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Ray Doyle was highly annoyed with himself. He did not fidget, yet here he was, adjusting his bow tie once again and brushing his hands down his immaculate dinner jacket. Why was he so bloody nervous? He'd done this sort of assignment many times in his four years with CI5. Why was tonight different? Why did he have a sense of foreboding that made the hairs on the back of his neck rise up? He hated when he brooded but he couldn't shake off the feeling that a black cloud would envelop him tonight, suck him in, trap him. He didn't like the idea at all. "Not bloody likely," he muttered softly. "Who would?"

The knock on his door forestalled any more musings. With an irritated sigh, he glanced into the full length mirror. The black clothing, set off by the blindingly white shirt, made him look - presentable. He longed to run his hands through his curly hair but he forced them into his trouser pockets. Earlier, he'd brushed his unruly curls harshly, hoping they'd lie down and behave for once. At the moment, his hair seemed to be under control and he was determined not to muss it up. He should have carved out time for a haircut but he'd come off an assignment less than twenty-four hours ago, and sleep had been the first thing on his list, followed by a long, hot bath and a meal that didn't come out of a tin. He'd barely eaten when the phone rang.

Bloody Cowley. Why couldn't he have a few hours to recover? Because he was needed, Cowley had said in his clipped tone, clearly conveying his annoyance at being asked such an ungodly question.

"Coming!" Doyle called out. He looked once again at himself dressed to the nines. He was grateful for the hours in the gym that Cowley insisted upon because he was slim and trim, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. His face was also presentable. Not handsome by his accounts, but pleasant. If not for that broken cheek bone... Nothing he could do about that. After all, he'd got a commendation after that operation. A commendation and what he considered a disfiguring injury. Funny how some birds said on how rakish it made him look. How dangerous. How attractive. He smirked at himself.

Doyle peered closer, looked at his own green eyes as they stared back at him. His lips were too full for a bloke but he did know how to use them on a bird so that she had no reason to complain. He preferred to use them on a bloke but being with CI5, he had to be careful. Cowley was as unprejudiced as a British gentleman could be but he didn't know if his superior could keep him from being sacked if he were caught with a man. An unexpected laugh bubbled out of him as he imagined Cowley and some minister arguing over compromising photos of him and another lad shagging. That would be a scene to behold.

"Get on with it, Ray," he ordered himself.

A final glance and he hurried from the room, down the long corridor lined with old family portraits and the odd bronze or marble bust of various ancestors. Used to the decorations, he ignored them as he walked along. While his family was well off due to his father's business acumen, he worked for his own living. His father was proud of his son's contribution to society while his mother scoffed at his chosen profession. She wanted him to have been a doctor or a history professor or in business like his father. Not his bag, yet he understood. His mother knew his job was dangerous so her way of coping was to belittle it. As far as she was concerned, Doyle's sole purpose was to marry and provide her with grandchildren. His father often expressed his pleasure with his only son, his only child. Doyle thought his father had the patience of a saint since he was able to ignore his wife's whingeing about how her precious boy was wasting his youth putting his life in danger for Queen and country.

Having learned from his father the fine art of blocking out his mother's voice when she went off on an unacceptable tangent, Doyle did likewise. He gently brushed her off when she broached the subject of marriage, as she was wont to do at least once a day when he was at home. This tactic served him and his father well. And kept them both sane.

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The expensive ball was an annual event that the Doyles hosted at their home outside of London. His mother loved entertaining and it conveniently worked out that CI5 was using it as a trap. Someone in the Secret Service was a mole, and Doyle's current assignment was to spare no expense to discover who was feeding state secrets to Britain's arch enemy, the Russians. This traitor moved in high class circles, and recent intel had said the mole and his contact were on the move, ready to meet. Information about the mole was limited but Cowley had somehow discovered that the apparent suspect and his contact were planning on using tonight's gala as cover for their meet. Doyle would be ready to pounce on this traitor and his minion - if he could figure out who they were.

There was always a catch, Doyle mused, laughing at his own sense of wry humour. It helped to be able to laugh at one's self because being killed was a constant threat. No sense worrying about it. He'd learned that as well, from his own father. The elder Mister Doyle, Alistair by birth, had been in Her Majesty's Service in the years leading up to WWII and for half a decade during the Forties. Once he'd married and started a family, he left service and found his place in business. Although he was now retired, he was more than agreeable that the sting take place at his home. Doyle's mum was in the dark, having no inkling that this soiree had another purpose other than entertainment. She'd made it clear when she first married his father that she wanted to play the part of an elegant lady and chose to be ignorant about her husband's - and now her son's - role in the government. Subterfuge wasn't her forte and for that Doyle was grateful. He loved his mum and preferred her as a woman who worried about which frock and jewellery to wear rather than when her beloved son would be eradicated by an enemy.

Doyle shook his head at his own thoughts. His mum would no doubt be plotting tonight to get her only child a spouse. He'd have to do a lot of dancing out of her reach to survive. He did not intend to spend the next five or six hours waltzing with this eligible bird and that. No, tonight he was working. From what his mum had said at breakfast, none of Doyle's protestations had dissuaded her from that notion. Instead she pooh-poohed his refusals of one lady after another and made it clear to him that he would be on display tonight.

God help him.

But Doyle loved her and he would let her have her dreams for a few more hours. Determined, Doyle decided that he would tell her tonight, after her ball, that there would never be grandchildren. At least not birthed by a wife of his, as there would be no wife. Ever.

Doyle would tell his mother that he was not interested in women, but in men. He would reassure her that he would keep his private life under wraps but he would not marry. He could picture the fireworks now. Tears, cries, pleadings. Doyle was tired already from the emotional scene he would have to endure.

"Man up," he ordered himself as he walked down the staircase to the hall absent-mindedly running his hand through his hair.

Doyle paused halfway down to watch guests entering through the double front doors. Footmen hired for the event took overcoats and wraps - it was a chilly evening - before waving guests through to the seldom-used ballroom located on the far side of the more than adequate candle-lit foyer. The smell of fresh flowers, roses, carnations and gladioli wafted through the air, combining with the perfumes and aftershaves of the guests. It was not an unpleasant fragrance, Doyle noted.

Voices mingled, servants, guests and waiters dressed in black livery, all adding to the merry din. Doyle studied the people below. On the far side of the foyer, standing with a glass in hand, was his partner, Colin Murphy. Murphy lifted his chin, and their eyes met. He raised his glass to Doyle and Doyle grinned. Murphy was obviously ahead of the game tonight, having already had his first drink. Doyle would have to hurry to catch up. He sniggered to himself as he descended the staircase. It was a stupid boyish game but they enjoyed it although neither man let the booze overtake him. Show you were drunk and you automatically lost the game.

Murphy returned to scanning the crowd, no doubt inspecting, cataloguing faces, gauging who looked like a possible threat and who could be dismissed. Murphy was good at that sort of thing. Tall and dark and handsome, with a slim body and with his hair worn longer than Cowley liked. Doyle admired how his long fringe, smooth and sleek, fell over his eyebrows, hiding sparkling brown eyes that often looked at Doyle with what he thought was a laser vision into his soul. Doyle appreciated the screening from those piercing eyes. While Murphy didn't know Doyle's dark secrets, if Doyle was of a mind to tell all, he'd tell Murphy. The soul of discretion was his partner. And it didn't hurt that he was good looking and friendly. An easy man to be partnered with. A crack shot and a good investigator. Doyle considered himself lucky to be his friend.

Murphy met Doyle half way across the foyer.

"Evening, Murph," Doyle said, giving his partner a warm smile.

"Ray," Murphy replied, a similar smile playing on his lips. "I'm one up on you." He lifted his champagne glass.

"Hate the stuff. Martini?" Doyle raised an eyebrow playfully, licking his lips.

Murphy nodded; then his attention was drawn away, over Doyle's shoulder. "Uh oh."

"My mother?" Doyle said, squinting his eyes and wrinkling his nose.

"Not nice, Ray. She only wants what's best for you." Murphy finished his drink.

Doyle sighed softly. "Yes, I know."

"Raymond!"

Doyle put a happy face on, turned and took his mother's hand. She smiled gaily at him, the reflection of the lights made the diamonds in her tiara, a wedding gift from his father, blind him momentarily. She lifted her manicured hand to his mouth and Doyle made a great showing of bowing and kissing her fingers. Evelyn laughed, her pleasure at her son made clear.

Doyle slipped his arm around her waist. "You look lovely, Mrs Doyle," he whispered in her ear, kissing her cheek. The midnight blue chiffon dress set off his mum's figure well. She kept herself fit and trim, and the silver high heels matched the cinched belt at her waist and the bead work on the neckline of her frock. "I need a drink."

Evelyn smiled. "I expect you to keep your head this evening, Raymond. I have duties for you."

Murphy came up behind Doyle. He could feel Murph's warm breath when he leaned in and whispered, "You'd best tell her before you find your name and some high society bird's on the gossip pages, my friend. Or worse, the engagement announcements."

Doyle jerked his head towards Murphy but his friend was already strolling off. Doyle watched the man, with what he was sure was a shocked look on his face, until Murphy disappeared into the adjoining room which held the bar. Murphy knew? Bloody hell. Was he that transparent? Had he revealed himself in some way? Was Murphy disgusted or offended? So many questions... He took half a step, stumbled.

"Raymond?" Evelyn asked, her hand clasping his.

"Sorry, Mother. Slipped."

"You're as white as a ghost. Are you ill?" Evelyn's concern was clear as she stared into his face, looking intently at him as only a mother could.

Doyle tamped down the urge to fidget under her gaze. "No, just clumsy." He smiled, patting her arm. "Come on. I'll buy you a drink."

Evelyn laughed. "I believe your dad and I have already paid for the alcohol, son."

With a chuckle, Doyle said, "Then you can buy me one."

"I do love you, Raymond."

"I love you too, mum."

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After fulfilling his current filial duties to his mother, he left her happily chatting with Doctor and Mrs Phillips LeClair, particular friends of hers. Doyle wandered the room, keeping out of the middle where the dancers whirled to the strains of live music. The band was well turned out, providing jazz, swing and the occasional waltz. Voices filled the air; the clink of glasses and the tapping of shoes added to the cacophony of sounds. Needing respite from constantly having to stop and chat with various family acquaintances, and keeping a keen eye out for anything he deemed suspicious, he slipped out of one of the open terrace doors and leaned against the cool stone wall a few feet away.

Guilt overcame him after five minutes. He should be working; looking for the man who was selling deadly missile plans to the Russians. Pushing himself from the wall, he strolled, hands in trouser pockets, back inside. Doyle scrutinised the guests. Murphy was dancing with a well turned out young woman. He caught Murphy's eyes over the heads of the other dancers. Murph sent him a friendly grin before he whirled his partner away.

What happened next made Doyle doubt his sanity. As he took in the crowd, he found himself staring into a set of smouldering dark blue eyes that stared at him with what felt like open contempt. He blinked, taking a half step back at the coldness that seemed to slam into him. Refocusing on the unknown guest, Doyle observed that the man was impeccably dressed in what looked like an expensive custom tailored dinner jacket. The material clung to the toned body, accentuating the wide shoulders and trim waist. He moved his inspection upward and looked into the face of Adonis. Handsome. No, make that impossibly handsome, with porcelain white skin and those midnight blue eyes that held him enthralled. A nose any Greek god would have been happy to possess, and a pout that made Doyle's cock come awake. That lower lip, jutting out, betraying the owner's disdain for the entire gathering. It didn't detract from his looks one iota.

The man was bloody gorgeous, and Doyle wanted him. Now.

Because the man was a stranger, Doyle remembered his training. His brain kicked into action. Was this his mark? Was this creature of pure perfection a traitor? Was this the man he'd have to take down tonight, turn over to Cowley? Or worse. Would he run or pull a weapon? Would Doyle have to shoot him? Or even kill him?

Clearing his throat, Doyle struggled to pull his gaze away but the stranger held it from across the room by pure force of will. The stranger blinked first, turned away, with what Doyle was sure was a smirk at him on his lips. Fury coursed through Doyle. He wasn't one to be ridiculed from afar and his quick temper grabbed him. He threaded through guests until he was standing before the stranger.

Doyle gave the man what he hoped was a look that conveyed his own coldness and caution. "Ray Doyle." He held out his hand. "This is my parents' home and only invited guests are welcome."

The man raised an eyebrow. It was crooked, giving the bloke a comical look. There was no comedy in his eyes. They were hard when he said, "Bodie." He didn't take Doyle's hand at first but after a few seconds where Doyle felt like a berk standing with his hand waving in front of him, he latched onto it hard. "If your parents invited friends, why did they invite a traitor to the Crown?"

Doyle would have responded with indignation but his hand hurt. He gasped at the strength in Bodie's fingers as his bones were squeezed, mashed together. Infuriated to have his gun hand immobilised, Doyle tried to pull away. Bodie's other hand reached up and held Doyle's firmly between his. He rubbed his thumb along the skin between Doyle's own thumb and forefinger. "I will have you. Soon, and you'll love it." He dropped Doyle's hand as if it was a hot coal, turned and started to walk away. He paused, looked over his shoulder. "Watch that bloke dancing with Mrs Danvers. Comb over, paunch, bad teeth. Owen St John he's going by this time. He's our mark but she's up to something as well."

"How-"

"Good intel." Bodie touched the side of his nose.

Before Doyle could ask another question (he ignored the response of his cock which was extremely interested in the idea of Bodie shagging him), Bodie had disappeared out the nearest terrace door into the night.

"Ray!"

Doyle jumped, spinning on his heels. Murphy stood before him, a wide grin on his face. His cheeks were flushed with the exertion of dancing the last three sets. "Murph," he managed to blurt out.

"You all right? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Did you see that bloke? Tall, dark-"

"And handsome," Murphy added.

"That's the one." Doyle ran a hand through his hair. "Maybe he's our suspect."

Murphy shook his head. "Afraid not. That's Bodie. He's MI5. Crack shot with a rifle; good sniper I hear. Likes undercover work and has a bloody marvellous closure record. He's here with Agent... ah, well." Murphy looked uncomfortable.

"What?" Doyle asked. "You seem to know a lot about Bodie. Somebody's been talking."

"That's who I was dancing with. Bodie's partner, Mary Bingley. Agent 055."

"Bodie is agent 055?"

"No, Mary is. Bodie has another designation." Murphy shrugged. "I'm not sure what it is."

Doyle smiled. He couldn't resist teasing his friend. "And this Agent 055 is somebody you want your number and hers to add up to something?" He shoved his elbow into Murph's side.

Murphy grinned, a blush crept up his tanned skin. "Yeah. Silly, eh?"

"No, mate, it's not silly at all. Best of luck on the hunt," Doyle said sincerely. Maybe one of them could be happy in a relationship. It sure wasn't him these days, not after the last débâcle when he tried to woo a woman. He'd convinced himself that Ann would make him whole, normal... better. He was wrong. She wasn't the answer; it lay inside himself. What he needed was somebody like- No, not somebody like this Bodie character. Somebody like Murphy: steady, kind and brave. "Go on. Go and dance with this Mary Bingley, Agent 055. But keep your ears open and your eyes peeled. The gent with Mrs Danvers, lady in the blue gown." He casually flicked his gaze to the woman. "Bodie says he's the one. Woman's up to something as well."

"I will, mate. I'll tell Mary and we'll keep close to them. Good excuse to dance, eh?" Murphy turned and hurried off so quickly that he created a vortex in the air.

Doyle smiled, shaking his head affectionately. Murphy was a professional. While he wooed the bird, he'd do exactly as he said regarding keeping watch on the couple. When he thought back to Bodie, the intel he'd had and the way he spoke to Doyle as if he were some bird to be picked up at a pub, his anger returned. And why hadn't Cowley told him they would be sharing the op with MI5? Bloody Cowley, always playing, conniving, setting up little games that could be dangerous to his agents.

Doyle let out an inelegant snort. Dangerous. As if he didn't understand the game, the rules. He was useful, a trained agent, but he was expendable. Not like it was some big secret. Huffing out a sigh of disgusted acceptance, he strolled casually around. As he walked the perimeter of the room never letting the suspect and the Danvers woman out of his sight, Doyle wondered how this Agent 007 knew who they needed to nab. Snickering at the jibe comparing this arrogant man to the fictional character from the James Bond films, Doyle wondered if Bodie was that good or if he was in on the deal. The pleasant demeanour he'd been trying to keep must have faded because his mother homed in on him.

"Raymond, come with me. I have someone you must meet." His mother slipped her arm through his, latching onto him. Her tone told him she expected obedience from her only child.

Stifling a sigh, he let her tow him along for a few yards. It was his own fault for not acting like he was having a wonderful evening. Then he realized his mother wouldn't have cared if he'd been laughing it up with a drink in each hand and a lampshade on his head; she was going to introduce him to someone's eligible daughter regardless, much to his dismay.

His mother released him and walked regally through the guests. He followed her, distracted by the evening's events (Bodie), watching the hem of her silky gown as she walked. Black trouser legs appeared between he and his mother. He stopped so quickly that he slammed into the body to which the legs belonged. Startled, his hand automatically slid to under his left arm, fingers around the handle of his gun before he took another breath. A strong hand wrapped around his right wrist, squeezing painfully.

"Mustn't startle the innocents, must we?"

Doyle looked into the dark blue eyes of Agent Bodie, designation unknown. Those eyes held his by some invisible force that Doyle had trouble fighting. Doyle swallowed, appalled at himself for his lack of control, for what he was sure he revealed in his own eyes: desire. He retreated into anger.

"Let me go," he hissed quietly, keeping his focus trained on the man who held him so annoyingly close. "I'm working."

"So am I," Bodie said, moving closer. "If you'd stop being a baby following your mummy around you'd notice that St John and Danvers are on the move." He cocked his head towards the other side of the large room.

Doyle snapped his head around. Murphy slipped out of one of the terrace doors, followed by Bodie's partner. They must be following the suspects. Thank heavens one of them was doing his job, not that he'd admit his annoyance at himself to Bodie.

"Go out the front and come in from the north side. I'll take the south. Our partners will keep them in sight until we close in." Bodie didn't wait for his orders to be acknowledged. He blended into the crowd and out of Doyle's line of sight so quickly that Doyle barely had time to blink.

