(Story 9 in the Building to Last universe)

"Listen up, you lot," Anson shouted. The din in the restroom let up for a minute. "I'd like to invite you to my wedding...."

Nobody heard the rest of what John Anson was trying to say; it was drowned out in a surge of congratulations and various lewd remarks concerning marriage, bachelor parties, honeymoons and wedding nights.

I knew I had a silly grin plastered across my face. For one thing, I could feel it. For another, well, everyone else did, didn't they? Almost everyone. I looked over to catch Doyle's eye and was surprised to see a pensive expression on the bionic golly's face.

It was like a salmon swimming upstream, but I managed to get over to where Ray was propping up the wall. He didn't seem to see me, so I used my elbow to nudge him in the ribs.

"Ray? What's the matter, mate?"

Doyle shook his curly mane and gave me a half-hearted smile. "'S nothing."

"Don't give me that, Raymond my lad. I can always tell when you're lying to me," I said in confidential tones.

Ray turned suspicious eyes on me. He knows when I'm setting him up.

"Your hair starts to grow." I tweaked one overly long curl.

I got a genuine Doyle grin for my trouble. "'S really nothing much. I'll tell you all about it...later. I promise. Right now, let's congratulate the groom."

"I'll hold you to that, mate," I muttered in Ray's ear as I let my partner open a path through the crowd. Those sharp elbows do it every time.

"I hope that's not the only thing you hold me to," Doyle muttered over his shoulder at me. The sparkle was back in his eye.

"Congratulations," Ray told Anson. "Has Fern set the date yet?"

Anson beamed all over. "What makes you think that Fern is the lucky girl?"

"'Cause no one else is barmy enough to have you," I told him.

The blond agent tried to scowl, but couldn't stop beaming. "I'll remember that, I will."

"That'll be the day," McCabe scoffed. "Way you've been the last couple of days, you couldn't remember a directive from the Prime Minister!"

"Could, too!" Anson retorted. "And I haven't been that bad, have I?"

"Nah," Lucas responded. "Mind, if you were a bank clerk you'd probably be in nick for accidental embezzlement...but you haven't been that bad."

Word round the squad was that McCabe and Lucas were trying out their own doubles act. I couldn't see it, myself.

Murphy wormed his way to the front of the scrum and asked Anson, "When's the wedding?"

"We were thinking third Saturday in June," Anson replied. "Fern's going to ask the old man if he'll give her away, her own da being dead and all."

"C-C-Cowley?" Colin Padgett's voice was at least an octave higher than it should have been. He never stutters under fire and his voice doesn't squeak under pressure. No bloody wonder--I felt like squeaking myself. I looked over at Ray and noticed that his eyebrows had disappeared under his disreputable fringe.

"The father of the bride?" Murphy finally put it into words for a room gone silent in stunned amazement.

Anson sighed. "I know. It's a bit like inviting Maggie Thatcher over for a knees-up, innit?"

"You could say that," Murphy muttered.

"I just did." Anson's eyes twinkled.

Ray and I finished congratulating him and moved off to give some of the other agents their chance. Murphy saw us heading for the door and managed to intercept us before we got there.

"Bodie, Ray. It still on for tonight?"

I slanted a glance at Doyle who gave me a quick nod, so I said, "Yeah. We're still game."

"Chris and I'll knock you up about half nine, then."

"Whose motor we taking?" Ray asked from where he was again propping up the wall. I used to think that the little bugger liked to pose. After having lived with Doyle for a while, I realized that, most of the time, it's not deliberate. Like a bloody cat, Ray automatically finds the most comfortable position. He just doesn't realize how that hip-shot stance shows off his natural endowments, especially when they're framed in jeans or trous that look at least a size too small.

"I thought we'd take mine," Murphy said. "It's got the most room in the rear seat."

"We'll see you about half nine, then." I opened the restroom door and let Doyle go first.

Ray was quiet on the drive home. Since he'd already promised to talk to me, I didn't keep on at him. Irritating and moody as Doyle can be, he always keeps his promises. 'S one of the reasons I love him.

Besides, Ray's a lot more dependable than our pet moggy. Raven, the randy toad, was still among the missing. He'd been gone for three days and I was more than a bit worried.

I know--'s all my own fault for not getting the little sod fixed. Doyle's been ragging me about that for the last six months. He's even started leaving RSPCA pamphlets round the flat where I can't miss setting eyes on them. You've probably seen them--they're the ones that tell you how a pair of moggies can turn into several hundred cats...all in the space of a year and a bit; and how hundreds of homeless pets are put to death every year because cruel humans abandon them. Ruddy horrible, they are. But I know it's all true. I've even been thinking about letting the golliwog win next time he tries to change my mind about Raven, but don't tell him that.

Back at the flat, Ray reheated a meat-and-veg casserole and put together a salad while I ran the Hoover across the rug in the parlour. After we ate, we piled the dishes in the sink and took our tea over to the settee.

I knew Doyle was ready to talk when he curled up next to me and leaned against my shoulder. I didn't say anything, but I put my arm round his shoulders and pulled him close to me. Rueful green eyes peered out from under his unruly fringe.

"I've been a right bastard, haven't I?"

"Nah. Just a moody berk." I used my free hand to brush one fat curl aside long enough to kiss his forehead.

Ray smiled and moved closer. Unfortunately, I knew that his reason for cuddling was to hide his face while he confessed. Depressing, that. I'd much rather it was uncontrolled lust, or at least warm affection.

"I'm sorry about this afternoon," Ray muttered into my shoulder. "'S just Anson announcing the wedding that way.... It reminded me of all the things we can't do."

"Like getting married?" I asked gently.

"Yeah, and holding hands in public; announcing to the whole world that we're in love. All the things that lovers do."

"Ray?" I waited until he turned to look at me. "Did you ever see me hold hands with any of my birds? Kiss one of them in public? Or do anything else that would make me look like an exhibitionist?"

"No." Doyle's tones were clipped. I could tell he was annoyed. "Nor did you ever catch me doing any of that. But it'd be nice to have the option, wouldn't it?"

I got the distinct idea that Ray thought I'd missed the point. "Ahhh...." I gave him my most dramatic sigh. "All the romance has gone out of our relationship...."

Doyle gave me a damned good thump on the shoulder. "Don't be such an ass! We've never been fluffy, romantic types...."

"Exactly." I was deadly serious for a change. "Why make yourself sick over something we were never going to do, anyway?"

