Street lamps cast long shadows into the darkness that enveloped central London. The evening rush was long past, leaving grey government buildings and streets deserted of most of the bustle that prevailed during the long business days.
Bodie stood on the steps of the nondescript building that housed CI5's present headquarters, waiting for his best friend and partner to catch up with him. Moving from foot to foot, Bodie tried to stay in motion to keep his body warm. The cold London winter had yet to give way to the warmer winds of spring despite the fact it was long past April first.
Where is Ray anyway? Bodie wondered, blowing warm breath onto his chilled hands. He wished he had thought to dress for the weather, but when the call had come, he had just put on what was at hand, forgetting for a moment how cold the weather had been lately. Remember it now, though, don't you? he chided himself, shaking his head. He hadn't expected to be standing out here for more than a moment and, anyway, Ray should have been right behind him. Bodie had seen the other man pull into the car park right after he did.
"Any idea what the Cow wants with us?" Bodie called, catching sight of his partner, who joined him on the steps.
"Nah," Doyle replied with a shrug. He was dressed for the weather, wearing his brown leather bomber jacket over a blue and brown flannel shirt. But the old, tight jeans looked quite threadbare, and Bodie wondered if his racehorse-thin mate wasn't very cold in the thin cotton. "We come when ordered."
They were both well used to being called out at all hours, so neither man was surprised to find himself working, although usually there was some kind of explanation. This time there had only been a terse call to report to headquarters.
Bodie shrugged. "We'll find out when he tells us." He held the glass door to the building open for Doyle to precede him.
"Expect he will, but his timing is getting worse," Doyle groused, flashing Bodie a rueful smile. "Was just about to have my wicked way with Claire, when the old bastard called."
"Tell me about it," Bodie sympathized. It had happened to him more than once.
"You too?" Doyle groaned, turning to look at Bodie.
Bodie shook his head. "Not this time, but often enough."
They presented their IDs to the guard, who nodded them through into the dimly lit lobby of CI5 headquarters. They started up the stairs for Cowley's office.
"Do you wonder if this is worth it?" Doyle said, wearily.
He's thinking about the job too much, Bodie decided. "Nah, I don't think about it that much. Got a job to do and I do it."
"You're too young to be so resigned."
"I don't feel young, sunshine," Bodie told him jokingly, making sure to keep his voice light and easy, never giving a hint of the true nature of why he'd never feel young again. "Not young at all."
Doyle snorted evilly. "Well, you're younger than me."
"By a whole two and a half years. Big deal," Bodie said lightly, "it's experience that counts."
"Well, my son, we're about even there."
Not even close, mate, Bodie thought. He loved and respected his partner more than any other person he'd ever met, but Doyle, despite his years in CI5 and the Met, didn't have any idea about the kind of experience Bodie was thinking of and Bodie was very glad of it. No one should have seen the things he'd seen, or done the things he'd done, or live with the nightmares he had.
Even though he'd always told amusing stories about some of his ‘adventures' in Africa, he could never bring himself to tell Doyle the truth. Not because he thought that Doyle wouldn't understand, but why share the horror? What really happened to him in Africa was so bad, so appalling, he'd never seen the necessity of letting Ray know about it. He didn't want to think about it himself.
Bodie had spent a lot of time trying to forget the fear, the heat, the danger, and the pain of the past. Yet there were far too many nights on which he woke in a cold sweat, gasping for breath, remembering only too well the unrelenting mugginess of hot African nights, his subconscious not letting him forget the faces of the people who had hurt him, and the faces of the people he had hurt.
Bodie pushed it out of his mind, as he always did. He had developed a special capability to deal with the unpleasantness; compartmentalizing his mind made sure the past stayed in a little box where it couldn't get out. Except in his nightmares -- there he had no control.
They continued up the stairs, each immersed in his own thoughts.
"Go right in," Cowley's secretary, Betty, said as they approached her desk. Bodie wondered why she was working so late. He smiled engagingly at her and, as usual, she ignored him completely.
It amused Bodie to try to charm the woman. It was completely obvious that she was not at all interested in any of the many agents who tried to win her favours. Not that it deterred even one of them -- the lot of them seemed to take it as a personal challenge and tried all the harder. Wondering idly why she wasn't interested, Bodie realised he really knew nothing about her, except that she was pretty and a capable secretary for Cowley. She was also usually there whenever the Cow was in his office.
On entering the inner office they found Cowley at his desk, the phone attached to his ear.
The windowless office was standard government issue: grey metal filing cabinets and an old army surplus desk. A fine cherry-wood credenza was the only ornament in the room. Standing proudly in a corner of the otherwise drab office, it housed Cowley's prized scotch, along with beautiful cut-crystal tumblers. When he and Doyle were in favour, they occasionally were offered a dram of scotch from that cabinet.
"Yes, Minister," the older man replied into the instrument. "Yes, Minister."
Bodie could tell Cowley's patience was wearing thin. After the third "Yes, Minister," Bodie waited for the blow-up, but it never came. Cowley's voice became increasingly controlled, never giving in to his anger during the long conversation.
"It's about time you two got here," Cowley complained, putting the phone back into its cradle.
The two men had seated themselves in the plain wooden chairs in front of Cowley's desk which, contrary to their austere appearance, were not at all uncomfortable.
"It's past 9:00 pm, sir, we were not on call," Doyle pointed out reasonably. "It took a while to get here."
"You're always on call, lad. It's part of the small print."
"Yeah, well, sometimes it's easier to get here than at other times," Doyle continued smoothly, offering a cool smile.
Cowley looked at Doyle with barely concealed impatience.
"Well, sir, we're here now," Bodie added, before Cowley could explode at his partner. He also elbowed Doyle to make sure he knew he was getting out of line.
"Aye, you are. And the reason I wanted you here was to be briefed on an operation you're going to start tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Doyle asked, leaning forward in his chair a bit. "What about the Henderson operation?"
"McCabe and Lucas will be taking that over. I want you to go to Eastland."
"Eastland?" Bodie asked, wondering what on earth could be in Eastland. "Why?"
"I'm getting to it," Cowley snapped. "We have had some intel on a group that's going to smuggle a cache of small arms though the port there. We don't have a lot of information beyond that. You two are to work with the local constabulary and find out when and where the arms are going to come in."
"Uh . . . sir," Doyle began, "you do know my uncle is Chief Constable there?"
"Of course I do," Cowley said in a tone that left no doubt what he thought of the question. "That's part of the reason I'm sending you and Bodie."
"Why?" Doyle inquired.
"Because Alan Cade can be very difficult and I want you to see that he co-operates with us."
Doyle sat up straight, his spine stiff, tense from head to foot. Bodie was immediately alert. Ray's angry. Bloody hell, hope he doesn't lose his rag. Cowley's not in the mood to stand for it today.
"What makes you think I have any sway with him?" Doyle asked with exaggerated care, crossing his arms over his thin, muscular chest, leaning back in the chair.
"My information says you're close to him," Cowley countered, also leaning back in his chair with that all-knowing expression Bodie knew so well. Cowley's and Doyle's eyes locked.
Doyle shifted, gripping the arms his chair with both hands -- it was obvious Cowley was on thin ice with his partner right now. "I see, and I'm to use our relationship to manipulate him."
"Ach, man do what you have to do." Cowley's tone brooked no argument.
"And what if I don't want to?" Doyle asked, his voice low and dangerous, the green eyes flashing fire and danger. Bodie could see Doyle was on the verge of saying something foolish.
"You don't have a choice. I need someone there who can work with the police in Eastland. Since you are related to the Chief, you are the best candidate. This is not up for discussion."
Cowley at his most dictatorial was impossible to challenge. Tough as Doyle was, Cowley was tougher, and Ray gave in. "Yes, sir." But clearly his loyalties were torn.
"Lad, it's necessary." Cowley's voice was quiet, almost apologetic, now that he had what he wanted. "I don't want the local police to be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Cade is a good cop, but if he wanted to cause us trouble, he could. With you there, it's less likely that he will get in the way."
"I see," Doyle said through gritted teeth. Every muscle in the thin body was tense with anger. Bodie wondered if Cowley had pushed his partner too far this time, knowing it was going to happen sooner or later. Privately, Bodie hoped for later.
"I think you do," Cowley finished. "You and Bodie had better get up there as soon as possible tomorrow morning. I have the files you'll have to go over before you arrive." He handed the files to Bodie.
Bodie took a quick glance through them. "Is there anything else, sir?" he asked, standing.
"No." Cowley took off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. "Best be on your bikes."
"Sir!" they both said as they left the small office.
"What's this about your uncle?" Bodie asked, as they exited the lift on the ground floor.
"Thought you were faster than that, mate. The Chief Constable in Eastland is my mum's younger brother." Doyle smiled slightly, waving to the guard as they went past.
Bodie thought he'd known most of the details of Doyle's life. "How come you never mentioned him before?"
Doyle shrugged. "Never came up."
"You always said you didn't have much family."
Bodie held the glass door open for Doyle. The night air was colder than when they entered the building, but they stopped on the bottom step of the building to continue their conversation.
"Well, I don't -- have much family that is. My father is dead. My mum immigrated to Canada with my step-dad years ago and I've hardly seen her since. My brother and I don't get along. And Alan -- well, I was close to him at one time, but I've only seen him a couple of times since he took over as Chief in Eastland. Meant to get in touch more, but just never got the time."
"Yeah, so what's he like? Why does Cowley have to send you specifically to smooth things over with him?"
"He's . . ." Doyle considered for a moment, then smiled, "independent."
"Not necessarily a good thing in a cop," Bodie chuckled, trying to get a dig in about coppers, but Doyle was having none of it. He didn't respond to the jibe at all and Bodie knew the subject was closed for the moment.
"You want to come over now and look at these?" Bodie indicated the files in his hands. "Or you want to let me take them and you can read them tomorrow on the way to Eastland?"
"You take 'em. It's only 10:00 -- I'm going to call Claire and see if she's still speaking to me. Pick you up tomorrow at 8:00?" Doyle grinned and left.
