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Out on the Streets

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Bodie couldn’t work out why Doyle suddenly had a face like a wet weekend. They’d saved the tank plans as well as rescuing the girl from the kidnappers, hadn’t they? Doyle was a hero, wasn’t he? Surely they had done a fine job, a pretty damn good day's work even by Cowley's standards. If it was good enough for the Cow, surely it was good enough for the two of them.

At a loss for anything else to do, Bodie had dragged his partner to a pub. Unfortunately, Doyle wasn’t getting any good of it: he just sat with his pint instead of drinking. Every once in a while, he dragged the glass in a circle, making the beer slosh up the sides. He stared at the moving liquid as if it were interesting.

Not to Bodie, who would ordinarily have made a joke about the next round, but by this time, it wasn’t funny even to himself. He pursed his mouth, trying to harness his irritation. He’d wanted more of the camaraderie of the day, the way they’d fit the case together like a jigsaw. The puzzle he had now was missing too many pieces. “Eh, mate, what’s on your mind?” he asked at last.

When Doyle responded, it was with a force Bodie didn’t understand: “Did you mean it, about the kid?”

“What kid?”

“Nancy, at that school. The little detective. Bodie, she’s only, what, thirteen? Fourteen? You said she was above my income level, as if that were the only reason not to pull her. A kid!”

Bodie shook his head. “It was only a joke. Plus, she was looking at you like she knew what she wanted.”

“No, she’s a nice girl.”

“All girls are—” Bodie began out of habit, but Doyle slapped the table hard enough to get the attention of a middle-aged woman seated a few feet away. He leaned forward, frowning right into Bodie’s eyes. The woman looked hurriedly toward the bar as if to call the barmaid.

“She’s. A nice. Girl. She wasn’t trying to flirt with two scruffy thirty-year-olds."

“Scruffy? Speak for—” but Doyle didn’t even let him finish.

He stood in a rush, the chair scraping across the floor, his fists closing hard. “I’m off. Don’t worry, I’m sure there’s someone at this pub drunk enough to find leering at schoolgirls funny. Or there’s always the porn merchants.”

Bodie was beginning to get angry himself. “Look. It was a joke. Like McCabe’s about the desk drawers.”

“Don’t remind me.” Doyle leaned on the table again, his eyes narrowed, his chin set.

“You laughed!”

“Oh, yes, I laughed. When I’m with you lot, I laugh at jokes about rape, jokes about working-class roughs trying it on with middle-class girls, and most of all, Bodie—” he leaned in more; his voice dropped— “I laugh at jokes about poofters. You missed that part of the McCabe comedy hour, I think. You were in Cowley’s office. Too bad. You would have enjoyed it more than I did.”

Now Bodie stood up too and did some leaning of his own. He knew how to loom, not that it had ever intimidated Doyle. “What the hell do you mean by that?”

“What the hell do you think I mean?”

Something in Bodie shifted, so he could laugh at his spitting alley-cat partner. “Oh, go home, Ray. You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you think I’m in the same ‘lot’ as McCabe … it’s not on. If you’re just saying it to get up my nose, you’ve done it. Get out of here.”

Bodie left the pub himself, shortly afterwards, thinking about how much Doyle didn’t know about him. He had no desire for some kind of personal-history heart-to-heart, especially just now. Didn’t want to talk about Keith. But he didn’t want any more of these foolish arguments either.

It was quite a while later—the middle of the night, in fact—that he sat straight up in bed, remembering Doyle saying, “… most of all, Bodie, I laugh at jokes about poofters.”

“Do you, Raymond?” he said aloud to the empty room. “Do you indeed.” Then he lay down again, resolving to find out, but fell asleep before he could think about it much.

In the next few days, he thought often about what Doyle had almost said. He couldn’t make that seem real either. After all, there were only a few ways Bodie would know for sure that Doyle was attracted to men, or to Bodie as a man. Doyle could try it on; Bodie could try it on; independent evidence might emerge. Bodie checked out Doyle's flat when picking him up for work: not a whiff, not a discarded pair of pants, unfamiliar tie or empty K-Y tube in the bin. No newspaper turned to the Personals. No matchbooks from one if those clubs.

Because, he reminded himself irritably, Doyle was not an idiot. He wasn’t going to wear women’s clothes or eyeliner on his way to work, for pity’s sake.

Then Cowley called them in to his office. He seemed strangely nervous, rustling papers, not looking at either of them for long. Bodie stood straighter, feeling as apprehensive as if Cowley had shaken their hands. He might yet, as a matter of fact.

He cleared his throat, looked over his glasses at Doyle. “4-5, this case will need some of your special knowledge.”

Doyle frowned. “Of handguns?” he asked suspiciously.

All Bodie knew then was that it couldn’t be about handguns.

“You’ll remember, when you first came on board at CI-5—”

“Oh, no. Oh no!” Doyle said, aggression rising like the head of steam he so often built up.

Seven-stone weakling, mate, Bodie thought, but even saying it aloud didn’t work as a rule. Even when there was an obvious reason, undercover.

However, Doyle’s stroppy behaviour seemed to bring Cowley back to normal. He handed Doyle a file folder, sat back in his chair, and picked up the whiskey glass he’d already poured for himself. “Szymon Nowak, a young cousin of the Polish Ambassador’s wife, arrived a month ago for a visit and went missing eight days ago. There is some reason to believe that he may have gone to Brixton, voluntarily, but neither the ambassador nor his wife believe he would have stayed away without notifying either them or his family in the People’s Republic of Poland.”

“His business?” Bodie murmured, but Cowley frowned.

“We have been asked to investigate. I have agreed.”

Doyle looked up from the photos in the folder to frown back. “You think he’s underground in the squats?”

“It seems highly probable, given his reputation.”

Doyle shut the folder sharply. He thrust it toward Bodie, who took it but did not open it. The glimpse he’d caught when Doyle was looking was of a young man so willowy and fey that every hackle Bodie had was standing on end.

“Find him,” said Cowley. “If you need to set up an undercover persona—”

Doyle interrupted. “Bodie maybe. Too many people would remember me.”

“I can use my own name,” Bodie said. Both the others looked at him. He shrugged. “Being homosexual, 's not illegal any more,” he said.

“No,” Cowley said. “Though the squats are full of people, so are legally public spaces. Police will occasionally raid them. Don't get caught up in a sweep.”

“We'll certainly try,” Doyle said with a glint of teeth. “Not a place I want to run into anyone from me old Met days.”

“Well, on your bikes, then. Report when you're established or with any information about Nowak. By Friday in any case.”

