healthy lifestyle - and let other people know about it. At length.

Anson shrugged, coughed, then shrugged again. "That's why I'm doing it. I know I'll be doing my body a favour. I'll save a packet as well."

Doyle opened his eyes wide and dusted off his innocent look, which had never worked but didn't stop him from trying. "Naturally. Your body is a temple - "

Anson nodded wisely. "Shouldn't pollute it."

Doyle tossed the magazine onto the table and added slyly, " - and the fact that the Cow's gorgeous new secretary can't stand smokers and is a fitness freak has nothing to do with it."

Anson's look would have melted rock.

Waiting was always the worst, thought Bodie with little originality but a lot of feeling. There were half a dozen agents plus Cowley himself crammed into the dusty ground floor office, along with assorted listening devices. The entire building, a small office complex, was dilapidated and had been empty for several years which made things a lot easier for CI5. There were few things more difficult and likely to screw up an operation than setting up a control room or an obbo in a public residence. The former office was filled to capacity with people and equipment and it was getting stuffier by the minute. Bodie was oblivious to it all. He stood ramrod straight, shoulders so stiff they screamed tension, hands clenched into tight fists. His gaze was unfocussed, his attention fixed on the voice issuing through the speaker.

Ray Doyle, the undercover whizz kid. On his own in the old warehouse next door with three terrorists and another one on the way.

Yes. Waiting was the worst, when you couldn't be at your partner's side and all you could do was sit and listen and hope like hell it would work out fine.

It would be fine, Bodie told himself. Doyle was the best.

Bodie began pacing, oblivious to the looks he was receiving, everything from irritation through to understanding and sympathy.

Doyle was the best.

A voice over an R/T announced the arrival of a fourth terrorist. A few more minutes and they could move in.

Bodie felt caged in, would swear the walls were closing in around him. He glared at the listening device as though it was personally responsible for Bodie's anxiety.

Then there was the sound of a new voice and the words came over the speakers clear as crystal: "I know you! You're a fuckin' copper!"

Seconds later Bodie was out of the temporary control room and racing for the warehouse, Cowley's voice not registering as he reacted to the threat to his partner. He was the first of the back-up team to arrive. Running on instinct and training, he was aware of firing at the terrorists. He knew where they were hit, how badly, what the situation was. Yet he would have sworn his attention was totally focussed on the curly-haired figure lying, bleeding, on the floor.

"Ray? For Christ's sake, Ray, will you answer me!" Bodie knelt down, pushing crimson-spattered curls aside, seeing that the cut to the temple was minor, despite the frightening amount of blood that was spread across Doyle's face and pooling on the floor.

"Bastards knew me. Did you get them?" Doyle asked in a strong voice, sounding thoroughly pissed off.

Bodie bit his lip, uncertain what sound was trying to escape his lips but suspecting it would have been suspiciously close to a sob. "The bionic golly lives. You're going to be the death of me, y'know."

Doyle blinked blood from his eyes. "You! I'm the one bleeding like a stuck pig. You going to do something about that? Tear your petticoat into strips? Your shirt will do."

There was the sound of tearing cloth.

The look Doyle gave his partner was amused. "I meant your shirt, Bodie. I liked this shirt."

"I know. That's why you nicked it. That was my shirt."

"I'll buy you a new one. Red to match your eyes." Despite being in pain, Doyle's voice was teasing, his eyes gleaming with affection.

"You - " Bodie's throat closed up and he pulled the injured man into his arms, rubbing his face into the dusty curls on the top of Doyle's head. There was an incredible warmth blossoming inside him, melting the ice in his gut, and he felt off-balance, torn between grinning like an idiot and blubbing like a baby. Looking down at the head pressed against his shoulder, feeling the wonderful heat of a living Doyle against him, he had to bite back the words that wanted to be spoken.

He loved Doyle. He had told Murphy as much. He was an idiot not to have realised he was also in love with Ray, despite his arguments that it was foolish and dangerous. He wanted to kiss him and protect him and make him happy and - well, he wanted to do all those things he'd been wanting to do for a very long time. No wonder having sex with Doyle felt as right and as natural as the beating of his heart. No wonder these last two months had brought him an incredible contentment and joy. He'd been loving Ray Doyle all along, had been doing everything except saying the words.

He gave a gentle sound, half snort, half sigh. "I think I'll kill you myself," he said lovingly. "Strangulation. Then I'll stomp on you to make sure."

"In boots. With spurs on." Doyle began to laugh weakly, moisture sliding down his face.

The look Bodie gave his partner was quizzical as he stroked back curls so he could see his dearly loved face more clearly. "You on something?"

"Was an old joke in the bad old days when I couldn't do a thing with you."

"You always could wrap me round your little finger."

"Yeah?" Doyle gave a moist sniff, his smile threatening to split his face in two.

Cowley's voice broke in at that point. "I see you're all right four-five. There's a medic on the way. Doyle, I'll need a report when you've been tended to. Bodie." Cowley gave agent 3.7 a look from head to toe. "You'll need some clean clothes. You look as if you're the injured one and CI5 does have an image to uphold."

Bodie looked down at Doyle who was grinning at him and something seemed to splinter inside him, sending icy shards racing through his bloodstream. "Sir, can I have a word with you? In private?"

Cowley frowned but nodded his agreement. He noticed Doyle was sending his partner one of his warning looks. No doubt 3.7 had something to say about the way the operation had gone.

"The medic's just arrived. Perhaps you'd like to have this discussion of ours later. When things have calmed down."

Bodie glanced down at Doyle who was glaring. "I'd prefer now, sir."

That Doyle was still in one piece was, as far as Bodie was concerned, pure luck.

Fear for his partner had yet to evaporate as he entered the empty office where the back-up team had sat, waiting and listening, as Doyle's cover had been blown wide open. Now, alone with Cowley who sat silent and watchful on the old desk that had been covered in surveillance equipment, Bodie paced restlessly, searching for the right words to say what he must.