"He might be as good as he thinks," Doyle muttered as he hurried past his mum and out into the large foyer. "But I'm as good, maybe better." Once outside, Doyle unholstered his gun and ran quietly around the building.

It was a cloudy night, with a good breeze, so the moon winked in and out of the clouds. The light that spilled out of the ballroom windows and doors provided enough illumination for Doyle to see. He prided himself on his excellent night vision anyway. His mother often said he was part cat. Even as a child, he loved the night. He would wander the grounds hunting dragons and fighting Godzilla.

Pausing, Doyle listened intently. Above the muted strains of music, he heard the soft murmur of voices coming from the hedge maze.

A beloved childhood playground, the hedge maze had been planted a hundred years ago by a previous owner and tended with care by his father who also had a fondness for the topiary. He had spent many hours of play in that maze, believing himself to be one of the Three Musketeers, or Richard the Lionheart, or any one of a dozen of his storybook heroes at the time. He could navigate that maze with his eyes closed and with both legs hacked off.

He hoped it wouldn't come to that.

With a derisive chuckle at himself, he stopped abruptly when one of the shadows moved. Peering from his place of concealment, he waited until the shadow slithered towards him. He raised his weapon, ready to fire although he'd rather not disturb the night. He preferred to use the gun as a cudgel if he could. Doyle had a pair of traitors to catch and a shot would send the rats scurrying into their holes.

"It's Bodie," a voice whispered.

"Roger," Doyle whispered back.

Bodie seemed to melt out of the darkness, appearing beside Doyle like some unearthly wraith. More like a demon, Doyle reckoned, since he was all dark and dangerous. Doyle chanced a quick glance to see if Bodie's eyes glowed red.

"Your lad and my partner," Bodie whispered, his lips brushing Doyle's ear, "have the far side of the maze covered. Are there other exits?"

"No. It's difficult to navigate and hard to escape from."

"But you know all the ins and outs, eh?" Bodie said.

Christ, what was this bloke insinuating? Was he speaking of the maze or other, more sensual things. Stop! he ordered himself and made himself push the wayward thoughts from his mind.

"Doyle?"

"Sorry. I do. Every twig and leaf."

"Good lad." Bodie brushed his lips on Doyle's ear.

Was it accidental or purposeful? To test Doyle's resolve or to excite? Unwilling to be distracted, he moved away. Doyle didn't acknowledge the quiet snigger from Bodie and put on his most professional demeanour.

"Follow me."

"Gladly."

Doyle ignored the come on. Or was it a jibe? He couldn't read this man easily and at the moment he had other things to worry about. They had a traitor to nab.

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Moving forward with Bodie at his heels, he melted into the maze. After a few twists and turns, and after hearing a quiet curse from behind him, Bodie latched onto the tail of his DJ. Doyle smiled to himself. There was something heady about the idea that the cool unemotional agent couldn't do without Doyle. He liked having Bodie reliant on him.

Again, Doyle found himself having to put his ideas about Bodie from his mind and return his concentration to the task at hand. While he could manoeuvre the maze by instinct, he needed to be careful. The people he was stalking weren't rookies. They'd been handing off state secrets for some time and they needed to be caught red-handed.

Turning to the left, he slowed his steps, careful not to make a sound. The voices were more discernible now, and he made out a man and a woman. From the types of sounds he could hear, they were busy having sex. He heard murmurs and grunts and groans. The man was urging his companion on, praising her for her technique. The woman seemed to laugh but the sound was muffled, garbled. Doyle had an instant flash of realisation: she was giving the man oral sex.

With his back against the hedge row, he glanced over at Bodie. He could barely make out Bodie's face and he knew that his companion also had heard the goings-on. Doyle nodded and cocked his head. He tightened his grip on his weapon and held it with both hands against his shoulder. Bodie readied himself and nodded in return. Doyle was taken aback at the wordless communication that flowed between them, the ease with which it was understood. As working partners, he and Bodie clicked, and it made him uneasy.

This was not the time for introspection. He pushed all personal thoughts from his mind and did what he did best: his job.

Doyle silently crept towards the voices; Bodie was behind him, as quiet as he. They rounded the final hedge corner and he peered into the interior courtyard. There was a flickering gas lantern on a post behind the granite bench that stood in the courtyard's centre. Owen St John was sitting with his hands pressed to the bench on either side to keep his balance. His head was thrown back and his legs splayed as far as his trousers, which had been pushed down to his knees, would allow. The woman blocked Doyle's view but he got the idea. She was kneeling on the ground, her hands busy in front of her, no doubt full of Owen St John. Her head bobbed up and down. St John moaned softly.

Mrs Danvers pulled her head up. "Shush," she chided before returning to her task.

St John complied, clamping his lips together.

Doyle gave Bodie a final nod and they moved as one. Before St John or Danvers knew that they were being observed, Doyle had yanked St John backwards and onto the ground. The man let out a scream of surprise and pain. Doyle guessed that Mrs Danvers must have been using her teeth at that exact moment.

Bodie had Danvers pressed face down, his knee in her back.

"You're nicked," Doyle growled, pulling handcuffs from his coat pocket.

"I must get me some of those," Bodie said, his face reflecting his approval. "Handy, that."

Doyle grinned and rose, yanking the suspect with him. Bodie did likewise, hauling Mrs Danvers to her feet. Doyle shoved St John forward; with his trousers down, the man stumbled.

"Sorry," Doyle said unapologetically.

"What's the meaning of this?" St John found his composure. He straightened his shoulders and gave Doyle what he must have thought was his haughty glare, complete with indignant sniff. Doyle was impressed that anyone with their trousers around their legs could manage to look so damned superior. "The PM will hear of this outrage!"

"Save it," Doyle snapped. "You've been caught with your trousers down." He ignored Bodie's sniggering at the double entendre that he hadn't intended.

"Caught?" St. John shouted. "Caught? Doing what? Having fun?"

Murphy and Bingley entered the centre of the maze.

"Good work," Murphy said to Doyle. "Cowley will be pleased."

Mrs Danvers found her voice. "I demand you unhand me!" she snarled at Bodie. "I am a lady."

"You, madam," Bodie said, his tone amused, "are no lady."

"I never!" Mrs Danvers huffed, pulling on her arm that Bodie had firmly in his grasp.

"Probably not," Bodie smirked. "Move along." He propelled the woman forward.

Doyle paused long enough to pull up St John's trousers. He would have liked to give the berk a good shove and have him crawl out of the maze but if he hurt St John too badly Cowley might complain. Besides, Cowley often liked to do the damaging himself. Nothing his controller liked better than sweating a suspect and smiling in that cold way when the crying man or woman spilled his guts. He took the lead and the small caravan of people followed him out of the maze and onto the side garden of the Doyle country house. After he sent Murphy to inform Cowley of their victory, he kept the group moving, skirting the large building and into the car park area on the north side.

"We'll take it from here," Bodie said, starting to move off with Danvers in tow. "Bingley, get the other suspect. Our esteemed leader awaits."

"Now wait a bloody minute." Doyle didn't raise his voice; instead he dropped it low and added as much indignation as he could. "We did this together. You are not taking anybody anywhere until Mr Cowley says so."

Bodie raised that damned eyebrow. Doyle wanted to rip the uneven hair from Bodie's face. That eyebrow had its own personality and it appeared to be sneering at him. He didn't appreciate the attitude at all.

"Back off." Doyle squared his shoulders, tightening his hold on St John in case Bodie tried to get physical about taking away his captive.

Bodie let out a laugh. "All right, sunshine. We'll take them in together. Your HQ or mine? Don't bother answering; we'll go to CI5 before you suffer a breakdown."

"Don't think you're doing me any favours, mate." Doyle added his own disgust into that final word that usually conveyed friendship.

"You are a tetchy one, eh? Must remember that."

Bodie turned away from Doyle and marched his prisoner across the gravel walk to a saloon car. He opened the back door and pushed his suspect in, waved Bingley over and without looking at Doyle again, he climbed into the driver's seat. Still ignoring Doyle and his partner, he drove off amidst a spray of gravel that pelted Doyle's trouser legs.

"What a prat," Doyle muttered, pushing St John towards his motor. He opened the back door and propelled St John into the back. Since the Capri was a two door model he didn't have to worry about St John making an escape. Once he was on the driver's side and his partner was in the passenger seat, St John was secure.

Doyle had one leg in the vehicle when he heard his mother calling.

"Raymond!"

He looked over to see her hurrying towards him. He tossed the keys to Murphy and met her halfway. With a gentle hand under her elbow, he turned her back towards the house, forestalling any questions about why her guests were being escorted away from the party.

"I'll call you tomorrow," Doyle said, walking Evelyn to the nearest door.

She gave him a perfect pout, and he knew the moisture in her eyes was there for his benefit. "I had such a nice girl for you to meet! Mabel Forrester's youngest grand-"

"I've got to go. Cowley's expecting me and you know how he gets when he's kept waiting. I don't want to be sent on an assignment in the Outer Hebrides." He gave her a peck on the cheek and a tight hug. "Grand party. Love you, petal. Tea on Thursday, okay?"

"Do you promise?" Mrs Doyle asked, straightening Doyle's bow tie and patting his shoulder.

"Promise, Now good night. Tell Dad I'll talk to him tomorrow." Another kiss and he trotted back to the Capri. When he climbed into the driver's seat and glanced at the house, his mother had disappeared. He breathed a sigh of relief.

"She's a corker," Murphy said.

"Yeah," Doyle said, smiling. "Other than she thinks I'm still eight, she's marvellous."

He started the engine and shifted into first when he remembered Bodie's sardonic attitude towards him and his partner and CI5, Flushed with annoyance once again, Doyle jammed the accelerator. His exit from his parents' home was no more sedate than the MI5 agent's had been. Unfortunately no one was around to see his display of temper but Murphy. Murph wisely remained silent, holding onto the door frame. Doyle didn't have to wonder why his partner had a satisfied smile on his lips. It was because of Mary Bingley.

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The night had cleared up, and as Doyle walked out of HQ, he could see half a moon shining down. City lights obscured the stars but he knew they were overhead, twinkling against the velvet black heavens. He was a city lad now. His flat was snug and cosy, and he longed for his bed at this late hour. Under the exhaustion, he was alight with pleasure for a job well done and for the snippet of approval Cowley had tossed his way concerning the apprehension of St John and Danvers.

Yawning into his hand, he started for his car, grateful that it was Cowley and not he who had a long night of interrogation ahead of him.

"Oi," a man called.

Doyle looked over his shoulder, his hand hovering for the door handle. "What?"

Bodie - Agent 037 as Cowley had addressed him during the debrief- stood on the pavement, hands in his pockets. "Drink?"

"Eh?" Doyle knew he sounded daft, but he was surprised at Bodie's offer. He didn't think they'd got on well enough to share drinks.

"Drink," Bodie said, walking over to him. Murphy and Bingley were also with him, standing back about ten yards, heads together as they talked. "You know, the liquid that one puts into a glass and then sips with the mouth."

Doyle sniggered. "I know what a drink is. What I don't understand is why you want to have one with me."

"Doyle," Bodie said, his hand over his heart, his eyes flashing with humour, "you wound me. I thought we were mates."

"Nicking morons together doesn't make us mates," Doyle said. He knew his tone was unfriendly but he couldn't help it. This man put him off kilter, and he didn't like it.

"Okay. Another time." Bodie leaned closer. "Although the love birds might object."

"They can do what they like. I believe they're consenting adults." Doyle got out his keys. Bodie shrugged; turned away. Suddenly, Doyle didn't want him to leave. "All right," he called, "but the pubs are closed."

Bodie turned back, a smile on his face. Doyle liked how it lit his face, gave him a boyish charm. "Great! My place is close, and I've got some good stuff in. Follow me." He hurried off, almost as if he was afraid Doyle would change his mind. Three vehicles down, he got into a recent model Aston Martin Vantage. The saloon car at the bust must have come from the MI5 motor pool. This was more what Doyle had expected Bodie to drive. Something nice, sleek and powerful.

"You two coming?" Doyle called over to Murphy.

"Nah," Murphy said, slipping his arm around Bingley. "We're going for a bite to eat."

"I'll bet," Doyle muttered. "We've got a briefing with Cowley at noon. I'll be round at half eleven to pick you up."

Murphy gave him a dazzling smile. Bingley waved and they walked off, arm in arm.

"Lucky prats," he said to himself. "Enjoy." Feeling happy about Murphy finding Bingley, he got into the Capri and followed Bodie's Aston when it pulled away from the kerb.

-----------------------------

Bodie's flat was interesting. The place itself was simple, like Doyle's, because MI5 didn't spend any more on agents' flats than CI5 did. Cheaper was better, Cowley often said when he was keeping an eagle eye on the budget. Clive Martin, Bodie's boss, was more than likely the same way. Some flats were better than others. This one was plain and clean, with Bodie's personal touch in evidence. There was a large collection of books in a case. He could see mostly non-fiction, covering a variety of subjects from travel to philosophy and many things in-between. He even had a few potted plants that seemed to be well tended.

The art on the walls drew Doyle's eye. He appreciated good art. Bodie apparently had eclectic taste. One frame held what looked like an original poster from a 1963 Beatles concert in Liverpool. Another poster was an Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe. Over the sofa was one of the many of Degas' prints of ballerinas. The picture over the mantel was of a Ferrari but it was done in the style of Picasso, all bright reds and whites and blacks.

Lost in his examination of his surroundings, it wasn't until he realised that Bodie was speaking to him that he gave his attention to his host.

"So that was a touch of genius," Bodie said, pouring whisky into the glass that Doyle held.

He was surprised that he'd already finished the drink Bodie had handed him when he'd first arrived. But he didn't protest when Bodie refilled the now empty glass. He felt mellow and it was nice.

"Eh?" Doyle said, drinking again.

Bodie smirked. "When the lads couldn't find the microdot."

Doyle lifted the glass in thanks. He took a sip. "This is good." He took another, letting the liquid slide down his throat, enjoying the burn of fine whisky. He sat back on the sofa, stretching out his legs. He'd already loosened his tie and the top button of his shirt earlier. "Oh, right. Cheers."

Bodie saluted with his glass in response. "I don't need all the credit. Only most of it."

Doyle laughed, making himself cough as the last of the drink caught in his throat. He put his hand over his mouth. "Sorry," he wheezed.

Bodie grinned. "Still, I'd never have thought of that. Telling Cowley to look in the bloke's crotch. Mrs Danvers must've stuck it there when she was giving him her special brand of attention."

"Or after Mrs Danvers stuck the microdot on his bollocks, he got excited and she obliged." Doyle coughed a final time before he began to giggle.

"You've had enough, I think," Bodie said with a smile.

Doyle blinked. He hadn't meant to get drunk but missing dinner and drinking excellent potent whisky on an empty stomach took its toll. Cowley would be angry at this, Doyle inebriated in a rival agent's flat. No telling what could happen. What secrets he might accidentally reveal. What liberties this rival could take. He looked up at Bodie, who stood over him, hands on hips. He looked like somebody's mum waiting to blast the wayward child who had missed curfew. The image made Doyle giggle harder.

"You're sleeping on the sofa," Bodie said firmly. "Not having you run down some harmless Londoner because you're blasted."

"Nah," Doyle blurted out amidst his fit of giggles. "Walk home, I will. Night air will clear me head." He pushed himself to the edge of the sofa and after breathing in and out a few times, stood up. "See. 'm just fine." He hiccuped.

Bodie's eyes narrowed. "Right. How about a cuppa before you trot off into the night?"

"Marvellous!" Doyle grinned then sobered. "I'm all right. Didn't have supper so my belly's empty." His stomach obliged by growling loudly. He smiled sheepishly. "Except for that fine drink."

"Come on, you." Bodie took Doyle's elbow and propelled him into the kitchen. He planted Doyle on a chair at the table and while Doyle watched, he plugged in the kettle.

Doyle liked the way Bodie moved. He was all economy, sleek and handsome, his movements purposeful. He enjoyed the way Bodie's hands moved as they laid out tea things and sandwich makings. They were nice hands with clean nails and strong fingers when they set out bread, ham and cheese. Those hands looked like they could do many things well. In fact, Bodie looked like he could do many things well with that body of his. Doyle was brought out of his observation of Bodie's body parts when Bodie laid a jar of Branston down with a thunk.

"Can't make a decent sarnie without it," he said to Doyle's questioning look. The kettle whistled. Bodie made a pot of tea and after it steeped, he poured. The scent of freshly brewed Indian filled the air. Bodie pushed a cup of the hot brew over to Doyle. "How do you take it?"

"Milk and a touch of sugar, please." Bodie obliged. "Ta." He sipped. The tea was perfect; hot and sweet. "Good."

Bodie looked pleased at the compliment. "Get your gob around this." He laid a plate next to Doyle's elbow with a two inch thick sandwich on it. He sat down and dug into his own meal.

"Forgot I didn't eat. 'm starving," he said around a full mouth.

Doyle took another sip of the tea. The warmth spread through him and he drank until the cup was empty. Bodie poured him a second cup, prepared it to his liking, then returned to his sandwich. After the second cup was gone, Doyle picked up the thick slab of bread, meat and cheese, and bit into it.

"Mmmm," he said, chewing and swallowing. "Good too."

"Glad you approve. That's about the extent of my cooking abilities." Bodie finished his sarnie, pushed his plate aside and drank his tea, his eyes never leaving Doyle.

Doyle fidgeted under the scrutiny. He ate another bite or two before the huge sandwich got the better of him. Half way done and he was full. He laid down the remainder and gave it a sideways glance as if it were some deadly predator.

"Enough?" Bodie asked.

"Yeah."

"May I?"

"'Course. It's your food, after all." Doyle watched with wonder as the second half of his sandwich disappeared. He was amazed that Bodie was as trim and fit as he was if this was the way he ate daily.

"Bodie."

"Hummm?" Bodie ate the final crust.

"Thanks."

"No worries. Had to eat anyway." Bodie wiped his mouth on a paper napkin and belched. "I do make a hell of a sandwich."

Doyle laughed. "Well, I'm off. Thanks again." He stood up, steady now. With the tea and food in him, he regained his equilibrium.