Bodie noticed the stares immediately. They were walking through Eastland's Police Headquarters on the way to their appointment with the Chief Constable, and people were turning to look at them as they passed. He'd have liked to have believed that it was because they were so good looking, but no one engendered this many stares just for good looks. And, why hadn't Doyle noticed . . . or was he just ignoring it?
A helpful desk sergeant directed them to the third floor, which was nicely decorated in tones of grey and brown -- a very far cry from the stark, utilitarian CI5 HQ. The thick dove-grey carpet muffled their steps as they made their way to the end of the long hall where the Chief's office was located.
A large secretary's desk stood guard over the reception room and the middle-aged secretary looked up as they approached. Her face didn't change expression, but her eyes widened perceptibly.
"Can I help you?" she asked pleasantly, a polite smile of welcome on her round face.
"Bodie and Doyle from CI5," Bodie told her, holding out his ID.
"Very good. Please have a seat. I'll let the Chief know you're here," she said directing them to a reception area to the side of her desk with a wave of her hand.
"Thanks love," Bodie smiled nicely at her, but she couldn't seem to take her eyes off Doyle. He's not that good looking, Bodie thought irritably, especially not to a woman old enough to be his mother.
A few moments after they sat down on the uncomfortable sofa, Bodie's questions were answered.
"Ray," Alan Cade said as he came out of his office. He strode over to Doyle, who stood and hugged him hard.
Bodie heard Doyle say softly, "You're not going to like why we're here," to the older man.
"I know why you're here and I don't like it," Cade replied, turning to greet Bodie.
The resemblance was amazing. It explained all the looks they'd received since entering the building, and then some. Cade looked the way Doyle would, in about ten or fifteen years.
In that second between the moment his eyes saw Cade and his brain began to work again, he remembered a of conversation he and Doyle had shared when he'd got the nerve up to tell Doyle of his bisexual nature.
They had been partnered for more than three years and were on an assignment where security was so tight they had to spend the night in sleeping bags on the floor of the house where very delicate negotiations would be going on in the morning.
The close quarters and fear had invited intimacy. It had started as anxious innuendo-filled joking, but in the end Bodie had screwed up his courage and admitted he was attracted to men as well as women. He had also hastened to add that while Doyle was quite the beauty, he need not worry about Bodie being interested in him.
"You're not attracted to me?" Doyle asked, his tone half anxious and half amused.
Bodie smiled smugly at the other man. "Oh, don't get me wrong, Doyle, you're a tasty morsel, but no, not like that."
"Why not?" Doyle now sounded slightly insulted.
"I like my men with a bit more mileage on 'em. You're way too young. If you were about fifteen years older, you'd have a major problem on your hands." Bodie had made it sound like a joke, but it was far from funny to him. He loved Doyle a lot, but it was a fraternal kind of feeling. Doyle was a stunner -- a dead man could see that, but the soul-deep attraction wasn't there for Bodie. Which was just well, since Doyle had no interest in men anyway.
"You got a father complex?"
Not sure if his partner was joking or not, Bodie stared through the dim light of the room to see Doyle's expressive face, and answered as if he were serious. "Nah, not really. It's more wanting someone older, with more life experience behind them." Bodie found it was hard to put his desires into words. The more experience a lover had, the more likely they were going to be able to deal with his past.
"Oh," Doyle said, seemingly satisfied with the answer, and they had gone on to other topics.
All in all, Doyle had been supremely unconcerned about Bodie's bisexuality and Bodie was grateful for his partner's easy acceptance of that part of his nature. Of course, from time to time, he did tease Bodie mercilessly about one or another of his lovers.
His comments to Doyle about being attracted to him if he were fifteen years older came back to Bodie now as he looked at Doyle's uncle. He had a problem, a serious one.
"Alan, this is my partner, Bodie," Ray was saying, when the pounding in his ears finally faded enough for him to hear again.
Alan Cade was easily the most beautiful man Bodie had ever seen. He had all of Doyle's gorgeous features, along with the age and maturity to really carry off such exotic looks with true style. Cade was every secret fantasy of Prince Charming Bodie'd ever had. The Chief's slender grace was shown off to perfection in the elegant suit he was wearing. He cut a suave, sophisticated figure dressed in a slate grey, double- breasted, well-tailored suit, red silk tie, white linen shirt and braces.
There's something so bloody sexy about braces. Makes me want to draw them slowly down over his arms . . . . With an effort Bodie shook off the thought.
Cade was about an inch shorter than Doyle's 5'10", but he had the same wiry strength as Ray. His grey hair was cut short in a brush cut and Bodie itched to run his fingers across the spikes at the top of his head.
I'd bet anything it'd feel like velvet. Bodie's heart was pounding so hard it felt as though his blood was trying to force its way out of his skin. Too gorgeous to be real. Again he shook his head slightly to clear it.
"Only Bodie?" Alan's smile had faltered for a moment as he turned to look at him, but he recovered quickly and held out his hand. "Most people have two names." His voice was not quite steady, Bodie was happy to hear.
"Only Bodie," he confirmed, shaking the Chief's hand and nearly drowning in the shining green eyes. "There's more, but most people don't try it twice."
For a couple of seconds, they were the only two people in the world and the electric shock of awareness ran though each man as their eyes met and held.
"I'll have to remember that."
Bodie'd heard it said that maybe once in a lifetime, you meet someone who you are so attracted to, you would kill or die to have them. He had never really believed that such an attraction could exist. But now, with just one look at Alan Cade, he knew he would sell his soul for a night in this man's bed. Thankfully, he could see the answering attraction in Cade's eyes.
Doyle must have sensed something strange going on because he interposed himself between the two men. "Don't we have to talk to you about this operation?" he asked his uncle.
Cade looked startled and then visibly shuddered. "Yes, of course, I'm sorry. Come into my office." He put his hand on the small of Doyle's back to lead him in. It was an affectionate gesture, one that showed very clearly how Cade felt about his nephew.
Bodie was left to trail in their wake, his senses reeling under the impact of meeting Alan Cade.
Looking up, slightly confused, Bodie realised he'd lost track of the conversation again. With his mind wandering, considering possibilities, it was impossible to concentrate on the discussion.
How on earth will I be able to work with him? Shifting in his seat again, he tried to ease the pressure on his groin. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with much-needed air, and quietly let it out. It didn't help -- he was still short of breath and lightheaded.
The only consolation was that Cade was having a hard time keeping his eyes away from him as well. It was a relief to see matching desire in Cade's big green eyes -- he couldn't bear to think that the attraction wasn't mutual.
Bodie'd never been in a position where he'd had to keep such a tight control of his raging emotions, and he tried every relaxation technique he knew, but nothing worked. It was a monumental effort merely to keep from stripping off his clothes and lying naked across the conference table, his legs spread wide open for Alan's pleasure.
His cock jumped delightedly at the thought.
Down boy! Not now! He shook himself hard and redoubled his efforts to focus on the briefing..
". . . so is that okay with you, Bodie?" Doyle's voice broke through his totally inappropriate thoughts.
"Yeah, that's fine." Bodie had no idea what he'd just agreed to.
"Okay then," Doyle continued, "we'll be back tomorrow morning to start questioning some of the people in the dockside area where you caught Zimmerman."
"I'll have the files sent down now," Alan replied. "Do you want to wait?"
"Bodie said he'd wait," Doyle reminded him.
"Eh?" Files? What files? Bodie didn't remember agreeing to wait for files.
"Where you been, sunshine?" Doyle joked. "Not two minutes ago you said you wouldn't mind staying to wait for the files on Zimmerman and his organization. Alan said he would drive you back to the hotel after you've read them."
Zimmerman? Who the hell was Zimmerman? He'd been so lost in thought, he'd missed all of it. "Reckon I did. Where are you going?"
"I'm going back to London tonight to check out the grass Alan just told me about, Pauley Jamison. Think I remember him from my days in the Met. They nicked another one of Zimmerman's guys late yesterday and he gave them Jamison's name, saying he might know something about the arms cache," Doyle explained, with a sigh of something close to annoyance.
Bodie must have looked as confused as he felt. "Bodie, haven't you heard anything we've been discussing for the last hour?"
Chagrined, Bodie looked down at the table top. "Sorry."
"'s all right. Just try harder to pay attention." Doyle stood and turned to Alan. "Thanks."
"No problem, Ray. Your boss was right -- I'm pleased to work with you," Cade told him, "but I would have worked with anyone. I'm not that difficult."
"Yeah, but with me it's different and Cowley knew it."
"I expect you're right," Cade conceded.
"Cowley's a pain, but he's a smart 'un. Coming, Bodie?"
"Yeah," Bodie stood. "Where do I get the files?"
"I'll have them sent over. By the time you get your things from Ray's car, they should be here. You can use one of the desks in the squad room -- my secretary will show you." Bodie noticed that Cade refused to make eye contact with him. "I'll take you to your hotel when you've finished."
"Fine." Bodie held the door open for Doyle.
When they reached the street, Doyle turned to Bodie. "Just what the hell was that all about?"
"Bodie, I've never seen you so distracted. What is going on with you?"
"Nothing. Guess I'm just tired," Bodie lied.
"No way, mate," Doyle countered. "I know something's wrong."
"I can't talk about it, Ray," Bodie begged. "Please let it go."
"I don't want to get killed because you've got something else on your bloody mind." Doyle didn't sound really angry -- as a matter of fact, he sounded almost amused but Bodie was too preoccupied to really pursue that line of thought, though he did think it a bit odd. He evaded Doyle with, "Shouldn't you be leaving for Town?"
"Yeah, and you'd better be back in working order by the time I get back," Doyle told him in no uncertain terms.
"I will. Sorry about the wool-gathering, Ray," he apologised. He had to do something about Cade and soon, or he really might get Doyle hurt because he couldn't concentrate. "Let me get my bag and get started. You think you'll be back tonight?"
"Dunno. Have to find this fella first."