The need to protect Doyle was something Bodie was long used to. The question of how was one that had arisen often. Now, with the image of Doyle covered in blood still fixed in his mind, he thought he had an answer.

He came to an abrupt halt, chin tilted at a stubborn angle, eyes fixed on Cowley's right ear. "Sir, I have to inform you of something that may be detrimental to the Department."

"Well. That sounds ominous. Out with it man." Cowley's eyes narrowed and before his agent could continue he added, "Wait. Has this anything to do with yourself or four-five?"

"A lot actually. You see - "

"Bodie, before you continue I should inform you that if I'm unaware of something then I can't write it down."

"I'm having a relationship with Doyle." Bodie's gaze shifted, locking with Cowley's, a defiance in his eyes. "A sexual relationship, sir."

Cowley closed his eyes then shook his head. His voice was gently chiding as he said, "You always did jump in without thinking. Bodie, do you seriously think this is a surprise to me?"

Bodie stared at the older man openmouthed.

"The only surprise here is that from the way you're behaving this is a recent development. Personally I'd have thought it would have happened at least two years ago."

"Sir - "

"Why now? And, no, Bodie, I'm not asking why you've chosen now to start this ... romance of yours. Why tell me now?" When Bodie remained silent, a shrewd smile settled across Cowley's lips. "Doyle was nearly killed today. Now you're trying to keep him safe. If your relationship were to be considered a threat to CI5 I would have no choice but to ... remove that threat. Perhaps assign you both to posts less sensitive. Or were you imagining dismissal and a warning never to darken my door again?"

Cowley rose from his seat on the battered desk and circled his agent who was looking increasingly mortified with every passing second. "You forget - I created this department, I make the rules. And agents are too valuable to throw away. You haven't discussed this with Doyle, have you? No, of course not, or he'd be here beside you, spitting fire. You can go now, Bodie. But take my advice - don't tell Doyle what an idiot you've been or this relationship of yours will be over before the honeymoon has begun." He glared at the other man. "Not that that wouldn't be a good thing!"

Bodie nodded stiffly, his face flushed.

"Remember - don't tell Doyle."

The door closed softly behind agent 3.7 and Cowley gave a sigh. "But of course you will, won't you, Bodie." Now he would have to follow procedure and add a note on Bodie's and Doyle's files, confirmation of an earlier note he'd made, in pencil, in an indecipherable scrawl.

Muttering to himself, Cowley had an internal debate that lasted all of five seconds. Fifty-eight, he thought to himself, was a good age to have a failing memory. And on that thought he searched for his flask of pure malt scotch.

 

"You what!"

Doyle glared at his partner who had his eyes shut and was clearly waiting for some invisible axe to fall.

"Why the hell would you do something so stupid. Christ. You can be a right cretin sometimes. Why?"

"Look, I wasn't exactly thinking straight. I wanted you safe and I thought - Fuck it, Doyle. Don't try and tell me you haven't done anything daft when you've been in love because I won't believe you. I know it was stupid now, but at the time all I could see was you covered in blood and I kept thinking you could have been killed and - "

"Hang on. You said in love."

Bodie didn't catch the softness in Doyle's voice, nor the betraying gleam in his eyes. Suddenly realising exactly what he had revealed Bodie's defensive front slipped, leaving him vulnerable. Knowing what he had to do, taking the biggest emotional risk of his life, he steeled himself and admitted, "I'm in love with you. I have been for a long time. Ow!" Bodie broke off from his confession, rubbing his ear which was throbbing from Doyle's ungentle tug. "What was that for?"

"For holding out on me, you berk." Doyle pushed his face close to Bodie's, expression fierce. That his voice had a distinct wobble to it was something he couldn't do anything about. "How long?"

"Well - " Bodie gave his partner a wary look, though there was a faint hope building up inside that he may possibly get out of Doyle's flat alive. "Sort of admitted it to myself when you were lying there, looking pathetic, and bleeding all over my shirt." Risking a smile, he was relieved to see Doyle wasn't about to launch an all-out attack. He'd have problems holding him off when all he wanted to do was gather him up and bury his face in his neck.

"Sounds dead romantic." Doyle began to laugh softly to himself, his eyes, warmed by love and amusement, a brighter green than Bodie had ever seen them.

"Are you going to forgive me for telling Cowley? Or are you going to cook up a suitable punishment?" Bodie grinned at his lover, eyes sweeping over him, taking in the overly long curls, lean body and back up to pause at the livid slash across the temple. His stomach clenched, twisted inside him, but he hid his reaction. It would only make Doyle feel uncomfortable.

Knowing exactly what had caused the shadows in Bodie's eyes, Doyle pretended not to notice. It would only make Bodie feel uncomfortable.

"Good idea, that. I can think of one way."

Apparently so could Bodie.

The famed Bisto Kids telepathy was functioning perfectly.

 

"Has the Cow said anything to you?" Doyle's voice sounded loud in Bodie's ear but only because Doyle's mouth was only an inch away, Doyle's body plastered up against his right side as they sat on the sofa. Ordinarily this would have been the ideal lead up to sex. However the presence of twenty-two other agents made sex an unlikely option.

Leaning in close to reply, Bodie took the opportunity to breathe in Doyle's scent. "He hasn't said a word. I think we're okay. Probably. But you know who'll get the shittiest assignments from now on, don't you?"

Doyle snorted, mercifully after he'd swallowed his mouthful of tea. "What's new?" He peered down at his mug, a faint frown on his face, then turned to Bodie. "This isn't my tea."

"No, you took Anson's."

"Then Anson has mine?"

"No. Mac has yours."

"So whose is yours?"

"Mine." Bodie gave a sudden teasing smile. He leaned closer to Doyle, ignoring the other agents who were currently squeezed into the rest room prior to meeting with the Controller. "Eh. When you going to invite me over for tea with your mum?"