"You're welcome. Good thing I was there to save your arse. You and that partner of yours." Bodie rose as well, looking as smug as anybody had the right to look.

At first Doyle thought he was taking the piss. "Yeah, right. I got us through the maze."

Bodie shrugged. "You did contribute that small thing. But actually..." He smirked. "I had been there the day before. Memorised the layout. Really, I didn't need you and what's his name. Bingley and I could've taken those clowns ourselves."

Doyle saw red. "You arrogant bastard! It was a joint op!"

Bodie smirked, and Doyle wanted to put his fist into his mouth. "It was a joint op only because I was under orders. Otherwise..." He let his words trail off, clearly letting Doyle know that his and Murphy's presence had been something he had to endure.

With as much disdain as he could muster, Doyle said, "Screw you." He stomped from the room, snatched up his jacket and yanked open the front door. Bodie had followed; he slouched against the nearest door frame. "Arrogant prick."

"So you've already said." Bodie snickered, raising that infernal eyebrow. "You are touchy, Doyle, but no matter. One of these days..." His words trailed off and he yawned, looking bored.

"Of all the- Fuck you, Bodie." Doyle was suddenly tired of the game. Let Bodie pretend he was chasing Doyle yet he was bored doing it. Or worse, he was doing Doyle a big favour showing a slice of interest in him. He wanted to go home and sleep, to forget this man. He was letting Bodie's needling get to him because he was tired. Any other time he'd give Bodie as good as he got. But tonight he wasn't in the mood. "Thanks again for the tea and grub," he said with coldness. To show he was in control, he didn't slam the door. No sense acting like some bird in a twitter. He closed it quietly and walked down the stairs.

Out on the pavement, he breathed in and out deeply several times until his head was completely clear. Car keys in hand, Doyle debated on whether or not it was wise to drive. He had had a few drinks; he knew that Cowley would rip him a new one if he got nicked for drink driving. Standing on the kerb, headlamps caught his attention. A cab approached. Doyle whistled and held up a hand. Better safe then sorry. He'd come back in the morning and get his motor. Climbing into the cab, he glanced back at the block of flats. In the second floor window, third from the left, a figure of a man was visible. Watching. Doyle turned away, giving the cabbie the address of his flat. Bloody Bodie. What a prat. He put the annoying (yet gorgeous) man out of his head and thought about more important things. He had to be in Cowley's office by noon, ready to work. Doyle didn't have time to think about Bodie. Not now, not ever.

---------------------------------

It was a hectic two weeks after the party when Doyle drove up to his parents' home. He parked in front and trotted up the steps. The door swung open and Perkins smiled.

"Mr Raymond." He bowed, his long, lanky frame clothed in a black suit with a white shirt and red tie, his mother's preferred livery for her head butler. Not that she had an under butler and an entire staff. They had to "make do" as she often said with a sigh, with a butler, a cook/kitchen maid and a housekeeper. Other help was brought in as needed, and a lawn maintenance service tended the grounds one day a week.

"Hello, Perkins," Doyle said cheerily. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, Mr Raymond." He looked stern but his smile betrayed his fondness for Doyle. His uneven teeth gleamed white against his dark skin. May I take your jacket?" Perkins held out his hand, his grin never dimming.

"Yes, please. Where's my mother?"

"She's in the solarium, awaiting your arrival." Perkins nodded to the right, waving his arm.

"I'm sure she is," Doyle muttered. As he took off his coat, he pictured his mother attired in a top of the line dress, with matching shoes. She loved Chanel suits. Maybe she would be in a pink or lavender pastel ensemble. No wait. It was Thursday. The outfit would be blue, more than likely. Her favourite colour. She would be sitting at a table covered with white linen with her treasured tea things artfully arranged. She was particularly attached to the blue Wedgwood tea pot. It was one of the few things that had survived from his gran.

Doyle started, coming back to reality. He smiled at Perkins' raised eyebrow. "Sorry. Daydreaming a bit. Thank you."

His mother loved nothing more than to hold court in the solarium. It was a beautiful place, with a stunning glass ceiling and an amazing array of plants and trees. Evelyn's passion was tending to the flora and fauna. She enjoyed seeing them flourish under her care.

Pausing in the arched doorway into the solarium, Doyle glanced around. It was a bright, sunny place today. The smell of soil and flowers filled the air. He took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He loved with place almost as much as he did the maze.

"Raymond." Evelyn Doyle smiled, waving her hand. She sat as Doyle had imagined, at a small round table flanked by two chairs. Tea was laid out on the table with a plate, cup and saucer before each position, along with tableware and light blue linen napkins.

"Mum," Doyle called over, hurrying to her side. He loved this woman more than he could explain. Her bright smile made him feel good. She loved him too.

Evelyn turned her cheek. Doyle gave her a kiss, taking in the fragrance of facial powder and her favourite scent.

"You look fantastic." He took a seat, reaching out to her.

Evelyn put her hand in his. "You're a sight for sore eyes, Ray. I've missed you."

They smiled at each other for another moment before she squeezed his fingers, loosening her hold on him. "Tea?"

"Yes, please," Doyle said, nodding. He'd reached for a small sandwich, cucumber. The bread was fresh, the vegetable crisp and the butter creamy. He took another.

"You're eating like a starving man!" Evelyn smiled. She put a strainer on Doyle's cup and poured.

"I am a starving man. These are good." Doyle ate another, this time thinly sliced ham and tomato, with a touch of dill in the mayo spread.

"I'll have Rachael pack you a basket to take away with you. If I know Rachael, she's made enough to feed an army." Evelyn prepared her tea and drank, all the while her eyes never leaving her son's face.

"You're making me uncomfortable," Doyle said, wiping his mouth on the napkin he'd spread on his lap. "You're staring."

Evelyn laughed merrily. "You are a silly boy today. I'm your mother. I can stare all I like." She nibbled on a square of iced spice cake. "Besides, I'm not staring. I'm observing."

"Oh, that makes it all right, then." He drank his tea. It was delicious. Chinese, his palate still functioned properly. After the swill in the HQ restroom it was a wonder his taste buds worked at all.

"So," Evelyn said, crossing her hands on her lap.

When she didn't continue, Doyle put down his cup. "So? What is it I've done now?"

Evelyn scrutinised her son, pouting in a way Doyle found endearing. "You abandoned me at the party, Raymond. Priscilla was most unhappy after I'd promised her your attention for the evening."

Before he spoke, Doyle slowly folded his napkin into a neat square. He put it on one thigh and then the other.

"You're fiddling," Evelyn said.

"Mum..."

"I'm right here, son." She looked directly at him, her eyes twinkling with some unspoken amusement she didn't seem willing to share.

"You... I..." With a loud sigh, Doyle folded his arms across his chest. "I'm not going to give my attentions, as you put it, to Priscilla." He looked down at the floor and then around the room, wishing someone, anyone, would rescue him from this conversation.

Evelyn put a hand on Doyle's arm. "What is it you're afraid to tell me?"

Doyle's voice dropped to a whisper. "I don't want to disappoint you. I'm not-
Not ever. With a girl- woman. Shit- Sorry!" He put a hand over his mouth. "Sorry," he said through his fingers.

Evelyn regarded him seriously. "Are you trying to tell me that you don't plan on marrying?"

"Yes."

"Is it that you don't wish to share your life or is there more?" Her gaze seemed to strip him to his soul.

Doyle knew he must look like a small boy afraid of the dark. He could feel his face drain of colour and his heart tripped into overdrive. He had to tell her. She deserved to know, consequences be damned. "Mum, I'm not straight. I mean, I don't want a woman. I prefer boys- men! I like men!" His palms were sweating and his lips were dry. Would she scream at him? Call him horrible names? Ban him from the house? Screwing up his courage, he lifted his eyes from the examination of the tea cup in front of him.

Evelyn was smiling. Holy Christ, she was! No tears. No dislike or disgust. She was smiling at him!

"Raymond, it's about time." Evelyn dabbed her napkin at her brow. "I was growing extremely weary of pushing every single girl within a hundred miles at you!"

Doyle's mouth fell open. "Eh?"

Evelyn laughed, a bright sound. "I'm your mother. Don't you think I figured it out years ago?"

"But I didn't know meself years ago! I was confused, unsure." Doyle scrubbed at his eyes, relief flooding through him. "Oh, mum. I'm sorry." He went to his knees and threw his arms around her. She ran her fingers through his hair and patted his shoulder. "Thanks," he whispered, his throat tight.

"Still, I would have liked grandchildren," she said wistfully.

"Sorry."

"Don't be silly. I'll be fine. I've enough to keep me busy as it is, with you and your father-"

Doyle raised his head quickly. "Dad! What will he say when he finds out I'm, you know."

"Gay? Nothing. He already knows as well."

Doyle shook his head. "How about Perkins? And Rachael? Does everybody know about my private life?"

"Don't take that tone with me, young man," Evelyn chided. "And no, just me and your dad. We both love you. Given the attitudes towards homosexuals, I admit I'm afraid. I don't want you scorned and ridiculed. People can be cruel."

"I'm discreet. Will be discreet. I want to stay with CI5."

"Ah, yes. The government wouldn't look kindly on one of its own flaunting what it considers immoral practices." Evelyn signalled for Doyle to get up. "I've got to run. I've a meeting at the vicarage in an hour. We're getting ready for this year's village fête and I'm in charge of the flower exhibition."

Doyle stood up, taking his mother's hands. As he looked into her loving face, he felt himself tear up. That's all he needed now: to blubber like a baby. He gathered himself together before he leaned down, kissing her cheek. "I love you."

"I love you too, Raymond. Now go on. I've work to do." Evelyn held onto Doyle's hand. She pulled him to her and gave him a quick kiss on his forehead. "Oh, and promise me one thing."

"Sure."

"When you find a special someone-" Doyle opened his mouth to protest but Evelyn held up a hand. "You will find someone, Ray. Trust me. You're ready for love. Now where was I? Oh, yes. When you find this special person, bring them around. I want to see if they're good enough for you." Evelyn smiled, pointing a finger at him. "Promise me."

Doyle laughed. "I promise."

---------------------------------

"Mr Cowley, I don't think I can work with Agent 037." Doyle stood before his controller's desk. He could see his reflection in Cowley's spectacles. He was a sight standing with his lip jutted out and his hands on his hips. He knew he must look like a recalcitrant teenager refusing to take out the rubbish (or a temper-tantruming two year old!) but he didn't care. Cowley's suggestion was untenable.

"Doyle, you mistake my request as a suggestion." Cowley removed his glasses and held them up to the light. He opened his desk drawer, extracting a square of white cloth. With care, he cleaned the lenses, all the while acting as if he were busy establishing world peace and good will towards men. He slowly folded the cloth, replaced it into the drawer and put his glasses back on. He finally peered up at Doyle through clean lenses, his expression clearly letting Doyle know he expected implicit obedience with no need to explain his demands.

So much for an untenable suggestion. Doyle was under orders. Bloody MI5 and annoying superiors and sodding terrorists. He disliked all of them. "Yes, sir," he ground out, making sure he sounded angry and unhappy. Not that Cowley cared.

Cowley gave Doyle his "I am Ruler; you will obey" smile. "Good. Now on your bicycle, 4.5. You've work to do." He immediately returned to his files, the usual Cowley dismissal to show what a busy man he was.

Doyle stared down at the top of Cowley's head. Bloody Cowley too. He left the office without making a scene. He wasn't a child, after all, as much as he wanted to have a good scream about the injustice of it all. As he passed Betty, she held out a folder. He was tempted to snatch it rudely but reason intruded. It wasn't Betty's fault he'd been ordered to work with Bodie and Bingley. "Thanks, luv." He gave her a smile and she returned it. There, that felt better. No sense being a prat when he had to work with one. He didn't like it in Bodie and he certainly didn't want to be at all like Agent 037.

Not by a long shot.

-----------------------------------

The operation was ill fated from the start. Doyle couldn't shake the niggling sense of foreboding that settled on the back of his neck from the moment he and Murphy met up with Bodie and Bingley at the docks at 2 am on a dismal night. The disused warehouse was rank. It smelled of dead fish and dead bodies. It was dark and mouldy. When they slunk inside to wait for the excitement to commence, with every gust of wind, bits and pieces of the warehouse fell from walls and roofs onto their heads. Things he didn't want to identify squished under his boots. It was not pleasant.

The night was dark and dank as well. Not fit for man or beast. Agents of the government didn't count, of course. They were expected to work under any conditions that Mother Nature or their superiors threw at them. Rain pattered down. The wind howled, shaking boards from their precarious hold on the crumbling structural skeleton. Why any self respecting bomb maker would pick this place for a meet was beyond him. A warm swanky hotel near Hyde Park would have been a wiser choice, Doyle reckoned. A nice pint, a good meal, swap the money for the goods, deal done. Less suspicious and a hell of a lot more safe and convenient. Still, one couldn't get into the mind of mad killers and suicidal bombers unless one wanted to go mad oneself.

Doyle flipped up the collar on his jacket, shivering when a drop - make that numerous drops - of freezing cold water slid down his neck. Hunkered down next to him, Bodie didn't act like he felt the cold. He was close enough to Doyle that he could hear the man's steady breathing. Doyle's own teeth chattered loudly. He tugged his knitted cap down so it covered the tops of his ears before he shoved his gloved hands under his arm pits.

"Stop the racket," Bodie hissed softly, his mouth close to Doyle's ear. "You're going to frighten the rats!"

Why was Bodie always getting close enough to whisper into his ear? It was annoying as hell. "Stuff it," Doyle muttered. "'m bloody freezing."

"Hmmm."

"And you're not?" Doyle peered into the darkness from their perch on a somewhat dubiously planted platform about 20 feet above the floor of the warehouse.

"Got on me long johns, haven't I? Not coming out into this perishing night unsuitably attired."

Doyle clamped his lips together to keep the chattering of his teeth silent. Why hadn't he thought about long johns? He sighed to himself, thinking he sometimes acted like a new recruit. The thought of warm wool under his trousers and jacket made him feel all the colder.

"Here." Bodie moved a few inches closer, slinging his arm across Doyle's back. "Snuggle?"

"Back off," Doyle hissed between clenched teeth. Unconsciously he moved closer to Bodie. He didn't notice until Bodie sniggered and hugged him tightly. Doyle wanted to elbow the aggravating sod but the warmth was too good to give up. When he relaxed minutely in Bodie's grasp, Bodie chuckled quietly. Doyle ignored him.

Wiping rain water from his eyes, Doyle looked across the warehouse floor to a section where what looked like a storage room had once stood. One of the side walls had collapsed, as well as some of the front section. It had created a small teepee like structure and inside that enclosure he knew Murphy and Bingley waited. He would have rather been with Murphy but orders were orders. Why in God's name Cowley kept ordering Doyle to team up with Bodie was beyond him. Sure, they worked together like a well oiled clock but otherwise, Bodie's nearness, smugness and overall annoying personality made Doyle want to put a bullet in his forehead. (Or his cock in Bodie's- Do not go there!)

The sounds of a vehicle approaching cut through the pattering of rain. There were no headlights but a Mini pulled into the warehouse, its tyres crunching on the detritus that littered the floor. Before Doyle could take another breath, a loud crack shattered the relative quiet of the night. He started. It took him a few seconds to realise that the car must have run over a large piece of wood dry enough to snap. He steadied his racing heart. The next sound Doyle heard was a low hiss. He grinned to himself. Moron got himself a puncture. The gods were smiling on Doyle tonight. It felt good to have luck on his side for a change.

Below, he could see the driver unfold himself from the small car and slam the door hard. Low cursing reached Doyle's ears as the man kicked the rapidly flattening tyre as if violence against a bit of rubber would make it re-inflate. Bodie patted Doyle's back and leaned in.

"Bloody bad luck for him, eh? Amateurs." Bodie's tone was derisively amused.

Doyle rubbed at his ear. The warmth from Bodie's lips touching his skin lingered. He scratched at the spot as he studied the floor below. A loud engine whined: a motorcycle. It roared up, oblivious to any need for stealth. He briefly wondered how stupid these supposed terrorists were. Then he pushed aside the idea. Any terrorist was a threat, well trained or clumsy idiot. They could all cause death, destruction and mayhem, even if they were incompetent enough to blow themselves up in the process.

His attention was fully on the two men standing at the boot of the Mini. They were looking inside using the light of the motorcycle headlight. Doyle would have loved to have known exactly what was hidden there. The binoculars he had didn't help because the boot lid blocked his view. Patience, he told himself. He cast a quick glance over to where Murphy hunkered. Although he couldn't see his partner, he knew that Murphy would hold his position until the predetermined sign was given. Doyle had full confidence in his partner; he could only pray that Bodie's partner was skilled enough to remember her orders to wait for Doyle or Bodie's prearranged signal.

Cursing the fact that he wasn't on the ground floor himself, Doyle waited until the motorcycle suspect traded a canvas hiker's knapsack for a black leather satchel. After the exchange had been made, Doyle nodded to Bodie. Bodie took a pen from his pocket. When he flicked a switch on the barrel, it flashed a thin green light. He blinked the light twice.

Murphy and Bingley burst from their hiding place, shining bright lights directly into the suspects' faces. The agents were silent as they each took down their respective suspect. No yelling hands up, or warnings about being cops. Doyle liked a quick take down without any fanfare. He was pleased as he saw Murphy smoothly nab the motorcycle rider. Bingley trained her weapon on the second man. Both suspects barely had time to react before they were on the ground, face down, and their hands were handcuffed behind them.

Doyle leapt from his hiding place and clattered down the board steps. One of the boards snapped under his foot, sending him plunging head over heels down the last few steps. He landed with a hard sprawl, his gun flying from his hand. Stunned, he lay for a moment. Unable to see, he heard the dual sounds of weapons firing and a racing motorcycle engine echoing through the building. He shook his head to clear it.

Strong hands helped him to his bum but those hands wouldn't let him stand.

Bodie. He pushed Doyle's gun into his hand and kept his elbow pressed against Doyle's shoulder blade. More gun fire split the night. Doyle heard bullets pinging off the boards and metal debris scattered around the building.

"Murphy!" Doyle shouted, desperate to stand, to aid his partner. He shoved at Bodie's arm with all his might.

