He watched Ann's car pull away. Stood in the middle of the street knowing there was nothing he could do, the feeling of it welling up in his chest, constricting his throat.

Then he felt a hand on his shoulder. Bodie. "I'm sorry, Ray."

He pushed the arm away, angry. "Leave me alone, damn you," he shouted, stalking off, realizing even as he moved that he had nowhere to go. He stopped, turned back. His partner's face was patient, open. "Aw, Bodie." He felt lost, hearing his own voice breaking, unable to say more.

But Bodie was already coming up beside him, putting an arm on his shoulder again, leading him. "Come on, mate, I'll buy you a drink." His voice was low, careful.

There was a pub down the street, almost empty in midday. Bodie found them a booth in the corner. "What'll you have, Ray?" he asked after Doyle had slid into his seat.

Doyle couldn't seem to think. Ann. Don't leave me. I need you.

"Ray? Vodka and tonic? Scotch?"

Doyle nodded, not really hearing. I had to be sure. It's my job. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the high wood backing of the booth.

The sound of clinking icecubes made him look down. Bodie was sitting across from him, sipping at a pint of bitter. "Vodka and tonic. Ice is beginning to melt," he said. "Figure you're in no shape for the undiluted variety at the moment."

Doyle picked up the drink and gulped half of it down. "I'm going to be lousy company."

Bodie arched an eyebrow and smirked. "Really?"

"She was right. I should have trusted her; should have shown her I trusted her." He finished his drink in a few quick swallows. "What's wrong with me, Bodie?" he asked into his glass.

"Hmm. Well now, where shall I begin?"

Doyle glanced across the table. Bodie was looking at his watch with a half smile. "Don't know if I could finish the list before closing time." The blue eyes met his and the little smile dissolved. "For chrissakes, Ray. Nothing's wrong with you, except maybe you take every damn thing too seriously." His tone softened. "You and Ann just weren't right for each other. Happens. It's better you found out sooner than later. You'll get over it. There'll be other birds."

"Everything's bloody simple for you, innit?" He didn't wait for an answer. "What would you know about it anyway? Hit and run, that's your style. Love 'em and leave 'em. No, scratch that; fuck 'em and leave 'em. How would you know how it feels, eh?"

Bodie only shrugged, a finger rapping silently against the side of his glass.

"I'm getting another drink." Doyle pushed himself up and went to the bar. He half expected Bodie to be gone when he came back, but he wasn't. He was still there, slouched in his seat, sipping idly at his ale.

Doyle sat down and hunched over his drink. "Sorry. Told you I'd be lousy company."

"It's okay. Wasn't too far from the truth."

Doyle forced himself to meet the unwavering blue gaze. He shook his head, feeling very tired. Feeling the loneliness creep closer. "You were right, you know. Ann was too good for me. I should have known it."

"I lied."

The flat, unblinking statement took him offguard. "What?"

"She wasn't right for you. There's a big difference. You've got bloody poor taste in women, sunshine."

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I said. If I gave you the chance, you'd pick 'em right out of Ballbreakers General Service Catalogue."

Doyle gulped at his drink, anger flashing. "What the hell are you talking about?! Ann was the best thing that ever...and what do you mean if you gave me the chance?!"

There was a pause. "Nothing. Forget it."

"No. Go on, I want to hear it."

Bodie's mouth tightened, then he let out a sigh. "Look, you've been hurt. So maybe you wanna get mad, wanna punch somebody out. Okay. I'm it. Let's find you an alley and I'll beat you senseless. Do you a world of good. Make you feel much better. Is that what you want?"

"I want you to bloody answer my question."

Bodie stared at him with that infuriatingly bland expression that always told him nothing. It made Doyle want to jump up and find that alley. See who'd beat who senseless. And you kill people, do you? Ann's words struck out at him, draining the anger away in an instant. He lowered his head, suddenly filled with images of her face, smiling, thoughtful, laughing. The soft feel of her in his arms. The tender loving. The final vision of glistening tears and bleak disappointment. He linked his hands over his face, shielding his eyes like a visor.

"Don't do this to yourself, Ray."

The voice drew him back, but he couldn't move. "I'm glad you don't know how it feels, Bodie. I wouldn't wish it on you." If only he could block out her face, her words. The loving. Stop the ache of thinking about it.

"I know how you feel."

It took a moment to register, for his brain to grasp the simple phrase. "You never met a girl like Ann," he said, the words an echo.

"No. Different, but the feeling's the same."

Doyle let his hands drop to the table. He thought a moment, searching his memory, actually grateful to divert his concentration. It was a rather amazing thing for Bodie to say. "Oh. The girl... Krivas killed."

The silence that followed made him look up into Bodie's face.

The dark brows were knitted into a frown, expression distant, remembering. "She was beautiful. I was 19. I loved her as much as anyone could love someone beautiful when they're 19." The frown vanished, replaced by a wry almost-smile. "I settled that score with Krivas." He shook his head.