Ray looked at me, his face full of frustrated exasperation. "You do realise that you're ruining a perfectly good snit, don't you? I mean, if you're going to resort to underhanded tactics like dragging logic into our arguments, I may have to start fighting dirty."

Doyle wiggled like an eel, and the next thing I knew, his hands were all over me, finding all my vulnerable bits and tickling them unmercifully. I tried my best to fend him off, but the little fiend knows me all too well. He had me giggling like a tipsy teen, flat on my back on the settee, and he wouldn't let me up.

When my lover gets that aggressive, it means he's royally narked. The rough-housing was his way of working it out without either of us getting hurt. Fortunately, I know all Doyle's weaknesses as well as he knows mine. I gave him a sultry glance from under my lashes and pushed up with my hips. It worked a treat. Those emerald eyes went all hazy with lust. An interesting lump in my mate's too-tight jeans jabbed my hip, so I spread my thighs to give it room to develop. When those lush lips took mine, I almost forgot to breathe.

Practically married for more than two years, and sometimes we're as randy as if we were still spotty, sixteen and desperate for it. Not all the time, mind you, but often enough to keep life interesting.

Just as things were heating up nicely, the hall clock chimed nine. Times like that I regret buying the bloody thing. Ray and I ran across it on a barrow in Portobello Road about six months back. The clock's about a foot high and carved all over with fairies peeking out from behind grapevines. I took one look and fell in love with it. Doyle saw the soppy look on my face and started to bargain with the lad in charge of the barrow. We paid more than we should have, especially as the clockworks were frozen. Ray said that we'd consider it our anniversary gift to each other, and then the soft-hearted bugger arranged for a friend of his to put the clock's insides in working order. I don't know how much that set him back--he won't tell me. Ever since, I've been racking my brains for some way of showing Doyle how much the bloody thing means to me. But no matter how much I prize the cherrywood monstrosity, at that moment I could've kicked it out into the middle of the road.

Ray groaned and sat up. "D'you want to use the loo first?"

"I'd rather finish what we started." I knew I sounded wistful.

Doyle looked over at me. "So would I, love, but we've only thirty minutes to clean up and dress before Chris and Murphy pick us up."

I grimaced and sat up. "I know. Don't forget where we left off, though. I'll want to pick it up from there when we get home.

Ray grinned cheekily. "A bit optimistic, aren't we? You may be too tired by the time we get in. Particularly if I manage to get you out on the dance-floor."

I reached over and framed my lover's face with my hands. "Yes, I'll dance with you."

A sweet smile blossomed on Doyle's face. He hadn't been sure that he could overcome my aversion to making a fool of myself in public. I couldn't resist those curved lips. It was another five minutes before we managed to drag ourselves off the settee.

We just managed to get ourselves decent before Atwood and Murphy arrived to pick us up. Murph drove the lot of us to a private gay club in the West End. The Uranian Touch, it was called. Chris and Murphy are members and they signed Doyle and me in as their guests.

I don't know what I was expecting--maybe one of the seamier scenes out of a John Rechy novel--but it wasn't much different from any other club I've been in. You know the scene--dim lighting, small tables crowded a bit too close together, too many people gyrating together out on the dance floor. The only big difference was that most of the fellas were dancing with other men and most of the birds were dancing with other women.

You could tell that The Uranian Touch was a bit up-market compared to other clubs, though. It had a live band. Emerald City, they called themselves; five or six long-haired young males in tight leather, glittering spandex and lots of metal studs. Actually, they weren't half bad. They played a lot of the same stuff as Queen, plus some of the so-called classics and a few songs that I'd never heard before. But their volume made it a bit hard to hold a meaningful conversation with anyone.

Of course, you don't really go to a place like that to hold deep discussions with fellow philosophers. You go there to dance, like my partner Doyle. Or to drink and watch the crowds, which is what I mainly did. Or to flirt, which is what Atwood did most of the evening.

Didn't expect that, did I? Nor did Doyle. But within thirty seconds of our sitting down, Chris had Murphy out on the dance floor. When that song ended, the Smurph returned to our table, but Atwood didn't. Instead, he danced with a big bloke dressed in leather trous that fit like a second skin, and a black leather biker's jacket that dripped with chains tough enough to restrain a rabid Alsatian. And they weren't just sort of bobbing in place the way Joe Public and his bird do down at the local of a Saturday night; it was more like a primitive mating dance.

Ray looked at me, and I looked at him. Both of us kept our eyes off Murphy while trying to keep him in our peripheral vision. That sort of thing is bloody embarrassing. Being in a public place with a couple when one of them is on the hunt that way, I mean. What's worse, it was like Murph was expecting his lover to act that way. At least he didn't turn a hair or change expression. In fact, he bloody well ignored the whole thing.

I felt someone goose my arse...and it wasn't Ray because he was sitting in front of me. When I turned round, I was looking at a blond clone of Chris' leather-clad dancing partner.

"Want to dance?" The clone started to put his hand on my shoulder.

"Sorry, chum, but he's spoken for." Ray stepped in front of me and crowded the blond into stepping backwards. This gave me an excellent view of the Doyle derriere, but meant that I couldn't see my lover's face. Not that I needed to. Ray had himself gathered in the lethal coil of a big cat on the hunt. He radiated aggression. When Doyle's in that mood even the heavy brigade think twice about trying it on.

The leatherman gulped and his eyes went big. He said something to Ray that I couldn't hear over the band. It must've been interesting because, after the blond left and Doyle turned round, I could see that his ears were a bit pink. Before Ray could say anything, I stood up.

"Want to dance, love?"

Doyle was literally speechless, so I led him out on the floor. It isn't often I manage to do that. Shock him, I mean. I could tell that, despite my promise, Ray hadn't expected me to actually stand up with him. Have to admit, I was a bit surprised at myself. No one can say I've exhibitionist tendencies.

"What'd he say to you?" It was a slow tune, so I had the perfect excuse to put my arms around my lover--which gave me an opportunity to talk right into his left ear. He couldn't have heard me otherwise. Emerald City's sound system certainly didn't lack volume.

It was fascinating to see the hot blush flood over the side of Doyle's neck and to feel him twitch in my arms like a nervous horse. "You don't really want to know." Doyle hid his face against my neck.

"Yes, I do."

"All right." Ray moved back in my arms until he could look at me. "He said that if I ever got tired of tall, dark perfection he'd like to see if I was as aggressive in bed as I was out of it."

I grinned at my mate. "Is that all?"

Doyle scowled. "Isn't that enough?"

