Families, or, And Bodie Makes Three


He watched silently, helpless, as she laid her clothes carefully in the suitcase. Not for her, now, the raving, ranting disorganised fury that the media would have you believe, but an icy, precise tactical withdrawal from the battleground. Ironic analogy, that. The suitcase was open on the bedroom chair, the bed itself still unmade, the satin sheets rumpled where she had slept alone.

She worked methodically, placing her things, smoothing them flat, tucking them neatly -- so different from his own haphazard way of stowing gear. It was just one of the many ways they were unalike. She was dry-eyed -- his were raw from lack of sleep and from tears. And he couldn't help it. After three years, his marriage, their life together had reached the point of total disintegration. Ann was walking away from him, and this time there would be no return.

Doyle drew aside from the doorway where he sagged for support and let her pass into the living room, following her, still wanting -- needing -- to be close. She went to the desk and took out some papers -- her passport, he noticed -- and went back to the bedroom, slipping the little blue-black wallet into the side pocket of her shoulder bag.

I should say something, anything -- I've begged her to stay, pleaded with her -- what more can I do? I love her so much and she's leaving me, going away...how did it happen? Where did I go wrong?


"No, Ray." She held up her hand as if to ward off his words. "It's all been said. Let's end it now. No more masquerade, no more pretence."

That's the trouble, thought Doyle miserably. A thousand things I could say -- should have said -- that I can't -- the time for speaking is past -- I've lost her.

The wail that came keening through the air struck a chord deep within him. One last desperate try.

"I love you. I need you -- Charlie needs you... Ann, please -- for both our sakes -- stay. Please!"

"I can't, Ray. I'm going, I'm leaving you. I'll have my lawyer contact you to arrange the divorce. You can stay here until the end of the month. That'll give you time to find somewhere."

The crying continued.

"And what about Charlie?"

"I'll make arrangements for Charles, too. You'll have to keep him for now or find someone who'll do it for you."

She swung the top of the suitcase down and fastened it.

"I'll phone for a taxi."

"You don't have to -- I could take you..."

"I'd rather you didn't. Things are bad enough without --"

Doyle couldn't see her; the tears were blinding him again.

"Your son's crying, Ray."

"Our son..." Doyle turned away and stumbled into the second bedroom to the cot where the child lay.


He reached in and lifted the little bundle into his arm, hugging him close. The bawling went on, and Doyle wept, too, as he tried to soothe the child. He wasn't surprised to hear the front door bang shut as Ann walked out of his life...

Doyle stayed propped at the bar more by luck than judgement. His bloodshot eyes gazed out beyond the bottles and glasses, focusing unsteadily on his recent past. Ann was gone. She was never coming back... somehow, they had gone wrong... HE had gone wrong...

"'Nother one," he ordered, sliding his empty glass across the counter at a passing barmaid. She looked at him in disgust and swiped it away from him.

"Oh, no -- you've had too much already..." The voice was accompanied by a firm hand under his elbow. Doyle swung round, intent on denying the allegation, only to find his knees wouldn't hold him. He fell neatly into strong arms.

"'S right," he slurred. "Too much."

The other man hauled him to his feet, looking distinctly annoyed.

"I don't suppose you can walk, either."

Doyle tried shaking his head, found the room tilting alarmingly, and rested his forehead against one broad shoulder.

"Get us a taxi, love," Doyle heard his rescuer ask the barmaid.

"Don' need taski," mumbled Doyle. "S'not far -- s'not..."

"It's too far for me to carry you, sunshine. You've put on weight since I last saw you."

Cautiously, Doyle raised his head and studied the face of the man who was still holding him upright.

"'Lo, Bodie. Long time, no shee-see..." And because it was his ex-partner, and Doyle knew he was safe, he passed out...

Bodie paid the driver and tipped him generously. Doyle was no lightweight, and he was glad of the cabbie's support on the other side of his unconscious mate. No doubt, he thought, I'll be blamed for this little misdemeanour, too. Ann Holly, original ice-maiden, would probably drive him out into the soggy autumn night whilst maintaining that pretty, pleasant facade that had so captivated his partner three years ago.

Bodie decided to make one more attempt at reviving Doyle, then he would help Ann put him to bed. He wondered idly if they had a garden shed now. No doubt, Doyle would be exiled to the bathroom in this condition -- come to think of it, Bodie had never seen Ray so drunk he actually did pass out. Falling down, giggling uncontrollably, yes, but -- never like this...

The flat was in darkness when they lugged Doyle inside. Bodie located the light switch, and Doyle was deposited on the sofa. When the taxi driver had gone, Bodie called out a couple of times for Doyle's wife whilst he undid his friend's trainers and pulled them off.

Bodie went into the kitchen, filled the kettle and put it on. He returned to the lounge to stand before the settee, considering his former colleague. Doyle -- Ray Doyle, his partner -- for almost four years... He had put on weight, in all the wrong places, the iron-hard muscles had become slack. Married life, mused Bodie... The face drew him -- Ray Doyle was a very unhappy man... His eyes in the pub, before he'd passed out, were bloodshot and swollen. He'd been crying long and hard, had sought solace in drink -- hadn't they both, at sometime or another... This, Bodie knew instinctively, went soul-deep... He resumed his place beside his ex-partner, slipped one arm around his shoulders, and pulled him against his chest. With his free hand, he steadied Doyle's lolling head.

"Doyle? Oi, Ray!"

There was no response. The kettle boiled, cutting out automatically.

"Come on, wake up!" Bodie shook him.

Glazed eyes opened a fraction.


"You're drunk," Bodie told him.

"Cun'grash-lashuns." Doyle hiccupped and flaked out again.

Bodie heaved a sigh and shook his head, gathering the unconscious body to him.

"Bloody fool," he whispered against the mop of brownish curls. "Whatever it is, isn't worth destroying yourself for, sunshine."

With an effort, Bodie stood and wrestled Doyle into his arms before carrying his barefooted burden into the bedroom and laying him on the mattress. Jeans were unfastened and tugged off. The jacket was removed and discarded -- to be hung over the back of the chair later -- and the satin sheet was drawn over the sleeper. Bodie gazed down, worried about leaving his mate alone in this condition. He would wait until Ann returned, then get a taxi back to his hotel. Leaving the door ajar, he went to settle on the couch to wait...

Somewhere, a blackbird was piping a welcome to the morning, against a background of chatter and chirping. He opened his eyes. It was still dark -- well, darkish. Bodie checked his watch. It was just after six. He'd slept the night through -- Ann had not come back. Rising stiffly, Bodie went to look in on his partner.

Doyle was curled up in a ball in the middle of the bed. He looked small -- lost, forlorn, like an abandoned kitten.

"Ah, Ray," he sighed softly, and shook his head. He ambled off to the toilet and reined in his errant thoughts about the man next door, concentrating instead on breakfast. The days of casual friendship when he and Doyle had virtually had free run of each other's flats were over. Bodie wouldn't poach his meal from here -- the Holly nose would twitch ever-so-slightly in disapproval, and Doyle would probably suffer the devastating aftereffects as soon as he left... Bodie found he'd automatically made two cups, his mind not on the present. He smiled at his slip and took the cups through the lounge, surveying the flat.

It was a comfortable ground floor apartment with a spacious living room, whose French windows gave onto a napkin of lawn with a neat ribbon of flower borders on three sides. Roses predominated. Doyle -- ever the romantic. Bodie had teased him mercilessly about those flowers, until he'd realised that his partner was deadly serious about MARRYING the woman. That business with her father -- Bodie sipped at his coffee -- almost finished the affair. Ann stormed out of Doyle's life, and Bodie was set to pick up the pieces, lending a sympathetic ear, a solid shoulder...he should have known -- but Doyle was heartbroken, and after a heavy session at the pub under his partner's watchful eye, he had crawled back to her, begging her to give him a chance to make things right...

They were married by special license. Bodie was best man, and two of Ann's friends from the publishing house had been witnesses... Ann wore pale blue, neat, stylish -- ice-cold, just like her heart, thought Bodie. But Doyle was happy, blissfully ignorant of the realities of married life. Six months later, he had left the squad after they'd had a particularly close brush with a trigger-happy terrorist. Doyle no longer had what it took to be Cowley's best. He knew it. Bodie had known it. And now, so did Cowley. Doyle got out before he got anyone killed. Bodie was still invited around, as a friend, to the new home -- he later found that Ann's money had paid for it -- but he always received a frosty welcome from Doyle's wife, as if she were jealous of the regard Doyle held him in...

A low moan (came) from the bedroom, and the distinctive sound of Doyle rolling out of bed to unsteady feet. The groaning got louder and, despite his somewhat depressing thoughts, Bodie had to smile. Some things DIDN'T change. Doyle was about to go staggering into the bathroom, and then come searching for coffee and aspirin.

Bodie watched his mate come reeling out and go stumbling to the next room. He put the coffee down on the lounge table and was a step behind. Doyle was heaving, draped over the toilet bowl. Bodie slipped an arm round him and supported his head as he vomited.

"Oh, God," moaned Doyle. "Oh, God!"

"Not quite," quipped Bodie drily, helping him to his feet and flushing the cistern. He located a glass, filled it with water, and handed it to Doyle.


Doyle gestured vaguely towards the mirrored cabinet, and Bodie discovered an almost full packet.

"Bodie..." Doyle's voice was croaky and uncertain.

Bodie took his elbow and guided him to the living room, pushing him gently to the settee.

"Coffee's still warm. I'll make some fresh in a minute." He sat beside the sorry figure, punched out two pills, which Doyle took with a trembling hand.

It was hard to swallow. There was a lump in his throat, and he couldn't hold the mug still. An arm went round his shoulders, the free hand cupping his, steading them as he drank. The coffee was warm, strong and black, just the way he remembered.

"I'd better get you sobered up," Bodie told him. "If Ann catches you like this -- "

"She won't..." Doyle's eyes began to flood again, and he sniffed.


That voice, so soft, finished him. Doyle started to cry. He would've dropped the cup but Bodie rescued it in time, as Doyle buried his face in his hands and sobbed.

Bodie knew it was more than the aftereffects of the alcohol. He gave in to his instincts and pulled Doyle close, comforting him.

"What's wrong, sunshine? Tell me," he urged quietly. Because there was nothing he wanted more than to make Doyle happy.

"She -- walked -- out -- on me, Bodie. I dunno what I'll do without her -- "

Bodie hugged and ran soothing hands over his back and shoulders. Ann -- gone. It wasn't really unexpected. The biggest surprise was that they'd lasted as long as they had. Bodie couldn't say he was sorry she had gone, but he couldn't tell Doyle THAT... Instead, he held on as his partner fell apart in his arm and, gradually, he coaxed the whole sorry tale from him.

Leaving the squad for a nine-to-five job in a security firm, Doyle and his wife had sold off her apartment and had bought the garden flat. Doyle wasn't happy in his new job, but he was seeing more of Ann, so... The first clouds appeared when Ann was promoted within the company. She started spending more time with her clients, wining and dining -- and trotting Doyle out as her escort whenever necessary. Her work was taking her away from HIM -- Bodie knew she had used the same argument on his partner shortly before the fateful shoot-out... Ann agreed to pare down her schedule, to give them more time together.

