Randy little bastard, I think affectionately.

Doyle snuggles into me more closely, nearly asleep. I'm still wide awake, sticky and uncomfortable.

Oh, it was good. Very good.

Wonderful, even.

Just messy.

I shouldn't care, I suppose, but it's irritating now to feel the dampness oozing from me, between my thighs and arse. There's more on the sheets from where I came, explosively, into Doyle's hand just before.

It's normal, I tell myself. There's nothing disgusting about it. Men ejaculate. After all, I enjoyed the feeling of him spilling into me, deep inside me. Always do.

I've never balked at feeling him climax in me or even my mouth, so it's not that. It's just the... well, the messiness.

Maybe condoms would help but no, I don't want that.

Usually, I get up and shower afterwards and he teases me about it. So tonight I told myself I'd live with it.

It's a hot night, which doesn't help. Sweat is mingling with the tacky, drying semen and the slippery lube. Not the stuff dreams are made of.

No, it's no use. I'm never going to sleep like this. How can Doyle cheerfully roll over and ignore it all?

His shower's small, noisy and temperamental and I hate the bloody thing, so I decide on a compromise with a wet flannel, noting almost absently that I'm not even tender despite what was a fairly athletic session.

Now Doyle's completely recovered, I muse, he's supple and full of that wiry energy of his again, whether it's for belting around saving the world or between the sheets. His libido never fails to amaze me these days.

When he first came home after he took the bullets, I was scared about that part - I'll admit it. We hadn't been lovers for long before it happened, and the sex had been energetic to say the least - and you don't launch straight back into that with a guy who's just had a bullet dug out of his heart, do you?

I treated him a bit like glass when he first came home, I remember. Keeping an eye on his heartbeat, making sure he took his pills, that sort of thing. Drove him nuts, that did, but he tolerated it. Just.

As for 'intimate relations' as Doyle told me the medics called it, it was like I'd expected. He'd been told to take things gradually. Oh, he'd get there, he'd assured me. Just... not yet. Or at least not everything.

So I let him take the initiative and we started with a little kissing, a little fondling... and even that was good. He said it was, anyway. And he was generous: sucked me off regularly, and kept apologising for not going any further than letting me stroke him a bit

Eventually, it was like he went off the boil altogether and didn't even want to talk about it. Patience not being one of my virtues, that wasn't easy. I went through a large number of towels in the privacy of my own bathroom when it all got too much and it was a question of a hand job or pushing him into something he didn't want.

I managed to live with it, though - didn't even look elsewhere. Nothing short of miraculous, really, when I think about it but some things are worth it. Doyle, for instance.

Then one day he got back from training and a medical check, insisted we went to bed in that 'don't mess with me' tone of voice, and ceremoniously handed me the lube.

Clean bill of health, he said. Wasn't going to snuff it on me while we were at it, so could I please fuck him? Properly?

I did. God, I did.

I pause for a minute, flannel in hand, and enjoy the memories. Getting me aroused again, all this reminiscing.

Don't know how I managed to hold back, really, but I did. Started slowly, stroking him, tantalising him. Taking immense trouble to prepare him, to get him close to the brink before I even entered him because I knew I wouldn't last long when I did.

It took him a while to get that far - made me wonder if he was doing it for me, but eventually I got him whimpering for it. And then I was back inside him, trying to go slow. Even then, I came too early but never one to give up, I went down on him and - thank God - that did it. He yelled like a banshee and then lay there and started laughing once he got his breath back.

He'd been frustrated as hell, he confessed afterwards, grinning cheerfully. Randy, sure. But he'd also been worried that we - and particularly he - wouldn't be able to take it easy. So he'd cried off altogether.

Daft sod, I'd told him. Course we could take it easy and for as long as necessary.

Things improved on that score, and rapidly. In fact, we took sex to new levels while we were at it. It was a challenge at first - me finding stuff that turned him on, both of us getting used to his ticker being a bit lively, and me fading a bit when it did, or at least at first.

But dear God, it got better. If messier.

By the time he was back on active, it was bloody marvellous. I was turning into a pair of sheets per night man when we spent it at my place.

There. Less sticky now. Much better. Just the little matter of an erection to deal with, but I have ideas about that. Oh yes.

Doyle likes it when I clean him up a bit, I think to myself, towel in hand. Maybe I'll indulge him then.

I take the damp flannel over to the bed and watch him in the faint moonlight. He's kicked the sheet off and is lying on his side, completely at ease. His hand's touching his cock, limp now, and there's a smile on his face. He's asleep, or near as dammit.

Sorry, Doyle. No way I'm going to let you go to sleep just yet, sunshine.

Sensing me standing there, he flips over onto his back, opens his eyes, and splays his legs.

"Going to mop me up?" he murmurs.

I feel a bit embarrassed at first, caught in the act of standing there watching, but it's quite a sight. I also think he knows what the inevitable conclusion of the mopping up is going to be, but somehow I don't think he'll complain.

Doyle yelps at the first contact, but he's just exaggerating because the water's not that cold. I start at his navel, gently wiping downwards. My eyes are used to the darkness now and I use the flannel to smooth down the arrow of hair on his stomach. Doyle murmurs in approval and his cock twitches. What a surprise.

"Not gonna stop there, are you?" he says.

"Course I am."

"Like hell. C'mon," he wheedles.

"The sacrifices I make for you, my lad," I sigh, climbing onto the bed. I straddle him at knee height, and continue my careful ministrations around his balls, inside his thighs. His hand snakes to my belly, and further south, and he grins.

I have an excellent view of the Doyle equipment from here, I must say.

"All squeaky clean," he sighs. "Nice. Ready to start again then?"

"Might consider it."

"Mmmm. You can't resist. Admit it."

"You're sex mad," I tell him lightly, reaching for the lube and smearing one finger, then two.

"And you're not?"

"Definitely not," I retort, sliding my hand down his cleft. "Only do this to please you. You know that."

He snorts faintly, then gasps as my middle finger comes to rest. I can feel the flutter of muscles there, and see his eyes pleading, but I don't go any further. Then I let my lips just caress his crown, my tongue flicking over the wetness at the tip, and then stop again.