Off-guard, Doyle frowned at his partner faintly. "You've already - oh." Realising exactly what Bodie was asking, he was at a loss for words. There was an expression on Bodie's face, a look in the eyes, that was difficult to decipher. One thing was clear though - for whatever reason, Bodie was not only serious but needed Doyle to announce their status to his mum.

"Haven't you met his mum, yet?" Howard, sitting next to Doyle on the sofa and far too nosy for his own good, gave 4.5 an admonitory look. "Bad form, that, Doyle."

"He's ashamed of me," Bodie said with a pathetic catch in his voice that was lost in the noise.

There was the hint of a smile on his partner's lips but Doyle noticed the eyes were still quite, quite serious.

He considered the idea, as if it was new, though in actual fact he had been giving it some thought ever since Bodie had told him how he felt. After a moment he gave a tiny smile, a hint of a challenge in his eyes. "Okay. We've got the weekend off. We'll go up to Coventry."

There was a smile on Bodie's face now and a gleam in his eyes that suddenly brought home to Doyle exactly what the weekend would mean. For the first time it occurred to him that he had never introduced his mother to any prospective wife, including the two women he had been engaged to in his Met. days. He hadn't even thought about introducing her to Ann Holly.

Seeing the look in Bodie's eyes Doyle knew that thought had already occurred to Bodie. Daft sod. For all his macho front he could be so insecure. He leaned in close until his mouth was a hair's-breadth away from Bodie's ear and said, "I love you." The words were spoken in the softest of whispers, Doyle's lips barely brushing against Bodie's earlobe, warm breath caressing sensitive flesh.

Bodie shivered.

Pressed up tight against his lover Doyle felt the reaction and smiled his satisfaction. Glancing up he found Murphy grinning across the room at him. The only other man to have noticed anything was Howard who was looking at Bodie's embarrassed smile, clearly curious. Doyle grinned at him and received a grin in reply. No doubt Howard was wondering what Doyle had said and was assuming it was something along the lines of information gathered via Bodie's girlfriends.

Feeling very pleased with himself Doyle settled against his partner and decided to take a nap until Cowley arrived.

Howard shifted on the lumpy sofa and wondered if Bodie and Doyle had ever fucked each other on it.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

 

Bodie paced the perimeter of Doyle's living room restlessly while Doyle was in the bedroom, emptying the bag of clean clothes he'd just collected from the laundrette.

"Doyle, I don't know about this."

Pretending not to hear, Doyle put aside a couple of clean shirts and trousers to take with him when they left tomorrow. Finding he was squinting in the growing darkness, he switched on the bedside lamp and went to close the curtains. He was trying to find a couple of pairs of socks that actually matched when Bodie, presumably tired of complaining to an empty room, came into the bedroom.

"What you doin'?"

Catching the apprehension in Bodie's voice, Doyle ducked his head, hiding his smile. "Packing. You stopping the night? If you are we'll have to pick up your stuff tomorrow."

Bodie sat on the bed, gathering up socks which he began to pair together and roll up, seemingly engrossed in this task. "Doyle, look. I've been thinking. It's probably not a good idea right - " He broke off as Doyle stepped towards him, a glint in his eyes that looked uncomfortably close to a threat.

"Oh no, Bodie," Doyle murmured softly, amusement fading. "You're not backing out on me. We're going to Coventry tomorrow night even if I have to hit you over the head and haul you there myself."

Bodie blinked, finding it suddenly difficult to breathe, let alone think. Doyle was looming over him and it occurred to Bodie, not for the first time, that for all his lean build, Doyle was actually a strong man, and dangerous when roused. He was looking particularly fierce at that moment as he glared at Bodie, daring him to defy him. The need to push Doyle, just a little, was acute. "Think you can take me, sunshine? Little scrap of a fella like you?"

"Bodie. Now isn't the time for jokes!"

"Who's joking?" Bodie gave his partner a narrow-eyed measuring look then poked him in the chest.

Doyle was not in the mood for games. "Don't push me right now, Bodie, or you'll get a damn sight more than you bargained for."

Suppressing a smile of satisfaction, Bodie taunted, "Like to talk tough, don't you, goldilocks. Always did think you could handle me if you had to, didn't you?" Bodie prodded Doyle again, harder.

The hand that locked around Bodie's wrist was surprisingly strong. Bodie smiled to himself and pulled but Doyle hung on, fingers biting into soft flesh. Bodie pulled again, drawing Doyle closer. "So, you think you can take me, hmm?"

Doyle's eyes widened as Bodie's intention suddenly became clear. Heat flared up inside him and he felt a rush of adrenaline and arousal sweep through him, leaving him flushed and on fire with need. This was an act they had yet to do, Doyle holding back in case it was too much too soon for Bodie. Since Bodie had made no move in this direction, Doyle had assumed his instinct to hold back was correct.

It seemed the moment had arrived.

"I can take you, Bodie."

"Been taken before."

Doyle froze as the implication of Bodie's words sank in. A wave of possessiveness swamped him and his other hand shot out.

Bodie fell back onto the bed, wrists held by Doyle, his lover's weight pressing him down onto clean clothes and crumpled duvet.

"When?" Doyle demanded to know, jealousy so strong it was near-tangible.

"Years ago," Bodie admitted. His voice goading he added, "Was good."

The hands on Bodie's wrists tightened. "Better not be while we were partners."

A tremor took Bodie by surprise, fleeting and shocking. "Why?"

"Because you're mine, Bodie."

"Prove it."

Dazed though he was by arousal, Doyle caught the desperation in Bodie's voice. Whatever had happened to Bodie to make him this insecure? Daft sod. Even if it took the rest of his life there would come the day when Bodie would have the knowledge, the security, of knowing he was loved more than anything or anyone in the world. As for now -

"You're sure you want this?"

Bodie pushed up, rubbing his groin against Doyle, then pulled his wrists free, hands latching onto Doyle's. "Come on, mate. I want this. Don't hold out on me." He reached up to brush his mouth across Doyle's, lapping lightly at the perfectly drawn lips.