"Someone else then?" Doyle felt an unexpected curiosity.

Bodie shifted in his seat and picked up his glass, taking his first full swallow. He nodded just a fraction.

The recollection dawned, bringing with it a vague, unresolved shame that made Doyle hang his head. "Marrika." He could feel Bodie's eyes on him and Ann's voice rose in his mind, haunting him again. But you checked me out, didn't you... I was foolish enough to think that you could change. Oh god.

"I suppose I used to be as good at picking them as you."

He heard Bodie move to stand up. Opening old wounds. Doyle could hardly blame him for wanting to leave. "See you. Thanks for the drink," he managed to blurt, still unable to look up.

"I'm just getting a packet of crisps. Haven't had lunch, or breakfast, if you'll recall."

Confused, Doyle glanced up, but Bodie was already across the pub, talking with the barkeep. He came back to the booth and threw the small bag down in the center of the table.

"I thought... Marrika. I didn't mean to dredge it up." Doyle tried to explain.

Bodie fished out a crisp, followed it with a long draw on his pint. "You store up guilt by the tankload, Ray. How do you manage to function hauling all that about, eh?" He grabbed a handful of crisps and went on. "Yeh, sure, Marrika was special, but not in the way you think. Games. We played at them. Good times and masquerades. I was out to prove something. Prove to myself she couldn't let me down twice. Stupid. Only cost her her life. I don't know if you'd call that love. I wouldn't."

There was more in Bodie's eyes, but Doyle couldn't read it. "If it's not Marrika, then who..." He briefly considered the possibility that Bodie was making it all up. No. Not this time. He was certain of that much.

"Better get at your drink, or are you making a new hobby out of watching the ice melt?"

Doyle picked up his vodka and tonic and sipped at it obediently. He had something else to think about, a puzzle to occupy his brain, hold off the feeling of loss a little longer. "Do I know her?"

"What's this then, twenty questions? Hell, Cowley's probably putting out an APB on me by now. I bloody walked out of the interrogation."

His partner rushed the words out forcefully, but Doyle sensed the smokescreen. "If Cowley wanted either of us, he'd had us collared and standing in front of his desk listening to one of his CI5 sermonettes right this minute." He decided to try another tack. "Did she...walk out on you?"

Bodie rolled his eyes upward as though summoning divine patience. "No. Never knew how I felt. Now, can we talk about something else? This is getting to be a bore, mate."

The answer surprised Doyle, sparking his curiosity even more. "You mean you never told her?" Unrequited love and Bodie! It was almost funny.

The object of his question polished off his bitter before finally replying, with a trace of annoyance. "It wouldn't have worked. I don't fancy setting myself up for rejection." He pointed to Doyle's glass. "Are you going to drink that or not?"

"Hmm? Oh." He nodded and picked up his vodka.

"I may as well get a half a pint then."

While Bodie was at the bar, Doyle raced a parade of pretty faces through his mind's eye. His partner's girlfriends. No, it had to be someone Bodie had never dated, otherwise the possibility of rejection didn't make any sense. Where Bodie's girlfriends were concerned, it was always the other way around. "Is she married or dead or...something?" he asked before Bodie even settled into his seat.

"Dammit, Ray, are you still playing heartbreak detective?"

"Well, you're being so mysterious about it and all. I just wanted to know." He bit his lower lip and reached for a crisp, absently breaking it into tiny bits beside his glass. Ann liked crisps. And popcorn. He remembered how she had laughingly confessed that popcorn was about the only thing she could really 'cook'.

"No, it's nothing like that. People care about people in different ways. If they care at all. Sometimes you can... love a person and know they can't love you the same way. You settle for what you can get."

Doyle snapped back as he realized that Bodie was answering his question. "But if you never told her how you feel, how do you know she'd be turned off? Maybe she feels the same--"

"No. It's impossible." His voice was uncharacteristically wistful.

Impossible. Now that was a word Doyle rarely, if ever, associated with Bodie. He recalled numerous instances when his partner would say, in one way or another, that there wasn't a female born he couldn't charm. And it was true, except for an odd exception or two. Despite his general misery, Doyle felt a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Hoi, what is it?" Even Bodie looked a little surprised.

"I just remembered Margery Harper. You aren't secretly in love with ol' Marge, eh?"

Bodie threw up his hands. "Oh well, it's out now. Knew I couldn't hide it from a bright, ex-copper like yourself." His dark head dropped. "Yeh, it's Marge. I've been pining away for 'er ever since that day she told me I had shifty eyes. Lost me heart forever then and there. Oh, the pain of it." He placed a hand over his chest and exhaled dramatically. Then he popped the last crisp into his mouth and crunched loudly.

Doyle actually laughed. Leave it to Bodie. It was the worst day of Doyle's life and he was laughing. Only Bodie could have managed it. And it made him aware that he was glad to have his partner with him. Consciously, deliberately glad to have his company. "Alright, you sod, I know it's not Marge. Come on, cough up, who is it?"