* * *

Doyle didn't utter until they were in their office with the door shut. He dropped onto the sofa to pinch the bridge of his nose, heaving a great sigh. “Didn't mean you to know,” he said, his voice defeated.

Bodie put the file on the desk, shrugged. “After that thing about the McCabe comedy hour—”

Evidently, Ray had forgotten that. “Oh, Christ.”

“Look, Ray, it's not—” But Bodie still couldn't figure out how to end that sentence.

Ray set his jaw, looked past Bodie, then at him. “We should go in separately. I'll find some of me old mates. You find a squat. We'll run into each other.”

“Then you'll pull me?”

“Don't you joke, Bodie.” As usual, by the time Doyle said this, it was through his clenched teeth and accompanied by a glare.

Bodie never liked heart-to-hearts, but they'd need to talk about this sometime. “No joke, Ray. We'll need reasons to meet up.”

Still snarling, Doyle said, “Sex. Isn't. Everything. Even in the Brixton squats.”

“Fine, we'll play chess, then. Needlepoint together. March with the GLF.”

Suddenly, Doyle grinned. “Love to see you in drag, mate. Carrying a sign.”

“Leather's my gear.”

“Course it is.”

Bodie took a deeper breath. He began to feel they'd get through this all right. “Tomorrow for you, then?”

With a nod, Doyle got up. “Give you a call when I can.”

“Do that.”

And they parted.

Bodie went to Oxfam first, then to a couple of downmarket second-hand shops. He filled an elderly suitcase with rough clothes, a straight razor, and so forth: an unemployed working man's gear. After adding few old copies of The Sun as well as a worn paperback copy of The Day of the Jackal, he settled to wait for Doyle's call.

He thought back to what he'd read of Doyle's file when they were first teamed. Before Cowley had recruited Doyle, he'd been in the Met Drug Squad; before that a Constable; before that, resident of London. Was that when he'd lived in the squats? How did anyone go from there to the Met?

Was Doyle homosexual or was he not?

The phone rang.

“Salvation Army, God bless you,” Bodie said devoutly, and Doyle laughed.

“Clown.”

“Are you in?”

“I am. Found an old mate, set meself up in a squat, all that. Even dined. Had some baked beans on toast, sardines. Beer.”

“Of course. Gourmand, you are. Anywhere I should find … or avoid? Anyone?”

“South London Gay Community Centre would've been a good place to start … five years ago. Evicted now. But try asking, might get you a tip.”

“I may try it. New boy in town, am I?”

“Have a better idea?”

“I haven't a clue, petal. None.”

But when Doyle had hung up, Bodie took the copies of The Sun out of the case. Put in a pack of cigarettes along with a Bic lighter. A ballpoint pen, a notebook. Maybe he could lend it to Doyle with a few pointed words about his copper days.

He made himself a cuppa, stuck the rest of the box of teabags in his case. Looked out the window at the empty street. Rubbing his chin, Bodie thought he wouldn't shave the next morning.

He realised he was trying to distract himself from Doyle's past, his mates in Brixton. He remembered Doyle as he'd first met him, when if anything he looked less like a poof than he did now, with his longer hair and the bangle on his wrist. What had he looked like when he first arrived in the Smoke? Had he known about the squats already? Had he sought them out as Bodie was about to do? Had he been wearing his scruffy tight jeans with tight t-shirts, or the button-down ones that he never buttoned up? Did he dance in the clubs, rubbing up against some other hard young body, his eyes sparking fire, his cock bulging against the zip?

Bodie needed to stop. He put one hand on his own semi-hard prick, pressing down. It was time to get some sleep. It'd be easier if he could get his leg over first, but none of the birds he was currently taking out were the type who would just come over for a shag.

After a quick shower, he got into his bed but left the lamp on, took his tube of KY in hand, and then himself in hand, grinning a little, letting himself think of Doyle again. Sexy Ray. Maybe gay Ray. He'd find out during this op, even tell Ray a few things about his own past. But first they had to find that young poofter. Deliver him to the ambassador.

* * *

The next morning, he went down to Brixton Station, then walked down Atlantic Road. The sun was brighter than he'd noticed at first. It made his head itch under the knit cap he was wearing to distract the viewer's eye from his too-fresh haircut. There was something Doyle needn't bother about. The thought didn't even make him smile. Bodie hated wearing these shabby clothes, not to mention this bloody cap. He was trying not to remember how much he'd looked like his father in his bathroom mirror when he hadn't shaved. He'd considered not brushing his teeth or just rinsing his mouth with gin or cheap whiskey, but in the end he didn't want to feel any seedier than he must.

After several turns, a few dead ends, the streets seeming deserted, he at last saw the sort of group he'd been looking for: two black … men, he supposed. They wore dashikis. Their hair was wilder than Doyle's, scarves tied round forcing the tower of curls even higher, every colour from sand-brown to pink, pausing on the way for streaks of orange and yellow. They swayed like tiger lilies in a sharp wind, tapping long, polished nails against their own faces, against the faces of the white toughs they were talking to. Flirting with. Bodie gave them a once-over as he passed, smiling a little at the one who scoped him out.

"Hey, butch," one of the black boys said. "Fresh meat, are you?"

"Looking for a squat," Bodie answered, a little sheepish, letting the Scouse show.

"Plenty about," said one of the white ones, dressed in tight jeans under a leather jacket that looked like a costume, with the chains and studs. "In my block, as a matter o'fact. Want a native guide?" The others laughed.

Bodie looked at all of them, said doubtfully, "Y'takin' the piss?"

"Nah, on the level. 'E's just a slut, this one," said the other white boy, elbowing the one who had spoken.

So when the "slut" started walking, Bodie followed, head a little down, feeling as much at sea as his undercover persona would have been.

"From Liverpool, ain'ya?" his native guide asked.

"Yeah."

"Lookin' for work?"

"Course. Or not," Bodie looked around at the grimy walls, the frequent boarded windows, battered doors, graffiti, trash blowing by. "Is there any?"

"Work? I s'pose there must be, somewhere. Market's open every morning, lorries goin' by, shipping honking away. Somebody must be doin' it."

"Yeah." They walked another block. "What's your name, anyway?"

"Reg. You?"

"Bodie."

He nodded. "You gay, Bodie?"

Bodie couldn't think how to answer. Reg stopped, put a friendly hand on Bodie's arm. No rubbing, no stepping in, his face concerned but not flirtatious. "Hey," he said, "don' matter. I jus' thought, you came to Brixton for a squat, you'd know. Unless you're here for the new world we're buildin'. This one's shite, eh? Gotta do better."