"Nah. Not to make a lad like you blush, it isn't."

Ray rolled his eyes. But I noticed that his ears were getting pink again.

"If you must know, he said that if he couldn't have either one of us, he'd love to watch me fuck you rigid."


Doyle started to enjoy himself. A grin spread across his lips. "Yeah. Said that he really gets off on watching other guys get it on."

"Yeah? But what made him think it'd be you doing the fucking?"

Slanted emerald eyes picked up sparks of light thrown off by the silver globe rotating in the ceiling. "It could've had something to do with who was defending whose virtue."

"What virtue?" I snorted. "After two and a half years, we haven't a shred of respectability between the two of us."

Ray just grinned at me and melted closer. I must admit, after I got over the paranoia of doing it in public, I rather liked dancing with my lover. Even if I hadn't, seeing Doyle enjoy himself would've been enough of a reward for making an ass out of myself.

Just before the song ended, Ray asked me, "Bodie? D'you mind if I ask Murph to dance?"

"No, sunshine, I think it would be a great idea. Just save a couple of the slow ones for me. And if you don't mind, I think I'll ask Murphy to stand up with me as well."

Ray looks bloody gorgeous when he gives me that special smile that says he loves me and thinks that I'm the greatest bloke in the world. I don't know why half the fellas in the club didn't try to steal him away from me. Instead, most of them were trying to chat me up--those that weren't trying it on with Murphy or Chris, that is. It seems that tall, dark and ordinarily handsome is more the gay fella's cup of tea. I prefer wiry strength, curly auburn hair and fey green eyes, myself.

There were times that night that I felt like a goldfish who'd accidentally wound up in a shark tank. At feeding time. My bum was pinched so often that it was weeks before I could see a bird squeeze a tomato without getting sympathy pains. What Ray calls my 'mad merc' expression kept most of the predators away. It was only those who approached me from the rear that I really had to worry about. I took to keeping my arse to the wall. Out on the dance floor, I was really vulnerable.

About the third slow dance, I asked Murph if he cared to tread the boards with me. I was groped twice and pinched once, but it was worth it to see the look on Murphy's face. He was shocked rigid. Took him the first half of the music to recover enough to get his mouth going.

"You make a bet with Doyle?"

"Nah. It'd take more than l0p to get me out on the dance floor." Murphy and I exchanged amused glances. We both know how little Ray deserves his reputation as the Scrooge of CI5. Not that the little git isn't canny with his money, but he's also generous to a fault. I don't know how many times I've seen him hand his last few pounds (or mine) over to an old friend down on his luck.

"If it wasn't a bet, why're you out here, then?"

"Would you believe it's because I love to dance?" I asked him.

"You hate to dance and we both know it."

I sighed softly and looked straight into my friend's eyes. "Thought you might want a bit of moral support, mate. That's all."

Murphy's head tipped back a moment in total exasperation, but his eyes were a bit friendlier when he looked at me again. "Chris and I are going through a rough spot right now, but I can handle it. Not that I don't appreciate the thought, but I really don't need you and your kack-handed partner meddling in our relationship. You can tell Doyle that he doesn't have to stand up with me again."

"Murph, I'd rather not do that."

"Why?" Murphy sounded suspicious.

"Because dancing with you keeps him out of trouble."

"You could always dance with him yourself...."

I just looked at Murph until he gave me an unwilling grin. "Yeah, I know. Too hard to keep up with him, innit?"

"More than my old bones can stand," I agreed.

"Old bones! Pull the other one, mate! You're, what is it, three years younger than he is?"

"And I still can't keep up with him." We exchanged grins. "Really, Murph, you'd be doing me a favour if you'd keep partnering Ray."

"You're the one with the popularity problem."

I looked straight into Murphy's eyes as I said, "You and me both, mate."

"Yeah. Okay, I won't mention this conversation to him, then."

"Thanks, mate. I owe you one."

"You owe me considerably more than one...but not in this case." Murph flashed me a grin, then his face grew solemn. "If I haven't mentioned it, I do appreciate the thought."

"You'd do the same for one of us." We both knew it was true.

A dozen or so songs later, Chris made one of his infrequent sorties back to our table and just happened to catch the rest of us there as well. "I hear that Jester is dancing at The Centurion Club tonight. Do any of you lot want to go?"

"Who's Jester and what's The Centurion Club?" Doyle asked for both of us.

"Jester is...Jester. He's got one of the hottest acts on the gay club circuit. You'll love it." Murphy sounded positively enthusiastic for the first time that whole evening. Which is why Ray and I agreed to Atwood's plan, I suppose.

The Centurion Club was a bit larger and much better lit than The Uranian Touch. It was obviously set up for a more elaborate floor show. The four of us got there an hour before the programme started, and at that, barely managed to get in the door. This Jester chap must be a pretty big draw, at least in the gay community.

I didn't know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't what we got. Jester's act was a combination of classic dance moves, modern dance and sexual tease. It started out with a totally dark stage. A single spotlight centred on a small, crumpled figure that slowly unfurled itself as the pool of light brightened and widened. Jester himself was drop-dead gorgeous and sultry as hell--all long, smooth muscles and yards of silky black hair. He looked a bit like the dark-haired actor who plays Robin Hood in that new telly series--only sexier. The dancer began a series of slow, deliberate moves that were in perfect time with the slow, bluesy music that played in the background. His movements became faster and sexier as the tempo of the music picked up.

"'E's having it off with himself!" Ray murmured incredulously.

"What?" I was mesmerized by the seductive dance.

"The whole dance. It's a bloke making love to himself. That's why the music gets faster as it goes on." The hazy look of sexual heat in my lover's face was almost enough to make me forget the act going on in front of me.... Almost.

"He getting to you?" I murmured in Ray's ear.

Sheepish green eyes glanced at me. "Yeah. You?"

"Uh-huh," I admitted. A bit unsettling, that. I hadn't thought any bloke other than Ray could really get me going.

And Doyle was right. The whole bloody dance was one long orgasm. Not that Jester did anything obscene. He didn't even try and do himself on-stage, which is what I might have expected from a dancer in a gay club. It was all body language, and Jester's vocabulary was definitely erotic. By the time he collapsed in a satiated heap, he had more than half of the audience doing deep breathing exercises. The applause was deafening.

There wasn't much point in staying after that. I mean, what could top it? Murphy and Atwood dropped Ray and I at our flat, and we all said good-night.