"Think I could see the cracks even then," sniffed Doyle. "I just tried to ignore it -- hoping that I could find a way to bring us together again. Ann said she'd like a family. Thought if we had a kid, maybe we would -- " He swallowed noisily. "I tried, Bodie, but I couldn't... She had her career, I had mine. I told her we had no time for a baby -- one of us would have to give up working to look after him." He laughed sadly. "Bloody irony is, Ann was due to go to New York when she found out she was pregnant. She -- wasn't happy about it..."

Ann -- expecting a baby... It was a blow to Bodie, reminding him sharply that he had two years' worth of news to catch up on. Doyle was still talking...

"... argument, even about his name. I wanted to call him Philip, but she insisted on naming him after her father."

"What happened?" Bodie asked, hoping that Doyle hadn't noticed the catch in his voice.

"He's over with a friend at the momen -- oh, shit, I was supposed to collect him last night -- " Doyle closed his swollen eyes. "Sophie'll be wondering what's wrong."

As if on cue, the doorbell rang. Bodie squeezed Doyle's shoulder once more before answering. There was a girl. She was small and skinny with short-cropped mane -- bottle blond, Bodie thought tartly -- who looked no more than fourteen. She jumped visibly at the sudden reply and Bodie's dishevelled appearance.

"Is Mr. Doyle in?"

"Yeah, but he's not feeling too well at the moment. Can I help?" Bodie did not feel helpful.

The girl gestured to the pushchair that accompanied her.

"I'm dropping Charlie off. Mr. Doyle didn't call for him last night, so -- I've got an interview this morning, and I'll be late if I don't go now -- "

"S'all right, Sophe," Doyle's voice drifted out to her. "I'm sorry. Give me a minute, and I'll drive you."

Bodie half turned, with the intent of stopping him but Sophie was already gone, leaving him standing outside the door with a pushchairful of his partner's child.

Ray's kid. Doyle junior.

Bodie laid a tentative hand on the unfamiliar vehicle and wheeled it inside. The child was asleep, face squashed against the side of the buggy. Bodie eyed it warily.

Doyle was on his feet and took a couple of uncertain steps towards them before his knees began to function properly.

"Could you undo his harness? Don't think I could manage it yet..."

Bodie crouched stiffly beside the pushchair and started to fiddle with the straps. This -- was Ray's son. It was a part of Ray's body -- his life. Bodie felt hurt and resentful, but masked it. It was easier to cope with thinking that Charlie -- what a stupid name for a BABY -- was Ann Holly's brat, not his partner's. He freed the child and looked up at Doyle.

"Give him here, I'll put him to bed. He's very quiet normally..."

Bodie picked up the little bundle. It was surprisingly heavy, and he handed it carefully to his mate. Doyle held the boy against his chest, and Bodie saw the tears glistening.

"Ann's gonna take him away, Bodie. What am I going to do?"

Bodie personally felt it would be no bad thing if she did, but all he said was, "We'll get the kid settled, and you'll get some sleep."

Doyle blinked.

"Are -- Will you stay, Bodie?"

Bodie's mouth quirked at the corners.

"Think I'd leave you in this state? Course I'm staying."

Doyle sniffed, and supporting Charlie with one arm, he smeared away the tears with his free hand.

"Mind you," Bodie added, "it'll cost you breakfast."

Doyle swallowed and looked greenish, hugging the sleeping child. Bodie relented a little.

"Get to bed. I'll bring the coffee through."

But after he'd made the fresh brew and took it to the bedroom, he found Doyle asleep, curled around his son. Protecting, loving -- close... The things we shared, that I wouldn't admit to, thought Bodie. I had my chance, and I blew it. He watched Doyle, noting once more how utterly devastated his ex-partner looked... If I could change it, Ray, if I could take it back to just the way it was, just you and me, I would -- believe me, I would.

He left the coffee on the bedside table and turned away.

"So -- what've you been doing with yourself for the last two years?"

It was evening. Doyle was rested, dressed and reasonably sober. He was sitting on the sofa beside Charlie, who was snuggled up against his father's denim-clad thigh. Doyle was caressing the child absentmindedly, his attention on the man who sat in the armchair opposite.

"I tried to reach you," Doyle went on, "but they said you'd left..."

"Not really." Bodie sipped at his coffee. "Cowley hired me out -- on SECONDMENT," he explained, wrinkling his nose in distaste. "Spent a lot of time traipsing between Paris and Amsterdam and Bonn. Time off in Luxembourg for good behavior!"

"The new Euro-set-up," Doyle sighed wistfully. "Lucky bastard."

"Liaison officer. Most of it was paperwork and overseeing training techniques -- dead boring really, almost -- " Bodie changed tack. "How about you? You were in security when I left."

Doyle heaved a sigh. "I was, up to last week." He met Bodie's puzzled expression. "I got the push. Didn't like the place anyway, but it paid for -- " He stopped, swallowing audibly.


"Are you back on leave or what?" Doyle shifted away from his own problems.

"Leave -- at the moment. Can you believe they're putting me up at the Hilton? Cowley's turning soft in his old age..." He caught the look in Doyle's face. "Ray?"

Doyle made a visible effort to smile.

"The high life, eh? Don't begrudge you getting what you can out of the Old Man. When are you going back?'

Bodie shrugged. "Who knows? I'll be in England for a couple of months at least. I'm looking for a flat at the moment..."

"Same here." Doyle shifted a little. "Ann wants me out of here by the end of the month." He raised his eyes to met Bodie's appalled expression.

It was Bodie who said it.

"We -- could share. Short lease -- three months. Two bedroom -- how about it?"

Doyle looked down at the child. Bodie didn't like kids much, and he hadn't been quick enough to disguise his feelings that morning as he wheeled Charlie into the apartment. He glanced up, expecting some form of protest -- to be told to pack him off to Ann's relatives at least.

"You and the kid in one room, I'll have the other." Simple, practical, efficient -- typical Bodie. "Well?"

"I'd have to get a job first..."

"You don't need to -- "

"I'm not sponging off you!" snapped Doyle.

"I was about to say," Bodie spoke softly, "that you don't need to look too far. Cowley's on the look-out for people. He'd have you back, Ray."

Doyle shook his head. "I can't go back. Three years is a long time. I'm out of practice, only half as fit as I was." He sighed. "We both know I haven't got what it takes anymore.

"And truth be told," Doyle admitted, "I can't stand the thought of failing you again -- or watching someone else cover your back, while I..."

"Not an operative. Cowley's back-up section is expanding," Bodie offered, hating himself even as he said it.

"Me -- behind a desk?" Doyle looked daggers at his former partner, hardly believing -- three years ago Bodie wouldn't even have JOKED about an office job... "No, thanks! Why'd you think I hated the last place?"

"It's a good steady earner, and the hours are flexible..." Bodie sound as if he were trying to convince himself.

"Then why don't you take it?"

The infamous temper flared, and Bodie sighed inwardly.

"I might just do that."

Doyle looked at him sharply, but there was no hint of amusement. My God, he's SERIOUS. Bodie actually means it...

"I'm not getting any younger," Bodie continued, "and the thought of having to rely on a new partner if I go back into the field again -- " he chuckled " -- it took long enough to beat you into shape."

"You'd be willing to -- " Doyle shook his head, incredulous. He couldn't imagine Bodie chained to a desk... Doyle had stuck it for two years, and it was bad enough for him -- for a man like Bodie...

Bodie was standing, draining his mug.

Doyle blinked up at him.

"You going?"

Bodie nodded. "It's getting late." He looked at Charlie, lying so still beside his friend. The lounge light caught the red tint in the blonde hair, casting shadows down one chubby cheek... Doyle's son. It twisted Bodie's guts -- Doyle -- his Ray, a father.

"He takes after his mother," murmured Doyle. "I didn't want kids -- not until we had more time for them, but now I've got him..."

"He should be in bed," Bodie said gruffly. "You both should."

Doyle smiled wanly.

"Yeah, I've been feeling tired lately." He roused himself. "It's been good to see you again, mate."

He eased off the couch and picked Charlie up.

Seeing me off the premises, thought Bodie. Time was, I'd've been invited to stay. Not anymore though. Those days have gone for good, thanks to Ann Holly -- funny, I still can't think of her as Mrs. Doyle...

"When will I see you again, Bodie?" Doyle asked as he walked his guest to the door. There was a note of -- desperation -- in his voice.

"Don't say you missed me?" Bodie teased, touched by the idea.

If you only knew...

"Yeah," Doyle answered. "Strange, isn't it?"

"Nice," Bodie corrected with an almost shy smile. "Missed you, too."

The words started an odd flutter in Doyle's stomach.

"What're you doing tomorrow night?"

Bodie shrugged.

"Nothing planned -- I'm open to suggestions."

"We could have a night out." Doyle was trying to make it sound casual.

Bodie frowned.

"What about the kid?"

"Sophie'll have him. Can drop him off on the way."

"I'll be here for seven," Bodie promised, as he turned away. "See you then, Ray."

And with that, he stepped into the darken passageway and walked into the night, conscious of Doyle's eyes on him long after he left.

Bodie was up early the following morning, choosing to run round the streets of Wembley rather than driving to a park for a casual jog. He was sharply reminded, as his muffled footfalls echoed back at him, of the days when his partner had dragged him from a cosy bed into many a chilly dawn and bullied him into a run. He smiled reminiscently. Wonder what Ray'd say if he knew I enjoyed those times when we were alone with one another... He frowned. Wonder what he'd say if I told him I need him in my life, that I love him... Probably just laugh... The brat... Charlie... got to think about him as well... Maybe Ann will take him when she gets settled -- good thing if she does. Can't see Ray bringing up a kid on his own, and besides, a child needs a mother -- he shied away from memories of his own motherless boyhood and kept running. His thoughts kept returning to his ex-partner. What would Doyle do? Could Bodie persuade him to come back? And if he did, how would he react when he knew he wouldn't be working with Bodie...

He won't like it, Bodie guessed. Held be angry, too, when he found that Bodie had misled him -- not lying -- just not telling him the whole truth. As soon as his partner found out why he was back, Bodie could bet that he'd be on the sharp end of Doyle's tongue, if not his fist...

He had reached the hotel. The receptionist gave him a friendly smile which he returned as he collected his key. He hurried upstairs, tracksuit clinging to every curve of his sweaty body.

Once he regained the sanctuary of his room, he peeled off his clothes, leaving them in a heap on the bathroom floor as he stepped into the shower cubicle. Hot water sluiced over him, and he revelled in the stream as it soothed aching muscles. Even in the short interlude between coming off the street and getting into his suite, he found he had stiffened all over. No one to blame but himself -- he should have paid more attention to the pace, and not idle thoughts of Ray Doyle and what he wanted but was too afraid to ask for... Here, in private, he could relax, indulging in a favorite fantasy -- the feel of Doyle's naked, hard body against his, sharing the shower, washing each other, soapy hands gliding over hot, wet skin, smoothing taut, warm flesh... He glanced down, amused at how quickly he could be aroused, and bracing one arm against the wall, he put his free hand to good use, bringing his dream to its inevitable conclusion. He washed himself carefully, then turned the tap to cold.