The dark head shook slowly, blue eyes veiled by long lashes, lips arrogantly curled into smugness. "I don't know about you, old son, but I don't intend to spend the rest of the day squatting in this crummy booth, munching this stuff. The food here is lethal. What do you say we find a nice caff, get some decent grub?"

"If I can guess who it is, will you tell me if I'm right?" persisted Doyle. It was turning into a challenge, like an itch he couldn't quite reach.

"Gawd." Bodie stood up. "Are you planning to get drunk?"

"Not at the moment."



"What do you want to do then?" He enunciated each word clearly, adding with emphasis, "Besides playing at Sherlock Holmes."

Doyle shrugged, a tingle of apprehension growing. Maybe he'd pushed a little too far. Was Bodie leaving? The feeling of emptiness he'd been trying to hold off crept nearer again.

"Want a lift to your flat?"

The prospect of lying about in his sitting room, seeing Ann in every corner, remembering the days, the nights, made him turn cold inside.

"On second thought, I've indulged you enough. I wanna drop by my place first. Starving and I've got a beauty of a steak that's dying for my attention. Tell you what, you can watch me eat."

It was a flippant, off-hand invitation that Bodie threw out more like a command. Doyle's motor was parked right around the corner and they both knew it. "Okay." Doyle scooted out of the booth and started to follow Bodie out. "Can I still keep guessing?" He didn't quite catch all of Bodie's muttered snarl, something to do with 'quiet desperation'.

During the ride to Bodie's place, Doyle concentrated on the intriguing little mystery his partner had stirred to life. He tried two more guesses before they reached their destination.

"Is it Susan?" She'd turned them both down repeatedly until they gave up and looked elsewhere.

"What? You mean our pretty blonde, bespectacled computer whiz?" Bodie let loose with a deep chuckle. "You know who she's dating now, you twit? Eh?"

"Haven't kept up with her social entanglements. Bit remiss, I know. Who?"

"Macklin. Yeh, the Bruiser of CI5. Anyone who cuts in on him is asking for a refresher course that'd make flaying and bamboo under the fingernails seem like a pleasant, relaxing diversion."

It obviously wasn't Susan. Doyle went for a wild card. "Geraldine Mayfair, uh, Mather?"

"Who?" Bodie squinted into the window. "Oh, yeh, the monkeymaker." He smiled. "She was nice on the eyes alright. Yeh, I'll never forget how she told me I belonged in a jungle. Sweet, little barracuda. Might look her up one of these days, if I'm in a masochistic mood."

Cross off Geraldine Mather.

By the time Bodie was unlocking the door to his flat, Doyle had considered and discarded virtually every woman he and Bodie ever met/helped/hurt or any combination thereof. There was only one more possibility. A remote one.

Bodie headed straight through to the kitchen. Less than a minute later, Doyle heard a mournful wail. It was followed by a sound like a hammer hitting a hard surface. When Doyle got to the kitchen he saw Bodie thumping a steady beat on the carving board with a very large, very thick, and very frozen piece of beefsteak.

"Damn, I forgot to take it out of the freezer." His partner's expression was worthy of a beaten dog's.

"Does look a bit firm. Ah well, shouldn't take more than a few hours to thaw."

Bodie grumbled something under his breath, tossed the meat on the board, and started hunting through the cupboard shelves. He raised his eyes to the ceiling and announced, "There is a heaven." Then he reached into the second shelf and brought out a covered dish, placing it reverently on the counter. He lifted the lid with a flourish, revealing an almost whole, and quite tasty looking chocolate torte.

"You going to eat that instead, just that?" Doyle was continually astounded by Bodie's appalling gastronomic habits.

"Course not. Might have a beer with it. I can have the steak later, for dessert."

Doyle grimaced at the mere thought and went back into the sitting room, preferring not to watch.

"Hoi, want a beer?" Bodie called. "Or I could put a kettle on for tea."

"Maybe a cup of tea." Doyle settled on the couch and listened to the assorted sounds of Bodie puttering around the kitchen. It soothed him in a strange sort of way. The kettle whistled loudly a few minutes later and he was asked if he wanted sugar and milk. "Just milk, thanks."

Bodie strolled in, actually bearing a tray and laid it on the coffee table in front of Doyle. There was an open can of beer, tea, a bottle of milk, and large slice of chocolate torte. Even a paper napkin. "Here you go, mate." Bodie grabbed the beer and drank it off. Doyle watched a trace of chocolate on his partner's upper lip efficiently disappear along with the beer.

"You know, your diet is going to kill you a lot sooner than any terrorist."

"At least I'll go with a smile on my face." Bodie pointed to the piece of cake on the tray. "That's yours. Can't say I'm selfish."

Doyle looked at the rich mass of chocolate. "I'm almost tempted to eat it, if only to gain you a few more days of life."

"Go ahead. Indulge yourself. You're entitled. Man was not meant to live by yogurt alone."