"I don't want to push."

Unsure whether he wanted to kiss Doyle or smack him across the ears, Bodie went for the kiss. He put everything into it, his passion, his love, even his frustration, plundering Doyle's mouth and giving everything in return. When he drew back they were both breathless. "Push all you like. You'll find it helps. I could draw diagrams," Bodie offered teasingly.

Doyle paused from removing his shirt to mock slap his lover across the top of his head. Of their own accord his fingers stilled then slid through the short dark hair, rubbing at its incredible softness with finger and thumb and the palm of his hand. "I love the way this feels." It was clear that he wasn't just talking about Bodie's hair.

Bodie finished removing Doyle's shirt then began to unfasten his trousers, pausing to rub the hard erection through the green moleskin fabric. "Never felt anything like it," he agreed. He peeled the material back as far as he could reach, freeing the unconfined cock that jutted towards him, lifting and dipping with every breath Doyle took. "This is beautiful." He stroked a fingertip along the flushed length, tracing the veins that fed it, loving the feel of fragile flesh over hot steel, the vulnerability it offered as well the strength and promise of pleasure. "I want it, Doyle. I want to feel it inside me. I want you."

Doyle reached across to the bedside cabinet and pulled open the top drawer. He moved back, placing the tube of lubricant on one of the pillows. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he began to undress Bodie, trying to take his time though his hands shook as he controlled the desire to tear the clothes off his lover and take him, fast and deep. Instead he kissed every inch of flesh as it was bared, his tongue lapping at sensitive nipples, sliding down the firm, muscled chest to the flat plane of the belly, dipping into the hollow of the navel then lower.

Pausing to remove the final items of their clothing, Doyle sighed with pleasure when his naked body was finally able to rub against Bodie's heated flesh and smooth, hard muscle. He placed his arms on either side of Bodie, pausing to look down at the man lying easily beneath him, feeling the possessiveness of earlier come rushing back. Now that possessiveness was mixed with tenderness and he took Bodie's mouth in a slow, almost languorous kiss, feeding from him as though he had never kissed him before. He moved down, biting gently on Bodie's stubbled chin and down his throat, nose rubbing against the erratic throb of his pulse, nibbling on the tendons there.

Bodie's hands slid across the taut curves of Doyle's rear, the fingers of one hand delving down to explore more intimately while the other hand slipped round to take Doyle's cock, rubbing and squeezing gently.

Doyle's hips slowly rocked back and forth as his lover coaxed his erection impossibly harder. Pleasure spiked through Doyle and he pulled back, uncurling Bodie's hand from around his cock.

"Too much."

Doyle lifted his lover's hand to his lips, nipping at the fingertips. Catching the scent of his own arousal, his cock throbbed in reaction. He sucked Bodie's warm fingers, lapping at the knuckles and creases of the palm until it was slick, then curled Bodie's hand around his lover's own erection, squeezing and tugging, his eyes fixed on Bodie's which were dazed with arousal and intensely blue, burning into Doyle's.

Lowering his mouth once more, Doyle followed the line of hair on Bodie's belly until he came to the rigid cock that seemed to strain towards his lips. Lifting Bodie's hand from his beautiful cock and placing a kiss on the slick palm, Doyle bent down and mouthed the smooth head, inhaling deeply the warm musk of his lover, the taste of salt and aroused Bodie like heaven on his tongue. Doyle's eyes slitted with pleasure as he took more of his lover, claiming Bodie, sucking and lapping until he heard the soft moans and deep-throated groans that were as much his reward as the possession.

Bodie's hands clenched in his hair and that was his signal to pull back before he took them both over the edge.

Doyle reached for the tube of lubricant which was trapped beneath Bodie's head. Fingers steady - almost - he smoothed the clear gel onto his cock then slipped a generous amount inside Bodie, gentle fingers sliding into the tight entrance to Bodie's body. The flesh was reluctant to give at first. Doyle took his time, easing, teasing, until there was little resistence and Bodie was moaning softly and pushing against him, calves sliding restlessly across Doyle's shoulders.

"Okay, love. Going to give you everything now," Doyle murmured, pausing to kiss the tip of his lover's cock. Taking a steadying breath, he pressed against the lubricant-slick entrance and slid home, and it was all so slow and sweet and incredibly easy, his body fitting to Bodie's as though created for that very purpose.

Bodie gasped, fists clenched in the duvet. Brief pain sliced through him then was gone, a fleeting ache that was lost in the pleasure of Doyle filling him. Bodie wanted more, wanted it harder, faster, wanted to feel claimed and he urged his lover on, pushing against the glorious intruder that took him over and over. Pleasure was building to fever-pitch, driving them both higher, sweat-slick bodies grinding against each other in love and lust and raw animal need.

Finally Bodie was lost and he groaned softly, the sound catching in his throat as he spilled himself over his chest and belly.

Doyle was lost in his own pleasure, blind with passion and a primitive sense of triumph as he staked his claim and made Bodie his and his alone.

 

"Have I told you lately that I'm hopelessly in love with you?"

Doyle smiled smugly. "Last night. Three times."

"Yeah? Remind me to tell you more often."

"I will." Doyle yawned and scratched his jaw, raising his head to glance down at his lover to see if he bore any signs of stubble burn. There were several reddened areas around the neck and across the chest but Bodie wore polo necks so there would be no problem hiding them. For a second Doyle felt a flash of resentment that such things should be necessary but it was a feeling he quickly battened down. There was an easy solution - leave CI5. But both he and Bodie were bloody good at their jobs so if he wanted to remain in the organisation then he'd better get used to keeping his hands to himself.

Mind you, Bodie had never bothered. He thought of the number of times Bodie had grabbed him in public before their sexual relationship and he gave a snort of amusement.

"What's tickled you, then?" Bodie asked lazily, basking in the warmth being generated by Doyle and himself. He shifted into a position of optimum comfort, propped up against the pillows with Ray Doyle draped over him like a human boa.