Penance done, he stepped out to dry himself on one of the hotel bathsheets and dumped his festering tracksuit in the laundry basket. He still felt vaguely uncomfortable at being waited on, even though he admitted he richly deserved it after some of the dives Cowley had landed him in. But then, he reflected, it was more fun. I was younger, healthy -- and I had Ray. It all comes back to him and his being a part of my life. I missed him like hell for the first six months -- so Cowley sends me abroad and, suddenly, I'm up to my ears in language courses, discussions on training techniques, security briefs... yeah, well, he smiled ruefully as he sat on the edge of the mattress, ANYONE can make a mistake. He stretched his legs before him and eyed them cynically. The scars that ran the length of both limbs were red and ugly -- but they were healing, and the bones had knitted well. Bodie knew how lucky he was to be alive and not to have lost either leg. It had been touch-and-go for a while when he had picked up an infection... It was behind him now. All he had to do was get fit... Eleven weeks in a European hospital was not his idea of a good time. The two months sick leave he had just started, however, had distinct possibilities, especially if it meant seeing Doyle again.

Sighing, he hunted out a pair of briefs and pulled on his spare tracksuit trews, covering the worst of his injuries. The rest had just been cuts and grazes. He dragged on a tee-shirt, leaned across the bed to pick up the phone, and ordered breakfast.

It was exactly seven o'clock when he rang the doorbell at the flat. Doyle answered the summons instantly. He was dressed in a pair of faded Levis with a jacket that was vaguely familiar. Bodie himself was clad in black -- slacks and poloneck -- with a parka to keep out the chill.

Doyle grinned at the sight, pleased by the casualness instead of the formality he usually associated with his partner.

"Didn't know if we'd be slumming," teased Bodie, "so I came prepared..."

Doyle raked him again from head to foot, approving.

"I'll put up with it THIS time," he conceded. "Did you drive over?"

"Taxi," Bodie replied shortly. "The Old Man doesn't trust me with a car at the moment -- said I might forget we drive an the left over here!"

Doyle's eyebrows shot up.

"Never stopped you before," he smirked, alluding to the occasional incidents when they had both used the road indiscriminately.

Bodie laughed, and Doyle went to fetch Charlie from his room.

"Get the pushchair out, Bodie."

Bodie glanced round and spied it tucked away behind one of the chairs and the wall. He unfolded it, eyeing it unhappily. Doyle appeared with his brightly-wrapped bundle and proceeded to strap the child into the seat. He kissed the pale forehead gently, and Bodie wet his lips, envious of that small gesture of affection... Ray's little boy...

"Let's go." Doyle straightened up. "Sophie's first, then we'll get out on the town, pull a couple of birds..."

Bodie shrugged. If that was what Ray wanted, he would go along with it. He'd been out of circulation too long -- it might be just what he needed... He knew he was lying to himself. What he wanted -- needed -- was to hold Doyle and tell him he was loved... Not the best time to mention it. There never would be a best time, Bodie reflected, as he followed his mate through the door.

It was half past eleven when Bodie poured his unconscious partner into bed. He shook his head sadly over Doyle's method of expressing his misery and self-pity. There were quicker, cleaner ways of killing oneself than using alcohol. Tomorrow, Bodie decided, he would give the older man a bollocking, but tonight... He still had to see about the baby, arrange with Sophie for Charlie to stay with her overnight. Bodie filched Doyle's keys and headed off.

Sophie had been waiting up for them and answered the door at the first ring. Bodie explained the situation tersely and found that, despite his annoyance, he was still defensive of his partner. The girl was horrified when he broke the news of Ann's leaving.

"It'll kill him. He thinks the world of her, even if she's -- " Sophie gulped to a stop. "That is -- she -- I didn't like her much."

Bodie warmed to her immediately.

"Confidentially," he admitted, "neither did I, but Ray's always been a sucker for a pretty face."

"She could be so -- spiteful. She stopped me from looking after Charlie because she thought I was after Mr. Doyle."

Are you? Bodie checked himself in time.

"Andy, my fiance, and I are going to get married next year. We'd love to start a family, but we can't afford to yet. Having Charlie here is -- " she sighed. "I wish we could keep him a bit longer..."

Bodie made an instant decision.

"If you mean that -- tell me what you need, and I'll drop it over in the morning. Ray needs some time to -- sort himself out. If you're looking after the baby, that'll be one less worry for him."

Sophie's face lit up.

"I'll tell Andy the minute he gets home..."

Doyle was still dead to the world when Bodie left the flat the following morning. A taxi took him back to the hotel where he showered and changed into more formal attire. He caught the bus to Whitehall, intent on speaking to Cowley about his partner's reinstatement. The controller was waiting for him with barely disguised impatience.

"Ten minutes," Cowley informed him, "then I'm due for a word with the Minister."

Bodie went straight to the point.

"Doyle's drinking heavily. Ann walking out on him was quite a blow..."

"Bodie -- och, sit down, lad, I want you back as soon as possible, so don't have a relapse now -- " Cowley gestured to a free chair and waited until the younger man settled. "I made a few enquiries about Doyle. The results were not good -- he's been unreliable, late for work, drunk, and abusive to his superiors. He was sacked for insubordination last week." He paused to assess the effect on Bodie. "I don't want him back like that. You told me yourself that he's unfit and put on weight."

"Macklin'd soon shape him up." But even Bodie could hear the note of doubt in his voice.

"What about the child? Even if -- and I stress IF -- I were prepared to have him back, what provision has he made for his son? Ann Holly has gone to New York, and if what you say about Doyle is true, he wouldn't give the boy up without a fight. The child would become a ward of court and should be placed in care -- "

"I've already arranged for the kid to be taken care of, sir. Someone Ray knows and trusts." Bodie fished out a slip of paper with Sophie's address on it.

"Bodie," Cowley looked annoyed, "this has to be done legally. I'll get on to Welfare and see what they recommend... Now, how are things with you?"

Bodie glanced down at his legs -- they were aching like hell.

"Fine, sir," he lied.

Cowley shot him a knowing smile, handing him a glass of whisky, and snorted wryly.

"Aye, I'm sure they are!"

Doyle came to with a thumping headache. A mug of coffee was pushed into his hands.

"My head hurts," he complained.

"Serves you right," Bodie was his usual sympathetic self. "That'll teach you to drink on top of a hangover."

Doyle rolled bloodshot eyes at his partner.

"You sound like Ann."

"No need to be rude," Bodie admonished. "Drink that up. There's a whole potful waiting for you."

Doyle groaned and swallowed with difficulty.

"Think I just wanna die."

Bodie contradicted him.

"You'll feel better with something inside you..." But what I want to put in you -- the stray thought was firmly quashed.

Doyle eyed him miserably.

"Letter for you. First class," Bodie continued. "Must've come while I was out running."

"You read it to me." Doyle had his nose in his coffee cup. Bodie sat on the edge of the mattress and deftly slit the envelope. He noticed it was headed by the Welfare Department logo and his stomach tightened in anticipation of its content.

"'Dear Mr. Doyle... blah, blah, blah -- request that you attend an interview -- 14.00 hours with Hazel Marcus -- today.'" He looked up at his mate and seriously doubted that Doyle would be in a fit state to stand, let alone go to an interview. "Probably want to discuss Charlie with you," he hazarded. "Ask what provisions you have for him..."

"What makes you think that?"

Bodie swallowed and told him about the talk he'd had with Cowley.

The coffee cup went flying as Doyle exploded, lunging forward to grab Bodie by the throat.

"Charlie's mine! He's staying with me!" He shook Bodie furiously, eyes blazing.

Bodie grasped both wrists firmly and jerked free, his head spinning.

"Bloody traitor!" shrieked Doyle, trying to break Bodie's counter- hold. "I'll kill you. I'LL KILL YOU!"

"I was only thinking of Charlie," Bodie yelled back, fighting to hang on to the writhing arms.

"Like hell you were!" Doyle's one attempted kick from beneath the bedclothes earned him his partner's not-inconsiderable weight across his lap. Under other circumstances, he would have welcomed it, but right at the moment, he was spitting fury.

"Alright," Bodie bawled. "You asked for it! I told Cowley about finding you in the bar, pissed as a newt, and about the way you put it down the other night while we were out. I was worried about you -- Cowley made some enquiries... If they take Charlie away from you it'll be the best thing for both of you. Christ!" he panted. "You can't even look after yourself, let alone a child!"

Doyle got one hand free and hit Bodie hard across the mouth.


Bodie let him go and got off the bed, hurt more by the words than the blow.

"Ray -- "

"Get out! I never want to see you again!" cried Doyle, closing his eyes against impotent tears.

Bodie choked on the lump in his own throat, wanting so much to hold his friend at that moment, but he knew Doyle well enough not to push his luck. He turned and fled, conscious of the pain in his face and the terrible ache in his heart.

Bodie finished packing his few belongings. He checked his watch. Almost midday. He would drop the keys at reception and take a taxi out to his new home. It was sparsely furnished at the moment -- but he had no desire to add to it until he knew for certain he was staying with C.I.5. If Cowley decreed it, he would redeem his possessions from storage and settle in properly.

His thoughts kept turning to Doyle. Maybe he should phone, say he'd found a two-bedroom flat, but knowing Ray, he'd still be furious, and Bodie didn't want to upset him anymore than he had. His hand went to his cheek. It still hurt, but the split in his lip where his tooth had caught had stopped bleeding... On impulse, he reached for the phone. Kirstie answered immediately.

"Hello, Bodie..." He could hear her smile down the line. "What do you want THIS time?"

"Actually," Bodie set out to charm her, "I was wondering if you would go and fetch something for me."

"Oh?" Speculation, intrigue...

With a wry laugh, Bodie told her.

"But," he cautioned, "not a word to anyone, sweetheart, or my reputation will be ruined!"

Kirstie heaved an exasperated sigh.

"Oh, God! The THINGS I do for you, Bodie..."

The afternoon had NOT gone well. Doyle poured himself another drink. The whole bloody day was a shambles. First that stinking hangover, then the flaming letter, BODIE... and the blasted interview. He knocked back half the liquor in one gulp, not tasting it.

They were going to take Charlie away from him -- well, he'd known that -- but that Bodie should've been the one to betray him... He downed the rest of his drink and poured another.

The interview had gone badly. He was still suffering a blinding headache and reeling from Bodie's treachery. Hazel Marcus had lectured him on his responsibilities as a parent, treating him like a retarded schoolboy -- Doyle had been argumentative with her and with Cowley and the cabbie who had driven him home.

And then the phone had rung.

Doyle grabbed up the receiver and listened while Sophie cried down the line.

"I'm sorry, Ray, s-so sorry..."

"Calm down, Sophe, and tell me what happened."

The girl got a grip on her emotions and gave him the barest facts -- she was about to take Charlie for a walk when the doorbell rang...

"A lady came. She said she had instructions to collect Charlie. I had to let her take him... She said he would be looked after... then she drove away..."

"She was -- D.H.S.S. -- they said that Charlie has to go into care, until I can sort things out with Ann -- thanks for telling me, love..." Doyle was trying not to cry himself.

"I'm sorry..."