Bodie retrieved his things and returned to the Chief's office. Diane, his secretary, told him that Cade was in a meeting, but she had the files. She showed him to a desk and told him where he could get tea and biscuits. Bodie settled in to read the files and cull what information he could about the faction that was supposed to be smuggling arms into the UK via Eastland.
"It's well past five." Cade's husky voice startled Bodie. He'd been concentrating on the files with an almost religious fervour. Sighing inwardly, Bodie knew his fascination with Cade hadn't dimmed a bit -- if anything, it was worse. Closing the folder, he looked up, meeting Alan's eyes. The attraction hadn't faded from the other man's eyes either.
Bodie stretched his back, "I'm used to long hours."
"No doubt, but I'm taking you to your hotel."
"Okay," Bodie said standing. He collected the files into a large stack. "I'll take them with me."
"Leave it, Bodie. They'll be there in the morning."
"I know, but I need to go over them."
"As you please." Cade's tone was exasperated. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah," Bodie replied, picking up the documents and following Cade out of the office. They stopped beside a Range Rover, parked in the space designated ‘Chief Constable - Eastland Police'. Cade pulled a set of keys out of his trouser pocket. Bodie was surprised that Cade drove himself to work. "I'd have thought in your position, you'd have a driver," Bodie commented, climbing into the passenger side of the vehicle.
"I do, but if I don't drive occasionally, I might forget how." Cade turned the key and started the car.
"I see." For the life of him, Bodie could not think of a single thing to say -- a very disconcerting, and unusual, situation.
Cade was obviously having the same problem. He turned the radio on to a pop music station. Bodie groaned silently when I'm The Only One by Melissa Etheridge came on. The song had a sexy beat and provocative lyrics. Oh great, that's all I need now, Bodie thought dourly.
When the song ended, they had stopped at a red light. Neither man spoke as eyes silently met across the dim car interior.
Are you the only one? Bodie could see the question in the expressive eyes that held his own. He cleared his throat. "Uhm . . ." Bodie tried again. "Do you want to talk about this?"
"Not really." Cade dropped his eyes and gripped the steering wheel more tightly.
Disappointment flowed over him, and there was nothing Bodie could say. Cade blew out a deep breath and the silence stretched as the Land Rover continued to idle at the light. They both jumped as a horn sounded behind them.
Sometime later they pulled up in front of a large house. Looking over at Alan, Bodie remarked observantly, "This isn't the hotel."
"It's my home."
"I see." Bodie glanced out the window. Very nice, he thought. Being Chief Constable must pay well.
The house was a creamy off-white color, with big trees and well-trimmed shrubs planted for shade and decoration. He could see white sheer drapes through tall narrow windows at the front. Bodie'd bet there was a well-tended garden at the back, too.
Cade broke the silence. "All right. We have to talk."
"Thought you didn't want to."
"I don't, but we must. I'll prepare dinner."
"Fine." Bodie followed the older man into his home.
Beautifully decorated in white and dark woods, the house was as lovely inside as out. The furniture looked comfortable, but he didn't get more than a glance into the lounge and dining room before Cade directed him into the kitchen.
A large square table with four high-backed chairs surrounding it dominated the comfortable white room. Late-afternoon sunshine gleamed off well-polished surfaces. Used to older homes and appliances, Bodie was surprised and pleased by the newness of everything. Alan took a large metal wok out of the cupboard and placed it on the stove. "Stir-fry chicken all right?" he asked, opening the refrigerator to look for ingredients.
"Fine. I'll eat anything." Bodie didn't care. For once in his life he was not hungry.
Bodie was considering the lack of conversation when Alan startled him by placing a wooden cutting-board in front of him. "Here," he said, dumping several different raw vegetables on the board and handing him a sharp knife. "Cut them up."
"Okay," Bodie agreed, grateful to have something to do with his hands. He meticulously chopped and cubed veggies. Working together silently in the cozy kitchen seemed very intimate to Bodie, as if they were an old married couple rather than two men who had just met several hours ago. Although usually able to put anything into his stomach, when the meal was finally in front of him Bodie now felt slightly queasy at the very thought eating anything. Being in Alan's presence was totally disconcerting -- he felt cracked wide open, vulnerable, exposed. Almost as if Cade were privy to all of his secrets without his consent.
Is there such a thing as love at first sight? Is this it? The churning stomach, pounding heart, over-the-top emotional roller-coaster was beyond his control. And he knew it would get him killed in short order or -- much worse -- could get Doyle killed, too. He didn't know how to resolve it and, glancing across at Alan, noticed he wasn't eating either.
Clearing his throat quietly, Cade looked up, a thousand questions in his green eyes. Not knowing what to say, Bodie shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, saying nothing. The tension grew and he knew someone had to speak or he'd go mad.
Alan broke the silence by standing, his chair scraping loudly as he did so. He cleaned the uneaten food off his plate into the rubbish bin and he reached for Bodie's, hesitating for a moment. Bodie nodded.
Returning to the table, Alan put his hand on Bodie's shoulder and looked down at him. "I've never been in this sort of situation before."
"I don't like it."
"I know. What should we do?"
Cade shook his head. "Don't know that either. Let's go into the lounge. It will be more comfortable in there."
Alan showed Bodie into the lounge and watched with amusement as the younger man zeroed in on the fireplace.
"Do you want a fire?" Bodie asked hopefully.
"That would be nice." Alan sat down on the sofa and Bodie heard him sigh.
"What's wrong?" Bodie asked, turning back to look at Cade over his shoulder.
"You mean aside from the obvious?"
"Of course, the obvious," Bodie quipped, but he turned back to the task at hand without saying anything else. After stacking the wood into the grate, Bodie lit the kindling with an expert's ease. He sat lost in thought for a few moments watching the bright flames. As Bodie watched the fire, Cade watched Bodie. He moves like a panther, Alan thought, all dark beauty and sleek grace. The image pleased and amused him, enthralled with the leashed power in the younger man.
Bodie felt Cade's gaze on him, and he scooted backwards so that his back was against the sofa and his cheek was near Alan's knee. He drew his knees up, resting his arms lightly on them. "You didn't answer."
"Hmm?" said Cade, his reverie dissolving.
"I asked what was wrong?"
"Our situation is the problem," Alan said, in the manner of one forced to state the obvious.
"This could be a very touchy, very difficult predicament."
"Not touchy yet," Bodie chuckled. "Hope to soon though."
"Bodie, please. This is serious. Or at least I hope it will be," Cade tried not to sound cynical and knew he'd failed.
"I know it's serious."
"Do you really want to pursue this?" Cade asked.
"I don't believe I have a choice." Bodie seemed suddenly fascinated with the fabric of the sofa. Lost in thought, he moved one blunt finger across the material, tracing the patterns woven into the cloth.
"There are always choices," Cade told him, knowing he'd made his choice once he'd given in to the urge to take this beautiful, enigmatic and young man home with him.
Cade looked down at Bodie just then, and realised something he'd said had turned the younger man's thoughts inwards.
"Sometimes -- too many times, there are no choices at all, if you want to survive." Bodie didn't look up as he spoke.
Where did that come from? Alan wondered. He looked sharply at Bodie -- something had upset him. Softly he probed the statement, "You mean things you've had to do?"
"Yeah." Bodie's voice seemed very distant, as though he were reliving something unpleasant.
"Do you equate what happened before with what's happening now?"
"Sorry," Bodie said, shaking his dark head. "My mind was wandering."
There was only one way Alan could describe the look that had been on Bodie's face: haunted. And at that moment, he wanted nothing more than to ease Bodie's pain. Alan also wanted to hurt whomever had put the anguish in the dark blue eyes.
"What hurt you? Who?" Alan demanded softly, already ready to do battle for him.
"Was a long time ago," Bodie replied, his head bent. "Best left in the past."
Alan could tell by his tone that he had regained control and didn't want to discuss it. Despite that, Alan couldn't let it go so easily. "Tell me," he insisted gently.
"There's lots of adventure, and misadventure, in my deep dark past." Bodie cocked a grin at Alan, the statement light and breezy in direct contrast to the last couple of moments.
"I've got plenty of time to listen to your story."
"I really don't want to talk about the past, it's long gone," he said, the false smile fading quickly. "Please don't make me." Bodie tightened his arms around his knees in a purely defensive posture.
Alan pondered the quickly shifting emotions of the younger man, at first surprised by the depth of his despair and then the seeming ease with which Bodie had shaken off the bad feelings.
"It's all right," Alan soothed, his fingers lightly touching Bodie's fine dark hair. "Perhaps I can help?"
Leaning into the touch, Bodie sighed. "No one can."
"Has anyone ever tried?" Alan was curious. He could not imagine what would cause this kind of reaction from the tough agent.
Bodie looked up at him and smiled again. "Experts have tried."
Alan conceded defeat on the subject, for the moment at least. "All right."
"Thanks." Bodie sounded ridiculously grateful.
"Oh, you're not off the hook, but I'll let it drop for now. I don't know you well enough to push."
"Yet," Bodie completed with a smile.
"Yet," Alan confirmed, smiling back at him.
For a time they watched the fire and Alan considered the younger man as his fingers continued to play with Bodie's silky hair. Part of him wanted nothing more than to bend Bodie, bare-arsed, across the back of the sofa and plunge himself into the sweet, dark depths of his gorgeous body. But there was another, stronger, part of him that wanted to hold and cherish Bodie, to wipe away the pain from his eyes, to make it better, to fix whatever ‘it' was.
Alan knew without a shadow of a doubt that it would be far safer and more expedient if he followed option one. Yet his conscience and his heart could not live with that. To use Bodie in that way would not be fair to either of them. Looking up when he felt the intense blue gaze on him, Alan wondered if Bodie could tell what he was thinking.
Bodie's eyes were still haunted, still hurting. Even though he hardly knew Bodie at all, he had to do something. "Let me help you," Alan said, his fingers stroking down Bodie's cheek gently.
Bodie leant into the touch, "I wish someone could."