"Just wondering if anyone has noticed anything different between us."

Bodie rubbed at one eye and yawned long and loud into Doyle's hair which was tickling his throat. "They probably had us - " He was ambushed mid-sentence so he waited until he was sure it was all clear before he repeated, "Probably had us at it like rabbits years ago. The Cow seemed surprised we'd taken so long. How does it feel to be predictable?"

Doyle lifted his head from its comfortable pillow, namely Bodie's chest, and peered into the eyes that were gazing at him, gleaming with amusement. "You think Cowley expected us to end up like this?"

"Dunno. Must have happened before. Remember Matthison and King?"

"Nah, he wouldn't." Doyle considered the idea a bit more. "That would be one way of getting the chemistry he's always hammering on about."

"Less likely to lose an agent to another branch, say MI6, if he has someone claiming more than his loyalty."

"Could lose both."

"Yeah. But there's no guarantee you'll both get taken on and end up working together. I don't like you being in danger but at least if I'm at your side I can do everything in my power to keep you safe."

"Goes both ways."

Bodie smiled and ruffled the tangled curls of his other half. "Course it does. If we had to leave - "

"Rather not. But if we did - "

" - we'd leave together."

"Can't see the Old Man wanting that."

Doyle lapped at a salty patch between Bodie's pectorals. "We're his best."

There was a moment's silence then Bodie said casually, "We're also late."

Twenty seconds later they were both squeezed into the cubicle shower, fighting over the soap and over which of them had forgotten to switch on the alarm clock.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTY

 

"Hello, love. It's good to see you."

Bodie was enveloped in surprisingly strong arms and thoroughly kissed on both cheeks before he even had a chance to put down his overnight bag. Letting his new leather holdall drop onto the wet, slug-covered path, he returned the embrace, emerging faintly pink-cheeked but very happy. The beaming smile he gave the woman was as contagious as it was rare, one that few people were honoured with, and made Bodie look about fourteen years old, if the light was poor and the observer squinted a bit.

Doyle viewed his lover and his mother with rueful affection. "Yes, hello to you too, Mum. I'll just drop off Bodie and head back shall I?"

Doyle received a slap on the biceps that quickly became a tug. Grinning, he stepped into the hug, pulling his mother towards him.

"Come in, boys. Go through to the sitting room. I'll put the kettle on."

After Mrs Doyle had disappeared into the kitchen and they were settled on the sofa, a circumspect twelve inches separating them, Doyle turned to his lover. "I'll tell her now and get it out of the way. Then we can relax."

"Ray!"

"What?" For a second or two Bodie's expression failed to register with Doyle. When it did Doyle couldn't hold back a snort of amusement. "You've gone all pink!"

"Haven't."

"Chicken."

"Ray!"

More seriously Doyle informed his lover, "You're not getting out of this."

"I know. It's just a bit soon. It's late. Just leave it until tomorrow," Bodie said, a plea in his eyes.

Regarding the apprehension on Bodie's face and the playing look in the dark blue eyes, Doyle sighed, suppressing a faint stirring of anger, and held up his hands in surrender. "Have it your way. But understand this - I love you. You love me. Now, maybe I can't tell the whole fucking world but I can tell my own mother."

Bodie's eyes flew to the open door, able to hear cupboards being shut. "Shh! She might hear."

A wave of resentment surged through Doyle, the need for secrets, the strength of his feelings for Bodie, and Bodie's sudden reluctance swirling together. His hands shot out, jerking Bodie's head towards him, and he kissed his lover savagely, uncaring that Bodie was trying to pull free. He had his lover pinned beneath him on the sofa before a flash of pain from his wrist restored sanity. Sitting upright once more, he watched with wide eyes as Bodie relaxed his grip on Doyle's wrist then righted himself. Doyle's mouth parted with shock when he saw he had cut Bodie's lower lip.

Rubbing at his mouth, Bodie grimaced a little when he saw the blood, then looked across at his partner who appeared to be in a minor state of shock. Shaking his head slowly, Bodie said with a wry smile, "You know how to make a point, mate." He reached out and with a gentle finger wiped away the speck of blood on Doyle's mouth. As Doyle gradually went from shock to horror at his actions, Bodie's smile widened and there was a wealth of love in his eyes.

The sound of Doyle's mother returning brought both men to an awareness of their surroundings.

"Here we are. Do you want me to cook something for you?"

"We ate before we left. You hungry, Bodie?" Doyle asked with a solicitousness that ordinarily would have amused Bodie, if he hadn't known what was behind it.

Head lowered as he accepted his tea, Bodie held the cup close to his mouth, careful to hide his lower lip from Mrs Doyle. "I'm fine, Ray," Bodie said, eyes conveying the hidden meaning behind the words in case the tone wasn't enough. Hot tea stung his lip before he could lose himself in Doyle's tentative smile.

"Careful, it's hot," Mrs Doyle warned as she settled into the armchair facing her visitors. Sharp eyes noted the cut lip. "The cup isn't chipped, is it?"

"No, blame impatience and my teeth."

"That'll teach you to be more careful."

Hearing the double meaning in Doyle's warm voice, Bodie shot him an amused look. "Thanks, mate."

"I've put clean towels on the bed."

"Bed?"

"Yes. The spare room's being decorated."

"Still?" Doyle interrupted, eyebrows raised.

"The primrose was a mistake. Nothing like the colour on the tin. The room looked like it had jaundice. Do you want to take your things up now then we can get settled in for a good long natter? I hope you haven't been bothering George with any more cows."

Getting to his feet, Bodie gave his partner a look of mock reproof. "I won't be telling you any more secrets," he began then broke off as Mrs Doyle's words made impact. "'George'?"

Pushing his mate in the direction of the door Doyle explained, "Mum met him at the hospital and she found him charming."

The disgust in Doyle's voice made Mrs Doyle grin and she could still hear Bodie's laughter even when the boys were clearly in the bedroom.