"We'll get him back..."

He had hung up then, and reached for the nearest bottle. It was all Bodie's fault, thought Doyle; if he hadn't told the Cow, none of this would've happened... HE got me into this, he can get me out... He picked up the receiver, got the number of the Hilton hotel from directory enquiries, and dialed for the reception desk. Mr. Bodie had checked out -- they were not authorised to give a forwarding address.

Doyle stared blankly at the phone. Bodie had abandoned him... and he was suddenly aware, too, that Bodie's disappearance mattered more to him than losing either Ann or Charlie... The one constant in his life, the person on whom he could rely, was no longer there -- and Doyle felt desolated..

His head jerked up at the sound of the bell, and wearily, he went to answer the door, pulling it open with a visible effort. Bodie was standing in the halfway, looking tired and anxious -- and to Doyle's tired eyes, totally beautiful.

"I came by -- "

With a wracking sob, Doyle flung his arms around Bodie's neck and began howling. Hastily, Bodie bundled him indoors and leaned back to shut the door as he held Doyle close. His shoulder was soaked in a couple of minutes as Doyle cried his heart out, and he ran his hands over the narrow back, rubbing in lazy circles, comforting, soothing -- loving without words -- until he felt the trembling abate.

Bodie eased his grip, but Doyle was reluctant to move away and leaned against him, arms still round his neck, face tucked under the dark-stubbled chin -- someone had just thrown him a lifeline, and he wasn't about to let go...

Bodie's arms sneaked round his ex-partner's waist, and Doyle swallowed noisily before he spoke.

"They've taken Charlie away," he announced hoarsely. "What am I gonna do, Bodie?" He looked up, pleading. "I've got to get him back..."

Bodie steeled himself.

"Ray -- I wish I could help you, mate, but -- they won't let you have him. You have to prove you can take care of him..." The lost look in the blue eyes decided him, and he sighed heavily. "First thing we have to do is get you sobered up. Have you got any more whisky left?'

Doyle had the grace to look ashamed.

"Not much of anything left," he admitted. "I finished most of it the night Ann left. "

Inwardly, Bodie groaned.

"Get everything you have -- EVERYTHING, Ray -- and bring it into the kitchen. If you want me to help you get Charlie back, you're going to have to do without the booze."

Doyle unlocked his arms and smeared away the tears with the heel of one hand. He tottered over to the drinks cabinet and drew out the surviving bottles. Bodie followed him to the kitchenette.

"You're sure this is the lot?"

Doyle nodded.

Bodie unscrewed the first and second bottles, upending them in the sink. He watched Doyle's face as the alcohol trickled away and smiled as his partner undid the last bottle and poured its contents down the drain.

"Coffee," Bodie told him, reaching for the kettle.

Doyle fished around for a couple of mugs and spooned in the powder -- Ann insisted on the proper stuff, but the instant did just as well...

Bodie mixed up the drinks and pushed him through to the living room, making him sit on the sofa.

"What happened at the interview, Ray?"

Doyle took a tentative sip at the coffee and gave Bodie the barest details.

"Sophie rang up to say they've already taken Charlie," Doyle's voice wavered slightly. "I -- just dunno what I'm gonna do."

Bodie sighed and seemed to consider for a minute.

"You're not in a very good position at the moment, with losing the flat at the end of the month." Bodie met the miserable blue gaze. "Admin's found me a two-bedroom apartment. You can move in with me. Rent's paid up for three months, and we can split the running costs..."

"I haven't got a job," protested Doyle weakly. "No one's going to employ me -- not with my reputation..."

The corners of Bodie's mouth quirked a little despite the seriousness of the situation.

"Yeah, even Cowley's reluctant to have you."

Doyle finished his coffee in silence.

"I told him I reckoned I could get you fit and sober within a month," Bodie continued. "I'm willing to take the chance, how about you?"

Doyle raised his head and swallowed. There was a desperate quality in the reddish eyes.

"You'd -- " he sniffed, "be willing to work with me again? After -- what happened?"

"Anyone can make a mistake, Ray." Bodie found himself smiling. "Just proves you're as human as the rest of us..." The thought of Doyle loose on the street with another partner, however, was not so appealing... "Think about it, mate." He tossed off the last of his coffee and stood abruptly.

"You're going?" Doyle looked up anxiously and set his own cup down.

If I don't, thought Bodie, I'm going to end up seducing you.

"Got to check over my new digs," he excused lamely. "How long would it take to pack up your gear? You can move in with me anytime you like -- if you want to -- " Bodie added hastily.

"Would tomorrow be too soon?" Doyle asked quickly.

"Tormrrow's fine," Bodie assured him.

Doyle walked him to the door. He put a hand on Bodie's arm as his partner reached for the catch.

"Bodie..." It seemed so inadequate. "Thanks, mate,"

Bodie ruffled the tangled curls, a long-missed gesture.

"Any time, Ray. You know that." He looked down at the hand that held him.

"Better go." They spoke together, softly -- like lovers should, Bodie thought wistfully -- and God knows I do love him... He opened the door slowly.

"Will you be okay here on your own?"

Doyle nodded briefly, wishing he had the nerve to tell the truth -- I'm never okay without you. I need you -- I love you. It came to him then that he should have married Bodie instead of Ann Holly...

"Be fine."

"See you first thing tomorrow then," Bodie said, "for a run."

Doyle managed a half-hearted smile.

"Yeah," and closed the door behind Bodie. Then he went to his lonely bedroom, flung himself on the bed, and cried himself to sleep.

Bodie slid the key into the lock and tried to turn it. He jiggled it about, scowling at the offending piece of metal. Locked out: his own flat, first night, and he was bloody well LOCKED OUT! He considered various other means of getting in, but dismissed them as too violent, too taxing and, ultimately, too expensive. There was a light on in one of the lower flats. He pushed what he hoped was the right bell and waited for the reply.

So, the D.H.S.S. had gotten to Charlie. He shouldn't have been surprised. Cowley had obviously outguessed him and sent them around straight away. Must've known I'd do anything to help Ray -- would've gone for the kid myself, but I was tied up with the contract on this place... Probably for the best though -- Ray's a mess at the moment -- s'like someone kicked all the fight out of him... Damn that bloody Ann Holly -- and me too -- I should've tried harder to stop him...

"Who is it?" The tinny voice sounded annoyed.

"Name's Bodie. I've just taken the top flat, but I can't get the front door open." Pathetic, wasn't it?


Bodie pushed. The door swung free obediently. There was a woman standing in the doorway of his rescuer's flat. She glared at him, and he psyched himself up for his standard apology, when she spoke.

"And about time, too! That poor girl and the baby left up there to freeze! She went 'ome, took the kiddie with her -- said for you to phone her -- I told her straight, if 'e hasn't got the decency to be 'ome waitin' or to say where 'e is, you're better off without 'im. Not worth the trouble ... Out boozin', and gamblin', AND..." she scrutinised Bodie thoroughly, homing in on the damp patch at his shoulder, "... carryin' ON, no doubt. Not worth the aggro. And that child, poor thing, cryin' 'is eyes out..."

Bodie swallowed, utterly dumbstruck, girl -- baby -- HERE, waiting for him?

" -- you for a father, I don't know," snorted the woman. "Still, I s'pose, 'andsome is as 'andsome does."

"Did you say something about a girl and a baby?" Bodie wanted to be clear about this.

"Just said so, didn't I?"

"What was she like -- this girl? Long fair hair?" Smashing legs, generous smile and dimples on her...

The woman nodded impatiently.

"Tall -- mind, I s'pose you've 'ad so many -- "

"Did she give her name?"

"Christine -- Christie, somethin' like that."

"Can I borrow your phone?" Bodie whipped out his wallet. "I'll pay for the call." He produced a five pound note, the smallest change he had.

The woman eyed him speculatively.

"'ope it's not long distance," she grumbled.

"I promise."

Bodie followed her into the hallway of her apartment. It smelt of fried food, reminding him he had not eaten since morning. He licked his lips. The telephone was mounted on the wall. Bodie handed over the money and dialed Kirstie's number.

"I should've guessed it was you," she giggled.

"Kirstie -- did you get him?"

"Yes. Where were you? I waited ages, and the flat was so cold -- heating's bust or something -- then Charlie began to cry, so Mrs. Roper took me in... She told me I should ditch you!"

Bodie laughed.

"She's quite right. Where is he now.? Is he alright.? I stopped at Doyle's, and he said welfare had taken him..."

"All I told the girl was that I'd been instructed to pick him up -- I didn't say who -- "

The woman was still hovering, straining to hear what was being said.

"Kirstie, look, love, I'll be around tomorrow to collect him. Don't tell anyone, especially not Uncle George."

"I'll be the soul of discretion," she assured him. "Good night, lover."

Bodie hung up, unaware that he was grinning broadly. The tennant, Mrs. Roper, was watching him with suspicion, and Bodie excused himself promptly, dashing for the stairs with as much speed as he could decently afford. The flat door was banged firmly shut behind him.

Once within his own apartment, he checked around the place. The bed in the main room had been made up, and Bodie eyed it wistfully, thinking how he'd like to share it with a certain ex-policeman...

He stripped hastily and slid between the chilly sheets, remembering how it felt to hold Doyle close, touch him, wondering if those lips were as soft and tender as they looked... Bodie snuggled up to the pillow and fell asleep with his partner very much on his mind.

He woke in the pre-dawn dark and cautiously poked his head out from under the covers. It was cold. He recalled Kirstie saying the heating was off. Good excuse to stay in bed -- except that he was supposed to be taking Doyle for a run this morning. He smirked at the thought -- role reversal... He was used to being the one who was dragged outside -- quite literally sometimes -- by an enthusiastic partner who didn't understand simple commands like 'slow down,' 'stop' or 'no.' This, Bodie mused, would be an ideal opportunity to wreak the revenge he'd always sworn he would... Hastily, he left the bed, darted into the toilet, and got dressed. One cup of coffee, laden with sugar for energy, and a couple of tablets because this morning his legs were aching from the cold, and he was on his way.

He leaned on the bell, and Doyle answered the door almost instantly. He's been crying, thought Bodie, and he wondered if this was such a good idea. Doyle, however, had made up his mind. He drew on his tracksuit jacket as he wandered round the flat in a semi-coma.

"We'll have a shortish run," decided Bodie. "Don't want to do too much first time out."

"Parks or roads?"

"Either -- make up about a mile," Bodie suggested, hoping his legs would stand it.

Doyle nodded absentmindedly, checked that he had his keys, and led them out into the cold, damp dawn.

They ran easily, the pace gentle, the silence companionable. Doyle was slightly ahead, guiding them around the maze of streets, and Bodie secretly exulted in the view of his partner's behind. It also meant that Doyle wouldn't notice he was slower than usual. At this hour, with virtually no traffic, Bodie found it easier to run on the road, where there was less chance of losing his footing on the wet leaves. He lengthened his stride and came abreast of his mate.


Doyle nodded and smiled.

They turned down the main road, and Bodie bounced onto the pavement, pounding along rhythmically in Doyle's wake.