Doyle had been awfully quiet on the way home. I hadn't said much myself. As we cleaned up for bed, I kept catching glimpses of a thoughtful, green-eyed stare. But every time I turned round, Ray'd glance away. When I finished in the loo, I found Ray sitting on the side of our bed holding our copy of 'Amber and Jade: A K/S Novel.' My lover had the oddest expression on his face. It was as if he'd never set eyes on a slash zine before.

I sat down next to him. "What's wrong, love?"

Ray blinked and rubbed the bridge of his nose with one hand. "What makes you think anything's wrong?"

"We know each other too well to play games like this. I can just bloody tell, that's all."

Doyle tried to smile, but all he got for his effort was a grimace. "Yeah. Well, I expect I'm still a bit surprised at how easily that Jester chap got me going."

I should have expected it, of course. The little bugger never lets anything go without mulling it to death. "Ray, I hate to break it to you, but I'm not a bird and we have been living together for over two years now. Isn't it a bit late to be worrying about whether you fancy men?"

Ray put the zine on the bedside table, then turned to face me. "It's just...I never got off on other fellas before."

"Yes, you have, and me as well. Why else would we buy those bloody Trek zines?" I pointed at 'Amber and Jade.'

"That's different." I could see confusion in his eyes.

"How is it different?"

"That's fantasy. It's not real...."

"And Jester is very real. So what?"

"If I can get off on other fellas, what does that say about our relationship?" The words practically exploded out of Ray.

I suddenly realized what this whole conversation was about and I got really angry. "Why, you little bastard! What you're really saying is, if I can let someone like Jester get me all hot and bothered, then maybe I might do something about it. Is that what you really think...."

"No! Bodie, just listen to me for a minute." Doyle gulped, then plunged into it. "I know you're the faithful sort. If I were going to go all over jealous, it'd be over someone like Murphy; someone who understands you and loves you just the way you are. It wouldn't be over some bloody dancer in a gay club. It's just.... If we can respond that way to other blokes, what's to say we'll still be together a few years from now?"

"What's to say we'll still be alive a few days from now."

Ray's eyes spit green flames.

"No. It's your turn to listen to me for a bit." I got up and started pacing the floor. "I'm not trying to put you down, but it is a bit silly to worry about something that may never happen. We could die tomorrow or we could live to a ripe old age--two eccentric bachelors raising cats together. Or we could fall madly in love with the next person we set eyes on. Male or female." I stopped in front of Doyle and looked down into his astonished face. "You didn't think about that, did you? Well, I have. As many birds as swarm about you, I can't help thinking about it. But, Ray, love doesn't come with guarantees. We're in the same boat as any other couple--gay or straight. You think Murphy doesn't worry about whether Chris might get tired of him or meet someone he likes better? Or Fern. You think she doesn't wonder if Anson might quit loving her? And Anson and Chris probably worry about losing Fern and Murphy. All we can do is what we're already doing--taking it one day at a time."

Doyle flopped backwards on the bed and put one arm over his eyes. "You think I'm a right berk, don't you? Worrying over that, and all."

"Nah." I lay down beside my lover and took him into my arms. "You wouldn't be Ray Doyle if you didn't worry about things." My voice was practically a whisper.

Ray turned to face me. "I'm not the only one who worries, am I? From what you said, sounds like you've been doing a bit of thinking about it, too."

I blushed. Actually, I'd been hoping my mate would miss that particular aspect of this discussion. "Yeah," I sighed. "You're such a gorgeous bugger, sometimes I wonder what I've done to deserve you."

Doyle grinned. "Deserve me as a reward--or deserve me as a punishment, eh?"

I grinned back. "Depends on the mood I'm in."

Ray sobered. "I do love you, you know."

"I know. And I love you, too, sunshine." Our kiss was gentle and unhurried.

"We're lucky, you know." My lover's eyes were pensive. "We're more than lovers--more than partners. It's the best of both worlds."

"Yeah. If Anson and Fern are half as happy in their marriage as we are in ours, they'll be damned lucky."

Ray framed my face with both hands and smiled lovingly just before he kissed me. His mouth tasted like wintermint toothpaste and Raymond Doyle. The smooth curve of his arse fit my hands as if it had been created for just that purpose. And just between you and me, I can even get a bit soppy about his curls tickling me nose.

We were both a bit tired, so we settled for a lazy bit of frottage. Ray lay on top of me, slowly rocking his hips against mine. We exchanged languid kisses as we stroked and cuddled. One of the nicest things about being an old married couple is realizing that every climax doesn't have to make the earth move; that sometimes it's more important just to touch and be touched. Though fireworks are nice as well, and Ray and I certainly have our share of those.

After a sketchy clean-up, we went back to bed and curled up like spoons. Ray wiggled his bum backwards until it was firm against my groin, then he reached backwards and dragged my left arm across his waist. He likes his comfort, does my Doyle--and he's not shy about asking for it.

"Night, Bodie."

"Night, love."

I'm ever so glad Ray's quit using my sister Cheryl's pet name for me. Personally, I've never liked any of my given names--probably because I was named after my father and two grandfathers, none of them any better than they should be. It took two months of 'Will' this and 'Will' that, but the novelty finally wore off. Lately, Doyle's reverted to calling me Bodie and I'd just as soon he kept on with it.

The rattle of the bedroom window woke us next morning. Our wandering moggy had returned. Raven stank like an open sewer and had a scratch across the bridge of his nose. There were clumps of white fur caught between his toes, so I knew he'd been at it with the black and white tom at the end of the road.

Doyle just looked exasperated. When he turned to me and opened his mouth, I put one hand gently over his lips.

"I know. I know. Make an appointment with the veterinary. But you have to be the one takes him in. I could never look the furry sod in the face again if I knew I'd been responsible for curtailing his love-life."

"You're not even going to give me an argument about it?" I swear, Ray sounded almost disappointed.

"Nah. Been reading those pamphlets you've been dropping about the place. Decided it was time I became 'a responsible pet owner.' Just too much the coward to do the dastardly myself," I admitted sheepishly.

"Tha's okay." Doyle's smile lit up his eyes. "'N you really don't have to worry about the poor sod. He'll never miss them. For moggies, sex is a genetic imperative. I don't really think they enjoy themselves. Most of them seem much happier after they're fixed and they live longer, as well."

I sighed. "Too much anthropomorphizing, I guess."

Doyle whistled appreciatively. "Six syllables, no less. Been reading the dictionary again, have we?"

"I'll dictionary you!" 'S fun chasing your mate round the kitchen. It's even better when you catch him. I was glad I'd already brushed my teeth. Ray made a thorough exploration of my mouth.