This is one of the 'how to get Doyle really begging for it' things: barely touching him. Making him wait.

"More," he whispers.

It's so nice to be right, eh?

Very, very slowly I take him further into my mouth, without applying any pressure, just sheathing him. At the same time, I push up a finger up inside him and he stiffens, his hands grabbing the sheet and twisting it.

His cock is hot, throbbing and the tightness around my finger equally so. He arches slightly as I withdraw, holding his breath, waiting for more.

I enjoy seeing him like this. I can see his face as my lips rise and fall: his eyes are wide, mouth moving as he half-speaks, half-begs. I add another finger, still slowly. Then take pity on him and lean over him again, swirling my tongue around him as I push up inside him further.

"Yes," he breathes, already starting to part his legs wider. "Yes, Bodie."

I take my mouth and hand away and pick up the lube again, watching his own hand drift to his cock. Doyle really enjoys bringing himself off at times, but this isn't going to be one of them, I decide.

When he does, I must admit he makes sure I'm not left behind afterwards, usually with his mouth. Thing is, I'm not quite as fond of hand jobs as he is... unless I'm alone and need it. Much prefer fucking in the true sense of the word, ta. Foreplay is fine, let's make no mistake of that, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty give me an arse or a cock - Doyle's in particular - or even a skilful mouth - again Doyle's in particular - and I'm happy.

I watch him for a moment or two, watch the sensuality of it. Long, oozing cock in long, powerful fingers. His eyes, from spelling impatient a minute ago, now take on a languid, playful glint.

"Stroke yourself for a minute," he murmurs. "Turns me on."

I hesitate. He hasn't suggested this before. Maybe I'm looking a bit doubtful about the whole thing, which I'm not. It's fine if that's what he wants. It's just that tastes differ.

"It does?" I say, casually, reluctant to share what I was just thinking. This really isn't the time to get into deep discussions of personal preferences.

"Yeah. Go on, Bodie."

What the hell, if it makes him happy.

I touch myself a little tentatively, getting a grin of approval. My cock, already engorged, feels like fire in my own hand.

"Oh my," Doyle says admiringly. "Sight for sore eyes, that."

The sight of his lube-glistening arse, once I've attended to that a little more with my spare hand, is not without its merits either, and I tell him so. He grins and raises his knees for me to get an even better look, even sliding one of his own fingers in, uninhibited little bastard that he is.

"Want you," I breathe, anxious to be inside him now.

"Would never have guessed," Doyle says, grabbing a pillow and shoving it under him although he looks a bit disappointed that I don't want to keep up the DIY stuff for a bit longer.

"Now," I insist, and swat his own hand away to mount him. He doesn't argue and takes me easily.

That's more like it.

His cock is rigid against my stomach, and his arse is hot, tight velvet. I know I'm hitting his prostate too - we've been lovers long enough to angle it perfectly, even in this position - and there's something to be said for watching Doyle when he's being fucked. A lot, in fact.

"Good?" I ask.

"Bloody good."

"Want more?"

"Fuck yes."

I know us well enough not to speed up to the maximum quite yet. He'll hold it, and so will I. Too good to hurry.

I thrust, he pleads a bit more - or rather demands in a string of words that leave me in little doubt about what he wants and how he wants it.

The poetic language of love, I think to myself. Quite apart from knowing where my preferences lie, that's another thing I appreciate about sex between two blokes. No need to go into flowery raptures.

My balls start to tighten when I feel his muscles go wild. He jerks, cries out. I'm close, slamming into him now, and he's still urging me on, telling me to come, to fill him.

I do. We often come nearly at the same time - practice again - but I still get a buzz of satisfaction when it's as close as this. Definitely in synch, I say as I pull out of him after a few more seconds.

His legs slither down onto the sheet with a satisfied slap.

"Must be the hot weather," he chuckles. "Gets me going. So does seeing you doing yourself."

"Any weather gets you going," I say, not commenting on the rest.


"Nope," I say, trying to ignore the stickiness around my balls and on the pillow. Doyle casually wipes the semen off his stomach with a corner of the sheet, and I wish to hell I had a towel handy.

I'm so damned shagged out I decide I really will have to live with it all this time. A shower would be nice, but sleep seems like a better bet.

I'm addicted to Doyle, I decide happily as I watch him hog all the space and cheerfully kick off the top sheet. Both in bed and out of it, scrappy, awkward little bugger that he is,

And he snores.

But dear God, the sex is mind-bending.

Just messy.


Doyle's still angry, although we've run out of steam for a minute or two and are just glaring at each other. Then I see him swallow and shift awkwardly and the reason's absolutely blatant. Serves him right for wearing the damned jeans that tight in the first place, I think unkindly.

It's been a bugger of a day, with a close call involving a nutter with a machine gun as the icing on the cherry. Now we're back at his place, we're starting to come down from the adrenaline high, but still up there enough to be edgy.

We started arguing as soon as we got in the motor, deciding on whose flat to go to - but that was only the prelude. His flat was nearer, which is why we came here and why I'd reluctantly given in on that one, even though I'd have preferred to wind down in my own shower rather than his. As soon as we got through the door, we'd changed the subject and ended up disagreeing on - would you believe it - whether to get fish and chips or Chinese in, and who was going to go out and fetch it.

Doyle being Doyle, he likes rice and veggies, and he made his usual disparaging comments about clogged-up arteries with more of an edge than usual. I retorted that he nicked my chips given half a chance anyway, so acting holier-than-thou didn't suit him.

It slid downwards from there, to the point we've reached an all-out bloody row.

Well, divorces have happened - or started - for less than cod in batter versus sweet and sour, I suppose.

Not that we were really arguing about food in the first place, to be honest, and both of us knew it. It was a mixture of tiredness, irritation... and the fact that he'd seen me grimace slightly when I'd caught sight of the tangled, rumpled sheets through the bedroom door, all exactly how we'd left it after the double billing 48 hours before.

He catches my eye and his chin juts out defiantly.