"Stay down!" Bodie pressed his full weight onto Doyle's back.

"Get off!"

Bodie raised himself up a few inches, firing at the suspects. "There's another player! A second bike!"

"Then let's help!" Doyle cried.

"Over there!" Bodie shot again before he pointed with the barrel of his gun. "We need cover!"

Several bullets pinged into the dirt inches from them.

"Move!" Bodie shoved Doyle towards the burnt out metal frame of an unidentifiable piece of machinery.

Doyle scuttled quickly and threw himself to the ground, back pressed against the meagre cover. He took in a deep breath, huffed it out, turned and rose enough to get a bead on any of the shooters. He fired four quick rounds. The man fell over without a sound. Doyle dipped back down as several bullets pinged into the metal between him and the shooters.

Bodie was beside him, reloading. He gave Doyle a snarky grin, stood up and took aim quickly. He fired twice. Doyle knew he'd got his man when he heard a scream.

"Not a clean shot," Doyle shouted.

"Hit him, didn't I?" Bodie shouted in return.

Doyle shrugged, grinning. The adrenaline flowed through his veins. He gave Bodie a quick salute before he shot again. It took three bullets before he hit the Mini's driver. Eager to find another target, he scanned the area. Nothing moved. Only the sound of rain dripping from the holes in the roof broke the silence. Before Doyle emerged from the meagre safety of the tangled machinery, he reloaded a fresh clip.

That was when he realised it was quiet. Too quiet.

"Oh, shit. Murphy." Doyle scrambled out of cover and pelted across the uneven floor. He slipped once but recovered quickly. Jumping over a dark pile that lay in his path, he rounded the Mini.

What he saw made him feel as if his heart stopped. Murphy was sitting on the ground, with Mary Bingley in his arms. He held his hand against her chest. Blood was seeping out from around Murphy's fingers. Even in the dingy light Doyle could see the bright red of her blood. His heart kicked into overdrive. With her eyes closed and her head lolling sideways, she appeared to be dead.

"No, no," Doyle cried, sliding in the dirt to fall to his knees next to Murphy. He held his fingers of one hand against the vein in the side of Bingley's neck. He felt a faint pulse. "Bodie!"

"Over here. Checking the suspects!"

"Bingley's down. Call an ambulance!" Doyle shouted, keeping his other hand over Murphy's in an effort to staunch some of the bleeding. "Murph, it'll be okay."

Murphy looked at him through wet eyes. "You can't promise that. It's all my fault. She... saved my life." Tears slid down his cheeks.

Bodie's reply was full of pain when he shouted, "What? No!"

Doyle heard the sound of someone grunting. Bodie still had enough wherewithal to secure the surviving suspect. Then he ran over and was on Murphy's other side in moments.

"Don't let her die," Bodie ordered Doyle. He thrust a snow white handkerchief into Doyle's hand as if the square of cloth would save Mary's life. He stood up to cry into his r/t: "037 here. Code Red! Agent down. We're at a warehouse..."

As Bodie called in the location and demanded an ambulance immediately, Doyle did what he could to stop the bleeding. "Hold her up so she can breathe." He stripped off his coat. "Keep her warm." Another jacket was put on top of his; Doyle looked up. In the gloom, Bodie's mouth was a tight white line. Doyle couldn't tell if it was anger or terror. Probably both. "Bodie..." Doyle didn't know what to say, what words of comfort he could offer.

"She'll be okay," Bodie said firmly.

Doyle nodded.

"She will," he insisted.

Sirens in the distance grew closer. Doyle whispered under his breath, "Hurry up!" He kept his hand pressed over Murphy's.

Two ambulances arrived at the same time as Cowley and Martin. Both men blustered around, looking at the suspect, the dead bodies, and demanding explanations. Once given, they bustled off together with the one remaining suspect after he'd been temporarily patched up. The CI5 medic on staff at HQ would see to him. That made Doyle more angry. His injuries were minor; Bingley's weren't.

Doyle shivered while he watched the ambulance attendants loading Bingley into the back of the vehicle. The adrenaline spike he had during the battle and while tending to Mary was ebbing and the cold made itself known once again.

Bodie climbed in to the ambulance next to his partner. Doyle admitted to himself that he was surprised to see Bodie holding her hand. He didn't seem like the comforting type but then he only knew Bodie from his own interactions. He gave Bodie the benefit of the doubt. Because he thought the man often insufferable didn't mean he wasn't kind or caring to his friends. Murphy hovered at the back watching the medical men get her ready for transport. Doyle joined him, putting a hand on his arm. That was when he realised Murphy was bleeding. The dark jacket he wore camouflaged the amount of blood on his sleeve.

"You're hit," Doyle said. "Why didn't you say something?" He started to open Murphy's jacket.

"I'm fine," Murphy said from between clenched teeth, shoving Doyle off. "It's nothing. Leave it."

"No, I will not." Doyle turned and looked around. "Medic!" he called over to the second ambulance attendants who were preparing to leave. "This man needs medical attention."

Murphy turned bleary eyes on Doyle. "I don't deserve- I won't go to hospital."

Doyle faced Murphy square in the eye, one hand clamped on each of Murphy's upper arms and marched him over to the remaining ambulance. "Don't get heroic on me. Better yet, don't get stupid. You will get attention. That's an order."

"You're not my sodding boss," Murphy growled, blinking rapidly. He swayed, looking sick. "I killed her. Oh, God-" Murphy's knees collapsed.

"Murph!" Doyle gathered him in as he passed out. "Medic!"

-----------------------------------

Doyle pulled up at the kerb outside of the west entrance of St Victor's Hospital. Murphy immediately walked out of the doors, arm swaddled in bandages. He skirted around the front of the car, using his free hand to steady himself. Bloody Murphy. If Doyle knew his partner, Murphy was leaving on the sly before the doctor had released him. Still, if Doyle hadn't agreed to pick him up, he'd have taken the sodding tube and more than likely keeled over en route. Hard headed was Murphy. Doyle was annoyed in spite of the fact that Murphy had good reason to avoid hospitals. For security reasons, only a few close friends and family (and Cowley, of course) knew about Murphy's wife and child. Killed in a car crash two years ago, it was a tragedy Doyle knew haunted Murphy's life. The idea that Murphy held St Victor's Hospital personnel partially responsible for their deaths wasn't widely known. Whether or not Murphy had a basis for his hatred of St Victor's Doyle had no way of assessing. Murphy had refused to carry his suspicions further than telling Doyle after he'd far too much to drink. It had been after the funeral when Doyle had insisted Murph stay with him for a few days. The whisky had been flowing freely that night. Murph sobbed his accusations to Doyle while Doyle held him tightly, crying himself at the pain Murphy was suffering. About how the doctors at St Victor's had failed to save his wife and child through negligence. Doyle wondered if Murphy had any evidence of clinical negligence but he never asked. After that night, Murphy never spoke about his family again.

Cowley's sympathy only went so far. Their controller would have their guts for garters if he found out Murphy had done a runner, leaving hospital without consent of the doctors. Cowley found out everything... eventually. He'd run interference with the old man until Murphy was able to do it himself.

Doyle leaned over and opened the passenger's door. "You look like shit," he said blandly when Murphy slid his lanky body into the seat. Doyle watched closely as his partner put his head back and closed his eyes. Maybe he would collapse right now and Doyle could call the A&E people to drag his sorry arse back inside.

No such luck apparently because Murphy was furious. "I hate that fucking place."

"They patched you up, eh?"

Murphy sighed and didn't answer.

"Has to count for something, mate."

Sitting up, Murph glared at Doyle, anger in his eyes. "I'll get a cab," he hissed quietly, reaching for the door handle.

Doyle sighed. Murphy didn't raise his voice but the indignation was obvious. "No need. I'll take you to mine. Keep an eye on you. It's my duty as your partner."

"Fuck you."

"Potty mouth today, it seems," Doyle said quietly. He understood why hospitals and Murphy didn't mix. It had been sixteen months now since that horrible day. He wished he could say Murphy had recovered. Recovered. Not quite the word that fit. Murphy didn't, hadn't recovered. Murphy had- what? Resigned himself to it? Forgotten it? Not bloody likely. He'd learned to live with the pain. Poor bastard.

Now Doyle had high hopes. Meeting Mary Bingley was a miracle sent from above. He was thrilled how Murphy had seemed to liven up, to show some of his old spark. Now, after this shooting, he hoped that Murphy and Bingley would get back on a good footing with each other. She would live, thank Christ. Being shot changed a bloke or a lass. And Murphy was more sensitive than most. He stifled his own sigh, glancing over his shoulder before sliding into traffic. When he cast a quick glance over at Murphy again, the tired looking man had put his head back once more and closed his eyes. "I-"

"Another word, Doyle, and I will punch you."

"Sorry. You know I'm sorry, Murph." Doyle was pleased when Murphy's face relaxed slightly.

"I know." Murphy rubbed at his eyes. "I'm so bloody tired."

Doyle was astonished that Murphy admitted that much. He reached over, patted his friend's leg. "Hungry, too, I'll bet." Murphy shrugged before he gave a half hearted smile that Doyle took as acquiescence. "Spaghetti ala Doyle coming right up."

"You're a good friend," Murphy said softly. "She'll be okay. You heard?"

Doyle grinned. "Yeah, I heard. That's grand." He shifted into third. "I'm happy for you."

As Doyle drove, his thoughts strayed to Bodie. Murphy had Bingley and he had- nothing. Did he want something? Something with Bodie? The man annoyed and irritated him no end, yet Doyle was attracted to him. He was gorgeous, to be sure, but Doyle wanted to delve deeper into what Bodie was like underneath. Was the arrogant façade a cover or the real man? Was he as good as he portrayed as an agent? And what was he like in bed? Not that he'd ever find out, because he had no reason to see Bodie again. MI5 and CI5 didn't mix well, and their overseers understood that. Still Murphy had met Bingley and from Doyle's perspective, they seemed to get on well together. Murphy was clearly interested in her and she in him. It could work. Two agents from rival departments could get on. 'Could' being the operative word here.

Doyle wished Murphy the best. Fingers crossed. Now, at least one of them had a chance at happiness.

-----------------------------------

Doyle pulled up to the kerb outside Murphy's block of flats. As his partner approached, he was glad that Murph had physically recovered so quickly. A week's rest and his partner was back on the job. That was a month ago and during that month, Murphy had been as happy as Doyle had seen him in a long time. But now, as Murphy got closer, Doyle could see that his face was grim. Something was amiss.

"Morning," Doyle said.

"Morning," Murph responded flatly.

After pulling out onto the tarmac, Doyle shifted from first to second. "What's wrong?"

Murphy gave Doyle an exasperated sigh. "Why is something wrong? Christ, a bloke can't get a moment's peace with you, Miss Marple. Always asking a thousand questions. You'd make a fucking great interrogator."

"Murph-"

"Never mind. Sorry. I didn't mean to sound nasty." Murphy ran his hand through his long hair, before he scrubbed a hand down his face. "Mary's gone."

"Gone?" Doyle echoed, feeling like a berk for sounding so surprised.

"Yeah. Reassigned."

"Reassigned?"

"Will you stop that?" Murph growled.

"Sorry, mate." Doyle turned down the road leading to HQ. He kept silent until he'd pulled into the car park. After he'd shut the engine, he turned to his friend. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

Murphy studied Doyle for a good minute. Doyle could see pain in his eyes. He truly cared for Mary. In fact, since she'd been released from hospital and had been having rehab, Murphy had been with her often, as much as he could when he wasn't assigned to an operation. It couldn't be that, having to work odd hours and being away for days at a time. Bingley understood that; she was an agent herself.

"Was it Cowley? Did he have something to do with this?" Doyle was growing more angry by the second.

"I don't think so." Murphy paused. "I don't know, but she's gone."

"She didn't say anything to you? What about Bodie? He would know what's what."

"I got a note from her telling me thanks for the grand time. It felt like it was from a stranger so I called Bodie. He said she was on a mission, and of course, it was classified. Wouldn't say where she was. Gotta say, he sounded happy to be telling me the news." Murphy blinked his eyes rapidly, rubbed at them, then shook his head. "And she wouldn't be coming back to London when the op was concluded. End of story."

Doyle ran his fingers through his hair, his fury at full storm. His anger was now directed at his nemesis, Bodie. He knew that Bodie disapproved of Murphy's attachment to Bingley, and somehow, some way Bodie had been able to whisk Bingley away from Murphy. Bodie had not only deliberately ignored their happiness, their growing relationship but, had sabotaged it purposefully.

The bloody bastard. Doyle would rip him apart.

At the moment, his partner was hurting. He put a hand on Murph's shoulder. "I'm so damned sorry. If you like, I can speak to Cowley, ask him to-"

"No," Murphy snapped. "If she cared- No. I'm not a school boy and this isn't your affair." He hurried out of the Capri and into HQ without looking back.

Doyle's head pounded. He was at the edge of control; his hands were clenched around the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were white. The desire to hit something threatened to overwhelm him. Reason intruded abruptly, leaving him breathless. Slowly, he breathed in and out until he found a measure of calmness. He couldn't help Murphy going off half cocked, and he wouldn't get anywhere ranting at Cowley. He would quietly investigate as much as possible to find out what was going on. And he vowed that Bodie would pay for Murphy's misery if his first instinct about Bodie's guilt in interfering with the happy couple proved to be true.

------------------------------------------

Doyle's private investigation was ongoing but details proved to be elusive. He still believed that Bodie was at the crux of the matter yet nobody was talking. It had been three weeks since Mary had been sent off to unknown locales. Doyle kept a close eye on Murphy. He had no doubt that his partner was miserable but he hid it well. Murphy was a good agent; he was proficient at his job and he watched Doyle's back, kept him safe. The fatigue lines around Murphy's eyes grew deeper. After Doyle's suggestion that Murphy ask Cowley for a holiday was met with cold anger, he decided to keep quiet and let the man grieve in his own way.

The day before they had rousted a pair of gun runners trying to unload a cache of weapons off a small power boat near Hammersmith Bridge, and Murphy was at the top of his game during the bust. When one of the suspects had pulled a hidden knife on Doyle, Murphy had taken him down immediately, saving Doyle from what could have been a nasty wound. Doyle remembered his partner's pleased look when Doyle thanked him for his quick action. Murphy acted like his old self. He was hiding his broken heart behind an efficient agent who put his heart and soul into his work.

Although Doyle thought it was best to leave Murphy alone regarding his love life but he wasn't letting Bodie off the hook for ruining Murphy's chance at happiness. He quietly asked around about Agent 037 at the pub that CI5 agents and other members of HM's government frequented. His casual questioning garnered him the information that Bodie was proficient, deadly and competent. He was a top agent who followed orders when it suited him. Martin tended to overlook Bodie's rogue attitude because Bodie's success rate was the highest in MI5. He, along with Bingley, had closed more cases than the next five teams combined. Doyle wondered how Bodie was handling losing his apparently treasured partner. No one had any comments about Bodie and Bingley being anything but the best of agents, partners and friends.

Bodie was likewise considered to be arrogant, overbearing and distant. He didn't have any meaningful friendships with the members of his own organisation past sharing a pint (other than with his partner) and he went through birds like water through a sieve.

No one mentioned Bodie's interest in other men. Doyle wondered if the remark Bodie had made that first night at his parents' home about shagging him was rubbish; made to throw Doyle off his game, to needle, to insult.

It hadn't worked. Much. Doyle kept his eyes and ears open, ready for the first opportunity to approach Bodie and give the sodding prat a piece of his mind.

--------------------------

The time for Doyle to teach Bodie a lesson came sooner than he'd expected. It was about six weeks since Bingley had left London. He was in the leased garage behind his block of flats where he kept his two motor bikes when Bodie showed up one afternoon uninvited.

"Oi, mate," Bodie called out, leaning insolently against the open jamb of the roller door. He was dressed casually, in tight black cords, black polo neck and a brown leather jacket. The hem of the jacket fell to Bodie's waist, accentuating his trim figure. Black leather boots completed the look, giving Bodie a rakish air.

Doyle glanced up, a snarl on his lips. "What the hell are you doing here?" How had Bodie found him? Bloody secret agent; he couldn't even relax on one of his few days off without some berk interrupting him. It didn't help that Bodie looked amazingly good lounging against the door frame, a sombre expression on his face.

"Have to talk to you," Bodie stated firmly.

Doyle rose from the floor where he had been kneeling, working on the bike's chain assembly. He was unkempt, wearing tattered jeans that had a patch on the bum, an old green t-shirt covered with oil. He surely had oil and dirt smeared on his face since he had the bad habit of rubbing his finger along his upper lip when he concentrated on whatever task was at hand.

Absent-mindedly, Doyle wiped his hands on a dirty rag and stuffed it into his back pocket. He stared directly into Bodie's eyes, ready to give as good as he got. He wasn't good at taking orders from anybody but Cowley and certainly not from this moron.

"What is it?" Doyle demanded, not in the mood to be civil. Not after what this bloody tosser had done to his partner and good friend.

Bodie pushed himself upright and sighed. Doyle grew impatient waiting for Bodie to continue. If he didn't know better, he'd have said that Bodie was searching for words, that he seemed flustered. Not Bodie. He was too good, too high and mighty, to have normal human emotions. Still, Doyle decided to wait a few minutes, keeping up his impatient glare while Bodie looked down at his feet before he straightened up, squared his shoulders, sliding his hands into his jacket pockets. Finally, after clearing his throat, he began to talk. Not a moment too soon. Doyle was ready to bang him over the head with a spanner.

"This is difficult for me. I've worked hard at being the best; military, martial arts; firearms specialised training. I'm the top agent at MI5, second to none."

Doyle's hackles rose. What was Bodie spouting off about? His list of accomplishments? Nothing he cared to hear! "Of all the arro-"

Bodie held up a hand. "Christ, Doyle, let me have my say! God knows why I'm even bothering but it's something I have to do. I don't do things half arsed and I don't allow myself to sink to the level of other lesser people."

Lesser people? Doyle was momentarily shocked into silence. What the hell was Bodie whingeing about? Lesser... His fist clenched. Where was that spanner?