 

"Like a little Malteser, aren't you?"

Bodie's voice was warm with loving amusement and the pleasure it gave rivalled the sparks of delight Doyle felt as Bodie lapped and nibbled the soft skin just beneath his hairline at the base of his neck.

Blinking slowly, Doyle tried to summon an intelligent enquiry. "Eh?"

"Use me tongue long enough and you melt."

Feeling the other man's warm breath gusting against sensitised skin as he laughed softly, Doyle gave a groan that wasn't provoked by Bodie's 'joke'. It was a moment before Doyle realised Bodie had moved away.

"Come on, mate. Bedtime."

Simmering with happy anticipation Doyle clambered into bed, waiting for Bodie to join him. Bodie got into bed and turned onto his side, his back to Doyle.

Doyle waited patiently for all of five seconds. "Oi! What are you doing?"

"Trying to go to sleep."

"You tired?"

"A bit."

"Oh." Relieved to discover there was a good reason for his lover's behaviour and that he hadn't lost his sex appeal, Doyle settled himself against Bodie, breathing in the other man's scent. It wasn't long before he noticed the tension in the body next to him. "Are you sure you don't want to - ?"

"No!" The word came out as a squeak.

Finally comprehending what the problem was, Doyle smothered a snort of amusement. William Bodie acting coy. You had to love him. Debating whether to push his lover into changing his mind, Doyle recalled his earlier attempt to force Bodie and lost all desire to laugh. Finding he had tensed up as much as his lover, Doyle took a couple of deep breaths to relax himself. Easing closer to Bodie, Doyle's arm curved over the other man, a gentle band to hold them together. Lips brushed once, gently, against a rigid shoulder, then Doyle closed his eyes and settled down to sleep.

 

For Bodie, the morning began with a series of moist licks around the area of jaw-line and ear lobe from Doyle, which certainly made a change from the blare of his clock radio and Tony Blackburn. Deciding he could get used to such a wake-up call, even if he had to marry the bugger and keep him barefoot, priapismic, and handcuffed to the headboard, Bodie rolled over to cover his lover - then rolled off with a haste that almost had him on the floor.

Doyle watched as a tide of colour washed over Bodie's pale flesh and decided his lover was one of the few men who suited pink. The burgundy quilt currently covering the most interesting body regions looked pretty good too. Seeing the frantic look in Bodie's eyes, Doyle felt obliged to point out, "She's not here."

Bodie cast a quick look around, just to make sure Mrs Doyle wasn't lurking in the shadows, her face disapproving as she watched the monster who had taken away her chance of grandchildren.

"I'll have to tell her eventually. She is my mum."

"I know. Just not yet."

About to argue the point, Doyle recalled yesterday's loss of control on his part and closed his mouth with an audible click.

"I - "

Doyle broke off as his mum knocked on the door.

Bodie slid away an extra twelve inches and buried himself in the covers up to his nose, trying not to look too self-conscious.

"Come in, we're decent," Doyle called out, which earned him a glare from Bodie. He merely grinned and sat up to greet his mother.

Mrs Doyle entered and Bodie, hyper aware of the slightest hint that all was not well, was sure he could see disapproval on the woman's face.

"Morning you two. Brought you some tea. Bodie, watch your lip on the cup, love, it still looks a bit swollen. I've also got a bit of bad news."

Bodie wasn't sure if he actually said the words, 'oh shit' out loud.

Even Doyle was looking worried - well, more defensive really, thought Bodie, flicking a glance at his partner that lasted several seconds longer than it should have. Doyle was an attractive sod first thing in the morning.

The reminder that Doyle's mum was standing less than six feet away and was not looking too happy doused even the faintest flicker of arousal.

"What is it?"

"It's Aunt Lesley. Bloody timing of the woman - well her husband actually."

At Bodie's raised eyebrow at mention of an aunt, Doyle clarified, "Mum's best friend since school. So Bill's gone off again?"

"Yeah. Silly sod. He'll be back. In the meantime ..."

"You have to go and cheer her up."

"Exactly. I'm sorry about this, boys. I was looking forward to us catching up on things, hearing your news."

There was a strange note in Mrs Doyle's voice, the suggestion that there lay hidden meanings beneath the surface words.

A slow smile began to grow on Doyle's face. "I thought so."

Aware something was going on but not being in possession of the key to crack the code, Bodie peered over the bed covers at mother and son, a frown creasing his forehead.

"About you and Bodie? I probably knew longer than you did. He was all you could ever talk about from day one."

Suddenly Bodie had the key, he just wasn't entirely sure what to do with it.

Laughing softly to himself, Doyle shook his head. "I had an idea you knew. I just wasn't sure. You hid it well."

"Where do you think you got your undercover skills, love? It's genetic. Hopefully this means I can stop redecorating the spare room."

Sitting up slowly, burgundy quilt slipping from his bare torso, Bodie stared at the wall opposite, eyes unfocussed."You knew."

Mrs Doyle gave Bodie a fond look. "Yes."

Bodie shook his head slowly, his voice dangerously low, his eyes snapping into focus and fixing on Doyle as he corrected, "He knew."

Sensing now would be a good time to leave the two men alone, Mrs Doyle headed for the door, pausing only to cast a warning look at her son who was watching Bodie without the slightest hint of apprehension on his face. There was, however, a betraying rigidity to his body language, a tensing of shoulder muscles, and an air of watchfulness.

Bodie waited until the bedroom door closed with a soft click before he spoke.

"You bastard." The words were spoken softly but there was a fierce heat behind them. Bodie looked ready to ignite, fists clenched deeply in the folds of the bed covers. He kept his eyes fixed on his hands, as though he feared not doing so would mean losing control.

Doyle breathed a sigh of relief. Heat he could cope with. He'd feared ice. Now he just had to get Bodie to look at him.

"Bodie, I didn't know for sure."