"You bolshie?"

Reg shrugged, let his hand fall. "The ones gone to uni, eat their brown rice, read their Guardian, we call 'em the nerds, they won't want a working man like you ... or me. But you know, never a crust for the working class unless we bake it ourselves or steal it. Eh? So we're bakin'. The Community Centre got thrown out, but we're still here."

Bodie's eyes fell. He couldn't be too easy to recruit, and anyway he was still trying to figure out how the sex part fit in. This kid had light brown hair, a lock dropping onto his forehead, that made him look like Bodie's old squaddie Keith. The likeness made him feel connected to the kid. Easy to start feeling protective, responsible. He'd have to keep an eye on himself.

The squat was okay, down the hall from Reg's, upstairs from a couple of women who liked to cook. They held a kind of communal meal every evening. Residents of the flat block, neighbours, brought things: a bag of potatoes, oysters, frozen fish, minced beef, and so forth. Tonight was a sort of beef-tomato dish with macaroni and onion. Bodie ate it hungrily, even though his appetite wasn't all that sharp. But it was tasty, the portions generous, and the two women, Beth and Kate, were chatty and common-sensical. Strange to be with a couple of birds who treated him like a work mate or a pub regular with not one flirty glance or gesture. Then he saw Beth give Kate a warm smile as she touched the other woman's cheek, catching a bit of disordered blonde hair between her fingers to smooth it back, and all at once knew exactly why.

He didn't know why he was surprised. Maybe because they were taking care of the others, Beth especially, like mothers or aunties, while he'd thought of lesbians more as gruff or, well, manly. Neither of them were.

Bodie heard his own name in Reg's voice, but when he looked around, the young man was speaking to someone else, a man with chestnut hair that made Bodie catch his breath until he realised it hung too straight, while the shoulders and gestures were not Ray's. He hauled himself out of the sagging couch, put his empty plate on the table, and took the few steps over to introduce himself. The man's name was Cyril. He seemed between Reg's age and Bodie's own, with a deep, whiskey-rough voice and, he was explaining, a spare bedroll.

Kate lit some candles, as night was setting in. The flickering light brought people closer together, peering at each other's facial expressions, talking more quietly. It seemed time to go. Bodie thanked Beth and Kate, followed Cyril to his squat to get the borrowed bedroll, to carry it upstairs and down the hall to the room he'd be using. He wondered, as he spread the cloth across the floor near the bog, in the dark, whether furniture would be worth hauling up and where some discarded pieces might be found. A table with a chair would be nice. A second chair, for Ray. He pictured them going over the op file together. Then he fell asleep.

* * *

Kate was a mechanic, working on engines at the back of the nearest garage, where her short hair and loose coveralls hid her gender from most of the customers. The garage owner didn't need anyone full-time, but said Bodie could do a few odd-jobs. So now he had a reason to have cash for cigarettes or contributions to the evening meal. He read the paperback book, wandered the neighbourhood, found a folding table with a bent leg and straightened it. Bought a deck of cards and played with Cyril, Reg, and the black kid who'd spoken to him first. His name was Edward. "Like the ex-king," he said, which reminded Bodie of Ray making jokes about William Andrew Philip. He laughed aloud.

He missed Ray.

If he'd thought to bring a deck of cards to begin with, he wouldn't have needed the mechanic work to have some pocket-money. These men lost steadily, especially when they were drunk or high, which was fairly often.

Cyr offered him a drink from the bottle he'd brought along. Shuffling the cards, Bodie shook his head, then said as he dealt, "You might win if you weren't pissed," as indifferently as he could.

"What'd I want'a be sober for?" Cyril said. Bodie shrugged. He didn't know how to answer that.

Now that he knew some of the other squatters better, he saw how many of them smoked, took pills, drank. He'd known his share of mercenaries and SAS soldiers who used any available distraction, sex to weed, pills to smokes, to take their minds off what they'd seen or done. He hadn't thought poofters in Brixton would have those reasons.

Then Edward was away for a few days. When he came back, he had a swollen cheek. He wore a sling on his right arm. His skin was dark enough to make his bruises harder to see, but Bodie could tell from his flinching movements that he'd been beaten. He was low, quiet, unwilling to tell what had happened to him. He rolled a joint slowly, mostly with his left hand, then gestured at Bodie's Bic lighter. Bodie lit the squiff for him to watch him draw slowly, then tilt his head back, letting the smoke dribble out.

"Gotta stop sayin' yes to me mam," he said eventually.

Bodie waved a hand, indicating head to sling, saying, "That was never her?"

"Da," Edward said after a pause.

"Ah," Bodie answered. He remembered that, from years ago, but didn't want to talk about it. Still, the quality of the silence made him think Edward might know. Bodie lit a cigarette for himself. They smoked together. The squats area didn't have much motor traffic, so the silence was more silent than Bodie was used to in London.

Maybe it was time to start inquiries. He couldn't just laze about forever. "There many foreigners round here?" he tried.

"Caribbean? Paki?" Edward sounded indifferent enough.

Bodie made a moue himself, shrugged. "European?"

"Why?"

Shrugging again, Bodie said, "Making conversation, aren't I?"

Edward said nothing for long enough that Bodie thought he didn't have any information. "Was a French boy, with the nerds for a while. I didn't know him. A German, too. Beth speaks some, ask her."

"Thought some Poles came round here, stevedores?"

Edward took a long draw, let the smoke dribble out of his mouth. "Dunno." The joint was almost gone. He got up, walked to the window Bodie had hauled open, and flicked the smoking end out into the street. "Maybe Kate's got leftovers. Think I'll go see."

"She'll have you cutting veg or something, for dinner."

"Eat a few carrot ends, anyway. See you there later?"

"Sure," Bodie said, his tone indifferent. Almost to the door, Edward paused to look back.

"Just keep wonderin' ... why you're here," he said. "You don't want me arse?"

Bodie gave a crack of laughter. "Nah," he said. "You're not my type."

"I wonder who is?" Then Edward did go.

Bodie stubbed out his fag. He looked around the dim, shabby room, empty, silent. There wasn't even the faint rustle of a mouse. He thought of the HQ rest room, of his own flat. Who was his type? He thought of Joanna, of Claire. Of Keith.

No one here, really. He lit another fag, smoked it through, got into his bedroll for a kip, then went down to dinner. Bangers and mash. Kate talked about a job she had in, a Jeep with a bent axle.

"You fixed one, Bodie?"

"Wasn't fixed. Was straighter. Really you need a new one."

She shook her head. "Customers round here, they don't get imported motor parts."