"I can," Alan promised, heeling off his shoes and stretching out on the sofa. He held his arms open, "Come lie down with me."
For a second, Bodie hesitated, then, looking chagrined but pleased, Bodie slipped out of his shoes and tossed his jacket over a nearby chair. He lay down gently on top of Cade, and took a shuddering breath.
As Alan's arms closed around him, Bodie put his head onto his shoulder and snuggled down, snuffling softly.
"You smell good," he told Alan, breaking the sombre mood.
Alan chuckled. "I've wanted you in my arms since the second I saw you," Alan confessed, running exploratory fingers down Bodie's back.
"Wanted to be in them since I first saw you, too," Bodie murmured into Cade's shoulder.
Doyle was a study in casual arrogance as he sauntered into the smoky pub, looking neither right nor left, but taking in every detail of the establishment. Tables and chairs were scattered around the room, and a telly was blaring above the bar. Thankfully, it wasn't terribly crowded for this time of night. This was his last stop before he went back to Eastland empty-handed. He'd not been able to locate Jamison in any of the places the man had been known to frequent -- this place was his last hope. He made his way to the bar.
"Hey, mate," the bartender called, "what can I get you?"
"Pint." Doyle pulled his wallet out of his tight jeans and paid for the drink. "You know a fella named Paulie Jamison?"
"You a cop?"
"What do you want with him?" the bartender's tone so cold it could freeze liquid.
"Just want to ask some questions."
"Yeah, you're a cop." The man pulled himself up to his full height, which was several inches taller than Doyle.
His tone just as belligerent, Doyle said, "Is he here?".
"Will he be?"
"You really think I'm gonna tell you that?"
"Yeah, I think it would be a good idea," Doyle said in his best killer tone. He could be damned intimidating when he wanted to be and most people saw fit to back down when he used it.
It worked again. "He might be around, later."
Doyle smiled. "Yeah? When?"
"'bout half an hour," he said reluctantly, after looking at his watch.
The man nodded and moved off to serve someone else.
Almost thirty minutes later, Jamison came into the pub and Doyle recognised him immediately from his days on the Met. Paulie was an easily intimidated sleaze, with lank, brown hair, sloppy clothes, and general air of fear about him. And if Doyle played him right, he'd be too scared to lie.
Doyle let him buy his drink and sit down at one of the corner booths at the back, before he took his pint and went over to sit down next to him, blocking his way out.
"So, Paulie, how ya doing?"
"Who are you?" Jamison asked, looking around for help and seeing he wasn't going to get any.
"Doyle. Don't you remember me?"
"You're not a cop anymore. Heard you left the Met, couple, four years ago."
"Yeah. Went to CI5." Doyle smiled nastily.
Jamison groaned. "Nasty lot."
"Yeah, very nasty. I want to know about Zimmerman's deal in Eastland."
Swallowing nervously, Jamison looked around again. "I don't know nothing about that."
Ray toyed with Jamison's drink, running his finger around the edge of the glass. "You sure?"
"Yeah, really. I swear on my mother's grave," but his voice shook and he was starting to sweat.
"So tell me what you do know."
"I don't know nothing!"
"I think you do. You don't want me to take you in, now do you?"
The stink of fear rose off Jamison, sweat beaded on his upper lip. "Look, I don't want no trouble."
"If you don't tell me what I want to know," Doyle looked at his watch, "in, say, ten seconds, you're going to find it."
The aggressive tone served Doyle well again. "Look, all I know is that something is going down at Zimmerman's warehouse in Eastland."
"I'm not sure." Doyle just looked at him silently, waiting. "Arms supposed to be delivered," Jamison told him in a weak, strained voice. "But you didn't hear it from me. Okay?"
"Midnight, two nights from tonight. I got to go." Jamison tried to push Doyle out of the booth. Knowing he'd learned all he could from the grass, he stood and let him go. Jamison scampered away like a mouse when the lights come on.
Doyle sat for a while, finishing his beer, pleased to have secured the information after all.
"Tell me more about yourself," Alan asked some time later. He hoped that Bodie felt safe enough in his arms to talk about himself. He didn't expect any major secrets -- far too soon for that. Cade wanted to know this person who he was very certain was going to have a major impact on his life, and he had no desire to rush these first few hours with him.
"Not much to tell," Bodie evaded.
"Come on, that's not an answer."
"You're a trained observer, what do you see?" Bodie countered.
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"I'm interested in your assessment."
Alan thought about what he'd observed, and what he knew intuitively about Bodie. "Okay, let's see. First, there's an air of command around you. You like being in charge."
"Hmm?" Bodie seemed too comfortable to respond. "Same could be said of you."
"True enough. But for someone as young as you are, you have a tremendous presence and sense of power about you. I'll wager people are terrified of you without really being sure why."
"That's right," Bodie's voice was hurt and insulted, "a monster, I am. Scare the women and children." He tried to lever himself off of Alan.
Alan was having none of it, "No. No, that's not what I meant at all. Shhh," he said, stroking Bodie's back. Mollified, the younger man subsided into the embrace, laying his head back on Alan's shoulder. "What I meant was that people sense the power and don't understand it. But I bet children love you."
"Actually, they do."
"They sense you mean them no harm. You pretend to be a hard man, but children see what's really there. There's a vast core of tenderness in you as well," Cade continued, "and you're loyal too."
Bodie raised his head, his blue eyes caught Alan's. "How can you know that?"
"Ray doesn't give his loyalty or friendship easily. He's given you both, that in itself tells me all I really need to know about you."
"Gonna take the golly's word for it?"
"Ray is an excellent judge of character," Alan replied seriously. "He hasn't had an easy go of it, by any means."
"I know." Bodie sobered. "From what little he's told me, it was hell for him as a kid."
"My sister, Mary, had the misfortune to marry a violent man. He felt that Ray, who favoured his mother in stature, was too small to be his son. He laid into Ray any chance he got. Tom, Ray's brother, was just like the old man."
"Where do you come in?"
"By the time Ray was a teenager, I was an adult. I gave him a place he could go to when his father got violent."
"Must have made mincemeat of your social life."
"Yeah, but what could I do? I hated to see Ray thrashed, even if he was a real tearaway by that point."
"His dad was killed when he was about fourteen or fifteen, wasn't he?"
"Yes, hit by a lorry. Sometimes the Gods are kind."
"And his mum married again and emigrated to Canada."
"They stayed here for a while, until Ray got his O levels, but she had too many bad memories here in England."
For long minutes the crackle of the fire was the only sound in the room.
"What are you thinking?" Alan asked softly.
"That I'd have given anything for a champion when I was young."
"Was it so bad?"
"Tell me?" Alan didn't really expect an answer.
"My dad drank."
"And got violent?" Alan guessed.
"What did you do?"
"Ran away at fourteen."
"You ever go back?"
"No. I went to sea."
"At fourteen? That's madness!" And explained quite a bit. Alan could only imagine and shudder at the thought of what he must have lived through.
"Yeah, it was. So much so, I almost didn't survive it."
"Damn!" Alan held him tighter.
"I don't want to talk about it."
Alan kissed the top of his head. "It's all right, I won't make you."
"Thanks." Bodie lifted himself up onto his elbows and looked down at Alan. He smiled a smug little smile and Alan's heart-rate skyrocketed. "You know," Bodie said conversationally, "we've been lying here talking for an hour or two . . . ."
"So maybe it's time we stopped talking?"
Ever so slowly, Bodie lowered his head and pressed his beautiful pouting mouth to Alan's. A thousand sparks burst through Alan's mind and body, and every one of those sparks coalesced in his groin. Groaning loudly, he couldn't remember the last time he'd come up so fast and so hard with just a kiss.
When he raised his head, Bodie's expression was sombre. "I'd sell my soul, give anything, to make love with you right now," Bodie whispered fervently.
"Not worth the price," Alan said quietly, stunned to the core by the quiet statement. He believed it. The look in those midnight eyes didn't lie: Bodie wanted him -- with a depth of feeling that Alan found frightening.
"To me, it would be a bargain. I've never wanted anyone -- anyone -- the way I want you right now."
Bodie lowered his head and took Alan's mouth in another long slow kiss. Alan opened his mouth to allow Bodie access, his tongue duelling, licking, tasting.
"Christ!" Alan muttered when Bodie released his lips, suddenly unnerved by the intensity of what he'd just experienced, and tried to forestall the inevitable. "You really are too young for me, you know."
"I'm older than I look." Bodie smiled knowingly down at him. "If not in chronological age, then in experience." Alan heard a world of weariness in the quiet words. He'd suspected from what Bodie had and had not said, he'd seen too much of the dark side of humanity to ever truly be young again.
"I don't doubt that." Alan met the blue eyes directly. "Will you be all right with this?"
"You won't be my first man," Bodie replied, "if that's what you're worrying about."
"No. It wasn't. You've intimated there has been . . ." Alan searched for the right words, "violence, and I suspect force, in your past. I wouldn't want to make it worse."
"You couldn't. I want you too much for that. It's really okay. I've been with men before. Truly -- I prefer men." It was Bodie's turn to soothe.
"But there are other issues too. We're about to start something here that will be difficult at best. It could destroy both our careers. There's also Ray to consider. I don't want to see him hurt and I don't know how you plan to keep this from him.
"I don't want to hurt him either." Bodie smiled weakly at the older man. "I hadn't thought about what we'd tell Ray. Expect the truth would be the best thing."
Nodding, Alan slid his hand through Bodie's short hair. "I've spent much of the afternoon thinking about the complications. I really was going to drop you at your hotel, go home and take a cold shower. So much for best laid plans."
"Wouldn't have worked anyway," Bodie replied, the knowledge of Alan's attraction for him evident in the tone.
Knowing he should really be annoyed by that smugness, he was charmed instead. Alan slid his arms around Bodie, holding him tightly. He couldn't remember the last time someone felt this good in his arms. "So sure of yourself, aren't you?" Alan teased.
"No, just know how I feel."
"How do you feel, Bodie?'