"You could have said something! You know how wound up about this I've been. A clue, Doyle. One fucking hint that she was going to be all right! Do you know how much it means to me? Any bloody idea how much it matters that she likes me, that she's okay about it? I don't expect approval but knowing she could still look me in the eye, could smile at me, could bring me a cup of tea and call me love while knowing I was screwing her son - " Finally Bodie looked Doyle in the eyes. "Do you have a fucking clue?"

"And if I'd said she'd be all right and she hadn't? If I'd said she knew when really she didn't have a clue? I couldn't do that to you."

"You should have said something."

"But I didn't."

"What? So deal with it?" Bodie asked, though there was now no trace of anger or belligerence in tone or expression.

"Something like that." His breath hitched in his throat, Doyle reached out to touch the fists clenched in the bed covers. To his relief, Bodie allowed the touch.

"You really do like her a lot." Doyle's voice was gentle, filled with love. It took a lot to break down Bodie's barriers and that his mother had been one of the chosen few sent a rush of emotion through him that made it difficult to swallow, let alone talk about it.

"Yes." Anger began to ease out of Bodie's face as realisation gradually seeped in. "She's really all right about it."

"Of course. If she had her way she'd be posting off the adoption papers. Fancy being my baby brother?" Doyle asked, stroking the fingers and palms that had opened up to him.

"Only if they've made incest legal." Bodie began to laugh softly to himself, fingers curling round Doyle's hands. "She knew."

"Before we did. Before I did."

"From day one, eh?" Bodie asked

Doyle shrugged, no trace of embarrassment. "You did make an impact. Come to think of it, no one's ever had that effect on me. I was sure I wanted to kill you. I never really stopped to ask myself why."

Bodie shifted, looking uncomfortable. "Nah. Couldn't have been that early on. We're trained to observe. We'd have noticed."

"Yeah?" Doyle was smiling wryly, having examined the evidence the case was looking pretty bad for his hetero ego. If he'd wanted Bodie from the beginning, then telling himself he had gone from heterosexual hunting to homosexual bliss because he'd gradually fallen in love was a waste of time. Recalling certain fantasies from the time in question he dropped his head and groaned, amused at his past self.

"Come 'ere." Bodie slung an arm around Doyle and hauled him in for a brief, resounding kiss. Lips clung, reluctant to separate. After a long, moist half minute of exploring Bodie's mouth, Doyle moved back with a faint sigh.

To his surprise Bodie followed.

Doyle's head touched down with a gentle thud and sudden release of air from cushioning feather pillows. About to voice a question his words were smothered by the determined thrust of Bodie's tongue delving in to claim his mouth. Surprised but more than willing to meet Bodie's sudden passion, Doyle welcomed the kiss, relaxing beneath the onslaught. A slow burning began to fill his belly and groin, melting his insides, coursing through muscle and bone, heating his blood until he was boneless with desire. For once he simply lay back and savoured the sensations, closing his eyes as the feelings intensified, senses and emotions combining to make him feel blissfully helpless beneath Bodie's control. While a tiny part of him was rational enough to wonder if Bodie knew his mother was still in the house, the dominant part of him was thinking in terms of one syllable words, all starting with the letter 'f'.

Thankfully Bodie's modesty of last night hadn't extended to wearing pyjamas and once the duvet was kicked aside there was nothing between their bodies but heat and a slick sheen of sweat. Bodie's hands seemed everywhere, sliding over muscle and sensitised flesh, his mouth following their path. The hollow of Doyle's throat received extra attention, pink tongue-tip probing delicately at the salty hollow before sweeping down in one broad sweep to the fluttering flat plane of stomach and sensitive navel.

Doyle tried to surge up, Bodie's hands on his hips holding him down as Bodie travelled lower, tongue tangling with the dark line of hair arrowing towards the hard cock that rose up to meet Bodie's questing lips. Tenderly, Bodie lapped the rosy head, moving down, tracing the long vein in one moist, teasing sweep, down lower. Doyle had to move, hips bucking helplessly as that exploring tongue reached his twitching centre, tracing slow circles around the incredibly sensitive flesh then dipped teasingly inside.

Doyle cried out, a guttural pleasure sound that repeated over and over as Bodie alternately rimmed him and mouthed his aching balls, Bodie's harsh panting breaths hot against his skin, cooling saliva-slick flesh, heightening the sensation. Doyle spread his thighs wider, completely open to his lover and anything he wanted.

Bodie saw the signal and knew it was time. His mind filled with images of Doyle, his senses overwhelmed by everything that was the man, from the taste and scent of him to the familiar groans and bitten off incoherent demands, Bodie settled himself over Doyle then entered in one swift sure thrust.

Doyle growled. Deep-throated cries slipped past his lips, hips rose up to meet the merciless thrust of Bodie's cock as it claimed him. Some small pain might have been present but it was so closely interwoven with intense pleasure that Doyle was beyond cataloguing it, knowing only that he wanted it, needed it, as much as he needed Bodie every day at his side. Mindless with the driving desire to rut, to take as he was taken, Doyle raced along with the incredible rush of ecstasy until it roared upwards, exploding into a sexual peak that ripped him apart and tore a howl of wild animal pleasure from his throat.

Dimly he was aware of Bodie slumped over him and he reached out a shaking hand to stroke a sweat-soaked flank. He opened his mouth to say something intelligible, realised the futility of such an effort, and instead wrapped his arms around the man slumped over him, utterly drained.

 

It was hours later when Doyle, having prodded Bodie awake so he could tell him he loved him, suddenly sat up in bed. "Hang on a sec. Aunt Lesley's in Canada."

Bodie gave a grunt of what could possibly pass for approval, pulled Doyle down beside him, cuddled up, and promptly fell asleep.

Deciding his suspicions could wait until Bodie was capable of thought and some form of speech other than Neanderthal utterances and soppy endearments, Doyle settled down beside his friend, partner and lover - his own little universe. Proof of the Big Bang Theory, which thought caused Doyle to snigger into Bodie's salty neck. Idly lapping at the sleeping man's throat, Doyle watched as the shadows lengthened in his old bedroom, wondering how long his mother would stay away to give them some space.