Doyle poured some milk into his tea and stirred it up. "Is it Kate Ross?"

"Oh, for...are we back to that again?" Bodie blew out an exasperated breath, put the beer can on the table, placed his hands on his hips, feet apart, a slightly belligerent cast to his features. "Raymond, you are beginning to travel very quickly up my nose."

"Is it her?"

Bodie's eyes rounded in amazement, after which it seemed like he was counting to ten through clenched teeth. Finally, he gave Doyle a placid smile. "Doctor Ross? Queen of the Rorschachs?"

Doyle nodded.

"The woman probably gives inkblot tests and a computer evaluation before and after every fuck. I don't think I'm quite ready for her yet." Bodie began pacing back and forth in front of him. "Look, Ray, I want you to stop all this shit. Enough's enough. I'm sincerely sorry I even mentioned it. Leave it, forget it, bury it. I do not wish to discuss it further. Is my message sinking in through all those fluffy brown curls of yours?" It was a demand more than a question. Bodie turned on his heel and stalked out towards the bedroom. "I'm going to the loo."

Doyle felt vaguely like he'd been sent spinning like a top and left to spiral down to a lopsided halt. He hadn't meant to irritate Bodie. He was just genuinely curious and puzzling through to the answer helped him keep his mind off Ann. He desperately did not want to think about Ann. Didn't want to face that barrage of emotions, not yet. So he focused on Bodie instead, the latter's protests disregarded.

It wasn't Kate Ross. She was the only one left that he could think of. There simply weren't any other females who might...

Doyle blinked. No other females... The conclusion slithered in through a backdoor of his mind, staring him square in the face. A man? Doyle almost laughed out loud. He tried to drink his tea, his mind racing. The idea was ridiculous. Absurd. Bodie?! Different, but the feeling's the same, Bodie had said. Impossible he'd said. No, it couldn't be. Couldn't. In the first place, if it was a... man, Doyle would most certainly have known. After all, no man was closer to Bodie than he was...

Doyle almost spilled the rest of his tea down the front of his shirt. He managed to set the cup back on the table, picked up the plate of cake and a fork, and began shoveling it into his mouth in ragged hunks, his eyes, like his mind, on some distant plane. A piece dropped into his lap. He left it there. The fork collided with his teeth a couple of times. He felt icing on the tip of his nose as well as all over his mouth. Sticky.

Bodie came back into the room, minus his jacket and holster. Doyle kept eating. His partner stopped short in front of the sofa, blue eyes wide as moons. "What the--are you alright?"

He was so full of cake, Doyle could barely mumble a sound. He just stared up at Bodie.

His partner pointed to his mouth. "Squirreling away food for the winter, are you?" He shook his head, chuckling. "You're a mess. You've got chocolate on your nose, for heaven's sake. And look at that, you're getting crumbs all over the bloody rug." Bodie reached for the napkin and held it out. "No wonder you don't eat junk food; you don't know how. Here, wipe some of it off. Glad to see you were able to get some into your mouth at least. Here."

Doyle couldn't tear his eyes away from Bodie's face. He chewed/swallowed the cake in one noisy gulp.

"Ray?" The napkin waved in front of him like a flag of surrender. A few seconds later, sighing loudly, Bodie walked up to stand next to him and started wiping some of the chocolate off his face.

The napkin was soft, the touch surprisingly gentle. Doyle felt the brush of it against the tip of his nose, his chin, the right corner of his mouth, the left. As Bodie wiped lightly at his upper lip, Doyle said it. "Is it me?"

Bodie stopped.

"Is it me, Bodie?" he repeated.

His partner tossed the napkin into his lap and moved across the room, in front of the window.

It was all incredibly weird and yet Doyle felt like he had stumbled across something that should have somehow been terribly obvious.

Bodie's back was to him. The window beyond was crowded with the outline of the sprawling city, edged by a bank of dull gray clouds. The weather was turning gloomy. He thought he detected a line of tension running through Bodie's shoulders, but when he turned around his face was completely expressionless.

"I think I'll have another beer," was all he said.

There was a voice in Doyle's head that shouted, leave it, back off. He opened his mouth, hesitated. You'll be sorry, the little voice whispered.

Bodie started towards the kitchen and Doyle got up and followed, leaning against the door frame and folding his arms casually across his chest. "You could at least answer my question," he said.

The fridge door was open. Bodie's over-the-shoulder reply flippant as he reached for another lager. "It's Murph. Tall, dark and handsome, that's my type. Has to do with my narcissistic nature."

This time, Doyle didn't find the glib response at all amusing. He had the sudden impulse to punch Bodie in the nose. "Don't you ever stop with the stupid jokes?" he snapped. "You say I take things too seriously, well, you don't know the meaning of the goddamn word."

The sound of the beer can slamming down against the counter startled him almost as much as the change in Bodie's face. There was anger in his eyes now, a kind of dangerous glint, and the smile on his lips was winter cold. "Serious, sunshine?" Bodie's voice matched his expression, tightly controlled. "No more Twenty Questions?"