Bodie cupped Alan's chin and looked into his eyes. "You're the most beautiful man I've ever seen and I want you like I've never wanted anyone else -- ever."
Alan was flattered. "I want you too."
"Do you still think I'm too young?" Bodie asked cheekily, licking Alan's mouth.
Alan tried for rationality, but those knowing lips had moved on to his throat and he forgot how to breathe. "I've a daughter who's almost your age," he gasped.
"Doesn't matter, not really," Bodie replied, moving his head to lick an ear. "What matters is how we feel, not our ages."
"Bodie . . ." Alan whimpered, "I want to believe that -- so badly I can taste it, but . . . ." It was impossible to have a coherent conversation with someone when that someone was trying his level best to distract.
"Let's just go to bed?" Bodie suggested, sounding strained.
Cade smiled at the younger man's tone. Bodie was far from unaffected by the ministrations he was performing. "All right, but you're going to have to get up first."
Bodie smiled. "But you're so comfortable."
"Great, I make a good pillow," Alan sighed windily. "Just what I wanted to hear."
"Bet you're good at other things too." Bodie grinned and levered himself up. He held out his hand for Alan, who took it and was pulled to his feet. Bodie immediately embraced him; Alan put his head on Bodie's shoulder and savoured the closeness, having known too little of it from past lovers. "Let's go upstairs."
As they lay naked in Alan's big bed, Bodie closed his arms around the smaller man, breathing softly into the short hair. He held Alan, loving the feel of Cade's hands stroking his back, the furry torso pressed against his chest, the strong legs intertwined with his own. Finally, not able to resist the perfect mouth any longer, Bodie rolled him onto his back and brought his lips down softly on Alan's.
Like the taste of the finest wine, the kiss was sweet and fine and crisp, and Bodie was drunk from one sip. He wasn't sure his nerves could take the stress -- it was too good, too perfect, too much. Resisting the urge to plunder, he let Alan roll him over.
Bodie knew instinctively that was necessary for the older man to take over. He'd been allowed to lead for a while, but Cade would never let him stay in control. There would be time later to sort out their preferences, but for now, Alan needed dominion over him, and he would yield it.
Bodie spread his thighs and let Alan settle between them. Bending his head, Cade pressed his mouth to the centre of Bodie's chest, touching his tongue against the soft skin. Bodie arched his back in invitation and the questing mouth found a dusky pink nipple. Alan raked his teeth over it softly, causing electric sensations to race though Bodie.
He moaned softly. "Please."
"You should learn to savour the moment," Alan teased, switching his mouth to the other ripe peak.
"Alan," Bodie whined. "Please . . . ."
"Now you wait for it, blue eyes."
Bodie's heart jerked a the small endearment, feeling cherished by the words. His life hadn't provided many occasions for expressions of love. His hand stroked down Alan's back just to enjoy the play of muscles as the older man moved. Cade was in fine condition, his body firm and toned.
Alan's mouth never left his skin, exploring each and every inch of his chest and belly. The teasing tongue dipped into his navel and Bodie couldn't hold back a laugh. "Tickles."
"Should I stop?" Alan asked, looking up.
"So beautiful," Alan said, rubbing his face back and forth playfully on his stomach.
It had been so very long since anyone had been this affectionate with him. Bodie'd almost forgotten what making love with a man was like. All too often, it was a quick fuck in the back of a pub or a rented room. Bodie drank in the warmth and sweetness like fields that had been parched and dry, and suddenly blessed with gentle rains. Unable to help himself, Bodie writhed and moaned under the irresistible assault of knowing hands and lips.
Ready to beg by the time he was finally granted the relief of Cade's mouth settling on him, Bodie was wild, unable to control at all. The sensation was beyond exquisite. He came so hard, he heard a roaring in his ears and saw stars before his eyes.
When he was aware again, he was being held tightly by strong arms. Alan nuzzled his neck and Bodie could feel that he was still painfully aroused.
"Mmmm, thanks," Bodie murmured, reaching up to slide his fingers through the silky chest hair. "You going to let me do something for you?"
"What would you like?" Bodie asked, already knowing the answer.
"I want you."
"On your stomach."
"You're sure?" Cade asked softly.
"Been waiting all day for it," Bodie answered, rolling onto his stomach and spreading his thighs. With his head pillowed on his forearms and closed eyes, Bodie wanted nothing more than to feel Alan's big cock slide deep inside him. The bed dipped and he heard a drawer open. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Alan retrieve a blue and white tube.
"Good idea," Bodie said, glad one of them was still thinking.
"Be a bit difficult without it."
"Very," Bodie muttered. And painful, he did not add aloud.
It was as if Alan heard though. "What?"
"Are you sure?" Alan asked, looking a bit doubtful. When Bodie shook his head, Alan reached out a hand and tenderly patted his arse. "Nice."
"Get on with it," Bodie pleaded.
"All right, lift your hips a bit."
Bodie complied silently, getting his knees under him. He expected to feel the slick, cold gel applied immediately, but Cade had other plans.
The older man's hands and mouth were everywhere, arousing Bodie again. He was gently opened and even more gently filled with Alan's cock. Bodie groaned loudly as Alan began to move. If he had thought that Cade's mouth was intense, having his cock inside him was so profound Bodie was not sure he'd survive it.
"My god, so sweet, so sweet," Alan murmured over and over as he came.
Bodie could swear he felt the hot liquid all the way to his heart. He cried out incoherently as he followed Cade into oblivion.
"Do you believe in love at first sight?" Bodie asked quietly as Alan took him into his arms.
"No," Alan answered, tightening his arms around Bodie and nuzzling his ear softly.
"Me neither," Bodie said, drifting off to sleep.
As Ray walked away from the front desk of the hotel where he and Bodie were supposed to be registered, he couldn't decide if he was annoyed or amused.
"No sir, Mr Bodie has not checked in yet. We had to release the room," the young desk clerk had told him. "I'm sorry we don't have any more rooms tonight -- perhaps if you check back with us tomorrow . . . ."
Doyle sighed. He knew damned well where Bodie was. It was obvious from the second they'd met where they'd end up -- he just hadn't expected it to be so soon. Or for it to be so inconvenient for him.
Snickering to himself, Doyle decided they were going to have some company. Served Bodie right too -- if the randy prat had checked into the hotel first, this wouldn't have happened.
It had been really amusing to see the unshakeable, inscrutable Bodie go slacked-jawed at the sight of his uncle. Doyle hadn't been at all surprised, not after the conversation they'd had last year when Bodie had told him about being bisexual. Need to be fifteen years older, do I? He'd almost mentioned his uncle then, but had decided that he'd see what happened when they finally met.
Wonder if I get to be best man and for whom? Doyle smirked to himself as he drove towards Cade's house. He parked behind the Land Rover and got out. It was just past 9:30 pm, but the house was completely dark. And I can guess why.
He didn't bother knocking, no sense in alerting them to his presence. Alan had sent him a set of keys when he'd moved into the new house, just as he had with every other place he'd lived, the idea being that Doyle always had a place to come to, and Ray appreciated it more than he could ever put into words.
When Ray had been young, there were times when having a place to sleep away from the violence was a necessity to him. His life before his father had died had been horribly difficult; he still had problems talking about it. Even though Alan been an adult by the time he was a teenager, he'd always been there for him. Sometimes it had only been a place to sleep when his father was drunk and violent. Other times, it had been his unflagging support. The reason Ray had become a copper in the first place was in large part due to Alan.
Of course, Ray rationalized, I'm not above teasing the bloody hell out of him, them. This is going to be fun. The door slid open silently. He hoped he could make it upstairs without waking them. If it was anyone other than Bodie, he knew he'd have a good chance.
As he expected, sparkling blue eyes stared out at him as he pushed open the door to the master bedroom. The room smelled strongly of sex, which was not surprising, really. Bodie was lying on his back with Alan curled around him, his head pillowed on Bodie's shoulder and the sheet draped over them.
"Hey Bodie," Doyle said pleasantly, allowing the amusement to creep into his voice. "Don't you think you could have checked into the hotel before you had your wicked way with my uncle?"
Bodie chuckled softly. "What makes you think he didn't have his wicked way with me?"
Alan lifted his head from Bodie's chest and looked out across the unlit room. "Ray?"
"Who else has a key?" Ray asked.
"Elena," Cade answered, then groaned. "What are you doing here? Especially in the middle of the night?"
"It's only 10:00 and I would have been in bed in my hotel room, if a certain randy prat had managed to check in. Now I've got no place to sleep," Doyle told him mournfully.
Bodie laughed. "Sorry, mate. I was distracted."
"I noticed and with what too," Ray said. "But I still need a bed."
"There are two other bedrooms and a sofa in the lounge. Take your pick," Alan offered. "Just don't think about getting into this one."
"Be a bit crowded," Doyle commented dryly.
"It would," Bodie agreed.
Alan put his head back down on Bodie's chest and closed his eyes. "I'm exhausted. Get to bed, Ray."
"You were always telling me that when I was a kid."
"Things haven't changed all that much," Alan sighed noisily.
"I just have one more question," Doyle pushed his luck, "if you marry Bodie does that make him my uncle, too?"
"Out!" Cade ordered, throwing a pillow at Doyle. The projectile fell short of its goal by quite a bit. Bodie chuckled evilly.
Deciding that discretion really was the better part of valour, Ray closed the door and fled.
Wearing Alan's soft blue silk dressing gown, which was a bit short and a bit small, but nonetheless covered what had to be covered, Bodie came down the steep wooden steps of the quiet house. It was dawn, but as they'd gone to bed so early he was completely rested.
Bodie felt wonderful. It had been so long since he'd had sex like that he'd almost forgotten what it felt like. Alan was a tender, considerate lover, someone who wanted to please and be pleased. Making love with him had been a joy, one Bodie would like again, preferably as soon as possible.
As Bodie came around the corner into the kitchen, he wasn't really surprised to see Doyle sitting at the table, having a cup of tea and some toast.