Doyle drew comfort from the solid presence behind him. Bo-die, Bo-die -- love -- you -- love -- you, his mind repeated the ridiculous chant as he ran. Want -- you -- And Bodie was there at his shoulder, shadowing him, guarding, protecting him. He should've married Bodie... The thought of his rough, tough partner in white at an altar tickled his sense of humour. Bodie as a bride -- (in) drag -- He grinned manically and stepped up the pace, urging himself faster, knowing that Bodie could easily take it.

Unseen, Bodie frowned as he made the effort. It wouldn't do to let Ray know about him -- that there was little chance of his making the physical standard required for active duty. He would train with Doyle, determined to prove that he had a place on the support team, while Doyle went back to the streets with a new partner...

Doyle had planned to make a circuit through his neighborhood, which would give them just under a mile, but it occurred to him that Bodie wasn't doing as well as he'd expected. He dropped the pace a little and waited until Bodie pulled alongside.

"You sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine," Bodie lied. "You're fitter than I thought!" Or I'm more unfit. His shins and ankles were aching badly, his knees threatened to give out at any moment, and he still had the extra miles to do after he left Doyle's.

Doyle slowed even more.

"You don't look fine."

"Just a bit rusty..." From where they put the pins in my legs. "You always could run the legs off me in the mornings."

"Want to walk for a while?"

If he did, his limbs would seize up altogether.

"No, keep running, we can talk. How long will it take to pack up your gear?"

"You -- still serious? This morning -- most of the stuff in the flat's Ann's anyway. I got rid of a lot when I got married..." He sighed. "Should I bring Charlie's things over?"

Bodie glanced at him covertly.

"Yes -- and if you have a heater, that'll be handy. It's bloody cold up there at the moment."

"Anything else I should know?" asked Doyle.

"Front door's a bugger to open, and Mrs. Roper in Number 1 is a dragon. Reckons I'm a reprobate..."

"How very perceptive of her!" teased Doyle.

"You wait till she sees you," countered Bodie, as they reached the corner of the road. Doyle shot off at an angle and was down near the end of what Bodie had taken for a cul-de-sac, when he realised it must be a shortcut to Doyle's home. He speeded up, annoyed to find his legs responding sluggishly. Doyle was marking time at one end of the alley. He was scowling as Bodie came up.

"You're a bit heavy-footed this morning, mate."

"I've been stuck behind a desk for two years, what did you expect, Swan Lake?"

Bodie in a tutu? Better than a bridal gown!! Doyle laughed outright.

"Nah, I'd never be able to lift you!"

Bodie cuffed him as he ran past.

"Just for that, I'll race you back!" There was no way he could raise a sprint, but honour had to be satisfied, and he darted ahead, ignoring the protests from his limbs, determined to beat Doyle to the door. Doyle caught, paced and passed him easily, surging onward, and dashed for the apartment block. He disappeared inside before Bodie's ankle finally gave way, sending the darker man stumbling into the wall.

Stupid really, Bodie berated himself. Should've known better than to over do it. He propped himself against the stonework, gingerly testing his weight on the injured foot. It shot rods of fire up to his groin, and he winced. Second time he tried, he knew he wouldn't faint, but that he'd never walk back to his own flat on it either. He hobbled painfully to the still-open front door and hopped inside, thankful that his partner had chosen a ground floor flat rather than an attic. Doyle was lounging in the doorway.

"Took your -- what happened?"

"Sprained my ankle," Bodie sounded disgusted and attempted to use it.

Next minute, he was being held upright, and Doyle was helping him into the living room.

"Let me take a look."

Bodie panicked.

"Don't touch it!"

He folded down onto the settee, and Doyle went to the kitchen for an ice pack. Bodie unzipped the leg of his training trousers and peeled down the sock. He could almost see the scars throbbing. Doyle was banging about in the fridge. (Bodie) covered the injured area and sat back.

Doyle returned with two mugs of coffee and joined him on the couch.

"No ice, mate. I'm sorry. I'll have a look at it though and strap it up if you want."

Bodie shook his head.

"No, don't bother. Just loan us the cab fare to get home, and I'll see to it."

Independent bastard, thought Doyle, you're hurting, and you need help...

"Did you mean it, about my moving in with you?" He handed Bodie a coffee.

"I wouldn't've said it if I didn't mean it. It'll solve your accommodation problem, and I'll be able to keep an eye on you!"

Doyle snorted indignantly.

"You're the one who needs a keeper! Tripping over your own two feet..."

Bodie sat up and ruffled the bedraggled curls affectionately. Doyle leaned into the caress, rubbing himself against the strong fingers. Bodie's hand strayed to his neck, moved languidly to his shoulder, massaging gently.

"S'nice," purred Doyle. "A live-in masseur..."

Bodie stopped.

"Too much of a good thing," he warned. He had enjoyed it, too. "Help me up, will you?"

Doyle shifted, and Bodie got his feet on the floor. His injured ankle protested immediately.

"I'll need that cab, Ray."

Doyle reached for the phone and rang for a taxi. Then he disappeared into the bedroom to rummage in his jeans' pocket for the fare.

"When you get in," he called, "soak it and rest it -- or strap it up."

"Yes, Doctor," Bodie grinned, despite the pain.

Doyle emerged with a tatty fiver in his hand.

"I'll be over about dinner time if that's okay with you."

Anytime's okay with me, Ray...

"I'll expect you for lunch," Bodie promised.

Mrs. Roper watched as Doyle mounted the stairs for the umpteenth time, box in hand. She clucked and yapped at his heels like an excited terrier, and Doyle took it, only half-listening as she maligned Bodie.

"Lazy good-for-nothing layabout," she snorted, "leaving you to cart all 'is rubbish up them stairs...'

Doyle grinned and kept at it.

It was three o'clock before Bodie remembered that he had promised to collect Charlie. Doyle had passed out on the sofa, exhausted, and Bodie didn't have the heart to wake him. Instead, he grabbed his keys and hobbled to the door. His hand was on the lock when he stopped, hopped back to his partner's side, and kissed Doyle's forehead gently. Then, feeling guilty, he made his way slowly down to the Roper den.

The dragon must've been lying in wait for him because the door swung open as he reached the hallway, and he was given the dubious benefit of Mrs. Roper's opinion. He stoically endured it as long as he deemed necessary and then interrupted.

"I suppose that means I can't use the phone to call Kirstie."

Mrs. Roper was flummoxed.

"I was supposed to collect Charlie from her this morning," Bodie expanded.

She glared at him.

"Well, come in then, and call her. Don't stand there gawpin'."

Gritting his teeth, Bodie limped into the dragon's vestibule.

Kirstie gave him an ear-bashing, too, which he had to stand through. Eventually, though, she relented enough to agree to bring the baby over.

"I'll see you in half an hour," she promised. "Just make sure that you're really there THIS time." She hung up, and Bodie eyed the receiver ruefully. It really wasn't his day...

Back in his own apartment he found that Doyle was still sleeping, so he put the cot together on his own and doubled a blanket because he couldn't find the baby's bedclothes. He excavated another rug, which he shook out and covered Doyle with.

The doorbell went fifteen minutes later, and Bodie glanced at his partner. A snuffle and a half-grumble, and he had settled again. Bodie hopped over to the intercom and released the door catch.

Kirstie had Charlie neatly parcelled in a mini-jump suit and a shawl. The only indication of any life within the bright bundle was the erratic movement of the tiny bobble-hat at the top. Kirstie moved the corner of the cover, and the little face peeped out, all wide-eyed, from under it.

"Here he is," she announced, placing him in Bodie's waiting arms. "You know as babies go, I don't really like them, but I could make an exception in Charlie's case. The only time he really let rip was up here. Mrs. Roper said it was because of the cold. You'll have to watch that."

Bodie cradled the child awkwardly as he sank into the armchair.

"I expect Ray knows all about that."

Kirstie looked at the blanketed heap on the couch.

"Doyle's staying here?"

"Short-term," Bodie explained, "until he can find a place of his own."

"Does he know about Amsterdam?"

Bodie met her eyes.

"No." He glanced at Doyle briefly. "It's not important." He could still -- up until that morning at least -- run, still shoot -- do most of the things he'd done before... But he wouldn't be fit enough to go back to the squad as an operative, never be able to give Doyle the protection he would need on the streets, and that was a fact of life Bodie found most difficult to live with.

Charlie began to wriggle and fought one small hand free of the restricting shawl. A little foot landed squarely on Bodie's lap, and Kirstie giggled at the expression of consternation on his face.

"I'd better leave you two to get acquainted," she decided as she turned away.

"Kirstie -- " Charlie's other foot kicked him as the child squirmed and the hat fell over the chubby face.

Cautiously, Bodie tweaked it aside and found Doyle's eyes gazing at him solemnly...

Doyle rubbed his nose. It was itching where the blanket-edge caught him. He opened his eyes and blinked a couple of times, trying to remember where he was. Heaving himself onto his side, he looked across at Bodie who was slumped in the armchair under a strange, writhing mass of material.


One big hand seized the bundle and shook it gently in reprimand. Doyle was fascinated. He sat up. Bodie was still intent on the creature, in his lap, which was attempting to scale his chest with much panting and huffing.


Doyle yelped and shot across the room, hoisting his son free of the coverlet and hugging him close.

"Charlie." He kissed the tiny face and nuzzled at the little ears, which caused a gurgle of delight from the baby and a laugh from Bodie. "How did you -- Bodie?"

Bodie shrugged nonchalantly.

"Friends in low places -- " He beamed. "I -- er -- don't know if he needs changing..." But I've got a funny feeling I'm about to find out. Doyle perched on the arm of the chair, cuddling his kid.

"If Cowley ever finds out -- " he began.

"He won't," Bodie assured him.

"But -- with both of us working all day -- we'll need a baby-sitter, and I can't afford -- "

"You've still got to get fit," Bodie reminded him. "So you'll be at home for a few weeks. I'll put an advert in the paper, or something..."

Doyle smiled and choked back the lump that had risen in his throat. Bodie seemed to have an answer for everything -- there was no way he could begin to put into words what he was feeling at the moment, except that he knew he loved this man more than Bodie would ever know...

"Anyway, now you're here," grinned Bodie, "you can make yourself useful and get me a cup of coffee. No -- give Charlie to me." Bodie took the child back. "May as well get used to him if we're going to be flatmates..."

Smirking, Doyle senior disappeared into the kitchen.

It took five days for Doyle to realise that there was something wrong. Bodie's ankle wasn't healing as quickly as he thought it would, and so Doyle had taken to running alone in the earnings. He was always back well before eight, when Bodie left for work, and settled into the role of housekeeper without protest.

The nights got colder, and they had to use more blankets on their respective beds -- Bodie was engaged in an ongoing battle with the maintenance people over the heating while Doyle just got on with piling on the covers... That was how he found the bottle of tablets under Bodie's pillow.

Doyle knew his partner well enough to know he would not willingly resort to medication if he could avoid it, but judging from the contents -- or rather, the lack of -- Bodie must've been taking them regularly, and in large doses.

Concerned, he wrapped Charlie up and went to the local chemist, where he found that the pills were powerful pain-killers. When Bodie returned that night, Doyle confronted him.

"Well?" He shook the tiny bottle under his partner's nose.

Bodie sank into the sofa.