Doyle remained silent as Bodie crossed the room towards him, very slowly. He came so close that Doyle finally took a step backward, unsure of whether Bodie was intending to walk right through him.

They were inches apart. "And what if I said, very seriously of course, 'yes, it is you'?" The question was whispersoft and icy.

Doyle paused a moment, gathering his calm. "Then I'd know I was right."

"And then?"

"I'd have to think about it. Had enough jolts for one day. Anyway, you haven't flatout said 'yes', have you?" The atmosphere was changing subtly and Doyle experienced a peculiar detachment. He reckoned it was partly shock.

The tension eased as Bodie moved away and retrieved his beer, pulling off the metal tab. The liquid foamed up a little through the opening and dribbled over his fingers. "See me as the Faerie Prince?" He licked lazily at a wet knuckle.

Doyle purposely resumed his relaxed pose against the doorframe. "Never figured you for the sort to go for fellas. Never in a million years."

"I don't," answered Bodie.

"You mean, it's only me you've got an itch for."

"I didn't say that."

"Oh, yeh, I forgot. Well, if it is, it proves you're out of your mind. What could you possibly see in me, uh, that way?"

Bodie's cool laughter preceded his languid appraisal of Doyle's body. "Interesting question, mate. Let's see..." His eyes gleamed bluefire as they roved over Doyle from head to foot, lingering here and there. "On first sight, I'd tend to agree with you. Ugly bugger, you are. I'd suspect you'd be the type that grows on a person. You know, like a slow, fatal virus or something."

"Funny." Doyle managed a sneer, but he was beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.

"'Course, you do have a hell of an arse on you. Perfect little melons. Mind, the fact that you don't seem to own a pair of pants that aren't at least one size too small helps." He held the lager up to his mouth, took a healthy swallow, and put the can into the sink. He didn't take his eyes off Doyle the whole time. "Your hair looks like a girl's," he said.

Doyle's temper bristled at the remark. He stood up straight, arms planted on his hips. "You telling me I look queer?"

"Mmmm," Bodie's lips curved into a genuine smile. "Well, you do have your moments."

"Dumb bastard." Doyle pointed an accusing finger at his partner, keeping his voice level. "You're contradicting yourself. You just said I was ugly. Couldn't give the Elephant Man competition."

Bodie shrugged. "Poor choice of words. I should've said strange. Yeh, you look... strange. I can picture you leaning against a lamppost on a hot, starlit night, wearing one of those little green t-shirts of yours and your Size Tight perfectly- faded blue jeans. You'd pass for a right, improper hustler, you would. Make a bundle, too. All you'd have to do is walk around the lamp a bit, toss back that curly mane, and the blokes'd come running."

"You really are crazy." Doyle threw him a disgusted look, but made a mental note to get a haircut and maybe see if he could take out some of the curl. He turned towards the sitting room, feeling the need to put some distance between them. Before he'd taken two steps, Bodie's hands clamped over his shoulders from behind and he heard the low, half-taunting voice close by his ear.

"I haven't finished answering your question, you know."

Doyle didn't move, his reply a growl. "I've heard enough, thanks. You save the rest for your music hall act."

The hands fell away, but not before he felt the quick caress of a fingertip against the nape of his neck. A tingle travelled up his spine. It wasn't from revulsion. He started to look back but Bodie was already passing him by, heading for the sofa.

In that instant, the only thing Doyle was certain of was that he wasn't prepared for any of this. His state of mind was about as steady as a bouncing ball. He was reeling enough from his last scene with Ann. Now it was Bodie confusing the hell out of him.

"Then there's your eyes."

The amused tone drew his gaze to the other room where Bodie was sitting feet crossed at the ankles, propped on the coffee table, arms stretched out along the back of the couch.


"The way they slant, like a sleepy cat's. Same color, too. When I was a kid, I used to have marbles the color of your eyes. Sort of mist green. They were my favorites, best shooters. Never lost a game with them."

"Still babbling on, I see." Doyle figured it was time to leave. This was getting out of hand and he was definitely feeling at a disadvantage. And he had no one to blame but himself. Bodie had told him to drop the subject. The little voice in his own head had warned him. But, no...

"Your mouth's another thing," Bodie continued blithely. "Pity you don't smile more often. Makes your face all soft- like... beautiful."

"Aw, that's it. Sod off." Doyle glanced towards the front door.


With effort, he forced himself to look at Bodie.

The dark head tilted up at him. "You started it, remember."

"You're mixing me up and I don't like it. Don't need it."

Bodie scratched at a long sideburn and let out a breath, neutral expression returning. "I'll drive you back to your place." But he didn't get up.