"You got a tree?"

She laughed. He liked her laugh. "A tree!"

He shrugged his eyebrows. "Used one in Angola. How about a three-ton jack?"

"Two."

"That'll do. Come down tomorrow? When?"

He went down to the garage around 10 in the morning, waited for her a bit, then got down to it. Axle positioned on the block, jacks on each side, took them down, rotated the axle. It wasn't really straight, but the Jeep would go and the axle was as good as he could make it after about an hour.

When they were walking back to the squat, he asked, "You met a lad called Szymon?"

She shot him a serious look. "You know, I don't know, Bodie. Blokes don't always give their real names round 'ere."

"I've not met him either. Young, gay, Polish. Blond."

"I'll think it over."

The next day at dinner, when he'd spent the garage's open hours sweeping and tidying, she sat down next to him. She said conversationally, "Are you one of our musical theatre boys?"

He looked sideways. "No."

She shrugged. "I was remembering a show from America, revived in 1971. Guys and Dolls."

"I'm more a cricket fan."

She smiled. "I'm not surprised. I was thinking about one of the songs, about,"— she actually sang though at speaking volume—"'The oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.' Rotated, moved about, and players only knew if they were invited."

He regarded her thoughtfully. "Clever," he said at last.

"Enough for us. Young people want to go dancing sometimes, with their real lovers. I was thinking your Polish boy might."

"He might."

"I can show you where Nathan Detroit's night club is tonight."

"Thank you, Kate," he said, meaning it. Szymon might be there. Ray might be there.

It wasn't hard to get to: a small abandoned warehouse, no decoration, just a tape deck with some small speakers, so the music could be tuned up high enough to hear. There were coloured lights: red, green, blue; purple, orange, yellow. They'd been set into the ceiling, but instead of long cones of light, shafts of colour as pure as a rainbow stabbed down like columns. The partiers danced in and out of them, stripe by stripe as if they were all part of that gay funeral flag for that politician in San Francisco a few years back. Near the tape deck was a large tea trolley with bottles of liquor and glasses, a makeshift bar. Nearest the wall was a young man making the drinks, taking the cash, making change from a metal cash box.

The music pounded. The dancers swayed toward each other and away.

Bodie got a whiskey on the rocks. He stood nursing it.

"Have we met?" said a young, musical voice with—yes, that was Polish, that accent.

Bodie turned. He knew the face from the file photo. "No, I don't believe so." He smiled. "I'd like to." He put out his hand, took Nowak's in his own. "Bodie." They shook.

Nowak's hand lay confidingly in Bodie's, like a small animal, a pet mouse or a gerbil. "Szymon," he said. Bodie let his eyelashes fan down, raised them again. The face was lovely, a perfect oval, with bright eyes, sky-blue. The pale hair curled crisply. His paisley shirt hung open below his sternum. Bodie asked, "Do you come here when the club is here?"

"Oh, certainly. I love to dance." Looking out at the gyrating crowd, the young man positively gasped aloud. "Who is that man? Do you see him, over there?" Nowak pointed. "My God!"

It was Doyle. His shirt gleamed in the rainbow light. He danced like a snake mesmerising a mouse. His hair moved like a cloud. "He's like a panther," said Nowak. "Look at his muscles moving under his skin. I've never seen—"

"Me either," lied Bodie. They moved closer. Bodie stepped under a yellow light to catch Doyle's eye, tipping his head toward Szymon. Doyle's head bent, then raised, like a nod. Bodie, still holding his drink, stepped to the wall.

When the song ended, the music stopped, the end of the tape. Doyle drifted over to Bodie.

"I thought we'd never run into each other." Bodie told the shaming truth. When had this happened? When had Ray become so necessary to him?

"I've been fine. Went straight to Patricia and Mark and Jermyn. Like family."

Bodie grinned a little. He and Doyle didn't talk about family. "Better," he said. "We're armed, now."

Doyle grinned more. "Well, yes." At last, his eyes went to Szymon. "Who is this bright, shining creature?"

"Someone who's been admiring your dancing. Szymon Nowak." Bodie knew that Doyle heard everything he'd said. Talking to other people, even CI5, was like wading through muck, waiting until they caught on, hoping they hadn't missed the point. Talking to Doyle was like flying.

Szymon was lit up like a searchlight. He'd hurt himself if he smiled any more widely. Every gesture he made seemed to respond to Doyle's attitude or movement.

When the music began again, Doyle and Nowak danced together. Bodie watched how Nowak's body curved as if around Doyle's. His eyes clung to Doyle's face and to his body as it moved.

The music changed: the beat was slow and sinuous. Nowak took Doyle in his arms, held him close. If he'd been Bodie, that tuck into Doyle's neck would have been nibbling, teasing kisses. By the way Doyle's head went back, Nowak was doing what Bodie would have done. What he bloody wanted to do right now, right now.

Why not?

Bodie slipped through the dancers, through the writhing crowd of dark, red/blue/purple/yellow/ green/blue striped shapes, until he was just behind Doyle, facing Nowak, or the top of his rainbow blond head, anyway—tapped his shoulder to make him jump.

“Just me,” Bodie said, but Nowak wouldn't have heard him. Bodie gestured and cut in.

“Just me,” he repeated to Doyle, kissing the shell of the ear he spoke into.

“Just Bodie,” Doyle murmured back, squirmed closer. “Missed you.”

“Oh, Christ, Ray,” Bodie groaned at how it felt to have that lean, hard body press close, spine and ribs and hips in the curve of his arms, the feathers of Doyle's hair brushing across his eyelids, the smell of the shell of his ear and the cologne on his neck. Such a sweet curve, too, its muscles, the warmth of the great throbbing vein. The tendon tasted so good. The vein needed licking. Bodie fed until the music's last chords.

More lights came on, and the tape was being changed, but neither of them stepped back. “Now look here,” Doyle said with a stern note in his voice, “we don't ignore this, after. This happened.”

“Mm, yes,” Bodie answered, his head still swimming with the lungs-full of Doyle he kept breathing in. Doyle took Bodie's face between his hands, looked straight into his eyes, and kissed him until the music started again. They didn't bother to dance. Bodie kissed Doyle's ear again, murmured again.

“Take me to your squat. Where you're‒" Bodie caught his breath‒ "sleeping.″

“Yes. You were right.”

“Well.” Bodie's fingertips whispered circles in the tiny curls at the nape of Doyle's neck. “Sex isn't everything, anywhere, unless you start. Then it does feel like everything." It was hard to think of this as any kind of work.