Bodie glared at Doyle. "It's all your fault. You wear your trousers too tight and you shake that bum of yours in my face! You made me want you and I've got to live with that! So in spite of the fact that you're far beneath me in ability and fashion and..." He looked down his nose at Doyle. "Everything, actually." Bodie sighed loudly, theatrically. "I want you. I'm willing to overlook your shortcomings and since I don't fuck randomly but rather when I feel something for a bloke, I'm asking you if you're interested in a relationship."

"What?" Doyle asked, surprised into single words. "Interested? Relationship?" For a moment, he couldn't breathe. Bodie looked as if he was doing Doyle a big favour, asking him if he was willing to become lovers.

Bodie rattled on, either oblivious to or uncaring of Doyle's mounting fury which he let radiate from every pore.

"I don't screw around. I prefer monogamy. Safer in my business. Plus it keeps those nasty diseases more controllable. You'll have to be discreet as well."

Finally Doyle's anger exploded. "Of all the bloody arrogant, insufferable and ridiculous notions!" he shouted. "As if I would consider sharing a fucking sarnie with you after what you did. Murphy has been stabbed in the heart after you maligned him to Bingley! They were in love and you interfered." Barely taking time to suck in a breath, he said, "They had a chance in the fucked up bloody mess of a world and you screwed it up! I can't believe you could be so cruel, so selfish, so uncaring, so mean-"

Bodie's face turned even paler than usual. His lips tightened into a thin line. He lifted his chin, and his words dripped disdain. "A simple yes or no would have been sufficient. Sinking into name calling and attacks on my good reputation are quite unnecessary."

The cold tone made Doyle furious. He swung at Bodie. The other man was quick enough to deflect the fist off his lower arm as he raised it defensively. Doyle stood with his hands clenched. "Get out."

Bodie turned and left without another word. Doyle breathed in and out harshly for several moments, letting his racing heart start to calm, before he turned, picked up the nearest tool and threw it at the wall. It clattered to the floor with a thunk. He stared at the grease stained spot on the wall until he found some measure of sanity.

Doyle couldn't believe it. He sat down on an upturned bucket and put his elbows on his knees. He stared outside through the open door, still in shock. What was Bodie thinking? Was he mad? Did he really expect Doyle to be grateful for his insulting offer? Doyle wasn't good enough for Bodie but Bodie was willing to overlook that fact if Doyle agreed to sex?

No, not sex. Bodie had said he wanted a relationship. A monogamous relationship. Of all the bloody arrogance! They knew nothing about each other. They'd hardly spent any meaningful time together. How could Bodie ask such a thing? Doyle wanted a loving, kind relationship, with hot sex and a companion who loved art and running and motor bikes. An equal. Certainly not that arse, Bodie.

After a few more minutes of ranting internally, Doyle paused and began to laugh. The look on Bodie's face when Doyle had blasted him had been priceless! Bodie had been insulted! He had said that a yes or no would have been enough, and he had looked wounded about what he called attacks on his good reputation!

Good reputation, my arse, Doyle thought. The man was a nasty piece of work through and through. He was cold and uncaring. Doyle could think of another dozen derogatory words to associate with Bodie but the biggest reason to dislike the man was because of what he'd done to Murphy, Doyle would never forgive him.

Never.

-----------------------------------

Being shot by Mayli Kuolo was Doyle's own fault. Then he rethought that idea. It was partially his own fault. Bodie had played a large part in the incident; at least fifty percent of the fault was his.

Several days after Bodie had made his ridiculous proposal to Doyle, Doyle had been thinking about the sodding bastard once more. It was a free afternoon and he ran his errands: laundry, groceries, new socks. He had been distracted when he left his flat and completely forgot to set the locks properly. As he lay in his hospital bed reviewing the incident he remembered how he had let the door click closed behind him. Bodie was at the forefront of his mind and he had walked off without checking the door, thinking once again about Bodie's insulting proposal.

When he returned with his purchases in his arms, he had walked into his lounge without a moment's hesitation. His wandering brain hadn't registered the fact that the door was easily opened with one key instead of two. Walking into the living room, he had been so caught up in his musings that when he saw the woman from the junk shop where he'd bought a gold ring and a terrarium, he was more curious than frightened.

The dark haired woman had stared at him, the gold ring in her hand. Doyle clearly remembered asking her, "How'd you get in here?". He also clearly remembered her dropping the ring from her left hand and raising her right arm. That was when he saw the glint of gold in her grasp. For a split second he thought she was carrying another piece of jewellery. Maybe she wanted to sell it to him. His reaction to seeing the silenced gun was non-existent. She'd fired before he took another breath.

If Bodie hadn't been so damned arrogant, Doyle wouldn't have been shot. Doyle reckoned that it was only fair that Bodie share the blame. Seemed logical to him, especially while he lay in his hospital bed, miserable beyond words. When he got out of this sodding place, he'd make sure Bodie paid for his misery.

Doyle hadn't realised that the human body could hurt so badly. He had been shot and stabbed and beaten previously. He'd had his cheekbone bashed in and had spent two weeks in hospital after that. But this time, after taking those hits from a woman, no less, he was in agony. At first, waking up had been bearable. The intravenous drugs had kept the pain at bay. As the days passed, the pain killers were slowly lessened and the discomfort mounted. Adding to that was the healing of the surgical incisions, when itching moved in like an unwanted relative, and drove him crazy. He was ready to rip his skin off and run screaming through the corridors - if he could run. Unfortunately all he could do presently was lie here and be miserable.

The nurses tried to alleviate the itching with topical meds which the doctor had approved but the relief was minimal at best. There were times when Doyle lay in his bed, hands clenched at his sides, tears leaking down his cheeks. He felt like a damned baby crying in his cot. He was a baby.

After a while he didn't care how he acted. He was wretched and hadn't the strength to hide it. Adding to this misery a phantom figure that kept appearing and disappearing next to him. He had never been haunted before so this experience, in his present state, was terrifying.

Until one day his head was clear and he saw someone sitting beside him. A real someone. Over the weeks he'd known he'd had visitors. He was sure he'd heard Cowley speaking, Murphy as well, but with myriad hospital personnel whizzing to and fro, interaction had been impossible. In order to cope he had ignored everyone. It took all of his will power to breath and not scream at the discomfort.

Now with his mind his own again, and with his vision behaving, he was shocked at what he saw. His companion sitting quietly beside the bed was the last person on the planet he expected to see.

Bodie.

Doyle blinked several times to be sure what he was seeing was real. And if it were Bodie, how he should react. He remembered his vow to tear off Bodie's bollocks and stuff them down his throat but now, after coming back from the dead, revenge seemed less important than living.

Doyle looked straight at Bodie. "Hello."

Bodie smiled. "Not going to curse at me, then?"

"Nah. Too much work." His chest itched; he clenched his hands.

With a chuckle, Bodie patted his arm. "It's about time you came back. Been off in la-la land a good while."

"I've been here." Doyle smiled wanly. The motion made his dry lips ache but the itching on his chest receded. He sighed thankfully. "Sort of."

"Thirsty?"

"Parched."

"Here."

Doyle was embarrassed to let Bodie assist him, touch him, slip his hand behind his head and raise it up enough so that he could drink through a straw. The cool liquid bathed his parched throat. He drank and drank.

"Whoa. Don't want you drowning on us, do we?" Bodie set the cup down, gently lowering Doyle's head. "Got some salve here. May I?" Bodie dipped his finger into a small glass container until he had a small gob on the tip.

"Eh?"

"Lips. Cracked as the Sahara after a wind storm I see. I hate when that happens."

"Oh. Ta."

Again Doyle was flustered to have Bodie so close, so kind. He felt tears well up and he squeezed his eyes shut while Bodie touched a finger to his lips, spreading the thick ointment onto his skin. It felt so good that he couldn't help himself; the tears slipped out, running down his face and onto the pillow beneath his head.

"Go away," Doyle whispered, horrified at his weakness. He turned his head aside.

"It's okay, mate."

Doyle heard Bodie leave the room. He kept his eyes closed and after a while he drifted off to sleep, not waking until dinnertime. As he drank the warm broth he was allowed, he thought about the strange visit. Maybe it hadn't really happened. Maybe he'd dreamt it. Maybe he was still in a coma. Yeah, that was it. Feeling better now that he understood, he pushed thoughts of Bodie aside. Funny how after he decided to ignore his feelings for Bodie that his chest once again started itching like mad.

---------------------------

Cowley had made his obligatory visits twice a week for the past month since Doyle had been hospitalised. Today must be Thursday because Cowley stood in the doorway, dressed in his heavy outer coat and hat.

"May I come in?"

"Mr Cowley." Doyle struggled to sit up in his hospital bed. The incisions tugged his skin; the itching danced across his chest. He bit his lower lip. "Of course."

"Lie still, laddie." Cowley removed his hat and held it in his hand. "The doctors say you're progressing well. Day after tomorrow you'll be released. I've made arrangements for a rehabilitation stay."

"Can't I go back to my flat?" Doyle asked, sure that his tone was whinier than he would have liked.

"No, Doyle. You've been assigned a new flat, of course. Security and all but it will be a few weeks before it's properly rewired to the new security standards. I've got the boys working day and night to upgrade the entire squad's homes." Cowley smiled. "You'll be comfortable in your new place. I've had help selecting the new flat."

"Help?" Doyle scratched absent-mindedly.

"Oh, aye. We've a new agent and he was eager to perform the task."

"New agent?" Doyle felt like a bloody fool repeating everything Cowley said, but he was confused. Since when did a new agent have so much pull with Cowley. Why was Cowley mentioning him or her in the first place.

Cowley smiled. "Yes. Murphy and I were successful at stealing Bodie from MI5. He's mine now," he said proudly.

Bodie? A CI5 agent? And Murphy helped recruit him? What the...? Was he still in a coma, because this had to be a dream. It was too damned strange to be otherwise.

"Murphy and Bodie? Together?" Doyle asked. As he spoke, Doyle remembered that he'd never told Murphy about Bodie's part in breaking up his romance with Mary Bingley. Murphy more than likely thought Bodie was a good agent and perhaps had the making of being a mate. Poor Murphy. Doyle had not done the right thing, apparently. His partner was being used.

"Aye, they seem to get on. Murphy has even suggested that I consider partnering you and Bodie once you're back on the A Squad." Cowley looked at Doyle intently. "He thinks you've the making of a top team. I've a mind to do exactly that. What do you think?"

Too astonished at the changes being thrown at him one after another, he whispered, "Whatever you think is best."

"Bodie seems amenable to the pairing. Murphy and he get on well together..."

Cowley prattled on. That also surprised Doyle. Cowley rarely chatted with him as if they were mates. Today was the day for surprises, apparently. Doyle must have looked as taken aback as he felt because Cowley paused and waited, hat in hand, until Doyle realised he'd stopped talking.

"You don't remember Bodie visiting you," Cowley stated.

Doyle shook his head. "Only after I was off meds. I don't remember a lot about those first few weeks. A lot is a hazy blur." Doyle chewed on his fingernail. What was Bodie up to? He couldn't have visited because he cared. Could he have? Why else if Doyle was unconscious or loopy from meds and not able to acknowledge Bodie's visits? Why? Doyle suddenly wished Cowley gone so he could think about Bodie. He needed to sort out what was happening. To understand what it would mean if Bodie was to be his partner.

Doyle yawned, blinked tiredly. He hoped Cowley would get the hint. "I'll be ready on Thursday."

"Ten am sharp. Bodie will-"

"Bodie?"

"He's requested... How did he put it? The privilege of escorting you to the facility. I've given him my approval. Don't worry. It's private, secure, used for only the cream of Her Majesty's agents and military officers. You'll be safe there."

Doyle had forgotten that he should be concerned about his safety even though Kuolo was dead. Flustered, he blurted, "I- Well- Thank you, sir." Doyle's head was spinning. He let Cowley think he was worried about security when he was more concerned about seeing Bodie again. And Cowley seemed pleased about his new agent's involvement in all things Doyle. Things were getting weirder by the second today.

"All right, lad. I've a meeting with the PM at 2." Cowley put his hat on and held out his hand. Doyle shook it. "Good man. After rehabilitation and a good session with Macklin, I expect you back on the job ready to work."

Doyle was staring at the empty space left by his controller five minutes later. When had his life gotten so far out of control? Then he snorted with derision. When Mayli Kuolo sunk two bullets into his body, obviously. Now Bodie was fast becoming Cowley's blue eyed boy. Murphy was friends with him, and Bodie, not Murphy, was taking Doyle to the super secure government rehab centre on Thursday.

What the hell could possibly be wrong with Doyle's life? Everything was bloody marvellous.

--------------------------------

A helpful nurse pushed Doyle out the front entry way of the hospital and to the kerb. Bodie's car idled there. Bodie was already out and waiting for Doyle, leaning on the front wing, his arms crossed. His dark hair glinted in the sunlight. When Doyle emerged he waved.

"Hello." Bodie tossed Doyle a blindingly friendly smile.

"Hello," Doyle said begrudgingly.

Bodie opened the passenger car door and began to physically assist Doyle out of his wheelchair by putting a hand under his elbow. "In you go," Bodie said, his tone as if he were addressing a helpless youngster who couldn't fend for himself.

Pulling his arm away, Doyle snarked, "Leave off. I'm not dead yet." Being in the wheelchair left him at a disadvantage with Bodie. The man towered over him, looking fit and trim while Doyle had to hunch forward to alleviate the constant tightening of his chest incisions and the ever present itching. He truly felt like the child he'd whinged about to himself earlier.

Bodie held up his hands in surrender. "Did you want to drive?" he asked, his tone cool as he held out the keys.

With his hand pressed over his chest, Doyle shook his head. He hadn't meant to be ungrateful but seeing Bodie so alive, so - Bodie like, made him realise how far from his former state of being fit he was.

The doctors said he was healing rapidly. His good health and overall physical condition were adding his quick recovery. Apparently the tugging he felt internally in his chest and the infernal itching didn't seem to concern his surgeon or the other medical personnel taking care of him. In fact, he got the distinct impression that they thought he was complaining unnecessarily. This only added to Doyle's feeling that he would never return to A Squad.

Bloody hell, Doyle thought derisively, you'll be fucking lucky to get back onto B Squad at this rate. He was disgusted with himself, and he wondered, not for the first time in the past few weeks, if he was suffering a psychological breakdown.

"You should be grateful," Bodie said, his tone icy, after he'd got in behind the wheel and waited until Doyle managed to put himself into the car seat.

"For what? Being a cripple?" Doyle snarled, his mood dark.

"You're lucky to be alive but of course all you can do is whine." Bodie started the engine, glanced into the wing mirror and then smoothly pulled out into the flow of traffic. "You need to learn patience. Murph is patient. Think he'd rub off on you."

Doyle turned in his seat, absent-mindedly scratching his belly. "Excuse me. What would you know about Murphy? In fact, you're responsible for his unhappiness!"

Bodie's lips tightened and his eyes narrowed. He shifted the gearbox viciously. "You have no idea what you're talking about."

"I'll have you know that if it weren't for your meddling that Murphy and your partner-"

"I don't discuss the personal life of my partner," Bodie said coldly.

"You won't- Fuck you, you arrogant bastard!" Doyle shouted. "You split them up and you act all sanctimonious about it." He crossed his arms and fell silent, fuming.

Bodie ignored him, driving faster than need be. Fifteen minutes later they were racing alongside a high brick wall that lined the road for several minutes. He turned in when the wall gave way to a huge set of wrought iron gates. In the centre of the gates was a large disc with a weathered crest. No longer a private estate, another sign set discreetly to the side said, "Merriweather Place."

"We're here," Bodie said abruptly.

Doyle kept quiet. He watched the large gates swing open and saw the camera set on the top of the wall peering down at them. Security here was tight; Doyle reckoned Bodie's car and the occupants therein had already been cleared for admission. He looked around as Bodie negotiated the long paved driveway that circled to the stone steps at the front entrance.

A nurse waited in the entry way of a large building that looked as if it had once been the ostentatious manor house of some rich family. Seemed high and mighty for the likes of a CI5 agent but who was he to complain? Cowley had picked this place. The edifice was constructed of red brick with windows that gleamed in the sunlight on all four stories. Much of the outside surface of the bricks was covered in ivy. Dressed in her crisp uniform, the middle aged woman pushed a wheelchair down a ramp that had been built over the left side of the steps. When the car stopped, she came forward, a smile on her lips.

Doyle peered up at her, waved and cast a quick glance at Bodie. Bodie was looking straight ahead, his hands holding the steering wheel as if he expected it to run off on its own. His face was blank; his tense shoulders betrayed his fury. As if the berk had anything to be angry about. After all, he and Murph were the injured parties here. Without another word, Doyle climbed from the car and bid the nurse a good day. He plopped his bottom into the wheelchair and didn't look back when she wheeled him towards the doorway.

Doyle did wonder why Bodie had been chosen to be the person to escort him to this place. Bodie obviously didn't want much to do with Doyle, yet he kept showing up at random intervals. Doyle felt it was to annoy him, and to that end, Bodie was successful. But the nurse was speaking to him and he was being rude ignoring her. He forced Bodie from his thoughts, and paid attention to what the nurse had to tell him about his stay at Merriweather Place.

------------------------------------

It was a bright sunny day three weeks later when Doyle was released from rehabilitation and scheduled to begin retraining with Macklin two days hence. He wanted to relish his last two days of freedom before the torture began. His plan was to restock his new flat's kitchen and buy some new clothing for his thinner frame. His current wardrobe was too big and he didn't want to go to training looking like he was not ready to take what Macklin and Towser could dish out.

It was a bright sunny cool Saturday when he wandered down the road near his new home. He went into various shops, learning the layout of the market and the bakery and the fruit vendor's stall. He dropped dirty clothing off at his new laundrette and got a bottle of good red wine at the off licence. At a small clothing/shoe shop he found two pairs of jeans that looked decent on him, along with a few shirts and a zipper jacket. His bags were full when he headed for home. His burden was heavy but he was pleased that he didn't feel tired as he walked along at a good pace. When he approached his block of flats, his steps slowed. Ahead, Bodie lounged against a bright red car.

Marvellous.

