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Of all the aftermaths that might play out if ever he gave into impulse and kissed Bodie, Ray had never imagined this one; that they would simply have no time for any response at all.

 

Because, of course, of all the weekends in all the year to decide to get assassinated, Francis Kaspolov had chosen this one.

 

Well, perhaps Kaspolov hadn’t been too thrilled by this turn of events either, but even so…

 

Ray let out a sharp exhalation, aware of the sweat running down his back and soaking into his shirt. He was already eight minutes late for the briefing – he glanced at his watch – make that nine minutes.

 

And when he hit those swing doors and made the room, there, presumably, would be Bodie. And whatever was at the end of the delayed action fuse they’d lit yesterday.

 

This was likely to be a hell of an operation, and they would need to be side-by-side, step in step, to survive. Nothing could be allowed to take precedence over that. And of that Ray had some faith, at least; that Bodie would be the same protector, the same partner, the same solid reliable other half at his back for at least this obbo.

 

Afterwards, though, when risk receded and the normal world returned?

 

Funny, to be so uncomfortably warm – London in July, and no rain for three weeks, tarmac baking the heat right back into your face – and yet to be so chill with worry at the same time.

 

He’d had an opportunity to sleep for nearly two hours, if he’d only been able to. But even after he’d locked his door behind him, stripped, sunk into the chair – too filthy for the bed, too tired to bother with the shower – his brain had refused to quieten.

 

Had Bodie suffered the same problem? Perhaps not – it had been in Ray’s flat, after all, where they’d kissed. And only a few hours beforehand, Friday afternoon, during what had been supposed to be their mutual day off.

 

And so of course it was all Ray had been able to see, back in the dim curtain-edge light of the small hours of a summer morning. Staring across at the sofa where he’d so recently been lounging unconcerned, reading a George Orwell in paperback, sipping iced water and lemon, all well with the world.

 

And Bodie had been sitting on the floor beside him, his back against the sofa, against the side of Ray’s arm as Ray lay back. Bodie had said he could only really see the TV from there (accompanied with a lengthy complaint and mockery of the size of Ray’s television, as laden with innuendo as Bodie could manage, which was always an impressive tonnage).

 

And they’d started arguing about – football? Something inconsequential, something lost in the quick fire of lines and insults and laughter.

 

And Bodie had turned himself, gone up on his knees, hovering over Ray’s supine form, smiling bright as the sun, and soft, his eyes soft like they never got for anyone else. Laughing. Being foul mouthed and affectionate and everything that meant days off as well as days on, now. Everything that had started to mean safety, and quiet, and home.

 

Leaning closer, teasing, easy, and then…

 

Ray had already known the smell of Bodie’s skin, of course. It been different, though, to taste, when their mouths had met. And Bodie’s tongue was the sweet/sharp of Coca Cola, too, and the back of his neck had stiff, fine stubble from his recent haircut under Ray’s fingertips, searching, grasping.

 

Electric. A coiling, sudden, liquid ache through Ray’s belly and down and into his balls.

 

Ray had thought about such an event, in the way he’d thought about winning the lottery or addressing the UN; something abstract, something with a desirability tempered by awareness of its being impossible.

 

Panting, Bodie had pulled back, had just got far enough away for their eyes to meet, probably with time for Bodie to see that Ray was heavily, painfully, unmistakably hard, and…

 

And Bodie’s R/T had sounded, just as Ray’s phone rang. Code Scarlet, all agents deployed immediately, ten minutes to get to your places or Cowley would know the reason why. They each had their own ‘grabs’ – vulnerable connections of given high-ups to get to safehouses in the case of something like this, and Bodie’s was in Poplar, Ray’s in Watford.

 

If they’d waited to talk about anything, anything at all, rather than strapping on their guns and going for it, they wouldn’t have been Cowley’s best.

 

Ray had never felt less pleased with that title.

 

And so Ray had slunk back to his flat at 4am Saturday morning, Kaspolov’s wife delivered and the potential seriousness of the situation ever-expanding, without any indication of where Bodie’s mind was, and had stared at his sofa, and had not slept – until of course he’d dropped off, probably from the sheer exhaustion of anxiety, just minutes before he ought to have been rising and dressing. And now he was late.

 

Hand slippery on the banister, Ray started the final flight of stairs.

 

Outright denial he could probably endure. He’d had that from those on the Force he’d been sufficiently foolish to take to bed, young and stupid enough to think love conquered all, and that love and lust were half the same.

 

Anger or disgust he might survive as well – he could laugh it off, he could promise it would never happen again, he could call it a dare, a joke gone wrong. ‘Never thought you’d think I was serious, really sunshine you need to work on your sense of humour.’

 

At least he’d know, soon enough, which it was to be. And only have to bear one, rather than the idea of both.

 

There were the doors, and here he was, a sweaty mess, unshaven, in the same shirt through which he’d felt the warmth of Bodie’s skin, not even twenty-four hours ago.

 

Sleep deprivation, dehydration and severe under-caffeination probably weren’t helping his thought processes, he knew that. And yet he felt this fear would be the same, however he’d come to it.

 

The fear of what might be, and the fear of what might have passed him by, come and gone with scarcely seconds to even appreciate it.

 

This was Bodie. This was everything.

 

Ray pushed the door open.

 

“…which may mean that they are intending to wait until that has died down before acting again,” Cowley was saying, pacing in front of a board of mugshot photos. “But that is not an assumption I’m willing to make, and so it’ll be patrols, all day, every day, for all of you, for the foreseeable future.”

 

A rumble of displeasure around the room, and Ray’s gaze shifted automatically to look…

 

Bodie was already staring at him.

 

Once again, their eyes met.

 

Bodie blushed.

 

Bodie blushed, and Ray’s mouth was dry. He felt his own cheeks heat. Felt a thrill up his spine, a new bloom of perspiration across his back.

 

Funny, how a mood could change on the quirk of a lip, on being in receipt of a smile.

 

Bodie wasn’t looking away.

 

Partly because he felt almost weak with relief, Ray leant back against the doorframe. But also because he knew how it made his hips look.

 

The briefing sheet was crumpling in Bodie’s hand, unregarded. Bodie’s mouth had dropped slightly open, the high colour still on his cheeks.

 

Perhaps, Ray thought, pushing himself upright again, going to over to join his partner, perhaps it was all going to end rather well.