"Come on." Doyle took Bodie's hand and pulled him off the dance floor. "Have a jacket?"

Bodie shook his head, tried not to stumble as they neared the door. "Do I call you Ray?"

"Why wouldn't you?" Ray looked back impatiently. They stepped over the sill, into the alleyway, into the street.

"Undercover."

"Not unless you're cold." Ray gave Bodie a sharp once-over. "You wear all those clothes, you might be."

Bodie stopped; Ray turned; Bodie pulled him close. "You'll keep me warm. What about those mates of yours?"

"They stay till the nightclub closes. After. They help clean up."

"Plenty of time, then." He kissed Ray, who flowed against him again, breathed heavily in his ear.

"Bodie." No one had ever said his name like that.

"Ray." Bodie felt Doyle shiver, head to toe. "Oh, Ray. So long."

"You've wanted me, then?"

"Years."

A few minutes went by as Ray kissed and licked in Bodie's ear, who shivered as well at the hot/cold breathing he heard and felt. Holding harder, he heard a whisper: "You stepped in, and Cowley said, 'Ah, 3-7. This is 4-5, your new partner,' and I thought, 'You mean I can't pull him?'"

"You can," Bodie said, and kissed that brazen mouth again. "Pull me, Ray." His hands slid down Ray's sides, around his back, onto his arse, where he took a handful on each side and squeezed.

Ray gave a little gasp. "Oh, God," he breathed. "You're perfect, perfect."

A while later, Ray murmured, "It's uncomfortable, sex in the street, not to mention illegal. You'll like my bed better." At the word "bed," Bodie shivered again and took Ray's hand, weaving their fingers together, cupping his other hand around the back. He rubbed over Ray's tendons as if to warm his hand, then brought it up to his mouth.

Speaking into the skin, half-kissing, Bodie said, “I'll like your bed better.”

Fortunately, it wasn't far. Ray had not only a bedroll, but a futon mattress and a heap of pillows as well as duvets and blankets. Bodie laughed when he saw it. “You hedonist.”

“I am. You are too, I believe.”

The conversation went on without words, as they took off each other's clothes with stroking and kisses, and with words too, praise: “Soft,” “Feels so good,” “Delicious,” “Szymon said your muscles moved like a leopard's,” “Tall, dark and beautiful … beautiful … beautiful ...” until they were in the pillows and down-filled puffs of duvet, hands and mouths everywhere, arching and dancing as they lay, crying out in soft rejoicing.

Bodie lay with Ray's head on his shoulder, his hands still moving across Ray's skin. “I've imagined this. Daydreamed, fantasised. I never thought it would be … this.”

Sounding half-asleep, Ray said, “Let's just ... touch. Forever.”

Bodie's stomach growled, long and up and down.

Ray snickered. “Rusty hinges in there.”

Bodie snuffled and choked. Ray laughed aloud. Gradually they quieted, breathing together, sliding toward sleep.

“When you lived here before, did you fall in love?” Bodie's voice was quiet, thoughtful.

“It was like a desert island,” Ray said. “Like being a pirate in Penzance. No, I don't think I've been really in love at all.” Bodie was just sinking out of consciousness and was not certain he heard: “Till now.”

Even so, Bodie might have thought he'd dreamed Ray's avowal. He had once had a similar dream. But he woke slowly to a teasing, light touch, fingertips, tracing his hairline, the bridge of his nose, the curve of his lips, already smiling. His eyebrows. The edge of his jaw. Each touch shook him as if each touch was on his naked heart.

“Don't forget, don't ever.” Ray's whisper was light as a breeze, as if they'd left the window open. “There are always times we're apart. Separate ops, hols. Every time, it's like you take one of me arms, a leg. I have to … ” He put one hand flat across Bodie's face, nose to palm, so the tips of his fingers brushed the hairline, thumb on the blade of the cheekbone. “I have to hold you in my mind.”

“Hold me,” Bodie answered, and Ray did, in both arms, tightly.

* * *

They weren't much for the East End, poncey plays, but for Ray's birthday they'd gone together to a revival of The Lady's Not for Burning, and the poetry intoxicated both of them. Under a street-light, Ray caught Bodie's face in his hands and declaimed, “'There was a soldier, / Discharged and centreless, with a towering pride / In his sensibility, and an endearing / Disposition to be a hero,'” which made Bodie blush. The heat in his cheeks echoed in his chest.

Trying to sound grumpy rather than besotted, he said, “'Glimmer as you will, the world's not changed./ I--” but he couldn't quite go through with the avowal, shook his head instead. “'The world's not changed.” Ray's mouth made a crooked shape, but he didn't reply in his own words.

“'Only suggesting fifty years of me,'” Ray said lightly, and walked ahead. Bodie followed.

* * *

Now Ray was solemn. “How does the world change? Not for 'five feet six of wavering light.' For fear of our guns? For law? Law's hard to change―I saw it. Hearts can change, but that's slow work, one by one.”

Bodie, hating the pretentious sound of philosophy without even metre, said, “Little by little, mate. Heart by heart; law by law.” Ray, in response, bloomed into a smile so slowly, so openly, that Bodie felt it prickle behind his eyes even as the headlights that made Ray's face shine slipped away.

They both heard it, in that silent moment, a shift or a drag in the front room.

Once, an obbo ending badly had begun to end this way. Their eyes met; they slipped from the bedclothes. While they were both kneeling, Ray clutched Bodie, kissed hard. They put on pants for modesty, shoes for protection, holsters and guns to protect each other. They slipped through the dark to either side of the door. Bodie reached out and tapped the top of Ray's head: once, twice; on the third beat, they went in.

Bodie, on the high end, hit the light switch and squinted.

Szymon scrambled to his feet, hands open. He'd been in the beanbag chair that sat out here instead of a sofa, so the movement was graceless, rustling as the beans rubbed against each other and the fabric of the chair. He looked betrayed.

After a fraught moment or five, Doyle said flatly, “You came into my rooms."

“I―I wanted―I wanted to―to talk―”

“Bollocks,” said Bodie flatly.

Szymon pulled himself together, stood straighter, ran his hands through his hair. “OK, wanted to seduce you. Behind the fair, eh?”

Doyle holstered his gun. He rubbed his face with both hands. “Too late, yes.” He sighed, looked around the room, back at Nowak. A few folding chairs were leaning against the wall. Doyle handed one to Bodie and set up another for himself. Szymon stared at him the whole time, as if he were an icon moving.

Doyle stared back at him. Bodie saw that Nowak was still pretty, like a tropical bird or a flower: lines, colours, movement, all balanced and fine. His face was still twisted with envy or jealousy.