"So I didn't wash the sheets. And stop leering at my crotch."

I take objection to that.

"Another thing to add to the list of things that turn you on then. Arguing. As good as jerking yourself off in front of me, is it?"

"Maybe," he growls back. "At least it's better than your tight-arsed attitude."

I see red.

"I haven't exactly been tight-arsed for you, Doyle. If you remember."

"Oh, I remember," he snaps back. "So what's the idea? Trying to make me feel guilty about enjoying it too much to belt off to the shower the moment it's over? Or not making the bed before we nip out to earn a living?"

"Don't be ridiculous," I snarl, although there's some truth it. "I - we -"

"We what, Bodie?" His eyes are glittering, and with a tiny shudder I realise I'm aroused myself. "Do you realise you even fold your bloody trousers most times before we fuck? Do you?"

At the moment, my crotch is so uncomfortable that I'd give a lot to be without trousers.

"I do?" I say, realising I'm panting. He sees it.

"You do." He licks his lips as our eyes meet, challenging me.

"Really randy, aren't you," I growl, too desperate now to fight any vestiges of common sense or to listen to the voice of reason in my head telling me it isn't a good idea to provoke him any more.

"Sure I am. So are you."

"Dead right," I say, reaching for my belt.

His mouth's half-open and for a moment or two I think he's swaying between telling me to piss off and wanting to take this to its conclusion.

"Fuck me," he whispers. "Right now. Hard."

My clothes are scattered on the floor within seconds. Where they drop. He watches me, eyes thin slits of sheer lust as he follows suit. We stare at each other.

"Hard, you say?" I taunt.


I hesitate, and he reads me wrong. I'd like to - well - make up a bit rather than just fling myself on him, but what he says tips me back into downright furious again.

"What is it, Bodie? Forgotten the towel?"

"Shut your mouth, Doyle. Just shut it."

That does shut him up. He looks at me with that slight curl to his lip that means he's really angry, and I don't suppose I look much different. I half-expect him to change his mind and tell me to get dressed and get out for a second, but he doesn't.

"Get the lube," he says curtly, and I bolt into the bathroom, scrabbling in the cupboard for it without really registering that he's giving me orders. He appears in the doorway, naked and needy, but I cut that off immediately and issue an order of my own, pointing at the settee and already slicking my fingers and coating my cock.

"In there."

Doyle makes a small, strangled noise but doesn't argue.

We're both rock hard, both panting, but we don't touch, don't caress. I half-push him onto the upholstery. He wants mess, he can have it.

"Hands and knees."

He doesn't even question it, and I've rammed one, two, three fingers in him within seconds. He's lucky I manage that and don't just cut to the essential.

"Ready?" I say, bizarrely, in a mockery of consideration. I know damn well I can't hold back any longer and don't intend to either.

He nods. "Hurry up."

Oh, he wants it. He really wants it. He's thrusting his arse at me as my fingers plunder him.

He's going to get it, too. Hurry is just fine.

He's got his own hand on his cock. Bloody typical. Normally, I'd take over that little job at this point, sliding his pre-come around the tip to make him whimper as I enter him gently, but not this time.

Hard, he said. Well, he shouldn't have asked for it if he didn't mean it, should he?

He's tighter than usual, which isn't surprising given my quick and dirty preparation, but takes my full length and pushes back at me as urgently as I'm entering him. Meaning we're joined with a roughness I've never experienced. Not ever. And it turns me on even more.

No words are exchanged for once: I ram into him in silence. I make the rhythm rapid right from the start, hearing him grunt with my weight, aware of him pumping himself almost frantically.

I don't care about his pleasure. He's doing a pretty good job of looking after himself anyway.

I can feel myself close, but don't ask if he is. Can't. Completion is all I'm looking for and I can feel the sweat on my back as I increase the pace even more.

He cries out incoherently as I thrust, over and over, but whether it's in pleasure or pain I don't know and don't want to. I'm almost there now and couldn't stop if my life depended on it. I feel the semen stream into him, feel the familiar, added warmth and wetness and continue bucking into him, wanting to pump myself dry. Of anger and of need.

When he yells and stiffens I realise he's there too. I can feel the spasms inside him grip at me even as my erection fades, feel the familiar shudder rippling through him. And, I decide to myself cruelly, at least the semen's filling his own hand and messing up his settee rather than mine.

I pull out of him, spitefully, while he's still jerking and then roll away.

I don't say anything at all to him, and he doesn't either. There's no 'oh Jesus, Bodie' in that soft voice of his, nor do I find myself kissing the nape of his neck, which I so often do to bring him down gently after taking him from behind.


We've wrung orgasms out of each other and now, suddenly, it's over. He sinks down onto his stomach.

Oh dear God, what have I done?

Neither of us moves. I'm propped up half against the edge of the settee, and find myself staring at Doyle's naked body, realising his head is in his hand as he lies there.

I should say I'm sorry. I try, but all that comes out is a cracked mumble, asking if he's OK.

"Sure I'm OK," he snaps, getting his head up, rolling over and looking at me levelly. "I was hardly trying to fight you off."

No, he wasn't, but I'm frightened. I think I'd have thumped him, even fought him, if he'd backed off. So much for the thoughtful lover I thought I'd become.

"I - did I..."

"Hurt me? Yeah, a bit."

His lips are a narrow line, and I can't figure out whether it's from pain or... or what.


"Don't go apologising," he snaps. "Like I said, I asked for it. In as many words, right?" He reaches for his jeans and pulls them on.

"It's - hardly my style, Ray."

"Really?" he asks mildly, still with an edge to his voice. "Seemed pretty natural to me."

I want to tell him, in all honesty, that I'd never taken anyone that roughly, male or female, but the words don't come.

"For what it's worth," he says suddenly, as though I've said it anyway. "I've never wanted it that hard or that much either. Bit weird, innit."

I start picking up my own clothes, still not knowing what to say.

Doyle pads over to the drinks cupboard, sloshes whisky into two glasses and hands me one with a hand that I don't think is quite steady.