The sensation of Bodie's finger brushing the back of his neck dominated Doyle's thoughts, rooted his feet. Such a simple, insignificant gesture. Like turning on a switch...with him playing the light bulb. Maybe part of it was Ann. Being without her. Not wanting to be alone. He did, after all, need something. Someone. Then he thought about Bodie, watched the smooth, handsome face, jaw jutting out with that slight air of challenge. He tried to imagine being with Ann every day, wanting her, desperate for her. And deliberately holding back, knowing it was hopeless. Masking it day after bloody day.

Better to have loved and lost than...

"Don't want to leave just yet," he said.

"Funny, looked like you were about to try for the one-minute mile out the door."

Doyle took a few steps towards the sofa. "I think I'd like you to answer my question. No more 'ifs'."

Bodie looked away, frowning a little, considering. "What would be the point? It'd only make things worse."

"Say it, dammit."

The impatient anger in Doyle's voice brought the dark blue eyes darting back to him. "Okay. Bizarre and incomprehensible as it may be to human logic, yeh, it's you: Raymond Doyle, permanent bloody thorn stuck right in the heart. Satisfied?"

"No. Are you?"

The room grew very quiet as Doyle walked over to the couch and sat down beside his partner. Bodie didn't change position, his arms remained stretched out on either side, but Doyle noticed his right fist clench, just for a second.

"You're a toughie, Bodie."

"Brilliant deduction, mate. Cowley didn't pick either of us for our outstanding craven qualities."

"Nah, not talking about the job and you know it. If it was me in your place, I couldn't stand it. I certainly would've done something about it by now."

"That's because you have a certain, um, problem with your libido. Very poor self-control."

Doyle smiled. "Well, I have been told that on occasion. Still, there's such a thing as carrying self-denial too far."

"I've dedicated a great deal of time to cultivating the fine art of sublimation."

"Enter Bodie, the Raving Stud of CI5?"

"It's kept my... mind occupied."

"You've done a very efficient job of it."

"Appreciate the compliment."

"You know, we're discussing this like a couple of chums talking over last week's matches."

Bodie slumped deeper into the cushions. "Well, that's good. Very civilized."

"You thought I'd bolt, didn't you, after all that gushing on about my better 'points'?" The knot in Doyle's stomach was beginning to unwind, his nervousness changing into something else. He concentrated on the familiar profile beside him, seeing it in a whole new way.

"I reckoned it might've scared you off, but then I'm never certain about what goes on in that convoluted mind of yours." Bodie's jaw tightened. "I do know one thing though."


"Right now, you don't know what you're doing."

Before Doyle could bark a reply, Bodie went on, "You've been burned pretty badly today. You're feeling guilty, as usual, and lonely, and you're ripe for the picking. Which is why I'm gonna give you two choices: I'll either drive you back to your flat or you can sack out on this couch tonight, alone."

"What if I come up with a third choice?"

"I'm not giving you a third choice."

Doyle inched closer, his thigh almost touching Bodie's. "Do you always go after what you want with this kind of steely determination? No wonder you're frustrated as hell."

"I'm not about to ruin a perfectly good partnership by taking what I want on the rebound."

"You're wrong. It's not like that."

"Oh yes it is." Suddenly, Doyle felt Bodie's fingers tangling in his hair, pulling his head back sharply. "Do you know how easy it would be for me right now? Have you any idea?"

Blood pounded at Doyle's temples. Bodie's hold was so tight, it hurt. His body so close, Doyle could smell the faint mingling scents of beer and soap and musky maleness. The outline of hard muscle rippled beneath the green polo sweater. He wondered what it would be like to kiss Bodie. Feel his mouth. His senses were taking over. Body over mind.

Doyle raised his arm to encircle Bodie's neck and felt his wrist caught in a firm, unyielding grip. "Let it happen," he moaned.

"Little boys like you should never play with fire, Ray." Bodie's voice was husky and defiant and ever so slightly breathless.

Doyle considered breaking the wristlock, decided against it. "Don't wanna fight. I want to go to bed with you. Now."

The look in Bodie's eyes changed from wary uncertainty to unmistakable hunger. He released his hold on Doyle, pushed him away and stood, fixing his stare on the opposite corner of the room. "So, now I'm to play stand-in, eh? Poor ol' Raymond has gone and had his heart mashed and wants to drown his sorrows in a little kinky sex. Need a bit of diverting and I happen to be handy. Who's sublimating now?"

Doyle reached out but, as though he sensed the movement, Bodie stepped away and crossed the room to the armchair. "Bodie, I'm not--"

"Shuttup." The pale face showed more emotion than Doyle had ever seen. Anger, resentment, sadness mingled with desire... and fear. The last shocked Doyle most of all. The normally suave voice was laced with tension. "You want to get laid? No problem. I can have a bird here in half an hour. What do you prefer: blonde, brunette, redhead?"

"You could manage it too, couldn't you?" He wanted to touch Bodie, but he held himself in check, just barely. "Come to think on it, you've kept me well supplied over the years, haven't you?"

"None of them hurt you like Ann, did they?"