“Truth,” Doyle ordered.

For another few seconds, Nowak sat silent, then said simply, “I wanted you. When I saw you dancing. When I danced with you. You know, right?”

“Sometimes,” Bodie said, knowing he interrupted, knowing Szymon was not attending, “I think he does not know how the rest of us see him. But don't worry. I'll explain it to him.” Ray glanced over to catch Bodie's eye; Bodie winked at him. His mouth twisted.

“Of course,” Nowak said.

“I think … do you know what CI5 is?” Doyle asked.

“A brand name? A sort of beer? A lubricant?”

Bodie laughed aloud. “Next time they ask us,” he said to Ray, “I'll say I work for a lubricant company.”

“Good idea,” Ray answered, then said to Nowak, “We're civil servants.”

Nowak frowned. “Paperwork?”

“We fill in forms with these,” Bodie said, tapping his holster.

It took a few seconds for Nowak to say, “Ah. Yes.” He rubbed his face again, then asked Bodie, “Am I under arrest?”

“No.” Bodie swallowed and explained, “We came here to look for you.”

“Marje,” Szymon said.

“Yes,” Doyle admitted.

“Have you spoken to her?”

“No.”

“When you do, you will know why I did not phone.” Nowak shifted, which made the beans rustle again. “She's not unkind,” he explained. “She's … fond. She worries.”

“But when she does, her husband does,” Bodie explained. “So does the EU Minister. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well ... an assortment of other civil servants. Eventually, the worry trickles down to our Director.”

Nowak nodded. He looked downcast. “They want me back, where she can … what is the idiom? Put her eyes on me.”

It was too apt. Bodie had a moment's surreal vision of Marje's eyes like outsize marbles, resting on Szymon's moon-pale skin, and snickered uncontrollably.

The other two stared. “Sorry,” he said, feeling no remorse. Doyle smirked as he would have done in Cowley's office. Bodie wanted to kiss the expression off his face, but restrained himself.

“If I go back to the Embassy, that is what she wants, yes?” Szymon said.

“Yes,” Bodie said. “Look, nobody will stop you from coming down here. Just keep Marje informed enough, spend enough time at the embassy, that she doesn't feel you're lost.”

Szymon looked down, paused. “Yes, I see,” he said.

Bodie felt a rush of feeling, exhilaration. Anticipation. They were all but done with the op! Report to Cowley, and they could pack up or discard their odds and ends, drive home … to talk. Or do other things than talk. Almost involuntarily, he asked his partner, “Will you call in or should I?”

“You,” said Ray. “I need to say goodbye, explain, to Jermyn, Mark, Patricia if she's off work. Save time if you contact the Cow.”

“OK,” Bodie answered. Ray might have to use a pay phone; that would take some time. Bodie had already found a phone box nearby his squat. But, he realised, he could share it. “Come home with me, then?”

“Tomorrow night is all yours,” Ray answered, smiling,

Bodie couldn't give that too much thought. But before clamping down on his imagination, he reached over to touch Ray's cheek, stroked up and down. “All mine,” he confirmed, softly.

Szymon made some small sound in his throat. When both CI5 men looked over at him, he asked, “Must I leave with you?”

“Probably better not,” Ray said thoughtfully. “But don't wait too long, or we'll have to come back and fetch you.”

“You don't want to have Mr Cowley fetch you,” Bodie warned him.

“Yes, all right,” Szymon said.

Ray insisted, “You'll be all right. Really.”

Bodie nodded firmly. “I'll see you home, all right?”

“We will,” said Ray.

* * *

Szymon's squat was much closer to the Tube station than most. The road rose sharply. Several motorbikes roared by as they walked. Then three bikes drove by, in a row with the centre one in front. The rider was a big bulky bloke with a short brush of pale hair on top of his head, some hanging down his neck. Black leather. Chains. Szymon started and let out a little cry. The bike swerved onto the walkway, blocking it. Bodie stopped. Szymon took another step into the biker's arms. “Billy!” he said.

“Who th'hell are these … these arsewipes?” Billy asked angrily, glaring at Bodie.

“Just a couple o' blokes … met at the nightclub,” Szymon said.

Bodie felt he'd been put in a false position; also this growling bear act made him want to rearrange the biker's face. Szymon glanced over his shoulder with an expression that Bodie thought was supposed to be appeasing, but which really only reminded him how much he didn't like twinks. He could put up with this kind of behaviour from a bird, but not in a man. For maybe a second, he wondered why that was, but the way Billy was squaring off brought him back to the present.

Billy looked back at Szymon, gave him a little shake. “Forgotten whose you are?”

Szymon smirked, which didn't look to Bodie like consent, but Billy kissed Szymon fiercely, bending him back, looking like he was tonguing clear to the young man's tonsils. Bodie wanted to say “show-off,” but thought the better part of valour was to refrain. Then he wondered, because when Billy let Szymon up, he scowled at Bodie, challenging, “You, John, what d'you have to say for yourself?”

For years, since he'd been barely a man, Bodie had hated blokes who thought being rough gave them power. From Liverpool to Angola, even in the Congo prison, a man who squared off, acting as if he might break bones just because he could, lit a flame of rage under Bodie's breastbone, made him want to break some bones himself. To be an even bigger man. Before he could stop himself or let Ray pull him back, Bodie reached for Szymon's hand, reeled him in. “Well, if this is a contest,” he said, put his mouth on the Pole's and did his best to demonstrate his sexiest snog. It went on for a while, even though what Bodie chiefly noticed was that, like a young bird who hadn't done more than practice with a pillow or a girl friend, Szymon barely moved, had no tongue action, just gave way like a paper doll. Then Bodie heard a faint sound that made him break the kiss.

Ray was pale, speechless, his eyes dark, his mouth clenched. They stared at each other, not speaking, while Szymon stepped away. Billy snorted. He looked grimly amused. “I think I win,” he said. Ray made the sound again, a kind of choke.

Bodie tried to think what to say, but evidently tried too long. “I'll go,” said Ray.

“See you tomorrow,” Bodie replied immediately.

Ray hesitated, then said, “Will you be … home?”

“Yes,” Bodie said fervently. “I'll wait for you, Ray.”

He nodded, once or twice more than Bodie would have expected. “Get me kip, then.” He turned to walk away, the way they had come.

“Could've gone better, that,” said Billy.

“I'll fix it,” Bodie answered absently. Then he remembered whom he was with. He said, “You can get Szymon where he's kipping?”

“Oh, yeah,” Billy said.

Bodie looked at Szymon, who was gazing at Billy but said nothing.