"Alright, my ankle's giving me hell. I saw the quack -- there's nothing sinister in that... "

But afterwards, Doyle kept a close watch on his partner and began to notice how stiffly Bodie was moving about the place. It crossed his mind that he should perhaps phone Cowley and inform him of his fears...

One of Doyle's favorite pastimes was to take his son out to the park, if it was fine. He would usually spend an hour walking round the paths, chatting to other parents, or just talking to the child. Invariably, when left alone with the boy, Doyle would tell his son about Bodie...

It was mid-afternoon when they got back and were waylaid by Mrs. Roper. She yapped on for a while, cooed over the baby, and mentioned -- in passing -- that Doyle's layabout flatmate had been home for some time. Concerned, Doyle had no qualm about asking her to keep an eye on Charlie, so that he could sort out his roommate.

With a sense of foreboding, he dashed up the stairs and entered the apartment quietly, pausing briefly to listen out for anything unusual. He crept to the door of Bodie's room, which was slightly ajar, and stopped again. He could hear the laboured breathing and the rustle of the bedclothes...

Bodie was sitting up, frantically rubbing his injured leg. He was naked to the waist, and sweat was streaming from him despite the lack of heating in the flat. One look at the agonised expression had Doyle kneeling on the mattress beside him, massaging the muscles beneath the tracksuit bottom.


"S'only cramp," gasped Bodie through gritted teeth. "It'll pass."

Doyle kept moving his hands firmly over the joint and up over Bodie's calf. It felt -- strange -- to his touch.

"You've lost a lot of muscle-bulk there, mate," he observed.

"Told you -- been behind a desk -- for two years. Didn't have a lot of time -- for runs and things. Christ, that hurts!"

"Being cold won't help it," Doyle told him. "Hot bath and a couple of extra blankets on your bed."

"I'll be okay," Bodie lied. He batted Doyle's hands away. "It's easing now." He lowered his eyes.

Doyle sat back on his haunches, willing his partner to look at him.

"Thanks for trying -- "

Doyle cupped Bodie's chin with one hand, tipping his head up.

"It's serious, isn't it? Whatever's wrong with you -- why don't you let me help?"

"There's nothing you can do," Bodie whispered hoarsely. "It's only cramp, Ray -- honest. Actually," he continued, "I think I will have that bath." He frowned. "Where's Charlie?"

"With the dragon. I'll take you to the bathroom, then I'll go and fetch him."

Bodie was tempted to tell his partner that he could make it to the bathroom on his own, but when he swung his feet to the floor, he knew his ankle wouldn't bear his weight. Doyle's arm came around his waist, and they took it slowly until they reached the side of the tub.

"Can you manage from here, or would you like me to stay?"

Bodie snorted.

"Think I know how to use one of these," he informed his mate. "You go and get Charlie."

Doyle turned on the taps for him anyway.

"I'll be back soon. Don't go 'way."

"And just where would I go without you?" Bodie demanded.

Doyle looked at him solemnly.

"Nowhere -- we belong together..."

With that, Doyle spun on his heel and walked out the door, leaving Bodie to wonder if he had heard that note of -- possessiveness -- in his partner's voice.

Deciding that he was reading more into Doyle's words than he should, Bodie stripped and slid into the water, letting the heat unlock stiffened muscles. He rubbed his hands over his scarred limbs, easing them gradually.

All too soon, he knew, Doyle would be back to help him out of the bath, and then he would see -- would know... Bodie pulled the plug and reached for his robe, banking on the Roper dragon cornering his defenceless partner for at least ten minutes. Gingerly, he put his injured foot to the floor, gritting his teeth as he did so.


Doyle was standing in the doorway staring at Bodie's legs.

Bodie swallowed and lifted his swollen ankle. Doyle stepped forward and slipped his arm round (Bodie's) waist once more, draping Bodie's arm over his shoulder.

"Let's get you settled," he growled, "and then, you're going to tell me who turned you into a jigsaw -- AREN'T YOU?"

Bodie hung his head and said nothing.

Doyle got him to the master bedroom and dumped him on the edge of the mattress where he briskly rubbed away the excess moisture. A gentle push flattened Bodie, and Doyle went to retrieve another towel from the airing cupboard for Bodie's legs.

For his part, Bodie endured his partner's ministrations -- the expression on Doyle's face at variance with the delicate treatment his body was receiving.

"Well?" Doyle demanded.

"Bomb blast at a security meeting," Bodie confessed, sitting up.

"Amsterdam," guessed Doyle. He remembered reading about it in the papers a few months ago. It never occurred to him that Bodie might have been involved."Why didn't you say something?" He sat down beside Bodie on the bed.

"No point. I'm healing -- didn't want you to get -- worried," Bodie finished lamely, refusing to meet those blazing eyes.

Doyle knocked him flat again and pinned him to the mattress.

"Oh, that's bloody fantastic! You nearly got yourself blown to kingdom come, you're taking tablets like there's no tomorrow -- and you expect me to sit by and let it happen... You're a stupid, stubborn, pigheaded, obstinate -- " he paused for breath and watched as the corners of Bodie's mouth turned down, " -- beautiful prat, and I love you."

He stared as his last statement sunk in and, as Bodie got ready to reply, he bent his head and kissed the parted lips gently, surprising them both.

Bodie put an unsteady hand to his mouth.


For a moment, Doyle's mind cleared, and he thought that he'd made the most terrible mistake of his life -- then Bodie pulled him down and kissed him back, almost shyly, and he was lost in the sensation of warm, hard muscle holding, and soft skin brushing, him. It seemed like an eternity before he came up for air. Bodie was breathing hard beneath him, and he discovered he was lying between the scarred limbs, his weight pressing his partner into the mattress. He moved to get up, but Bodie tightened his hold.

"Your legs," murmured Doyle.

"Bugger 'em!" Bodie's voice was muffled as he buried his face at Doyle's throat.

"Rather bugger you," Doyle giggled breathily, before he realised what he'd said.

Bodie looked up, his expression one of hope. He looked so...

"Would you -- really?"

Doyle's stomach tightened in anticipation, and with a jolt, he admitted to himself that he had wanted this for a very long time. He touched his mouth to Bodie's again.

"If you think you could stand it..."

"It's better if you lie down," Bodie told him softly.

Doyle chuckled.

"Well, shift over, and give a man some room..."

He scrambled off his partner, taking care not to hit his legs, and Bodie shunted up the bed, settling against the pillows. He held out his arms, and Doyle went down into them, eager to explore his lover's body. Bodie closed his eyes and felt a shaky hand tug at the tie of his robe. He sneaked a hand between their bodies to help.

Doyle pushed soft cotton aside and skimmed his fingers over his partner's skin while he gazed down his mate's body, lapping at the pulse in Bodie's throat, the rosy nipples, that he made a note to explore further, and on across the taut belly.

Bodie was swollen, ready for loving -- Doyle only hesitated for a moment, then he pressed his lips to hard flesh. A shudder shot through the body beneath him. He risked a glance. Bodie's hands were twisting in the duvet cover, his eyes were closed, his breath short, and he was biting at his lip, trying not to cry out.

"Bodie?" Doyle's voice was husky. He had to know if Bodie wanted this as much as he did. "Shall I?"

Bodie's head jerked -- he was too close for coherent thought -- and the mouth that covered him finished it. He groaned as he came, spending himself in long bursts that threatened to choke Doyle with their intensity. He was dimly aware of soft hands on his hips and gentle kisses on his stomach. He pried his eyes open and met Doyle's level gaze -- it looked as if Doyle was in shock. He held out his arms, and Doyle crawled up into the welcme embrace.

Bodie touched his mouth to the furrowed brow, eyelids and the bridge of his nose.

"Ray? What's wrong, love?"

Doyle wriggled against him.

"Never done it with a bloke before -- never wanted to..." He looked up, seeking Bodie's eyes. "Bodie? Does that mean I'm gay?"

"If you are, then so am I," Bodie replied.

Doyle squirmed uncomfortably, trying to ease the pressure in his own groin.

"Let me do it for you," Bodie offered.

"Can you kneel?" asked Doyle hopefully.

Bodie kissed him idly.

"No, but if you take your clothes off, I've got an idea that might work."

Doyle rolled free and stripped, stopping when he reached his underpants. He eyed his partner suspiciously, but there was no wicked gleam, no telltale smirk, and he dropped his briefs on the floor before returning to Bodie. His cock was throbbing with anticipation.

Bodie shifted on the mattress and patted the bed on either side of him.

"Kneel over me, Ray..."

Doyle obeyed, a little unsure of himself. Bodie took him into his mouth, sliding strong hands up corded thighs, kneading muscle, and willing Doyle to work with him. Encouraged by Bodie's fingers, Doyle thrust harder. He came suddenly, with a cry of surprise, and felt Bodie swallow greedily. Afterwards, he lay with his face buried at Bodie's shoulder.

"Could get used to being gay, with you," he confided in a shaky whisper.

It was, Bodie decided, time to level with him.

"I've wanted to do that to you for a long time, Ray. I knew it'd be good..."

"How long?" Doyle wanted to know. "How long've you wanted me?"

"Remember the day we arrested Charles Holly..."

Doyle could recall that day -- and the subsequent events in stark detail.

"You were hurting, and I couldn't give you what you needed... "

"Wish you'd said," sighed Doyle. "You should've kissed me...or something..."

Bodie shook his head.

"You were drunk. I -- didn't want it like that. I wanted you to know -- this isn't a one-off. I love you. I want you to love me."

"I do," breathed Doyle. "God help me, but I think I've always loved you. Even before I met Ann. You were the only one I could ever turn to... wish I'd had the sense to see that, instead of going back to find her..."

"But then you wouldn't've had Charlie... Where is he?"

Doyle snuggled up.

"With the dragon... She's happy to keep an eye on him -- I'll rescue him in a minute." He sighed contently. "Just want to be close to you for a while..."

Bodie heaved an equally contented sigh, cuddling him unashamedly.

"I'm glad we've got him," he murmured. "Hard to believe I was ever jealous of him..."

Doyle raised his head.

"You -- jealous of Charlie?'

"All the attention you paid him -- stupid, innit?"

Doyle kissed him.

"No." He lay back. "You know, I learned something important. I tried to reach you at your hotel last week, when I thought the authorities had taken him. They told me you'd gone -- I thought I'd lost you, too, and that hurt worse than thinking I'd never get Charlie back." He struggled up to where he could watch Bodie's face. "I could stand Ann going away, and if they take Charlie, I'd survive somehow, but if you walked out on me..."

"I won't," Bodie assured him. "Wouldn't run away from you even if I could!" He eyed his legs ruefully.

"What are your chances of making the physical?"

Bodie shook his head again.

"I don't know. Some days, I think I could scrape through, others, I'm just going through the motions..."

"Can't the doctors do anything for you?"

"Tidy the scars, take out some of the pins, when the bones have knitted properly. They tell me I'll lead a normal life -- home, car, have kids -- most people would never know, unless I walk past an X-ray machine at the airport..."

"Do you want to go back to the streets?"

"I want to work with you," replied Bodie. "Don't care what we do, as long as we're together. We're a team, Ray, you and me -- we belong together."