Now that she knew, perhaps he and Bodie should leave later this evening. If he knew his Bodie he'd need a little time to get used to the idea. Besides, it would be nice to get back to their own place - Bodie's flat or Doyle's, it didn't really matter. Home really was where the heart is. Besides, having experienced the full effect of an unleashed Bodie he was anxious to have an encore. Tonight for preference.

When Bodie, fragile flower that he was, had recovered his strength, thought Doyle with an inward snort.

Yeah, their own bed. Their own place. Actually, 'their own place' sounded really good. It had a nice ring to it. They were a lot more compatible than most couples. Bodie completed him. He'd talk to Bodie about it later - after he'd shagged him senseless and he was a mere husk of his former self, of course. In moonlight, no music, just the sound of each other.

 

 

His mind full of plans, Doyle tucked his nose below Bodie's ear lobe and slept.

 

Bodie knew he was grinning like an idiot. This particular expression had formed the moment he had woken up, some five hours ago, had remained fixed on his face - with the occasional lapse into soppy smile - throughout dinner and the journey back to London and looked all set to take up permanent residence on his face.

He had plenty to smile about. Ray Doyle was his, his, his and their love had the blessing of one of the few people he actually gave a stuff about. Short of Cowley buying them his 'n' his matching towels and a box of confetti, it didn't get much better than that.

As they reached the third floor that housed Doyle's flat, Bodie was humming softly to himself, The Wedding March of all things, which caused Doyle to choke on a laugh and prod him in the ribs.

Satisfied when he heard a quickly smothered giggle from his macho lover, Doyle shoved a hand into a pocket of his cream trousers to find his key.

Bodie cast a quick look around to check the hallway was empty then stood behind Doyle, his chest and groin pressed up against the other man. "Need any help?" Bodie asked in a teasing voice, before sliding his hand into Doyle's other front pocket. "Oh, look. Found something."

"Gerroff!" Doyle wriggled free, though not too energetically - his breathlessness had little to do with his exertions and more to do with the fingers squeezing his rapidly hardening, cotton-covered cock.

Eventually removing the keys - and Bodie's hand - Doyle was practically shoved into his flat by his playful partner. Scuffling, they reached the living room, both laughing and enjoying a slow-building arousal.

The half full tumbler of whisky on the coffee table caught Doyle's eye.

Feeling his lover's sudden tension, Bodie pulled back a little to see Doyle's face then followed his intense gaze. Doyle looked back at him, an unspoken question in his eyes.

Bodie shook his head, sweeping the apartment with professional thoroughness.

"Then someone's been here," Doyle stated with deadly calm before going for his gun.

He wasn't armed.

A quick glance at his partner confirmed that Bodie wasn't armed either.

About to ask if Doyle was positive he hadn't left the glass himself, he swallowed the words - of course Doyle was sure.

The training and experience of years took over and they fell into a pattern, their pattern, moving as one, sense of their surroundings heightened, sense of each other so acute it was practically telepathy. They made a sweep of each room, on the alert for something out of place, while considering the presence of the glass of whisky - such a glaring sign of an intruder. An oversight? Deliberate goading?

"Bodie."

Catching the whispered word, Bodie padded over to his partner and peered into the bedroom.

Smiling at them, brown eyes glinting, was an Angus cow, propped up between the two pillows.

For a second the ridiculousness of the thing made them falter, then Doyle frowned and Bodie tensed instantly, picking up on his partner's unease.

"Joke?" muttered Bodie, eyes darting from the stuffed toy to Doyle's face.

"Could be. What if it's not?" Doyle continued to stare at the cow, tongue flicking out to wet dry lips. Finally, after several long seconds of rapid thinking and intense scrutiny Doyle asked, "You got your Swiss Army knife handy?"

Bodie produced the knife, flicking out the blade.

With some trepidation they approached the cow.

 

Doyle fished inside his T-shirt for the piece of stuffing that Bodie had just tossed into it and threw it back. After seeing it hit its mark, clinging to the dark hair, Doyle plucked it off and added it to the small pile on the bed. Fortunately stuffing was the only thing they had found inside the cow, though after the initial check for explosives they had started a search for listening devices. The cow had turned out to be clean. It was amusing Doyle highly that his lover, instead of binning the bloody thing, was carefully stitching it back together.

"You really think Cowley sent it?"

"Whoever got in knew the security codes and had a key. A glass of whisky and an Angus cow. Has to be." Seeing Doyle was giving him an indulgent look, Bodie glanced away fixing his eyes on the cow on his lap. Then realisation dawned. "It's the same bloody cow!"

"Eh?" Doyle glanced at the cow, his famed telepathy with Bodie failing him.

"Memory like a sieve, you have. Cowley's birthday. Putting the cow in the shower. Loofah. Soap - "

Confusion cleared and Doyle stared down at the cow. "Are you sure?"

Bodie finished stitching and put the needle and cotton back in the empty biscuit tin used for storing such necessities. Holding up the cow to eye level and matching its smile he said, "Yeah. Remember buying it. You still owe a fiver," he added accusingly.

"I'll pay it in kind," Doyle assured him, one finger tipping the cow's head up for a closer look. "Is the Old Man going soft on us?"

"Nah. You know why he put the cow there, don't you?" When Doyle waited expectantly, Bodie finished, "He wants to keep a bovine eye on us."

"You mean benign, don't - " The pun hit, the sheer excruciating awfulness of it wrenching a groan out of Doyle. Grabbing the cow, Doyle proceeded to use it to pummel his lover on the head.

Two minutes later, with stuffing decorating his hair, Bodie reached for the somewhat slimmer cow.

Seconds after that, with a certain gleam in his eye, Doyle reached for Bodie.

There was no competition. The cow never stood a chance.