“All right?” Bodie asked him, then reached out. The tips of his fingers just touched Szymon's shoulder.

“Oh, yes, I will be fine now,” he said, eyes flicking to Bodie's face, then back to Billy's.

“If you're not, just let us know,” Bodie insisted.

“He'll be fine.” Of course Billy said that.

Bodie went back to his squat to re-pack the little suitcase, said goodbye to Cyr, but though he stopped in at Kate and Beth's, neither was there. He was sorry: he'd liked them; he hadn't wanted to just vanish. But he couldn't wait to get to his own flat. He didn't have many possessions, but he'd missed his bed, a bathroom where the hot water worked, a kitchen of his own even if he ate more takeaway than Ray thought was healthy.

He slept solidly, one hand palm down on the empty space beside him. Twice, he woke to be startled that Ray wasn't there. One night, he could do this, he told himself. He'd see Ray tomorrow.

But he didn't. He went in to HQ, made his report, telling Cowley that he thought Ray would be done by afternoon at the latest. Then went to his flat to wait. He cleaned the place, especially in the kitchen and bathroom where the squats got grotty. He read a newspaper, watched footie results, and at last called Ray's flat, listened to the phone ring, took out the little trash of the afternoon, tried the R/T. Nothing.

Nothing could be wrong. Surely. What could go wrong?

Even if Ray was angry, if Bodie kissing Szymon had made him jealous, it wasn't like Ray to stay away. More like him to storm Bodie's flat, scrappy, shouting, shoving him. Bodie imagined that long enough to admit the idea turned him on more than not.

The long rays of the setting sun made Bodie impatient and irritable. He couldn't just wait any more, so he got in the Capri and went round Ray's, where the lights were out. No CI5 car was parked anywhere Ray normally left it.

Bodie drove to Brixton.

The road they'd walked to take Szymon home was not easy to drive on: some of the asphalt was broken; some cans and trash had been left in the street. But Bodie managed, got to the big empty row where once little first-floor flats had held the shopkeepers who worked the businesses at the street level. One building had a gaggle of motorbikes in front. Bodie passed without stopping, but when he arrived at the station without seeing Szymon or any other squatters, he turned back.

By the time he was back to where the motorbikes were parked, they were black lumps against the dark pavement, and Bodie could hear the noise of the gang inside. The night had fallen. The lights inside looked like street lanterns, the kind used at road accidents.

Unsure whether he'd be let in, Bodie went to the door, but it was not locked or watched. Inside was a staircase, narrow and steep. He climbed it quickly and quietly. The door at the top opened into a sitting room that seemed full of big men, drinking from brown glass bottles or short glasses of whiskey-brown liquid. In the centre of the room was what looked at first like an organized bout, boxing or wrestling.

But an ordinary bout wouldn't have two big louts pounding the same, considerably smaller opponent. Indomitable, the opponent shook sweat off his hair to move in again. Bodie knew these moves—the smaller man was fighting for his life, holding his own although his feet seemed uneven. Looked like his knee had taken a bad kick. Maybe his ribs.

It was Ray.

Bodie glanced around the room again; he saw Szymon curled up in the armchair next to the one Billy sprawled in, his face pale as ivory except for a blue smudge over one cheek. His mouth was a small “oh.” Billy's face was avid, as though watching his minions beat a man to death was a good evening's entertainment—no TV? Fine, who needs footie?

Bodie shoved up his sleeves, jumped into the fray. Neither of the men he was fighting with was in CI5-shape; they were big fellows, muscular, but they fought without science, mindlessly battering, so Ray and Bodie together were more than a match for them.

Eventually the oiks were on their arses on the floor, panting; Bodie had Ray at his back, watching Billy to see if he meant to set more of the bikers on them. But instead he laughed. “Get along with you, boys. Get you gone.” There was such careless condescension in his voice that it was no surprise that Ray surged past Bodie as if he meant to tear Billy limb from limb. Bodie barely caught him, gritting his own teeth, wanting nothing more than to do some tearing himself. As soon as he felt Ray stop, as soon as he settled into Bodie's restraining arm, he loosened his hold to look into the frowning face. Ray nodded tightly.

Billy was still chuckling, shaking with mirth, like some parody of Old King Cole. “Go on, go on,” he said, so Bodie took deep breaths and shepherded Ray out the flat door,guiding him down the steep stairs, watching him limp but seeing his determination. At last, he could not resist helping, easing Ray down and getting him settled into the car.

“One o' these bikes yours?” Bodie asked as he got in the driver's side.

“No,” Ray snapped.

They drove in silence back to the city.

Strange, Bodie thought, how the streets of London, even the seedier ones, felt different than Brixton. The very street-lights seemed whiter, struck the walls and windows at what seemed a different angle.

“How'd you end up with the biker boys?” Bodie asked as they neared Ray's CI5 flat.

“Szymon went to see Jermyn, was there when I came. He was afraid of Billy—you saw the bruise? He wouldn't stay away, but he was afraid to go back alone, so I went with him.”

“You an ex-copper, you didn't expect how bad a domestic dispute can get?”

Ray shrugged as if to say, what else could I do?

“Jermyn wouldn't come too? Couldn't call me?”

“Didn't need to call you, did I?”

“Could've brought my side-arm.”

“Thank God you didn't. Those boys have guns, could've got much worse.”

“Bad enough, cowboy. He sees us again, we better be armed.”

Ray shrugged. “He sees us again, I'll take him in.”

“Do you think Szymon would testify?”

Ray bared his teeth but said nothing.

Twinks.

Bodie shook himself. “If Billy sees us again, if I see him, I'll do more than arrest him.”

“Will you?”

Bodie let that question go, not knowing the answer. He wanted to beat Billy down, see him lying on the ground, surrendering. But such a mad dog, would he give in even then?

“Come home with me, Ray,” he said instead.

“Do you have food in?”

Bodie shrugged, but he knew there was nothing Ray would admit was food. “Fish sticks?”

“Peas?”

“Potatoes to mash,” Bodie offered.

“Milk?”

“No.”

So they stopped at the market for food: frozen veg, milk and butter.

Ray made fish cakes of the breaded fish sticks, mashed the potatoes, cooked peas. “Looks almost healthy,” he said as he put a serving on Bodie's plate.

“Looks like food.” Bodie ate it happily.

Like the street-lights, the feel of Ray beside Bodie in bed was both new and satisfying, something he was used to instantly. Muscles he hadn't known were still tense relaxed, and the taste of Ray's kisses was better even than Swiss Roll for afters. Bodie filled his hands with Ray's skin, his mouth with Ray's mouth and nipples. He slid his lips along the edge of Ray's bruises, nibbled where the brown treasure trail met pubic hair. He stroked, pulled, mouthed the penis he had watched sidelong but not seen closely until last night.