Doyle didn't have time to turn around and lurk down the street until Bodie got tired of waiting for him and left. He sighed. Bodie had seen him because he pushed himself away from the car and waited, hands in pockets as usual, on the pavement. Berating himself for his lack of attention to his surroundings, Doyle approached, keeping his face as blank as possible. It couldn't do for one of Cowley's men to get into a row in the middle of the neighbourhood with prying eyes and big ears and wagging tongues.

"Bodie," Doyle said coolly.

"Doyle," Bodie responded, his tone mirroring Doyle's. "May I?" He held out a hand towards Doyle's purchases.

Doyle handed over one of the bulging carrier bags. "Thanks."

Bodie nodded. Doyle led the way into his building. He opened the outer security door and held it for Bodie, who again nodded his thanks. Neither man spoke until they were in Doyle's flat and had put the bags on the kitchen table. Doyle started to put away the groceries, determined not to start the conversation. Let Bodie; he was the one who’d invaded Doyle's privacy.

Bodie helped unpack the bags while Doyle found a place for each purchase. When they finished, Doyle put on the kettle and set tea things on the table. He dumped tea bags into the pot. Bodie finally cleared his throat.

"Since we'll be working together, I thought we should clear the air," Bodie said. "Do you mind?" He waved to a chair.

Doyle tipped his head to show his acquiescence, pouring hot water into the teapot and putting on the lid. He sat down opposite Bodie and waited.

"I feel I must explain myself and if you would let me speak before you blast me into next week, I'd appreciate it."

Bodie's tone was formal, and it made Doyle feel as if Bodie was choosing his words carefully. He wondered if it was because he was trying to obfuscate and was being cautious, or because he honestly wanted to tell Doyle something important and would be truthful. Time would tell.

Doyle poured two cups of tea. He added milk and a scant measure of sugar to his before he pushed the sugar bowl and milk container over to Bodie's side.

"Ta." Bodie saw to his own tea.

Doyle watched, surprised that someone who looked so fit put two heaping spoonfuls of sugar along with a good dollop of milk into his tea. At that rate, Bodie would gain five pounds from drinking tea alone. Doyle kept the urge to smirk under control. He was being petty and he knew it.

"You were right," Bodie began. He met Doyle's eyes, nodding. "About Murphy and Bingley. I did all I could to split them up. I knew Bingley was falling for Murphy and I wanted to... protect her. Yeah, stupid archaic notion, eh? But I care about her. She's a good friend and a good partner, and I thought Murphy was using her for a quick slap and tickle-"

"That's not-"

Bodie held up a hand. "Hear me out. Please." When Doyle gestured for Bodie to go ahead, he said, "I reckoned she was in for a bit of fun at first also, so I didn't bother. But when she was shot and in hospital, she told me how she was falling for him and he, her. That's when I found out he'd visited her once in three weeks! I admit I'm a romantic sort. I told myself that nobody who was in love would abandon their supposed true love in a hospital bed without visiting for days on end. Especially when they were alone, with no family about." Bodie paused, sipping tea. "That's when I knew Bingley would be hurt badly so I did everything I could to split them up." He met Doyle's angry gaze. "And I was successful."

At least he didn't sound smug about his success. In fact, Bodie looked decidedly unhappy. "He visited her in rehab when they'd let him."

"That's not the same. She was well on her way to recovery then. It was when she was scared and alone he abandoned her," Bodie said seriously.

Doyle rubbed at his temples. This was a mess. He was being put in a position to have to explain personal information about Murphy. That made him uncomfortable. "Why now do you feel badly about your interference?" Doyle asked, his temper barely held in check. "Do you have any idea what you've done?" Yet even while he railed at Bodie, something Bodie had said flashed across his mind: ...nobody who was in love would abandon their supposed true love in a hospital bed without visiting for days on end." Bodie had visited him often when he was in hospital. Once or twice he'd come by in the morning and in the evening to look in on him. True love? Doyle was Bodie's true love?

Bodie sighed, pinched his nose between his forefinger and thumb. "I didn't know. How could I?" he demanded.

"Did you ask? Bloody hell, Bodie, you're a trained agent. Did you bother to investigate? Did you care about Murphy at all?"

"I did not," Bodie admitted.

"And now?"

"Now I know. I understand now. I admit I made a big mistake and I'm doing what I can to rectify it. I'm bloody sorry, Doyle."

Doyle studied Bodie's face intently. Bodie knew about Murphy's loss. He saw the contrition there. "Murphy deserves to be happy. After..." He stopped, squeezed his eyes shut then opened them. He would discuss this with Bodie because he knew that Bodie would never repeat the information. Bodie believed in loyalty.

"He lost his wife and child, Bodie. Can you imagine that? He thinks that somehow they didn't do all they could have done after the car crash. He believes they were negligent." When Bodie opened his mouth to speak, Doyle held up his hand to stop him. "Doesn't matter if it's true or not; they're dead." Doyle paused, swiping at his eyes. "I can't imagine what that must be like and I was with him at the hospital when it happened. It was only two years ago; he can't stand to be in hospital. Any hospital let alone the one where they died!" Doyle put his elbows on the table and scrubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. "Blimey, Bodie, he checked himself out when he was barely able to walk after that sodding op. He didn't do that because he was thinking properly! You had no right."

"I know," Bodie repeated. "I understand. I'd feel the same. I wish he'd told Bingley why he couldn't visit! It would have been easier for all of us."

"It was his decision. I'm sure he would have told her in time. But it's not our affair." Doyle sighed deeply, huffed out a shaky breath. "What about that other crap you spouted at me that day? About me and you. You were winding me up. That wasn't nice, Bodie. It was mean and cruel. But I'm not some schoolgirl who's pining for a beau. I don't want or need an arsehole for a friend or a partner and certainly not a lover."

Bodie smiled wanly. "I deserved that."

"You did and you do."

Bodie didn't protest. Doyle asked, "Now what?"

"I've spoken to Martin and Cowley; admitted what I'd done. They blasted me, of course, and rightly so. I requested that Bingley be reassigned back to London. They seemed amenable to speaking to her, which is all I can ask for. I trust both blokes to do the right thing."

"Did you tell her what you've done?" Doyle demanded. "She needs to know."

Bodie paled. "Yeah, you're right. I'll speak to her. What about Murphy?"

"You don't worry about Murph. He's my partner and I'll take care of him," Doyle said firmly. He didn't mention that he already knew Cowley wanted he and Bodie teamed up. Then again, since Cowley obviously had taken a shine to Bodie, he'd probably told Bodie that Doyle would be his new partner.

"Fine."

Although Doyle could tell it wasn't fine, he did appreciate that Bodie didn't question him further. Maybe Bodie had some good qualities after all. One or two, perhaps.

"More tea?"

"Nah. I'm off." Bodie put his cup and saucer beside the sink and nodded to Doyle. "Cheers, then."

Doyle stayed where he was, poured another cup, and thought about Bodie. He hadn't seemed upset when he left; he seemed more resigned than anything. But what about and to what? Did Bodie still want Doyle? If so, why hadn't he asked again? Pride. Of course. A man like Bodie wouldn't often stoop to begging. When he had approached Doyle originally with his offer, in spite of the fact that his tone was arrogant and his words were haughty, he'd been begging in his own fashion. Interesting. Doyle hadn't taken much time to examine that encounter when Bodie admitted his attraction and his desire to be in a relationship with him. All Doyle remembered was Bodie's attitude that he was lowering himself to even offer. Hell, he was lowering himself to even think about Doyle in that manner let alone make the proposal. Doyle remembered how Bodie's prejudice against him stung. Now Doyle had the desire to think about all that related to Bodie. Weird how things progressed along since he'd first met Bodie.

He was about to pour another cup when the door bell sounded. Doyle started from his reverie. Bodie had come back? He hopped up and hurried to the door, curious what else Bodie might have to say. Funny, that. He went from hating speaking to Bodie to wanting him around. Strange...

Speak of the devil, Murphy stood at the door.

"Oh, hey, Murph."

Murphy smiled. "You were expecting someone else?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.

"Nah." Doyle stepped back. "Tea's on the table if you fancy a cup."

"Ta." Murphy wandered into the kitchen and put his lanky body onto a chair. He sprawled there, reaching over to pour himself a cuppa.

Doyle joined him, pouring himself tea as well. He'd be going to the loo constantly from all the tea he'd drunk today.

"Everything all right?" Doyle asked, stirring his drink.

"Yeah. More or less." Murphy drank his tea. "You know how it is."

"Things will get better. I promise you that," Doyle said encouragingly.

"I doubt it."

Doyle searched Murphy's face. The man looked tired, and it wasn't the kind of tired that a good night's sleep would fix. It was soul deep kind that ached in the gut. Doyle scrutinised his partner for a moment before he made a quick decision. Murphy needed reassurance, something to look forward to.

"Rumour has it that MI5 is shaking up assignments again. There's a good chance that girl you like will be back in town." Doyle hoped he sounded nonchalant because he sure as hell didn't feel that way. It was hard keeping the information he had under his hat.

"Eh? How do you know that? You can't know that; you've been out of the-" Murphy's eyes widened. Doyle watched as his intelligent partner seemingly began to put puzzle pieces together all on his own. "Was it Bodie? Did he say something to Martin about Mary?" His lips thinned. "I don't want anybody doing any begging on my behalf. That's a load of rubbish." Murphy crossed his arms, anger evident on his face. "I'm not a charity case."

"No, it's not like that at all!" Doyle ran a hand through his hair. "Listen. Bodie had a talk with Bingley and she's missing you something terrible. Said she wants to come back to London, wants to see you again. I'm sure things will straighten out. Be patient, mate."

Murphy wrinkled his forehead. "She's missing me? But I thought she was done with me."

"Did she tell you that?"

"Well, not in so many words but the note she left was so impersonal, especially after all the time we'd spent together. I read between the lines; she was done with me." Murphy leaned forward. "She's coming home?"

Doyle smiled. "There's a good chance of it, and even if she doesn't get back to London right away, I think if you send her a letter you'll find she'd welcome it."

"Oh. Okay, then." Murphy finished his tea. "Thanks, Ray. You're a good mate. I think you and Bodie will make a good team."

"We'll see," Doyle said non-committally.

"He's okay, Bodie is. I know you're not telling me the whole thing but it wouldn't surprise me to hear that Bodie has some sort of pull with his boss over at MI5 and put in a good word for Bingley. He cares about her and he likes me. We've got on these past months while you've been in rehab."

"You want another partner besides me?" Doyle asked, sounding a touch petulant. He thought he and Murphy got on well as friends and partners. It hurt that Murph wanted somebody else.

"Ray, listen to me. You and I are mates. We'll always be mates but we both need a change. Bodie will be good for you and I want more solo assignments. Besides, if Mary and I have a chance at all, I want to be around for her. Cowley agreed a few months back to keep me nearer to home base if I ask her to marry me." He smiled. "If things go as you say, then I'm asking her right off."

"Colin, that's fabulous!" Doyle hopped up and got a bottle of whisky from the lounge. He poured both of them a small drink. "To you, my friend. It will all work out."

Murphy clinked classes with Doyle. "And you too. Bodie, well, he cares about you."

Doyle lifted a shoulder. "Nah. He's not that kind of bloke."

Finished with his whisky, Murphy stood. "Think again. Do you want to guess who squawked to anybody in Whitehall who would listen about getting Agent 4.5 put up in the swankiest rehabilitation facility in London? Do you think Cowley would go to that much trouble?" Doyle's mouth fell open in shock at what Murphy was insinuating, making Murphy laugh. "Yeah, Bodie did. He even offered to pay the difference between Southgate and Merriweather. Would have cost him a few thousand quid if Cowley wasn’t worried how it would look if he didn't make sure his agents had the best of care. Cowley always looks at the budget, you know."

"You're joking," Doyle blurted out. "Bodie has people in Whitehall who listen to him?"

"Do I look like I'm joking?" Murphy spread his arms. "Looks to me like Bodie has been keeping a keen eye on both of us." Murphy gave Doyle's shoulder a playful punch. "Close your mouth. You'll catch flies." He laughed at his own joke. "Enjoy Macklin." With that, he was off, leaving a shocked Doyle speechless at his own kitchen table.

-------------------------------

Thirty minutes later, Doyle was still at the table, a cold cup of tea before him. He got up and dumped it down the drain. Wanting another hot cup, he prepared another pot. With fresh tea in hand, he sat back, crossed his ankles. His mind whirred like a mad dervish at the thoughts that bombarded him one after another.

Doyle was attracted to Bodie, no question. He was a good looking bloke, had the kind of body Doyle liked. He was competent at his job and smart, able to think quickly. Doyle admired and appreciated proficiency and honesty. There was the problem. Doyle wasn't so sure about Bodie's true nature behind the scenes. A bloke could be a wonderful friend, a marvellous agent and partner, and be a moron in his personal life. He remembered the agent from a few years ago, Arthur Blake. Cowley'd had to fire the man after it turned out he was one to get drunk off duty and beat the living daylights out of his wife. Not a man Cowley wanted in CI5.

Maybe he was being harsh on Bodie so that he didn't have to think about his own feelings. What did he feel for Bodie? Lust? Yes. All well and good, but what about trust? He had good reason to mistrust him. Bodie had sneaked behind his back. He had sabotaged Murphy and his own partner's relationship. But why? Why indeed. Doyle admitted to himself that it was because of Bodie's loyalty. Damn him anyway. He thought Murphy was using Bingley because Bodie knew Bingley was falling in love with Murphy. If Bingley had been having a good time with Murph, Doyle believed that Bodie wouldn't have lifted that crooked eyebrow one iota. He would have let them shag each other senseless and then move onto other fun and games. But Bingley had confessed to Bodie she was passionate about Murphy. Bodie believed Murphy wasn't in love because when Bingley was in hospital, Murphy hadn't staged a vigil beside her during her time of crisis. The logical result was Murphy didn't care about Bingley as anything other than a rollicking bedmate.

What a mess. If Bodie had kept his nose out of other people's business none of this would have happened. If Bodie hadn't been so loyal to Bingley none of this would have happened. Bloody Bodie. He had no right-

Doyle laughed aloud when he finished his thought. Bodie had no right to be so sodding loyal.

Loyal. Bodie was loyal to those he cared about; those he loved.

Bodie wanted Doyle. It made sense to believe Bodie would be loyal. Was being loyal. Bodie had "confessed" to all of it: his part in the Murphy-Bingley débâcle and his feelings for Doyle.

Doyle sat up in his chair. Cor blimey. Bodie was in love with him. Bodie was in love with him! In his own way, Bodie had told him as much with his actions. He'd said other words, monogamy, desire, lust, but he hadn't said love. He didn't need to. Doyle knew.

Now for the next big thought. Did Doyle love Bodie? Was it possible to love somebody you hardly knew? Could he love Bodie? Questions, questions. How about some answers.

Rising, Doyle cleared the table. He rinsed out the tea pot, put the sugar bowl in the fridge and the milk in the cabinet. Pausing mid-dry of the pot, he began to laugh. Had he put the sugar in the milk's place and vice versa? Chuckling at his absent-mindedness, he switched the items, putting them into their proper places.

"You're bonkers, old son," he muttered aloud. "Bodie's making you into a nutter. You know what would help? Make a decision about the man and be done with it." Doyle dried off the cup Bodie had used. "Yeah." Pausing, he considered. "What would that decision be? Christ, I'm a disaster. I want a bloke who's a nutter as well. We make a great pair." Then he laughed quite loudly. "Jesus, I think I'm in love." Doyle put away the last of the tea things. "But if Cowley lets me back on the A Squad and asks me about a partner, it's Bodie I want." He paused on the way to the lounge. "If I survive Macklin."

With thoughts of retraining, and of Towser and Macklin, Doyle put on his trainers, along with a light jacket. A turn about the neighbourhood and the nearby park would do wonders for his spirit. No time like the present to work on on getting his body (and lungs) back into A Squad level shape for Macklin's torture chamber.

----------------------------------

"Welcome back," Cowley said as he slid a file across the desk. "You've got surveillance starting in thirty minutes."

Doyle held in his guffaw. On the job fifteen minutes, one welcome back and it's off to the salt mines. But he felt good. He was glad to be on home territory although Cowley had a new office. HQ was twenty minutes farther from his new flat. He glanced at the clock on the wall. It didn't matter because in...

Three...

Two...

One...

There was a rap at the door. It opened at Cowley's call to enter. Doyle sat looking straight ahead in spite of the desire to spin around to ogle the new arrival.

"Sir," a man's voice said from behind Doyle.

Doyle hid his shiver as Bodie walked into his side view. Bodie was here.

Blimey but he was a sight for sore eyes. Doyle hadn't seen him for two weeks. Now that they were in the same room, his senses heightened. His mind was sharp and clear, and his body was alive, alert, healed. He was back on the A Squad.

And Bodie was his new partner.

Life sometimes gave you lemons; you made a sodding great lemonade from them. Doyle grinned. Cowley stared at him as he waved Bodie over. He schooled his face quickly into passivity.

"Morning, sir," Bodie said as he took the seat beside Doyle. He tossed Doyle one of those sweet Bodie grins that made Doyle's heart thud in his chest. "Doyle."

"Bodie," Doyle answered, giving his new partner as warm a smile as he'd just got. If Bodie was going to be pleasant, Doyle could be as well.

"No need for formalities. You two have worked together before." Cowley removed his glasses. "I expect top notch work from you both. I'll have no shenanigans," he said firmly.

"Us, sir? Never!" Bodie protested.

"Oh, aye," Cowley said, his tone saying clearly that he didn't believe Bodie in the slightest. "Doyle, I expect you to show him how we do things here at CI5."

"Yes, sir," Doyle answered, giving Bodie a smirk. He wondered if Bodie heard the regard Cowley had for CI5 in his statement, meaning he didn't have quite as much of that regard for MI5 agents. Cowley was proud of his boys. "I'll make sure he tows the line."

Bodie gave him an innocent look. "I'll be a model student, Mr Cowley."

Cowley narrowed his eyes. Doyle had no doubt his controller knew all of Bodie's habits, the good, the bad and the ugly. Hiding a laugh, Doyle coughed into his hand.