We need to talk about this, but neither of us can seem to find the right place to start.

"Maybe," I say after finishing the glassful in two rapid mouthfuls, "we need to cool off a bit."

"Uh-huh." He's turning the glass round and round.

"So I'd - I mean maybe it'd better if we - I -"

Oh, full marks for coherence there, Bodie.

"If we what?" Doyle turns dull green eyes on me. "Turned celibate? Split up?"

I wasn't really meaning 'cool off' permanently, I feel like saying. Just to get over the row we had. I also feel like I should apologise, but then I remember the 'towel' comment and decide that the whole bust-up wasn't all my fault, was it?

"I don't know," I say glumly, unable to meet his eyes. So I end up staring at the settee and the semen stain instead. "Is that what you want?"

"I don't know either," he says.

It's what they call a pregnant pause, I suppose. Then I blow it, as only I could do.

Where the towel on the floor came from I don't remember at first, then realise that must have grabbed it without thinking when fetching the lube and dropped it in the desperate hurry to fuck him. But now I'm almost mechanically using it to wipe the settee.

"Forget it," he snaps. "And Bodie... this is my settee. My mess, and my problem. Hadn't you better have a shower? Or would you prefer your own nice clean bathroom where, as you keep telling me, the damn thing actually works?"

I drop the offending piece of cloth as though it's red hot. Then we fall silent again.

"I'd better go," I say.

"Yeah, maybe."

Oh Jesus, Doyle. Tell me to stay. Tell me it's okay.

But I can't ask. And he doesn't say it.


We end up doing paperwork the next day, which is probably a good thing because I've hardly slept and Doyle doesn't look much better. I did call him and offer to pick him up, and got a simple 'no thanks' before he put the phone down.

I find myself watching him, wondering if he's sore and what he's thinking.

He refuses to meet my eyes and wades through a pile of stuff, doing cheerful with the secretaries and downright chummy with Murphy.

I'd like to shake him. Or thump him.

No, I'd like to take him in my arms. Hardly appropriate in the middle of the office although at one point I start to think I'd do that rather than lose him

The morning drags. Doyle refuses to come to the pub at lunchtime, saying he's 'got stuff to do', and I try some false cheer with Murph, who finally asks me what the hell's up with Doyle and me.

"Nothing," I snap, far too fast.

"Could have fooled me. What is it? Had a bit of a lovers' tiff?"

It's hard to fool Murph. He probably knew about Doyle and I almost before we'd realised it ourselves but apart from him asking us if he was right and us telling him yes, he doesn't go on about it.

"Something like that."


"Dunno," I sigh. "Maybe."

"Better sort it then, mate, or Cowley'll have you by the short and curlies."

It's a sobering thought. Cowley is a shrewd old bugger, but so far I like to believe he just thinks we're mates - or he prefers to ignore the fact that we aren't. Mind, he'll soon smell a rat if this goes on, so I need to do something, and fast.

I go back to work and wonder how the hell to deal with it, preferably before the end of the day. I'm painfully aware there are basically two alternatives: it'll either end in mind-boggling making-up sex, or we'll get nowhere and I could even find myself without a partner let alone a lover. The former option, of course, is the one I'll be aiming for, but considering Doyle's not exactly the easiest person to handle when he's in a strop, I'm not exactly brimming with confidence.

The trouble is, he's gone and taken the afternoon off, as Betty informs me primly, looking me up and down as though I've just sprouted a third eye. And she's busy, so would I like to go and leave her in peace? I wonder if to ask her if she knows why, but she's already ignoring me.

What does she know? As far as I know she's got no idea how things stand with Doyle and me, but you never know with women, do you?

I catch Cowley in the corridor and ask, with as much politeness as I can muster, if I can also nip home early, seeing as how it's quiet.

No, he says. He needs all the paperwork finished because he's got a stakeout lined up for me and Murphy tomorrow.

"Me and Murphy?" It hits me like a fist to the ribs. "But..."

"Doyle will be away, up north. As I presume you knew?"

Pride means I can't admit I didn't know anything of the sort, so I just nod vaguely.

"Well get on with it, man. I don't pay you to gossip in corridors, or to take afternoons off on a whim."

Cowley sweeps off, and I stand there looking like a stranded goldfish.

Sod the paperwork, I decide after getting my wits together just a little. I need to know what's going on.

I call Doyle at home, and he's not there. Then I try his R/T and he doesn't answer that either. Murphy sticks his head round the door a bit later.

"Doyle already gone, then?"

"Where's he gone? You knew?"

"I knew he was off somewhere, but not where or why. He popped in to ask me for an address and told me he'd be out for a couple of days. You two made it up yet? Or is he running back to mum?"

Strange that Murphy doesn't know - he probably invented the bloody word grapevine - and I read this as a bad sign. Can't be work-related then, can it or he'd know. I think.

"An address?" I say mechanically. "What for?"

Murphy taps his nose. Irritating bastard.

"I need to find him, Murph. Now."

"Ah," Murphy says. "That bad, is it?"

"Might be," I say honestly, deciding I really need somebody on my side. "You think he's already on his way up north?"

"Not sure - thought he said tomorrow morning, but can't be certain."

"Damn," I sigh. "Look..."

"You need me to cover for you while you go and find out, right?"

God bless Murphy. I nod.

"Go on then. Like I said, Bodie, better get it sorted out. And when you have, you both owe me one, right?"

"Right. He's not said anything to you, then?"

"No. Look, just go. If World War Three breaks out, I'll call you."

"Might already be heading for it," I say miserably, realising Murph seems to be a lot more confident everything's going to turn out right than I am. He wasn't there, was he, or he'd realise this is definitely more than a "bit of a lover's tiff".

"Nah. Bugger off."

I'm out of the building within seconds, and try Doyle's R/T all the way to his place. Still nothing. He's not there, either - I use my key, and then end up standing in his kitchen staring at his bloody Desiderata poem. There's not much solace to be found in the 'be gentle' message right now, though.

I pull up a kitchen chair and sit there, angry with myself and with him but rapidly coming to the conclusion that there's only one way to deal with this.