They lay afterwards in a daze of well-being, joy coursing through Bodie's veins like blood, pounding with his pulse. He never wanted to take his hands from Ray's skin, separate their tangled limbs.

Then the phone rang.

At this hour, Bodie knew the news could not be good. He groaned as he sat up, groaned again to leave the bed.

“Go on, it won't be long,” Ray said.

Bodie lifted the receiver with a grimace, said, “Bodie,” and waited. The bed had been lovely and warm, but the air of the flat felt chill.

“Bodie?” It was Cheryl.

“It's late, sunshine. What do you need?”

She sobbed, caught her breath, said something he couldn't make out. “Pardon?” he asked. He was pretty sure he'd heard Keith's name, but nothing else.

“He's dead!” she nearly shouted it, then cried some more. “Those thugs, that gang, they killed my Keith!”

“Hang on, pretty, I'll be there soon,” Bodie said and hung up.

It was ridiculously difficult to turn away from the dishevelled bed where Ray lay blinking up, but Bodie forced himself, fumbling his pants and trousers on, pulling on his wrinkled shirt. “Me old mate Keith's bird, says he's dead.” Bodie heard the disbelief in his own voice He had no response to Ray's puzzled frown.

“Be sure to get some sleep if you can, Bodie. We've got Jack tomorrow.”

“Sure, easy.” Bodie didn't think he'd need much to outwit and win one of Jack's training scenarios. “You stay, sunshine. I'll be back before we go in.”

Ray flopped down on the pillow. His mouth curved slightly in a smile. “Sure you won't need help?”

“No, stay.” Bodie looked up and down. “I'll think of you waiting here. Inspiring.” What he felt was a rush of feeling that resolved itself into an iron need to protect Ray. If Cheryl's accusation of Billy's gang was right, Bodie bound himself with a silent oath. Whatever he had to do, he'd keep Ray out of that mad dog's reach again. If he had to kill King Billy with his own hands.

* * *

The car park near the racing grounds was so ordinary that it felt surreal to stand there when mere minutes before Bodie had been closer to killing, and closer to dying, than he'd been for weeks … or ever, with Cowley behind the gun. The bikers were being loaded into police vans. Ray was nearby with his face darkened with anger, but at least he was only bruised, not dead. Cowley didn't answer when Bodie asked if he would have pulled the trigger, then walked away. Bodie turned to his partner to ask, “What d'you reckon?”

“I reckon he might've done,” Ray answered grimly.

Bodie agreed. “Yeah.”

They stood irresolutely for a moment, a few breaths. Then Ray said, “Have it out now or later?”

“I want a wash, gotta have a beer,” Bodie said.

“I'll take Sally home, come to yours, then.”

Bodie nodded. “Bring curry?”

“You'll be lucky if I bring dry rations.”

“Won't care by that time. I'll be ready to eat horse pellets.”

He saw the flash of Ray's teeth for just a moment, more a snarl than a smile.

Bodie put on black trousers with a black polo neck, after his shower. Ray brought vegetable curry and naan; they drank lager and ate the curry almost in silence. Dishes in the sink to soak, beer bottles in hand, they went out to the lounge to settle on the couch.

Ray's bottle hit the glass-topped coffee table with a smack. “I wonder if you know … what it was like, trying to pull that ape off your back while you almost killed Billy.”

“I've saved your skin enough, I should do,” Bodie answered.

“Seeing the old man with his gun on you. Hearing him threaten.”

Bodie gave the silence a few seconds. Ray moved impatiently. “Waiting to feel your brains on my face.”

Bodie rubbed his eyes. A shudder ran through him. It wasn't the first time they'd seen death a step away, seconds ahead. Bodie said what was in his mind, remembering. “Never gets easier.”

“No!” Ray popped like a balloon. “It doesn't! It's harder every time!” He burst upward, standing, whirling, leaning over Bodie, hands on his face, holding tight. “After that night! After we were together, close as I could hold you, your breath on my cheek, in my hair! If he'd … If Cowley ...” Ray whirled again, turned his back, put his arm over his face and just stood. He shuddered once, head to toe.

Bodie got up, put a hand on each shoulder, stepped in to join his body warmth to Ray's. “He didn't.” He spoke into the shelter of Ray's hair. Ray shuddered again, breathing unevenly, not quite weeping but clearly unstrung. Bodie gave him a few more breaths, then turned him round to pull him close. “Oh, sunshine. I'm sorry. I am sorry, love.”

“Bodie,” Ray murmured, so Bodie kissed him.

They made love, as if in competition for who could be most tender, most fierce, who could hold and touch as declaration, as promise. Ray's fingers on Bodie's chest, clutching his back, felt like ownership marks, as if his fingerprints would be visible the next day, all the days. “Forever,” Bodie said.

“As long as I live,” Ray said. “No death wishes, now.”

Bodie grinned. “Oh, the cat'll have to catch some other mouse next quarter.” Ray brought down one arm like the metal bar of a trap.

“Got you now.” He grinned, then yawned. He burrowed into the nook where Bodie's neck met his shoulder, where Bodie was glad to feel him soften and cling.

After unmeasured minutes lying heart to heart, skin to skin, Bodie said, “When we go back to visit your Brixton mates, introduce me to your three mentors?”

Ray smiled. “Jermyn'll love you,” he said. “Patricia will quiz you till she knows everywhere you've been and what you got up to while you were there. Mark will rag us both unmercifully.”

“In laws,” Bodie growled happily. “Will they tell me all about your younger days?”

“Maybe.” Ray grinned against Bodie's skin. “Maybe not.”

“What should I bring? Glenfyddych?”

“Macarons. Mark has a sweet tooth—as big as yours. Patricia taught me to bake just to keep up with it.”

Bodie looked at him speculatively until Ray said, as he had in Cowley's office, “Oh no. No, Bodie!”

Bodie just grinned. “Got to use your special knowledge,” he said, but discovered that Ray's special knowledge extended to the best places to tickle until Bodie could hardly breathe. Then they kissed until both of them were out of breath.

Bodie's head was spinning, and judging by his dazed grin, so was Ray's. “Sweeter than wine,” Bodie said. “What would I want to be sober for?”

“To win at cards?”

“Nah.” Bodie held his armful more tightly. “No use trying. Lucky in love, aren't I?”

“Lucky,” Ray agreed.

Bodie knew they both were.