"Morning. Water's probably still hot," Doyle commented, pointing to the kettle on the stove.
Bodie plugged in the kettle. "Ta." He got a mug out of the cupboard, dropped a tea bag in it and then poured boiling water over it.
Sitting down next to his partner, he shifted in his chair, a bit tender from last night's activities. Doyle caught the movement and snickered rudely.
"Not one word," Bodie warned with mock severity.
"Not me, mate." Doyle didn't bother to try to conceal his amusement with the situation.
"What did you find out last night?" Bodie asked, changing the subject.
"You mean aside from your seducing my sweet and innocent uncle?"
"Ray, don't be a prat. Alan is many things, but sweet and innocent he is not," Bodie pronounced with a laugh. Then sobered, "You're not really upset, are you?"
"Don't you be a prat, either," Doyle groused.
"So you're okay with it, really?"
"Yeah, love you both. Be good to see Alan with someone who really cares for a change. Of course if you hurt him . . ." Doyle's tone was teasing and light, but Bodie wondered if he didn't half mean it.
"What about me?" Bodie complained. "Don't you care if he hurts me?"
"'Course I do," Doyle grinned his chipped-tooth grin. "Tell him the same thing, won't I?"
"You're going to be a right pain about this aren't you? We're never going to hear the end of it."
"It's too good to pass up."
"What's too good to pass up?" Alan asked, coming into the kitchen.
"Teasing us," Bodie told the other man, wishing they could be alone for two minutes so he could kiss Alan good morning. Alan smiled into Bodie eyes, seeming to know what he was thinking. Christ, he looks good, Bodie thought, taking in Alan's slightly dishevelled appearance.
The spikes of the brush cut went in several different directions, making Alan look like a grey-haired punk-rocker. His sweat pants rode dangerously low on his narrow hips and the sweatshirt he was wearing had the neck band torn off. All in all he looked good enough to eat. Bodie didn't dare touch him, he was sure Alan would not tolerate any displays of affection or otherwise, except when they were alone. But even as he thought it, Alan passed a hand through Bodie's hair as he went to the sink -- just a small gesture of affection that meant the world to Bodie. He couldn't help beaming at Alan as he turned to the sink and filled the kettle.
"So what did the grass in London say?" Alan asked Ray as he sat down with his tea.
"That it would likely go down tomorrow night at midnight." Ray munched on his toast. "Jamison thought it would be on the docks at Zimmerman's stalls. Checked it out, probably stall 22A or B. Those are the ones that belong to Zimmerman."
"Talk to the Cow?" Bodie inquired, wondering what Cowley was planning to do about it.
"Yeah, he said to work with Eastland police on surveillance starting this morning." Ray looked at Alan with his eyebrow raised.
"All right, when we get in I'll talk to ACC ops and set something up. We should meet about . . ." Alan looked at his watch, "9:30, and get all the details worked out. Now, I must get dressed. And so do both of you."
"There are only two bathrooms," Bodie pointed out reasonably.
"None of that in public, Ray," Alan said sharply.
Ray looked up, hurt. "'Course not, you think I'm an idiot?"
"Don't want me to answer that, do you, sunshine?" teased his partner. Ruffling his curls, Bodie followed Alan back up the stairs.
As soon as they were alone, Alan drew Bodie gently into his arms. "Last night was beautiful, blue eyes," he whispered softly.
"I love it when you call me that," Bodie murmured.
"Just a pet name." Alan tightened his arms.
"Never had one before."
Alan smiled at him. "Well, you do now."
"Yeah." Bodie nuzzled his neck.
"Mmm," Alan purred. "None of that now or we won't get to work."
"Don't want to go anyway." Bodie licked the strip of skin on his shoulder where the torn sweatshirt neck was pulled away. He could feel Alan start to shiver, but the older man stepped back. Bodie pouted.
"Won't work with me," Alan chuckled. "Much."
Bodie moved closer. "One more kiss?"
"Just one," Alan said, stepping back into Bodie arms.
Their mouths met and the kiss was as sweet and arousing as it had been the night before. Bodie had wondered if they would still feel the overpowering need once they'd had each other, but his fear was unfounded: the attraction was only growing with the having. There would be no going back, now.
Bodie's spine tingled as he let Alan go and asked, "Who's Elena?"
"My daughter. Why?"
"You said she had a key, was wondering who she was. Does she live here?"
"No. She's at Cambridge."
Bodie sighed. "I really don't know much about you. What happened to your wife?"
"Never had one," Alan replied, then changed the subject. "Let's discuss this later. We both have to get washed up and off to work."
"Okay." Bodie wanted to know the answer to why he had a daughter, but not a wife, even an ex one. But that, like everything about his mysterious new lover, would have to wait. Bodie smiled to himself as he followed Cade into the bathroom -- it would give them plenty to talk about later on. He looked forward to all the things he would find out about Alan in the future.
"I'm glad that I don't have to work directly with you, today," Alan commented lightly. "I'd find it impossible to get anything done."
"Yeah, me too."
After talking to several people around the docks, Ray and Bodie took the first watch on the storage facility. No one really expected there to be movement until the following night, but they had to keep watch just in case.
Surveillance entailed long hours in a car, with nothing to do but talk. But Bodie didn't want to discuss his relationship with Alan. It was still too new. Ray seemed to understand that and kept away from the topic.
"You know, I've been wanting to ask you something since last year when you told me about being bisexual," Ray said after they had both been silent for a while.
"What?" Bodie queried carefully. This could deteriorate quickly.
"If you like older men, how is it you're not attracted to the Cow?" Ray chuckled evilly. He obviously thought this was a joke.
"What makes you think I'm not?" Bodie asked, straight faced. He liked and respected George Cowley enormously. If he hadn't been like a father to Bodie, he might have been attracted to him. Bodie could appreciate the kind of man Cowley was, very powerful, very moral. And he wasn't bad looking either.
"No way!?" It came out as something between and question and a statement, leaving Doyle looking very unsure.
"Why not?" Bodie continued smoothly, enjoying Doyle's consternation.
"He's . . . he's . . . ." Doyle trailed off, unable to come up with an appropriate adjective.
"He's what?" Bodie purred.
"So's your uncle."
"Alan's not even fifty yet."
"Cowley's only about fifty-four or fifty-five."
"Yeah, but Cowley?" Doyle groaned. Then he snickered, "So if you're attracted to him, how come you never made a pass at him."
"Cowley's as straight as they come."
"Just how do you know that?"
"Come on, mate. It's obvious. Even if he weren't, he would never, and I mean never, get involved with one of his people. Too ethical for that."
"I don't know," Doyle said thoughtfully. "I always fancied the thought there might be something between him and Betty."
"Nah, that's just your excuse for why she won't go out with you," Bodie joked, then added, "I'd never believe it of him. Betty's young enough to be his daughter."
"So Cowley would never get involved with someone that much younger than he is."
"Because he'd think it was wrong," Bodie replied with exaggerated patience.
"What about Alan?"
"What about him?"
"He got involved with you."
"What's that got to do with anything? Thought we were talking about Cowley and Betty, not me and Alan."
"You're almost young enough to be his son."
"Not quite. Cowley's at least twenty-five years older than Betty."
"Alan's seventeen years older than you are."
"S'not the same."
"'Cause I've got enough experience in life to make the differences in our ages smaller than they are."
"You know, Bodie," Doyle grumbled, "you're always saying that and intimating that you've got all this horrible experience. But you never say what it is. Put up or shut up."
Perhaps because Doyle had been prompting him for so long, or perhaps because being with Alan had changed things, Bodie could never say why later, but he knew the time had come to tell Doyle the truth. The thought terrified him.
What will Ray think of me, once he knows the truth? He turned to look at Doyle, "You really want to know, mate? It's not pretty."
"Yeah, I do."
"I was on a merchant ship at fourteen, and it wasn't so bad at first. They all wanted it, but they were nice about it. Didn't want to hurt me. I was seventeen when I finally got to Africa. Do you have any idea what they do to pretty boys in a mercenary outfit?"
Doyle shook his head.
"It was hell -- the only reason I survived the next two years was because I was good with a rifle. I had some value besides being a whore for the whole band. When Krivas didn't want me for the night, the others would fight to see who got me.
"I got out with my life, barely, because one of the other men felt sorry for me and helped me escape." Bodie took a deep breath, trying to still his pounding heart. There was more, much more, but that was the worst of it.
Doyle looked stunned. Apparently, he'd heard more than he'd ever bargained for. "I'm sorry," he whispered, putting a comforting hand on Bodie's shoulder. "I'm so sorry, mate."
Bodie blinked and looked up, chagrined. The telling wasn't as bad as he'd always feared it would be. Maybe time and distance did heal most wounds. It also helped that Doyle didn't look disgusted and he wasn't looking at Bodie as if he were dirt, which is what he'd always feared would happen if he told anyone about that time.
There was great sympathy in the green gaze, maybe even a bit of protectiveness. Bodie was touched.
"I'll shoot 'em for you, mate," Doyle volunteered, squeezing his shoulder before releasing it, "if you tell me who."
"Got a couple of 'em before I left," Bodie told him. He'd killed two of the men who'd abused him the worst. The only one still left alive was Krivas, and he was rotting in prison.
"There's more isn't there?" Doyle guessed.
"Yeah, but that's the worst of it."
"You tell Alan about it yet?"
"No, but something he said about choices made me think of it. He knew something was wrong but I couldn't tell him, just couldn't."
"Alan will help you if you let him," Doyle said. "I can't tell you how good he was to me when I was a kid."
"He said he gave you a place to stay, when your old man got violent."
"Was more than that, much more. I was a bloody nuisance and he was still there for me. I always had a set of keys to wherever he was living, still do for that matter and it's been years since I needed it."
"Needed it last night, didn't you?" Bodie laughed.
"Yeah, but that was your fault."
"True enough," Bodie conceded.
"You'll have to tell him, eventually."
"Yeah, I suppose. If it lasts that long."
"Don't you think it will?"
"I don't know. But it took me years to get up the nerve to tell you and you're my best friend."