I don't even hear him come in, and jump when a large plastic bag lands on the floor with a thump.

"Saw your car outside," he says neutrally. "And good thing I wasn't a Chinese bimbo with a gun."

"Yeah," I swallow, shuddering, aware of just how bloody sloppy that was - both of him at the time and me here and now.

Right - better do what I came for then.

"Came over to apologise, actually. Somebody's got to make the first move, so I thought it'd better be me."

"You did?" He raises one eyebrow and goes over to the kettle. "Was going to call and suggest you came over later. You finished early then?"

"Yeah," I nod, wondering if him wanting to talk as well is a good sign but I'm far from sure. "Well no - Murph's covering for me. Couldn't raise you in the car, or here, so..."

""It's called being off duty," Doyle says patiently. "Did Murph tell you I'm going away?"

"Yeah," I admit. "But he didn't know where or when you were leaving."

"He wouldn't." Doyle says, still offhand and I'm damned if I can interpret all this.

"So what is it, Ray? Post-mortem before you cut and run?"

"Cut and run no, you daft sod - just an errand for the Cow and he doesn't want the whole squad to know the details. But post-mortem? Yeah, maybe. Suppose we should."

"Definitely," I agree, although where to start is a different matter.

Doyle doesn't make it easier for me by starting things off, and I can't think of a good way of doing so either. The silence is awkward to say the least but neither of us breaks it.

After a minute, Doyle goes over and makes tea. I swear he's taking far more time over it than necessary, but finally he plonks a cup down in front of each of us.

"Me sister," he says thoughtfully.

"What about 'er?"

"Alan - 'er 'usband - was always on at 'er about leaving hairs in the bath. 'Es a bit - well - fussy."

Have I ever complained about Doyle leaving hairs in my bath, I wonder automatically? Probably. In fact definitely. More than once, now I think about it.

"She often said 'e was more interested in the bloody bathroom suite than 'er," he adds, slurping his tea. "Caused many a slanging match, that did."

No, this would not be a good moment to comment on slurping, as I've done in the past, because I think he's doing it on purpose to provoke a reaction.

Not going to work, sunshine, I decide. If you want a slanging match, you're not going to get one.

"So?" I say curtly, remembering that his sister got divorced not long ago. Is that what he's about to announce? We're history because of my own 'fussiness'?

My heart plummets, but I can feel anger niggling away as well because once again, Doyle doesn't answer immediately. I wish he'd get to the bloody point.

"But if you ask me, they weren't really meant for each other anyway," he says after staring at his tea a bit longer. "Not if they ended up throwing it all away for something as daft as that."

"Meaning?" I ask, a little optimism creeping in.

"Meaning, I suppose, that we need to decide if we can do the 'warts and all' stuff about a few things, or whether we can't."

"True," I say carefully. "But I - well - I don't think I'm that fussy, but..."

"You like clean sheets. And showers after sex. Was thinkin' about all that a lot today."

Doyle half-grins. It's like the sun coming out, but I daren't hope quite yet.


"Admit it, Bodie. You're fussy."

I admit it. While I'm at it, I also admit I'm not good at apologising but I am sorry about the towels and showers - and even more so about last night.

He says he's not good at admitting stuff either, but maybe he's not exactly perfect himself.

I wonder if we've managed to sort it and dare to ask, but instead of answering he goes thoughtful again.

"'S funny, really... me mum and dad always lived in chaos. Happy go mucky, Alan used to say. He said if we were ever burgled - not that we'd got anything to nick - we'd probably not even notice."

I sit and listen. Doyle doesn't talk about his family that often, and neither do I.

"Suppose it even bothered me a bit, in the end. Was quite glad to get me own place, even if I'm still a slob. So for what it's worth, I do know it."

I look around as though it's for the first time. No, Doyle isn't a slob. It's clean in here. Reasonably tidy. His pads certainly never really struck me as being messy and definitely not dirty. And even if Doyle looks scruffy, he's fussy about hygiene - if you don't count being able to go to sleep after sex without a shower. And that's not exactly worth splitting up for, is it?

"And as for you, you're probably still thinking some sergeant-major's going to stop your leave because your bed corners aren't all sharp or your laundry's not done," he continues. "That it?"

"Been known to happen," I lie cheerfully, but then decide the truth would be better than putting it down to military discipline. Doyle deserves more than that.

"No," I say quietly after a couple of moments of awkward silence. "It's not that. Not at all."

Doyle leans forward, watching me intently. I'm not particularly happy talking about all this personal stuff, but I suppose it's better that it comes out. I tell him the fussiness, as he calls it, didn't come from the army at all.

"No?" Doyle frowns.

"It was from me mum. She was the local bike," I start. "Hopped into bed with half of Liverpool - me dad was away a lot."

"Ah," Doyle nods slowly, looking a bit surprised and clearly wondering what that's got to do with anything.

"Used to screw around regularly. And I do mean regularly. For money sometimes, but not always. Now and then she'd give me a couple of quid and remind me to keep me mouth shut in front of me dad."

I pause, remembering the giggling, the bedroom door closing, the endless procession of half-drunken conquests, night after night. They aren't happy memories.

"And did you? Or did you tell 'im?"

Doyle's copper-instincts mean he always asks questions, of course.

"I never said anything, but I think he knew. Don't think he cared to be honest. He just wanted somewhere to eat and sleep when 'e was at home - or at least when he hadn't found some bird to shag. But the thing is, me mum might have been a tart, but she was lonely most of the time as well, so she started getting... fussy. About cleaning, washing... she'd even strip the sheets off the bed practically before the poor sod was out of the door."

"I see," Doyle says quietly.

"So, as I'm playing Dr Freud," I go on, "I suppose I take after her with the clean sheets and towels. Maybe even with bein' a bit... over fond of sex at times. That explain things a bit?"

Instead of answering, Doyle's still in twenty questions mode.

"And this went on for long?"

"Years. Got worse and worse - both the blokes and the rest." I hesitate, and then plough on. "Then one of her blokes asked me to come and entertain 'im a bit. Offered me money, see, and I was always trying to save up enough to run away."