After breakfast, I cleaned the loo while Ray sorted dirty laundry. On our way to the launderette, I asked him what he'd thought about Atwood's behaviour last evening.

"Not much. Felt like giving him a swift kick in the arse. Did Murph say anything about what's going on?"

"Just that they're having a rough spot in their relationship right now."

"Looks more like grounds for divorce to me."

"Yeah. 'M glad you don't treat me like that."

Ray snorted. "Best be glad you don't treat me that way. If you did, you'd be missing some vital parts of your anatomy."

"Speaking of which, when's Raven's appointment with the vet?" I'd overheard Ray on the phone to Dr. Westby.

"Jean said to bring him in Friday week." Doyle took his eyes off the roadway long enough to dart a glance in my direction. He still didn't trust me not to change my mind. I must've made a bigger fuss than I thought when Ray'd suggested we neuter Raven.

"She going to keep him overnight?"

"Nah. It'll take a couple hours for the anaesthesia to wear off, but we can have him back in the afternoon."

"I'm not looking forward to it."

Ray grinned and darted me a wicked glance. "You'd think it was your anatomy Jean was going to carve on."

"Sympathy pains, old son." I shuddered. "Merely sympathy pains."

Doyle snickered. "Seems like a lot of old tomcats are being forced into giving up their wicked ways."

"Who, other than Raven?"

"Anson for one. Fern will soon have him on a firm lead."

"She already does. I haven't seen him date anyone else the last six months or so. And she made him give up those evil smelling cheroots he favoured."

"Yeah, you're right about that. The marriage'll just make it legal."

The upcoming nuptials were practically all anyone at CI5 talked about, other than work, of course. The typing pool got together with the female agents and threw Fern a bridal shower. The male agents helped out by taking their places in the duty roster. From all reports, we'd have to really out-do ourselves in planning Anson's bachelor party or else have it be eclipsed by the women's efforts. Not that any of us poor males were present at the shower, but word leaked out (as hot gossip always does). Ray, Murphy and I got part of it from Susan Fischer. She and Betty had played host.

"The theme of the evening seemed to be sexy lingerie," she'd told us. I could see Susan's eyes crinkle in mischief as she took in the sight of us three males trying to imagine our Fern in naughty knickers. "But the hit of the evening was definitely the male stripper."

"Male stripper." Ray's voice had no inflection whatsoever.

"Uh-huh. He wasn't half bad, either. There was a moment there when I thought we might have to throw a pan of cold water on some of the typing pool. They got a bit...over-enthusiastic, shall we say."

"'S a wonder the poor bloke got out alive. Where does one hire a male stripper, anyway?" I could tell by the look on Murphy's face that he was planning something.

"You're never thinking of hiring him for the bachelor party?" I hoped Murph had better sense and, for once, my prayers had been answered.

"Certainly not! But I've got this friend who's having a birthday soon...."

Ray turned beet-root trying to stifle his sniggers. I reached over and pounded on his back. Doyle coughed and shot me a quick glare, but ruined the effect by grinning afterwards.

"Thank goodness it's spring."

"Why's that?" Murphy had turned a fishy eye on my partner.

"'Cause that means it can't be either of us you're thinking of surprising." Ray's grin was impudent and a trifle smug.

Murphy had grinned back. "Just for that, perhaps I'll keep the stripper idea in reserve until, March?"

Doyle had given him a frown. His birthday is March. But before he could say something else, Susan had continued with her description of Fern's party, going into some detail.

I particularly liked the part when the women got into a discussion about the most creative use for the cream cheese and marshmallow dip. That was my most interesting adolescent discovery about birds--the fact that they think about sex every bit as much as the fellas. And talk about it. I found out all about that after I jumped ship in South Africa. The only job I could get was bartender in the parlour of a fairly high-class house of prostitution. A real eye-opener, that was.

McCabe was hosting the bachelor's party and he coerced Doyle, Lucas, Stuart and I into helping with the preparations. It was a good thing that CI5 was experiencing a dearth of crime, because no one had their minds on the job.

McCabe hired the use of a private room at The Hoof and Claw. Lucas was in charge of entertainment. He and Stuart had been plotting something for weeks, but no one else had been able to pry it out of them. Doyle and I had been dragooned into arranging the catering.

Ray solved our problem by phoning an old friend from his art school days. Lisa Bonet had discovered that her creative talents ran more to organic expression rather than paint and canvas. She was trying to get her own firm financially solvent and was grateful for the business.

About a week before the party, I answered the telephone and near had my eardrum perforated by a livid Ms Bonet. I handed the handset over to Doyle and watched in fascination as his face went through a series of expressions--puzzlement, realization, suppressed laughter, sober assurance. I could hardly wait 'til he hung up before I tackled him.

"What was that all about, Doyle? Your friend didn't sound half narked."

"It's that mad bastard Lucas," Ray said as he joined me on the settee. "He wants her to bake a hollow cake."

"A hollow cake?"

"Yeah. One big enough for a stripper to pop out of." Ray collapsed sniggering on my shoulder. "'E figures to outdo the women and their shower."

I couldn't help chuckling a bit. "I do hope he at least hired a bird."

"Must have done, at least from the dimensions he gave Lisa."

"What did she want you to do about it?"

"Talk Lucas out of it, of course."

"Shouldn't be too hard...."

"I don't know. Sounded like he's got his heart set on it, it did."

"All you'll have to do is mention that the secretarial pool is taking bets on whether we males have more imagination than to copy the stripper idea."

Ray gave me an evil grin. "Nothing like making it a matter of honour, is there."

"No male would risk letting the side down."

"'N' what d'you mean by 'all I'll have to do'?" Ray gave me a jaundiced look, which meant he'd already figured out what I'd say.

"Well, she's your friend."

Ray shook his head sadly, closed his eyes and leaned back against the settee. "The honeymoon is definitely over."


"Yeah. Now you've had your wicked way with me, you're ready to cruelly abandon me at the first sign of trouble."

"Twerp." I tweaked one of Ray's curls. "You can stop playing East Lynn. All you had to do was ask me politely...."

Ray slithered off the settee and ended up on one knee before me. He took my left hand in both of his and looked deep into my eyes.

I launched myself off the cushions and knocked my histrionic mate flat on his arse. Stretching myself along his lithe body, I cut off his giggles with a deep and soulful kiss.