Doyle slithered up the bed and kissed him soundly.

"We'll be together," he promised. "When you can stand properly, we'll go training at the gym and start building up your muscles again..." He scrambled to his knees.

"Where're you going?" Bodie asked plaintively.

"To rescue Charlie." Doyle dropped a tiny kiss on the petulant mouth. "I won't be long, so you can take that look off your face..."

Doyle scooped up his jeans and pulled them over his behind. Then, he turned round and threw the duvet over his partner and tucked him in, much to Bodie's amusement. He caressed one beginning-to- darken cheek before he disappeared dragonward.

"Keep it warm for me, love... I'll be back soon."

They spent the night together in one room -- the baby in the cot, the two men wrapped round each other, snug and warm. Doyle surfaced first, to find himself with an armful of solid, sleeping Bodie. The look of innocence on his companion's face, before the cynical mask went on as Bodie woke, was worth more than gold to Doyle. He touched his lips to Bodie's and pulled him closer still.

"Morning, lover."

Bodie's cheeks flushed at the endearment. They WERE lovers -- two people in love, who made love... Bodie kissed him back.

"Ray -- my little ray of sunshine," he giggled.

Doyle groaned and prodded him in the ribs.

"How's the ankle?"

Bodie lifted the bedclothes and rotated it experimentally. He winced as it cracked sharply.

"Looks like you'll be running on your own again."

Doyle kissed him and clambered off the bed. He picked up one of the robes from the floor and excavated Charlie from his nest of blankets. The baby whimpered a little as Doyle took him through to the bathroom.

Bodie settled back against the pillows, smiling dreamily at the ceiling. Ray Doyle -- his partner -- his LOVER -- living together, sleeping together, sharing their lives... He could take on the world this morning, and he knew he'd win... He had dozed off by the time Doyle and Charlie returned.

A wicked grin spread over the older man's face as he crept to the bedside, and put the now-sleeping Charlie in beside his partner. He hastily pulled on his tracksuit, filched Bodie's keys -- having misplaced his own -- and stepped out into the morning.

Running was always a pleasure, a paradoxical way to relax and stay alert. Doyle strode out easily, feeling happier than he had been for a long time -- for almost three years, he thought... In the early days of his marriage, he'd had Bodie during the day, and Ann had been there for him at night... And remembering Ann, he recalled that he hadn't been back to the flat to collect his mail. What the heck, he could drop by when he took Charlie for his walk. He lengthened his stride, suddenly anxious to be home when Bodie woke up and found Charlie in bed beside him...

He finished his run with a sprint, dashing up the front steps into the apartment block. He leapt for the stairs, gaining the comparative safety of the landing before Bodie's dragon emerged. Opening the door, he slid inside and leaned against the wall, catching his breath. He listened for a moment to his own panting, wondering if Bodie had heard him come in. But there was no telltale sound to betray his partner's where-abouts -- probably still in bed, figured Doyle, as he headed for the bedroom. What he saw there made him pause.

Bodie was asleep, alright, naked, with the covers protecting his modesty... and lying on top of him, face pressed to the pale chest, Charlie was sleeping to the rhythm of Bodie's heart, held by gentle hands. Doyle felt the sudden surge of love and swallowed the lump in his throat. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to wake his partner and make love to him... Stripping swiftly, he burrowed into warm sheets that smelled of sex and Bodie and baby shampoo, crowding close to the sleepers. One large hand left Charlie and came to draw him into an embrace. Doyle kissed the bit of skin nearest his mouth as he settled down and dozed off...

"What's that?"

Bodie glanced up from his book, gesturing at the carrier bags in his partner's hands.

"I was passing the supermarket -- we were running out of food..." He dumped his purchases on the sofa.

"You were gone a long time." Bodie held out his hand.

Grinning, Doyle took it and was pulled down into his lover's lap.

"Miss me?"

"No. Should I've?" teased Bodie, weaving his fingers into the curls. He brushed the silvery temples with his lips. "Course I did," he breathed.

Doyle turned his head, touching his mouth to Bodie's.


Strong arms went around his waist, and he wriggled to get comfortable, his long legs dangling over the arm of the chair.

"Am I too heavy for you?"

Bodie kissed him again.

"Skinny sod like you? Never!"

Once, Doyle would have bounced on him for a remark like that, or settled the inevitable dispute with his fists. Now, he had Bodie's injuries to consider -- and there were other things between them that had changed for the better.

"I dropped off at the flat. There was a pile of mail -- bills mostly," he groaned.

Bodie held out his hand.

"They're my responsibility," Doyle said quietly. "Mine and Ann's."

"You're broke," Bodie pointed out shamelessly. "That means you'll either have to overdraw at the bank, or be taken to court for non- payment. As we're partners, I'M responsible for you -- so hand 'em over, Ray."

Reluctantly, Doyle fished into his jacket pocket and pulled out a sheaf of envelopes. There was one very official-looking letter from a solicitor. He passed over the lot. Bodie dropped them into Doyle's lap and began to sort them one-handed, holding his lover close. The personal letters he gave straight back; the bills he slid between them, and the solicitor's letter he hung onto.

"Want to open it?" he asked anxiously, watching Doyle's expression.

"It's probably about the divorce," sighed Doyle. And Charlie... His hands shook a little as he tore it open raggedly. There was a single typed sheet inside, together with a smaller white envelope addressed in Ann's neat writing. Doyle scanned the covering letter as he slipped hers into his pocket.

"All correspondence to be addressed 'care of...' She's left the country..."

"New York..."

"They've been on at her for months to go. I didn't fancy -- oh, hell!" There was a catch in his voice. "I was holding her here. We might have lasted longer if I'd said yes -- England's home, and I didn't want to be too far from you..." He laughed sadly. "Talk about being torn between two lovers..."

Bodie felt a huge lump of ice forming in his stomach -- Ray, feeling guilty about the divorce... and he had only been fooling himself that he was wanted as a lover -- Doyle just needed someone to hold him in the night -- a body to use to slake his passions while he got over Ann -- and Bodie was convenient... He fought to steady his nerves and was surprised at how normal he sounded when he finally spoke.

"It's not irrevocable. You could go to her, make her see, make her understand -- offer her a compromise..."

Doyle shook his head.

"It's too late. The time for talking is long past." He frowned and turned to Bodie. "Anyway, I thought you were glad she's gone."

"If she's the one you want," Bodie tried to choose his words with care, fighting the glacier building inside him, "if she's the one who makes you happy, you should go to her -- do whatever it takes to keep her..." It hurt to say those words, to see the expression on Doyle's face. His own heart was already aching with loss...

"I don't believe I'm hearing this," Doyle whispered hoarsely. "Are you telling me I should go back to her? Pick up the phone, talk to her, plead with her to come back? Are you suggesting I get on a plane for New York, go to her in person and tell her, in front of witnesses, that I need her, that I want her back in my life, as my lover, my wife -- my -- whatever... Is THAT what you think I ought to do?"

Bodie swallowed the lump in his throat and nodded.

"If that's what it takes to make you happy, Ray, yes. Do all those things -- "

Doyle shot up out of the chair and swung round, his eyes blazing.

"And what about US? I thought you loved me!" he yelled. "I really thought we had something good going -- You -- you -- " He shook his head vigourously, spun on his heel, and made for the door.

"Ray -- " Bodie was on his feet before he remembered his injured ankle, and he swore as the pain lanced through his abused leg straight to his groin. "Ray -- wait!" But the door had banged shut behind Doyle, and in the bedroom, the baby woke and started to cry.

It was almost midnight when Doyle returned to the flat he had called home for the past week or so. He let himself in quietly and paused, fumbling for the light-switch. The lounge was neat and clean -- the only difference between now and earlier was the tidy stack of letters on the coffee table... He picked up the first envelope -- electricity board. The second was for water... telephone bill, T.V. license, maintenance people -- Christ, he'd done the lot! There was no way he could allow Bodie to pay HIS debts. Doyle stormed into the bedroom, intent on having it out with his partner once and for all.


He stopped just inside the door. He glared at the figure huddled in the middle of the bed and shivered suddenly. It hadn't registered until that moment how cold the flat was. There was a small movement from the mound of covers and a muffled whimper.

"Bodie?" Doyle's voice was softer this time, edged with fear. "Sweetheart, are you alright?"

Another wriggle and a sob.

Doyle knelt up on the bed and carefully peeled back the duvet. Charlie was lying in the curve of Bodie's body, kicking restlessly. Doyle took his son in his arms and placed him in the cot in the corner.

"You'd better not've peed in my bed," he admonished gently, as he laid the child to rest.

Doyle stripped in record time and dived into the spot that Charlie had vacated, snuggling up to Bodie's naked body. The dipping of the mattress broke in on Bodie's rest. He half-opened his eyes and blinked at the intruder.

"What're you doin' here?" he mumbled.

"Live here, don't I." Doyle pressed closer. "Make love to me, Bodie. I want you to..."

The tablets were having their usual effect, slowing reflexes, dulling reactions -- Bodie closed his eyes and shook his head. He wrapped one arm around the bony shoulders and tucked Doyle under the coverlet.

"Shurrup 'n' go 'sleep, sunshine..." Bodie closed his eyes and passed out.

With an exasperated sigh, Doyle settled down to join him.

Bodie came awake, crushed against Doyle's flank. He vaguely recalled Doyle coming to bed and soft words... must've been dreaming... Ray'd been furious when he left that evening, so... what was he doing here now? And where the hell was Charlie? He raised his head, and Doyle yawned inelegantly, loosening his hold long enough to let Bodie struggle onto his back before hauling him close and hugging him hard.

Lips were at his cheek, curly head bearing down on his neck, licking, caressing, teeth nipping... Doyle slithered across to lie on top of him, an angular knee parting his legs gently. Bodie cooperated, and found Doyle charting his way downwards... He closed his eyes, with a contented sigh, and felt his erection swell... The bedding shifted, bringing a welcome cool to his hot skin -- Doyle had homed in on the distended flesh, and Bodie wondered if his partner was quite as inexperienced as he'd claimed -- for a novice, he was doing a first-class job... Doyle was stroking him now, and a tongue caressed the head of his cock. Bodie shivered with delight. A hot, warm mouth took him in and sucked him harder, while a careful hand cradled his balls. A whimper escaped his lips, and Doyle withdrew... Bodie opened his eyes.

"Ray? Don't stop!" he begged.

Doyle sat up, straddling his hips.

"Shall I make you come?" he teased.

"Yes -- yes!"

Doyle moved then, but not the way he expected. He took Bodie's slick penis in hand and gently lowered himelf onto it, guiding it into his body. He paused at the initial sensation of the pain, but pushed on, determined to prove himself to his lover.

Bodie watched the play of emotions over his mate's face in horrified fascination. Then he was inside tight, hot muscle and felt himself throbbing. Doyle's buttocks touched down on his hips, and he heard the tiny gasp.

"That's it! You're in me! I've got it all, Bodie," panted Doyle. "Christ, you're big!"

"Ray..." Bodie swallowed, still not believing that he was...