That was certainly true. None of them meant very much either. That was perhaps, for the best. If I gave you the chance. Yeh, it was getting clearer. "You wouldn't hurt me, would you, Bodie?" His voice wavered, the question breathy. He knew it was taking unfair advantage from the instant reaction in the deep blue eyes.

"You little, cock-teasing bastard." Bodie shut his eyes, pressing his head back against the cushion. "I wouldn't hurt you ever, if I could help it." The words were heavy. The movement stretched before the long, dark lashes flickered open, blue brighter than usual. Too bright. Glistening.

It hit Doyle like sunlight slicing through a cloudbreak. It wasn't Bodie with the power to hurt. "God, Bodie, I... I don't want anyone else. I need you. I... it's more than that, I..." But he faltered over the words. He didn't want to lie to Bodie, but he didn't know the truth either. He was spinning again, wildly. He couldn't handle it all. He just couldn't. So he held out his arms. "Please, Bodie, hold me. Please."

The dark head lowered and the inner battle was clearly etched in every line of his body. "Damn you, Ray." It was so quiet. Then Bodie walked back to the sofa and sat down beside him. "Remember you wanted this, Ray." He grabbed Doyle by the shoulders and shook him. "Remember it, understand?"

"Yes, alright. Let go... let me..."

Fingers tangled in Doyle's hair again, this time caressingly, seductively combing through his curls and Doyle leaned forward, touched his mouth to Bodie's. The skin was softer than he expected. He brushed his lips gently back and forth against the smooth warmth, savoring the alien excitement of it, letting the heat build and the barriers fall. "Kiss me back, damn you, kiss me back."

And Bodie obliged.

There was nothing in Doyle's experience to compare it to, not even Ann. He blocked her out and gave into the sheer animal pleasure of Bodie's mouth, his hands.

He was lifted to his feet, his arms wrapped around Bodie's waist, his eyes shut. They were moving, Bodie leading him, their kiss unbroken, deepening with every tottering step. Before he knew it, Doyle was falling backwards onto the thick, plush burgundy quilt that covered Bodie's bed.

They worked at each other's clothes between caresses. Doyle's gun and holster, then shoes, socks, shirts, pants were all tossed to the floor. There was only a moment when Doyle grumbled, between quick catches of breath, as he struggled with his partner's polo sweater. "Sod your clothes! Why... don't you... wear armor and... have done with it."

The shock of Bodie's naked and blatantly aroused body rubbing against his own was something else entirely. It was a little like making love to himself. He heard an unintelligible murmur in his ear as a wet tongue traced a path across his lobe and down along his jugular, fastening vampire-like on a spot of skin joining neck to shoulder. They were moving against each other, hard flesh sliding against hard flesh, the friction driving Doyle to the edge.

"Oh, no, not yet, angelfish." The movement stopped. Bodie's face was the picture of concentrated effort, eyes shining with desire, lips parted and already slightly swollen. He propped himself up on one elbow and skimmed his palm over Doyle's chest, toying with the erect nipples, finally cupping the genitals, massaging the balls, then drawing an invisible line with his forefinger along the underside of Doyle's cock.

"More, Bodie...more." Doyle played his hands across the broad, muscular back, pushing the dark head towards his cock. The sensation of being taken into Bodie's mouth was almost unbearably erotic. The pressure built, rushing over and through him. He cried out, whimpered an obscenity, and felt utterly, deliriously lost.

He was still trembling minutes later when Bodie shifted up and lay back on the pillow beside him. The room came slowly into focus and he turned his head. Bodie's eyes were closed and there was a satisfied smile on his lips. Doyle was feeling pleasantly adrift when he realized he hadn't really reciprocated. Hadn't done much of anything, in fact. He put out a searching hand, finding Bodie's heavy cock, soft and slick with semen.

"You're fucking incredible, Ray. Just watching your face. All it took." The dark lashes flickered open. "In other words, you did not disappoint me, Raymond."

"You're all sticky."

"Don't care."

It was more energy than he wanted to expend, but Doyle rolled to the edge of the bed and picked the green polo sweater off the floor and started wiping the wetness from Bodie's groin.

One blue eye popped open. "Hoi, that's my sweater you're messin' up."

"Can't let you stain your lovely quilt, now can we?" Doyle cleaned them both off and threw the polo across the room. On impulse, he pressed himself to Bodie and kissed him. "Anyway, you shouldn't wear those high-necked jobs so much. Constricts the blood flow."

"That so?" Bodie smirked and moved to pull the quilt over them, then hesitated, suddenly growing serious. "You...okay?"

There was too much to deal with in that simple question and there was more undisguised concern in the voice than Doyle had expected. He snuggled against Bodie's warmth and threw an arm across his chest. "Yeh, I think so."

The quilt was gently tucked around him and he felt the quick brush of lips against his temple.