Unfortunately, we were interrupted by our bloody R/Ts beeping in stereo. Doyle gave a regretful sigh as I got up to answer our page. I felt like cursing. It turned into a general call out of all off duty agents. A German/Palestinian terrorist group had set a bomb in a government office. Fortunately, the bomb-maker had made a mistake and the bloody thing didn't go off. That was our first sign that the lull in crime was over.

After the bomb disposal squad left the site, most of the CI5 contingent was released from duty. As we packed up our equipment, Ray mentioned to all and sundry (making sure Lucas could hear every word) that the secretarial pool thought we male agents lacked originality and that they were laying odds on whether a female stripper would feature in the entertainment at Anson's bachelor party. It was obvious that Lucas had kept his plans a close secret, because his own partner scoffed at the notion.

"None of us would stoop so low as to pinch one of their party ideas, would we, mate?" McCabe clapped Lucas on the shoulder. Lucas looked chagrined, but agreed with him.

I looked at Doyle, who looked ever so slightly pleased. It was a safe bet that there wouldn't be an exotic dancer at the party.

The day before we were due to bid farewell to Anson's bachelor status, I stayed home and cleaned the bedroom while Doyle took Raven to the vet. After I finished, I tried to sit down with a good mystery, but I couldn't seem to get past the first sentence. I must've read the damn thing a dozen times, but every time I finished, I couldn't remember what it said. Eventually, I gave up and went into the kitchen to start lunch.

Ray was a bit surprised when he came home to find me stirring a pot of vegetable beef soup--made from scratch, I might add. "That smells good."

"Don't sound so ruddy surprised. I can cook. 'S just that usually I don't bother. Is Raven in there?" I pointed at the cat carrier still in Doyle's hands.

"Yeah. Still groggy from the anaesthetic, poor sod."

"Let him out and let's have a butcher's."

"Tha's a poor choice of words, old son." Ray's voice shook with suppressed laughter.

I ignored my mate and tried to pretend I'd said it on purpose. A knowing glint in Doyle's slanted eyes told me that he didn't buy that for one minute.

Raven was a furry black ball of misery in the bottom of the carrier. When Ray opened the door, our moggy gave a plaintive if somewhat strident complaint and staggered out. I picked him up off the floor and examined the shaved patch on his bum. Unfocused green eyes wandered round the room. I had to put the groggy animal down when he wriggled so hard I near dropped him.

The minute I did, Raven proceeded to stagger all over the kitchen, sniffing and complaining. When he finished there, he started into the front room.

"What the hell does he think he's doing?" I followed the daft bugger as he stumbled across the rug.

"He's making a recce."

"But he can hardly stay on his feet. His eyes are so glassy he looks like some poor strung-out junkie."

"He does, doesn't he? We'd only upset him if we tried to settle him down somewhere. He won't rest 'til he's made sure his territory is still all there."

"Do all cats do that? Stagger round under the influence, I mean?"

"Nah, just some of them. Moggies love routine and hate changes. So, when they've been gone for a long time or had a traumatic experience, the first thing some of them do is establish that everything in their world is still normal and still there."

Raven finished the front room and started for the stairs leading up to the first floor. It was one of those open staircases that look like a few Lego pieces thrown together. I knew Raven could never manage it in his condition. Hell, I even worried about the little bastard having an accident when he was feeling fit.

As I bent down to pick up our friend in the moth-eaten fur coat, I could feel Doyle's eyes on me. When I straightened up, Ray smiled in amusement.

"In his condition, he'd probably fall off." Even I could hear the defensiveness in my voice.

"Did I say anything?"

"You didn't have to," I grumbled as I carried my pathetic bundle of fur up the stairs. I spent almost an hour following the bloody cat round our flat, carrying him up and down the stairs, making sure the poor berk didn't stumble into something that would hurt him. Raven must've gone over every square inch of the place--some of it twice.

Fortunately, reaction finally caught up with him and he fell asleep on the afghan at the foot of our bed. If he did more than turn over in the middle of the night, I didn't know about it.

Next day, the party came off better than we'd any right to expect. Our female colleagues took most of the duty shifts, so almost all of CI5's male contingent was able to drop by for at least an hour or so.

Doyle and I were on standby, so we limited ourselves to half a pint each, then stuck to soft drinks for the rest of the evening.

There was plenty of nosh, and it all tasted marvellous. The art world might've lost a fairly good painter when Ms Bonet quit art school, but the culinary world gained a great chef. There were several hot casseroles, a choice of salads and a sandwich bar where you could build your own sarnie. As for the desserts.... The raspberry-hazelnut tort was enough to tempt even Doyle. I had seconds of it and of the chocolate gateau.

After the major feeding frenzy had died down, Lucas trotted out his entertainment. He'd rented a big-screen telly, a VCR and a stack of blue flicks on videotape. A lot of the blokes were disappointed. Rumour had gotten round that there would be a live stripper and the tapes were a tepid substitute.

I wasn't exactly thrilled, either. Most blue flicks are ruddy boring--no plot, little or no dialogue and very little acting. Personally, I've never considered sex to be a spectator sport. I'd much rather participate.

The whole affair started off as deadly dull as could be. Fortunately, halfway through the first tape someone sat down on the video controls and turned off the sound. It was an inspired accident.

Colin Padgett put on a high falsetto and began making up dialogue for the female lead. Stuart did his best imitation titled fop and began improvising the part of the cuckolded boyfriend. McCabe chipped in with a cockney reading of the plumber's dialogue. The whole thing was quite obscene and very, very funny. At least it seemed so at the time. I suppose it was the company and the situation that made it hilarious, because for the life of me, I can't remember a single thing anyone said.

Anyway, the sound stayed off for all 5 or 6 videos. Most of CI5's resident or would-be wits took turns faking dialogue. Not that there's ever much talk in that sort of flick. However, some of the improvised sound effects and orgasmic utterances were enough to heave the room in hysterics. Ray and I even lent our talents to a short piece. In it, a young copper gets out of his panda car to have a few words with an experienced working girl. It may have been typecasting, but Doyle provided the copper's dialogue. You guessed it, I was the working girl.

"'Ello, 'ello, 'ello. What 'ave we 'ere?" Ray gave the hoary old line a lecherous reading.

"If you don't know perhaps you're too young to be without your L-plates," I replied. It wasn't deathless prose, but between the two of us, our piece got a few laughs.

Murphy and his lover seemed to have weathered the rough spot in their relationship. At least the two of them presented a united front during the party. I even saw Atwood put his hand on Murph's shoulder. That was a pretty large concession for Chris to make. He's one of the least physically demonstrative men I've ever met. That was one of the reasons his behaviour at The Uranian Touch had so shocked me.