"And you did?"

I nod. "I liked the way it got me excited when he first started touching me up. Surprised me a bit, I must say. He didn't actually fuck me though - maybe because I was only thirteen. The thing was..."

I pause again, but Doyle gives me a tiny, encouraging grin.

"He was a filthy sod. Stank." I shudder slightly, remembering the dirty nails on the fingers shoved inside me, the yellow teeth as he leaned over me, urging me on as I wanked almost desperately while he did the same - he liked that. Him coming all over me, and then laughing. Me coming as well, wondering what it would be like to do more, with somebody cleaner...

"But you put up with it anyway?"

"Yeah. He was a big bugger and said he'd beat me mum if I didn't. Thought it'd put me off for life. He stopped coming round after a bit, thank God."

I take a mouthful of tea, remembering him yelling at me one day when I just couldn't make myself come because of the sour breath... and the relief when he'd gone to look for some other poor sod to fantasise with.

"Must have been glad about that," Doyle says sympathetically. "When he disappeared, I mean."

"I was."

"And it did put you off for... a long time?"

Nosy bugger. I don't say that, though.

"In the end, no. There was another bloke, about a year later who swung both ways. Didn't fancy the idea at first but I was skint, so I agreed. But he really turned me on, so I let him do all he wanted before long."

I stop again for a bit, because these are slightly better memories. He'd been clean, to start with. At first, he just wanted the hand jobs, and then suggested I might like to fuck him. I'd liked that, to say the least, and before long I'd wanted him in me, to see how it felt. I'd enjoyed that as well once I'd got used to the sheer size of him inside me, and even if he wasn't always particularly gentle about it or came too fast and left me to finish myself off. We'd always used condoms, so the mess wasn't really an issue - although I don't tell Doyle that.


"Fucked me, yeah," I say. "And vice-versa. Then he left as well. They all did, but he went because me mum got jealous, I think."

"Charming," Doyle says quietly. "She realise you'd..."

"If she did, she never said anything, although she might have tumbled that it was a bit more than just a bit of touching up in his case - he stopped screwing her once he realised I liked it, for a start, and I wouldn't have it past her to listen outside my door either. At least she let me keep the money, but I suppose she was scared I wouldn't keep me mouth shut about 'er little games otherwise. And if she'd told me dad what I was up to, I'd have said she forced me to do it, so it wasn't worth 'er while."

"She think you only did it for the money?"

"Maybe," I grin. "She probably didn't care though, as long as it was all kept quiet and she still had plenty that kept on paying her. By the time this bloke went, though, I knew I liked sex with blokes at least as much as birds - I'd already had a couple of them. So I took his money, screwed around a bit more - sometimes got paid and sometimes just for fun - and then ran."

"Right. And you've never been back?"

"No point."

"Suppose not. Happily families, eh?"

"Not exactly your traditional cosy little household, we weren't," I agree.

"Families are bloody difficult," Doyle sighs. "Can't say mine's much better. Let's say I'm just about tolerated these days, but that's about it. Don't know why I bother to go up there really, except to see me sister."

"Tolerated these days?" I pick up on that.

"True confessions go both ways, eh?" Doyle says, but there's no anger there.

"You don't have to..."

"Look, it can't hurt. Appreciate you tellin' me things so why not? I'm a lost cause, see. And no, they don't know I sleep with blokes, but they do think I'm beyond redemption."

"Might agree with 'em," I say airily. "But how come?"

I know Doyle's parents don't know he likes blokes - found that out when he was in hospital and he warned me, when they visited, to act casual. I only exchanged a few platitudes, anyway and all I remember is that they were anything but chatty. Oh, and his mum had green eyes.

"Me mum caught me shagging the girl up the road once when I was fifteen - you weren't the only one who started early. Me dad 'alf killed me. One reason I went a bit wild for a bit - decided a life of lust and debauchery plus a bit of violence was a lot more fun than their way of livin'."

"At least they didn't find out about you shagging your mate from art school," I say, remembering Doyle mentioning him.

"God yeah. They're not exactly fond of poofters, to put it mildly. Or sex in general. It's something you do after you get married, for the sole aim of producing kids like good Catholics, but considering they are Catholics and only had two kids..."

This makes me smile and Doyle smiles back. This, I decide, is a very good sign that we're in synch again.

"Says it all really," he says thoughtfully. "But at least it never seemed to occur to them I'd be interested in blokes."

"Good thing," I agree, given what he's just said.

"It helped that I used to 'ave girlfriends as well, so they never knew about the rest. Not even the art school one when I said 'e was givin' me extra tuition. Taught me a lot, 'e did."

"He was a good teacher," I say generously. "Probably better than seedy old punters and some of the lads in the navy."

"Rough, were they?"

"Some. A lot, to be honest, when I was still a kid. Suppose that's why I appreciated a bird now and then - change from taking it up the arse all the time, sweet innocent-looking little bugger that I was."

"Don't forget the engagingly modest," Doyle says, rolling his eyes - but there's sympathy in them as well even if he knows better than to put it into words.

"It was true," I protest. "But as I got a bit older, that changed. Still had the odd bird, though - probably because it was a bit less quick and dirty than most blokes."

Doyle pauses to drink his tea, clearly digesting all this just as I'm chewing over the bit of Doyle family history I've found out.

"You ever fancy women these days?" he asks after a bit. "Or other blokes?"

"No," I say truthfully. "Not lately. You?"

"Not lately either. Too old for spreadin' it around these days. Besides, better the devil you know and all that."

As declarations of love and fidelity go, I tell him, I'm deeply flattered.

"We really did spread it around, didn't we," he says cheerfully. "But I don't miss it."

"Me neither," I agree quickly, hoping this signals a definite truce. An end to all the personal stuff and - with a bit of luck - to the whole issue of hang-ups in general and last night's fiasco in particular.

But I'm wrong: Doyle just has to thrash things out to the bitter end, doesn't he.

" was a bit weird yesterday... when we..." he starts.

"When I half raped you," I say quietly. "Ray..."