"Seems like Alan's more than a friend," Doyle pointed out with a chuckle.
"More and less, truth be told."
"Funny how that works."
"Yeah, but . . . ."
"But he might be more, someday. Joking aside, I like him a lot."
"He's got the Doyle temper."
"If it's a Doyle trait, how could he have it?"
"Well, it's a Cade trait too."
"I expect so," Bodie laughed, feeling better than he had in a long time. He'd always felt a bit guilty for not telling Doyle about his past, but until lately it didn't seem that could even talk about it. Though now that he'd dealt with Krivas, thinking about it wasn't as hard as it used to be. He knew he would have to tell Alan too. But not just yet. Better to get to know him for a while first.
They were relieved at 6:00 by two Eastland coppers. Doyle checked them into the hotel, so that he would have a place to go to that night and they met Alan at his house for a meal. Doyle left early to go back to the hotel, but not before he teased them both unmercifully during dinner. Alan took it with good grace, knowing how much his nephew loved him and how happy he really was about their relationship.
After Doyle left, he and Bodie settled back on the sofa, watching the fire quietly and holding each other. Alan snuggled on top of Bodie, nuzzling his face gently.
"I've been thinking about you all day, blue eyes," Cade murmured into Bodie's hair. "Made it difficult to get anything done."
"I know. I had nothing to keep my mind busy, sitting and watching that bloody warehouse. When I thought about you, all I could think of was you fucking me again tonight. You are going to, aren't you?" Bodie sounded very hopeful.
Alan's heart tightened and his cock started to fill. His fingers danced along Bodie's spine and then cupped his buttock. "You really up for more?"
"Been up all day, for thinking of you," Bodie told him with a laugh, wiggling to press his hard cock against Alan's belly.
"I can feel that you're up now. But you're not too sore?"
"Don't care, I want to feel you inside me again. Now."
"Demanding aren't you?" Alan leaned down and kissed him. Bodie opened his mouth to Alan's tongue. Exploring Bodie's mouth was something Alan believed he would never ever get tired of.
"Just wait," Bodie promised.
"For me to really be demanding."
"Yeah, I'll be telling you how and why before too long."
"Do you need something I'm not giving you?" Alan hadn't thought Bodie was unsatisfied. He was fairly adventurous when it came to sex; the only thing he wouldn't do was hurt someone. That just wasn't in him. "If you want something, let me know."
"No that's not what I meant at all," Bodie was quick to reassure him. "God, you're a generous, tender lover, that's all I want. Really."
"What will you demand then?" Alan let some of the confusion seep into this voice. "I don't understand."
"I was joking. Sometime I might want . . . . I don't know."
"Maybe to fuck you?"
"And you think I wouldn't let you?"
"I wondered. It's not something I want often, but I do want it."
"I like it too, sometimes," Alan said cautiously. He did enjoy being taken, physically, but unless he was in exactly the right mood, mentally it grated a bit, though not enough to deny Bodie. He had a feeling he'd have a hard time denying Bodie anything.
It was odd that they were having this discussion, as if they were planning a long-term relationship. The passion is so hot now, how could it not burn itself out in short order? And more importantly, how could a man as beautiful as Bodie want me when I'll be truly old before he even reaches middle age?
With ease of long practice, Cade pushed the thoughts away as he leant down to kiss Bodie again.
"Everything settled?" Alan asked, knowing that for him it wasn't, but also knowing he couldn't do anything about it now. He wanted Bodie with a hunger he'd not felt in years. And the fear of losing what he'd found was just as great. He ignored it all as he lifted himself off the bigger man.
"Yeah. Let's go upstairs."
The operation ran like clock-work and ended successfully. Alan was pleased that the culprits and all the weapons had been captured without anyone being hurt. Working with CI5 had been much more successful than with some of the other security organizations who had trespassed on his patch. Part of it, he was sure, was that Doyle had smoothed over much of it with George Cowley. He'd been kept informed of everything that happened and that had taken much of the sting out of having them there. It had been good to work with his nephew. Doyle, and Bodie too for that matter, were complete professionals.
The dawn light was breaking as Alan pulled his Rover into the car park, just getting back to his office after the operation ended. He'd gone back to the house to clean up and catch a couple of hours sleep. Bodie and his nephew had stayed to help with the mop up and he expected they were now writing their reports for Cowley. Alan entered his office and found Ray sitting in his chair, his feet propped on the desk. There weren't many people who had the guts to do that, fewer still who'd get away with it. Ray smiled cheekily at him.
"Hi, uncle," his nephew said, tipping the chair back.
"Hi yourself." Cade came abreast of the chair and stared down at his nephew. "Up."
Doyle rose gracefully, still smiling at him.
"Where's Bodie?" Alan asked.
Doyle's grin grew wider, "Typing the report, got to have it faxed to the Cow before we can leave."
"I see, and you're not helping him?"
Ray shook his head, his green eyes twinkling merrily. "Nah, it's his turn to do it."
"Is there a reason you're loitering in my office, rather than doing something useful?"
"Yeah, I wanted to talk to you."
"Is something wrong?" Cade didn't bother to keep the concern out of his voice.
"No. Just we haven't had a moment to talk since I got here. Want to take a walk?"
They didn't speak again until they were out of the building. They walked along the streets of the town centre as the early morning sun streamed through the trees.
"Was there something in particular or did you just want my company?" Alan asked after a time.
Doyle slid his sunglasses onto his nose. "Much as I love your company, I did want to talk about Bodie."
"Why does that not surprise me? What do you want to talk about?" As if he couldn't figure that one out himself.
"I don't want him to be hurt."
"Since when are you his keeper?" Alan asked impatiently. He didn't want to discuss his relationship with anyone. It was only that it was Ray that he was tolerating this at all.
"He's my best friend, my partner."
"Ray, I know he's your mate, but it's really none of your business."
"He hasn't had an easy time of it," Ray continued as if he hadn't heard Alan's remark. "There are things in his past that have hurt him -- very badly. I don't want to see him hurt any worse than he already has been."
Alan sighed. "I know he's not had an easy life."
"I just want us to understand each other."
Alan stopped dead and took hold of Ray's shoulders. "Are you threatening me?"
"I'm sorry," Ray whispered, not meeting Alan's eyes. "I didn't mean it to sound like that. It's just that I wanted to make sure you understood that Bodie means a lot to me." Alan looked at him, hurt, and Ray added quickly, "You do too for that matter. I want to see you both live happily ever after -- together."
The attempt at humour failed. "What makes you think this will last that long?"
"You're not thinking of breaking up with him are you?"
"Ray, my personal life really isn't up for discussion."
"But it's Bodie we're talking about."
"Bodie is my lover."
"But he's my partner and my best mate."
"Should we fight a duel or something?" Alan demanded, somewhere between amused and annoyed. He really didn't want to fight with Ray over this, but he also couldn't give Ray the assurances he seemed to want. Nothing in life is sure and my relationships are less so. And this one -- I don't even want to imagine how unsure this one is.
"No. I don't want his hand or his body." Ray laughed uneasily.
"I know you think you're straight, but perhaps you have some unresolved feelings where Bodie's concerned." Alan didn't care for the thought of that. He didn't want Bodie in the position of having to choose between them, knowing only too well with whom Bodie's first loyalties rested. In time that might change, but at present it was a fact of life.
Ray was silent for a moment, considering, then took a deep breath before speaking, "I have to say I'd sleep with him if he wanted me to, but only if it was something he wanted. It's not something I want."
"Do you? Bodie and I guard each other's back -- we'd die trying to protect each other. If you're willing to die for someone, sleeping with them is nothing. I like sex -- if Bodie wanted me, I'd bet he'd make it good for me. I'd still be straight in the morning." Ray thought for a second, then smiled. "Actually, it would make me bisexual in the morning, wouldn't it, but with an almost exclusive attraction for women."
"Alan, listen. You've got nothing to worry about from me, unless you hurt him."
"And then what will you do?"
Ray smiled sweetly. "I can shoot and you can't."
Cade wondered briefly if he was not kidding, but Doyle saw the look and laughed. "I love you, uncle. I owe you more than I can ever repay. But Bodie's my best mate and I love him too."
"I know you do, Ray -- and I love you too . . . and Bodie. But keep your nose out of my affairs. Understand?" Alan mock-cuffed him on the side of his head. Ray ducked, side-stepping out of the way.
"Yeah," Ray assured him, smiling. "I want you both to be happy. Preferably together."
"I can't make any promises about happily ever after, Ray. I'm not sure I even believe in it."
"Well, I can hope can't I?"
"Might do some good. What about your love life?" Alan asked, deciding he'd had more than enough of the current topic of conversation.
"Mine? There's nothing doing in mine, unfortunately."
"Too bad," Alan said, overly sympathetically. "Might give us something else to talk about."
"You've had much better luck these days than I have."
"Don't give me that. My luck with relationships has always been dreadful," Alan complained.
"Yeah," Ray snickered. "You've picked some winners along the way haven't you? Marie was the worst, though."
"You really didn't like Marie-Pierre did you? I've always wondered why."
"You sure you want to know?"
"She was as cold as ice."
For some reason, Alan felt the need to defend his ex-lover. "She was just reserved."
"No, she was cold-hearted like no one I've ever met."
Alan didn't answer; Ray was not the first person to make that assessment of Marie-Pierre. Maybe they were right and he'd never seen it. It didn't matter now, he supposed. "Well," Alan sighed, "she's long gone."
"Might even be back by now, it's been a couple of years."
"You're better off without her."
"Well, I couldn't be involved with Bodie if she were still around, now could I?"
"So I'm doubly glad she's gone."
They had walked around the long block twice, and when they came to the front of the station again, Bodie was waiting outside. He joined them as they got closer to him.
"Hi." Bodie grinned playfully at Ray, then turned to Alan with a smile that was loving and gentle.
Cade suspected that few people, if any, ever saw that smile; and his heart caught at the sight. He is starting to mean far too much to me. "Hi yourself," Alan said, returning his smile.