Ray and I left the party at a reasonable hour. We were on duty at 7 a.m. and badly needed our beauty rest. Since we'd been such good lads, we could look forward to waking up with clear heads in the morning--which is more than I could say about most of our mates. There was a run on Disprin next day round CI5, and more than one of our fellow agents came to work with bloodshot eyes. It was almost enough to make you swear off booze altogether.

That afternoon when the tea lady pushed her cart into the restroom, Sean Carstairs took one look at the custard tarts and turned chartreuse. He barely made it to the loo before having a nasty accident. Most of the male agents looked sympathetic--some of them couldn't look a tart in the face, either. As for me, I've never forgiven Carstairs for groping me in the loo the day Cowley posted the new fraternization policy. In fact, I took a certain mean satisfaction in the little twerp's predicament.

Fortunately, not much happened during the week between the party and the wedding. It was a bit worrying, all that quiet. There were too many signs that something big was in the offing and none of us were daft enough to believe we'd heard the last from Autumn Sunset, as the German/Palestinian group called itself.

Raven continued to recover from his surgery. Ray made a point of our keeping him in for the first few days after. It was easier than I'd thought it would be. Didn't seem like the furry bugger was much interested in the great outdoors. The convalescent moggy spent most of his time lying on the windowsill overlooking the pocket-sized garden behind our flat. How he could stand lying there in direct sunlight, and him in a black fur coat, is beyond me, but he seemed to thrive on it.

The first thing I noticed after the operation was that the cat box didn't smell as rank. Of course I would notice, me being in charge of cat maintenance and all. That was the one part of the kitchen that Ray didn't clean.

"'E's your cat, Bodie-love, so it's your job."

Fortunately, that meant I was also in charge of the food dish. There's nothing like cats for cupboard love. He who controls the nosh gets all the attention--or most of it, anyway.

The furry sod was off his feed for the first day or so, but I noticed he drank like a sailor. I know exactly how that feels. That desert dry feeling in the mouth after you've had general anaesthesia, I mean. About halfway through the second day, I noticed a decided improvement in appetite. Raven was definitely on the mend.

The morning of the wedding was a bit overcast, but the sky was bright and clear for the afternoon ceremony. Ray looked edible in a cream suit, rust shirt and brown tie. I hadn't even had to put me foot down about his footwear. Instead of the near-dead athletic shoes I half expected, he wore a nicely shined pair of calf-high, brown boots. Of course they did add almost an inch of height....

I hoped I looked half as good in my dark blue suit. Doyle's expression said I did, but you can't trust his judgement there. My lover thinks I look best in nothing at all.

Lucas and Stuart, dressed formally for the first time in collective memory, played usher at the small church Fern had picked for her venture into wedded bliss. Lucas cast an incredulous eye on Ray's sartorial splendour and asked us, "Bride or groom?"

"What are you nattering on about?" Ray asked him, a bit narked by Lucas' reaction to his finery.

"D'you want to be seated with the bride's family or the groom's?"

"Bride's," I said.

Just then, Ray uttered, "Groom's."

"One for each, or do you two want to coordinate this?" Lucas asked in a sarcastic voice.

"Personally, I'd rather have Anson mad at me than Fern," I observed to the ceiling.

"Good point." Ray turned back to Lucas. "Two for the bride's side."

We landed in a pew about six rows from the front of the church, which gave us a pretty good view of the whole event. Fern's older sister Margery and two of her kids were in the front pew.

I could see Anson fidgeting about up front near the pulpit. His dove grey morning suit did wonders for his pale blond looks. McCabe was a foot or two away, leaning against the nearest pillar. Anson had asked him to be best man. I hoped the poor sod hadn't forgotten the ring.

The church filled up nicely. Most of CI5 was there.

"I still say they've most of them come just to see Cowley lead Fern up the aisle," Ray muttered darkly into my left ear.

"I must admit, I still can't quite picture it."

About then, Betty started Lohengrin's wedding March on the church organ. Someone had done a fine job of keeping the old instrument in tune.

Fern's youngest niece walked solemnly down the aisle, strewing white petals over the carpet. She couldn't have been more than five or six, but she took her responsibilities very seriously. I could see her heave a sigh of relief when she finally got to the front of the church without making an embarrassing mistake or tripping over anything.

Lucy Sullivan, Fern's youngest sister, was the maid of honour. She was followed by George Cowley with the bride on his arm. The Cow looked splendid in his ascot and tails, but he was almost eclipsed by the woman on his arm.

Fern was radiant--that's the only bloody word for it. She was dressed in her great-grandmother's wedding dress, a lovely thing in age darkened lace. Rumour had it that she had lost about a stone and a half in order to fit into great-grandmum Sullivan's gown. And she looked very good in it, too.

Cowley led Fern up to the altar and faded back to let her stand next to Anson. The happy couple turned to face the Reverend Lionel Peabody, who looked a bit like Sir Richard Attenborough on tranquilizers. Peabody was short, solid and suffered from male pattern baldness. It was a toss-up which was brighter--the glint off his beaming smile or the reflection off his naked pate.

"Looks like a character out of Monty Python, doesn't he?" Doyle whispered in my ear. I almost lost it because the little devil was spot on. The Reverend Peabody was so much the stereotypical minister that he looked like nothing so much as a parody on the profession.

By the time I got myself under control, Cowley had given the bride away and the principals were about to start exchanging vows. Just then, my R/T began to beep. Doyle's was half a second behind. Soon, a dozen or more of the bloody things were clamouring for attention.

Half of the wedding guests made a rush for the door, with Cowley leading the way. I don't know what the civilians thought about it all. For the next few hours, I was much too busy to even wonder.

All hell had broken loose in the City, that small area of central London that houses most of the financial and governmental power of the British empire. At least two bombs had exploded--one of them in a crowded station in the underground. It appeared our friends in Autumn Sunset had finally got it right.

"Doyle, you and Bodie set up a temporary HQ in the ministry building over there." The Cow snapped out orders as crisply as any sergeant major. "You need to liaison with the other services. Take McCabe, Lucas and Winters. Murphy, take Atwood, Padgett, Barnes, Stuart and Jax. Sweep the underground station for evidence, identify victims and coordinate rescue of the survivors."

I think every policeman, firefighter, security agent and soldier within the Greater London area had been called in to the site of the disaster. The CI5 contingent were definitely the best dressed of the hot. None of us had time to change out of our wedding finery.