"Are you both waiting for an engraved invitation from Her Majesty?" Cowley said icily. "I've given you your assignment." He put his glasses back on, a Cowley sign of dismissal that Doyle was used to.

Doyle leapt to his feet, taking the file with him. "No, sir."

"Yes, sir," Bodie said, on his feet instantly. "Er... No, sir."

Cowley scowled. Doyle poked Bodie's ribs. Bodie let out a yelp and followed Doyle from the room.

Once the door to Cowley's office was shut, Bodie trotted to catch up with Doyle. "Good seeing you, mate. Passed, eh?"

"Yeah," Doyle said, trying to keep the pride from his voice but failing.

"I'd gloat a lot more if I were you. Not many can come back from being ventilated so well." Bodie shoved his hands in his pockets and sniggered. "Besides, Macklin and Towser have had a go at me the past two weeks." He rubbed his bum as if it still hurt to walk. "I'll never be the same again. All the children I should have fathered..." Bodie let his words trail off as he gave Doyle a smile full of teeth.

"You're a bastard."

"I know. We'll get along famously. I'm a right bastard and you're a nasty tempered one. We'll make a first rate team."

Doyle studied Bodie for a few moments before they headed down the stairs to the parking garage. Bodie trotted beside Doyle, a satisfied look on his face. Doyle shook his head, letting out a bark of laughter. "We'll be marvellous."

--------------------------------

The days, weeks and months zipped by. Doyle was pleased how he and Bodie worked together like a well oiled clock, wrapping up one assignment after another. As far as Doyle was concerned, tonight's operation would add to their success.

It was dark in this part of the city. The disused terraced houses looked menacing in the moonlight. Broken windows took on the appearance of vampire teeth, the edges seeming to waver from light to dark to light as clouds scuttled across the moon. It wasn't raining and for that Doyle was grateful. He hated wet ops. The designated time for the exchange between a gun runner from Egypt and one of Cartel’s boys came and went. Three hours later Bodie sent Cartel’s man on his way. All involved knew that something had happened to spook their mark.

Doyle and Bodie started the walk back to their motor, hidden about a half mile away. A sound from one of the houses brought Bodie's head up. He stopped. The noise, a child's cry, made Doyle's hackles rise. Bodie, with Doyle behind him, picked their way into one of the abandoned houses. Bodie paused in the doorway. Doyle waited behind him, unable to see past Bodie's broad shoulders. The cry came again. Bodie fished out a small torch from his pocket and stepped forward, searching the room with the thin beam of light. He walked another two steps; Doyle followed. A scuttling sound had Bodie turn. He started to laugh.

"What?" Doyle asked, moving closer to stand beside Bodie.

"Cat. Siamese." He let his light play on the creature. The large tom carried a freshly killed mouse in its jaws. "Enjoy," he said to the animal. Bodie turned his head towards Doyle, his mouth open to speak, when he let out a cry and ploughed sideways into Doyle. They both went down to the floor.

Bodie's light skittered away, spun twice and stopped, still working.

"Bodie!" Doyle scrambled to his knees.

Bodie was tangled up with somebody. There were arms and legs thrashing wildly. Bodie was wrestling the person and before Doyle could help, he'd landed two hard blows into his attacker's face. The body went limp. Bodie let out a cry and slumped sideways. He lay on the floor, writhing, clutching his arm against his body.

"'m hit!" Bodie muttered, his words full of pain.

Doyle grabbed the runaway torch. He put it between his teeth, ripping Bodie's jacket sleeve and shirt open. There was a nasty cut on the outside of Bodie's arm from his elbow to his wrist.

"Lay still!" Doyle ordered. He pulled off his own jacket, yanked his t shirt over his head. Tearing it into strips, he wound them around Bodie's arm, pulling them tightly enough to staunch the blood but not enough to interfere with the other veins' blood flow.

Once he had Bodie's arm stabilised, he pulled his r/t.

"Code Red. Ambulance needed immediately. 3.7 is down."

"Roger. Location, please.

"Yeah, right. Sorry.” Doyle relayed their location quickly before he clicked off.

"Hey, mate, I'll be okay," Bodie said raspingly.

"'course you will." Doyle patted Bodie's shoulder.

Doyle took a moment to study the attacker. He was a bloke, wearing filthy clothes and with his hair a long, tangled mess. It was hard to tell his age; he could have been anywhere from twenty to sixty. He was gaunt and now that the adrenaline that had flowed through Doyle during the attack had ebbed, he could smell the perpetrator's body odour. Funny he hadn't noticed it earlier, when they were spooked by the cat. He might have stopped the attack before Bodie had gotten hurt.

While he stared at the downed man, the suspect's eyes opened. They were wild, unfocused, dangerous. He thrashed on the floor, trying to get his hands free. Doyle knew how a drugged out brain reacted. He'd seen a man spaced out so badly that it took five coppers to subdue him. Before the suspect could get up and scamper off, Doyle yanked off his belt. The man kicked madly. Doyle grabbed one ankle and twisted until the suspect screamed. He went limp and Doyle strapped his ankles together. Disgusted, he dropped the man's feet and returned to his partner's side.

In the dirt beside Bodie was the switch blade the man had used. The blade was covered in blood and dirt. Doyle picked it up, ready to throw it aside. He paused; no sense in risking some kid rummaging through these ruins and finding a weapon. Or another drugged out bastard. Grimacing, he closed the blade and put it on the floor beside Bodie. He'd dispose of it back at HQ.

"Christ, mate," Doyle said, kneeling on the dirty floor beside his partner. Bodie's eyes were closed but his breathing was regular. Doyle touched Bodie's shoulder. "You'll do anything for attention, eh?"

"Fucking hell, it hurts," Bodie hissed from between clenched teeth. "Double fucking hell."

"Stay with me," Doyle ordered.

The clouds must have skittered off because moonlight streamed in, bathing them in dusty light.

Bodie looked up, his face contorted in pain. "Not going anywhere, sunshine."

Doyle grinned. "Of course you're not. Got you in me clutches, haven't I? Comfy?"

"Oh, ta. Like a five star- Shit."

"Shhh." Doyle stroked the side of Bodie's face with his knuckles. "Keep it elevated, moron."

"Can feel me heart beating in me arm."

"That means your blood is still flowing. Good. Don't want them to have to hack it off. You might need it in the future."

"Cheers," Bodie snarled. "Cowley's going to yell at me for being so careless." Bodie sighed and closed his eyes, gave a sniff. "Need a bath."

"It's not you. It's him. He's quite ripe." Doyle patted Bodie's forehead, cooing nonsense. "Some pretty nurse with big tits will give you a bath."

"Leave off. Don't make me laugh. It hurts like fuck!" Bodie growled.

The approaching sirens grew louder. "You stay put." He rose, looked over at Bodie's attacker. The man was crying softly, talking to himself between sobs. With the torch in hand, Doyle went out to hurry the ambulance attendants inside.

---------------------------------

 

Doyle considered himself an exceptional partner. He brought his complaining friend food and kept him company. They watched footie and other telly programmes until Doyle's eyes were ready to fall from his head. They played hand after hand of poker and rummy until Doyle saw Aces and Kings and Jacks in his sleep.

But he understood. Bodie hated being off the squad as much as he did, even if the leave was warranted. Neither of them was a good patient. Bodie didn't like sitting on his arse unless it was at a pub to lift a pint or two. Doyle agreed.

Finally the healing gods above granted Bodie a full recovery. Tonight they were having a quiet night in before Bodie returned to work in the morning. The idea of the pub and birds and too many strangers around made Doyle happy that Bodie was content to lie on the sofa and watch his newly purchased whilst on sick leave telly. It had a fantastic colour picture and a jazzy remote control. Doyle was impressed.

As he cooked dinner, Doyle mused over something he'd realised about himself that he hadn't known previously: he liked tending to someone. All he had at his own place was a geranium that he took care of as if it were his own child. Now, with Bodie grousing from the sofa about being famished and whingeing about how he'd soon be in a dead faint from starvation, Doyle smiled while he lovingly prepared his world famous spaghetti ala Doyle. He'd reworked his mum's recipe and he thought he made a better sauce. He prided himself on being able to make marinara from scratch; the tomatoes he'd got at the fruit and veg stall in the next street had been ripe and plump. Currently the sauce was simmering away, turning into a deep red luscious concoction.

The fragrances of garlic and basil filled the small kitchen. Doyle stirred the sauce and gave it a taste. He clucked his tongue, enjoying the explosion of flavour: tomato, herbs, olive oil. It had enough salt, he decided, before he added a dash of red pepper flakes and stirred again.

"If you don't feed me within two minutes, I'll come out there and feed meself!"

Bodie's whine drifted in from the lounge. Doyle knew that Bodie was stretched out on the sofa. His stockinged feet were propped up on the sofa arm and he had a glass of red wine, served earlier by Doyle (of course!), in his hand.

"You'll live. If not, I'll eat the entire lot myself," Doyle called out. "I'm doing garlic toast as well."

A groan from the other room made Doyle chuckle. Bodie did love a good meal. Actually, Bodie liked food. He could eat bacon sarnies from a greasy café as well as he could eat filet mignon from London's best restaurants. Doyle wondered why the man didn't weigh three or four stone more than he did with what he put into that stomach of his.

With his spoon aloft, Doyle paused. Another startling realisation set in. He absent mindedly watched sauce drip onto the floor. In the eight months they'd been partnered, they'd turned into an old married couple. They worked, ate, laughed, fought and slept together. No, wait. Not "slept" in the usual sense. As in sleeping in the same bed or flat or car or buggy-bo, but no sex. Blinking rapidly, Doyle rubbed at his eyes with his free hand, digging his thumb and forefinger into the lids. No sex. Yet.

Bloody hell. Bodie had what he'd asked for. He had Doyle in a monogamous relationship. The birds they occasionally met at pubs and bought drinks for didn't come home with them. Not once since they'd been teamed up. Maybe it was time for that final step in their relationship. Is that what Doyle wanted? Bodie for a lover, and only him? Stirring the sauce once again, he thought about never having Bodie for his own and it made his heart ache. He thought about never having a woman (or another man) again and he didn't care.

The water boiled and Doyle automatically dumped the spaghetti in while his brain raced along at breakneck speed. Bodie... He salted the water and stared down at the bubbles that surfaced on the pot as the pasta cooked. With a long tyned cooking fork, he stirred the spaghetti so it didn't stick together and returned his contemplations to Bodie. As if they'd ever left.

Doyle wanted Bodie. He wanted his own other half. Of all the women he'd had (and a few he thought he was in love with), there were no pangs of longing for any of them. Not a one. Men? He'd shagged a couple but mostly he'd kept his preference to himself. Anonymous sex was not what he wanted. It felt good for those few minutes but afterwards he didn't like the cold, empty feeling that was left behind.

Doyle wanted Bodie. Doyle liked Bodie. Doyle loved Bodie.

Reason intruded as he stirred the contents of the pot. He fished out a strand, testing it. In another minute it would be perfect.

Hands clenched his shoulders. Doyle jumped, dropping the fork.

"Sorry, mate," Bodie said from behind him. "I was checking on me dinner." He leaned down, picked up the runaway implement, and passed it to Doyle. "Got sauce on the floor as well. Messy today?"

"Should wash that," Doyle muttered, telling his racing heart to calm down. He had the stupid idea that Bodie had heard his thoughts and had responded to them.

"Nah. Boiling water will sterilise it." Bodie gave the pasta a stir. "Is it ready?"

"Yeah. Get the bread out of the oven and I'll serve up the pasta. Salad in the fridge."

"Salad?" Bodie groaned. "I hate lettuce."

"It's got blue cheese dressing on it," Doyle said as he poured the pasta into the sieve. He lifted it up and shook it before sliding the contents back into the pot. The water left over sizzled in the hot pan. He ladled in several big spoons of sauce before he tossed the spaghetti with a spoon and fork.

"I'm ready." Bodie sat at the table, fork in one hand while he poured wine into two glasses with the other. Doyle was pleased to see the wound on Bodie's arm looked well healed and that he used his arm easily. "It smells smashing." He waggled his eyebrows at Doyle, licking his lips.

"Cretin." Doyle grinned. He did love this bloke. Carrying the pot to the table, he filled Bodie's bowl completely; his own half way. Then he swapped the pot for the pan with the sauce in it and ladled extra sauce onto both mounds of pasta. While he put the pan back on the cooker, Bodie sprinkled a mountain of parmesan on both plates.

Rubbing his hands together, Bodie dug in. He ate silently for several minutes, twirling spaghetti onto his fork using a spoon and opening widely to accommodate the large portion.

"Hmmmm," Bodie said. "Emmmm."

Doyle laughed over Bodie's apparent appreciation of his cooking talents. He dug into his own spaghetti, using a piece of bread to dip into the sauce. "Good, this," he mumbled around a mouthful.

Bodie nodded, licked an errant drop of sauce from his lip.

"Missed some." Without thinking Doyle reached out and wiped the runaway sauce from Bodie's chin. He looked at his finger, red with tomato, then at Bodie.

Bodie met his eyes. He kept his gaze steady as he leaned forward and took Doyle's finger into his mouth. He closed his eyes, sucking with obvious pleasure.

Doyle gasped softly then groaned. "Christ, Bodie..."

Eyes open, Bodie released Doyle's finger with a slurp. He didn't say anything, returning to his food.

"What was that?" Doyle blurted out.

Bodie finished chewing his mouthful. He looked at Doyle, shrugged. "What do you want it to be?"

"I-" What did he want it to be? Was this the time? Was this the line he had to cross? Make a decision. This side of the line: friends, partners, mates. The other side of the line: friends, partners, mates... lovers. Would it work?

"Would it work?" Doyle found himself saying aloud.

"No guarantees," Bodie said softly, "but I'll give it all I've got."

"Is that a proposal?" Doyle asked, his heart thumping wildly. His palms were sweaty; fork down, he wiped them on his jeans-covered thighs.

"Already did that, if you recall," Bodie said coolly.

Doyle stared at him. He knew his Bodie and he saw something he didn't normally associate with his friend: fear. Bodie wasn't afraid of bullets or guns or bad guys or bombs. But he was afraid of being hurt, rejected. Poor sod. Then Doyle chuckled. Poor sods both of them. Big, strong, nasty agents terrified of committing their hearts.

"I do recall." Doyle kept his tone neutral. He hoped he didn't seem overly interested. Keeping with the nonchalance of his partner, he picked his fork back up and returned to his food. He liked to eat while his pasta was hot. He twirled a forkful, ate it, wiped his mouth on a paper napkin, and then said in a tone as cool as Bodie's, "And I accept."

Bodie's fork stopped midway to his mouth. The spaghetti fell off and hit the plate with a 'sploosh'. Sauce splashed onto Bodie's shirt, leaving a spattering of red. Bodie's face turned the colour of the sauce. As calm and collected Bodie wanted to appear, it was hard for anybody to control their blush. Bodie's light complexion betrayed him.

Doyle kept eating his own food, watching Bodie surreptitiously. Bodie put down his fork, swiped his napkin across his mouth, and pushed away from the table. Doyle raised an eyebrow.

"Seconds?" Doyle asked innocently.

Bodie shook his head as he stood. "Ta. Great dinner. Excuse me." He walked out of the kitchen quickly, his gait odd.

Doyle stared at him for a second then it hit him: Bodie had an erection. He'd been turned on by their conversation. Did the fact that Doyle had said yes do that to Bodie? He wanted Doyle that badly? Good God...

Bodie," Doyle called out. "Wait." He rushed into the living room. Bodie was sitting on the sofa, drink in his right hand. He held another glass in his left and when Doyle sat down beside him, Bodie handed it over.

Doyle took the glass of whisky and sipped. They sat together, silently drinking. "Cowley won't like it."

Bodie took a sip. "What he doesn't know..." He shrugged. "Ever heard of discretion?"

"Being the better part of valour, eh?"

"Exactly. I'm discreet. You?"

"Definitely."

"That's it then." Bodie held his glass out towards Doyle. "Cheers."

Doyle clinked his glass against Bodie's. "Cheers."

The deal was sealed.

----------------------------------

Doyle finished his drink. He patiently waited for Bodie to do the same. When he had, Doyle took the glass from Bodie's hand and put it on the floor next to his own. He gave Bodie a smile, turned, threw his leg over Bodie's and sat down in Bodie's lap. He thrust forward, pressing his erection, which had got fully hard while he sat next to Bodie, thinking about him, thinking about them.

Bodie gasped, closed his eyes and let his head fall back. Doyle put a hand on either side of Bodie's head and leaned in. His kiss wasn't gentle. He caught Bodie's mouth with his and attempted to crawl inside of it. Bodie's mouth was warm and inviting, and his surrender to Doyle surprised him. Under him, Bodie's entire body seemed to melt into the sofa as he went boneless. Doyle took that as a sign that Bodie was ready for whatever he wanted to dish out.

Under Doyle, Bodie shuddered when he deepened the kiss. Bodie wrapped his hands around Doyle's flanks, his fingers tightening and loosening. Doyle loved Bodie's soft lips. He tasted like tomatoes and garlic and whisky. He tasted fantastic.

Wanting more, Doyle pushed again him with his hips, mashing their erections together. His cock surged, sending shivers of delight down his back and raising goose flesh on his arms. Bodie let out a small moan while Doyle explored the inside of his mouth with his tongue. He could kiss Bodie forever. It was like diving into liquid heat. Bodie met each parry of Doyle's tongue with one of his own but Doyle kept Bodie's at bay. He needed this, needed to take over; he wanted to direct this first time. He didn't want a gentle touch, a sweet kiss, a loving caress. Not right now. Later, but now, he wanted a man who could meet him as an equal, swords clashing.

Finally ripping his mouth way, Doyle rested his forehead on Bodie's. They panted roughly together.

"Jesus, Ray," Bodie whispered.

"Yeah." Doyle took in another breath, huffed it out. He levered himself upright on his knees to make room, reaching for Bodie's flies.

Bodie raised his bum from the sofa to give Doyle easier access to unzip him. His eyes bored into Doyle's, his face serious. There was a flush to his cheeks. Doyle lowered his bottom to rest on Bodie's thighs, leaving enough room so that he could reach into Bodie's briefs and touch his erection.