"What have you two been up to?"
"Talking about you," Ray said teasingly. Hide in plain sight.
"Oh? Saying good things I hope."
"Nah, nothing good to say about you, mate. Is there Alan?" Ray winked at his uncle.
Who chose not to take the hint. "I don't know about that, Ray. I can think of several good things about Bodie."
Bodie beamed at Alan. "Thanks. See, someone loves me," to Ray.
"More than one person here loves you, sunshine," Ray told him solemnly.
"Know it, too, don't I?" Bodie said quietly.
Alan watched the interplay between the two men. He didn't see lust, but there was a wealth of feelings on both sides. "Are you going back to London today?" Alan asked them.
"I am. Soon as I check out of the hotel," Ray answered.
"Cowley gave us the rest of today and tomorrow off," Bodie said, big blue eyes focused hopefully on Alan.
He thought quickly about his schedule for today and tomorrow. "I have a meeting early this afternoon, but I can likely take tomorrow off. Do you want to stay in town and then come home with me later, or do you just want to go there now and get some sleep?
"Sleep sounds good to me. I've been up all night, remember." Bodie yawned hugely for emphasis.
"Me too," Ray said.
"Do you want to go back to the house with Bodie and get some rest before you go back to London?" Alan asked him.
"Nah, I just want to go home and sleep in my own bed," Ray responded.
"Right -- see you in a couple days, mate," said Bodie and waved as Ray took off towards the car park. Alan took keys out of his pocket. "House keys," he held up one set. "Car keys," he held up the other. Bodie looked dead on his feet. "Are you fine to drive home or do you want me to take you?"
"No. I'm okay, I've driven in much worse shape."
"That's not encouraging. But, all right, I've got a meeting soon. Make yourself at home -- I'll be there later this afternoon." Alan met his eyes and held them for a moment. He wished like hell he could kiss Bodie, and he could see the other man wanted that, as well. Alan sighed as Bodie moved away.
"Later," Bodie promised.
Alan put down the phone and sat staring off into space, his unpleasant thoughts giving him no peace. He knew what the root of the problem with his concentration was: Bodie. Alan knew in his heart that the relationship could not last -- it was just too passionate for them to sustain it, and . . . Bodie was too beautiful to want an old man forever. It stung badly for Alan to admit, even to himself, that he could not compete with someone who was young and gorgeous. Someone who would one day come and take Bodie away from him, leaving him alone and heartbroken. He could see the future and it wasn't optimistic. He didn't want to be hurt more than he already was going to be, and knew he had to break it off, soon.
He'd do it when he got home tonight, no use putting off the inevitable -- it would only be worse later if he waited. Alan sighed. Bodie had come to mean far too much to him, far too quickly. Cade tried hard to think about what he could tell Bodie to break if off as gently as possible, but soon realised that there would be no kind way to do it.
Thinking about Bodie and the end of their relationship left Alan with a headache, and an ache in the centre of his chest.
"Bodie, I think it best if we break it off now, before one of us gets hurt," Cade said quietly, sitting down on the sofa.
Bodie looked up, stunned. "No! -- you don't really believe that. Please . . . don't do this."
"I know you think you love me now . . . but it's only been a few days . . . not enough time to really fall in love." Cade's tone was steady, as if he'd rehearsed his argument.
"Oh yes it is, and you know it, too. You're afraid."
Alan drew a deep breath. "Maybe. But I do know that I am too old and too tired to go into a relationship I know will fail over time."
"What are you talking about?" Bodie simply could not believe his ears. They loved each other. "How can you know we won't last? We've barely started yet."
"Bodie -- you're thirty-one years old and I'm forty-eight. In ten or twelve years you'll still be a young beautiful man and I'll be sixty."
"Do I have to spell it out?"
"Yes, you'd better. I don't understand what you're trying to say."
"You're not going to want an old man -- you're going to want a man who's young and beautiful, like you are. I may look all right now, but in a few years I'll start to look my age."
"I don't understand," Bodie repeated, knowing that something wasn't being said, that Alan was upset over some other situation than what they were talking about.
"Dammit, Bodie, you are not going to want an old man. I know that." Alan wasn't quite so controlled now -- he was starting to sound angry. Alan stood, turning away towards the windows at the front of the room. His hands clutched the sill, and he took several deep breaths, obviously trying to control his temper.
Bodie stood as well, but didn't move towards Cade. "How? How can you possibly know what I'll want in ten years? I don't want a young man now, why would I want one in the future?"
"Bodie please don't make this harder than it has to be," Cade said, turning back to him, his beautiful eyes filled with pain and resignation.
"No -- you listen. I need the stability of an older man. I need someone who's going to care about me when my looks fade. Someone who can deal with what I've seen and done in my past." Bodie paused, took a deep breath, and went on. "Don't you understand? -- it's not about age with me -- it's about someone who can see past my face to the person I really am."
Alan considered that, then said, "I see your face too."
"Yeah, but it's not all you see."
"How do you know that?"
"Because if it was, you would have had me over the sofa and then out the door so fast my head would still be spinning. And we wouldn't be having this conversation." Alan really didn't want him to leave. Alan loved him and he knew it in his heart and soul.
"Are you so sure?"
"Yes, Alan, I am sure. Most people only ever attracted to my appearance, and all they want is to fuck me. I know what an unemotional fuck feels like. This has been very different, your every touch has told me that. What's the real problem here?" Bodie asked, knowing there was something else, something Alan wasn't telling him.
"It's only been a few days. It can't mean that much yet, it just can't."
"Who are you trying convince?" Bodie asked him.
"Bodie, please. We have to be sensible."
"Sensible?" Bodie laughed. "Don't give me any more of this crap. I want you to tell me the truth -- what's really wrong?"
Alan said, defeated, "I heard from an old friend this afternoon."
"And?" Bodie prompted, taking a step closer.
"He was involved with a woman much younger than he was -- he recently left his wife for her."
"And she just left him flat?" Bodie guessed.
"Yes, and it's scared the living hell out of me."
"But you already had some doubts along the way, right?"
"How did you know?"
"Sometimes you have a look in your eyes as if you can't quite believe I'm here. I will be here -- forever -- if you let me."
"I don't know, Bodie. I want to believe it, but . . . ." He turned back to the window, seeing nothing.
"But what?" Bodie moved up behind him, but didn't touch.
"I'm afraid I'll end up alone with a broken heart. I've let so many people walk away from me, giving myself one excuse or another. But when it came to you . . . I don't want you to leave and it looked to me that you might. Today's phone call showed me a way to send you away, before you can leave me."
"I won't leave you," Bodie swore, stepping forward so his chest was pressed lightly against Alan's back.
Alan leaned back so that they were pressed even closer together, although their hands remained at their sides. "You knew from the start I was just scared?"
"No, I was startled and terrified at first, until I realised that you've been too sweet a lover to drop me like that."
"Yeah, you made me feel like a million pounds. No one makes love like that and then dumps his lover -- but he might be afraid of being left. I knew something had to trigger this."
"I didn't mean to hurt you."
"It's okay, this time," Bodie laughed. "I don't think my heart could take a steady diet of this sort of thing. It's really not like you."
"No, I'm usually more stable than this." Alan chuckled ruefully. "It's a measure of how I feel for you that I've reacted this way."
"Do you love me?" Bodie asked, suddenly needing to hear the words.
"I love you, very much," Alan said. "I promise you that." He turned and took Bodie into his arms, holding onto him tightly. Bodie heard him take a shuddering breath. "I'm sorry, Bodie."
Bodie slid his hands on to Alan's face, tilting his face up for a kiss. "I love you," he said, his voice rich with emotion.
"Are you okay now?" Bodie whispered.
Cade dropped his hands and looked down. "I think so."
"Are you really worried about our ages?"
"It has occurred to me that when I'm sixty you'll be forty-three."
"You'll still be so young -- how can I not think you'll want someone younger and better looking?"
"Because I love you."
"Now," Alan sighed.
"And for always. I can't promise that I won't leave you -- my job being what it is makes that impossible -- but I can tell you I won't do it willingly. I've waited a long time find a man like you."
"You're so beautiful."
Bodie winced, "And it's caused me nothing but pain."
"I didn't want to tell you yet -- I only just got up the nerve to tell Ray."
"What is it?"
Needing some space for this conversation, Bodie moved away to stand by the sofa to collect his thoughts. Telling it again wasn't going to be any easier but … he spoke quietly without stopping and managed to tell Alan everything, then waited to hear the reaction.
"Ah, don't look like that. It's all right, Bodie. I'd guessed some of it -- but it's worse than I imagined," said Alan, hoping to comfort. He pulled Bodie onto the sofa and put his arms around him.
He reached out and lifted Bodie's chin so that Bodie was looking into his eyes. "You had no choice. It wasn't your fault."
"I know that now," Bodie replied. "I've been waiting for someone who loves me despite my looks, rather than because of it. It's you, isn't it?"
"It is, I swear it."
"I knew it. I knew it would be you."
Alan lent forward and kissed him tenderly. Bodie was instantly lost in that kiss, relief and other, stronger emotions, consuming him -- he had briefly feared that he would get no more of Alan's kisses, and that thought had almost overwhelmed him with misery.
"And I'm so very sorry about doubting you." Alan's smile beseeched understanding. "Will you forgive me?"
Bodie could smile now, "I'll let you make it up to me."
"Take me upstairs." Bodie nodded towards the hall.
Alan sniffed and laughed. "I can do that."
After a beautifully long kiss, Bodie broke the embrace and led Alan up the stairs. Alan stripped off his own clothes and then turned to work on Bodie's, but found him undressed and waiting. Laying him down gently on the bed, Alan snuggled next to him, loving the feel of the strong, slender body against his own.
"How could I have thought I could give you up?" Alan murmured into his hair.
"Beyond me." He pulled Alan on top of him and kissed the older man softly.
"Love you, Bodie."
"Now would be good."
Alan chuckled and did as he was asked.