The room was dark when Doyle woke up. He was lying on his side, facing the wall and he became aware of several things immediately. One, a light snore into the back of his neck. Two, a muscular thigh resting between his legs. Three, and arm draped possessively around his waist. And, four, a semi-erect penis nestled comfortably between his buttocks. Bodie.

He glanced at the clock on the night table. 4:48 a.m. He mentally ran through the previous day's events, everything from closing down Holly's drug operation to Ann's goodbye to the pub, and what happened afterwards... Bodie.

The snoring quieted and he sensed the subtle change in the body pressed against him. "Go back to sleep, it's early," he said.

Bodie rolled away with noticeable reluctance. "What time is it?"

Doyle told him.

The silence that followed was almost oppressive. It was Doyle's move. He sat up and drew the quilt aside. Bodie's cock was jutting upright. "Very nice. Is that for me?"

"Nah, just doing exercises. Don't want it getting flabby."

"Objectively speaking, it's not quite as attractive as mine, I'd say." Doyle stroked his own rigid sex leisurely from base to glistening tip.

Blue eyes locked to his hand's movement. "Um, it's got a nice shape, well-proportioned, that. Still, I do think mine has a bit more substance."

"Thicker, definitely thicker." Doyle stopped masturbating and put his hand on Bodie's abdomen, fingertips just reaching into the dark, curling pubic hair. "You know, when I was 16, a bunch of street toughs beat the shit out of me, broke my face up."

Bodie seemed to be having trouble keeping his voice level as he answered. "Is that... how you... got that mismatched profile?"

"Yeh. The gang leader was a bloody raver. I was taking my first art course and I'd be comin' home and there he'd be, blocking my way. Went on for days."


Doyle maneuvered himself towards the middle of the bed and let his hand slip a little lower, brushing Bodie's cock. It twitched with the contact and he heard a hissing intake of breath. "Well, he'd always call me a cocksucker. Every evening, him and his mates'd trail behind me, callin' me a cocksucker. They'd call me other things, too, of course." He rubbed his palm lightly against Bodie's penis. "Anyway, I'd ignore them and tried to go home another way. One night, they caught up to me. I knew the guy meant business. He told me he'd prove I was a cocksucker."

"Wh-what... didja... do?" Bodie shut his eyes tight as Doyle began a firm pumping motion with his hand.

"I carried a knife, switchblade. Had one since I was eleven. Managed to cut a couple of them pretty bad but then the raver had this big chain. He hit me full force in the face. Blood splatterin' all over the place. I heard a woman scream. Reckon someone saw what was happening. Anyway, they must've run off. Probably thought they'd killed me. 'Course, I was well out of it by then. Spent three months in hospital while they tried to put everything back together again."

"Didn't... do... a very... proper... job... of it."

Doyle chuckled softly, rising to his knees next to Bodie's hip. "Goes to show you never can tell. That bloody little bastard was right." And he leaned forward and sucked Bodie's cock into his mouth. He almost choked as Bodie bucked upwards.

"Christ... Ray..."

Doyle swirled his tongue around the head and circled the base with his hand. He felt a pull on his leg, dragging him towards his partner's face. Understanding, he straddled Bodie's shoulders, his cock dangling over Bodie's mouth. Firm hands gripped his ass and he was engulfed into warm wetness. A finger teased his anus, the sensation both disturbing and exciting him. He sucked harder, felt the matching rhythm on his cock. It was even better this time.

He spilled over, shaking with the orgasm, and felt his mouth filling with Bodie's semen. At first, he thought he would gag and pulled away, the salty fluid trickling down his lips as he managed to swallow.

"Move up, Ray."

He turned round and Bodie hugged him close, took his mouth in a bruising kiss, tongue pushing inside, licking across his teeth, the roof of his mouth, finally releasing him.

"I taste good," Bodie told him smugly, adding more quietly. "So do you."

Doyle relaxed against the smooth, wide chest. "Thanks."

They didn't say anything more as the minutes ticked by, but the silence was easy, companionable.

"Rebound or not, it was worth it," Bodie said at last, the longing bleeding from his voice.

Doyle shifted to his side. "Ann's gone. I'll get over it." The words held his first real sense of conviction. He ran his fingers down Bodie's nose, over the pouty lips and wondered at the strange turn of events. Lovers. He let the idea dangle in his mind. His all-too-male partner and himself. Lovers. Somehow it felt... right. It shouldn't have, but it did. And suddenly he knew he was no longer the only one with the power to hurt. And that seemed right, too.

"What about me?"

"Ah, well you." Doyle paused, trying vainly to keep the smile out of his voice. "I can see I'll have to be very careful. You could rapidly become a bad habit. Worse than any drug. Unbreakable even."

A grin spread across Bodie's lips, lighting his face, the glow shining in his eyes. "I think everyone should have at least one bad habit, don't you?"

"You plannin' to see to it, are you?"

Bodie leaned closer and ruffled his curls, making Doyle shiver as he blew into his ear, whispering. "I promise to do my very best, sunshine."

And Bodie did.

-- THE END --

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