"Yeah, I know you felt bad afterwards but so did I, Bodie. See, I wanted it, like I said. It just got me thinking. I mean, we've cut to the action pretty quick before now, but that was..."

"Bloody stupid," I nod. "Could have really hurt you."

"Suppose so. If I 'and't been quite as willing meself."

"Right," I agree. "But even so."

"Yeah, we should forget it," he says. "As the Cow would say, you learn from your mistakes..."

"At least unless the mistake happens to be fatal," I finish for him.

"True. But this wasn't, so shut up and drink yer tea."

Doyle leans back as if to say 'that's that'.

Phew. I bask in relief for a minute or two.

"I was thinking back to the first time, earlier," he says suddenly. I hope this is a whole new tack.


"Yeah," he grins and picks up his own mug again. "We were in a bit of a hurry then, as well. Both of us could 'ardly sit down the day after, if you remember."

Oh, I remember all right.

We both sit in silence for a minute or two, but it's a comfortable sort of silence this time and these are memories I don't mind reliving at all.

We were at my old pad that night, both reeking of cordite and sweat, and adrenaline-charged - not that this was anything new but as close calls went it had been... close. Doyle was yelling at me for taking risks, which wasn't a first either. Neither was me being flippant, saying I didn't know he cared.

What was different was that for some reason I'd touched his face as I said it, and it probably didn't come out flippant at all.

It was one of those moments you see on slushy films. A firework-display of enlightenment, understanding and sheer bloody lust, smacking me between the ribs as he touched me back, lips parted. Then the feeling of having him pressed up against me. The look in his eyes as we just stood there for a second or two.

Minutes later, he'd been inside me. It was urgent, and mind-blowing, if far too damned fast. Then we'd talked, doing the 'we never realised' bit.

Less than an hour later, I'd been inside him. That had been equally good and we'd managed to make it a fraction slower. Just a fraction. It was all so new, so... everything.

He'd spent the night in my bed. And to this day I've never admitted I'd wanted him there since day one, although I've often been tempted to.

Briefly, I wonder if I should tell him now, but it doesn't seem appropriate. It's enough that we got there in the end and that first, glorious night wasn't a one-off... and that he survived the bullet in his ticker, which happened only a couple of weeks later. And that - apart from last night - the sex has been going from good to beyond my wildest dreams on the 'meaningful' stakes.

"I don't mind about the towels and stuff," Doyle breaks into my thoughts, "Not really, although I suppose I sometimes thought you found sex with me revolting... the messy part anyway. Or you thought I was sex mad."

"Neither," I shake my head. "Anything but revolting. And if you're sex mad, what does that make me?"

"Sex mad as well, but you take after yer mum when it comes to the cleaning up stuff afterwards. Got a lot to answer for, parents. I still remember me dad saying how disgusting it is to 'perform the act'. That's what 'e called it."

"Performing," I grin. "Well, that's one way of putting it. But it never stopped you performing, did it?"

"No," Doyle grins. "Other things rubbed off from 'em, though, like being messy. So I suppose we're quits."

This pleases me tremendously, and I say so. Very soft-focus moment. Doyle gives me a full-blown grin.

"And just for the record, you perform the act very well, before you say it yourself," Doyle says. "That's a compliment by the way, so enjoy it."

"Can I 'ave it in writing?"

"Only if you get Cowley to counter-sign it," Doyle says airily. "Once 'e's acted as a witness, that is, and given you marks for endurance, style... "

Cheeky bugger, I inform him, leaning back with a dirty great smile on my face.

If was the soppy type, I'd tell him just how sex with him makes me feel. Soppy, however, is not me, so I leave it at that, and just tell him I'll have to get used to soggy sheets a bit longer then, I suppose.

"Ah," Doyle grins. "I had an idea about that."

"Not condoms," I frown. "I thought about that as well. But no."

"Definitely not," Doyle agrees with me. "And not giving it up for Lent either. Or giving it up any other time, when it comes to that. Considering we're both sex mad, as we've just established, not to mention not interested in a change of partner, that's not a solution."

"Good news, that," I nod, feeling my cock twitch. "So what's the idea?"

"'Ave a look," he says, kicking the plastic bag on the floor over to me.

I do, curious. It contains three extremely large, thick, bath sheets in sort of off-white. I'd say they were semen-coloured if I wasn't such a gentleman.

"Nice," I say, meaning it.

"So they should be. Some boutique place Murph told me about. Bloody expensive, they were. Could 'ave got pink ones from the supermarket a lot cheaper, I must say."

Doyle the bargain-hunter strikes again, I tell him. He snorts.

"Don't tell me," I tease. "They're too good to use. Although I'm glad they're not pink."

"No," he says firmly. "We'll use 'em. In fact it's time we tested them."

"It is?"

"It is. As in you have precisely ten seconds to get in the bedroom and strip off. You can even fold your bloody trousers if you like. And if you care to look, there are clean sheets on the bed."

Christ. At least the erection doesn't take more than a couple of those precious seconds to make itself known.

Doyle tosses the bag over to me as I bolt for the door, chuckling, and he follows me. I pull my clothes off rapidly, and dump them unceremoniously on the floor. Doyle pauses for a second as he strips and raises one eyebrow, looking at them.

"If you can get towels, I can live with crumpled," I say firmly, and turn to face him.

He's aroused as well, to put it mildly. He looks... predatory, standing there looking at me, or rather all at areas south of me navel, with eyes half-closed.

I start to wonder if he's planning a replay of last night with me on the bottom this time, which I suppose would be only fair. So I ask him.

"Don't be daft," he says, sliding a hand up my thigh. "Thought make-up sex was supposed to be long and sweet, so let's 'ave a bash at that."

Making-up sex is definitely all it's cracked up to be with Doyle, I tell him once he's inside me.

It isn't that long, though, because we're both hot for it, and it's more urgent than sweet, but it's bloody good. I christen the towel most convincingly, and Doyle follows soon after, half-sobbing as he gets there and moaning as he slumps against me.

He loves me, he says as he pulls out slowly and flips over to face me.