It hadn't been peak hour, or there would've been a lot more dead. There were too many as it was.

Doyle found the ranking member of the police and helped coordinate our activities with the force. McCabe did the same with the firefighters. Lucas directed the ambulance service to areas where there were survivors. Jayne Winters, our electronics expert, set up a communications network that tied into all the services on site. It was my job to be central clearinghouse for all the incoming information and to pass it along to the proper channel. Cowley was in and out of HQ all afternoon, but had to spend most of his time in a policy conference between high-level administrators in the police and the various security services concerned with anti-terrorist activities.

Personally, I hate being stuck as on-site coordinator. It used to be something that Cowley always did. Now that CI5's grown so large, it's something he often assigns to senior agents. More and more often, that means either Doyle or myself. This just happened to be my turn for it.

I could tell from what came in over the communications net that this was a bad one. The worst of it was down in the underground where Chris and Murphy were.

"Oh, God!" I heard Murphy say over the R/T. "Bodie?"

"What is it, 6.2?" I was worried about Murph--his voice was shaking.

"We've got a group of primary school kids down on the first level."

"How many of them and what condition? Do you need ambulance service?"

"It's hard to tell. Some of them may be under the rubble. We've got at least five that need immediate transport to hospital. I think the teacher is dead, and at least a couple of the children."

"Hang on, mate. The ambulances are on their way."

There were other casualties as well, but the school kids were the worst of it.

Even the hardest of hard men can loose it when children are involved. Four hours after the general call-out, most of CI5 was either back at HQ filling out paperwork or had finished and gone on to the wedding reception. Doyle and I were on our way to the latter when we met Atwood and Murphy returning from the subway bombing. Murphy was pale and filthy. Smoke and blood stained his suit-coat and face, and he was still upset.

"God, Bodie! It was horrible."

"You got the underground detail, did you?" Ray asked.

"Yeah." Chris wasn't in much better shape than his partner. "The worst part was the kids."

"How bad?" Doyle asked.

"Three dead, plus the teacher. Two crippled. A couple of others that might be okay." Murphy sounded exhausted. "If you're on your way to the reception, please make our excuses. I don't think I'm up to that this evening."

I gripped Murphy's shoulder and nodded that we'd do just that. To tell the truth, I didn't feel much like dropping in on the party, either, but neither Ray nor I wanted to spoil the wedding for Fern and Anson.

Doyle and I trotted off to the reception, which was being held in the home of Fern's married sister. We arrived just in time to see Fern throw her bridal bouquet into the crowd. Padgett's partner--blonde, brown-eyed Tara McQuillan--caught the mass of baby's breath and pink roses. I saw her shoot a speculative glance in Colin's direction and wondered if the rumours about her and young Padgett were true.

"Good lord," Ray murmured. "You don't suppose...?"

"Stranger things have happened. And it wouldn't be the first CI5 partnership to set the wedding bells ringing."

Ray let his gaze sweep me from head to toe. A smug grin crawled across his lush lips. "No. It wouldn't be the first...and probably won't be the last."

We followed the mob outside to see the couple off on their honeymoon to the south of France. All of CI5 had clubbed together to give them the trip as a wedding present.

"We don't expect to see spectacular tans," Lucas told them as he helped Fern into the motor, "but do try to at least look at the sun once in a while."

The white Escort pulled away from the kerb dragging the usual assortment of discarded footwear behind it. Ray and I left soon afterwards. On our way out, we stopped to pay our compliments to the hostess. Margery and Lucy were twitting McCabe about his performance as best man.

"I didn't think Mac did that bad a job," Doyle protested.

"You didn't see him after his R/T went off," Lucy giggled. "He dashed down the aisle after the rest of you lot--completely forgetting that he had Fern's wedding ring in his hip pocket."

"Yeah." Margery was doing a bit better at suppressing her laughter. "John took off after him and managed to catch him up before he got out the door. I thought for a moment he was going to do a rugger tackle on his partner right there in the church."

"I'll never live it down," McCabe moaned.

"You're right there, mate." Ray had trouble keeping a straight face. For that matter, so did I.

"It'll become one of the legends of CI5." I couldn't resist the comment. "Decades from now, they'll still be telling the story round HQ," I added over my shoulder as I hustled my partner out of the room. My last sight of McCabe was him rolling his eyes in exasperation.

When we got back to our flat, Doyle left me to lock up and reset the alarms while he headed up the stairs. After I finished, I took a glance round the hiving room and discovered our pet moggy sprawled along the back of the settee. It was his favourite place to sleep--this week, at least.

I found Ray sitting on the side of our bed, one shoe off and one shoe on. He was looking at 'Amber and Jade' again.

"You still worrying about us finding out we're a bit more bi than we thought we were?" I asked as I sat next him.

"Nah." Ray looked over at me, then admitted, "A little, maybe. And you can't tell me that you haven't thought about it once or twice."

"If you're asking, do I notice the fellas a bit more than I used to, the answer is yes. But I can look and not touch, same as I do with the birds."

"I know." Ray smiled, wrapped me in his arms and kissed me.

I'd just started to unbutton his shirt when I felt something land on the bed behind me. Next thing I know, 10 pounds of black cat have plopped themselves down in between my lover and myself.


Ray sniggered and rolled flat on his back. Every couple of seconds, he'd start to get control, make the mistake of looking at me, and fall back into hysterics.

I frowned at the over-friendly animated fur coat. Raven was stropping himself against me, his tail tickling my nose on every pass. "Come along, Trouble," I told him as I picked the cat up off of the bed. "Let's get you something to eat. If I get your tum full, perhaps you'll go to sleep somewhere so that I can finish ravishing my lover."

Doyle almost choked. "Best lock him out of the bedroom if you don't want him in with us tonight."

"I will. 'S too hot for a foot-warmer."

I took Raven down to the kitchen and gave him a bit of left-over roast. When I got back to the bedroom, I closed the door--firmly. Ray was still lying across the bed. As I lay down beside him I said, "Now. Where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?"

"Just about here." Ray drew me into a warm and languorous kiss, and we took up just where we'd left off.

Undressing my lover is a bit like unwrapping a Christmas pressie. I never tire of it. Ray likes to suck me, and I love the taste of his sex. As we urged each other to orgasm, my last coherent thought was that Anson and Fern can't be enjoying themselves half so much as Ray and I.

-- THE END --

Originally published in Chalk and Cheese 9, Whatever You Do, Don't Press! (Agent with Style), 1991

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