Bodie let out a small sound of pleasure as Doyle's fingers explored his length before drawing the hard cock from his trousers.

"Nice," Doyle said softly, stroking the firm flesh. He inspected the rigid column with his fingers and his eyes. Uncut, Bodie was gorgeous. A good size, thick and warm. When Doyle drew back the foreskin, the head appeared. Fluid leaked from the slit which Doyle swiped away with his thumb. "Very nice."

Bodie grinned. Conceited berk. He obviously thought he had a nice cock as well. He'd show Bodie. Doyle knew he was well made as well. He knew how to give pleasure with his body. Bodie would soon find that out. Bodie reached for Doyle's jeans. He pushed his hips into Bodie's hands to allow access and still be able to caress Bodie.

Looking down while his hand worked Bodie's cock, he watched Bodie release the button on his jeans and unzip him. He again rose up on his knees and shifted so that Bodie could dive in and push Doyle's pants aside to latch onto Doyle's aching penis. With his other hand, he dipped the fingers of his free hand in and palmed Doyle's sac.

"Jesus, Ray, your jeans are sodding tight!"

"Oh," Doyle said breathlessly. "Sorry." When Bodie clasped him in a tight fist and tugged, Doyle's world greyed out. His cock grew even harder and he opened his mouth in a gasp. Mindful of Bodie's pleasure, he kept up his ministrations. He handled Bodie skillfully and he did the things to Bodie's cock that he liked having done to his. When Bodie cried out, Doyle grinned. They both liked the same thing apparently: having the thick vein running down their dicks stroked.

Together, they brought each other to orgasm. Bodie came first, spurting over Doyle's hand and his own shirt-covered belly. Doyle followed, gasping and also shooting onto Bodie's shirt.

"Yes," Doyle said, leaning down to cover Bodie's mouth. He kissed his lover, biting his lower lip. He had Bodie squirming under him in seconds. "Yeah," he said again, licking the bit of blood he'd brought to Bodie's skin. "You'll do fine."

"Gee, thanks," Bodie responded, a glare on his face, his eyes dancing with amusement. "You're too kind."

Doyle sat up and laughed. "Your shirt is ruined."

Bodie rolled his eyes. "You've made a mess of it."

"Me? What about you?"

"I'm innocent in all of this. I believe you accosted me." Bodie crossed his arms, then grimaced when he realised he'd put both sleeves into the come on his shirt front. "Wonderful." He wrinkled his nose.

"How about a shower, then? I might have a clean shirt that would fit you," Doyle offered.

"Together?" Bodie asked expectantly.

"'Course. Saves water that way." Doyle smiled, climbed from Bodie's lap and stood over him, hand out. Bodie caught Doyle's hand and Doyle pulled. "Up you go. Blimey, you're a heavy one."

Bodie stood up and patted his shirt front, making a 'yuck' face. "This feels marvellous," he said sarcastically, yet he grinned mischievously at Doyle. He held out his hand, covered in a mix of their semen.

Doyle laughed, backing up. "Could try keeping your hands out of it." Bodie lunged for Doyle. Doyle raced off. Bodie followed, chasing him through the flat. Doyle was quicker in the confined space. He managed to avoid Bodie's messy hand until Bodie cheated by vaulting over the sofa and tackling him, crashing them both to the carpet. Bodie giggled manically as he swiped his hand through Doyle's hair.

"Hey!" Doyle shouted, laughing while he shuddered at the mess he didn't dare touch. "You've done it now."

"The latest in hair conditioning," Bodie said with a dirty chuckle.

"Somehow I don't think it will be bottled and sold." Doyle grinned, shaking his head. The feel of the gunk made him cringe. He wasn't that kinky, he realised with a giggle. He sat cross legged, unable to keep the wide grin off his face. Cor but he loved this sodding bastard.

"Shower?" Bodie asked, suddenly looking serious. His body radiated good health and joy, and his cheeks were flushed from exertion.

From the hot look in Bodie's eyes, Doyle's heart began to thud double time and his palms were suddenly sweaty. Taking a shower with Bodie made his entire body come alive with interest. Their first time wet together. The stuff of dreams.

Doyle was still daydreaming when Bodie poked him in the chest.

"Hey," Bodie said. "off in your own little world, eh?"

"Sorry. Yeah. Was daydreaming. You still up for that shower? Together, I mean?" Why did he feel so tentative all of a sudden. This wasn't his first date!

"No, with me granny. Of course, together. Didn't I just say that?" Bodie said, exasperation colouring his tone. "We have a few things to get straight, it seems."

"Not any more."

"Eh?"

"Straight? Get it?" He elbowed Bodie.

"Har har. Quite droll, Raymond. Still... Let me say this now so we know what's what." At Doyle's nod, Bodie said, "I'm not much for hearts and flowers but I'm loyal and faithful. I won't be tolerant of cheating, and that's from either of us." Doyle must have looked as surprised as he felt because Bodie explained, "If you cheat, that means you want something I can't give. If I cheat, that means the same. No sense putting either of us through that sort of nastiness. Does that cover the entire lot that you're wondering about under that curly mess of yours?" Bodie held Doyle's gaze, his tone serious.

Doyle swallowed. Now, he told himself. Say it now. He nodded. "Yeah. Ta. Me too. Faithful. Loyal." He stood up. "Yours." There. A single word that said a lot. The idea that he'd made that big of a commitment made Doyle's heart pound. And it was in a good way. Under Bodie's scrutiny, remembering what a mess he was, Doyle blushed, running a hand through his hair. "Ick!"

Bodie got up, gave Doyle a noisy kiss on the cheek, complete with "muaw" sound and took his hand. "Come on, you. I'll give you a wash. Even check behind your ears." Halfway there, he stopped. "Check your other parts as well." He waggled that crooked eyebrow.

Doyle laughed. Bodie made him feel special. Funny how much he'd disliked Bodie when he'd first met him. He'd mistaken his attitude towards Doyle for disdain. It had been Bodie who had to come to terms with his attraction to Doyle. Yes, Bodie did feel Doyle wasn't his equal back then but now, he knew Bodie had changed. He was capable of loving and it was Doyle he'd chosen to bestow that love on. Doyle was happy to accept it and return his own to his lover. He happily followed Bodie to the bathroom. He checked out Bodie's firm bottom the entire way. It was a smashing view.

------------------------

Doyle had had his hair washed by other people many times. Nurses, birds, hairdressers, barbers. He kept his curls under control with cuts as often as he could manage, given his busy schedule. His regular girl at the unisex hairdressing salon he frequented gave a great massage while she washed his hair.

He'd never got hard before when somebody else massaged his head until Bodie.

Holy hell but the man's fingers sent tingles through Doyle's entire body. Even his nipples stood at attention. He sat at Bodie's feet while Bodie stood behind him, shower wand in hand, and shampooed him. Amazingly, his cock was awakened fairly quickly considering he'd orgasmed thirty minutes ago.

Bodie's hands and fingers worked their magic. Doyle groaned and sighed happily, causing Bodie to chuckle a good bit when Doyle closed his eyes and swayed under Bodie's ministrations.

"You are a master," Doyle murmured.

"I could be," Bodie said snappily.

"Eh?" Doyle opened one eye and looked up.

"Stop that. Keep 'em closed before you get shampoo in them."

"You're such a tease."

"I can be whatever you want. Soft. Hard. Gentle." He paused. "Forceful. Any or all."

"I like variety."

Now it was Bodie's turn to let out a small gasp. Doyle smiled to himself. Two could play at this game of tempt and flaunt. It was fun when it was with somebody you trusted.

With a jolt of surprise, Doyle realised he trusted Bodie. It felt good to know he had someone he could count on. And from Bodie's actions, he knew Bodie appreciated it as well. In their kind of work, a relationship of trust and yeah, even love, was a thing to cherish. One never knew if the next assignment or operation would be the last. It gave a bloke more to live for if he had love to share.

Christ, he was getting soppy. And he was getting smacked softly by something behind his head. He reached up and around to snag Bodie's full cock.

"Ray!" Bodie squeaked when Doyle tugged.

"Finished?"

"I will be soon if you don't stop that!" Bodie pushed his hand away.

"I'm clean. Are you?"

"Yeah."

"Then bed."

"Thought you'd never ask."

----------------------------

Doyle had planned on ravishing his new lover. He really had. Bodie did something that surprised him, took him off balance, made him happy and got him so relaxed that he fell asleep. Bodie crawled into bed beside Doyle, pulled him close, cuddled him like a giant teddy bear, and kissed his nose.

When he woke, he was on his back. Bodie lay beside him, his arm across Doyle's belly. Doyle took a few moments to let the surprise he was feeling run through him. He was in bed with Bodie. Bodie loved him. Bodie was his lover! Wow, would wonders never cease. Doyle chuckled softly, rolling to his side. He inspected his lover intently, liking what he saw. Creamy skin, tight belly, muscled legs and arms. Thick cock surrounded by a dark thatch of tight curls. Bodie looked good enough to eat.

Bodie stirred. Stretched lazily, like some great cat waking up from a fulfilling night's prowl. Bodie was like a cat, all sinew and muscle; sleek and handsome...

"Morning," Bodie said softly, a smile on his lips.

...and he had a bad case of morning breath.

Doyle grinned back. "Morning." He leaned over to kiss Bodie, who returned the kiss.

Bodie pulled back a few inches. "You've got morning breath."

Doyle laughed, smacking Bodie's shoulder. "You too."

"Oh well. Might as well have some brekkie before I brush me teeth." Bodie rubbed his flat belly. "Famished, and before I faint dead away from deprivation, you'd best feed me."

"Me? I am not your cook! Christ, do you ever think of anything else but your stomach?" Doyle demanded, trying for seriousness but failing at the pathetic look on Bodie's face.

"I'm a fine piece of machinery. I need adequate lubrication to remain in top shape," Bodie said with a pout.

That only made Doyle laugh louder. Bodie lay looking hurt until he grinned. The warm smile made Doyle pause and stare. He stared so long that Bodie finally looked over his shoulder and up at the ceiling.

"What? Do I look that terrible?" Bodie asked.

"No." Doyle reached out and put his hand against Bodie's cheek. He relished the bristle of morning beard under his fingers. "I'm thinking how much I despised you when we first met. You were haughty and a right bastard. I thought I'd never met such a moron."

"And now?"

Doyle shrugged. "You proved me wrong. You like to put on that outer shell to the world but I've cracked that nut of yours."

"Ouch. Violent, aren't you?" Bodie's cheeks pinked.

There he goes again, Doyle thought. Hiding behind that smart mouth. But not with me. Not any longer. "I can be, if you like," Doyle said, his voice a fake falsetto. "I can spank you any time you fancy."

Bodie launched himself at Doyle. They wrestled for a few minutes, each trying to top the other one. Doyle won by tickling Bodie's ribs and planting his backside on Bodie's belly. He wasn't going to let Bodie be the top man in this new partnership in spite of the fact that Bodie looked like he weighed two stone more than he did.

"Oof," Bodie huffed out. "You weigh a ton."

"And you are an easy target." With that, Doyle leaned down and caught Bodie's mouth. He happily explored for many minutes, pleased at the little whimpers that Bodie made, and how he wiggled on the bed under Doyle.

Doyle reached back and found what he sought: Bodie's hard cock. He let go of Bodie's lips and cock, sidled down Bodie's body, kissing and nipping as he went until he settled in a crouch between Bodie's legs. Bodie clutched the sheets in his fists when Doyle spread his legs wide and got himself comfortable for the long haul.

He held the base of Bodie's cock in his fist, then he began to lick and suckle the firm flesh, nipping in places when Bodie seemed especially sensitive. With his other hand, he kept hold of Bodie's sac, his fingers a live cock ring. He kept his own desire to come at bay as long as he could while he devoured Bodie's penis. Glancing up, he watched Bodie, loving what he saw. His eyes were closed, his lower lip caught between his teeth. His hands clasped the bed clothes as if he thought he'd levitate from the pleasure of it all. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead.

Bodie moaned softly, shuddering under Doyle's relentless assault. Doyle sucked the head of Bodie's cock into his mouth, lapping up the liquid pooling in the slit with his tongue. Bodie was sweetly salty, clean from his shower but with a taste that was all his own. It wasn't something Doyle could put into words; he liked it nonetheless.

With his own cock aching for release, Doyle stepped up his game. He worked Bodie's body like a maestro conducting a symphony. Bodie whimpered. Perspiration was gathering in the hollow of his throat and on his chest. From the look on his face it was pure pleasure, and his entire body was centred on his penis.

Knowing he would come any moment from the reaction he'd garnered from his lover, Doyle sucked Bodie's dick in as deeply as he could. He moved his hand where he clasped the base of Bodie's hard cock to swipe two fingers over his own furiously leaking dick. Once he'd gathered up a good amount of fluid, he slipped his fingers into Bodie's arse and delved until he found his prostate.

Bodie arched off the bed, his mouth open as he let out a lusty cry. Doyle jabbed his prostate once, twice, then let go of his bollocks. Bodie exploded, his cock sending a geyser of semen down Doyle's throat. Doyle swallowed valiantly, his own orgasm gushing out of him onto the sheets. He moaned softly, finally releasing Bodie's still spurting cock. Swaying from the force of his own release, Doyle pulled his fingers out gently and milked Bodie's cock with his hand until it had no more to give.

With a deep groan, Doyle flopped down beside Bodie. He wiped the sweat from his eyes and looked over at his lover. Bodie was splayed on the bed, his chest heaving. He was the picture of serene completion. His cheeks were flushed and his lips parted as he breathed heavily. Doyle reached over and flicked one of Bodie's pink nipples. Bodie jerked as if he'd been touched with a live wire.

"What?" Doyle asked, pinching the nub between his forefinger and thumb. "Don't like it?"

"Nobody- nobody's ever-" Bodie licked his lips. "Never had a bloke play with me nips before. It's nice. Makes me goose-fleshy." He shivered when Doyle continued to roll the nipple in his fingers.

"After a shower-" Doyle started.

"After breakfast," Bodie interrupted.

"After breakfast and a shower," Doyle said, "I'll find other bits on your body that need tending."

"After breakfast and a shower," Bodie said, "it's my turn to find your bits that need tending." He gave Doyle a toothy grin that promised retribution for what Doyle had done to him.

Doyle felt a flush race up his body. His face burned with excitement and his spent cock gave a twitch at the thought. "After breakfast and a shower and a kip, I might let you find those bits."

Bodie laughed, swatted Doyle's thigh and slowly pushed himself up to a sitting position. He'd put his feet on the floor when the telephone rang.

"I'm not due in until the morning," Bodie whined as he glared at the phone.

The look on Bodie's face made Doyle laugh before he grimaced. "You think it's the old man?"

"Yeah. Damn thing's got that demanding ring to it."

"It's the same ring for any call." He paused. "Isn't it?"

"Nah. When Cowley calls, it always sounds exasperated or annoyed. Like it's not going to be happy when I answer."

The phone rang again.

"Are you?"

"What?"

Doyle sighed. "Going to answer it."

"Isn't this your flat?" Bodie asked, his eyebrow raised.

"Oh. Right. Fuck." Doyle reached over and snagged the receiver. "Doyle." Then he remembered it wasn't his flat at all! He glared at Bodie, and mouthed, "Bastard. Bodie grinned.

"4.5? What are you.... Ach, never mind." Of course, with Cowley there was no preamble; no pleasant, "good morning". "I need you in my office in thirty minutes. And bring 3.7 with you."

"Sir, I don't think we can get into HQ in thirty minutes."

"Is Bodie feeling poorly?" Cowley demanded.

"No, sir."

"If either of you is hung over-!" Cowley's tone was clipped and angry.

Doyle hastened to say, "No, sir! No. We're not hung over."

"I've not the time for reprimands today, 4.5 but I can fill out the paperwork if need be."

"No, sir." Doyle huffed out a resigned breath. "That won't be necessary."

"Thirty minutes starting now."

The dial tone rang in Doyle's ear. He hung up the receiver.

"No breakfast?" Bodie asked, his tone sorrowful.

"I've got a packet of wholemeal biscuits in the car."

"Terrific." Bodie made a disgusted face. "They're like eating sawdust that somebody's sat on for two weeks. Still, if we skip breakfast, we've time for a quick shower."

Doyle sprang from the bed. "We don't have time for either but since we both smell of..." He grinned with pride. "...sex, we need one. Hop to it."

"Extra clothes?"

"Take what you like. Cupboard's over there." Doyle began to pull jeans, briefs and a t shirt from a nearby laundry bag.

"I think I will."

Before Doyle could say another word, he was grabbed around the waist, lifted into the air and tossed onto the bed.

"Hey!" Doyle shouted.

"You said I could take what I like." Bodie prowled over, his hands reaching for Doyle.

Laughing, Doyle scuttled backwards. He almost fell off the bed before Bodie caught him by the arm.

"Later then," Bodie said, invitation in his tone.

"Later then." Doyle squeezed Bodie's hand. "And later after that."

"And tomorrow."

"Might as well add in the next day."

Bodie pulled Doyle to his feet and kissed him. "And the next."

Doyle kissed Bodie. "And on and on and on. Now shift your arse or Cowley will have us on surveillance until we're old and grey."

"I like the sound of that," Bodie said, hurrying to Doyle's closet to find a clean shirt.

"What? Surveillance until we're both nutters and shoot ourselves?"

"No, moron. Old and grey. You've got some grey on your sideburns, by the way."

Doyle tugged on his hair. "My hair is still vibrant as a lad's. But I admit, you'll look handsome old and grey." Doyle smiled.

"I will always be tall, dark and-"

Simultaneously, Bodie said, "exceedingly handsome" and Doyle said, "annoyingly arrogant".

Laughing, Doyle hurried past Bodie and strode towards the bathroom, shaking his bum.

Bodie followed, smacked Doyle's backside and together, they went in to shower. Doyle turned to his lover.

"What are you doing on your next day off?"

Shrugging, Bodie said, "Why?"

"I've got someone I want you to meet. Two someones actually."

"Okay." Bodie grinned, acquiescing easily.

Happy beyond belief, Doyle knew that no matter what happened, no matter the job or the danger, they'd face it together. That made him pleased enough to let Bodie stand under the spray first.

This time anyway.