It's not something we say often - I mean you don't need to, do you? But it means a lot, and I tell him it's mutual.

"Getting romantic in my old age," Doyle adds.

"Definitely," I agree. "Daft sods, the pair of us."


"Should get cleaned up," Doyle says idly, after we've scoffed some spaghetti - without me even taking a shower, as I make sure to remind him.

He chuckles, and slides a hand up my thigh under towel number two. Doyle's wearing number three..

"Ray?" I murmur. "Remember me washing you the other night?"

"Oh yeah," he says, sipping from the beer bottle in a way that I'm bloody convinced is purposely suggestive. "That was nice. You volunteering to do it again? Or some fancy stuff in the shower? Mine's a bit small, mind. And I don't feel like driving to your place."

"Problem, that," I agree. "And no. I was thinking about what happens when I clean you up after sex, Raymond my lad."

"More sex happens," Doyle nods happily, his hand finding its target. "But I've got an idea. Do the more sex part first then clean up."

"A possibility," I say, nonchalantly, parting my lover's towel. "Any special wishes?"

"Me arse isn't sore, I don't think, if that's what you're worried about. And I'll be away for a couple of days, so we might as well make the most of it."

We do.

I make sure I'm gentle, pulling him onto my lap and letting him set the rhythm, lavishing his cock with attention. He throws his head back and moans, but after a minute or two I realise he's wincing a bit as well. I slide him over onto his side, pulling out of him. There's no way I'm going to let him go up north with what will be a sore arse if I don't stop now, I tell him.

"Stop? You really want to stop? You over the hill? Can't handle it twice a night?" Doyle teases.

"Bloody cheek," I retort, although the state of my equipment is enough to disprove that. "Not stop stop. Just..."

"I know," he says quietly. "You were going easy on me. Appreciate it. Lie back."

I do, and he leans over me, stroking my thigh. Then I have an idea, and tell him so.

He looks at me with a question in his eyes.

"If you can get used to towels, I can work on a few concessions as well," I say airily.

"You sure? I mean, I did work out why you weren't keen on..."

"Certain," I say, hoping I mean it.

Images of a seedy little man watching me flit across my mind briefly but fade away as Doyle watches almost reverently as I slide my hand down to my cock.

"Jesus, Bodie," Doyle breathes. I concentrate furiously at first, then relax a bit. Doyle's light years from being a middle-aged punter looking for a cheap thrill, and the inhibitions of years dwindle and fade: My hand moves more and more urgently as I watch him in turn, but suddenly I'm not just doing it with rapid results in mind, I'm enjoying it.

Doyle uses his spare hand to caress me, fingers fluttering over me, and I put my own hand to good use as well, letting him suck on my fingers. He loves this. We shift closer, business-end hands brushing each other when he slings one leg over me.

"Not going to last much longer," Doyle suddenly gasps. "At all."

He arches and jerks to prove it, with towel number two taking the brunt of it all. For a minute, I wonder if I'm going to get there, if I can do this, and slow down a bit. Doyle seems to realise: he slips a hand under my balls and then slides long fingers into me, still slick from earlier. Nice, I think I tell him but it's more than that. So clever, those fingers of his, and mine are pretty damned busy again. Good combination, Doyle and me. Oh yeah. Arse clenching. Cock very happy about all this.

Nearly. Going to...

I'm there. I'm yelling.

Jesus God am I there.

I grab for the towel, but manage to miss the damned thing and most of it lands on Doyle - and, I have the vague impression, on the sheets.

Who cares. I lie there and get my breath back.

"Good one," Doyle says, wiping himself. "Sexy, innit, for a change?"

"It has its merits," I agree.

"You'll have to work on your aim, though."


"Always," Doyle says complacently.

Then he finds a damp flannel, which is nice. I find a damp spot on the sheet which is less nice, but towel number three, which I find discarded beside the bed, provides the perfect solution and I pull it happily under my arse.

"Funny," Doyle says sleepily.

"What is?"

"You. Me. Rounding edges, sort of. Getting used to each other."

"Meaning getting accustomed to being randy buggers but developing ways of accommodating your extremely highly developed faculties of libidinous imagination?" I ask airily.

"Can you spell all that?"

"Cheek," I retort. "But admit it - I'm the naturally tolerant type when it comes to pandering to your whims."

"No different from me getting used to your own little habits. And I did notice you nipped in and folded your trousers while I was makin' spaghetti."

"And yours. Ungrateful sod."

"Wonderful. Did you check for hairs in the bath as well?"

"No. Should I?"

"Idiot," Doyle says affectionately.

We slide off to sleep - and to use a cliché, I'm sated and at peace with the world. I send out a silent prayer of thanks to Murphy for his benevolence and shopping advice and to the god of bathrooms for inventing towels... and to Doyle for being Doyle before closing my eyes.

The alarm rings at an indecent hour, and Doyle creates instant chaos by shoving things into a holdall, shaving, showering and eating cereal, all more or less at the same time.

"Ready," he says as he emerges into the bedroom where I'm pulling my clothes on.

I get a brief peck on the cheek, a complaint about the stubble, and he turns to go.

"Behave yourself. Be nice to Cowley. And I'll lend you the towels."

"I have towels," I inform him.

"Right. But these'll be handy," he says, tossing over a large plastic bag. "Once you've washed them."

He heads for the door as I search for a suitable retort.

"Oh, and Bodie? I put the sheets in as well."

"What did yer last servant die of?"

"Post-coital exhaustion," Doyle says cheerfully. "And yes I can spell it. But just to make your day, I didn't leave hairs in the shower. And I left you a clean towel, but it's a pink supermarket cheapo."

"You're all heart."

"Course. And don't be late into work or Murph won't cover for you next time you skive off like that."

"Good cause," I insist. "Any more instructions?"

"Yep. See you Thursday. Your place. And get Chinese in. No... Indian."

"Fish and chips."

"Indian. Spicy food gives you energy, remember, and you'll need it."

The door slams, and I grin.

Randy little bastard.

-- THE END --

Brenda, July 2004

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