Doyle took hold of his own straining flesh and began to stroke, unconsciously massaging Bodie with his anal muscles as he worked. Bodie's hands came to join his, bringing him to screaming pitch. He groaned and shuddered as his control snapped -- beneath him, Bodie bucked like a stallion as he climaxed. It seemed to last forever, then they were coming down... Bodie slipped free as he softened... Doyle collapsed into two strong arms and a barrage of kisses. He lay, utterly spent, sprawling on his partner in a sticky puddle of his own semen, half aware of Bodie fishing for the covers... He was wrapped in a warm cocoon, and Bodie's voice was lulling him to sleep, telling him how much he was loved... Doyle cuddled up, thinking 'I'm all yours now...'

There were more kisses when he woke again, and fingers trickling down his aching back. He raised his tousled head and smiled drowsily at his lover. Bodie's mouth touched his briefly, and he slid his arms round Doyle's body as far as he could reach, holding them together.

"Mornin', sweetheart," he croaked. "How d'you feel?"

"Suffocated!" Doyle's eyebrow rose. "Bloody boa constrictor!"

Abashed, Bodie let him go and folded his arms behind his head. With a grunt, Doyle rolled off his partner and propped himself on one elbow, gazing into his lover's face. There was an air of hurt about Bodie... Doyle leaned over and kissed the downturned corner of his mouth.

"Shan't love you if you sulk," he teased.

"You -- don't love me," Bodie whispered hoarsely.

"What d'you mean?" Doyle was mystified.

"This -- " Bodie indicated the bed. "You love Ann -- she's the one...I just got you on the rebound..."

"How the HELL can you lie there and say that!" Doyle looked aghast. "After what we did -- don't you understand, I love you, Bodie, not Ann. Why d'you think I wanted -- I did -- what happened last night -- this morning...it's you I want. Ann's gone. You're all that matters now -- you and Charlie..." He paused for breath, calming himself a little before continuing. "I went back to the flat -- I opened her letter. She's going to stay in New York, get her own apartment. She wants to sell up here as quickly as possible. She isn't going to fight over Charlie, so I can keep him... Bodie -- " He looked into the blue-grey eyes. "If you don't want us here, all you have to do is say so. I can move out right now..."

"Want you?" echoed Bodie. "I told you, I love you, Ray. Course I bloody want you! Don't think I could live without you hanging 'round somewhere, but Ann's..."

Doyle shut him up with a kiss, locking one hand in the dark mane to anchor him.

"Then I stay," he said softly, when he'd finished. He withdrew, to lay back on the bed at his lover's side, groping for Bodie's hand. "God, my back's aching. Hope it gets better with practice, or I'll need a season ticket for the osteopath!"

Bodie swallowed. Doyle was being perfectly serious. He frowned. It had been his first time, he may've been hurt inside, too.

"How's your backside?"

"Bit sore, but it's -- " Doyle never got the chance to finish. A flurry of sheets, and he was flipped onto his belly -- Bodie was running his hand over his buttocks. He shivered.

"Ray? Hurt?"

"No -- nice." He wriggled appreciatively, then yelped as a finger probed him.

Semen had leaked to dry between Doyle's legs, but there was no telltale traces of blood, for which Bodie was grateful. He patted Doyle gently and stroked over the pale brown skin, enjoying the texture and warmth.

"You're beautiful," Bodie told him, as he lay down on top of him. "Always liked being close to you." His lips grazed Doyle's shoulder, eliciting a contented sigh. "Am I too heavy for you?"

"Nooo..." Doyle replied dreamily. "Just right. Stay there for a while."

There was a wail frorn the cot -- Doyle groaned, and Bodie buried his face at the nape of his neck, laughing.

"Daddy, your son wants his breakfast!"

He rolled off to his own side of the bed, and Doyle struggled out, wincing a little as he moved, and grumbling about Charlie's lack of tact. Bodie grinned as his partner picked the child up.

"Look on the bright side, sunshine. when he's old enough to go out with girls, we can ruin HIS timing!"

Day turned into weeks. Bodie's ankle healed and he began training with Doyle, while Mrs. Roper took charge of Charlie. They returned to the C.I.5 ranges for target practice, betting against one another and generally breaking even. Doyle could still out-shoot Bodie with a handgun -- Bodie bettered him with a rifle. Cowley had reports sent regularly on his former agent's progress. It appeared that Bodie was a good influence on his ex-partner.

Six weeks after the disastrous interview with Hazel Marcus, Doyle was called for another meeting with the welfare people. Bodie went along to wait with him. Both men were nervous, but Bodie presented a confident face for his lover's sake -- a lot might happen as a result of this appointment -- Doyle might not make it into the squad or they might still take Charlie away from them -- or, worst of all, was the possibility that he and Ray may be parted... As soon as Doyle went into the interview room, Bodie headed for the toilets.

In the corridor, he ran into Cowley.

The older man regarded him carefully before tersely ordering him to follow.

Bodie went, wondering what the hell was going on. He sat in the proffered chair obediently, and waited while Cowley poured the drinks. He placed his whisky, untouched, on the edge of the desk.

"What's this about, sir?"

Cowley limped around to his own seat.

"You've been training with Doyle. What's your assessment of him physically?"

Bodie suppressed his smile, as the thought came unbidden -- a lover in a million.

"He's as good as he was before. I can't fault him on his fitness."

"And emotionally?"

"That's Dr. Ross' area of expertise."

"Och, Bodie. I'm asking YOU! You've been living with him for a month. I want your opinion. Is he stable enough to come back and work with us?"

US? Bodie latched onto the word.

"He's stopped drinking, he's gone on a strict diet, worked like a nig- navvy, sir. He's calmer -- I think he's fit to be reinstated."

Cowley deliberated for a moment.

"If -- and I stress that word IF -- he should pass his physical and come back on strength, what provision has he made for the child?"

"We already have a baby-sitter, sir," Bodie smiled.

"And if anything were to happen to Doyle in the course of his duties, who would look after him then? Doyle's wife intends living in America."

"We haven't discussed it yet," Bodie admitted. "I assumed that Ann would have Charlie -- but, if anything happened to Ray, I'd take care of the kid."

Cowley raised an eyebrow, and Bodie smiled self-consciously.

"Doyle's my best mate, Charlie's his son," he shrugged. "You take care of your own."

That remark caused a small smile.

"Aye, laddie, we do... Now, what about you?"

Bodie sighed.

"I'm as fit as I'm ever going to be, sir..." I'm glad for Ray -- I wish I could get back to working the streets with him.

"We'll see," Cowley mused. "You have an appointment with the specialist tomorrow morning."

"But why?" protested Bodie. "I've finished my treatment!"

"Because I say so, Bodie. If he deems you fit to go back to active duty, you will join Doyle on an intensive training programme, and -- Bodie, are you listening to me?"

Bodie couldn't control his manic grin.

"Yes, sir. Every word, sir!"

Cowley eyed him and sighed exasperatedly.

"Och, get out, and take your partner with you!"

Bodie needed no second bidding.


Cowley shook his head at the child dozing in his chair. He wondered idly if it had been Bodie's idea to leave the boy while he got on with his reports, or if Charlie had made his own way into the office... He smiled indulgently -- turn your back for a moment and one of them was bound to be up to mischief...

Cowley went to pour himself a drink as he contemplated the sleeping toddler. Charlie Doyle was, by all accounts, a handful, running both his former agents ragged. And yet -- Cowley raised his glass -- they were thriving on it. Parenthood had steadied them, made them mellow, more tolerant, qualities he had once almost despaired of finding in either of them...

Teamwork, he concluded, theirs had been the partnership that was destined to last the longest of all C.I.5's pairings -- although, he reflected, he had never intended that Bodie and Doyle should become lovers...

Charlie woke and yawned. He blinked up at the old man watching him and slithered to the floor, landing with a bump on the carpet. Grabbing at the nearest solid object -- the table leg -- he hauled himself upright, gazing round solemnly.

A knock at the door, and Bodie came in, shadowed by his partner.

"Told you he'd be up here," remarked Bodie, as he gathered Charlie in his arms. Little hands grasped at the leather jacket, and the boy writhed against the blackclad chest. "Sorry, sir, was he bothering you?"

"No," Cowley assured them.

"Makes a change," quipped Bodie. "Here, you take him, Ray, he's your son!"

They turned to leave, and Cowley listened to their banter as they started down the corridor.

"Why is it," Doyle wanted to know, as he took the squirming child, "that whenever he does something naughty, he's MY son, and when he does something good, he's YOUR Charlie?"

"Bad breeding on your part, and natural talent on mine!" teased Bodie.

Cowley missed Doyle's retort to THAT particular allegation, but he chuckled drily and limped over to sit in his recently-vacated chair. It occurred to him that if Charlie ever joined C.I.5, he would probably make a fine operative, although, with Ray Doyle and BODIE as parents, he'd be more than a little lawless... what a legacy to leave to his successor! Cowley toasted the boy and his family in their absence.

Bodie drove them home.

It was autumn now, and the leaves were turning golden brown as the year mellowed and died. The napkin lawn was waiting for its final trim before the frost set in, and around the borders, on the rose bushes, many blooms still lingered: white, pink, a lilac-colored Blue Moon, and the deep red of the Josephine Bruce -- Doyle's choice, Bodie knew, and he smiled. Typical Ray, ever the romantic. He would well-remember teasing his partner over the bouquet of flowers to Ann -- was it really four years ago? A lot had happened to them both since that night -- not all of it good -- but the main thing was that they were together again, both at work, and here at home. For once, Bodie could say, they were truly happy. He stepped out into the garden, basking in the last rays of the sunshine... A gentle hand dropped on his shoulder.

"Penny for 'em?"

Bodie covered Doyle's hand with his and sighed.

"Just thinking about how fast this year has flown -- how good it's been..."

"Who for?"

Bodie wrinkled his nose at his lover's appalling grammar.

"Everyone -- you, coming back, me landing that new job as trainer -- "

"REMEDIAL trainer," Doyle corrected, sliding his free arm about his partner's waist. "Very important to get it right, sunshine... Bringing us lowly agents back to peak fitness after illness, injury or bereavement... You did a bloody good job with me, mate..."

Bodie smiled and turned to put his arms round Doyle's lithe frame.

"I had the best reason in the world," he confided. He hugged Doyle briefly, then leaned forward, broke off one of the half-blown roses at his lover's shoulder, and presented it. Doyle's fingers closed round his and, for a moment, they stood in silent contemplation.

"Anniversary present?"

"No reason," Bodie whispered, "except that I love you."

Doyle kissed him.

"You," he accused, "are getting romantic in your old age. I love you, too."

Bodie cuddled him again, pressing his lips close to Doyle's ear.

"Let's go to bed, Ray -- Cowley's bloody computer run can wait -- but I can't! " He pushed his groin against Doyle's thigh and was pleased when an answering movement told him that his lover was also aroused.

"Come on, sweetheart," breathed Doyle. "We can do -- "

The ominous sound of a crash from the second bedroom startled them both, and Doyle groaned aloud. The expression on his face made Bodie laugh.

"There goes your son again, Ray..." He gave Doyle a shove back towards the living room. "Let's go and sort him out..."

-- THE END --

With thanks to E.C. for the inspiration, and Richard Bach for the wisdom.

"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life."

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home